Rockin the Suburbs.

Smith & Diction
Smith & Diction
Published in
8 min readJul 18, 2022

REPUBLISHED: I’m reposting this case study because we actually got a ton of stuff made. Whenever we do a brand concept we usually present a bunch of ideas and if the client makes just one of them we’re happy–but this client went all in: Letterpressed business cards and letterhead, carpenter pencils, highvis tees, and even some huge metallic signage in their office (I don’t have any pictures of that tho SORRY!)

A little while back we got a cold email out of the blue from a very different kind of client. A client with 48 years of experience under their belt. A client that didn’t want to seem hip or trendy at all. They wanted a strong mark that would make them stand out without making a fuss. Enter SuBuRbAn EnTeRpRiSeS TeRrAzZo & TiLe Co. InC. Yes, that’s their real name and yes, I 100% thought that there’s no way in hell I’m taking on this project with a name like that. But hey I did HipCityVeg and that worked out. So I took the call and immediately fell in love with them. They were so genuine and so kind that by the end of the call I was determined to make something great for them because they absolutely deserved it.

An example of Suburban’s work photographed by Ryan Greenberg

So we took on the job and the first thing I asked was if we could abbreviate to call it SETT and they said no. So far so good. They were extremely interested in seeing a strong geometric mark rather than an abbreviation. So I bought the Logo Modernism Book and stared at it for 2 days straight. I was determined that whatever I made should be able to sit alongside these marks. After that, I sat down and made dozens of S’s — some bad, most terrible — until this concept revealed itself to me in the marble/concrete.

Monogram set in concrete
Original Logo | Updated Logo

The Monogram

The main icon is made up of two core elements — an S and an E — which together stand for Suburban Enterprises. Within the logo there are three rising tiles, which represent the careful, consistent work they do every day. All together, the logo reflects the company: it’s confident and clear, but with nuance and attention to detail. The mark is strong and modern, and, like every job they take on, it’s built to last.

The SE mark is paired with a strong and solid wordmark (set in Blender by Binneland) that’s modern and architectural, but with a hint of industrial nostalgia as well.

Legacy Logo


We tried about 300 different typefaces next to the SE monogram and we eventually settled with the one we had in the first place, so that was a day well spent.

But after we settled on using Blender it just opened up an amazing world of opportunities. It’s a pseudo-rounded (in some random areas), yet sort of military feeling typeface that feels like it belongs on the side of a rations box from the 1940’s or something, but at the same time its wonky qualities somehow also bring it into a modern era — specifically on the S’s. This typeface felt perfect for what the Suburban team was trying to convey: legacy without stuffiness. They wanted something modern that still maintained the utilitarian feeling of their brand, because they truly are a company based in hard, manual labor.

Embossed Legacy Logo

Assorted Collateral

Then we started to develop the collateral, which was fun because they will actually USE it unlike 90% of the mocked up stuff you see online. Yeah, that restaurant is totally going to print that letterhead with the full bleed back side graphic, totally.

Letterpressed Letterhead
Letterhead and Envelope

The business cards were a lot of fun too, because after our initial presentation the Suburban team mentioned that they’d like to see how we could work high visibility colors into the brand since that is something that they will 100% need to accommodate for in the future. So we created an alternate color option with a hyper-fluorescent orange on some kraft paper. We ended up making these duplexed beauties with white foil on kraft, blue, and orange. Holding these are a true treat.

Business Cards
Carpenter Pencil
High Vis Tees

Hard Hats, DOPE!

I don’t have anything else to say about these besides that I want one. No, I need one for when I’m smashing my head against the desk trying to make the letter S look cool and also fulfill a concept about tiles.

Hard hats for hard jobs

Style Guide

This style guide we created was meant to be fun and a non traditional piece. We thought, why not make this thing spiral bound and horizontally oriented so it can sit inside the glove box of a truck and not have to worry about it getting dinged up or folded in a weird way. Nothing expensive or fancy just putting a little spin on a traditional piece of collateral. Here are just a few of the pages from that bud.

Style Guide

Truck Wrap

Whenever I’m driving for long stretches on a highway, I end up being entranced by all of the great old logos used in the trucking space. There’s gotta be a blog of all the amazing trucking logos out there somewhere, right? So I wanted to design something that if I saw it on the highway I’d point to it and say, “Oh yeah, nice mark.” High praise. I don’t even know if Suburban uses box trucks but I do know that it will be on some truck of some sort sooner rather than later.

You’re dead to me.

Everyone’s favorite section of murdered logos.

I try not to Paul Rand my clients because I think you’ve gotta have a pretty big ego at the ripe age of 30 to present just one option but I honestly thought this mark was ~*~ThE OnE~*~ and I came in guns blazing with this Trowel/Skyscraper combo.

First iteration on the left. Second iteration on the right.

I posted the first iteration on the internet and got some feedback that maybe it felt too much like a menorah? Maybe it was just the blue I chose? Who knows but it wasn’t quite reading correctly. I thought about ways to not make it so vertically oriented. We added in a curve which is actually how the tool is used but it still sort of felt like it was giving the middle finger. Okay. SO. How about we just tilt it 45º? Perfect. We ended up using the logo as a mask over images and just had a ton of fun with it. RIP lil bud.

Like I said we only presented this mark the first time around, and the Suburban folks liked it but didn’t like like it. Which was devastating at the time. I had two large projects back to back kill everything and I was feeling pretty terrible.

On top of that, my whole family was sick for the entire month of January (and February and March but that’s a different story), so it was a no good time for my mental state. Chara and I had serious talks about closing up shop, which were extremely rough to have, but we were just at the point of feeling like, “Is this worth it? Are we even good enough? Does anyone care?” But I kept going into work and trying my best. I didn’t let this silly thing destroy me and everything I’ve worked for over the past few years because someone didn’t like some squiggle I made with my computer.

Installation Handbook

Our responsibility as designers isn’t to make ourselves happy. I feel like some folks are getting caught up in the “Do what you love” mantra. Yes, do what you love. But love takes work. Just like a marriage or a friendship. You might not agree all the time but you bend and flex to be better for that person because you love them. The same is true with design, you can put your full heart into it but realize that it will need a little give and take.

A compromise isn’t a death sentence and you owe it to your client to not treat them that way.

Just because they didn’t love what you presented doesn’t mean that they want a shitty solution. They have to live with this (hopefully) for a very long time so you can’t blame them if they have some opinions.

Thanks for reading. Hire us to make your stuff.