Garden Prototype: The quest to build a stronger, attractive and more practical tomato (or dahlia) cage

I've never been a big fan of the traditional wire tomato cages. Most are too flimsy, or too short, and will fall over when a tomato plant is loaded with the fruit of the vine. (In fact, I have a leaning tower of tomatoes in one part of my garden right now.) The circular cages have always created a storage challenge for me, too. I've never used the collapsible square cages - which in some case do have height extensions - but they still look like...well, tomato cages.

In my own garden, tomatoes and other vegetables are mixed in with the perennials, annuals and shrubs to take the greatest advantage of the sun in the front and back of the house. The usual tomato cage is not always the most attractive garden element. In the past, I've also used tomato cages in flower beds to help support dahlias that grow to five or six feet tall. I decided to play around with an idea for a better - and more attractive - cage for the tomatoes and dahlias. I was hoping for something that might convey the appearance of garden art, in addition to serving a practical purpose.

I sketched out my rough idea (above) for a prototype of a possible functional and artistic tomato cage. My idea was to make individual panels (below left) made of rebar that could be used in groups of three or four pieces to support plants. By reversing the manner in which panels were put into the ground, the supporting cross-bars would be at different levels on which vines could rest. A simple copper ring, cut from plumbing pipe, would hold the panels together at the top and provide added support to the structure (below right).

Materials needed for each panel of my prototype:

• 2 pieces of 3/8" rebar cut to 48" long

• 3 pieces of 3/8" rebar cut to 18" long

• Pieces of 1" copper plumbing pipe cut to 2" lengths

• Welding equipment - or friend/relative who welds

I handed my prototype doodle off to my partner Ed and, with rebar purchased for a few dollars, he and his father fabricated four of my cage panels as designed. With a hacksaw I cut four 2-inch copper pieces from plumbing pipe leftovers we had around the house. My initial tomato cage was easily installed in my garden (below left).

A couple months later, with the tomato plant growing well around and on the cage, I have a better idea of how I might refine my original design. The welds need to be a bit stronger, as a couple have come loose under the weight of the vines. I would most likely expand the height of the cages by using five or six foot pieces of rebar; rather than the 4-foot lengths used. I do really like the rusty patina that has developed on the rebar with exposure to the elements and sprinklers. It gives the cage more of a garden art appearance. To finalize my design, in the future, I would probably replace the copper pipe collars I used with copper caps using lamp finials or drawer/cabinet pulls (as I did with my previous garden hose guard project).

One of the reasons I designed the tomato cage as I did, was to make removal and winter storage easy. Individual panels can easily be stacked in a garden shed or garage. However, I may just leave the cage in place after the plant has died away to give the garden some visual interest during the off-season.

Note: You might also want to check out my flower pot umbrella stand and copper pipe garden trellis projects.

© 2010 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

Toot! Toot!*: New edition of 'Type Rules!' includes identity of design firm Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

The identity for Portland design firm Jeff Fisher LogoMotives is one of the new typographic images illustrating the recently released third edition of the book Type Rules!: The Designer's Guide to Professional Typography, by educator and expert Ilene Strizver of The Type Studio. The volume was published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Type Rules! is a practical guide to understanding type and how to use it effectively. It is intended for beginners and advanced professionals alike, and covers a broad range of topics. The new edition includes:

• New information on OpenType, font management utilities, font web sites, and interactive typography.
• An expanded history of type and an updated glossary of key terms.
• Exercises throughout to help reinforce the concepts presented in the book.
• A wealth of tried-and-true as well as recently developed type tips.
• More in-depth type issues, including scaling logos.

The featured logo was selected after author Strizver made use of her Twitter account @TheTypeStudio to request "type-centric images and design" examples for the new edition of her book. Fisher contacted Strizver, provided a link to a Flickr gallery of his identity work, and the author selected the identity representing the logo design firm.

The Jeff Fisher LogoMotives identity also appears in Letterhead and Logo Design 5, American Corporate Identity/14, New Logo & Trademark Design (Japan), the 1998 PRINT Regional Design Annual, The New Big Book of Logos, PRINT’s Best Logos & Symbols 6, Logo Design for Small Business 2, The Big Book of Business Cards, Logos from North to South America (Spain), New Logo & Trademark Collection (Japan), and The Savvy Designer’s Guide to Success.

Fisher, a 30+ year design industry veteran, is the author of Identity Crisis!: 50 redesigns that transformed stale identities into successful brands and The Savvy Designer's Guide to Success: Ideas and tactics for a killer career. He is currently writing the book Logo Type: 200 Best Typographic Logos from Around the World Explained, about typography in identity design, with a scheduled 2011 release.

The designer has received over 600 design awards and his work has been published in more than 140 books on identity design, self-promotion and the marketing of small businesses.

More information about Jeff Fisher, and his design and writing efforts, may be found on the Jeff Fisher LogoMotives blogfolio.

(* If I don’t "toot!" my own horn, no one else will.)

© 2010 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

Logodotes: Al Bauer Advertising

[Over the 30+ years I've worked professionally as a designer, interesting side stories have come up about my identity designs. This is one of an ongoing series of "Logodotes" - anecdotes about my logo designs.]

In 1980, my first year out of college, ad agency owner Al Bauer asked me to design a logo to identify his firm. Bauer had been toying with the idea of using an abstract image to represent the company. In fact, he'd even considered making use of an abstract painting created by his daughter, artist Marlene Bauer. The pre-digital printing expense of reproducing a four-color image led to the client quickly changing his mind about the possibility.

The initial concept (above left) evolved out of my interest in the minimalist logo imagery I studied in school during the 1970's. Many logos of the time were simple, somewhat heavy, and involved geometric forms. The client almost immediately selected this particular design. I was told that he appreciated its abstract representation of how advertising was often a very orderly discipline - until something went completely out of whack.

A couple of weeks later an excited Bauer called me, having just realized the design was in actuality very abstract lower-case a and b letterforms (visually defined above right).

© 2010 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives

Calls for entries: Upcoming graphic design competition and book submission deadlines

All of the following competition or book submission deadlines present great opportunities to showcase your design efforts, market your work on an international scale through the published books, and "toot!" your own horn to clients, peers and the media:

International Wine Label Design Competition
(IWLDC - USA)
Deadline Extended: 2 August 2010
Entry fees charged

TypeCon: TypeGallery2010
(Society of Typographic Aficionados - USA)
Deadline: 5 August 2010
Entry fees charged

TypeCon: 2010 Poster Show
(Society of Typographic Aficionados - USA)
Deadline: 5 August 2010
No entry fees charged

London International Awards
(London International Awards - UK)
Deadline Extended: 6 August 2010
Entry fees charged

W3 Awards
(IAVA - USA)
Deadline Extended: 13 August 2010
Entry fees charged

Letterpool - London
(Letterpool - UK)
Deadline: 20 August 2010
No entry fees charged

Top 100 New Creatives 49
(CMYK - USA)
Deadline Extended: 24 August 2010
Entry fees charged

Creativity Print Awards
(Creativity Awards - USA)
Deadline Extended: 27 August 2010
Entry fees charged

Website Design 3
(zeixs - Germany)
Deadline: 30 August 2010
No entry fees charged

Graphic Design 3
(zeixs - Germany)
Deadline: 30 August 2010
No entry fees charged

Letterhead and Business Card 2
(zeixs - Germany)
Deadline: 30 August 2010
No entry fees charged

Sound and Design
(zeixs - Germany)
Deadline: 30 August 2010
No entry fees charged

Tattoo Design
(zeixs - Germany)
Deadline: 30 August 2010
No entry fees charged

Letterhead & Logo Design 12
(Rockport Publishers - USA)
Deadline Extended: 31 August 2010
No entry fees charged

HOW Interactive Awards
(HOW Magazine - USA)
Deadline Extended: 31 August 2010 (late fees waived)
Entry fees charged

iheartlogos
(iheartlogos.com - USA)
Season One Deadline: 31 August 2010
Entry fees charged

HOW International Design Awards
(HOW Magazine - USA)
Deadline: 1 September 2010
Late Deadline: 15 September 2010 (with late fees)
Entry fees charged

1000: A Steampunk Collection
(Rockport Publishers - USA)
Deadline: 1 September 2010
No entry fees charged

Communication Arts Typography Competition
(Communication Arts - USA)
Deadline: 10 September 2010
Late Deadline: 24 September 2010 (with late fees)
Entry fees charged

Inside the World of Board Graphics: Skate, Surf, Snow
(Rockport Publishers - USA)
Deadline Extended: 15 September 2010
No entry fees charged

Summit Emerging Media Awards
(Summit International Awards - USA)
Deadline: 22 September 2010
Entry fees charged

Book of the Year, Volume 3
(Design & Design - France)
Deadline: 30 September 2010
No entry fees charged

Communication Arts Interactive Competition
(Communication Arts - USA)
Deadline: 8 October 2010
Late Deadline: 22 October 2010 (with late fees)
Entry fees charged

Print Creativity + Commerce Competition
(Print Magazine - USA)
Deadline: 15 October 2010
Entry fees charged

HOW Poster Design Awards
(HOW Magazine - USA)
Deadline: 15 October 2010
Entry fees charged

HOW Logo Design Awards
(HOW Magazine - USA)
Deadline: 15 October 2010
Entry fees charged

Hiiiband International Logo Award 2010
(New Graphic - China)
Deadline: 31 October 2010
No entry fees charged

Graphis Poster Annual 2012
(Graphis - USA)
Deadline: 29 November 2010
Entry fees charged

Look What Good Design Can Do: The Best Before-and-After Redesigns From Around the World
(Crescent Hill Books - USA)
Deadline: 6 December 2010
No entry fees charged

Logo Nest
(Logo Nest - International)
Deadline: 31 December 2010
No entry fees charged

Graphis Design Annual 2012
(Graphis - USA)
Deadline: 10 January 2011
Entry fees charged

Summit Creative Awards
(Summit International Awards - USA)
Deadline: 24 January 2011
Entry fees charged

100 Best in Advertising 2012
(Graphis - USA)
Deadline: 14 February 2011
Entry fees charged

100 Best in Photography 2012
(Graphis - USA)
Deadline: 9 May 2011
Entry fees charged

100 Best in Annual Reports
(Graphis - USA)
Deadline: 13 June 2012
Entry fees charged

Graphis New Talent Annual 2012
(Graphis - USA)
Deadline: 13 June 2012
Entry fees charged

PAPERWORKS Letterhead Contest
(Neenah Paper - USA)
Deadline: Ongoing - judged quarterly
No entry fees charged

PAPERWORKS Text And Cover Contest
(Neenah Paper - USA)
Deadline: Ongoing - judged quarterly
No entry fees charged

(To make sure you are reading the latest bLog-oMotives design competition update click here.)

You may want to read my article about participating in design industry competitions and calls for book submissions: A collection of design competition - and book submission request - tips, tricks and observations.

A design competition calendar is also available at Icograda. L├╝rzer's ARCHIVE has an impressive online list of competitions sponsored by international magazines and organizations. Dexinger posts competitions of great value to industry professionals - however designers need to be aware that some of the listings are for "spec" work as a requirement for submission. Requests for new, or speculative, work as a condition of entering a "contest" are much different than legitimate design competition "calls for entries," in which previously created works are judged for possible awards, exhibition, or publication in an annual or other book.

My own work appears in over 130 graphic design books. Many of those inclusions are the result of design competitions, or requests for submissions, like those listed above.

© 2010 Jeff Fisher LogoMotives