How to Brand Your New Business, A Case Study

How to Brand A New Business: A Case Study of The Haunted Game Cafe from Business Launch Through Year Five

The Haunted Game Cafe is a really creative board game store and coffee house, begun in Fort Collins, Colorado, in Fall 2009. What makes it unique is the decor, and the open tables where people gather to play boardgames, their own, or any from a wide selection from an Open Game Library.

The theme is spooky, vintage Victorian, not Halloween, gory, nor bloody. It includes wall stencils, and fun color mixes. For instance, the walls are dark purple. Other walls are a mix of dark purple, red and blue, with gold stencils overlaid. Some ceiling tiles are a dark orange brass for molded ceiling tiles.

The original logo work was begun with other agencies, and that’s how the coffee cup in the web logo came into being.
Cup Web Logo

The store owner contacted Dan Seese Studios to create a spectacular exterior sign. Together they created the sign with the bat wing shape, and gilded lettering. The store font is similar to Hightower. We took this font to create the window sign later.

We were testing a new banner sign for below the exterior sign.

So future graphic design and branding work had to fit with the existing branding and the owners’ direction. We designed and created a “Ghosts Wanted” large banner sign to gather interest before opening.. The scroll work, spiderweb and bat shape was created using Adobe Illustrator. The bat shape was modeled over a real bat wing, from a photograph found on the internet, and then duplicated to make it a full image from left to right. The bat was merged with a black rectangle for the sign middle.

Promo and (Spirited) Help Wanted for the Haunted Game Cafe

Promo and (Spirited) Help Wanted for the Haunted Game Cafe

We created a 3-fold, 2-sided business marketing flyer with a dark blue background to give it a spooky feel, plus Victorian art details like these scroll-work photo corners, and dividers. We used Yataghan font on the photo descriptions and titles, matching fonts that were in use in-house. Hightower font in regular and italic was used to resemble the exterior sign, whose font was in outline. The teal is made to resemble the aged copper from the exterior sign. The flyer was printed, and used on the website as a digital PDF download, in both full color, and were later modified to be black and white and 2 sided, for less expensive reproduction and easier at-home printing by customers, and again to be a one page flyer.

graphic design in Fort Collins, 3 panel flyer, brochure design portfolio

This brochure’s front is on the right, with the quotes pulled out large to highlight them. The far left panel is the second panel seen during the unfolding. The center map panel is the very back of the brochure design. Note the Victorian elements like photo corners.

Designed the entire graphic look of this 3-panel flyer from scratch for The Haunted Game Cafe. Imported some Victorian design elements to match the board game store's theme.

Designed the entire graphic look of this 3-panel flyer from scratch for The Haunted Game Cafe. Imported some Victorian design elements to match the board game store’s theme.

The graphic design for this bat-shaped board game review sign, similar to those found in bookstores.

We designed two different customer VIP cards. The first was designed using Adobe Illustrator. The bar code (printed in the bottom space), worked with the POS system to track rewards.

CuPreferred Customer Card for Very Important.. Ghosts! Haunted Game Cafe (Bar code will be added at bottom.)

CuPreferred Customer Card for Very Important.. Ghosts! Haunted Game Cafe (Bar code will be added at bottom.)

The second one, much more creative, was requested to resemble the old Ouija board game, supposed to contact spirit world. The font used looks like the American Old West, and indeed that was the Victorian era in America. We started with colorful coffee mug and game piece in the corner, but then muted them down to match the existing brown and black colors. We talked with the store owner about making the ink stamp (that goes over the numbers) into a “planchett”, similar to the original board game.

customer card graphic design

This rewards card was designed in our graphics software to mimic an old spirit-contact board. We matched the center font and colors. The stamp for each number was made into a pointer shape, to also resemble the game. The mug was also created to match the branding graphics.

We have done several ads over the years from simple black and white to more elaborate color ads. These mostly appeared in high school newspapers, whose rates are more reasonable than local papers.

Dark puple bat holds a coffee cup in his feet while flying with wings outstretched. Decorative photo corners from Victorian era. Purple bar at bottom contains address. Tag line: open boardgame library, great coffee drinks, ravenous zombies. The last is crossed out and replaced by Helpful Staff.

This custom four inch square newspaper ad was designed in Adobe Illustrator for print use. The bat was designed by another artist, and converted into vector art by me. Note the adherance to branding (purple, tag line, coffee mug), Victorian photo corners.

The bat was designed by another artist, and then painstakingly converted into a vector graphic design by us, then colored. This same art was adapted for use on the mug seen above, where the print area is quite small.

In Spring 2014, we created the graphic design, and set-up the business e-mail marketing program, using the bat wing exterior sign logo, and added spiderwebs to the outside corners. We painstakingly added all the social media marketing links to the top and bottom of the e-mail, and (similar to the flyer) added Victorian art elements as article dividers. We thought the red background made the e-mail more vibrant. (See April’s graphic design e-mail newsletter)

In early 2014 The Haunted Game Cafe sponsored Cult Movie Night at a local theatre. It was our first foray into large screen ads, with several versions to test the ads each month. We proofed that it looked good in person, by visiting.


Also in 2014, we began to trade advertising free with a local indie bookstore – Facebook mentions, event cross-promotion and bookmarks for them. We have similar customer demographics, but do not compete on products. We offered free bookmarks (seen below) to their customers with Haunted branding.

Bookmark graphic design for business marketing, in Fort Collins, CO

Bookmark graphic design for business marketing, in Fort Collins, CO

The Haunted Game Cafe sponsored local hospitals in a gaming fundraiser for four years. The event required graphic design of a large donation check, themed with ghosts & Victorian decoration in the background. The check was laminated to be usable for multiple years with a write-on/wipe-off pen.

Enormous donation check, 36" by 60" approx.

Enormous donation check, 36″ by 60″ approx.

We also created several table top signs to announce events, get social media sign-ups & reviews, and larger signs to announce new foods.

Sign announcing new breakfast foods, size approx. 10 x 14".

Sign announcing new breakfast foods, size approx. 10 x 14″.

Table Top Sign, approx. 5 x 7"

Table Top Sign, approx. 5 x 7″


Now that you’ve read about Sproul Creative, what about your project? What can we design for you? Feel free to call me right now at (970) 988-5413, or use our handy contact form, and we will get back to you as soon as possible.

The Magic of Living Ink – See This Timelapse Greeting Card

There’s something new on the horizon – ink made from algae. The company Living Ink Tech will ship a glass greeting card for you. While it looks like two clear plates of glass at first, the message appears as it grows in a bright window.

The company was founded by Scott Fulbright and Steve Albers, PhD students in Cell and Molecular Biology Program at Colorado State University, here in Fort Collins.

Here’s more about Steve Albers from their website:

Currently, Steve is engineering a strain of algae that is capable of producing a bio-fuel molecule that resembles diesel fuel. He is also engineering a strain of algae that makes Astaxanthin, a molecule capable of protecting cells from dangerous toxins.

From their website, Scott is working on optimizing “algae productivity for biofuels and bioproducts using molecular biology methods.” He is a National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Program Fellow.

Although this is a fun start, this technology has future applications in reducing the amount of ink used in the world on countless books, print-outs, business materials, and more. (I am imagining here adding water and light to the back of my home printer.)

I would like to more about the possibility of having different colored inks in the future, and whether their application would appear immediately, or would appear over time. (Photos to follow, once I have permission.)

Living Ink Tech will be speaking on Wednesday, March 5th, 2014, at 1 Million Cups NoCo Chapter (on in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Custom WordPress Blogs

We offer custom WordPress blog designs. Reach the world with your own message, and link to your tie-ins:

  • company website,
  • e-commerce shop,
  • online portfolio,
  • videos,
  • books authored,
  • social media: Facebook and Twitter.

Your blog can function as the main headquarters to reach your customers!

Here’s How It Works:
Choose a basic layout with 1-3 columns.We work with you to develop your look and feel: custom header, colors, fonts, styles of headers, image styles, background color and more. If you have search engine keywords, we can use them where we can.

Easy Updating, No Programming:
The back end software is run for free by a great blog company, and very easy to either update on your own (add pages, write new posts, check your visitor traffic) or let us do that for you.

We’re here to help you create your vision.
Call or E-mail Us Today to Get Started.


Diana Sproul, Owner and Founder
Sproul Creative Graphics and Web Design
Send Us an E-mail Today: Diana AT
Call Us Today! (970) 988-5413

Three Easy Business Graphic Design Tips, From A Professional Graphic Designer

It can be tough being in business. There’s too much to do, and not enough hours in the day. Here are three easy graphics tips that can make your website easier to update, as well as improve the look of your business:

I hope these three, simple tips will help you in your business.

Smithsonian Prints Famous Stuff in 3D for Travelling Exhibits

3D Printing has to be the coolest thing I’ve seen for a while. There are a lot of cool products made from metal and wood that are not molded, but printed! Check out the 3D dice and other projects in metal and wood on See this 3D dice image, a 2nd dice, and 3rd dice on

Now the Smithsonian is turning to 3D printing to be able to send more of their exhibits travelling around the country. Making 3D copies enables them to be travel safely, without being lost, damaged or stolen. The article here on says that only about 2% of the Smithsonion archive is on view. That seems a terrible shame.

Build Incoming Website Links Quickly & Easily

Making money on the web involves getting free traffic – eyeballs – to view your website. That means you need a net of links spread out on other sites that link back to your website. How to get that traffic?

Check out this Wordtracker LinkBuilding tutorial. It has a lot of great ideas. They sell their link building software as well. I used the demo version. It seemed worth it just to use their software to keep track of it all. And if you are looking to build links in a certain subject, you can look up the most popular blog, and see who is linking to them. And you can look up the links in to your competitors. Very useful -

A New Era: My Photographs Are Available

And so begins a new era – I studied film, worked in commercial film & TV, studied graphics and website design, worked in that…

Finally I’ve come full circle: back to film. My photographs are now available online as framed prints, mounted prints, cards, and more. Please check out my photographic work on (which sells framed and unframed prints, cards, and posters) and (view Forest & Mountain landscape gallery, Waterfall & Lake Landscapes, Desert Spring). Shutterfly sells photographic enlargements, note cards, puzzles, keepsake boxes, mugs and more. I hope you like my work. And if you have any comments, well, you know the drill.

Cool Books for the iPad Owner

I was reading this great review of modern children’s books – on the iPad. Most are under $5, and thanks to interactivity, can include pop-ups, sounds, word help, reading to the kid, and more. Read more at the NY Times interactive book review list.

And just to note, the new color Nook from Barnes and Noble also has a “read to me” setting at the start of books. Kipling’s How the Elephant Got His Long Nose (not the exact title) is included on the new Nook.

Cookies for Graphic Designers!

Finally – I’ve found a cookie I can really like (although I must confess to liking quite a number, without any encouragement – )

Now you can press out your favorite cookie messages with these letterpress cookie cutters and presses. View photos at’s article.

The set includes the whole alphabet in a range of fonts, including one ampersand (you know, this: &). OK, you probably knew that, but for the non-type geeks out there…

For sale under $18.

View Comic Books On The Go!

Comic books’ appeal has always been the art, and the collection of hard to find titles by fans: holding that rare comic book in your hands…

Now, for less hard-core fans who want to read their fav’s on the go, there’s a new way to view them: digitally. Dark Horse Comics, one of the third largest U.S. comic book publishers, has announced downloads of their titles for viewing on any any modern web browser, iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch (which is like an iPhone, just without the phone feature). Here is the link to Dark Horse Comics’ mobile app download page. Pleasant reading!

Find Historical Photos’ Exact Location with

I was just wasting time checking out the new website technology This website links historical photos for several major cities to locations on Google Maps. This website will allow you to see an historical photo of the famous Brown Derby Restaurant in Los Angeles. It was once the dining place of celebrities like Clark Gable. It was torn down in 1970s after a bad fire. I had the good luck to eat there once.

Or here – you can see the location of the Continue reading

Link Building

I am in the process of building incoming website links. I am trying out’s Link Builder website, using their free 7 day trial. So far, it looks pretty good…
I am surprised, however, that Google likes incoming links from free directories over quality written content (as on this website – ). The system seems to favor the free directory listings…

As part of the process, I have listed my company on this directory,, the Denver Channel 7 local directory, and others. I’ll let you know if it improves my brand, traffic, and business.

Nov. 2011 update – So far, traffic has increased marginally, but not enough for me. I installed one WordPress SEO plug-in, and now I am trying a second one.

My Kindle Book is Published: Baby Sign Language

Writers always advise, “Write what you know.” Well, after raising a baby for several years, I know a few things about talking with toddlers, both verbally and with baby sign language. And I’m happy to announce my new Kindle book: Sign Language for Babies and Toddlers. It includes 20 clear photos of American sign language (ASL) signs to use with your baby and pre-verbal toddler. The photos almost fill the Kindle screen, so they will be extremely clear.

How to sign "Grandma" in ASL sign language. Teach your baby and pre-verbal toddler to use sign language, with this downloadable Kindle e-book.

How to sign "Grandma" in ASL sign language. Teach your baby and pre-verbal toddler to use sign language, with this downloadable Kindle e-book.

Why Sign With Your Toddler or Baby:

  • It decreases frustration & screaming. (Terrible Twos, anyone?)
  • Your child will bring up topics of conversation (like Daddy at work!).
  • You’ll see how your child is learning: from grouping things, to separating things out from the group.
  • It’s fun to talk about things you see after so many months (12-20) of one-way communication.
  • Increases communication connections in the brain, which leads to better speech communication skills.
  • It will help you care for other kids, and know what they want and need.

Sign Language for Babies and Toddlers is for sale on Amazon now for the Kindle ebook reader.
– Or read it on the iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch using this Amazon Kindle iPhone/iPad application free on iTunes.

This short work will help you get started learning sign language quickly. You don’t need to be convinced – you already know you want to learn it.

Photos will appear black and white on the Kindle, and color on the iPhone/iPod Touch.

Download the book and start learning the 20 most commonly needed sign language signs today!!

As of December, 2011, I just completed my author profile. In January 2012, I uploaded the same book to Barnes & Noble for the Nook. I also designed a cover for the e-book. The cover has to be readable at very small sizes, especially for the Nook book jacket image.

Wish me luck!

Modern Printing: Bountiful Colors, Cheaper Price Tag

When I bought business cards over a decade ago, they cost $70 for one-sided black printing on a plain white card. They were… boring!

Fast-forward to the digital printing age: Now I have 2-sided business cards, with full color on both sides. There is a top flap that folds over, reaching 3/4s of the way down the card. A card like this in the past would have taken one pass through the printer for each different color, for each side (front and back). There would be a lot more wasted paper, as the printer tried to perfectly line them all the images up, too. Then they would be cut, and then passed through the folder. And don’t forget the time for each ink color to dry between the runs through the printer.

Cover: 2-Sided Business Card Design for Sproul Creative Graphics and Website Design

Inside: 2-Sided Business Card Design for Sproul Creative Graphic Design, with Fold-over top

Inside: 2-Sided Business Card Design for Sproul Creative Graphic Design, with Fold-over top

Because these were printed digitally, they were much easier to make. So even with the fancy fold-over, they still only cost about $130. That is the world to today’s digital printing: cheaper, faster runs, for less of the printers’ time, too. And there is internet competition from companies like and others waiting in the wings, as well.

How Digital Printing Benefits Your Business:
A business owner can print business cards, flyers, or letterhead more cheaply, in smaller runs. Now you don’t have to do a run of 5000 business cards. You can print 250, and try them out. You can revise them before the next printing.

One of my clients, who couldn’t decide on a business card’s final background color, tried out four different ones. And they didn’t have to choose then: the printer just ran the four different designs, and gave them all to the client. I love this modern age!

Contact Sproul Creative today to get started on your new project!

The Man Who Loathes Arial

This man loathes the Arial typeface:

“It totally sucks but has become the standard for many users and even institutions.”

Why should we listen to him? Because he’s Erik Spiekermann, a graphic designer, typographer, and owner of And he’s done work for Nokia, Cisco, Bosch, German Railways, Heidelberg Printing, and other brands. He designed the Berlin metro map, and helped change their buses and trams to a bright yellow.

In this interview on, the interviewer Debbie Hemley asks:

“What was one of the most challenging typography problems you have ever had to solve?”

Spiekermann responds:

“It is always the same: to find a visual voice for all the communication of a large corporation. It is supposed to express their identity (whatever that may mean), be legible, pleasant to look at, work technically across platforms, and be applicable across the world.”

Read the full interview of Erik Spiekermann here. You may also want to read Spiekermann’s bio on the FontShop website, which lists the fonts that he has designed. You can look at them on the same website.