award-winning design

Since its inception in 1989, SmartShape Design has evolved from a one-man industrial design firm into an international organization. During that evolution, they opened up two offices in Cleveland, Ohio, as well as an office in Shenzhen, China, have grown to 20+ employees and produced a scope of work that has increased in both volume and vertical focus over time.

“Over the past decade we’ve expanded into a full-service consultancy that now offers in-house research facilities and full mechanical engineering capabilities along with our core expertise in industrial design. Additionally, SmartShape’s office in China operates as a contract manufacturer for projects of all shapes and sizes,” said Rachel Miller, SmartShape Design Marketing Coordinator.

With their firm now employing business strategists, program managers, engineers with advanced degrees, and experts in tooling and manufacturing, the company is now, more than ever, a one-stop shop for many prospective product producers. “We are a turn-key operation that allows companies to work with us to flesh out their product ideas from start to finish. We can serve clients who need it all, or for others who only need a portion, we’re able to provide services specific to the needs of any product development lifecycle stage.”  

As an industry, industrial design has been heavily affected by technological advancement. Considering that SmartShape has been in the business for close to 27 years, they’ve seen the brunt of it. “Shifts in technology have been one of the biggest changes [in this industry] – seeing technology evolve and making moves internally to adapt and meet the shift has been a fun challenge that we’ve been more than excited to meet head on, always moving to meet new needs.” Rachel told us, “Traditionally, our staff put pen to paper, but it’s all digital now. It will be interesting to see how the industry evolves even more to meet new and emerging design needs, modeling for advanced UX, wearable technology, and the age of the Internet of Things (IoT).”

Given the company’s willingness to adopt early, it should come as no surprise that SmartShape Design was so quick to find value in .design. “One of my colleagues came across a blog or a news story about .design becoming available and we hopped on it right away. We saw that .design was available and within two weeks we were”

This wasn’t just a domain change, the SmartShape team also opted for email addresses, a company-wide pivot. Why were they prepared to make such a big change? “It is a shorter web address that says what we do and who we are, and conveniently and simply displays as our brand name. It made a lot of sense for us to take that leap,” said Rachel.

SmartShape moved from to to make its domain shorter, more memorable and more “brandable.” These days, all of those qualities are in short supply in the .com namespace. On top of that, company names are almost always taken, illustrated by the fact that is a site for weight loss tools and training.
SmartShape was at the forefront of the .design movement. They got their domain only weeks after it launched on May 12th, 2015. Since then .design has added about 50,000 more registrations and is being used by companies such as Facebook, Medium and Airbnb. Rachel understood the potential from the beginning for a company in SmartShape’s industry, noting,  “In the future, when you’re looking for design, the .design extension instead of a .com extension could become the natural place to look on the web.”

.design founder series:



Improving SEO with context and a .design domain name


Karen and Dave Rose are the owners of Fraser Valley Website Design, now found at The business has grown considerably as they’ve expanded from SEO to graphic design, photography, drone imaging, car wraps, oh, and they also happened to get married in the process!

If Karen’s path from dairy farmer to SEO guru wasn’t already non-traditional, it seems that the recent switch from a .com domain to a keyword heavy .design name,, has created a noticeable uptick in their Google ranking, especially as displayed on Google Maps.

“My mind is always thinking ‘relevance, relevance, relevance’ and the .design domain made perfect sense to me,” said Karen. “I said to Dave, let’s try this domain ‘.design,’ and the part of the domain has just worked out fantastic. The technical benefit I saw was that we moved right up, right away, on the keyword search on ‘graphic design’ and ‘website design’.”

Despite what some media outlets, and Google themselves, have said, the Roses have definitely noticed that their domain has benefited their ranking. Google claims to remain domain agnostic, which is a safe statement coming from a company that applied to run 101 new top-level domains (as part of the post .com era, new options include .design). “Overall, our systems treat new gTLDs like other TLDs (like .com and .org),” they claimed in an article in Webmaster Central Blog, “keywords in a TLD do not give any advantage or disadvantage in search.”

The story isn’t just anecdotal information, this is a report coming from an SEO expert. Karen has been in the SEO business for the past 15 years. That’s pretty much since the birth of SEO. She spent much of that time leading a team of 5 global algorithm analysts for Microsoft through large corporate developments, including the Bing and Yahoo merger. Karen eventually moved on from the Microsoft contract to found Fraser Valley Website Design and has never looked back.

However, their success has not been without its hiccups. In 2012, when Google implemented Penguin (an updated search algorithm) and later versions, Fraser Valley Website Design took a hit. They lost their top placement.

“It was the Penguin algorithm, which was followed up by 3 version updates, the latest one was October 2014 that dropped our ranking due to many issues,” Karen told us, “such as old CMS codes, broken links back to other sites, and content relevancy for SEO metas.”

Something had to change and that change came in the form of a new domain. Tapping her entrepreneurial spirit and her SEO expertise, Karen followed a hunch and moved the company’s domain name from to currently retains the top positions for “web design” and “graphic design” within a 80 mile radius of their base of operations (60 miles out of Vancouver, BC).

Screen Shot 2016-06-27 at 3.35.54 PM

“It used to be that you’d build a company and then find a domain name,” Dave told us, “Now, you get the domain first and build the company second.” Availability and inventory are some of the great benefits of  new TLDs, especially new TLDs with a professional edge, such as .design.

The Rose’s story contradicts previous statements made by Google that adopting a new TLD will neither benefit nor hurt your SEO. While we have a clear counterexample in Fraser Valley Website Design’s SEO success with .design, we can also conclude that a relevant domain will always give your site greater context and make it more clickable. Perhaps the results are due to the fact that the new domain was just more appealing to those searching for local web design help in the B.C. area. Maybe it was this interest that caused their rise to #1 in local search.’s story is only one datapoint, but it points to the value of .design for SEO and is part of a larger success story. We look forward to following along and learning from these entrepreneurs and others like them.


Have you experienced an SEO breakthrough with a new TLD? Tell us your story!


Karen and David Rose

Karen and David Rose

An Interview with Katie Frederick

Compressed_Banner-AIGA-Conference is headed to the AIGA Design Conference in New Orleans this week! To celebrate the city’s best designers-in-the-making, we held a contest amongst members of AIGA’s student chapters. The contest was as follows: design three icons that capture what the Crescent City means to you for the chance to win your own .design domain, $250, and an all-access ticket to the conference!

Our winner was Katie Frederick, a junior at Loyola University, New Orleans. Her designs evoked the spirit of New Orleans with an eye towards both tradition and whimsy, past and present. If you’re attending the conference, you will find those icons on our posters, stickers and our booth banner. After she won, we were able to get her on the phone to talk about the icons she designed as well as what got her into the world of graphic design.


Q&A Newsletter Graphic



Had you heard of .design before this contest? How’d you get the idea for the designs?

I hadn’t. My advisor sent an email to us so I looked you guys up and it seemed like something I’d want to do. I’ve been wanting to work on a project about the architecture of New Orleans, which is amazing. I was going to go around and take pictures of all the houses and start vectorizing and making little illustrations of them. One of my designs in the contest was one of those illustrations so it worked out perfectly.


And how did you get the idea for the other two designs?

I asked all of my friends about the first four words they thought of when they thought of New Orleans. Booze and partying was obviously one of the things they said, as well as Mardi Gras. So the tree design came from Mardi Gras and trying not to do a cliched illustration of it. The drink is also iconic. The drinking culture here isn’t about drinking a drink at the bar. You drink it from a to-go cup because you can drink on the street here.


Yeah, I think the daiquiri was an office favorite

I’m sure you guys thought that was hilarious.


What would your ideal job or work scenario be after college?

I’m not exactly sure anymore. It used to be animation, working at Pixar was something I used to dream about. I’m not sure if that’s exactly what I want now. It’s such a long commitment, years of working on the same scene, the same movie. I don’t think I want that. I’m not really sure what I want right now. I’d love to work for a design firm, maybe in publications and magazines and I’d really love to work abroad. That’s a big goal of mine.


If you could choose a place to live and work, where would it be?

Right now I’m trying to go to New Zealand. I’m trying to study abroad next semester and if I could do it in New Zealand, that would be amazing.


How long have you been involved with design?

I was really involved in art and the arts side of things for a long time, but I didn’t know too much about design at the time. The question ended up being, how do I be creative and still get paid? which is when I started learning about design. The more I’ve learned about it and done it, the more confident I am that this is where I belong.


Do you feel like you’re gravitating towards one area of design or are you still just exploring?

Still exploring. I really am not settled on a particular thing right now.


How about stylistically?

I lean towards very simple designs, but, at this point, I try not to do the same thing or get too much of a style. I’m still a student so I might as well try new things now and have them come out poorly than when I’m working professionally.


When you won the contest you got a .design domain, what did you end up choosing?

My name,


Do you know what you’re going to do with that?

it’s going to be a portfolio page. I haven’t set it up yet, but it’s on my business cards so it needs to go up soon!


Did you already have a digital place for your portfolio before the .design?

Not so far. I haven’t set it up. I have been trying to get it together and get a portfolio that I’m happy with, but it’s very much a work in progress.


How’s that going to impact the job search? Is physical portfolio or digital portfolio going to be more important?

I think the digital portfolio is hugely important. We had an alumna come speak to us, Lizzie Margiotta, she works in LA. When she was looking for a job she just sent a link to her portfolio to a design firm, nothing else, and they hired her. So it’s definitely really important.  


Now that you have a .design, is that something you would recommend to your peers or other designers?

Definitely. The idea is that the domain is targeted at designers. I think it’s great to have design after my name because I have to say less, it says it for me. A lot of my peers are in the process of setting up their portfolios right now so it’s a great thing to have.


Katie’s site is at, check it out!


Andrew Means Newsletter

Andrew didn’t go to art school, he was a philosophy major. His freshman year of college he was elected dorm head and one of his responsibilities was to produce a newsletter once a week. This is how he began his career in design. Creating weekly newsletters turned into learning the basics of web design and soon enough, Andrew was an Art Director at a weekly magazine.

Now Andrew is running his own design firm, Transom Design. With six employees and a constant stream of work, the company is running on all cylinders.

Q&A Newsletter Graphic


What area of design does Transom specialize in?

We do visual identity really well. At least, we enjoy it the most. It’s a design problem in its purest form, almost like poetry. You’re trying to capture the essence of a brand or a company and distill it down to something that is very simple and memorable and easily replicated.


Where did the name “Transom” come from?

On a boat, the transom  is the flat part in the back, most of the time that’s where the name is written. So, It’s a structural part of the boat and without that the boat can’t function, but it’s also an architectural piece; the beam across a window or a door. We loved how the word sounded and looks. We had bunch of different naming ideas and I can’t remember the moment exactly, but I think I was looking through a book on boat terminology and it clicked.


Do you have a philosophy when it comes to naming a company or  brand?

I think there is a fine line between memorable and easily digestible. I love names that don’t bring a lot of meaning to the table with them. There might be some meaning implied, but not a ton. Take Transom, for example; it’s easily to parse, it look just like it sounds, maybe you’ve heard it once or twice, but it’s not in the common vernacular. It’s an empty vessel that you can then fill in with the actual brand. But I don’t really have a mantra, there are so many considerations that go into naming, so something that works for one company will not work for another.


How did you land on What domains did you have before that? was the obvious choice out of the gate, but that was unavailable. So we just experimented with different permutations of putting Transom somewhere in the domain. We had and, at one point we had, which was terrible. People often asked, ‘what’s your company, transomco?’ Then we had and I thought, we aren’t really transom labs, we are a design company. I eventually saw that .design was coming out and I thought that if we got there early we could get our name and we did. Since getting, the person who owns actually reached out to us to sell it.


Are you going to buy it?

No, we could totally afford it, but, aesthetically, is exactly what we’re going for. It doesn’t get any simpler than it is now, it’s who-we-are-dot-what-we-do.


How has the reaction been?

It’s been really good. I was actually thinking that we’d get more questions about it, but most people just think it’s cool. Some people we have to educate and the rest just go with the flow.  


Lastly, what advice would you give to aspiring designers?

For me, design was what I did in my spare time and it became a real passion. You can certainly be a designer without that, but it sure helps to have it. I know a lot of people who decided that they wanted to be a writer or a photographer, or whatever creative discipline and I would ask them, ” what have you written lately,” or “what photographs have you taken lately?” and they would provide excuses or talk about a class they were going to take. Invariably, I would ask them a year later and they would no longer be interested. Whatever you think your life will be as a designer, that’s not what it’s going to be like. You should be a designer because the act of designing is innately pleasurable to your soul. I would hope that people discover that they want to be a designer because they find themselves designing.



We do things a little differently at Porkbun. We know that registering a domain name and setting up a website can be a little daunting to someone who has never done it before. So, we’ve tried to make the process as simple and easy as possible. We’ve partnered with Weebly so that building a website is intuitive and we’ve streamlined the domain registering process so you can find the name you want quickly and effortlessly. Continue reading


Meet“The company was Energi Design. But when I started to think about design I decided to put it into one word,, and I thought that .design had to come out at some point, so I started searching for it.” – Steve Holmes,


Steve Holmes is not the typical .designer. He discovered .design a year before it was made available to the public. His diligence paid off. He’s been the proud owner of as soon as the domain was made available, which he now calls “his perfect domain name.” was founded in London in 1994. Since then, the company has moved internationally… twice. The company is now based in Munich, DE. Despite being in business for over twenty years, the company has remained a one-man-show. Despite that, the workload is steadily increasing. The month of August is especially busy, with seven video projects going on at the same time.

Steve has taught in colleges and universities and he has toured around Europe and the USA promoting Adobe After Effects. He has received awards both for his motion graphics and his typography and his client list is, in one word, impressive.

We were able to call in and get a bit of Steve’s time last week. Here’s what we talked about.

Continue reading