Archive for June, 2009

Did you know?

And you thought you were overloaded with information today? This is just the start. Take a look at this very cool video by Karl Fisch, Scott McLeod, and Jeff Brenman on the progression of information technology, then let me know if you feel tired, inspired or excited.

One thing that’s clear to me, if we’re going to saturate the planet with this much information, we’d better have some darned good designers on hand to decipher and deliver it to us.

Thanks to Swiss Miss for the tip off on this.


The Papergirl Project | Art for all in Berlin

With so much disturbing and tragic international news, this story provides a much-needed burst of creativity. It looks like Berlin is the place to be this summer. Check out this project, Papergirl.

Bicyclists are giving away free art, rolled up like newspapers, to just anyone. No time to pass judgments, just time to pass the creativity.


Photos by for Papergirl

According to the NY Times:

“Aisha Ronniger, a first year art school student, started brainstorming with her fellow students about alternative and legal ways to present art in public urban spaces. One friend suggested passing out art to the public like an old-school paperboy. And with that spontaneous idea, the Papergirl project was born.

Four years later, Papergirl has grown into a well-established Berlin happening. Hundreds of artworks on paper are sent from all corners of the globe to Ronniger and her team. “A lot of local street artists, like Kowalski and Brad Downey, take part because they are used to giving their art for free,” said Ronniger. Participants (who really can be anyone, from art students to doodling taxi drivers) are asked to submit a minimum of two artworks. (This year’s deadline for submissions is June 17).

According to Ronniger she and her volunteers put together 10 to 15 artworks in each roll that’s to be passed out — saving one artwork per artist to be shown at an exhibition, this year at the Alten Post on Karl-Marx-Straße in Neukölln. On an as-yet undisclosed day sometime between July 17 and 31 — the two weeks the show will be up — the Papergirl team will hit the streets of Neukölln (a poor, gritty neighborhood that has recently become popular with students and artists) with their rolls of art and pass them on to lucky strangers.”

Coolhunting just did a post on Papergirl, too. Looks like they were in the know long before I was!

Design your own stimulus plan

No more denial. By now, we’ve all accepted that we’re in a recession. And it’s not a simple, short moment. This mess of a meltdown is revealing every weakness in our economy, and even our own businesses. And while the upticks make us hopeful, it’s a long ways up to get back to where we were.

Everyone has cut expenses and/or staff. Who do you keep, and who do you lose? If you’re looking for a partner to help you see things from a new perspective, keep the creatives on your team. Designers are trained to be intuitive, inventive and insightful.  They could make the difference in whether this period will be one of new growth, or a slow demise.

Engage your designer to do some strategic work with you, and you might be surprised at what you discover. His or her creative thinking can make a big difference in your future.

So what can you do about the mess we call our new reality? Plenty.


Seek Clarity: This is the time to define exactly what you are selling, who is buying it, and why they value your organization. What is distinctive about your brand? And if it costs a little more, why are your customers loyal? What does their dollar buy them, besides the product?  Why should someone spend money with you, rather than the next guy, who, by the way, is cheaper?  You may have done this work years ago. If so, revisit it.

Ask, listen, document, and evangelize throughout your company. Everyone should know the answers. And if you’re a sole proprietor, make sure you can articulate them in your sleep, when you’re on the train, or at your kid’s Little League game. Your designer can help you define and design the message to make the information accessible and exciting to everyone on your team.

Perpetuate Partnerships: Who cares? To start, your staff, vendors, trusted advisors, and your longtime clients. Use them all for advice, contacts, and ideas. Your partnership posse might include the shop owner next door, the competing consultant, and your accountant (and, obviously, your designer). Ask them what you could do differently, and better. Listen closely to their answers. We’re all in this together, and there is no better time for clear and direct feedback. You might consider a survey, but a phone call, a long walk, or a cup of coffee could garner important insights you can use right away.

Explore and Expand: What can you add to your offerings that will expand your services, your territory and your market?  Delivery? Follow up? Consultation? Would your services be valuable to a different industry?  What are you good at, by virtue of your business, that isn’t part of your offering? Maybe it should be. One of my favorite boutiques now offers clothing RX clinics. The athletic store down the street offers women’s running groups. I received a mailer from a well-known law firm offering a workshop in human resources policy and law.  The next new thing might not be the next big thing, but it could be the transitional thing that takes you someplace new.

Negotiate Nicely: I’ve been surprised at how much printing, rent, advertising, and even my water cooler can shift in price, based on an honest conversation.  Trade and barter–as long as it’s fair to both parties–is the perfect answer to get us through these months. Flexibility may enable a new customer to work with you, and it may allow you the chance to use another’s services. A little humility, coupled with honesty, can create terms that are healthy for everyone.

Evaluate Your Assets: What do you have in your back room or closet that can be repurposed for a sales promotion?  Photos, postcards, testimonial quotes? Can you create a case study and send it out on letterhead, or by email? Is it time to write a white paper or article that shows your expertise and enables others to learn about you? Your designer will help you use what you have, literally and figuratively.

Show Up: It’s quiet out there, so if you show up, you’ll be noticed. Refresh your website and your collateral, consider a business-focused blog, sponsor a key event, and you’ll get attention just for being visible and optimistic.  The competition is quiet, so grab the spotlight while you can. You’ll help kick start others, and that’s good for everyone.

Muster Up Some Energy:
When business is slow, the one commodity you do have is time.  Host brainstorm breakfasts with your posse of partners. Call your clients—all of them. Get out and meet other folks in your industry. Meet folks in a parallel industry. Meet students. Check in with the faculty at the university you wish you went to. Host gatherings so your clients and partners can meet each other. If you’re really brave, call some ex-clients. Your down time will transform into time to connect, learn and prepare for 2010 (which has a nice, optimistic ring to it, don’t you think?).

Turn Green: This is a great time to turn your business green and help your clients go green. Most cities and industries now have certification programs, and this is the perfect opportunity to take advantage of yours, and make some good out of this.

Flat Is The New Up: The reality is, if we have made it this far, we will survive. But if we want to thrive, we need to behave differently, and that goes far beyond cutting costs.  Be bold, be happy, be humble, be brave. Be creative and we will all be here, working together, next year. And the year after that.

Your designer can help. I promise.

Illustration by Steve Barbaria

grab the post-its, we’ve got a deadline to distract!

This video has been making the rounds on the design blogs and Twitter (Swiss Miss, David Airey, Visual Culture). It’s  Bang-Yao Liu’s senior project at Savannah College of Art & Design. Music by Roysksopp. As a fan of post-its and deadline-inspired distractions, I can almost feel his pain.

And here’s the “making of” video:

escape reality | t+b summer reading list


Every year, one of my favorite studio promotions is our summer reading list. In the past we’ve done flip books, posters, long and skinny brochures, cute and square brochures, fat and hefty brochures, maps, bookmarks and hats. I remember one year I was hell-bent to get the list silk screened on beach balls (alas, the idea stayed in my imagination). With the re-invention of the studio, what I now refer to as visionary downsizing, we skipped a few seasons.

But this year requires all the positive sunshine and juju we can muster. We did the list as an online piece, linked to our website. Click through for the 2009 Tackett+Barbaria Summer Reading List.  (And yes, the book titles do link to Amazon.)

Buy a book, grab a beer, and I’ll meet you in the backyard.

The Regional Assembly of Text | Vancouver

One of my favorite stores in Vancouver, B.C. is The Regional Assembly of Text, a sweet sliver of a shop dedicated to handcrafted type. My daughter, Kate, lives in Vancouver (she’s a student at UBC) and thinks shopping for typography is a good time. Other moms take their daughters shopping for clothes, we buy paper.


Our bi-annual trip, and our bounty, a few weeks ago.

Kate and her friend, Brendan, stopped in for the monthly letter writing club last week, and I convinced them that guest blogging would be a good use of their talents. Here’s a chance to be a vicarious Vancouverite, and hang out with the cool, creative kids.


On a sweltering evening in Vancouver, (okay, it was probably only about 85 degrees, but combined with extended use of public transit and a tremendous lack of air conditioning, the city becomes an oven) my roommate Brendan and I trooped eastwards to Main Street. We arrived about thirty minutes late to the Regional Assembly of Text, a stationary/crafting store nestled behind an inconspicuous doorway and just past the terribly trendy part of town.

The Regional Assembly hosts a letter writing club on the first Thursday evening of every month.  They clear out the center display racks, lay out tables end-to-end, and line up scads (scads, I tell you!) of typewriters for people to use. The place was packed with crafters.


We took pieces of astrobright paper (mine was an appalling highlighter-orange) and old cut up maps of Vancouver to hand write our letters on. Later, as people (locals who had far more experience in letter-writing and had showed up on time) cleared out, we grabbed seats at the coveted typewriters. Sipping lemonade out of teacups and busily hen pecking away, occasionally going way past the page’s edge, I think the place charmed the pants right off of me.

My finished letters bore very little resemblance to the chatty emails and quick one-offs I send every day, or the stupid press releases I receive en masse as the culture editor of a university newspaper. There are horrendous typographic errors, words running off the page, and margins which fail completely to line up with one another. Phrases have to be held carefully in your mind, nursed from beginning to end, because the typing is so much slower. If you forget and let your fingers fly as they would on a computer keyboard, your writing is rendered incomprehensible because you can’t hit the keys hard enough to leave a mark.


There is just something about taking an efficient step backwards that can make us more careful about the words we use and where we send them. A little sweat, a little more attention, and a few drawings in the margins make the messages we give people just a bit sweeter.


Story by Kate Barbaria. Photos by Brendan Albano.

re:treat | melbourne street art

My friend Michael Bermudez had the best response to the recession–move to Australia.  Michael has been my Aussie design scout, and this week’s gift was a set of photos of  Melbourne street art.  In the “news to me” category, Melbourne street art is a big deal. Even a travel destination, according to the LA Times.  Graffiti artists are actually encouraged and often commissioned by businesses around Melbourne.

Most of Michael’s photos were taken along Brunswick Street in the suburb of Fitzroy.


All photos by Michael Bermudez.

More on Melbourne Street art here and here.  Michael was also my source for the post on Rhett Dashwood’s Google Map alphabet,  and the Mankind is No Island video.

3313_777808313753_1210745_44748112_5832030_nHe’s currently adding to the gaiety and frivolity of New Zealand, hanging out in Auckland and visiting Wellington, looking for drinking buddies, a temp job and cool art. I promise, he’s an adventure.