Posts Tagged 'business'

from the studio


mindful by design | part two

Another piece from the studio…just a reminder that January is no time for hibernating.

paying for a day well ruined

Typographer|designer Jessica Hische has designed the best gift for any designer…a notepad of invoices for those clients who insist on ruining a good design project, and a good day. The covers are letterpressed and the interiors are 2 color offset, bound with glue and black binding tape.

My favorite line item: the general feeling of ickiness I get each and every time we communicate. Luckily, our clients generally stay on good behavior (shout out to awesome clients everywhere), but I may want to get a stash just in case…

Visit Jessica’s store to purchase.

an airline with a sense of design + humor

Via Flight Story Aviation Blog. South Africa’s low-fare Kulula Air.

The captain’s window is marked with the big cheese (”captain, my captain!”), the co-pilot’s window with co-captain (the other pilot on the PA system) and the jump seat is for wannabe pilots.

In addition, the following descriptions of plane parts can be found:

  • galley (cuppa anyone?)
  • avionics (fancy navigation stuff)
  • windows (best view in the world)
  • wing #1 and #2
  • engine #1 and #2 (26 000 pounds of thrust)
  • emergency exit = throne zone (more leg room baby!)
  • seats (better than taxi seats)
  • some windows = kulula fans (the coolest peeps in the world)
  • black box (which is actually orange)
  • landing gear (comes standard with supa-fly mags)
  • back door (no bribery/corruption here)
  • tail (featuring an awesome logo)
  • loo (or mile-high club initiation chamber)
  • rudder (the steering thingy)
  • stabiliser (the other steering thingy)
  • a.p.u. (extra power when you need it most)
  • galley (food, food, food, food…)
  • boot space
  • ZS-ZWP (OK-PIK) = secret agent code (aka plane’s registration)
  • overhead cabins (VIP seating for your hand luggage)
  • fuel tanks (the go-go juice)
  • cargo door
  • aircon ducts (not that kulula needs it… they’re already cool)
  • front door (our door is always open … unless we’re at 41 000 feet)
  • cockpit window = sun roof
  • nose cone (radar, antenna, and a really big dish inside)

wordles| yes, I am a typography cheat (don’t tell anyone)

I love typography, but I am not a typographer. A few years ago I discovered Wordles, but considered them a guilty pleasure, hiding my addiction from those who were skilled and accomplished designers. I considered starting this blog with a post about Wordles, but was embarrassed to confess spending time with a program that names fonts Alpha Fridge Magnets and Grilled Cheese. But then Wordles began showing up last week on other designer blogs (Dear Coffee, I Love You and Steve Mehallo), I felt ready to share…openly and without shame.

Wordles are “word clouds” created quickly from your content, emphasizing the most significant words. You can alter the number of words used, the colors, the font and the shape. It happens instantly (hence, the addictive quality). And yes, I do feel a small pang of guilt thinking of designers spending hours pondering over the placement of each word, the weight of the type, the shape of each ligature and it’s relationship to the others…I try to maintain my dignity by using “coolvetica” and staying away from fonts that could also be food names.

I have done Obama’s speeches, each of my blogs, my friends’ blogs,  and my daughter’s college essay. For birthday gifts, my youngest daughter has written stories about her friends, created Wordles, then framed them. I did a job description once, and do letters, poems, quotes and lists.

I did this based on a blog post I wrote during a trip to India.

For a friend who was fighting breast cancer (she won).

The big surprise was discovering how valuable they were for design work, to engage others to experience concepts and copy in news ways as we begin projects. I often create Wordles out of creative briefs, and have had my own clients want to use them to present design programs to their staff.  I use them to kick off naming projects and sometimes just to kickstart my own imagination. I can see what words come to the surface, and see new relationships within the language.  It’s particularly interesting to take all of the content from website, or a really length document, and create a Wordle out of 25 words. Try it.

My crowdsourcing|Peace o’ Pizza post, reduced to 25 words.

They’re fast, fun, and safe (as long as you stay away from the aforementioned food as fonts).  Mine tend to look the same, as I stay with the same settings (half and half, coolvetica, and I try to keep it simple with the colors). But you can go nuts…and if you do, send them over. It can be our secret, I promise. Have at it.

This post.

buy:design | what’s the big idea?

I suspect the same conversation happens in every design studio. We drink coffee and someone says something clever (perhaps) and someone else says, “that would be great on a t shirt.” And later in the day, post afternoon latte run, someone designs something cool, and the fourth someone else says (again), “that would be great on a t shirt.” And repeat.

We said it. And we did it. We jumped in and opened a store, What’s The Big Idea, on We’ve been wanting to do this for years, and when we were working on our New Year’s promo, the time and opportunity created a giant Venn diagram of right-timeness.

We’re not sure where this new path will lead, but we’re hoping there is something good around the corner. For us, it’s about following our curiosity, taking things into our own hands, and creating something new and energizing and even fun (remember that? fun!). This blog started that way, and we’re trusting the process of discovery.

We’ve opened with two lines, 2010|The Year To Get It Done, and We have a clipboard and stack of folders full of ideas, and we’ll keep making stuff and hoping some of it will resonate with our friends, colleagues and  folks who stumble upon the shop. Heck, we might even use this social marketing thing for something besides announcing how we feel about the weather, the weekend and today’s sandwich.

So if you have a moment, click on over and check out the newest venture. Let us know what you think, and may we all brave the new year and the new decade and make something happen, like we know it can.

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