Yes! You will survive change

Change is tough. Don’t believe me? Remember, the campaign promise of “Hope & Change?” Some of the same people elated by that campaign promise are now in despair because “Change” has been “Changed” and some of those who were in despair are now expressing “Hope.”

Regardless of your political affiliation can I suggest something? If you’ve experienced such emotional fluctuations you may need an upgrade in your tools for experiencing change.

Creative Persistence Works

Creativity is not innate, a muse you’re born with or an ability that comes because you support the right social causes. It is instead most often the result of hard work and risk. Simple persistence quite often produces creative results. Giving up offers none. Persisting when the development of creative solutions is grindingly difficult brings a flavor to the victory that will never be tasted by those who settle. Here are a few more reasons to persist:

On Entrepreneurial Courage

What is the difference between courage and stupidity in taking your next step as an entrepreneur?

True confession, I have shiny thing disease … you know, always thinking that if I can just afford that tech, gadget, thingy, device, web enabled flange gasket or course of knowledge then ALL will be copacetic and money will effortlessly flow through my business.

Granted, if you stay stupid forever, refuse education and don’t ever invest in training your life isn’t likely to

Screwdrivers are evil!

Help me out here. Am I seeing more than the usual amount of “bash anyone who has the desire to make money” or “bash anyone who’s decided to own something you don’t” or not? Maybe its just me (a small business owner/solopreneur) but there seems to be a concerted effort to label business and possessions as evil.

It’s rather like the illustration above. Somehow we’ve decided a priori that money (a means of holding the results of talent, time and effort) is at best amoral, if not immoral. I disagree. A screwdriver is good. It is inherently incapable of evil and it enables anyone who picks it up to do more than they could do with their fingers alone.

When you’ve got nothing

We’ve all had times when we stare at a blank piece of paper and will ourselves to be clever and creative and we get nothing but a headache out of the deal.

“I’m not God!” you say. Our Lord does creatio ex nihilo – (creation from nothing) I don’t. You’re not alone, we’ve all felt like liars forging ahead and trying to create interest for a story we don’t “get.”

Maple Bacon

The continual onslaught of mass marketing and free giveaways that has resulted in the downward trend of quality everywhere has even touched the venerable category of donuts. This plunge into degradation has resulted in people spotting a “red light” and running into a place of business in search of an ersatz pastry which only resembles a donut in shape and quantity of sugar.

UnSquaring Transformation Revealed

The great fun of being a publication designer is that you get to experience the amazing creativity of a wide range of people. Innovative people get out of bed every morning excited to communicate real life-improving benefits to their customers. Being invited to design the visual bridge for that communication is what gets me up.

North Lime Coffee & Donuts

I have been considering adding an Apple Pencil/iPad Pro combination to my graphic tool set for awhile and I finally broke down and did it. What pushed me over the edge on the tablet is the redemption of time that a single mobile screen gives me. Drawing, digital painting, comping, calendar, Feedly, Olive tree, Evernote, email, text, etc come at me all in one interface.

Sell all thou hast, and buy Photoshop

Deadlines. They are never just another day at the office. Just when you think you’ve planned far enough ahead, bluffed and cajoled to get things in on time, something gets added to the pile. It is then that one of my mantras seems extremely useful. “Sell all thou hast, and buy Photoshop.”

The story goes like this. My friend is a warm, decent, friendly guy who has suffered the ravages of age like we all do. He was the newly minted president of a large organization. As the figurehead an announcement and some photography was in order.

Now, I am usually happy to see him, but when he “dropped by” the office and the boss scheduled an impromptu, (zero planning) photo shoot, I was a bit panicked. Clearly he wasn’t any happier than I … “I only have 5 minutes” he growled.

Portrait photography should be handled by a pro. A photographer’s fees are well worth it as he/she can really do wonders with pose, light, etc. However, when your boss says “get a photo” you do it. I got him to relax and laugh, got the exposure right, outdoor morning light from behind him with a flash fill to take care of the shadows, blur the shrubbery background…yada yada.

The pressure continued to ratchet. “Let’s announce this position in the next issue” (the magazine was within hours of the deadline). IT WAS A GOOD PHOTO of an upper-middle-aged white guy. What I needed though, was a visual image of the warm, affable guy he is. Seriously, he’s funny, intelligent, has great instincts and insights … but age creates a lot of distractions. So I pulled out the magic art director’s shoe horn and went to work.

Success in these situations depends a bit on skill and a bit on judgement. You want the person to look better than they do, but you don’t want anybody to easily see what you did. It’s rather like makeup…when it’s done right, the face is what you see, not the makeup.

I blew up the high-resolution photo and I moved the lapels of his coat (cut and clone) to hide his middle aged spread. Then, I cropped enough of the photo so that the really incriminating evidence went away.  His smile has the normal number of teeth that are a bit crooked, one eye doesn’t open like the other, etc etc, so I just generally did the sort of touchups that make a photograph a bit more pleasing without removing the character of the person in the photograph.

I knew that I had a success a couple of weeks later when a staffer from his new organization’s in-house magazine called me with a question. “Hey Bob, can we use your photograph? We just can’t seem to get a good photo of this guy and yours looks great.”

I laughed and for the sake of full disclosure I then walked them through what I had done in the photograph. Before my explanation, they didn’t see it and neither did their new president.


  1. In most cases, it is better to make the ask before you make changes even if it is just the off-hand remark during the shoot, “I’ll touch this up and make you look great.”
  2. ALWAYS be honest about what you’ve done and care for the feelings/permissions of the person involved…(hence the photo isn’t here for your enjoyment).

And if you are a beginning art director, sell all thou hast, and buy Photoshop.


Hire Cartoonist

SCBowlingcopyWhen you use a brand character, that brand character should be the personality of your company plus perhaps some feelings or attractions that you want to project. These feelings/images may be a bit nuanced to be in the written version of your brand promise. This may be a great opportunity to say “hire cartoonist!”

Some people are ready to count brand characters out because they are “old-fashioned.” Actually they are very old as far as advertising goes. If you are willing for a bit of a stretch, the use of icons and idols as talismans of power go back much further than that.

But that doesn’t mean that icons or characters have lost their usefulness. Brand characters have stood the test of time and are just as useful and powerful today as when they were first introduced. The Michelin tire man and the Maytag repairman are absolutely fantastic in connecting the personality and promise of their respective company, its product and the desires of their customer.

This notion of connecting the personality/promise of a company with their product surfaced when I was asked to help make a bowling shirt. The Scott County Kentucky bowling team won the 2012 state championship. Needless to say, folks in Scott County thought there should be something commemorative, and they approached a local company to create a shirt.
The school’s logo is the cardinal and it is incredibly close in looks to the University of Louisville Cardinal mascot.  Mascots are great, especially in terms of establishing on ongoing brand personality. If that mascot is repeatedly associated with positive experiences, the mascot becomes iconic for that set of memories. Reinforced long enough, the familiar becomes the historic and can even move on to veneration. Scott county has a long, and well loved sports tradition.ScottCountyHighbannerlogo
My job was to associate that tradition (a personality actually) with an emerging sport that had done extremely well for it’s first year out. My thought was that two things were important, (1) a fresh take on typical bowling ephemera (2) a connection with the school’s logo, (and hence their tradition), without being seen as “redoing the logo.”

Rather than repeat the kitsch solution of bowling ball through bowling pins I pushed the concept of connecting a well-established logo with the emerging sport of bowling at Scott County High. The snarling look on Scott County’s cardinal was the brand personality I brought across. The notion of aggressive as a visual adjective morphed into a bowling ball face

The inspiration for this solution came from another standing tradition. Artists have been wrapping faces and other designs around custom-painted bowling balls for some time, so it wasn’t too much of a stretch to source this as an idea. As I worked with the concept, it occurred to me that the crest of the cardinal could simply be the motion lines.

Somebody will point out that the type came from one of the more ubiquitous elements of the bowling genre, beer. I will stipulate to two things. First, I don’t want to encourage under-aged drinking. Second, its hard to go wrong in a bowling design to pick a font with “brew” or “beer” as part of its title. For me, its a tasteful use of a well understood type style that evokes the feeling of bowling without being salacious.