Just one designers ramblings about things that inspire me, observations, and advice about marketing.

Archive for the ‘Observations’ Category

The desert island of promotion. Get rescued. Integrate.

For some reason, very often, companies look at their overall marketing efforts and their website as two distinctly different entities. Its like logo, brochure and sales sheets are whooping it up on the mainland while the website is sitting there alone, in the middle of the sea, sleeping in a hammock, and dreaming of the day that one of the other marketing angles will send it a coconut radio so they can communicate.

I’ve seen this phenom take numerous forms. I’ve seen companies hire a great designer to develop a logo and marketing materials and then scramble to get a website up as an afterthought just because they think they should. I’ve seen deliberate, calculated, creative marketing campaigns that have two completely distinct teams of players – one for “traditional” media, and one for “web” media. Neither one collaborates with the other, there is no communal brainstorming. Each team instead working independently, crossing fingers and sharing “assets” in the hopes that what they deliver will match in some “brand-y” kind of way. I’ve even seen very marketing savvy non-profits complete print related fund raising campaigns and completely ignore the rich resources available in online media.

I ask “Why”?

Why in the realm of our advertising world today of 2011, is web marketing still often not seen as an integral and essential part of an overall marketing or fundraising effort?

Why is it seen as some weird other territory that doesn’t play well with others?

Marketing is Marketing folks. Web / Print / Media – its essentially the same thing, not separate. They are part of one whole. Each have their own intricacies and needed expertise yes – but they all should be working together to meet a larger goal.

Just as direct (direct mail) and broadcast (tv / radio) have become part of the equation, so should web related marketing. A message, a brand, a goal presented in more than one medium is essential in today’s market. And a campaign that uses a multitude of media doubles and triples their chances of getting their message out to the right audience at the right time with the right technology.

Looking at your web marketing as an after thought, an “add-on”, or a separate project is selling yourself short.

When I approach any project for a new client – I look at the big picture. I consider the overall problem and I immediately look at ways to tie in a variety of approaches. To me it is essential for a campaign to be integrated and diverse.

I start with the brand. Who they are to their clients and audience? What approaches do they currently use to get their message out? What else do they need? How can it be most effectively driven? And usually I propose an effort that will cross a variety of media.

If the client’s desire is for a new brochure or leave behind – what about including an online component too, so that the audience has a “place to go” to get more information. If the need is to design a new logo for a startup, don’t forget about an essentials package that includes a starter website; well branded, to match the “traditional” logo and stationary, and how about a facebook page, an e-news template or mobi site.

In my mind if you are not including a web component somewhere in your efforts, you are missing the boat… bigtime. And yet, consistently it seems that companies and organizations still walk on divergent paths when approaching projects. Different departments. Different creative teams. Different goals.

In my opinion, this is not a good choice. Best case scenario – the different teams are run by the same creative lead, so at least there is a consistent voice to the creative, but even then there are going to be disconnects about who is responsible for what, how to carry the creative through to all media, what messaging and voice should be used and who manages both teams to a positive end.

And at worst, two individual creative teams are each creating a product for their specific “media” and they manage to deliver totally incongruent campaigns.

I am officially suggesting that if a campaign is to be totally successful, this thought process should stop. The solution? Integrate!

A well rounded, effective, and powerful marketing approach should encompass a multitude of media, driven by one strong creative vision that carries through every single piece that your target audience touches, sees, and interacts with.

Don’t miss out on the possibilities.



A day of new beginnings?

The very first work day of the new year is one that usually brings with it excitement and energy. Hanging up the new calendar and the turning over of the new year somehow allows us to beleive that we can kick start a new plans, break old habits and make new promises.

Why is it that a man made concoction such as a calendar can mean so much to so many people. Aren’t we really tracking the natural movement of the sun and the earth and the moon with the glossy gridded paper that hangs on our walls, or glows at us on our personal devices?

Didn’t we invent the calendar so that we would know when to reap and when to sow? Isn’t what that drove us to create the calendar in the first place?

I sometimes think that as a people we are too connected to the paper calendar, and too disconnected from the earth and her seasons, that we miss the rich information that is so easily gleaned without a grid or a guide.

No matter what my calendar says, I tend to “feel” the seasons by the light outside my window and the angles of the sun. And I am sensitive to the sounds of nature around me, that alert me to whats coming.

I write this while I sit in my office surrounded by technology and calendars and instant access to weather reports and the latest radar storm tracking. But when it comes right down to it, most of the basics can be found right outside my window, day or night, any season. And when I stop long enough and pay attention and learn the signs, I feel more balanced and prepared for what lies ahead.

No matter what the calendar tells me. I don’t need the weather man to know what’s coming when I see gray clouds roll in and flutters of birds flock to my feeders, I know – without radar – that sure as sure, a storm is rolling in.

When the turkeys band up and strut through the yard, fall has absolutely fallen.

When we are lulled to sleep by the hoot of the great horned owl winter is truly upon us.

We are entering into a transition from winter to spring when the red fox will start to call, with its frightening and alien yelp.

Sparkly branches

And the smell of the thawing earth is my sign that I need to start thinking about seeds, and plans for planting, and mud season.

I think every day that we get on this giant blue orb should be another reason to think about a new start, a new day, a new opportunity. Its a shame that people grasp so tightly onto one day of the year when each and every one of them provides an opportunity to start so many things.

Happy New Year, Day, Experience, Challenge, Observation.

And may each day of 2011, bring more.

So, why does a website have to be “so expensive”?

A recent interchange at a networking event spurred this on. I think all of us in design / marketing / or web development have had a similar conversation. And in this case I thought maybe this situation deserved more than a shrug and a shake of the head, which is my usual response to similar exchanges.

The conversation went something like this…

” Did I hear you do web design”?

“Yes you did, that’s one of the things I do.”

“I’ve got a question for you”


He hands me his cliparty business card and then…


“I want to know why a website has to be so expensive. My friends and I we just want simple stuff, no e-com this or twitter that, just something simple, a simple website. We want to pay like no more than $500, and everyone we talk to wants $5000. Why can’t anyone build us what we need for a couple hundred bucks?”


My blank expression and general posture probably would have been enough, but I responded by saying something similar to “Certainly not every website costs $5000, some are much more expensive. ”

Thankfully he immediately moved on to the next person in the room and I didn’t need to clarify much more than that. But afterwards I began wondering what the answer to his question really was.

My husband generally responds to such questions by asking what kind of car the person drives. He crafts his response based on what their answer is.

Oh you drive a mercedes? Why did you choose that car? You could have chosen an old chevy from the used car lot? But you didnt? Why? Oh you like a reliable, comfortable, attractive car, one that makes a statement, one that helps you stand out from the crowd?


Oh you drive a Ford 350 pickup? Why did you choose that truck? You could have selected a lighter duty vehicle that would be better on gas, and probably cheaper. Oh, you need a truck that meets your needs, one that is powerful enough to handle the jobs you throw at it.

And so on.

His technique is a good analogy for people who truly don’t understand the value that an asset such as a great website can be for their business. The car comparison works to get people to start to see the light. And with it, you can begin to engage and connect. But it doesn’t do the whole job.

So, why does a website have to be so expensive?

The answer is certainly not simply the hours that it takes to plan, design and build an excellent, intuitive, effective website.

If hours were the answer to cost alone, then every talented artist and craftsperson I know would be getting gazillions of dollars for their incredible work.

Its certainly not simply some sort of mathematical equation of the cost of inventory + markup + overhead like it is with retail pricing.

Its certainly not simply a matter of looking at “the going rates”,  and choosing something in the middle, because everyone in this industry prices differently according to their customer base and expertise.

So again.. one more time… So, why does a website have to be so expensive?

One of our clients can actually trace 100% of his business back to the site that we built for him. 100%. Thats a lot of power for a bunch of pixels.

Another of our clients increased attendance to a promotional event by 60% after the launch of a  marketing campaign and website we put together. Their goal was a 15% increase. We slam dunked it.

So what can we accomplish, enhance or effect with a website or for that matter, excellent design and creative marketing techniques? Oh things like…Increase traffic, gain new customers, increase revenue, attract better clients, close more sales, respond to more inquiries, improve your reputation, help you stand out from your competitors, ensure that you look professional in a world full of amateurs, convey your brand, get out the vote, introduce a new product, provide a venue to showcase your work, attract the right audience, entice potential customers, support your mission, showcase your skillset, shine a light on your work.

Can you put a price on that?

Yes, actually you can, its called professional marketing, and today at the end of 2010, a website is a huge and powerful part of a marketing plan.

Hiring an expert will make your company look like an expert too. The converse is also true.

You need to decide how want your customers to think of you.

Uncle Harry or your next door neighbors son might do a great job for free, and if you have a tiny side business selling crocheted toaster covers, it’s probably exactly what you need.

But if you run a legitimate business, are a professional artisan, or a professional anything, and you want to succeed you need to tell the world about what you do. And you want the world to see you as you deserve to be seen. These days that means having a website that shows the world how wonderful you are at what you do.

Accomplishing that takes skill, experience, planning, artistic sense, technical expertise, creativity, energy, research, dedication, reliability, resources, time, and in some cases intuition and good judgment.

You need to decide whether you, or your business, are worth the investment.

10 Minutes of “solitude” on a Sunday Morning

I moved back to Southern New Hampshire about twelve years ago. I actually grew up here, which in my area is a rarity. I came back here after spending many years in Boston pursuing my education and career. One thing that I have as a native New Hampshire-ite, that others may not, is an understanding of what this area looked like many years ago. Which gives me an appreciation for where we have come from, even if its a little bit tainted by my feelings about where we are going.

Part of knowing what New Hampshire was like when I was a child spurred me into making sure that my outdoor environment is a little bit of an echo of my memories of growing up here.

I’ve planted native wildflowers, left the white pines of all sizes throughout my property, have segmented a small area as a wild meadow, and in general we garden with the environment instead of fighting it. Here where the soil is mostly rocks, this is the key. They don’t call it the granite state for nothing. This means, very little actual lawn, learning to love rocks and ledge, and making peace with slugs and japanese beetles by planting things they don’t like quite as much as roses and raspberries. After years of finding out what works and what doesn’t we have coerced our sloped partially wooded yard into a flowering, fluttering oasis.

With the day to day of work, schedules and dogs and children I don’t always get the time to relish the environment that we have built. But Sunday morning the sun came up bright and happy, there was a lovely breeze that taunted me with its freshness, and I sat and I watched uninterrupted, for a whole ten minutes.

The birds and other animals that share our environment were pretty happy that morning, and I made a list of all that I saw or heard in that short ten minutes of personal meditation.

10 Wild Turkeys ( 1 hen and 9 chicks)
gold finches
house finches
chipping sparrows
2 house wrens
4 ruby throated hummingbirds
red winged blackbirds
blue jays
1 flicker
1 hairy woodpecker
1 red bellied woodpecker
2 catbirds
Rose Breasted Grosbeaks
Tufted Titmouse
Chimney Swifts
Grey Squirrels
Red Squirrels
Several butterflies of all shapes and sizes
And the call of a very happy sounding Carolina wren.

I’d say I had a quite a bit of company for my ten minutes of “solitude”, and enjoyed every moment of it.

Monday Rambling

Well its another Monday, this one seems all buffed up and ready to shine. The sky is blue and the sun is almost blinding after starting the morning with some light fog that gave the early hours a little bit of dreamy mystery.

It feels like a summer day, slow to start, and still like a cat, tense with energy and waiting to pounce. My morning walk had that same kind of energy. Within the wood, there was not much going on overhead, the birds were fairly quiet, and so I walked in the cool damp, knowing that later I would wish for that coolness again.

The soft pine needles and mud muted my footsteps. Dappled sunlight tricked my eyes and and lulled me into a bit of a trance. Step, step, step, step, stream ahead, jump, jump, jump to each stone to cross without getting wet. Then step, step, step almost to the edge, I see the open sky through the trees and BAM! Into the sunlight that lit up the world. the brightness woke me out of my trance and the sounds of dozens of birds singing and calling treated my ears to a festival.

The meadow was filled not just with birds, but with puffballs that were, in their former lives, dandilion flowers. Each poof composed of tiny seeds waiting for enough of a breeze to take them on their journey. But this morning, they were too damp to take to the air, each soft round fluff ball patiently waited for the morning sun to dry them out, with a glow was other-worldly. Each tiny hair on each tiny seed was covered with dew making each one look like a soft, feathery, luminous snowball.

Tree Swallow, BroadView Farm, Derry, NH

Inquisitive Tree Swallow

The tree swallows even seemed to shine more brightly than usual, or maybe it was just because they honored me with some eye-level aerodynamics.  Their metallic iridescence never fails to inspire and amaze me.

Now to carry that feeling with me all day and hope that it powers my creative pursuits.

A walk on the red side.

Lately I’ve been taking to walk one of our local conservation properties in the morning. The old farm property consists of fields, wetlands and woods preserved for eternity, for the habitat of a wide variety of plants, birds and animals. it also affords those of use who enjoy nature, to walk, birdwatch and otherwise envelop ourselves in the tranquility and peace that is found within a natural environment.

Every season there is something different to see. In early Spring most vibrant are the red-winged blackbirds with their stunning carmine red epaulets. They flit about strutting their stuff, establishing territories in their little part of the wetlands. They are some of my favorite birds, at least today.

Red Winged Blackbird, New Hampshire

Their flashy color is unmatched in its brightness, you can see these guys showing off from a great distance. I think the red almost glows because it is so perfectly set off by the stripe of buttery yellow and ink black of the rest of its feathers. The combination is truly a remarkable one, and I look forward to their return to our swamps every year.

Like designers, birds often use colors to get their job done. By dancing around and flashing their feathers they attract mates, ward off enemies and communicate lots of complex messages that we humans have only really begun to understand. In combination with song these messages are impossible to miss, and enjoyable to witness.

They also – like us – have great deadlines to meet. Up here in the North country, there are only a few short months to find a mate, nest and bring up a proper brood or two of chicks. Its important work, and they stop at nothing to ensure that they are successful, and sadly sometimes do whatever they can to ensure that their competition is not. But its a birds life, and they live it well. And I enjoy watching the process. Red Winged Black bird New Hampshire

Each morning on my walks I always find something inspiring to bring back with me to the studio. Today it is a few photographs and the knowledge that there is a world outside these walls that is so rich with material for the senses. It’s what keeps me going no matter what my own deadlines and obligations of today might be.

An underwatery observation

Today I was lucky enough to be treated to lunch by a friend, who also happens to be an artist who like me, works with color on a daily basis.

We chose a seafood place with a good rep, neither of us had been in before. Upon being seated, we both looked about the place and voiced our approval of our surroundings. “Underwatery” was the word of choice. And it truly fit.

The eatery is in an old mill building with giant windows and impossibly high ceilings, and the designer used every bit of height to create a rich and soft interior space.

There were aquas and muted teals, filmy cotton fabrics hung high from the ceiling in shades of muted blues and gray purples. Seating was done in tones of rich earthy browns – a modern trend when paired with turquoisey blues. And sparkling here and there were touches of metallics- copper and gold, sparsely used and just reflective enough without being jarring.

The whole atmosphere was relaxing and soothing and upscale, and did somehow echo of the sea. It was done well without kitsch or sterotype. There were no fishing nets or plastic crabs as is so often the case in a New England fish restaurant. It really was classic and inventive and soothing. It’s amazing how the right colors can just fit a place, a mood or a meal.

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