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

Maybe its because I grew up here in New Hampshire, but I love walking in the woods. Since I can remember the forests have been around me and I have been around them.

The landscape of the Granite State is in my blood, I breathe it in and keep it in my heart. I love the mixed hardwoods and conifers that fill our forests. I love the damp smell of the earth and decaying leaf litter. I love the way a well worn path gives slightly to cushion my every step.  I love the earthy red-brown softness of a pine needle carpet and the way that new cobbles rise on the path every Spring with the freeze and thaw of the earth.

On a cloudy day the woods are soft and dark and quiet and meditative. On a sunny day the dappled sunshine streams in through the tree limbs turning it into a cathedral. Bird songs pepper the air, woodpecker knocks echo cavernously.

For me this piney environment is a calming place to be. The morning rush of backpacks and lunch money, my looming deadlines and upcoming expenses fade away into the mossy green darkness.

For forty minutes I belong to no one but the woods. It envelops me in its comforting familiarness of sight, sound, and smell, and long for it again as soon as I leave.


So lately i’ve been wondering about how things seem to happen for some people, and for others, well… maybe not so much.

I was struck lately by a blog post by David Airey called Self-employment advice for designers. In it he gives some excellent advice for those starting out, and actually much of it applies to everyone,  I highly recommend it.

But what struck me particularly about this post, is the intro in which he states that he has been self-employed for 5 years. I think he has been in the design industry at least as long as I have, but has only been self employed – working under his own name – for five years. He’s done an awful lot in that 5 years and it shows. At his 5 year anniversary, working on a totally different continent, I know his name. I know his work. I know his book. I read his blogs. I follow him on Twitter. And chances are, that you do too.

Now why is this? Well certainly, first and foremost he is quite talented and skilled at what he does. But what does he do that many of us don’t? He provides others in the industry with interesting and valuable content. He offers excellent advice, shares articles, and writes great content that is downright entertaining and interesting to read.  In short, he is an excellent marketer who is extremely generous with his knowledge and his expertise. and because of that, he has positioned himself as a trusted expert in the field and people pay attention.

Design is and has always been a highly competitive industry. But keeping everything you know inside for fear of someone stealing ideas or running off to steal your clients is not a healthy state of mind. Nor is it the way to get noticed and grow your business.

If you have talent, ideas, great customer service and can be innovative and inspriring to others, tell people about it. Share what you are good at, shout it out loud and market your expertise.

Sharing your knowledge and providing advice to others does more than just make you feel good about yourself. It helps to establish your value as an expert. Do people flock to follow newbies on twitter to learn about new articles or technologies?? Not usually. Usually people flock to those who are strong at what they do, and who are experienced and have the confidence to provide real honest advice to others without feeling territorial of their knowledge.

Getting out there and introducing yourself to people isnt enough to build your reputation as an expert in this highly competitive industry. You ( and I include myself here) need to use the skills that you posses as great communicators to write, to pose questions, to provide advice, to create a stirring and get people interested.

Its a difficult time out there. meeting people definately helps, and we all should be doing it. But at the end of day you can’t force people pick up the phone and call you. You need to position yourself as that expert that people need to call, because they know that you are the person who can help them creatively solve their problem.

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.

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.

Color. We are surrounded by it every day. And it effects us in ways that we don’t even realize.

Color evokes emotion, triggers memories, sets a mood, makes a statement. And its something that we often respond to, without even knowing it.

Designers and marketing professionals know this, and we use colors or a lack of color to our best advantage. By choosing the right hues, we tug at your emotions, we soothe or excite, and we can even make you hungry. Manipulative? Maybe. Effective? Absolutely.

As a designer and an artist, I find color irresistible and fascinating. So I am using this venue to discuss color in all its many facets.

Welcome to my first edition, green.

Although I love green in most of its various forms, lately I think it has been suffering a bit from overuse. And this worries me. Like black, It has become a color with far more meaning than the hue it vibrates.

It carries with it a lot of responsibility. To “be green” now means to be a good steward of the earth, or at least to try to be. These days when one sees green on a package or advertisement, we know that generally, we are looking at something eco-friendly, fresh, natural or healthy.

But is it being used so much that it is beginning to become invisible? Are we over saturating the marketplace with green?

Historically green has lots of other meanings that we seem to have overlooked lately. Over the years, green has been used to represent envy, money and greed. Then there is fertility, renewal, immaturity and even illness and health. Yes, at the same time.

There are a lot of contradictions here I know, but think about the shades of green out there. They can be bright and vital, or sickly gaunt and leering. They can be deep and rich, or subtle and soft, dull and mute, or jarringly bright. So much can be done with this color, but lately most uses seem to be that middle bright, springy green. A color I like, but I wonder if people are still seeing and responding to it. Or maybe I have been re-programmed to only see the eco-green. Hmm. I wonder.

I wonder if today’s cultural eco-use of the color green has changed the way we perceive it for good. Have we stopped using it for those more traditional effects because of the new cultural meanings? If so, can we ever go back?

Today, people are drawn toward freshness, earthiness and eco-friendliness with good reason. And the shades of green chosen seem much more positive these days than when it was used to denote greed and envy. I think its a good turn of events really, unless by using it we dilute its meaning.

What do you think?

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