Monthly Archives: March 2010

Fun & Functional Paper Diversions

For all my fellow paper addicts, here are a few useful (and not so useful) paper crafts. Great for organizing meeting notes, passing time at that same meeting, or for adding non-perishable fauna to a workspace. Enjoy!

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BOOKMAKING

First up, a DIY notebook made without glue or staples:

(via Bloomize)

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ORIGAMI

My long time obsession with origami started with a very tattered library book checked out in the fourth grade. (If only the internet was around back then… and maybe the PC to run it…). I would have made more money with these slippers instead of just creating hats:

(via Origami Club)

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DECORATIVE ACCENTS

Outfit your space with plants that even the blackest thumb cannot kill. How to make charming paper plants:

(via Dwell)

Motivation Monday

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DIY MENTORING

For me, one of the few drawbacks of working as an independent designer is less exposure to mentors. I used to worry over this fact until I started a new habit that helps kick me into gear when I’m feeling less inspired.

Every Monday, while having my coffee and zipping through the news feeds, I also check in with one of my heroes. I’ve got many idols on the go-to list – both local and international, from public persona to personal friend. I’ve found that even random glances at something they’ve put out there can clear my thinking and reset my intentions for the week.

I hope these entries have a positive impact on you as well.

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03.29.10

This Monday, I find myself in a bit of a funk. Be it the rain outside or the lengthy to-do list on my desk, I’m just not feeling so up today. In an effort to shake this mood, I looked through my heroes list and chose the always interesting, incredibly talented, and endlessly curious Stefan Sagmeister.

While his books are amazing, I thought to ditch the quotes today and share one of his many talks with you. In keeping with my aim to escape my gloomy attitude, I’ve chosen his 2004 TED Talk on “Happy Design.”

Thanks, Stefan – this was just what I needed today.

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Because the “DONE” Button is Pricey

In an effort to explain the value of my services, I sketched out this talking point in a client meeting the other day.

It’s an old standby that I learned on my first real design job and have used ever since. Usually, I just explain it verbally and end with, “you can have cheap and fast, but it won’t be good.”

The drawing was so much more successful and actually led to a great conversation. Hey, maybe there’s really something to this visual communication thing.

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Why Ask “Why?”

There’s this old joke – probably the only one I know about designers – and it goes something like this:

Q: How many designers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A: Why does it have to be a lightbulb?


THE POWER OF “WHY?”

The best designers I know are masters at questioning their clients. I’ve watched a few of them in action, and the methodology plays out in a variety of ways. Before agreeing with anything upfront, they are respectfully probing the problem with “How’s, Why’s and What If’s.” Before they say “OK,” they artfully ask “Why?” And in doing so, they are working with their clients to make a good solution an even greater one.

I don’t think it’s a sneaky tactic either, it’s more of an outward expression of an internal exchange. These creatives are in the habit of questioning their own ideas. It’s a part of their process to look beyond the initial concept. They are comfortable pushing at the parameters to fully explore every facet of the design challenge.

QUESTIONS = VALUE

The problem is that some designers are often afraid to counter a client’s direction. Maybe we fear conflict. Or worse yet, maybe we worry over losing a project by being labeled “difficult.” It’s a tough economy and jobs are hard to come by – no one wants to tick off the Marketing Manager, or worse yet, the CEO.

But here’s the thing, clients are looking for your counsel, they need your expertise. If they only wanted someone to produce their project, they could drop it off at the nearest copy shop. By asking “Why?” you bring greater value to your creative services.

There is nothing wrong with questioning your clients. I will say that again. When done tactfully, there is nothing wrong with questioning your clients. Using “Why?” turns order takers into problem solvers.

This is why they hire designers in the first place. If our clients are not used to that practice, then it’s our obligation as creative professionals to gently educate them. This is how the greatest design thinkers operate. They know that asking “Why?” yields solutions. The work is stronger and their clients respect them more for it.

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TRY IT, YOU’LL LIKE IT

Case in point. Recently, I saw an online listing seeking help in finding a vendor to produce a tri-fold business card. OK, think about that for a second… a tri-fold business card… was “WHY?” the first question that popped into your head? (I mean, really, how much info do you need on that thing?)

“Why?” is the most powerful tool in my design arsenal. Asking “Why?” is the reason my clients contract me for their next project.

At your next brainstorm session, kick-off meeting or presentation, I encourage you: don’t be too shy to ask “Why?”

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Motivation Monday

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DIY MENTORING

For me, one of the few drawbacks of working as an independent designer is less exposure to mentors. I used to worry over this fact until I started a new habit that helps kick me into gear when I’m feeling less inspired.

Every Monday, while having my coffee and zipping through the news feeds, I also check in with one of my heroes. I’ve got many idols on the go-to list – both local and international, from public persona to personal friend. I’ve found that even random glances at something they’ve put out there can clear my thinking and reset my intentions for the week.

I hope these entries have a positive impact on you as well.


03.22.10

This Monday, I selected the amazing and accomplished Debbie Millman, president of the design division at Sterling Brands (and oh, so much more!).

So, I hit the overloaded reading shelf and quickly thumbed through a very dog-eared copy of her latest book, Look Both Ways. Aside from being visually beguiling, I found the book to be a heartfelt and intimate journal of a truly great leader, thinker, writer, and speaker in the branding arena.

There are so many passages that get me misty, ringing true to my hopes, passions and fears of being an independent creative agent in this modern world. But this one especially sticks me square in the heart, and reminds me why I do what I do – why I continually strive to improve my offering and champion the craft of design:

“Start with a big, fat lump in your throat, start with a profound sense of wrong, a deep homesickness, or a crazy love sickness, and run with it. If you imagine less, less will be what you undoubtedly deserve. Do what you love, and don’t stop until you get what you love. Work as hard as you can, imagine immensities, don’t compromise, and don’t waste time. Start now.”

– Debbie Millman, Look Both Ways

Read more from Debbie, or seek out and study the advice of your own heroes. Never stop learning.

Do what you love. Do work that matters. Imagine immensities.

It is never too late to start now.

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