There is no box.

“Think outside the box.” has been a mantra of creatives for decades, but in the past few years it has become more of a cliché. Instead, people are suggesting that there was no box to begin with. The phrase has lost much of its motivational edge and is seen as more contemptuous than inspiring. Personally, I look forward to seeing the phrase die out completely. Discarding the concept of a box removes an unnecessary obstacle to creative thinking and emphasizes the undefinable and immeasurable nature of our imagination.


Form over function.

All style and no substance. Organizations often put too much emphasis on updating their look and forget that operational strategy is a huge part of the marketing message. Your business is more than looks alone. I’m all for revamping your style, but don’t forget to integrate your strategies. I once heard a logo described as just the tip of a spear, with the rest being the brand message that pushes through and actually delivers on the promise. In Washington Business Journal article, Beth Johnson of the RP3 Agency talks about why a brand is not a logo saying that visual elements, tag lines and various marketing messages are simply expressions of a brand.

“Strong brands come from within an organization. A brand is defined by what you do, not just what you say. So when you think of your brand, think about your business at every level. Think about your vision for the future and how you are planning to get there. Think about your employees, your office space and your customer experience.”

Johnson continues with a reminder that branding is something that comes from everyday interactions and it is not  project with a beginning and an end so much as a lifelong commitment. She lays it out simply at the end. “Do your customers see your business the way you intend them to see it? If not, it may be time to reconsider your brand. Just don’t start with your logo.”

Less text, fewer bullets.

Presentation guru Garr Reynolds offers plenty of Zen-inspired advice, but I especially like his comments on the typical presentation handout – often a “mere copy” of the slides. He notes that truly good slides are of little use without the presenter and I couldn’t agree more.

“Audiences are much better served receiving a detailed, written handout… you need not feel compelled to fill your PowerPoint slides with a great deal of text.”

Check out his Top Ten Slide Tips.

Typeface obsession.

This is for all of you who are as obsessed with typefaces as I am. Choosing the right font for a project can make a huge difference in the message you are trying to send. Fonts convey emotion, set a mood, and can affect readability. Select them wisely. And for a nice display of this beautiful art form, be sure to check out the link for the FontShop’s stunning promotional PDF.

Ichi ju san sai.

I couldn’t help but post a link to the latest entry on Garr Reynold’s Presentation Zen blog titled “Ichi ju san sai: A lesson in less-is-more”  that draws parallels between principles of Japanese cooking and those of good presentation and design.

 “Good presentations subtract the superfluous and add the meaningful and are efficient with time. However, ineffective presentations are often weak in relevant content and meaning but nonetheless take a very long time to deliver. The principle behind ichi ju san sai is a good lesson in achieving variety & balance through simplicity.”

I also can’t help but note that I thoroughly enjoyed the fun in posting about Mr. Reynold’s June 22 entry on June 21. (He is in Japan.)

Name that font!

Most designers can think of at least one time when they found themselves faced with the challenge of figuring out the identity of a mystery font for a client. Here are three places to start your search.

  1. Identifont offers a straightforward design and user-friendly interface that works well for identifying commonly used fonts.
  2. TypeNavigator is interactive and intuitive. It is similar to Identifont but offers more identifying attributes to select from.
  3. WhatTheFont is a great place to start for more unconventional typefaces. Submit an image of the font to their online database and they’ll provide you with the closest match. Still stumped? Give their Forum a try.

There are a growing number of font identification websites out there, but in my experience, if you can’t find it using one of these three, it may be time to throw in the towel and simply find a suitable replacement.

Saying no.

We’ve all heard the saying that the customer is always right and most people understand the importance of repeat business especially for a freelancer like myself. It’s not hard to see why saying no to your clients can often be quite difficult, if not impossible at times.

Every once in a while I find myself in the position of having to tell someone no, and over the years I have come to realize that it doesn’t automatically mean that you will be upsetting the other person. It isn’t really what you are saying that matters so much as how you say it. It is about respecting and valuing not only your time but theirs. If you commit to something but don’t really have the ability to do it, it’s only going to end up costing them more time in the end.

Let the other person know that while you would like to, that you have prior commitments. Perhaps there is another time you will be able to help them. Buy yourself some time to consider things by not saying yes or no. Use that time to determine what is truly the best answer. Sometimes there is a better person for the job. Refer them to someone and they will appreciate your help. And one of the most important things to remember is to thank them for the opportunity before you decline.

All this talk about learning to say no brings to mind the importance of also saying yes. It is all about balance. There may be a time when you think you should be saying no but you really should be saying yes. It is a dynamic process and it’s all about making conscientious decisions.

The subtle art of kaizen.

When I first saw a post about Six small steps to improve your writing I was simply interested in improving my writing skills. But as serendipity would have it, I had stumbled upon an entire movement, practically dedicated to the idea that less is more, known as kaizen. (It is said that the ultimate goal of kaizen is to accomplish more by doing less.)

According to Wikipedia, kaizen is Japanese for improvement, or quite literally kai (“change”) zen (“good”). The process is explained on the Kaizen Institute website as a method for achieving long term success through small, daily improvements.

Clinical psychologist and behavioral scientist Dr. Robert Maurer says it is rooted in the two thousand-year-old wisdom of the Tao Te Ching, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Maurer has written one of the most widely recognized books on the subject – “One Small Step Can Change Your Life: The Kaizen Way”.

I’ll definitely be getting a copy of Maurer’s book for myself. Until you have an opportunity to do so, take a look at these six small steps Maurer offers in his book and ask yourself what small change you can make to improve your life today.

1. Ask small questions.

2. Think small thoughts.

3. Take small actions.

4. Solve small problems.

5. Bestow small rewards.

6. Identify small moments.



Public relations defined.

I was happy to see that the new modern definition of public relations went with the strategic communication process choice that I mentioned voting for in my own post about updating the description of PR. As I stated before, I can’t imagine public relations being defined as anything less than a strategic process. Here is the official modern definition of public relations:

Public relations is a strategic communication process that builds mutually beneficial relationships between organizations and their publics.

Gerard Corbett, Chair and CEO at Public Relations Society of America, announced the winner of in a blog post and went on to say the following about the new definition:

“Simple and straightforward, this definition focuses on the basic concept of public relations — as a communication process, one that is strategic in nature and emphasizing “mutually beneficial relationships.” “Process” is preferable to “management function,” which can evoke ideas of control and top-down, one-way communications. “Relationships” relates to public relations’ role in helping to bring together organizations and individuals with their key stakeholders. “Publics” is preferable to “stakeholders,” as the former relates to the very “public” nature of public relations, whereas “stakeholders” has connotations of publicly-traded companies.

This is really a beginning, not an ending. The discussion is a work in progress, and we’ve laid the groundwork for future debate. Learn how you can continue the discussion here.

It’s clear to us that the process should not stop with this announcement. For that reason, we will keep this blog up and continue to facilitate the discussion. We’ll publish and promote guest posts from anyone who has something to say on the subject; from those who have conducted their own research to those who have process suggestions to those who simply feel they have a better definition to offer.”

Create a remarkable client experience.

It was several years ago when I first read about being remarkable in Seth Godin’s books Ideavirus and  Purple Cow. More than a decade has passed and the concept still rings true – especially when it comes to marketing services. When you are selling the invisible it is hard to create a strong perception of value. What you end up selling is your client’s experience. You must create a remarkable client experience – but how? I wish I could give you a list of “The top 3 Things You Can Do To Be Remarkable”. If only it were that easy. The simple fact is that being remarkable is hard work and it changes with each day, each situation, and each person. There is no short-cut, but it isn’t rocket science. Do your research. Ask questions. Get to know your client. Hey, maybe it is that easy!