Design studio focused on book design, illustration, and environment design



When I try to focus



(This is what it looks like when your focus is as fragile as a soap bubble.)



Creativity, Illustration

A Halloween lesson in civic duty

A Halloween lesson in civic duty

“Well Sam, it seemed smart at the time, but those last few houses put you into the 2-lbs candy tax bracket. You could claim a deduction for those terrible black and orange candies, but that full-sized Snickers cancels it out. You’ll have to donate at least half a pound to your sister to avoid more penalties.”

Luckily his little sister ate a significant amount of his candy last year, so at least he has a loss he can carry forward.

Community, Illustration

Don’t design without a plan

Don’t design without a plan

Know what you’re building before you start

Seeing your good work go unused is one of the most draining things about working as a designer. It’s hard to pour your heart, creativity and time into a piece and then watch it languish in your sketchbook or on your hard drive. There are a number of reasons your work may end up in the graveyard of good ideas, and often it’s an unavoidable part of the process. But many times good design work can’t be used because the designer didn’t work to get a clear enough idea of what the project’s goal was.

What’s the real goal?

The client may be asking for a brochure, but “having a brochure” is not their real goal. (If that is their real goal they have a boring life, and they need better goals.) Are they asking for a brochure because they need a way to explain their offerings to potential customers? Or are they trying to get customers to take a specific action? Ask yourself, or ask your client, “If I do my job well, how will we know? What will be different?” It’s also helpful to ask, “What need are they hoping this piece will fill?”

You can’t design a solution until you know what the problem is.

Don’t start creating your “design solution” until you know what the problem is. You’ll spin your wheels, and you may create some awesome and beautiful things. When you finally show your client the beautiful thing you’ve poured your heart into, they may like it, but they won’t be able to use it. A good design brief will define the project clearly and help you avoid a lot of heartache.

Give your designer good direction

The same thing holds true if you’re hiring a designer. You wouldn’t ask a carpenter to start building you a house without a plan–don’t ask your designer to get started until you have a really clear sense of what you want them to accomplish for you.

Creativity, Design, Illustration




Happy Fourth of July!


Being Human, Community, Illustration

On being social: Automating social media

The Handshake Machine–don't automate your social media

This is part of a series of articles called On Being Social. The goal is to think about how individuals and brands should approach social media in a way that is authentic, healthy and beneficial. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these topics as I’m thinking through them–send me your comments through your social channel of choice or contact me directly.

The Handshake Machine

Imagine setting up a machine at your front door to shake hands with everyone who comes to visit. (This would actually be a great gimmick for the first person to do with it, but bear with the analogy for now.) This marvelous handshake machine greets your guests automatically as soon as they walk in. The machine shows your clients and friends that you’re great at automation and savvy about gizmos, but it doesn’t create much of a connection. Automating social media interactions can have the same effect–they feel inauthentic and forced, and can actually alienate your audience.

The impersonal autofollow

Selfie stick on Instagram

Consider these two automated “social” interactions: some time ago I mentioned Typegenius in a tweet. Typegenius is a website that suggests font pairings–Brandon Grotesque goes well with Petrona or Merriweather, or Lato would look really sharp with Roboto Slab. In the tweet I compared them to a “sommelier” who suggests wine pairings. Within minutes I was followed by a wine distributer–their automated follow mechanism obviously didn’t understand the simile. (They have since unfollowed me, probably automatically. (I do see the irony in referencing an automated font pairing resource in this context.)

In a similar way I posted this to Instagram a while ago, and got a “Like” by a selfie stick manufacturer who also later unliked (disliked?) it. Neither of those tone-deaf interactions is much of a problem for those brands, especially since I’m probably not their target market. But it does point to the inherent problem with automating your “social” interactions–you’re not actually being social. Instead of building a relationship, you’re highlighting the fact that your “relationship building” is inauthentic.

Autoposting across channels

Automatically reposting can be done well, if you’re intentional about creating something of value for your audience. A clumsy autopost from one social channel to another tells your audience in the second channel that their platform of choice is second tier to you. You risk alienating or annoying them, especially if the posts from the first channel don’t repost well. Don’t post a link on Twitter to your post on Facebook, for example. “I just posted this” followed by a link isn’t very compelling. Instead give careful thought to how you use different social channels for different audiences.

Antisocial vs. social media

There’s a case to be made for letting an algorithm take care of the mundane tasks in your online life, but go too far in that direction and you’ll miss out on a chance to connect to the people on the other side. Social media gives individuals and brands an opportunity to connect to a wide variety of people in a meaningful way. This opportunity is unprecedented in history and creates unique possibilities to engage with people who you would otherwise never meet.

Harvesting “likes” or getting a high follower count isn’t a great end goal. Don’t waste those possible connections by having your algorithms and autofollower do all the work. “Automated personal interactions” is an oxymoron, and a wasted opportunity.

Illustration, On Being Social, Social Media