The Joy of Travel

Lately there has been quite a bit of talk about traveling from your living room, eating your way around the globe from your kitchen, experiencing the world in a video, in short knowing the joys of travel while we stay at home. The ask is that we fulfill our desires to travel while sheltering in place, while under COVID-19 restrictions. While I do appreciate the enthusiasm and the let’s all look at this as the glass is half full perspective, and not usually one to be the Debbie Downer, those of us that are in our hearts a traveler find it a poor substitute. Perhaps even a dismal substitute. After all it’s the process of going and being there, anywhere, that is what we crave. The chaos of a new place, the blissful confusion of a new language, the foreign smells of new foods, the beautiful lines found in new faces are all elements of getting lost in the sensory overload know as travel, and the wanderer thrives on the bedlam. From the misadventures that starts seemingly the minute you walk through the over processed air of an airport, we are in our happy place. We are not creatures of daily routine, we are creatures of chaos theory or the seemingly random occurrences which create interconnectedness. This is the key, interconnectedness. Our differences bring us together, and we know this. Curiosity propels us forward, brings out our brave and begs us to seek more. The more we seek, the more we learn and know and understand. Cultures offer insights into humanity that you simply can not know intimately from the TV or iPad. Traveling is truly one of the greatest means to get to know your fellow humans, opening your heart and mind to differences and seeing those foreign worlds as germane, equal, and fabulous, because it’s while we are in those new places we feel our most vulnerable and as a result more accepting. Something the world definitely needs more of right now.

As we all strive to understand exactly what is happening to humankind, and these seemingly random and challenging events continue to well, challenge us, dig deep and consider the butterfly effect. That butterfly flapping its wings in China, may not bring the hurricane, it may bring a tide of change that after this storm has passed, we find a new clarity and deeper understanding for all cultures and people. A simple lucidity that most will be able to grasp from the comfort of their couch, and perhaps it will instill a desire to know more and travel and in turn connect.


1 Giant Leap

That’s the name of a documentary released in 2002, 1 Giant Leap. The brief description is a story about two musicians who had an idea to create a holistic artistic presentation with musicians, poets and artists from across the world, unifying our global language of art and music. Duncan Bridgeman and Jamie Catto travel the world, visiting all 5 continents, to over 50 locations for 7 months, recording and  collecting musical bits, conversations about life, poetry and video and paint a story with it that at the time left me speechless. Today it leaves me breathless. I watched it again last night, and the true meaning of what those two had created under the magnifying glass of our current frame of mind became something so poignant I poured through video after video on YouTube watching all I could find until late.

We’ve all been touched by it. We’ve felt it in one form or another over the past few weeks, and months. Many of us have been moved to action by it, reaching out to those we’ve lost touch with, or doing what we can for those we’ve yet to meet. It, is our fear, our anger, our helplessness. We pour over the news daily, searching for any sign that things will start to get better, but we all know that it will never be the same again. Poised on the edge of a cliff, the entire world will jump at once, one giant leap into an unknown. 

Recently a friend forwarded me the viral video of Playing for Change with Robbie Robertson and Ringo Star plus a host of other global musicians recording The Weight. I watched that in silent wonder, moved by the voices around the world that came together to create beauty. It reminded me of 1 Giant Leap, and the sheer scale of which those two visionary adventurers took this concept to. I had to watch it again, to feel once more that bewildering sense of acceptance and universal family. I pondered had they only known what was coming, would that have changed anything for them? 

These two visited the most remote of places, recording humanity creating joy with anything they could. Bits of spiritual drumming, and haunting voices sent to the gods, rhythms that made no sense to my ear, layered with instruments that were exotic nameless to me. They took all of these pieces as if pigments squeezed onto a palette and painted an emotional portrait. Fluid and rich, mixing and blending until they gave us both the movie and the soundtrack like an offering for a later day. This is that later day. 

This is my offering to you. If there is anything deep inside that needs to understand your anger, is searching for meaning or perhaps a bit of light, watch this or listen to this. Do it with the eyes and ears of one willing to accept that as we go through the devastation, something good will emerge, nameless today but sure to be universally connected in the not too distant future.

You can stream both the documentary and the soundtrack through YouTube. I also found the DVD to purchase on Amazon.

Love in the time of COVID

I may already be suffering from a wee tequila head which has put my mood a few tics south of my usually charming self when my mother calls. “I just went to the store to pick up toilet paper and they were out.” she told me with a touch of humor and incredulity. This took a second to register. She laughed and went on to say that my father had called and asked her to pick some up, and the shelves were bare. What? Wait, what? We’re not in a major urban area. No one expected this little corner pocket town in the mountains to suffer from the coronapanic that is apparently spreading across our nation in seemingly direct proportion to the cases of COVID sufferers in each state. We laughed about it for a minute and decided that TP was probably the last thing on our minds if it came to that, she can always river wipe… yet this is our current reality. Priorities people. We hung up and I headed out to grab some milk on my way home. You already know where this is going.

Photo: Day of the Living Dead

It’s 3:00, not a busy time to shop, but the store was packed. Maybe early spring break shoppers? Mostly unfortunate because I try to get there before the crowds. I strolled down Produce grabbing arugula, basil, some garlic. Just what I need for the night. I got my milk, the shelves were plenty full. I see a sale of my favorite KIND bars, bought a few dozen. Grabbed eggs and out of morbid curiosity strolled down the toilet paper aisle. Empty. Are you kidding? It really was. Cleaning products are bare minimum, flu medicine down, tissues down. Forget about hand sanitizer. I walked over to self checkout and got so caught up eavesdropping on the cashiers talking about the store imposing limits on how many you can buy the next day when the shipment comes in that I forgot my damn eggs. People really have gone mad. Are we preparing for the zombie apocalypse? You’ll be germ free, but you’re gonna get hungry.

The reality is that whether it’s the media or our fellow humans, we’ve created our own nightmare. Do you hear that? We are doing this to ourselves. I understand it’s fairly easy to not get a twinge of panic when you hear other people are panicking. There’s probably some scientific phenomena that occurs in this situation. Panic breeds more panic, but let’s look at this for a minute. We all know the facts. You can’t possibly not know the facts at this point. We all have the map of the slow spread of doom permanently etched on our brains. It’s only killing those that would be hit hardest by the flu as well. You can have it weeks before you know you even have it so wash your hands- a lot. (Buy some lotion to counter the horrible dried hands that are happening here) Don’t touch your face. Social distancing, etc. So why the hell are people hoarding toilet paper? That’s insane. We’re hearing this everyday and not just because of our current “leader”, things have become like some loopy version of Upside-down Day. We’re living in an alternate universe.

So, as yet one more writer’s plea for sanity, let’s all take a deep breath. Really. It’s going to be OK. Remember that thing about love thy neighbor? Well, if you can’t muster love, for the love of all things good, have a sense of humanity. Be a decent human being. Do your best to not get caught up in this tidal wave of mass hysteria. Be reasonable. You will likely be inconvenienced, but not forever. Personally, I have coffee, wine and KIND bars. I’m set and will be happy to share my toilet paper if need be, and should a zombie actually show up at your door, feel free to comment below and tell me, I told you so.

To Niche or Not to Niche

That is the question many designers face. You are not alone. I’ve heard arguments for both sides of this dilemma. As a designer of 20+ years, I’ve often persuaded myself one is better than the other, only to swing back the other way again. Mostly I have been in the generalist industry camp, but out of geographic need rather than some profound decision. I live in SW Colorado, and have about half of my clients nearby in the region and then others much further away, but I serve numerous industries including outdoor, bicycle specific, tourism, development, restaurant, specialty food and cannabis. Fairly broad in scope. I’ve even had a client in securities! I had always intended to narrow down and niche, but new projects kept popping up and I never committed to one. I’ve had the benefit of being a part of both through colleagues and close friends. Here’s my thinking on each.

Camp Niche

I’ve gone to many bicycle industry trade shows and demo events. I have a few clients in this arena and have worked these shows on their behalf. I have also had the benefit of seeing up close and personal what a tight knit and veryyyy small industry this truly is, and more importantly how challenging it can be to break in to. My beloved has been in this industry practically since he started working and has stayed the course in it for over 25+ years. At this point not only are his many friends those who grew up with him in the industry but they are now running the companies or are the owners of many elite brands. He’s respected, a known entity as it were and his opinions are sought after. It’s humbling to walk through one of the big shows with him and watch how he laughs, shakes hands, jokes around, chats etc etc with someone at almost every booth. He will tell me this gal was PM for this brand then became this for that brand, but she used to work with this guy who is now the CEO of this company. You get the picture. That’s what following your niche does. It creates a close community that you can only get with time. Period. And it’s very cool. I’m always a little combination of inspired and forlorn after these events as it’s a piece of my direction that I truly feel I’ve missed out on. You get to be an expert in the industry and an expert friend to many. Win win. From this advantage, finding work becomes a much easier task. You simply don’t have to work as hard with business development. You have to stay relevant and current, but you have to do this regardless of your business approach.

Focusing your creative efforts in a niche industry creates a close community that you can only get with time.

Camp General

Let’s cross over and look at the other side of this. In my case, living in a remote part of the state and not close to any major urban area, getting started was effectively taking any and everything I could. I met a lot of people and built a solid reputation for being very creative and excellent and what I do. I have used this to push the referral network out further and over the years have touched quite a variety of types of projects and businesses. I know a lot of people in a lot of different industries that don’t necessarily cross over. This is where being a generalist gets interesting. One core value of my work is the unflinching belief that what I learn and do in one industry can feel very fresh in another. You become a mini expert in a lot of interesting fields, maybe a little bit of a know it all. That’s fun, but you also see something working really well over here and wonder why it’s not being done over there. SO you get to bring that to the table. For example, when you are involved in a conversation about driving tourism in a market and you can speak intelligently about events or things that are happening in a market segment that tourism might want to target, that makes you somewhat of a expert from afar. This helps. Because of my work in the bicycle industry, I can speak knowledgeably to the tourism board about what might appeal to this demographic. Like Camp Niche, this too takes time but gives you a different set of skills that are quite valuable as a creative professional. I don’t have the vast network and therefore biz dev can be challenging at times, but I can honestly say to someone that I’ve design identity systems and marketing materials for almost any industry they throw at me, and for some clients this is important to them. We creatives know that the same principles of design for one industry apply to the next and having direct experience in designing a logo for a realtor without having actually done that prior may not be as challenging as thought if you are good at what you do. Yet it’s helpful sometimes to show that you have, or certainly that you have worked in very corporate fields to very trendy fields and can swing either direction. We are natural thespians after all.

One core value of my work is the unflinching belief that what I learn and do in one industry can feel very fresh in another.

I’m certain that I will continue to swing back and forth as long as I hold a mouse and a pen. There are aspect on each side of this that I really love, and now the challenge becomes how to blend the two. If this has hit a chord with you, please share your thoughts. I would love to hear other opinions from a creative professional POV.

Continue reading “To Niche or Not to Niche”

A few tips for creatives suffering from disorder syndrome

How do we measure success? Depending on the day that will change dramatically for me. Some days it means I have enough work flow to keep me busy for the next month at a time, for other days it’s more directly about how much am I making after expenses and all of life takes it’s piece, and yet others it boils down to whether or not I’m thriving as a creative. Us creatives are challenged in so many ways. If you’re one, you know what I’m talking about. We can be emotional, passionate, moody, euphoric, contemplative and borderline catatonic all in the span of five minutes. We are a litmus test for what’s happening around us daily. We’re the dipsticks for social currents. In short, we don’t stay focused long enough to see two weeks ahead of ourselves much less the distant future where you could utter the word retirement. Creatives truly live in the moment. Isn’t that a good thing?

I read a lot. I read just about anything, and lately I see quite a bit more about the challenge of staying in the moment! Stay present. Live in the moment. Embrace all that’s around you now. Which makes me wonder what it must be like to be ping-ponging back and forth between today, next year and last year. That sounds exhausting. This always cracks me up as I can’t seem to really get out of the moment. I can brood and dwell on the past no problem, and I can dig out an idea I might have had ten years ago and find the right fit for a current client, but my day is my day. I can also worry with the best of them about my future because as I get older that reality becomes more relevant, and it scares the crap out of me. So, what’s the takeaway here? Am I successful because I live in the moment?

Creatives already live in the moment. We need to figure out how to tackle the future.

I’ve worked for myself for the past twenty years, and one might think that by now I’d have made a pile of money. Here’s the thing, working for yourself means that you get to be every person in the agency, including the person that is supposed to be working on “biz dev”, as it’s affectionately referred to these days, and be the person actually doing the work, the stuff that pays the bills, which also takes time. This is something I have really never figured out. How to do both well, and I wish someone would tell me. Hey, it’s easy. Here’s how to keep consistent workflow going. I also recognize, however painful it is, that when I started working solo, and how we went about “biz dev” is not how it happens today. While I was busy working hard to develop the best creative I could for each and every client, I somehow failed to learn the new rules of how to get more work. I believe this is something many suffer from as well.

Should we be building Google Ad campaigns, a consistent Instagram following, attend every social gathering for your niche possible, tradeshows, lunches, ask for referrals, mailers, public speaking, guest interviews. I don’t know. It seems impossible to do it all and more than a bit daunting. Personally, I still remain an unflappable believer that your work speaks for itself. Perhaps this is naïve, but I’d like to think it’s not. I know for a fact that once I can get past the wall and break through to a new potential client, the response to what I do for them is positive through and through. I have honed my craft and am confident in what I do, because I do actually care about each client I work with. In the moment, I am all theirs. I am simply not capable of thinking about another project while I am working on something else. I’ve got this piece dialed.

What’s a creative to do? Get organized. Period. If you are also this person I have described, what has been most successful for me is to get organized and get in a consistent flow. I may not have the answers for better business development, but I can truthfully say that organizing my day helps me get closer to doing all I need to, including a little bit of new outreach. There needs to be a time set aside, each day, to work on different tasks. It’s the best solution I have come up with to date, yet I’m open to other opinions and suggestions. If this is helpful for you, this is what my workday looks like.

Get up at the same time every day.
I know this seems dumb. If you think it is, this list isn’t for you. If you’re the “creative” you know exactly what I’m saying. Building routine is hard. We actually don’t thrive on routine, we thrive on change. So creatives, get your butt up every day, at least during the work week, and act like you are a regular worker bee. Whatever you need to do in the morning to wake up, do it. I like to run in the warmer months, and stretch in the colder ones. Make coffee, drink your lemon water, shower! This is routine and it is good for you! And please put on nice clothes, or at a minimum, just put on clothes. Show the universe you are serious about your career and invested in yourself. I have never had a great idea in my sweat pants.

Go to work.
Do you work from home? My boyfriend does, and he’s good at it. I tried it once and became so distracted that I never seemed to get work done. Oh I got laundry done, soup made, did a longer than usual run, walked the dog, played with the dog, napped and maybe made cookies, and online shopped, but no work that pays bills. I have an office, that I drive to, that is not super close to my home. It’s a daily commitment. And I like it. Church and state. This is mission critical for me, my state of mind and my creative flow.

Task list.
So, you’re sitting at your desk staring at your computer. What needs to happen today? When are you at your best, when are you a slug? Figure out your own rhythm, and build your day around that. I have the most attention for emails and chatting earlier in the day, by midmorning I want to be deep in my flow until I notice I’m hungry around 1:00. Then I’ll take a breather, take a class, move around for an hour and tackle the second half of my day. Remember we are building a routine. I know. I know It’s weird. After lunch/workout/break I can go back to my list I made first thing, and either smugly cross things off or panic that I’m off track. Then get serious about getting it done. By the end of the “work day” you will be pleased at what you have accomplished.

Review for tomorrow.
Before I leave my designated work space, it’s important that I do a quick review on what I did, and what needs to happen tomorrow. I do this because I have found that my retention for things is better if I mentally review it a few times. It’s that frequency thing. For example, if an idea pops into your head while you’re driving, do you find that if you noodle it over and over again it sticks with you. If it pops in and flows right out the other side, it might be gone forever. Capture those ideas, and you’re golden. Capture your to-do list and you’ll get it done. Anything that didn’t happen today, needs to happen tomorrow. Review, re-write the list and rest the evening knowing it will be there tomorrow.

That’s it. Seems easy doesn’t it? For those that are actually still reading and wondering what the fuss is about, clearly you don’t struggle from this affliction. For those who relate to what I’ve said, I hope this helps you a little. Please share in the comments anything I’ve missed, because if I know nothing else, I do know we are better for constantly learning new tricks! Never stop learning.

Is Speaking Up an Ethical Obligation

We were sitting there, quietly enjoying one another’s company and the lively scene unfolding around us. Warming up and into our seats, after a brisk eye watering walk to the restaurant. This is Chicago, a first for me. A bitter cold initiation. It’s the edge of happy hour and the bar is filling up quickly with the hum of those wrapping up their week. It’s mostly a business crowd in dark suits, dark wool coats — the tailored professionals unwinding. It’s not so different in that respect, the unwinding. We all seek company and camaraderie after our week. Companionship connects us.

companionship connects us

We came for the oysters. The live music. The scene. It did not disappoint. That’s when I noticed the three of them winding through the room up to the corner spots at the bar. Three young women, clearly coming from work for a drink. It’s not that they were any different from the rest of the crowd, but I was sitting facing them and couldn’t help but notice them approach and grab seats. A harmless girlfriend evening out. Long-blond-ponytail was clearly the crew boss of this group, the female that sets the tone and demands the most attention. They ordered three espresso martinis, which some might say speaks of their age. I say it’s not worth the headache, and clearly this trio didn’t quite have the capacity to manage the booze. We’ve all been there. I have zero judgement.

A crisp glass of wine is placed in front of me, and the band is setting up. Conversation all around is convivial, laughter mingling in with sounds of eating, silverware clinking. My cheeks are warm and flushed from the dramatic shift in temperatures. The girls are getting louder and my eyes involuntarily keep darting their direction. A watchful eye on this little social scene. They’re discussing someone’s heartbreak, a subject that never fails to raise the blood in a female. These girls are here for one another, and to bust his balls. It’s ok, he will never hear about it and they will feel better for it. The band starts playing and the general volume increases overall. This is fun. My love looks at me over his glass as he hears the first female screech and cackle. I know he has issues with loud piercing females, it’s a pet peeve that has been discussed more than once. Unfortunately for this trio, drinking is in direct proportion to volume, and it’s quickly going nowhere good. They are loudly yelling over the music. We hear their first political mutterings.

Long-blond-ponytail, who we will name LBP, is quite indignant and matter of fact as she relays her personal pet peeve with immigrants. She’s loud in the ear-piercing way alcohol permits. The bartender, a Hispanic, places another round of the caffeinated cocktails in front of them. Service with a smile. It’s not worth saying anything. Yet. LBP leans into her stool-companion, and loudly whispers how great Trump is and will take care of the whole thing. Those foreigners. That don’t belong. He’s the man. I look around to see who else’s ears are burning. I’m 15 feet away, how can we be the only ones that hear this? I look at my guy and he’s clearly hearing it all as well.

The band’s lead vocalist has one of those big brassy voices and they’re doing a fabulous job with the set. She busts into a rousing version of Amy Winehouse’s Valerie, and one of the three hops off her stool and starts up a stumbling drunk goose step, almost in time to the song. I’m fairly sure this isn’t a trending dance move. It resembles something more in line with Steve Martin in the Jerk. It is amusing, or would be if LBP didn’t take it up an octave to draw attention back to herself. The goose returns deflated to her seat, or tries to. By now things are getting ugly. She stumbles, misses the seat, pulls herself back on then tries for another few dance steps in the six feet between her and the next table. She gives up and slumps onto the bar, too drunk worn to make more of an effort. It is not going well for this one. Meanwhile we’re privy to the ongoing super rant about “those people” and I’m feeling the energy shift. I look at our waiter apologetically trying to mentally telegraph that we don’t agree with this one. Does this twit not see who is in the crowd around her, sitting next to her at the bar, serving her this evening? Is she such an imbecile that she’s actually going to talk loudly about her disdain for foreigners taking over the country, our country of immigrants and beautiful people from all walks of life? They, no she, is loud and now disturbing our evening and others around her. I observe glances- some in pity, some irritated but apparently none in agreement. No one is nodding their head.

This is the conundrum at hand. What do you do?

This is the conundrum. What do you do? What is the right thing to do? What can you do? Some would step over to them and ask them to zip it, and risk the absolutely certain to follow inebriated retort. They are now espresso vodka emboldened after all. Well, LBP is, one looks slightly uncomfortable and the other has her head on the bar. The fact is, we allcame here for a nice evening, good food and music and some laughs, not for an apparently privileged drunk standing or sitting on her political soapbox. I am now judging. I am judging hard.

Quietly, my beloved gets up and excuses himself. He returns a few minutes later and angrily says he wasn’t going to let them ruin our evening and went to inform the manager that this trio has now become too loud and intolerable, and would they please ask them to either quiet or leave. Rather than confront them himself, he chose a course of action that keeps the potential timebomb to a minimum. Ridiculous as it is, I get nervous. I don’t like to make waves, and while I’m also annoyed enough to wish a tidal wave washes them out on the street, I wouldn’t have complained. I find this realization about myself also irritating. Sometimes you need to speak up. Sometimes it’s OK to speak up for those that won’t. Is it your ethical obligation to represent? Yes, actually it is, but that doesn’t make it easier.

As I ponder this personal flaw, we watch one of the managers circle wide behind the three incognizant, sussing out the scene and then whisper something into his little black secret service looking earpiece. He walks past them and around the other side of the bar. The band has started a bluesy version of a Stone’s song. Manager two, clearly higher up on the ladder, quietly approaches the group and whispers something into LBP’s ear. His body language is mild, his eyes are steel. I would have died a thousand deaths of horror and embarrassment, but then I wouldn’t be in this situation. For a fleeting moment I watched white hot anger flash across her face, not embarrassment. She doesn’t apologize. I’m stunned. Doesn’t that sum it all up?

Bundle up gals, it’s cold outside.

Tugging on the lines at Tradeshows: Prep and Prospecting

In my designer hat I’ve wallowed in and out of tradeshows for many years. Sometimes they are successful and sometimes they’re just fun, which I suppose is a form of success. The reality is, cold calling on people you’re asking for work from is hard. Period. Unless you’re the type that can saunter along and make new best friends left and right, it’s a challenge. Add to this, your “creative” personality, ie. socially awkward, it goes exponential. Currently, I’m getting myself ready for Outdoor Retailer in Denver, which should be fun and with this extra effort rewarding as well. 

Getting ready to head in to Outdoor Retailer, follow the blue bear.

My goal is to build more of my illustration business up. Why do I want to do this? The short answer is that I love illustrating, and have sort of abandoned it these last ten years. There was a time when I did quite a bit more, and really enjoyed the process as well as the end result for my clients. It gets noticed. It’s uniquely your work, and eventually clients will recognize your style. It seemed to have lost favor in exchange for a minimalist approach to graphic design and photography, but it appears to be trending again. The longer answer is that I need a shift in what I do. I have tried for years to entrench myself more and more into the outdoor world, and it’s a small, close knit, lots of good friends in the field, kind of world. It’s been a little tough to break into. To really break into. So with that in mind, I’m going back at it with illustration as my super power, and a focus on the girl-power/female outdoor enthusiasts advertising we’re seeing more and more of. 

Hanna is badged up and ready to roll. Our companion and diversion.

Personally, I have been standing on a soap box for years wondering why women haven’t been marketed directly to more in this outdoor-world. We play too. Honestly, we buy more gear than men, well at least we buy more clothes and accessories, but we do buy the bigger ticket items as well. The point is we are 50% of the audience. Now we’re seeing full page ads in Ski magazine of some female launching off of something, generally shredding and smiling in all her bad-assery glory. I want to illustrate to that! 

So how am I getting ready for this event? 

Identify what it is exactly you’re going to offer up

I’ve found that if you offer creative services that feel less committed to a client, it somehow makes you more approachable. I’m not walking into a booth and saying, hey your design stinks, hire me. I’m saying, I’ve got an idea for you to consider in your female specific marketing that would be fun and make a little splash. Consider illustration.

Identify and narrow down your targets

It’s virtually impossible to hit up every booth in a large show. Even if all you did was run through throw your stuff at them and move to the next, I don’t think you could actually make it through the entire show. So who is going to be interested in what you’re offering? There will be the obvious targets and these are absolutes, but open your mind up a little and see how what you are offering could appeal to someone unexpected. Yes, I can talk with all of the clothing brands, but I think it would be as or more interesting to talk with some of the gear brands about how a wild colorful illustration could be a great idea for their women’s specific skis or bikes. I’ll be sure to have those on my list as well.

What are you handing out?

Business cards are fine, but consider how many they receive. Now when these exhausted people return home and dump out all they have collected, while they were working and actually selling to their customers, do you think they will remember you specifically? Not unless you’re marching around with a mohawk, it’s highly unlikely. (I’ve done that) I’m not mohawk material any more so I’ve decided to put together a small packet, that packs easily in a suitcase with an illustrated mini poster of previously mentioned bad-ass girls getting after it, a business card, and a small CTA on what I do and why illustration is a good idea, closed with an equally cool sticker with my contact on it again. Make it easy, and maybe just maybe one of them will hang it on their wall of cool posters! 

Collect their info. Collect their info. Collect their info.

Because you too will return home, exhausted and it will all have blurred together. Do yourself a favor and get organized right away. Collect business cards, make notes on them, and review your pile of stuff the minute you’re back at your desk while it’s fresh. Then set about to make a list of those that were interested or pretended to be, and those that could be persuaded and follow up


We all learned this in Marketing 101. Frequency is important. We are all busy busy bees, and don’t have the brain capacity to remember everyone we talked with. I don’t. Assume that your potential new client doesn’t either, and help them out. Follow up with them within two weeks, and put it on your calendar to follow up again in another month. You don’t want to be obnoxious, but you also don’t want to disappear and lose the valuable and expensive momentum you have gained. Find a balance and follow up. I’ve been on the other side of this formula working in a booth and I get those stopping by to generate leads. I get it, but I also need someone to follow up with me after the fact. It’s helpful.

Well it caught my eye…

That’s it. Simple right? No it’s not, and it takes effort to make it work, but at the end of the day trade shows are valuable for so many reason, the least of which is generating new business. It’s an opportunity to stay connected, keep your finger on the pulse of trends and stay inspired. I hear rumors of trade shows going the way of the dodo, and this makes me sad. I understand they are expensive and supposedly large brands do better selling in new more innovative ways, but trade shows have the energy and vibe that I believe is beneficial to brand and consumer alike and a valuable piece of what makes the outdoor industries so wonderful would disappear with it. As long as they continue to exist, I will continue to go and do my part to support them. 

Nature’s Color Palettes: not just for earth tones

Color trends come and go. One year we’re in neon, the next it’s camo, the next might be black on black. As designers who march to the trends, we have numerous sources for color forecasting that tell us what’s in and what’s out, what we should be doing, what sells, etc…. Personally, I have always hovered around what nature brings me on a silver platter. If you immediately think of subdued earth tones, I’m here to remind you, there’s so much more. 

Look around next time you venture outdoors! It’s a big wild word out there, and it’s not just shades of tan, sage, silver and blue — which are indeed stunningly beautiful as well. The range is breath taking and Mama Nature tends to put together combinations that are both unexpected and fabulous. Oftentimes they even venture to showy. Have you ever looked at a painting of a Hawaiian sunset? It’s bold and exactly how nature intended it. No filters needed. Dig in deeper and look at our wildlife and you will really see something to behold. Chartreuse paired with eggplant and cinnamon. Turquoise, lime, yellow and orange. All shades of fire. It’s all there in all its glory and the combinations work really well. Take those palettes out of context and use them in your design and you suddenly have something that feels unique and unexpected. Memorable. Fresh. I’ve often been told that I have a wonderfully unique sense of color. My secret’s out. 

From a psychological point of view, I suspect that using these combos also feels somehow familiar yet exotic. Perhaps reminiscent of something wild but soothing. Many of us designers are trained to understand how color influences perception. How do you respond when you see orange? You might think of the fruit, and can perhaps even taste its juicy sweetness, but beyond that it feels – happy. Orange and yellow are optimism and brighter days. As that color moves into red, it also changes how we respond. Red is powerful and bold. It’s exciting! It can also mean danger and desire- somehow synonymous. Red attracts attention more than any other color, and that’s exactly what it’s supposed to do in nature. Whether to indicate that- “Hey I’m poisonous don’t eat me”, or “Hey baby check out these feathers.” Perhaps our Pavlovian responses also stem back to nature’s initial intent, and we have simply claimed that thought process as our own.

What’s better? Trend or Nature? It’s hard to say honestly. Trend is, well trend, and temporary. It’s what drives commerce, whether that’s good or bad. Some color trends are better than others, but color is personal so who’s to say what’s good and bad. It seems that currently we are in the midst of a trend that does look to nature for its palette, certainly in the outdoor and sports market. What I hear mostly about, however, are the most considered colors in nature — the tans, beiges, sage greens and dusty blues- the subdued and softer side of nature. Earth tones. Regardless, in the spirit of acknowledging that nature has more going on, next time you hear someone refer to a natural palette in reference to anything, keep in mind those crazy exotic birds and Hawaiian sunsets. 

image: shamsazizi

Negroni Afternoons and Working Women

Forget Mad Men, what about Mad Women?

I did something today, I don’t often do. Well, I don’t often do when I’m home in the middle of a work week and am having a very task oriented kind of day. I skipped out of the office at 3:00 to go have a late lunch and cocktail with my beloved, and I’m a little shocked at myself. Which is exactly why I should do this sort of thing every so often. So why does that make me feel a little bit guilty? Sometimes little indulgences are just what the doctor ordered, we’re told. We read how important it is to find life balance. We hear about investing in one’s wellbeing. Note I didn’t say health here, I meant wellbeing. Get out of your rut. Do the unexpected. Etc etc. In short, don’t be such a busy body and rigid in your thinking. Which leads me to wondering what is the root of such regularly scheduled rigidity? Even the word is painful.

As a woman, who owns her own business, and takes pride in how hard she has worked all of her adult life, being rigid in your thinking is exactly what you have to do to get it all done. I’m a regular Get ‘Er Done kind of gal. Raising children and owning a business are both full time jobs. Now squeeze in regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle and your daily 24 are used up. My kids are grown now, and I have found a little more me time. Still, I get up every morning and go into my office each day and put in a day of work, and if I don’t have current client work I find ways to keep myself busy. Clean the office, organize files, etc. What I don’t do is take more me time when I have it. Why do we do this to ourselves?  

Perhaps there’s the fear that if you don’t demonstrate constant dedication to whom I don’t know, you may not be taken seriously. This is a fear some of us women professional types dance with. Some of us are better than others, depending on the day, and I suspect depending on your age. How rich it must feel to be so cocksure every day! I aspire to that confidence! And yet, there I was, sitting at a bar at 3:00 having an afternoon Negroni no less! What a wonder. I’m a regular Mad Men type of creative, and I see what the hype is all about. Being naughty is fun. Maybe even makes you feel more creative and more a BOSS. Being naughty is most assuredly a loose term, as I imagine there are many for whom this is a regular event. For me, it felt like I was busting out of something. 

I was raised to be career oriented, yet I was surrounded by women who were not. They worked hard, but not at a career. I feel like I’m part of one of the last generations that has toed the line between growing up to be a wife and mom and growing up to kick ass in the work place. I don’t see this as a struggle for many young women today and I wonder if that’s accurate. I see much bravado and confidence with young men, perhaps to their peril. Confidence is great, but you still need experience and only time will give you that. Are young women as confident today? Do they struggle with decisions between the two? I’m certain it’s not as black and white as this, but in general terms where is the collective mindset. From all outward appearances it seems women are on track to truly kicking ass and that makes me very happy, because I know women are truly capable of great things!

In the spirit of all working women who are amazing, I will go to work tomorrow and will jump in to my day as usual, but I will do it with an eye towards the benefits of breaking a cycle and seeing old things in new ways. Try new things. Be bold. Be a little outrageous. Own your world and your career. To be clear, I’m not telling you to drink in the afternoon, I’m simply reminding us all that ruts don’t benefit. They certainly don’t enhance the creative process nor do they make you feel like the bad ass you are. You have nothing to lose by being a better version of you, and pushing yourself in new ways — even when it feels a little naughty.