Darkness falls across the land
The midnight hour is close at hand
Creatures crawl in search of blood
To terrorize y’awl’s neighborhood
And whosoever shall be found
Without the soul for getting down
Must stand and face the hounds of hell
And rot inside a corpse’s shell
The foulest stench is in the air
The funk of forty thousand years
And grizzly ghouls from every tomb
Are closing in to seal your doom
And though you fight to stay alive
Your body starts to shiver
For no mere mortal can resist
The evil of the thriller
-Vincent Price monologue in Michael Jackson’s Thriller
1. Make Halloween more spooky with this DIY spider web made of yarn.
2. Glance through the world’s most eerily beautiful cemeteries.
3. This paper bat is a perfect, easy addition to your haunted dinner party this year.
4. Use this handy guide if making a pumpkin pie from scratch this holiday.
5. This skull graphic art piece was created by Russian artist, Timofei.
6. Though sources of much superstition, black cats are my favorite part of Halloween.
7. Easy to see why these woods were the perfect backdrop for The Legend of Sleep Hollow.
8. One of the most famous poems, The Raven is a holiday classic to recite.
9. I really want to recreate the world’s largest pile of leaves to jump into.
Elephants are living treasures. Nature’s gardeners. Nature’s great teachers. Tragically some people don’t give a damn. They prefer the dead treasure to the living one. The ivory. We must challenge this so-called ‘trade’ with all our might and shame on those who would condone it.
Virginia McKenna OBE
Founder & Trustee Born Free Foundation
3. Sorting out fact from hype about coral bleaching.
4. Honey extracting is oddly satisfying to watch.
6. A driftwood mobile is the perfect rainy day DIY.
an earthy pigment containing ferric oxide, typically with clay, varying from light yellow to brown or red.
1. Delicious cafe and bakery in Amsterdam.
2. Naturally dyed ombre Easter eggs.
3. Intricate linocut illustration by Andrea Lauren.
4. Flamingo portrait taken by Christine Ellger.
5. Twists and turns of Antelope Canyon.
6. Cozy blanket perfect for autumn.
7. Embroidered clutch from Anthropologie.
8. Noma, Denmark’s most handsome restaurant.
9. Carl Christensen’s print of a cecropia moth.
“All in all, it was a never-to-be-forgotten summer — one of those summers which come seldom into any life, but leave a rich heritage of beautiful memories in their going — one of those summers which, in a fortunate combination of delightful weather, delightful friends and delightful doing, come as near to perfection as anything can come in this world.”
― L.M. Montgomery, Anne’s House of Dreams
1. Windblown sea oats in the quaint old town of St. Augustine.
2. The piled layers upon layers of delicate, blush tulle.
3. Breathtaking beauty of islands in the Pacific Northwest.
4. Coveting this collection of antique silverware.
5. View of the Seine River from atop the Eiffel Tower.
6. Faceted and shimmering tiles from Tabarka Studio.
7. Chinese junk touring the waters of Halong Bay, Vietnam.
8. “Weathered” art piece created by Melanie Severin.
9. An artist’s moving depiction of living with dementia.
It’s my 32nd birthday today, and you know what, I love this season in my life. I love who I am, who I’m surrounded by, what I’m learning and creating, and what’s next on the horizon. I have no huge party plans, that’s not really my style. Just some delicious food and time spent with those I love.
My favorite color for a few years now has been this rich, deep emerald and I thought it appropriate to post this favorite Findings collection on my birthday. (Plus I’m secretly hoping someone will see this and buy me that sofa for a present…swoon…)
1. Beautiful ceramics collection from Danish company tinekhome.
2. Hand blown glass vase from homewares online store, April and the Bear.
3. Utterly Engaged’s “Forest Collection” of hand dyed silk ribbons.
4. Natural green agate are gilded with gold to create handsome coasters.
5. Lovely magnolia flowers from Amber Wilson’s For the Love of the South.
6. A picturesque outdoor cafe in Ravello, Italy on the Amalfi Coast.
7. Lettering love by calligraphy artist, David Milan.
8. Glazed stoneware crafted by famed Swedish designer, Stig Lindberg.
9. I really need this gorgeous emerald crushed velvet sofa.
Though it isn’t often, sometimes my love of very neutral, subtle, understated palettes craves something bold and bright. This lemon yellow pairs beautifully with those basic neutrals and adds fun and personality without being overbearing. With summer nearing its end, this is a perfect color to add oomph to the cold, crisp days ahead.
1. If only we all could learn to live by the words in this mantra.
2. The island of Bali boasts a rich heritage of artisans and craftsman.
3. Vivid image of autumn yellow ginkgo leaves.
4. On my wishlist – minimalism art piece by Khan.
5. Try this recipe of pasta with a creamy rosemary lemon sauce.
6. Logotype inspiration from Paulius Kairevicius.
7. Handsome sign painting in New York City.
8. Words to live by from The War of Art.
9. Impressive embroidery art created by MaricorMaricar.
This collection might be too stark and colorless for some, but to me, the subtle tones allow the creative design, craftsmanship, and forms to take center stage. The simple, sleek lines create unity and balance with the curves and hard edges blending together to combine design and function.
Before I began designing professionally, I didn’t realize just how difficult it is to successfully merge simple and straightforward design elements with those that are unique and aesthetically pleasing. I was able to recognize the difference between poor and great design, but I naïvely thought that meant my designs would come easily and flow from my fingertips (or mouse). It took try after try and repeated tutorials and coaching from Jeff to learn some of the new skills required for our work. I now know the frustration felt after spending hours on a project, realizing it’s no where near good enough, scraping it, and then beginning again. Over time I’ve developed and honed those skills, so the design process is familiar to me now, but I still don’t think I’d say I find the work easy.
Knowing how challenging my own progress was, now when I look at images like these, I can somehow see and appreciate the planning, preparations, and toil it must have taken for these artisans to form their creations.
“Design is so simple. That’s why it’s so complicated.” – Paul Rand
1. An oft-overlooked aspect of home design is interior doorways, but it’s executed perfectly in this Dutch home.
2. This simple, yet elegant ceramics collection creates warmth and adds texture to liven up a minimalistic space.
3. The negative space found in this logo adds unique interest to an otherwise classic design.
4. Soft leather and the organic silhouette of this tulip-shaped clutch make it perfect for any season.
5. Black marble and brass lacquered elements form a sparse and modern timepiece.
6. I’ve always wanted to takes sleds, boards and motorbikes to the sand dunes of St. Anthony, Idaho.
7. Stepping stones cross a pool from the kitchen to the living room in this amazing home in California.
8. With his work so often misunderstood and misrepresented, in futility Rothko offered this final attempt at explanation.
9. This sleek and dramatic sofa takes its visual cues from mid-century modern design.
This Fourth of July weekend was filled with BBQs, movies, games, s’mores, our first demolition derby, and of course, fireworks. Both Jeff and I have had the opportunity to travel internationally numerous times, and while we could each list thing after thing after thing of what we like better about those other countries, there really is nothing like home.
When an American says that he loves his country, he means not only that he loves the New England hills, the prairies glistening in the sun, the wide and rising plains, the great mountains, and the sea. He means that he loves an inner air, an inner light in which freedom lives and in which a man can draw the breath of self-respect. ~Adlai Stevenson
There is much to be said for the faults and failings of America (and I must say, I heartily agree with a lot of it), but while the cynics are casting their stones, I am amazed at the good I see. The innovators, the entrepreneurs, the inventors, the dreamers are all around us. And though their hard work and passion and vision aren’t as newsworthy as the latest scandal, their fight to realize the American dream quietly fosters that ingenuity and drive in those around them.
There is much to be angry and divided and worried and fed up about. There is much to be done, to change, to fix, and to create. This truly is the Land of Opportunity, and whatever we find ourselves in, we’ve created it. But one of my favorite parts of this great country is the hope and possibility for better. We only need begin to act on that hope, for change begins with us.
America is a nation with many flaws, but hopes so vast that only the cowardly would refuse to acknowledge them. ~James Michener
1. Scheduled to open early next year, the New York Wheel will become the tallest ferris wheel in the world at 630 feet.
2. One of my favorite designers, Joshua Luke Smith, created this unique logo for Sparrow Pottery.
3. Planning a summer road trip? This heritage barn tour in Northern Washington showcases 55 historic registered barns.
4. Watch how the silent flight of an owl gives it an advantage over other birds of prey during a hunt.
5. Cy Twombly‘s work evokes incidents from Homer’s Iliad in his characteristic synthesis of words and images.
6. Because there is little daylight during winter, Scandinavians design large windows with no shades or drapery.
7. Gorgeous hot air balloon family photo shoot by photographer, Ashlee Raubach.
8. Fitting and emotional tribute to one of the most influential poets of our time, the late Maya Angelou.
9. If you love bunnies, you’d absolutely love a vacation to this Japanese island.
I wasn’t made for summertime and sunshine. I was made for crisp autumn air and thickly piled blankets and steamy mugs of cocoa. But I think this summer will be different, one to remember instead of being so grateful that it’s over.
This summer I’ll spend with my sister (and new baby!) who’s moving so close after being away for so long. This summer I’ll take afternoon naps and acquire dozens of little scratches from my family’s tiny new kitty (with beautiful eyes the color of that No. 6 elegant sofa). This summer we have lots of exciting new client projects that have been in the works for months. This summer Jeff’s leg will be healed enough to go on mountain trails and motorcycle rides. It’s shaping up to be a pretty great summer.
This pale mint and desert sand colors reminds me of summer haze and the Aegean Sea on cloudy days. When the heat gets too intense, these soft colors help me remember how long I’ve waited for this summer to come.
“The beauty of that June day was almost staggering. After the wet spring, everything that could turn green had outdone itself in greenness and everything that could even dream of blooming or blossoming was in bloom and blossom. The sunlight was a benediction. The breezes were so caressingly soft and intimate on the skin as to be embarrassing.”
― Dan Simmons,
Eleven years ago today, I returned home from my first trip to Africa. I didn’t realize it then, but that first expedition to Zambia with Mothers Without Borders would change the course of my entire life. The experiences I had and lessons learned from my time in Zambia would shape my choices and expectations from what degree to pursue in college, the kind of career and volunteer work I wanted to do, how I view and interact with people who at first seem so different from me, and how much I value and prioritize personal relationships. Most importantly, I’m still learning from those lessons how to truly love myself and to be true to my intuition and desires.
While this collection of images is a somewhat romanticized version of my memories and experiences, I think it conveys my deep love for this vast continent. I find it incredibly difficult to talk about the hard things I saw there. The depraved, the lowly, the humble, the suffering. Those things are inherently unpleasant to discuss, but I find the hardest part is to tell these stories to an audience who barely has the capacity or attention span to hear them. Sometimes even harder to explain is the paradox that exists for those who experience extreme suffering and yet the greatest happiness. It’s hard to comprehend how some of my friends there have survived wars, famine, poverty, betrayal, defilement, torture, abandonment . . . and yet are able to find love, joy, peace, and reconciliation even in the midst of those dark times. When I look at these photographs, that is the paradox I see. I see the beauty and simplicity, but I know the hardship that both the humans and animals who share this land experience. But that adversity is what makes the good so beautiful.
In my part of Africa, death is never far away. With more Zimbabweans dying in their early thirties now, mortality has a seat at every table. The urgent, tugging winds themselves seem to whisper the message, memento mori, you too shall die. In Africa, you do not view death from the auditorium of life, as a spectator, but from the edge of the stage, waiting only for your cue. You feel perishable, temporary, transient. You feel mortal.
Maybe that is why you seem to live more vividly in Africa. The drama of life there is amplified by its constant proximity to death. That’s what infuses it with tension. It is the essence of its tragedy too. People love harder there. Love is the way that life forgets that it is terminal. Love is life’s alibi in the face of death.
― Peter Godwin,
1. An intimate portrait of Senegal’s most famous drummer, the late Doudou N’Diaye Rose.
2. Incredible birds-eye view of a camel caravan crossing the salt flats of Lake Assal, Djibouti.
3. Portrait of Rufo, a member of the Arbore tribe in the Omo Valley, Ethiopia.
4. If you need a good cry, you won’t be disappointed by this incredible video about Christian the Lion.
5. A Dinka boy from South Sudan lavishes endless care and affection on his animals which he considers part of the family.
6. Villagers play a round of Bao, a common mancala board game, on the coast of Tanzania.
7. A young Tuareg man wears a traditional turban, or tagelmust; only removing it in the presence of close family.
8. “The Smoke That Thunders.” Victoria Falls is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World.
9. Crocodiles lie in wait for the unlucky wildebeest as they make their annual 1800 mile migration across the Mara River.
As a child, I felt like most of my world was painted in bold primary colors. From my clothing to those jumbo crayons I’d clutch in my tiny fingers, everything that was made for children was bright and rather ostentatious. In that overly saturated world, I found calm in the luster of feathers, the glimmer of bubbles, and the opalescence of dripped oil. I was amazed that a single thing could be made of so many shimmering colors.
Whether you love vivid and sparkling or hushed, subtle tones like me, I think we can all find solace in these wondrous colors.
“Some of us get dipped in flat, some in satin, some in gloss….” He turned to me. “But every once in a while, you find someone who’s iridescent, and when you do, nothing will ever compare.” ― Wendelin Van Draanen, Flipped
1. Sculptor Kate MccGwire creates otherworldly designs using her primary medium, feathers.
2. Moody, stormy sunset overlooking Vancouver Island, BC.
3. Mottled print from Day Birger et Mikkelsen’s AW 2013 collection.
4. Stunning, foggy views from underneath the Williamsburg Bridge in New York.
5. I had no idea watching a video about delicate butterfly wings could be so mesmerizing.
6. Black thumb? Blue agave is one of the easiest, heartiest plants to take care of.
7. Add some shimmer to your home with this metallic botanical print.
8. Smoky indigo painting by fine artist, Sara Kraus.
9. Opaline macro texture shot of leopard gecko skin.
Pantone was spot on when choosing Rose Quartz as one of this year’s Color of the Year. The world has certainly followed suit as this dusty hue seems to be everywhere.
As someone who is often annoyed that the vast majority of companies still continue to disregard the fact that not all women love their products cotton candy pink, bedazzled, and glittering, I’m glad this popular color has made its mark and manufacturers are slowly introducing more subtle, sophisticated, neutral color palettes (thank you, Living Proof).
While predominantly a feminine color in our culture, this shade pairs nicely with heavily masculine elements like rich leather, hammered metals, weathered woods, and rough stone. Check out this handsome office space that does just that. Not convinced? This quote should immediately dispel all doubt for you – by Kanye West (obviously, who else?).
“Why would anyone pick blue over pink? Pink is obviously a better colour.” – Kanye West
1. Wonderfully ethereal floral photography by Mady Dooijes.
2. Though we usually prefer motorbikes, cycling the chaotic streets of India sounds much safer.
3. Some day our path will lead us to these quaint towns in Andalusia.
4. But not before we wander the quiet village lanes and bustling medinas of Morocco.
5. A perfect pair. Pantone chose Serenity as Rose Quartz’s companion for their Colors of the Year.
6. One of my favorite Instagram photographers at Mt. Baker.
7. Never had a burning to desire to visit Poland, until now. So beautiful.
8. Cocorrina’s lettering designs were the primary inspiration for Allison when she began learning calligraphy.
9. A little time consuming, but plaster finished walls are definitely worth the wait.
I took a bad step about 6 weeks ago and injured myself pretty badly.
Stepping off the front porch, I rolled my left ankle and fell all-sorts-of-stupid onto my right leg. Prettymuch everything attaching my quadriceps to my knee came apart. Painful, yes. Surgery was worse. Luckily, as I write this, I’m way past the worst of it and well on my way to having a functional leg again. Still on crutches with a straight brace, but I’m putting up to 75% of my weight on it now, and hope to be off crutches within a couple weeks and to get on with physical therapy ASAP.
Of course the whole thing has been an unexpected bummer (to say the least) but I wanted to have some fun with it. So I turned it into a concert poster.
My wife, Allison, and I have had a lot of laughs about the first handful of things I said once I was coming out of anesthesia. And this is where I got the “Truth Serum” bit. According to my wife, I was fun and kind, keeping my voice soft while swearing like a sailor, and mostly succeeding in my doped up efforts to be charming and polite. I tried to make reference to our favorite movies, YouTube videos, and inside jokes. Most of all, I just wanted to hear one of my favorite songs, Weapon of Choice, from my favorite band: Black Rebel Motorcycle Club (or “BRMC” to fans like me).
At one point, I asked Allison if I could get some water. She told me we could ask the nurse in a minute when she gets back.
“Tell her to get over here right now, I’m paying for this.”
Even in that stupor, I was aware of our predicament. Being self-employed means getting creative, sometimes, with insurance (of which we had none) and medical bills (of which we now had plenty).
As an aside, I might take this opportunity to point out that – with all the worry and warnings I receive from friends and acquaintances concerned about my motorcycling, defensive training, and travels to foreign lands – the two worst injuries I’ve ever received occurred:
- Working overtime behind a desk.
- Walking in the front yard.
Both required surgery, and months of painful recovery. I’m not saying motorcycles, guns, judo-chops, and foreign travel don’t have their associated risks. Just saying there’s plenty of risk out there for all of us, regardless of your hobbies. Makes me re-evaluate how safe “being safe” is. That’s all.
TIMES OF PLENTY & TIMES OF FAMINE
As for being a small business owner (especially in a freelancing/consulting business), I’ve heard it said:
“In this business, you wake up every morning unemployed.”
For the last year, business has been increasingly good. We get better and better clients, and several side-projects are blooming into exciting, separate business partnerships with trusted colleagues. Still, the small-business part of this is new. And that means we have to really earn every client and project we get. Those projects seem to come in waves; the ebb and flow of which can be tricky to balance in.
Happily (with the above quote in mind), we’ve adopted a pattern of paying ahead our rent by several months at a time and being strategic about our grocery list, being sure to stock up on food that stores well in the medium-to-long term.
It’s always tempting to go out and buy new gear every time we land a new project or client . . . maybe upgrade the computer, buy a new camera an expensive lens. Don’t get me wrong – at times, we’ve done exactly that. But we’ve tried to be deliberate about when to invest in our business with new gear, and when to prepare for the days of famine that are sure to come before the next big wave of projects lands at our sandy feet.
We’re so grateful to those who have helped and supported us right now. We’ve got a wonderful safety-net of family and friends who have offered/provided transportation and other means of support. We’ve got great clients who have been flexible about my downtime for a couple weeks there post-surgery.
We’re feeling a lot of love right now, and we want to say thank you.
Even though Spring is officially here, there are plenty of rainy days ahead. Instead of pining for the sunshine, take advantage of cooler, drizzly weather to snuggle in bed with a good book or binge your favorite Netflix shows. The sweaty summer heat will be here soon enough.
“The richness of the rain made me feel safe and protected; I have always considered the rain to be healing—a blanket—the comfort of a friend. Without at least some rain in any given day, or at least a cloud or two on the horizon, I feel overwhelmed by the information of sunlight and yearn for the vital, muffling gift of falling water.” ― Douglas Coupland,
- Try this creamy hot cocoa recipe with cinnamon toast.
- Curl up with a book from this Spring reading list.
- Plenty of science as to why rain is so soothing. Get your own rain app here.
- Stay cozy with these easy diy knitted socks.
- Up your nap game with these comfy bedding tips.
- This One of my favorite lazy brunch eats. This dutch baby recipe is one of my favorite lazy brunch eats.
- Studies show pets decrease stress hormones and increase healing. Snuggle up.
- Pair this granola with milk for a healthy breakfast or sprinkle over vanilla ice cream for a treat.
- Rainy days are the perfect time to practice the lost art of a hand written letter.
It’s been year since we first laid eyes on the crystal clear, turquoise waters of the Aegean Sea. While we were in Italy and Greece, we longed for the snow-capped mountains of home. Now that we’re home and Spring is beginning to emerge through the frosty landscape, I find myself dreaming of the sand and sunbathing.
The cure for anything is salt water – sweat, tears, or the sea. Karen Blixen
1. Tranquil lake surrounded by the Dolomites.
2. Watercolor ampersand calligraphy.
3. I have my heart set on this painting.
4. Spectacular natural pools in Turkey.
5. Birdseye view of a fisherman in India.
6. Wise words from Pablo Picasso.
7. Calming, foamy waves.
8. Spiky succulent spines.
9. Light as a feather.
Negative space is a term for the space (or absence of content) around and between the subject of an image. Depending how the negative space is used, our brains fill in the missing information (see image No. 7), or it is used as “breathing room” to keep things legible, uncluttered, and aesthetically pleasing (see image No. 5).
In his book The Art of Looking Sideways, Alan Fletcher addresses the powerful effect and influence of utilizing space in the creative arts and as a philosophy.
Space is substance. Cézanne painted and modeled space. Giacometti sculpted by “taking the fat off space“. Mallarmé conceived poems with absences as well as words. Ralph Richardson asserted that acting lay in pauses… Isaac Stern described music as “that little bit between each note – silences which give the form“… The Japanese have a word (ma) for this interval which gives shape to the whole. In the West we have neither word nor term. A serious omission.
In this age of modern conveniences and technologies, we are continuously inundated with stimuli that bombard our senses and fool us into thinking that we’re too busy for peace and quiet. But in those times of pause, peace, rest, space – that is when we regain our balance and are allowed to imagine and create. That space is essential to reflect, meditate, and exercise temperance. To achieve that balance, we must guard our personal time as sacred.
This week, our inspiration is anchored in that need for balance and space. In our designs. In our lives.
1. Da dum. Da dum. This Jaws inspired poster.
2. This foxy logo.
3. Check out this fan art, punk.
4. I love intelligent design.
5. Perfectly timed shot.
6. Subtle, but perfect.
7. Fill in the blank.
8. Shaken, not stirred.
9. Amazing illustration.
Ashley is a talented illustrator, designer, and calligrapher. Her handywork has appeared on the shelves of Target, American Crafts, and Crate Paper (to name a few). Her latest entrepreneurial project is the Salt & Honey Market, which you should definitely check out.
Most of us spend our entire lives imitating others. When we are in school we imitate the teacher or other students to get A’s. We imitate the cool kids clothes, personalities, and hairstyles to get dates. When we get new jobs we imitate the processes and procedures of those before us to be the one who “catches on quick”. Even when we order pizza on the phone for the first time when we’re 13 we look to our seasoned pizza ordering friends to make sure we don’t screw it up. (Not that I did that when I was 13. I was, um, talking about a friend.)
It’s ingrained from the beginning – something I’ve learned firsthand by raising my baby these last 6 months. She mimics, waits, sees my reaction and then smiles when she hears my approval. Imitating is in our genes, it’s how we learn to speak, how we learn to walk, how we learn to figure out our world.
That’s fine and good and all when you’re learning, but what happens when we get so used to imitating, that we don’t know any other way? It creates a sort of culture of derivatives – a culture where everyone imitates everyone else. In which case, who is coming up with all the original ideas? And how do I become that person?
I think about this a lot. In my job we often create rehashed versions of old work in order to save time and bust out products faster. We don’t do it with the majority of our development – we need things to still feel fresh – but we do it for small things here or there with every product.
“Oh, this geometric pattern sold well last round? How can we do the same thing again but freshen it up a bit?”
“Ooh, plus signs are a trending icon right? Can we do them closer together? Further apart? Out of watercolor or marker this time? In straight lines or tilted? Black or Mint?”
It just goes on and on and on.
It’s kind of a vicious cycle that often makes me wonder if anything I create is truly original. I’m just a product of hours of viewing image after image on Pinterest, product after product in store, and trend after trend in the media. I mean, there are only so many cameras or flowers or birds you can “put on it”, right? But we come up with new versions, again and again, to my surprise and slight chagrin.
Many versions of cameras I’ve designed in the last two years. Can you spot me reusing bits and pieces here and there?
As creative beings, isn’t the ultimate goal to express yourself? And, of course, it has to be in an original and awesome way that pulls out your imagination, inventiveness, and ingenuity. What happens, then, when you try to express yourself, and you only end up expressing others?
Why do we, as a creative community, continue to rehash? True, it’s the safe thing to do to protect profit margins and increase sales. It’s also efficient. But beyond business, I want to discuss the core of why we do this as artists. As artists, we have to make a concerted effort not to let sales and profit margins rule our process.
You may be saying to yourself right now that you are original (you may be, who am I to say), or you don’t just go to those sources (Hooray for you!) but my guess is that in the thick of deadlines, in the midst of pressure, the majority of the creative community just looks to each other. Just look at history. Artists have been copying each other for centuries.
Tiziano Vecelli’s ‘Venus of Urbino’ (1538) and Edouard Manet’s ‘Olympia’ 1863
What is that famous quote? “Good artists copy; great artists steal.”
The funny thing is I tried to research that quote – supposedly by Pablo Picasso quoted by Steve Jobs – and you know what I found? That quote is actually a rewording of one by T.S. Elliot, who reworded one by W. H. Davenport Adams. So that quote in and of itself was stolen. Awesome.
As with babies, so it is with artists. In one’s journey to become a professional it is common practice to copy other’s work to gain technical ability, basic skills and proficiency. My questioning of the practice mainly comes after those skills are learned and artists are still going back to what they know to inspire their work. Why do we continue to copy and imitate?
Maybe we’re just afraid. From Ed Catmull in Creativity, Inc.:
“In a fear-based, failure-averse culture, people will consciously or unconsciously avoid risk. They will seek instead to repeat something safe that’s been good enough in the past. Their work will be derivative, not innovative. But if you can foster a positive understanding of failure, the opposite will happen.”
(Ed Catmull is the president of Pixar, in case you were doubting his credentials.)
He also talks a lot about refocusing how we see ourselves to create our best work. And that comes from accepting the inevitable failure that must coexist with coming up with original ideas.
jacket illustration: © Disney • Pixar
More from Creativity, Inc. (seriously, you should read it):
“If you seek to plot out all your moves before you make them — if you put your faith in slow, deliberative planning in the hopes it will spare you failure down the line — well, you’re deluding yourself. For one thing, it’s easier to plan derivative work — things that copy or repeat something already out there. So if your primary goal is to have a fully worked out, set-in-stone plan, you are only upping your chances of being unoriginal. Moreover, you cannot plan your way out of problems.
While planning is very important, and we do a lot of it, there is only so much you can control in a creative environment. In general, I have found that people who pour their energy into thinking about an approach and insisting that it is too early to act are wrong just as often as people who dive in and work quickly. The overplanners just take longer to be wrong (and, when things inevitably go awry, are more crushed by the feeling that they have failed). There’s a corollary to this, as well: The more time you spend mapping out an approach, the more likely you are to get attached to it. The nonworking idea gets worn into your brain, like a rut in the mud. It can be difficult to get free of it and head in a different direction. Which, more often than not, is exactly what you must do.”
It’s out of fear and this obscured view of failure’s role in our life, that our society has taught us to distaste, that we find ourselves re-creating instead of creating.
So how do we break ourselves out of the rut of derivative work? You’re the creative one, you figure it out. And get used to failing while you do.
Well we’ve been back in the U.S. for nearly 2 months and Allison and I are still just getting caught up. Before I lose too much more momentum, I wanted to continue sharing some of the beauty that we encountered during our travels in the Mediterranean. If you’ve been following along, you know from Part One and Two of The Hunt that Allison and I became “collectors,” of sorts. Symmetry. Color. Balance and Negative Space. It added a fun dynamic to our daily routine when we would come across something and say, “Ooh, get a photo of the symmetry,” and “Whoa. Come check out this texture . . . .”
Doing so made us see things differently. It was a really rewarding creative exercise.
Anyway, today’s post features a collection that’s one of my favorites: Texture.
Developer’s Note: We like these photos so much, we removed the side bar on this post to give them all of the real estate.
Let’s start with Rome:
If you click to see the image full size, you can see the amazing grit of this old edifice. I love the marbling in the columns.
Marbled Floor Inside the Pantheon
It made the interior an echo chamber.
On Our Way to the Gelateria
Across the narrow street alongside the Pantheon, I was a little enamored with the quaint, crusty neighborhoods.
These were some of the first amazing sculptures that I saw in Italy.
Vatican City at Midnight
With the streets empty, one of the most striking things for me was the shiny cobblestones in the square below St. Peter’s Basilica, polished under the countless footsteps of the faithful and curious for centuries.
From Rome, we headed north to Florence. A place I can’t wait to see again.
Inside the Baptistery
The tiny tiles and details seemed endless.
Some of the most pleasant graffiti ever.
Sculptures outside Palazza Vecchio
Even right up close, the stone seemed so fleshy and lifelike.
Take a close look at the veins and tendons in his hands, and how his fingers press into her flesh. And then remind yourself that someone chipped that out of a block of marble. Just incredible.
Almas, the Street Artist
When he realized we liked his black and white watercolor paintings but he didn’t have the one we wanted, this sweet man dropped what he was doing and said, “Ten minute?” with a smile. We watched in awe as he sketched and painted the Duomo from memory. I have so much admiration for artists who work without an “undo” button. Unbelievable.
As you know, the next chapter of our travels took us to Athens, Greece.
Base of the Acropolis
The exposed, ancient stone here showed the wear of 2500-ish years.
Look at the precision cut and fit of those stones, and that scaly-looking transition.
I tried to imagine the work that went into this so long ago; that someone spent who-knows-how-long chipping away at this and adding the little details one at a time.
The tiny tiles of a section of floor on display at one of the many museums in Athens.
I loved the rough exterior of this old Greek Orthodox church, which was right in the center of a busy, modern open-air mall. They just built right up around it.
All too common
Allison and I were surprised to see so how much of Athens was run down, overgrown, and nearly everything within arm’s reach was covered in graffiti. Numerous sights like this one gave off a shoulder-shrugging vibe of the city having given up.
Although Athens had some amazing historical sites to visit, the real beauty of Greece seemed to be found once you left the city for the beaches, hills, and islands. The sea that surrounds the country is cold, calm, and exceptionally blue in color. Here, the slimy moss swayed forward and back with the gentle waves on one of many rocky beaches we found along the coast.
One of the two main highlights of our travels in Greece was the island of Skiathos. Happily, Skiathos gave off a very different mood than the weary, almost-sulky Athens. In contrast, this tiny island was something its locals were obviously proud of, and they took great care to show off its beauty.
In the more popular areas on Skiathos, nearly every structure seemed to have a fresh coat of paint. But while exploring its neighborhoods and back alleys, we found some wonderful old texture for our collection.
Hidden Beaches & Driftwood
On Skiathos, many of the beaches were unreachable by road; visitors must arrive by boat. With so little foot traffic, everything had an older feel on these remote beaches. I wonder when this old piece of driftwood arrived.
Finally, the climax of our time in Greece was our motorbike ride through ancient Corinth en route to Sparta, Mystras, and Leonidio, then back up the coast to Corinth and back to Athens. Truly, the Peloponnese peninsula had some of the most gorgeous, mountainous landscapes we’ve seen – and we live in Utah.
Bees & Thistles in Ancient Corinth
Warm, Speckled Asphalt
I wish I got a bit closer to the road for this photo, so you could see whatever it was that speckled this scenic stretch of road between Corinth and Argos.
Warrior Wildflowers in Ancient Sparta
Even the plant-life in Sparta seems to defy the Persians to this day. Click to see the tiny thorns on these poppies and their spear-like yellow guardians (second photo).
Like the island of Skiathos, the tiny town of Mystras was beautiful and well-kept. The town itself hugs the outskirts of Sparta, watched over by the towering Taygetus Mountains.
Breaching Snap Dragons
Like neighboring Sparta, some of the flowers in Mystras displayed a special toughness, like these snap dragons that seemed to break right through the mortar of this wall.
More exposed brick.
Lichens on Mount Taygetus
Near the top of the cloud-covered peaks of the Taygetus mountain range overlooking Sparta and Mystras, everything took on an earthy, moody, gray tone.
On the steep canyon roads toward Leonidio, we spotted this old, rusted bike chain pretending to be a viper.
Obviously there are hundreds more photos that we want to share from our travels. Many of those can be found on Allison’s personal blog, WanderTheWild.com (or will be found there, since we’re still catching up on posting the ones from Greece).
Our next Guest Blogger in this series is Randy Pinson.
Randy Pinson is an internet retail cowboy and successful business owner who makes a living by selling inventory that other companies can’t sell for themselves. With years of online retail success under his belt, his latest endeavor is the new Rockagator brand of outdoor products. We should also mention that Randy is the charismatic front-man for the Davis County/Salt Lake County/Utah County-acclaimed band The Atomic Thunderlips.
My first bit of advice to anyone who has the entrepreneurial itch is, “don’t quit your day job . . . yet.”
I say this not to discourage them from following their dreams but hopefully to instill the reality that dreams are typically built slowly, often sidetracked, frequently doubted, and produce very little income in the early stages of development. The biggest mistake entrepreneurs make is that they underestimate their immediate cash-flow needs. When I got started in my business I piggybacked off of a steady paycheck and also married a very smart lady who brought home a good salary. Our bills were paid. Once I had become comfortable with my business and felt proficient with the necessary skill sets, only then did I remove the training wheels.
I FIRED THE INTERVIEWER
During my second year of business school it became apparent that my employment in the Pager industry was reaching the end of its functional lifecycle. I was faced with a decision: try to make it on my own by selling stuff on eBay, or fill out an application and start working for eBay. My risk-averse personality opted for the latter.
I made the trek to a hiring agency and stood in line, took personality and typing tests and sat through a strange group interview with other eBay applicants. When I finished the process, they told me I would be contacted in about two weeks with news on the job. In the meantime, I decided to test the entrepreneurial waters while I waited to hear back from eBay. With a $2,000 Hilton American Express credit line, I purchased some stuff from overstock.com and began re-selling it on eBay. I treated this like a full-time job for two weeks, and by the time eBay’s hiring agency called to offer me a sweet job in the blooming field of customer service, I figured I was already making as much hourly from home as I would be working for them. I fired the interviewer.
Making this decision didn’t come without a tall glass of self-doubt. Being able to show up to a desk and have someone hand you a paycheck every two weeks has its virtues. When you swim in the office space, you get benefits, free pizza and Pepsi on Fridays, health coverage, retirement and security. It is what every eager, wet-nosed college graduate longs for: acceptance and validation for all of their hard spent money. During my early college years and even during some of the early stages of my entrepreneurial campaign, I desperately wanted free pizza and Pepsi. eBay had such a cool corporate culture. They named their boardrooms after pop-culture references and had a fuzzy-faced, real-life mascot that started as eBay’s first customer service rep and spawned into an eBay cult icon that wore jackets so sparkly that it would make Liberace blush.
eBay represented, for me, the “times of plenty” and I wanted what they had. Momentum was building with my own business, but I was still putt-putting along selling odds and ends from an unfinished bedroom in my basement. I couldn’t help but look at the other pasture and wonder if I was fooling myself. Was I missing out? At this stage of my business, being my own boss was not as glamorous as it might seem; I’d say it kind of bit the big one.
A wise Englishman once said:
“You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes
Well you might find
You get what you need.”
If someone were to ask me as a college freshman what I envisioned my career to be in 5 years, it certainly wouldn’t be selling a mix of La Perla lingerie, wireless internet ports and German language-learning software. Yet there I was, selling this hodge-podge mix of products and getting what I needed: steady (while unconventional) security.
I worried frequently what would happen if I ran out of stuff to sell, but it never happened. There was always something. Soon it became a fight over which products I would buy and which products I would turn away.
Last year, fourteen years from conception, my business had 1.5 million dollars in sales across multiple online marketplaces. All from a guy who charmed his way through high-school and barely passed college accounting while many other seemingly-more-qualified business people have perished on the plains of the Internet equivalent of the Oklahoma land rush. This begs the question: How did I survive when the others did not?
I didn’t survive fourteen years in this business by being Magic Johnson. My approach to business has been much more John Stockton-esque. My growth was steady and deliberate. My risks/gambles were very calculated and conservative. I found holes in the competition and exploited them to my benefit, and my shorts were very short.
Ok, maybe that last bit isn’t true.
All in all, my business strategy has always been very flexible and adaptable to changes in the marketplace. What started off as strictly an eBay business has morphed into an Amazon.com business with a touch of eBay and a few other marketplaces. The businesses that didn’t survive the land rush of the Internet fell to an inability to adapt to the changing marketplace.
What does it mean to be flexible? It means to be prepared to toss aside any preconceived and idealized notion of how you thought your business would run. You can develop the perfect system for selling your product, but a simple marketplace rule change or fee change can render your business model obsolete overnight. When marketplace events like this happen, many businesses throw in the towel. Others plan on these changes happening as a rule of thumb and survive.
Even though my core business has done well for many years, I still haven’t thrown all my eggs in one basket. In my regular business routine I found that there was one line of products in the marketplace that was underserved (meaning lots of demand, not enough good product) and decided to create another business just to manufacture these items. That is how my second business, Rockagator, LLC was started. In business strategy class, your professor would call this type of move a ‘vertical integration.’
I’m brave and all, but – like I said – I’m calculated. I was eager to move forward with this new endeavor. I didn’t, however, just start a new business on a whim without a way to sell it or without prior knowledge of market demand. I already had both. I had sold similar products for years with measured success and if I created my own product, I already had a company that could sell the products for me, my own company. With Rockagator, our first run of waterproof backpacks were mostly sold via my original online retail business through Amazon.com, even though we also have a separate Rockagator.com website.
Rockagator is still in the infant stage of business development, but I am very optimistic with the early success we have experienced. In fact, we’re currently sold out, and should be getting a new load of our version 2.0 waterproof backpacks right about the time that this blog post gets published.
YOU GET WHAT YOU NEED
There is a lot to love about being my own boss. Earlier, I outlined some of the cons and challenges that come with it. Most of that entrepreneurial-adversity comes during the early stages of a business when one is relegated to eating beef stew from a can for three years while running down a dream.
Once you have put in the work and done your time, you might start to reap some of that measured, quantifiable success. Now you get to experience the exciting luxuries and benefits of being your own boss: more money, more time, more flexibility, and more ability to give back.
Even though it might be natural to feel that I accomplished everything that I have through my superior skills and charm, in reality, there is the final element of success that I haven’t addressed. It can go by several names: good fortune, luck, divine providence . . . .
Whichever term you prefer, it is healthy to remind your successful-self that you are basically a winner in the lottery of life and should remember to pay it forward when possible. I am not so successful that I have been able to give out cars on my own TV show, but giving back is something I try to do, and I hope to be able to do it on a larger scale as things continue to grow.
The waves of success and failure have washed over me in varying degrees over the past fourteen years. With each wave I rarely got exactly what I wanted or expected. But with a little patience and flexibility, I seem to get what I need.
No one likes be to disoriented.
The more clients Jeff and I work with, the more we recognize the value of having a process in place. Not just because it helps us work more effectively as a design team – although that’s a huge part of it. But just as importantly, it’s something we can communicate to a potential client before signing a contract to help them see how their project might take shape. It helps to manage expectations, and give perspective to timelines, revisions, and launch dates. It helps new clients get oriented.
With all our differences as human beings, one thing we probably all have in common is this: being oriented helps us to feel safe. Jeff and I think it’s essential to helping clients have a good experience with something as disorienting as creating or redefining their brand.
Start-to-finish, the process of creating a brand, a website, and supplemental designs for print, social media, etc. needs to be broken into several steps and development phases.
Let’s start with an overview of the branding process, itself:
BEFORE WE GET STARTED | INITIAL INQUIRY AND CONSULT
Chances are that you’ve come to our site after being referred by one of friends or clients, after seeing our work on Facebook or Pinterest, or by following our updates and series on our blog. You’ve browsed our services and like what you see. You’ve decided to take your business to the next level and are serious about investing in a professionally designed brand identity and website.Send us an email with a few details about your project and we’ll get back to you within 1 business day.
After your initial inquiry, we’ll arrange a time for a phone call or video chat. We’ll discuss the needs and goals of your business as well as your vision for the development of your brand.
Based on those goals, we’ll review our services, process, and timeline with you and make sure we answer any questions you might have. This conversation also allows us to get to know each other a little better to see if we would make a good partnership.
ABOUT TO BEGIN | QUOTE, CONTRACT, & BOOKING
If we are a good match, we will take what we discussed during our consult and draft a detailed quote.
Once you’ve revised and approved the draft, we’ll draw up a contract. We’ll send instructions with the contract to legally sign electronically (no need to go to the hassle of printing, signing, scanning, and emailing it back). Please note that your non-refundable deposit is due upon signing the contract to reserve your place in our schedule.
GETTING STARTED | ORIENTATION
When we receive your signed contract, we’ll set up a Client Project Page for you on our website. This page acts as your home base and is a great way for both of us to stay organized and see the development of your project at a glance.
We’ll walk you through the different areas where you can see your project’s progress indicator, the status of items currently queued, any action items/homework for you, and it’s where we’ll post design proposals and final drafts for you to approve.
When a completed design is approved, the files and support materials will be uploaded to your page and will be available for you to access at anytime within the length of our contract.
Now we can begin our six-step Branding Process.
STEP NO. 1 | WEBSITE WORKBOOK
The first thing we’ll do is have you download a copy of our Website Workbook (which you can download for free, here). This will guide you through the first of your action items and help you create a rough outline for your website, content, and any additional components.
In addition to the workbook, we’ll start asking detailed questions regarding your vision and goals for your brand, and start developing a strategy for targeting your preferred clients and keeping their attention.
STEP NO. 2 | INSPIRATION & MOOD BOARD
To get started, first we need your input on the brand design inspiration. One of the easiest ways to convey to us what your vision is for your brand is to create a Pinterest board. The collection of images should represent the tone and mood you want to convey to your audience. Pin photos that show your style and personality as well the kinds of colors, textures, patterns, and typography you’re drawn to. On the flip side, take note of elements that you don’t like.
Depending on if you need a new logo created or redesigned, adding logo ideas and inspiration to this board would be recommended as well. Focus on examples you think match your vision. Are the letters handwritten, a font, or a combination? Is there an emblem or symbol? Is it clean and minimal or vintage-inspired and rustic?
Here’s an example of a board that we created for our brand.
Notice how the overall look and feel of our board is consistent. The colors are dark and muted, and subject matter reflects who we are – two creatives with wanderlust and an affection for motorcycles.
IMPORTANT: The images you choose to pin to your inspiration board will not necessarily be used on your site. In fact – in most cases – the stuff you collect is copyrighted and you won’t have permission to use it commercially.
So rather than collecting actual content for your site, go into this particular process with the mindset of just collecting images that you connect with for one reason or another. Keep your brand in mind. Keep your target audience in mind. But don’t overthink it. Collect as many images as it takes in order to see a noticeable tone and mood emerge.
To make sure we have clear representation of your vision, we’ll pull a few of those photos you’ve gathered – as well as a coordinating color palette – and place them in an Inspiration & Mood Board. We will then upload the board to your Project Page for approval. You will have the opportunity to request 2 rounds of revisions for this step. We want to make sure you’re completely satisfied with this mood board as these images are essential for us to use as inspiration throughout this process as we design.
NOTE: From time to time, we have clients who don’t have the time or inclination to participate in this part of the design process, and trust us to put together the Inspiration & Mood Board for them, based on our planning sessions. If that sounds like you, feel free to opt out of this portion of the design process.
This is an example Inspiration & Mood Board we created for our Vagabond Original brand.
STEP NO. 3 | LOGO PACKAGE
Once your board has been approved, we’ll get started on the cornerstone of your brand: Your logo.
Based on the information you provide in our conversations and from your inspiration board, we’ll create a few proposals/variations. When we’re finished, we’ll upload them to your Project Page for you to review. Typically, up to two or three rounds of revisions will be plenty, and will keep this element of the project within the scope of our contract. Ultimately, we want you to be thrilled with your new custom logo, and we’ll revise it until you are; if that means we need to amend our contract, we’ll give you plenty of notice beforehand.
The final deliverable product will include variations of your new logo, intended to appear in various sizes, light or dark backgrounds, and on a variety of digital and print mediums.
STEP NO. 4 | DESIGN STRATEGY PROPOSAL
When we receive your completed content and collection of images, the next step we take is to create a design strategy proposal. Through careful consideration of the information you’ve provided to us, we visually layout our recommendations.
These recommendations include variations of your logo and submarks, color palette, typography, Inspiration & Mood Board, and other signature design elements.
We will upload the proposal to your Project Page and you may request up to two revisions for this step.
Here’s an example of a Design Strategy Proposal for our own VAGABONDORIGINAL.COM:
Most things that are worthwhile and of value have a few things in common. Whether it’s an intricate sculpture, a finely tuned piano, or a thriving relationship – those things didn’t just happen by accident. They took planning, precision, and extra helpings of hard work.
We think the same is true for a great brand and website. That’s why having a design strategy guide is so essential. As the name indicates, this guide is a strategic, visual reference for the core design elements of your brand. This detailed guide will aid you – and any members of your team – in creating content consistent with your brand, like styling a blog post, Facebook event, Twitter announcement, fliers for print, etc. etc.
STEP NO. 5 | SUPPLEMENTAL GRAPHICS
To supplement your new brand, you will choose up to two media types for web and/or print. Media types include social media branding, ad campaigns, fliers, business cards, thank you cards, label/sticker design, email content, etc.
STEP NO. 7 | WEBSITE DEVELOPMENT & LAUNCH
Prior to starting any design or development of the website itself, there is one more action item for you as the client:
With the Inspriation & Mood Board done, and the Design Strategy Proposal approved, you can expect to be feeling more confident with the direction of your brand, and the tone/mood/attitude you’d like to establish.
Your next task is to gather and create the content. Before we can begin putting together the “bricks and mortar” of your website and print materials, we require all the content you wish to appear on your site. This includes all text, photos, and media for every page. We’ll give you guidance, consultation, and send you requests for the specific copy (approved text content) or photos that we’ll need you to provide on your end. We have access to large libraries of stock photos, and we can help you search for appropriate image content for your pages; but remember that page content is different from design. Page content is your responsibility.
Later on in the design process, we’ll begin the photo post-production work (enhancement, color/style treatment, optimization for web, etc), formatting/presentation of the copy, and creation of any necessary graphic elements.
1. It’s important to understand that – while there’s room for minor revisions, edits, typo fixes, etc. – all copy needs to be as close to a Final Draft as possible. You are ultimately responsible for the grammar, wording, and accuracy of your statements.
2. If you need help with this process (copywriting/creative writing, consulting) we’ll make sure to add it to our contract.
3. Don’t worry about formatting it. We’ll handle the formatting, layout, and presentation on our end.
Consider this another way: Your copy and photo content are the foundation for the entire project. To design without content is as if we started building a house without knowing how many floors, rooms – and what’s going in them. Is this a kitchen? Bedroom? Do you already have a bunch of furniture that needs to fit? Where should we route the plumbing and electrical? Imagine if a home builder found a bunch of great looking cabinets and counter tops and started installing them wherever, only to find out that the fridge and stove you bought doesn’t fit at all.
Rather, we design for your content. Designing your website for the content allows us to be strategic about the layout and presentation of it. So we need that copy before this strategy can take form.
To help you with this process, we will refer back to your Website Workbook and other questionnaires which will help you get started creating and gathering the necessary content. When you submit your content, do your best to ensure that it is “publish ready.” Ideally, that means no typos, errors, or rough drafts.
Before we launch, there will be several rounds of revisions where you can change things around if necessary. But it’s best practice to submit only copy that you’d feel confident posting online immediately; this practice helps us design more effectively and efficiently.
At this point, you will have completed and submitted the content for each page of your site. We will now begin the process of designing each page. The home page is likely most important of those, so we’ll start there. Once you’ve had a chance to review the mock-up of the homepage, you will have the opportunity to request two revisions.
Please note that if any changes are requested by the client afterthis approval, they will billed separately.
With approved content handed off to us, we can start the development phase. Depending on the level of complexity and the amount of content for your site, this stage can vary from 2-8 weeks.
When we’ve finished, you’ll be given a link to test and review your site. The only revisions allowed at this stage will be for minor details or mistakes on our part like typos. Other changes or additions will be billed separately.
TESTING & QUALITY ASSURANCE
Once revisions are complete, we will begin the QA (Quality Assurance) phase. On our end, we will do QA passes looking for technical/functional errors; we click every link, image, button, etc. We fix any technical bugs, bad URLs, etc. We test for functionality and appearance on mobile phones and tablets.
On your end, you and your team will go through each page of your site with meticulous detail. You will read every line of text. You are the final say in approved content. Once more – unless you’ve contracted us to do the copywriting – all the grammar, spelling, and accuracy of your statements is ultimately your responsibility. Final approval is yours alone.
With the QA passes complete, we’re ready to do one of two things: Beta Testing (if necessary) and Official Launch.
With your green light and our final checklist is complete, we will launch your new brand and website to the world. We’ll post it on our own blog and social media, and encourage our followers to go take a look at your new site.
Depending on your Hosting & Management Package, you may need to learn how to make updates to your own content. We will walk you through logging in to the back-end of your new site, show you how to make updates, add pages, update menus, and add content like new blog posts.
If you’ve made it this far, thanks for taking the time to orient yourself to our process. Hopefully it answers questions and helps you better understand why we value our work and services the way we do on our Pricing Guide. If you have more questions or you’re ready to get started, shoot us an email or give us a call.