Most entrepreneurs and business owners have contemplated the much-discussed distinction between working “on” their business as opposed to working “in” their business. With all the things you do, all the multi-tasks you perform working in your business day to day, it’s difficult to find that time to work on it, to gain some genuine clarity and perspective, and reflect on those all-important, long-range plans and decisions.

As we prepare to take our first vacation in way too long, I’m realizing there’s a third option – we’ll call it “floating above” your business. When the daily grind fogs your mind and obscures your focus, it’s okay – in fact it’s essential – that you simply step away. It might be for an hour, for a day, or (in my case!) a week at the beach. Whatever it takes.

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Paper Trail

Last week I joined some of my fellow Nashville-area designers on a day trip to the Domtar Paper Mill in Hawesville, Kentucky. With our guide, genial Domtar regional rep Jason Abernathy, we got a first-hand look at how paper is made. In a nutshell, I was blown away. This humongous facility on the Ohio River operates 24/7, producing a giant (and I mean giant) roll of paper about every 20 minutes. Domtar prides themselves on their sustainable practices, from forestry all the way through the milling process, so it was an inspiring and fascinating day.

I happen to be something of a paper connoisseur. I love everything about the stuff, from the look, to the texture, to the feel of it between my fingers. In fact, in just a couple of feels I can usually give you the name of the paper in question. So I listen with interest to the debate as to whether paper is “going away.” It’s not. But, like the vinyl record, paper is slowly but surely being relegated to a more rarefied, specialized place.

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The Inside Story

“Whatever you believe about yourself on the inside is what you will manifest on the outside.”

Whoever originated that maxim probably wasn’t thinking about branding, but he or she could have been. While many spiritual practices have a version of this statement at their very heart, the lesson is relevant to any company wanting to establish an authentic, sustainable brand in an overcrowded market.

In her book, “What Great Brands Do,” author Denise Lee Yohn details seven key principles that are implemented by the world’s most successful brands. She tackles the first and most important of the seven in the books’s first chapter, “Great Brands Start Inside,”.

Research tells us that staffers at most businesses think of branding as the purview of the marketing department, but successful companies know that a powerful, authentic brand is rooted in the DNA, the very culture of the company.

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True Colors

Color. As a graphic designer, I am inspired by color on a daily basis. It’s a key element in everything we deliver. We look at color trends to keep our work and our clients’ messages current, hip, and relatable. Of course, we also consider the kinds of classic colors that tend to communicate tradition and/or stability.

Color plays an integral part in the integration of design, triggering emotions and creating perceptions around a brand. A prime example would be the blue in IBM’s iconic logo. The color has become so closely associated with the computer giant (aka “The Big Blue”), that other businesses and financial institutions have adopted the same shade for its association with IBM-like innovation and longevity.

An essential resource for color and color trends is Pantone, an industry-wide, color-matching system for designers and manufacturers. The Pantone swatch book on my desk is one of my most frequently used tools.

Every year during Fashion Week, Pantone releases a “Color Report,” which selects 10 trending colors, with one color selected as “color of the year.” This year, we were tickled to hear, the chosen color is “Greenery,” a Pantone-perfect match for the Cronin Creative logo color. We’re trending! Who knew?

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Building Brands

As a design and branding agency, we get a close-up view of today’s cluttered marketplace, and the fierce, ongoing competition for the attention of an overly saturated consumer. Nowhere is this more visible than in Nashville’s exploding housing construction market.

Apartment complexes are springing up like weeds, and new housing developments continue to fan out across the ‘burbs in every direction. In this, the very definition of a hyper-competitive market, we see the power of branding, and the downside of not branding, in stark relief.

Historically, the real estate/development community has been slow to come around to the importance of branding, but that has changed as the market has heated up. Working on two recent branding projects – one a large apartment community and the other a cutting-edge neighborhood development – we got an in-depth look at the Nashville market, and witnessed the impact strategic branding can have on the appeal and the success of a particular property.

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