Thinking Outside The Barn

It’s been a while since a simple print ad has stopped me in my tracks. But the big black & white image of Taylor Swift promoting her new Reputation album really caught my attention. Wait, a big blaring advertisement for a new record on the side of a UPS truck? On the side of every UPS truck? That’s a bit odd. Which is exactly why it has had such an impact.

Not surprisingly, Swift and her marketing team tied their ubiquitous print ad to a sophisticated online promotion/contest around the artist’s upcoming tour. But they hooked us with a good old-fashioned, strategically and surprisingly placed print ad.

Actually, that approach isn’t so new. Back in 1925, the Burma-Shave company began advertising their “brushless” shaving cream with signs placed along the nation’s highways. After driving by five consecutive, rhyming signs, motorists were hit with the punch line, always containing the product name, on sign number six. Sales went through the roof.

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Continuing Education

“Design school most certainly does not teach you everything. That’s why you, as a successful designer, must be a lifelong learner.”

Having graduated from Parsons School of Design and embarked on a career as a graphic designer long ago, I can attest to the truth of the above quote from UK-based designer/blogger/author David Airey. In his informative and inspiring book, “Work For Money, Design For Love,” Airey offers a wealth of good advice for any graphic designer, but one particular chapter, titled “Never Stop Learning,” really hit home.

I recently entered the complex world of digital SLR photography, and devoted hours to watching YouTube instructional videos and then watching them again. It wasn’t sinking in, so I took the big step and went back to school, enrolling in an evening class at Nashville’s Watkins College of Art, Design & Film (a very cool place!). It was an eye-opening experience, unlocking the full potential of my new camera and unraveling a bit of the mystery of digital photography.

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Sign Post

The Nashville chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Artists (AIGA) held an event this week titled “Culture + Typography.” The cool graphic the AIGA created to promote the event featured a photo collage of vintage signs from around the Nashville area. It really got me thinking about the great city I’ve called home for the past 25 years. It also prompted a deeper look at these signs – some vintage-beautiful, some tacky-beautiful – that have for so long dotted our urban landscape. Gathered together on the page, they bring back a flood of memories and myriad references.

In our role as designers, we work to provide clients with branding solutions that bring clarity to their message and speak eloquently to their target customers. The resulting design might be understated and elegant, funny and irreverent, or something completely off the wall and unexpected. The important thing is that the design helps to create a truly authentic, enduring relationship with the customer. In their day, those vintage signs did just that.

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The Fun Part

“If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong.”

I’ve heard the above quote attributed to both Groucho Marx and to Cowboy Jack Clement, and the lives of those two quirky, wickedly creative personalities are proof enough of the truth behind the words.

As a company charged with creating and energizing powerful brands, we’re very serious about the work we do every day. But not too serious. Experience has taught us that a humorless workplace produces predictable, mediocre results, and, probably like you, that’s not what we’re aiming for.

TED talker Shawn Achor, author of “The Happiness Advantage,” calls it “positive psychology.” The accepted paradigm goes like this: we work hard to be as successful as possible, and finally, at the end of that long, hard struggle, it’s hello happiness. Unfortunately, that success is somehow always just out of reach. According to Achor, when we turn that theory upside down and start with happiness, good things happen.

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Five Diverse Advantages Of Diversity

Our word for today is “diversity.” As it relates to business, the word generally refers to a roster of employees more reflective of the world we live in, a balanced mix of colors, genders, ethnicities, and sexual orientations. The theory is that this kind of eclectic mix brings a broad, real-life perspective to the proceedings, and we couldn’t agree more. However, we should be careful to remember that, especially in the workplace, diversity has many meanings.

Diversity is anti-boring – That’s right. Diversity keeps things interesting. We hear a lot about the importance of finding that special niche for your business. While aiming your offerings to one particular industry can be of help in establishing your expertise, it can also quickly become tedious and unexciting. As a creative enterprise, we find that a diverse roster of clients keeps things fresh and keeps us (and our clients) engaged and excited.

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