Little Things – The Next Big Thing

I’ve always been puzzled by the old expression, “The devil is in the details.” I do understand and appreciate its meaning: What looks simple from a distance is often far more complex and challenging up close. Doing a bit of quick research on that irksome idiom, I learned that its origins go back to another phrase coined in the 19th century: “The good God is in the detail.” Now, that’s more like it. I know that attention to detail can mean the difference between great and merely good.

I learned the importance of detail as a fledgling designer at a boutique Manhattan studio. My art director constantly stressed the importance of the tiniest of details, whether it was designing an indicia to match a direct mail piece, or how to construct a client presentation that shows enthusiasm, expertise and understanding of the minutia of the project at hand.

I recently received a reminder of all this from an unexpected source – a new wallet. Simply designed, responsibly sourced and beautifully made by a company called Bellroy, I’m sure it will serve me for years to come. But, as happy as I was with my online purchase, it was the packaging that really caught my designer’s eye.

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Home Improvement

I’ve always been one of those people who can’t stand cleaning the house but who really enjoys a freshly cleaned home. I’m also one of those people who, for much of my life, wasn’t able to afford to pay someone else to do the dirty work. I would finally capitulate to the clutter, attacking the mess with a vengeance. When the job was done, I would go out for a while and come back, just so that I could get that feeling of walking into a freshly clean-and-tidy space.

When asked to offer a critical assessment of a potential client’s website, I’m often reminded of that routine household chore. With their homepages, many companies unwittingly rob first-time visitors of that comfortable feeling of entering a clean-and-spacious room.

Far too often, that introductory page is muddied with too much information. While the urge to toot your horn and tell your story is understandable, much of it should be kept off your homepage and relegated to an “About” page.

Walking into your company’s online “house,” potential clients should find essential info as quickly and simply as possible. Every element should be in its place and performing its essential function. So, what are some of those essential homepage elements?

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Clarity By Design #2

Natural beauty and authentic branding – an award-winning combination. I’ve always considered myself a fairly health-conscious person. I eat right and exercise regularly, I use non-toxic cleaning products in my home, I buy organic foods, and I pay attention to where those foods are sourced. But even as I’ve closely monitored what goes into my home environment and into my body, I’ve given very little thought to what goes on my body, from soaps to lotions to makeup. The skin is the body’s largest organ, and I’ve learned that what goes on is at least as important as what goes in.

I recently read in the New York Times about a skin care company called Beautycounter. The company’s founder, Gregg Renfrew, is on a mission to update US regulations mandating safe ingredients for personal care products. Surprisingly, the current regulations have been in place since 1938. Intrigued, I conducted a bit of research, and learned that Beautycounter has compiled a “Never List,” chronicling ingredients common to most personal care products that they pledge to never use. They’re committed to using the safest possible ingredients in all of their products.

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A Sound Investment

Three decades ago, I was in the market for a good quality microphone for my humble home recording studio. I did some reading, hit the stores, and heard a lot of sales pitches. In the end, I took the advice of a friend. “Don’t skimp on a mic,” he said. “Spend the money and buy an AKG414. It’s a great all-around microphone, and you’ll have it forever.”

Sure enough, that microphone has served me (and my recordings) well for 30 years, and it still looks and sounds as good as the day I bought it. It was a stretch for me at the time, but it turned out to be a great investment. Sometimes it just pays to pay more.

I offer that same advice to anyone thinking about creating, or even refreshing, their company’s logo. Your logo is the face of your company, that all-important first impression. Just as there are no two faces exactly alike, your logo should express with clarity what makes you unique, what makes your company the better choice. That’s a heavy load to carry, but that’s how important your logo really is. Aristotle said it best a long time ago: “The soul cannot think without an image.”

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Small Is The New Big

I like to shop local. I always have. Maybe it’s a generational thing. I’m old enough to remember when the first malls and mega-stores began to dominate the landscape, and I’ve never been completely comfortable with impersonal shopping in cavernous spaces. I’ll take a knowledgeable, community-focused retailer and a real, one-on-one relationship any day.

For companies looking for the right agency to help with their branding, that small-versus-big question should be given careful consideration.

While the larger agencies bring a level of prestige, their size necessitates more of an assembly line approach, with one or more “reps” standing between the client and the creative team, and marketing and creative often working in separate silos. For some companies, there are advantages to this model, but for many of today’s businesses, there’s a better way to brand.

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