2016 Backbends

Refreshed and rested after a holiday week off, I picked up the New York Times Book Review last Sunday to find a positive piece on Amy Cuddy’s new book, “Presence.” The author, a clinical psychologist and TED talk star, has some intriguing things to say about the power of posture and physical bearing in changing lives and affecting outcomes.

After my first day back on the job, I headed to my weekly Monday evening yoga class, where I was reminded that, as helpful as Cuddy’s “fake-it-until-you-become-it” motivation can be, it skims the surface of something deeper.

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The Perfect Problem

Nobody’s perfect. Reading the headlines these days, that old adage rings truer than ever. And yet, with photoshopped images, autotuned pop songs, and countless, quick-fix, self-help manuals, our society continues to place the highest premium on the idea of perfection.

Despite the fact that it’s an unattainable goal, the constant craving for perfection creates its own special kind of anxiety, making any process – and any progress – more difficult. If you’re obsessed with getting step one absolutely spot-on perfect, you will never get to step two. The process stalls, because we tend to “freeze up” in an effort to never say the wrong thing.

Fact is, the most innovative, breakthrough ideas are often preceded by the phrase, “This may sound crazy, but….” Opening up to that kind of non-judgmental creative flow is far more effective in moving things forward than holding out for that perfect solution.

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I recently designed some type-driven marketing materials for an event honoring jazz composers. I love jazz, and I love working with fonts, so this was a fun challenge. In the end, the client chose a distinctly type-centric treatment utilizing a font called, appropriately enough, Eloquent. Kind of dressy with just a bit of attitude, Eloquent brought to mind the Duke Ellington, Miles Davis, and Thelonious Monk CDs that are always in heavy rotation in my house (and in this office!).

That melodious name – Eloquent – really speaks for all fonts. While most people don’t share my font obsession, everyone experiences the subtle seduction of typefaces on a daily basis. From signage to pop-up ads, from the restaurant you frequent to the car you drive, fonts have the power to stir emotions, passions, and ultimately to shape consumer perceptions and affect choices.

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I’ve never made moonshine, but I did have a taste of it once. Just a sip, and that was enough. No doubt about it, that is some powerful stuff. It starts out as a pungent stew of rye, barley malt, yeast and sour mash. You can barely imagine that this mess will morph into a crystal clear, extremely potent concoction.

In developing compelling brand messages for clients, we go through a similar process, sorting through a wide variety of images, messages, and opinions, and chipping away to gain consensus and get to the heart of the story. We then go to work removing any element that isn’t essential to that story, to arrive at clarity, a brand message that connects and resonates with the right audience. Powerful stuff.

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We did it again – dropped everything and held another company retreat. Wrapped up in the rush of everyday projects, it’s sometimes hard to imagine actually taking a break, but it’s always worth it. Like a vacation, it’s a great opportunity to leave the usual routine behind. But rather than getting away from it all, a retreat is all about getting away to it all. It’s a chance to kick back, consider challenges, and celebrate successes from a refreshing distance, and gain an entirely new perspective in the process.

Whether it’s a “white board” session or a hike in the hills, good ideas get tossed around, priorities get sifted through, goals get set, and clarity sets in. And it’s not all about work. We also appreciate the team-building power of sharing great food and drink, and letting imaginations run wild.

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