Saturday, June 23, 2007

Summer break for design

With a recent Sooy + Co. move to new office space, it's time for this site to take a rest. Perhaps for the summer, perhaps longer, but with boxes to unpack, projects to finish and little time for writing, it's time for a break.

Thanks for reading. The best of this site will most likely be re-published under another name at some point (since there are many more and more insightful Design Matters blogs, especially Debbie Millman's.

Thank you for reading, for commenting, and for continuing to practice in the best profession in the world, graphic design.

I still can't believe we get paid for doing what we love so much.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Coffee Table computing

This could change the way designers work... when Apple comes out with one. Perhaps it will be named iTable?

At this time, it's from Microsoft...

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Why doesn't Microsoft get it?

OK, I can't take it any more. Doesn't Microsoft get it, what is up with their software?

What I mean is, why can't I export the email addresses from a category or group from Macintosh Entourage? It exports every email address ever used.

Why don't the filters work properly?

Why can't I add an intro to an email that I'm redirecting?

Why has it taken so long to create an Intel version of Entourage?

Are my expectations too high?

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Designer vs. Entrepreneur

A recent photo in a magazine had the titles of the individuals listed as "engineer" and "entrepreneur." But is that how they view themselves?

Being labeled as an entrepreneur is how someone else thinks of an individual (similar to branding: it's not what you think of your company, it's what others think of you.)

As a designer, has it occurred to you that you're en entrepreneur? There's so much buzz around the concept that it's easy to lose perspective on it.

"In the future, everyone will enjoy 15 minutes of entrepreneurship." Entrepreneurship will become a commodity, and we'll have to invent a new word for what it is we do.

A key similarity between designers and entrepreneurship is in how we think. Essentially, an entrepreneur identifies a problem and solves it, as do designers. Both are willing to challenge the status quo, affect change, take huge risks... we want to change the world.

If the future, I'll think of myself as a designer. But I'll continue to think like an entrepreneur.

How about you? Ready to change the world?

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

corporate identity: separated at birth

BSCO Design Matters can't be the first to have noticed the similarities between the at&t logo, and the New Citizens Bank logo:

Comments? It's not very imaginative, is it? Perhaps it's time to introduce a bell...

Saul Bass, are you watching?

Sunday, May 06, 2007

The Long View: Strategic planning for designers

When was the last time you thought 5 years out? 10 years?

If you haven't ever, or it's been a while, it's time to do so. Having nearly completed several major goals I set 6 months ago for Sooy + Co., it's been a challenge – but it's significant what was accomplished.

But what has me thinking this past couple of weeks is a quote from financial advisor Dave Ramsey:
"Buy things in that hurt in the short term, in order to win in the long term."
We are buying some things, (but more on that later, for now it's a secret). But making decisions that may be painful or challenging now (in your long-term planning and goal setting) will pay off in ways you may only understand later, when the benefits of your goal setting bear fruit. Base your short- and long-term decisions in the short term on your long-term planning, and you'll arrive at them sooner than you think. Simple wisdom, but easy to forget.

Don't get caught up in the short term. Think of the long view!

Saturday, April 28, 2007

the myth of online portfolios

How many design professionals, in a moment of weakness, give in to subscribing to an online portfolio web site?

I'll confess – I have myself, and the grand total of referrals and inquiry, let alone business developed from them, is... $0.

The sites ( and DirectoryM) aren't necessarily the most appropriate for a design firm to advertise on. Then again, neither are the yellow pages.

If you're a generalist firm, then perhaps they are a good option for your firm ( and then again, maybe not). But if you consider how many new clients you develop as a result of your web site, versus the relationships you nurture, then the answer should be fairly obvious.

A firm that specializes won't need a listing like that in a directory. Clients will seek you out as your expertise and reputation grows.

So... resist the siren song, so you don't get lost in the crowd of a directory. Invite your potential clients to come to your web site on your terms, not somebody else's.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Six degrees of separation?

Relationships are key in the design field (well, anywhere, really... but let's not get too philosophical here).

So I was wondering... perhaps one of the BSCO designMatters readers knows somebody who knows somebody who knows the person at Revlon who chose to use Altered Ego Fonts Verve on the new packaging for the Revlon Limited Edition Collection makeup line.

If so, I would appreciate knowing who that individual is, and how I might be able to contact them for an interview for here and for the Altered Ego web site.

Whoever can help me make the connection... there's an Altered Ego Font of your choice in your future! Contact me through the Altered Ego Fonts web site.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Duct Tape Marketing

Guy Kawasaki summarizes Duct Tape Marketing: The World's Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide.

Think modular: "...effective small business marketing is a system—not an event—composed of simple, effective, and affordable techniques."

Read the top-ten list that the author distilled from the book. Then apply it to your design business, and recommend it to your clients!

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Curious Obsessions: what designers collect

What do

Have in common?

They all collect things, really cool and beautiful things. Objects that remind them of art, of branding, and inspire.

Sarah Whitman of HOW writes:

...83% of designers said they collect at least one thing (usually more), from toys to thimbles to teapots. Designers seem to be predisposed to collecting objects, likely because of their keen eye for details and deep appreciation of aesthetics.

For an quick tour of what inspires designers, and why they collect and obsess over these curious items, visit How Magazine's online site.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

"Being" a leader

I recently asked several staff to attend a brainstorming session on how we can collaborate to eliminate errors. How I lead the meeting will make a difference in how they approach the challenge.

Grace Andrews has an excellent article on how to be a leader. Not in the "how do I" mindset, but "how do I be a leader." She writes:
All things of value as a leader are in the being – being in the moment, being an example of the behavior you'd like others to use, and being a catalyst to create the environment where that can happen. True leaders are the molders, the teachers and the nurturers of the culture in their organizations.
Lead with passion, lead by example. Your employees will follow!

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Many will enter, few will win

Spring has arrived, and with it the first signs of life from the design community's winter slumber: the design competitions.

BSCO staff noticed that this spring, the trend in design competition deadlines seems to be to extend the deadline. That might be a good sign, that the design community is busy with work and too busy to pay attention to competition deadlines, or too frugal to pay for entry fees.

Exactly what is a design competition anyway? With our tongues firmly planted in our cheek, BSCOdm has these observations and predictions:

Design competitions come in two flavors: exploitative and ego-boosting. Or maybe that's the same flavor.
  • It's to feed your ego: C'mon, you know that deep down inside, it's true.
  • Competitions exploit the designer: WIRED magazine and Beefeater are looking for free creative development, with a token prize for the winner.
The more common design competition requests entries (for a fee) to be submitted to a panel of judges (with or without relevance to the work) who evaluate the entries (based on a set of criteria known only to them at the time). Context, anyone?
  • Again, it feeds your ego: When was the last time you gained a client from being published in an annual?
  • A design competition isn't to compete, it's a fund raiser: Without a doubt, competitions are a revenue stream. And sell magazines. Admit it, how many articles do you actually read? But it's fun to look at all those pictures, isn't it?
  • It's a way to archive the best work in the industry: At the AIGA, work submitted is entered into the Design Archives, to chronicle the best in design. That is, the best in design that was submitted (and accepted) into the competition.
  • It benefits the designer: We predict that the AIGA competition annual (a benefit of AIGA membership), currently sized at approximately 5 x 6 inches, will continue to shrink until it is the size of a matchbook.
  • These archives support R&D: That's right, we mean rip off & duplicate. If the pictures are big enough.
  • We predict: Next year, all of the competitions will simply publish work from previous years. Nobody will notice.
We confess, BSCO is guilty at times of indulging in these endeavors. Our favorites are Print, HOW, LogoLounge, and Rockport Publishing.

Our final prediction: Many will enter, few will win. You're all winners in our book.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Designer as road warrior

No, this isn't about Mad Max. It's about your smart phone.

Pending the release of the iPhone from Apple, we'll all have to continue to use what seems to be a designer's favorite, the Treo from Palm.

If you travel by car, I want to recommend the Pro Clip.

It really is as simple as the manufacturer claims to install. The instructions for the clip I ordered came shown with photos from my vehicle, not generic photos. It's rare to find a manufacturer with such attention to the user experience in installation.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Leading vs. managing

Does it seem like you are more concerned about a project than your client is? Do you often deal with ambiguity? Who’s in charge? Do your clients have any idea of how they will work with your firm?

There are two mantras you should recite every morning before starting your day:
1. I will manage my client’s expectations
2. I will lead my clients

Managing a client’s expectations starts with a great relationship, where they value your input and respect your recommendations. Understanding the relationship informs how you will lead. These are mantras that declare your intent to focus on their needs and expectations in a proactive manner, and make the experience of working with your firm easy.

It’s two-sided: The client has needs and expectations, the design firm has (or should have) workflow procedures. Your procedures will have anticipated their expectations, and the client will make it clear if those will work for them. Of course it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, but it all starts with the relationship that you have built with the client.

Anticipating deadlines, respecting timelines and awareness of your client’s needs will allow you to manage your time and lead your clients. This thinking can be applied to everything from business development to project management. It allows you to control the relationship and the workflow, rather than letting it control you. It allows you to lead your clients, and guide them – not let them pull you along.

My recommendation? Develop your leadership skills. Your clients will notice. The rest will follow.

(unsummarized version at Business of Design Online)

Monday, March 12, 2007

Is it an Apple or an Onion?

Touting the latest product launch from Apple, this article is worthy of considerable attention:
announcing iLaunch.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

What are you looking for?

What exactly are the readers of this blog looking for?

3.51%garmin vs tomtom
3.51%how to update map on nuvi 350
3.51%garmin travel assistant turn arrow
3.51%leading from the middle book picture
3.51%is the nuvi 350 software update and macintosh
1.75%nuvi 350 map update
1.75%limited too teenager fashions of 07
1.75%garmin vs. tomtom
1.75%xpress apostrophe problem
1.75%work why change is good

Clearly, more people are looking for technical info about their personal travel assistants than about opinions about design and design relevance. This is a short list of searches, relevant to today, but insightful.

Statistics are an amazing thing. It's a wonder that designers don't make better use of them as they design their client's and their own web sites.

Perhaps, in the end, or right now, you're looking for the meaning of life. There's a web site for that too...

Monday, March 05, 2007

Purpose and Mastering Monday

In our ego-centric design culture, it's a book like Mastering Monday: A Guide to Integrating Faith and Work that keeps things in perspective.

John Beckett's well-written sequel to Loving Monday repeats some of the stories and anecdotes from the original, but offers many examples of applying Biblical values and principles to one's work -- whether one is the owner of a business or an employee.

I finally finished the book, (which is a very quick read). It's theory and application, with some very specific exercises and examples of making your faith alive in your business or work, and aligning yourself with God's purpose for you.

There is a bigger picture to your work life. Do you see it?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

free font downloads

Ah, so you arrived here expecting some free font downloads, did you?

My economics professor always taught us one simple concept: TANSTAAFL. Short for There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch. Likewise, in many instances, there ain't no such thing as a free font. Free for you may mean stealing from me.

If fonts are free, then why do foundries and individuals charge for them? Or, if they're worth paying for, then how can some web sites give them away for free?

There are individuals and foundries who do create original fonts, and distribute them at no charge. Free for you. There are also many, many fonts available on free font web sites that are derivative or blatant knock-off designs of commercially-available typefaces. Stealing from me.

Foundries charge for them because there is inherent value in the type designs, and the usefulness to others for their own commercial uses. They are valuable software, and legally protected as such. Foundries charge for them, because they take weeks and months to create. At this point in time, few, if any, foundries are using the Creative Commons licensing model.

If a font adds any value to what it may be used for, then isn't it worth something in and of itself?

Organizations such as TypeRight argue for the legal and ethical use of font software. Creative Pro asks "Is it stealing?" Either way, education is the key to understanding.

It's admirable when an individual creates something like a font and makes it freely available, but that is their choice to do so; not every type designer or type foundry is obligated to follow the same course. It should be the creator's choice, not because somebody liked the original and tweaked two or three beziƩr points and called it an improvement and an original work. Just like with music, there's no inherent right to have access to another's work without compensating the creator.

What would Walt Disney think? TANSTAAFF.

PS: Check out the Google Adwords on the right, and you can see how interested people are in free fonts for mac and pc. (If they make it past the Adwords filter!)

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Wired Magazine Redesign

As magazines go, WIRED has always been a favorite, I've been reading it for years. Cover to cover, even the colophon.

The latest issue featured a redesign. If you weren't aware of it by simply looking at it (hello!), the many self-referential comments about the typography, scattered throughout, were a dead giveaway. And funny, if you enjoy typographic humor.

The best part about the redesign? Now it's readable (again). Every other redesign of WIRED seems to pick a different text typeface, this time it is a serif 's turn. Much more readable, although that's just my opinion.

The editorial voice seems to have become a bit corny, as if they are tired of trying to maintain their air of aloof inevitability, and having become a tad self-mocking. Similar to the editorial tone of MacAddict, now Mac|Life. Although not quite that goofy.

All in all, it's less tired and more wired.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

5 thoughts for designers

Every day seems to bring new challenges, but some challenges remain constant:
  1. You are being hired to solve problems, now solve them!
  2. Don't use the level of "busyness" as a gauge for profitability.
  3. It's your role to challenge assumptions.
  4. You are never too busy for your best clients.
  5. Resist the tyranny of the urgent and focus on your priorities.
Five quick things, but well worth remembering.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Feeding your ego in healthy ways

Ah, the call for entries are already pouring in this year: AIGA, Rockport Books, Communicator Awards, TDC, etc. If your work is suitable, how much time are you willing to spend, and can you dedicate a staff member to the process of submitting entries?

Not only time, but dollars. Each competition averages $50 per entry, and that can add up very quickly.

A design firm principal may be better off spending the money on rewarding staff in a more effective way -- a company sponsored activity (which builds camaraderie and moral) or everyone's favorite, cash.

That said, we may enter a few programs this year, and see how our work stacks up... or just go out for a fabulous dinner.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Designers aging gracefully

Time marches on; all designers grow older, and our relevance shifts from design to our knowledge and wisdom (in theory, of course!)

John Maxwell has some poignant perspectives on aging:
I'm 40 and Counting

When you celebrate your 40th birthday, you’ve supposedly gone “over the hill.” You’re past your prime and beginning to show signs of age. When I crossed “over the hill,” I gave a lesson entitled, “I’m 40 and Counting.” In it, I recommended 10 things you should have in place before turning 40.

  1. Know Yourself
  2. Settle Your Family Life
  3. Determine Your Priorities
  4. Develop Your Philosophy
  5. Get Physically Fit
  6. Learn Your Trade
  7. Pay the Price
  8. Develop Strong Relationships
  9. Prepare for the Future
  10. Find God’s Will
I recommend his excellent book Today Matters. I'm not a huge fan of self-help books, but this one is worth the read for prioritizing.

The 40's aren't so bad... Trust me!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

How to hire a designer for your staff

At last, we've found the right person for our design staff.

Although this is not a definitive guide, here's the process we used that proved very through and successful.
  1. Start with 30-minute interview and portfolio review
  2. If I see potential, invite back for longer interview
  3. Second interview is more in-depth, character and behavior-oriented questions and discussion. This time my partner sat in on the interview. This gives us both a good gut instinct reaction, and I now realize the opinion of my partner is as critical (or more) than mine. A longer interview allows time for the candidate to relax, and ask us questions as well.
  4. Invite back qualified candidate for staff interviews.
  5. Check references
  6. Background check
  7. DISC behavioral profile
  8. Review background check and DISC against interviews. If gut instinct (likability factor, interviews and checks) don't raise any flags, make offer.
Your results may vary, but his was a distinct change from our last process, and yielded a good match for our firm, our clients and our culture. And for the designer!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Calendars and gadgets

Have you ever seen the Pentagram Wall Calendar? It's a beautiful addition to any design firm or home, especially if you love typography, or are near-sighted.

Gearheads, rejoice in Uncrate. Uncrate is a web magazine for guys who love stuff. Our team finds the best gadgets, clothes, cars and more so you can blow your rent money easier. Girls might like it too.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

New Year's Resolutions for designers

It's 6 days into the new year, and while I prefer long-term self-discipline to resolutions, two lists of resolutions caught my eye.

The first I call the Feel Good list. It's from The Art of Business: New Year's Resolutions for Creative Professionals. Eric Adams states
...And because we are creative artists, it's not always about the here and now. Here are 10 resolutions slightly beyond the norm. In the headlong rush that is our lives today, the start of another year is a better time than most to sit down and take stock. Here are ten uncommon resolutions you might try on for size.
This list of resolutions contains some thoughtful resolutions: Thank your clients, thank your co-workers, give away some creativity, enjoy your craft. The last two are to "Decide where you want to be professionally in one year," and "Create a roadmap to success." But how to do just that?

The second list is from The Win Without Pitching Newsletter. This 12-step list from creative consultant Blair Enns, are the resolutions that will change the way you think. In fact, they are mantras, not resolutions, to be chanted every morning before you fire up your email, before you make your coffee, memorized and followed without compromise.

Resolution number 12 states:
12. We will hold our heads high. We will see ourselves as professional practitioners who are hired to bring real solutions to our clients’ business problems. We will not grovel. We will not be coerced. We will understand that after all of the above anyone who insists that we devalue our product or compromise our values is not someone we would have as a client. We will seek respect above money, for only when we are respected as experts will we be paid the money we seek. This money will allow us to reinvest in ourselves, become even better at what we do and deliver to ourselves and our families the abundance we deserve.
You are a real professional. You do provide real solutions to your client's problems.

Don't forget who and what you are, and resolve to become it.