Archives for June 2011

Wednesday Webs 6-29-11

adunate self portrait

Self-portraits. They’re a bit self-absorbed, aren’t they?

Nonetheless, here I am a taking picture of myself and showcasing it online. I had to take about ten of these shots just to get something half-way presentable. But in my defense, this seeming self-absorbtion is partly inspired emulation.

Last week, as a subscriber to the Vivian Maier newsletter, I received an email that her collectors recently added new photographs to her Self-Portrait portfolio. They’re an amazing revelation of artistry and history.

What’s fascinating about Maier’s self-portraits is her creative use of reflective surfaces to capture her own image. Check out this one where she used an automobile mirror.

Her portraits also convey the timespan of her work—not only did she herself change, but so did her cameras and photography. She went from shooting black and white with a Rolleiflex camera in this 1955 self-portrait, to shooting in color in this 1970s portrait, possibly with her Exakta camera.

I wonder if Maier were alive today, what she’d think of us obsessively shooting pictures of ourselves and posting them online—she, who was so intensely private? Would she be boggled that I used an iPhone for my self-portrait?

And what about discoveries?

Maier’s 40-year stash of photography was discovered in a storage box. Someday will someone discover an unknown stash of artistry on the internet? Will it be yours or mine?


Research is Like Picking Strawberries

strawberry leaves

You know how when you’re picking strawberries, you think you’ve gotten them all but as soon as you turn around you see spots of red you’ve missed? You really have to look from different directions to see all the berries.

This past week I’ve been working on a project for a new client. He’s an AICP certified consultant to city planners and, in a remote way, his project is related to picking strawberries. I’ve peppered him with questions. I’ve checked out his competitors’ websites, as well as thoroughly reading his own. I’ve even called planners from a variety of cities. In essence, I’ve looked at his project from many different directions so I can better understand it.

All this “looking in different directions” is considered creative research and, oh, it’s so important. In fact, when I participated in The Pricing Group, an exercise in pricing, creative research was the portion of the design process my seven peers and I spent the most time on. The exercise’s project was for a relatively small website of 6-7 pages, yet the time designated to research ranged from 3-15 hours. For many, it was more time than they designated to the actual building of the site.

What is creative research and why is it so important?

Creative research is the studying a designer does before even opening up a sketchbook. It’s the getting to know the client—his business, industry, target market and competitors. Creative research is the foundation for the overall project, because, really, how can we successfully communicate a business if we know nothing about it?

When shopping for a designer for your project, whether it’s a website, printed piece or logo, be sure to ask about creative research. A professional designer will know what you’re talking about.

In the meantime, stay tuned for the interesting projects I’m working on with the consultant. He’s got a great product and you’ll be interested in learning more. I know I am (in addition to picking strawberries, which are in full force this week on our little farm).

dew in the morning

Early morning has special gifts for the ambitious, get-your-butt-out-of-bed types. Not only is it a photographer’s Golden Hour, it also offers dewy vignettes seldom seen later in the day.

Oh, the joy of looking in every direction!

(By the way, if you’re looking for a designer who is ambitiously out of bed and does creative research, drop me a line:-)

The Elusive Dankers Dairy Bottle

Lehman's Dairy, Jefferson, WI

June is Dairy Month so I’m dedicating this week’s Wednesday Webs to the dairy industry and the delicious joy it brings to our lives.

Here in Wisconsin we celebrate June Dairy Month in a big way. We have Dairy Breakfasts on the Farm with polka bands, baby animals and tractors. We have the Hoard Historical Museum’s National Dairy Shrine, where we celebrate the past, present and future of dairy farming. And, of course, we have cheese—lots and lots of cheese. Here’s a map of cheesemakers throughout the state. Many of them are small, privately owned dairies and visiting them is as fun as visiting a winery or brewery.

So here’s to June Dairy Month and all the tasty treats that go with it!

Here’s also to Jan, whose birthday it is today. Jan is my father’s wonderful wife and she is of dairy farm heritage. Dankers Dairy, that is, a farm in Saginaw County, MI, that years ago bottled its own milk.

In bygone days, dairies bottled their milk in reusable bottles embossed or painted with their name and location. Nowadays, these are hot items for collectors (hey, there’s even a National Association of Milk Bottle Collectors). I have one lone bottle from Lehman’s Dairy in Jefferson, WI.

Jan, on the other hand, has quite a few. But there’s one bottle she doesn’t have—one she’d love to have more than any other.

She doesn’t have a Dankers Dairy bottle.

Anyone know of one? Give me a holler and I’ll pass it along.

Gen Y, Social Media and Chocolate

Le Boulanger des Invalides Jocteur, photo by Jordan Ferry, Oh Happy Dayphoto by Jordan Ferney: used with permission

Maybe it’s because I have Gen Y kids. Or maybe because, as a late bloomer in the academic arena, my fellow collegians were Gen Y. Anyway, I think this age group is pretty impressive.

Gen Y officially consists of those born between 1982 and 1995, give or take a few years. They’ve ambled into adulthood with the most unprecedented ideas, and, with their 24/7 technology connection, they’ve completely transformed the rules of doing business. Interestingly, they’re proving quite successful.

Here’s an example.

Jordan Ferney is an entrepreneurial party planner, letterpress printer and writer. She’s also a blogger who captures up to 600,000 readers a month on Oh Happy Day, a lifestyle and design blog.

Right now Jordan is celebrating her blog’s fifth anniversary by giving away a trip for two to Paris. As in Paris, FranceLinking to her site means I’ve entered her contest, and if I win, I’m definitely taking her suggestion for hot chocolate. Really, is this brilliant marketing on Jordan’s part, or what?

And what does this brilliance and faithful readership translate into? How about advertising dollars, exposure to her businesses, and marketing benefits many of us oldsters just can’t seem to fathom.

What’s with us oldsters?

Should we be paying attention to these kids? (I know, they’re not really kids…) Should we, like them, be using the internet and social media to bring awareness to our business?

You bet we should. We should be looking at what they’re doing and think how we can apply it to what we’re doing. If you’re a numbers person, here are stats affirming that social media has become our marketing mainstream. The link is to an over-a-year-old YouTube, which by today’s standards is way outdated—all the more reason your business needs to act now to get with the times.

Blog, e-newsletter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and more…need help understanding all these social media and how they can grow your business? Drop me a line. I’ll bring you so up-to-date you’ll feel like a kid again.

The Cobbler’s Children Go Unshod

Adunate Word & Design logo

You know how it goes…the landscaper’s yard is the messiest, the doctor’s kids are the sickest, and the designer’s logo is the most outdated.

Well, hopefully mine isn’t the most outdated.

For the last year I’ve been working on giving things a new look—my logo, my website and my blog. Oh, but it’s going slow. All for good reasons, of course, since I credit awesome clients to keeping my own projects at bay. But, when it really comes down to it, I’m afraid the proverbial cobbler’s children syndrome applies all too well to me.


When I started Adunate in 2005, I didn’t have a definite idea of the direction I wanted my business to go. I didn’t know exactly what it was to be.

For that reason, I purposely designed my logo to be generic in style.

Now, five years—almost six—and many business plans later, Adunate is growing and developing. My markets are the building, preservation and energy industries; plus non-profits and religious organizations. I’m also looking to do more for food, coffee and wine businesses. These days I’m feeling confident in my identity and I’m ready for a new logo!

Here’s my thought process throughout this sometimes frustrating, other times productive creative exercise:

The word Adunate (pronounced A-doo-nah’-tay) is a Latin verb meaning unite, or integrate. I chose this for a business name because I unite words and design, the very elements of successful communication. Naturally, I want my logo to convey this thought. I want it to show the uniting of parts to equal a whole—a whole that is greater than the sum of all its parts (artists refer to this as gestalt).

With this thought in mind, I’m sticking with a variation of the identifying element of my first logo. Quilters know this as a log cabin pattern. Builders use it in hardwood flooring and tiling. With its simple, geometric lines, this pattern represents the Arts and Crafts movement of which I’m so fond.

Yet, as I examine my business and my clients, I realize I need further beauty to this logo. Not frilly beauty, but something organic, graceful and fluid. I need some Art Nouveau.

So, this is my new logo so far. What do you think? (It’s still in the greyscale stage because a logo must first work in one color before it can work in multiple.)

The challenge now is coming up with just the right typeface for the name Adunate. I’m playing with scripts, san-serifs and everything else. Well, if it goes like it’s gone so far, this may take a while.

In the meantime, any ideas?