What’s Your Sense of Place?

lilacs in bloom

My 4-year-old granddaughter is coming for a sleepover this weekend. Of course, it’s a grandmother’s job to create the most magical memories ever so I’m pulling out the purple bedspread and planning heart-shaped pancakes.

We hear the phrase sense of place a lot. People develop a sense of place through their physical and emotional experiences in an environment. In addition to excesses of love and spoiling, our granddaughter will unknowingly take in the freshness of lilacs in bloom, the soothing white noise of wind on our hill, and the happy chatter of birds in early morning.

(Or, depending on her level of tolerance, she may or may not come away with an appreciation for the incessant crowing of Cornwallis, puffed up rooster that he is.)

Did you know sense of place and our memories are closely related?

Knowing this, it’s logical to apply sense of place to marketing and design. When customers make note of a business, their impressions are influenced by their experience. The colors of your logo, the imagery on your website, the words in your content…they all work together to create a memorable sense of place in your business environment.

What’s your organization’s sense of place? Does it convey who you are? Is it meaningful and memorable?


Award-Winning Heritage Homes Hosts Art Auction

A "water-painted" photo by Adunate Word & Design

Photoshop actions are one of many tools in a designer’s box for creating communicative art. Here I’ve taken a photo I used in this post, merged it with two more photos, tweaked here, colorized there and with the help of an action—violá—I’ve brought spring’s watercolor to my message.

Now let me promote communicative art of another kind—real watercolors. Communication with real connection. It’s called Memories in the Making® and it’s a fine arts program designed for people with memory loss. Long after their words have faded, these loved ones reach out with a brush, canvas and watercolor paint to convey their thoughts. Heritage Homes, an award-winning health and memory care facility in Watertown, Wis., finds the program to be a meaningful bridge between residents and their families.

This Sunday, April 19, 5-7 p.m., Heritage Homes is hosting a Silent Art Auction for works done by its memory care artists. These are beautiful expressions of the person within and are accompanied by descriptive stories. Proceeds from the event will benefit memory care programming at Heritage Homes.

In the meantime, let me refresh a press release I wrote on Heritage Home’s award-winning program.

Heritage Homes Helps Residents Communicate with Art, Watertown, Wi

Alterra Coffee Tastefully Brews a New Brand

Alterra Coffee is now Colectivo Coffee

¡Viva Colectivo! Short Vimeo Photo

So early yesterday morning we woke up to big headlines in the coffee news: Alterra Coffee is now Colectivo Coffee.

Wow. Really? Milwaukee’s locally born and raised brand? What’s the scoop?

Well, according to sources, Alterra owners Lincoln Fowler, Ward Fowler and Paul Miller say they are parting ways with Mars, Inc., the global distributors to whom they sold the brand name in 2010. By changing their name, they will move forward as an independent and locally owned company.

I’m not necessarily interested in their business plan. But their marketing plan fascinates me. Once again I say wow. I’m in total awe of the gurus who ground this campaign—anyone know who is the agency? By noon of yesterday, everyone from On Milwaukee, to the New York Times, to the San Francisco Chronicle had announced the news. And Colectivo Coffee was cruising along with its re-branded website.

Here’s what I think is wonderfully creative and brilliant. The Fowlers and Miller have taken something so commonplace as public transportation and made it meaningful. Sure, colectivos are nostalgic to them because back in the early days of their business they rode these funky buses throughout the Guatemalan countryside learning about coffee. But they make colectivos meaningful to us as well. They acquire this hippy-cool 1958 bus and use it to tell a wonderful story. They talk about the everyday men and women that work in Guatemala and use colectivos as their daily mode of transportation.

“Colectivos gather people together at stops in the community,” say the owners. “It’s the beginning of the day and the end of the day. They’re places where people form relationships.

“Our cafes are places where people gather. We bring people together from many walks of life. If our cafes could be put on wheels, I think they would be colectivos.”

Aren’t these just the best branding words ever? They completely define the community spirit that embodies specialty coffee cafes. I’m ready right now to go hang out in a Milwaukee Colectivo Coffee!

Check out both these awesome videos: This short story on their name change and this longer version about the bus. The quotes, the storytelling, the people, the music, the imagery…both videos are done so lump-in-your-throat well (and I’m so jealous)!

Blessings to Colectivo Coffee and your new brand!

Alterra Coffee changes its name to Colectivo Coffee

¡Viva Colectivo! Bus Vimeo Photo

Knowing When to Ask for Help

calculator smashed with hammer

So apparently, according to this Slate article, math causes a “hazy, anxious, defensive procrastination” that hinders some people’s already limited understanding of numbers. Oh really! Well, I must admit that’s me to a T. There’s just one minor distinction: Whereas the author met his numerical numbing in a college topology course (whatever that is), my frustration emerged with second grade’s two-digit addition and subtraction.

Interestingly, the author’s symptoms as a struggling student paralleled those of the math students he now teaches—”muddled, half-comprehension; shyness about getting the teacher’s help; procrastination; and feeling incurably stupid.” Oh, how I can relate! I specifically remember the day my mind wandered out the window for what seemed like a minuscule of a second and when I begrudgingly pulled it back to arithmetic (that’s what we called it back then), the teacher had moved on without me. I’ve been behind ever since. Most intriguing is how, according to the author, instead of asking for help, frustrated students everywhere take on the same defensive “I hate math” that I did. They too develop a mental block against numbers.

Of course, I now know being mathematically challenged doesn’t make one stupid. I know everyone has their own area of expertise. And I know asking for help is a really good thing.

What about you? What frustrates you? Are you asking for help? If you don’t jibe much with words and design, I’m the one to ask. Numbers may not be my forte, but I’m A+ at writing, designing and making you look good!

Comparing Speeds of Internet

internet satellite dish

A couple months ago, in an extreme fit of frustration, I posted this whine about my slow internet. I even did a video, complete with irritating hum throughout, just so you could see how slow it really was.

Well, I’m happy to say we’ve made some changes and things have improved. Let’s do a little before and after comparison.

BEFORE: Local Wireless Broadband Provider

In the 15-18 years we’d been on the internet, we subscribed to a local, privately-owned internet service provider (ISP) company. We’ve always been advocates of non-corporate businesses and it was intriguing to be part of this company throughout its ground-up development.

We live in a rural area so for many of these years we were on dial-up. Remember that resonating screech of connection? If you want to relive the old days, here it is!

About eight years ago we broke down and purchased a wireless broadband antenna. To be specific, it was a Motorola Canopy Subscriber Module available through our ISP. We mounted this paddle-like antenna high on our 40-ft TV tower and from there it received transmission from an ISP tower located about five miles away. Purportedly, we were to get access speeds ranging from 2-6 Mbps (megabits per second). Megabits? Ha! I doubt we ever broke out of the gigabit barrior.

And then there were the lightening strikes, the interference from other 900 MHz users and the inopportune disconnects (are there ever opportune disconnects?). Combine these with a growing list of other frustrations and I had reached my limit. As much as I wanted to support a local company, the unreliable internet it provided was not acceptable. In fact, it was hurting my business. So for two days I went into full-time research mode, I learned more about the state of U.S. telecommunications than is comforting, and I calculated some comparisons.

Local Wireless Broadband Provider
Antenna Cost: $300, plus $199 installation (2005 rates)
Avg. Access Fee: $51.85/month, including website hosting ($622/year)

AFTER: WildBlue Satellite Dish

In 2009, Congress passed the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. As part of this provision, specific communications companies received subsidies, which they in turn offered to new satellite broadband users by way of free setup and discounted rates. WildBlue Internet (Exede) is one of these companies. Yes, it’s a big, nationwide company, and no, it’s not one I’d normally patronize. Sometimes though, my high-and-mighty ideals just don’t work out.

So now we have this not-so-attractive dish sitting on our roof just outside our attic window. It connects to a satellite located somewhere in the southern sky and, for the most part, it’s bringing fairly reliable internet (no, there isn’t TV with this satellite). Recently, data showed my my speed clocking in at 10 Mbps—that’s not cable internet fast, but compared to what I had before, it feels like the speed of light! More importantly, it doesn’t cut out like my previous internet and, so far, working with the company’s service reps has been a pleasant experience.

WildBlue Satellite
Dish cost: $0
Installation: $5
Avg. Access Fee: $42.15/month ($505/year)
Website hosting with Hands-On Web Hosting: $4/month ($48/year)

So there you have it. I can probably quit whining for a while. But just so you know, the whole broadband issue isn’t going away soon. Here in my Badger state “a lack of reliable and affordable broadband service in many areas in Wisconsin is hampering the ability of individuals and businesses to capitalize on new technologies,” according to this recent Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article. Justifiably and thankfully so, there are many organizations pushing for change.

What about you? What internet are you using and how’s it working for you? What are your thoughts on better access in the U.S.?