November Means Working Together (Pro-Bono)

sandhill cranes in the distance

Here it is November and we still have sandhill cranes. If you look closely in this zoomed-to-the-max iPhone shot, you see two of them enhancing the otherwise desolate cornfield. They caught my attention a few mornings ago as they gaggled away in response to another pair far in the distance. This weekend we’re supposed to get several inches of snow so these snowbirds will likely say to heck with this and take off for warmer temps.

Aren’t the migratory habits of birds amazing?

For example, for several months in autumn the sandhills gather in wetlands before heading south. These are called staging areas and here in Wisconsin there are several where thousands of cranes assemble at a time. I like to imagine this is a time of preparation and joining together of forces for the arduous journey ahead.

You probably knew migrating birds fly in the V-Formation, officially known as the echelon formation. They do this for its aerodynamic advantage, obviously. But did you know birds take turns flying the front helm of this V, a very strenuous task? And did you know the mortality rate for birds is six times higher during the migration season? Given this, isn’t it interesting that even though survival favors the selfish—those that promote their own well-being before that of others—the God-given nature of birds is to selflessly share the responsibility?

This author makes a good point when he says, “If migrating birds work together, the flock has a greater chance of having all of its feathered brethren make the long trip to their destination.”

Working together. For the good of all.

With this caring concept in mind and because November is the month of giving, let me announce it’s my season for pro-bono applications. Each year Adunate accepts two pro-bono projects for greatly reduced or no cost. These are projects I strongly support and believe will positively impact God’s creation, his people, or his ministry.

My interests include, but aren’t limited to:

  • Architecture
  • Arts
  • Children
  • Faith
  • History
  • Humanity
  • Natural Food & Living
  • Nature & Animals
  • Preservation & Sustainability

If your organization needs creative assistance in the upcoming year, click here for an application. Then, to guarantee your project’s success, be sure to click here!

Deadline for submissions is December 31, 2015. I will let applicants know of my decision in January.

Forward Thinking Means Responsive Thinking

Forward Mutual Insurance Company website is now in responsive viewing

I often use the phrase “forward-thinking” to describe Forward Mutual Insurance Company. Yes, it comes across rather pun-ish, but, pun or not, I’m proud to give kudos to this —here we go— forward-thinking company. On top of that, I’d like to present Forward’s recently updated website. Ta Da!

Forward Mutual's website on a laptop and iPad

At first glance, Forward’s new site looks very much like its old. In many ways it is.

Here’s how it’s not.

Last spring President and CEO Lois Wiedenhoeft discussed updating their website with new content and a few minor layout changes. We talked target marketing. We talked user-friendliness. And then we talked responsive web design.

Lois, being the forward-thinking CEO that she is, was gung-ho for all of the above, including re-writing the framework in responsive design. Why the extra effort and expense? Especially when some mutual companies don’t even have websites?

Historically, farms were the majority of Forward’s market. Nowadays, its landscape has changed to include city dwellings, country dwellings and hobby farms. The people in Forward’s market have also changed and the mutual now actively targets a younger generation. Forward wants to communicate the same way its market communicates. Nowadays, that’s via mobile devices.

Usability on All Devices

Forward Mutual website on the iphoneResponsive web design is a framework that automatically resizes, hides or moves content to fit any device of the user’s choice. Simply put, responsive design makes a website look good on any device, whether a desktop, tablet or smartphone.

Forward’s previous website looked good on a computer, but not so great on a smartphone. The phone on the left shows Forward’s site in its previous state. It’s the same layout as the computer’s except proportionately smaller and, obviously, much more difficult to read. Also note the photo slideshow, or lack thereof. Most mobile devices don’t accommodate Flash Player so the ol’ standby coding we used to use is now completely out of date.

In comparison, look at the phone on the right. This is how Forward’s website now appears in its responsive form. Each of its elements have automatically resized and re-ordered themselves according to priority. It’s legible. It’s clean. And because Forward now has a larger, more helpful menu, we grouped all the links into a clickable toggle.

Google Rewards Mobile-Friendliness

There’s another reason Forward moved ahead with responsive web design. It’s a very important marketing reason.

In April 2015, Google changed the way its search algorithms rank websites. It now gives top billing to mobile-friendly websites, meaning those that employ responsive web design will be listed in searches before those that do not.

How Mobile-Friendly is Your Website?

When is the last time you’ve checked your website on a mobile device? How legible is it? Is your website coded in responsive design? If you need to be higher in search rankings, drop me a line.

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?


Day #7: Our Final Discovery, Reads Landing

Storefront window in Red Wing, Minnesota

Fortuitous discoveries make for fun traveling. This was certainly true for us as we meandered through southwestern Wisconsin and up the Mississippi River on our Octoberfest Beer Tour.

And since it was a brewery tour, of course it’s only appropriate to say we learned a lot about the beer industry (as we partook in some mighty fine sipping).

For example, I know a lot of corporate brand buying and selling occurs in today’s monopolized beer industry. But I didn’t realize this exchange has gone on for generations, even among small breweries. Take Berghoff, an authentic German style beer with a great Midwestern heritage: Since it’s beginnings in 1887, it’s been brewed by the Herman Berghoff Brewing Company, Fort Wayne, Ind., the Falstaff Brewing Company, St. Louis, Mo., the Joseph Huber Brewery (now Minhas), Monroe, Wis., the Walter Brewing Company, Eau Claire, Wis., and now the Berghoff Brewing Company in Chicago.

Imagine the diversity of deals settled throughout history, all in the name of fermented grains!

Another bit of beer history we learned was the extent to which ales were brewed, especially in Wisconsin and other Germanic-influenced states. According to this article, in the late 1800s breweries were as much a part of Wisconsin communities as churches and schools. My own town of Watertown has record of nine different breweries and we’ve all heard stories of the underground tunnels, some of which still exist.

Reads Landing Brewing Company, Reads Landing, MN

So, as we wrapped up our tour, my husband and I were especially excited to share the fun of new discoveries. For our last stop we hopped across the river and, together with my dear aunt and uncle, checked out Reads Landing Brewing Company in Reads Landing, Minn.

Even though my aunt and uncle live a short jaunt up the road, and even though they’d driven through Reads Landing many times, they never knew this little gem existed. We had a great time and the food and drinks were delicious.


Adunate rates Reads Landing Brewing Company, Reads Landing, MinnesotaBeer
It was a full house when we visited yet owner/brewer Bob Nihart took the time to chat with us about his beer, which he brews three barrels at a time. He didn’t have any Oktoberfest on the menu, but we liked his Cap’n Amber and American House Pale Ale.

Gorgeous! According to Reads Landing’s website, its 1869 building was formerly a dry goods store and has been in the family since the 1930s. They’ve done a fabulous job preserving its character and structural soundness. The restaurant overlooks the Mississippi River and the large storefront windows offer a beautiful view. The décor was fun and fitting.

The food was good, hearty bar fare.

I’m extending the Reads Landing community to include the surrounding river towns, since the whole area is truly beautiful. Although Reads Landing is unincorporated and I can’t even find a population, its neighboring towns are much larger. We spent several hours in Red Wing, which is just 30 minutes away and we attended church at Salem Lutheran, Woodbury, another 30 minutes beyond that.

Reads Landing Brewing Company, Reads Landing, MN

Copy and Design
I’ve previously mentioned how much I like Read Landing’s logo. After visiting, I love it even more. Everything about it fits the business’s brand perfectly. It’s website is also well done, with lots of good information on the restaurant, beer and the area.

Well, that’s it folks—our 2014 Octoberfest Beer Tour (said with a melancholy sigh). It’s been so much fun, we’re thinking we could make it an annual event. Maybe we will!

Day #5: A Heart-Swooning Logo on Pearl St. (on St. Andrew St.)

Pearl Street Brewery, La Crosse, WIOne of the fascinating things about our Octoberfest Beer Tour has been the diversity of breweries. We’ve sampled beer from a boutique 100-barrels-a-year brewed in the Corner Pub’s basement, to the cranked 320,000-barrels-a-year at Minhas‘ updated, multi-structured complex.

We found our visit to Pearl Street Brewery on Saint Andrew Street, La Crosse, to be somewhere in the middle of those extremes. More importantly, it sports a logo I just love.

Pearl Street Brewery, La Crosse, WI

If you’re like us, you might find Pearl Street outwardly intimidating when you first manage to find it—a GPS comes in handy for this. Apparently, the brewery originated in a downtown Pearl Street location, thus the name, and later expanded to a space in this old warehouse.

(Hey, says my husband, this used to be La Crosse Footwear and they make my boots.)

Pearl Street Brewery, La Crosse, WI

Step inside and you’ll feel much more relaxed. It’s a big, open, no-nonsense, welcoming brewing space. There’s a taproom bar amongst the fermenting vats, along with tables and a funky stage for live music.

We stopped by after brewing hours on a quiet Wednesday afternoon, so we missed the Saturday tour. But, hey, we can entertain ourselves. We had fun sipping and browsing on our own.

Pearl Street Brewery, La Crosse, WI

Pearl Street Brewery is my kind of business—homegrown, hardworking and obviously a fun sense of humor. It’s recently expanded its distribution to Minnesota and, interestingly, it has its own Printasaurus Lex, as she’s referred to, designing and producing Pearl Street’s packaging from an in-house print shop.

(Did you know packaging is the most expensive detail of making and selling beer? We learned this on our Minhas tour.)

Pearl Street Brewery, La Crosse, WIPearl Street Brewery makes some mighty fine beer! My husband had the Rubber Mills Pils, which brought him smile of pleasure. I had a Pearl Street Pale Ale—smooth, full, and easy on the hops, just the way I like it.

Don’t you just love Pearl Street’s logo?

Adunate rates Pearl Street Brewery


Pearl Street’s version of Oktoberfest is its Lederhosen Lager Fest Bier, a malty and easy-to-drink seasonal. This would have been my first choice, but since it’s already October and most autumn seasonals come out in September, it was no longer on the menu.

So one stein for no Octoberfest. But five steins for the styles we sampled!

Fun place. I liked the unpretentious atmosphere and that Pearl Street is repurposing an old building.

A taproom, or tasting room, typically distinguishes itself from a bar by only serving its own beer. Pearl Street is kind of hard to find, but it’s taproom worth getting to.

La Crosse Queen, La Crosse, WI

La Crosse boasts the vibrancy and diversity that comes with being a multi-college town. It makes full use of the Mississippi River for its geographical interest. Think paddle boats, barges, locks and river walks. We took a 3-hour lunch cruise on this La Crosse Queen. Super fun!

Copy and Design
So, I’m forced to automatically deduct one stein because Pearl Street uses that cheesy “are you at least 21 years old?” entry into its website. It was fun, say, 15 years ago, but nowadays it’s outdated and a pain on the smart phone.

That aside, I LOVE everything else about Pearl Street’s marketing. The organic, hoppy flow of its logo—be still my heart—makes me swoon! Their website copy is fun, energetic and full of delightful stories. I love their labels. Hey, I love everything they’re putting out (except the website entry).

Next stop: Fountain City Brewing Company, Fountain City