It’s Back to School Time!

Back-to-School Special at Donny's Girl Restaurant

Last week my Facebook feed was brimming with everyone’s first-day-of-school pictures. What fun! This week I’m sharing a couple of my own. No, they’re not of my kiddos (although embarrassing them with old pics could certainly be fun:-), instead they’re of school-related projects I recently added to my portfolio.

Donny’s Girl Supper Club offers southeastern Wisconsin a most welcoming and delightful place to dine. This summer owners Lorn and Jaci had a minor setback when their building caught on fire. Thankfully, the damage was minimal and within weeks they were back to serving delicious meals to their beloved guests. This month Jaci is running a back-to-school special—that’s her daughter in the coupon (I like to call it the Brielle Special because she’s just so doggone cute). Check out the website I did for Donny’s Girl and then meander your way to Watertown for their back-to-school special.

Don’t forget your coupon!

Wisconsin Lutheran State Teachers' Conference in Milwaukee, WI

Education these days often gets a bum rap, but really, here in America we are truly blessed. We’ve got public schools, charter schools, parochial schools, home schools, Eschools…you name it, we’ve got it. If you really want to learn, here in America you can learn.

This same diverse opportunity came through in the registration program I recently did for the Wisconsin Lutheran State Teachers’ Conference (WLSTC). With over 1500 teachers from five states attending, you can bet this conference represents a variety of WELS Lutheran schools. This year we used photography submitted by WLSTC-members and featured everything from an inner-city school participating in the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, to a rural school of only 53 students. If you want a quality, Christ-centered education, schools in the WLSTC will do just that.

So, folks, enjoy the back-to-school season! Just keep right on learning!


Let Your Professionals Do What You Hire Them To Do


I love working in coffee shops. I love them not only for the creative inspiration they offer, but also the communal atmosphere of people. Often those of us hanging out don’t know one another but because tables are small and quarters are close, our conversations inadvertently become shared. Shared, as in overheard.

I learn so much when this happens.

So last week I was working in Madison’s Barriques on West Washington (yes, this wonderful recycled art is showcased throughout the cafe). There was a table of professional women meeting behind me and as they discussed their business, one of them said, “I can help you if you let me do what I do.”

Wow. Such a simple statement that packs so much punch (incidentally, she said this in a very nice and matter-of-fact way).

Let Me Do What I Do

No matter what the industry, professionals are experts in their field. You are in yours. I am in mine. Sometimes though, this is something we seem to forget.

Like the time I wanted a cool new hairdo and my stylist suggested it wouldn’t work well for my texture of hair. I insisted on it anyway, and guess what, it didn’t work well for my texture of hair.

Or the time my husband and I thought we knew a better way to install our concrete countertop than the professional who wrote a book on it. Nope, we didn’t think that one through real well.

And then there’s the entrepreneur who ignores her designer’s advice to not use blue for branding her restaurant. Why would a designer say no to the client’s favorite color? Probably because, as a professional, he knows blue has calming qualities that make it an appetite suppressant.

These are just a few examples of how the professionals we hire know more than we do. Professionals work in their field every single day. They’ve been formally trained and they’re on top of what works and what doesn’t. That’s what makes them successful. Trusting our professionals can make us successful too.

Here’s a deal: I’ll let you do what you do, if you let me do what I do.

I’m a professional copywriter, graphic designer and marketing guru. I write sparkling content that moves readers to action. I design attention-grabbing promo pieces that make businesses stand out.

I’d love to do this for you!

Responsive Web, Inverted Pyramids and Door County, Wisconsin

Cave Point, Door County, Wisconsin

If there’s anything that reinforces the need for good web design, it’s a 4-day weekend in the boondocks. Think about it: If you’ve got the who, what, where, when and why right in front of you, you’re pretty much good to go no matter where you happen to be.

Like Door County, Wisconsin. In February.

Door County is an almost 500-square-mile jut of land between the Green Bay and Lake Michigan. My husband and I were there last weekend for our anniversary. We love going at this time of year because it’s the quiet season. We can snowshoe in the many parks, find miles and miles of diverse shoreline and visit cozy, lakeside villages, all free of the crowds that make them a hot spot in summer.

That’s Cave Point in the picture. Isn’t it stunning? Often, the crashing Lake Michigan waves cover the rocks with sprays of water. This day everything—I mean, everything— was so very still. With temperatures well below zero, the water was a frigid wonder of clarity.

But Door County Wi-Fi? Understandably, not so clear.

Even though Door County is  more commercially developed than it was decades ago (sadly so, in my opinion), it’s still rather remote, especially when it comes to the internet. As we randomly zig-zagged the peninsula on country backroads, I perused my iPhone in search of the next cool place to stop. One minute there was reception, the next there wasn’t. Knowing it could give out at any time, I really appreciated a well-designed website.

I appreciated responsive websites even more.

Nowadays, a responsive website is a necessity for good business. Responsive web design is like the inverted pyramid of the old journalism days; it puts the most important information up front for optimal viewing no matter what device is being used.

Here are three sites I found helpful while in Door County. Two are simply well-designed and put the necessary information where it needs to be. The third is a fully responsive site that properly rearranges itself according to the order of importance and size of the device.

Wild Tomato Pizza, Fish Creek, WI

Here’s the Wild Tomato Restaurant and how it appears on my iPhone. Mmmm, this looks good, doesn’t it?

Many Door County businesses are closed for the winter. Yet when I googled “Door County pizza,” I found right here on Wild Tomato’s home page that they are open, where they’re located and their phone number. The fact that they link to a beer menu tells me they have artisan beers even if I don’t take the time to click into it.

Good business? You bet. The restaurant was super fun and the food was delicious!

St. John Lutheran Church, Door County, WI

Most churches don’t think of themselves as a business. Yet sometimes they need to act like one; for example, when they want to reach out to the tourists of their unique vacation community.

St. John does just that with its website. Right there on the home page I found the 5 W’s needed for knowing about the congregation and how we could attend its services. And yes, the members of this beautiful church in the country were as warm and welcoming as their website!

Door County, WIsconsin

So here’s the fully responsive site: The Door County Visitor Bureau. Check it out on your computer, then check it out on your iPod or smartphone. Notice how it’s packed full of interesting information and rather than proportionately shrinking it en masse for small devices, which would make it way too small to read, its responsiveness vertically rearranges the contents into segments in order of their importance.

That, my dears, is responsive web design and that’s what brings people to Door County, even in the dead of winter!

What about your website? How does it look on a smartphone? Can viewers clearly find what they need to know? Here’s a completely responsive website Adunate did for a Donny’s Girl Supper Club. Contact me if you’d like the same exposure for your business.


Monopoly Isn’t Always a Game

Adobe and Monopoly: Is there more to this than we know?

Whether you’re a solo entrepreneur or a multi-designer agency, one of the biggest expenses for anyone in visual communications is the ever-updating Adobe software. Adobe produces a collection of applications that professional print, web, interactive and mobile designers use to produce their wares. Since 2005, when it acquired Macromedia—the only thing that came close to being competitive—Adobe’s held a major share of the creative market.

As a graphic and web designer, I use Adobe apps every day. At any given time my screen is showing Acrobat, Bridge, InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Dreamweaver or Flash, all of which are part of Adobe’s Creative Suite (CS), currently priced at a not-so-sweet $1800. So you can understand why I, a little one-horse operation, tend to run a version or two behind, hoping to squeeze out every last dollar I can.

Last week someone posted a LinkedIn question about Adobe’s relatively new Creative Cloud. She wants to know if people think it’s worth the cost. Wow, did she get a response! But first, let me try to explain this collection of applications. I hope I get it right, because it sure evokes a lot of questions.

Creative Cloud (CC) is an online version of CS. Adobe wowed us with its premier in 2011 and offered it via a monthly subscription service. This seems to be the direction many software companies are going; for example, Intuit has offered its bookkeeping programs as an online option for quite some time. Instead of purchasing the license and installing software on their computers, users essentially pay a rental fee to use it. If they stop paying, they lose use of the application (and access to their files if they failed to save them in a versatile format on their own computers).

Here’s where Adobe may have put designers into what’s tantamount to Monopoly’s Community Chest: Last year it announced CS6 would be its final ownable version. All future versions would only be available via their online CC subscription service. Adobe even went so far as to pull CS6 copies off its online store (although they’re still available from its website and other retailers). Needless to say, LinkedIn commenters and much of the online world is in an uproar.

Many argue that Adobe, a publicly-traded company posting revenues of $1.04 billion in 2013, has become a monopoly (legally it is not). Some designers fear they will lose access to their work if they unsubscribe. Others are upset about Adobe’s recent password security blunders.

I’m certainly not opposed to Creative Cloud. At $49.99/month, it’s an intriguing opportunity to access all Adobe’s newest applications while not having to commit a huge outlay of money. Think of, say, design students who want to test their waters of interest for just a few months. Or tech junkies who always want the latest and greatest?

I don’t, however, like the idea of being forced to subscribe to CC. For thousands of small business owners who, like me, have supported Adobe every workday for years, this is contemptuous. It reeks of shameless greed while holding an advantageous market dominance. It completely disregards the little guy (and interestingly, in this age of self-employment, that’s what more and more designers have become).

So $49.99/month (for now—Jake, the Adobe sales rep who so patiently answered my questions, said this subscription price is subject to change). That’s $600 a year. 

What do you think? Do you think it’s worth the cost?


Congrats to My Earth Day Client!

JWR Inc, Johnson Creek, WI

It’s been online for a while, but there’s no better time than the week of Earth Day to congratulate JWR Inc. on their new website! And how fitting, considering JWR and its sister company NewWay Global are innovative leaders in the waste and recycling industry. They are my 2013 Earth Day clients!

Last year, the JWR marketing team came to me wanting an updated website. I did their site five years ago and it has served them well. It’s helped them earn recognition and they’ve built a reputation based on their quality products and reliable service. With this company image well established, JWR now wants to emphasize its forward thinking. As owner Dave Wolf says “JWR has always been successful with niche products. We’re always trying to be a year or two ahead of the game.”

What better way to communicate such eco-moxiness than a new website!

JWR’s team had a list of ideas of “must-haves” for their site. Earlier this year they were featured on The Environmental Report so they wanted a way to showcase this and any future videos. They wanted a responsive layout for a variety of communication devices. And they wanted to maintain their own content. Thanks to Ben Seigel, of Versa Studios, we came up with a great Expression Engine framework that allows easy CMS capabilities. JWR is doing a super job with it.

So congratulations JWR! And happy Earth Day to you!