Color Your Identity

How much of your business relies on color?  Are you thinking in black and white (like I often do for myself) or do you have certain colors that are part of your image?

I was in a meeting yesterday talking about a great photographer named Dave Scott (www.davescottphoto.com) and the person I was with stops and says, “where do I know that name?  I think I get his mailers.”  All I had to say was, “yellow envelope?”  “Yes!  That’s him!”

This is a great example of how Dave’s use of yellow in his identity has increased his recognition among people that receive his mailers.

How can you use color to increase your recognition among the fray?

Simplify: By reducing the number of colors, you can create contrast and reduce visual confusion (unless that’s your goal, but that’s another blog post entirely…)

Consistency: Using the same color palette in all areas of your marketing increases identity recognition.  Without consistency, people won’t equate a certain color to your identity.

Intentional: Be intentional about the colors you choose.  They should be a reflection of the personality of your business.  A male professional photographer shooting sports probably doesn’t want to use Cyan, Pink and White to promote his business.  Use colors that relate to the industry that you are targeting.

I will definitely be using this lesson of color recognition to further the designs that I create for my customers.

The Art of Asking Questions

One of the most valuable skills available to an artist is the ability to ask really good questions that produce a response, thus inspiring discourse, imagination and productivity.

As an artist, asking questions is one of my core foundations in crafting structure, as well as generating visual ideas for a final project. Whether I am creating an identity for a business, editing a documentary film, or preparing for a photo shoot, the questions that I ask directly impact the outcome.

As I wade through hours of interview footage that I have conducted over the course of the past several months, I realize how my interviewing techniques can be improved upon to produce stronger results.

Keep it simple.
Eliminate multiple-part questions. Word questions in terms that your subject will understand. By keeping questions simple, you avoid long-winded responses and help the interviewee remain comfortable. Have questions that relate specifically to the interviewee’s relationship to the subject matter.

Be prepared.
By being prepared, you not only better understand your subject matter, but you are better able to craft questions based on the interviewee’s knowledge of the subject. Knowledgeable questions create an atmosphere of respect because you have taken the time to understand the interviewee’s expertise.

Don’t make assumptions.
In the art of asking questions, there are no stupid questions. By not making assumptions, you help to put your subjects at ease, as well as show that you have researched and prepared for the interview ahead of time.

Be relaxed.
How can you help your subjects be at ease? Be relaxed. Most people are going to be nervous about how you present their image and if you are nervous, that will increase their anxiety level. Regardless of whether a camera is involved, or even a tape recorder, your job is to ensure that no matter what they say, you will present their image in an accurate and truthful manner. Be conversational in your approach. Pay attention and respond.

These are just a few thoughts on how you can have an immediate impact on the quality of responses that you receive from asking questions. I will definitely be applying these to my own interviewing techniques and look forward to sharing the results in future projects.

“The Art Of…” Blog Series

In the mind of every artist is a battle between two personalities.  The protagonist:  creativity.  Otherwise known as inspiration, passion, originality, and freedom.  The antagonist:  business.  Also referred to as rules, structure, organization, and cookie-cutter.  The victims of the battle are often the artists themselves as they struggle to make a living with their art without giving into business (also known as “The Man”).

Fortunately, there are effective ways to not becoming a victim of your struggle between art and business.

“The Art Of…” Blog Series is written for artists who want to leverage the power of creativity and business in order to run successful business ventures that do not compromise their artistic integrity.

Survive the game.  Become the successful creative you want to be.

Welcome to “The Art Of…”

The Art of Business

Let me paint a picture in your mind.

An artist sits, deep in thought, searching for inspiration.  A business man paces in a circle around the artist, waiting for him to act, making phone calls, unsure of what is going on with the artist.

This is often the portrait people see when the art world collides with the business world.  And the results are never pretty:  a toxic cloud of misunderstanding and frustration.

Without business, art would lack financial success.  Without art, business would be sterile.  When the two combine to create a masterpiece with perfect understanding of roles and responsibilities, life-altering masterpieces are created.

So, what can artists and business leaders do to make sure that both sides are free from confusion and misconceptions?

Education

The best thing that artists can do is to educate their business partners in the ways that they create.  By allowing the business world a glimpse into the process of creation, it helps to eliminate the business person from creating their own image of what the artist is doing day in and day out.

When it comes to educating artists about the business world, it is ideal to show how important the work of the artist is.  This allows artists to leave their vacuum of creation and have a broader perspective for what is truly important.

Communication

Without top-notch communication skills, there will always be misunderstanding.  Whenever questions arise, there should be room to ask without condemnation.  Artists should not be defensive, and business people should avoid attempting to take control of a project without first communicating their underlying frustrations.

When artists and business people educate one another, and establish a system of communication, this leads to collaboration.

Collaboration

Without collaboration, a project will always be one-sided, slanted towards the dominate personality of the project.  True collaboration involves both sides working together, using their strengths to eliminate the weaknesses of each other.  This requires an acceptance of weakness.  Without admitting our weaknesses, this will only create strife when someone stronger then ourselves comes along attempting to make us stronger.  However, this does not give a strong person the right to force their strengths on others.  They must give their strengths as an offering of fulfillment.  By offering our strengths in the spirit of help and growth, and then waiting for the other person to accept our offering, we enable submission and responsibility that leads to true collaboration.

Through education, communication and collaboration, successful works of art can be created, and stereotypes can be shattered.

Will you give?

Will you accept?

Will you go through the process of change in order to shape a new world built on the collaboration of art and business?

Creative Action

I often forget what it takes to start and sustain creative projects. I confuse the need for perfect execution and the right amount of inspiration with old-fashioned hard work. When I focus on projects with the perspective of momentum and hard work, it is amazing how quickly I can get something done, sometimes better than if I was nitpicking every little detail and demanding perfection.

To work hard means that I rely on the years of training and experience that I have in design, instead of waiting for the muse to show up and bless me with inspiration. Could it be that the muse will only appear when you are actively pursuing creativity instead of waiting for the perfect moment?

As I read “Monty Python Speaks,” interviews with the people behind Monty Python, I see how their reliance on working hard and meeting their deadlines with the skills they had at the time was how they were able to create revolutionary television shows and movies that impacted pop culture for over 30 years.

My favorite film director, Terry Gilliam, created amazing cutout animations for Monty Python because that is what the budget and production time would allow. As he constantly produced the animation, it became a style that impacted the world of animation and morphed his career over time. From an animation to a visionary film director, creating images that some would consider to be impossible.

With that said, what are you waiting for? Move forward with creative action and change the world. You never know what could happen by acting upon your creative impulses and ideas.

Funding Independent Media…Distribution and Marketing

In a previous post, Funding Independent Media…Independently, I talk about funding independent media projects through consulting, sharing your knowledge with others.  Last night, I had a long talk with a good friend of mine, an independent filmmaker in Northern California, and we ended up talking about distribution.  That conversation led me to think about the next step of funding independent media:  distribution and marketing, specifically distributing quality media that generates and feeds community, the independent method of marketing.

In order to keep my thoughts simplified, I’m going to be talking about independent media under the label of filmmaking and the distribution and marketing of the film.  As independent media producers and consumers of mass media, we have a good idea of how films are made.  An idea is generated, a script is written, a director decides that they want to make the film, a film studio gives money for production if they think it will be a worthwhile investment, a crew is hired, the cast picked, locations found.  The film is then shot, edited, licensed, marketed, distributed, put on DVD, sold at Wal-Mart and Target, and found on the shelves of our movie collection.  An arduous process.  The money invested in the film is primarily regained through the sale of movie theater tickets and DVD sales.  If the filmmaker is renowned, the movie is an adaptation of a popular book, or a spectacle of breakthrough special effects, then the film will typically generate a significant amount of buzz, and we flock to the theaters.

Looking at the traditional system, it definitely has its benefits, as long as you play the game and follow the rules.  But what about the independent filmmaker and media producer that want to develop their own system of distribution and marketing?

It can be done.  And here is the beginning of how I think it could be done.

Internet Distribution = Getting Your Content to Your Audience

With YouTube, Hulu, iTunes, Vimeo, and a host of other video websites, the ability to upload and watch videos has increased exponentially in this decade.  But how do you use that technology as a spring board to make money with your product?  There are a few ways to approach this:

1.  Allow a low-resolution “YouTube” version for free and then effectively lead them to higher quality paid content.

2.  Sell digital copies for iPods, as well as HD files for high-resolution computer viewing.

3.  Sell DVD/Blu-Ray versions of your content.

4.  Sell merchandise (t-shirts, posters, soundtracks).

5.  Allow people to share, reuse or remix your content through Creative Commons licensing.

Marketing = Generating and Feeding Community

In his book, “How to Speak How to Listen,” Mortimer J. Adler says, “without communication, there can be no community.”  What this means for independent media producers is that if we hope to get the word out to our audience, we need to develop and sustain community.  There are many ways to go about this.  Twitter, Facebook, e-mail, websites, printed materials, networking groups, clubs, and colleges.  Regardless of the method of communication, you want to create a community that will tell others about your content.  As I have read on several blogs online, you essentially want to create a community of evangelists that take your message and content to the masses, bringing followers into the fold.  That is the result of social networking done well.

Does Your Content Stink?

Finally, it doesn’t matter what you do, if your content stinks, then distribution and marketing will not save you.  Community will not be developed.  People will not be interested in what you have to say.  But if your content is unique, fresh, and created with a sense of aesthetics and technique, you will have an opportunity to engage others effectively.

Funding Independent Media…Independently

Dr. Normal and Cami Kaos produce a weekly video podcast called “Strange Love Life” and were keynote presenters at WordCamp PDX on September 19, 2009.  During the Q&A portion of their presentation, the inevitable question was asked, “How do you make money doing Strange Love Live?”  The answer surprised me and it sent my mind into overload as I thought about what it meant not just for the open source community, which by certain definitions equates to free, but also for the world of independent media production where accessibility of content and scope of vision may not equal the available budget.

So, what was the answer?  Consulting.  Yes, you read that right.  Not commercials, not ad space, but consulting.   Merriam-Webster defines consulting as “providing professional or expert advice.”  In essence, you are “providing professional or expert advice” in your chosen field in order to provide free and exceptional content.  In the case of Dr. Normal, he has many years of experience in A/V production and podcasting, and he is able to consult others that want to get their podcast off the ground.  That is a great illustration of the power of consulting, but how could it be applied to other areas of independent media production?

Several of my friends are filmmakers.  A couple of them are attempting to break into Hollywood by playing the game, and climbing up the ladder.  As they move up the ladder, they hope to be rewarded with larger budgets, crews, locations, and success.  But what about the independent filmmaker that wants to avoid Hollywood like the bubonic plague?  There are options.  Loans, credit cards, selling your body to medicine (like Robert Rodriguez did in order to make El Mariachi), recruiting financial backers, having a day job, a night job, blood plasma, etc.  The list is long and extensive.  Instead, what if the independent filmmaker went the road of consulting?  Offering their knowledge and technical abilities in exchange for the money to finance their vision?  What do independent filmmakers have to offer the business world?  Technical skills…check.  A unique perspective of life…check.  A passion to accomplish a deep, underlying vision for their lives…check.  There are many positive aspects to this way of funding.

Are there any negatives to consulting in the mindset of an independent filmmaker?  Yes, there are some negatives.  You could be perceived as “selling out” by giving your knowledge to the man in exchange for his money.  You could forget your vision.  You could have your vision clouded by the acquisition of money.  You could be labeled “not an expert” which in turn could make you question everything about yourself.  But,should these negatives stop you from pursuing a unique way of funding your vision?   I think not.

Consulting could perhaps be the best funding system that fits inline with an independent and open source community.  The willingness to openly share your knowledge with others, placing a price on the knowledge, enabling others to pursue their dreams, and to offer the fruit of your life and mind to others.

I will definitely be taking a closer look at how to fit consulting into my available services, and hope to continue sharing thoughts about the successes and failures relating to that journey.  Until then, get out there and write.  Produce.  Create.

The world needs the independent voice.

WordPress…the Gateway Drug for Community in the Tech Universe

WordCamp Portland, known on Twitter as #wcpdx, was held at WebTrends in Portland, OR on September 19-20.  I attended the first day, and while it was supposed to be about WordPress, the immensely popular blogging software, it was ultimately about something else.  Community.

It could easily be said that WordPress is the gateway drug that paves the way for community to happen in the tech universe.  The attendees spanned from real estate moguls, to moms, weirdos, techies, nerds, geeks, freaks, commentators, students and business owners.  A million interests in the room, a cross-section of real life.  The person next to me could probably care less about film, art, literature and business practices, but they cared about WordPress and that opened the door for conversations to happen, people to get to know one another, passionate debates to get witnesses feeling awkward (thinking about the Unconference on using WordPress as a CMS), and the chance to break out of the everyday loops that we all find ourselves in.  We were an eager audience.

Now, I could easily recap the day, comment on how much beer and public speaking don’t really mix well together, but that would be boring.  Instead, I will share two responses to insights that were given throughout the day.

Big Media vs. Independent Podcasters

During the talk on podcasting by Strange Love Live, Dr. Normal and Cami Kaos commented on big media’s inevitable entry into podcasting and the impending draw away from independent content towards the polish of the networks.  While they mentioned that quality and entertaining content will always win the day, whether it is from big media or the independent podcast-producer, that got me thinking about another industry that big media tried to take over by aping the independent producers, the world of film.  But as much as the Hollywood Independent film tries to connect with the world, it is the unique viewpoint of the independent producer that outshines the shine that is spit upon us by those pretending to be just like you and me.  So, it all comes down to this.

To all of the independent podcasters out there, big media wants to be like you.

As much as we want to have huge budgets, unlimited distribution, big-name stars to promote our work, Hollywood and Big Media want to be us.  They want to escape from their lives as much we want to abandon our own.  And we should all take comfort in that fact, and do exactly what we want to do.  The internet has morphed into a medium of communication that anyone can use for distribution.  It is leveling an out-of-balance playing field, and it only takes hard work to get your point of view out there for the world to read, see, and experience.

Developing (and maintaining) a Volunteer Community

During the talk on developing and maintaining the WordPress Codex, I was struck by something that I hadn’t really thought about.  WordPress is a volunteer community made up of individuals who are contributing, developing and sustaining this platform, not because they are getting paid, but because they believe in it.

Of course, it is not a perfect community.  There is a need for more volunteers, but this got me thinking about not just developing a volunteer community, but also maintaining the community.  How in the world do you do that?

1.) Contribution

Looking at the many volunteer communities that I have been a part of:  church groups and non-profit organizations, they have the same problem as the WordPress community.  There is a huge group of people to draw from and only a small number that step up and contribute.  Community starts and ends with contribution.  But how do you get people to contribute?  Make it easy!  It shouldn’t be difficult for people to volunteer.

If you are a volunteer community, they should see on your home page and all of your marketing materials how they can contribute.  Lorelle VanFossen, one of the speakers on the topic of the WordPress Codex, mentioned that anyone with any skill level can contribute.  Help is needed in HTML, CSS, PHP, WordPress, design, development, even editing posts.  All critical areas to the WordPress community.  But she was also able to speak to the fact that WordPress is trying to make it easier for everyone to contribute.

2.) Passionate Discussion

With community comes individual ego.  There are multiple skill levels involved, many talents, levels of self-esteem, and when someone is hurt by another, emotion flairs up.  People get hurt, take shots at one another, and ultimately leave.  Now, there is nothing wrong with passion and emotion, but leaving it unchecked and unmoderated is dangerous, not only to the community, but the organization that is currently benefiting from the community.  The only way to truly deal with emotion is to address the elephant in the room.  Make sure everyone is heard, keep each other in check (accountability), have passionate discussions, and then remind one another why you are doing what you are doing.  Remind people what the goal is, the dream, the vision.

Now, I know this sounds rather utopian, but frankly, I have been a part of too many communities that could have been so much greater if the elephant in the room was addressed and talked about, so I can honestly say that it starts there, but most definitely doesn’t end there.

3.)  Guilting People into Participation

Do you find that guilt gets more people participating in community?  It might work a few times, but really, you shouldn’t have this be your primary mode of recruitment.  In fact, please don’t do this.  It only pisses people off and makes them leave community.  Instead, get to know them, and draw out their passions.  Enable them to contribute.  Have passionate discussions with them.  Recruitment starts with getting to know someone other than yourself.  And that is something that we all need to hear.

WordPress is about community, and communicating the passions of the people that make up the community.  We are not the Borg, we are not to assimilate each other into the collective thought.  We can all learn from each other, and that is really what I learned from WordCamp Portland.

Now, shall we talk about beer and public speaking?

TOPSoccer

Clash at the Border Pin
Clash at the Border Pin

Running my own business has a lot of perks.  I meet a lot of interesting and unique people.  I also get opportunities to work with organizations, companies, and individuals that are changing the world for others.

Over the course of the year, I have been designing logos, trophies, pins, shirts and advertising for Clash at the Border, a soccer tournament that took place last weekend, June 24-26, throughout the Camas, WA area.

Having a blast!
Having a blast!

I was also called upon to photograph a group of kids playing soccer at Doc Harris Stadium on Saturday, June 25.  These weren’t just any ordinary soccer players, but players part of a soccer outreach program known as TOPSoccer.  Kids of all ages with mental or physical disabilities playing soccer alongside teams from local soccer clubs.

As each player had a chance to move the ball down the field in hopes to score a goal, they were cheered on by a group of volunteers, parents and spectators.  There were more smiles than I have seen in a long time, and I found that infectious joy to make me smile.

Through all of this, I realize that there is nothing more joyous than watching someone give everything they have in order to succeed.  That joy leads me to ask myself a very simple question, “What am I doing in my life that has people watching joyfully?”

Clash05Clash03

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