Launching into the unknown


This is the season of graduations; when invitations to portfolio reviews vie for time on my calendar and resumes flood my inbox.

But this year, graduation is especially relevant for me. My daughter graduates from high school this month. It’s an incredibly busy time for her full of “lasts” and preparations for “firsts.”

For my part it has prompted introspection. How can I possibly direct her, and the countless students that look to me for advice? What decisions did I make back then that brought me to today? Would I do anything differently if I could?

I am a fan of Maria Popova’s blog “Brain Pickings”. You may know of Maria from her writings for Wired and The New York Times. I highly recommend you follow her weekly posts on Brain Pickings.

Yesterday, I stumbled upon an old, but particularly meaningful blog post of hers called Fail Safe: Debbie Millman’s Advice on Courage and the Creative Life featuring Debbie Millman

Debbie Millman? I subscribe to her podcasts Design Matters! Over the past six years she has interviewed nearly every notable designer in her weekly interviews.

If she had advice on the creative life, I had to read it.

I learned from the post that Ms. Millman, author of Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits and How to Think Like a Great Graphic Designer had given the 2013 commencement address to San Jose State University. How timely! As it turned out, the advice she offered was as relevant to me as it would be to my daughter.

In it, she says that success in life is really about the strength of one’s imagination.

“If you imagine less, less will be what you undoubtedly deserve. Do what you love, and don’t stop until you get what you love. Work as hard as you can, imagine immensities, don’t compromise, and don’t waste time. Start now. Not 20 years from now, not two weeks from now. Now.”

I encourage you to listen to the full address on SoundCloud. and see the well designed excerpts of this section of her book Look Both Ways: Illustrated Essays on the Intersection of Life and Design,on the Brain Pickings blog.

But most of all I encourage you, as I am my daughter, to follow Ms. Millman’s advice. “Imagine immensities, don’t compromise, and don’t waste time.”

Posted in Creative process, Students | Comments closed

Writing For the Web – What You Need To Hook Your Reader

Web WritingBy Julia Duvall, Cooper Smith & Company writer

 The Telegraph reports that the average adult is exposed to the equivalent of 174 newspapers of data per day. Amid this landslide of mostly digital information, you have just seconds to grab your audience’s attention. So, how do you stand out from the vast sea of content online? Rise to the top of the digital wasteland with these five tips to fix your copy.

Get To The Meat

Writing for digital consumption is all about providing the right amount of information in the right format. Your reader is likely using a tablet or mobile device, and doesn’t have time to sift through a bunch of text. Get to the meat of your content quickly, and don’t include lots of explanation. More detailed content can be split into separate pages for readers who want more information.

Chunk Your Content

Make your digital content easy to digest by “chunking” the copy – use subheads to help your reader jump around. Bullet points can help key facts stand out. Use short sentences of 20 words or less, and paragraphs of no more than five sentences. One-sentence paragraphs are encouraged!

Be Visually Appealing

Your digital content must be visually appealing. Use graphs, photos, infographics, and whatever visual elements can help to tell your story. Italics and bolding are difficult to read and should be used sparingly, and don’t be afraid of white space.

Include A Clear Call-To-Action

Content should inspire a specific action. Want your reader to subscribe to your YouTube channel or register for a class? Make the call-to-action clear and easy to execute.

Dig Into Your Data

Which pages of your website have the highest bounce rates? Do some social media posts perform better than others? Between free tools like Google Analytics and the robust analytics available on nearly every social media platform, you’re sitting on a mountain of priceless data.


You don’t have to guess if your copy online is effective – look at Facebook post engagement, conduct A/B testing for your email campaigns, and explore bounce rates on each page of your website. Let your audience tell you what works and what doesn’t.


Posted in Content, Storytelling | Comments closed

The “Cloud’s” silver lining


We’ve been an Apple Macintosh shop from day one. We loved them. They were intuitive, stable, and reliable.

Until the Cloud.

Most of our software now comes from the Cloud. Programs update automatically and sometimes without warning. Apple, in an effort to stay ahead of hackers and competitors, releases new systems more frequently than my windows get washed. As new versions are introduced, software developers scramble to stay compatible.

Apple isn’t the only culprit. Larger developers drive change as well. Often, Adobe’s Creative Cloud’s frequent updates mean files built with the latest software won’t open in even slightly older versions.

All these “New and Improved” developments coming from the Cloud got me thinking. Could thoughtful marketing communications have made these changes easier to accept?

Here’s what I wish I could tell Apple to do, and what you can do if you’re introducing a changed product or service.

Give us a warning.

Tell us when change is coming with enough time to prepare for the transition. Upgrade costs, training demands and operational impacts will all be factors in determining how much lead time your customers may need.

Educate me.

Show me and tell me what is changing and how it will impact me. Provide demos and documentation. Share your research, trial results and white papers. Discuss the benefits of the “new”, but be honest about any potentially unwelcome changes, too.

Let me test it first.

Provide samples, a trial period, or a preview. Letting us try the new thing into our own real-world setting alleviates a lot of fear.

Give me options.

As much as possible, give me control over when the change occurs. Keep both the new and old products in production for a while to accommodate late adopters. Tell me when the original will no longer be available.

Let me change my mind.

If I hate the new thing, how do I undo my decision? Are refunds or guarantees possible? How do I return, uninstall, or dispose of the thing? What are the alternatives if this doesn’t work for me?

How you introduce change to a customer can make a big impact on its acceptance. Make marketing communications your ally and you’ll go a long way toward keeping them happy and open to improvements.

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments closed