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Two Things All Branding Experts Do

Professional brand consultants are a special breed o’ cat.  Building a strong brand requires a multi-dimensional skill-set that encompasses everything from HR to graphic design to wordsmith-ing.  The best brand stewards manage to play each of these roles throughout the life of a project as they help their clients develop their corporate – or personal – identities into a cohesive package.

So, what is it that the best ‘branders’ do?  What sets them apart?

**Read the entire article at Fuel Your Branding**


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Brand Balance: Objective and Subjective

Brands that are able to capitalize on both subjective and objective criteria are subsequently able to create value for its target market. Often, this effort involves shifting the perception of a brand within the marketplace.

**Posted by MIYO | STUDIOS at Fuel Your Branding**

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Leadership and Confidence

George Washington leading across the Delaware

It seems a no-brainer that the most successful leaders are those who are also full of self-confidence (not to be confused with conceit).  However, what is it that makes someone appear “confident”?  What is that certain something that ensures Leaders have Followers?

Dr. Marshall Goldsmith attempts to answer these questions in a post for the Harvard Business blog – excerpted here:

  1. DON’T WORRY ABOUT BEING PERFECT. There are never right or wrong answers to complex business decisions. The best that you can do as a leader is to gather all of the information that you can (in a timely manner), do a cost-benefit analysis of potential options, use your best judgment — and then go for it.
  2. LEARN TO LIVE WITH FAILURE. Great salespeople are the ones who get rejected the most often. They just ask for the order more than the other salespeople. You are going to make mistakes. You are human. Learn from these mistakes and move on.
  3. AFTER YOU MAKE THE FINAL DECISION — commit! Don’t continually second-guess yourself. Great leaders communicate with a sense of belief in what they are doing and with positive expectations toward the achievement of their vision.
  4. SHOW COURAGE ON THE OUTSIDE — even if you don’t always feel it on the inside. Everyone is afraid sometimes. If you are a leader, your direct reports will read your every expression. If you show a lack of courage, you will begin to damage your direct reports’ self-confidence.
  5. FIND HAPPINESS AND CONTENTMENT IN YOUR WORK. Life is short. My extensive research indicates that we are all going to die anyway. Do your best. Follow your heart. When you win, celebrate. When you lose, just start over the next day.

*Read the full article at Harvard Business*

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Coralie Bickford-Smith: Book Cover Design UPDATE

Penguin Classics
Photo courtesy of Design*Sponge

A few months ago, I posted an excerpt from a story about Coralie Bickford-Smith – the designer responsible for many wonderful book covers at Penguin Classics.

Well, just today, Design*Sponge (if you don’t know this site, you should!!) posted a more extended interview with Ms. Bickford-Smith.  So, I thought I would share it with you here.  Click on the link below to see the full post in its natural habitat…

An brief excerpt from the Design*Sponge interview:

…That’s the nature of cover design really – the designs are there to serve the writing, and there’s such a range of material that we design for that a personal style isn’t necessarily what you want the customer to see.

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10 Reasons A Strong Brand Is Important to Your Business

What is your brand I.D.?

Successful organizations are driven to succeed by visionary leaders.  These leaders take calculated risks, and look for ways to innovate in every aspect of their business.  Everything from internal work processes, to product design, to revamped service offerings are fair game when it comes to growing a company.  No matter what the innovations, however, the overall brand idea remains at the root of the evolution.  Thus, success depends upon a strong Brand.

Here’s why:


Brand expression is strongest when it is consistent.  Consistency builds confidence in your company and its offerings.  Disciplined brand development within your organization demonstrates to your customers that you pay attention to the details.


People like to feel like they are a part of something good, something purposeful.  Your brand is the living, breathing example of why you do what you do.  If your employees understand your brand, they will likewise know why they do what they do.



In order to thrive and grow, organizations must manage change in a deliberate way.  A brand idea that has been similarly developed will provide a solid foundation upon which to build the company.


Sometimes, environmental conditions necessitate that you change your company’s direction.  When you see change on the horizon, a strong brand idea will help you plan ahead, allowing you to keep the core of who you are while adjusting to new conditions.



When your brand identity begins to speak for itself – in logos, packaging, customer service, etc. – you’ve done your job.


At some point, every company finds it necessary to collaborate with another organization.  Whether it’s a multi-disciplinary design team or an impending merger, a strong brand I.D. will not only tell your partners what you are about, but what is expected of them.


A well-defined brand idea is simple.  It’s easy to describe and easy to understand.  If your employees can’t say it in 20 seconds, it’s time to re-think your pitch.



(and they will)

The daily grind is enough to take anyone off their game, even a visionary leader.  When you lose your focus, your brand idea can bring you back to the basics:  why you do what you do.


Every organization goes through times of difficulty.  It may be do to external factors, like a recession; or it may be an internal issue.  When you need to get back on track in order to move your company forward, looking back at the root brand idea can tell you exactly where you need to go.Nike Swoosh


When you are doing things right, people take notice.  Some are impressed, but many more are likely to be inspired.  Great leaders lead by example.  Your success can tangibly demonstrate the power of a strong brand.

Do you have a strong brand?  If so, what makes it work?  If not, what’s holding you back?  Share your thoughts.

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Letterpress Printing: History and Process

Letterpress printer

For printed works communicating some of life’s most meaningful events, it is the letterpress process that seems to best express the importance of these announcements.  From business cards, to wedding invitations, to birth announcements – the letterpress yields lovely works of everyday art.


Historically, letterpress was the process by which everything from church documents to newspapers were printed en masse.

In the 15th Century, it was the German Johannes Gutenburg who invented moveable type and the printing press.  Individual letters were carved out of blocks of wood and organized into rows of coherent text.  These ‘plates’ were then pressed into sheets of paper, printing a individual page.  After the necessary copies of the page were printed, the letters were rearranged for subsequent pages and the process was repeated.

In 1812, Friedrich Koenig invented the cylindrical press which sped up the printing process considerably.  Over time, the printing equipment has become more and more efficient, enabling the continued use of the the letterpress technique today.

Still, if you have ever priced a letterpress print project versus the widely-used digital process, you will note that the former is more expensive to produce.  This is because the technique in use remains much the same as it was in the 1400s.

Individual lettering and imagery must be hand-arranged, inked, and pressed to deliver the final product.  In spite of the cost, however, there can be little debate about the exceptional quality of a letterpress-printed piece.


What is it that makes these works so beautiful?

Often, it is the textured hand of the paper used for the print.  Though a variety of papers can be used for letterpress, may of the pieces produced are of substantial weight and utilize a paper with a more fibrous texture.  In addition, the letterpress, in most cases, leaves an impression on the reverse side of the piece adding yet another layer of tactile interest.

Further, the lack of coating on the paper means that the colors on the final product are less saturated and thus have an artisanal quality to them.  If the design of the piece does not require an absolute ‘pop’ of color, this can be a wonderfully rich effect.

Today, the beauty of the letterpress-printed piece remains quite appropriate for any project in which a sense of timelessness and attention to detail are important.


The projects below are wonderful examples of the various effects one can accomplish with the letterpress technique.  Their beauty speaks volumes:

Jubilee Round by Elum

Circolo by Bella Figura

Irving by Bella Figura

Airplane by Bella Figura

Dewdrop by Bella Figura



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The Art and Effort of Speaking Well

Teddy Roosevelt on the stump

Being an effective speaker is not unlike being an effective writer.  The basic tenets of each are quite similar:

  • Understand your purpose
  • Be thoughtful in your preparation
  • Communicate clearly and concisely
  • Leave your audience with a vivid message

So, why is it that so many of us would rather endure hours of manual labor than give a 20-minute speech?

Perhaps it has to do with a lack of confidence.  Or, maybe we assume that the audience isn’t really interested in what we have to say.  More simply, maybe we just don’t want to be stared at.  All of these are valid concerns, of course.  But to get ahead in life – professionally or otherwise – I think we can all agree that it would be in our best interest to just get over it.

Now, having established the need for public speaking skills, let’s get to the heart of the matter: How to develop and deliver a great speech.


Chances are, your audience is overwhelmed.  They have job responsibilities and home responsibilities, need to get to the gym, and plan the menu for game night this weekend.  That said, they have each generously carved out part of their day to listen to you.  Out of respect, make sure you have a good reason for standing in front of them.  Before you begin to write your speech, clearly develop the message you wish to convey.

Then simplify it.

Repeat your central message often to make your point clear.


As noted in a previous post about effective writing, editing is key to successful communication.  This is true for speechwriting and delivery as well – perhaps more so.  As a starting point, it’s safe to assume that about half of the first draft of your speech will be unnecessary and/or unclear.  Get out the red pen and start slashing.

Why is this important?  Because if your audience is confused for 10 minutes of your 20-minute speech, they will begin to doubt whether they really understood the other 10 minutes they thought they got.  Got it?

Clarity leads to confidence.  Edit away.


Everyone, young and old, loves a good story.  Take care to craft your speech from start to finish.  Begin with a strong lede – your first sentence.  Make your audience eager to hear the second and third…Your speech should flow as a tale with a beginning, a middle, and an end.  The audience will “see” your words in their minds as you speak, so create the context for them.

If you do so effectively, every member of the audience will begin to picture him- or herself as the “hero” of the story:  What would I do in that situation?  How did I handle that conflict?  How will I use this information in my next project?  They will listen carefully because you are offering relevant and helpful information.

You are giving them the tools to move forward in their own story.


Once you have the audience listening (which, because of your fantastic lede, will be from the moment of your first utterance)…make them feel.  Your basketball coach doesn’t just tell you to go out and win your next game – she enthusiastically psyches you up so you feel excited about the prospect of making it to the state tournament.  Likewise, your audience will feel what you feel.

If you are engaged, so will they be.  If you are passionate about your subject matter, they will be more inclined to feel it too.  You are the only one who can convince your audience that your subject matters to them.

Make it obvious that it matters to you.


Your goal for each presentation is straightforward:  When you have concluded, you want someone in the audience to approach you to tell you have inspired, motivated, or educated him – and he can’t wait to hear you next time…

Remember, practice makes perfect so step up and try!  At worst, you’ll tank and never be asked to speak again.  At best, you’ll bring down the house and feel pretty good about what you have accomplished.

*More Useful Tips:

  • You may be a very eloquent speaker.  This will certainly impress your audience, but don’t forget to move them.
  • Look people in the eye individually to connect with them.  Remember the people at the back of the room.
  • You are not Ellen Degeneres.  Be careful with jokes.
  • Have a very good reason to use visual aids.  Would Martin Luther King’s I Have A Dream speech have been better with a little Powerpoint action?  Exactly.
  • How do you give a magnificent 30-minute speech?  Make it 22 minutes.

*Highlights and paraphrases from the book You, Inc.


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