Exploration and Observation = Discovery

Exploration and Observation = Discovery


Did you hear? Scientists discovered a new solar system 40 light years away. While I heard conversations about the ‘what if’ of getting there; I was more impressed with the exploration and observation the scientists had achieved.

Exploration and observation are the first two tenants of creative thinking. This is the foundation of my workshops, ArchiSketch Chicago. Get OUTSIDE to wander and see your environment, not stuck inside some conference room in a brainstorming session.

Launched last summer, ArchiSketch is about exploration and cultivating one’s own observation and artistic talent. History is my muse and is the backdrop for story combined with easy drawing instruction tailored for each stop.

Join me as we move our exploration and observation outdoors into areas of the city that you may or may not be familiar.

“Joann has a way of presenting information and story to get me to STOP and LOOK. Even though I may cross this intersection on a regular basis.”

One of the greatest compliments I could received–a lasting impression to spark creative thinking in others.

Upcoming ArchiSketch Schedule:

  • March 9th Sketching Sullivan. A three-hour hunt for Louis H. Sullivan’s iconic designs, dissecting his organic & geometric design.
  • March 22nd 3 Plazas on Dearborn. 360˚ views from each plaza, skyscrapers, grand-sized sculpture and opportunities for sketching people.
  • April 8th Lincoln Park Zoo & Garden, this is preview of the Urban Sketchers 10×10 workshop lineup.

Visit the ArchiSketch Chicago website for more information.

In addition to the ongoing Toastmasters projects, I also tap into other resources to expand my story development and storytelling skills:

Storyiz, Stanford d.school’s storytelling & visual communication studio is packed full of content and activities to create compelling & visual communication.

The Art of Storytelling by the masters at Pixar. This six-part class is free from the studio that behind Monsters Inc., Up and Inside Out. FREE.

Illuminate by Nancy Duarte and Patti Sanchez. A new book from the leaders in presentation development, design and public speaking to help leaders communication more effectively.

PS: The Willis Tower (fka Sears Tower) will be undergoing a $500MIL renovation and the kinetic sculpture “Universe” by Alexander Calder will me removed, and is not part of the new plans.

Self Publish a “Look Book” for a Competitive Edge

Creative Services for the Self Publisher

Presenting samples of your work is an important and making your portfolio stand-out can give you an edge in today’s highly competitive (freelance) marketplace.

After viewing a short video about how a NYC photographer still uses traditional prints and cut sheets in the presentation cases or boxes because he had tremendous success getting a face-to-face meeting. Plus, the large format glossy prints SHINE. 

This got me thinking… could I take the best of a traditional portfolio and update using today’s technology to produce a book (or magazine) that can be given to a client? 

YES, most certainly.

Ideal for architects & related, designers, photographers, illustrator and more. Self publish a book or magazine, customize content and self publish in hardcopy and digital formats. 

Tell Your Story

Have a vision of the end product? Good. Let’s step back to begin with the big picture. Storyboard your book, focusing the message you want your client or prospective client to remember. Build to a crescendo–but leave them wanting more. 

Think About Format

A magazine format is excellent for case studies. Complete with descriptive copy to dig deeper into your approach to the project. Where were the core directive of the creative brief? Unexpected challenges and outcomes? The magazine could be produced on a quarterly or semi-annual basis and made available digitally (ideal for tablet!) and print-on-demand for small quantities.

A traditional coffee table-style book would the option when larger format images need to be used. Wouldn’t this make a great gift to a VIP client? Or, a new product to add to your shop. 

Give New Life to Your Archives :: Self Publishing

Deep in the back of big walk-in bedroom closet are three (maybe four) large Rubbermaid storage tubs filled with my family’s photo archive; dating back over 100 years. Old sepia-toned and yellowing prints, envelopes of negatives, newspaper clippings, letters, and more. After my parents passed, my siblings concurred that I would be the best steward of this precious archive by nature of my profession and also married to photographer.

Organizing the “stuff” can be a challenge. What do I keep? What can be tossed? How do I scan it? How should I organize it, chronologically?

Since my niece has been doing a bang-up job working on the genealogy including images on our Ancestry account aids her research. (Recently, a distant relative on my mother’s side reach out to me and after sharing a picture of my grandfather we discovered that his grandfather was my great uncle.)

Successful Self Publishing: Family Archives

Here at Creative Aces, we have the resources to work with your photo archive to produce a book or series of magazines that could be a treasure – something that will be coveted by family and friends.

These also make excellent gifts!

Collaborate. Create. Publish.

Tap Into Tablet For Your New Portfolio

Remember the days of toting your portfolio around to various offices? Designers typically had the large black “sail” which was cumbersome and awkward. So glad we don’t have to do that anymore. 

A recent appointment with a prospect was an opportunity for potential business but it was also a chance to showcase my portfolio on the iPad. The results were surprising, yet not unexpected.

Using the iPad versus a laptop or jump/flash drive turned the meeting into an interactive experience. Launching the curated and self-published ebook from the library, popping up in vivid color… right there in the palm of my hands. Letting the client take full control of the device and advancing the pages at their own speed. I incorporated a table of contents so I could quickly go to a specific section. 

While my portfolio/ebook was stored on the iPad, the conversation led to topics outside the curated content and since I have the wifi version, this did present a challenge. 

However, the potential for you as a consultant to “tap” into the capabilities of the tablet (whether it’s Apple, Android, Windows or Kindle Fire) are extraordinary. A new realm of interacting with current and potential clients.

Forrester Research has some insight on business usage of tablets (link to article)

  • Globally by 2017, tablet usage overall will reach 905 million, that’s 1 in 8 people on earth.
  • Company issued or bring your own device (BYOD) will become pervasive in the workplace.
  • 18% of table purchases will be by enterprises.

You may have noticed tablets being used at AT&T and other retailers, doctor offices, and even restaurants. They’re here and companies are beginning to learn how to incorporate into the workplace.

We have an opportunity to examine our marketing materials, presentations, proposals, websites and direct mail campaigns from a new perspective. Ask yourself, “How can I (update) repackage the marketing kit and make it available on my tablet?”

As you ponder the question and answers, push aside the idea of a flat printed page or PDF because publishing for the tablet is far more dynamic than you’ve imagined.

More resources:
Six iPad Magazines That Are Changing The Publishing BusinessAnnual Report as iPad App
Nordstrom Anniversary Lookbook iPad App

Spring Celebration 10% Discount New Projects

For the third year in a row, I am offering a discount on creative services. 

Ten percent off new projects (please no updates to previous projects) now through June 28, 2013.

For more information, visit: Spring Celebration

Spring is undoubtedly my favorite season. When spring arrives, there are numerous celebrations in my family including four birthdays, mother & father days, and this year another high school graduation.

  • Have you been thinking about launching that ebook?
  • Catch the newest trend… proposal and pitch deck.
  • Is your pitch/presentation deck in need of a new look?

Reach out to me today so we can discuss your project and get started NOW.

One of my client’s recently said the following about their proposal-as-pitch deck.

A visually-elevated and professional presentation of our company to prospective clients, receiving positive feedback and {serious} interest in our services.”

Tyler B.
Sr. VP Global Sales

Cover Design: Why It Matters.

Mon. April 15, 2013 Update: I saw this article from New York Times “T” Magazine, with “an illuminating cross section of 83 years of book design” for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.”  


We DO judge a book by its cover. 

Sad, but true.

The cover is an invitation to “enter” the publication.

The most important sales tool at your disposal is the cover of your book (ebook, white paper, presentation, annual report). Make it noteworthy! 

Your cover design should be approached with the same mindset used by product marketing and creative teams. Product packaging drives purchasing decisions for the thousands of products on the market. A book is a product. The cover will be judged as an indication of the quality of the content.

Good, think GREAT, cover design will make you linger, soaking up the imagery, type and layout. You may even run you hand slowly across the cover. Even in our digital world, pausing ever so slightly to enjoy a cover design and when interactivity is added… it’s still tactile. 

While cover design varies from business-to-business (B2B) versus consumer (B2C); the end result is still the same. It MOTIVATES.

Check out Chip Kidd’s TED Talk “Designing books is no laughing matter. OK. It is.”

Below are a few guidelines that can help differentiate your cover.

  • Kindle Interest: The cover is the reaction to “tell me more.” It’s the invitation to enter, learn more, travel to new places, explore ideas, etc. Good cover design requires research and study. Testing structure, placement of elements, image selections, fonts and color palette. 
  • Identifies With Your Audience: Understanding your target audience and sharing that profile with your designer is imperative. Your designer will develop concepts that should appeal to your audience.
  • Visual Overview: Is the cover a reflection of the theme? It doesn’t matter if we’re selling our company’s features and/or benefits or telling a fictional story; the cover of the publication should be a visual overview.
  • Convey An Idea (Emotion): The cover should be more than an afterthought to package the contents. It should be the forethought. Sparking the motivation to turn the cover is how we get to the “tell me more” motivation.
  • Make It “Top Drawer”: The accessibility to do-it-yourself is everywhere and we recognize the work of a true professional. As a minimum, invest in a professionally designed cover. After all… it will be your primary marketing tool for your book or publication.

Reference links:

Creative Blog 10 Imaginative Annual Report Designs

New York Times Favorite Cover Design of 2012

We’re All Publishers, Now.

2013 will be the year of Content Marketing, will you be ready?

What is Content Marketing?

How do I do Content Marketing?

According to Content Marketing Institute (CMI), it is defined:

Content marketing is a marketing technique of creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.

Content marketing goes deeper than what we may have done in the past and the tools to distribute content are more accessible than ever before.

Earlier this month, Joe Pulizzi, founder of CMI, was the guest speaker at a BMA Chicago luncheon. I walked away with an insiders’ perspective and new ideas.  Content marketing may not be a new concept, in fact it has been around for quite awhile. Pulizzi made reference to the cookbooks Jell-O developed to sell its (new) gelatin product. Think Coca-Cola, Harley Davidson and Red Bull and the strategies used to cultivate and educate their loyal audiences. We should be creating the ‘stories to sell products/services’ and our content should be as good or better than any publisher.

What am I going to say? Start with “why?” Check out Simon Sinek’s TEDx Talk about inspirational leadership (video has garnered nearly 8 million views).

What keeps our customers awake at night? How can we address these issues and reassure our customers that we have the solutions they don’t even realize they need?

According to Pulizzi, go deep and small by developing quality content that fits with your overall marketing vision and editorial calendar with the customer/client as primary focus.

Here’s an example:

  • Develop key topics that you want to cover for the year, say 4-6.
  • Next, dive deep into keywords connected/derived from the key topics.
  • Then, create unique content products scheduled for distribution through the year that includes ebooks, blogs/editorial, video and slide decks, etc.

Your ebook is the main product with extended shelf life for blog entries, info graphics, landing page, social media posts, etc. (Replace ebook with case study, research report or video and you’ll have enough content for several months.)

Tracking results can be achieved using your website analytics for page visits, Google Analytics and alerts to make adjustments in your key topics and key words for the next content marketing product.

Content Marketing Unspoken Rules

  1. One Call To Action
  2. Give Content as Gift (freebie)
  3. Social Media Etiquette (promote others and keep your own self-promotion and thought leadership entries to a minimum).

    Brainstorm With A Teenager For New Insights

    My apartment is filled with images captured by husband, Dominic R. Sondy. A lifetime of creativity on film, slides, transparencies, 4x5s, prints and digital files; all stored in archival quality sleeves, bins, DVDs and USB devices.  And he continues to create more everyday.

    We began curating collections and publishing books, beginning with “Saigon Shuffle” his Vietnam experience covering his assignment at the front and then as a military correspondent covering Asia.

    Since then, I’ve always tried to look for opportunities to extend the products available for each collection.

    For The Trees #19 Poster

    One of his most recent, “Can’t See The Forest For The Trees” is pure imagery. An esoteric look at the oddities on trees in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. Think inkblot meets horticulture. Naturally, individual prints are available, over 100!. But I was looking for opportunities to extend the product line not only for “Can’t See The Forest For The Trees” (“FTT”) but also for other collections.
    Publication of the FTT book took several iterations to get the quality just right. Working with image rich content requires higher standards than just “ink on paper”. Everything from size of book, image wrap vs soft/hard cover, paper selection and print quality were examined carefully.  

    While reviewing one of the early editions, my youngest daughter started flipping through the pages and free-styling ideas for products.

     Posters! iPhone/iPad cases! Calendars! Oh, my!

    For The Treest #093

    Productions of calendars was already on my list, but I hadn’t thought about posters and skins for devices. I started to listen intently to my fourteen year old who was selecting images for these products. “Mom, this one would be great for a poster. I’d put this up on my wall.”  “Imagine this one on my iPhone staring at you.”  
    I went to work creating the products and building the landing page for the “Can’t See The Forest Through The Trees” product offering.

    We were doing the victory dance last night when I blurted out to my daughter that we sold one of the posters!  

    My New ‘Youth-Oriented’ Focus Group
    Sometimes I get so stuck in my own, old, conventional methods that I fail to realize that my audience may be much different.  It took the off-the-cuff suggestions of a daughter reviewing her father’s work to add new thinking to marketing and product creation. In addition to the product suggestions, she went further, hinting at a pricing structure for each product and poster size. In other words, what she would be willing to pay to hang a poster in her room.

    Since my daughters are part of Dominic’s and my social streams and their friends tap into their streams, that presents an opportunity to connect with new markets that I hadn’t seriously considered. I’ll be looking forward to another serendipitous focus group session with my (smart and insightful) teenage daughter.

    Design. Digitize. Distribute.

    10.18.11 Update: I recently learned PDFs are, and have been since 2001, indexed by Google.

    I’m interested in how businesses can distribute and share their documents & publications across various platforms, versus keeping a monthly newsletter trapped in its PDF filing cabinet or parked in an email. We’re now able to publish on platforms that are accessible to our audience regardless of device.

    Additional products/services will be rolled out over the next few weeks, too.   As a designer who enjoys the convergence of text + imagery, I’ve been concerned about quality on your monitor, smart phone or tablet; but I think that argument is mostly extinguished as technology improves every day.

    Creative Aces’ Digital Publishing Services is on online publishing, viewer and analytical platform powered by Issuu. The features offered at PRO level have the potential to increase readership and feedback from your own list plus Issuu’s 33 Million monthly readers. As we begin to bridge the desktop-to-tablet technology, additional features of this platform include:

    • Customize the viewer with logo, icons, colors, animations
    • Remove the advertising sidebar on embedded and standalone publications
    • Newsstand/library to display and monetize your publications
    • Organize documents and distribute your content
    • Bulk upload for uploading hundreds of publications
    • Auto-embedding to automatically embed latest edition
    • Detailed statistics and reporting
    • Search Engine Optimization (SEO) and high Google ranking
    • Active links to websites, email links and advertisers
    • Add audio/video to your documents or presentation

    We can get the process started with previously published documents and begin building a library of materials outside of the corporate server or a “jump drive.”

    Here’s a just a few ideas: Investment profile or white paper, quarterly earnings presentation, sales presentation, annual report, monthly newsletter, portfolio, “look” book, etc. in which we could build a direct marketing campaign and track the results.


    My Pet Peeves of DIY White Paper & eBook Design

    Design matters. Especially when the company name and reputation are involved. A well-designed white paper has the potential to elevate the “importance” of the content. Admittedly, don’t we all place ‘value’ on the appearance and attention to detail in the items we buy.

    By nature of my profession, I view a lot of documents as sources for inspiration, trends, information and fun. However, as the explosion of Information Marketing is taking the web by storm; I’m noticing more DIY or off-the-shelf document formatting.

    Design matters, a lot!

    Below are just a few peeves that distract from the readability and ultimately, the value of a white paper or e-book. (I have purposely excluded samples from this article because I don’t want to embarrass anyone, including myself.)

    Peeve: Frumpy, Dumpy CoversCreating a compelling “tell me more” cover is an art and skill. I typically reserve finalizing the cover until the interior is complete. If you’ve ever taken a small child grocery shopping, you’ll understand why he/she picks up certain (high priced brand) boxes off the shelves while ignoring others.

    Fix-it Tip: There isn’t a quick fix tip for designing covers. In my opinion, one of the most challenging aspects of the project.

    Peeve: Text That Hurts My EyesThis is one of my biggest frustrations. I give a company my email address to receive their ebook and I can’t get past the first few pages because the font and paragraph styling is best suited for a birthday card. As a reader, we tend to scan groups of words when reading and anything that creates a barrier to this process erodes the value of your content.

    Fix-it Tip: Use serif typefaces for body copy. The finishing strokes or serifs on typefaces like Times New Roman and Garamond aid the eye as we move from word-to-word.

    Fix-it Tip: Add extra line space. The default ‘single’ line spacing is not the best choice since it tends to make the lines of text too tight. The addition of some white space between lines guides the reader left-to-right.

    Fix-it Tip: Avoid long lines of text by increasing left and/or right margins or adopting a multi-column format. Could you imaging reading an article in the New York Times that was a single column of nearly 23” wide? Eye strain!

    Peeve: Lack of Visual Cadence
    Documents of continuous blocks of copy without headlines, sub headlines, call-out boxes, and even bullet points are just plain boring. Let’s be perfectly honest; you’re skimming this entry right now trying to glean the best stuff. The goal is to increase readability & readership.

    Fix-it Tip: Use subheads, formatted with a complementary font and color.

    Fix-it Tip: Add white space between ideas or sections.

    Peeve: Disordered Page Layout
    Rag-tag, zip-zagging content is ugly. Ugly to look at and easy to dismiss. A call-out box here. Chart inserted there. Close file. Total waste of my time.

    Fix-it Tip: Using a multi-column format can provide the containers for text and other elements to be placed efficiently and neatly.

    Peeve: Blatant Disregard for DetailsRunning spell check is easy, but actually printing a hard copy and reading your own white paper is a big payoff in catching small details. Here are a couple more:

    Fix-it Tip: Two spaces at the end of a sentence is very old school. Consult today’s style guides.

    Fix-it Tip: Fix awkward line breaks on formal names, dates, locations and numbers by keeping on same line.

    Fix-it Tip: Stop using the Return key to add unnecessary extra line spacing between paragraphs. Use paragraph styling instead to automatically format paragraphs with approx. 1 ½ lines of text between paragraphs.

    Peeve: Using Every Color AvailableI was trying to read an online magazine today, but couldn’t get past the first few pages because the ‘production artist’ was using just about every color of the spectrum more suitable for a birthday card. An experienced publication designer will establish a color theme, rendering editorial content consistent; thus emphasizing images, charts and adverts.

    Fix-It Tip: Stop the overuse of color by developing a limited color palette. A less is more mentality is needed.

    Peeve: Ignoring StylingFormatting text as you go is inefficient and amateurish. Even MS Word has the ability to create styles for text and paragraphs.

    Fix-It Tip: Select typefaces and attributes once and apply consistently throughout the document.