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.

Longing for the Dog Days of Summer

I need a break… a long weekend at my favorite beach somewhere along the Sleeping Bear Dunes. Sipping a cold drink. Listening to the waves leisurely lap at the shore. Tip-toeing into Lake Michigan.
Since Memorial Day my schedule has been a bevy of activity:

  1. Niece’s wedding and visiting with my siblings
  2. My youngest daughter’s high school graduation
  3. Funeral of a sweet friend
  4. Moved* into new apartment
  5. Urban Sketchers Chicago 2016 Seminar (teaching 2 workshops)
  6. Bon voyage party for a couple returning to Salt Lake City

My summer-to-date.In a very short time, there have been a lot of changes, excitement, tears, laughter, sore muscles and vino. Despite the exhaustion and schedule I’ve retained my sanity. (Contrary to my husband and daughters.)

Wait, I’m not done yet:

  1. 50th anniversary celebration of friends
  2. Moving my youngest daughter into her freshman dorm at University of San Francisco

Guest what I’m doing Labor Day weekend… not a damn thing!

No to party invitations. No more boxes to open or pictures to be hung. I plan on enjoying some R&R. Taking a book and beach chair to Chicago’s lakefront.

I mentioned a move, *please note my new address:
Creative Aces Corp.
553 W Wellington 1 South
Chicago, IL 60657
direct: 773-327-4538
mobile: 231-633-0945

Projects underway include workshop preparations for the launch of ArchiSketch Chicago in August, finishing my Toastmaster Advanced Bronze, reprising a mastermind group for creative entrepreneurs (I did this when I lived in Traverse City, MI) and illustrations collection for fall/winter products.

Most of all, providing you with creative support to you; helping you (your clients) communicated with their audiences.

I will be gone a few Fridays during July and August, but give me a call or drop me an email; I’m confident we’ll agree on a schedule.




Lilacs Are Blooming! (May2016)

Mother’s Day was this past weekend, best wishes and fond memories everywhere.

My girls kept asking me what I wanted… nothing. No flowers. No brunches.

Instead, the opportunity to enjoy the Van Gogh’s Bedrooms exhibit at Art Institute of Chicago, with each of my daughters (went through this exhibit several times). Time spent talking about art, life of an artist, career, college and much more with my girls.

This is the only gift that matters, to me.joannsondy-lilacs-wh-tn

Springtime is my favorite season. I think it was also my mom’s, too. It hadn’t occurred to me that she’s been deceased for sixteen years. Memories springing into my head compounded by the vibrancy of the spring blossoms.

Cecelia, my mother, enjoyed being outside gardening. She was pretty good, the front and back yards of our suburban Detroit home were colorful and well-planned on her meager budget. She planted a variety of flowers and foliage for spring, summer and fall.  Mom’s fertilizer choices were very creative too, sometimes offending the olfactory with fish heads and manure. The end results were the envy of the neighborhood.

Among her best, the lilac shrubs with its dark green leaves and exploding blooms–from white to deep purple–gently drifting sweet perfume joannsondy-lilacs-dk-tnthroughout the neighborhood. Imagine, waking up on a warm spring morning, the windows open and the aroma from the lilacs more potent than the brewing black coffee. Lilac season is too short, only a couple of weeks.

I revisited my lilacs-inspired silk scarf design, “Cecelia’s Lilacs”, adding more blooms to the design and added border. A colorful spring accessory for any occasion. There are two variations, a white and dark lilac background. Available from my Etsy shop.


Available in two sizes: 36″ x 36″ for $120.00 USD and 26″ x 26″ for $65.00 USD. Made to order, allow up to 10-14 days for delivery.


Visual Marketing II: Energy + Style

Visual Marketing II: Energy + Style

Immediately after hitting the ‘publish’ button on my previous post, I received the Chief Content Officer magazine. I highly recommend the magazine and website for anyone who is distributing content via a website/blog, social media and other online outlets. {Doesn’t that cover just about everyone these days!} Inside this magazine was a headline to an article on the website, “Is Design Mostly Dead? DIY Design vs Hiring a Pro?

The title grabbed my attention because, as the author/designer points out, the proliferation of the DIY platforms plus the tutorials many provide are NOT a substitute for the experience working with design skills to solve problems.

Growing up in suburban Detroit, when just about everyone worked for one of the Big 3, I’d frequently hear “what’s under the hood?” The engine. All the beautiful exterior styling didn’t matter if the engine did not have the muscle to make it go… down the road.


Items that a designer would use to create that power include:

  • Developing a color palette of limited swatches that bring a cohesiveness to the overall design
  • Selecting and limiting the number of fonts to avoid visual confusion
  • Reviewing and compositing images or graphics to extract the emotion needed for the campaign
  • Clarity of message and audience

These are just a few of the tools in a designers’ toolbox.

Can you pass me that socket wrench, please?


Visual Marketing is Key

Visual Marketing is Key

Have you noticed a change in your Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram? Are there more visuals?

lighthouse-liebermanVisual marketing is here to stay as our attention spans continue to reduce as we’re bombarded with an avalanche of information. Combined with the reality that we’re using our mobile devices predominantly to consume media for business and personal.

Your visual marketing should be integral to your content strategy. Push is further by connecting the image and your headline. Best advice is overlaying your headline on the image, in a graphically pleasing manner.

Get Creative

Go beyond your words and select powerful images that are an expression of the key message. Please, please stay aware from the ‘canned’ stock images which we’ve seen a million times before. Work with a photographer or illustrator and graphic designer who can work with you to develop the assets for your marketing campaigns.

I can work with you to assess your current image assets and make recommendations for new additions that would visually strengthen your marketing messages or the upcoming campaign.

There are popular tools and templates available on line to select and create visual elements for your blog and social media posts and slide decks, I will not promote those here for obvious reasons.


An Artist’s EyeScreen Shot 2016-02-09 at 5.09.46 PM


Choose images that fit within the branding guidelines, if they exist. If not, develop a color palette that compliments your existing logo or brand identity. Look for images that are relevant to your topic and sync nicely with your color palette. Remember color is emotion. Do you want contrast? Are you aiming for calm?



Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 5.12.32 PMUse fonts within your branding guidelines, if you don’t know font names, use your best judgement to match. Don’t over do the amount of text used over your image. Keep it simple and easy to read. Avoid ALL CAPS unless it’s one or two words. Letter and word spacing is also important to the reader’s eye.  If you’re unsure what this means, send me an email to discuss. For heaven’s sake, avoid the fancy or highly decorative fonts.


When you’re reviewing images, look for areas of negative space where you can place your copy. Imagine a 3×3 grid over your image and use these divisions to easily place the copy block and/or logo. (Give photo credit if necessary.) Ensure that your finished image is within the pixel ratio for the web. Horizontal is preferred, and a 3:2 ratio is a good framework. Sizes vary from platform to platform, here’s a link to the most recent cheatsheet I couldScreen Shot 2016-02-09 at 5.10.43 PM

How can I help you translate your message into a visual for your audience?



New Website Launched!

2011 Navy Pier Summer Fireworks 1/2

New year…new website…finally. 

Planning, developing and launching a new website is akin to cleaning out the garage. What do you keep? What needs repair? And, tossing junk in the garbage.

My previous website was too self-centered. More of a reflection of what I wanted and didn’t really address “why” someone should work with me or purchase my products. (I thought the site looked great.)

It took a couple of months to simplify my new business model and the direction of my creative career.

It came down to three core service areas:

  1. Design & Illustration
  2. Publishing
  3. Speaking & Workshops

If you follow me on social media, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been promoting my textile designs (aka silk scarves). All inspired by the ‘details’ of craftsmanship in architecture from Beaux Arts to Art Deco periods. There’ll be a lot more in this area.

During the last few months of 2015, I also published a couple of books: Saigon Shuffle 2.0 and Renaissance Patterns. Both via Amazon’s CreateSpace and available for sale via the behemoth website.

I continue my activities as a docent with Chicago Architecture Foundation (a little less this winter) leading Art Deco and Treasures tours while prepping for Riverfront Art Deco tour.  I’m still, actively involved in my Toastmasters’ group, only 2 speeches to reach the Silver Advanced Communicator level while serving as our club’s president. I’ve also been invited to lead an archi-sketch workshop during the Urban Sketchers Chicago summer symposium (more on that later).

How can I help you?


Image courtesy of Michael Mayerused with permission under Creative Commons License.