Taking the internet to school
Taking the internet to school
CreativeLive is an online learning platform that focuses on creative education. It offers classes in Art & Design, Photo & Video, and more. The core goal of CreativeLive is to enable creators to, well, create. There are so many opportunities for skilled makers these days, but so many obstacles that keep these people from taking the plunge and doing what they love. Since joining CreativeLive, it's been my pleasure to communicate this specifically to visual artists, illustrators, and graphic designers. And what better way to inspire a community of makers than to make a bunch of really cool stuff?
Shortly after I joined CreativeLive, my partner Lara and I decided we needed to do something big – we needed to let designers know that we were there and that CreativeLive was for them. We decided that, rather than going to the design community and asking for their respect, attention, and money, we'd go to them with a challenge that we'd also give to ourselves: make something awesome every day. We'd give designers fresh, free content that helped them get back in the habit of creating something every day.
To help the get word out, we tapped a few of our design heroes (who happen to be our friends – Kate Bingaman-Burt, Erik Marinovich, and Ryan Putnam) and invited them to come up with 5 design project assignments each. We'd film them giving the assignments and deliver them to our audience every day for 28 days. We also partnered with a few brands to help everyone feel inspired in their daily making: Field Notes, Tattly, Fonts.com, and Creative Market.
Within a couple of weeks of launch, over 20,000 students from 120+ countries signed up to make something every day. These students have shared over 10,000 pieces of original artwork on Instagram with #28toMake. We've gotten letters and emails from students telling us how the project lead them to rediscover their love of drawing or, in some cases, quit their job. Was the project a success for the business? By every possible measure. More importantly, it was a success for the people who remembered what it felt like to create.
As the launch of 28 to Make drew to a close, we knew we had to do something to keep the momentum going. Makers were reaching out through emails, comment threads, and tweets, asking what they should do to maintain their daily habit. We saw an opportunity here to keep the conversation going while also acquainting these new students with more of the CreativeLive brand. We decided to produce a new project idea video every week that would tie back to a CreativeLive course or resource. This has been a powerful tool for inspiration and engagement in the wake of 28 to Make's success.
The littlest big tech company.
The littlest big tech company.
Dropbox is a special place where rapid change happens at a massive scale. Now with over 400 million users, its already hefty mission is only getting heftier. Executing on that mission means something different every day and it's no small task to keep over 1,000 employees in a dozen offices on the same page about what that is. To make magic happen for users, they have to make it happen for themselves. There's just no faking that. While at Dropbox, I had the opportunity to help connect those dots for people by developing design projects with an unreal team called Black Ops. The short version of our charter was simple and daunting: Make Dropbox feel small.
Extended Credits: Justin Pervorse - Design & Curation; Jon Ying - Copywriting & Content Strategy; Kelsey Lettko - Gift Fulfillment
In November of 2014, the executive staff asked Black Ops to buy the company's employees a holiday present. They wanted it to be something thoughtful, possibly even with a different variant for each team. It was a last minute, straight-forward request, but we racked our brains, trying to some up with something meaningful and interesting that fit in the budget. Trying to accommodate a group this diverse with a single gift proved to be extremely tough. It got to the point where we were simply trying to think of something that would offend the least number of people.
The breakthrough came over breakfast (as it usually does) when I shared our predicament with a co-worker. He said "Well, anything will be better than what State Farm did when my mom worked there. They gave out this cheap catalog and you had to pick your gift from there." I've always believed that bad ideas are the evil twins of good ideas, so we got started.
We launched an internal marketplace of consumer goods and artifacts of company culture. We "sold" everything from backpacking tents to Magic 8 Balls, as well as a letter to your parents from the CEO. In the span of a few weeks, we conceived, developed, and produced a catalog for print and web that was sent to every Dropboxer in every office. In an effort to de-monetize the experience, we engineered a playful fake currency of "Black Diamonds" within the catalog and intentionally included items that were beyond the allotted quota. To our delight, Dropboxers immediately began hacking the ordering site in an effort to secure a hot dog roller for their desk and a used car from craigslist for their driveway (lol @ driveway in SF).
Our metric for success was the number of conversations the project could spark. How could we use a scant budget to make people laugh in spite of themselves? How could we turn this into a memorable gift that overshadowed the gifts being given? Watching employees grab coffee and hunker down with their catalogs in giggling groups was more rewarding than I know how to say.
Although, in retrospect, I'm kinda wondering why we didn't just do the thing where we bought people stuff.
Extended credits: Tymn Armstrong - Design
Tymn and I teamed up with the Dropbox People Ops team to revisit the new hire onboarding program from stem to stern. The program had been cobbled together over a few years as modules were added, edited, or removed to keep the information current. Our goal was to provide the team with an adaptable framework that would be able to handle whatever they threw at it. Tymn & I worked through countless concepts together, pushing for something that would feel connected to the Dropbox brand, but also feel fresh to new-hires who had been Dropbox users for years. We landed on a concept that explores what's inside Dropbox by stripping it down to its most basic and approachable parts.
The tastiest print shop this side of glory
The tastiest print shop this side of glory
Mama's Sauce is an award-winning gourmet print shop specializing in highly customized letterpress & silkscreen print projects. It services hundreds of graphic designers, agencies, and other creatives all over the world. It is a dominant creative force on the highest level of its field. I'm honored to have played a key role in the development of the Sauce Brand - maturing its influence in high-end print production and watching its following grow exponentially. While there, I managed all marketing, communications, and brand strategy. This meant lots of artist collaborations, brand partnerships, and trade shows – and snacks. Lots of snacks.
In the world of letterpress and type history, Hamilton Wood Type & Printing Museum is a venerable institution. In December 2012, they put out a cry for help, saying they were being forced to relocate their vast collection of wood type in Two Rivers, Wisconsin. As letterpress printers, we are deeply indebted to the Hamilton legacy and knew we had to help. My proposed plan was Love Letters: Letterpress Coasters for the Love of Type.
Mama's Sauce would partner with 7 graphic designers / agencies to produce a limited edition run of letterpress coasters. We decided to produce 200 sets. This was enough to raise $5,000 for the museum, but, more than anything, we wanted to raise awareness for long-term support. I drew up a list of potential artists and proceeded to confirm the roster to design the set.
I asked the participating artists to let wood type serve as their inspiration. Ross Moody of 55 Hi's was kind enough to design the packaging; I provided creative direction & technical design for that component. I secured material sponsorships from Neenah Paper for the coaster paper and French Paper Co. for the packaging. This extended the social reach of the project by over 50K and cut the production budget by more than half.
The project went live on January 30th, 2013, by a video that was shot, edited, and produced by our friends at Fiction. The coasters sold out in only a few hours and garnered social media activity that was unprecedented in the history of Mama's Sauce, nearly doubling our reach & engagement. It received a great deal of peer support from influencers in the industry, including HOW Design, Art Director's Club, Under Consideration and Erik Spiekermann (my personal moment of "Holy Crap").
While representing Mama's Sauce at Creative South 2014 in Columbus, GA, I met Jeff Finley. Jeff is a partner at GoMedia, the gang that puts on the oh-so popular Weapons of Mass Creation Fest every year. Mama's Sauce had been eager to get involved in the conference for years, but it hadn't yet happened. Together, Jeff & I were able to develop a sponsorship plan for Mama's Sauce that would bring value to WMC Fest attendees, GoMediazine.com subscribers, and, of course, Mama's Sauce.
Jeff & I decided to produce a limited edition poster that would serve to generate buzz for the conference by embodying its values. WMC Fest had already collaborated with Mary Kate McDevitt to create some beautiful artwork for the festival, so Jeff selected a new colorway that would be specific to the poster. I managed the production of the poster, shot & edited a video & photo set documenting its production (with a little help from Perry Como), and wrote copy to accompany the media on the GoMediaZine blog post.
Education and Inspiration are two core values of Mama's Sauce. Combining these two things yields the spark that gives most of our projects their genesis. We always knew that our internship program, anemic though it had been, could be a perfect crystallization of those values. That being said, it was unclear how exactly that would/could happen since we were all stretched so thin and there wasn't really a budget for developing the program further.
At the same time, we had begun to look at our place in the industry afresh. We were growing. We had recently enjoyed some visible success with Love Letters. Many of our heroes had become our peers (though they were still our heroes). How could we solidify & exemplify this new stance in the field? The drive to consummate these two tiers of growth is what inspired me to revamp the Mama's Sauce Internship program.
The new program works like this: we have one permanent sponsor (French Paper Co.) who supports the program with us. Each semester, we bring in a top-tier client as a "Guest Professor" to give the interns an intimate portfolio review and then give a talk to local professionals somewhere in the Orlando community. Past Guest Professors include James White of Signalnoise Studio, Ross Moody of 55 Hi's, and Sean McCabe. Additionally, the General Manager and I developed a series of seminars, lead by our production staff, that the interns can attend. These cover topics like Prepress for Silkscreen, Ink-Mixing for Letterpress, and several others. Furthermore, they have the chance to design their own project to be printed by us on paper provided by the French Paper Company.
By partnering in the context of education with companies and people we admire and trust, Mama's Sauce has begun to cultivate a new voice for itself that enables it to invest in the future, both within and without.