Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Business Cards... Do We Still Need Them?

For so many years a business card was a no-brainer. Everyone and everyone wanted one, and used them all the time. Handing them here and there, pinning them to those neighborhood bulletin boards. That little piece of card stock with your name and phone number was exchanged during introductions, enclosed in envelopes to associates, inserted in your presentation folder and left on the desks of colleagues.

But like many things that used to be... trends are changing. Google the phrase: "are business cards still relevant" and lots of articles come up with differing opinions. The subject has become controversial.

With digital file exchanges, email signatures and smart phones that can connect with each other, does a 3.5' x 2" piece of stiff paper mean anything anymore? 

I'd like to think that it does, and I think lots of other people do too.

There are many reasons that I like to exchange business cards with my colleagues.  One of the big things for me: seeing a name in print and associating that name to the face in front of me helps me remember that person more easily.

Also - as a designer I like to examine the look and feel of a card and allow it to become part of my first impression.  A quick look at a card can give me some initial insight... Corporate or creative? Startup or Established? Employee or executive?  Funky or Traditional?

And if the card is super cool, beautifully designed, humorous or made with atypical materials, it can tell me even more, and can be a great conversation starter. Even if it's: "day glo orange is an interesting choice - how did you settle on that?" or "wow... where did you have these steel cards manufactured?"

But far and away the strongest argument I have for keeping business cards "a thing" is personal contact.

In this digital world we live in, that simple exchange, person to person while looking into another set of eyes, is so much more valuable than diddling around with a smart phone to add new digits into my contacts.

I say, print more rectangles!  Keep asking for business cards and keep sharing your own.

No matter how far along we get with the digital exchange of information - I'd like to think that we will not soon lose the ability to maintain those simplest of human connections in business.

Friday, March 3, 2017

How are birds like designers?

I walk one of our local conservation properties in the morning. It is old farmland with fields, wetlands and woods preserved for eternity. The landscape is a rich habitat for plants, birds and animals.

It affords nature freaks like me, a (usually) quiet place to walk, birdwatch and otherwise bask in the tranquility and peace that is found within a natural environment.


Every season there is something different to see. In early Spring the red-winged blackbirds are vibrant with their stunning carmine red epaulets. They flit about strutting their stuff, establishing territories in their little part of the wetlands. Like designers, red winged blackbirds know how to use color.

That flash of red is unmatched in its brightness, you can see these guys showing off from a great distance. Like a stop sign, those shoulders flashing red acts as a warning to other males to keep their distance.

Birds dance around and flash their feathers to attract mates, ward off enemies and communicate lots of complex messages that we have only really begun to understand. In combination with song these messages are impossible to miss, and enjoyable to witness. As designers we use colors to communicate messages all the time too. The right color choice can enhance a successful campaign, but a wrong color choice can send really mixed messages.


Sometimes as a designer I am asked to deliver despite some challenges... I have to make the most of what I have. Sometimes that is a limited budget, or a not so great logo that someone else designed, it can be difficult sometimes. But designers are problem solvers and we can usually find a solution no matter the obstacles put in our way.

Birds are also very resourceful. Particularly when it comes to nest building. Their instincts tell them to use the materials that are near the nesting site, twigs, or mud or fur or even spiders webs. Sometimes those things are tough to find, and when faced with that, they scavenge to find what will work instead to build their specific style of nests. Robins are especially good at that.


Just like designers, birds also face very stiff deadlines.

Up here in the north, there are only a few short months to find a mate, nest and bring up a proper brood or two of chicks. Which is of course, their main job in life.

The clock ticks on these guys and that internal deadline motivates them every waking hour.

Carrying on the bloodline is important work, and they stop at nothing to ensure that they are successful. If they fail they start again, knowing that the end game is the most important thing they have to think about.

And just like us, if they miss that deadline... it could mean dire consequences.