Tuesday, August 31, 2010


The US government is proposing a streamlined fuel economy sticker for new cars which would include a big graphic grade of each specific model: A, B, C and D.

Auto marketers could easily use this grade in their ads, conveying so much information in a tiny visual space. Picture a Prius "wrapped" with an "A" sticker. place it in the corner of every print and TV ad. You get my drift.

There would also be a market for window stickers of the grade your car gets, mostly "A" stickers, the automotive equivalent of "My Kid is an Honor Student".

You could also do a brisk trade in "D" stickers for those who are proud of how much fuel they use. You know the type.

Two self-selecting groups of car buyers, easily labeled by letters.

Time to make some stickers.


Sunday, August 29, 2010


Everyone has had to work on a project that was a bad idea from the start. But since the Bad Idea was championed by Someone Important, the group had to spend time and money to prove it was a bad idea.

Perhaps there was a kernel of a good idea within it that could be sorted from he ashes of failure, but that's an expensive way to get to the Good Idea.

On the other end of the spectrum is the Good Idea that you are afraid to try because it hasn't "Gone Through Channels" or "Been Reviewed by the Idea Committee".

Do it anyway. Be your own champion. Even if it doesn't work out, you will be setting yourself apart as someone who is willing to take the right kind of risks, and they are the people who get promoted.


Thursday, August 26, 2010


The city recently repaved a section of street near my office. The revealing part of the process was what lies below the asphalt- century-old brick pavers, still solid and even. The asphalt above eventually fails due to weather and traffic, but the base remains solid, easily reused for another generation.

A good friend works in IT at a large insurance company, and he jokes that I could have lifetime employment if I was willing to work in the sub-basement writing COBOL. Despite decades of improvements in computers and the languages that run them, much of the guts of this company still operates in the language from the 60's. The decision was made long ago that it was cheaper to keep a half-dozen COBOL staff around to maintain the base system than to try to port the entire, now massive, system to something more modern.

Windows 7 still has bits of DOS under the hood.

My office life displays relics of earlier processes. I still have paper forms for some things. Some things are more convenient on physical paper than online. I still shoot video on tape because I find it much easier to archive than other formats.

But some of the systems I use need to go because the base isn't solid anymore. Nobody delivers a hand-drawn piece of artwork as a rough draft, or a script scribbled on a legal pad.

Metaphorically, we still structure many of our workflows for old methods. Do we still need seven layers of approval? Do we all need to meet in the same space for 40 hours a week? Would 20 be enough? 5? do our old titles still matter? Do we need titles? Is a formal chain of command still necessary?

Are you standing on pavers? or something else?


Monday, August 23, 2010


Have you backed up all of your current projects? Probably.

Do you save projects once they are completed? Odds are that your archiving routine is spotty or incomplete.

Right now I am rebuilding a project from six months ago because I didn't save a copy of the deliverables in a high quality format.  I am getting off easy, though, because I still have all of the elements lying around- but this is forcing me to reconsider how I have been doing things in the past, and form new habits moving forward.

Could you easily recreate a project from your past if asked? I suspect the cost of a robust archive is recouped in only a few "Hey- do you still have this?" requests.

Back to my rebuild.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Lowered Expectations

Sometimes a company can impress you despite your first impression.

I buy shoes at this place. They have nice staff. They know what they are doing. They are considered experts locally. Their service is super.

But their website is like a flashback to 1994. Or rather, they built the website in '94 and have never done a redesign to bring it up to modern technological or aesthetic standards.

While a business that still rings up sales on an old cash register (Cha-Ching!) can appear quaint and nostalgic, an outdated website suggests cluelessness.

It lowered my expectations as a first time customer.

While the 'retro' website may be an in-joke for regular shoppers, how many potential sales are chased away?


Monday, August 16, 2010

Capital vs. Marketing

Marketing expense begins where capital expenses end.

You can buy an office chair at a Big Box store for $50. It will do the job.

You could buy an office chair with style and greater functionality for $500. It will probably do the job better.

The $500 chair will also give signals about how you view form, function, comfort, attention to detail, and so on.

The first $50 could be viewed as a capital expense. You needed a chair.

The next $450 could be viewed as a marketing expense. You intentionally spent extra to buy a chair that had better form, function, and so on.

A visitor can then expect that you care about form, function, and so on, and not just using the easiest, cheapest option.

What does your chair say about you?


Friday, August 13, 2010

Keeping Your Stars

A happy little thought on a Friday: Your best staff are probably looking to leave.

The Great Recession has been tough on careers, assuming you have been able to maintain yours among the layoffs. There is pent-up 'departure demand', workers who have delayed advancing in their fields either by choice or by circumstances.

In other words, your best staff are probably working on exit strategies. The moment the job climate improves and they see an opportunity, they are going to take it.

Are your going to save your response until your most talented staff starts to defect, or are things you can do preemptively to keep the wanderlust to a minimum?

Will increased present costs (if any), save you costs, both financial and opportunity, in the future?


Thursday, August 12, 2010

Bad Concepts

Everything John talks about in this post is spot on. Too little time is spent up front thinking about the point of what you are doing, and whether its worth watching.

If nothing else, follow the link to the Windows Launch Party. Painfully forced and bad.


Off The Grid

I just returned from a short Holiday "off the grid". Nothing too drastic, but a few days in a place without cell phones, Internet and cable TV resets one's sensibilities.

I'm always surprised how quickly I don't miss being connected.

My brain wanders around when I step away from the daily panic, too. It looks past its normal three-day time horizon and starts asking bigger questions. It considers new paths, new workflows, new content. I enjoy the ride.

At times I wish I could fully shut the office out of my head, but at the same time I am reassured that it is peculating on my mental back burner. I often return to work with a page full of notes and questions, which I then annoy my co-workers with for a few days. 

"Why do we do it this way?"

"Have we tried this?"

"What about....."

While I may unplug technologically, I guess I never completely disconnect.


Saturday, August 7, 2010

Brilliant Marketing

This is great stuff.

It works on so many levels, too.

(Design Fetish is one of my favorite sites, also.)


Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Once your project is up and rolling, a serious landmine is "mission creep". Increasing the scope of a project from what was originally planned can wreak havoc on both the calendar and the budget.

The hardest part of managing changes in scope is recognizing what requests can be accommodated-  changing the color of the GUI shouldn't be a big deal, changing the GUI itself is- and which ones are deal breakers.

Defining the limits of the project to all the stakeholders at the beginning can go a long way in producing a project that everyone is happy with.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Seldom Too Much Planning

My current project is suffering from too little planing on the front end, which is making it expensive on the back end.

I am amazed at how often this happens.

The cheapest part of the project is the planning phase. It involves a limited number of people and hardly any materials, so the cash costs are few, yet most projects spend too little time in this phase. For some reason it doesn't feel like real work, or something that is to be endured rather than as a crucible to refine the project before the first egg is broken.

You wouldn't begin building a house without first knowing exactly what each room is going to look like, yet jobs routinely begin with at only a napkin sketch of the finished product. While this can be successful, the odds of big cash costs and emotional trauma are large.

In short, I'm not sure I have ever worked on a project that was over-planned. I definitely willing to find out.