Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tradition versus Designer Christmas Tree

Last night, I was sitting with the other moms in the warming room at the barn. Our daughters were either finishing or preparing for a horseback riding lesson.

Our conversation turned from riding to Christmas preparation. The decorations had just been put up around the barn, too. The stockings had been hung by the horses’ stalls and a tree was up and decorated in the warming room.

The tree had ornaments right down to the bottom branches. As one mom observed, you can always tell the homes that have children by how the Christmas tree is decorated. Homes with children have trees that have ornaments on the top half of the tree when the kids are little. As the kids get older, the tree becomes a clutter of home-made ornaments. However, trees in homes with no children are perfectly decorated. The ornaments match and are strategically placed, not clumped.

It reminded me of our tree growing up. Each year, my mother bought my brother and me each a new ornament. It was dated on the back in marker, so we could line them up chronologically and see Christmas through the years. Each one had a story to go along with it. When we moved out, we were given our box of ornaments, to decorate our own trees. I still have many of those ornaments.

I have kept the same tradition with my kids. I try to find ornaments that will remind them of places we have been or their current favorites, be it a movie, character, sport or pastime. This summer, we vacationed in the Adirondacks. So, this year’s ornaments were purchased at the Old Forge Hardware Store.

But I also remember the first time I saw a ‘perfect tree’. I was about ten years old. I had gone down the street to a friend’s house. Her parents entertained a lot and the house was decorated to appeal to guests, I suppose.

The tree had bows all over it. No ornaments. And the bows were blue! Yes, blue. I couldn’t get over it. It was so different than any tree I had ever seen. And yet … it was pretty. I was particularly drawn to its symmetry. All the bows were lined up perfectly. It was a work of art.

You may wonder why, after all these years, I still remember that tree. Well, I suppose it was a sneak peak of the designer in me.

You may also wonder how I can have one of those Christmas trees that so clearly defines a house with kids? Well, I do have kids. And it’s their time to decorate the tree. In fact, I let them do most of the decorating for Christmas. It may not be the way I’d do it but that’s just fine! Only too soon they will be off on their own, with their own trees and their box of ornaments.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Bartering Services

A fellow designer emailed me the other day. She had a client who wanted her to design a brochure for him. For payment, he would advertise her business.

Was this a fair trade?

I gave the best advice I could. Mainly, to contact her accountant and lawyer to make sure she arranges the trade properly. Secondly, to make sure the trade was even - dollar for dollar.

This weekend I picked up the September issue of Reader's Digest. In it was an article entitled Swap Nation by Jeff Garigliano. How timely.

It turns out, my advice was pretty sound. The IRS looks at barter agreements as it would a cash transaction.

The article piqued my curiosity. In this economy, is bartering a viable solution for small businesses like mine? What do you think?

Creative Logo Design

I was at the mall with my kids the other day. As we neared the food court, we noticed a new frozen yogurt stand. Yogen Fruz. Of course my kids wanted to try it out. And we did.

The smoothies were great. Mine was all fruit. My youngest daughter had a yogurt and fruit smoothie. My eldest daughter had chocolate frozen yogurt blended with raspberries.

It's what I took away from the visit that shows the true spirit of a designer. My smoothie cup! I brought it home, washed it out and it sits on a shelf in my office.


Because the logo is so simple and yet so cool. Fruz has an umlat over the u. To call attention to it, the u is pink, rather than the blue of the other letters. Nothing special. But they took the u, with it's umlat, made it bigger and set it apart from the name. And now it's ... a smile!

Yes, Yogen Fruz smoothies make me smile. So does their logo. Very cool, yet very simple design. I love it!

The cup will remain on my shelf as inspiration. Keep it simple - creatively!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Learning Marketing With My Kids

A few days ago, I was reading one of my favorite weekly eNewsletters, Wednesday Wisdom from Women TIES ( The owner, Tracy Higginbotham, wrote about being introduced to You Tube by her sons. What she never anticipated was the effect that introduction would have on her business or how soon it would happen.

It made me think about how much our marketing decisions have changed because of the influence of our kids and their attraction to all things electronic.

My daughters, who are 12 and soon-to-be-11, have had a similar effect on me. I enjoy watching iCarly with them. It's a cute show about three friends who have their own web show. Very trendy, very now and the characters are fun.

On a recent episode, the kids broadcast a very popular 'Fred' video from You Tube. One of the kids commented that he didn't think 'Fred' was very funny. As we know with the internet, news travels fast. Very quickly the iCarly kids found out 'Fred' was mad, refused to make any more videos and was telling everyone to boycott iCarly. Finally, the iCarly gang met with 'Fred' to straighten things out. 'Fred' admitted that it was a marketing ploy to generate more interest in both 'Fred' videos and the iCarly web show.

What an incredibly ingenious script. As we all attend seminars discussing why we need to join Facebook and LinkedIn, as well as create podcasts and webinars to promote our businesses, our kids are learning the same techniques while watching their favorite shows. A far cry from what we learned from Tom and Jerry!

What's even crazier is that the show itself is a very effective marketing tool. The first thing my kids did was find all the 'Fred' videos on You Tube. Score!

As Tracy is preparing to tape her next luncheon speaker for a You Tube video, I am releasing my first blog post. All the while, I am listening to and learning from my kids. They are so open to all these new ways of communicating with each other. Whether or not we ever post a video to You Tube, we should try to remain open to new ideas and new ways to conduct business. After all, isn't that at the core of being an entrepreneur?