We here at AJ Design strive to be top-shelf, but as little more than a one-person design firm, I’m no stranger to running a shoestring budget and a just-in-time delivery operation. I’m 100% mobile. My 15″ MacBook Pro is my only workstation. My Targus laptop bag served me well practically every day for the past four years or so. It was actually my laptop bag before I upgraded to the MacBook in August 2012.
I was disappointed when the shoulder strap anchor point broke this week, but it was understandable. Four years of stress and daily use takes its toll. Ouch…that kinds hits close to home!
So I did some homework and asked some friends what they recommend in the way of a quality laptop bag/briefcase. A fantastic U.S. product was available, but as much as I wanted to buy quality, I couldn’t bring myself to pay nearly $500 for a bag. I looked for a lower price point.
I had heard of Scaramanga a year or two ago on social media. I shopped them and ended up selecting a Medium Overlander Satchel. I read their shipping information for international orders, and I prepared to wait a couple of weeks.
The order was placed Tuesday, June 2. Guess what’s arriving today, June 5?
They promised 5 – 20 days for delivery, and they, well, delivered in only four days. These days, the only response that is appropriate is a #micdrop:
I will post a review of the bag once I get a chance to move in. But for now, I’m heartily impressed.
I didn’t carve out time to watch the product announcement video about Apple’s new 12″ MacBook. I completely missed it. But I saw the articles and videos about the new MacBook trending the day after. As an Apple user (and occasional Apple fan), I was intrigued by the impossibly slim 12″ MacBook released last week.
What’s not to like? Sleek, color coordinated with my iPhone, well built … wait, where’s the USB port? Or the SD card slot? Surely they at least have a Lightning port, right? Nope. There are only two ports on the beautiful little body: a headphone port and a USB-C port.
I’m charmed by the promise of USB-C, really I am. But to have a computer that can’t be connected to power and connected to storage or an external display at the same time without extra adapters or ports is just unconscionable for Apple to pass off as “Pro”.
But let’s look again. The new little hot rod 12″ glamour notebook we saw is not Apple’s idea of a “Pro” tool. In fact, Apple removed the “Pro” moniker for a couple of good and purely hypothetical reasons:
- They know the new MacBook is less of a pro tool and more of a toy.
- Apple hasn’t abandoned those of us who really are pro users of their top-shelf hardware. They just haven’t updated the 15″ MacBook Pro yet because they can’t get the Broadwell chips from Intel until later this year.
There you have it, folks. I would advise against buying the new MacBook if you are a pro user (if you earn your living in the creative arts and currently use a slightly older Mac Pro or MacBook Pro).
Let toys do their thing for the people who love them.
But the real pro users should opt for the updated MacBook Pro 13″ or wait for the revised 15″ MacBook, rumored for release sometime this fall.
Friend: “How is business?”
Me: “I am soooooo busy! There’s a lot to get done. I’m trying to keep up.”
Friend: “That’s a good problem to have!”
If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard that phrase, “a good problem to have,” I would have some serious coin.
A “good” problem. How is that possible? The implication is that it is better to have too much work than to constantly be running low on sales and trying to drum up business.
Well, my all-to familiar response is something on the order of, “Yeah, but it’s still a problem.” My clients who have been so kind to me in dealing with my capacity issues know this to be true. But my “good” problem is simply their problem. It’s their delay. It’s their broken promise or blown timeline.
Let’s all agree that even the good problems must be solved.
I’m tired — and I’m certain a few of my clients are tired — of this chronic good problem of operating at or beyond capacity. I know I have to say “no” more or arrange for more capacity through multiplied effort (subcontractors or employees). I’m doing both (saying “no” and lining up help), but apparently not quickly enough for some.
That’s something I deeply regret.
Keeping promises is one of the greatest strengths and most vital of my business and personal values. It is inordinately painful to see yourself as the go-to provider of business-friendly graphic design and yet live in a near constant state of trying to catch up.
This post, my first in quite a few months, is even something I’m questioning the value of doing, given the state of a few critical and overdue projects. However, I’ve decided that it’s a cathartic, therapeutic process for me to help decompress and process what I’ve allowed to happen in my business. It’s confessional and hopeful in nature.
The next few weeks and months will be very telling for me and for the treasured relationships I have with my clients. Will I be able to keep the promises I’ve made? Will I be successful in identifying like-minded and talented individuals to help carry the load? Will I be able to shut down the thought processes and decision matrices that lead me to say, “Sure, we can do that,” or, “Yeah, let’s meet and talk about that project.” Time will tell. And time won’t lie. I’ll keep promises I’ve made, as God gives me strength to do so.
But let your word ‘yes’ be ‘yes,’ and your ‘no’ be ‘no.’ Anything more than this is from the evil one.
Matthew 5:37 HCSB
Many thanks to all the veterans who fought to secure and maintain our freedoms. We honor you this day, and we thank God for your sacrifices on our behalf.
Dear Governor Haley,
We haven’t met yet, though we almost had a chance when you visited Natty’s on Trinity Street in Abbeville last weekend. I had a birthday party to attend, and when one has the chance to take small kids to Jumping Jax, one just doesn’t decline. Ever. Even for a chance to meet the Governor of South Carolina. (sorry!)
But enough about me. Congrats to you on your re-election as Governor of the Great State of South Carolina! You earned my vote with your principled conservative stance on economic issues, your perspective on the balance of power between states and the federal government, and your refusal to take the baited hook that was the Medicaid expansion. I think your first term in office did most residents of South Carolina proud. There are a few thousand people who will be leaving the unemployment system as a direct result of your administrative priorities. Thank you for your service.
But not everyone is happy with what you’ve done (or not done) so far. I believe there will always be smoke-and-mirrors accusations that come from political opponents. These attacks are rarely more than political maneuvering, and they are rarely fair. However, one such attack caught my eye. I’m referring to the recent trouble with the S.C. Department of Social Services.
One of my acquaintances is a social worker within DSS, and he didn’t have very many kind things to say about you because of the predicament in which he and other DSS workers find themselves. Actually, he and many of his colleagues were quite adamantly opposed to your re-election. They already have a difficult, thankless job. But then they are overworked and underpaid. I’m told the case load and the resources to address it are still sorely mismatched. Let me offer a quote from a social worker who volunteered some information on the matter when I asked about it. Pardon the colorful language:
[DSS State Director Lillian] Koller called for higher standards without backing the requirements with funding or more workers. Or better working conditions. Or more supervision. Children are literally dying because we do not have the resources to keep them safe. I triple dog dare any Republican to come work for Anderson County DSS. Witness firsthand the aftermath of the last four years. Ask any employee what their opinion is. Nikki Haley does not care about children, the elderly, or the poor. To her they are numbers. She makes a big deal about veterans … but there is a war here. [My colleagues] and I go to war every day to fight for the safety of SC’s abused and neglected children. It is f*cking brutal, we get no support. We are sent into dangerous situations with no protection, and all we ask is for lower case loads and better supervision so we can actually do our jobs. Nikki Haley has consistently ignored our requests and the department has deteriorated to the extent that children are dying because the workers are responsible for so many children that kids are just falling through the cracks. Haley is ultimately responsible for what happened at DSS. She made the decisions that led to the chaos.
I read some of your remarks about the deaths that occurred and the condition of DSS which you delivered during a recent debate. As a wife and mother, you seemed to be understandably appalled and disturbed by what happened. To be fair, I would expect a senior executive such as yourself to be more keen on the numbers coming out of DSS than on the individuals and stories that comprise the caseload. And I expect that reality would bother social workers who care about their work. There’s only so much one can do, and the realities of executive leadership dictate that you must necessarily focus on metrics and fundamentals to the exclusion of the human element.
But let me offer some encouragement: now that the gubernatorial election is settled and you are in leadership for another term, please continue to take ownership of the problems within DSS. It’s no longer a campaign issue. It’s now a real-life problem that you have the next 4 years to address with real solutions. Please commit to identifying solutions that will enable the department to function well. I was encouraged to learn from District 11 representative Craig Gagnon that there were some stopgap measures taken earlier this year to increase social worker pay and improve conditions. He tells me there are additional efforts coming in the next legislative session. This is a very good thing. And those transformational efforts will need your executive leadership to ensure their success.
There are a plethora of opinions about the extent to which the government—even state and local governments—should be involved in correcting the social and familial dysfunction that DSS is tasked with addressing. I personally believe you can’t remove Godly principles from a population and not have tremendous problems. Broken families are just a symptom of deeper spiritual problems. So as far as the source the problems that manifest in DSS cases, there’s not much we can do. Can you use the powers of government coerce men to be good and loving fathers? Can you coerce drug addicts to prefer honest gainful employment to a life of addiction? Can you engineer a utopian society? Many have tried, and all efforts to date have failed. But perhaps there are non-government organizations, nonprofits and religious organizations that could be involved in carrying or at least supporting the DSS case load. What can we do to better empower and deploy these resources to help accomplish the goals of DSS? Maybe it would be inadvisable for volunteers from churches to take on cases. Many have the heart but few have the training and expertise. But perhaps a Sunday school class could “adopt” a social worker and provide support and encouragement. We don’t always have to expand government to fix things. You have helped demonstrate that in the past four years. But until the problem is resolved and alternate solutions are in place, I think we will have to fully fund DSS to match their case load.
I encourage you once again to make a priority of fixing the issues at DSS. Continue to set high standards. Install a high-quality, proven director (and I’m sure the search is already underway). Fund the organizations and people best equipped to attain those standards and serve people. Usher in a new era of effectiveness and professionalism. You have the bully pulpit. You have the authority to set the agenda and set priorities. And it looks like you will have plenty of political colleagues and citizens who will support your efforts.
I don’t hold you personally responsible for the hurtful actions of others. We humans are by-and-large hopelessly broken creatures. And goodness knows we don’t need a bigger government peering, prying, and taxing it’s way into every nook and cranny of our lives. But I applaud your efforts to make government more effective and to ensure the most vulnerable among us are offered protection.
Thanks you for listening,
Communication is the Lifeblood of Nearly Everything We Do
Whether your goal is to drive sales, educate or inspire, effective communication is at the heart of practically everything you do. If you must work with or through others to get something accomplished, you need effective communication. Speaking well is certainly important, but I want to share with you a few tips that can help you improve your effectiveness in written or visual communication. If you sometimes struggle to write letters, memos or other documents — even ad copy or web content — I think you will find these tips to be helpful.
1. Consider Your Audience … and Limit Your Message Accordingly
The words you may use to connect with 5th graders would be very different from those you might use to address peers in business. We would also communicate differently with entry level employees and the board of directors. A good first step toward improving your communications is to identify your audience. Once you understand clearly the audience you are trying to reach, you can omit communication that is not appropriate.
2. Use Fewer Words
Google provides the definition of brevity as follows:
We may have developed a
bad habit of inflating our word count to meet a quota in high school. But brevity is critical for clear communication in business. Use fewer words that convey the same meaning whenever possible.
3. Use Clear Space to Bring Attention to Your Message
Before an orchestra begins, the conductor calls the musicians (and the audience) to silence. Think of words as sound and white space as visual silence. With sufficient silence, you create room for sound — your message. Margins are a simple way to add silence to your content. Another place we find clear space is within images: copy space. Many of the best magazine ads and billboards use images with copy space. Use the silence of clear space to provide a place for the message you intend to convey.
4. Use Clip Art Sparingly If at All
Clip art is rarely necessary. Not all clip art is bad, but some of it is downright awful. If you intend for your message to be light, informal and comedic, clip art may be justified. The problem is that a lot of people seem to use clip art habitually rather than intentionally. Think of the brevity principle. If your message stands alone without clip art, leave it out.
5. Know When to Call a Communications Professional
You may not be an art director or a marketing manager, but small businesses occasionally need the services of a copy writer or a layout artist. Think about the cost associated with a mistake. How many people would be affected? If business is on the line for a print ad, a billboard, or a press release, consider enlisting the services of a trusted professional.
We hope these tips make your communications more effective. If you have specific questions or if your current needs are beyond what you can handle, contact us today online or by phone at (864) 554-5061.
Have you seen the #TDThanksYou video? Take a look:
Okay, okay…we know that #TDThanksYou is not a charity campaign; it’s a marketing campaign from a for-profit entity. And I’m sure there more than a few people who are a bit creeped out that a bank (or perhaps a bank’s employees in collusion with family members) essentially surveilled a few customers to get the details required to be so personalized with their gifts. And we know that everyone can’t expect to receive the same type of lavish experience at TD Bank.
All of that cerebral, skeptical stuff aside, is this not one of the best marketing tactics ever?! It’s like the best parts of Undercover Boss and Extreme Makeover Home Edition applied to the context of a bank’s relationship to a few of its customers. And here we are, discussing it of our own accord at no cost to TD Bank. It’s so genius, it’s almost evil. Almost. But most people including this humble blog author can’t help but have some degree of positive feelings about TD Bank after watching this video.
This kind of marketing inspires and challenges those of us who make our trade in persuasive communication. Yes, we can tell the story of our clients’ businesses or products and tout their best points. But it takes a special kind of effort and creativity to inspire people in the process of advertising or marketing. The generous nature of the thank-you gifts overwhelms the recipient in the video and many viewers as well. The personalization of the gifts to the situations, challenges, and desires of the recipients is so spot-on, it’s uncanny.
How are YOU (and how am I) being inspirational, generous and personal with YOUR marketing efforts?
What do you think about this video from TD Bank? Do you feel the love, or do you remain unconvinced?
This post has nothing to do with graphic design or marketing in a direct sense. It’s a bit off topic, so consider yourself warned. It doesn’t even have global applicability. If you are not from the United States, there’s not much here for you. My apologies.
I am amazed at the seeming prevalence of United States citizens who are lacking what I would consider are the most basic of facts concerning the great nation we comprise. For instance, during a campaign cycle, if you encounter a discussion about politics, you’re likely to hear someone wringing their hands about how a particular person or policy just isn’t democratic or fair. Some people apparently don’t realize that the United States is not a pure democracy. Instead, it is a republic (look it up). And when a sitting President is able to brag to the American people about how he is proud to have bypassed Congress, that’s a sign that a lot of people have no concept of the checks and balances built into the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of our government.
Do I categorically defend the antics of a bunch of career politicians in Washington who are generally spinning their wheels, using up good oxygen and spending taxpayer money with abandon and little to show for it? Absolutely not. But it just seems there is no more sense of propriety or idealism concerning our government any more. It as if there’s nothing to live for in the political sphere. Where’s the conviction? Where’s the statesmanship that cares more about the next generation than the next election?
My annual tradition concerning the Independence Day holiday is to read the Declaration of Independence in its entirety. I’m always awestruck with the restraint and forbearance of the writers of the Declaration. Yes, they had some grievances with King George that were arguably petty, especially when one considers the scope and scale of our do-everything-for-you Federal government in 2014. But by all modern standards, the people living in the colonies had endured “a long train of abuses and usurpations” under the British Crown. I wonder, “Would I have acted with such restraint under the same pressure?” I like to think so, but I’m not sure I’ll ever know. Let’s hope not anyway. But these responses to such a seminal document are important. They awaken us to the desperate circumstances of our national origins. The spirit and resolve of the writers of the Declaration call out to us today. It is worth reading.
So here, in all it’s glory, I invite you to read the Declaration with me. I am presenting it below, copied from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration site for your convenience and enlightenment. A complete transcript, including the signatures, appears below. You also may appreciate viewing a scan of the document. Click here for a high resolution image.
IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.
The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.
- He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
- He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
- He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
- He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
- He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
- He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
- He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
- He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
- He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
- He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
- He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
- He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
- He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
- For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
- For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
- For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
- For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
- For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
- For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
- For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
- For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
- For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
- He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
- He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
- He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
- He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
- He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.
In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.
Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.
We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
The 56 signatures on the Declaration appear in the positions indicated:
Thomas Heyward, Jr.
Thomas Lynch, Jr.
Charles Carroll of Carrollton
Richard Henry Lee
Thomas Nelson, Jr.
Francis Lightfoot Lee
Robert Treat Paine
I thank God there were men and women who took the responsibility seriously and pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to give birth to the Nation we enjoy today. May God bless this nation and grant us the repentance required to take responsibility for what we possess.
Slavery still exists. Let's work together to END IT.
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