Coburn Design goes to the Big Apple!

We are sending Laura Coburn off to represent our company at the 12th Annual Small Business and Procurement Expo at the Con Edison Learning Center in Long Island City, Friday June 6th. Many New York State businesses have a desire to work with Certified Woman Owned Enterprises like ours! More than 300 business from Coke to the Port Authority will be on hand to meet and interview potential vendors. Former employee Ashley Hoey will be pitching in to assist Laura in "strutting our stuff."

Our Coburn Design family went on a fieldtrip!

Last Thursday we found ourselves exploring Onondaga County. Since we are promoting historical sites through our involvement in Paths Through History, we wanted to check some of the locations out for ourselves.

First stop: Matilda Joslyn Gage Home! “Who’s Matilda Joslyn Gage,” you ask? Good question! We learned that Gage was a major figure in the Women’s Suffrage movement but her name was practically erased from history.

When we first arrived at this museum, Dave, a welcoming and well-informed gentleman, greeted us. Upon entering, we noticed a bust overlooking the door and partially expected a “hands-off,” walk-through kind of museum. However, as Dave led us through the Gage Home he explained that it is an interactive museum of dialogue and social conscience, which means it was hands-on and lots of fun! Some of our favorite parts of this visit was when Heather got to dress in a hoop skirt and hat, as well as when she hid in a secret passage (she’s a good sport). We also loved learning about the etymology of “Oz.”

Next stop: the Historical Association. When we arrived we were told that the organization’s impact was in their outreach, but we think they were just being modest. Though they do have great numbers in outreach, we were astonished by all of the artifacts and historical information they had in their collection. We loved the big plaques inscribed with the mysteries of Onondaga County. These mysteries ranged from the “13 Curves” to the “Mystical Ladies in Red and White.” Our team was also interested to learn that the New York State Fair is in New York because of the Ka-noo-no Karnival. We were touched to go through the “Freedom Bound: Story of the Underground Railroad” display and impressed by the Syracuse China exhibit. Oh, and Laura nearly died when she entered the “Fashion After Five” exhibit.

Last stopSkä•noñh Center, formerly known as Sainte Marie among the Iroquois. We were a little disappointed to find out that the organization is currently not open to the public, but we’re excited for the new information and changes that they are implementing. Walking up the stairs in the main building was astonishing. The staircase is set up to transport you to the native environment before the Europeans arrived. A canoe hangs from the ceiling and animals that would have been natural to the environment. We also felt very privileged as we trekked through the snow to explore the buildings set up to recreate the Haudenosaunee environment. Our guide was a trooper.

Our team was excited to go on another adventure today, but due to the inclement weather we had to cancel our plans. We are a bit disappointed, but we’re making up for it with a Coburn Design family lunch. Laura’s making us her famous chili. Yum!

Design by Committee

When it comes to design I believe two heads are better than one. The theory being that varying perspectives lead to a more dynamic solution. You might also say that there is a synergistic effect when talents combine that creates a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts. If this is true, then what about including a bunch of folks in the creative process? What about “design by committee?”

In the early days of my design career I dreaded working with groups on a logo, a brochure or any design concept for that matter. Often, I would find myself art directed into a corner and producing something that was intended to be a “gazelle” and ended up looking like a “giraffe with chicken legs.” This was because I had the best intention and wanted to make everyone in the room happy. I wanted everyone to be heard, represented and part of the process. Though I meant well, I was unskilled at navigating group design. I had no compass!

The key to a successful outcome in design is to keep the end user or viewer in mind. Who will be receiving the message? What do we want them to think, feel or do when they see it? If a group can agree to what success looks like at the outset than they can navigate the process as a team successfully. Every decision for judging the design will be based on whether it speaks to, addresses and fulfills the criteria. In other words, the group has a compass and they know collectively where true north lies.

Without criteria for judging a design established at the get go, members of a group must rely on their own preferences, which are unique to them. This might work if the person doing the judging truly or even closely represents the demographic of the end user or viewer. More often than not groups represent a cross section of humanity. Using their own preferences to judge may lead to each member of the committee asking for a design change that pulls the concept apart like taffy. An originally strong concept becomes weak, and lacking clarity. On the other hand when groups work with an agreed upon criteria for judgment, they leave their ego on the sidelines while they advance the ball for the greater good of the team.

Focus, Focus, Focus

There are three key words when it comes to marketing. This is not about “key words” as in meta data, but you could say that these three “key” words will impact the rank of any message you create. When creating any message, brand, promotion, or call to action . . .focus, focus, focus.

We have all heard ad nauseum how cluttered our visual world has become. The statistics on how many images and messages we are bombarded with per day are staggering. If you hope to be seen or heard you must craft your message carefully and let be to the eyes what a class bell is to the ears of chattering teenagers in a crowded hall. Dare to be searingly clear and singular in your tone.

This means avoid the temporary comfort of being “all things to all people.” It’s not sustainable in your personal life and it doesn’t work in business either. If people don’t “get you” they can’t trust you. A great example of this occurs on countless web site home pages. Everything an organization is, ever was and hopes to be is crammed onto the home page, along with every offering, department, brand extension as well as upcoming event. This forces the reader to pick through a forest of messages with the machete of their mind, leaving them exhausted and frustrated. Or even worse, they’ll head to the nearest “clearing” where your competition stands with a refreshing glass of water that says “this is what I offer you and all you need to do is put your hand around this cup.”

But I want to appeal to EVERYONE you cry! To appeal to everyone you must dilute your message or bloat it. Either way, you run the very real risk of resonating with no one. If you had an arrow in your bow and you were taking aim, would you expect that arrow to land in more than one place? Dare to choose your target and draw your bow with the intention to hit one target. Your target will know your arrow is meant for them.


Innovation and Creativity (on a dime)

Many of our clients have expressed that their budgets have been squeezed and they are trying to find ways to do more with less. The need to skillfully communicate remains high, while budgets to hire professional help are low. The team at Coburn Design sat down at the proverbial drawing board to find innovative ways to help our clients help themselves.

Contact us to learn more about our innovative solutions, including “Sweat Equity Design for Start-Ups,” “Mobile Art Direction,” “DIY Design Support” and “Marketing Coaching.”