Let's talk social media: How empowering? How interconnected? How insane?

In a crazy cool book by Dave Evans founder of Digital Voodoo, an expert in social marketing, he states, "Building on the personal empowerment and liberation that the internet offers, consumers are actively connecting with each other and sharing information about everything from cars and health to scrapbooking techniques and pool chemicals. In the process, they are either reinforcing marketing efforts or beating marketers at their own game by directly sharing their own experiences and thoughts with each other." (Social Media Marketing). The idea that social media site like Facebook and Twitter and Myspace are all offering marketing without companies even tapping into it is crazy.

We are now in the age where marketers are tapping into this source of free advertising and marketing. I think that it is really cool that companies are starting to take a look at different blogs and twitter accounts, and they are actually following up via social media with clients in order to provide a better user experience. This, as a lot of things in advertising and marketing, comes with an interesting fine line between useful and overkill. In class we had a great debate over the boom in twitter and facebook use. We talked about many different facets of each of them and the overall consensus seemed to be that one would use the service if they wanted to, and if it wasn't relevant to their lives they wouldn't. Isn't that in-and-of-itself this ting we call target marketing? It is so perfect in my eyes for certain marketers to use these types of outlets such as facebook, twitter, myspace, as jumping off points for marketing campaigns, but there are niche markets which need to be found in order for this to be effective.

A very up-and-coming topic that should be really interesting in the next couple of years.

The BeGreen campaign is just one example of the incredibly forward moving society that we are all a part of. Taking ideas that stem from renewal of energy, reducing our waste, tracking carbon footprints and reusing materials to benefit the earth show us that there is power in marketing not only for products, but for causes. Check out how complete the website is here and you will understand the importance of a solidified brand and attitude when talking about issues. BeGreen is a movement that has begun to take over in all areas of the United States and now in the world. They are solidified by their strong visual presence and their creative marketing strategies.


Using our design backgrounds to empower people is not just persuasion at its best. Empowering is making a differnence and feeling great about it. It is seeing the results in the changing of activities. It is incredible how wonderful you can feel when you track your carbon footprint and you can see it going down. Empowerment is used in gaming, and this is something that isn't even close to new to consumers. Winning a game and getting positive feedback from a machine console is empowering to us. It is great to see that groups are using these techniques to empower individuals in a way that can change the planet for good.

I am no tree-hugging hippie of sorts, but this is a great way to become involved in change. Check out how they are offering positive feedback when individuals opt to make a difference

After writing all my other blogs, I actually found an article that I find really interesting and cool. Although I feel pretty nerdy to be this excited, but the article offered an entirely different way of thinking about waste that I hadn't thought about with my topic.

Check it out for yourself: http://bubbler.wordpress.com/2007/07/31/a-list-of-ways-to-reduce-your-waste/

However I'm going to continue talking about my feelings on it. What first really got my attention in the article is this idea about waster our personal energy and time.

"The main problem right now in all of the world, including within each of our own lives, is waste. We waste our time, we waste our resources. Our social, economic, and political systems waste money, people, natural capital, time, and energy. We have all been taught to waste, because we have been taught--and we allow ourselves--to be blind, heedless, "good consumers".

Honestly I feel silly for not having looked at it that way, but it really addresses all kinds of waste and not just the physical earth harming waste. Although the article does continue to talk about physical waste, it does address our time, energy, and resources from a personal stand point that really do encourage people to stop wasting on various levels, including physical waste and theoretical waste. At the end of the article he lists ways of reducing and many of his ways are feasible, and he presents those thoughts in a manner that doesn't guilt the reader into reducing waste. He simply puts it in a new light, but suggesting other ways of looking at it. For example, "Make exercise a part of your daily existence, such as in biking or walking to work, or biking or walking to a bar or bookstore or cafe. Try to eliminate the perception of exercise as an accessory chore or activity to become more desirable." It's simple enough and a great way of reducing the waste of your body, your youth, your abilities, as well as reducing the physical waste that harms the earth.

I just thought the article was great. It was short and succinct but it drove the point home. I'm definitely looking into other blogs he has posted and following them. I encourage others to do so as well.

Our waste is definitely a personal issue. There are various ways that people reduce their waste, and not everyone does the same. Some believe that recycling is enough, others collect tabs, others only buy eco-friendly, or help out in other ways. I think its being self-aware of what you're putting out and how much. There are give and takes in every situation, including waste.

Ecomii.com believes that, "living a simpler lifestyle isn't about doing without or cutting out the things you truly enjoy. It's about knowing the difference between what you "need" and what you "want." It's also about prioritizing - looking at your days and deciding what's really important to you so that you can make better decisions about how you spend your money. In this way, being careful about what you bring into the house has more benefits than just reducing the trash that you produce: It also can help to simplify your life and reduce your stress level."

My personal example is diet mountain dew, now if I could have a fountain at my house to reduce waste I would, however I don't believe I will be purchasing that anytime soon, but in the mean time I recycle my bottles, and believe it or not trying to reduce my dew intake. Now I'm aware of my mountain dew intake but I try to exchange that type of waste with my use of tupperware everyday or reuse bags. Thats my personal way of reducing. I think each person should have a small way that they are reducing their own waste.

When discussing waste and the environment most everyone knows that we need to reduce our waste for future generations. However it is easier said then done of course. After reading some of the comments on my past blog posts I couldn't help but think about how a person's environment changes the way we use, and dispose of waste. I also thought about how a person's financial status would change the amount of waste each person produces.

I understand that I'm bringing financial into my environmental blog but I think both go hand in hand. Someone with more money might be able to buy materials that conserve the most and be best for the environment. With that said however it doesn't mean that people with lower means can't do anything for the environment. There are easy changes that everyone can change to, and although it sounds preachy I myself need to stick by these solutions as well.

Epa.com asks everyone to do there part by doing the little things, "like buying in bulk items that won't necessarily go bad, buy items that will stand the test of time, reuse items, borrow items to and from neighbors and friends, use reusable materials for everyday task like; tuberware when packing a lunch, reusable bags or old store bags at stores, keeping track of "paper-work" electronically, etc." These are ways that all people can do their part regardless of means.

However when buying organically or without the waste of big corporations is another task entirely. I believe that there is a difference between the spending habits of a stay at home mom or dad and a single person with a high income. Although both should be aware of what their buying and who they are buying from, however a mother may be pinching her pennies a bit more. Both are hypothetical but representations. It could go the other way too. A single man or woman barely making ends meet at their job and a soccer mom who has a husband who has an expendable income.

The phrase 'going green' has seen a record number of trademark applications.

It seems as though every company is trying to make its mark on the "green" trend. In 2007 alone, marketers set a all-time record at the the US Patent and Trademark Office, registering over 300,000 green trademarks. Big trends can be tough on the trademark business, and many companies are having a difficult time locking in on the rights to their marks.

By definition, a trademark is a distinctive term that tells consumers that a product or service comes from a single source. The problem is, under the umbrella of "going green" many companies are producing similar, hard-to-distinguish marks.

Not only are companies having a difficult time securing the rights to trademarks, they are also having trouble advertising their pro-environmental viewpoints. Now that many pro-environment and green slogans are being protected, companies are running into copyright or trademark infringement issues.

In December of 2009, Honda released an advertising campaign stating that they wanted to save the earth, one gallon of gasoline at a time. However, in the act of saving the earth, Honda (a Japanese automaker) stepped on a few toes, mainly those of Save the Earth Enterprises, an environmental group based in the United States. Save the Earth Enterprises sued Honda for all profits they received from the recent ad campaign and to stop future use by Honda of the Save the Earth trademark.

Whether a company is trying to secure their own rights to a pro-environment trademark, or simply advertise their environmentally friendly products, the overwhelming number of green trademarks and copyrights, are definitely making things more difficult.


How to Obtain a Green Trademark


The first thing that came to my mind as a topic for this post is how innovation in design could affect the value of companies and brands. However, this seemed somewhat trite and vague for me to write about and for anyone else to read. Design innovations can make money if successful, but they are really a form of change, which could imply positive or negative financial implications for a company. In my previous post on social aspects of innovation I quoted an article by Scott Berkun, discussing innovation versus doing things consistently well. I tend to agree that a focus on doing things well is a good way to have financial success. So, instead of dwelling on that I thought it would be interesting if the rest of my post focused on how differentiation among designers/design companies can be its own form of innovation. I will highlight a few examples of business models or self-marketing decisions that help add diversity to the design business community.

LEGO Design byME (1)
I love toys, and LEGO has always had a special presence in the market. I was surprised to find out that a business direction of theirs now lets someone use free software to design a custom model out of LEGO pieces, as well as its box, and then have it delivered. Here's how they put it:
"Is there something special missing in your LEGO collection? Would you like to add a professional touch to your personal gifts? Now you can make, shape & even order the toy you wish in a box you design yourself." (1). I don't know what kind of financial effect this has for the company, but it is a really logical direction for their growth taking advantage of software and online ordering. The LEGO image is one of customization, and this takes it further than was previously possible.

MAKE Magazine (2)
This magazine (now 22 volumes) caters to do-it-yourself-ers and tech hobbyists, giving ideas and instructions for how to create devices out of available parts. Given its audience, I'm sure its online presence and community is just as strong as the publication for communicating ways to make stuff for fun.

Kontrapunkt (3)
Kontrapunkt is a Danish design firm that created a self-named typeface. As "a bit of a democratic experiment" (3), they allowed the typeface to be downloaded and used for free. This seems to me like a very generous, and useful, way to market your firm. I'll do my part in the promotion by putting the link right here.

Knock-Down/Drag-Out (KDDO) furniture (4)
Another design business strategy is to create something based on your needs, knowing that other people probably want the same thing. Christopher Douglas "recognized the need for furniture that was easily stowable..." (4), which lead the former advertiser to create a flat-pack line of furniture for people who moved a lot, like him.

These are just a few examples of how doing different things can be an innovative business strategy in design. The more diversity there is, the more likely there will be a spot in the market for a designer or company to settle in and make money.
(1) http://designbyme.lego.com/en-us/FAQ/default.aspx?id=137352
(2) http://makezine.com/
(3) http://www.kontrapunkt.com/en/
(4) Design Life Now. Bloemink, et al. Cooper Hewitt, National Design Museum, New York. 2006. pp 82-83.

How I Put My Portfolio Together With Less Than 100 Dollars

Lets talk about finance, more specifically let's talk about financing a portfolio. With a sweet vision and a slim budget I was able to piece together an appealing portfolio that reflected my identity, my style, and my work.

I started out with a vision of my box: an old hard cover suitcase. I ventured to a few antique stores but had no luck. I made my way to my favorite 2nd hand-clothing store, Everyday People and low and behold there was the suitcase of my dreams. It was bright red, big and hard covered, 15 bucks, not too bad.

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Later on I was talking to my boyfriend about what kind of boards I should use, being the highly skilled wood worker that he is, he suggested Masonite. He said we could cut them down to fit the suitcase just right. So we went to Menards and found a large Masonite board for only 8 bucks. And for a six-pack and a Jimmy John's sandwich ($10) Cooper, lovingly, cut out 12 beautiful boards with rounded corners and middle indent for easy accessibility.

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At that point I had spent 33 dollars total, I then had to remove the inside lining of the suitcase, it was quilted satin with ruffles (not quite the look I was going for). After which I ventured to wet paint in St.Paul. Wet Paint is conveniently stocked with the finest papers from all over the world and the finest people on that side of the river.

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I brought my suitcase in and a bearded friend and I went through book after book of Japanese, Chinese, Indian and European papers. We finally settled on speckled, retro, linoleum like paper from Japan, for the inside of the suitcase. And a sea foam green paper from who knows where, for the back of the boards. In total it was 18 dollars, leaving me with 49 more dollars to work with.

Next I called Jonathan, who had previously told me about an office max in Roseville that was far more helpful then, any Kinko's. Anyhow I arrived at Office Max only to have my work printed by the nicest young man in the surrounding area and total costs brought me to $22.81. Leaving me with $26.19, not too bad.

All the cutting and adhesive materials I had at home, which goes to show one should never throw anything away because it could be put to good use someday (I guess this can also depend on what that thing is). So before you go and spend 500 dollars on your portfolio, think about reusing, saving money, searching for deals and nice people, and use your resources and friends, responsibly. We are all creative people, and creativity doesn't only to apply to art and design.

A couple weeks ago I attended MinneWebCon and saw a great afternoon keynote called Inclusive Universe by Wendy Chisholm. This was a great presentation shining light on how important it is to consider accessibility within design. I highly recommend watching this video but if you can't, here are some interesting points she brought up that relate to finance.

People with disability make up the 3rd largest market in the U.S., behind baby boomers and seniors; which represents 5 trillion dollars in spending. As designers, it makes a lot of sense for us to design for those with disabilities. Sometimes people are afraid to face the issue of accessibility because of additional costs, but designing with accessibility in mind from the beginning will save money down the road. For example, curb cuts are designed for people in wheelchairs and if they are installed right away, it saves money. If they have to be installed down the road, because designing with disability wasn't thought about, it will cost more money. While curb cuts are designed with disability in mind, others will also benefit from this design because designing for disability increases the abilities of everyone else even more. How great are cut curbs for your awesome rolling backpacks, strollers and skateboards?

In this talk, Wendy also talked a lot about the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.
Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) 2.0 defines how to make Web content more accessible to people with disabilities. Accessibility involves a wide range of disabilities, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, language, learning, and neurological disabilities. These guidelines also make Web content more usable by older individuals with changing abilities due to aging and often improve usability for users in general.

Taking a look over these guidelines and keeping disability in mind when designing websites is very important both socially and financially. There are endless opportunities for innovation when designing for disability. In Wendy's presentation she gives many great examples of innovative designs that have helped disabled people, especially within the web.

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It was a gloomy August afternoon and a seven year old me could not wait to go outside. As it began to rain, my brother and I gave up and slouched into our extra large white couch from the 90s. The day seemed to drag as we both waited for our Dad to get home. As a side note, my Dad is awesome. Throughout the late 80s and early 90s he was the "sports guy" for KARE 11, and practically pioneered what that guy Perk does with Perk at Play.

My back yard was always cut and chalked into some sort of sports field. My backyard was the greatest wiffle ball field on the block for two reasons: 1) It always had the crazy alternating grass stripes that real baseball fields had and 2) My elderly neighbors did not put up much competition. Come fall, Carroll stadium became a scaled down Metrodome - complete with end zone markers and painted pipe goal posts. Eventually, my Dad returned from work that night and suggested we go out and play some football in the rain.

Mud Bowl '93 was not so much an ultimate sporting event as it was an excuse to enjoy the subpar weather. The three of us played football for a couple of hours, eventually covering each other (and our kid sized Vikings equipment) with mud. And as many of you know, getting completely covered in mud is not exactly something Mom's are enthusiastic about. Unfortunately though, this blog post is not about mud. This is about the importance of details, and how much they contribute to our experiences.

Would the experience of Mud Bowl be any different if there weren't yard lines mowed and chalked in my back yard? Probably not, no. But the fact that those insignificant details were in place made it that much more memorable. Both print and web design allow for an innumerable amount of details. One example of almost overwhelming detail is the product page for Transmit 4. The beautifully modeled truck at the top of the page is actually just the icon for the application. I emailed them about it and they said they even modeled the undercarriage of the truck, which no one will ever see. That, is detail.

We are in the business of details. Design is all about putting in the effort to work in details people didn't know they needed. We are the people in charge of chalking the metaphorical backyard wiffle ball field. As a result, my Dad's meticulous attention to detail has been something that has stuck with me and continues to be a huge influence on my own design work.