Monthly Archives: August 2011

Oh, Color, How I Love Hue – Color Trends and Info

In my search to find meaning in color, and more importantly, the rationale for colors presented in designs, I came across a great site that has become an invaluable resource.

Check out to get an insider’s look at current trends in color and some important rationales for correct color choice. Whether it’s color for fashion, your home, or communications pieces, this site probably touches on it.

There’s discussion on theory and color in business as well. The blog portion is infrequently updated but useful when the site’s “color expert,” Kate Smith, decides to post.

If you want to know what the color orange really means or why the Blue Man Group uses blue, then this site is meant for hue!


Author: Eric Swenson


Borders Is Closing. Who’s to Blame: Technology or Poor Business Decisions and Planning?

Borders announced last month that it was closing its nearly 400 stores; the reasons stated were e-reader technology and the poor economy. I contend, however, that Borders lost sight of its core business, which is the magic that comes only through turning pages. I love books and have many bookcases filled with them at home, but I also loved to cruise the aisles of Borders just to see new and exciting topics that I hadn’t considered before. In hindsight, it seems that Borders had a core customer base––avid readers––that it let slip through its fingers. A customer’s visit to Borders should have been treated as an event by the company, which should have focused on cultivating more avid readers. Maybe having craftsmen showing how books are made or gold foil artists actually producing book jacket covers would have been sexier than a book signing for Joan Collins’s new autobiography. Not that I have anything against Joan, mind you, but having a book signing is not my idea of an event. Borders let a generation or two drift toward e-books, and I am not so sure the solution is better than the touch and feel of a book. On a regular basis I see people with library books on the train––these to me are avid fans who could easily use an e-reader but still love the joy of turning pages. There is a lot of satisfaction in sitting down with a traditional book and a sense of accomplishment in closing the book after the last page. I submit that the age of the book is far from over.

Now consider the program Imagination Library started by Dolly Parton in Tennessee, which is bringing the joy of reading to young children and their parents. Dolly wanted to foster a love of reading among preschool-aged children and their families, regardless of the family’s income. She wanted children to be excited about books and the magic that books can create. This free program begins with The Little Engine That Could. Newborns through five-year-olds are eligible, and a child can literally bring the first book home with him or her from the hospital. Every month after that, a new, carefully selected, age-appropriate book will be mailed until the child turns 5 (the last title is Look Out Kindergarten, Here I Come!).

Imagination Library has jump-started a long-loved family tradition of reading together at bedtime or anytime of the day. If enrolled as an infant, a child will have collected 60 books by age five. The books are written in English, but native-language, bilingual, and Braille books are available. The program was started in 1996 in partnership with Penguin Publishing, and the response since then has been overwhelming. In 2010 Imagination Library mailed its 30,000,000th book. It is now in 1,300 communities in 3 countries and sends books to 560,000 children each month. The Little Engine That Could was given to 249,145 children in 2010, and just under 126,000 graduated from the program in 2010. As the website proudly states, “What’s the sum of all these numbers? Smiles on faces, books held close, and our four favorite words––‘Read it to me!’”

2010 was also big for New York City; the Department of Education has recently partnered with Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and other organizations and currently has over 22,000 children enrolled. The goal is to promote the development of emergent literacy and language skills that are important for every child’s success in school. The by-product is bringing families together with the joy and magic of books, not e-readers.

Let’s finally consider the demise of Borders’ 400-plus stores and the $1.275 billion in assets it filed in its 2011 Chapter 11 filing. How much of those assets are books? And the bigger question is why in the 15 years since Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library began hasn’t Borders found a way to bring back its core base, avid readers of books? I contend that technology is NOT the reason, because there is a love of books that has not gone away.

A few thoughts on the subject of books:

“In a good bookroom you feel in some mysterious way that you are absorbing the wisdom contained in all the books through your skin, without even opening them.” — Mark Twain

“Books are the perfect entertainment: no commercials, no batteries, and hours of enjoyment for each dollar spent. What I wonder is why everybody doesn’t carry a book around for those inevitable dead spots in life.” — Stephen King

“There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates’ loot on Treasure Island … and best of all, you can enjoy these riches every day of your life.” — Walt Disney

“Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog, it’s too dark to read.” — Groucho Marx

Information on Borders
Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library
NYC Department of Education’s Imagination Library Registration Form“

Author: Tom Caska

Hurricane Googorola

Breakwater Light
Just like high school jock envy, those who fall short of Apple’s greatness want a piece of the pie. On Monday, Google announced its bid to purchase Motorola Mobility for a mere $12.5 billion, merging the search-engine giant with a leading handset manufacturer. Apple’s exclusivity with AT&T for the first few iPhone generations created a unique relationship between “distributor” and manufacturer. As the legend goes, AT&T and Apple negotiated to create a unit that would function on the existing network, but the exclusivity made a boatload of cash for both parties and propelled the iPhone into the market. Others were left building competitive devices that would be measured against the functionality of the iPhone. The current leader over the past 12 months has been Android, trailed by some other strong contenders that have entered the market. The common factor for all is that a software developer––be it Apple, Google, or Microsoft––is handcuffed by the negotiations with both handset manufacturers and the carriers who will distribute the millions of phones.

Let’s cut to the chase––Google wants patents. The hurricane of patent lawsuits over the last few months points directly at the problem. Google’s potential purchase of Motorola Mobility has created excitement since it already manufactures smartphones and has been doing so for some time with debatable success (depending on what measure one uses). The proverbial R&D and patent drag race has bumped the ante up considerably. As Gizmodo pointed out on Tuesday, there are losers everywhere. Innovation is what drove us to where we are, and these patent wars combined with the dismal economy worldwide and bleak future predications could stymie the very momentum that got us to this mobile-enabled, always-connected place, for better or for worse.

If the techie masses rose up in revolt, forming a Wi-Fi-enabled, smartphone-wielding protesting mob, lighting their way by the glow of the Zippo lighter app, there would be little media coverage. Chants of “free our patents, free innovation” would not ring throughout the nation. Protest signs adorned with words written in courier and those archaic, round shiny disks our parents call CDs would not attract TV cameras in droves. Would Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert side with the byte-obsessed nerds and join their ranks on the National Mall or dispatch a senior correspondent to compile a sequence of geek- and social ineptitude–based jokes? Let’s go with, umm, doubtful.

With the market left to its own devices, what may happen? If Google sinks its teeth into Motorola Mobility, maybe we will see the tide turn in the smartphone sea. The good news is that Apple gave the market a huge, delicious taste of an intuitive user interface and higher-quality handsets, and since we like the taste, the competitors are fighting tooth and nail over the tech/patents that will help them stir up some new waves. Those same waves that foster innovation are destroyed as they smash into the breakwater that is the patent lawsuit disaster. At least the Verizon, HTC, and Samsung ships have all given safe passage to the deal since it may reduce the choppy waters caused by the incoming patent hurricane.

Future predictions on the horizon…
Apple buys RIM. Yes, we feel faint as well, but would the scent of BlackBerry destroy the feng shui of Apple’s proposed new Cupertino digs? The keyboard clicking would be a disturbance, at any rate. Microsoft buys Nokia. We agree––it’s like your friends who shared an apartment for 10 years finally getting married. HP splinters webOS to accelerate Palm OS–like separation. RIM refused to get off the recliner and answer the doorbell as the chimes incessantly rang with innovation calling again and again. Now it is faced with a declining market share and what some consider grim expectations of acquisition.)

Author: John Carew
Photo credit: Diver227

Vanguard Direct Sales Team Attends Golf Outing

This month, the Vanguard Direct sales team participated in a golf outing. From time to time, Vanguard holds events to bring all of our employees together. With several offices spread out across the tri-state area, Vanguard sees an opportunity to share ideas and common goals by bringing everyone together in an environment outside the office.

On August3, the sales team met at the New Jersey National Country Club in Basking Ridge, New Jersey, to tee off. The Vanguard sales team typically has three sales meetings throughout the year, and the golf outing is usually held halfway through the year to review the first six months of progress. The outing is also a great chance for team-building.

Author: Dustin Hill

Enchantment Isn’t Just About Business, It’s About People

It’s been 25 years since I first cut my teeth in business, and over the course of my career, some of the advice that my bosses and mentors have passed on to me has been of questionable merit. In my early days as an account executive, however, I was told to “read 20 minutes every day.” The thinking behind this advice was that reading the thoughts of others would keep my mind sharp. In looking back on my career successes, this advice was excellent because, while I have never been an avid reader, I have always stayed attuned to what’s happening in the world of communication; the business of business changes so quickly that staying plugged-in is imperative.

For the last few years, I’ve been following the writings of the self-proclaimed “Evangelist of Apple,” Guy Kawasaki. Guy’s motto is “Simple and to the point is always the best way to get your point across,” and his writing style––pointed, compelling, engrossing, and thoroughly engaging––evinces this. Past book topics (he has written 10 to date) run the gamut from specific business interests (leadership, marketing, strategic planning, and social media) to world-bettering ideas (compassion, excellence, and commitment). Kawasaki likes to give back to society as well as help others grasp their dreams. As an at-large business guru, he continues to be an evangelist.

Kawasaki’s most recent book, Enchantment, advocates using entrepreneurial strategies to influence the hearts, minds, and actions of others. He maintains, “While persuasion is good, enchantment is even more powerful.” Kawasaki encourages the reader to positively impact what others around him or her do while at the same time maintaining a high standard of ethics. His three pillars of enchantment are: likeability, trustworthiness, and a great cause. He contends that true success comes not from getting what you want but rather from being able to bring about a change in others, and his book focuses on using tools from the digital age to draw people into the conversation about change. Each chapter ends with an anecdote that helps put his thoughts into practical perspective.

I enjoyed reading this book not only because of Guy’s great wit but, more importantly, because of the integrity, empathy, and passion he has for others that came through on every page. Reading Enchantment reminded me of the importance of giving back and making customers feel good about their choices. Kawasaki’s parting thought about enchantment is that it’s a powerful skill and that with power comes responsibility. Enchantment isn’t just about business, it’s about people, and if you want your business and your world to grow, then you must enchant them.

Kawasaki’s blog

Kawasaki’s Twitter feed

Enchantment Facebook page

If you’ve read the book or follow Guy, let us know your thoughts.

Author: Paul Wry

Are You a Micromanager?

You are if you:

• Refuse to accept teamwork
• Oversee projects at all times
• Correct details instead of concentrating on the big picture
• Make decisions on your own

Why do certain people act this way? Well, entrepreneurs are doers. They love to take action. Entrepreneurs are the foundation of businesses, and at times they get stuck micromanaging instead of working with others. Micromanaging affects creativity. It affects the business. Micromanaging is bad. It kills team spirit and enthusiasm.

In an article on American Express’s OPEN Forum blog, entrepreneur and Wall Street Journal columnist Mike Michalowicz warns that you should never micromanage:

1. Creativity personnel
2. Contractors
3. Delegated tasks
4. Sales teams
5. Administrators

So what should you do instead of micromanaging?

Hire people who can get the job done on their own. Be a motivator. Positive feedback will most likely result in a positive outcome. Always listen.

A post on Brass Tack Thinking offers some interesting tips on how to respond to bosses with micromanagement tendencies:

1. Listen carefully.
2. Communicate like crazy.
3. Ask for input.
4. Offer feedback.
5. Turn it to them.
6. Learn their tendencies
7. Pick your battles.
8. Reward good behavior.
9. Look in the mirror.

You can read the entire post here:

Do you have a story to share?

Author: Marina Kaljaj

Reinforcing What You Already Know: Make Screen Marketing as Important as Print Collateral

Traditional print and print-centric design organizations (think magazines, newspapers, book publishers) have struggled to balance print- and screen-based consumption of their products. The variables affecting the transition from print to screen are complex from the very start. Economic, advertising-based factors significantly influence the investment that businesses put toward both print- and screen-based initiatives. In October 2010, a study published by the Rochester Institute of Technology Printing Industry Center, Print versus Screen—Presentation Medium-Dependent Picture Consumption, addressed some early findings on screen versus print consumption. The study focused on understanding how college-aged young adults consume and retain information on screen versus print and if there is a preference for either medium. The 2010 study consisted of 3 smaller experiments aimed at “identifying and understanding the differences in how information is consumed from print in paper versus computer display.”

The study contained three separate experiments:

Part I: Viewing preferences, printing behavior, and content-management habits
Part II: Identification of behavioral and cognition-based differences between print and screen consumption
Part III: Study of eye movement while viewing screen versus print content

The study used photo books of images located in Rochester, NY, and on the Rochester Institute of Technology campus that were familiar to the participants. If you extract the findings of the study and apply them to larger visual communications efforts, the following conclusions should be considered as you evaluate work effort and the priority level given to screen and print collateral:

  1. The 56%/44% split of print versus screen preference indicates that design emphasis should be placed to both mediums equally.
  2. More frequent eye movement (fixations) for screen viewing compared to print suggests that the traditional design rules that work for print need to be rethought for a new medium.
  3. Initial studies indicate that the medium does not impact the time spent with the print or screen version, but time spent with screen media is less than print.
  4. The split or fragmentation of end users’ preferences has and will continue to pose a hurdle for any visual communicator. As these young adults age, their buying power will force visual communicators to align their design priorities, but at the very least, print and screen design should be at the same level.

Applying traditional print rules to screen design and layout is a bit like taking an auto mechanic and expecting his manual dexterity to give him the talent to paint an oil masterpiece. The Adobes and Quarks (whatever may come of it in the future) of the world have an interest in creating an application that lets users create content for both mediums, but just because you can, doesn’t mean it is functional, correct, or usable.

Proceed with caution, but remember the mediums are not the same. The RIT study begins to prove that younger people have preferences that embrace both mediums.

Author: John Carew