Last weekend I went to Siesta Key to take some photos. I wasn’t really too excited as it was a dreary day. The sky was grey and and the air was thick with humidity as only a Florida summer can provide. I figured I would at least scout the beaches for a location for a future shoot, so my friend Lou and I wandered around Siesta Key beach and Turtle Park. As the sun began to set, we decided to pack it up and head out for the night. As I watched the sun dip in the horizon I had a thought.
“Mineh, how many times have you headed home early just to miss a gorgeous sunset? Lets stick this one out and see…”
I chose a location, plopped down the tripod and sat back to watch nature’s light show. The sunset turned out to be a really nice one, so I snapped a few shots.
Sunset on Siesta Key Beach – photo by Mineh Ishida
As the sun dipped out of sight, the crowd on the beach began to disperse. This was when I began to get excited.
It’s well known fact amongst photographers that the best time to watch sunset is in fact after the sun has already set. This is when all the beautiful colors light up the sky and you can get some really beautiful photos. Sitting on the beach enjoying the sound of the waves and the warm gulf breeze, I thought about how this is a great lesson for life.
Crescent Moon on Siesta Key Beach by Mineh Ishida
Often I want to give up too early. Right when I think things are finished, its time to give a final push.. to give it a little more effort. Wait just a little bit longer. I guess I hope to learn from this that I should be patient. Wait things out and see before I decide it’s time to give up. I think taking life a little more slowly, I’ll appreciate it a lot more.
Also, Lou and I found some sea urchins on the beach… how cool is that?
I was in a coffee shop in downtown Cincinnati when I saw this young lady sitting alone across the room. Whether she deliberately chose to sit next to the globe or not, the scene struck me. I was moved by the depth of emotion and solitude she was expressing with her body language. I wanted to go over and ask if everything was ok, but at the same time, could tell that she chose that empty spot, facing away from the room on purpose. I was left to contemplate the scene in my imagination.
I found myself thinking of how sometimes we get so hurt by the people we know and the circumstances around us that we choose to turn away from the world. We turn away from those that we love and who love us, and sometimes, that we fail to see the bigger picture. I know in times of stress, I too turn inward and away from the very people who might be able to help me.
I don’t know her story. Maybe she was perfectly fine and just looking down at her phone… But in that coffee shop, whether she knew it or not, she moved me.
I stole a slice of her time with my camera, then left her undisturbed. I wish I had asked her if everything was ok…maybe in that moment, I was too turned inward, and it was really me who had turned away from the world…
Living in Tampa, I don’t see a lot of companies who truly understand the value of design in attracting and keeping the right customers. There are a handful of companies who do it well, but on a day to day journey through the businesses in this town, the majority of the branding and marketing are quite outdated, and don’t seem to have a targeting strategy. I think this is why I’m always so excited when I walk into a Starbucks store. Here is a company that understands the value of design. They wield design like a well trained fencer manages their sword. It’s an extension of who they are, and they wield it with pinpoint accuracy in accomplishing their marketing goals..
Starbucks Targets Their Audience Through Design
The majority of Starbucks’ target audience consists of the young adult population. These are both men and women who fall between the ages of 25 to 40. This demographic accounts for just shy of 50% of their total business. In order to attract this audience, Starbucks uses trendy design that keeps their customers feeling like the brand is current and a part of the “lifestyle” that these consumers want to live.
If you look at online design trends for this population, you’ll find many common themes reflected in the branding at Starbucks stores. At the time of this article’s writing, Modern retro designs, polygon based designs, minimalist flat designs and informational icons are all still very prominent in the consciousness of this age group, and in the designs of many trending products. Starbucks has integrated all of these trends into their branding. Just look at these photos:
Modern retro design at a Starbucks store | Photo by Mineh Ishida
Polygon background with modern retro badge design at a Starbucks store | Photo by Mineh Ishida
Minimal flat design featuring informational icons at a Starbucks store | Photo by Mineh Ishida
“The brand is almost like a friend—a unique, well-traveled, cultured friend you know well but who always manages to surprise you” – Jean Marie Shields
It’s so amazing how the little things change the feeling of the room. From the fonts on the wall, to the color palette of the products, every thing in the store has a feeling like it belongs there. Don’t confuse this to mean that everything is in the same style. There are is a diversity in style among the different brand assets, but overall, they tie together well. It reminds me of a curated gallery. There may be different artists represented in a gallery, but a well curated exhibit will have a central theme that ties it all together. This is the feeling I get when I walk into a store. The combination of all of the design elements create a dynamic and exciting environment that has a pronounced effect on my experience with the store.
Change Makes it Fresh, Consistency Keeps it Comfortable
One thing that I found that Starbucks has done really well is that every few weeks, the designs in the store have changed. Either there are new featured products, or the branding and signs have changed. This keeps the store feeling very trendy and cutting edge. We’re trained by advertisers and the high volume of information that we receive to tune out things that become familiar. Starbucks changes it up periodically and regularly, so that their messaging and brand feels current, and does not get stale. I think this is very important to any brand that is trying to maintain repeat business, especially with younger customers.
What they do not do however is change the feel of the store. The designs all have a consistency, like I mentioned above. You know you’re in a Starbucks store. The branding is versatile but recognizable. This is critical, as part of Starbucks’ success comes from the fact that people feel like their branch store is their “home.” It must remain comfortable and inviting so that the brand can build and retain a community of customers. This comfort comes from familiarity, so new designs must “feel” the same, while gently evolving with the new marketing messages.
Your Business Can Learn from Their Example
Businesses today have to stand out, and it’s an ongoing challenge with all the competition out there. Starbucks has managed a viral growth through savvy business and marketing. I feel like design has also been a very integral part of this success. If businesses want to market to their target audience and build a following of repeat business, they could learn a thing or two from the example provided by Starbucks. Design can be a powerful force in attracting and retaining the right customers.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need another Green Tea Frappuccino.
So, I was with my good friend Lou grabbing a bite to eat at a local greek restaurant called Taziki’s. Outside, someone had taken the time to write this message and plant it by the door. It came at a particularly good time in my life, as I’m in a place where I could use some thoughtful advice like this.
As we walked up to the sign I said to myself “Mineh Ishida, you have got to pay attention to this… Someone planted this sign just for you!”
Often, I get caught up in the projects, the work, the business, the million errands to run, and forget that to be the best me I can be, I need to find a balance between work and life.
I’m going to structure some time in daily to do at least one thing that brings me joy. I need to spend more time reading and exploring the natural areas of Florida. I also need to travel more for pleasure rather than work or obligation. I want to spend time working on my photography and revamping my site at Mineh Ishida Photography, and change the focus of my photography to a more personal work, rather than commercial. I’d also like more time to write my thoughts in this blog. To do all of these things, I’m going to need to put forth a conscious effort to set aside that time and keep my commitment to find this balance.
A big thank you to the person who decided to share such inspiring words! Whether they were just for me or not, they’ve definitely made an impact.
I’ve started walking for my health reasons. I’ve been walking 5 miles a day and have the benefit of living near the Feather Sound Country Club. My daily walk takes me around a 3 mile track that circles through the golf course and some beautiful wildlife areas.
The other day, I started my walk around 8pm, about 30 minutes before sunset. I almost didn’t go, because it was raining a little bit, but given the 90+ degree weather we’ve had lately, the rain seemed like a good way to avoid the heat.
About half way around the circle, the sun broke under the clouds, and a beautiful stream of golden light shot through the rain. It made a beautiful rainbow in the sky, but also, lit the golf course and created a stunning silhouette of this heron in the rain.
It was one of those moments where I wished I had a DSLR, but luckily I had my iPhone to capture the moment.
Who knew that trying to get healthy would expose me to so many beautiful moments in Florida.
I’ve never played golf. My father wasn’t a player, and none of my friends growing up played. In the last year however, I started a business, and part of my business development plan for the year includes learning to play golf. Why is playing a game so important to my new business? Lets look at some statistics:
Executives who play golf make 17% more than those who don’t.
54% of business professionals see golf as the perfect networking tool, only 8% selected football
An estimated 90% of Fortune 500 CEO’s play golf
50% of golfers agreed to the statement, “the way a person plays golf is very similar to how he or she conducts business affairs.”
Golf is a Social Game
Golf is inherently a social game. You make deep and lasting connections, rivalries, and friends with clients, potential leads and colleagues. Between holes and the clubhouse, there is always plenty of time to talk, and few distractions. For many busy professionals, the golf course is one of the few places that is relatively peaceful where they can relax. This is an excellent environment to get to know people.
It’s also about access. In many cases, you just can’t get an appointment to see someone by calling their office. No matter how important the call is to your recipient or yourself, sometimes, you just can’t get through. Playing in social tournaments however, can introduce you to many people who you may not meet otherwise through your normal business channels. We all know that business is about being social, what is more social than time spent at the course?
As any good sales professional will tell you, one of the best ways to develop comfort with a client or colleague is through shared interests. Golf is a universal past time in the business community, and is often a topic of conversation at business events.
Often, I’ve watched groups of people get together and speak to each other about their game. Even perfect strangers have often bonded over their shared love of the sport. Certainly, finding common ground is a tenement of good business, and adding something as common as Golf to your knowledge and skill base certainly would be a great conversation starter. Even better, would be if you can invite a prospect to play a game. The competition and camaraderie will certainly help build a sense of trust and connection with your new acquaintance.
It’s Good For You
The stress of business can take it’s toll on your health. Quite often, we don’t have the time to spend enough time outdoors or exercising. Golf is a great way to get good cardiovascular exercise in natural environments.
Studies have also been conducted that show that golf can lead to increased self-esteem, happiness, and reduced stress levels.
Since you’re also getting great business networking benefits, you also don’t feel bad about taking the time away from work to participate in the sport.
It’s time to learn to play
Yes, it’s time I picked up a set of clubs and found a good teacher. If you ever thought about learning to play golf, I urge you to join me in learning this year. It could lead to great business success and will be a whole lot of fun.
So you’re starting a new design business, or you’ve decided to go freelance. Many people struggle when they start and need some advice.
My creative agency Arcturus Creative was started one year ago on a shoe string budget. It was not an easy launch, but we’re still in business a year later with some amazing clients, and I would consider the business a success. Recently, someone asked me what they might need to create a creative agency / design business on a shoestring budget. I’ve come up with 5 things you should do / consider if you’re going to start a business.
1. You’re going to need an income.
You cannot start a design business if you can’t pay the bills. Clients will come, but it takes time to build a base where you can survive. When you first start, if you don’t have savings to start the business, you will have to have a job or some form of funding. Consider asking friends and family to help you, but don’t automatically expect a positive reaction.
Many of the people who care about you may not understand your entrepreneurial spirit, and in their concern for you, may instead try to encourage you to further your career rather than starting a fresh design business or going freelance. If your heart is set on starting your business, you should be ready to handle the naysayers.
If you’re lucky, and they fund you, great! If not, then consider getting a part time job while you build your business.
When we started Arcturus Creative, I had to work 3 days out of the week for a company and spend evenings and the other 4 days of the week working on my creative agency. Once the business picked up enough, I left the job. Even so, it was a struggle at times. At one point, my car was repossessed and I ended up selling almost everything I owned to not get evicted. Even so, if given the opportunity I’d do it again. Today, we have enough revenue for my partner and I to comfortably survive, and we have a few employees working for us as well. It took about 6 months to get to that point, but once it did, things got better quickly.
2. The best way to get design business is to network.
To help promote my design business, I created some logos for my personal logo project and posted them to social media.
Tell everyone you know what you do and develop and refine a good pitch. Have lunch with everyone who could be a good client and just talk about what you’re trying to achieve and learn about their businesses.Create some designs and start posting them to your social networks.
I created the Logo Project and posted it to my social network. Not a day later someone asked me to design a logo for them. Leverage your online contacts and take advantage of Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, Instagram and Pinterest.
In addition, join some local organizations. Chambers of commerce and business networking groups can be very beneficial. I joined local business groups and the Tampa Club, which is a local dining club. That took a few hundred dollars, but I’ve gotten multiple clients from it.
You can also attend networking events, but remember that all networking events are not created equal. They seem to be divided into two groups. Networking events that have young professionals looking for job opportunities and career growth, and those that attract business owners. Try to find the ones populated by business owners and executives. Sometimes, educational seminars dedicated to business owners may be more beneficial for networking than dedicated networking functions.
3. Design a good website and business cards.
You’re going to need credibility. Design a website that shows off your past projects and some of the philosophy behind each design. It will give you credibility. Having a professional presence is absolutely critical. After all, you’re trying to show people the impact that good design can have on their business. Would you trust a designer who had a bad website?
Your business cards MUST STAND OUT. You’re a designer. Having average business cards is absolutely unacceptable. Even above average doesn’t cut it. People have to look at your cards and marvel at how unique they are. If your cards don’t have something unique about them, try again. Paper, weight, shape, print style… There are any number of ways to create a card that is unforgettable. Spend some time and money to do it right!
4. Do some free projects in the beginning.
In the beginning, no one knows who you are or what your business is. They have no reason to trust you. One easy way to solve this is to do some comp work (free). Find people in the community who have a lot of connections. Offer to do a free project for them that is high visibility. Make sure you do an amazing job with it, and handle everything professionally. When you’re done, if you’ve done well, they will spread the word. The more you do this, the larger your sphere of influence will grow.
Often, we would start with a small very low cost or free project with a client, and once they trusted us, they would give us a larger project or sign up with a retainer for services.
Don’t fall into the trap of doing this too often though. People won’t take you seriously and your new design agency will fail if you’re doing too much free work as an established business. A lot of people will ask you to do work “for exposure.” Just be polite and decline unless it’s a project that will really get your design work in front of the right people.
5. Give back to the community
Find some non-profits in the area to help out. Many of them need design and marketing help. Make sure it’s a cause you believe in and offer your services. Making sure your business stands for something and is involved in the community is a very important part of growing your business. Remember, business is about relationships, and everyone loves a person / business who takes action and follows through on what they say. If you can honestly say that you care about causes and follow through by doing some volunteer work, it will only help you grow.
Starting a new design business is quite the adventure. There are so many reasons that a design business is a great venture to start right now. I really have enjoyed the last year of building Arcturus Creative, and am thankful to have had the opportunity to do so. Just remember that it won’t be easy, but it’s a very rewarding path. Feel free to message me if you need have any questions about how we started our business.
This week is the last week I’m going to be working out of an office. My business partner and I have decided that we’re joining many other small businesses and going mobile. We’re going to live the life of the road warriors.
We are Arcturus Creative, a creative agency located in Tampa, Florida. We have a team of designers, social media experts and marketing strategists. Until now, we’ve had a small office that we’ve loved at the amazing Rialto Theater. Recently we’ve decided to give it up.
I’m sure many of you small business owners and entrepreneurs have considered this option before. Some of you may have even taken the leap. Here are some of the reasons behind our decision.
1. Doing business usually means being away from the office
Every day, we’d go to the office. Inevitably, we’d be pulled away for meetings with clients, networking events, lunch meetings or any number of other day to day activities required to run a business. Fact is, we just weren’t there there that often during business hours.
When we did need a stationary spot to work, a coffee shop, The Tampa Club, The Oxford Exchange, or any number of other options usually were closer and more convenient. Not to mention they usually had better coffee!
We’ve never had a client have an issue with meeting us somewhere in public. When we needed a private space to work, we’ve been able to use the conference rooms at these locations.
2. We just didn’t get as much done at the office
Most of the time when we were at the office, it was full of distractions. Employees needing questions answered, phone calls, general conversation, or any number of other things served as distractions. Being in a single location where everyone knows how to find you means that blocking off time to be uninterrupted becomes difficult if not impossible. I’ve found that when I was working remotely, the questions, emails, phone calls, etc still came in, but I had some leeway in when I answered them. This allowed me to finish the task at hand before I interrupted my workflow to respond to correspondence.
3. The office was an unnecessary expense.
Every month, we had to pay rent. Paying the rent check when we weren’t there all that often always felt like a waste of money. The thought occurred to us that the money we were spending on rent could get us another employee, or new equipment, or any number of other things. It simply boils down to opportunity cost. The fixed expense each month was money we could be using to grow our business.
When we need to meet with clients, co-work spaces or private dining clubs offer a much more comfortable location for meetings, and usually they have very reasonable prices for conference room rentals. In fact, in an average month, we would spend much less money with club membership and room rentals than we would spend on a fixed office space.
4. Technology made the mobile office possible
These days we can do anything remotely. With our phones and laptops, we can manage projects, organize work teams and communicate with clients. We can manage our employees and give them more flexibility in their hours by using productivity tracking software.
Cloud based project management software, Google Documents, Dropbox and other online applications allow all of our office functions to be managed and organized via cloud. Connectivity is ensured via the proliferation of wi-fi and mobile tethering.
Every day new products are coming out to help us improve our productivity and workflow. Recently, we decided to look into portable second screens that were mobile. We discovered that Displaylink technology can be a USB powered second monitor. These days technology has largely made the office obsolete.
5. Having a mobile office means increased flexibility
If your business is like ours, your clients haven’t all conveniently moved to the same neighborhood. Chances are they’re spread out all over town, or even around the world. By untethering, we now have the flexibility in place to work from anywhere in the world. For example, the picture of Jupiter Beach I took the other day that is at the top of this article. Anywhere we can get cell data reception, or wifi now becomes our mobile office. Our Macbook Pros and iPhones contain all the tools we need to run our business.
Are there any cons?
There is always the possibility that some potential clients may take us less seriously because of our lack of a physical location, but frankly, most of our clients are more concerned with our work and results than what our office looks like. Having a professional website that showcases our work and who we are is more important these days than having a physical office. In addition, we have clients who are very happy with our work who are happy to give us solid referrals.
Managing our employees may also be a hurdle to work through, but we believe that our team will appreciate the additional freedom and that our project management workflow will continue as always. Putting in good reporting tools and communication will keep productivity levels as effective if not better than they are today.
We’re going mobile! Goodbye to the office
These days more and more businesses have gone mobile, we’re looking forward to joining their ranks. I believe that freeing up the revenue will increase our flexibility in running our business and being able to move as we need to in business will only increase our productivity and growth. And frankly… I’m really looking forward to working from the beach!
UPDATE: We’re staying a little while longer
Since I wrote this article, my awesome landlords at the Rialto Theater talked to us and offered us a proposition to stay in our space. We love our office there, and we’ve since decided to stay a little while longer. The interesting thing is that the reasons we wanted to go remote are still valid, so we’re going to adopt that model and try to repurpose the space we have to add value to our business. I’ll keep posting updates on this blog as we figure out how to leverage the space better for our business.
The featured photograph in this article is a photograph of Jupiter Beach, Florida, taken just before sunrise. The photograph was taken by Mineh Ishida with an iPhone 6.
One of the reasons my business partner and I started Arcturus Creative is so that we could work with companies and organizations we really believe in. We’re lucky that every day we get the opportunity to work with such incredible organizations. Recently, we began working on a new website for Frameworks of Tampa Bay. They really moved me with their mission to teach emotional intelligence to children. Their work has touched many lives, both students as well as their families.
Last month, we attended a luncheon for the organization where we had the opportunity to hear the stories of some of these kids. It was inspirational to say the least. They had 2 kids give short speeches, and also had a photo gallery from their student photo competition. These students were so talented and well spoken. The program obviously made an enormous positive impact in the lives of these children.
Since attending, I feel even more strongly that doing work that positively impacts the world around us is just good business. There is no reason that we can’t choose to do business with organizations and customers worthy of our time and energy. By choosing our clients carefully, we directly influence the growth and economy of the world around us.
I’m really excited to be working with Frameworks, and all of the awesome non-profits we are proud to call clients.
“How can I be more creative?” or “I’m just not that creative” are the common cries of many who start out in marketing or design. Fact is, creativity isn’t a finite resource that is doled out upon birth. It’s a skill that is cultivated through practice. Much current research has been done on the plasticity of the brain… that is how the brain can change based on stimulus. Of course, some genetic factors matter, just like in any skill, but fact is, you or I could learn to throw a ball, or paint a picture, play the guitar, or learn a language if we just dedicate time and practice. Creativity is no different.
Creativity is the intersection of things you already know.
What makes something creative? It usually is the unexpected intersection of two things we already know. Creativity comes from thinking of things in new ways, so this makes sense. So what does this look like in practice?
When we think about an elephant, we think of grey, wrinkled, large, tusks, long nose, etc. When you change one of these expectations… for example, a green elephant, now all of a sudden, you’ve entered the world of creativity. For example, dumbo was an elephant who could fly. A heavy animal like an elephant could never fly, and yet, because he could, Dumbo went on to capture the imagination of millions of people.
So is Creativity Simple?
In a word, yes… but keep in mind, letting your mind go to a place where you can freely associate between different things takes practice. Based on your upbringing or natural tendencies, your mind may be more or less naturally inclined towards this process, but everyone can learn it to some degree. The key is to reduce the “Executive Attention Network” process from your thought process. This is the part of the brain that is active when you’re focused on complex tasks or problem solving. To achieve this try some of the following:
Put yourself in relaxing and new environments
Let your mind free associate – Let your mind wander
Be physically active. Take a walk, stretch, or find a physical activity that doesn’t involve a lot of focus.
How can I become more Creative?
Becoming more creative is a cultivatable skill. The brain is very much like a muscle. The more you use it in certain types of tasks, the easier it becomes. Here are a few things you can do to improve your creative mind
Write Micro Stories
The part of the brain that imagines things is the “The Imagination Network.” This is the part of the brain active when you think about the future or imagine what someone is thinking. By writing very short stories, 100-200 words, where you imagine things from someone else’s perspective, or the world in a different state from the one you know forces this section of the brain to work. The more you use it, the easier it will become to access it in the future.
When I first started doing this, I felt really kind of silly, but the exercise of letting your brain imagine without limits really helps when you need to be creative for business or creative problem solving. These days, I try to find links between unrelated things. Many times it leads to fun nonsensical connections, but sometimes great new ideas come from the exercise.
Write your Assumptions Down
Much like the example regarding the elephants from above, if you start by writing down all of your assumptions about a particular item, it gives you a starting place for replacing one of those. For example lets pretend we’re marketing for a coffee shop. What are your assumptions about a coffee shop? Here are some of mine.
Assumptions about Coffee Shops
Sell coffee drinks
Smells like coffee
Baked goods and maybe sandwiches
Art on the walls
Small tables, maybe couches.
Students or young people working on laptops
Chill music, jazz or indie
Young trendy baristas
Usually browns and earth tone colors
So lets look at this list and see what we could possibly change to make this location more unique or “creative.” So for one, the “small tables and couches” environment is one that doesn’t promote engagement between the clientele. What if instead of it being “coffeeshop” like, we made all the seating communal? Large tables with many chairs, or a bar around a central serving area? Something that promotes interaction between strangers? Now lets take it further. So rather than art on the walls, lets make the tables and bar counters art from local artists, with glass or resin on top so you’re literally working on the art. We invite local artists to come in periodically to redo the table tops or bar counters so that they are always changing. Now you have a more communal atmosphere that invites conversation, and art that frequently change to talk about. Now you have a “Creative” spin on the coffee shop motif. By creating a list of assumptions to change, it offers you a chance to offer a change and that will be seen as “Creative.”
Grow your pool of knowledge and experiences
We’ve discussed before how creativity is the intersection between things you know. It stands to reason then that increasing the things you know will further your creativity. The most creative people I know are the ones who consume the most knowledge in different fields. Read a lot, follow blogs, setup a pinterest page and expose yourself to new ideas and artwork. Listen to more than one genre of music and travel. The more “well rounded” you are in your knowledge and experiences, the larger a “pool” of ideas you can draw from when you create new things.
Other people have a different base of experiences and knowledge than you do, and by bouncing ideas back and forth, you can create a creative journey that may not have been possible on your own. By working with people like this regularly, you’ll in time learn to take paths of thought similar to the people you work with, thus expanding your ability to think in different ways.
Having other people join the conversation also can break old patterns. This can be a great boon when trying to think creatively.
Meditation Breaks Down the Walls to Creativity
Meditation has been shown to actually alter the physical connections in your brain, specifically by reducing the strength of the “Me” center of your brain. As discussed above, imagining yourself in the perspective of others is one of the sections of the brain responsible for creativity. Thus, meditation is a great way to break down the barriers to creativity. It also has other great mind and body benefits as well, so there is no reason not to practice it!