Business Culture Self

The Itch

I took several interviews in July and August, most of them in Boston. I hadn’t traveled into the city as much as I did when I was young and fun… but there it was again. The Itch.

There’s something about a city – be it Boston or any other major metropolis – that exudes an energy wholly different from that of the suburbs. It’s the hustle-and-bustle, sounds, and sights that make life in the city move at a different pace.

I didn’t travel into the city often when I was very young. Anytime we did, it was an event and came with a sense of nervous excitement. What was going to happen? Where were we going? How would we get there?

Over time, the city pulls you back. I used to joke with a friend of mine – someone who has lived in the Boston area for over 13 years – that when I made a trek into the city for business that I would get The Itch, that unexplainable feeling in the pit of my stomach whenever I walked though crowded streets or found a local watering hole for a drink or two.

The Itch is persuasive. It’s almost sensual, slowly pulling you into its orbit. And I scratched it.

I’m now working in the city of Boston for the first time in my life, despite living close by for much of my life. And it’s an exciting experience. The commute into town – I take the commuter rail, the state’s train system – provides an opportunity to share the experience of city life with others. I read to and from my home and feel I’m doing the “right thing” by using public transportation. That dang Itch… it’s got a great public relations team.

I’ve joined the flock of folks who use the city as their place of work, and I have The Itch to thank. Will The Itch wear away over time?

Business Culture Self


I no longer work for HB.

The reasons aren’t important – what’s important is my relationship with HB during my time as a designer and interactive strategist. The company – especially the Creative team – watched me grow from a boy into (arguably) a man as I bought a house, got married, and became a father. The “trifecta” of life events were all shared with my HB family over 6.5 years.

But it’s the last 48 hours where my family truly worked their magic.

There’s my immediate family who I go to for emotional support in moments of confusion. They are available, open, and supportive with no strings attached. I’m blessed to have them in my life.

Then there’s my extended family and friends – all of whom offered words of encouragement, a few laughs, and suggestions for next steps.

And it’s amazing the work my professional network family has done in so little time. I’ve had an unexpected number of folks – some of who haven’t heard from me in years – graciously offer an introduction, recommendation, or a helping hand. Their words alone mean the world.

And finally, there’s my HB family. I’ve invested so much time with them during my tenure as an HBer. There were lots of tears as we parted ways this week – because emotions are prevalent in any family. They’ve looked out for me and will continue to do so in the coming weeks and months.

Thank you to my HB family for an amazing ride. Maybe I’ll get to introduce you to my new family, wherever they will be.

Culture Design Self

Let’s get personal

Steven Pressfield’s post on culture hit me at the perfect time. In it, he talks of institutional culture (Apple, NASCAR, The Marines)… but more importantly, the power of personal culture.

But there’s such a thing as individual culture as well. A personal culture unique to one individual. Personal culture is what you and I have to have, and if we don’t have it, we have to acquire it. As artists and entrepreneurs we must design, construct, and perpetuate an interior culture that is as vivid, unique, and self-empowering as that of the corporations and institutions we work with and compete against.

Pressfield stresses the role of self in our work. Yes, most of us work for larger companies with their own cultures. But it’s the personal culture that can help us do our best creative work that aligns with our beliefs and desires.

Never was this more apparent than in our recent company planning session for 2014. We shared an institutional culture – meeting together with a shared feeling of the importance on planning and direction for the agency – but our personal cultures came to the forefront through recommendation and goals on what we wanted to do as individuals in the coming year.

Here’s how Pressfield describes culture:

A culture (in an institution or an individual) is comprised of a belief system, a style, a clearly-defined aspiration, a set of virtues that are cultivated and a set of vices that are forbidden or at least discouraged.

For me, my current culture includes the following:

  •     Practicing a level of design that is clear, smart, and fun
  •     A high level of respect for the beautiful
  •     Human relationships driven by humor, empathy, politeness, and generosity
  •     Valuing cleanliness, organization, and timeliness
  •     Expressing myself through written and audio outlets

Note the use of “current” – personal culture mature over time.

Because the new culture, if it’s true, will be a deeper, more authentic version of the older one.

2014 is sure to be a big year for the agency and I. Through the power of personal culture, I can bring my beliefs, style, and virtue to HB to both better myself and the agency.

Content Marketing Culture Media Social Media Strategy

Tweeting a 5K

Five thousand tweets

Today marks my five thousandth tweet sent through Twitter, a social information network that I joined April 16, 2009. In those 1,315 days, I’ve come to value Twitter for far more than a tool for sharing my latest meal.

Direct connections

Twitter allows me to engage directly with some of my favorite authors, creative thinkers, marketers, and entertainers. I can respond to a poll, comment on an author’s latest blog post or book, or even engage in a direct 1-on-1 conversation as follow-up.

As an example, I’ve had the pleasure of reading two of author Gary Vaynerchuk‘s books. Through Twitter, he’s helped me stay motivated and keep on-top of current marketing trends. He even took the time to send a few direct messages my way.

Introduction to new folks

Via other’s retweets, I’ve connected with new folks from my several networks. I know more folks who attended Syracuse University, work in the creative world, or those I’ve met in person and now use as resources.

For instance, I had the pleasure of meeting several creatives at last year’s An Event Apart in Boston. I now get to receive feedback and commentary from these folks who help improve my designs and writing – and use them for design and development help.

Sharing what’s important

Welcoming folks into my circle of followers with similar interests creates great personal value on Twitter. I’ve been able to introduce friends and colleagues not only to my writing and designs, but also popular destinations like fashion blog and video series Put This On, technology and Apple blog Daring Fireball, design features on Fast Company Design, and interesting social apps like Over.

Through these publishers, I’ve expanded my knowledge in many fields while simultaneously sharing with followers what I find most interesting and valuable.

Redefining news

Breaking news now employs Twitter for distribution. When a global event occurs, news organizations can quickly share the story’s headline while awaiting further details. I’m able to keep up on the latest developments without waiting for a full story to be written, edited, and posted.

This is also true of personal news. Exciting announcements can spread quicker than phone calls could ever do. That instant satisfaction of sharing a big day with the world – and receiving words of congratulations – makes Twitter incredibly valuable.

And of my 5,000 tweets, a personal announcement is my favorite. On June 5th, I was able to share the birth of my daughter with the world.

Twitter may simply be a digital tool, but it has brought great value to my life in my first 5,000 tweets. To the next 5,000!

Culture Design

The Design of Voting

Voting is difficult

From the HB Blog

We can fly a man to the moon, but we can’t design an effective ballot. What gives?

It’s amazing to know that we, as American citizens, cast votes to elect our officials; however, it’s equally disappointing when your experience at the polls is nothing short of confusing.

Earlier today, I cast my vote at my local polling place. Having done this for several elections, a few things stuck out:

  • many voters didn’t know what precinct was theirs,
  • others were unfamiliar with the voting process, and, most importantly,
  • the ballot appeared to be designed by a third-grader.

And “designed” is used generously. Shouldn’t this be simpler?


Ballots should be designed for two things:

  • Legibility: Know your audience and assume that voters will have a difficult time reading small or light type. Typefaces matter!
  • Ease-of-use: The last thing a voter should be when reading a ballot is confused. Keep the design as simple as possible while still communicating key information.

That’s it. A legible, easily understood ballot will make for a much better polling experience – which should be more a celebration than a frustrating nuisance!

How do we guarantee this result? A few design enhancements can go a long way.

Embrace space

First, we must separate key blocks of information. The federal election, state election, and local races and questions should all be given ample white space in between each other. Similarly, each candidate should be clearly marked and given air to breathe. Cramming several candidates into less space may save paper, but doesn’t provide a satisfying experience to the voting public.

Simple instructions

Work under the assumption that this will be everyone’s first vote. Perhaps the presidential area of the ballot comes with a line of text reading, “Vote for one of the following presidential candidates. If you vote for more than one, your vote will not count.”

For local elections (perhaps state representatives), ballots might read, “Vote for one of the following state representatives. State representatives work for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and represent districts across the state.”

This seems overly simple, but can help voters feel more confident about their voting responsibility.


My ballot used similarly-sized type for the entire document. There was no dominant element and all of the information held similar weight.

Altering the headline size on a ballot can make a huge difference. Each section (federal, state, local) should have its own heading, all of consistent size. The next level of information (the candidates’ names) should have a smaller type treatment. Finally, supporting information like a candidate’s party, address, or explanatory text for a question should have a tertiary treatment and size. The size and weight of type should work like a funnel or headline structure for a web page.

Civic importance

Just as it’s the responsibility of Americans to cast an educated vote, it’s just as important for local and state governing bodies to design a simpler voting process.

With so much cynicism surrounding the voting process, the experience must be made simpler and more enjoyable. Americans should feel empowered every four years, not frustrated and pressured.

In short: save the ballot and save our elections!