My maternal grandmother, Pearl, passed away unexpectedly last week. Although the news was difficult to hear – and will take me a long time to fully grasp – the outpouring of support for Pearl at her services earlier this week was brilliant. Grandma touched a lot of lives and many of them paid their respects this week. I’m incredibly grateful for this.

Additionally, I was lucky enough to speak at her services. Here’s a glimpse:

GramPearl Arlene Ridder. She was born in 1929 and her 84-some-odd years on this Earth, she was a daughter, sister, mother, aunt… but for me and my cousins, she was our grandmother (and more recently, a great grandmother). It was only right that when she married into the Ridder family – where golf was so important – her initials became “PAR.”

She was defined by many things, but here are just a few:

  • Patience – God bless her for listening to the golfers in the family recap EVERY SINGLE SHOT of our rounds when we visited her after a day on the course.
  • Cuisine – I challenge you to find a better lemon chiffon pie, blueberry cake, or homemade applesauce.
  • Presence – simply put, Grandma showed up – for the big events and small – and took immense pleasure in watching her grandchildren grow and succeed.
  • Optimism – nearly every meal, day, or event was “lovely” or “wonderful.”
  • And of course, cribbage. The card game has existed since the 1600s but you would think Grandma invented it. She had an amazing skill for the game… and perhaps even more impresssive than her skill was her ability to talk trash. Nothing beats your grandmother telling you after you scored poorly that “no, no, that’s good for you, honey.”

Note that all of these things by which Grandma was defined are traits and things that will continue. There will be plenty of golf, good food, smiles, and cribbage in the near future… especially at this year’s Christmas cribbage tournament that’s been known in recent years as the Pearl Ridder Invitational. I think we’ll stick with that name.

So to continue Gram’s legacy, we all have homework. With every swing of a golf club, or bite of lemon chiffon pie, or miscounted cribbage hand, Gram will be there. And it’s our responsibility to savor those moments and share stories of Gram with future generations. No, many of her great grand kids won’t remember Grandma “the person,” but they’ll know her.

Finally, if there were a grandmother hall of fame, she would be an immediate inductee… and her plaque might read “She showed up, she smiled, and she whooped your butt in cribbage.” We love you Grams.

Business Sports

Brand Evolution: from Tiger to Rory

It was only a matter of time.

Nike hitched their wagons to Tiger Woods at an early age and turned the Nike Golf brand from a novelty to major competitor. The traditional golf manufacturers – Titleist, Ping, Taylor Made, Callaway, et. al – struggled to slow down Nike Golf’s meteoric rise since the late 90s. In fact, Nike equipment was considered a joke, even after Woods began using the clubs. But the brand’s explosion is all thanks to Tiger Woods.

And then Thanksgiving of 2009 happened.

Since the story broke of Woods’s extra-marital affairs, both the Tiger Woods brand and Nike Golf brand have taken a hit. Sure, Tiger won a few tournaments last year and his game looked solid. But Woods hasn’t won a major since 2008 and his popularity has decreased since 2009. What was Nike to do?

Nike did the smart thing, sticking by one of their most successful, famous, and marketable athletes. But they knew the Tiger magic couldn’t last forever. Could Tiger go on to win several majors over the next decade? Absolutely. But with a brand literally built by one star, Nike Golf needed the next step in its brand evolution.

Enter Rory McIlroy. Young. Multiple major victories. Incredibly likable. Sounds a lot like Tiger Woods.

And with Nike’s latest commercial featuring both golfers, the message is clear: Tiger is still a big part of Nike Golf, but Rory is THE part of Nike Golf in the not-so-distant future. The commercial literally shows them as equals, matching shot for shot, until the end… where Tiger says, “you’ll learn.”

Here, “you’ll learn” means much more than hitting a golf ball into a small plastic cup. It means that the brand rollout for McIlroy will learn a lot from the brand rollout of Woods. Within the next couple of years, Nike Golf will develop a McIlroy logo, apparel, and McIlroy-only commercials. As Tiger’s career winds down, McIlroy’s will be doing the opposite. And the Nike Golf brand continues.

Nike’s stance on McIlroy sets them up for the next couple of decades in continuing the Nike Golf brand story. All McIlroy has to do is keep winning… and stay away from the ladies.

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.

Business Design Measurement Strategy

Gut versus data – the eternal question

From the HB Blog

I used to be a math geek. When I was a grade school and high school student, I displayed advanced behaviors with regards to numbers and their interrelationships. I nearly attended a technical university in order to continue exploring mathematics.

Funny track for a designer, no?

Today, as someone who designs experiences for other humans, I rely less on my knowledge of numbers and more on my intuition. The ubiquitous head-versus-heart argument has always intrigued me so I recently scoured the web for some additional insight. Here’s a sampling of what I found:

But that means us too, as leaders, need to have the guts to go with our intuition sometimes instead of hiding behind the numbers. Hiding behind the numbers is the easy way, because even if it goes wrong, it’s easy for us to say that with the information we had it seemed pretty clear that that was what we should have tried blah blah blah. What’s harder is making a decision because you feel like it’s the one that needs to be made. Your gut tells you it’s the right one. You won’t have the luxury of hiding behind the numbers if you’re wrong, but at least you’re actually thinking and making decisions instead of doing what the numbers tell you to do. – workplace MOJO

Don’t get me wrong — you need data. You should be gathering all the data you can from the very beginning. But you also need to know that your data is not absolute — it’s incomplete, and you simply don’t have enough of it to base your decisions fully on data. You gather all the inputs you can, but your decision really boils down to both using your head AND trusting your gut. So while there’s no exact formula, when it’s time to make the decision of whether to make a change or stick with your original business plan: gather your data, consider all the advice, and take some time to listen to what your gut has to say. – The Accelerators blog

Howard Gardner, a Harvard professor and psychologist, said “gut instinct is basically a form of pattern recognition.” Our brains can process more information on a more sophisticated level than most of us realize. These complex systems — battlefields, financial markets, company cultures and corporate strategies — require a different kind of thinking based on the informed gut. In these situations, you will never collect enough data or be able to weigh every alternative in order to rationalize an analytical decision. However, your subconscious has already amassed sufficient cues to tell your gut how to move forward. All you have to do is listen to it, trust your instincts and make the best decision you can with the limited information available. – Austin Business Journal

You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards… you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something — your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life. – Steve Jobs, Stanford commencement speech, June 2005

Did you need data to choose your life-partner? How about your alma mater? Was there deep analysis that led you to choose the name of your first-born? Likely, not. But you still can’t tell your board or your leadership team that you need to launch a new service offering, because ‘your gut says so’.” The Reaganesque ‘Trust But Verify’ works for us. Use your guts to lead you to a hypothesis. Use your intuition to decide on how best to verify it. Then, go get the data and build the case to win over your peers and bosses. Sooner or later, the decision-makers will need to trust their guts to make the call. After all, even when the evidence is beyond the shadow of a doubt, the decider needs to take a leap of faith when the time comes to choose.” – Corporater World

In the end, the debate continues, but one strategy remains clear: balance helps with decision-making. Both your gut and the numbers need to play critical roles in both design and business decisions.

Design Strategy

The cyclical life of web design

What I learned at An Event Apart Boston 2014

From Medium

As a web designer, I’ve learned that the practice is young, difficult, ever-changing, and cyclical. “What we’re doing is hard and scary!” says Kristina Halvorson, CEO of Brain Traffic. “We are all perpetually catching up.”

During this year’s An Event Apart Boston, a fantastically-designed gathering of folks who make websites, I recalled my time at Syracuse University in 2003. We read an essay by Jakob Nielsen discussing some of the practical requirements for any website:

  • Legibility
  • Accessibility
  • Simplicity
  • Compatibility
  • Performance

Essentially, Nielsen wrote that web experiences are for humans.

After reading Nielsen’s work, my fellow students discussed web design principles and I recall many of us (myself included) saying things like, “who cares? Let’s make a site that just looks awesome!” Oh, to be young again.

The tenants of websites shared by Nielsen over a decade ago are en vogue yet again in our constant struggle to create useful, meaningful experiences on the web. After listening to AEA’s dozen speakers, I took away a few key messages:

“Web design is an environment for someone else’s expression.” ­– Jeffrey Zeldman

“Sign off on content hierarchy instead of design.” ­– Sarah Parmenter

“Think of responsive web design as a catalyst. It introduces complexity through nuance. We have the tools and skills already.” ­– Dan Mall

“Design to human scale.” ­– Luke Wroblewski

“Our work is not personal but together.” ­– Kristina Halvorson

“Design is the rendering of intent.” ­– Jared Spool

“Think content first, and navigation second.” ­– Jeremy Keith

Many of the observations from the panel of speakers have very little to do with specific design strategies and focus more on the importance of content and user experience. Essentially, it is our job as designers to get out of the way. Nielsen’s observations and suggestions remain true to today’s web design strategies. Zeldman’s words summarize it best:

“A great website makes interaction easy, guides you subtly to your heart’s desire, can be invisible or in your face, and it delights.

Content must lead design. Performance is critical. The user experience must be simple and work across all devices.

And college students should pay attention to intelligent thinkers and practitioners.