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Archive for learn – Page 2

Joy in the Labor

12 Days of Thanksgiving: DAY 10

I read this poem from the American Life in Poetry project last week and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. I love the phrase “to claim a place in the bounty of earth.” Isn’t that what we really find ourselves about so many times? Claiming a place of bounty for our own hearts and spirits. So often we slip into thinking that bounty falls before us with no effort. That we are simply able to sit before a table amply spread and partake of bounty at no cost. But, as Mr. Levine writes, bounty more often comes through effort — through the conscious and persistent labors of grace in our lives and the staunch belief in our hearts that labor will be rewarded. And the belief that the bounty for which we labor is precious.

I’m reminded today that bounty must be cultivated as we root out the life of meaning that brings us joy. God is so incredibly generous. His provision is ample. But it is my responsibility to maintain that space for His abundance. It is my responsibility to put in the effort to cultivate my own heart, recognizing, claiming, and preserving what is important.

And, as the poem expresses, joy may be found in that labor. Our effort and struggle produces a greater measure of gratitude.

American Life in Poetry: Column 348


When we’re on all fours in a garden, planting or weeding, we’re as close to our ancient ancestors as we’re going to get. Here, while he works in the dirt, Richard Levine feels the sacred looking over his shoulder.

Believe This

All morning, doing the hard, root-wrestling
work of turning a yard from the wild
to a gardener’s will, I heard a bird singing
from a hidden, though not distant, perch;
a song of swift, syncopated syllables sounding
like, Can you believe this, believe this, believe?
Can you believe this, believe this, believe?

And all morning, I did believe. All morning,
between break-even bouts with the unwanted,
I wanted to see that bird, and looked up so
I might later recognize it in a guide, and know
and call its name, but even more, I wanted
to join its church. For all morning, and many
a time in my life, I have wondered who, beyond
this plot I work, has called the order of being,
that givers of food are deemed lesser
than are the receivers. All morning,
muscling my will against that of the wild,
to claim a place in the bounty of earth,
seed, root, sun and rain, I offered my labor
as a kind of grace, and gave thanks even
for the aching in my body, which reached
beyond this work and this gift of struggle.


American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright © 2010 by Richard Levine, from his most recent book of poetry, That Country’s Soul, Finishing Line Press, 2010, by permission of Richard Levine and the publisher. Introduction copyright ©2011 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

A Good Experience… with an Ad

On Friday, I shared some of my favorite spreads from the Sept/Oct issue of Lonny Magazine. This particular issue celebrates the publication’s 2-year birthday. Since the magazine is published primarily in a digital format, I’m impressed with how they’ve tranformed the traditional periodical model into one that’s been successful online. And one that’s been able to stay relevant not only with design, style and content, but with technology as well. One example…

The reader is able to click on various photos, logos and content throughout the magazine to view relevant websites. But, they’ve also begun to incorporate video segments into the mix to make the pages “come alive” so to speak. As I was clicking through the issue the other day, I came to this spread featuring regular content next to a full page Waverly ad. Of course, the bland coffee cups don’t fit the normal image of Waverly products, so it stopped my eye. As I moused over the ad, I noticed that the image was actually a video ad. And a great one. I really liked that experience with an advertiser. Check it out…

Untitled from Max McDonnell on Vimeo.

5 Things Small Businesses Can Talk About Online

The internet holds a wealth of marketing opportunities, to be sure. For small businesses in particular, marketing through online channels is very attractive because it often requires a lower budget investment compared to the potential return in exposure (and in real leads that produce sales). I hear buzz phrases like “be the media” and “education-based marketing” tossed about a lot, but the thought of producing original content to put online is pretty daunting to most small business owners. However, the process may not be as difficult as you think when you use what you’re already doing.

Small businesses often have a great advantage in the ability to connect with customers just by their very nature. And connecting with clients is what online media is all about — meeting your customers right in their laptops, inboxes or smart phones. Small businesses are usually already trained to give one-on-one personalized attention to customers as well as cater their services to specific customer needs. This more personal approach is simply the way of life in building a small business. And, that approach can provide a head start in developing content for online marketing just by using what you do every day in your relationships with customers. Whether it’s a company blog or an email newsletter or a Facebook profile, here are 5 things small businesses can talk about online.

1. Your Staff — In a small business, customers tend to know your staff by name already. And more importantly, your staff tends to know their customers by name as well. Regardless of where (or who) your market is, I bet a large chunk of your customers would choose to work with someone they know by name rather than some anonymous sales representative. Online media gives the opportunity to expand the base of that personal attention beyond just those who can walk into your storefront. Use your online media channels to help people get to know your staff better. Share well-chosen personal tidbits about those personnel who are often the face of your company to help customers make a stronger connection. Give customers more insight into the personal expert service they can expect by sharing information about your staff’s experience and training.

2. Your Expertise — Sometimes small businesses battle the fallacy that bigger knows more. We all know that’s not necessarily true, and online media offers the opportunity to share the expertise your small business offers. When customers come into your store or business seeking your services, they trust your advice because you can cater it to their specific needs. You can share that same expertise online through tips or suggestions that relate to your services or products. Yes, you may be giving away some free advice, but you will also build trust in your knowledge to serve customer needs.

3. Your Customers — One of the time-honored marketing boosts of small (particularly local) business is the proper use of text message software. Folks talk about your business to their neighbors and friends. Your online media offers that same opportunity, only your network is greatly expanded. With the permission of your customers, share testimonials of their experiences with your company. When you’re working with other businesses, extend public “thank yous” in your online media for their business. This not only gives your online audience a glimpse of the people who already trust your services, but it offers free publicity to your customers as well.

4. Your Calendar — In your small business marketing plan, you probably already target certain times of the year that are significant for marketing your services or products most effectively. You likely plan for special sales, product showcases or events throughout the year to connect with customers or move your inventory. And, you probably develop traditional advertising like printed flyers or newspaper ads to let your customers know about it. Add online media to the mix! Online you don’t have to pay to add color or worry about advertising deadlines. Use your online media channels to get specific about your promotions and share information that may not necessarily fit into your normal column inches. Plus, in the online format, you can offer updates about availability and special discounts that may occur on the spur of the moment, giving your online audience the opportunity to get “inside” information.

5. Your Vendors — Similar to what I mentioned about expertise, sometimes retail customers default to the big “box” stores because they believe they are the best source for the brands they want at the lowest price. Another myth! Small businesses can use online media to dispel that idea by sharing specific information about the brands they carry.  Often times, you’ve developed personal relationships with the representatives for the brands and retail lines in your store. Offering customers some of the detailed information they provide not only highlights the benefits of the products, but it establishes your small business as an authority and resource for that particular brand.

poetry . Back From The Fields

A journey through a pasture is always an adventure. I have some experience in this. The wide open space with grasses of every flavor blowing becomes ripe for imagination regardless of the direction you’re traveling. In Spring and Summer, when the grasses are sharing their wealth and putting out seeds, you can’t help but walk carrying reminders of where you just stepped–little pieces of tomorrow’s blades and stalks stuck to your socks and shoes and pant-legs. You don’t really notice them while you’re in the pasture. The imaginative potential of each step is too overwhelming. The wealth of sensory intake from earth and sky and plants and wind is too distracting. It’s when you get home, that you see what you’ve brought back from the fields. This poem from the American Life in Poetry series talks about that moment. I wanted to share it because I’ve been thinking about journeys lately. In the winding paths of the lives we build, whether grassy fields or arduous hills, we bring the seeds from every step along with us–seeds just waiting to fall off in new places and sprout anew. Seeds waiting to be planted with intention in whatever fertile ground we cultivate. It’s so easy sometimes to overlook the potential of even the winding path, the hopelessly meandering journey or the seemingly wrong turn. But, seeds stick. With seeds, there is always potential.

American Life in Poetry: Column 313

Go for a walk and part of whatever you walk through rides back on your socks. Here Peter Everwine, a California poet, tells us about the seeds that stick to us, in all their beauty and variety.

Back from the Fields

Until nightfall my son ran in the fields,
looking for God knows what.
Flowers, perhaps. Odd birds on the wing.
Something to fill an empty spot.
Maybe a luminous angel
or a country girl with a secret dark.
He came back empty-handed,
or so I thought.

Now I find them:
thistles, goatheads,
the barbed weeds
all those with hooks or horns
the snaggle-toothed, the grinning ones
those wearing lantern jaws,
old ones in beards, leapers
in silk leggings, the multiple
pocked moons and spiny satellites, all those
with juices and saps
like the fingers of thieves
nation after nation of grasses
that dig in, that burrow, that hug winds
and grab handholds
in whatever lean place.

It’s been a good day.

American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation, publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright ©2004 by Peter Everwine, whose most recent book of poetry is From the Meadow: Selected and New Poems, Univ. of Pittsburgh Press, 2004. Poem reprinted from The Place That Inhabits Us, Sixteen Rivers Press, 2010, by permission of Peter Everwine and the publisher. Introduction copyright © 2011 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction’s author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006. We do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.


Color Month: Green

There’s no better day to think about the color GREEN than St. Patrick’s Day, of course! From the renewal of spring to the warmth of tropical waters, the color green brings a calming influence to this upsized color month journey and to design color palettes. All colors carry unspoken messages based on cultural influences, historical references and even our own bodies’ physical reactions. Let’s look at what the color green communicates.

Green is one of the most prevalent colors found in nature and offers one of the widest arrays of approachable choices in the spectrum. Because it is linked to so many various shades in nature, multiple tones of green are rarely perceived to “clash” with one another. Abundance in the natural world gives the color a near universal appeal and very strong positive associations. This prevalence allows green to be used almost like a neutral in many color palettes, serving various roles from a grounding undertone to a calming influence to a striking counterpoint.

The many shades and hues of green offer varying associations that can appeal to nearly any audience. Blue green tones almost always elicit a pleasant response from viewers because they are so closely related to earth and sky. These colors are perceived as clean and cool, but also warm like the tropical waters they evoke. Blue greens are typically very soothing and are flattering to most skin tones. Lighter mint greens are seen as refreshing and easily invoke sweet thoughts of chocolate and the taste of mint leaves. While brighter greens generally connote renewal by embodying spring, fresh grass and leaf buds, deeper greens are often associated with the mysterious silence of deep forests. Both call to mind refreshing scents, but the associations with deeper greens expand to suggest prestige, security and trustworthiness because of their use in American money.

Among the lesser-used greens, bright emerald signifies elegance and is also strongly associated with the Irish heritage. Yellow-greens can be used effectively for projects related to gardening or florals because they resemble new growth. The sharper tone of chartreuse is perceived as trendy and an attention-getter that gives a youthful feel appealing to children and teens. Olive tones can be seen as up-scale but sometimes require stronger colors companions to pull them away from a staid neutral role.

Among green’s negative associations, it is sometimes used in cultural terminology to represent jealousy, envy or inexperience. In addition, some shades of yellow-green are actually associated with nausea and illness, and create adverse reactions.

Overall, the design possibilities of the color green seem almost as endless as the various shades we see outside our window. It has obvious environmental appeal as well positive concepts like cleanliness, growth and reliability. Personally, I like green’s ability to shift from that reliability right into an added kick of excitement with only a touch of blue or yellow added to the mix. And, of course, you know any small pond dweller has to appreciate a few green frogs. Enjoy wearing green today!

Color Month: Blue

The blue skies of Spring are beginning to take over the gray more consistently where I live. There’s something about a cloudless blue sky that gives me a sense of clarity. Continuing with my bonus color month, what other subtle messages are delivered with the color blue?

We often perceive the color blue as a constant in our lives because of its association with sky and water, and it serves as the calming agent among the primary colors. From deep navy and bright royal to blended teals and periwinkles, hues in the blue family offer a diverse, but calm, cool and collected palette. Because much of the earth is blue in the form of sky and sea, the color generally inspires confidence and reliability. Blue is appealing to both men and women almost equally, although men often report it as their most preferred color.

Blue almost universally symbolizes reliability, dependability and trustworthiness — hence the term, “true blue.” Physically, there is also evidence that seeing blue triggers the release of a tranquilizing chemical in the brain, producing a physical sensation of rest and calm. Generally, people report greater productivity and less anxiety when working in blue rooms, and exposure to the color has been shown to lower heart rate and body temperature.  Therefore, basic blues often promote good mental concentration.

Navy blue is perhaps the most serious in the color family and the shade most closely associated with power. Generally, darkening a color by moving the hue towards black infuses it with additional power. Thus, navy is synonymous with authority and credibility, but is also more approachable and friendly than straight black. The brightness of brilliant or electric blues shift the color away from more sedate versions. They lend a dynamic and exhilarating tone, and tend to engage the viewer more than calmer, traditional blues. Periwinkle blues have a warmer undertone that emanates from the purple used to mix them and are often seen as more playful and energetic. Teal blues are associated with a more upscale look, indicating rich and unique qualities. This version of blue is the least gender-specific and equally appeals to both men and women. Turquoise blue was named the color of the year in 2010 by Pantone, the company responsible for the print-industry standard color matching system. The color of the year represents the most prominent color trend viewed across multiple design disciplines where color palettes most effect marketing or merchandising success. Pantone describes the color as an “inviting, luminous hue inspiring thoughts of soothing, tropical waters.”

Although shades of blue have universal appeal because of their association with Earth’s core water elements, it does have negative associations when applied to food. There are only a handful of blue tones present in food found in nature, and the color tends to create an appetite aversion.

Are you looking at blue skies today?

Color Month: Purple

I’ve been noticing some of those blossoms making an appearance in my outdoor spaces over the last week or so. My backyard is telling me the next stop on the color train is Purple! Of all the colors in the spectrum, the one that often signifies the most depth to me is purple. From the shades of magenta to deeper eggplants, it just seems to have a complexity that always attracts me. It makes me wonder. It makes me imagine. Let’s take a look at the hidden messages the color purple delivers.

A combination of red’s excitement and blue’s calm, purple is a complex medium that is most commonly associated with royalty. Unlike some of the other colors, cultural background plays a strong role in how the color purple is perceived in different parts of the world. It’s kind of an uncommon color in marketing applications, but in the right context, it can offer a sense of the daring and dramatic that is powerful.  Because of its connection with royalty, purple certainly adds an air of elegance and wealth wherever it is used.

Because purple does not occur as often in nature as other colors, the associations related to it tend to be a bit more introspective. Purple is perceived as a complex and contemplative color often signifying creativity, eccentricity and unpredictability. It sometimes signifies an artistic bent as well as a sense of daring. In many cultures, purple has been used to signify spirituality, and offers a sensual depth of feeling. Colors in the purple family also connote a sense of mystery.

Blue purple tones that are on the more radiant end of the spectrum are most often associated with New Age philosophies as well as futuristic ideas. The deeper royal purples represent a perceived value in many cultures, particularly in European societies where they are closely associated with royalty. These purples lend a regal and majestic quality to design applications. Lighter, grayed-out purples like lavender evoke softer, more sentimental and nostalgic emotions and are associated with gentility and refinement. They are also perceived as delicate, embodying the sweet tastes and scents present in the plant bearing its name.

Because purple does not hold as many references found in nature, its associations are more cultural and therefore, more subject to individual tastes. Therefore, it can be challenging to choose where it might appeal to a wide audience. It’s association with New Age and mysticism can be a negative association in many aspects of Western society. In addition, it is also sometimes associated with an exploration of gender roles which can make the color subject to being politicized.

Purple can infuse color palettes with a uniquely rich quality in the right context. It can add a balancing cool undertone to warmer color schemes and conversely a warmer tone to cool schemes. Because purple hues can be pushed from the cool to the warm ends of the spectrum, the color be a powerful counterpoint in color combinations, adding depth and vibrance.

Tools for Sane Social Media

During this first year of Small Pond Graphics, I’ve really seen a lot of exposure and new business opportunities sparked through my profiles on both Twitter and Facebook. I’ve been experimenting over the last few months with different ways of sharing client projects, original content, inspiration and ideas there and integrating the content here on Plop! as well. There’s no question social media takes time, and as with any marketing effort, for it to effective it takes some planning and thought as well.  Today I thought I would share a couple of tools I use to help me with the logistics. Time spent on social media can get away from you if you’re not careful, and it can quickly turn non-productive. I use these tools for scheduling and managing the content I want to share–and for keeping my time on social media sane. Maybe they’ll help you as well.

1. Twaitter.com — Twaitter is a marketing tool for Twitter that allows you to draft, schedule and send tweets. You don’t need a separate account, you just log in with your Twitter username and password. Simple enough. There are many twitter tools that facilitate the process of scheduling and sending tweets. The reason I like Twaitter is because I can schedule recurring tweets on a very specific time frame. While I don’t recommend bombarding your Twitter followers with repeated messages, I do think it’s valuable to send regular tweets with general information about your business. I use Twaitter to send a weekly tweet listing my services with a link to the Pond website and weekly tweets inviting followers to join my facebook page (with a link).

2. Postling.com — Postling is a great comprehensive service for posting to multiple social media channels or blogs at one time. It also allows you to manage multiple brands if you have more than one business on your social media plate, and it allows you to schedule in advance. I frequently use it to schedule the Daily PONDspiration posts I add to the Small Pond Facebook page each day. I like it because you can select to post to both your personal FB profile and any pages you administer and Twitter. It automatically shortens the links for my posts and I like it because it allows me to choose an image from the linked page to include, much like if I was posting it directly into Facebook. That’s important to me because my posts are design oriented. I usually spend some time over each weekend scheduling the upcoming week’s daily FB posts all at once. Makes my life easier!

Note: Postling also tracks comments and interactions with your social media posts. Nice.

3. Amplify.com — Amplify offers a very similar service to Postling with a few added features I love. Like Postling, it allows you to choose multiple profiles and media outlets to post a single message. But, Amplify offers an easy browser toolbar button that lets you “amplify” a link right from your browser. I use it to share links or information on Twitter or Facebook on the fly without a lot of additional browser windows or logins.  If I want more control over what is shared, I also sometimes use it  to schedule Daily PONDspiration posts. The toolbar button offers the option to “clip” a page. I can select an image and various paragraphs of text straight from a web page. [It’s very helpful for those webpages whose images won’t automatically import into Facebook.] Another great feature of Amplify is that it lets you compose your Twitter and Facebook wording separately since you can utilize more characters on Facebook.

Note: Amplify sets up your amplified posts as a micro-blog of sorts that you can promote if you desire. When posting, you can link to this micro-blog or to the original web page you are sharing.

4. Network Blogs — I wanted to throw in a tool I use for Plop! as well. Network Blogs is a Facebook application that lets you link your blog content to your Facebook page and/or profile. You can essentially set up a mini page for your blog and manage how it is “syndicated” to your FB profile or any pages you administer. The application creates a “blog” tab showing all your posts, and it can automatically post links for new blog posts to your wall. I also activated the feature that lets you post to Twitter automatically as well.

Of course, some of the services these tools offer overlap. I’ve established sort of a mish-mash protocol for how I prefer to manage my social media marketing. These free services may offer you the opportunity to do the same!

Color Month: Red

I took a break from Color Month last week to gratefully give extra attention to some client projects, but I’m back to making my way through the rainbow. Just programming note… I’m having so much fun that I’m extending the color theme through March as well. I’ve found some great color tools and information to share, so keep your eyes peeled!

It’s time for RED! Stop signs, fire engines and lipstick–red always makes an impact. I love the confidence this color injects. From vibrant pure reds and hot pinks to deeper wine and rose colors, hues in the red family imbues a sense of power and dominance. What other unspoken messages does the color red communicate?

Red is often considered the most primal of the primary colors. Of all the colors, red creates the strongest physical reactions. When the eye sees red it actually causes an increase in adrenaline production, heart rate and blood pressure. Wow! Now that’s power. With its association to blood and fire, basic red has a life-sustaining and vigorous reputation that commands attention. Because seeing red also tends to increase appetite and speed up metabolism, it is an obvious color of choice for restaurants and food products. Although red sometimes signifies danger based on how it appears in nature, it is most often equated with excitement and energy. Red at it’s most vibrant, like that of a fire engine or stop sign, is seen as aggressive, passionate, and dynamic. From the curvaceous lips on pin-up posters to racy lingerie and muscle cars, red also adds a seductive, sexy tone wherever it is displayed. In design, red has an arresting effect and will almost always cause the viewer’s eye to stop and pay attention, making it a powerful tool for marketing.

Deeper red tones like wine or burgundy connote a richer, more refined look than vibrant reds. These colors are seen as more authoritative and mature than bright red and can suggest a more expensive, upscale look of class and reliability. Hot pink tones, on the other hand, suggest a more youthful spirit while maintaining the same high energy as basic red. Milder magenta and fuchsia versions can offer a more grown-up happy medium. As white is added to red, producing lighter pinks, the color loses its stark sensuality in favor of a more romantic, feminine look. Pastel pinks are also perceived as sweet tasting and smelling. More rosy

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tones almost always signify good health and optimism, from cherub-like “rosy cheeks” to indulgent “rose-colored” glasses.

The potential of red in its many variations is so powerful as a marketing tool. It can easily serve to direct the eye and focus the attention. And, it is one of the simplest ways to suggest strong emotions. I have a prospective client meeting this afternoon. Maybe some red heels are in order! *wink*

Color Month: Orange

We’ve been seriously sun-deprived around the Pond over the last week. It’s the perfect time for Orange! I love the exuberance of this color. The wonderful thing about Tiggers and its association with the brilliance of Autumn aside, orange offers a wealth of richness. Just seeing orange calls to mind evocative words like tangy, bright, and vibrance. In the Plop! continued celebration of Color Month, what unspoken messages does the color orange deliver?

Orange is what we call a “secondary” color, meaning it is created from mixing two primary colors together — red and yellow. A playful melding of red’s warmth and yellow’s brightness, orange usually offers fun and happy connotations. Its associations in nature with the glow of sunset, the radiance of autumn and the tanginess of fruit give it a warm vitality. The fruit that bears its name often helps us imbue orange with a more a more tangy feel than the sharp citrus connotation of yellow.  Sometimes it can be hard to take orange seriously, since it often signifies playful and childlike qualities. Brighter versions of the color certainly imply feelings of happiness. However, orange also symbolizes balance and warmth with a touch of vibrant flamboyancy.

The color orange often carries an ethnic quality because of it’s historical use in Native American, Latin American and African arts, as well as it’s association with exotic locales–perhaps taken from the feathers and foliage of tropical birds and flowers.  Orange has also been shown to stimulate the appetite and is found in many foods.

Bright orange tones that strike a near equal balance between red and yellow are widely seen as the hottest of all colors in temperature. Apricot and coral versions of the orange hue offer a more sophisticated tone than bright orange and appeal to a more upscale audience. They have a nurturing, approachable quality as well as tactile connotations because of their association with sand, desert and rocks. Peach tones have strong associations with health and are flattering to most skin tones. They also signify delicious, fresh food and are a more subtle appetite stimulant than stronger oranges.

Because people generally have strong preferences about orange–they love it or hate it–it can be challenging to find the right application for it. Although brighter neon version are very readable, they sometimes carry a negative association of begin loud and boisterous. Orange can also be seen as cartoonish or childish when applied to more serious subject matter.

Orange in any color palette immediately adds a touch of heat and warmth–but it’s a warmth that has more depth and complexity than is often found with yellow. This quality gives the color a lot of power when paired with neutrals or complimentary hues. For some reason I’m craving O.J. right now! What about you?

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