Archive for the ‘Tools’ Category

The Lost Art of The Proposal: Get paid for anything!

26 Feb

After participating in a panel on ‘The Portfolio Career’ at the Arts Enterprise National Summit,  I felt a need to share some practical advice on how I find more of the right work at P&G and in the ‘real world.’ Here’s how:

So.. you’re freelancing… or in human terms… you have some skill you want to use to make some extra cash. But no one is buying it!

Well, don’t just sit there, find someone who can use your help and PROPOSE to help them.

Your job is no longer to do XYZ.

Your job is now to:

  1. find people who can benefit from you doing XYZ,
  2. explain to them how you doing XYZ will help them, and
  3. THEN do XYZ.

Here’s a bit more practical advice on getting this done…

  1. Do an 80:20 Analysis. Look at how you spent your time this week… if you really get objective, you’ll notice that about 80% of your positive results came from 20% of the time you spent. Summarize what you do well, most easily, and try to do more.
  2. Develop your tagline. Write down 2-5 words that summarize what it is you do well, across all the work you find yourself doing. Maybe you’re a ‘Product Developer’ or a ‘Musician with Project Management Skills’ or a ‘Visual Artist with Creative Leadership’. Use this to quickly introduce to others how you can help them.
    1. Try the Harvard Business School Elevator Pitch Builder if you’re really stumped.
  3. Develop your portfolio. You need a quick, simple, and engaging summary of great work you have done in the past. Use this to prove to other that you can help them.
    1. Build your page on About.Me. It’s really simple, looks great, and it can aggregate your content from other social media. Only aggregate the content if that helps support your tagline and it relates to what you learned in your 80:20!
  4. Start writing proposals. Now that you’ve defined ‘This is me. This is how I can help.’… go find people who could use your help and write a quick email, or better yet, physical letter dropped off in-person explaining, ‘This is you. This is me. This is how I can help you.’ Include your tagline and links to/a copy of your portfolio. Make sure to spend some time to understand their problem, and if possible, find a reference or person you can connect with directly, rather than just leaving the proposal with someone random. Drop them off, and follow up on them.

Creativity comes through restraint… find a way to make the most of the resources and skills you already have.

Here is more thinking on how to sell what you already do.

Popularity: 64% [?]


How to build a creative juices pump.

25 Feb

DISCLAIMER: This works much better with 25+ cool people.

Arts Enterprise is a group effort to break down the silos between art and business. I’m still buzzing from the summit this past weekend.

Before we can merge the world of art and business… we must break down personal barriers between everyone attending our conferences and presentations.

Here are two techniques I practiced this weekend to get creative juices pumping, and people excited.

The Reciprocity Ring

Chris Genteel, Business Development Manager at Google, got everyone at the summit stirred up and mingling within 30 minutes. Each participant came to the conference with things in mind they’d like to accomplish. The Reciprocity Ring (by Humax Networks) was an activity that had each of us voice three things we could use help with, related to arts/business or not. What resulted was an instant connection of people willing and able to help each other.

  1. Get a big ring of dots on the wall. Provide some pens nearby.
  2. Give everyone a sticky note, and ask them to write three things they could use help with, related to the conference or not.
  3. After a few minutes, gather everyone around the big ring of dots on the wall, and ask people to one-by-one share their three things they could use help with. When they’re done, ask them to write their name next to one of their dots, and place the sticky note next to it.
  4. Other people who can help that person with one of the three things should write an answer on a sticky, and place it on top of the persons plea, then draw a line between that person’s name and another dot with their name on it… showcasing the connection.
  5. After everyone shared and listed connections… open up the room for everyone to chat with people who have answers!

The Critical Run

So, you’ve got a big problem you’re trying to solve… its hairy, and you don’t know where to get started… you just want to have an open and engaging discussion about it.
  1. Get everyone who wants to chat it together dressed and ready to run.
  2. Appoint a leader who will guide the group on a 3 mile run. They must know the loop, be able to lead the pack, and be knowledgeable enough about the topic to foster discussion when its not flowing.
  3. Let the magic happen, and enjoy the run.
  4. Get a more formal discussion organized as a wrap-up, after people get a chance to get a drink or shower. :)

What techniques do you have to engage a big group?

Learn more about conducting The Reciprocity Ring or The Critical Run.

Popularity: 87% [?]


Picture this.

12 Nov

Lynda Barry is a cartoonist, writer and teacher who was featured on NPR’s Talk of the Nation yesterday.  Her new book, Picture This is a wonderful workbook for anyone wanting to inject the drawn line into their daily life. Her drawings create a fun and safe place to experiment with developing your own visual language, and we all have one if we simply put pen to paper and explore it.

Barry’s NPR interview brought to light much of her thinking on the power of drawing to tap into that often unreachable part of our brains; the area we want to reach into for innovative ideas or creative solutions in life and work.  Lynda Barry knows the drawn line is key. One caller to Barry’s interview said drawing in her sketchbook had enabled her to deal with debilitating anxiety without medication.  The relationship between brain chemistry and the simple act of drawing has been documented as a way to focus the attention of people in meetings.

Coming up in December, Adam and I will be working with 24 teen volunteers at the Cincinnati Area Chapter of the American Red Cross.  These are bright and forward thinking students who have been chosen for this program for their potential for leadership in their communities.  We are tremendously excited to meet these future leaders and introduce them to the simple, but life changing, practice of keeping an illuminated sketch journal.

Whether you are looking to change your work life, your personal approach to the world at large, or to learn how to communicate more effectively, a powerful first step is to start drawing.  When you do, let us know how it goes.

Popularity: 19% [?]


Virtual office… sharing sketches instantly, digitally.

15 Oct

A week ago, a friend said to me, “I’m going to get an iPhone so I can get stuff done.” I responded instinctively, “It’s actually a distraction.” Then I disagreed with myself. Here’s why.

Yes, I do find myself sucked into email or some app occasionally, but who doesn’t?! I’m human and I make mistakes. I’m working on that. However, one new tool, JotNot, has given me a way to break loose of my office, and still share back professional results from creative critical thinking sessions easily.

JotNot is the easiest way to turn pictures into documents. Sketching with a pen and paper is the most liberating way for me to think through a complex problem. Its limitless, and balling up and tossing bad ideas is a great stress reliever.

I’ve always been tied down by completing my creative work with a scanner, or sending out a lame photo of my sketch. JotNot changed that. Now I take a photo and JotNot converts it to a PDF or image. Really awesome. Check it out…

Here is JotNot capturing my sketch…

Here is JotNot about to process the photo…

And here is the output 30 seconds after snapping the photo. (Shrunken to fit on the page, download the original PDF here.)

I then publish to my free online storage at DropBox which I can access from any computer or send it to my teammates directly via email.

Yes my friend, that’s getting stuff done.

Download JotNot for your iPhone/iPod Touch at the iTunes store.

Popularity: 11% [?]


Templates to help tame your sketching.

25 Sep

Here are a few great templates to get your team, or yourself, excited about sketching out that new idea. Throw these out on the table and they turn the somewhat daunting task of ‘draw it out’ into a fun exercise, with the just the amount of structure to keep things rolling.

Click the images to download each of the sketching templates, or download the whole sketching templates package.

A blank sketching template with title, notes, author and project. The least restrictive… frightening for some.

A storyboard sketching template with 6 fields plus title, scene, people-power… You can use this to force everyone to think of multiple broad concepts quickly, early on in the project. Give them a sheet of one… and you won’t get many back. ideas. Encourage outlandish behavior.

For the engineer in us all… a task flow worksheet. This is great for thinking through a problem and all the steps needed to execute it. You can list the goals in the notes, or just write a little narrative about ‘Ernie the Earnest Engineer.’ Have fun. Give this to the novices.

Finally… dots. Dot concept paper can be an awesome way to think through a bunch of little ideas, little on paper that is. Use the dots to make interesting fun constellations and just spice up your sketches more than a blank sheet of paper. Wow your team. It’s the little things in life.

via Smashing Magazine

Popularity: 62% [?]


A concept product to help you draw straight, measured lines.

24 Sep

Here is an interesting concept called, ‘The Constrained Ball.’ It is supposed to help you draw straight lines, and measure them exactly. While that’s not exactly possible with a pen point and a singular touch point on a rolling wheel… this concept does have, well, wheels! We’d buy it.

via Designers Couch

Popularity: 20% [?]


Personify your problems.

16 Aug

When I was a kid, I had composition notebooks filled with odd characters. They were inspired by day-to-day life… things I saw, things I did, things I wished I could do. Then, I grew older, got busier, and stopped sketching. It seemed pointless.

Today, all those characters lie dormant. But, I plan to revisit them once launches.

Grafighters will allow you to upload an image of hand-drawn character via email or mobile device. Grafighters will then turn your character into an animated fighter… not one you control like a traditional game, but one that battles the ranks of other characters through a specific algorithm that defines strength, speed, stamina…

I can see this as an awesome exercise for any team trying to think through some problems in a creative way. What if everyone had the opportunity to personify their team’s business problems in a character sketch… and then have fun watching them battle it out?! It would provoke some very interesting discussions, and be a way to light-heartedly think through what could otherwise be very stressful.

So, get out there and start sketching personifications of your problems. Think through your problem in a new way by turning it into a real character, a villain of sorts. You’ll be surprised by how openly and differently you will see the situation. This is the power of metaphorical sketching.

If you’re anxious to get started… you can send your characters to

Popularity: 28% [?]


What I sketch with today.

29 Jun

A while back, I responded to a friend who asked, ‘What is your favorite small notebook + pen combo for sketching ideas?

Back then, I was using a Moleskine pocket journal and Sakura Micron pen. Last weekend in a small shop in Los Angeles I found my new favorite, the WritersBlok Bamboo Small Notebook.

I now prefer this to the Moleskin because of the dimensions. (Sorry Moleskine fans!) Its 1cm more narrow and short. It doesn’t jut out of my pocket when I sit down, like with a Moleskin. The smaller page size is great, it continues to train me to be more concise.

It also has 20% more pages than the Moleskin, without being bulky in your pocket. This allows a greater density of ideas per notepad, and helps make more connections when you take some time out to revisit your journals and pay attention to what you pay attention to.

They even have a great philosophy, despite the limited focus on using a journal solely for writing, and not sketching: “Writing is good exercise. It’s good for the mind in the same way that riding a bike is good for your legs.” Insert drawing as you see fit.

As for my pen, that’s changed too. I started relying on the Faber-Castell PITT Artist Pen. It doesn’t dry out as quickly as the Sakura’s, and has a much sturdier feel. After all, they are made in Germany.

What are you working with these days?
Are you using a pocket journal, or keeping a larger sketchbook like Amy does? also

Popularity: 20% [?]


Learning to draw through other’s practice.

21 Jun

Some of you sketching newbies may be looking for help getting started, some examples…

As we take the old fashioned pen-to-paper approach to thinking and creating, we like to encourage people to get away from their computers as much as possible and spend time learning in the “real world”. But sometimes, the toys and trinkets that come about from our technified world offer an experience not readily available through our analog ways.

The folks at the design/ marketing firm Odopod have created an online playground for sketchers.

At their interactive site, Odosketch, participants can create ‘drawn’ images using various line weights and colors. They have featured sketches which demonstrate what you can do with this tool.

The best part is that you can observe how others go about creating these fantastic images. How they begin with an outline, start tracing and re-tracing the shapes, and gradually complete the shading.

So if you are the techie sort, and are looking for some silent tutoring, check out Odosketch.  Maybe then you’ll have the courage to try the pen and paper approach.  Both will prove to be a lot of fun and a great way to develop your one-of-a-kind creativity.

Popularity: 11% [?]


A simple pocket sketching combo.

05 May

A good friend, Joe Pestro, from my early days at Procter & Gamble recently asked, ‘What is your favorite small notebook + pen combo for sketching ideas?’


Everytime I leave the house, my right pocket houses a 3.5″ x 5.5″ kraft brown plain Moleskine Cahier and a .05mm Sakura Pigma Micron, in black. Very unobtrusive and always great to jot down quick notes, sketch out and idea, or draw an interesting scene to really get my mind racing.

Ideas need to be gathered, and revisited… they come at the most random places. Carrying a journal, you’ll notice ideas come from the most random sources.

Moleskine Cahier Pocket Plain Notebook 3.5 x 5.5 Kraft Brown

Sakura Pigma Micron Pen

Popularity: 36% [?]


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