Tag big generator

Plane 9 | Phase 39

With education as the backbone to my personal and professional life, the beginning of September continues (even to this day) to symbolize a new beginning for me.  Having moved into the ninth Plane (“Exodus”) in May, September 1st signifies the start of Phase 39 and a set of revised objectives for the months ahead:

Painting – Having experience with both traditional and digital art, I’ve found that having a true understanding of the fundamentals can make a significant difference when that same process is carried over into the digital realm.  This, I think, is one major reason why I’ve found it easier to paint with the Cintiq than I had originally believed – having taken a foundations course several years ago using charcoal and graphite.  However, to further improve my digital painting abilities, I am considering taking an oil or acrylic painting course at The Visual Arts Center of Richmond this term.

Ink – As you have already seen, my brief exploration with the Cintiq has pushed me to think seriously about the design and launch of a new “microsite” under my parent domain.  While some may question the purpose of a site such as this (i.e. not all of my creations will be deemed “remarkable”), that’s ultimately the point – you have to start somewhere.  As a real-world example, I started experimenting with graphic design nearly seventeen years ago and my early attempts were less than great (“comical” is the word that actually comes to mind …). Fortunately, my enjoyment for the process and medium has allowed me to gain the necessary experience to launch a business which may open up additional doors in the future.

OpenIDEO – While I have not had a chance to explore this site in much depth, I think this is a unique opportunity to make a positive impact while continuing to push myself both intellectually and creatively.  (And the fact that is comes from a company that I greatly admire doesn’t hurt either!)

Version Two – Having launched my personal brand earlier this year, I would like to revise the site to ensure that it includes other aspects of my portfolio – not just “Ink” but other projects as well, including my work at Big Generator.

The Factory – This concept is the graphical equivalent to Incubator.  It’s a microsite that will develop new graphical concepts that can be incorporated into graphic designs and/or digital illustrations.  The origins of this idea came partially from Eric Hanson’s video (“Digital Sets 1 – Design, Modeling and Camera”) where he highlights the concept of creating virtual buildings that can be later incorporated into larger 3D environments.  This idea is still in its infancy, and may not become visible until 2011 or later but it is worth thinking about now.

GD – Now having a solid graphic design portfolio established, I can now take inventory of what the next generation of my designs will need to entail.  Most of my designs up until this point focus primarily on color and typography and are nearly absent of patterns or imagery.  GD (capital letters) is the next chapter of my graphic / information design exploration.

Recalibration II.

Motivation: … the psychological feature that arouses an organism to action toward a desired goal; the reason for the action; that which gives purpose and direction to behavior.” (Source unknown)

In my last post, I highlighted three main areas where I would like to improve – self-motivation, perseverance and connection.  In this post I’ll continue my exploration of motivation.

All too often, the word “motivation” has a positive connotation.  After all, how often do you hear public speakers or other leadership types exclaim “Be Motivated!”  Because of this, how can one not assume that being motivated is always the right thing to do?

In contrast to public opinion, I believe that being motivated to do something isn’t always the right decision.  Why?  Because you could be motivated to do the wrong thing – i.e. something that is misaligned with your core values and/or for the wrong reasons.  In the above definition, it’s easy to assume that the goal or “reason for the action” is clearly known, but in many cases it may not be.

In thinking about this concept, my belief is that truly understanding what motivates one to do something can ultimately help one achieve a particular goal faster than if that level of awareness is left unchecked. Along a similar path, gaining this understanding early on can also highlight whether the goal should be abandoned entirely – i.e. is being motivated truly the right path in a given situation?  In short, I think one needs to have a clear understanding of the goal (and the reasons why achievement of that goal is worth the pursuit) before being motivated to act.

Let me share a personal example to illustrate this concept in more depth.

I grew up in a family where education and success went together.  Over time, I started to believe that my success (the goal) was primarily dependent upon my education.  Not withstanding my desire to learn, even after my master’s degree I continued to take classes in the hope that I would eventually acquire enough knowledge to be “successful”.

My business coach challenged this long-standing belief late last year when I started formulating the basis for Big Generator.  Up until that time, I never thought that I was truly ready to move forward.  Did I know enough?  Did I have enough experience? The answer is that I’ll never know enough.  Thus, I consciously decided to accept this fact and the rest would need to come with more experience.

This example is relevant because being motivated to continue with my education vs. moving forward with my business could have been the wrong decision over the long-term.  Thus, being motivated to carry out the wrong goal for the wrong reasons doesn’t make the activity right.  Instead, being motivated to advance the business while continuing to gain knowledge is the right decision for me at this time in my life.

Formal education, while deemed worthy in nearly all contexts, is actually the direct opposite in this example.  In essence, formal education was employed as a “motivator” to help me meet a goal that I call “success”.  However, “success” takes more than being well-educated.  Thus, taking inventory of what I wanted to do and identifying the right motivators allowed me to break out of this cycle and make alternative decisions.

This isn’t to say that there will not be times when the mantra of “get motivated” doesn’t have value – particularly in situations where you aren’t excited about the path you’re on, but there really isn’t any choice but to use an alternative (positive) perspective and go ahead with the task at hand.  However, in the grand scheme of things, it’s important to understand what it is that you want and build a motivation framework to help you achieve that which you are seeking.

In my next post in this series, I’ll go into more depth about this framework and show some guidelines to make sure that you are motivated for the right reasons.

BG | Proposal Snapshot

In thinking more about the overall strategy behind Big Generator, particularly as it relates to the human element, it occurred to me that I need to re-think how I am submitting bids for work advertised online, via channels such as ELance.

The method I have used thus far involves a one-page attachment (PDF) that is essentially a letter conveying who I am, context relating directly to what the client is requesting, and a brief explanation of how the project will run.  While this information is useful, it does not immediately address the client’s fundamental needs:

  1. Can you do the job? (ability)
  2. Are you expensive? (cost)
  3. When can you have it done? (timeline)

The project proposal should be able to convey these three points in about ten-seconds.  Right now, my “cover letter” concept is flawed for several reasons:

  1. While the letter is not lengthy, it can still be considered too long – is the client even reading it?
  2. The letter is customized for each project proposal, but only on a surface-level.
  3. There is no connection between the cost of the proposal and services rendered – is the bid high or low?
  4. It assumes the reader is interested in a “one-size-fits-all” project proposal – what if they need more detail?
  5. There is little traceability between the portfolio, cost, services and timeline – what are you offering again?

At the end of the day, the bid price could still be beyond the client’s budget and your portfolio may not be aligned with what she/he is looking for.  However, if you can address the immediate needs of the client (ability, cost and timeline) before you are offered the job, you are that much closer to gaining their trust and a subsequent acceptance of your original bid.

In a future post, I will share what my new approach looks like – I call it the “proposal snapshot”.

[Note: Posts that begin with the letters “BG” focus on business-development concepts that tie directly to my design firm,  Big Generator.]

BG | Creating the Strategic Vision – Part I

In my last post, I focused on the importance of having a personal vision for the future.  In the business world, defining what the future entails is typically found within a strategic vision statement.  In this post, I’ll share a five concepts that are helping me define a strategic vision for my design firm.

Concept #1: Strengths

The first step is to start with your strengths.  In the workplace:

… people who do have the opportunity to focus on their strengths every day are six times as likely to be engaged in their jobs and more than three times as likely to report having an excellent quality of life in general. – Tom Rath, Strengths Finder 2.0

As most people spend a considerable part of their life working, doing what you can to align opportunities with your strengths can significantly increase your quality of life.

As an example, here are my top five strengths as identified in the text Strengths Finder 2.0:

1. Strategic – “.. enables you to sort through the clutter and find the best route.”
2. Learner – “.. you will always be drawn to the process of learning.”
3. Individualization – “.. leads you to be intrigued by the unique qualities of each person.”
4. Relator – “.. a relationship has value only if it is genuine.”
5. Input – “.. the world is exciting precisely because of its infinite variety and complexity.”

If I want my business to succeed over the long-term, I need to make sure these strengths represents at key part of its foundation.

Concept #2: Personality

Another major part that plays a key role in a successful business is one’s personality type.  Understanding key facets of one’s personality allows for continuous refinement and increased understanding of one’s behavior and motivators.  The key is to take full advantage of those personality traits that will give direct benefit to the business, and place less emphasis on those that may not.

The core of my personality type (INFP) is sometimes called “The Idealist”.  Thus, coming up with scenarios of possibilities and detailed descriptions of “what could be” comes naturally.  As we’ll see, this aspect of my personality will play a key role in my company’s strategic vision statement.

Concept #3: Interests

Your interests represent another piece of the puzzle.  While it may be obvious what interests you, there are methods that you can use to explore your interests in a more formal way.  One such method is via a deck of “talent” cards made by a company known as Mastery Works.

The core interest areas that I discovered through this method include both “Ideas” and “People”.  More specifically, I was able to narrow down my detailed interests down to ten: (in no particular order, and from a total of 52)

  1. problem solving
  2. questioning
  3. writing
  4. explaining
  5. innovating
  6. developing
  7. strategizing
  8. collaborating
  9. leading
  10. teaching

If you are doing what you are interested in, your skills in these areas will continuously improve, and this will further expand your ability to help your clients and their customers.

Concept #4: Personal Vision Statement

Being able to describe one’s personal vision for the future is a recommended exercise prior to describing a business equal.  Given the time investment required, you want to ensure that there is alignment between the two.  You can read more about this concept in my earlier post.

Concept #5: The 10-Second Summary

The “10-second summary” is perhaps the seed from which the company begins; it’s the first statement you’ll make when introducing yourself to future clients.  After all, what good is a strategic vision if you are not interacting with potential clients?

Based upon the guidance conveyed in Get Clients Now!, the statement should be short and simple enough that a 12-year old can understand.

Here is an example:

My name is Adrian Daniels.  I help business owners and organizations get noticed.  I am a designer focusing in creative strategy and graphic design.  My company name is Big Generator.

This particular statement can be altered to reflect the audience with whom I am speaking.  However, it’s always best to start with the basics and then elaborate.  Your initial goal is to gain understanding and peak interest.

These five concepts represent the key starting points to develop a strategic vision statement.  In my next post I’ll begin exploring several ways of visualizing strategy with the intent of formulating a strategic vision statement that can be used to guide my business development path.

[Note: Posts that begin with the letters “BG” focus on business-development concepts that tie directly to my design firm,  Big Generator.]

Evolution.

As I mentioned in my last post, this blog will start to focus more attention to the evolution of my new design firm, Big Generator.

As this blog has significantly helped me with my personal challenges, I think it will offer a similar benefit towards helping me keep up the level of motivation, persistence and energy that a new business venture requires.  I also think that the sheer transparency of what I am thinking about and how I am going about improving my business and design abilities can ultimately serve as a self-fulfilling prophecy of its own.  If I think positively, the majority of the work that I do, both from core design and business perspectives, is also more likely to result in positive outcomes.

While increasing the level of transparency is important, it’s unlikely that I’ll mention specific clients within these posts at least until the project has concluded.  If the client maintains all rights to the work, then I won’t, of course, be allowed to publish any related information about the engagement.  Independent of the situation, the process of approaching a new design challenge and coming to a final solution is worth documenting.  In many circumstances, the process of documenting your experiences can refine your level of understanding and push you to think about the situation in new ways.

At this point, the business “foundation” is nearly built – this foundation includes the core brand, web site, portfolio, letterhead, many project proposal letters, and a supplemental graphic visual suite.  The next step in the process is to develop a comprehensive client building strategy – to do this I am reading a book called Get Clients Now by C.J.Hayden.

After reading the first fifty pages, I’ve learned the key to a successful client building strategy is persistence.  To achieve persistence, the development of a formal plan is required.  To summarize here, there are five such steps that need to be followed every month:

  1. Marketing Strategies – selecting two to four client-building strategies
  2. Marketing Stage – identifying the stage of the marketing cycle where you are having difficulty
  3. Program Goal – identifying what you want to accomplish during that time period
  4. Success Ingredients – identifying the missing ingredients that you need to be successful
  5. Daily Actions – documenting the specific steps that you are going to do

In addition, there are six marketing strategies discussed in the text (from most effective to least effective):

  1. Direct Contact and Follow-up
  2. Networking and referral building
  3. Public Speaking
  4. Writing and Publicity
  5. Promotional Events
  6. Advertising

At this stage, my next step is to finish reading this text and start developing a monthly plan of my own.  In my a future post, I will share additional details about what my client building strategy looks like and how well it’s working.  As indicated earlier, sharing the strategy in this manner will help increase accountability and will provide a history from which I can learn.

Press Release.

The following is a press release that was recently sent to my personal and professional network.  It calls attention to the launch of my personal branding web site as well as a new business venture focusing on information / graphic design.  I’m including this information here as the majority of future posts will center around these two creative endeavors.

The first is the formation of my personal “brand” via the web site www.adriandaniels.com. This is a project that I have been thinking about for nearly a decade and it was only after much thought that I decided to finally push forward with its release.

While www.adriandaniels.com is my primary site, it’s ultimately intended to serve as a jump point for three other portals:

Incubator: (This site!)  A non-fiction / experiential blog that is primarily focused on the generation of new ideas. Incubator incorporates personal and professional experiences and transforms them into formal essays and narratives.

Microcosms: A blog that allows for unrestricted exploration of new concepts in a “fictional” setting.

Pixeldust: A visual portal that shows how my art, design and photography portfolios have evolved over the past six years – and how they will continue to evolve and ultimately improve.

As these sites ultimately encapsulate my creative strengths, this web portfolio is something I collectively call a “Supercharged Creative Exploration”.

The second development that I am very excited about is the launch of a new information (graphic) design firm called Big Generator (www.biggenerator.com). For those of you who have seen examples of my work, you already have an understanding of what information design is all about – visuals that make complex information easier to understand and to use.

I made the decision to launch this part-time endeavor after considerable reflection into my strengths, interests, and values and combined this reflection with more than a decade of experience in graphic design and related disciplines (e.g. computer graphics, illustration, industrial design).

Ultimately, I am interested in doing what I can for my clients whether that need is strict “information design” or is classified under a general “graphic design” classification. In essence, I want to provide quality and effective visual solutions for my clients that simplify understanding and enhance and strengthen the customer experience.