Ideas, insights and inspirations.

Communicating before, during and after a capital campaign requires the kind of symphonic thinking that author Daniel Pink explores in A Whole New Mind: Moving from the Information Age to the Conceptual Age. Strategic visions and campaign priorities can quickly deconstruct into campaign inventory and itemization — losing all connection to a larger and more compelling story about why a college matters and to the invitation for how donors might connect their singular sense of purpose to something larger. It’s not a matter of longer versus shorter content, but a question of what Pink calls the “relationship between relationships.” Pink talks of the three types of people that thrive when asked to overlay little and big pictures. Boundary Crossers: comfortable with abstraction, they understand how a concept like regulation can inspire donors to support the training of future financial accountants who will police insider trading and osteopathic doctors equipped to ease an epidemic of diabetes. Inventors: able to project new … Continue reading

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A familiar Chinese proverb instructs: “To know the road ahead, ask those coming back.” The current situation in higher education defies that enduring wisdom. Change arrived suddenly, with little regard for institutional history or might. In this respect, all colleges stand on relatively common ground. All college presidents, to a degree, have become new college presidents. It might be tempting in this moment of great uncertainty to think that successful colleges/presidents will be those that summon deeper reserves of managerial will or command with greater “corporate turnaround” intensity. More likely, how you and your college navigates this public health crisis and its aftermath will come down to something as fundamental — albeit elusive — as how effectively and artfully you communicate. Every college has crisis communications plans in place, and these plans have served everyone — especially students — well through the initial weeks and months of this crisis. We know that eventually, the urgency of this moment will give way … Continue reading

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To find one’s voice and to have the courage to speak it is sacred. But to be heard is divine. This wisdom applies to both people and brands alike. The art of listening is a great gift of life. Cultivating it has been incredibly hard for a person like me who has been struggling and striving most of my life. Crossing cultures made it even more challenging. Landing at fiercely competitive Cornell and Carnegie Mellon was no respite. Becoming the CEO of an entrepreneurial company made it harder. As a Muslim, being under relentless attack has made it very difficult to stay silent and simply listen. True listening begins when you are in equilibrium, when you have arrived, and when you are neither fighting, nor in flight. I have been conscientiously working on getting better at this divine art. All my life, I have searched for quiet spaces where I could be who I truly am. Nature, mountains, parks and … Continue reading

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The web is full of designs and patterns, both good and bad, new and old. At times it all starts to blur together and the sites start resembling one another. Periodically I like to see what else is out there, to see what interesting ideas have yet to become the web trend of the month. The following is a small list of sites I try to visit at least once a week. As a front end developer I might be looking for something different for inspiration compared to a designer or UX specialist. The following sites will offer not only design and development ideas but also challenge the way we view content on the web, for better or for worse. Site Inspire : Well organized collection so you can easily browse for specific subjects or styles that you are looking for. Mostly leans toward a clean, modern design aesthetic. One Page Love : Single page sites only, great source for … Continue reading

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In our professional lives, we’re constantly in motion. We serve our clients by solving tough problems, meeting their needs through strategy and innovation, and often under shorter and shorter deadlines. Amidst all of that lies the research, experimentation, client collaboration, endless tweaking, and production – all leading to myriad deliverables that everyone can be very proud of. Intertwined in the demands of work life, is our life outside of work: our personal passions, our charities, our deepest held beliefs, and of course, our families. This is the life we lead – our visible, active life. And those of us, who haven chosen advertising and marketing as their life’s work, know it all too well. We thrive on it. After nearly 40 years, I still love what I do. But there is another, arguably more important, life – our invisible, contemplative life. It’s where our imagination lives and our creative thoughts are born. This life fuels our active life, and it does so expecting nothing from us … Continue reading

“Everything you quote — every movie, every TV show, every lyric — has been endlessly rewritten… Fall in love with rewriting!” My uncle, who is a great writer, recently said these words. And I love them. It’s a process I know well. Every brand. Every headline. Every script. Every sitemap. Every webpage. All of it. They’ve all been nipped and tucked and scrapped and scratched out and added back in and shifted and shaken not stirred and screamed at and forgiven and rinsed and repeated. A bucket brigade of project managers, clients, writers, editors and SEO strategists passed the words back and forth. Commas were nixed and then added again. A passionate battle in grammar rules that frankly are meant to be broken likely made its way in. And I’ve fallen in love with this process. As you’re reading this, I’ve probably already changed this post and these words — probably this word — ten times. Make that eleven. In … Continue reading

There’s a valuable thing that inexperienced people bring to the table, that more experienced people are often lacking. It’s the gift of seeing through beginner’s eyes. This June will mark the 35th year of my career, and the lesson I’m continually learning is this: The more experienced I become, the more important it is to keep my outlook fresh. I never want to become that grey, old ad man clutching his double Manhattan, longing for the good old days and grousing about how the business has changed. If you feel the same, here are some suggestions on how to keep that old guy at bay—even if you like double Manhattans as much as I do. 1. Never Sit Still. Move. Ride a bike, run, go for walks, cut your own grass, play tennis, play softball, join a volleyball league, lift heavy stuff. Whatever it is that makes you tired and happy, just do it. It fuels your joy, and makes … Continue reading

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Take a look at this video. It was passed around our office recently.   We had a long discussion about it in one of our weekly staff meeting. If you were there, you could easily tell that it struck a nerve. I think that is because the core message in this video encapsulates what we try to do. In the video, Ole Scheeren, an architect, explains how he solved architecture problems differently. In each case, he could have built something standard to meet the need. He could have built just another big tower in the case of the Headquarter for China’s National Broadcaster. Or he could have built a group of towers to build 1,040. Both would have been sufficient and solved the problem at hand. But he looked deeper at the experiences and at the stories involved. He found that there were other problems to solve. Another tower wouldn’t become a pop icon figure and a piece of culture. … Continue reading

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A friend and I were finishing up a late dinner Tuesday night when we realized the New Hampshire primary was just about finished up. Curious for the results, I pulled out my phone to check. But I surprised myself with the first place I looked. Not Google. Not CNN. Or Twitter. Or The Times. But Snapchat. I suppose that’s no surprise if you recognize the distinct ghost above (who actually has a name! It’s Ghostface Chillah). Here’s why: Snapchat’s live coverage of significant events is unlike anything that has ever existed. It is revolutionary in the world of storytelling. Imagine a story told from the eyes of 100 different people. That’s 100 different perspectives. 100 different angles. 100 different emotions. All in real time. Here’s how Snapchat’s live story feature works: The Snapchat story event is the sum of 10-second bits all put together in real-time by people — normal people — who are actually there experiencing the events. They’re in chronological … Continue reading

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You know, the creative business is an odd bird. Anyone who has a creative bent knows what I mean. My uncle was a welder but when he came home, he was welding crazy little metal sculptures, (which later on became crazy big metal sculptures) transferring what he did at work, welding, into art… his art. The tension between mind (his working as a welder) and heart (his desire to create) did exist. At the time, I didn’t really didn’t understand how a welder could be a sculptor, but I do remember his enthusiasm for doing it. For him it fit…being a welder and an artist. An inner drive to create and to make. He resolved the tension within. Pure happiness. Oftentimes throughout my career I have been asked how we, as designers, arrive at the solutions we present. How do we arrive at solutions that speak directly to the mind and hearts of our clients. Much like my Uncle Jim, … Continue reading

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