Thursday, December 18, 2014

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Great Photo Books Holiday Schedule–There's Still Time

Just did a quick check on the delivery dates for Blurb, Lulu and Shutterfly for photo books and calendars.  

Good news: There's still time to publish your photo book or calendar.

Bad news: Drop dead dates are fast approaching!

Give the gift of a great photo book...yours!

Blurb Holiday Schedule

December 11, 2014* is Blurb's date for books (less than 30) delivered via USPS in U.S.the target date to order and take advantage of standard shipping in order to have your book order delivered in time. Blurb is offering discounts of bulk orders until December 9, 2014.
Check the Blurb holiday page for all the details.

Lulu Holiday Schedule

December 11, 2014 is the order date for paper back books and December 10, 2014* for hard cover and calendars shipped via mail with estimated delivery before the 25th. (I don't see a discount promotion, check your email, if you're on their list.)
Check the Lulu holiday page for all the details.

Shutterfly Holiday Schedule

For December 24, 2014* Economy delivery of photo books and calendars, you must order by December 17th. Last day to order is December 19th.
Check the Shutterfly holiday page for all the details.

*Options for Priority Mail, Expedited and Express options are available.
I have a client last year come to me the first week of December with her sketches and copy with the goal of turning it into a holiday gift for your family. We made it!

I can help you make your book a reality. Drop me an email or give me call to discuss your project.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Start With A Vision of End Product

Recent activity a LinkedIn self-publishing group caught my attention.

Someone asked for a recommendation about the best production method to publish their own book. There were several replies and counter replies. Group members offered testimonials about their own experiences with major players in the self-publishing industry, as well as links to their own services.

No one asked "What type of book do you want to produce?"

The author's answer to this question would have provided much needed information to provide some direction for the the project.

Instead many self-publishing consultants ASSUME that everyone wants to publish a text-only book and recommend that it be published via Amazon's CreateSpace for hardcopy and digital versions.

That's fine, but not all book projects are text only. Other genres include:

  • Photo essay
  • History of (subject)
  • Family genealogy
  • Cookbook
  • Poem
  • Mystery novel
  • Business-related

Your book is a product and how it is produced and distributed should be considered in the early stages. 

  • Is your book filled with full color images?
  • Do you need a fixed layout or fluid layout?
  • Hardcopy, softcover or both?
  • Will it be available for purchase?
  • Are you familiar with printing terminology? 

My ebook "Self-Publishing: Navigating the Process" goes into this topic and provides an introduction to service providers to navigate the process of publishing your book.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Everyone Has a Story, We Need to Discover It

This year's Chicago Ideas Week was filled with superb speakers, workshop and IDEAS. Unfortunately, my budget would only allow a small sampling of the seven day schedule. Choosing wisely.

A must see, for me, was Bruce Weindruch's presentation/workshop "Start with the Future and Work Back." I had the pleasure of participating in the workshop earlier this year and enjoyed it so much that I had to attend, again. Mr Weindruch is the CEO and Founder of The History Factory, a different kind of creative company that leverages an organization's history to tell a new story.

Working with historical content is nothing new for me; the joy and tedium of shifting through archives–cataloging, tagging and sorting to find the most relevant material for the project connects me with the past. Everything from film, newspaper/magazine clippings, photographs and even audio can contain some very surprising details about people, places and organizations.

Begin with a few simple questions:
  • What's important NOW?
  • What do you want to HAPPEN?
  • What INVENTORY do we need to get from the archives?
Here are a few takeaways from the "Start with the Future and Work Back" workshop.
  • Look inside the organization to support today's message.
    European luxury fashion companies due this elegantly to highlight heritage, craftsmanship and creativity.
  • Pull the right story for the right moment.
    One example that comes to mind is from one of my architecture tours when we site the energy efficiency of 110 year old building connecting it with a contemporary issue.
  • Tag (meta tag) the historical material.
    Select keywords that connect with today's message. This is truly an art form and should be well thought and systematized. 
  • Look for significant threads or commonalities in the inventory.
    Years ago, I was researching and designing a 75th anniversary event magazine for a private golf club. The archives were NOT organized. It's almost like putting a puzzle together.
  • Ask "what's important?".
    The historical matter must be credible.
  • Find an iconic image and shape your story around it.
    As a designer this is one of favorite aspects of any project; if you're lucky enough to find it. 
  • Create compelling stories using the "threads" customized for your audiences.
    Working with the writer to create the language that will bring it all together; adding the emotion, passion and persuasion to the story (stories)
  • Measure the impact of the story. Marketers will do what they do best to track and measure the effectiveness of the advertising and/or PR campaign. See what's working
Case studies referenced by The History Factory to illustrate these concepts; these included Brooks Brothers, Inland Steel Building and Boeing. Check out the company's video library for more nuggets about storytelling.

These tips and strategies have proven very useful, recently, on some personal projects and the research for some architecture tours. Simply can we make history fun and relevant for today's audience? 

An example is the History Channel's 10 Things You Don't Know About show, the host uses a contemporary approach to uncover ten little known facts about a topic–stuff we may have slept through during high school history class.

Remember, everyone has a story, we need to discover it.

PS: There were three Chicago Architecture Foundation docents in the audience, including myself. Watch out... our storytelling skills will only get better!

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Pitch Decks Publications Pumpkins Oh My

The trade show and fall meeting schedules are as abundant as the pumpkins in the patch.
  • When was the last time you stepped back to REALLY look at your current presentation and supporting collateral?
  • Are these key marketing tools outdated? 
  • Lacking the solid connection to your current messaging?
  • Has your visual branding evolved?

Pumpkin Chunkin' Round 1 

Slapping your logo on a stock template your assistant may have download for mere dollars is NOT the best path to creating brand awareness. The CEO of a point-of-sale technology and services company contacted me after viewing my pitch decks on He shared with me the current state of his presentation, frustrated that it lacked any connection to his company. The content needed to be tweaked and a template created for an upcoming sales webinar in a few days. Digging deep into the company's website and other supporting material, I created initial composite designs for the client's approval and went to work importing the content. The CEO would edit accordingly. The custom template included images, color palette and fonts which complimented the current branding. Also suggested that the CEO consider a customer-centric design for each of the three major market segments served. 

Pumpkin Chunkin' Round 2 

Another client was invited to present his company to a high-profile industry event, the catch NO POWERPOINT. The CEO of this technology services company, in the oil & gas industry, was confident in his ability to make the presentation without the slides, but wanted a "leave behind" (aka fact sheet) to highlight the investment appeals. We extracted key slides from the existing pitch deck, tweaked copy, updated data and designed an attract single page sell sheet. This high impact piece will serve as an extension of the speech...simple and elegant.

Whether it's an upcoming online webinar or in-person presentation, take a hard look at your materials and ask yourself how these will serve your goals. I offer a Free Consultation to review your pitch deck and assess how we can align it with your task-at-hand.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Self Publish a "Look Book" for a Competitive Edge

Creative Services for the Self Publisher

Presenting samples of your work is an important and making your portfolio stand-out can give you an edge in today's highly competitive (freelance) marketplace.

After viewing a short video about how a NYC photographer still uses traditional prints and cut sheets in the presentation cases or boxes because he had tremendous success getting a face-to-face meeting. Plus, the large format glossy prints SHINE. 

This got me thinking... could I take the best of a traditional portfolio and update using today's technology to produce a book (or magazine) that can be given to a client? 

YES, most certainly.

Ideal for architects & related, designers, photographers, illustrator and more. Self publish a book or magazine, customize content and self publish in hardcopy and digital formats. 

Tell Your Story

Have a vision of the end product? Good. Let's step back to begin with the big picture. Storyboard your book, focusing the message you want your client or prospective client to remember. Build to a crescendo–but leave them wanting more. 

Think About Format

A magazine format is excellent for case studies. Complete with descriptive copy to dig deeper into your approach to the project. Where were the core directive of the creative brief? Unexpected challenges and outcomes? The magazine could be produced on a quarterly or semi-annual basis and made available digitally (ideal for tablet!) and print-on-demand for small quantities.

A traditional coffee table-style book would the option when larger format images need to be used. Wouldn't this make a great gift to a VIP client? Or, a new product to add to your shop. 

Let's work together to resurrect the Look Book for an awe-inspiring impression. 

What kind of book (or magazine) do you want to publish?

Monday, September 8, 2014

Give New Life to Your Archives :: Self Publishing

Deep in the back of big walk-in bedroom closet are three (maybe four) large Rubbermaid storage tubs filled with my family's photo archive; dating back over 100 years. Old sepia-toned and yellowing prints, envelopes of negatives, newspaper clippings, letters, and more. After my parents passed, my siblings concurred that I would be the best steward of this precious archive by nature of my profession and also married to photographer.

Organizing the "stuff" can be a challenge. What do I keep? What can be tossed? How do I scan it? How should I organize it, chronologically?

Since my niece has been doing a bang-up job working on the genealogy including images on our Ancestry account aids her research. (Recently, a distant relative on my mother's side reach out to me and after sharing a picture of my grandfather we discovered that his grandfather was my great uncle.)

Successful Self Publishing: Family Archives

Here at Creative Aces, we have the resources to work with your photo archive to produce a book or series of magazines that could be a treasure – something that will be coveted by family and friends.

These also make excellent gifts!

Collaborate. Create. Publish.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Structure & Clarity Rocket Your Presentation

My faith in a well-structured presentation has been restored when a client recently asked:

“Does the flow of the presentation cover all the key points for an investor pitch?”

Referencing my “Universal Pitch Deck–The Ultimate 12-Slide Structure for Any Presentation” it was easy diagnose the client’s presentation:
  1. Overview/Intro
  2. The Problem
  3. The Solution
  4. Opportunity & Market
  5. Technology
  6. Competitive Advantage (USP)
  7. Competitive Landscape
  8. Market Strategy
  9. Financial Roadmap
  10. Management Team
  11. Current Status
  12. Summary

The Competitive Advantage is the pinnacle of the presentation, we lead the audience to crescendo. You’ve got their attention, now guide them to the closing (the ASK).

Interestingly, this presentation replaced text heavy and clip-art slided with well-designed illustrations for the Solution, Opportunity & Market and Technology.

45 Slides in 30 Minutes?

Today, I received a 45-slide deck for review and recommendation. This well-designed draft is currently suited for a tradeshow or business conference not an investor and analyst audience.

The core message is hidden behind complex Photoshop’d backgrounds and overuse of ‘expert’ quotes and illegible charts.

The first step will be the “big picture” view via the Slide Sorter and begin to pull irrelevant slides, shift and combine slides into an articulate story structure focused on the core message for the intended audience.

Structure and clarity should be your creative strategy to stay focused on core message. I firmly believe that your audience will be more responsive. I was just discussing with my client (same PPT) the value he places on ample Q&A time to dig deeper into content and audience engagement.

Celebrate and be safe, happy 4h of July.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

New Technology + Existing Market = New Pitch Deck

The past two months have been a whirlwind of activity, pushing my monthly newsletter to the back burner.  As a marketer, we all know this is a bad habit. However, focusing on successful results for client projects is a good thing.
Since early April, I’ve been immersed in several publishing projects: annual reports (2), software user’s manual, pitch decks (2 or 3), conference program, marketing brochures and simple webpages.

Today, I’d like to share a success story.
New energy technology start-up, GasTechno Energy and Fuels, hit the road in May to meet with prospective investors. Then, immediately back at the airport for an oil/gas industry event. Both required presentations and at a minimum a fact sheet.

After years of “start-up” mode, GasTechno was ready to take a more aggressive lead with its marketing. Conversations with the CEO, as the private placement was nearing completion, were about a fresh/modern design to wrap around the key message(s).

Despite the 30-slide deck, the client was rigorous with copy editing; choosing words/phrases carefully, even whittling the amount of data being presented. The use of infographics and strong visuals supported the core message.

The result was a deck that has proven itself to be great companion to the overall presentation, a successful first round of investments.

Immediately thereafter, the CEO headed to a gas/energy conference for meetings with a different audience (energy company analysts and engineers). We pulled several slides from the investor deck and updated slides from an existing presentation. A thorough “going over” to ensure overall design consistency was needed...all under very tight deadline.

The result for this hybrid deck was highly receptive. Contracts [close to being] signed and GasTechno has been awarded funds from new technology grants on state and national levels.

Congratulations to GasTechno Energy and Fuels, especially Walt and the opportunity to part of the company’s new launch this year. Much continued success!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Six Keys for a Successful Presentation or Dye Your River Green

What's more "Chicago" than a bright green river and a parade, all on the same day! As St. Patty's Day is just a few day away, Chicagoans will be in celebration mode all weekend. I forgot to check the city's event calendar and scheduled myself for an architecture tour this Saturday; needless to say I'll be navigating the party-goers. 

Tapping into resources like Presentation Zen for guidance and "how to" advice to develop a remarkable presentation can be very helpful. Possibly elevating your presentation to the next level; maybe even close the deal on the spot. Leverage your presentation (and speech) for professional success and personal fulfillment with these six key elements.

Story: The Narrative Imaging. Everyone has a story to tell. All of us will listen to a story. The best storytellers are those who input their own personality, character and experiences into the material in a form of narrative. Yes, even business presentations can have a personality; it should be the company's personality.

Design: More than Decoration. Developing the design of the presentation should come after the storyboarding (outline) stage. Colors, graphics, images, fonts and charts/tables should add visual emphasis to the content. Not just mere ornamentation. The visual theme should be regarded as part of the overall messaging process.

The Big Picture. When you look through the view finder of your camera, you see the larger view. Look some more and you'll begin to focus on the details. What's important? What matters? Focus on the key message.

Empathy: Be Human. Can you add emotion to your presentation + speech? The best stories are those that grab our emotions. Look for non-verbal cues to add emphasis.

Play: Be Willing to Laugh at Yourself. This can be tricky, because telling joke can backfire. Being authentic (aka human) can build a real connection with your audience and keep them interested.

Meaning: Where's Your "Why". Where's the passion? Have you given this presentation + speech so many times that your enthusiasm is waning? Go back to the Big Picture and ask yourself "why?" (Hat tip to Simon Sinek)

Do you attend professional networking events? Or, pitch nights? How many times have you pulled out your smartphone and began checking your emails or catching up on headlines because you lost interest? 

There's a lesson for all of us. 

The core of my creative services is working with professionals to improve their presentations. I offer a free review of your existing presentation and an evaluation with recommendations. 

Thursday, January 9, 2014

"Anana" Presentation Template ~ Free

Chicago's extreme cold temperatures the past few days, which BTW were preceded by several inches of snow. Where ever you are...stay warm and dry.

My family and I have been relocated to a hotel while our apartment/condo is rehabbed following a burst steam heating pipe burst in our neighbor's unit (on New Year's Day (about 3:00 a.m.!).

This month's free Powerpoint template was inspired by Anana the polar bear who resides at Lincoln Park Zoo. I live across the street the from the zoo. Anana is one of my stops whenever I'm strolling through the zoo. Anana had to be taken inside during the recent arctic blast since she doesn't have the underlying layers to keep her body protected from the extreme cold. 

I look forward to seeing Anana in the when I get to go back to my condo.