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Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce logo

When an Upstate NY organization revolutionized its strategy in order to stay on mission, we jumped in to help.

With a new executive director, new office space, and a new strategic plan, the Cayuga County Chamber of Commerce needed a newly imagined logo to let everyone know that things had changed.

In our Discovery Process, we learned that the Chamber’s constituents saw it as a social organization. But it’s really an advocacy and business development organization.

So we looked for active, bold, businesslike images, and avoided anything passive, soft, or pastoral. Our three suggested designs focused on three concepts: “Voice of the Business Community,” “County-wide Reach,” and “Collaboration.”

The Chamber went for “Collaboration.”

Our inspiration for that design came from the executive director, who told us that “the Chamber is the cog in the wheel that sets the business machine in motion.” That image set our imaginations in motion!

In the design, each wheel represents one of the three Cs of Cayuga County Chamber. The central “C” shows the Chamber at the dynamic center of things. And we chose a strong “Neutraface” font to mirror the circular shapes in the logo.

The bright, multi-color palette reflects the energy of the Chamber’s diverse membership, as well as the area it serves. Blue for the water that brings tourists to the Finger Lakes, green for the beautiful farms and forests, and oranges and yellows to illustrate the vigorous arts and culture of the area.

That beauty and energy now appears in the Cayuga Chamber of Commerce logo.


I had a lovely chat today with a friend who runs the communications dept at a small liberal arts school. Among other things, we discussed summer in the Finger Lakes (wonderful but busy), local winery marketing (mostly abysmal), her design needs (bountiful yet budget conscious), and my business (growing).

She said she constantly receives materials from creative professionals such as designers and writers, and admitted that if their promotions look too good or too slick, she tosses them, assuming they are too expensive. This is eye-opening for me, since my promotional materials need to look as professional as possible in order to communicate that I am in the business of design & marketing. Yet I also work with nonprofits and businesses that are on a limited budget. I will never be the cheapest design firm out there, but nor am I the most costly. I believe in getting fairly remunerated for my work, and understand how to help my clients gain as much value as possible from our business relationship and the products and services I create for them.

So here’s the dilemma. if you receive my promotions (via direct mail or online) or visit my website, you’ll see my firm does great work. But how do I effectively communicate the value I bring to an organization or institution? How can I prevent the next Communications Director or Marketing Director or Executive Director from seeing my stuff and thinking – ‘hey that’s beautiful, but I’ll never be able to afford it’ ?

How can I help them understand that the investment they make in strong, effective brand strategy and visual communication will help them save time & money in the long run?

UPDATE, 8/9/10: I met with the organization, wrote the proposal, and my firm has been shortlisted for this project.

Lately I’ve been writing a lot of proposals, but they have not been yielding good results. I’m determined to vet the proposal-writing process more carefully, instead of jumping into it with a “nothing ventured, nothing gained” attitude, since my proposals are carefully considered and thoughtfully written, and as such, take a lot of time.

This morning, an opportunity landed on my desk, and I am trying to decide how to approach it. The RFP is for a branding project in a neighborhood in Rochester:

I think my firm would be appropriate for this project because:

1. My business is located close to Rochester

2. The neighborhood in need of branding is ethnically diverse, and I have demonstrated work experience in ethnic & international sectors

3. I have strong branding experience

4. Description includes enhancing the business district, and as the President of the Aurora Arts & Merchants Association in Aurora, NY, I’m in a leadership position committed to enhancing business development in my local community


OK, now here’s the red flags:

1. scope of work is undefined (“cost should include design of logo and other branding materials, such as a tagline”)

2. budget is not defined

3. RFP is publicly available; it was not submitted to my firm directly

3. and here’s the biggie: they request work on spec (“submit 2-3 project ideas”)


So how to proceed – I will call with questions, for sure. Should I also request an in-person meeting? Discount it entirely since it requests work on spec?

This morning I found out I did not win a project located in Tompkins County, NY, in spite of the fact that the client contact said my proposal was “the most professional” and my “prices were competitive”. The reason I was given for losing the project:

“Your location and other work outside the community influenced the executive committee’s decision to “stay” local.”

I live and work in Cayuga County, about 30 miles north of Tompkins County. Tompkins County is a 30-minute drive away. I am a member of the Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce; I do most of my shopping in Tompkins County; and much of my leisure & professional activities take place there. I come to Ithaca at least once a week.

Last fall, The Tompkins County Chamber of Commerce President recommended my design firm to the Ithaca Times (a local newspaper), for their special feature on small businesses. They declined to interview me since I was not in the same county.
Last month I did not win a project with Cayuga County. One of the reasons given was that my work was not recognizable in the community (most of my clients are based in the metro area).

Sometimes I feel like giving it all up and moving back to NYC. Today is one of those days.

The first-ever IGNITE event took place in Ithaca this past tax day, April 15, 2010. Dozens of people, including entrepreneurs, technologists, DIYers, creative professionals, grad students, and other brainiacs gathered at Pixel Lounge in Collegetown to view fourteen presenters, who had just five minutes to convey their ideas, using 20 slides that automatically advanced every 15 seconds.

The IGNITE network is a global one – “a force for raising the collective IQ and building connections. And, via streaming and archived videos of local talks, local Ignites share all that knowledge and passion with the world.”

I was one of the presenters, with a talk entitled “Sacred Cows: Anatomy of a Recycled Logo Project”, a narrative of my experience working with a farm client, who hired Julia Reich Design to design their new organic yogurt cup packaging.

Other illuminating talks included:

Dave Cameron – ”Sandwiches: Food of the Geeks”

Ed Cormany – “Why Nobody Ever Taught You How To Write Good (and what you can do about it)”

Bob Picone – “Childhood Dreams: Why They Are Important”

Matteo Wyllyamz – “How to Forget You’re a Human Being”

Tom Mansell – “Think While You Drink: Appreciating the Science of Wine”

Soon, video of the event will be posted online so everyone can see the presentations. I’ll update this post to include that link. Until then…learn more:

About Ignite, the global movement

Ignite Ithaca on Facebook

Ignite Ithaca website

List of presenters (including your truly)

Follow on Twitter (or search #igniteith)

Flikr photo page of the event

Before the event: article in the Ithaca Journal, April 9, 2010

After the event: article in the Ithaca Journal, April 16 2010 (including mention of my talk, the branding of organic yogurt)

Hackers and Sharers and Tweetups and Mittens

This past weekend I took my dogs for an early spring hike at Fillmore Glen State Park, in Moravia, NY, not too far from where I live. As we climbed the steep road, I noticed all these partially frozen puddles displaying unusual organic patterning. I don’t know what causes it, but thought it was visually kind of interesting and beautiful in its own unique way.

Kind of like my dog, Umber – also organic, unique and unusual – enjoying the breeze from the car window, on the way to the park.

I just learned this morning that I did not win a juicy design and branding project that I submitted a proposal for, in response to an RFP, and am bitterly disappointed. I feel I was an extremely strong candidate – well-qualified to handle the work, with a strong creative portfolio. This was a project in the tourism sector and included a “quality of life” brochure series; new county-wide brand identity for this central New York region; and a web site portal that would be utilized by several city and county agencies.

When I do not win a project, the first thing I do is ask the prospect why. Do you do that? It’s very useful. I promptly picked up the phone to discuss the matter with the agency leading the search, and was able to learn some things about how the committee made their decision and also how I can improve my proposals for the future. Our talk also led to some unanswered questions, so if you have any insight I’d really like to hear from you.

I learned that the committee – made up of reps from various city and county agencies – used a fair, thorough methodology to score candidates, consisting of categories and a point system. The decision was not based on price. Apparently I came pretty close to the top three firms that made the cut (I came in fourth).

In an ideal world, after I submit a proposal, I should be able to meet with the committee making the decision in order to discuss and answer questions. In this case, unfortunately, insisting on an in-person meeting was just out of the question. Because I was not able to talk to them, I’m afraid they made some assumptions about my work and my proposal that I was not able to defend:

• the committee questioned my ability to handle the research necessary to complete the branding portion because they thought Julia Reich Design consists of just one person – me – even though I emphasize “my creative team” in the cover letter. Which leads me to wonder if I need to change the name of my company. Does using my name make it sound like I am just one person?

• the RFP requested copywriting & photography services, and I received low marks here. Why, I wanted to know? I do not offer these services in-house so I included names, websites, and ballpark pricing of two highly talented creative freelancers in the area that I have worked with before, that I would hire as sub-contractors for the project team. Since the scope of work in the RFP for this portion of the project was as-yet undefined, I provided hourly rates for these services and indicated that in some cases, the fees were TBD. How did the firms that made it to the next level include these services? I discovered that they provided a fee range (for instance, $1200-$1800), and made it look like these services were provided in-house. The committee may have appreciated the apparent “ease” that comes with hiring a design firm which provides “the whole package”. Lesson learned – next time, I will do the same, and save the specifics of each creative team member for the interview stage. How do you list sub-contractors in your proposals?

• finally, even though I submitted a strong portfolio showcasing several brand identity projects I have done, I found out that the committee chose other firms over mine because of the recognizability of the other projects. In other words, the decision-makers had seen the other firms’ work previously in the local central New York community – while much of my client base is in New York City. I am not sure what to do about this. Like McDonalds, is the familiar always preferable? I moved to this small community 2.5 years ago from New York City, and have thrown myself into all sorts of community endeavors and taken on leadership positions in local organizations. In spite of this, are they suspicious of perceived outsiders?  Should I take this as a lesson to re-focus my efforts back to metro New York?


Of course, there’s no guarantee that the changes I make in my next proposal, based on the lessons I learned from all of this, will win me the next project. But I’m glad I made the effort to call my contact to communicate about the decision rather than fuming silently in my office.

Have you lost a project recently? What would you do differently next time?

Dr. Temple Grandin

Last night I had the pleasure of seeing one of my heroes, Dr. Temple Grandin, live in person at TC3. (The event was sponsored by one of my clients, Franziska Racker Centers, an organization based in Tompkins County, NY, that serves people with autism and other developmental disabilities).

Her talk was about her experiences with autism, and what it’s like to be a visual learner (as opposed to auditory or other type; being one myself, I perked up and listened closely to what she had to say on the topic). She also mentioned the new HBO movie that just came out about her, starring Claire Danes. Dr. Grandin seems very pleased with the movie and feels the actress portrayed her very accurately, in the phase of her life when she was young, and what she defines as being “pre-anti-depressants” (FYI, it’s playing at Cornell Cinema this Thursday, and Temple Grandin will be there)

Although I am interested in the subject of autism, and cannot applaud this amazing woman hard & long enough for all she has manged to accomplish in her life and career as an autistic person, what makes her my hero is what she has accomplished working with the handling of animal factory farms in this country, to make them more humane.

This is a really important subject to me – if you know anything about me you’ll know I’m a foodie, and I always think about where my meat comes from when making purchasing decisions. I was a vegetarian for many years, mostly because I abhor the conditions of animals kept in factory farms and the cruel manner in which I learned the slaughterhouses handle them. I started eating meat again about three years ago when I moved to the Finger Lakes region because I was able to locate farms where animals are raised and slaughtered compassionately, and buy directly from them (a good example, and one of my faves, is PDH Buffalo Farm, located in Sempronius, NY).

Dr. Temple Grandin’s work in this area is the subject of the book, Animals in Translation. Last night I purchased another book (which she signed), Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals. I look forward to reading it and gaining insight into the care I provide my beloved pets.

alpaca at the Cayuga County Fair

Patagonia pup

Patagonia pup

alpaca at the Cayuga County Fair
4-H-ers exercising their frisky calves at the Cayuga County Fair

4-H-ers exercising their frisky calves at the Cayuga County Fair

Dock Dogs: annual event whereby canines who are trained to leap off a ledge and go flying into a pool of water.

Dock Dogs: annual event whereby canines who are trained to leap off a ledge and go flying into a pool of water.

I’ve been negligent in writing blog entries lately, now that the rainy season has ended. Instead I’ve been out & about trying to get the most out of summer. And dear readers, let me tell you, that looong, cold, harsh central NY winter IS worth it when summer finally arrives. Here’s a smattering of recent adventures:

• Cayuga County Fair

• backpacking in the ‘dacks with husband and dog in tow

High Falls in the Adirondacks, reached only by arduous backpack thru marshes, woods, and over beaver dams.

High Falls in the Adirondacks, reached only by arduous backpack thru marshes, woods, and over beaver dams.

• kayaking on Cayuga Lake

Paddling in Aurora, NY

Paddling in Aurora, NY

• hay day at the ag museum, Auburn, NY

Mennonite family watching old-fashioned hay demo at O'Hara Ag Museum in Auburn, NY

Mennonite family watching old-fashioned hay demo at O'Hara Ag Museum in Auburn, NY

• u-pick blueberries

Biggest friggin' blueberries I've ever seen (Newfield, NY)

Biggest friggin' blueberries I've ever seen (Newfield, NY)

• adopted two more SPCA “unadoptable” felines; one is a big mush and has become my office muse

newest adoptee from SPCA: Neitzsche the cat

newest adoptee from SPCA: Neitzsche the cat

• and finally, relaxing in the rockers and being a porch potato

Watching the corn grow

Watching the corn grow

Rory at the Ithaca dog park


running around the dog park

...and coming.

Here’s my dog, Rory, a cross (I suspect) between a walker coonhound and a redbone coonhound. At 2.5 years of age, she’s graceful, affectionate, athletic, social, smart, and incorrigible. I adopted her when she was 6 mos old from the Wanderer’s Rest Humane Assoc. in Canastota, NY. I try to take her to this dog park of all dog parks, in Ithaca, en route to my weekly Toastmasters meeting at Cornell U. The plan is to totally tire her out so she sleeps in the car throughout my one-hour meeting. And you know what, it always works like a charm. But let me tell you, it is very difficult to capture moving dogs with a still camera. As you can see, she is either constantly moving IN or OUT of the frame.


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