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I’m currently enrolled in a 12-week class called The Certified Networker, held by the Referral Institute of Ithaca. In the class, I am learning how to develop relationships with people and create a referral network, which will help me grow my business. Part of this work involves enhancing my business image by developing a marketing communication strategy. This strategy includes developing a short introduction about who I am and what I do, and a longer, 10-minute presentation, which is what follows in this blog post. It should have an emotional-based marketing theme, and a call to action.

You know I am a graphic designer, and that I am owner of my business, Julia Reich Design. Let me tell you about myself and WHY I do what I do.

I grew up in NJ, in the suburbs. My father worked on Wall St. as a securities analyst, commuting over an hour each way into the city every day. I did not see him very much, and we were never very close. To this day I could not really explain to you what he did for a living. My mother (now retired), with whom I was closer, started out as a high school math teacher, eventually earning two masters degrees and becoming a learning consultant where she tested teenagers with learning problems – special ed kids – and making recommendations for appropriate schools or programs that would best serve their needs.

As a kid, my two main interests were animals, and drawing. When I went off to college, I thought I’d study to become a wildlife biologist. However, at about the same time I learned that scientists need to have an aptitude for statistics & math, I discovered environmental education – teaching nature to kids – which I loved. i was drawn towards education since i admired my mother and her career, so I went down that path, but in my own unique direction, based on my love for the outdoors.

In my 20’s, after college and then living in NYC, I was an environmental educator. In my last job in that role, I was education director of a nature center on the Hudson River. But more & more I found myself interpreting science lessons with art rather than science, culminating in an environmental & artistic tour de force that was a life-size, indoor, walk-through Hudson River marsh, that I made with my elementary school students.

Soon after, I took an evening class at the school of visual arts in NYC in graphic design, which really resonated with me. In a few more years, I left my education job to attend Pratt Institute, and got a degree in graphic design two years later.

In 2001 I started my own firm. I had worked briefly in a corporate setting, as an in-house designer, but the cubicle life was not for me. I found the hierarchies in those firms stifle creativity and meaningful personal relationships, and which make business development satisfying for me as a “solopreneur”.

Because I was familiar with the nonprofit world, this quickly became my target market, and remains to this day. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some great organizations, educational institutions, and progressive businesses: Brooklyn Botanic Garden; GrowNYC (the org which runs the famous Union Square greenmarkets); Wildlife Conservation Society; National Environmental Education Foundation; Educational Video Center; Slow Food USA; Food Systems Network NYC; Hawthorne Valley Farm. These are the ones that have missions related to my own personal interests, that I feel passionate about, and are usually the most fun to work with. And that list hasn’t changed much since I was a kid – nature, environment, animals, and similar sectors – gardening, food, and anything that could be labeled ‘green or ‘sustainable’. And of course, education.

The services I provide for these nonprofits and progressive businesses include print design (such as brochures, reports, newsletters), web design, and branding. Branding is when I design not only a logo for a client, but create their entire identity, and often also aid them with positioning and messaging – how they communicate who they are in the marketplace. This is my favorite type of work because it is strategic and involves a deep Discovery phase, which is fun, because I really get to dig deep into who a client is – figure out their personality, what’s the story they want to tell, and then translate that into visual language. Once this is established, all those other things I just mentioned – reports, business cards, websites – will need to be designed using a consistent look, feel, and message. In essence, I help organizations create their identity from the ground up, by developing their character, logo, stationery and website – a strong visual gestalt that gets carried through everything else – packaging, advertising, eBlasts, and more.

I run my design firm as a “virtual” agency. By “virtual” I don’t mean “fake” – as I have an office, in Aurora. What I mean is that I work with a collaboration of experts that I hand-pick – professionals such as designers, developers, and photographers – but they mostly work offsite. These are teams of high-level talent that are custom-assembled for each client and project. As compared to a traditional brick & mortar office – with staff – I believe the benefits of a virtual model are manifold:

• Senior level talent. Each person has at least 10 years experience, and because they are all independent consultants, it allows for a more focused application of each expert’s individual skill set.
• Flexibility. To organize a top level team and do it quickly; and to change the team from project to project.
• Personalized service. One of my clients told me recently that the large branding firm they’ve been working with for several years sent their top execs to the first few meetings, but after that, meetings and phone calls were run by staff members who did not seem to be familiar with the client or the project. With the virtual agency model, there is no bait & switch from a senior team member to a junior-level person once the project is awarded. As creative director and project manager, I am always the point person.
• Value. Since I’m dedicated to working within my client’s budget most efficiently, my virtual agency rates are more reasonable and competitive as compared to medium and big firms.

I am growing my business, and maybe you, dear reader, can help me. One of my current clients is the Cornell Small Farms Program. To work with them, I became a “preferred vendor”. Now I can work with any department or program at Cornell, so I’d like to ask – if you know someone who needs graphic design services at Cornell, or knows someone who makes these kinds of purchasing decisions, would you be willing to introduce me to them? I would welcome the opportunity to talk to them about my business and how I may be able to assist them, and would be most grateful for your referral.

Once again, I’m Julia Reich, owner of Julia Reich Design, and I help organizations tell their stories, visually.

And if we ever went for a hike together, I could also teach you to how to identify birds by their calls, plants growing along the trail, and animal tracks in the snow. Oh, and anything you’d like to know about Hudson River marshes.

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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.

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

Joe and the fish

Joe and the fish

My friend Joe is an avid fisherman. This is a pic he took of a landlocked salmon he caught in Skaneateles Lake a few weeks ago.

“As you can tell from the picture of the fillets – coming out of the cold Skaneateles water in April, the meat is as pink as an Alaskan run true Atlantic Salmon. As with any good piece of fish, the secret was in the handling of the meat, not so much the recipe – I caught the fish at 5:30 am, put the fillets immediately on ice for 12 hours and broiled it that night for dinner with nothing more than a hoisin/soy sauce glaze for 10 minutes and it was fabulous. I brush the glaze on before I put it under the broiler, which acts to protect the meat from burning, and again halfway through cooking it. The two fillets with a side of steamed asparagus were more than my wife and I could eat. Just for kicks, we also drank a bottle of Salmon Run Riesling with it from Keuka Lake and called it dinner!”

salmon fillets

salmon fillets

This morning before work, my designer Melissa and I took a walk with the dog out back, through the alfalfa fields, on the edge of some scraggly moist woods. Melissa has an even more valid claim to being nature-girl-turned-designer than I do – I grew up in the NJ ‘burbs, but she is a true country girl, raised right here in central NY. She spent childhood summers catching crayfish and nightcrawlers for her dad’s bait business.

Later that evening (for my dog’s second daily walk) I went to the same place and pulled a handful to use for dinner in conjunction with freshly-harvested asparagus, the first of the season (which happily grows unassisted-remember, I’m a citiot – in a plot in my yard). I sauteed the minced wild leeks (also called ramps) with garlic and olive oil, added the fresh asparagus, and then some cooked spinach and cheese ravioli to coat. The asparagus was sweet and tender, not woody and slightly bitter the way it can be from the store. Delish!

sauteed asparagus and ramps

sauteed asparagus and ramps

ravioli with wild leeks and asparagus

ravioli with wild leeks and asparagus

closeup1Within the past 48 hours, the front of my house has erupted in daffodils (and a few tulips too).daff_houseimg_39591

tulips1

close up of a lucky stone

close up of a lucky stone

This past Sunday I brought some out-of-town friends to Long Point State Park in Aurora to hunt for ‘Lucky Stones’ (rather than Easter eggs) – This is our local natural phenomena: a tiny hole, drilled perfectly, naturally, and mysteriously in a smooth gray beach stone. The west-facing shore was too cold and windy, but along the southern shore the rock beach was warm and protected, so we settled in for the hunt. The ground is littered with ’em.

None of us know exactly how they are formed, although we each have a fave theory (a grain of sand, weatherered away over time, or maybe an excavated, fossilized worm hole? But why only on the shores of Cayuga Lake, in such abundance?)

Hunting for Lucky Stones

Hunting for Lucky Stones

Walking the dog at dusk last night in a misty drizzle, I heard the first spring peepers chirping away. Then this morning, a phoebe announcing its territory from the cherry tree. Each and every day, something newly returned from winter digs.

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