Recession: a time for re-invention

Here’s a great article I read which talks about branding and business growth in times of economic recession…


You probably smiled the first time you heard someone say, “Flat is the new up,” and maybe even laughed when someone else replied, “Down is the new flat.” But the reality is that in a recession —when most businesses are either stalled or declining—growth can seem unattainable. But for smart companies, recessions have also proven to be periods of rich reinvention.

Here are a few insights from Rick Wise, Lippincott CEO and author of How to Grow When Markets Don’t (Warner Books):

Q. What’s wrong with the way most companies pursue growth?

A. Many companies compete in markets that are totally saturated, and focus on increasingly challenging traditional growth areas: Acquisition, international expansion, the occasional blockbuster, or specialized brand extensions. It’s hard to find meaningful growth with such moves in mature and flat-to-declining markets.

Q. How can recession help?

A. Besides shaking out the weakest players, downturns serve the valuable function of forcing companies to admit that their usual growth avenues are exhausted. Management talks a lot about hunkering down, sticking to their knitting or getting back to basics. But the core business is usually a slow or no-growth one. The sooner management admits they’re stuck in a no-growth model, the quicker they can move on to new strategies.

Q. So where can they find smart growth?

A. It takes a Darwinian leap, and the decision to push past product-centric models. People have to start looking for the next generation of customer demand, the higher-order needs that you and your competitors aren’t meeting but that represent opportunities to create new value in adjacent markets. What are the time-hassle economics that your customers face, and what new services or products would help?

Our client Walmart is a great example. It’s applied its core strength—low prices—into new categories and services, like groceries, pharmacy, and financial services. But it’s also adapted that value message to new formats. Its new Marketside, for instance, is a smaller store designed to cater to fill-in shopping trips poorly served by large Walmart Supercenters. It broadens the customer base and the market opportunity by bringing its core competency of providing great value to helping families answer the pressing question: “What’s for dinner?”

Q. What’s the most important quality for growth when your competitors are shrinking?

A. Rethinking the cultural definition of risk diversification. This is the time to be expansive—sticking to your knitting can be very dangerous when markets become so volatile. You can’t wait for the sunny day. You need to take measured moves to expand the scope of your business—and strengthen your customer relationships—now, when business is tough.

– Rick Wise, Lippincott CEO


Yours in design,


Happy World Graphic Design Day

Today marks World Graphic Design Day. A day where we designers can celebrate ourselves and the work we do to make the world a visually pleasing place.

It was on this day in 1963 when the International Council of Graphic Design Associations (Icograda), the world body for graphic design was founded. Since 1995 designers all over the world have been celebrating the profession of communication design.

So charge your glasses and celebrate leading creatively with us!

Yours in design,

Mobile Phones in Japan


During a recent trip to Japan I discovered how technologically advanced Japanese mobile phones are. Many Japanese phones can listen to the radio and watch TV, can be used as a debit or credit card and swiped through checkout lines or to buy everything from mascara to jet planes. They also can be swiped and function as a season ticket or train ticket. However I mostly witnessed the QR Codes and Data Matrix Codes on everything including receipts, buses, business cards and billboards. These Codes are 2-dimensional, square bar codes that can be read with your mobile phone camera provided you have the correct reader software installed. The codes were initially used for tracking parts in vehicle manufacturing, however they are now used to link to everything from URL addresses, photos and video data which are launched when the bar code is scanned. Users can also generate and print their own QR Code for others to scan and use by visiting one of several free QR Code generating sites. I can’t wait until this technology hits Australia!

For more information on this topic please visit mobile tagging.

Yours in design,

Top 5 [a little bit weird] USB devices

Number 5: USB air darts
You can aim this cute set of three darts with your mouse and fire them off by clicking. The easy way to settle an office dispute.

Number 4: USB Fridge
Always wanted to keep your beverage chilled so you can stay at your computer longer? This little fridge takes 5 minutes to get down to 8°C, weighs 365 grams and has a blue LED light.

Number 3: USB Heated Slippers
These individually powered slippers will keep each foot toasty with their two heating settings, at the same time as ensuring you don’t venture far from the computer.

Number 2: USB Aromatherapy Oil Burner
Add a drop of the included aromatherapy oil and insert into a USB drive. “Scent 2.0” just needs to get warm and the lavender smells will spread around your office and keep you feeling calm. 

Number 1: USB Eye Massager
The marketing pitch says it all: “USB Eye Massager is the latest designed health care product specially for the person which long time use their eyes, such as the computer operator.”
The massager automatically turns on once plugged into a USB port. There’s two different speeds, “high speed” and “low speed,” ensuring that you don’t over-stimulate your eyeballs with its delicate strokes. Mmm relaxing!

Coaches & trains

Trying to teach yourself to increase your skill levels can be confusing, and hard work, but paying an organisation to train you and your team can be expensive. Is it worth it?

I think the answer has to be yes.

One on one sessions with a coach, or working in small groups, with feedback from other participants, can be an energising way to hone your skills, be exposed to new ideas and ramp up enthusiasm for your particular niche.

Recent experiences with seminars and training days with MYOB have provided me with the latest updates to make sure we are compliant for taxes and payroll, but even better, I came away with more resources and reference material.

After a day spent at their Brisbane Training Centre, brushing up on reporting and analysis, I was given access to a MYOB-designed Business Fitness Review.  This excel based program is a useful tool for working on budgets, and getting some interesting ratios out of your Profit & Loss and Balance Sheets.

Whatever your skills, there is always more to know, and often someone interesting to learn it from, so get out there and find your teacher.


Yours in design



Photographer: Stephen Booth
Photo of Arcade Fire taken by Stephen Booth

Something about music photography is truly captivating, the reflection and intimacy that is gained through freezing such intense emotion has always grabbed me. UnderExposed is an exhibition featuring some of the best – established and emerging – music photographers in Brisbane. Bringing together those select shooters who have captured the visual side of Brisbane’s aural history – be it with emerging local bands, or international ones – UnderExposed aims to showcase that fleeting moment in time where a subject, ordinarily so intense and public, is caught in a period of stillness and reflection: the essence of the show, the artist, encapsulated in that one shot. There will be live music throughout the exhibition as well as photography workshops. The exhibition runs from this Friday – April 17 – to May 4 at Joshua Levi Galleries in Woolloongabba.


Opens Fri Apr 17, 6-9pm. Show runs until May 4.

Joshua Levi Galleries, 4 Ipswich Rd, Woolloongabba

How much:
Forum and workshops – $58, all 6 shows – $74, single gig – $17, exhibition – free

Photo credit:
Photo of Arcade Fire by Stephen Booth

Yours in Design,

State of Design

15-25 July, 2009 – Melbourne


The State of Design Festival showcases Victoria’s best designers and creative teams, and businesses using innovative design. Learn how design can lead business, industry and society towards a better future.

The Festival holds four major programs in metropolitan Melbourne and regional Victoria, focused around the 2009 theme ‘Sampling the Future': Design Capital business program, Design For Everyone public and cultural program, Design:Made:Trade industry program, and the biennial Premier’s Design Awards (next held in 2010).

State of Design Festival is an initiative of the Victorian State Government in Australia and is the public face of the Design Victoria Strategy.

Established in 2004, the Festival has had three editions-2004, 2006 and 2008. Starting in 2009, the Festival is now an annual event.

State of Design Festival increases the awareness of the value of design and showcases how design generates innovati on, promotes sustainability and adds value to business and society. Festival programs demonstrate and broadly communicate how the Victorian and Australian design profession can improve living conditions, create sustainable development opportunities, and generate new and innovative products and services; in turn, providing economic benefit for the state of Victoria.

The Festival seeks to articulate how design holds the potential to lead the parallel trajectories of business, industry and society towards a common future. By communicating to Australian and international audiences, the Festival promotes a deeper understanding of design capability and value.

More than 100,000 people are expected to experience one or more of the 75 events across the Festival’s four main programs.

For more information, visit

Courtesy of AGDA, 6 April 2009,

Yours in Design,





A BIG thank-you to AGDA ( for my lucky door prize at one of their recent design events of a Semi-Permanent Brisbane ticket, for which I shared with my young and creative work colleague during the busy time before the Easter long weekend. Anya-demus enjoyed the first half while I absorbed the second half. It was refreshing to unwind and hear what other creatives are up to.

It’s strange to only experience half a day of Semi-Permanent whilst in past years I’ve travelled to Sydney to experience the 2-day bonanza leaving overly inspired. It would be an ideal world for Brisbane to get the 2 days rather than the 1 day AND have it run over the weekend rather than a school day! Who else shares this dream?

Yours in Design,

Twitter and the political campaign

Twitter is quickly becoming the most talked about social network around; with celebrities, business entrepreneurs and politicians all getting in on the action.

The recent Queensland state election saw Premer Anna Bligh used this platform to voice her polices, updates and personal comments, to retain her position as Premier. The Premier took on a diplomatic use of the social medium, with more thankyous and hellos then slanders, Premier Bligh has taken on the same approach as some of the most popular twitters. I was interested to see that Premier Bligh has over 1,500 followers and will be keeping a close eye on how she makes use of this technology now that the election is over.

Global entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson (SirDick) has over 11,000 followers. SirDick uses this platform to speak openly to his fans about what he is currently doing, business decisions he is pondering, and thankyous to people who inspire and help him through his day. 

While twitter has gained much positive media exposure, prominent identities are falling victim to copycats who are stealing their identities and posting unauthorised comments. While these tweeters are fairly easily identifiable, it still raises much confusion and speculation.

Twitter is vastly becoming a global brand that is making daily headlines and infiltrating peoples minds and thoughts.

There is a place and purpose for twitter’s function in every business and as popularity grows, the number of tweeters on line will draw a massive appeal to this audience.

You can follow me on twitter;

Yours in design

Database Design

I’ve had twenty years Database experience on a wide variety of both applications and hardware.  If I’ve learned anything when it comes to databasing the secret to success is three simple rules.

Simplify where ever possible. 

Plan plan plan!

Always have the end result in focus.

So  many times over the years I’ve been asked to design a database system that covers off and includes every single little thing the client can think of.  While it’s a great ideal and at times makes me look somewhat cleverer than I really am, it doesn’t always produce the results you are chasing.  Remember that for every field that data can be entered into to, some person actually has to enter the data.  While I’m a huge fan of Databases  and I believe they are a fantastic tool for organising work flow and reporting on critical functions.  I’ve also seen and been guilty of at times, creating a huge work load for data entry that really will never be used.  So just keep that in mind when planning one.   A tip for DIY Databasers.  One of the simplest things that is often overlooked is the name field.  Make sure you have two separate fields – one for first name and one for surname.  This way, when you go to personalize letters and the like you can easily have only their first name as a saluatation.  Seems simple I know but I’ve come across many databases where this is not so.

Keep in mind too staff training and turnover.  Whilst some operators are very clinical and enjoy having emense detail about every little thing possible, not everyone is like that.  Far too many times I’ve seen new staff come in and not only have to learn a new system but flounder trying to keep up to date remembering to always have to update the file every step of the way.  Sometimes it can create more work than necessary.  So whilst its important to capture the important information make sure it’s not over kill at the same time.   

 Before you design a database or ask a contractor to do one for you.  Sit down and write an overall plan.  Nothing is worse than beginning a database and then 6 months down the track when you need to do a report you realize some data is missing and for ever more when ever you use that report you analysis won’t be accurate for the yearly overview.  By planning reports you may even then realize some of the fields you first thought you would need, you actually don’t as you won’t be able to use that data in a useful way.

These are some of my tips to assist in designing a Database.

1. Write a list of every field you think you will require.

2. Prepare a list of reports you want to be able to ascertain from the collected data.

3. Calculations.Specifiy how you would like the calculations on the reports to work, ie Do you need the same calculations for sub sections or just the overall grand totals.

4. Ask the end user.  The poeple that use the reports need to have some input as to if they would be happy with the coverage of information.  Do they need more fields? Are the calculations how they imagined. Are there too many fields.

5. Layouts.  Think about simple design.  While more complex designs can sometimes appear to be “flashier’ think of the practical side of actually using them.  While more data fields can always to added at the end of a database design, depending on where the data will be used it can often be very time consuming to slot results into layouts and reports later.

Yours in Design