Post-Think Tank ‘09: Thoughts from Emma’s Designers

:: The Better Late Than Never Edition ::

thinkTANK aiga Nashville
Emma and Adobe recently co-presented AIGA's Think Tank Conference in Nashville. This conference may have been just a one-day event, but boy, did it a pack a punch. With 4 main sessions, the speakers included the dynamic duo, Jennifer and Ken Visocky O' Grady, Dave Werner, Ian Dapot, and the lovely Paula Scher, who closed the day out.

Here at the Emma office, we were especially floored about this event, as it was the first design conference that our entire design team has been able to attend. Everyone on our team had such inspired and varying feedback, that it seemed only appropriate to share the love:

Lauren Johnston: The part that particularly stuck out to me was emphasis on process work, brainstorming, and research to initially organize design ideas. Usually, I mess around with my design on the computer until I get something I like. A lot of the speakers chatted about the importance of sketching and mindmapping to really hone in on a particular thought. Then, taking your process work to the client helps to communicate the design direction more clearly.

Researching seemed to be a key part of the process as well. Paula spoke about researching particular environments and spaces before designing it. Ken and Jenn chatted about the importance of researching the clients company and style to have a more successful outcome. I really enjoyed the conference overall. It really inspired me to get moving on some projects and to revisit my portfolio.

Daniel Brown: There was a lot that really stood out but I think one of the main things for me was the IDEO guy [Ian Dapot] saying that he only likes 1 thing out of 10 that he does. So, DO a lot. I can be inclined to not do something if I don't think it will turn out well but that's a bad way to look at it. You never know when something will take a turn for the awesome, so the more you do, the better your chances are of making something great.

Jennifer Crigger Kasdorf:
As designers, we generally take criticism about our work more than the average person. Use the criticism as a way to grow and to see your designs in a new light. – Jenn & Ken Visocky O'Grady
Problem-solve in creative ways. Sometimes we do need breaks, so take them! You might be surprised with the results. – Jenn & Ken Visocky O'Grady
+ "The Harder I work, the luckier I get." – Thomas Jefferson (Dave Werner)
+ Self-promote. Be honest. Be yourself! – Dave Werner
+ Be inspired by your work. – Ian Dapot
+ Sometimes you have to design through the problem to see the solution. – Ian Dapot
+ Find new ways to create, new ways to be passionate about your work. -Paula Scher
+ Create for you. – Paula Scher
+ Surprise yourself. – Paula Scher

Jessica Saling: I really liked Paula Scher when she discussed creating a distinct style. At one point, her brand identity for the Public Theatre was ultra-successful. People liked it so much they actually starting mocking the style all around the city. While this was a compliment to Paula, it destroyed the brand. After the style caught on to many designs around town, the Public Theatre lost its presence.

This really spoke to me to always think about the context your work is displayed. Design can change its effect with the time or place. Designers need to always see the whole picture and not just the design. Also, while design can be effective at one time, it can quickly lose its effect if we don't pay attention to what changes around us.

Elizabeth Williams: I was really impressed with the varied perspectives of each speaker. They each brought something different and thoughtful to the table without too much overlap.

I feel that the motivation to take risks is what I really took away from the conference. A couple of quotes I enjoyed: one from Ian Dapot who encouraged us to start, "exploring what you don't know, NOT exploiting what you have", and one from Albert Einstein via Jen and Ken reminding us that, "Imagination is more important than knowledge". It's easy to fall into the same routines and tricks that you feel comfortable with, but it takes much more courage and gumption to build upon the ideas stored in the "probably absurd zone" of your brain. So, three cheers for risk taking motivation!!!

Kelly McClain: During the Q&A discussion, someone asked all the speakers to share a piece of advice that's stuck with them, and one of the panelists said how one of his instructors once told him that "everyone has the same 24 hours." It's a nice reminder that if you manage your time properly, you can complete even the most daunting projects that as long as it's humanly possible, you have the same amount of time within each day that any other human capable of completing the task would have.

Taylor Schena: I liked with Ken and Jenn's speech where they talk about how what you contribute is more than just the final piece and with OkayDave's, where he talked about doing interesting things that aren't related to your portfolio/body of work. Also, I enjoyed Paula Scher where she talked about how she did work to pay the bills and the work she loved on the side. I think it helps to keep a designer fresh and not burn out.

Jimmy Thorn: I think the thing that sticks out the most was Paula telling me to work the jobs to make money to afford the luxury of doing the projects you really feel strongly about, and to never let a project that you feel passionately about go by the wayside. She said that she would design 135 record covers a year, and be truly happy with five, but those five were her passion projects. I like that.

As for me, one topic that seemed to come up in one form or another, is the fact that a good designer usually spends the least amount of their time on the actual design. I was reminded how many other variables are so important to the design process and when one covers all these other bases, the design usually just flows right out. I believe it was Jenn & Ken who mentioned the phrase, "Design the system, not just the product." I look forward to focusing more energy on this way of design thinking.

We hope you all enjoy our moments of inspiration and if you're able to attend Think Tank: 2010, I highly encourage it.

The Brainiac Guide to Welcome Email Automation

Where in the World is Emma? Pt. 3

Once again, I have returned to share the exciting news of where our gal will be in the next few weeks. Our fabulous Emma staffers on-hand at these events are always looking to have great conversations with Emma customers & prospects about email, marketing, and anything else that may come up. In fact, the other day, I heard one Emma staffer ask a customer about the ham sandwich he was having. Not only is that a great topic, but it's also a nice segue into more lunch-related conversation.

Ok, now I'm getting hungry. So without further ado, here's where we'll be in August…

Denver Chamber

Denver Chamber Colorado Business MarketPlace
August 20 :: Denver, CO

The Colorado Business MarketPlace is a tradeshow and networking event put on by the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce. We hope you'll come by to meet Emma staffers Gina LaMar & Brooks Alford. This event is free and open to all Chamber members.

Social South logo
Social South: Deep Fried Social Media
August 21-22 :: Birmingham, AL

This delicious-sounding event brings together experts on social media and online marketing to help you build social media into your marketing plans. Rami Perry & Patrick Copeland will be representing Emma there, so if you have any questions about deep fried ham sandwiches (it's a croque-monsieur) or want to know how social media and email can work together for your marketing efforts, stop by and say hello. Oh, and you can save $30 on your conference registration with the discount code EMMA.

Colorado Springs Presentation & Social Hour
August 26 :: Colorado Springs, CO

We're hosting a social hour at the fabulous Nosh in Colorado Springs. Emma's Jim Hitch, Gina LaMar & Megan Feltes will be there with tips and ideas for creating effective email campaigns and building your opt-in lists, and any and all friends and customers in the Colorado Springs area are welcome to join us. Did we mention the drinks are on us? Sign up here.

BMA logo

BMA Colorado Roundtable
August 27 :: Denver, CO

Emma staffer Jim Hitch will share more advice and ideas on creating stylish & sophisticated email newsletters to help your brand stand out in the inbox. Gina LaMar & Megan Feltes will also be in attendance to answer any questions that you might have after the session. The event will take place at Dixon's Downtown Grill from 7:30-9:00 am and it is limited to 40 attendees, so please sign up here to guarantee your spot.

Where will we be next month? Stay tuned for more updates, and hope to see you soon. Cheers!

Emma’s the fold of the week

Fold of the Week
We were flattered to see that FOLDRite, a service that lets designers easily allow for folds in their print work, chose our brochure as last week's Fold of the Week. Evidently, our brochure features an "iron cross with cool reveal," which is neat, although we didn't realize that our brochure folding technique may also double as a gymnastics routine.

Anyway, thanks to the folks at FOLDRite for featuring us. You can see other folds of the week, and read about folding technique and strategy to your heart's content, at

Trees for California, coming right up.

At Emma, we plant 5 trees for each new customer that joins us. Readers of this blog decide where the trees should go, and for June you told us that we should plant trees in California. And we thought that was a lovely idea.

Thanks to the new customers who started in June, we've got 1,770 trees to work with. Our tree planting partner, Plant-It 2020, will choose an equatorial region for half of the trees. The other half will soak up the sun (and occasional water) in the Golden State.

It's a new month, and more tree-lovin' states are lined up for your vote. Pick one, won't you?


My top five ideas from the HOW Design Conference

The Emma crew took a trip to Austin, TX last week for the HOW Design Conference, one of the largest gatherings of design professionals each year. Jessica and Allison went to represent our design team, Steve and Kendrick came to chat with the attendees about Emma and I led a breakout session about designing emails with clear goals (and revenue) in mind. After the conference, I sat down to summarize the ideas that will stick with me for a while. Here are the top five…

1. Creativity transforms the common into the extraordinary. Even the wrist watch has outer limits that are still being explored. Speaker: Rob Walker

2. Pretend like your email's on the retail shelf. The same elements of humor, the unexpected, the obvious and the quirky are keys to success in the inbox and the store aisle. Speaker: Mitch Nash of Blue Q.

3. Powerpoint gets a bad rap, but it may be for bad reasons. Nancy, from Duarte Design, posed the question 'Is Powerpoint broken? Or is the way we use it broken?' It made me think of email marketers that aren't quite happy with their results. It's a hard question, but is email what's broken? Or is it the way it's being used? Speaker: Nancy Duarte

4. Good copy can (and should) come from bad. Wayne recommends writing the boring version of your headline first, and then creatively translating the idea from there. Speaker: Wayne Geyer

5. Wayne is a cilantro hater. For a good laugh, check out his anti-cilantro website experience.

Did you make it to HOW, too? What ideas will still inspire you long after the shock of 106-degree heat wears off?

Hello from the HOW Design Conference!

We're having a great time in Austin at the HOW Design Conference. This week has so much to offer, so we're doing our best to take it all in – the food, the live music and of course the inspiring conference events. Yesterday I got a chance to do a breakout session about designing emails with clear goals in mind, so I thought I'd share a few links to statistics and stories I told during the presentation.

+ It depends on the industry, but about 50% of folks surveyed by Epsilon said they were more likely to buy in the future if you have an email strategy. Click here to read more.

+ MarketingSherpa and SmartBrief told the story of how adding social networking links to emails can give a big boost to your traffic from those sites. (subscription required) Click here to read more.

+ Hollis Brand Culture and The Sofia, my favorite hotel in San Diego, helped me tell the story of a boutique hotel trying to boost the bottom line by sharing discounts with guests. The team described email as their 12th man. (Thanks for all your help, Amy!)

It’s not too late to join Ellie’s Run for Africa.


Back in March, we told you about an awesome local event we are sponsoring called Ellie's Run for Africa. Well, consider this your reminder that the event is this Saturday. It's too late to register online, but if you want to lace up your running shoes for a good cause, stop by and sign up Saturday morning beginning at 6:30 a.m. at Percy Warner Park in Nashville.

Ellie's Run for Africa all began in 2004 with the dreams of Ellie Ambrose, then a 10-year-old girl from Nashville who had a vision to help families and children in Africa. Her goal was to raise awareness and funding for Africans who need health care, food, water, shelter, education and clothing. Five years into the program, Ellie's Run has raised over $155,000, helped put more than 420 kids in school, helped build classrooms in Kenya and more.

It is really amazing to me that Ellie's dedication to her dream has accomplished so much, especially at such a young age. To learn more about Ellie's Run for Africa and how to get involved with the race itself, visit

Here come trees for the Green Mountain state.

We're sending a batch of trees to Vermont.

Last year, Emma started planting 5 trees for each new customer who joins us for email marketing and communications. The states where we plant the trees come from a list provided by our tree-planting partner, Plant-It 2020. Vermont was the only state on the list not to receive trees from Emma, but we "fixed" that last month by making Vermont the only possible choice.

Now we've got a fresh batch of tree-lovin' places up for a vote. So where'll it be?


Tips From Photoshop World, Pt.2

Part two of our Tips From Photoshop World series. For part one, click here.

Today I'm going to talk a little bit about one of my favorite features in Photoshop, the adjustment layer. Many of the presenters at Photoshop World emphasized using this tool, so here are a few tips on putting it to stylish use.

Image Adustment Example
When it's time to make an adjustment to our Photoshop project, most of us choose some of the adjustment tools under the Images>Adjustments drop-down menu. After all, it's full of useful adjustments like Curves, Color Balance and Brightness/Contrast, among many others.

They're all helpful (and often necessary), but here's the problem with making adjustments this way: It applies the result to the whole image. Also, any tweaks you want to make to the resulting effect require you to undo the original and redo it until you are happy with the outcome.

How to apply an adjustment layer
So, here's a more efficient way. Try applying an adjustment with an adjustment layer. It's the small black and white circle button at the bottom of your layers palette.

This button will give you a pop-up menu that looks like what you're used to seeing under Image>Adjustments, but it's much more user-friendly. When your adjustment is selected and applied, it does not simply affect your whole image and leave it at that. It actually creates a layer in your layers palette that can be turned off and on and even adjusted further. Nifty!

Example of an applied Adjustment Layer
With an adjustment layer, only the layers below your adjustment layer will be affected by the adjustment. This is helpful when you're working on a Photoshop project that consists of multiple images that may not have been taken with the same camera or under the same conditions. For example, if one component of your project is noticeably lighter than the rest, simply apply a Curves Adjustment Layer directly above the lighter layer, adjust the curves just as you normally would, click OK, then right-click the adjustment layer and choose Create Clipping Mask. This will cause the adjustment layer to only affect the layer directly below it, leaving the rest of your document untouched. If you decide later that the adjustment needs to be tweaked, simply double-click the adjustment layer in your layers palette and make whatever changes you like.

If you have never worked with adjustment layers before, give 'em a try. Please feel free to let us know if you have any questions when trying this for the first time and enjoy this great new tool!