designing ebooks and other fun things

My Story

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It was love at first sight.

A tiny black and white reproduction of an ad, in a used book with pencil scribbles on the yellowing pages, the copy just barely large enough to read. Yet it was enough.

Enough to make my eyes open wide awe of this fearless voice that took something most would see as a disadvantage, a shameful fact never to be mentioned, and shouted it from the rooftops: “Our competitors are doing much better than us. That’s why we work harder.”

But also enough for me to make a deeper connection. To recognize the story behind the ad. To instinctively know that there are many others with powerful stories and messages like that one. And to realize I wanted to be the one to find and tell them.

I changed my major to advertising the very same day.

I spent the rest of my college years hungrily consuming other brilliant short stories in the forms of ads, learning the strategy behind them, trying to create similar campaigns for made-up clients, and fantasizing about the day when I could do this for real ones.

Once out in the real world, I quickly learned that fresh out of college advertising graduates weren’t allowed anywhere near the client, and I had to pick a different place to start. That was a surprisingly easy choice — the stories in my head were always told with words and pictures. It made sense to learn how to make these pictures flow together with the words, seamlessly.

I spent the next few years honing my design and production skills.

And still studying the perfectly crafted messages that, unfortunately, weren’t quite as many as I had imagined. I began noticing the badly crafted ones, too, and thinking about how they could be improved.

Everywhere I have ever worked — in small and big agencies, design studios, in-house graphic design departments; both in Europe and the US — I noticed both the effective and ineffective stories. And I never stopped pushing to improve the ineffective ones.

Many of my colleagues call it a creative approach.

I prefer to think of it in terms of finding the core idea, and building that into a story. An effective, universal story, presented in an appealing way.

Creativity is really only a tiny part of it. Listening and understanding is much more important.

I believe that every piece of communication and marketing collateral has an interesting story behind it.

Most often, these stories never sees the light of day. This is obvious in all those same-sounding ads on television, in taglines that try to say everything and say nothing, in flyers and brochures overloaded with pretty graphics that add nothing to the meaning.

(That Avis ad I quoted in the beginning? It could have chosen the obvious approach, too. Then the headline would have been something like “We work much harder than other rental car companies” or “You don’t have to wait in line for your rental car.” Same message. But, without knowing their driving force, it loses its meaning. I know I wouldn’t have bothered reading the copy with these headlines. I can only imagine how many more people felt the same way, at the time that ad ran.)
I am making it my mission to help you find that core story, and help you tell it to everyone else.

You probably already know what we should say. It’s the how that changes everything.

And there are always, always many possibilities. It can be playful, or shocking, funny or serious. Understated or exaggerated. Sexy or geeky. One thing it should never be is bland and boring.

I don’t care what it is.

Corporate annual reports can be playful or sexy, if you are willing to let them. A small accessories boutique on a busy street full of accessory stores can stand out with their magically delicate signs and decorations. A print ad in a magazine full of print ads from similar companies can be remembered for its self-ironic voice.

The possibilities are endless. Don’t believe it when you hear that every story has already been told. It hasn’t. Not with you as a protagonist.

If you are looking for something more than cookie-cutter, if you always felt that your story, your brand, your voice should be stronger, bolder, more beautiful, you are in the right place.