Author: ratcliff

My secret recipe

Over the years I’ve heard many thought leaders shouting from the highest mountaintops that you should share everything you know. What you give out comes back to you tenfold.

So, in full disclosure, here is the one simple phrase that I learned back in design school to solve almost every problem you can face in life:


The solution to every problem is inherent to the problem itself.


There. Now you know my secret to positioning, branding, ad creative, design problems, UX, CX and passing college algebra.

An argument for being a generalist

Read enough Fast Company and the high school girls who write for it will have you convinced that being a generalist is bad.

This advice is counter to their previous prognostication that you should strive to know a little bit of everything, be a master of none. Lately, the trendy thing is to specialize.

As my English friends would say, bollocks.

Creativity isn’t about narrowing your focus, it’s about being broad and open to as many new things as possible. That’s where the magic happens.

I’ve seen too many designers fall in love with a look or style and it gets applied to everything, no matter the specified function.

Being a generalist, knowing a little bit about a lot of stuff allows you the opportunity to see connections that previously did not exist. A prime example:

This hippy from northern California falls in love with calligraphy, but also has a passion for technology and personal computers. These totally disparate things became the Macintosh.

The lesson for today kids: Learn as much as possible. Explore everything. If you plan to master anything in life, master yourself.

2017.09.08 links

I’m between books at the moment, so lots of online reading this week:

Creative Play and Rejecting the Don Draper School of Idea Generation

IBM quietly built the world’s largest digital agency — here’s how it got there

It’s a strange but great time to be a creative

Louise Fili: Never Sit and Wait for the Phone to Ring
The design icon lunched with 99U at Via Carota in the West Village, whose logo she created for its launch in 2015, to talk about why your studio’s name matters, the reason your client’s person in charge must be present at all meetings, and what happens when you serve gelato at your studio presentations.

Have a Great Idea for an App?
Here’s What You Need to Know to Fund It. Crowdfunding can be your friend.

Need to be creative on demand? Learn how.If you work in the creative industry  – or in any industry, it’s fairly standard that you are expected to come up with innovative solutions to briefs-problems as part of your day job. And sometimes that can just seem beyond you – you are fresh out of freshness. What to do then?

Why I love my job, but (sometimes) hate my industry

30 Books You Need to Read to Earn “Well-Read” StatusWith this list, you’ll feel like you can dominate the Trivial Pursuit literature section.

A couple of great articles about the state of advertising from Forbes:
How Henry Ford Ate Your Advertising Brain
Advertising Is Commoditized — But You Don’t Have To Be

Microsoft’s Dave Coplin leaves to set up ‘envisioning’ consultancy

Creative Class Hero
Tomoko Miho is one of the design world’s best kept secrets

LCD Soundsystem Is Back. But This Is Not the Same LCD Soundsystem.
After six years, the band returns with American Dream. But was it worth the wait?

Social Media Has Hijacked Our Minds.
Click Here to Fight It.

And finally, from Mr Dave Trott, whom I have become a big fan…

For the same amount of effort

I took this class that Disney offered about customer service. The first thing the instructor asked is for everyone to raise their hand. Everyone did. With all the hands still in the air, he asked the class to raise them a little more. Hands rose slightly higher. Now how hard was that? The class collectively reached just a bit higher with a minimal amount of extra effort.

This is a core concept Disney practices to ensure all their guests have the best experience visiting their parks.

That lesson has stuck with me for years.

When you get into your day-to-day work, often you want to rush through, not expend any more energy on a project than you have to, or want to get on with something else. But how big of a difference can you make if you would try 1 or 2% harder?

Conversely, back about 20 years ago I read an article in MacWorld that said if you do not open all the windows in the Finder, you save seconds of processing time every day. You’re making your Mac faster. In fact, over the course of a day you might even safe as much as a couple of minutes. Those minutes add up to hours, days and so on over the course of a year.

When you apply this principle to everything in life, how big of a difference can you make? How much change? Make things better?

Little things can be powerful forces.