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8 posts from August 2008

The Pitfalls of Marketing Social Responsibility, Part 2 of 4


Read Part 1. This new post talks about the following rule:

2) Don't have anything to hide. It just makes for more hypocrisy.

Have you ever taken a trip to the fine city of Energyville?

Chevron has taken it upon themselves to design a game that shows just how hard it is to keep electricity flowing to the nation's cities without traditional fossil fuels in the mix. And you know what? They're completely right. It would be hypocritical of me to think that within the next two weeks, let alone ten years, we're going to be able to generate enough energy from alternative energy sources to create a major offset of fossil fuels in the United States to power our cities, cars, and planes.

That said, Chevron is hypocritical to think that a simple game modeled off Sim City and designed for smarty-pants liberals who listen to NPR and wear corduroy is going to change my impression of their company and business model. Yes, they have invested billions over the past half-decade into alternative energy sources--but I know that's a mere fraction of the profit they've been raking in from this multi-year spike in oil prices. It is not in their corporate interest to shift from their main source of revenue (oil) to envisioning a future tied up in alternative energy sources. They have to keep the pumps running, putting out other fires, and paying out those serious dividend checks.

For the American populace and the Democratic government, Chevron has an infinite distance to travel to be seen as a good citizen. It was never part of the core DNA of the Chevron brand to be promoting "Human Energy" -- that was an evolution required by a hardcore assault by the Democratic government that's just the tip of the iceberg. Chevron's "Will You Join Us?" microsite is just an attempt to soften the blow of reality and make the public aware of just how morally fraught their position is. For those who don't see the whole picture, they have succeed, but at what cost? Chevron is part of a web of hypocrisy contingent on real change across multiple industries. Every time they report record profits for their shareholders, they look more like a hypocrite.

So, how can Chevron escape out of this marketing death spiral?

By following this corollary to the second law:

Humility and honesty is the only antidote to hypocrisy.

Not in a clever video game, mind you -- humility in a company-wide acknowledgment of the real impact oil has on the world at large and the direct steps they're going to take over the next 50 years to evolve their business out of oil and force other industries, such as car and airplane manufacturers, to focus their energy on alternative fuel sources. Articulate who you want to be without oil and people will respect you for your honesty and vision -- plus, you'll make more impact than all the companies like TerraPass that are trying to aggregate people's individual contributions into a motivator for real change. That would be a reflection of a true commitment to sustainability.

A similar strategy to Chevron has recently been taken by Chevrolet to focus on how they're developing a range of fuel solutions for their vehicles. This kind of marketing is just primed for a backlash, however, as it doesn't show true humility about how they'd like to get into the zero-pollution game with all of their car lines. And if Chevrolet doesn't pay off their vision with measurable results, they will always be seen as the villain. And it doesn't help that their primary ad image when this campaign broke was a boy hugging a tree. Um, right.

It'd be easier for Chevron and Chevrolet to spin off their green businesses, get them successful, then fold their old, tainted brands out of business than to reinvent their brands as they exist today.

Maybe I'm the one being naive... but it seems from this flurry of marketing activity, the oil game can't change unless you get out of oil. The whole position of "Saying No to No" that I saw in a recent Shell ad (that ripped off a photo that was on the cover of the CommArts photo annual and the New York Times Magazine) is saying to avoid being hypocritical. That's even more meaningful coming from an oil company, right?

The Pitfalls of Marketing Social Responsibility, Part 1 of 4

Carbon Buttprint

It's difficult to work in marketing and live without illusions. Hypocrisy is something you can't escape when you sell a product or service. There is no perfect marketing message.

Unlike public relations, which can veer from great journalism to thinly disguised product placement, marketing doesn't claim to holiness. You're telling other people to focus their attention on a single element of a complicated product or service, all the while attempting to differentiate your client from their peers.

No wonder people equate lawyers with advertising professionals at the bottom of the professional food chain. Both of them deal in arbitrary versions of the truth, contested and argued before a court of your peers. At least salespeople get to have a conversation with their clients, while marketers often inject static messaging into the world at large, hoping that their audience aligns their loyalties with your line of thinking.

When you look at your marketing message in this way, I think it becomes evident why it's so hard for companies to market charitable initiatives, present themselves as socially responsible through mass media, or demonstrate true concern about environmental change. You're asking people to look you in the eye and perhaps smile, but they can't help but focus on the spot of blood on your cheek, trickling slowly towards the ground...

With this in mind, I'd like to propose the following three laws regarding the pitfalls of marketing your corporation's social responsibility. And at the end of this series, I'll provide guidelines that companies can follow to minimize the amount of perceived hypocrisy your social responsibility marketing can have on your brand -- and so you don't end up as a social offsetter like CITGO.

This post talks about the following rule:

1) You can't market social responsibility without an ounce of hypocrisy.

CREDO Mobile (formerly Working Assets Wireless) gives 1% of all wireless fees to liberal charities and organizations, straight off the top. Over they past 23 years, they've given $50 million to charity. Sounds great on paper. Looks good in the ads. Makes you feel like you're part of something bigger. Keeps you in your tribe of like-minded friends.

And if I do the math correctly, that is approx. $5 billion in aggregated revenue for Working Assets. So... why don't you just give that $50 million straight to the charities involved and use AT&T? Over the past 60 years, AT&T has donated $1.6 billion dollars (and counting) to social causes from their foundation. Sure, I don't have control over where AT&T donates their money. $1.6 billion is a micro-fraction of the many gazillions AT&T has made over the years. And I know they're getting a big tax break from their foundation revenue. With that in mind, I'm going to stick with their cell-phone service and go write a big check to the ACLU.

I love the idea behind CREDO Mobile and hope that they have continued success. But I can already hear the meetings cranking up in the AT&T corporate offices about how to cut off CREDO at the pass and crush them with their own big charitable digits. Every little bit counts, but if you've got lots of big bits, you have a better story.

This leads to a corollary to the first law of marketing social responsibility:

Context overrules substance. Your audience and competition will always have a counter-argument to your marketing position.

No matter how much you donate to a charity or how much you reinvent your business model to be more socially responsible, be aware of the context of change.

Change in the realm of social responsibility is incremental and somewhat arbitrary. You can never do enough to manifest real impact. It can only be aggregated over time and eventually quantified on a fiscal basis. Unlike marketing the benefits of a product such as a cell phone, which can be itemized and positioned against similar benefits of your competitor's phones, social responsibility has no parity other than how much you donate and who it goes to. Equality between charities is morally relative -- one person's National Rifle Association is another person's American Cancer Society.

Now, another corollary:

The risk of hypocrisy increases as social responsibility increases.

Take, as a recent example, the TerraPass.

Carbon offsetting is the rage in social responsibility. The TerraPass has gained a lion's share of press in the market, promoting offsetting as well as behavioral change as key ways to make a difference in the environment and help reduce global warming.

According to the ticker at the bottom of their website, they've helped 75,000 individuals and businesses offset 708,573,072 pounds of carbon emissions. That made me feel warm and fuzzy, because those numbers show that they've made a tangible difference. Their site does a bang-up job of describing the ways that you can participate without veering into preachy territory. It made me comfortable to give it a shot.

So, where's the hypocrisy in the TerraPass? It's hard to sniff out, but I'll take a stab:

They're selling the future. And the future is a hard product to offer, because it may never materialize in the bright, glossy, natural form that we imagine. (Yes, I have read The World Without Us. That isn't likely to happen... yet.)

I went and reviewed the Executive Summary of the EPA's summary report on Greenhouse Gases. It said that there were 6,089.5 teragrams of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere in 2005. Needless to say, as I did the math my warm fuzzies rapidly evaporated under the hot sun of those statistics.

A much, much greater quantity of people -- an order of magnitude greater -- needs to participate in the TerraPass program and others like it before any real change occurs. We're so far in the hole on carbon emissions that it can seem a Sisyphean task to recover.

With regards to carbon offsetting: you can market the benefit, but the only tangible is how you feel after you've written your check and the knowledge that sometime in the future, the needle will swing one micron in the right direction. (And this seems like a silly little point, but here goes: they started with a team from a university, but are now a corporation. As a nonprofit, they may have been able to administrate their efforts more affordably and sink their excess revenue into more projects. On the other hand, as a for-profit corporation, things can get a heck more nimble and there's usually less politics about the whole enterprise.)

The TerraPass vision? 10 billion pounds of carbon offset and a million people participating in their program. What's wrong with that? Not much, unless those billions are amortized over, say, 25 years. Using the above math, and assuming the carbon output of the U.S. is stable, we won't have made that much of a dent. Why not just browbeat the oil companies through legislation into speeding up their development of alternative energy sources? Reduce plastics use and replace with alternative, biodegradable resources? There's always a faster way, with the right money and resources, to go further. Oi.

This is a third corollary of the first law:

A better charitable decision can always be rationalized by your audience. Be prepared for it. Roll with it. Consider using it.

I love the TerraPass and will be using it when I take plane flights. But I have no illusions that I'll perceive a demonstrable, positive climate change in my lifetime from their efforts. And there's no way TerraPass can be a success if they come out of the gate with that kind of truth. Sorry, Al Gore, but here's how I'm reducing my carbon footprint: I'm not having kids. What kind of special bonus credit do I get for that?

Apples, Oranges, & Other Measures of Success

Apples and Oranges

Those who are more formal about their marketing research methods may quibble that comparing online site usage metrics with telephone customer satisfaction metrics like I explored in my previous post are difficult to correlate. Apples to oranges. Somewhat reductive.

To that, I say: you don't need reams of data to make an improvement in customer experience. In most cases, there are so many interdependencies for improving a customer experiences that it helps to get a little reductive and start poking at each element individually, improving them as you go and seeing how their effects cascade down the chain.

With that in mind, I put forth the following hypothesis: managing your customer experience is like running a produce stand. I don't think it sounds too silly, if you consider the way a produce stand operates.

Each thing you sell in the stand has to look good to customers if they're going to consider making a purchase.

People generally have to be enticed into sampling your wares (trial) in order to make a purchase -- their propensity to buy increases.

There must be a consistency of quality from visit to visit. Otherwise, why would you shop there?

Upon making a purchase, the produce must hold up on the trip home and satisfy your appetite with the experience you expected. Spoilage = bad.

And, most importantly, your customers need to be continually educated about what they'll enjoy most, at the peak time of each season. In essence, this type of education reduces choice, and less choice is better customer experience -- unless you have mechanisms to help manage your options.

In short, limiting what you sell, minding the store at all times, and having a point of view that has the customer's interest in heart seem to be the three guiding principles behind most killer customer experiences. Everything else is dressing on the windows.

Imagine a world where, instead of being provided a bajillion options, you're guided through those options to what will be proper and extraordinary purchases. When queried, you need to have an opinion about what's best for customers to purchase from season to season, not that everything is always great all the time.

This may sound quasi-Communist, but really great brands create bold natural boundaries around their offerings, and with a reduced measure of choice, continue to make their customers very happy. Apple Computer, anyone?

The Pulse of Great Customer Experience

Download a one-page summary of this post, showing the charts in landscape format.

Great customer experience depends on a number of crucial variables: having products that foster emotional connection through positive interaction; having marketing, sales, and other support functions for purchasing the products be as effortless and useful as possible; and by ensuring that word-of-mouth communications aren’t held with too tight of a grip, i.e. left free to flourish on existing online and real-world communities.

Truly great companies understand how to “pulse” their experiences, so their customers experience above-average products, services, and marketing experiences across the board, punctuated by frequent bursts of high-quality brand interaction that help customers to overlook any hiccups in the relationship. They also understand that there is an ideal method to how they operate their businesses, and flex their control over various channels to make sure that any potential failures are immediately countered by exceptional customer contact.

Great Customer Experience: The Ideal Pulse

The following illustration shows a potential customer interaction over two months with a chain of clothing stores. The numbers below each customer touch correlate to metrics that can be measured regarding customer satisfaction through online, in-store, email, and word-of-mouth communications:

Ideal Customer Experience

The value of planning the best possible experience provides the strategic advantage of fostering long term repeat business instead of forcing marketers to always seek quick wins.

For each experence that your audience has with your products or services, you have an opportunity to further cement customer loyalty and increase the chance of a referral or a repeat sale. A fumble like the one shown above, handled with grace, can make a major impact on the lifetime value of your customer.

And seeing that single failure in the context of the above storyline highlights how rare it is to have uninterrupted quality of service with graceful recovery -- unless you're shopping at the highest-end retail establishments.

Common Customer Service: The Unsteady Pulse

Can you remember the last time you received an apology in the mail for a company mistake? (I got one last year, but it was only because someone stole a laptop with 4 million customer names, including mine...)

Customers take note of the consistency of a company’s actions, both consciously and subconsciously -- sometimes within microseconds of each interaction. If they feel that the company is not in control of their own actions in more than one channel, they’re more likely to find another company that satisfies their needs in a more stable manner. Things end up like this:

Real Customer Experience

Many companies falter in providing consistent customer experiences because their internal policies and bureaucracy inform the structure of a customer’s experience. Internal divisions built around maintaining channels, instead of fostering a blending of customer knowledge through all channels, can have a major toll on marketing quality. It takes extraordinary effort and a truly holistic attitude to mold all company behaviors and activities around customer desire.

We've all felt the instability inherent in our interactions with a company that has poor customer experience. What tools can we develop, as both creative thinkers and business strategists, to defibrillate the pulse of corporate brands?

Design Richter Scale

Design Richter Scale

This week, after reviewing a ton of portfolios, it struck me that the very best design work I've seen recently inspires calm, awe, and respect. Emotionally, my response to each piece of work was narrowly focused. I was feeling what the designer wanted me to feel.

The weaker design work, by contrast, caused a wider range of emotions. Since many of the pieces that I saw weren't cogent design, I would see what the designer was trying to do. The effect of the work was all over the map. Hence the above chart, which inverts the Richter Scale.

In an earthquake, as you zip up the Richter scale the magnitude (and destruction) increases exponentially. When reviewing portfolios, it's the opposite. Really great design work that makes an impact on society has an exponential, focused effect, but instead of leveling cities, it simplifies decisions and inspires emotions (including envy). Weaker design, on the other hand, destabilizes the populace and becomes another layer of visual clutter.

ChangeOrder charts and cartoons are now on Flickr...

Simple Negotiation Tactics for Designers

Colorful Language

Have a position before you enter the room. Good negotiation always starts with knowing what you want and putting it forth in your initial conversation. The rest of the negotiation is convincing the other party that it's in their best interest to meet you there.

Make sure your position is realistic. If you wanted two million dollars and a platinum-plated Rolls Royce, negotiations would be difficult. Thankfully, if you're presenting an estimate for a design project and have some strong logic behind your pricing, or some ground as to why your audience will prefer green instead of blue for their new logo, there is less room for slippage. Speaking of which...

Have a fallback position that you can happily live with. And don't go there as soon as you need to give ground. Go only halfway.

Know your trade-offs. When you're negotiating around a project, it's rarely about just time and money. It can be about prestige, portfolio work, meaningful contribution to the world at large, and creative freedom. Know what you're bartering if your fees are cut for the promise of future work, and don't let it steal the bread right off your table. Stroked egos don't pay bills.

Always keep the big picture in mind. Changing a headline or swapping out a photo shouldn't be a drama. Spiking a killer concept to play it safe, that's another story. Know which decisions require formal negotiation, and which are just potholes in the road. If you have a strong creative brief and a strong contract, many of these points should be non-issues.

If the stakes are high, take your time. Keep in mind that the larger the negotiation, the more important it is to never show your "settling point" until you're out of your initial negotiation. Get some time and space to think it over. Otherwise, whomever you're negotiating with think that they can push you even further. (This is very hard for most people. They want the problem solved right there in the room, so they don't have to worry about it any more and can move on.)

Be prepared to leave the table at any point. Be willing to walk away from something you want if you think the terms are going to hurt you in the long term. This is very important in contract negotiations. Potential clients can smell desperation and will exploit it.

Keep your dialogue humane, respectful, and honest. When negotiating with clients or your boss, make sure you don't turn your negotiations into an "us vs. them" scenario. They share the same set of human needs that we do, and relating with them on a human level will not only strengthen your continued working relationship, but also cement the expectation that no matter what happens in your work, you'll always be on equal footing as human beings.

If you fail, don't take it personally. Just learn from it. Don't let your conscience eat a hole in your gut. Hindsight is 20/20. If you don't get the work because it wasn't the right fit, or the client overrules your beautiful color scheme because they don't like purple, then derive some learnings from what happened and move forward.

Well-couched failure can lead to a future win. Relationships between your co-workers and your clients continue, even if you fail in your negotiation. If you've been cordial and truthful about your position through the entire negotiation process, you'll gain respect, which is the coin that can barter you future success.

Social Media(tion): Polishing the Mirror


I watched the robin hop his way up and down the branches of the tree, efficiently gulping down the berries until he noticed my gaze. In a huff, he flew away.

Mesmerized, I forgot to take a picture of that moment with my camera phone for my Flickr photostream or Tumblr page. Or I could digest it into a brief tweet so my friends can imagine that moment in time, distract themselves as long as it took me to write the above sentence, and turn back to whatever matters are consuming their attention. Instead of being in the moment, I was in the moment of thinking how I could share the moment. Then, the moment ended. I was left with nothing but these words.


What frustrates me about social media is a kind of behavior I can only describe as social media(tion). The onslaught of social media options allows near-microscopic access to our lives through a computer or a smart device, and at the same time, it calls attention to how our privacy has always been an illusion in the real world as well. It places a veil over direct experience in a way that makes me feel less human. I find myself conforming my mental environment to fit the medium that broadcasts the message.

Perhaps it is my quasi-Buddhist bent, but the mediation inherent in social networks requires creativity on the part of both actors in a conversation. Those online interactions rarely enhance my real-world experiences unless both parties are straining against the boundaries of the medium. The more experiences we have online, the more time we spend searching for those truly creative moments -- and they are ever fleeting.

Social media has encouraged me to collect what I call me-bits, lists and photos and links and words that are the sum total of the online collective me. It's a simulcrum of experience, reductive, and utterly necessary to place a little tip of each person's iceberg into the pool of humanity. You have to pour something true into that sea and hope it bobs to the surface, giving others a sense of who you are in reality.

As a designer tasked with the unique challenge of being media agnostic and savvy when it comes to social networking, you have a sense of what it takes to craft a truly meaningful experience, bundling up those me-bits into something tangible and human. Is it ever simple to craft a thing of true meaning, both casual and profound?


Social media is ubiquitous now. It pours around us, clear as water, and holds within it the seeds that will create the new ways for computers to become more human. Social media, and with it, social computing as a whole, is sandpapering the edges off the computer into some kind of telescope that we can use to zoom in closely and gain access to other person's life, wholesale. The days of Friendster v1 and the introduction of MySpace are starting to look like the Pleioscene Era.

Inevitably, computers will get pretty good at predicting how we'll act, depending how we behave on those networks. Soon enough, we won't have to think at a very granular level. There's a reason all those sci-fi movies show people standing before a clear pane of glass, speaking to an AI and using their touch-screen interface to swiftly dial up any matter of information without having to manage higher-order complexity. The computer does the crunching, and we manage how the digested bits get mushed around.

If that dream of progress is Computing v2.0, a la the scene in WALL-E where all of humanity communicates through holo-screens and robot servants that provide you with your every whim and need, we're still in Society v0.2.

Society v0.1 was when we invented the printing press. The Web today consists of what are effectively flickering pieces of paper with type and images imprinted on them, augmented by video and audio in small measure. We can get creative about what lives on the pieces of paper, what gets filmed out of the real world and edited into a palatable artifact, and listen to the recordings that have been mastered optimally for AAC format, but in the end you can't smell what you're typing unless your computer is on fire. Someone tagging me it and running away on Facebook seems like a delightful diversion, but I'd rather that someone in the real world started a game of hide and seek at my office.

Perhaps anthropologists in the future will view all these me-bits in their Wayback Machine, sifting through the wreckage of our era in sheer delight at the ingenuity we were able to squeeze out of such a limited medium, compared to their 4D brain-sharing technologies.


Where I struggle with social media -- and this may be a generational thing, considering I was born in the penultimate year of the much storied Gen X klatch -- has little to do with the actual mechanisms out there on the Interweb. Facebook, Twitter,, and Second Life are damn useful. My main issue is that social media feels like work.

Having a conversation with a person on the street, getting lost in the act of creating a piece of art, eating really good dark chocolate, luxuriating in the feeling of not having to focus my attention on anything at all, doesn't feel like work. Those are the experiences that seem to stick in my mind, that are a function of being in my body. Playing with Facebook or sending out a tweet, to me, feels like polishing the mirror.

That latter phrase refers to one of the Platform Sutras:

"The body is the tree of wisdom,
the mind a bright mirror in its stand.
At all times take care to keep it polished,
never let the dust and grime collect!"

The counter-verse to this, the fundamental outcry that spits in the face of me-bits:

"Wisdom never had a tree,
the bright mirror lacks a stand.
Fundamentally there is not a single thing--
where could the dust and grime collect?"

Social media is the mirror we place the me-bits on. Polishing the mirror brings more me-bits into focus, and may bring us greater knowledge, entertainment, and maybe even enlightenment. But ultimately, we walk away from the mirror. The mirror doesn't exist, except in our minds -- and, lest I forget, in data centers backed up by the minute, every blog post encased in amber. Such a gargantuan effort to remember shards of our selves, locked into database fields and blog posts stacked to Alpha Centauri and back. It is our mind versus the machine, in a race to craft the most appropriate illusion of self.

In the end, the machine will win. Pleased with its first formulation of digital personality, it will look back into our recent history, confident that human thought had been finally codified into easily twined threads of emotion and logic within a computer chip that could fit on the head of a pin.


When will social media cease to feel like work? When social media ceases to exist in its current form. When social media is supplanted by the direct recording of human experience. Another sci-fi movie device: the iPod that contains human memory, that we can digest at our leisure. More powerful than art, a higher-order kind of mind-porn, and the great divider between those that have the imagination necessary to live the experiences that other people want to consume.

Maybe social media needs to be work. Maybe my struggle against social media has everything to do with the limited time we have on this planet, and the time expended waiting for the next browser refresh, the next page in a series of twenty. The me that sits here typing these me-bits will need a place to eat and sleep. Until then, the mirror will continue to collect dust, glinting faintly in the sunset peering over the Cascades. I will shut my laptop, walk out onto the balcony, and watch the faint sliver of orange light curl its way below the snow-capped peaks, comfortable in the knowledge that at least a hairsbreadth of this moment felt was contained, however faintly, in your mind.

On a Completely Different Note

Seating Chart

Walking into the office this past Friday, I was struck by how many of my kindred creative souls were wearing headphones while they worked -- until I realized that practically everyone on the whole floor, approximately 12 people, were rocking out to their iTunes on their Mac, or sharing someone else's iTunes library, or listening to Pandora, etc.

It made me reflect on how through my whole career, all of the good designers I've ever known invariably fell into one (or all) the following categories:

1. Appreciators of many genres and flavors of music, amassing huge music collections that are sifted and indexed for the appropriate moment or need.

2. Supporters of music as it crosses into other media, whether through religiously going to live shows, watching music videos and taped performances online, or generating artifacts such as posters, t-shirts, and record packaging, usually for the sheer love of putting visuals to songs.

3. Performers and recorders of music, often at a very high level of skill, and usually without regard to serious genre divisions, meaning that they'd be jamming in some kind of country band one night, then focusing on their heavy metal project in the studio the next weekend.

When interviewing designers, I love to hear about their exploits in music, because it usually indicates a real love of art in all its forms. More so than any other trade practice, designers thrive off of the friction between varied mediums. Typography, writing, photography, illustration, video, and audio are all complimentary pigments in the designer's palette, and within the realm of audio, we can't help but appreciate music.

Whether it's a stellar motion graphics piece leading off a movie or a store we almost float into because of its well-crafted use of space, a drizzle of music infuses our daily experience in a way that a print piece or even a Web site can't truly match. And listening to music while designing is like a direct pleasure shot to the brain.

In many ways, music today is a kind of design, especially with the popularity of non-linear editing software. The first time I used Pro Tools in 2000, I couldn't help but think that it was a musical version of QuarkXPress. My friend Martin Feveyear, who was a designer before he became an audio engineer, likens producing a song to shaping a beautiful design with the materials at hand: musicians, instruments, recording media, color, tone, detail, metaphor, and feel.

Music has become so ubiquitous for designers in our small Seattle circle that it's almost like an unspoken currency between us. I'm rarely surprised when an art director or producer at work pulls out of their hat a stellar piece of music they'd dashed together in Garage Band or Ableton Live, or invites me to see their band at the Triple Door or High Dive. It makes sense that they'd be feeding their design mind with music. Many of us moved to Seattle because they wanted to get more rock into our design lives. Musicians that I played with the first few days I moved to Seattle are still my friends and entertain my most outlandish projects.

But when talking with corporate clients about my interests outside of design, I usually steer away from talking about my musical bent. Perhaps you do the same. I've found it's hard to express how a love of music enhances our work as designers from a sheer inspiration standpoint and rarely, if ever, diminishes our interest in their business problems.

To think that a designer could also be a bass guitarist or electronic music virtuoso as well as the right talent for your Web site or logo -- now that's just crazy talk.