Our Blog

Sep 30
Cleveland at the Farm

Add some nasturtium flowers and Chef Will Gilson’s culinary talent, and you have a memorable five-course meal attended by Cleveland Design at the Herb Lyceum in Groton, Massachusetts. Featuring herbs grown on site, dining in a 19th century carriage house, and perfect Fall New England weather, the day allowed us relaxing time together away from the office.

The opportunity for our culinary event came when we held the winning auction bid at East End House's Cooking for a Cause this past April. Held each Spring, the annual fundraiser features over 40 area Chefs, Bartenders and Purveyors of Wine, Beer and Desserts and supports the community, family and education programs provided by the 138-year-old Cambridge, MA community center.

Plan on joining us and Chef Will Gilson, owner of Puritan & Co. and Culinary Chair for the 11th Annual Cooking for a Cause, on Friday, April 4, 2014 at the MIT Media Lab. Supporting a great cause never tasted so delicious.

Topics: Just for Fun Tags: Cooking for a Cause
Jul 29
Tier One Partners, LLC

Our client Tier One Partners' mission, "creating active connections that click," defines the firm's active participation in social networking and media. When it was time for a branding update for this PR and social media agency, we helped make its regularly engaging Facebook and Twitter conversations become a major part of its website.

Tier One turned to us for a rebranding that included its website, email and – last but not least – its online social presence. We introduced several key social media features that brought its online personality to life, giving the firm a unified platform to share its perspectives on the changing world of communications and spark active conversations with its audiences.

We started by building a new website using the Drupal framework, renowned for its flexibility and scalability in a complex web environment. Using various contributed and custom modules, we added several feeds that automatically pull in recent Twitter and Facebook posts on an hourly basis. Tier One's website instantly became a main hub for all its conversations.

Turning to the firm's new, frequently updated blog, we wanted to make sure audiences of all types had the ability to stay engaged with Tier One's content both in and out of the browser. We set up an automatic RSS feed for visitors to subscribe to that enabled RSS subscribers to be the very first to know the moment Tier One shared a new blog post.

In concert with the RSS feed, we worked with Tier One and MailChimp to set up an opt-in, automatic email campaign for fans of the blog to subscribe to—branded to perfection. This feature gave the firm's online visitors yet another way to get new content delivered straight to their inbox, and gave Tier One a new, content delivery method that was instant and effortless. Finally, MailChimp allowed the firm to view all sorts of handy statistics on their email engagement, as well as keep track of their growing list of subscribers.

The results?

The social and email integrations helped contribute to a 60% increase in new visitors, and helped drive more than 40% of outgoing traffic straight to Tier One's social networking profiles.

We believe that giving your audience convenient ways to access and interact with your content—and saving you time—is essential to staying afloat in the busy world of social media. Just as essential is making sure what you're sending out is wrapped up in a professionally designed package—our specialty here at Cleveland Design.

There are certainly many more ways to #getsocial with your website, and it's tempting to go all out. We can help you come up with a solid social integration strategy that best fits your website and your goals. How social is your site?

Topics: Marketing, Web Tags: drupal, cms, social media, email
Jun 26
HOW Design LIVE 2013

I recently had the opportunity to participate with other creative marketers and designers as a speaker at the Creative Freelancer Conference (CFC), part of HOW Design LIVE, in San Francisco. I arrived to find more than 600 CFC attendees eagerly waiting to get smart advice and learn best practices for their careers as creative freelancers and as budding design firm owners. I sat with other experts on panels on “How to Grow into a Small Business” and “The Skinny on Working with Corporate Clients” and hosted a breakfast roundtable for designers eager to pick my brain about running a business.

My years of experience had prepared me for the topics that I wanted to teach them—and for the questions I figured they would ask. What I hadn’t prepared for was how my passion for design and business would be re-energized by these creative “solopreneurs.”

The amount of talent in that one room at Moscone Center was amazing. The new ideas that were presented and discussed were all being generated by the passion of the attendees wanting to learn more and do better. Ideas around networking, creative design, being a smart businessperson, thinking like a marketer, becoming a trusted partner to a client, and growing a business out of a career they love.

We have always embraced these practices at Cleveland Design. But listening to new and different voices on these topics was invigorating and educating. It sparked new ideas for our future, as well.

It seemed I learned something from every conversation I had with the talented people at CFC. But what I really learned is the future of design and marketing communication is not only going to be okay; it’s going to be pretty fabulous.

Topics: Business Management Tags: howdesign, freelancing
May 20
Our World in Pictures Website

The Best of Brand Awards. The Community Champion Awards. The Finance Awards. The Award of Excellence. All these (and more) are now familiar names inside Thomson Reuters, thanks to Cleveland Design's spearheaded initiative to create a unified and sustainable online competition framework.

These annual—and sometimes year-round—competition websites support global collaboration, span multi-month programming schedules, and provide a solid judging and exposition platform for thousands of Thomson Reuters employees.

Internal Communications: Evolved

Today, we are happy to share the latest evolution of this framework with you. In April 2013, the Thomson Reuters Corporate Responsibility group launched a new community awareness campaign backed by our acclaimed design and development. Part of this campaign was a new online photography competition for the campaign's "Green Matters" initiative—a website in partnership with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)— call the The World in Pictures.

Not only is the World in Pictures website handling up to 500 visits per day, but it has captured the attention of more than 3,500 Thomson Reuters employees who have participated in this green initiative in the month following the launch. When submissions closed in May, the site had collected more than 1,000 photographs from talented employees from every region of the globe.

Featuring an updated and on-brand user interface, the World in Pictures website was also given several unique features that make it the best evolution of our core competition framework to date:

  • A public gallery of submitted content on the homepage and an interactive, real-time gallery
  • Ability for employees to instantly comment on and "like" submitted content
  • An additional level of judging all employees can participate in: the "Employees' Choice" round
  • Security and speed updates that support a database of more than 1,000 photographic submissions

Bringing your Brand to Life

A top notch employee engagement program like The World in Pictures can help build your brand and strengthen internal brand alignment at your company. If you have been thinking of innovative ways to do this, contact us and we would be happy to discuss creating a great solution for you.

Please note - all photos shown in relation to and shown in this project are copyright their respective owners and are subject to terms appropriate to Thomson Reuters employees and Thomson Reuters privacy policies.

Topics: Campaigns, Web Tags: cms, platform, application, competition
Dec 21
St. John Animal Care Center Website

As the holiday’s draw near and 2012 comes to an end, we often think about what we can offer to those in need. This year at Cleveland Design, we’ve given back to the island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The St. John Animal Care Center is a shelter for abused and abandoned pets that helps countless animals each year. They have a flourishing presence on Facebook and needed a website that matched its ease and personality. Cleveland Design redesigned the website to reflect the uplifting, fun and energetic nature of the shelter.

To help them keep the website up-to-date with as much information and flair as any other social media, we developed the website using Drupal 7–a content management system. This enabled us to design a modern website that allows the shelter to add content without having to write any code. It also allows them to manage their adoptable pets in one location–petfinder.com. The new website can now directly import all of the available pets listed on their account with petfinder.

The shelter is also very active within the community, hosting events frequently throughout the year. Using the content management system we’ve put in place they can easily manage upcoming events and news articles, keeping the people of St. John always informed.

For a non-profit organization like the Animal Care Center, donations are heavily relied upon. We’ve updated the donation system to give people multiple options for donating directly on the website. The shelter also sells a few items through paypal, which have been added to the new site for easy access.

All of these features on the new website and more help the Animal Care Center reach a broader audience, and in turn help the pets find new loving homes. We here are Cleveland Design were more than happy to donate our time and resources to support this cause.

Wishing you happy holidays and a healthy New Year, from all of us at Cleveland Design.

Topics: Web Tags: drupal, website, cms, holiday
Nov 12

As office manager of a graphic design firm some might say keeping the creative team on track and organized is about as simple as herding cats. Honestly, without the proper tools, that isn’t too far from the truth.

Late in 2010, Cleveland Design began using an online project tracking product created by FunctionFox, and we’ve never looked back. Each employee has an account that is linked to a single database where we track our time, project costs and deadlines. Job contacts, vendor information and job specifics are available to our entire team as well, allowing instant collaboration without hours wasted in meetings on the minutia.

What this means for our clients is the knowledge their projects and accounts are being managed accurately and efficiently. Cleveland Design has a unique/streamline project management structure [your account manager is also your designer] allowing us to solve marketing needs with affordable and timely solutions. We also have a more accurate picture of what it takes to complete specific types of jobs, so our clients can be confident our estimates are on the mark. Our team spends far less time on admin so they may spend more of their day creating fabulous work.

Having the proper tools to support our creative team also means no need for me to keep up on my lassoing skills.

Topics: Business Management Tags: business management, web, time management, project management, organization, organizational tools
Oct 29
Mobile Presentations by Cleveland Design

You're standing in front a group of potential clients in a dark conference room, fiddling with the wires that should connect your laptop to their projector. After a few more minutes of tinkering with the wires and display settings, you look up and, with a sinking feeling in your gut, notice that half of your prospects in the room have pulled our their smartphones and tablets and are checking their email or unabashedly playing Angry Birds... with the sound on. You've lost their attention to their personal devices in those few critical minutes, along with all your patience with getting your PowerPoint presentation running.

While it may not be likely that you'll find yourself in such dire straights at every meeting, there is nothing worse than not having the right equipment to present or forgetting some of the presentation paperwork that you meant to hand out.

What is likely however, are the chances that you will be competing against your prospects' attention to their smartphones and tablets.

Today, just about everyone is carrying a loaded smartphone or tablet—their fingertips poised to tap the "Post," "Tweet," or "Search" button. Rather than seeing such distraction as a detractor from your presentation, why not use it to your advantage? Put your presentation in front of them, on their own devices, and they'll be tapping to your beat quicker than they can tweet "this is sweet!"

Mobile Presentations

Enter the world of mobile presentations. Full-screen web apps, mobile-friendly websites, iBooks, and custom-built mobile apps are all options we've had real experience with at Cleveland Design.

Want to present your latest report, proposal, or company mission on your own tablet, smart phone, or netbook? Share that presentation with other mobile device users? We can help you get there. Not sure what's right for you? Here are few options that are guaranteed to leave a lasting impression under your prospects' thumbs.

Full-screen Web Apps

They're always there for you, like AAA during a New England nor'easter. Since web apps live on the web, they work remotely without requiring specific hardware. As long as you have an internet connection, you have your presentation. Other bonuses for web apps include:

  • Highly portable, always available.
  • Unlimited interactivity and animation opportunities.
  • Easy to share: Facebook, Email, Twitter, IRC—wherever!
  • Shape-shifting: adjusts to the size and shape of most devices.
  • No wires required: no IT skills needed for setup either!

We recently produced a kiosk-based presentation for Thomson Reuters at the Grace Hopper Expo. We transformed several of their high-impact Knowledge Effect case-studies into mini-slideshows that booth attendees could tap through on multiple iPads stationed throughout the event booth. Try it out on your iPad, Safari, or Chrome:

iPad Presentation


Another way we can mobilize your presentations is with Apple's iBook format. An iBook is an interactive e-book that can be flipped through by yourself or by others at meetings, or distributed to potential customers and clients to peruse at their own leisure via a download link. iBooks feature some great points of engagement:

  • Simple, intuitive navigation
  • Full-screen image galleries
  • Interactive charts and graphs
  • Embeddable videos
  • 100% compatible with any Apple mobile device

An iBook makes a great, alternative format for your company's annual report, project proposal, or capabilities brochure. With its slick interface, an iBook will give you a stunning, hands-on way for your meeting attendees to interact with your company offerings.

Custom Mobile Apps

Customized Apple or Android apps (ones you download in the Apple Store or Google Play Store) are yet another opportunity for mobilizing your presentations. However, these mobile apps must go through a long and rigorous review by Apple, Android, and other distributors before they are available to download through their app stores. It takes a very long time (think weeks) after each copy edit or feature update to get these apps approved and back in the store to download.

iBooks and web apps, on the other hand, have a much quicker turnaround time, and are easily updated at any point—making them a smart choice for frequently updated presentations or presentations with an urgent deadline.

So the next time you're thinking about refreshing your collateral or sharing your next proposal or presentation—;or losing sleep thinking about all the things that could go wrong with your upcoming PowerPoint presentation—think about how engaging an interactive iBook or web app can be, and contact us to get started.

Topics: Web Tags: web, mobile, apps, presentation
Oct 01
Print versus Digital

It’s that time of year again. The first few days of Autumn always bring thoughts of the holidays coming upon us—and always sooner then we expect. There is no time for “last minute shopping” when it comes to sending out a Holiday Card to your clients, employees, and business partners. The time to get started and plan is now. But the perennial question from most of our clients is... print or digital?

I love a nice holiday card that comes in the mail. You get to open it, see the beautiful art, feel the paper, and then set it up on a shelf to view for days to come. It’s also nice to perhaps have a personal note that was written just for you, that wishes you warm holidays and a great new year. We often think of interactive as something digital, but with a printed card you need to interact more than you do with a digital card. A printed holiday card is personal, engaging, and permanent.

On the other hand, we have created some really cool digital holiday cards. Cards that have wonderful animation with holiday theme music and multiple rotating messages. The options for art, video or animation are somewhat limitless depending on the format and platform you host your digital card on. And you can track to even see if the receiver actually opened it, and how many times they viewed it. While it may not sit upon a shelf in your office, it can be opened multiple times and also forwarded to colleagues—a bit of social media holiday magic that a printed card can’t pull off.

An example of a print card and a digital card (with sound).

Comparing the outcome of the two options can be debated all day, but here are few things to consider before making your decision:

Printed Cards

  • If your budget is limited, you need to consider printing and postage costs.
  • Your mailing list may be large enough that you need a mail house to send it out for you, which will also incur costs.
  • Scheduling needs to be considered to include enough time for printing and mailing.
  • Is your mail list good and up to date? Nothing is worse than having cards returned and then having to scramble to figure out the new address to resend.
  • Do you personally sign? Have the entire staff sign? Is there time to do this and pull it off correctly?

Digital Cards

  • You may save on printing costs and printing time, but if you want animation and other bells and whistles, the budget will need to be increased and more time will need to be put in the schedule.
  • Do you have the knowledge, or a tech team in place, that is capable of sending this out to your list?
  • Are you familiar with size requirements for file size, and do you have a place to host the files?
  • If you are doing animation you will need a landing page for the viewer to go to. Does this feel like too many steps for the viewer to get to your card and message?

These are just a few of the main points to consider when planning your holiday card this year. Contact us and we can discuss more and talk about the options. Whichever route you go, I know the visuals and messaging will be on target and special in its own way.

Of course I would love to open an envelope in early December with a special note from you written in a beautiful card. But then again, some cool animated falling snowflakes with holiday music would put a smile on my face as well.

Topics: Marketing Tags: holiday
Jun 21
Cleveland Design Office

If you find yourself dreaming, scheming, or just not sure about crossing over from solo-freelancer to business owner, here are a few thoughts to consider.

I spent my first years in this industry working at a design firm, then I went on to become a solo freelancer for 4 years before making the decision that I wanted my name on the door with a few employees behind it. Twenty years later, I couldn’t be happier and have created a business that is focused and trusted by clients I never imagined would be part of my base when I was a freelancer.

As a freelancer, I was a “jack-of-all-trades” and as the rest of the saying goes, “master of none.” Making the decision to create a solid business can give you multiple opportunities in this industry that is rarely going to happen for you as a solo freelancer. Being a freelancer can be the greatest job in the world, but for some—you will eventually want a “business” and not a “job.” There is a difference. A business allows you to expand and offer other services for talents that you just don’t have. You may be a great print designer and creative thinker but the client also needs a web campaign and if you have no web skills, then you have just lost the vision and creative control for the entire campaign. Your business could offer all of these services by hiring your own freelancers, or employees, to help round out your services. Think about how your client now perceives you: Are you a freelancer, there for a job? Or are you a business, there as a partner?

When you make the transition to becoming a business owner, you immediately become a leader, manager, and mentor. Your role with your client becomes more of a trusted business partner, and less of a single talent to help out on a marketing project.

I’m sure in the statement —“jack-of-all-trades”— makes you think of a few jobs you do best, or love the most. Or industries you prefer to work in as opposed to taking whatever good job comes your way. Being a business allows you to find your niche, focus on what you do best and target the industry you love to work in. This will give you time to educate yourself and become an expert in this field. Clients like this, and these days, expect it.

The main questions I am always asked are: How do I do this? When should I do this? How and when should I hire someone? I hope you can join me at the Creative Freelancer Conference Roundtable Discussion on Friday morning, June 22 , 8:00 am, to ask the how and when, and any other questions you may have on becoming a successful business owner.

There are many stories online for looking at the risks of starting your own business, you can read them all and take them or leave them. They are all true, but easily avoidable if you plan in advance. For a great resource for getting the facts on the logistics of starting a business, check out the Marketing Mentor Toolbox.

Creating something lasting and formidable in the shape of a business can be rewarding to both your spirit, creativity, and your bank account. The process for transitioning from solo-freelancer to business owner can be an exciting time in your career and open your mind to creating a solid future. Join me, I would love to hear your ideas and share my experience with you.

Topics: Marketing Tags: freelancing, business management