The Secrets You Never See: How a Photo Becomes an Ad

Lilly in autumn dress

To most people, a photo is just a photo: you shoot it and it’s done. But to an art director, a photo is just a beginning: raw material to be transformed, in ways big and small, on the way to a finished design. A recent ad we did for our client Passionfish (a great restaurant in Pacific Grove,California) shows what I mean. We're lucky that Passionfish co-owner Cindy Walter is a lovely photographer, and she’s always sending us impossibly cute photos for use in their ads. She sent us one such photo (below), and I spent the afternoon seeing if I could incorporate it into a seasonal ad.

How We Used Animation to Help the Feds Help Veterans

Still image of two people from animationIt's a message from the federal government. About taxes. And labor rules.

How would you explain it?

"It" was the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, or WOTC "Watt-see"). WOTC could help veterans and other deserving people get a job -- if only they, and their potential employers, could learn about it in a way that didn't sound impossibly complicated.

Working with our client Social Policy Research Associates for the US Department of Labor, we at Boots Road decided to use animation and video to help make that happen.

Here's a one-minute animation we created. The goal was to motivate employers to take advantage of WOTC, while reassuring them that applying wouldn't be a big pile of paperwork:

The Social Impact Movement: Designing Nonprofits to Succeed

Also published at the Huffington Post. Recently, I raised an awkward question: "Are Nonprofits Designed to Fail?"

As I wrote, for all the good work a nonprofit may do, it's often hard to tell if a it's really making a difference: fixing the underlying problem, rather than forever treating symptoms.

Now almost by definition, the challenges that nonprofits tackle are hard ones. After all, the rest of society has failed to meet them. And some non-profits do of course succeed.

But like an increasing number of other observers, I suspect that much of the nonprofit sector suffers from structural flaws that can make success much harder than it needs to be.

Here I discuss two of the biggest such flaws, and explore ideas for fixing them. These ideas come from a growing movement towards social impact, which seeks to reinvent our models of how nonprofits can work.

Anatomy of a Logo

I love logo design, everything about it, but especially the thought that goes on behind the process - the 'why' of how a new logo comes to be. When our client Global Majority came to us to update their branding and message, this was a great opportunity to explore the connection between an organization and their goals, values, and promise.

Global Majority's current logo was about a decade old. Our job was to take the same values that had supported this logo and create a modern, forward-facing logo that would be effective across international and cultural lines.

I Want a Desk Like a Super-Villain's: Will Intelligent Agents Give Me One?

Also published at the Huffington Post. Every super-villain has a lair.

And in every super-villain's lair, there is a gorgeous companion, a weird sidekick, and... the desk.

The sleek, perfectly uncluttered desk, from which our super-villain will rule the world. On it may be a sleek computer, the desktop of which is itself perfectly uncluttered, aside from the Go button for the orbiting death ray.

I want that desk. (I don't need the death ray.)

Why Meaning is the Future of Marketing -- and How These 3 Companies Are Pointing the Way

Also published at the Huffington Post. Recently, I've been thinking about what comes after the current rage for content marketing. As I argue here and here, I think that over the long term, the over-abundance of content will lead to "no-content marketing."

But even now, we're seeing the next step along the way: what we can call "meaning marketing."

Meaning is what people really seek in most of the content they consume. (The writer in me hates the idea of "consuming" content, but I guess we're stuck with that term.)

Meaning marketing aims to give them more of it. Here are three examples of companies that practice meaning marketing.

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