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When we started BizComics two-and-a-half years ago, we thought it was a good idea. We still do. We believed cartoons were the perfect medium in which to deliver simplified marketing messages: to engage, entertain, and educate. We still do. But the market — that great equalizer and The Ultimate Arbiter — seemed to remain unconvinced.

So, BizComics is shifting direction — from the steady diet of blog posts and emails we’ve been producing to books. That’s right. Aside from the fact that we’re excited about making the change, we don’t dare give BizComics up because we’re deathly afraid Thomas Edison was right:

Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.

So, rather than giving up, we prefer to say we’re standing down from Plan A, at least for now, as we shift to Plan B.

Do Not Go Gentle …

We couldn’t let BizComics go down without a fight anyway. The two entities that partnered to create BizComics — O’Brien Communications Group and Nate Fakes Cartoons — continue to thrive. Their success makes us determined to ignore this sage editorial advice from William Faulkner:

You have to be ready to kill your darlings.

Beyond that, BizComics is too dear to us and to our followers to kill it off. So, we’re sucking it up, manning up, and taking our cue from the defiant stance of Dylan Thomas:

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Okay. We’re not exactly raging. We have no reason to rage. We’ve already achieved two of our three objectives: (1) We had fun. (2) We learned much. And since our third objective was the most modest of the bunch anyway — world domination — we decided we might as well reach for the sky, go for all the marbles, swing for the fences, shoot the works, and [insert your favorite cliché here].

Next Steps

So, while we may be stepping down, in a sense, we’re most certainly not stepping out or away. Like the great and powerful Oz, we’re just going behind the curtain for a while. But we’ll still be pulling levers, spinning wheels, throwing switches, and weaving simple marketing messages from the illusion of complexity. And we’ll be putting those messages in books.

In the meantime, let us know if you need our help. We’ll always be happy to inject some humor into the sober fabric of business.

To paraphrase someone almost as famous as we are, we’ll be back.

This content is available for syndication. Please contact us for details.

The post It’s Time to Weave You … For Now appeared first on BizComics.

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Biz Comics by Mark O'brien - 1y ago
Big Ideas

Ya know what we love? We love it when people say things like, “Let me give you a good idea.” Or they might say, “Here’s a funny story.” We especially love it when people go all in and say things like, “Wait’ll you hear this. This is really smart.”

Okay. We lied. We actually don’t love that. We don’t even like it.

We don’t like it because it’s presumptuous. Unless you’re something like The World’s Foremost Authority or The Ultimate Guru, how do you know if an idea is good, a story is funny, or some notion is smart? Is there some kind of objective scale for that sort of thing? If the scale is 1 to 10, with 10 being the best, the funniest, or the smartest, how high does something need to score before it’s judged to be good, funny or smart?

“Dang, Bubba. That joke was a solid 8, one point above a knee-slapper and just one shy of a gut-buster!”
“Well, hold on thar, Joe Bob. The boys down at Lucky Luke’s Juke & Puke told me that one was a gol-durn side-splitter.”

Take a Step Back

Here’s an idea: The next time you want to share something, just say, “Let me give you an idea.” If it makes you a million dollars, chances are it must have been good. Or say, “Here’s a story.” If the person to whom you tell it laughs his ass off, it might be a 10. And if you ask, “Do you think this is smart?” and someone awards you a patent or a Ph.D., chances are there’s a little intelligence behind it — or at least enough luck to make someone think you’re pretty sharp.

If you think you have a great idea, share the idea but keep the great part to yourself. Otherwise you’re likely to end up like the unfortunate yokel in the old joke about the famous last words of a redneck: “Hey! Watch this!”

As Robert Brault wrote: “Stay out of the court of self-judgment, for there is no presumption of innocence.”

This content is available for syndication. Please contact us for details.

The post Big Ideas appeared first on BizComics.

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Oh, What a Tangled Web(site) We Weave

The story you about to read is true. The names have been changed because nobody in their right mind would believe it for a second.

We were once hired to create a B2B website. We asked the client what his objectives were. He said, “What do you mean?” Because we don’t give up easily, we asked the client what the site needed to do. He said, “I’m not sure what you’re asking me.” Undaunted, we gave it a gallant last shot. We asked the client what he wanted on the site. He said, verbatim, “Cool stuff.”

At this point, pretty much everybody knows hope is not a strategy. We had no idea what the client was hoping for. But we were pretty sure cool stuff wasn’t a strategy, either. Nevertheless, we created a site that looked like a Pink Floyd light show made out of gin-mill neon. We put in animation; sliders; pop-up windows; light boxes; a news crawl; weather updates; bells; whistles; smoke; mirrors; a real pig with lipstick; and swirling, flashing hallucinatory images that had us thinking we were having bad acid flashbacks — and we’re the ones who created the site!

Needless to say, the client loved it.

The Morning After

When we checked the website’s traffic statistics the next day, there weren’t any. Well … there’d been one visitor: the client. He said he’d gone on the site to see if he could see God or to find out if Paul was really dead. We suggested, with characteristic humility, that unless he was in the mysticism, rumor-mongering, or conspiracy-theory businesses, he might want to let us tweak the site a tad. He declined, of course, with a rather incoherent diatribe about being on the leading edge of cool and its only being a matter of time until the world beat a path to his URL. Right.

The experience left us a little jangled. But it also managed to make us devotees of the obvious, at least as it pertains to this one point: If you’re in business to sell products or services to other businesses, you’d better make those products or services as apparent and cleanly accessible as possible. If you don’t, you’d better lower your expectations … and your revenue projections.

Tangled websites might be cool. But they’re definitely not worth the opportunity cost.

This content is available for syndication. Please contact us for details.

The post Oh, What a Tangled Web(site) We Weave appeared first on BizComics.

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Biz Comics by Joanna Bennett - 1y ago
It Doesn’t Mean We Should

Years ago, this piece of wisdom was imparted to us by the late Jeff Pollard, a graphic designer whose work we admired tremendously:

Good graphic design is effective packaging. It packages a message to make it as engaging, accessible, consumable, and persuasive as possible. Everything else is just art.

We love all of the implications of that.

Like What?

Those two sentences are like an onion that just keeps peeling itself. Every time you look at it, there’s a new layer revealed, a new meaning apparent, a new significance to take to heart. Here are a few of them:

  1. Design doesn’t exist for itself. It exists to serve the message.
  2. Good design serves the message by making the message more apparent than the design.
  3. Any design that doesn’t package effectively isn’t design, it’s just art. We love the implication that something as exalted art isn’t enough or appropriate or effective if it’s created for its own sake or to satisfy the selfish motives or misbegotten efforts of its creator.
  4. Good designers manage their egos effectively enough to live with #2 and #3.
  5. Just because you can do something, it doesn’t mean you should.

Joe Namath once wrote a book called, I Can’t Wait Until Tomorrow: ‘Cause I Get Better-looking Every Day. We feel the same way about Jeff’s advice: We can’t wait until tomorrow because we find something new in it every day.

Life Imitates Design

As human beings, the number of things we can do is almost incalculable: We can jump out of airplanes without parachutes. We can gargle with razor blades. We can go skinny dipping in piraña-infested rivers. We can stick our faces in wood chippers. We can eat those little silica gel packets used for product packaging. We can dive off of skyscrapers into wet sponges. We can juggle chain saws and machetes blindfolded. We can have our mothers-in-law visit for the holidays — inviting them to arrive for New Year’s Eve and stay till Christmas. We can even attempt to prove the world is flat by launching ourselves into space in homemade rockets.

But just because we can do all those things — like putting die cuts in sell sheets — it doesn’t mean we should.

Even if we call all that crazy stuff performance art, if it doesn’t have a constructive creative purpose, it’s just art.

Thank you, Jeff.

This content is available for syndication. Please contact us for details.

The post It Doesn’t Mean We Should appeared first on BizComics.

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Biz Comics by Mark O'brien - 1y ago
Who Stole My Vocabulary?

If you’ve worked for any amount of time — and particularly if you’ve worked in any large, bureaucratic organizations for more than 20 or 30 seconds — you’ve likely borne witness to a phenomenon psychiatrists, psychologists, behaviorologists, anthropologists, linguists, and empiricists have diagnosed and codified as kleptovocabularis.

According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders:

Kleptovocabularis is a syndrome that manifests as a pervasive pattern of misappropriating lexicographical elements from one field or discipline and applying them in other fields or disciplines for the purpose of concealing or obfuscating feelings of insecurity; masking lack of knowledge, ability, or aptitude; and/or cloaking the complete absence of competence or accomplishment. The more severe the case of kleptovocabularis, the more obscure and arcane the lexicographical elements misappropriated by the kleptovocabularic (noun) will be.

Those afflicted with kleptovocabularis (as opposed to those who suffer from it — that would be the rest of us) can be hard to spot. But they’re quite easy to hear.

Telltale Signs

Purveyors of kleptovocabularis may present symptoms anywhere. But their symptoms typically manifest in conversation, be it in meetings or on the phone. (Since most carriers of kleptovocabularis are wary of creating evidence of their having the syndrome, they seldom risk exposing themselves in emails, reports, or other variations of the proverbial paper trail.)

So, if you keep your ears open, you’ll almost certainly hear exchanges like this one between the Boss and the kleptovocabularic (adjective) Gopher and find them to be diagnostically self-revealing:

Boss: Can you update us on your progress since last week, Gopher?
Gopher: Yes, sir. The hexagonal parametrics of the object’s linear surface structure posted insertional problems with the aperture of the roto-honing mechanism.
Boss: All I asked you do to is sharpen my pencil.
Gopher: I’m sorry, sir. Is there a question in there?
Boss: Did you get it done?
Gopher: In terms of philosophical intentionality, the project was brought to a satisfactory conceptual conclusion. In terms of teleological actualization, there may be further action required to achieve tactical fulfillment of the mission-critical but proleterianly menial behest.
Boss: Good grief.

There He Is

If you want to know who stole your vocabulary, you probably won’t have to look far. He’ll be the guy who talks the most, says the least, and does even less than that. He may not have used your vocabulary yet. But he’s got it. You’ll be sure of it when he uses all the right words in all the wrong ways. And you’ll find out what kind of detective your boss is when you see if he falls for it.

Be careful. The words you lose may be your own.

This content is available for syndication. Please contact us for details.

The post Who Stole My Vocabulary? appeared first on BizComics.

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Biz Comics by Joanna Bennett - 1y ago
Innovative Brutes

But sometimes when I was starting a new story and I could not get it going … I would stand and look out over the roofs of Paris and think, “Do not worry. You have always written before and you will write now. All you have to do is write one true sentence. Write the truest sentence that you know.” So finally I would write one true sentence, and then go on from there. (Ernest Hemingway, A Moveable Feast)

We’ve been wondering why it’s so hard to find one true sentence anymore, to find one clearly expressed thought presented in one cogent sentence. Then it hit us: We don’t write well anymore more because we don’t read well anymore. More specifically, we don’t interpret texts anymore. Rather, we look for particular words-as-signals or phrases-as-signals. We look for words and phrases that signify notions (as opposed to substantive ideas) with which we already agree, fads (as opposed to enduring standards) to which we already subscribe.

In our personal lives, we look for signals like fairness, equality, and social justice. They might make us feel good. But they can’t and won’t accomplish anything because there’s no abidingly consensual definition for any of them. They constitute utopian lip service to societal chimeras because they mean something different to everyone who defines them. As a result, they divide, rather than unite.

In our business lives, we look for signals like innovation, disruption, and digital transformation. They might make us feel good. But they can’t and won’t accomplish anything because there’s no meaningfully substantive definition for any of them. They constitute deluded lip service to bureaucratic chimeras because they don’t mean anything in organizations in which rhetoric is valued over accomplishment. As a result, they constipate, rather than consummate.

Like the monster in Bride of Frankenstein, we’ve reduced our reading comprehension — and, so, our speech — to crude, simplistic reductions: “Alone, bad. Friend, good.” We’ve become intellectual brutes. And what’s most alarming is that we’re at the very least blithe about, if not completely content with, saying next to nothing: “Meaning, bad. Innovation, good.”

Come on. We’re better than this. Pick up a book. Reading can only help us write more clearly.

As far back as I could remember, I had longed and lusted for an unlimited supply of books. I was weary of the [Sears] catalogue and the Bible, the only two books I had ever seen in my sharecropper’s house. When I got to my first duty station [in the Marine Corps] and walked into the base library, it was like throwing a starving man a turkey. I did my time in the Corps with a book always in my hand … I remained convinced in my belief that all anybody needed to develop as a writer was access to a good library. (Harry Crews, Classic Crews)

 

This content is available for syndication. Please contact us for details.

The post Innovative Brutes appeared first on BizComics.

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Biz Comics by Joanna Bennett - 1y ago
Unwitnesses

There are few things we enjoy as much as idle musing. After all, when you’re in the business of creating cartoons, you only have two reliable sources of material: (1) idle musing and (2) people-watching. And with very few exceptions, that’s a distinction without a difference.

At any rate, in an interlude of idle musing the other day, we got to thinking about early members of our species. We weren’t so concerned about Cro-Magnons, who didn’t have much to think about except killing mammoths and wondering when their descendants might invent the outhouse so they could have a little privacy.

We were more preoccupied with people who had evolved to more advanced awareness, like Parmenides, who was contemplative enough to deny the reality (or even the possibility) of change; although, he was prone to getting torqued if he didn’t get any money back after a bad haircut. And we particularly wondered about the points at which (a) humans were capable of being aware of, if not recalling, the entirety of their history and (b) humans became completely oblivious to, deliberately ignorant about, and even blithely disdainful toward any of their history.

I Do

After hours of deliberation, discussion, and debate, we finally agreed that humans’ mindful disregard for their own history had to have resulted from the first marriage. You remember that one. Adam tied the knot with Eve after they took their leave from the Garden of Eden. Adam had to forget that Eve ate the apple, and Eve had to forget Adam told her it was a good idea to eat it. Otherwise, there would have been no peace in that house at all.

After that, it was all downhill. Each generation became more unmindful than the next. Amnesia became the favorite pastime of the species. And we remain forever bound and increasingly more determined every day to prove George Santayana right.

Disconnect the Dots

Empiricism, common sense, and informed connections to our own lineage — dying arts all. The value we invested in creativity, imagination, ingenuity, and our own capacity for awe has been cheapened by the lip service we pay to fleeting fustian fads like innovation and disruption. In pursuit of bigger, better, stronger, faster, we ignore where we are — right now. And we intentionally disregard — un-regard — why we’re here and how we got here.

If we don’t know what we don’t know, and if we have no desire to know, we’ll never know what we’ve lost and what we continue to lose.

And so, to paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald, we beat on, boats against the current, determined unwitnesses of our own history.

This content is available for syndication. Please contact us for details.

The post Unwitnesses appeared first on BizComics.

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