Companies change their logo when the brand image changes. Sometimes the image is designed to please a shifting or growing audience. Not every logo change works. Once an audience is used to a logo, change can be difficult to accept.
The old logo on the left showed the product–the orange–and a way to indicate that their juice was fresh and natural. The new logo on the right was clean and easy to recognize, but it didn’t work for customers.
Other companies have changed their logo very little or not at all over decades or more: Stella Artois, Twinings, Shell, and Levi’s are examples. Stability is a virtue.
QuinnCreative is changing its logo. It’s time to connect all my work and services.
I’m a corporate trainer in business writing and other forms of communicating: public speaking, designing and giving presentations, persuading others that your ideas work and, most interesting of all, creative problem solving.
In addition, I have a creative expression side: I’m a creativity coach for people who want more satisfaction in their lives as well as a coach for writers, artists, and other creatives who are stuck. “Stuck” includes not knowing how to proceed with your work as well as re-discovering who you are and how you want to be seen in the world. You do not have to think you are creative to use a creativity coach.
Occasionally, I’m told my business comprises too much. If you take the view, “You are in the education business,” it does look like I do different things: write, develop classes, teach and coach.
But QuinnCreative is not just about teaching. I’m actually in the “creativity business.” Everything I do is linked through creativity. Writing clearly, speaking to others thoughtfully, using self-expression for self-satisfaction and growth, it’s all based in creative thinking and behavior. “Creative” is more subtle than you may think. It’s not about being flamboyant or loud; it’s about becoming happy with your connection to yourself.
The pen-nib and “Q” logo (designed by Michael Noyes, as is my new logo) was designed to show that I am a writer who teaches writing, and that I own the company. The pen logo was elegant, simple, and contained in a neat square.
For printed materials, I could add the tag line and the logo works as belonging to a company that offers clarity. It worked well.
Then something unanticipated happened. Someone would look confused when I handed over my business card, point to the pen nib, and ask, “What’s that?” For someone who owns (an embarrassingly large collection of) fountain pens, it seemed odd not to be understood. Over time, it became clear: fountain pens were becoming as obsolete as sundials and a logo that showed one wasn’t immediately recognizable to my audience.
Logos are not meant to be teachable moments. The instant I explain to someone what a pen nib is, I am making them wrong. Showing I know more than they do. Demeaning them for not knowing. Not at all what my company does. Not how I approach learning or teaching.
It is time to change my logo.
Years ago, when I developed my business, a pencil was the logo. It’s recognizable. Quickly understood. No directions needed. A pencil is used to draw ideas on napkins to help share ideas. A pencil is a basic tool that doesn’t require recharging, re-filling, updating, re-designing, or much more than sharpening. It has a “delete app” on one end (the eraser) and a “git ‘er done” point on the other. It’s simple. Timeless. Useful. Both right and left-handed people can use it equally. Because of that connection to what I do–help people use what they have–I’m returning to the pencil.
The tag line, “Creativity: Sharpened” is new, but the pencil, in all its easily recognized, practical, utilitarian ease, is back.
It will take a few weeks to change the website to match. But the business cards are ordered, the social media avatars updated, and my look is once more connected to what I do. I hope you’ll agree.
—Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing. She is also a creativity coach.
Yes, I’m a coach. I help people think and feel their way out of stuck places. I help people work do their work on creative projects, work projects, self-expression projects. I help people find the rough edges in their lives and figure out how to smooth them out. Or how to live with them. Coaching is hard, and I am grateful I went through an excellent training program. And then followed it up with another training and certification program in creativity coaching.
Hate scorpions? You are not alone. But they are good mothers, keeping their young on their backs until they molt the first time. They symbolize determination and readiness for change.
If you read that paragraph carefully, you’ll see that I don’t do the work for my clients. They do the work themselves. I am a witness, a support, a deep listener, an occasional nudger, a frequent reminder of accountability. Being coached is not a fun afternoon activity, it’s real work toward a real goal.
Here’s what I am not: your mom (who gave advice), your best friend (who has needs, too), a healer (although I help you heal yourself or seek a therapist), or a shaman.
Most of all, I am not a shaman. A shaman is a holy person who has been trained in the ways of the culture that surrounds the tribe. Being a shaman demands training, initiation, and having a tribe of similar culturally-related people to work and celebrate with.
While I have been trained in coaching, I have never thought of myself as holy. Spiritual, yes; holy, no. And I am a member of the outsider tribe. When I was younger, I desperately wanted to be one of the cool kids. But I was smart and unwilling to follow the leader’s dictates in clothing, shoes, hair styles, music and the proper snubbing of kids not cool enough. Being independent meant I would not follow without questioning. And that, in large part, became the reason for being an outsider. Oh sure, I was the child of immigrants and spoke funny for a while, even though I was born in the United States. And my grade-school lunches were different. It was easy to shun me in a small community. Still, it made me keenly aware of how even grade school children separate “them” from “us.” And I was a “them.”
Learning came from every side. From my parent’s cultural roots, from the town where I grew up, from the kids (and later, adults) with whom I went to school. I learned songs and chants and prayers. Which plants could be used for food and which were to be avoided. When to plant a garden, when to let it rest.
I learned from birds and fish and coyotes and raccoons, from running water and still ponds, from trees and grasses. From wind and pollen and rocks. I learned from pets and wild animals and those who didn’t want to be either.
There were lessons from the people I rode public transportation with, from supervisors and peers at work, from listening in public and private. From movies. And from books. Many books. Always books. But learning and degrees did not make me a shaman. But it did make me ready to be a coach.
There are many coaches who call themselves a “shaman.” If that is what you need, approach them. I hold no judgment of people who claim heritage from angels or Egyptian royalty, or have studied with indigenous peoples. I am a coach. I will walk with you over rough ground and help you approach yourself where you are right now. I do not have your answers, but I will help you look for them and honor them when you find them and bring them into your life.
—Quinn McDonald is a coach, and a writer who teaches writing in groups and individually.
The first lesson I learned in my first out-of-college job was, “under-promise, over-deliver, and follow up.” Don’t agree to a deadline you can’t meet, and don’t underestimate the time a task takes. Do what you say, and that means more than bare bones effort.
Relationships with clients are important and fragile. Don’t hang up your clients projects. Follow up.
While my first out-of-college job was decades ago, follow-up is still key to any client relationship. Social relationships may be lost already. People are being ghosted, benched, worked as booty calls. Texts never develop into a relationship. You get calls for last-minute events, but it doesn’t feel spontaneous, it feels “she always says yes.” Potential soul mate quits calling, texting, or being available. Dating is not for the weak.
But that behavior can’t start to leak into business. Not because it costs time and money, but because it is rude. And it also costs time and money. And rude creates a slowly spreading circle of anger and fear, about as lovely as a gut shot on a police procedural. Who wants to walk through that mess every day?
Here is how follow-up works. (If you think I’m a bit stabby because I’ve drawn the fuzzy end of the lollipop in the follow-up game more than necessary last week, you would be right.)
If you promise a call, a notification, a service, put it on your to-do list and on the to-do list of everyone else whose work bounces against this project. And then check on the person who lives at the desk ahead of yours, and the one before that. More than once. If you notice a time slippage, involve them in how to save the time lost.
Shrugging and saying, “there is nothing I can do till next week” is not what any client will hear happily. The people who work with you day to day–don’t wear them out with failure to follow up. Do your part, even if it means delivering bad news. Bad news is a problem that can be solved, but no followup leaves the project, the client, and the client’s client floating without a tether.
Be efficient. Follow-up saves you time, too.
—Quinn McDonald knows that yelling and threatening is not professional behavior. But if she doesn’t see some follow-up happening out there, yelling and threatening will commence. She is a writer who teaches writing, and a creativity coach.
June 21 is solstice–the longest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. I find it interesting that even as the days get shorter, we have the hottest days of summer ahead of us. Considering that Phoenix has already had a handful of more-than-110-degree days, summer’s endurance test is still ahead of us.
Light through cracks in a fence, solstice, 2018.
Still, solstice feels like the Heartbreak Hill of summer–the big hill marathon runners have to conquer, not at the end, but close enough to the end to give them both the challenge and the encouragement to push through.
The photo made me think of another metaphor: normally, we see shadows as dark against light. The negative space in those photos is the light area. It creates the shadow, as does the sun, and outlines the figure backed by the sun.
In this photo, it’s the light that creates context. The fence is solid, but the cracks that lets the light through helps us see both the fence and the fact that light will highlight every crack and space and get through.
It’s a good thought for a time when we are half-way through the year. What creates context for you? What puts light into your shadows? What gives you energy to push through and re-invent yourself for the rest of the year?
—Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches business writing, creative problem solving, and healing trauma through writing.
This was an accidental ink blot. It was turned into a power figure because I listened to what it wanted to be.
Several years ago, I lost a lot of weight over a long period of time. Once I had lost about 25 pounds, I began to feel secure in mentioning it to friends. The replies surprised me. “I just finished a diet and I lost 40 pounds.” Or, “I’ve lost 30 pounds, but in a lot shorter time.” Sometimes, an extremely kind person would start with, “Good for you. . . ” and then continue on to explain their own victory, always making sure to mention that their weight loss was more or faster than mine.
When my brother died, I was astonished that the pattern of sympathy was also tinged with competition: “When my mother died, I went right back to work to keep myself from crying.” Or, “When my sister died, I started a Go Fund Me account in her memory, that kept me really busy.” Or, worst of all, “I know just how you feel—my dog died last week and I could not cope.” Each of those statement focuses the conversation away from the person who is suffering and back onto you. I know, I know, it’s hard to figure out what to say to someone in grief.
The competitive answer has crept onto Facebook and Instagram as well. Post a photo, and someone will post their photo of something similar they took and focus on their reaction. Post an idea in your timeline, and someone will find a typo and mention it in their comment, diminishing what you wanted to express. Or explain how their reaction was different and, somehow, more valid. Or a vaguely similar idea, adding they had it a long time ago.
This one-upmanship has become normalized. But it is not comforting, not empathetic, and oddly competitive in an area where there are no prizes for emotional depth. Grief, joy, and satisfaction should not be competitive topics. What is called for is acknowledgment, a flexible and useful skill that can be developed with some practice.
Acknowledgment has not a shred of competition. It is a simple, compassionate statement that shows you are listening to a friend. It mirrors an emotion the person you are speaking to is experiencing.
Example: Your friend says, “I just lost 25 pounds. Took me forever.” You reply, “You must feel really happy to have stuck with your plan.”
Example: Your friend says, “My brother died last week and it’s so hard for me to concentrate.” You reply, “You sound really sad. It must be hard to lose a brother.”
The benefit of acknowledgment is that it is easy to understand and keeps the focus on the speaker. Acknowledgment is not a tactic to bring the conversation over to you and your needs. Instead, by focusing on your friend, you show you care. Caring always works. Caring wins hearts, not prizes. Caring is powerful because it shows you are listening. And we all need to be heard.
—Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing. She is also a creativity coach.
Yes, I run training programs in business writing. And in How to Deal With Difficult People. Grammar and punctuation. Technical writing. Monsoon Papers. Wait, what? What does Monsoon Paper mean? And how does it relate to business writing? Truthfully, I do not teach Monsoon Papers in businesses. Yet.
Monsoon Paper in blues and purples.
All of us need to express ourselves. Some of us dance or sing. Others draw or write. Some of us don’t want to explore that creative need, so we push it down. Sometimes we just push and feel abandoned. Others drink or overeat. When we are scared of our own creativity, we often run from it.
Creativity and creative expression are not the realm of woo-woo art or poetry majors. Creative expression is how we make meaning of the world. And the world needs making meaning of, for sure.
For my whole life, I’ve used writing and collage to make meaning. I don’t draw well, and the texture of collage, especially when words or word-forms are involved, intrigue me. Almost every artist knows not to create on a blank white page. For many reasons: figures need to be grounded, not floating on air; a background adds context.
In my first year in Phoenix, people told me about monsoon–a season of hard, sudden rain and whipping winds. “Sure,” I thought. “Right.” People say crazy things. Then one day, walking home, I saw clouds climbing up over the horizon. They were olive green and mustard yellow. Lightning shot out of them. I ran the rest of the way home, pushed by the wind. I grabbed some heavy paper and hung it in the trees. When the rain began, I threw ink onto the paper, inks the color of the clouds–dark green and yellows and purples.
In an accordion folder, you can use different colors of Monsoon Papers to create a more interesting whole.
Rain beat the paper, wind whipped it into folding onto itself. But when the storm was over, I had some great papers, wrinkled and color-washed.
The method doesn’t lend itself to control, which intrigues me, because much of life can’t be controlled, either. No matter how much we try.
Making meaning when we aren’t in control is much harder. When we can’t control the anger in others, it helps if I remember how I control this paper once it is dry. When I can’t see the bravery in someone who is out of control, I can remember how the paper looked when it was wet and a mess, and how all it needed to look great was to dry out.
Found poetry is another creative technique. You choose a book or magazine, rip out two pages, and cut out words or phrases that sound interesting to you. Yes, this is a random exercise.
Once you have a small pile of unrelated phrases, you begin to think about their meaning, possibilities, and ideas. You then push together phrases that want to travel together, adding words like “and,” “so,” “the,” as you need them. It’s a good reminder that small words matter in big ways.
In business writing, as in poetry, every word counts. Every word carries meaning that another person will interpret with their personality, their background, which is different from yours. To become aware of this, word by word, is a creative exercise that has a big payoff in the business world.
We become more careful about what we say. We choose our words more carefully. We think before we hit “Send.” Good results, all.
Using a small brush and glue, affix the words onto a background of Monsoon Papers, and you have Found Poetry. They invite reading, just for the color and cut-out words.
And yes, people will tell you it isn’t “real” poetry, or even “real” art. But no one can tell you that you haven’t made meaning of life. And that is the definition of art.
Smile at the people who don’t understand. Now that you do, there is no going back.
––Quinn McDonald is a corporate trainer who is aware that we use word for love and hate, control and letting go of control in our every day life. We are all creative. We can all use creativity.
Here’s what the poetry above, says:
Close to Home
Even though I had been expecting it,
it still hit me with a thud.
How did this happen?
We gave it our best shot,
we worked in scraps of free time;
you could almost believe it was still summer.
This summer explodes,
running into legend, into nightmares
I knew something was wrong.
Our relationship with truth is cracked.
Mother’s Day: a lovely day with flowers and brunch, surely inspired by a gentle, kind woman to celebrate her children and mother. Nope. Not in the least. Anna Jarvis (1864-1948) never had children, and her original intent for Mother’s Day was as an anti-war statement.
Anna Jarvis was born in Webster, West Virginia.
Anna Jarvis was a tough, focused, determined woman who fought for every inch of what Mother’s Day was–including the apostrophe that really isn’t needed. (More about that in a minute.)
Anna Jarvis wasn’t even the originator of the idea–Julia Ward Howe promoted a Mother’s Peace Day as early as 1872. (Howe wrote The Battle Hymn of the Republic in 1861.) Anna Jarvis, however, was set to become the Mother of Mother’s Day, and sued others who had started earlier because she wanted to direct the celebration’s intent and focus.
She sued Frank Herring, a football coach at Notre Dame, in the 1920s, accusing him of “kidnapping Mother’s Day,” largely because she did not want a man representing Mother’s Day.
She was tough, and she did not give up. I’m liking her a lot better because it was hard for a woman to hold on to any intellectual property in a time when they were not allowed to vote. (The 19th Amendment passed in August, 1920.)
Jarvis fought against commercialism of the day, hating the idea that money was being spent on cards and card companies profiting. She herself went broke trying to keep the holiday away from commercial promoters; Jarvis never became the celebrity she wanted to be–a defender of peace and mothers. She died in a sanitarium, her emotional stability in question, at age 84. Many women, from Mary Magdalene through Joan of Arc to Eleanor Roosevelt were pushed out of the limelight because they were too bold, too outspoken, too right to be “allowed” to be famous. Women with strong opinions were often labeled, “mentally ill,” particularly when the women refused to give up the idea when ordered to by men.
The women who became famous for their views as well as their persistence deserve a special day, and Mother’s Day is as good as any, considering the founder.
The Associated Press style guide (AP) says no apostrophe is needed. Yes, opinions vary.
Jarvis was so determined to shape Mother’s Day, that she insisted on the apostrophe after the “r”, making the day belong to every mother. Grammatically speaking, the apostrophe is used to show ownership, and days like Presidents Day are not about ownership–no president owns the day–they are days that celebrate certain people, not owned by them. But Jarvis was determined that on the day she wanted to control, each mother shared ownership in this day, and each mother would be honored by the apostrophe in the title.
So if you want to celebrate with flowers and lacy cards, go ahead. Do what your mom loves. But if your mom is tough and determined and focused, Anna Jarvis can be her hero, and yours, too.
–-Quinn McDonald teaches business writing and the connection of word changes and cultural changes.
Communicating is hard. No doubt. I’ve been teaching communicating (writing, speaking, designing) for years, and I know how hard it can be to say just what you mean.
One of the reasons communicating is hard lies in the interstices (the silences, the small pauses between words) that can shift meaning. As hard as it it to explain, the negative space in designs helps understand speaking and silence, positive and negative space.
This logo helps explain negative space. When we speak, our words carry meaning. So does what we don’t say. Silence can be shock, agreement, or complicity. Silence is as complicated as speech. In design, negative space is the area that we don’t immediately see. There is nothing there, except context. Then we see what was there all along.
Instead of more words, the designs explains negative space and the power to hold it.
Often, we don’t like silence. We will try to fill it if it continues longer than three seconds. But silence can be eloquent and powerful. Use it.
Quinn McDonald is a writer who knows the power of silence. She teaches business writing, speaking, and designing presentations.
One of my favorite relaxation exercises is sitting on my balcony right after sunset. The color of the sky, clouds blocking the sun–it’s all fascinating. The cityscape around me shifts, too. There are mountains in the distance, airplanes in and out of Sky Harbor, people and cars on the street.
But the creative exercise I enjoy most is looking at objects fading into night and imagining what else they might be. An untrimmed bush is easy to see as a child, waving his arms to catch a ball, which is really a round light on a post.
The dumpster in the hotel parking lot is filled with boxes, so the lid doesn’t close. The black-and-white graffiti transforms the dumpster into a Holstein cow.
When I teach (business writing in big and small businesses) one of my jobs is to inspire curiosity. Curiosity allows us to think in bigger and broader ways and to accept that we see things with our experience and expectations. That’s a huge piece of learning for writers. In most businesses there may be more than one answer, but there is generally just one “right.” In writing, there are many right ways to say the same thing. And that is hard to teach. We all want to be right.
It gets easier when I show images that can be interpreted in a number of ways and allow people to talk without interruption. Often our life experience stops us from being imaginative and creative. We then become scared of the imaginative experience. I try to make that experience part of writing.
“Is this what writing teachers are supposed to do?” a student will ask. “I came to learn to improve my writing, not look at pictures.”
“Pictures are another way of communicating, and writing is the way we move the images in our brain onto a computer screen for others to understand,” I’ll reply. “So yes, looking at photographs and deciding what you see and comparing it to what others see is a way to learn writing.”
Here is an example. I took this photo and showed it without explanation. After assuring the class that I had not altered the photograph in any way except to make it slightly darker to give contrast, I ask what they see.
“A swamp with plants and the moon rising.”
“Burned trees–a landscape after a forest fire.”
“A car coming at you when you are lying on the ground, drunk.”
“A photograph of a depressing painting.”
Good answers. And all different, based on personal experience.
Then I tell them how I took the photograph: It is the view from outside the building, through the frosted glass enclosure, into the building’s stairwell. The light is in the basement, and the “trees” is a pencil cactus in the window box behind the frosted glass.
“Now it looks lonely,” says one participant.
“It’s not special anymore,” says another, admitting that a basement staircase is not as exciting as swamp plants. Or lying drunk in the street.
Yes. And the way your reader sees your writing is not the way you see it, either. At some point, we have to move from describing the world as we see it to the way our reader can understand it. That’s what writing is. It’s hard. But well worth learning.
—Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing. She is also working on a book about the invisible, visible world.
You know all the rules already: we need to build good habits and get rid of bad ones. Wait, not so fast! Habits are a lot more subtle than that.
Helping dog owners habituate their dogs to using a fire hydrant by combining the public hydrant with a target–a symbol recognized and understood by people.
A habit is the way you act because you are comfortable with the result. Once an action works, we repeat it without thinking: picking up the coffee mug with the same hand, rolling up the toothpaste tube (or not), starting the car before putting on the seat belt. Actions are habitual. Sometimes they are inconsequential, sometimes necessary (signaling before you change lanes), and sometimes simply bad behavior–you know yours already.
There are two important things I’ve discovered about habits:
1. We habituate the easiest way to get a task done. We don’t think of it as developing a habit, we just do a task. The next time we do it the same way. If it works, we don’t look for a way to improve it or do it differently. We habituate to whatever works first, even if it is not the best, easiest, least expensive, or best for others.
Examples: Leaving grocery carts standing in parking lots because we don’t want to roll it all the way back to the collection rack; parking in a handicap space because we are “just running in for five minutes;” cutting in front of someone in line because “I’m in a hurry,” or “I wasn’t looking to see if there was a line.”
Habituation happens fast. If we don’t question our actions, they become habits. Ones we don’t want to change. Ones we will fight to keep, simply because change takes effort.
2. Bad habits are often not “bad,” but an exaggeration of something that works for us. Example: You’ve learned to speak up in meetings, answering questions and making suggestions. It took a while for you to master this skill.
Once you got good at it, you kept growing the skill until you speak first all the time, interrupt others while they are speaking, and build on others’ suggestions without acknowledging their contribution–acting as if the whole idea is yours.
The skill is still useful, but overdoing it is not. Most bad habits are actually not evil, but an exaggeration of a skill.
Here’s an exercise I use with my coaching clients: Make a list of your three best characteristics. Now make a list of the three characteristics you like the least. (Three each–not three best and eighteen worst.) Look at the two lists and see if you can see a relationship between your best characteristics and your worst one. You’ll inevitably find that your worst habits are just your best characteristics, exaggerated out of proportion.
Don’t weed out your bad habits; just scale them back until they are behaviors that are useful.
—Quinn McDonald is a training developer and trainer in business writing. She is also a writing and creativity coach.