I don't want to overstate the difficulty or importance of my job but man, art is hard.
Sure, I'm not slaving away in the hot summer sun working construction. Nor am I tasked with making decisions that will ultimately affect the lives of others. Once, I came home and told my wife what a hard day I'd had and without missing a beat my daughter asked "Why? Did someone try to kill you?". Well, no. Not exactly. It's not "hard" in that sense. I mean, there are varying degrees of difficulty right?
I'm lucky enough to work in an air conditioned office, sit in a comfortable chair and be surrounded by a fun and creatively stimulating environment. However, this job, at times, can be mentally exhausting.
Everyday I'm asked to created something new. Something that up until I start working on it, has never existed… ever.Often times, it's something I've never even thought about. And the thing is, these things have to be created out of thin air, on the spot. Every time I sit down to design something, my goal is to come up with something better than whatever it was I did last time.
BUT, art is a purely subjective form of expression...
Even though art is subjective, there are a hand full of rules designers try to stick to. You know that old saying "You need to know the rules before you go and break them"? Yeah, that applies here. But because of its subjectivity, what looks good, what "pops" or what looks cool to one person may not look cut it for another. The problem is, not everyone understands art or design. They don't understand "the rules", the thought and considerations that go into a design. They don't understand why certain decisions were made or why things need look the way they do. This can make things very difficult. Things get compounded when you introduce more people into the equation, each with their own idea about what good art/design is and how to achieve it… and somehow, I have to figure out a way to please everybody all while trying to break as few design rules as possible and that, my friends, is why ART IS HARD...
I'm so thankful to be working in the sports industry. It's fun. It's fast-paced. It's entertaining. It's something different every day. And it's a challenge. Chances are if you're reading this, you're working in the sports industry yourself, and you share these sentiments.
From time to time, I forget what makes us a great company, what it is that sets us apart from other creative agencies and freelancers. I forget how good our people are at what they do. I forget how difficult it must be to produce new materials each and every day, yet give each project its own unique identity. But it's the experience of creating new projects each day that makes us the experts at what we do. If you look at popular theory (Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers and others), expertise comes through repetition. Basically, by the time you put in 10,000 hours doing any one thing, you've become an expert in that field. That equates to roughly five years of doing 40-hour work weeks to become an expert.
Old Hat has experts on staff. We've got print designers, developers, animators and (don't forget) client service reps with that kind of experience. It goes beyond that though. Our designers, developers and animators aren't just simply putting in hours to gain expertise. It starts with talented people that push themselves, which in turn causes those around them to work harder (iron sharpens iron). That's a benefit we have that you won't get from freelancers and in-house designers. That's not to say they can't create great work and aren't experts themselves, but I'd put our team of experts against an individual any day.
If you look at the sheer volume of work Old Hat produced in 2013, you might realize what I've realized: 1) how difficult it must be to constantly push ourselves to greatness and 2) how our experience continues to keep us the best at what we do.
So what is that volume of work? Let's see what we did in 2013, and this is by no means an exhaustive list, just some of the common projects we work on daily.
Posters - 353
Schedule cards - 146
Tickets - 49
Billboards - 25
Magnets - 34
WEB projects (some full sites, some updates to existing sites): 64
Intro Videos - 73
Commercials - 54
Animations - 63
Photo/Video Shoots: 19 full day shoots, 7 half days
I think the evidence speaks for itself. So if you ever wonder if we're truly equipped to handle your next project, just trust us, we know what we're doing.
Quitters never win. Winners never quit. What a load of crap. Sure, if you're running a race and you quit in the middle of it, you're not going to win. But some people subscribe to the notion that quitting is a bad thing, in all situations. "You can't just jump ship when things get tough or don't go the way you want." Of course you can. And thankfully, studies are now showing that you SHOULD.
"Learn to appreciate the upside of quitting. Because you can't solve tomorrow's problem if you're not willing to abandon today's dud." - Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner in Think Like a Freak
Now I'm not advocating that anyone quit on something at the first sign of dissatisfaction. That would be counterproductive. But I do believe (and the people at Freakonomics agree) that we should all be more willing to pull the metaphorical plug a little earlier on things when we know we're unhappy. There's this notion of "sunk cost" that keeps us fighting losing battles which ultimately end up causing even greater dissatisfaction and 6 months down the road, you wish you had just quit 6 months ago. When we have sunk time, energy, money, etc. into something, we hold onto it hoping things will turn around. And we SHOULD... to an extent. But there's a point at which we know that we need to just call it quits but we continue with it because we've already invested so much time in it.
I've always subscribed to the philosophy that when faced with a decision, you should do what you'll regret the least... not necessarily what you want the most. So before you go off and quit something, the first thing you wanna do is make sure you're not going to regret it later. So I'm definitely not advocating quitting something without giving it a LOT of thought and consideration. But once you've figured out in your head that your future is not in that job, relationship, situation, etc., end it immediately. You'll be glad you did.
When was the last time you quit something that didn't end up being a good decision? If it's happened a lot, then maybe you're one of those people that makes decisions like this without giving it enough thought. For me, I can't think of a single time that I quit anything where I regretted it for a single second. Are there things I miss? Sure. Would I have loved to stay in that situation if it had been salvageable? You bet your hiney.
When I was in eighth grade, I hated school. Absolutely despised it. And a lot of it had to do with the school I was in. That school was fine for some people but for me, it was pure hell. So I quit going there. I transferred to a different school where I had a great experience, met lifelong friends and met the eventual mother of my children.
When I worked for the OU Athletics Department, I eventually got to the point where I knew I had reached my potential there. I was not happy. People told me I was absolutely NUTS for wanting to quit. I had a good, reliable job working for a university, doing what I loved and getting to go on free Bowl trips every year. But I quit. And it was one of the best decisions I've ever made. I now own the nation's premiere sports creative agency and am infinitely more satisfied with my career. And when the time comes when I'm not, I'll probably quit this too.
I've quit other things, too. Personal relationships... Professional relationships... I quit holding on to the idea that I can grow a nice head of hair and just decided to buzz it all off. Point is, not only do I not regret anything I've ever quit, I'm much happier because of those things.
Think Like A Freak
Still don't believe me? That's okay. But you should read the latest book by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubnar, Think Like a Freak. They spend an entire chapter on this and do it way more justice than I have. The point they make (and the one I'm trying to make), is that quitting is okay. And for the most part, it leads to greater satisfaction in life.
Dear Old Hat Staff: Please don't quit.
I sincerely hope that this blog hasn't inspired anyone on my staff to quit. That would suck. But only because my assumption is that if I've inspired them to quit, they have to have been unhappy here for some time. And THAT is what would bother me. All I want for any of my staff is that they are as happy as they can possibly be. And if quitting their job would lead to greater happiness, I would encourage them to rip the band-aid off and move on to the next phase of their lives.
P.S. But seriously, Old Hatters... don't quit your jobs. This philosophy applies to everyone but you.
Several of us at Old Hat are fans of logo and uniform design. There have certainly been some unique ones that teams have debuted recently. Minor league teams, especially baseball and hockey, are not afraid to take chances and try new things, in effort to sell tickets and create buzz. Movie themes, pop culture, historical, patriotic - really anything seems to be within the realm of possibilities. Many use them as part of a theme-night with special promotions and guests during the evening.
A few teams seem to lead the way, for example, the Lehigh Iron Pigs, Brooklyn Cyclones and Memphis Redbirds. The Iron Pigs even have a website dedicated to selling their bacon-themed merchandise and once had a 'Couple Married on the Mound Night'. The Cyclones went out of their way to show off their 'authentic' Star Wars jerseys. The Redbirds have modeled Eqyptian jerseys as well as Organ Donor Night jerseys.
Here are just some of the wildest ones I've come across.
Santa Claus / Christmas
Just completely random...
Fresh Prince of Bel Air
The Price is Right
Don Cherry Night
and finally ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE NIGHT!
Thanks to Sportslogos.net for several of the images.
That doesn't even include all the bad camo jerseys in various sports or ugly soccer jerseys through the years. What have you seen? Tweet us the craziest ones you've come across.
It's my final day in the office before we depart (Sunday) for Orlando for what will be our 10th NACMA. The photo above is from our first ever NACMA when I was the only employee at Old Hat and we only had about 4 clients. I always get nostalgiac around NACMA time because I think back to where we started and how far we've come. That first booth was a pop-up that took about 10 minutes to assemble. It was made of carpet and I velcroed just about every decent project I had ever designed to it. I had to ask a friend of mine to come with me to Orlando to help out as I had no employees. I didn't even pay him, I don't think. Just offered him a free trip to Orlando. Thanks Cory! Now, we more than 25 employees and every year I have to decide who gets to/has to go.
That first booth and all our materials fit into two plastic cases on rollers. Cory and I checked them on our flight and rolled them through the airports, onto the car rental shuttle and into the exhibit hall to set them up. The booth space was 10' by 10' which was more than enough room to showcase our company. Today, our booth is 20' by 20' and it takes a U-Haul to get it there. It will take us a few hours to assemble it all and we spent months in preparation for it.
In year one, Old Hat Design Company was a print design shop. We did posters, brochures, schedule cards... And I designed ever single thing we produced. Today we have six divisions that will be marketed at NACMA. Print Design, Interactive, Productions, Consulting, Branding and Capture. And I don't design anything that any of those divisions produce.
NACMA is always a reminder of what we have accomplished in the past ten years and it's quite humbling to think about. To say that I couldn't have done it alone is the understatement of the century. The people, both internally and externally, that got us to where we are are too numerous to count. But they know who they are and I offer a heartfelt THANK YOU to all of you.
Please stop by and say hello at the booth next week. And take a mental picture of what it looks like. If we do as well the next 10 years as we did in the first 10, we might be occupying the entire exhibit hall.
I've never been much of a water drinker. In fact, I can't stand the stuff. I drink a LOT of Diet Dr. Pepper but when I go through periods of cutting back on that, I just don't drink anything. My philosophies on eating are similar to those of drinking. I'd rather not eat than eat things that taste awful. I don't eat vegetables. I don't eat healthy food, for the most part. If I'm trying to lose weight, I just have to cut way back on portions because I'd rather not eat anything than eat a quinoa burger with a side of squash. Same rules apply with drinking water. Why drink something that has no flavor? I'd rather drink nothing than drink something that has no flavor. So what's the point?
The Point Well, the point is that sometimes you gotta do things you don't want to do in order to be succesful in achieving your goals. I've been working out with a trainer for a year now. I also jog 4-5 miles at least 5 times per week. I lost 18 pounds from November to February but have since plateaued. I haven't been eating as well as I should be but I should still be dropping pounds. For a year, my trainer has been pretty much begging me to drink more water. When I told her a year ago that I drank 8-10 DDPs per day, I thought she was going to faint. Now, I've cut that down to between 1-4 DDPs per day but what I haven't done is supplemented with water. I try. But I'll sit here at my desk and get thirsty and think, "No... I'd rather drink nothing than drink water." But my trainer has been persistent. And this week I promised her that I'd drink 34 oz. (or more) of water per day. She swears that will help kickstart my weight loss. (Trying to drop another 10 pounds by NACMA.)
I don't know if drinking lots of water every day will help me reach my goal. But when what you're doing isn't working any more, you have to try new things. Even if it's as awful as drinking more water.
Doing Things You Don't Want To Do I think the same is true in operating your business. This isn't a brilliant revelation, of course. Who Moved My Cheese is a great book by Spencer Johnson that addresses this very point. A business continually has to change and adapt to the culture around it to make sure that it doesn't die or become obsolete. History is full of examples of companies that adapted and thrived. But the examples of companies that refused to adapt and therefore went belly-up are a much higher percentage. I think the point that I'm trying to make is that it's not enough to just try new things in order to achieve your success. Sometimes, you gotta go a step further and do things you've always avoided doing. Like drinking water.
Old Hat is ten years old. We've never had a single year without revenue growth. But that didn't come from doing things the way we've always done them. That came from continuously examining how we do everything and making sure that the way we do it is the most effective way. And sometimes it means doing things we don't really want to do because we know that doing them will make us healthier.
I think that sometimes the mistake people (myself included) make is they make adjustments they WANT to make... adapt the ways they WANT to adapt. They do the things that allow them to say they are implementing change, but they're sticking to the things that taste good. But I think the key to finding true success is not WANTING to do the things you know need to be done... and then doing them anyway.
I have a 20 ounce cup of water at my desk and I'm on my 3rd fill-up of the day. I don't know if it's going to help. But it sure won't hurt.
Someone recently told me that coming up with new ideas all of the time is hard. Never has a truer or more obvious statement been spoken at a creative agency. I touched on this subject a few blogs ago about the importance of Feeding the Beast. I think it's an important topic that needs to be constantly hammered home especially if your job is to come up with something new very quickly. My all-time favorite movie, A League of Their Own, has the great line "It's supposed to be hard. If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. The hard is what makes it great." Yeah the great Jimmy Dugan is talking about our national pastime, but the quote is applicable to the creative industry. Our jobs are ridiculously challenging and it's to our designers, developers and editors credit that they make it look SO EASY. It's something that is taken for granted. Take Kevin Durant's 4-point play in Game 2 vs Memphis:
Man, he makes that play look soeasy. In fact, he made it look so easy that we attempted the shot ourselves.
Personally, I think our degree of difficulty was a little higher with the trash can and the ceiling. My point is KD's talent isn't all due to his natural ability. The guy is a hard worker and it wouldn't surprise me if he has actually practiced that same shot at least 1000 times. The same goes with creativity. If you're successful in this industry some of it is probably due to natural ability, but most of it is because you are a hard worker. Underachievers don't last very long. We've all seen it.
The internet says Picasso said this quote, but you know...it's the internet. Regardless, it's my new favorite quote. Watching Netflix or surfing the internet all day probably isn't going to do you any good in the creative realm. Actually it's going to make your job harder. Now don't get me wrong I am in no way not guilty of losing my creative way. We all get burnt out, but it's important to pick yourself up and get back to the grind. The last month has been a bonanza for my Pinterest Video Inspiration board. Now I don't know if any of these videos or designs will actually inspire something cool from Old Hat Productions this year, but it's got my wheels turning and makes me excited to come into work. And then when the Brad Wurthman's of the world ask us to make cool sh...er, stuff...you better believe we're ready.
My wife's car has been in the shop for the past few days. A few weeks ago the entire suspension system had to be replaced. That was awesome. Problem is, the computer component that regulates said suspension system was bad and that's what was causing the suspension problems to begin with. So a month later, it had to be replaced again. Under warranty... no big deal. BUT, that computer component had to be replaced as well so that was another sum of money I hadn't really planned on forking over. Anyway, the fella at the auto shop told me that the dealership had to reprogram the thing. They installed it and were to take it over to the dealership first thing Monday for reprogramming. I'd have it back by end of day Monday.
So Monday comes and I hear nothing from them. End of day Monday comes and I finally call to see what's up. No one answers. So I literally run to the place from work (as I have no automobile) to try to get there before they close. I arrive and find the guy leaving the place. I flag him down and give him some version of, "WTF, mate?" He says, "Oh, man... I totally forgot to call the dealership." Too late to get the car by this point, I'm another day without the car. I've already been without it for 5 days and have made due. But based on his promise that I'd have it back Monday, I made plans for Tuesday that required me AND my wife to have our own automobiles. And all those plans were shot because dude "forgot" to call the dealership. It's not like he just couldn't get the job done or that a new problem came up and the project was delayed. He forgot.
And that made me mad.
Old Hat has many core principles and a brand promise that I've blogged about. But man... none of that matters if you don't follow the one rule that should be common sense. Do what you say you're going to do. And if for some reason you can't, do anything you can do to make it right. And that's another area that my auto shop failed. He didn't do what he promised. And made no attempt to make it right.
I run into so many businesses that stay afloat despite their inability to follow this rule. They might not be Fortune 500 companies but they've been in business for many years. But time and time again, they don't do what they say they're going to do. And it boggles my mind that they are still around. But what that tells me is that if these people can stay in business, think about how successful they could be if they just did what they said they'd do.
This blog seems like more than a rant than anything offering any real direction. But I guess what I'm saying is that if you own a business... if you work in a business... if you want to be succesful in whatever it is you're doing... Do what you say you're going to do and your path to success will be a lot smoother.
At Old Hat, we post a lot of videos of us doing stupid things around the office. It's an expression of our personality. We're stupid... or at least we like to do stupid things. The funny thing though is that because of this outward display, people get the impression that the offices of Old Hat are a laugh-a-minute. And as much as I'd like for us all to get paid to do stupid things all day, I haven't figured out a way to monetize our stupidity. But I think people get the impression that when they come to work at Old Hat or come to visit us, it's going to be like a scene from Animal House. When they actually see us at work though, the comment I get over and over is, "It's like a library in here! I'm afraid to speak!" That's because for the vast majority of every day, our staff is hard at work coming up with the most amazing creative in the sports marketing realm. In order to do this, they have to CONCENTRATE. So they put their headphones in, tune out the world and work.
Don't get me wrong. We have fun here. We have donuts and play a game every Monday morning. The beer flows from the taps in our office bar every Friday at 4p. We take breaks mid-day to take silly photos or shoot a video. But for about 7.5 hours out of every day, it's like a library in here. Our product... the thing we sell... is our time. And we can only sell our time if that time is spent sitting at a computer editing, programming, animating, designing, etc. But it would be really boring if we posted photos or videos of that. To prove my point, here's a sample video of what we do most of the time:
Old Hat is a really fun place to work. And we hope you'll come visit us sometime. Just please don't make any noise if you do.
Maybe I'm just getting grumpier in my old age or maybe others are getting lazier, I don't know, but I am seeing bad websites more, more it seems these days. People cutting corners to save a buck or two may be part of it, but that is not exactly what I am referring to. So I decided I would put together a list of my top qualities of websites, that I look for. Just because a website has a lot of users, doesn't mean it is a good website.
If the website offers user logins or purchasing, it must be secure. The majority of sites with user logins don't offer a secure socket layer (SSL) [It's what puts the little lock icon in the address bar] because it costs extra money to implement and the cost versus value to them isn't worth it. I always like seeing that on a site but it's not a make or break deal to me. On the other hand, if you are taking sensitive data, such as credit card info or social security numbers, it is an absolute must. I will never use a site that wants that kind of data if it is not secure and a site I absolutely trust.
Another key thing in security I look for is whether or not the password for the user login can be retrieved. By retrieved, I mean they have the ability to show you your password, either in an email or in the browser. Passwords should never be able to be decrypted or stored in plain text. If you currently use a website that can show you your password. RUN! RUN NOW! This is a hacker's dream, especially if they also have an online store [which was a case with a site I went to last night]. Nothing better than just being able to read someone's password and then login as them to buy yourself some stuff. Not to mention, that password may give them access to you email if you used the same one. Once they have access to your email, they can get access to any other one of your secure accounts tied to that email address by resetting those passwords. Say goodbye to your credit score once they get into that American Express account.
Does the website merely say it has security for information or does it actually provide it. Most people make the mistake of thinking just because a website says your photos are secure from public view, doesn't mean they are. Most people don't know when this is happening, but a trained eye can easily spot it.
And lastly, does that site share your personal data with third parties? You may not want to play those games you thought were safe on your social site.
This simply means "Can the user accomplish his goals on your site, without having to checkout your FAQs or contact customer service." I build websites, and I cannot stand when I can't figure out how to do something on someone else's site. If I am struggling you have major User Interface (UI) issues. Don't redirect users to someplace unexpectedly when they are trying to go to watch the next video in the playlist. Don't make users do multiple actions over and over again to accomplish their goals. Make it easy and make the experience flow. Allow users to backtrace their steps whenever possible.
Another part to usability whether the site offers clean urls. By clean urls, I mean web addresses that are easy to read and remember. If I do a search and share it with someone, I want them to be able to read what I searched for (when security is not an issue). Take these two urls and decide which one would be easier for you to read and use:
If a site is programmed properly, it will make all aspects of the user's experience that much easier.
This falls to number three on my list though it's the number one thing most web goers judge a site off of. They just see something pretty and go "Ewww" and "Awe" but that design will mean nothing if the site is not easy to use and safe to do so. A good design should make for easy usability while enhancing the user's experience by being visually appealing. Your site user's should go, "Hey check this out! It looks great and is easy to use." The majority of people that use the web like large photos, but proper use of text can be just as important.
And sorry, but if you want to look like a professional business, better ditch that templated theme you just bought from your hosting provider. They look cheap and make your business look silly when others come to visit. Especially if people recognize the design being used on other sites. Web designers should never be able to correctly guess your content management system (CMS) by just looking at the design. Trust me, I can do this pretty easily on many sites. You would spend how much for a physical store front? You might think about spending a little more than $50 and "one hour" on the store front that has the potential to be viewed by millions more.