Throwback blog from January 23, 2015.

Say it with me now. Lea-Der-Ship.

It's all around you your whole entire life, and mostly, it sucks.
Even good parents have their moments.
Teachers, coaches, counselors. They seem to all, for the most part, be actually teaching the opposite of leadership. Because what they taught instead, was to act as though you are listening, take notes so as to later repeat the lesson on some BS test, speak when you are spoken to, follow the rules of the class/road/sport and god willing there will be a measure of success.
I heard all that shit. Never was good at playing along. If I had a question, I asked it. If I thought something was BS, I made it known. Those types of "leaders"? They hate that. Because you might have a point. You might be right, but you are making a ruckus. And you are too nice and smart to make a ruckus, and you are a girl, and we have to move on to the next subject, so sit down.
Corporations are the same way. It's a tired game, and it's not long for this world. High level decisions can't fly without question from the masses, when the masses are all texting and tweeting each other all day long. Bullshit can be detected and then exposed within seconds.
But also new ideas can be exposed. And good questions. And one's loyalties and passions.
People will hate it at first, but I'm telling you guys. The ruckus-makers who give a shit, and base their ruckus on passion and thought, those cats are the future.

This is a subject i go on about all the time. But I thought about leadership this week after watching that NFC championship game. Did you SEE the Seattle comeback. I MEAN. There was a series of events at the end of that game that were EACH totally one-in-a-liftime, must-make-it plays. And they made every goddamn one. Kicker TD pass to rookie tackle? No biggie. Two-point conversion pass on the run from QB who got his ass beat the whole game? Sure. On-side kick successfully recovered? That never works. But they won that damn game. With the same players who started, and had terrible games. Threw 4 interceptions. Had like, 7 yards until the 4th quarter. It's literally insane. I could not believe it. 

I'm a little biased because I'm a Seahawks fan. (I grew up here, don't start your bandwagon accusations, I'll fucking kick you). But the result was amazing. And it made me think about the kind of leadership in that organization, that has inspired those guys to play for each other like that. To never give up, to go out in the face of a disrespecting media and massive nfl fan base who think these guys are "just aight" and make freakin' miracles happen. And they are goofy, hand-shaking, bike riding, nice guys, who eat skittles and wear bow ties and HUG IT OUT because they have literally discovered the success that comes when you have so much passion and you make the choice to play for each other.

Pete Carroll must be an amazing leader. There's no way they pull this off if he's not. I would bet he could cruise into any classroom, back-of-house, or cubicle and take whatever goal was ahead of the group and bring success. And all he does is smile and jump around and talk about what amazing players he has. He doesn't act like he holds the secret to winning at anything and everything. But whatever the secret is, he has it figured out. 

The hawks are a snapshot of seattle and seattle is a snapshot of the future, innovative, a little different and weird, thought provoking, kind of irritating, but smart. Seattle needs more leaders who are willing to rub that in the face of recession and the old guard. The people are here, they just need to make a little more of a ruckus.

go hawks

love, kels



ps. Seth Godin uses the word ruckus a lot. I discovered him a few years ago and freaked my face off about how much sense he made. If you haven't read his books, do so now!

Be gentle with your light

I have always had a big personality, a ton of energy, a loud voice. I grew up in a funky ass small beach town (which I later moved back to because DUH, funky ass small beach town!). I mean this place was full characters. One of them, who was callously referred to as the town drunk, was kind of a wise old sage, until he hit a certain point in the day (after which- NO eye contact). One day when I was probably in my early 20’s, back visiting home for the summer, he caught me mid-hollering and said, Hey. Kelsey. Be gentle with your light.

The honesty and intention of this apt sentiment took around a decade to fully appreciate. Between age 16 and 35 I probably had about six thousand people, parents, coaches, teachers, managers and friends, all try to get this same message to me. It was delivered in the form of detention, bench-riding, passed snarky notes, full-fist punches to the face, and performance reviews displaying my very limited sphere of influence. They were all saying please shut the hell up.

My ‘light’ has not always been appreciated, and I have not always been able to harness it as the town drunk suggested. I have always had natural leadership abilities and a fierce loyalty and commitment to my teams, but have only recently realized the power in holding it back. As I sit here this year, quietly working on projects, focusing on other parts of my life, I realize the light is more powerful when I control it.

I also realize that people with different strengths are drawn to and gain energy from my light, which can be powerful as well. I have done some interesting consulting and taken on some new clients and a couple patterns have popped up.

  1. All the things that caused me to have huge HR headaches when I had a corporate design job are de rigueur now. I mean, all of the speaking up, push for accountability, team building, girl power, flexible schedule shit that I was always pushing for used to get hand slaps. Whats up now, bitches. I bet those managers I had aren’t harassing the ladies for talking in meetings these days like they did when I was younger. And don’t even get me started on #metoo.

  2. The way I market my business has been as a graphic designer, and some of my clients hire me for that and it stays the scope. But many, probably even most of my clients, begin to appreciate and use me for a much higher level of consulting and energy: they like my light, my experience and my point of view. And I put on a brand strategy hat, or a consulting hat, and shine my light in their brand’s direction. Consulting is something I like to do, and it turns out I am pretty good at it; in fact, have been doing it for some time now, but have been getting paid for just the graphic design.

All of this adds up to a slight shift in my business to focus on more consulting work. I have experience with brands large and small, inside and out, from core brand strategy to ad campaigns to packaging design. I can do the hands on design work— but I can also influence from a much higher level.

I am a great consultant, probably a better consultant than I am a designer. I have all of the energy and passion and history and frankly, humor, to bring a lot of life to your strategy.

If you need some light, let me know. I have a lot to share.


Cities Rule at Branding

(throwback to 8/29/14)

Summer at Vocal has been a little crazy and a lot fun, our First Annual DMSP was a blast, we had a fab intern come and go, and enjoyed beers at the pub on the reg and summer fridays at the beach, not to mention a lot of hard work, and some time on the road.

Working on a couple very different branding projects has me thinking retrospectively about the travel I've done this year.

I've been to some great cities this year. And I can't stop thinking about how each city is it's own brand, understood globally, and I wish companies could be so consistent. Seattle, Chicago, Paris, New York, Portland. Everybody can close their eyes and picture the "brand" that is each city, amiright? Stereotypes, or Brand Positioning? All I know is, there's unity and variety, but no matter what, If I gave one line descriptions or acted out charades, you would all know which cities from this list I was talking about. Good or bad.

Brands, old and new, should take a lesson from this. Paris, for example, doesn't care about trying to be everything to everybody. And no one goes into business thinking, let's all be under dressed and extremely passive aggressive.

Define your brand, don't let it define you. Make decisions, and be consistent.
And years from now, people can play charades and easily guess what company is being acted out.