On Hiring a Creative Director

Posted on Jul 22, 2015 in Work | No Comments

I recently wrote an article on The Iron Yard’s blog about hiring a creative director. You can read the full story, complete with background, but here are a few highlights:


Nathan’s work on the brand was great, but when I interviewed him about this experience, several statements and perspectives caught my attention:

…so that The Iron Yard will have a visually stable identity system…

One sign of a mature designer is value of things that don’t often get the spotlight. A ‘visually stable identity system’ doesn’t sound that exciting, but is one of the most important components of a brand.

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Dictionary.app Typeface Fix

Posted on Jul 7, 2015 in Nerdery | No Comments

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It’s the little things.

I recently posted about OS X’s typeface in Dictionary.app. In short, all text was displaying as the same bold font, creating no hierarchy to help the reader parse content visually.

Before writing the post, I did my homework and discovered I wasn’t alone. Other people were experiencing the same issue. Here’s a screenshot from Nathan Spainhour’s computer:

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The Age of Transparency

Posted on Jul 6, 2015 in Work | 3 Comments

My friend John Saddington recently pointed me to research focused on “corporate character & authentic advocacy,” or in non-buzzword vernacular, “having integrity as a company.”

Here’s a summary of the report:

Entitled “Building Belief: A New Model for Activating Corporate Character and Authentic Advocacy,” the report describes a new framework for how chief communications officers (CCOs) can define and activate their companies’ unique corporate character and build “advocacy at scale.” It also proposes methods for engaging individuals – whether customers, investors, employees or community members – as advocates for a set of shared beliefs and actions.

As you can tell, the study reads a bit business-y and the principles in their model aren’t necessarily new (from what I can tell), they’re just being applied to our current business climate.

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Productivity Requires Removing Distractions

This is the ninth post in a series on productivity. The articles are based on content from a workshop I led at The Makers Summit.

Much of this material is taken from a post I wrote in a different series.


I believe that the number one killer of productivity for most people is distraction. That may sound like a self-evident statement, but the actual mechanics of distraction, as well as expectations of ‘normal’ behavior in our society, are subtle enough that many of us don’t actually feel distraction when it’s happening—and might not even label it as such.

Like it or not, we live in a world where the battle for our attention is more fierce than ever. Don’t worry, I’m not going to lament the loss of simpler life in times past or say that Twitter is ruining our brains—there are much smarter people who have explored the complexity of distraction and the decline of attention spans.

I also don’t need scientific studies to feel constant tugging at my attention from a hundred different directions. Some of that is simply life: managing home, work, relationships and more can be complicated. Distractions don’t have to be digital—this is a human condition no matter what the circumstance or context.

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Copy: The Devil’s in the Details

Posted on Jul 1, 2015 in Work | 2 Comments

The marketing team at The Iron Yard has been building out a myriad of projects, tools and campaigns over the past several weeks. From radio scripts to drip campaigns to deciding the layout for a new page on our website.

We discuss many things as a team, but I’ve noticed lately that we talk about copy constantly. Lelia, our Director of Communications, does a significant amount of actual copywriting, as do I, but the topic of discussion extends to the entire team, be it a creative director or developer. Sometimes our conversations are about really visible, high-impact decisions, like how we name new courses. Other times, we go back and forth about the title of a single part of a larger roadmap that no one but our team will ever see. Oftentimes those discussions—or disagreements—are fueled by intelligent, strongly-held opinions.

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Marketing Team Values

Posted on Jun 29, 2015 in Work | 3 Comments

At the close of 2014, I was the only full-time marketer on The Iron Yard’s staff. Today, there are 7 of us total, meaning the last few months have been quite a fun adventure in learning and re-defining how the team works. Several of the people I hired had worked with me (and many times each other) on Iron Yard projects before. As a result, we’d developed a way of working that transitioned naturally from contract work to full-time work.

As I began to hire people who had no prior relationship with The Iron Yard or anyone on the team, though, I knew that our way of doing things wouldn’t necessarily be explicit on its own. As the new kid on the block, learning a culture and team and where you fit in can be a tough business as a lone ranger.

We decided to define our values as a team—the core elements of the way we go about our work and interacting with each other. Becoming an efficient part of a company happens much more quickly if you have a rubric by which to make decisions about what you are producing and the ways you communicate (or don’t).

Here are the values of The Iron Yard MarCom team:

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The Other Side of the World

Posted on Jun 27, 2015 in Nerdery | No Comments

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The New Oxford American Dictionary defines the word worldview as follows:

A particular philosophy of life or conception of the world.

The other morning I opened the Maps application on my laptop to search for an address. The initial view that loads in the application defaults to a zoomed-in, city-level perspective of your current location. For some reason—perhaps I accidentally entered a zoom-adjusting key combination—the view was different that morning. Maps loaded a planetary view of the entire earth. Even though the image was manufactured digitally, I found the perspective breathtaking. I imagined what days were like for people far to the west and far to the east. Some of them were sleeping soundly, others were approaching the end of the day. For several moments, I felt very small.

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Thank you, John Saddington

Posted on Jun 25, 2015 in Life, Work | 2 Comments

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This week on The Iron Yard blog I wrote about my friend and former business partner John Saddington. He’s left The Iron Yard to pursue a new adventure, so I recounted the story of how we met, what it was like to grow a company with him and the impact he had on me. Here are a few excerpts:

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Productivity Requires Sacrifice

This is the eighth post in a series on productivity. The articles are based on content from a workshop I led at The Makers Summit.


The concept of productivity is easy to frame in the context of things we need to start doing. “I need to get better at managing my email.” “I need to make my meetings more efficient.” “I need to hire an intern to take some administrative overhead off my plate.” Fill in the blank.

Many times, productivity is as much about what we choose not to do as it is about implementing new behaviors.

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Sleep, Exercise and Diet as the Foundations of Productivity

This is the seventh post in a series on productivity. The articles are based on content from a workshop I led at The Makers Summit.


We have arrived at the practical implications that a solid philosophical foundation in productivity hacking allows for. The last post was called First, Know Thyself—an appropriate sub-head for this post would be Second, Care for Thyself.

Warning, if you’re a regular reader, this is mostly-recycled content from a post I wrote in a now-dormant series.

Healthy, sustainable productivity

In this post we are going to discuss what I believe is one of the key components of people who maintain a high level of healthy, sustainable productivity. I use the descriptors “healthy” and “sustainable” because you can be extremely productive in any number of ways and not all of them are good for you. People commonly employ substances (sugar, caffeine, narcotics, etc.) or sleep deprivation in order to get more done (or, at least, feel like they’re getting more done). Too much of a substance or too little sleep over time is unhealthy—something we’re all aware of and that I touched on in a previous post in this series:

Therein lies the problem, though: while these methods produce some sort of real or perceived short-term benefit, if used in excess or exclusively, none are sustainable, especially over the long run. In fact, repeatedly pulling one (or more) of these levers to force more output can be harmful to us. Sleep deprivation can wreak serious havoc (as we’ll discuss in an upcoming post) and no medical professional would recommend drinking 10 pots of coffee (or cans of Red Bull) per day.

The tricky part is that whether the levers you’re pulling are good or bad for you, the productivity gains are real. Unfortunately, it always seems easier and more convenient to make unhealthy choices, which creates a cycle of tangible productivity bursts followed by burnout or near-burnout—a pattern that takes it’s toll and almost guarantees severe burnout over time.

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