Q: Thank you (I think) for asking me to do this. First of all, who are you?
God, what a question.
Q: Just give us a few keywords and phrases.
Very hands on, do all my own graphic and web design. Copywriter and photographer. New business consultant. Devoted to my clients, like to work with them as partners. Favorite projects go from ID and branding through final production and website installation. But also enjoy quick, in and out projects. To keep the mind alive.
Q: Tell us something more personal.
Playwright and screenwriter. Just like everyone else in town. A big reader, history mostly, a hiker when motivated, movie and theatre goer, landscaper, love British crime dramas. Into jazz singers and architecture. All forms of design.
Q: What's something few people know about you?
I gave up my car. Now I walk, take taxis and buses everywhere, call Lyft or rent a car when I need one.
Q: Was that hard to get used to?
Just the looks I get waiting for a bus.
Q: How so?
I can see them thinking, "If he didn't spend so much on clothes, he wouldn't need to take the bus."
Q: That's very funny.
Not when it's a Bentley.
Q: Some people would consider giving up a car eccentric.
Everybody good at what they do is eccentric. You have to be. It's what gives you a unique perspective. What you can bring to a project that no one else can.
Q: You write, you design, you code, you consult. How can one person be good at so many things?
I started out as a copywriter and learned everything else on the job. Sometimes I had to learn to do something because nobody else was available. Or wasn't willing to do it. I enjoyed the challenge and kept practicing until I got as good as I could. And I'm still learning.
Q: Is that a benefit for clients?
Doing it all myself helps maintain focus. It keeps a narrow beam on where we need to go. The only internal arguments are my own, which can be productive in their own right.
Q: What's the best kind of client for you?
Anyone who's willing to listen to new ideas, who's comfortable taking a little risk.
Q: And the worst?
The ones who think they already know everything. Nine times out of ten they're wrong, and I like my clients to succeed.
Q: Are you a prima donna?
No. Whenever you put yourself before the work, the work suffers. It's not productive. It gets in the way and adds a lot of useless drama. So, no, I'm not a prima donna. I don't have the time or energy for it.
Q: Which client has been with you the longest?
A tech entrepreneur in San Diego. He keeps coming back because he says I give him class. Because of the confidence he's placed in me over the years, I make sure he gets it.
Q: What most surprises new clients about you?
How many questions I ask.
Q: Why is that surprising?
I don't pitch. I make the meeting all about them, which is the way it should be. They've already seen what I can do. What matters at that point is what I can do for them.
Q: What happens in a first meeting?
For me, the most important thing is to listen. I'll ask a client to talk honestly about their business situation and goals, what their needs, problems and issues are. Then I leave, analyze what I've heard, put together all the things I've discovered, figure out a strategy and present design proposals.
Q: What are your deliverables?
First round is usually Concept Designs, then Page Layouts. Sometimes full Branding Boards. A variety of approaches the client can look through and say, "Yes, that's who I am," or "That's who we'd love to be if we could," or "No, that's not us at all." Once we have a feel for that, then we get onto the hardcore design and chisel it down, simplify it until everything fits. Then the final deliverable is a fully functioning website or a printed brochure or whatever the project requires.
Q: How long does that take?
Sometimes a few days. Sometimes a few months. It depends on the depth of the client's needs and problems, and how quickly the client is willing to move.
Q: You speak about needs and problems. Can you explain that in a little more detail?
Clients come to me because they have needs and problems they can't solve on their own. Maybe their website isn't doing as well as it needs to. Maybe they feel they're losing touch with their audience. Maybe they just aren't making as much money as they need to. I work with them to come up with design solutions to those issues, whether it's a short-term tactical solution or a long-term strategic campaign.
Q: How can design solve a business problem?
Everything is design. A website, an engineering scheme, a business plan, they're all designed to achieve a goal. How well you design it determines the outcome.
Q: Is that what you mean by business design?
Q: Can you give me an example?
A client read that he should be able to describe his business concept in five words or less. I told him that was my job, he just needed to be very clear about what his business objectives and goals were, what he needs to achieve. I created a series of Concept Boards to explore different names, tag lines and key graphics, which he said helped him "see the business in a whole new light." Once he signed off on a direction, everything played out naturally from there. As it was designed to.
Q: When you and I work together, it's very one-on-one. Is that true with most clients?
Usually, depending on whether there's a board involved or how much staff there is. But one-on-one is best because we can get to the point and not waste time.
Q: When I've had you on conference calls with clients and other vendors, you're very diplomatic and polite, but you stick to your guns. Is that difficult?
Not if you know what the project goals and objectives are. Not if you know what the limitations and issues are. Then it's just a matter of how best to acheive what you need to do.
Q: When I say difficult, I mean being diplomatic.
That's very funny. Yes, some people get on those calls and like to show off, but it's only natural. So I let them. And then try to get everybody back on point. Being disrespectful doesn't solve anything.
Q: I've watched you sit there and come up with one idea after another, all on the fly, and yet you're very straight forward about it. Do you know why that is?
It's what I do. That's my job. And I enjoy it.
Q: A small business owner or startup deals with only one person, you, from beginning to end of a project. Is that hard for some people to get their head around?
Not so far. But it's all the same to me, just using different tools and talents to achieve the same result. But I think it's also why I can succeed as a one person shop. The objective stays clear, the focus stays centered. And I work very hard to keep it that way.
Q: You and I didn't meet in person until weeks after my website was completed and installed. Is that typical?
I have clients in New York, Toronto and Florida that I work with over the phone and email. I install the work online. As long as I'm clear on what their needs are and they're clear on what I'm delivering, it's never been a problem. However, I do put in some extra effort to make sure that everyone is clear about who's doing what and who's responsible for it.
Q: Last question. Are you expensive?
Some people may think so. But most don't. Not for what they get.
Q: Thank you. I think we're done.
Good. Let's go to lunch.