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33 Years

The original Saxton mug. Best mug ever.

Thirty-three years. Practically vintage. Possibly even fossil material. (yikes – let’s stick with “it’s a good long time”.) But maybe thirty-three years in business is worth something. A pat on the back. An acknowledgment. A bit of reflection. So here goes.

…………………

January, 1985. Think Madonna, Whitney, Aretha, Sting. Think “Back to The Future”, “The Breakfast Club”, “The Color Purple” and “Out of Africa”. Think Keith Haring and Jean-Michael Basquiat. Think dance clubs. Think big hair and huge earrings and shoulder pads, leggings and high-tops and high-waisted pants.

And a young woman at a drawing table dreaming big dreams. Conjuring. Plotting.

So it was that Saxton Illustration & Design began in a small apartment in Chatham, NJ with a spark of an idea, a sweep of unexpected boldness, a love for freedom and a sack full of creativity (and some clients in her pocket; she wasn’t entirely reckless). It’s traveled far since then.

Countless designs for boatloads of clientele, hundreds of drawings and hundreds of pencils, pens and tubes of paint, miles of paper, an intimacy with tight deadlines and working round the clock, branding and more branding, words and more words, an endless array of pencil points, several Macs and four books later – it’s been quite a ride, full of plot twists, feasts and famines, joys and frustrations; all of it.

There was also the discovery of my love for tea. There was Center Street. Brainstorms with Kevin. Collaborations with Glenn. Magic with Leona. Lunches with Milton. Angie’s with everybody. The Midtown Direct. A brief stint with the mob. Art shows. Paper samples. There was Kenya, Egypt, Scotland, England, Germany, Venice. Jose and Yoko. Mary and Pete. Barnes and Noble. Sabbatical in Sedona. Motherhood. Lasting Friendships. A richer relationship with the Universe.

And while it’s evolved from t-squares and triangles and rubber cement to my first little Mac (then another and another…), from printing presses to screens, fax machines to email, brochures to websites, floppy disks to clouds, postcards to blog posts to facebook and instagram … my rules are the same: : 1.) Listen well. 2.) Stay current. 3.) Be reliable. 4.) Always do your best.

So there you have it. Except for one more thing. Having taken a few more leaps since 1985, I’ve learned that creativity never goes out of style, nor does it stand still – I’ve learned that it’s a restless and demanding master, and I its humble servant.

…………………

January 2018. Think Hip-Hop. Think Netflix. Think Street Art and Online Galleries. Think leggings and high-tops (yes, they’re back – just be thankful the shoulder pads aren’t.)

And the girl at the drawing table? Older, but still dreaming, conjuring and plotting. 😉

 

The Classics.

 

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Tis The Season..!

I’m a terrible salesperson. Remember how in 4th grade you were supposed to go door to door selling greeting cards or cookies or some such thing? … Not. My. Thing. If I got the least bit suspicious that I might be a.) interrupting or b.) annoying, that was the last door that got a knock from me. Shortly after that experience I vowed never to do it again. It’s just not in my DNA.

That said, I’ve gotten a little bolder. It helps when you have something that’s your own, or something you’re excited about, and even better when others are excited, too. So let me extend my gratitude right now to those of you who’ve bought my books and gifts and shared the love with others. It makes my heart sing. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

It’s also that time of year when people do an awful lot of gift shopping and I figure I’d be remiss not to put in a specific mention of my own offerings, so here you go ~ especially for any of you who are new to my world, or simply need reminding (as in “hey! yes! I could get THAT for so-and-so… perfect!”).

What’s shown below is also what appears on my Shop page. (< listed over there on the left) For future reference, you can check in there anytime to see where to get stuff (although it’s not always decorated with holly and ornaments).

And please feel free to forward to a friend, in case they decide something would be perfect for so-and-so. Thank you! Blessings to you. Thank you. I’ll go now…

 

saxton.holiday_header14B

 

holiday11.iphones

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Trust

Trust is paramount. A small word with huge ramifications, trust is rock solid ~ no pie-in-the-sky fluff, no wishy-washy in-betweens; it’s something that’s earned, that’s proven, and worth more than all the world’s shiniest diamonds.

In business and in relationships it’s as simple as saying what you mean, meaning what you say, and following through with action. It’s confidence. It’s safety. It’s integrity. Trust is the gold standard of principles at the base of all principles. Without it, things crumble. With it, you can change the world.

In faith ~ in your gut, and in your heart ~ trust is conviction, belief, and letting go of outcomes. Without it, you’re dangling. With it, you can change your world.

saxton_trust

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Devaluing Design

Warning: My usual positive outlook took a wee turn this morning. I’m peeved.

heywhyhireapro

We’ve all heard of crowd-sourcing by now. For those of you who don’t know, it’s a way to get your job done as inexpensively as possible. Sounds good, right? Let’s say you need a logo for your new business. Some start-ups, especially individuals or very small businesses, just don’t have a budget to hire a graphic designer (much less a design firm or an ad agency). For cases like these, in the past you could ask your cousin Sally (who’s “good in art”) to create something for you for free, or maybe you know a student, or someone just starting out in the design field to create something on the cheap that’ll help build their portfolio.

But now you can go online to any number of websites that provide either a.) logos for $99, or b.) crowd-sourced options. In crowd-sourcing, you describe what you need, name your price, and in this world of high-high-tech, your project is seen overnight by thousands of graphic designers who have signed up with the crowd-source listing who can all submit any number of designs to you for consideration. This means you can potentially receive thousands of design options from all over the world ~ for a fee that is, by all professional standards, incredibly, ridiculously low. And I do understand that this can be the right, if not necessary, solution for many folks. It’s a way for everyone to get a logo, not just the “wealthy”, and I can’t argue with that. I’ve even made the suggestion to a few people myself. We all need to decide where to cut corners in today’s economy.

The downside is the devaluing of design. For myself and a world of other professionals, this can feel like the beginning of the end, because there’s no way to compete. We’ve honed our skills and sensibilities over many, many years, we are among the best and brightest, we are “thinking” designers who not only offer smart, creative solutions but provide ongoing service, becoming a key player in your business. This is how we put food on the table ~ by understanding where you’re coming from, what you want and need, what will best represent you and your business in a busy, noisy landscape by creating something uniquely yours, not cut from a cookie template, not one-size-fits-all. It’s not just talent, it’s experience and insight and labor. We are your visual voice.

So, in a way, there’s a quietly raging battle going on that we’re all kind of wading through, to see what happens. But this morning it got my ire up.

I’d dropped my daughter at the train station and turned on the radio for the drive home, figuring I’d catch up on some news. Apparently Sunday mornings are filled with financial shows, and I happened on WOR 710 with Ric Edelman and his show The Truth About Money. He was explaining crowd-sourcing, and how it’s changing our world. He explained it in terms of the recent Boston Marathon bombings, how police and other law enforcement were able to nab the suspects so much more easily because of the sheer volume of phones with cameras, the capability to instantly send images and videos over the internet, being able to information-gather from thousands – millions – of people via social media instead of the old, time-consuming way of person-to-person investigating. All good. Makes sense. Except I had this bad feeling about where he was taking this…

And sure enough, he went on to add another example. “Say you want a logo for your business…. before, you would hire a graphic designer, but now… (insert reiteration of what I said in second paragraph above)” And THEN he said, “Of course this spreads fear in the hearts of designers, because it means they’ll have to now work on spec, and they probably don’t want to do that…”

Excuse me? Do YOU work on spec Ric Edelman? Do you not get paid for your radio show, your lectures or client consultations? Does your producer wait and see if anybody tuned in that day before cutting your paycheck? What? You have years of experience behind you? Oh, that matters? That makes you worth more than, say, a beginner? How about this – do you go to a fine restaurant and ask for a few variations on your meal, name a low-ball price, then decide if you’ll pay for it or not? Do you have any understanding that a designer not “wanting” to work on spec might have something to do with the fact that this is how some of us keep a roof overhead? This isn’t just fun & games. Or wait! Maybe it is! Maybe we should all find different jobs, then possibly make a couple hundred dollars on the side every so often dabbling in logos for crowd-sourcing opportunities. You know, just for fun.

Funny how this harkens back to the notion that artists and writers do what they do no matter how poorly they are paid. The historical documentation of the poor artist, wearing hole-ridden shoes, driven by passion alone…unless fortunate enough to find a patron like the Medici’s or the Pope ….. to become wildly famous after death, cashed in on by hordes of wise art dealers. But I digress.

No thanks to you, sir, for stirring this pot. For not only sharing, but encouraging this demeaning insight with your audience. For degrading the time, effort, intelligence and talent of those who feed their families through their hard work in a creative field. Not to mention the individuals and business who have benefitted from the vision and fantastic work of many a gifted designer.

That the world is evolving, that we’re well on our way, that change is already here, embraced by many and on the move, I have no disagreement. And time, of course, will tell the final tale. But I am, frankly, appalled at your cavalier disregard for the creative professional. You’re basically saying “why call a pro when you can get it done for free by somebody else!”

So far there are still reasons why people call on us. One of them is called professionalism. Something that, at least for now, is still valued.

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Evolution of a Serial Designer

“What’s Your Point?” Pencil Point Series / © Patricia Saxton

It started with a college art class assignment~ one of the few assignments I adored ~ where we had to draw one crazy shape (or some such thing), then interpret in a myriad of ways.

I remember my shape was squiggly with random loops ~ kind of Miro-esque now that I think of it ~ and that I went nuts. I could barely keep up with all the ways I could keep the same design but make it look completely different. Colors, lines; the possibilities were endless! This was better than a drawer full of chocolate, or at the time, maybe more like a keg of beer and a bunch of great friends.

Eventually I had to stop, probably needing to put in some study time for other classes. Besides, it was a meaningless shape, so there was no impetus to keep going beyond the “oh cool” factor.  I do think though, that because it was meaningless, my mind opened up to explore freely.

And so it was that this freeing exercise came in handy later on, when I started my business’ first promotional campaign. The memory of “many designs from one” prompted what became a signature series ~ those of you who’ve known me for a long time know exactly what I mean when I say “pencil points”.

Every 2-3 months for several years I’d send out a new Pencil Point Postcard (the pencil point also being my logo, giving it “meaning”), and the response was fabulous. Everyone had a favorite, people really looked forward to getting the next one, and I had fun creating them. And when pitching my design wares, pulling out a stack of pencil point cards almost always sealed the deal. Even if clients weren’t going to need something quite so creative, I think they liked knowing there was that kind of original thinking behind the scenes.

When business turned electronic, I decided to start a new series, online. “52 Weeks of Peacepostcard book was born, and the subsequent “Plethora of P’s” series. There will probably be something new in the future, but neither the peace signs or the positive P’s have run their gamut yet. (There are still more pencil points, too; I just have to draw the line somewhere … no pun intended!)

Sometimes I think it might be some kind of mental affliction. Maybe I am a little nuts. But really, “oh well”. We all have our quirks.

“A Plethora of P’s” / © Patricia Saxton

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Social Media Roller Coaster

I hear a bunch of exasperation out there about social media.

Bottom line, we have to make choices about our time ~ these days, almost on an hour-to-hour basis. In any given period we may ask, is this a good use of my time? Is this what I want to be doing, is this what I HAVE to be doing, is this just what happened when one thing ran into the next and here’s where I landed?

Those of us who are self-employed need to insert structure into our day, or we’d not be at all productive ~ and that requires a hefty dose of self-discipline.

This may work beautifully if you work with tasks that have clear beginnings and endings (not to say there aren’t snags and challenges that could send potentially simple project into galactic proportions), but far less controlled if you’re in the concepting stage of a design project where you’re, let’s say, trying to break the rules in imaginative, but still effective ways. You can’t set a timer for that. But you can set a timer that says it’s time to shift gears, have dinner, take a walk.

So what then do you do with the onslaught of social media demands on top of all the rest? Do you skip the walk to check your twitter feed? Post facebook quotes while you eat dinner? Pin on Pinterest early in the day, while checking email and planning calls … and yea … you see, things can start to overlap and then maybe your grip starts to slip, the ride is moving and your hat is flying… and you’re saying, “wait!, whoa, slow down!” Yet the world out there is saying, “ha! right! time waits for no one, better hop on!”

So you sigh and shrug and try to keep up.

Or you decide not to.

Here’s the thing: there’s no rule book that says you have to leap into every social media outlet that comes along. That said, I’d be leading you down the wrong road if I said you shouldn’t participate in at least a few of your choice. But by all means, unless you’ve got a budget and a staff whose sole job is to handle every social media site, be choosy.

When all those invites come in to join this group or that network, don’t impulsively jump. Let it sit. Check it out. If it feels right, you may want to climb aboard. If it feels a lot like “ugh, do I have to?”… then don’t.

Either way, don’t miss that walk in the park in order to get a front seat on the next social media wave. If it really sings to you, you can join in after your walk.

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Six Businesses, Six Business Cards

Using the same businesses from “Six Businesses, Six Logos” (with one substitution), here’s how their identities start to play themselves out in a practical format.

Although limited by fitting the amount of information any given client feels is necessary into a relatively small space, you can have a lot of fun with business cards, especially if you’ve designed a logo that allows you to pull from various elements. The key here is to not only support the brand identity through consistent logo use, but to expand upon it by appropriately enhancing the look and the feel. The canvas is small, but the impact doesn’t have to be.

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Mermaid Mardi Gras

While writing “The Book of Mermaids”, I learned that many mermaid celebrations, oddly enough, coincide with our human holidays. So I’m imagining there’s a bit of frolicking good fun going on beneath the ocean waves this last day of Mardi Gras. Bubble-lined parades, dancing in rock caverns, the drinking of rich, salty concoctions, and generally speaking, some swishy, swanky good times under the sea, complete with masks and costumes. (Note: It might feel a bit turbulent if you happen to be on a cruise, depending on how near you are to the festivities.) Happy Mardi Gras!

The Book of Mermaids

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