Credo (Latin for Believe) is both a place to share ideas and a call to action.

What happens when trying to help someone totally backfires.

A few years ago I met a small business owner. The owner had a great business, good staff and a product that was very unique and high quality. It was clear that the owner had invested a tremendous amount of time and capital but after several years the business was still unprofitable.

“Let me help you.” That was my response. After all, I am a small business owner and happen to own a branding agency. Peace of cake I said to myself.

Another year passed and the owner offers me a deal. “How about we work in trade?” I think “cool, I love the product and it’s ridiculously expensive, so free is good.”

Things started off great, but over the course of a year the relationship began to go south. The client wants to part ways and would love it if would just tear her invoice up. (Note: we agreed to trade, so there is no cash involved) It was very hurtful to to be dismissed so easily after a year’s worth of hard work, creativity and so on.

The bigger issue for me is why did I take this client on? I really felt like I could help, but in the end it’s a total waste of time. The client doesn’t like the work, which is silly when you look at what they have.

I’m a fan of the scrappy startup, the entrepreneur who is willing to take risks. I love to see the underdog win. My intentions were pure but my decision making process was deeply flawed.

Here is where I went wrong. I have a few rules when it comes to taking on a new client.

This is important:

  • HDco works best with companies and non-profits that have a dedicated marketing person, preferably a CMO or Director of Marketing. The more experience the better. We speak the same language, they have a budget that they have to spend and so forth.

  • The client needs a marketing plan, even a simple one. If not, that’s step 1 before we design or video or animate anything.

  • We seek out clients who want extraordinary work and have the resources to execute ideas.

  • We prefer marketing premium brands. Target over Walmart. Or better yet Neiman Marcus. ;-)

The client did not meet any of these requirements. And yet I agreed to work with them anyways because it would be a special, interesting project. A weak justification. I would have been so much better off just writing a check and walking out the door.

Think about all the wasted time I could have spent building my business or working on meaningful pro-bono work. As creative people, time is our inventory, once the hour has depleted, you will never get it back.

This is not the first time this has happened. It happens every 2 or 3 years. I scratch my head move on but don’t seem to learn the lesson.

So I will spend a few hours writing this so you will not make the same mistake. Let me be straight about this. I’m not saying don’t help people! But who you help and why is an important consideration. Don’t take on a project simply because it makes you feel good or because you are getting “free” stuff. It has to make sense from a business perspective and both parties need to mutually benefit from the relationship.

I would ask myself or a trusted confidant the following questions:

  1. Can I really help this person or organization? Do I have the capacity to take on this project right now?

  2. Does the client have the capacity and knowledge to engage? Do they show a pattern consistent communication and follow through?

  3. Is there an opportunity to do something exceptional here? Will you have creative license to do the best work possible? To create work you are proud of?

  4. What is the best way to help this person with my skill set? Maybe it’s just consultation or a limited engagement. You don’t have to be a savior.

  5. Have I been clear about my expectations (deliverables, compensation, schedule, roles, what the client is expected to do?)

If you can’t answer yes to these questions, take a step back and reconsider the project. It’s better to walk away because the perfect match could be waiting for you.

I’m sure I’m not the first person to have an experience like this. Would love to hear your story in the comments.

5 ways to improve your emails

Start with better email titles.

  1. Good titles make searching for and finding emails easier.
  2. Titles should be informative, not pithy.
  3. Be sure to include the client, project, date and version.
  4. If there are immediate action items, state them in the subject.
  5. Try to avoid starting a new email thread. It’s okay to hit reply and just change or update the subject of an email.

Examples of bad titles. These titles don’t tell us anything about the subject, date, priority or action item.

You won’t believe this! :-(

Video updates

This is too funny.

RE: has sent you a file

Here is a good title. Tells me everything I need to know without opening the email.

GLM 2013 Hong Kong update: Client has 3 revisions due by EOD today (Jan 4) – gulp!

Little changes like this go a long way towards improving clarity and response in our business communications.

Email Etiquette

Came across this great article from Adam Grant on some basic email etiquette.


The BBQ Bible and Happiness from the Skies

Skip to 1:11 to see the most amazing cookbook I have ever seen. A heartwarming video from Coke. Getting’ misty.

HDco Couch Sessions 001 // Carl Smith

HDco Couch Sessions 001 Carl Smith from Jeffrey D Harrington on Vimeo.

Carl Smith of nGenWorks joins us on the couch for a conversation about the JellyFish Model.

How to say no to pro-bono work without losing face.

As a branding agency owner, I have been asked by dozens of friends either working for or with not-for-profit organizations to help with their marketing. At first, frankly, I was flattered that someone would want my work to grace their organization’s letterhead or website or business card or event poster or invitation or…..I’m sure you get the picture.

After a while though, there was real resentment growing in me anytime I saw their number show up on my caller ID. The cynic in me just knew they were calling for another freebie.

A colleague of mine, Rockwell Morris, enlightened me about a term called “donor creep.” It is rise in requests from a charity seeking free or steeply discounted work. Before long I even started receiving requests from other charities who had seen or heard what a great job I did for so and so and wanted me to help with their free project!

Don’t get me wrong. I really believed in what these organizations were doing. They each, respectively, provided a much needed service in our community and went a long way to positively changing lives.

I could have declined the requests but I didn’t want to appear as a scrooge and I suppose I envisioned my free work for them would eventually lead to paid jobs. I simply had not learned how to say no. A few years ago, however, I instituted a policy for my firm that proved to not only preserve respect and dignity for the charity and my firm but it also relieved some pressure and allowed my pro-bono work to have more impact.

Here are the steps I took:

  • To simplify matters for you and your firm, identify one organization you are partnering with to provide services and establish a time frame. For instance, you may want to commit one year to a particular charity. This also has the benefit of allowing you to perform a dive deep into the organization’s marketing, operations and so forth.
  • Be very selective about to whom you “hitch your wagon”. In other words, make sure the organization shares your same values or is not embroiled in some controversy. You could find yourself and your company enduring some unwanted advertising.
  • Evaluate the organization’s operations and donor base. You want your valued work to build a sustainable charity with vision and means, not saving a sinking ship.

When other organizations call with requests for services, simply tell them you have committed your pro bono time for this year to (insert name of charity). This demonstrates your firm’s commitment to assist charitable organizations and articulates an established policy. You may allow them to submit an application for next year’s coveted slot.

These steps may not totally eliminate all your anxiety when confronted to donate services to a charitable organization. But the respect you earn from saying no in the right way will maintain your dignity and reputation.

What ways have you found work best when dealing with charitable organizations? Click here to jump to the comment page.

Google Glass: A fourth screen?

The driving question I have about Google Glass. Will it be rude to wear them indoors, or will you be all like. It’s Google Glass, I’m not really that pretentious.

So will this become the next screen…A key part of our life or will these sit in the glove box like our bluetooth headsets and wristbands?

A Golden Evening with Jim Bailey and Character Counts

Florence Haridan, Executive Director of Character Counts in Jacksonville, commissioned HDco to produce a short film about Jim Bailey,  President of Bailey Publishing and Mayoral Candidate.

Director of Photography and Editor: Jeffrey D Harrington

Motion Graphics Editor: Stephanie Soden

Stephanie Speaks at SCAD

On Thursday, October 18th, HDco’s Stephanie Soden and her other half, Jim Ward of Native Sun visited the Savannah College of Art and Design’s AIGA student group. The AIGA SCAD student group is one of the largest student chapters in the country, boasting over 400 followers on Facebook and enough programming power to orchestrate frequent speaker events and even conferences.

Students were in attendance from a wide variety of years and disciplines. Designers, animators, comic drawers, and web developers gathered to hear more about AIGA, and its importance in the graphic arts community. Stephanie and Jim spoke on the importance of having networks like AIGA, and how to get more involved. While speaking about the beneficial aspects of AIGA from a networking standpoint, Stephanie told the story of how she met Jeffrey Harrington at an AIGA Jacksonville event, and was later hired after several more AIGA encounters.

This organization is not only beneficial from a design education standpoint, but for the life-changing connections its events can offer. Stephanie’s story isn’t the first, and certainly won’t be the last. Especially after so many students seemed interested in getting more involved!

We’ll look forward to seeing them at upcoming AIGA events and future school visits.

Here’s an idea. Let’s use our design superpowers to help people make good choices.

Came across this Fast Company article authored Rob Girling by via LinkedIn. It discusses how nueroscience is showing that the power of design can be used to help people make positive life choices, such as becoming an organ donor. It’s a heady read, but a good one.


A Show Called Pecha Kucha

On the fourth day since I moved to Jacksonville, I sat in my car outside of a bar called Kickbacks and hyperventilated. I had relocated just months after the start of the recession to a place where I knew no one and had no job. But that night I was hoping to change that.

It was a “Cocktails & Creatives” event put on by AIGA Jacksonville (The Professional Association for Design), and I sucked down my fear long enough to go in there and meet some people. Among them was my future employer, Jeff, who instantly recognized my goofy smile from my self-promotional book, featuring a photo of me smiling goofily in the inside cover.

That night I also met Tiffany Manning and Kellie Osgood, who invited me to participate in a speaking event I couldn’t quite pronounce, but sounded fun enough to agree. The event was called Pecha Kucha (puh-cha-ch-kuh), and it was the Jacksonville chapter of a global event held in over 400 cities. Speakers are invited to share any subject they like, the only catch being they have to do so in 20 slides that last 20 minutes each. After more hyperventilating in the bathroom I gave a talk on my passion for drawing comics, having no idea that somewhere in the crowd was Jeff.

So months passed. I got my dream job (at HDco, if you’re wondering). And I was sad to hear that after a few more shows, Pecha Kucha Jacksonville had been discontinued. It wasn’t until at another Cocktails & Creatives event that I met Justice Kragiel, who shared a similar passion for reigniting this quirky little speaking event.

We teamed up with Tiffany Manning to bring Pecha Kucha to the 5 Points Theatre, where it thrived more than we could have ever hoped. Speakers were invited to talk about the history of Jacksonville, intimate photography projects, the Jacksonville roller derby girls, weird diets, adventures in the wilderness, adventures being shipwrecked, beards, beer. Biking, neuroscientists, robots, coupons, and art initiatives.

The first event we put on at the 5 Points Theatre was Pecha Kucha volume 7 on January 19, 2010. Just this week Pecha Kucha volume 17 was held at Intuition Ale Works. I just couldn’t have been more proud to say it was my tenth show, nor more confident in the future of this event. After two years being a coordinator and a lot of great times, I’m passing the torch to Tommy Hobin, who is a past presenter and expert people person.

When I think back to my Pecha Kucha presentation, when I opened with: “A lot of you may not know me because, well, I haven’t been around very long. This is my third week in town.” I think of all the things Pecha Kucha has given me. More courage to speak in public. The experience of planning my first event. A memorable introduction into a new community. A job that I love. Friends that I love. And the opportunity to meet new people.

The best part of this event was and is the people.

So this coming March, I encourage you to join me in the crowd for this delightfully strange event, and support Tommy as he ushers in a new era for Pecha Kucha Jacksonville. And if you have the courage to stop hyperventilating, maybe you’ll even participate in the show.

Until next time!

~ Stephanie Soden, Brand Designer at HDco

Steak is funny.

A.1. ‘Consciously Uncouples’ from Steak in New Ad

The Sauce Decides Its Time for Some New Partners in New Spot out of CP+B