I’m a champagne producer from Veneuil, France, the email reads. I’m starting out with my own champagne, and I would like you to help me tell my story.
It’s the email of the month. The year possibly. Who DOESN’T want to help craft the story of a champagne producer and his wine?
It gets better: I’m doing things differently, he says. I don’t force and tamper. I give the wine time to tell its story. The story of its land. Of limestone and chalk. Of rolling hills plunging into the river Marne. Of long, mild summer days, crisp winters and misty fall mornings, of growers who respect the land and have cared for it for generations.
Champagne is my calling, he says. The thing that keeps me up at night.
And me, I’m inspired by his passion. His unwavering dedication, drive and commitment. His courage and creativity.
A year later. We met in Paris and in San Francisco. We crafted his story and created his brand and built his website. We kicked off Social Media. We’re plotting, planning and conspiring for the future. Over our shared love for it all, we’ve become friends. And of all of the things, that is of course my favorite one.
Take a look at the live site here : http://www.CourDesLys.com
We just went live with my client Whitney Greer’s new website. She’s a media- and presentation coach, meaning she trains her clients to get in front of an audience, own that stage and kill that presentation.
I knew she was good, but it wasn’t until we filmed this video for her landing page, that I understood how good she is. She showed up ready. She took that stage and delivered her pitch with presence and confidence and ease. Light-hearted and calm. Effortless and unafraid to just nail it. To me, deadly afraid of, and frozen solid in, any kind of spotlight, it was an awe-inspiring experience.
Re-position, re-focus and re-brand my client Whitney Greer’s communications agency, RebelMind, and bring it all to life with a new website.
We start from scratch. We evaluate Whitney’s career successes and her strengths, and discuss what parts of her work have made her feel creative, alive and accomplished. We discuss the market: Her past- and potential future clients, services needed and demanded by them, messages that will speak to them, and ways to reach them. With this work complete, we know what she wants to offer; we have a market-oriented, success-, talent- and passion-driven service portfolio. As a result of this work, we can see so clearly that the slogan comes easy: Your mic-drop moment. The website structure comes easy as well. We define what pages we need, and the message, purpose, content and navigation label for each. Next the fun part. We spend a day at my computer finding textures, pictures and colors and defining design parameters, and tie it all into a cohesive visual identity that describes Whitney as a coach.
Take a look at the live site here: http://GetRebelMind.com I think it turned out as brave and bad-ass as she is.
The California Coast, my old Mercedes Station Wagon, a fire, and my whole, entire heart.
Aparna Dandekaar is a board-certified family physician and a certified Ayurveda wellness practitioner. Integrating the strengths of both healing modalities is what sets her apart.
After our initial meeting, we come to this set of guidelines for the new Three Rivers Ayurveda website: A clean, modern design, seamlessly integrating elements of traditional India. A blend of West and East, created for a health- and lifestyle-conscious, inquisitive, educated, affluent Bay Area audience. Inspiring. Positive. Bright. A healing atmosphere. Playful, subtle education. Minimal, laser-focused writing. Easy, guided content presentation and -navigation. Clear structure. Downloadable patient forms, FAQs, and a blog for Aparna to run all on her own after launch.
Take a look at the site? http://ThreeRiversAyurveda.com
A website launch with no story, because there is no time to even think about writing one. Just go see for yourself the new home of a coconut yogurt that truly has no equal.
Re-create —in a virtual, two-dimensional space— the “CircumNavigators” art installation exhibited at the Flora Lamson Hewlett Library in Berkeley, California. Use a compass to present the art, inspire exploration, invite the visitor on a journey, re-create the atmosphere of the exhibition and the vision of the two artists.
A compass. An intro animation. Interactive spinning. Photography edits. Landing page done. Then, my favorite part of this project: Three magical days of co-creating. Christel, Danae, Jill and I. We sit in front of my computer and tell the story of each piece. A feeling, a word, a motion, an intuition, a sound, a color, a memory. White space to let the art speak. Typography. Simplicity. Inspiration. When our journey is complete, we launch the site.
Frank comes home from a long week of corporating and I ask him can you help me with a video shoot on the weekend and he just drives me around town all Saturday and rents me a trailer and loads it for me and the question if I deserve all of it doesn’t even cross his mind while it’s the prominent and permanent one on mine.
And on Sunday I hand him a camera and I ask: Can you film like this. Handheld and lots of rack-focusing and shallow depth of field. And he says I don’t know but I can try. And on Monday, I check his footage and I laugh. Cause it’s all handheld and lots of rack-focusing and shallow depth of field. And then it’s so much more than that and I just feel helplessly overwhelmed with awe and gratitude.
And my friend Laura. I text her, can you be my model. It’s a video shoot and it’s kind of totally last minute. And she replies immediately. When should I be where and don’t you worry and I’ll get a hand treatment. And then this: Oh, I am so excited. And she shows up and just gets to work and carries me.
What is it with this beautiful world? Seriously: How is it this kind and beautiful and this full of love?
Here is a little trailer:
Really, what does it mean? Telling a story with a picture, a video, a paragraph of text, a website?
The difference is feelings. Touching hearts. The recognition of humanness: I am part of this and this is part of me. I get it! Or: They get me! Energy. Imagination. Feeling connected and less alone. Braver, maybe. Part of something bigger.
Authenticity, imperfection. Genuine, unstaged and unscripted. Moments. Messy and real and human and honest. Soul. That’s the difference. Created from a place of truth and courage. And people can’t help but recognize it and be drawn to it.
There are two donut shops on my way to work. Both have a signpost. One reads: Berkeley’s best donuts. The other one: Donuts: The juiciest sin of your day.
It’s a pair of worn, aged, muddy work boots next to a pair of tiny pink ballerina flats standing by the entrance door. It’s a tray of cookies fresh from the oven, one missing, and a little hand sneaking in… The genuine emotion of a moment versus the empty smile in a posed portrait.
The Patagonia mission statement: “Committed to Uncommon Culture. We prefer the human scale to the corporate, vagabonding to tourism, the quirky and lively to the toned-down and flattened out.”
(Comparison. The Exxon Mobile mission statement reads: “Continuously achieve superior financial and operating results while adhering to the highest standards of busin…”) Did you fall asleep? Yeah. Me too.
The opposite of storytelling: Unsurprising, uninspired, unimaginative. Empty. Expected. Playing it safe. Business jargon. Perfection, sterility, façade, machine-made, conformism.
It’s why I’m so certain that we need stories: They help us remember that we are human. That we’re in this together. And that we’re so much more alike than we are different.
Lately, I’ve been spending a lot of time making and taking pictures of food. I started because I needed to build my portfolio and then I got crazy passionate (=obsessed) about practicing and getting better.
The pictures below are my favorite ones from these past few months. A lot of the dishes are Vegan, all of them are dairy-free and gluten-free and made without refined sugar. Kind food. Made with love. Made to help us feel loved and made to help us heal. If you’re curious about the recipes, I posted a l lot of them on my Instagram feed. A few of them have also been published on The FeedFeed. Or just ask me and I will happily and proudly let you know how something was made.
And so, as I wrap up this chapter, I wish you this: I wish you food made with love and I wish you time to savor it. Most importantly, I wish you absolute certainty in knowing that you are worthy of both.
It’s been a labor of love: A storytelling website built for my client-turned-friend Natalia Barr and her (gluten-free, all-organic, low-glycemic, whole-foods) patisserie- and catering company “Barr Necessities.”
We started from scratch: Customer surveys, research, business soul-searching. The result: A (re)defined brand identity. Within this framework, the rest was easy. And so much fun: Lots of baking and almost as much eating, a two-day photo shoot with champagne and music, texts and emails full of ideas and love and inspiration, creative meetings fueled by coffee and laughter, a new logo, design iterations, writing, coding, launching.
And here is the new site. We went for a simple, clean and focused structure. A rustic and natural feel; hand-made, craftsmanship. Chic. A little playful and a touch of vintage. The site is optimized for speed, for all screen sizes and browsers and for Search Engines. Most importantly though, it’s optimized for people. The guiding light throughout was to create a site people could love. Delight and inspiration and smiles.
Go check it out. We’re both so proud of it: http://www.Barr-Necessities.com
Do you get stuck when you take pictures, because the photo doesn’t look as amazing as you would like it to? I do. All the time. To figure out what I need to change, I go through a checklist in my head. I thought I’d share that list with you, hoping it gives you a system for analyzing your pictures and figuring out what aspects need more work.
Photography starts with seeing. When we can see the beauty of an object, a scene or a person, we’re half-way there. Conversely, if we try to take a picture of something that we can’t see the beauty of, taking an amazing picture is somewhere between difficult and impossible. So: We have to see beauty first.
Shapes, arrangement, angles, scale, proportions, distribution, crop. Camera position, camera angle, focal length, focal point, depth of field, motion blur. Textures. Background to object/subject ratio. Background to object/subject contrast.
Tonal range, gradient, complementary colors, color ratio, color pattern, interrupting color, dominant color, color blocks, color chaos, black and white.
Number of light sources, daylight or studio light, number and position of reflectors/flashes, light temperature, light intensity, light direction, contrast, highlight intensity, shadow intensity, exposure.
Soul, human-ness, authenticity, imperfection, history, association/reference, a wink, a hidden smile, inspiration, emotion.
Adjusting exposure, contrast, saturation and individual colors to communicate a specific mood.
I could work on this list for weeks and it would still get more exhaustive and cohesive, but I think it’s a good start. I would absolutely LOVE to hear what you would add, challenge or change. Please let me know if something needs more explanation, too.
Wishing you good light, always.