Notes and news, insights and inspiration from the autonomous collective mind of GS.

Posts in GS

1

Stock Mindset (SM™)

Nicholas Krueger by on October 24, 2013

ThickStock photoUsing stock art is a reality that we designers have learned to live with. Photo of a middle-age bearded man? Done. Illustration of robot working at PreCrime? Yes, please. Stock art is fast, accessible, and cheap. The downside? Limited creative control over things like composition, style, quality, and even subject matter. Ever found exactly the right photo from a stock search? I haven’t. Seriously. Not once. 

In Web design, this stock mindset (SM™) has crept into another area … design itself. I’ve known about sites like Template Monster for a while. But in recent years, more user-friendly services like Squarespace have arrived. With Squarespace, you can customize a legitimately well-designed template with your own content right in the browser. You don’t even have to know how to spell “div”! 

Then there’s Wordpress, a blog publishing platform that can be used as a framework to build websites. An advantage of Wordpress is that it’s open source, with a large community of developers contributing plugins and themes (design templates) for copious use. The catch is, unlike Squarespace, you have to know what you’re doing. Hint: If you don’t know what “server-side include” means, you don’t know what you’re doing.*

Theme on

Our team recently used Wordpress themes (from ThemeForest) to build a handful of sites for clients on tight budgets. It seemed like a good idea: We could minimize design and development time, and deliver a fully content-managed, responsive website for a fraction of what it would cost to build one from the ground up. Win! Unfortunately, that didn’t prove to be reality.

When looking for themes, we narrowed our search to include only responsive layouts. We weren’t surprised to find a huge range of quality and features. What did surprise us were some of the design limitations that were only apparent after we purchased and installed the theme. Here’s an actual (super accurate) conversation:

Eric: Nick, you can’t add a column to the footer like that.

Me: [blank stare]

Eric: Let me rephrase. We can add the extra column, but with this theme it would be relatively time-consuming. I think it would be more efficient to change your design to conform to the theme.

Me: [blank stare]

Eric: ... I’m just gonna go ahead and NOT build in the extra column.

Me: [blank stare]

We ran into stuff like that throughout the process. And it became clear that themes, while flexible in some ways, are meant to be used as is. If you customize too much, you pile on extra development costs. For us, that was unacceptable. After all, we were using a stock design to save money.

Strangely, on a completely different project with a different theme, we were able to customize the footer fairly easily. It was glorious. Then this happened:

Eric: The flyout menus you designed will take a while to build.

Me: But I thought this theme was easier to customize.

Eric: The footer is. Not the main nav. The template layout doesn’t allow for any more elements because of the fixed width of the container div. We’d have to recode the entire template.

Me: [flip conference room table]

Themes are cheap for a reason. Designers who make and sell them are banking on volume, hopefully selling enough copies to offset the cost of development. Which means every theme is a one-size-fits-all solution. SM™ strikes again.

Fine for some

GS is a strategic agency. We deliver thoughtful, bespoke, from-the-ground-up solutions built on strategic foundations. Working with a stock design template required a lot of creative compromises, and sometimes we weren’t willing to have those trade-offs. That led to time-sucking modifications to a code base intended for out-of-the-box usage.

That said, themes (or services like Squarespace) might be appropriate in certain instances: with clients who lack the budget for an agency partner or projects where an out-of-the-box design solution does, in fact, pay off the strategy. But if a client tells an agency to use a Wordpress theme because they want agency-level smarts at a discount price, beware! You can’t just uncouple strategy from design like that.

We designers have learned to live with stock art. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t push to create original content whenever possible. And for agencies built to create original and strategic solutions, there really is a business case to avoid stock design.

 

 

*Wordpress does offer a fully hosted website creation service similar to Squarespace. But for purposes of this post, I’m focusing on the self-hosted DIY version. Here’s a comparison between the two: http://en.support.wordpress.com/com-vs-org/

 

 

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1

Failure is Not an Option … It’s a Necessity.

Steve Radtke by on September 12, 2013

Mythbuster and maker Adam Savage recently posted his Top 10 Rules for Success.

One of his tips in particular struck a chord with me:

9. FAIL.

You will fail. It’s one of our jobs in life. Keep failing. When you fail, admit it. When you don’t, don't get cocky. ’Cause you’re just about to fail again.

Often in life – especially professional life – we fear failure more than anything else. We believe we must always look like we’re on top of our game. We worry how others will judge us if it looks like we’re wrong about something.

When you’re talking about the creative process, failure becomes priceless. If you’re not failing early in the creative process, you’re probably not trying hard enough. It’s one of the reasons creativity takes time. There’s a necessary period, early in the creative problem-solving process, where creative people need to believe it’s okay to try some stuff that might just be completely wrong. If you don’t go through this phase, or if you rush past it, you’re bound to produce safe, expected solutions.

I sometimes see a real allergy to this risk in fresh creatives as they enter the workforce. Why? They’re new, young, and really want to prove their worth. They don’t want to fail in front of their new bosses. They fear they’ll look like they don’t know what they’re doing.

And if you have a creative environment that doesn’t value failure, or, worse, vilifies it, you have a creative environment that’s not delivering the best product. Our clients actually want us to fail. They just don’t know it.

Failing is actually a byproduct of excellence. Like a sculptor who chips and whittles away at a piece of marble to reveal a statue inside. The chips of marble lying on the floor are not his failures; they’re the things he had to work through to produce great work.

Mr. Savage goes on to state, "Failing is one of our jobs in life". It's normal. Those who worry too much about how they’ll look if they fail rarely need to worry about how success will look on them either.

I also love his reminder to not get cocky when we do succeed. It’s easy to think that once we reach some level of competency or seniority in our careers that we’re done failing. Or worse, failure is no longer acceptable because we would look inexperienced or weak. A key difference between a seasoned veteran and someone at the beginning of their career is that the veteran knows how to use his failures. He uses it like a judo master uses the energy of his opponent’s strike to throw him down. Failure can be a great proponent in the right direction if you know how to harness it.

I’ve failed more than I care to admit. And when it happens it never feels like a learning moment. It always feels bad. So we avoid it.

Do not avoid it. Seek it out. Because you’re about to fail again.

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We’re Go for Launch

Steve Radtke by on June 9, 2013

Every person who enters the GS offices must do the same thing: walk directly underneath the 23-foot silver and orange rocket that hangs in our lobby. The GS Rocket is pretty hard to ignore. Over the years, it has become a sort of mascot for our company. But where did it come from? Gather ’round kids ...

Back in 2004, the entire company (all 14 of us at the time) took off work one day and boarded a bus for a “junk run.” The goal: to buy a large art piece for our lobby – something to give it some character. Heading north up the Interstate for an hour or so, our excursion led us to M. Schettl Sales, a cool art/salvage yard near Oshkosh, Wisconsin: http://www.roadsideamerica.com/tip/1812. Here we found multiple pole-barns full of weird, eclectic items and fields of potential pieces. 

But what caught our eye was a rusty hull. Stacked on a metal rack was a “drop tank” from a Vietnam-era F-15 fighter jet. Two of them, actually. Not at all what we thought we would buy. It wasn’t very interesting or creative as is. And we weren’t exactly sure what to do with it. But we knew we wanted it. It had ... potential.

A week later, the old fuel tank sat in the GS offices. After a few false starts (could it be a military weapon? giant cigar? mega-carrot?), it was re-imagined as the body of a Buck Rogers-era rocketship. With the help of some local fabricators, it was transformed into a clean, silver, gleaming vessel, complete with sweeping orange fins and a soft green glow emanating from its new portholes. A fun, bold, optimistic symbol of exploration. And it tied into our atomic-age logo nicely.

Hanging it in its new home proved to be a challenge. Armed with aircraft cable and various fittings from the hardware store, we hoisted it into place. We probably should have hired a professional. It almost crashed to the floor a couple times. People could have died. It looked best hung nose-down ... and pointed directly at our receptionist’s head – nothing personal.

Today, the GS Rocket is an important symbol of GS. It’s not part of our brand standards. You won’t find a rocket on our business cards, website, or presentations. But it IS part of an “inner circle” level of our brand. When we launch a website, we gift our clients a pewter rocket. When you tour GS, you get a rocket-themed shirt. Rocket “touches” can be found throughout GS.

It’s a character piece that sets the tone for our personality and our sense of adventure. Now let’s get out there and explore!

 

 

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2

A Joyful Harbinger of Doom

Steve Radtke by on December 6, 2012

GS Design Mayan Advent Calendar - Close Up

GS has a long history of helping our clients celebrate the under-celebrated holidays with our much-loved annual Holiday Promo.

This year is our last Holiday Promo … ever.

Behold, the Mayan Advent Calendar.

GS Design Mayan Advent Calendar

While it’s futile to resist the rapidly approaching apocalypse, we felt it our duty to help people live out their final days with a unique lack of dignity and faux preparedness. Each tiny door holds a virtual bunker of instruction and wisdom. 

If you’ve received this in the mail from GS, please open the correct door each day through December 21 and follow the instruction implicitly. If you haven’t received this, it’s quite possible we don’t believe you’re worth trying to save. Perhaps you could check out an episode of Doomsday Preppers for some last-minute tips.

Regardless, it’s all for naught. This promo is certainly a fool’s journey toward global annihilation.

Happy Holiday. It’s been nice knowing you.

GS Mayan Advent Calendar - Close Up

GS Mayan Advent Calendar - Close Up

GS Mayan Advent Calendar - December 21st, 2012

GS Mayan Advent Calendar - Cyanide pill

GS Design Mayan Advent Calendar - Replace Arms with Chainsaws

GS Design Mayan Advent Calendar - Close Up

GS Design Mayan Advent Calendar - That hot coworker? Now or never.

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GS at the Milwaukee 99

Chris Krasovich by on September 27, 2012

Milwaukee 99 Bronze Nut

Last week, GSers had a great time attending the 2012 United Adworkers Milwaukee 99 Awards. The event, honoring 99 of the most talented ad folks and agencies in Milwaukee, was (as always) packed full of the best and brightest minds in town. Winners, judged by top creatives around the country, are recognized in categories like advertising, collateral, self promotion, environmental design, and animation, and we’re happy to say that we’re among them!

GS was recognized with a Merit Award in Self Promotion for our 25th Anniversary Party Invitation and with a Bronze in Self Promotion for our GS Workbooks.

In addition, this year’s event marked the debut of the Wisconsin Advertising Hall of Fame. We celebrated the three inaugural inductees:

 

  • Paul Counsell – former CEO and chairman of Cramer-Krasselt
  • William Eisner, Sr. – founder of William F. Eisner & Associates
  • Dennis Frankenberry – co-founder of Frankenberry, Laughlin & Constable

 

Thanks to the United Adworkers for the honor of being recognized and for hosting the event!

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Photographer as Designer

Chris Krasovich by on September 13, 2012

photo by Mark Brautigam

The creative team at GS is influenced by a wide variety of personal passions and interests. And for art director and lauded photographer Mark Brautigam, his work and his personal passion intersect in a way that brings his creative to a whole new level. I recently sat down with Mark to find out how he thinks the photographer’s eye influences and enhances everyday creative execution. If you’re interested in seeing more of Mark’s photography, head over to his Website or to the Milwaukee Art Museum, where his piece Eau Claire River, Wausau (featured above) is a part of the permanent collection.

 

How/when did you get interested in photography?
I started doing photography pretty seriously when I was stationed in California in the Marine Corps. California was such a new and interesting place to me, and traveling around the state with a camera was a fun way to explore it.

How would you describe your photographic style, and how it has developed over the years?
My work lives pretty solidly in the fine art documentary realm. This has a lot to do with the photographers whose work piqued my interest in the first place (see below). I definitely take my time when I photograph, and I think this shows. The pictures I make are usually pretty quiet, but they have an element within them that forces the viewer to stop, reevaluate what they’re looking at, and (hopefully!) connect with the image in a meaningful way.

How did you learn your “trade”?
I never took any classes so I’m pretty much self-taught. There really isn’t anything you can’t find out online, through magazines, and by talking to other photographers.

Who has influenced you?
My biggest influences were the American photographers who worked in a fine art documentary fashion and championed the use of color in photography. Joel Sternfeld, Stephen Shore, Mitch Epstein, William Eggleston, and Richard Misrach to name a few. What drew me in was that what they were photographing wasn’t necessarily spectacular or exotic. It was largely drawn from the everyday. But whether it was a bit of humor in the subject matter, an unexpected pose, or an elegant depiction of a scene that most people wouldn’t normally pay attention to, they made the everyday intriguing.

Do you have a dream shoot/location that you would love to hit someday?
That would have to be Italy. But I’m not so sure my motivations would be purely photographic.

How does your photography work intersect with/enhance/shape your work as a designer?
Photographic imagery is a huge tool in the design tool kit, and designers/art directors/creative directors need to know that language. It’s inseparable from what we do as designers. Personally, being interested in photography, the history of it, and current trends just gives me a bigger well to draw from.

What would you say original photography can bring to design projects?
Original photography often separates the mediocre from the amazing. It’s all about the big idea, engaging the viewer, and driving home the message. There are a lot of points along the way where those elements can go off track. Having control over the photography is a pretty big step in corralling all those elements to make a great piece.

Do you have any words of wisdom to offer someone aspiring to become a photographer?
The best thing you can do is look at a ton of photographs, and try to find out how and WHY the photographers made them. But more importantly, just go out there and do it. And know this: You will make hundreds or thousands of horrible pictures in the process. I have boxes and boxes of negatives to prove that.

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Advice From a Successful App Developer

Chris Krasovich by on August 23, 2012

At GS we’re lucky to have employees with wide and varied personal interests. For example, did you know that we have a beekeeper on staff? Or a major golf aficionado? We do! And sometimes those personal interests intersect beautifully with the work we do at GS, serving to amplify our client offerings in new and exciting ways. Kirill Edelman is a perfect example of the kind of employee with interests that improve our work. He has a passion for apps and has developed several of his own: Super Durak, Overdub, and Artifact, now selling through the Apple App Store. We thought it would be interesting to pick Kirill’s brain and get his input on some of the trials, tribulations, opportunites, and pitfalls associated with app development. Here are the results. If you have any additional questions for Kirill, please leave them in the comments.

Kirill's Apps

What made you get into iPhone app development?

I think the point where I decided to start learning about making apps was Apple’s announcement that they weren’t going to support Flash on their mobile devices. As a seasoned Flash developer I was outraged and headed to AT&T to get an iPhone right away to see what they were all about. I was hooked from there.

For me, the most appealing aspect of app development is the quick production pipeline – you can submit an app and have it in the store within a week, making money. There are some hoops to jump through, but Apple keeps making it more and more accessible and easier to work with.

How did you come up with the idea(s) for your apps?

I find inspiration in frustration: when I want to do something with my phone but can’t find an app for it. For instance, like any other aspiring bathroom singer I also sing in the car. Sometimes original beats or ideas for a melody come to me, and I have no way to capture them apart from recording the sound of my voice with my phone. I couldn’t find an app that would also let me overlay voice “drums” and voice “base” on top of my recording. That’s how the idea for Overdub was born.

How long did it take for you to get your first app from idea to the App Store?

My first app took a few months to build and had a pretty steep learning curve for me. I brainstormed my user interface on paper and made a lot of mistakes, but apparently the app itself fills a particular niche of amateur musicians, as it became pretty popular with practically no marketing effort on my part. I even made it to the “DJ and Producer Apps” featured list in the App Store.

What was it like when you sold your first app?

I couldn’t believe that someone would actually pay for something I made, but apparently there are a bunch of people out there who find my app useful enough to give me money! Mind blown.

What advice would you give to a new app developer?

Save money on books; there are plenty of free tutorials online.

If an app you’re making isn’t an original idea, you’d better have one hell of a marketing department to promote it.

Users have no interest in reading your instructions. Ideally, your app shouldn’t require much in the way of explanation; people should just “get it” right away.

It’s really hard for a small developer to get an app critiqued on app review sites. If you have some connections, or marketing muscle, use them. If not, use Twitter, make YouTube videos, make Facebook pages, lean on friends and relatives to spread the word, make a Website to go along with your product. The App Store alone doesn’t drive sales very well at all. The basic advice is: Plug your apps every way you can because it doesn’t matter how awesomely fantastic your app is if nobody knows about it.

To get featured in the App Store, implement a new feature from the next release of the iOS. For example: We’ll see a lot of PassKit apps featured when iOS 6 rolls out.

No more fart apps. Please. Make cool, smart, innovative stuff.

Design matters big time.

What are are the challenges of developing for the iPhone?

The nature of the device. An iPhone or iPad tends to introduce some interesting challenges into development. One of the recurring problems I’ve run into is the device’s lack of RAM. Unlike programming for the desktop, or for the Web, you have to be very conservative and careful with how much memory you’re using. iOS will unceremoniously crash your app after a single warning if you use up too much.

Another challenge is collecting crash reports. Typically when your app crashes on someone’s device (and it will crash all the time, trust me on this), you won’t get any error logs or anything to help you debug. Luckily now there are some third party services that help you collect this information.

What advice would you give to companies looking for the right app development agency?

Look for a company with diverse digital talent. Making an app is a bit like making a Website – you'll need designers, application developers, managers, and copywriters. A good-looking Web portfolio will probably translate well into a good-looking app.

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Use The Force

Steve Radtke by on July 5, 2012

SofPull Towel DispenserA couple of months ago GS replaced the paper towel dispensers in the bathrooms. The old ones were those hands-free models that make you wave your hand in front of a sensor to dispense a sheet of paper towel. Problem was the batteries were constantly running out, forcing GSers to open up the machines to retrieve a piece of paper. Most of the machines were left cannibalized, looking like a half-eaten carcasses alongside the road.

The new ones have no sensors, no electronics, no batteries. You just pull down on the tuft of paper hanging off the bottom to retrieve a piece for your moist hands. How do I know to do this? Why, it says so on the front of the dispenser in big shouty all-caps.

PULL STRAIGHT DOWN

Here’s the thing: I’m going on 6 weeks of waving my hand in front of these non-responsive machines. I’m not sure what my subconscious is trying to do, but barring some midlife development of The Force, my waving isn’t going to be very successful.

This got me thinking about how hard our job as marketers can be. In the end, we’re little more than influencers. It’s up to the audience as to whether they can or will be influenced. And the behaviors we’re trying to change can be deeply embedded in tough-to-penetrate parts of their minds. Often a new brand, new messaging, or a new campaign is trying to change behavior. And quite often, no matter how clear we are – like the instructions on the towel dispenser – the audience isn’t getting the message or doesn’t want to hear it.

Sometimes it just takes time. Patterns of behavior are just that – patterns. A first hit of a campaign is likely to evoke little reaction. But consistent nudges can change responses. We regularly remind our clients to stick with an initiative – maybe longer than they have patience for. Just because they’re tired of running a particular campaign doesn’t mean the consumer is.

I’m sure eventually I’m going to stop waving at the paper towel dispensers. Or maybe I’ll start being more friendly to the toaster.

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The Museum That Roars

by Scott Kurtz on May 31, 2012

QUICK – What do you picture when you hear the words, “motorcycle museum”?

Do you think of a dusty warehouse somewhere with a bunch of bikes lined up like dominoes, just waiting for someone like Pee Wee Herman or perhaps an actual 7-year-old to tip one over and start a slow-motion chain reaction?

Or do you picture a gorgeous riverfront campus and a beautiful world-class facility – featuring interesting, informative, and interactive exhibits – that rivals some of the most famous museums in the world?

H-D Museum

If you’re not familiar with the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee, you might tend toward the former image. And that’s too bad. Because if you’ve ever seen it for yourself … well, you know what I’m talkin’ about!

Closing that “perception gap” was one of the challenges put in front of GS Design when we were asked to build a new Website for the Harley-Davidson Museum. The old one just didn’t quite convey what a magnificent place the Museum is. It didn’t give site visitors a good sense of the depth and richness of Harley-Davidson history; the overall quality of the Museum visitor experience; or how much the facility has to offer in terms of group tours, special activities, event venues, and more.

I like to think we met that challenge very well – and then some. The new site is beautiful, easy to navigate, and looks great on tablets. The quality of the imagery we had access to helped make sure of that. 

We also incorporated modern best-practice programming to ensure the site was as flexible, efficient, and easy to maintain as possible. Everything from minimal http requests to the use of Web fonts throughout the site was designed to keep the tech low-weight and the pages quick to load.

The reactions to the Website, like the H-D brand itself, have been legendary. I think our client Lucy Burke, H-D Museum’s eMarketing project manager, put it best:

“The new site is a work of art. What a great source of pride to be able to showcase our Museum in such a dramatic, artful, and functional way. The new site expands the Museum visitor experience to riders and non-riders, and serves as an enticing gateway to accessing and experiencing the H-D brand and the H-D Museum campus experience.”

But don’t take my – or Lucy’s – word for it. Check it out at h-d.com/museum. While you’re there, be sure to check out the “Visit” section … so you can plan your trip to the H-D Museum. And see for yourself why GS Design feels so honored to be associated with this amazing place.

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Wille G Davidson: Honoring a Legend

Chris Krasovich by on May 17, 2012

Thanks Willie!We’re always thrilled to be asked to work on the interesting projects that come to us from long-time client Harley-Davidson, but when a project is also an opportunity to pay tribute to a man of legendary status who has inspired legions and changed lives – even lives right here at GS – the project becomes something even bigger.

The Willie G. Davidson microsite was such a project.

Willie’s name is synonymous with the Motor Company, and as his role shifted and his incredible career in Styling ended, Harley-Davidson wanted to give riders around the globe a chance to express their appreciation to Willie G. directly. That’s where we came in. We were called on to create a microsite that would accept and display UGC and messages to Willie. The team worked efficiently and in a close, iterative fashion with the client, and created a site that allows users to engage with Willie G. in a truly special way. Messages from near and far have been coming in – and by far we’re talking locales like Bahrain, Brazil, Australia, Thailand, and more – with expressions of appreciation that are truly memorable.

We’ve had opportunity to add thank-you messages of our own, but really, for us, the whole project was one big thank you to the man and the client who has played such a large role in GS’s success.

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1

Chasing Amy

Chris Krasovich by on May 10, 2012

Amy Reid is GS Design’s very first employee – our project manager extraordinaire, high priestess of proofreading, goddess of grammar, and many other superlatives.

Amy Ried, no relation, is in an entirely different line of work altogether – a line of work that often requires her to be in the altogether. Let’s be frank: She’s a porn star.

One of these Amy’s is the object of many, many, many Internet searches. While we’d like to think this is because lots of folks are seeking our Amy’s advice on burning questions of subject-verb agreement, superior project scheduling and whatnot, we’re not delusional. It’s people looking for porn.

Ironically, people whose search engine entries could use a little proofing.

In the meantime, though, we owe the oodles of misguided Reid-for-Ried typists a word of thanks for making our GS site so popular. The “Amy effect,” as we call it, has proven to be a web traffic driver of Viagra-like potency.

To those of you who’ve landed on the GS website by mistake but actually could use help with branding, design, digital marketing – and proofreading – let’s talk! For the rest of you, no need to leave empty-handed.

Here’s a nice consolation prize.

 

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The Ability to Make A Difference

by Amie Abendroth on April 26, 2012

My very first blog post, I suppose it’s appropriate that it marks a significant point in my career. For the past six months or so I’ve had the pleasure of working on a project that has been truly fulfilling. I’m pretty passionate about my projects in general. I consider myself a “dedicated” project manager – but this, this project was different. I felt like I was doing something for the greater good. And I know that my fellow GS team members felt the same way.

Once you meet Damian Buchman you’ll be drawn into his story and his vision. You won’t be able to help it – everyone I’ve worked with on this project has stated, “As soon as I met Damian, I knew I had to be involved.” We are no exception.

Damian is a childhood cancer survivor, a one-in-a-billion survivor to be more specific. But that’s just a small piece of his story. He’s a visionary, whose passion for life and making a difference in the lives of others drives him.

Damian’s vision is “The Ability Center” (TAC), where everyone has the opportunity to play. Imagine a facility. Where no one is left on the sidelines. Where people with disabilities and the able-bodied public feel equally comfortable. Where “accessibility” is a part of the natural landscape. Where sport chairs share equal status with running shoes. Where the only stares are those of wonder and amazement. The Ability Center is just such a place.

Sounds incredible, right? We thought so. GS Design was approached by mutual friend and colleague Clay Feller. Damian and Clay explained that they were looking for GS to create a Website. The Website would need to tell the story, it would need to be authentic, and, of course, be highly accessible. It should be professional and beautiful, and set the foundation for what would likely be a multi-phased approach.

We jumped at the chance to work on this project. Our core team met and developed personas for each of our potential audiences – helping us define the best way to architect the site. User Experience Architect Jim Broennimann lead the charge as we identified the goals of the Website for phase one, before TAC is a reality, and then the goals for phase two, once TAC is built.

We worked very diligently to research not only the standards on accessibility but also strove to exceed those standards, similar to the way TAC will exceed the standards of accessibility once it’s built. The website features large type, high-contrast colors, and large clickable areas. Our designers, Nick Krueger and Andrea Zehnder, led by Creative Director Sean Donnelly, found the perfect balance of beauty and function.

It was developed on Drupal CMS as a low-cost and user-friendly solution for Damian to easily update his site going forward. We also were diligent not to include any “hidden text” and used Web fonts versus graphical fonts further ensuring accessibility. Developers Steven Schrab, Jeffrey Schrab, and Kirill Edelman are known at GS for their attention to detail and innovative technology solutions, and it shows.

We were also happy to have our Social Media Strategist Chris Krasovich help make some recommendations so that Damian could streamline his social media presence and drive traffic to his new site.

In addition, our design team also defined the photography style and GS photographer Mark Brautiguam took many of the photos of the board of directors, the story photos, and the photos of Damian right here in our GS studio.

Damian was by far one of the most prepared clients I’ve worked with. He had much of his content, articles, thoughts, and business information ready for us to work with. Mike, our writer, masterfully crafted those thoughts and content into engaging copy that tells a wonderful story on the Website.

The Ability Center Website was launched at an incredible event at the Hyatt in downtown Milwaukee on March 22, 2012. It was attended by more than 200 people who all share Damian’s vision and are working toward making TAC a reality. The GS team, including Jeff Prochnow, Sean Donnelly, Andrea Zehnder, Jim Broennimann, Mike Zimmerman, Jeffrey Schrab, Steven Schrab, and I, all attended. It was incredibly rewarding to hear the genuine gratitude from all of our new friends involved with TAC and to meet so many good, kind people. And, our very own graphic designer Andrea Zehnder volunteered her time outside of her busy work schedule to design a printed brochure that, similar to the Website, is an educational and inspirational piece that was handed out at the event.

I could go on and on about the project, the people, and the vision for The Ability Center, but instead it’s my great pleasure to invite you to check out The Ability Center Website. As a GSer, as a parent, as a person – I will tell you that this has been such an incredible learning experience and one that I’m really proud to have been involved in. I’m confident that once you read about Damian and TAC you’re going to understand exactly what I’m talking about. And maybe, hopefully, you’ll help to make it a reality too.

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GS Design on Real Milwaukee

Chris Krasovich by on April 19, 2012

It's been an eventful week at GS, in part due to a visit from the FOX 6 Real Milwaukee team. They hung out with us for a few hours on Wednesday to get an introduction to our agency from none other than Official Tour Guide and Partner, Jeff Prochnow. During their time on site, they received an introduction to the Chinooks brand we recently developed and the Chinooks mascot - he may not have an official name yet, but around GS we just call him Aaron. (Great job, Konkol! If you weren't a top-notch technology Director, we might think you had missed your calling.) Needless to say, it was a pretty good time. Thanks Real Milwaukee! You're welcome here any time.

 

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Hot and Tasty

by Lisa Burns-Groff on March 1, 2012

GS Design 2012 Chili Cook-off

GS recently hosted its second annual Chili Cook-off. The competition was fierce, with nearly one-third of the company throwing their culinary creations into the ring. Our esteemed judges (a.k.a. GS employees) had the enviable job of selecting the top-three chili recipes (all entries were anonymous).

Congratulations to the winners:

Third PlaceSteven Schrab, Senior Web Developer, with his vegetarian chili with optional meat garnish and amazing reserved Gouda cheese. He won the bronze medal, a beautiful German chef’s knife with sharpener, and a kitchen shears and ladle.

Second Place – Andre Malske, Senior User Experience Architect, with his delicious chicken chili with roasted corn salsa. He went home with the silver medal, a beautiful stainless steel pot and ladle.

First Place(drum roll, please …) Yours truly: Lisa Burns-Groff, Human Resources Manager/Office Manager, with my roasted poblano and sweet pepper chili with corn and diced avocado garnish. I swear this was not rigged! I’m the proud holder of the traveling Grand Champion trophy, which I will enjoy until next year’s champion is declared. I also received a $200 gift card to Bartolotta’s Harbor House (to experience the food of real chefs!)

GS Design 2012 Chili Cook-off Winners

GSers love any reason to compete … and eat! Stay tuned for the next company-wide competition. We’re thinking Pie Bake-off 2012 …

Any volunteers for guest judge?

GS Design 2012 Chili Cook-off judging

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Newbie

Cash Prochnow by on February 23, 2012

While still attending a very prestigious private school [H.H.C.*], I got this opportunity to intern at GS – it helps that the president of the school is a close friend and client of one of the GS owners (Jeff Prochnow). I will complete all of my schooling by the end of April, so at this point I’m still unclear as to what my future will hold. 

As the newbie, I’ve been told that one of my first assignments is to write a blog about what the GS experience is like so far. So here goes … 

This whole branding, design, digital stuff is extremely fast-paced. Kind of a dog-eat-dog world. I totally may be barking up the wrong tree with this agency thing, but it’s still early and I’m willing to give it a shot. I have to be honest, though: Between school and work, some days are really long … I could just curl up and dream life away.

But that’s all balanced with the positive. The Monday morning meetings are awesome, as the entire staff gets together and goes over all things GS. Plus there are usually tasty treats. Man, I get fired up! I’ve actually been told to settle down, but the excitement is infectious!

The best thing so far was being brought into the Harley-Davidson Museum account. I’ve really hit it off with the main contact, Lucy – LOVE her! She’s so kind. We’ve even taken a few walks together and have become best friends.

Not to brag or anything, but I’ve been told that I’m quite handsome, and since GS put my profile on its website I’ve gotten the most hits of anyone in the company. Must be my shiny black hair or the fur coat.

Anyhow, keep tracking me in future blog posts. Until then, bone appétit!

Cash Prochnow

* The Highlands Hunt Club

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1

Bad Luck Beware

Mike Zimmerman by on January 13, 2012

Pizza DemonIt’s a well-known and well-documented scientific fact that Friday the 13th is the day all the demons, bad juju, and evil gremlins conspire to bring curses and bad luck – and wreak general havoc – upon unsuspecting, innocent humans throughout the land. This phenomenon has been recognized at least as far back as the mid-19th Century – though the inherent and separate unluckiness of Friday the day and 13 the number date back much further still.

It’s a less well-known (and dubiously documented) scientific fact that the best defense against such otherworldly mischief makers is … pizza.

That’s why, since as far back as the early mid-late 20th Century, GS Design has marked the occasion of Friday the 13th with a lunchtime festival of crust, sauce, cheese, and toppings. According to archival company documents, the responsibility of financing the festivities is meant to alternate between the company’s owners and its employees, but no one can remember the workers ever having to actually pick up the tab.

“Obviously, it works,” says principal Marc Tebon. “In more than 25 years in business, we’ve never had a demon-related incident on Friday the 13th. What more proof do you need?”

Somewhat more skeptical but still pragmatic is fellow principal Jeff Prochnow, who says: “I don’t know if I buy the bad luck stuff, but if a little free pizza now and then keeps the peasants – I mean, the employees – from revolting, I’m okay with it.”

Pizza at GS Design on Friday the 13th

Pizza at GS Design

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1

You know you’ve got a rockstar developer when ...

Aaron Konkol by on December 8, 2011

he’s featured on Engadget for a little something he dreamed up and built in his spare time. Our very own GS funnyman Kirill Edelman has got some wicked skillz when it comes to developing applications. Two years ago our company identified development of mobile service offerings as an area of focus for. Kirill took it upon himself to shift from Flash Actionscript developer to iOS App developer.

After working on the first GS iPhone app, he has created two on his own (Overdub and Artifact). And another GS app is in the works.

Check out the Artifact app review on Engadget. Keep on rockin', Kirill.

Artifact in use

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Stuff Dreams Are Made Of

Jeff Prochnow by on November 23, 2011

Lakeshore Chinooks Brand RevealChildhood friends since the early 70s, Jim Kacmarcik and I played organized sports together, double dated together, and dreamed of our futures. And like most other boys I’m sure we dreamed of being professional athletes. Well, thanks to that longtime friend, part of these dreams just came true. Not the dream of being a professional athlete, but pretty close – and in many ways even better.

As of November 1, 2011, I became part owner of the Lakeshore Chinooks, a collegiate baseball team that is part of the Northwoods league. There are 12 owners in all – Jim being the majority owner – and including Bob Uecker, Robin Yount, and John Hammond. It doesn’t get much cooler then this.

Or does it?

I sure think so. Not only do I get to be co-owner with my childhood friend but also with another close friend, Dan Laine. And here comes the icing: My company GS Design gets to brand the Lakeshore Chinooks. So far we’ve named the team, and created a logo, color palette, and initial website.

This is fun stuff, and we’re just getting started …

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Malcolm in Milwaukee

Chris Krasovich by on September 15, 2011

Kudos to GS hometown client PDS on landing Malcolm Gladwell as the keynoter for its annual technology conference. Gladwell is a long-time staff writer for The New Yorker and renowned public speaker. He’s famous for inverting the paradigm – taking the received knowledge about a subject and flipping it on its head to reveal new and startling insights. PDS does much the same thing for its clients, urging them not to manage their IT resources better but to “get out of IT,” period. Clearly, great minds think alike.

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Here's to Your Health!

by Scott Kurtz on August 31, 2011

I never used to like running. Heck, I never really liked walking. Driving seemed like a much more efficient way to get from one place to another.

But then I got a dog.  To get the daily walks over quicker, I started to jog. Jogging turned to running. And before I realized what was happening, I signed up to run a 5k. Now it’s four years later and I'm training for my 10th marathon.

Thanks (I think) goes out to my dog for getting me into this whole running thing. Credit also goes out to my family for accommodating what seems to be an endless schedule of training for the next big race. And finally, an equal amount of props goes out to GS Design for continual motivation and encouragement.

Before I laced up my first pair of running shoes, there were GS’ers who had already run marathons. They were a huge source of information and tips. In fact, I ran my first marathon with a fellow employee. Now I’m able to help others here who want to get into running.

But we don’t just have runners here at GS. There are casual and competitive participants in just about every activity you can think of: from triathlons to road biking, from soccer to basketball, and from yoga to P90X.

That’s one of the greatest things about GS: how focused the owners are in providing an environment that promotes health and happiness. We have a great workout area, a basketball court, and fresh fruit available in the kitchen. We get discounts on yoga and spinning classes. There is a wellness committee who brings in experts to talk about health-related issues such as diet and dealing with stress. The wellness committee also coordinates team participation in events such as the Miller Lite Ride for the Arts and the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure.

The results of providing such an environment are easily measured. For the past two years, GS has provided a voluntary health screening for its employees. As a group, GS scored the highest out of more than 60,000 total assessments done nationwide. 

While we are proud of that statistic, we know there are always improvements to be made. We will continue to work on our wellness – as individuals and as a group. GS believes that healthiness and happiness go hand-in-hand. And who wouldn’t want to work at a place filled with both?

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5

Say Hello to My Little Friend

Steve Radtke by on August 22, 2011

GS Business CardWe recently took delivery of our new GS business cards. And they’re impressive. Letterpressed, edge tipped with orange, stock so thick you can jimmy a lock with it.

But why in this electronic age do we continue to bother with business cards? There are certainly more efficient ways to distribute and store personal information. Most of us have stopped keeping our contacts in a Rolodex. We “went electronic" and want all of our contacts wherever we are. So has the business card just become an awkward physical barrier to getting a contact into our iPhones where it belongs?

During the GS redesign, it occurred to me how resilient that little piece of paper has been in the electronic age. In fact, in the battle of print vs. web, the business card may be the Lightweight Champion of the World.

In the last decade, there have been plenty of clumsy attempts to bridge the business card/electronic gap – all sorts of portable scanners and gizmos. But they required carrying around hardware or taking the cards back to the office for scanning. 

More recently, smartphones have allowed apps to scan a business card on the spot. Optical character recognition software kicks in – and presto – you’ve captured the data on the card. But you still needed that little piece of paper didn’t you?

Today, some devices have the capability to share contact information phone-to-phone like an electronic handshake. No card necessary. Should be the last nail in the coffin of our tiny paper friend. But it’s not.

We still carry around a stack of business cards. Why? I think for two reasons.

First, as an agency we certainly strive to create business cards that are more than data carriers. Done well, they are brand introductions. They tell the person you just met something about your company – its look, feel, and approach. You make an impression with tactile things like paper choice, color, and finishing techniques.

Second, they're part of our social/business behavior. We hand them out almost simultaneously with a handshake. You see it in practically every introductory meeting. After cordial introductions, everyone starts dealing their cards to everyone at the table faster than a blackjack dealer. Then everyone neatly lines the cards up in front of themselves as a cheat sheet to remember names. There’s an odd formality to it. A comfort.

We continue to use these tiny pieces of paper because they’re part of the corporate dance. But also because they’re a bit more human. They allow an exchange of information that feels as personal as grasping another person’s hand when you meet them. They’re a tiny gift and a marketing tool that a contact on your iPhone will never be.

Not to mention we need something to throw in the bowl at the sandwich shop.

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25 Years, 25 Hours, Many Thanks

Chris Krasovich by on August 4, 2011

We were so humbled by the enthusiastic attendance at our 25-hour 25th Anniversary celebration. Thanks to everyone who made the event possible and so incredibly memorable.

If you were at GS, hopefully you got to see the awesome break dancers. Or the amazing motorcycle stunt rider Bubba Blackwell jump over 10 girls at the 8:00 show. Or the inspiring fire dance troupe – 50 percent of which is comprised of genuine GS employees. Or our own version of “kid rock”: the super-impressive 73rd Street Band, consisting entirely of mini-rockers aged 12 or under. Or the final countdown to 00:00:00 – and the weary-but-heartfelt (and brief) speeches that preceded it.

If you weren’t at the event, here are some of those memorable moments, captured for all-time posterity in digitized glory – “shovel ready” for the next time capsule. Or here are reflections on 25 years in business from Jeff and Marc. Enjoy!

GS 25th Anniversary

GS 25th Anniversary

GS 25th Anniversary

GS 25th Anniversary

GS 25th Anniversary

GS 25th Anniversary

GS 25th Anniversary

GS 25th Anniversary - Bubba Blackwell

GS 25th Anniversary - Bubba Blackwell

GS 25th Anniversary - Fire Sirens

GS 25th Anniversary - StreetZa

GS 25th Anniversary

GS 25th Anniversary - Morning Yoga

GS 25th Anniversary - Cereal Bar

GS 25th Anniversary - 25 hours

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We’ll Give it Six Months

Jeff Prochnow by on July 27, 2011

Twenty-five years in business with the same partner. “How is that possible?”

That is the number one question I've been asked. To be honest, I'm not sure how we've done it. Marc and I met in college. We didn't even like each other originally, but after comparing notes about motorcycles and realizing that we both had a strong entrepreneurial spirit along with a can-do attitude, things changed.

Marc and I worked together in renovation for a while. We both thought that’s where our futures would go, but after graduation from U.W. Milwaukee, we thought we'd give design a chance. A six-month chance. Armed with some pencils, markers, and neon beer signs, Graphic Solutions was born. I'm not going to bore you with the whole story, but what has worked for us is that we both have the utmost respect for one another. We’ve been good friends; standing up in each other’s wedding; I’m even godfather to Marc's son, Mitchell. We've both busted our asses throughout the years, never taking anything for granted. We've surrounded ourselves with what I consider the best-of-the-best people and provided a stellar work environment for them. We've built true partnerships with our clients and they genuinely like us. And, let’s not forget, we were a little lucky along the way.

I guess over the 25 years much has changed. We have a new name, more GSers, more space, more clients, more money (thank you), but in many ways, it seems like we just started. The one main thing that has stayed constant, though, is the respect we have for each other and our roles at GS. That, and remembering to have fun.

Shit, the next 25 should be a breeze.

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GS Design: The Start of Our Next 25 Years

Marc Tebon by on July 27, 2011

Twenty-five years ago, in 1986, Jeff and I started this thing called GS Design. As I reflect on this milestone today, I wonder where all the time went, and marvel at how much has changed. The last quarter-century has seen constant, radical change in our industry (remember “paste-up”?). Rolling with those changes has certainly made things challenging and exciting – and it has also made the time just fly by.

In the face of all that “excitement,” however, I’m especially grateful for the things that remain the same. Because those are the most important things, the foundations upon which we’ve built our business.

For one thing, while Jeff and I have been through a lot together, and we maintain a strong partnership – and even stronger friendship. Our 1986 girlfriends are now our wives. And even as we work hard to balance the needs of a demanding business with building our families, we still make time every year to take a motorcycle trip to talk business, envision its future, and laugh at all the good memories we’ve collected along the way. Our first employee, Amy Reid, is even still here, as are a good number of those that joined our organization during the early years.

What began as a couple of guys, fresh out of college, trying their hands in the design business, now includes nearly 50 of the most talented strategists, designers, writers, user experience architects, and developers this town has seen. Our company has certainly grown up; GS Design offers a broader range of capabilities and expertise than Jeff and I ever envisioned during those early days. And we work with a far more impressive array of clients than we could have ever dreamed. Despite that, the spirit that was there at the start remains at the core of GS Design today. Our unique culture is proof of that.

While Jeff and I take pride in the role we’ve played in making GS what it has become, we recognize that our success has been heavily dependent on the great people who surround us. Our employees are like family – to us and to one another. Perhaps the thing that gives me the most pride of all is that our business helps support so many people and families. Likewise, our clients have become good friends who overwhelmingly supported our growth at every step. It’s because of all these people that we still love coming to work each day.

So, while we celebrate GS Design’s 25th anniversary with enthusiasm, we’re eager to get started on the next 25 years. For there’s no doubt they hold the same, if not more, growth, opportunity, and happiness that comprised our first 25. 

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To Post, or Not to Post

Chris Krasovich by on June 20, 2011

Ever wonder what day or time to tweet or post on Facebook in order to reach the largest audience? And what about optimal frequency for connecting without annoying? The smarties at Adverblog can tell you when and how often to be social for best results. Some of their findings are quite surprising. Read all about it in the Adverblog post on the topic entitled Science of Social Media Timing, or check out their infographic below.

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Congratulations! You’re an Expert.

Chris Krasovich by on June 2, 2011

ex·pert/ˈekspərt/

Noun: A person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area.

In discussing the social media content-generation process, the subject of expertise frequently arises. It seems that many are uncomfortable with the idea that authoring a post on a topic gives the impression that they’re “experts” in a field or area.

What is it about claiming expertise that gives so many of us pause?

For me, it tracks back to the definition at the top of this post. An expert is a person who has a comprehensive and authoritative knowledge of or skill in a particular area. Not an Ivy League graduate, not a Ph.D., not someone who has learned all there is to know on a topic – but someone who has gained the ability to speak to it through deep understanding gained in time and effort spent in research, work, and study of the same. It doesn’t mean they know everything. It means they have an angle that they can support; knowledge others could benefit from. Something worth sharing.

If you’re passionate about a topic, stay abreast of it in your own reading and/or practice, and others stand to learn from your ability to break the topic down and add your own take in opinion, analysis, evaluation, or predictions, then guess what? You, too, are a part of the elite group known vaguely as “experts”! You don’t have to use that term, but in sharing your expertise, it’s how you may come to be viewed by readers, and that's a good thing. Let’s stop fearing labels and start sharing knowledge.

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1

My Barbaric Yawp (AKA Meet the Intern)

by Mark Anderson on May 27, 2011

Who are you? I’m the new guy! The name’s Mark Anderson and I’m on my third week interning at GS with the tech team. So far, I’ve been absorbing… taking in the “sites” if you will. In addition, I’ve spent some time assisting in the development of the  back-end portions of a great Mercury Marine project and have as of recent begun preparing models for the Samson project.

What are you studying? I’m a Junior at Miami University. Initially, I began as a violin-performance major but have recently transitioned into computer-science.

So far my encounters at GS have far outshined the bleak academic world of computer science I’ve come to accept. Here, people actually talk! And, the atmosphere is friendly and almost completely comprised of the continuous scent of chocolate chip-cookies wafting from the kitchen.

What cool stuff have you done? I’m big into developing social networks and composing music. Years back, I developed a networking site for composers and their music. The site now has over 300 members and 3500 original compositions uploaded. My profile is located at www.evotu.com/anderma. I uploaded a few compositions and recommend giving “the epic” or “journey” a listen.

What’s your favorite superhero? The Coon.

What are you excited about? Sounding my barbaric yawp from the rooftops of mountains… with a fresh brewed cup of Caribou coffee in hand.

What do you want to learn? First and foremost, I want to learn everybody’s name. And, in the long term I hope to know enough django/python to be a useful addition.

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New and Improved

Chris Krasovich by on April 19, 2011

True confession: I love blogging about our new hires because they give fantastically entertaining answers to the questionnaire they’re asked to fill out. Reading their responses is a great way to start a Tuesday. You should try it. In recent months – or in some cases weeks – we’ve been fortunate to have several uber-fabulous individuals join our team, namely user experience guru Jim Broennimann, super-strategist Laura Netz, and project management ninja Alicia Osier. Please allow them to introduce themselves …

Jim Broennimann – Experience Architect

Where did you go to school? Rosenow Elementary – still a believer in all I need to know I learned in kindergarten.

Where did you work before GS? I’ve worked at a handful of places before GS and learned from each – one in particular was Midwest Airlines.

What will you do at GS? Create experiences for customers with brands they or I interact with, and in some cases love. And I will ride the spin bikes.

What do you do when you’re not at GS? Spend time with my wife and kids, cross-country ski in the winter, and bicycle race in the summer. Oh, and I spend a lot of time thinking about writing.

Special talents or party tricks: I have the ability to take over the music at any party.

Any phobias/deep fears? Rabbits biting me in the hands.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Philosopher.

Best advice you’ve ever gotten? It’s from a poem from Edna St. Vincent Millay: My candle burns at both ends; It will not last the night; But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends – It gives a lovely light!

What will/should your tombstone says? If it’s up to me, I’d be cremated and spread on the Greenbush Ski Trail.

Describe yourself in three words: Bluish, orange, mindful.

Who inspires you and why?“Whats” inspire me, like people in situations, stories, music, the Great Lakes, and trees.

Laura Netz – Creative Strategist/Writer

Where did you go to school? Minneapolis College of Art and Design.

Where did you work before GS? VSA Partners in Chicago.

What will you do at GS? Problem solving, big pictures, deciphering millenials, magnetism, and momentum.

What do you do when you are not at GS? Try to stop thinking about work (often unsuccessfully), niece and nephew ruining, dog walkin’.

Special talents or party tricks: I can stick a beer bottle to the wall – which will ruin the wall – and get the cork out of a bottle of wine using just a napkin – which will ruin the wine, the napkin, and the cork. I guess my party tricks haven't evolved much since my punk house days.

Any phobias/deep fears? Rabbits biting my hands.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? CIA agent, astronaut, television writer.

Best advice you’ve ever gotten? Only two things a girl will ever need to know: 1. Never grow a wishbone where you backbone ought to be. 2. Make your own luck.

What will/should your tombstone say? See, I told you I was dying.

Describe yourself in three words: First-world problems.

Who inspires you and why? Cole Porter, Dock Ellis, and Maybelle Carter for smarmy wit, resilience in the face of adversity, and matriarchal aplomb, respectively.  

Alicia Osier – Project Manager

Where did you go to school? Philadelphia University, UW-LaCrosse, UW-Milwaukee (graduated from that one).

Where did you work before GS? Momentum Worldwide and Fullhouse Interactive.

What will you do at GS? Project management like you’ve never seen  ;)

What do you do when you’re not at GS? Run, run, run … and eat, eat, eat. Training for a marathon and like to do road races on the weekends, too. Also, from so many years in the service industry I'm pretty passionate about food, wine, and beer!

Special talents or party tricks: I’m extremely good at rock, paper, scissors. One time I won a double elimination tournament (not joking).

Any phobias/deep fears? FEET! I don’t want them to touch me or people to touch mine. Gross.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? Um, I was pretty sure whatever it was I would have an apartment in a big city and wear skirt suits. Weird, cuz that's my fear now. I can remember wanting to be a veterinarian too, but then my older sister told me I would have to murder puppies, so that killed that (no pun intended).

Best advice you’ve ever gotten? Soooo cheesy, but – everything happens for a reason.

What will/should your tombstone say? Yikes, I don’t know! I hope something about being a good person.

Describe yourself in three words: Short, loud, sarcastic.

Who inspires you and why? My mother. She’s the most selfless, kind, noble person I know. Talk about regretting being such a bad teenager!  :)

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Silo Sandwiches

Jen Galassini by on April 6, 2011

If a business wants to create a culture where everyone contributes equally to a project and in the best interest of the client, then we need to move away from silo-thinking. This article is great because it puts a real-life example to the forefront. It shows that if everyone in a company doesn't work together, the fault will fall back to the customer.

Teamwork is such an important aspect of GS Design. Sharing information and communicating with everyone on your team will help a project develop to its fullest and become successful. If you communicate effectively with your team from the beginning, this will minimize mistakes and help everyone be on the same page.

Do you face similar challenges in your work? Let me know in the comments.

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Social Business (Cards)

Chris Krasovich by on March 4, 2011

The relevance of including social links (corporate, not personal) on business cards has been a topic of recent interest at GS. Views here are varied, with some suggesting that including social links might lead to information overload. Others see it as a promotion vehicle that enables contacts to choose how they prefer to interact, while illustrating the progressive mindset of a company.

As social media grows to become an integral tool in the communication and marketing plans of companies everywhere, I'm of the opinion that we'll be seeing more and more corporate cards including social links. Mashable seems to think so too. It's my hope that QR codes aren't far behind. What about you? Would you appreciate finding this sort of additional information on the corporate cards that find their way into your hands, or is it all too much annoying visual clutter muddying up otherwise attractive cards?

Burton social media business card

MapQuest social media business card

Skype social media business card

 

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MDA Launches New Website

Jen Galassini by on January 27, 2011

Every year, GS Design helps the Milwaukee Muscular Dystrophy Association put on its biggest fund-raiser of the year: the Milwaukee Black-N-Blue Ball – an annual event that raises thousands of dollars to help children with Muscular Dystrophy. And not only is the Ball a rewarding event, it's a great time!

What makes this year's planning so much more special is the launch of the brand-new website that GS designed and brought to life. GS Design and MDA have a unique partnership in that both have a close, long-standing relationship with Harley-Davidson. The website features an H-D motorcycle theme and organizes all the information needed to learn more about MDA, the Black-N Blue Ball, and how to donate to this great cause.

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Stuck? Try Thinking Like a 7-Year-Old

Steve Radtke by on January 26, 2011

One of the challenges we face as creative problem solvers is dropping our challenge-focused baggage and opening our minds to unique solutions. We all know the rules of a good brainstorm:

  • Lots of ideas – quantity, not quality
  • No judging!
  • Odd, weird, unrealistic ideas welcome
  • Combining ideas into new ideas also handy

Sounds easy, but often our creativity is held back by an all-too-adult awareness of the cold, hard reality our projects live in. The answer? Think like a kid.

My wife and I recently became leaders for our 2nd grade daughter's Destination Imagination team. If you haven't heard of DI (I hadn't), it's a fantastic afterschool program. Kids are put into small teams (about seven kids their own age), handed an open-ended challenge, and given four months to solve it together.

Leaders are allowed to guide, but not help. Kids need to solve it themselves. At the end of four months, kids present their ideas to judges and peers. Teams with really great solutions move up into regional, national, and global competitions.

DI's stated goal is to foster tomorrow’s leaders through experiences that teach creativity, teamwork, and problem solving. Three skills we all need everyday, regardless of age and occupation.

So, for the past five weeks I have been working with these seven amazing kids – guiding them through creative activities, watching them work towards creative solutions together, and teaching them how to brainstorm.

Here's what has been cool for me to watch. Working with kids in a brainstorm session is very different from working with adults. These kids get it. I don't have to remind them to not judge. I don't have to encourage them to be more weird, more wacky. They aren't worried about budget, or whose idea is whose.

And they never worry about what the client gonna think.

Instead, they rip through ideas faster than I can write them down. They get goofy, they giggle, they combine ideas into weirder ideas. And they don't worry about shouting out a dumb idea in front of their boss. The ideas they come up with are funny, creative, weird, and unique.

More importantly, they solve the problem.

I believe we are all born with the innate ability to be creative and think creatively. We don't start with barriers in place. We acquire them as we get older. They're taught to us as we grow into cautious, logical, practical adults.

Next time you need a creative solution to a pressing problem, ask yourself, "What would a seven-year-old think of?" Or, better yet, go ask a seven-year-old.

Watch DI kids in action.

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Facebook kool-aid

Chris Krasovich by on January 17, 2011

It's official. We're obsessed. But don't take it from me. Just look at the infographic from SocialHype and OnlineSchools.org below for proof. We’re drinking the Facebook kool-aid in almost incomprehensible quantities - or at least a good 70% are. Fess up, are you one of the chronic Facebookers checking your Wall before your feet hit the floor every morning? If you are, cheers! I raise my glass of kool-aid and my mobile device in solidarity.

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Why Do You “Fan” Facebook Pages?

Chris Krasovich by on November 3, 2010

Ever wonder what motivates fan activity on Facebook? Interestingly enough, it seems consumers fan their favorite brands in order to share their support with friends about as frequently as they fan to acquire discounts and freebies. Facebook "fanning" is almost as much about narcissism as it is greediness! Cool! Full study details regarding consumer fan activity can be found in this Social Media Examiner article on the topic.

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Whatever Happened to Conviction?

Chris Krasovich by on October 21, 2010

Love this little bit of YouTube fabulosity. When you know what you're talking about, you should sound like you know what you're talking about. There's nothing worse than a supposed "expert" who sounds unsure of himself. Speak with authority (when you have it) and with conviction (if you mean it) and your words will have greater impact.

Typography About Language by Ronnie Bruce

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Costume Directory Assistance

by Scott Kurtz on October 14, 2010

You may be familiar with the “400 Costumes to Die For” promo we did last year. This year we've taken it to the next level: an iPhone app.

Last year's piece consisted of a pair of custom-made, 20-sided dice – one with 20 modifiers, the other with 20 nouns – that together offer 400 possible original costume combinations.

The new “Costume Decider” app gives you even more options — the better to save you the embarrassment of showing up at a Halloween party in the same old tired costume. Give the wheels a spin for one of 625 fiendishly original costume ideas.

Don’t be afraid. Get it now.

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Site Launch: coinsofamerica.com

Chris Krasovich by on September 26, 2010

GS recently had the opportunity to work with MPI Coin to redesign its robust e-commerce site, coinsofamerica.com. The goal for this interesting project centered around creating an improved user experience, along with an all-new brand-centric, shopper-friendly design. The addition of a corporate blog offers the opportunity for MPI to provide greater value to its customers, and it doesn't hurt the SEO equation either. Our partners at Zeon did a fantastic job in developing this robust shopping site, and we are pleased to announce its launch. Take a look and tell us what you think.

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Don’t Worry About "The Fold" and Other Usability Tips

Aaron Konkol by on September 16, 2010

Mmmm. I like me some data and reports. Especially when it comes to making web sites better. For example, do you think everything on your web site needs to be crammed into the first 540 pixels in order for people to see it? Not so. Research indicates that reducing content above the fold actually encourages users to explore the content below the fold. Instead of focusing on the fold, why not try using visual hierarchy principles and the art of distinction to prioritize and emphasize the importance of various elements in your pages’ content. (Yeah, visual hierarchy principles and the art of distinction, doesn't that sound smart?)

Other usability tips that resonate:

  • Internet users don’t really read content online. People only read 28% of the text on a web page. Highlight keywords, use headings, write short paragraphs, and utilize lists. Bold text makes it easy to scan.
  • Studies show that as whitespace decreases, so does reading comprehension. Give the copy some   b r e a t h i n g   r o o m.

Want more? Check out the article that inspired this post: 10 Usability Tips Based on Research Studies, then be sure to share your favorites with us.

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GS Recognized by Graphis and HOW

Jason Evans by on September 10, 2010

Great news! GS Design's work was recently featured in the Graphis 2011 Design Annual and in the September/October issue of HOW magazine.

HOG magazine was selected for the Editorial category of Graphis. The GS "400 Costumes to Die For" holiday promotion was featured in the Designer Promotions in the 2011 Promotion Design Awards issue.

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Taking the Web by Storm

by Amie Abendroth on July 28, 2010

It was a dark and stormy night. The sound of tornado sirens filled the air as more than seven inches of rain swamped the Milwaukee area at rush hour on July 22. The expressway flooded and was closed. A giant sinkhole swallowed an SUV on the east side as basements across the area filled with water. It was truly a “100-year flood” – but wasn’t it like the third one we’ve had already this decade?

And as I sat at my desk with the rain pounding on the roof, silently sending warm thoughts toward those who would be affected by the deluge, I took comfort in the thought that the awesome new SRAM site we’d been working so hard on had launched three days earlier – safe from the rising waters.

Too soon? Sorry … it’s just that we’re very proud of this new site, and that really is what I was thinking about as the storm blew in. Here’s why …

Not only did sram.com launch the all-new model year ’11 product, along with a design refresh for each of the six brands, it also consolidated all six brand sites into a common platform and Drupal Content Management System (CMS).

Sounds easy, right? Not so much. But our amazing team made it seem easy. They're that good. Here are a few bullets to illustrate the magnitude of the project and give you a snapshot of some of the inclusions:

  • The SRAM site contains over 350 products across six different brands and 45 different branded product families.
  • A total of 21 content types for all the different products are included in the site, with each content type containing as many as 38 data points.
  • The new site-wide taxonomy system allows for products to be included as a members of multiple brands, series and/or riding types, meaning a single content source can appear in multiple places throughout the site – even across multiple brands.
  • SEO-friendly URLs were utilized throughout.
  • The CMS revision management maintains an ongoing history of all site changes with user tracking and roll back.

All project goals were met on this project, including the challenging goal of maintaining each brand’s uniqueness while integrating them all on a common platform and user experience. And it was all delivered on schedule!

This was an exceptionally technical project, with a very large amount of data and content to manage. As one of our busiest sites, serving nearly 5 GB of data each hour, that's is a lot to absorb - kind of like seven inches of rain. Good thing we’re so much better equipped to handle it than the streets of Milwaukee are to handle all that water!

Thanks to everyone on the team for all their hard work – and to SRAM for trusting us with such an exciting and satisfying project.

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Love Connection

Steve Radtke by on July 2, 2010

This spring GS Design launched the “GS Moto Promo,” an employee incentive program that encourages GSers who don’t ride motorcycles to become safe, licensed riders. The offer is simple: take a Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) New Rider Course, get your motorcycle license, and GS will pick up the tab for the class (around $400).

I should preface this by revealing that GS does a ton of work for a well-known Milwaukee motorcycle company. We feel like we're a great fit for them. GS was founded by two riders, and today many GS employees ride and love motorcycles. On any given day you’re likely to find motorcycles in the parking lot, and in the nooks and crannies of our office. We believe having employees who ride helps us do better work for our motorcycle client.

Is it reasonable to say that employees are better suited to work on an account if they use a client’s product? Sounds kind of obvious. Hell, it’s the first thing agencies do when they land an account. “Alright everyone, we got the Sketchers account today, here are 40 sets of shoes you’re all going to wear for the next six months.” But that's just a trial. It’s immersing people into the client’s world to better understand their product. It’s not converting them to sneaker enthusiasts.

Some clients – by the nature of their customer culture – benefit from this more than others. I’m pretty sure we could do some stellar creative for Jolly Farms String Cheese, even though no one at GS would categorize themselves as a “string cheese enthusiast” or say they participate in a “string cheese lifestyle.”

Additionally, as designers, writers, and marketing professionals, we pride ourselves on being able to learn about a client, understand their brand, and reach their consumers. We’re brand chameleons. It’s what we’re trained to do. We get inside their world and solve their problems. We connect with our clients’ brands professionally and do damn good work. 

But some clients whose brands inspire customer cultures can be better understood by individuals on the inside. Motorcycling has its own views, language, and customs. Being on the inside helps GS understand the rider’s perspective. Having riders solving our client’s marketing needs means they are part of the consumer base they are reaching out to.

So in this sense, the more personally connected your team is to the world of your clients, the likelier they are to understand the culture and needs of the client. They feel personally invested in the solution. They take ownership in a slightly different way.

But it’s not something you can force either. Why not simply draft every GSer into a mandatory rider course? Take away their cars. Buy them all bikes. Instant 100% ridership at GS! Of course, it doesn’t work that way. It only works if you’re allowing people to connect with things they want to connect with. The Moto Promo is about opportunity.

GS loves motorcycling and wants to provide an opportunity for more GSers to enjoy the sport. And we like to offer cool things for our employees. The fact that it may help us do better work for our client is icing on the moto-cake.

Since its inception in May we’ve had three GSers successfully complete a rider safety course and earn their licenses. Others are preparing to take the course. Some have already bought their first motorcycle.

Will those new riders do better work for our motorcycle client? I guess we'll see. For now, we look forward to a few more motorcycles in the parking lot.

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Rack ‘em Up!

Mike Zimmerman by on June 10, 2010

We got trouble. Right here in Milwaukee. We got trouble with a capital “T” and that rhymes with “P” and that stands for “Pool.”

That’s right. GS Design is now the proud owner of a high-quality pocket billiards table. Right there in the interactive kitchen next to the fridge. We’ve decided to call it “Zanzibar” (the table, not the fridge) – because that’s the model name bestowed on it by Brunswick Billiards, the table’s maker and one of our favorite clients. (There, there … we love you all equally.)

Has any game in history been saddled with a more undeserved reputation than pocket billiards? “Proficiency at pool is a sign of a misspent youth,” someone once said. Nonsense, I say. Everyone knows you can’t really learn to play good pool until you fritter away your collegeyears hunched over a nine-foot slab of felt-covered slate. It teaches patience. It teaches creative, strategic thinking. And I learned everything I know about client relations lining up 9-ball games in the student union.

Truth be told, pocket billiards is a beautiful game, filled with physics, geometry, artistry, grace, and power. Kind of like the sausage races at Miller Park, but with less profanity and wagering. If you’ve never seen the movie The Hustler, proceed directly to Netflix.com and put it in your cue … I mean, queue. Better still, read the novel by Walter Tevis. You can get started on it here at Google Books. (Go ahead, do it now – no one will know but us!) I promise you’ll never look at pool the same way again.

In any case, we’re all very excited about the new addition – except for maybe Tyler and Beth, whose offices are within about 10 feet of the noisy, monkey-festooned, black-felted beauty. But that’s why we gave them doors. And earplugs. And permission to break cues over people’s heads if things get out of hand. Sure, Beth barely outweighs her briefcase, but she knows how to use fire and combustible materials in ways that are both artistic and potentially lethal. So don’t push your luck.

If you’re a client reading this, fear not! We’ve established strict rules about the table’s usage, so we expect the drop in productivity to be barely noticeable. It certainly won’t show up in your invoices, that much we can assure you. And the most important rule? The last one, of course.

So drop by any time for a game. Just be careful about making too much noise during work hours. If you don’t, you’ll get trouble with a capital “T” and that rhymes with “B” – and that stands for “Beth”!

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Zipp Launches Two New Products

Jen Galassini by on May 26, 2010

Two big new products. Two important launches, just weeks apart. No slip-ups.

No problem!

On April 16, Zipp Speed Weaponry (high-end racing bicycle components) launched the 101 Clincher, a highly tuned aerodynamic aluminum wheel for serious racers. But that was just a tune-up for the May 7 launch of the highly anticipated 404 Carbon Clincher. This breakthrough wheelset uses a revolutionary aero rim shape called the Firecrest™ and is made from exclusive materials technology developed in collaboration with Zipp’s composite supplier.

It’s a big deal.

The goal of both launches was to have the products debut on the site at the same time they were announced to the public. It was, therefore, very critical to keep everything tightly, um, zipped before launch. Zipp wanted to capitalize on the excitement and create a sense of urgency in racers and enthusiasts looking to buy the new products. Not to mention, corresponding ads and other marketing materials were tied to the Website so any premature release of information would have been a problem.

GS’s front-end developers (who are also composed of proprietary carbon-based materials) did a great job preparing the pages to launch right at the critical moments. The entire team's great organization and collaboration allowed for a very streamlined launch.

The debut of these two exciting products is just the latest enhancement to the Zipp Website, which GS designed and programmed in August 2009. It’s an exciting, user-friendly new look that showcases its vast product line while also promoting Zipp’s high-profile sponsored athletes. Check it out.

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Harder (working), Better, Faster, Stronger Team

Chris Krasovich by on May 24, 2010

Our talented (if we don’t say so ourselves) GS team has grown to accommodate our growing client base. We’ve made some great additions recently and thought we’d introduce them to you.

Eric Dyken, a.k.a. Generic Eric, comes to us with three years development experience for Harley-Davidson. That makes him an ideal addition to our Front End Development team, as his primary account at GS will be H-D. When he’s not up to his ears in code, Eric likes to play video games (go figure), DJ, and express his artistic side. As if all that isn’t enough, he also has double-jointed thumbs, which is almost like being bionic for a developer.

Pete Capp joins the Front End Development team from Fullhouse. When he’s not maintaining and/or creating amazing Web pages, he can be found backpacking, running, biking, or engaging in other similarly outdoorsy activities. Pete’s years as an amateur paintball sniper have honed his reflexes and hand-eye coordination in a way we’re certain will prove invaluable in his development work. He cannot moonwalk.

Jay Sanders brings extensive experience as a copywriter and conceptual thinker to the role of Associate Creative Director. His credentials include a B.A in Literature from Wheaton College (IL) and an M.S. in Journalism from Northwestern University; exposure to pretty much every marketing discipline from direct response to general advertising to promotions and design; a 20-mile-wide, one-inch-deep knowledge of the world derived from a lifelong reading addiction; and a love of language that unfortunately tends to express itself primarily in bad puns.
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Welcome to GS. We hope you stick around awhile.

Jason Evans by on May 5, 2010

I recently overheard a comment that startled me: The average tenure at a well-known agency is only 18 months. In and out in less than two years. Wow. In other words, as soon as you get to know your coworkers (or, more importantly, get to know how to work effectively with your coworkers), you go your separate ways, lose that learning and momentum, and start all over again.

The nature of our work these days requires input from lots of different players – strategists, designers, user experience architects, writers, developers, project managers, photographers, and many more. This is truly a team sport. The most effective teams exhibit qualities like trust, commitment, accountability, and a focus on results. Getting a team to that place takes a lot of time and effort. There’s no shortcut or easy path. It just takes time. With that in mind, the notion of tolerating a “revolving door” culture – where the belief is that one can easily replace a designer or developer with the next one in line and everything will still be okay – seems incredibly counter-productive to me.

Great work and great service come from great teams. So it’s imperative that an agency focuses on cultivating an environment where people want to stick around. Where people want to stay, learn, develop, contribute, stretch, and help the collective team in any way possible. The longer you work together the better you know each other. The better you know each others’ idiosyncrasies, strengths, and weaknesses. And, most importantly, the more you trust one another. Trust is critical in fostering open dialogue and vigorous debate around ideas because you need to feel safe that it’s okay to say what’s on your mind without fear of being looked at as stupid, being punished or even fired. Because you trust that your coworkers and managers have your best interest at heart – and vice versa. Everyone wins – especially the client.

Which ultimately gets to the heart of the matter. It’s in our clients’ best interest that we field the most effective team. The work is better, processes are more efficient, knowledge is retained, and service is more consistent. At GS, employee retention is a key measure of our success. It’s one thing to attract great talent. It’s a completely different thing to keep and develop great talent. If we’re not doing that, we’re not succeeding. We strive to make this agency the kind of place where people come prepared to stay, and so far we’ve been incredibly fortunate. For example, of the 40 people currently on our team:

  • 78 percent of them have been here at least three years, with the average tenure just shy of nine years
  • 60 percent have been here at least five years
  • 42 percent have been here at least seven years
  • Our first employee is still with us after 22 years

The result is a close-knit team dedicated to learning from one another and supporting one another, with the sort of stability, efficiency, effectiveness, and better overall agency experience that clients appreciate.

So should you ever be interested in working with GS or for GS, please be prepared to make yourself comfortable – you’re going to be here awhile.

Additional reading on the importance of effective teamwork and the impact this has on creativity can be found here:

The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, by Patrick Lencioni
Easily one of my favorite books on teamwork. Lencioni’s assessment of what makes effective teams is so on point, I dare you to read it and not say to yourself “This is sooo us.” It’s just that good.

Innovation lessons from Pixar: An interview with Oscar-winning director Brad Bird
(free registration required)
The man behind “The Incredibles” (pure movie-making magic IMHO) dishes about how important team dynamics are to the creative process.

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Presenting familyhandyman.com

Chris Krasovich by on May 4, 2010

Family HandymanGS is very pleased to announce the launch of a fully redesigned site created for the Reader's Digest company's Family Handyman brand. The goal for the redesign was to develop a best-in-class web experience for users in the DIY/Home Improvement space while amplifying community engagement around the brand. The result of our efforts is a fresh, clean design with an intuitive user experience. DIYers can easily explore the wealth of information the site provides. They now have the ability to save articles and ideas to execute later and can share their own projects, triumphs and goofs within the familyhandyman.com community.

Check out familyhandyman.com and let us know what you think!

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More to Love at GS

Chris Krasovich by on April 23, 2010

GS recently added a few new faces to enhance our capabilities. Today we'd like to introduce you to the latest editions to our client services team.

Jen Hansen has been hired as Project Coordinator. She comes to us straight out of UW LaCrosse, where she acquired a degree in Marketing with a minor in PR and Organizational Communications. Her role at GS will consist of supporting Project Managers while managing and developing her own print and interactive accounts. Jen is a twin and was an accomplished gymnast for more than a decade. We're guessing the ability to work closely with others and the strength and flexibility she gained through those experiences will make her a stellar addition to the PM team!

Jim Graf brings his extensive Project Management experience to GS Design as the newest Project Manager. Jim will oversee interactive projects from kick-off through completion and will play a key role in developing and sustaining long-term relationships with clients. Jim's previous experience includes his work as Project Director at Layer One Media and Whittmanhart. Jim suffers from Taphephobia - the fear of being buried alive. This does not apply to workload, however.

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HOG meets HOW

Marc Tebon by on March 9, 2010

It was late 2008 and we had just gotten the final sign-off on our 72nd issue of Hog Tales, an important piece of business, to say the least. We’d been producing the official magazine of Harley Owners Group (H.O.G.) since 1996. Out of the blue, our client, editor Matt King, says: “Well, I guess now is as good a time as any to give you the news ... you just completed your last issue of the magazine.”

Stunned silence ... knot in stomach ... gulp ... what does that mean!?

Then he continues, with a slight smile: “Harley-Davidson has decided to eliminate Hog Tales and Enthusiast magazines and create a new one that will replace both. And we want you to bring this new one to life.” The range of emotions and thoughts running through my mind during this nine-second conversation hopefully won’t be a frequent occurrence. It can’t be good for the heart.

Leap ahead to February 2010 as we put to bed our 5th issue of the all-new HOG magazine. At just over a year into the project, the magazine has been very well received by Harley Owners Group members (its primary readership), Harley riders at large, stakeholders within the Motor Company, and, most recently, HOW magazine.

Read the HOW Magazine article (PDF).

We are quite proud of the work we do on HOG and to have our peers in the design industry – such as the editors of HOW, perhaps the premier design journal in the business – give us some props confirms that we do, in fact, have something to be proud of.

Of course, it’s our relationship with H.O.G. and Harley-Davidson – which began some 16 years ago – that we’re most proud of. Great clients inspire great work, and we have one of the best in Harley-Davidson.

Even when they try to induce a heart attack before handing us choice new projects.

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Design for Good

Chris Krasovich by on February 15, 2010

GS is all kinds of excited to be participating in THE HAITI POSTER PROJECT – a worthy effort that will turn design into much-needed dollars for the Haitian relief effort.

The premise: Designers work their magic and create posters focused on the Haitian earthquake. Upon production, their posters are sold. Proceeds from the sales benefit the Doctors Without Borders Association; it's a win-win!

GS has decided to up the ante by encouraging each of its designers to create a poster. An in-house competition will take place, and two of the submissions created will be selected for production by company-wide vote. Our talented partners at Burton & Mayer have graciously offered to produce the selected designs at no cost.

Stay tuned to GS BS for first peek at all the posters and check out the call for entries for more information.

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Paper Lives (and has a rocket pack)

Steve Radtke by on February 2, 2010

paper craft examples

In spite of the predictions, the web has not killed our attraction to the printed page. In fact, the web has opened new doors for using paper to allow people to share and embrace printed art.

One cool trend that demonstrates this is the hobby of papercraft. Constructing 3-D objects out of the flat printed page has been around forever, but it has become super-hot with a dose of influence from the Japanese toy market. And it has opened doors for illustrators and character designers to create 3-D versions of their creations.

spacemen

Before, if you wanted to create a custom toy of your design, it likely involved plastic, a massive financial investment, and a lengthy production time. With papercraft, you design your character, create a pdf, post it to a blog, and within minutes someone halfway around the world can be holding your character in their hands. Instant collectible!

And while some of the work being done is extremely intricate and challenging to build, some of the most interesting pieces are simple to do with minimal experience, and stunning in their simplicity. Some particularly brilliant work can be found on Marshall Alexander's site: www.marshallalexander.net.

At the GS offices, we have more than our fair share of toys invading our desks and shelves. So I thought it was about time we have some GS toys join the fray. Below are pdfs you can download and print to create your very own GS Rocket and Spacemen. (Any likeness to the GS founders is completely coincidental.)

What I find cool about this hobby is that the entire movement is focused on open and immediate sharing that only the web can provide. Artists create these with the sole intent of sharing their work with other people around the world – for free! It's the ultimate open-source art form. And it isn't possible without web and print working together.

So if you have a little time, a sharp X-Acto blade, and a color printer, you too can own your own GS Rocket Action Team ... some assembly required.

GS Green Spaceman GS Orange Spaceman
GS Rocket 1 GS Rocket 2
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2

English as a Second Language

Amy Reid by on January 27, 2010

I love english grammar. I admit it. Which is a good thing cuz I use it alot for my job. GS offers writing, editing and proofing to their clients and thats most of what I do here. Job security for myself given the amount of projects and content that come thru our doors. But I guess when you really think about it its not just my job. Its everyones’ job. As part of our daily responsiblties we all send written electronic communication and cuz were all professionals its expected that also is reflected in our emails both to clients and interoffice.

After all “perception is realty”. What does your written communication skills say about you and your level of attention to detail giving those who need to rely on you an impression of confidence or not so much?

Well, right about now you’re probably scratching your head wondering why Marc and Jeff would have kept me on the payroll for 21 years … thinking, I’d fire her in a heartbeat. What an idiot! Who would write something like that and send it without reviewing it first? Totally unprofessional, and she’s proofing all the clients’ jobs? I wouldn’t trust her.

Not to worry. I’m just messing with you. First, let’s see how many mistakes you caught (test yourself and be honest). Here’s the correct version:

I love English grammar. I admit it. Which is a good thing because I use it a lot in my job. GS offers writing, editing, and proofing to its clients, and thats mostly what I do here. This provides job security for me, given the number of projects and content that comes through our doors. But I guess when you really think about it, it’s not just my job. Its everyones job. As part of our daily responsibilities, we all send written electronic communications, and because were all professionals it is expected that we use proper English in our e-mails to clients and colleagues alike.

After all,Perception is reality.” What do your written communication skills say about you and your level of attention to detail? Do they leave an impression of confidence or irresponsibility with those who rely on you?

How did you do?

The sad fact is that our English grammar skills have gotten sloppier over the years due to e-mailing and texting – and the speed of business isn’t helping. We barely have time to compose our thoughts and get them entered, much less review and proof what we wrote.

But proofing is a critical step, especially when your written communication is a reflection of you. Does your message have typos or incorrect word usage, improper punctuation or run-on sentences? Or does it make you look smart? Confident? Capable? Efficient? All good traits in a business professional, and something your clients and colleagues make note of, subconsciously or not.

So please take my advice (but not my job) and PRFRD your messages before you hit SND. Perception is reality: U WL B GR8.

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The Annual Holiday Struggle...

by Andrea Rech on January 7, 2010

...to avoid buying a whole new wardrobe in the next size up just got a little easier thanks to one of our new clients - CYGA. The new indoor cycling and yoga studio just opened on Oakland Avenue in Shorewood and is offering some awesome classes in an urban, eco-friendly studio by really talented cycling and yoga instructors. GS is proud to have helped them with everything from logo design to apparel design.  Visit gocyga.com to find out more.

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Too Big to be Big

by Mark Brautigam on December 16, 2009
Captain America Action FigureElvis PezJimmy Corrigan Action FigureCouch Z Action FigureBruce Lee Action FigureStormtropper Lego Action FigureRun DMC  Action FiguresNapoleon Dynamite Action FigureRocketeer Action FigureWolverine Action Figure

It's easy to get a little wide-eyed at GS. Rocket ship in the lobby. Walls tiled with gigantic 80's video game characters reliving their glory days. Motorcycles in their winter roosts at every turn. We love to go big here and we love to show it off. But beyond the movie theatre and past the menacing gaze of the giant hot dog man lies an often-overlooked micro-world of unimaginable celebrity. One can only dream of what goes on here after the lights go out and the Macs are put to sleep. Run-DMC and Napoleon Dynamite bustin' out impromptu freestyle rhymes. PezElvis enjoying a peanut butter, bacon, and banana sandwich while watching an epic battle royale between Bruce Lee, Captain America, and Rocketman. And poor little Jimmy Corrigan. Too timid to venture out from his bookshelf …

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Do Good

Steve Radtke by on November 25, 2009

This year (maybe more than past years) is a tough one for the hungry in Milwaukee, and every major city around the nation. During these difficult times, it's great to know that there are many admirable organizations that help provide food for the underprivileged. At GS we are lucky to have one of those great organization as a client.

Lad Lake fosters the growth of children and young adults throughout Wisconsin and the Midwest – providing the opportunity for them to take their futures into their own hands by teaching responsibility and accountability. Their food pantry helps youth and families stretch their dollars until they learn the fundamentals of living on their own.

Every year, GS helps stock their food pantry with a food drive and we’re gearing up to do it again this year. It’s a simple, and impactful way to give back to those less fortunate with the knowledge that every item donated is going to go directly to someone in need. Last year when we pulled up with our load of food, we were met with hugs from their staff and a few tears of appreciation. Great people. Great cause.

If you live in the Milwaukee area, check out the Lad Lake organization and consider to giving to their food pantry at 255 W. Capitol Drive. If you live elsewhere, I challenge you to look in the far reaches of your own pantry to find some items you could do without. Or spend an extra $20 next time you go through the grocery store on some non-perishable items. Make your donation to a local food pantry or  consider starting a food drive at your business.

Go do good.

IMG_1018

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5

What’s in a Name?

Mike Zimmerman by on November 6, 2009

Bullshit. There, I said it. Are you shocked? After all, I’m the guy at GS Design who doesn’t swear. Not to imply that I’m the only one around here who doesn’t let fly with the occasional four-letter word – or to suggest that gutter language is a way of life at GS. It’s not. In fact, that’s one of the things I love about working here. People respect each other’s wide and varied sensibilities. A way of celebrating diversity, you might say.

Besides, this is the “Dairy State”. And with an Animal Science background (Fun Fact: I have a bachelor’s degree in it!), I’ve spent more time than most people hanging around dairy cows. And bulls. So I tend to think of the b-word and the s-word in a more literal sense. It’s the stuff you scrape out of the barn. A natural by-product of milk production. Mmmm … sweet, creamy milk.

And yet … whether you think of it literally or figuratively, “BS” is not something that necessarily conjures positive thoughts! Why would anyone name a company blog after such a substance? Yet there it is: “GS BS.” Are we trying to imply that ours doesn’t stink? Of course not! (Even though it doesn’t.)

Bottom line, we just like the sound of it. We like that it suggests we don’t take ourselves too seriously. At least not when we’re talking about ourselves. When we’re talking about our clients, we take things very seriously!

We also like the vagueness of it. It leaves the barn door wide open as far as the content you’ll find posted here. Loosely defined, that includes “just about anything we find interesting” – posted by anyone and everyone here at GS – and that we think might be interesting and/or informative to our clients, prospects, friends, family, fans, and stalkers.

Does that sound like bulls**t (I couldn’t bring myself to type it more than once) to you? If not, perhaps you have a better idea for what else the “BS” in “GS BS” should stand for. We welcome you to submit your suggestions in the Comments section below. If someone hits on something we really like, we may even dig up some sort of prize. Like maybe a vintage 2005 iBook G4 laptop (Are you reading this, Justin?).

Until then, we’ll continue to assume that “BS” stands for what you think it stands for. Just remember, a blog by any other name would still smell.

Mike Zimmerman
Senior Writer

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