Asheville North CarolinaAsheville, North Carolina.

Here’s where you’ll find blog posts about our hometown – Asheville, North Carolina. We love this place. There’s an amazing spirit in Asheville, and it’s one that can really get the creative juices flowing.

We like to think that Blue Dozen Design is very Asheville. We’re natives (most of us, anyway) and we’ve grown and changed and gotten weirder right along with Asheville. We’ve seen the good and the bad – and we’ve loved this town through every damned bit of it. There’s something, though, about this town that hasn’t changed – and we hope it never does.

Human Resources in Asheville

WordPress Site Launch, Logo and Human Resources…

Look! A happy client! Go, Jamie, go!

Look! A happy client! Go, Jamie, go!

HR Designs offers on-call human resources solutions to businesses big and small – outsourcing what can be a difficult job, and one that can be personal and uncomfortable (and unpleasant if handled improperly.) HR Designs partners with businesses and helps them in many areas – hiring, firing and personnel strategies. Everyone wins – and if someone decides to be butthurt about being canned, the company can say “Hey, HR Designs fired you. Wasn’t me!”

We recently had the pleasure to work with Jamie at HR Designs in developing a logo, website and marketing materials.

Very cool company with a great concept and an owner with a great passion for human resources and for enabling business growth. Jamie was a lot of fun to work with, and the logo, website and collateral turned out great! Take THAT, Toby.

Visit HRDesigns.com to check out the logo and the HR goodness. The site features:

  • Built using WordPress, so it’s easy to keep it all updated and humming on along.
  • Theme based on Canvas by WooThemes, so it looks great and functions like a champ.
  • Contact forms, content toggles and all sorts of bells and whistles.
  • Responsive design, so the whole shebangabang looks great on all devices – phones, pads, laptops and desktops.

Thanks to Jamie and the crew at HR Designs for a fun project. Even Michael Scott would approve…

WordPress Site Design for HR Designs, Asheville NC

McCensorship?

McCensorship

I’ve decided that beginning tomorrow, May 1, I am embarking on a campaign of petty annoyance. I will tweet, daily, one complaint about any of the number of consumer products in which I am routinely disappointed. Big places, little places – anyone who gets (or has gotten) my goat will be fair game. I’ll keep track of it all, respond when I’m responded to and make a general nuisance of myself.

Why? Why not. I’m good at complaining, and there are limitless things to complain about. I’ll try to make it entertaining, but my main goal is to waste the time and resources of the crappy places that I complain about. It’s nothing personal (except when it is,) and I hope to have a little fun and propagate my ill will upon the Twitterverse.

I decided that I would start with McDonald’s – and I started this morning. I posted about how the McGriddle sucks. I was nice. I compared it to an Adam Sandler flick – interesting at first, but ultimately tasteless and lame. Nothing bad, no curse words, nothing “attacking.” I went back to check on it, and my tweet was gone.

So – I posted the same thing, more or less. And – 3 minutes later, the second tweet was gone as well.

Why was this removed? Why was I censored? For my opinion? If so – Twitter has some explaining to do. They allows misogynistic, hateful and ignorant stuff all over the place, but – complain about a crappy sandwich, and you get pulled?

I see a few scenarios:

  1. McDonalds is powerful, and they have a direct line to Twitter. If this is the case, I think there should be disclosure. Who got my post pulled and what was their rationale?
  2. Twitter is specifically pulling posts for complaining about McDoo. Why? I can make all the racist comments I want, but if I talk critically about a multi-billion dollar pusher of crap food, tweet gets killed. Hypocritical much?
  3. My account was hacked and ONLY those posts were deleted. Probably Russians.

Personally, I think it’s #1, all day long. And if so, that’s wrong. Plain and simple – wrong.

Game on, Twitter. Game on, McDoo. In the words of the late great Rusty Shackleford, “I am your worst nightmare! I have a three-line phone and plenty of time to kill!”

I’ll be complaining about every menu item. At least once per day, and I will keep track of what gets deleted and what stays. I will contact and pester Twitter until I get an answer as to why my posts were pulled. I will waste more of their time than I waste of my own.

I feel like I owe it to humanity to use my God-given gift of irritation to better the planet for all of us. Follow the idiocy on Twitter.

Oh – and the McGriddle sucks.

Image from Shutterstock. Not endorsed or affiliated with McDonalds or their crappy food. Also, for the record, I worked at McDonalds for a summer when I was in college, so I’m an expert.

Spring Has Sprung & We’re Spring-Loaded

chick

Spring in Asheville is a wonderful time – everything is budding and going green, gardens are being tilled up, the days are bright and warmer, the nights are crisp and we’re all pleased to virtually no end. We’ve welcomed ten feathered beings into our family, many new clients into the fold, and we’re going full steam ahead on some exciting and varied projects. Of course, all this great action has caused us to neglect our blogging duties – but, heck, new starts abound…

We’ve also got some pretty big news on the Woo Themes front. We can’t let it out of the bag at the moment – but let’s just say that  your favorite WordPress and Woo Theme developers are being recognized for general awesomeness. We’ve known it, you’ve known it – but now it’s becoming official. We can neither confirm nor deny that it’s US – but we can say that it’s someone very close to us. Stay tuned for an announcement.

We’re also working hard on a great WordPress knowledge hub. Videos, customization tutorials, links, reviews and resources. We’ll be offering access to the whole kit & kaboodle to our clients first – but it’ll be free and it’ll be something you want to bookmark. Or, you might want to tattoo it on your forehead. Up to you.

So – in the words of the inimitable David Yow, “I feel carbonated. I feel spring-loaded.” Yep. There’s a lot going on, and we’re excited. Only pop music can save us now!

We’re Affiliated Woo Workers. (And yes, this is good news.)

WooTheme CustomizationWe’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again – we love Woo. WooThemes, to be more specific. So – we’re pleased to virtually no end to announce that we’ve been added to the Affiliated Woo Workers army.

What are WooThemes? They’re killer WordPress themes that just work. They’re super-flexible, super robust and super feature-packed. With WooThemes, you get a great underpinning for your site, and with Blue Dozen’s experience with WooThemes, you get killer design and the ability to customize your site to suit you, your business and your precise needs.

We use WooThemes (especially Canvas) as a backbone for our design. With this backbone, you get great stuff like:

  • Portfolios – photos, products, you name it.
  • Contact forms that send mail to you without compromising your actual email address.
  • Short Codes that make it easy to add buttons, dividers, toggles and all sorts of nifty features.
  • Sliders on multiple pages, so you can have a product/service slider on your home page, or an article rotator on your articles page.
  • Easy ecommerce integration. WooCommerce is KILLER. Really. Sell real products, downloads or virtual services. Nice.
  • Massive customization options – and with us and our extensive knowledge of WooThemes, we really help you take advantage of them.

Since we’re Affiliated Woo Workers, we have access to scores of support options, including direct questions to the theme developers and an army of code ninjas. We’ve got access to libraries of info – and that helps us take care of the design and know that no matter what we want to do with your site, we can get it done.

We’re excited to be included in a pretty select group of web designers and developers. Check out Woo, and we think you’ll be excited, too!

(Note – not all of our sites are developed using WooThemes. We also do straight up HTML sites, Magento sites, Shopify, ZenCart, Joomla, Drupal and all the other stuff out there. Woo is great – but if it’s not for you, we won’t shoehorn you. We build what works.)

Goodbye, 2013. It’s Been Real…

Goodbye, 2013
2013 is coming to an end in just a little less than 12 hours. Thanks to the great clients, great friends and great family that has made 2013 a year to remember. But, really – aren’t ALL years “years to remember?” I hope so. I’m proud to say that I’ve never had a year that I wanted to forget. Every year has great moments and moments that suck.

2013 was a year of changing, stretching and growing. In the words of Jake Bugg, “some things to be proud of, some stuff to regret.” Mostly, stuff to be proud of. Our beautiful son was born. I did a LOT of work. I laughed a lot. I worried too much. Mostly, I learned a lot in 2013.

What did I learn?

  • SEO is important – but not equally important for all sites. We’ve got a bunch of blog posts concerning SEO in the can – and we’ll be putting some of the voodoo and misconceptions to the test. SEO is good and important, but it’s not the be-all end-all for your site.
  • I still don’t like parallax scrolling. And it’s EVERYWHERE. Just stop. Please.
  • The Asheville Mall sucks. Bad.
  • I need to work out more and eat less.
  • I need to worry less and laugh more.
  • I have amazing children, an amazing wife and a life that most folks would envy. I have always been aware of this – but this year has really, really brought it home. I’m a blessed man. Well and TRULY blessed.
  • I miss drawing. I get to do a bit of it, but I need more.
  • My main competitor is myself.
  • Blue Dozen Design is a better name than Independent Studios. DesignAVL.com was a weird domain name that had very, very little to do with the actual business name.
  • I still really suck at playing guitar, but I’m getting better.

2013 was good – but also a little bittersweet. After 14 years, Independent Studios was shuttered. A lot of great memories, a lot of great clients – but also a need for change. 2013 brought immense change – and change for the better. In my personal life and in my professional life – everything has shifted. Exciting, anxious and ultimately terrific changes. I want to carry that excitement forward, and really enjoy 2014. It’s setting up to be a brilliant year.

What’s on my 2014 list?

  • More fun clients, fewer not-so-fun clients.
  • Play guitar more, and better. Maybe lessons. Probably not.
  • No more Cook Out cheeseburgers. Except when I really, really need to have one.
  • Push my design – personally and professionally. This means more drawing, more printing, more weird stuff.
  • Blog more. I enjoy writing.
  • Get a better hair cut. Really – this one is just embarrassing.
  • Be a better service provider – personally and professionally. I want to develop my servant heart. I promise to serve my family more and with more love. Same for my clients – but with less hugging.
  • Travel. Somewhere. Anywhere. Asheville is great – but I want to see more

2014 will bring change – and I’m very, very excited to see that change. Some will be great, some will be good, some will probably be bad or uncomfortable. Good and bad is all in how you handle it and how you perceive it. In 2014 – I will embrace change, and I will perceive it as good. And it will be.

So – goodbye 2013. Don’t let the door hit you where the good Lord split you.

Hello, 2014. You look marvelous.

*Jake Bugg is playing a Patrick Eggle custom guitar. My dad designed the logo for Patrick Eggle, and it adorns the headstock of Bugg’s drool-worthy guitar.
Asheville Website Development for Wahl TempPlates

Asheville Web Design for Wahl TempPlates

Palmer Wahl, in Asheville, manufactures all sorts of temperature-sensing devices and instrumentation. They’ve been around since 1836 (not in Asheville the whole time, but – still) and their products are unsurpassed in quality and variety.

TempPlates are temperature-sensitive labels that have an enormous variety of applications. Put ’em on a package of Omaha Steaks, and you know if the temperature of the steaks got too low and that the steaks might be compromised. Put ’em on a package of donated kidneys on their way to a transplant patient, and you know if they were strained while in transit. Put ’em on your forehead, and you know if you’re running a fever. The possibilities are endless.

Palmer Wahl contacted us to develop an easy-to-use and easy-to-update site for direct sales of TempPlates. WordPress, WooThemes and WooCommerce to the rescue. We delivered a site that looks great, functions smoothly and makes it easy for customers to order any number of TempPlates, see news and get ideas on their use. Fully integrated with PayPal and with Palmer Wahl’s merchant account, book-keeping is simple; and with a variety of shipping and tracking options, that end is pretty slick, too. Responsive, mobile-ready design rounds the site into a very usable and (if we do say so ourselves) great looking site.

Check ’em out! Click HERE to visit the TempPlates site. Click HERE to see our portfolio.

Asheville Website Development for Wahl TempPlates

Shutting Down 2 Successful Businesses at the Same Time. Yes, We’re Nuts.

On December 1, there were 2 deaths in our family. And we couldn’t be happier. The deaths were 2 successful businesses – Independent Studios and Lily Giggle. Were they mercy killings? Were there troubles? Eh – sort of. Read on, intrepid design fan…

Mister Terwilliger

One of 5 Reasons to Shutter LilyGiggle

First – Lily Giggle. Beth (my wife and one of the principles here at Blue Dozen,) shut down her very successful PDF sewing pattern business. Why would she close doors something that was working? Why leave money on the table? The answer here is very simple: family. Beth decided that it was time to refocus. Lily Giggle had grown far beyond her (or anyone’s for that matter) expectations and had started taking too much time to maintain properly. She faced a decision: Keep the business rolling the way it was and be forced to spend too much time with admin, upkeep and all the trappings of success, or go on hiatus and risk being unable to fire the boiler back up. The first choice was the easy path. “It’s business. My family needs the money, and it’s my job…” It’s what the world tells you is the right. It’s what most folks would do. It was successful. It was rolling. It was good. But, it was hard – and it kept her from what she really wanted to focus on: her family. Our family. The second choice was hard: stop, breathe, refocus. Beth decided to take the path that requires a lot of explanation and sacrifice. She pressed pause, not knowing if the tape would resume. It might, it might not. We don’t know right now – but what we do know is that she made the right choice. She put her money where her heart is – family. She had a sale and shut it all down Saturday night. It was hard. It will be hard. But now, she has the time to stop, breathe and refocus.

Second – Independent Studios. I started Independent Studios waaaaaaaaaay back in 1999. It grew and shrank and changed and suffered through good choices and bad choices, great clients and clients that could politely be described as nosebleeds. But, it was good, and it was heading in the direction of big success. Why would I shut down a successful business? Easy: passion.

Our Passion for DesignMy passion got lost along the way. It wasn’t my passion for design and marketing and advertising and websites and all that. That’s NEVER changed, and I don’t see it changing in my lifetime. The thing that changed was passion for the business itself. I made some bad choices. I made some people mad. At the same time, I also made great choices and I made a lot of people very, very happy. Success wasn’t the issue. The trajectory of Independent Studios never really pointed downward – that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that I had grown ambivalent towards the business itself. I found myself daydreaming too much. I found myself looking at what I was doing as more of a job and less of my passion. I didn’t really have that burning need to come to the office and design something. It was kind of old hat. That was bad, and the business was suffering because of it. There were also some (very boring) reasons to restart – SEO, forming an LLC with a licensable name, domain names, etc., – but the real reason is that I needed a way to jumpstart my passion for the business. The reason for the new name is in another post – but the reason for the business change was very deep and personal. I (we) needed to stop, breathe and refocus. Focus on what made this company good (excellent.) Cut out some of the stuff that made this business suck. The new name was a demarcation. The date was a cut-off point, mentally and functionally. It had to be done. It feels as if an elephant has gotten up off my chest and wandered back into the woods, a la the tiger in Life of Pi. (You didn’t think you’d get out of a blog post without a movie reference, did you?)

I know that through the years, Independent Studios pissed some people off. I’m sorry for that. I also know that I can’t please everyone, and that there are jobs that just don’t fit. I took on a lot of jobs and clients that I shouldn’t have, jobs and clients that just didn’t fit, and that’s when my passion would really slip. That’s my fault, and I take the blame. No excuses. No finger-pointing. Those jobs and the way we handled those hurt me, hurt the business, and hurt the people who rely on this business. From the bottom, top and sides of my heart, I apologize. My solemn oath is that I will do everything in my power to avoid those mistakes in the future.

We also had (and have) a lot of great clients that fit well and feel like family. To them, I say: “Nice to meet you again.”

It really is a new day. I look forward to working with the folks who really understand who and what we are and how we do stuff. We’ve cut a lot of low-hanging fruit away. Cut out clients that were draining our time and passion. It hurt (we’ve been in the process of weeding for a few months now,) and it will probably continue to sting a little. Leaving money on the table is hard – even if it’s for a good reason. I (We – Beth and I) have 5 kids to feed and clothe and hug and cuddle, and having money helps. But – money is the least of our worries. We need passion more than money.

Things are being rebuilt differently. We’re rebuilding Lily Giggle and will relaunch bigger, badder and better than ever. And, it will be done in such a way that it’s easier for Beth to maintain and grow. Blue Dozen Design is launched, and with it a new ethos. We’re actively more selective and we’re only taking on jobs and clients that fit. No more low hanging fruit. We’re still rebuilding the site and some of the branding and what-not. In a lot of ways, it’s not a massive departure from Independent Studios – but the mindset has changed and the passion is back. Look out. It’s gonna git all krazee up in here…

So – what does this all mean for you? Functionally, not a whole lot. We’re still in the business of delivering great design and killer websites and terrific marketing ideas. Beth will reopen and continue to make unbelievably adorable clothes. That much has NOT changed, and it never will.

What we hope you take away from this (excessively long blog post) is simple: Find your true passion. Find what moves you and motivates you. Then, stop, breathe and refocus on that. Rebuild if you need to. Relaunch if you need to. But find your passion and stoke the boilers. Full steam ahead…

It’s amazing what happens when you take honest stock of where you are. When you stop. When you relax and refocus. We have decided to do that every day, several times a day. Not just December 1. EVERY DAMNED DAY.

Love Asheville – Go Local

Go Local AshevilleWe are Asheville through and through. We serve a lot of clients in Asheville, but even more than that, it’s “home.” There’s a comfort here that we’ve been hard-pressed to find elsewhere. Not sure if it’s the mountains (said to be some of the oldest on the planet,) the people, the climate or all the memories we have. Asheville and this area have become so much a part of us that we have a hard time even considering being elsewhere. Who knows.

One thing we DO know – we LOVE Asheville. We also have a lot of kids. Kids need education. While we home-school our brood, we know that public education need everyone’s support. It’s not a matter of throwing money at it – it’s about making education a priority. Children (as cliché as this sounds) really are our future – and we need to take education seriously, and we need to put our money where our collective mouths are.

So – we support a great local cause – the Go Local card. With this card, you not only get great discounts at Asheville businesses, you help support and fund schools in the area. For $15, you support the Asheville Grown Business Alliance, Asheville City Schools Foundation and you get to choose which school your dough goes to. PLUS – you get some sweet discounts. We’ve been a supporter of the Go Local card since it’s inception, and this year is no different. We’re offering a 15% discount on our services – so, for $15, you can get a good chunk off your web or design services. SWEET!

Since December 1 is our “official” launch the timing couldn’t be better. It’s also “Small Business Saturday,” and the start of the new Go Local card cycle. Go get your card (you can buy them online or in person at various places,) and help support local Asheville businesses, Asheville schools and get a good discount on the bestest of the bestest web and design services. Everyone wins!

Now, I sincerely must get back to my coffee. It’s the only thing that keeps me going on Black Friday. That and pie. And napping. And more coffee. And more pie. And more coffee.

Logo Design for Neigh Savers Foundation

We had the privilege to develop a logo for the Neigh Savers Foundation, a remarkable group of folks that provide retired racehorses with new homes and a better, more humane retirement. They had an established logo (you can still see it on their site – this one’s hot off the presses) and we were tasked to improve and update their look. (We’re pressing for a site redesign, too – stay tuned!)

Flaring nostrils, flowing manes and a streamlined look pairs well with a classic, solid typeface to create a great-looking logo that will reproduce well across web and print applications. Check it out below, and see it and a whole bunch more logo design goodness in our portfolio. Also, be sure to check out the Neigh Savers Foundation. Good folks, good cause. Good stuff.