When an ROI of Zero is a Good Investment

I went to see Neil deGrasse Tyson last night, and he brought up a great point about return on investment.

Someone had asked him what he thought about private companies venturing into space. He said he thought it was long overdue. But he also said that when it comes to exploring new frontiers, that’s best left to countries and governments.

Why?

Hypothetically, let’s say someone wanted to pitch a private company on traveling to Mars. Here’s (paraphrasing what Dr. Tyson said) how the conversation would go:

We want to go to Mars.
OK, how much will it cost?
We don’t exactly know, but a lot.
Is it dangerous?
Absolutely.
Will people die?
Probably. 
What do we get out of this, and how much money can we expect to make?
I don’t know.

The conversation’s over before it starts.

The thing is, America did this when we went to the Moon, and we’ve continued to do it in the decades since.

What’s the ROI of NASA? Their stated mission is “To reach for new heights and reveal the unknown so that what we do and learn will benefit all humankind.” Their annual budget for the last few years has been around $17 billion.

So the United States is spending $17 billion annually (less than 1 percent of total U.S. spending) to essentially look for stuff.

That may sound a little wishy washy, and it’s definitely why NASA gets kicked around politically whenever the U.S. Congress is faced with a budget deficit and needs to make cuts (which, when you consider that it only makes up 0.5% of total expenditures, is a complete waste of time). But in looking for stuff, we find or invent other stuff. Stuff like:

  • Cordless power tools
  • Scratch-proof lenses
  • Memory foam mattresses
  • Better shoe inserts
  • Temporal thermometers

(Here’s a whole hell of a lot more stuff that NASA has invented.)

And that’s without even starting to talk about the amazing discoveries that have been made about our planet and universe. This is all just ancillary stuff.

The point is, just because you can’t see the ROI of something doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.

There’s value in trying to do something new, because even if you fail, you’ll have picked up things along the way that you didn’t have before, and that might come in handy in the future.

What’s the ROI? I don’t know. It could be nothing, or it could be everything you ever need.

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@paulbalcerak

Beat Your Summertime Sadness

Cue the Lana Del Rey song; summer is almost over. Lucky for us Seattleites though, we still have at least another month of beautiful weather, daylight and warm(ish) weather. Here are some of the things I plan to squeeze in before autumn officially arrives (on September 23).

Watch a sports game outside. If the forecast holds true, we may get some more sunny days, so take advantage and soak it up while watching your favorite local teams play, or find an outdoor bar to watch a little pigskin. I’ve said it here before, and I’ll say it again: The Dock in Fremont is an awesome locale to do just that. Get there a couple hours ahead of kickoff, especially for a Hawks game, to stake out a spot in the back patio. 

Go for a hike. I know when the weather changes I’ll be kicking myself for not going on more hikes this summer. Get some trail inspiration on Sosh Seattle!

Take a day trip. Another thing I always want to do each summer, and need to cross off my list in the coming weeks. Catch a ferry to spend the say exploring Whidbey Island, or check out a seaplane tour up to Victoria. Seattle Met has a pretty cool list from a few years back that may help you decide on a place to go based on your interests – all should be within 90 minutes from the city.

Staycation. On the flipside of going somewhere for the day or weekend, you can always stay right here and play a visitor in your own city. I did this by accident a few weeks back and loved it. For most of us at Curator, the fall season means holiday craziness is upon us, so unplugging for a day or two and getting out and about in your own neighborhood or city is a great way to de-stress and refresh your mind. Whether you take a long walk around Greenlake or Alki Beach, or tap your tourist roots and visit the Space Needle, or Ride the Duck, it feels good to explore what’s always right under your nose.

Picnic. Pack some snacks, maybe some drinks, and enjoy a nice long afternoon or sunset outside. Golden Gardens never disappoints!

Try something new. There are so many activities to try here in Seattle, and there’s still time! Rent a paddle board or kayak on Lake Union or Lake Washington (Moss Bay is a great spot), find a friend with a boat or rent one and give wakeboarding a try, or head east and try hang-gliding at Poo Poo Point in Isssaquah. I think this is the appropriate time to say YOLO!

Eat Out(side). Before everyone goes back to hibernating when the days get shorter and darker, eat outside as much as possible! There are too many amazing restaurants with gorgeous views, romantic rooftops, or beautifully lit patios to pass up. Get your perfect city Instagram from these locale eateries: Ivar’s or Little Water Cantina on Lake Union, Maximilien in Pike Place Market or Salty’s on Alki Beach.

Share your favorite summer activities with us @CuratorPR

One Crazy and Rewarding Summer

Like all good things, they must eventually come to an end. With a bittersweet finale to my internship at Curator, I can effectively say that it has been an exhilarating learning experience. On top of the amazing time I had with Curator, I will be leaving with a new perspective on the public relations industry as a whole, and what it takes to survive in it. The biggest lesson I learned is to find what makes you excited and passionate, and to chase that interest. With some past experience in public relations, content creation and photography, this internship really made me stop to think about what I want to do. I always jumped at any opportunity I could get to work with Shawn, Curator’s Creative Director. But, at the same time I was responsible for a very different kind of work on the PR side of things, which at times made project management all the more important to balance. So, my advice to my peers in a similar phase of your career: give some thought to your passions and how that can translate into an area of work. Of course internships are designed to be a learning experience and aid that process, but it helps to begin with your basic interest or talents that you can build off of and develop.

Looking back on my four months with Curator, I‘m proud to have worked on a variety of projects, including writing press releases, pitching bloggers, shooting and editing a video, and photographing plants in a studio. Feels like I did it all. While every assignment was unique and interesting in its own respect, I found the days spent outside, “in the field” with clients, were some of the most fun I’ve had all summer.

It was an absolute pleasure working with Swanson’s Nursery. I should be so lucky to work with future clients who are interested and open to collaborating, and giving us as much creative freedom as we were able to play with. Not to mention, I am a budding gardener at home (pun intended). While I’m proud of all my client work from this summer, I would most like to share the projects I was involved in for Swanson’s Nursery.

The first project I was pulled in to help with was covering their exciting and thoughtful community art garden project at the Ballard Boys & Girls Club. The art garden build was part of Swanson’s “Grow with Us” Project, which is focused on helping communities make the best use of their outdoor spaces. With three days spent in the summer sun, I was able to photograph and film the transformation from start to finish.


The next, and my most favorite, project was working with Shawn on the photography for the Autumn Project Month Lookbook. I was most excited about this particular project because of the creative liberties I had throughout the process. I was able, within stylistic direction from Shawn, to really take the reigns and produce the photos that would capture the essence of a fashion look book, but for plants. Seeing the final product and actual lookbook – skillfully and tastefully crafted by Curator’s design intern, Maggie Samson – is a very cool feeling and a wonderful reminder of the whole experience.

So, after a whirlwind summer, I’d like to say thank you to everyone on the Curator team who I had the privilege of getting to know. Thank you for taking me in and giving my work a shot! More than anything, I appreciate all of the help, guidance, and friendship everyone showed me during my time here.

It is with a heavy heart to say goodbye, so I just won’t say it!

Thank you all for one of the most rewarding summers yet!

Label My Food But Not My Eating Habits

10561050_791848284179682_1045842075_n In the last couple years, food labeling has been prominent in my work with Whole Foods Market. Last year, we launched Will Vote for Food in support of the GMO-labeling bill in Washington state, and again this year we continue the fight in Oregon for the customer’s right to know. Working with Whole Foods Market has elevated how I look and choose the foods I consume. When you look at products on the shelves today, beyond knowing if your food is organic or fat-free, you’re bombarded with diet labels such as gluten-free, vegan, paleo or dairy-free. These labels on food raise the question: what do my eating habits say I am?

26 days ago I embarked on a challenge based on the paleo diet named Whole30. Whole30 stresses the importance of eating whole foods with no grains, no alcohol, no added sugar, etc. After I started focusing on what I could eat (steak, salmon, avocado, watermelon!) over what I could not, the challenge was really no challenge at all. But after 16 days in, I found myself needing variety in my breakfast over the daily scrambled eggs with sautéed vegetables. So, I dished up clean pancakes with egg, banana and cinnamon. All ingredients were compliant within Whole30, but a fellow ‘paleo dieter' showed they did not agree by leaving one small comment "#Swypo :)." Swypo is a term used during Whole30 when you’re enjoying junk food in a healthy form, which by their own theory, doesn’t change eating habits. My past eating habits admittedly were to turn to a gluten free bagel (that's healthier, right?) or go all out with a croissant. I was frustrated by the comment as it led to discouragement over encouragement.

Back in July, Jordan Younger, a popular vegan food blogger of The Blonde Vegan, announced she was moving away from the vegan lifestyle. "Food was not enjoyable anymore,” said Jordan. "I was spending the entire day obsessing about eating only vegetables, green juices, fruits and occasionally nuts and grains.” With the announcement of her decision to transition came anger from the community that once rallied behind her. Her recent blog post, a month after the announcement addressed the question “You were vegan, now you’re not, so… What do you eat now?” Jordan addressed many of the exact same thoughts I had when I was put down for enjoying a healthy meal that felt right for my own body.

In doing this Whole30 challenge, I have learned that my dinner is fuel and keeps me satisfied until bedtime. I’ve learned that the sugar craving I once felt necessary to satisfy can be diminished with a few cubes of watermelon. As The Blonde Vegan shared, "If you let yourself live your life, eat the foods you crave and the foods that you know make you feel good, you are doing something very, veryyyy special that I wasn’t allowing myself to do for a long time. You know what that is? TRUSTING YOURSELF. " So please, keep labeling my food and giving me the option to decide what I'll consume but don't ask me to label my eating habits because I'm busy listening to my own body.

Any questions on my Whole30 journey or have an amazing recipe to share? Tweet me @brookeandersen.

A Three-Piece Typography Starter Kit

Being that most of our written communication is comprised of type, I think it behooves just about everybody to get a little basic break down of typography. Understanding just a few principles can really help you to make your presentations, agendas or your family's holiday update letter to feel more professional and to look nicer. It's not just about looking sleek: paying attention to your type can actually help you to get your points across more clearly. Better still, everything I'm going to talk about you can do in Microsoft Word. Best of all, I won't even get all completely technical type-nerdy on you.

My starter kit for killer typography boils down to just three umbrella rules: 1. Be Context Aware 2. Create Contrast 3. Go Simple So ditch the 12-point Times New Roman and let's try something fun!

1. Be Context Aware The most important thing to recognize in selecting a font is how it will be used and what message the words in that font will impart. Consider the level of impact you want each item to have, what sort of mood you want to convey. This infographic section has a pretty simple breakdown of different categories of fonts (or typefaces, if you do want to get technical).

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Another thing to be aware of is readability. Always make sure to set body copy in a legible, clean font. Serif fonts are generally easier to read for lengthy bodies of text, which explains why most books are set in serif fonts. However, for any broken-up text boxes or block-text the length of – oh-let's-just-say – a cover letter, a crisp sans serif can also make a legible and engaging impact. Furthermore, people tend to err on the side of picking fonts that are larger than necessary. Twelve-point is kind of a default in Word, but when printing, I almost never print body copy at more than 10-point, frequently going as small as 7-point or 8-point (it helps to add a bit of space between lines to increase legibility). If your body text is that small, you probably don't need huge headings either–just enough difference to be understood as different types of information. The rules are a little different on screen though; things need to be a bit bigger, which usually means using type that that's about the size you would normally expect to use anyway.

2. Go Simple There are loads of resource sites (Check out Font Squirrel, Google Fonts, and The League of Moveable Type for starts.) where you can get free fonts that range from highly practical and useful additions to your library, to exciting-and-fun fonts that can look a bit ridiculous if overused. Don't overdo it; be sparing with all the crazy-cool decorative fonts to punch up the overall feel of whatever you're making. Think of decorative fonts like neon: a great fashion accent, but it takes a real fashionista with a wild streak to pull off a whole outfit. For example, the largest headers or the title work well with creative fonts being that they are short and surrounded by extra space, but I wouldn't recommend applying them to subheadings–that can get overpowering and illegible (and for the love of Eric Gill, never set paragraphs in script).

The key point of maintaining simplicity is to limit yourself to two or (as needed) three typefaces in a document. One to two of these should typically be very utilitarian and legible, while the other can be a little more expressive in terms of mood. If you don't know what to think about a particular font, search up some reviews. Designers are typically very vocal online, sharing resources and opinions steadily.

3. Create Contrast

The last step is to consider how to create variety in your document. It's helpful to establish something of a hierarchy of information. Different parts are assigned different levels of importance or relate to different elements. The best way to differentiate and help readers quickly ascertain what relationships exist between different pieces of written information is to use different fonts. Think of all the different types of information you might have: headers, subheaders, body, contact info, captions, quotes, time schedules– it's a lot of different things. But didn't I just caution against using more than 2-3 typefaces? Well, sure, but it's all about how you treat them.

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A single typeface, particularly a good one, has a lot of breadth. You can use it in all capitals or small caps; italic or bold. Many typefaces have ultra-light or ultra-black weights in their indexes. Capitalize on them! As always, size and scale are other ways to create contrast within a document, but if you can treat the scale with more subtlety and work different weights and complimentary type pairings instead, you'll find you have a more sophisticated final product. When choosing your typefaces, the trick is too make sure that they not only aren't too similar,  but that they also compliment each other. Usually, pairing a sans serif and a serif will work in your favor, but there are some handy pairing guides (herehere, and also here) that I've enjoyed and made use of to help you start. It's a commonly held belief that typography is such a utilitarian element of communication that it doesn't necessarily need to be original so much as it needs to be good. So feel free to seek out and employ precedents. A final helpful way to create contrast is to find different ways of breaking up text. Use columns or pull quotes to add variety to your reader's flow. As we all know, nobody really likes to look at long monotonous documents so the more points of interest, the easier to engage people with content(cue the guffaws at my ultimate failure to provide such things in this post).

Now if you've made it this far, you're basically qualified to take on my internship (That's everything: my entire design BA in a blog post). If you're nerdy enough to still be curious, check this out because it will make you smarter and cooler almost immediately. I wish you all Garamondspeed in your future day-to-day typographic endeavors.

Sweetness in Seattle

 

Every summer, tourists on holiday flock to our beautiful city. It seems just about every week I get an email from a friend or family member saying, “So-and-so is heading to Seattle for a few days. Where should they go?” I’ve made lists and lists for these visitors. I have a specific set of suggested outdoor excursions, indoor experiences, restaurants to try, and attractions to visit. But perhaps my favorite list to share is my 5 Favorite Seattle Summer Sweets.

Molly Moon's. People will line up around the block for a delicious scoop on a hot summer evening. Molly has built a cult following for her indulgent salted caramel, but I promise you won’t be disappointed by the Balsamic Strawberry, or the Honey Lavender, or the “Scout” Mint (every time I order the Scout Mint, I tell my sons it’s made with real Girl Scouts. They have not laughed. Not even once. But I’ll keep trying).

The Molly Moon's ice cream truck brings sweet relief to the crowds at the Space Needle.  (Image source: Molly Moon's Instagram)

Rachel's Ginger Beer. If you’re visiting Seattle, there’s roughly 100% chance you’ll be wandering through Pike Place Market at some point during your stay. Make sure you walk down Post Alley and sample some of the original recipe ginger beer and seasonal varieties at Rachel’s Ginger Beer. And if you decide on a Ginger Beer Float — even better. And if you make it a Boozy Shake? I won’t judge.

Eats Market. This tiny café and bakery is a bit off the beaten path, inside of a mall in West Seattle. But their "cool cookies" are worth the trip. Their handmade ice cream sandwiches are a highlight of summer at my house. Go ahead and enjoy them now, because they're gone when summer is over.

Full Tilt Ice Cream. With interesting local art, a pinball arcade and delicious, unusual ice cream flavors, the funky Fill Tilt appeals to all ages. My go-to is always Mexican chocolate, but people swear by horchata and the purple ube flavors. And for the adventure traveler, Oaxacan Surprise includes bits of chocolate-covered grasshoppers.

Tom Douglas Triple Coconut Cream Pie. For many reasons, I love Chef Tom Douglas and his team. I appreciate his mad love for the Pacific Northwest and his commitment to the downtown Seattle community. I admire him as an innovator in his field and for how he treats his staff. And his coconut cream pie. I am cuckoo for coconut. If you are as well, stop in the Dahlia Lounge for a meal or pop into the Dahlia Bakery for a heavenly slice of coconut pie.

Summer in Seattle is a sweet experience indeed! Did I miss your favorite? Tweet your addition to the list to @amricard.

Building an Outside to Reflect the Inspiration Within

It’s not often that you get to be a part of something that benefits the community, and to be able to see a project from its planning phase to completion. I was lucky enough to spend a few days with Swanson’s Nursery and the Ballard Boys & Girls Club to film and photograph the progression of a newly landscaped art garden. Aside from capturing the project, I was also tasked with sourcing the materials for the bench and pavers, which Mutual Materials and Dunn’s Lumber so generously provided. As part of the “Grow With Us Project” for Swanson’s Nursery, this art garden project played an integral part in Swanson's goal to continue serving the local community. After weeks of planning, sourcing, installing, digging and planting, the art garden is now finally completed just in time for the new school year. Below is the final footage of the art garden transformation by the Swanson’s team and volunteers for the Ballard Boys & Girls Club. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed filming it!

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Stanford Shopping Center Debuts Makeover Plans

VIEW_4_POST_FINAL copy At Curator, our in-house retail team has the privilege of working on behalf of 17 Simon properties located throughout the Western United States. And while the majority of our team has been dedicated to kicking-off our Back-to-School efforts, I had the honor of assisting in the coordination of a special announcement at Stanford Shopping Center. The Center, which is nearing its 60th anniversary, is one of Northern California’s premier shopping destinations. On Thursday, July 31, the Center’s management team, along with a few special guests, announced that Stanford Shopping Center is set to undergo a significant style evolution. Starting in August, the Center will embark upon the first of a two-phase renovation process, aiming to provide the Palo Alto community with a chic and modern environment that will reflect the region's elegant outdoor lifestyle.

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Some of the changes guests to the center can expect to see once the construction is complete include:

- Expanded pedestrian areas and gathering places, including an new open plaza with amenities - A new Bloomingdale’s store - A dramatic, contemporary architectural streetscape - Expanded merchandise offerings from new retailers - Upgraded presentations from current retailers - 20 to 30 small shops and five new restaurants in the former Bloomingdale’s footprint - Three designated outdoor locations featuring signature art from local artists

Projects like these are special, as they provide opportunities for us to reconnect with reporters and bloggers who we haven’t worked with in a while, as well as new, media targets that we’ve been following patiently in anticipation of sending that perfect pitch.

I look forward to sharing more of Stanford Shopping Center’s makeover details throughout the project, but in the meantime, you can learn more by clicking here!

All in a good day's work

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I'm often jealous of my friends who work for non-profits. Not so much for their often tireless and unrecognized efforts, but because when they leave work I imagine they do it with a satisfaction that the hours they spent during the day went towards making life better. We are lucky to have clients like Whole Foods Market and Swanson's Nursery who allow us to share in these efforts often, and I am very grateful for those "non-profit-like" spurts throughout my year. They tend to be my favorite days in this business.

We recently were lucky enough to help out on the Ballard Boys & Girls Club art garden project with Swanson's Nursery. When we set out to develop the brand campaign for Swanson's Nursery in 2014, they insisted that community projects be a crucial part of whatever we planned. I imagine being a 90 year-old company makes community roots run deep.

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The Swanson's team decided on partnering with the Boys & Girls club given how much that organization gives back to the community. The front of the building contained an overgrown rain bed and some sad little trees, a stark contrast to the vibrant facilities that lie within. Swanson's resident landscape design guru, Dan Gilchrist, drew up some incredible plans for an inviting art garden -- a space that would provide kids with an opportunity to co-create the look of what was to come.

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The Swanson's team and B&G Club staff and kids dug, sawed, planted and built an incredible transformation of the space. An outside that now reflects all the amazing things that go on inside its walls. The days I spent helping were good days. I'd say some of my favorite days.

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Summer Salad Days

  Colorful summer vegetable tian from the blog For the Love of Cooking.

It’s summer in Seattle. Our p-patch gardens are ripening and the farmers market stalls are crowded with the season’s bounty. During these months, my oven sits empty but my salad bowls are always full. I’d love to say my veggie-filled summer menus are purely motivated by health, but quite honestly, veggies and salads are a time saver when I get home from work. A quick plate of veggies and a wedge of cheese is a shortcut to getting back to playing catch in the back yard or chasing a sunset down at the beach.

Summer is short. Chasing sunsets is more fun than cooking dinner.

However, as we move from July into August, I often need a little jolt of inspiration to wake up my family’s vegetable-filled plates. Basil, tomatoes and zucchini everywhere I turn, but what the heck am I to do with it all? Here are some of my favorite resources.

101 Simple Salads for the Season. I’ve kept this link at the ready for five years. I enjoy Mark Bittman’s perspective that good, wholesome cooking and meal prep does not need to be time intensive. Sometimes it's as easy as carrots, blueberries and a handful of sunflower seeds.

Market Salad with Goat CheeseThis turns into my “everything but the kitchen sink” salad. Zucchini ribbons, too? Sure! Carrots and every spare green in my fridge? Ok.

Corn Salad with Basil and TomatoesIt isn’t summer without grilled corn. And lots of it.

Vegetable Tian. I stumbled upon this recipe from For the Love of Cooking while browsing on Pinterest. I make it often for my family, but it looks so pretty that it's my go-to side dish for summer parties, too.

Kale and Brussel Sprout Salad. Ok, ok, these aren’t necessarily summer veggies. Consider this a bonus salad idea. This is my favorite salad recipe I’ve discovered all year.

Do you have a favorite summer recipe to share? I'm on the lookout for the perfect berry crumble. If you have one, share it via Twitter (@aricard).