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Read label. Drink wine. Repeat as needed.

About 95% of the work I do is for the web, and I love it. But, as a writer and lover of books and words on paper, print projects hold a special in my heart. Perhaps even more exciting are the opportunities when I get to help create something that exists out there in the world. Product, people, product!

My talented Blue Ion friends called on me a while back to help with the renaming, new identity, and website for a Napa Valley winery. The new identity included new labels for the wine bottles, and I was psyched. Remember, I’m a reader and a writer, which means I’m also one of those people who actually reads packaging, labels, invoices, etc. Let me just say: a little humanity or humor on any of the aforementioned pieces can make a huge difference in the customer experience. Promise.

The larger website for Mira Winery  is still in development, but friends, the wine bottles have arrived! And I could not be more jazzed with the results. Major kudos to the Blue Ion team (shout outs to Katie, Josh, David and Robert) for the beautiful design, and stay tuned for the website awesomeness to come. Here then, is the back label of Mira Chardonnay.

Scenes from my most recent adventures

It’s been fast and furious in the life of this writer lately, and I’m grateful to my clients for sharing their projects and energy with me. However, I’ve been a bit remiss with the blogging. To get back into the groove, I offer a few glimpses from my most recent adventures for your enjoyment/amusement.

Team building and bowling in Columbia:

We're bowlers. We bowl.

Sunlit morning

Tree in morning light.

Courtney hosts and is guest of honor at the most elegant birthday dinner party ever.

Aaron Draplin takes over Charleston…well, Blue Ion at least…and offers some sage advice, laughs, and pure inspiration.

Aaron Draplin and a rabid fan (read: me)

Maverick Southern Kitchens Ads: So Tasty.

Our special today is hand-clicked graphic design by local graphic goddess Katie Kosma and Charleston’s own Blue Ion with essence of New Jersey-raised copy by me. (Don’t worry, it’s neither bitter nor polluted.) See that endearing self deprecation? Get it while it’s fresh and hot!

Only at Maverick Southern Kitchens. Or…you know…here.

Darkness To Light: It Takes A Village

A while back, my friend Robert Prioleau invited me to help with a re-branding project for Darkness To Light, the Charleston-based non-profit working to end child sexual abuse. I got the opportunity to meet with D2L’s CFO, Jolie Logan, who was heading up the project, and it was a big one: a new identity, courtesy of the mega-talented Gil Shuler; a new website courtesy of the teamwork and talents of designer Sarena Norton, Blackbaud, Blue Ion and the driven, committed folks at D2L; plus, a new tagline, copy and positioning by me.

I should express my undying respect for Jolie Logan and the D2L team’s hard work and can-do attitude to see these projects through. A re-branding project is always a bold and exciting time for an organization…and truth be told, it’s a bit of a gamble, because it involves change. And I may be a bit biased, but I think the new logo, positioning, tagline and website bring a renewed energy and commitment to an organization that doesn’t just say what they want to do…they do it and continually find ways to empower more people to help them do it. Congratulations and thanks to everyone involved with the project. It’s been an incredible experience.

Logo by Gil Shuler Graphic Design.
Darkness To Light homepage
The Issue

Here’s a bit of the copy I wrote:

Think of 4 girls you know.

Now guess which one will be sexually abused before she’s 18.

Now think of 6 boys you know.

Which one of them will be sexually abused before he’s 18?

No one wants to think about it.

That’s what abusers of children count on, of course. Shame, embarrassment, fear, confusion.

They keep children silent.

They keep adults ignorant.

They keep truth hidden in the dark.

Why should you care?

It doesn’t happen in your town.

At your school.

In your church.

Actually, it does.

In fact, more than 90% of abusers are people children know, love or trust.

And the cost is great.

The reality is that one incident of childhood sexual abuse costs a community nearly $14,000.

The emotional cost in incalculable.
Research shows that people who are sexually violated as children are far more likely to experience psychological problems often lasting into adulthood, including Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, depression, suicide, substance abuse and relationship problems.

Child sexual abuse is not the problem of one region, race, creed, socio-economic status or gender. It impacts every community and every person in America.

Victims of childhood sexual abuse don’t just suffer emotionally. They suffer physically.

  • Victims of childhood sexual abuse are more likely to suffer from obesity.
  • Are more likely to suffer from heart disease.
  • Are more likely to engage in destructive behavior with drugs and alcohol.

In fact, if child sexual abuse were like most childhood diseases, the prevalence and consequences of it would lead to telethons to raise money for its cure. But child sexual abuse is one of the last cultural taboos. With the exception of child-focused personal safety programs, almost nothing is being done to address it. That’s where Darkness to Light and the good news beings.From volunteers to educators to donors, being an active participant in the mission to end childhood sexual abuse is one of the most rewarding things you will ever do.

Learning the facts about sexual abuse helps prevent it.
Read the 7 Steps to Protecting Our Children to learn simple, proactive steps you can take to prevent, recognize and react responsibly.

Talking about it helps prevent it.
We make sure our children are in car seats and seat belts. We walk them across busy streets. We ask our teens where they are going and who they will be with. All to keep them safe. And yet, when it comes to the crime of sexual abuse, we often grow silent. Darkness to Light stands ready to help you find the words to have the conversation every family needs to be safe and empowered.

Getting involved helps prevent it.
From volunteers to educators to donors, being an active participant in the mission to end childhood sexual abuse is one of the most rewarding things you will ever do.

If childhood sexual abuse can be prevented, it can be stopped. Through awareness, education and prevention, children can move from silence to exuberance. Adults can move from ignorance to empowerment.

And truth can move from darkness to light.

Easton Events

I love it when my pals at Blue Ion show their sensitive side. Actually, producer/designer Nicola Walker created the initial design concept for this one: the new Easton Events site launched last week. And, Craig Anthony, Flash developer/super designer and Lead Application Developer, Brian Dadin knit together an elegant, beautiful site certain to woo brides, grooms and Fortune 500 companies alike.

Here’s a taste of the copy I wrote:

Our approach is influenced and inspired by international art and architecture, as well as fashion, and event design. We live in a world of paint samples, schedules, fabric swatches, storyboards, menus, seating diagrams and budgets – a constant, delicate balance of head and heart that makes us singularly suited to creating exceptional events.

Strangely wonderful

Sunlight

As John Lennon said, “strange days, indeed.” As I write this, my Mom is on her way home from the hospital after several days battling a colon infection. About colon infections: you don’t want one.

My Mom is obviously doing much better, but the past few days have brought up giant waves of emotion in her and me. This is, after all, the first time she’s been quite ill since Dad died 14 months ago. My brother, who lives within two hours of Mom, was able to be at the hospital with her and speak to the doctors. Another aside: if you can have a family member act as your medical advocate, do it. It’s always helpful to have another person to ask questions and listen to what the docs have to say.

Before Mom was diagnosed with the colon infection, my mind twisted its way into various fearful scenarios, and I maintained an internal battle of wills to concentrate my attention on the “what we know now” as opposed to the crushed glass, hamster wheel of hell called “what if? what if?”

What my Mom experienced in the hospital: an epic feeling of loneliness is not unusual given the reality of her circumstances. Nor is it unusual that I’d feel anxious and lonely because I could not be there in person. As she grew weepy with me on the phone over the course of her hospital stay, it occurred to me that I was offering what I could in that moment. I suppose there is always the question of “is it enough?” But then, the weepy moment passes…the feeling subsides or ebbs and we are onto the next.

The day after Mom went into the hospital I spent the afternoon at my dear friend’s house watching the University of South Carolina battle the Georgia bulldogs. My friend is a Georgia fan, and we groaned and lamented as the pain wore on. In quieter moments of the game, we talked about my Mom and my friend’s sister whose marriage is breaking up. Aside: when faced with infidelity, small gestures like say, cutting the buttons off a dress shirt can provide a quick, albeit slightly petty bit of retributional joy.

Fast forward to this morning: when friends at Blue Ion and I present a new direction in marketing to the folks at Maverick Southern Kitchens: to include new strategy, copy, designs and websites. As I surveyed the room during the course of the presentation, I was humbled by the sheer fact that a group of folks was listening to what we had to say and was even moved to share their thoughts with us. There is something so primal about cooking…feeding…nourishing and nurturing others. Part of the reason I am so intrigued by what Maverick does is simply by the virtue that I am enamored by the notion of food as a means of conversation and connection. And they do it so well. Taking the food seriously, but never themselves.

Minutes ago I stood in my backyard, feeling the slightest hint (or wishful thinking on my part) of fall. I noticed an ever so subtle change in the light through the leaves that left me wondering, where does the time go?

I can’t tell you, because I just don’t know. Lately it seems that laughter is most usually followed by tears which is followed by awe, humility, confusion, elation, and now and again a Bloody Mary. But who knows…maybe it’s just me.

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High Cotton gets fresh

Been working with pals at Blue Ion on some fantastically fun projects for Maverick Southern Kitchens, the passionate folks behind High Cotton, Slight North of Broad, Old Village Post House, Charleston Cooks, High Hammock and High Cotton Greenville. Our goal for all the projects is simple: share the goodness that’s inherent: the amazing food, talented staff and warm hospitality. Check out an upcoming print ad we produced. Props and thanks to Woody, Josh, Nicola and Robert.

Beer, a family business

Folks from Blue Ion, Gil Shuler Graphic Design and I toured the Pearlstine Distributors facility this morning. And let me just say, WHOA.

Beer as the far as the eye can see!

So much beer, it nearly brought a tear.

Thanks to Larry, Susan, Ashley and team for their hospitality. It’s quite something to witness the behind the scenes of a five-generation family business. These are warm, passionate people who believe in excellence in every part of their work. Their facility is impressive, and in the beautiful lobby, they have some wonderful historical pieces that show the evolution of the family business. I was particularly moved by this, written by the family in the early 1900s:

“We get our environment not from the trains we travel on, the scenery we see, the hotels we stop at, the competitors we contend with, the customers we meet; but from the mental attitude that governs us in the presence of them all.”

Marketing Mount Pleasant

A few weeks back, my pals at Blue Ion and Gil Shuler Graphic Design asked me to help craft a brand story about the town of Mount Pleasant, South Carolina. As some of you know, Mount Pleasant has been in the midst of a strategic marketing initiative to enhance and grow the community.

Armed with some heavy-duty resident research and strategic planning, Blue Ion, Dean Foster, Gil Shuler and I went to work to craft creative to support the initiative. After much discussion, Gil put together a super sweet logo. I crafted the story below. Many thanks to Dean Foster for sharing his thoughts and insights and always, to Blue Ion and Gil. Big squeeze.

One last thing: Yes, I am a born and bred New Jersey girl writing about the Lowcountry of South Carolina. But let me just say: duh, I’m a writer, that’s what I do. And two, for a year and a half I lived in a quirky apartment on Shem Creek in Mount Pleasant. I cannot tell you exactly what that time and those long walks through the Old Village did to me, but perhaps it’s evident in the words.

To understand Mount Pleasant is to intimately know the water – the ebb and flow of the tide. The marsh creeks and rivers that surround us. Living here means  measuring time and joy by the water. Is it high tide? Can we take the johnboat out? Here, water is sustenance – shrimp boats at dawn, crabbing off the dock, the day’s catch being hauled in. It’s the taste that lingers on your lips after day is done.

Mount Pleasant is an idealist. Our strong neighborhoods are built from generations of strong neighbors – folks who work hard, whose children play with yours, who say “hey” when they see you, who gently guide even the most confused tourists to the beach. Our solid schools are crafted by a close-knit community of teachers, citizens, parents and children.

Mount Pleasant is borne of the land and water. Protecting them is part of who we are. Not just because our shrimp are caught in local waters or our tomatoes grown on local vines. Not just so that our children and grandchildren have them to enjoy, but because this kind of raw beauty, this rich history and culture has a harmony to it we strive to emulate. The land and water have a life well beyond ours and are at their best when shared.

Mount Pleasant tells a great story – from Sewee Indian to Capitan O’Sullivan, from dirt road to highway, from inlet to open sea, to “talkative” wood floors and tin roofs to fisher monger to physician. There is a gift for conversation here, an ease of sharing, which brings with it the ability to question, listen, entertain and lend a needed hand. Some say it’s Southern hospitality. The stuff of beloved novels or bedtime stories. To us, it’s simply a way of life. The sweet life.

Check out the video Blue Ion and friends put together based on the copy here.

Meet Robert Prioleau

Hello, my name is Robert Prioleau.

I’ve known Robert Prioleau (pree-low for you Northern types) for going on five years. During that time, we’ve collaborated on projects, commiserated/dorked-out over brand mantras, taglines, manifestos and tossed back the occasional cocktail. A while back, he asked me to help write his bio for the new Blue Ion website, and of course, I jumped at the chance.

Not only did Robert provide great fodder and fun facts about himself, he asked for and expected the tomfoolery and irreverence that makes working together so fun and inspiring. Thanks, RP, it’s always a pleasure.

That being said, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce Robert Prioleau, Founding Partner & Strategy Director of Blue Ion.

P.S. This is the extended, disco version. A shorter version now resides on the Blue Ion site.

Although there is no “official” confirmation, it’s widely believed that Robert Prioleau emerged from the womb with one pressing question: Why? It’s believed this early inquisitiveness led to a lifetime of list making, brow furrowing and drawing of Venn diagrams.

Though birthed in the Northeast, Robert spent his childhood reluctantly donning the occasional Christmas sweater and moving…to Texas, New Jersey and Virginia. Still itching, perhaps from the sweaters, he moved to Nashville where he earned a degree in Latin American history from Vanderbilt, then to Austin where he received an MBA in marketing (and a serious horns habit) from the University of Texas.

For the record, Robert believes brunch is what’s wrong with America. No one has ever adequately explained the mass appeal of sitting inside eating while the best part of the day ticks by. Before you ask, outside brunch is out too.

Before launching Blue Ion, which in its early days doubled as a boy band, Robert tripped the light fantastic with GSD&M Advertising in Austin; Fitzgerald & Company Advertising in Atlanta and BellSouth.net Internet Services in Atlanta.

After tunneling out of Atlanta, Robert found himself happily stuck in the pluff mud of Charleston, South Carolina where he landed a job with Rawle-Murdy Associates and met those other boys with serious haircuts.

At Blue Ion, Robert’s role, equal parts sheepherder, strategist and therapist, is integral to the work of bringing out the best in clients, brands and customers. It’s also quite entertaining.

If Robert was a collection of “I’d rather be” bumper stickers, he’d “rather be:” outside, on a bike, on a skateboard, playing with hound dogs, playing harmonica or sipping tequila. All at once is a life goal.

Though deeply troubled by lightning and ventriloquist mannequins, Robert soothes himself by serving as Chair of the Trust for Public Land’s South Carolina Advisory Council, Strategic Advisor to New Carolina’s Creative Industries Cluster, and sits on the boards of Charleston Moves, The Lowcountry Housing Trust and the Charleston Academy of Music. His magnum opus and great joy is helping raise the best daughter ever with his wife, Rachel.