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Making Something Out of Nothing


The ultimate creative challenge—and thrill—is to start with a completely clean slate:  To create an entirely new concept; to visualize something truly new and different. I’ve enjoyed doing pretty much that in creating my garden from a virtually empty backyard. But even then—as with marketing communications—certain fundamentals are useful guides.

Existing elements

There’s usually something that has to be used. Like it or not, budget precluded replacing that ugly garage and the yard measures just 40 feet at its widest point by 30 feet deep. The 1939 house is a Tudor revival, English cottage style, and its brick façade has strong orange tones accented with purple. I like it, but it did impose design constraints.

Likewise, less-than-ideal images taken in the lab or plant, legally required disclaimers, or technically necessary descriptions often must be incorporated. Good creative can work with (or around) such realities.

Form and function

How will the creation be used? Materials for websites, printed brochures, and presentations to be delivered by sales reps have different jobs to do. How much flexibility do we need to provide? Is there an order to revealing information? How much detail should be included?

I wanted my tiny garden to provide several things:

  • An overall feeling of privacy and tranquility
  • Dining options in sun or shade
  • A fountain
  • A hammock
  • A swing
  • Adirondack chairs with a table
  • Wind chimes
  • Formal paths and service paths
  • The ability to wander
  • Lots of roses, herbs and perennials

Design solutions included replacing the ratty old hedge with a pretty cedar fence to increase usable space, building a large arbor to hide the garage and put the relaxing area away from the side abutting the neighbors, and using two entry arches and paths to provide directional choices that led to the different “rooms” of the garden. Roses are predominately apricot and orange blends; catmint, lavender, and salvia relate to the purple tones in the brick—and all combine beautifully in an informal cottage garden.

The unexpected

Being new to roses at the time, I didn’t know that colors would change during the life of blooms. A group in the center of the garden turned out to be  much more pink than expected, so I added others in various shades of pink to make the color look intentional—and was surprised to see how well they worked with the orange roses!

Over the years, our materials have featured striking SEM images, test materials, and performance comparison graphs as central visual elements that tell the story in a compelling and visually pleasing way. Great end-use photos can get attention and help produce a desired feel, but showing what our clients’ products do creates materials that sell.

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