Archives for category: Creative Process

The Subject Line is: “What a Lemonade Stand Taught Me About Storytelling” – – the email starts like this: “I was on my way to play golf this past weekend when I drove by a young girl selling lemonade on the sidewalk in front of her house….

I know the source, so in two seconds, I’m drawn in.

In 5 more, I see video clips from Seth Godin and Rolf Jensen – business storytelling legends – that support the premise that a little girl’s lemonade stand is relevant to my brand. Great communication about communication.

~ Christopher Smith


Some days, I think I could get all my news from GOOD. Which is why I get their daily blast – it’s well designed, uplifting and stimulating.

For example, this story about HCD Connect, a new platform designed by and (funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation) to design solutions for people in extreme poverty.

Sharing stories with your global peers in order to help those critically in need of design solutions?

Has storytelling ever been more important?

~ Christopher Smith

Every two months, Expert Blogger Kaihan Krippendorff pulls together a community of innovators. They meet somewhere in New York City, usually a boardroom overlooking a park or cityscape. But last month they all found our way into an acting studio operated by The TAI Group to learn about storytelling…

Read more on Fast Company

IMHO, Banksy is a rebel genius who never misses with his art.

I’ve looked at dozens of his pieces and each one kills. There are few about whom I would say this.

Today I read a piece he wrote about public advertising – – assume he means billboards, bus boards, and such. Read it here and comment.

~ Christopher Smith

Here’s a good use for the word gobsmacked:

Issey Miyake’s genius continues to extend the distance between him and all other clothing designers.

Is anyone else in the industry doing this:

…or telling a STORY like this:

“The process by which the clothing is made is groundbreaking, using a mathematical algorithm: first, a variety of three-dimensional shapes are conceived in collaboration with a computer scientist; then, these shapes are folded into two-dimensional forms with pre-set cutting lines that determine their finished shape; and finally, they are heat-pressed, to yield folded shirts, skirts, dresses etc. These clothes are significant not only for the process by which they were made but because they are also made using recycled PET products, sometimes in combination with other recycled fibers.”


~Christopher Smith

“Back in the day” I taught a copywriting course at the University of Oregon. I was teaching there at the same time as the inimitable Jelly Helm, and hope none of my students were not too disappointed when they found out the real genius was just down the hall. In any case, one of my favorite texts was Hey Whipple, Squeeze This by Luke Sullivan. As those with pants below their butts say, Luke is the sh*t.

I might delete that.

Point is, studying Whipple and following Luke, I got the students to understand a little about the CRAFT of writing. Because, as Luke describes himself, he’s a writer by trade.

What’s by trade got to do with it? Well, writing consistently well is not magic, it’s hard work. Luke is a singularly talented writer who, by his own admission, sucked in the beginning.

How did he overcome his suckitude? Like any artist, he listened, he learned, he paid his dues and wrote until the garbage was flushed out.

Read Luke here:

  1. “Study the masters. Immerse yourself in their work over and over again until you have it memorized.
  2. Surround yourself with people who are better than you are.
  3. Don’t waste time defending your early efforts. Just shut up and listen to your teachers.
  4. Stay humble.
  5. Stay hungry.

Sooner or later you’ll produce something that looks like the work you’ve been studying and admiring. Like Ray Bradbury, one day you’ll lean back and realize, wow, all that work, it’s starting to pay off.” (Luke wrote this as a paragraph, you’ll see).


~Christopher Smith


A picture is worth…

Not so fast, art directors. Take this photo, for example (I found it on George Takei’s Facebook page)

If you’re like me, the photo shows you a wonderful expression of joy by this little boy. And then you scan down and notice his legs – – a catch in your throat, no doubt, as you think about what this little guy has been through – – then you look at the face again – radiant.

Then you see the line – – “Your excuse is invalid.”

It’s not the picture, but the words, that turn a heartbreaker into a motivator.

Copywriters matter – more than ever.

~Christopher Smith

“Quiet minds cannot be perplexed or frightened, but go on in fortune or misfortune at their own private pace, like a clock during a thunderstorm.”
–Robert Louis Stevenson

Heartfelt article in Slate from a real Wordie: musing on the “greatest lyricist of our generation” – – Bob Dylan versus Leonard Cohen – – without mentioning All Along the Watchtower or Hallelujah. You decide.

~ Christopher Smith

A few years back I had passed the audition (done successful freelance work and been hired full time) at a startup financing firm in Portland, Oregon called Portland Family of Funds. My first assignment: write a speech for the Mayor to deliver about a project that was intended to define green building, historic rehabilitation and support of the arts through innovative financing.

Simple enough?

Wish this TED talk had been available at the time – – check out the brilliant Nancy Duarte
 (perhaps I should revisit the speech and see how I fared?)

~ Christopher Smith