Before There Was a Word for It…


From the Business Section of the Washington Post – December 1997

All my life, I had been “that kid who can draw,” the one classmates would come to for party flyers, T-shirt designs and illustrations to use as a template to get their jeans painted. I never had a formal art class beyond the 6th grade, so my designs were usually based on cars, comic books, or the latest movie (“Star Wars” was a big influence). My sophomore year in college, I applied for a position as the graphic artist for one of the student centers on campus. I had worked with the previous artist who held that position, who taught me about paste-up, and using Letraset letters and rubylith for my design work (anyone remember those?) instead of doing everything free-hand. I didn’t get the job, and when I found out I was so angry that I went back to my dorm room and drew what had been my best work to date, and which started me on a new path.

I had a college friend who had graduated a couple of years before me. He was in his second year of medical school when he realized that he didn’t want to be a doctor. His parents, as you can imagine, weren’t happy, and he had come back to campus to visit some of us younger guys and explore some career options using the university’s resources. While he was there, I showed him my design and some others I had done. During our conversation, he had an idea: we should go into business selling T-shirts with my designs on them! Neither one of us knew anything about starting a business or selling, but we had a great idea and thought we could make some money. He went and drew up a contract (he decided he wanted to be a lawyer), which was primitive by today’s standards, and came up with a name: Masai Enterprise (no ‘s’). It was November 1986.

Our first product was a towel, with the design I created as the result of my rejection. The production process was a disaster (they printed it too small, on terrycloth, and all the detail was lost). Despite the imperfection, we were stuck with them. Our plan was to sell them at an event in New York City on New Year’s Day. We went without enough money to get in. We were selling them at a ridiculously low price ($5.00), but we were able to to sell enough outside to buy tickets. To this day, I consider that first “cold” sale to be my good luck charm.

We sold almost everything we had that day. For the next year, we used the money we made to buy more shirts, get them printed, travel to events and sell them. We created designs that were original and resonated with the people we knew and the culture we were a part of. And we had a lot of fun! It wasn’t until years later that I realized there was a word for this – entrepreneurship.

That fall, my partner enrolled in law school (he eventually got his JD/MBA and became an investment banker) and I finally got serious about graduating and focused on my studies. Masai Enterprise was put on the shelf, but it had sparked something that would never be extinguished. The rest, as they say, is history…

So often, we’re so focused on today that we don’t tell our story. How did you get started?


Why Resolution Matters: Pixels vs. Vectors

Have you ever found a picture on the internet, downloaded, and tried enlarge it?

Ever use that image in a document, and wonder why it prints out with jagged edges?

Ever use that image in a brochure or sign, and have it come out looking really bad?

Here’s how you can save yourself alot of embarrassment and rework.

There are basically two kinds of digital still images: raster (also known as bitmap) and vector.

Raster images are made up of pixels, tiny colored squares arranged in a rectangular grid, forming an image. The quality of a raster image is determined by resolution, or the number of pixels (“Dots”) per inch that the image is broken down into. The more dots per inch (DPI) the image is broken down into, the more detail is captured. Most photographs are raster images.

The reason why images look different on your screen than they do when you print them is because your eye sees things differently on a monitor than it does on paper. An image only requires a minimum of 72 DPI to appear clear on a monitor (called screen resolution), while the same image when printed on paper must be 300 DPI in order to look as good. When you print a 72 DPI image on paper, you see the pixels as jagged edges on the image.

Vector graphics, on the other hand, use points and paths — mathematical calculations — to describe the image. The resulting shapes, or objects, can be easily manipulated, colored and re-sized without loss of quality. Whereas a raster image may have, say, 1895 pixels from point A to point B, a vector graphic simply plots the two points, calculates the distance between them and draws a line (for this reason, vector files are typically much smaller than bitmap images). Whether you print the image on a business card or a billboard, it will always appear sharp and crisp.

Search Engine Optimization Decoded

In this article, Danny Sullivan does a great job of explaining the various elements of Search Engine Optimization. What it basically breaks down into is, Content and Links: what you have to say, and how much attention other people are paying to it. Those are things that can’t be “gamed,” the way that people thought they could do with meta tags, or paid for, the way some of the huckster “get ranked higher in search engines” ads try to tell you.

The moral of the story? Have something relevant to say, and have a system for spreading the word!

The "Periodic Table" of Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

“How Much Should I Spend on My Marketing Budget?”

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration’s SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) program, a startup business should spend as much as 50% of its annual budget on advertising and marketing. This may seem like a lot, but remember, a business with no track record needs to work extra hard to build trust among potential customers and get its name out there.

A marketing strategy should also encompass a 6 to 12 month period. Remember, a typical customer has to receive a message an average of 9 times before they take action.

Read a supporting article from

Read a supporting article from

‘Head Shots’ vs. ‘Mug Shots’

Too often, I’ve asked clients for a photo of the staff to use on a company web site or in a publication, and what I get looks like a security camera picture. If you’re serious about being in business, you need to have a professional head shot (a photo of you that focuses on your face) that you can send to publications, new agencies, or ad book printers at a moment’s notice. If you’re a business owner, and you want to be respected and credible before anyone ever meets you, take the time to get a professional photo taken of yourself.

Here are 5 tips on do’s and don’ts of head shots:

  1. It’s a Head Shot, not a Mug Shot – don’t stand against a wall and have someone in the office snap a photo so it looks like you’re being booked.
  2. Put Your Best Foot Forward – make sure your appearance is neat. Wear a nice suit, a polo shirt with the company logo, an open-collar button-down, whatever is appropriate for your industry and the image you’re trying to project.
  3. Look Confident – hold your head up. Smile if you like.
  4. Keep the Background Neutral – there may be times when a designer needs to cut you out of the background. Don’t shoot in an environment that’s so busy it’s impossible to distinguish you. Remember, the focus should be on your face, not where you are or what you’re wearing.
  5. Shoot Everybody at Once – scheduling a photo shoot so that everyone on staff is shot in the same place, at the same time will ensure that the pictures are uniform in terms of lighting and background. You may think customers won’t notice, but they do. Also, professional photographers usually charge by the half-day. It’s cheaper to scheduling everyone during the same 4-hour period than to try to shoot them a few at a time on different days.

You don’t have to break the bank to get pictures taken. If you can’t afford a professional photographer, there are many department stores or small photo studios that have reasonable rates.

Electronic File Sizes – remember to keep several difference sizes handy for electronic use: a high-resolution version for printed publication, and a series of smaller versions to use for web sites or other low-resolution applications.