Blog Archive

Beware: When a recruiter asks for a comprehensive business plan of what you would do during your first year with the target company along with your resume. This recruiter stated that candidates needed to “wow!” this company. The recruiter would not address who owned the intellectual property. The only answer was, “what’s that?” and “don’t worry!”

As weeks went by, there was no word from the recruiter. When he finally returned emails to several of those who supplied innovation plans, he said the company decided to not fill the position. (Thanks to Speider Schneider and

Will Sherwood
CEO/Chief Creative Officer
The Sherwood Group: Graphic Design & Website Design
Santa Clarita, CA

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Check out the folding on this one!

The judges in the 2012 Los Angeles ADDY Awards creative competition were blown away because of the innovative folding of this brochure and awarded it the highest score in the competition, a 95.6% average. They commented that a brochure like this has great potential to go viral, with prospects playing with the brochure over and over, and showing it to their friends and associates.

Below are drawings of how the brochure unfolds and close-up images of the 4 individual panels:

Stericycle brochure folding

Here are the 4 panels:

Stericycle Brochure, Panel 1


Stericycle Brochure, Panel 2


Stericycle Brochure, Panel 3


Stericycle Brochure, Panel 4

If you enjoyed this article, you may also want to check out these others:

Should You Optimize Your Website So It’s Mobile Ready?
4 Ways To “Show, Not Tell” About Your Products With Pinterest
Social Media: 5 Ways To Sell Without Looking Like You’re Selling
5 Simple Ways To Improve Word-Of-Mouth About Your Business
7 Steps to Help Your Business “Get Found” on the Web
Pay Per Click Advertising: Is It Worth The Money?
15 Website Mistakes You Should Avoid (Part 1)
Is There Still Gold in Cold Calling?
Tips To Help You Decide How Much To Charge

The Sherwood Group, Graphic Design & Website Design:  The Sherwood Group has over 30 years of experience working with all sorts of companies, small and large. Our clients range from entrepreneurs to Fortune 500 firms, in nearly every business sector, from across the street to around the world (and yes, even Europe, China, and South America). Our goal is to create advertising,  graphic design, website design, and marketing communication that still looks fresh and relevant 10-15 years later. Our mission is to stir your imagination and leave your competition shaken and wondering,  Now what do we do?”  We are located in Santa Clarita, California, just outside Los Angeles, California.

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Secrets of Success from Jack Anderson:

  • Starting the office is one of the best things I ever did professionally.
  • Chasing the dream of being “one of the most influential design firms in the United States someday” is what really drove us through the challenging times.
  • Our naivety, not knowing what was around the corner, not knowing what was ahead, and not knowing the challenges we would face is what’s grown us into the successful business we are today.

Early beginnings:

I started out studying engineering, transferred into architecture, then into industrial design with a little stint in interior design, and ultimately landed in graphics, all in the very limited environment of Montana State University. I managed to extend their 4 year program into 5, before graduating with a degree in what was called Professional Design back in 1975.

Mixed in there were a lot of art, photography and industrial arts classes, and frankly, I graduated feeling somewhat handicapped that I had a little taste of a lot of things and really not much skill in any one specific thing.

As it turned out, it was probably one of the greatest gifts I could have ever received. When I look back now, a big part of the reason Hornall Anderson is what it is today is because of that diverse background.

After graduating in 1975, I came to Seattle, accepted a job at an architectural firm called TRA Richardson Associates and, for 5 ½ years, I did title blocks, the occasional brochure, and a lot of environmental graphics or way finding.

When I started branching out into the community I met a gentleman by the name of John Hornall. This was when I was still in college and showing my book around. I courted him for nearly the full 5 ½ years that I was at the architectural firm. Ultimately, we got together at Cole & Weber, where he managed the design group. We were there for a year and a half together, before striking out on our own in 1982 when we started Hornall Anderson.

Deciding factors about going into business:

It was an interesting set of circumstances. John and I had a thriving little design group within Cole & Weber. We were in a satellite office in Seattle. One of our major clients was Westin Hotels, and when they changed their name from Westin International to Westin Inn, we had the opportunity to do a lot of really cool projects with them. We were out on our own and enjoying a fair amount of success, but the main agency wanted to pull us back into the mothership.

Simultaneous to this, I’d had a number of partnerships in small-scale real estate ventures. I’d bought homes and was fixing them up with some buddies of mine, and had experienced the process of what a partnership looks like, both contractually and in reality.

So, when Ron Elgin formed a brand new agency called Elgin Kirkland Syferd, which later became BBD Seattle, he asked John if he would be the design department inside their new agency. I said, “Wouldn’t it make more sense to have our own firm?” Long story short, we started Hornall Anderson Design Works, and Ron Elgin, Dave Syferd and Terry Kirkland became investors in our firm.

It was a nice deal for everybody. It was good for us because, not only did we have a little bit of financial stability, we also had access to some of their shared clients—specifically a client by the name of Princess Tours. This served as a foundational start for us.

We hit the ground running. You’ve heard that axiom: practice-based business versus business-based practice? We wanted to be a practice-based business. It was for the love of the craft and the freedom to do the kind of work we wanted that drove us into business, not because we wanted to be business people that happened to do design.

I don’t think one way is right and another way is wrong, but I do think that chasing the dream of being “one of the most influential design firms in the United States someday” is what really drove us through the challenging times.

On acquiring new business at first:

We experienced what I think a lot of young firms do. We were so busy doing the work that was in front of us, we neglected marketing to get new work. We experienced some of the roller coaster where things slow down and we would either answer RFP’s or call friends of friends. It was more of a guerrilla effort to make sure that at least our name was being considered locally for some of the assignments that were coming up. Little by little we established a presence in the community. And at least we were getting invited into the consideration process.

Acquiring new business today:

It’s a whole different game. Today we have about 120 full time staff people and probably another 15-20 contract people. It takes a lot of work to keep everything in a fluid state of optimism and with us playing to win.

We’ve been really, really fortunate to have a lot of continuous work from long-term clients, and from people who’ve moved on to new companies then returned to us for work. So ,we’ve built a lot of loyalty. Not just with companies, but with individuals. That growing network of friends and family has really been the key to a lot of our success.

Jack’s strategy for developing new business

We have a Director of Revenue. She’s got a team of people that report to her.

We also have a sales force, plus a support group that serves them. And for our existing clients, we have a very aggressive account service group that’s been able to garner a lot of our business.

We’re into year two of experimenting with this sales strategy mix, and it’s been getting us invited to some bigger conversations outside of the RFP process.

Biggest accomplishment:

Starting the office that would grow into a stand-out company is probably one of the best things I ever did, professionally.

Jack’s biggest success secret:

Most of all, our naivety, not knowing what was around the corner, not knowing what was ahead, and not knowing the challenges that we would face is what’s grown us into a fairly major business. That innocence, that naivety, is what allowed us to go forward and play to win. It’s been a challenge at times, but I sit here today and feel like the luckiest guy in the world.

I’ve surrounded myself with a group of people that include some of the smartest, most entrepreneurial, talented people with which I’ve ever worked. And we’ve got a distinct culture. It’s been a lot of work to get us to this point, where we have this phenomenal group of really bright people that totally believes in the “one plus one equals five” theory.

There’s an interesting mix of people from different nationalities, different walks of life, different professional backgrounds. It’s a brain trust that allows us to do some of the most exciting, innovative work we’ve ever done. I’m really proud of that. The group of people I work for is the best we’ve ever had.

The “one plus one equals five” theory:

You may know a lot of people who are incredibly talented, and in their own moment of genius, could sit in a cubicle and create greatness. But there are other factors that influence their success.

Being truly talented is one thing. Being a leader and the best-of-the-best is another thing. But to be a leader that can actually inspire other people to greatness, well, that’s the “plus” factor. Those people in our company are the most valued. A single genius is appreciated. But someone who can inspire and cajole, or whatever you want to do, to get a group of people going in the same direction, and where people are building on each other’s ideas, well, that’s ideal. This is an example of when one and one, instead of equaling two, equals three or five. That’s what it’s all about.

Thoughts on Teamwork:

Teamwork is a cheap phrase, and it’s a cheap concept, because everybody talks about it. But it’s harder to actually create an environment that is built on a team with people in the creative business. I’m really proud that we’ve been able to do that.

Thoughts on executive coaching:

Three years ago, we joined Omnicom. And prior to that I had hired an executive coach to work with me to transform myself into more of an inspiring leader. The process of getting some executive coaching ultimately lead to an opportunity back at Harvard though Omnicom called The Senior Management Program for two summers in a row. That really changed the face of this office. Currently, all three of my partners, in addition to myself and a few of my direct reports, all have executive coaches that basically help in our leadership.

On transforming a company:

Coaching has totally transformed what I believed was a good office into a great office. I’ve had numerous conversations now and again with either peers or people at Omnicom, and am asked, “What was the single thing that happened to you guys as an office that really helped you leapfrog out of where you were into something greater?” And though the coaching certainly wasn’t the only thing, it definitely played a big part.

On the value of business seminars and workshops:

We have a sizeable budget for career development inside this office, and a lot of things fall inside of that. We have on-site training and also send people off-site to attend courses and seminars. In my day, I attended a number of those. I don’t currently, because I’m involved in a lot of meetings back in New York and on the West Coast with the Omnicom network, while still trying to get some work done. (Laughter)

Granted, that doesn’t mean I don’t believe in them. I actually think staying in touch with colleagues and both people of like mind and of different backgrounds is the secret sauce to this whole thing.

On the importance of staying balanced:

I’m absolutely in favor of maintaining personal balance. I’m an avid cyclist. I ski, I’m a climber and I work out every day. It’s part of the way I manage my energy level. Those are the physical things that I do to keep me balanced.

I’m also fortunate to have a great partner and support in my wife. We’ve been together thirty-seven years, and have a wonderful daughter. I’m also a closet architect/developer with a project or two always in the process of either being designed or built.

New opportunities:

Actually, one of our current greatest opportunities for growth, and probably some of the most exciting work we’re doing, is in the area of built-environments, similar to what we did at the top of the Space Needle. We’re also working with a number of developers. We’re actually doing interior architecture and creating experiences comprised of both analog and digital. It’s huge. And they are all branded. I guess it’s in our DNA.

Tips for someone just starting out:

It’s all about relationships.

I’m making a gross generalization, but I think a lot of people get into it for either artistic or selfish reasons to express themselves. Those aren’t bad. It’s just that in order to really be successful in this business, you’ve got to put your clients’ needs in front of your own (without compromising your values or standards, obviously), and then figure out a way to give them something that really makes a difference to their business, while at the same time, provides you with a sense of fulfillment.

Building relationships:

It’s a dialogue. It’s not a monologue. It’s a relationship. And I think when clients sit across the table from someone who is truly inquisitive and interested in solving the problem in a way that actually makes a difference—whether it makes the phone ring, means more clicks on the mouse, or brings someone through the door; that’s what it’s all about. The problem needs to be solved and the client needs to feel like they’ve got a partner sitting across from them, an interested problem solver and not just a graphic designer. That’s what builds relationships.

Thoughts on trust:

To me, relationship is the key to all of this. Without relationship, you don’t have trust. And once you’ve got trust, you can do some amazing design work. But until you have it, it’s a we/them, or vendor/client situation.

There are a lot of people out there, and we deal with this in our own office, particularly with some of the new kids, coming to us with a little bit of entitlement. They think they do great work, and in a lot of cases they do. But doing great work isn’t enough.

Thoughts on the opportunities today:

(Laughter) I wish I was just starting out. I think this is such an amazing time to be in the marketing services business. Years ago, when we first started, we spent a lot of time trying to convince the clients that what we were doing for them had value. A lot of clients thought it was a necessary evil and more of an additive thing, as opposed to what I call a legitimate business weapon. Thank God for Phil Knight, Howard Schultz and Steve Jobs, who actually showed the world that branding, marketing and advertising were in fact legitimate business weapons.

Tips for someone just starting out:

First, be as inquisitive as you can. I truly believe that someone who’s inquisitive, curious and asks questions, and who’s got an appetite for a lot of different input is ultimately going to be able to solve the problem in a more unique, well-rounded way.

The people who are successful in our office think in different media. They don’t think in terms of just print. They think in terms of digital. They stay abreast of all that’s going on in the industry. They really don’t think about it as graphic design, per se.

So stay fresh. Stay informed. Don’t be one-dimensional. Be and think three dimensionally, literally and figuratively. And buckle up, because it’s a roller coaster ride.

Interview by Will Sherwood, MA, MSP
CEO/Chief Creative Officer
The Sherwood Group, Graphic Design / Web Design

24402 Vista Ridge Drive
Santa Clarita, CA 91355

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Creative Magazine Covers

For your design inspiration: This blog post includes a list of some 35+ magazine covers that might likely instill the urge in a person to pick up a copy. These covers are not only creative, but also inspiring. But I won’t spoil it for you. You be the judge.  (Thanks to and Humza Mehbub)

Will Sherwood
CEO/Chief Creative Officer
The Sherwood Group: Graphic Design & Website Design
Santa Clarita, CA

Social links (Follow us on Facebook and we’ll return the favor):

Professional links: (Design Portfolio) (Printing Portfolio) (Success Secrets of the Graphic Design Superstars blog)


These are 3 of the most clever,  funny, and memorable animated ads I’ve ever seen! Be sure to watch all 3. Each is wonderful and unique (Wylie Coyote and the Roadrunner would be proud).

De Lijn, the public bus company run by the Flemish government in Belgium, has launched this new ad campaign showing that it is smarter to take the bus or tram than travel alone. The concept for these commercials came from Duval Guillaume Modem in Antwerp, and the 3-D production was done by CC (Creative Conspiracy). Don’t know if there is safety in numbers by taking a bus in Belgium, but in the U.S., it’s crowded and a good way to get elbowed by strangers and attacked by psychopaths. Still, the ad is memorable and cute.

DeLijn plans follow-up campaigns that will “focus on the nature friendliness of public transport and the fact that taking the bus gets you faster through traffic and helps you to get rid of the stress of finding a parking space.” DeLijn is also working on a smartphone game featuring the ants in the commercial –- a nice distraction while riding the bus.







Will Sherwood
CEO/Chief Creative Officer
The Sherwood Group: Graphic Design & Website Design
Santa Clarita, CA

Social links (Follow us on Facebook and we’ll return the favor):
Facebook Design:
Facebook Printing:

Professional links: (Design Portfolio) (Printing Portfolio) (Success Secrets of the Graphic Design Superstars blog)

Nine out of ten business people will tell you that their biggest challenge is finding new customers.

lighthouse staircase

And not just any customers – we’re talking about the good customers, the ones that really want to work with you, trust you to do a good job, listen to you, accept your guidance, and have a budget to pay for it all!

But finding customers like this isn’t easy, and that’s why so many business people find themselves pounding the pavement from networking event to networking event looking for their next lead.

And so they turn to the internet and blogosphere.

The promise seems to be that if you build a thriving online audience or community, you’ll have a never-ending stream of customers. So business people bite the bullet, add blogs to their websites, and work hard to update those blogs on a regular basis.

Except that most of those blogs have no readers, generate no business, and are nothing more than a giant, frustrating time-suck.

What are they missing?


Will Sherwood
CEO/Chief Creative Officer
The Sherwood Group: Graphic Design & Website Design
Santa Clarita, CA

Social links (Follow us on Facebook and we’ll return the favor):

Professional links: (Design Portfolio) (Printing Portfolio) (Success Secrets of the Graphic Design Superstars blog)

Here’s some good solid wisdom about how your business can prosper in local business Internet searches. (Thanks to and Vedran Tomic)

Will Sherwood
CEO/Chief Creative Officer
The Sherwood Group: Graphic Design & Website Design
Santa Clarita, CA

Social links (Follow us on Facebook and we’ll return the favor):

Professional links: (Design Portfolio) (Printing Portfolio) (Success Secrets of the Graphic Design Superstars blog)


Success Secrets from Bill Thorburn:

  • It’s always been that feeling of passion and energy and excitement and learning, and growing. What more can you ask from a career?
  • I’ve always thought the best creatives were really, really, really humble at the end of the day, and very open-minded.
  • Build a strong foundation. Build the soul. Build the essence. If you don’t, you’re gonna’ be road-kill within 5 years.

Early beginnings:

I’m a little bit of an anomaly in the sense that I’ve never taken a design class in my life. And I might be a dying generation because of how important technology is in our execution. But, I have a Bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from Minneapolis College for Art and Design. My focus was painting. At the time it was kind of funny. Design wasn’t as big a deal as it is now. I think if you were to go back to MCAD you would see that it’s flopped. It was probably 70% fine artist and 30% designers at that time. I graduated in 1984. My designer friends all dressed up in Yves St. Laurent ties and carried briefcases. They stood out back then. Of course now the designers wear jeans and t-shirts, just like the artists.

It was the first year of the Mac, 1984, and I remember them showing me a 3/4 view of a pie chart. And they kept moving one slice in and out, back and forth, going “Hey Thorby, check this out. How cool is this?” And I remember just laughing and thinking, “You’re paying for an education to do that?”

Anyway, I had worked in a small graphic services firm to get myself through college, and so I had done everything from printing to halftones and typesetting, you know, those foreign words these days. They did everything from typesetting to logo design and printing. It was the first job right out of high school. I was called a “printer’s devil” which comes from that rich heritage of tradition that printing has, all the way back to Guttenberg. But it was a term that was created by Ben Franklin. Basically a printer’s devil cleaned up the presses. I worked in the bindery and ultimately learned how to run a press and then how to do film and halftones.

Moving into design:

One day they said to me, “Aren’t you going to art school?” And I said, “I am.” And they said, “Here, do a logo for us.”

Ironically enough, when I left college I became a ski bum in Salt Lake City. And I saved enough money after 3 or 4 months to tour the West – do my Jack Kerouac stint. I was going to live in my car for 3 days and then shack up in a hotel and wash up and eat at buffets, and I figured I could be on the road for about 60 days and then come home back to Minneapolis.

At my first stint I landed at Lake Tahoe. I fell asleep in my car in a parking lot and I was awakened in the morning by a guy who was about my age. He invited me in for a cup of coffee. He was wondering what I was doing in his parking lot, and turns out, he was the owner of a type house in town. And of course back then, the type houses were the center of the universe, right? We’d send out our galleys every night and get them back.

We started having a cup of coffee and I said, “Hey, I’ve just been skiing in the mountains outside of Salt Lake City for 4 months. I’m going to do my little tour and then go back. So I have to get a real job.” He said, “Well, what do you do?”, I said, “Well, I’m trained as a fine artist, but I’ve been putzing around in commercial art for the last six years. So I’m not really sure.” He said, “Well there’s a lot of designers up here and there’s’ a lot of design positions up here that are open. I can send you to 3 interviews in the next hour if you want to.” He also said, “By the way there’s more skiing per capita here in Lake Tahoe than anywhere else in the world.”

Communication Arts: an epiphany:

And so I went off and I did my first interview. I went to a women’s office literally an hour later. I put my best turtleneck on and my best loafers and khakis. I had no portfolio and just went to introduce myself. As I was sitting in the lobby I started flipping through the stack of Communication Arts she had sitting there. I remember at that moment realizing what a jerk I’d been to the people that had pursued a degree in design. It was the beginning of Post Modern. I think the first issue that I looked at was a whole issue on what was going on in Texas and Dallas and with Woody Pirtle.

Right then, I had one of those epiphany moments. I realized at that point that this was my career. And this was exactly what I had been looking for as I grew up looking at album covers and reading Mad Magazine. You know what I mean? I was thinking, wouldn’t it be cool to do this stuff, but I never really put the pieces together.

Passion that never leaves:

It was a very powerful moment and it is still. It hasn’t left me to this day. I still feel more passionate and excited about my job today than I ever have and I think that’s the beauty of graphic design: it’s constantly evolving and changing.

Now I’ve been doing this for 25 years. And the passion has never left me from that first moment, that epiphany moment, of sitting in that small little design firm in Lake Tahoe looking at Communication Arts and just being blown away, really realizing that this was it! This was the thing I wanted to do. It’s always been that feeling of passion and energy and excitement and learning, and growing. And I think, “What more can you ask from a career?” That’s what keeps it so exciting.

Finding his way to Carmichael Lynch:

I spent about 4 years in Nevada. Then I moved back in ‘88, ’89. I don’t remember, but Minneapolis was just blossoming at that time. I was looking over my shoulder, saying, “Wow, what a hip place to live, to work.” I’d gotten my start in a career. And so I went back and I was hired by a shop in town.

A year later, I moved into an incredible position with incredible people at Dayton Hudson Marshall Field’s. It was just a wonderful time to be there. After 5 years, retail begins to repeat itself. You know what I mean? It’s spring; it’s very light; it’s very sheer; it’s very gossamer. It’s fall; it’s very rich; very jewel tone. Oh gosh, here’s a flower show. It’s gonna’ be a country theme. And holidays we’ll do a traditional one. The other side of retail is that it is fresh and a reflection of the culture at that moment. It also brings the destination and experience into the creative. It was a great place to develop a broader approach to the assignments that I was given.

So I went off and opened up my own design firm called Thorburn Design. And that went on for a couple of years. It was really great. We were doing work for Nike and Microsoft and ESPN and Neiman Marcus and we had some great accounts and we were getting some good buzz.

One day I got a phone call from the head of Carmicheal Lynch, Jack Supple, and he said, “We’re looking to create a design division.” That’s where the conversation started. It was a really nice marriage from day one. So Thorburn Design became Carmichael Lynch Thorburn, and now we’re back to The Thorburn Group.

On staying small in a big agency:

We’ve just worked with phenomenal clients, from Coca-Cola, to Harley Davidson, to Porsche, to Benjamin Moore to Formica, to Toys‘R Us. It’s just been wonderful, the brands we’ve been able to accumulate. We still keep it small. We utilize the infrastructure of the ad agency, but we’re a completely separate division. We run on our own separate profit and loss operation.

We go after our own accounts and we end up working a lot in partnership with our brothers in advertising and public relations. And you’ll understand what I’m saying, it took a big burden off of me. MIS, human resources, and accounting is all taken care of. I can plug into planners.

For a group of 15-20 people to be able to work on those kinds of brands and rebrand them and reposition them to have planners involved has been really a leveraging kind of value-added proposition that my firm brings to the equation that a lot of design firms don’t bring, and so it’s been kind of a blessing from that point of view.

On the other side, aesthetics have become so important. When I first started, 12 years ago, this was definitely a copywriter’s paradise. And now, all the young hot talent that’s coming here on the art director’s side, is very much aesthetically driven. I think we’ve become very inspirational in creating that vibe within this building.

I think clients are really looking for design opportunities in this climate. Build a strong foundation. Build the soul. Build the essence. If you don’t, there’s just so much information flying around out there you’re gonna’ get lost in the crowd and be brand road-kill within 5 years.

On new business development:

Typically a director of new business and an admin handle new business development. It’s fairly small and when the door has been opened, the director of brand strategy and I will go and present our work and our process and look for opportunities to partner with whomever it is we’re talking with.

Influences in the design world;

Coming from retail, I tend to lean more towards fashion and fashion designers. I love the Japanese. I love the Issey Miyake’s, the Yohji Yamamoto’s. And I still look to people like Isaac Mizrahi and what they’re doing. I also think art is really important to me and it still maintains an important aspect of how I get inspiration. I try to create a culture of what I would call enthusiasts and advocates. There’s so much going on in the world. There’s a kind of cross-pollination from everybody.

On the importance of sharing enthusiasm:

Tomorrow, we have a thing called Taco Talk. All the creatives get together about once a month. I go out and buy the tacos and they come in and everybody shares what’s got ’em excited. We’re all trying to find that epiphany moment like I found back in Lake Tahoe.

It’s still true today. There’s still that kind of fresh awakening that happens with current work and current designers, and the exciting stuff that’s going on, whether it’s film or design or fashion or art or architecture. So we try to build a culture around that and just let people share it and turn each other on. I think that’s the beauty of having a mid-sized design firm. There are enough people here that can create a community of shared values. It really becomes a catalyst, and we all inspire each other. I’m grateful for that.

My greatest hope is to create a culture that encourages others to succeed and do great work. As you know, that’s an ongoing challenge.

The keys to success:

If I was talking to a younger designer, I would say it’s really all about what’s in your heart and in your passion. I think this is a passion sport. It has nice longevity as a career and it gives people the opportunity to come in every day and grow and keep evolving. It’s a career that constantly unfolds as long as you stay true to your heart and your passion of wanting to do great work.

Would you do anything differently?

I don’t think so. I feel very grateful. I think the mistakes and the flounders worked their way up to what became successful. So if you don’t trip and fall a couple of times, you’ll never move forward. I think the mistakes I made were blessings in disguise.

On the value of consultants and training

I try to encourage my staff to go to as many trainings as they can, to go to one a year. Also, we have hired consultants on a couple of different levels, once to help us become better at new business, another to become better at presentations.

There are so many great conferences. You can pick your medicine: the Aspen Design Conference, GAIN. We have a great local chapter of AIGA here that does a design camp every year. There’s the HOW Design Conference, AIGA National. I leave it up to the individuals to figure out what they want to do. It could be weekend classes at the Community College or back at Minneapolis College of Art and Design or one of the other art schools in town to learn animation or grow deeper into programs. I’m a complete advocate of that and encourage my guys and gals to pursue that stuff diligently.

A thought for people just starting out:

Stay focused on the work and do great work, but never forget the relationship. I think those two things balance out a career of longevity and your reputation.

On the importance of staying in balance:

I try to stay active and ski or rollerblade or running or mountain biking. We also have a place up in northern Minnesota. You gotta’ recharge the batteries every now and then.

I have a friend from Paris. I explained that to him that he’d have to come up north, up to the lake with us. This was mid-June and believe it or not, we actually do get warm in this state. So he showed up with all this winter stuff and I said, “What are you doing?” He said, “Well you’re going up to the lake.” And I said, “Yeah, that’s up north” and he said, “Oh, I thought we were going up to the mountains.” So he’s brought his high altitude gear. No, this is lake country up here and there’s a lot of little shacks up there that people retreat to

I also think that when you retreat with your family you’ll have a balanced life. Sometimes you’ve just gotta’ turn it off and go float. That’s really what the lake represents for me.

Additional advice for someone just startingout:

Be passionate and stay pure to the work. Be humble. Realize there’s a lot to learn. Be open to learning because there’s a whole wide world out there. That’s what makes this such a great career, you’re always getting a little bit better, learning a little bit more. You have to be open to that. There has to be some humility to that. As much as you want to know it all, to be as good as you can be. Defend what you do. I’ve always thought the best creatives were really, really, really humble at the end of the day, and very open-minded.

About Bill Thorburn

Bill Thorburn, founding principal of The Thorburn Group, has 20 years of internationally recognized design expertise. He started with a fine arts degree from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, and worked in the agency setting for several years before becoming design director for Dayton–Hudson’s–Marshall Fields. With The Thorburn Group, Bill exercises his vision for strategic, powerful, lasting design every day. His list of client work is impressive: Nike, Microsoft, Harley–Davidson, Neiman Marcus, Dayton’s, Coke, ESPN, and Porsche, just to name a few.

Bill’s design work is included in the permanent collections of the Victoria & Albert Museum of Art in London, and the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. He has also had individual exhibits in Japan and London. TTG, Minneapolis, specializes in the design needs of clients looking to establish their identities and build their brands.

Interview by Will Sherwood, MA, MSP
CEO/Chief Creative Officer
The Sherwood Group, Graphic Design / Web Design

24402 Vista Ridge Drive
Santa Clarita, CA 91355

Contact Us

Follow Will Sherwood on Twitter?
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Success Secrets from Rick Valicenti:

  • If you do good work, challenging work, and work that is attentive to production values and craft, odds are you will continue to attract those kinds of projects.
  • You’re only given opportunities when you’re ready for them. Enjoy the process. Enjoy the learning.
  • Should you choose to hurry your life along or do it for the money, you’ll end up being pulled back, pulled aside or pulled into a place you don’t want to be.

Rick’s thoughts on patience when building and sustaining a career:

A lot of young people enter the profession with a great deal of promise, and exit shortly thereafter; wishing that the profession had fulfilled their promises. So, building and sustaining a career is an interesting question. I would say of the different qualities required, one of the most important is actually a simple one — as simple as patience. In other words, your portfolio won’t be complete after one year. It requires some patience. It also requires time, which is a bit different. Time allows you to discover who you are, how you see the world, and how you respond to opportunities. These qualities, combined with good people skills and interesting collaboration with other designers, clients and creative aptitudes that transcend the norm, can allow you to create a great life.

On getting good clients:

There are a couple of mantras that work and have proven themselves. One of them I learned from Michael Patrick Cronin, a designer in San Francisco. He said, “You get what you do.” If you do good work, challenging work, work that is attentive to production values and craft, work that is beautiful, poetic, sensual or compelling, odds are you will attract those kinds of projects when your work gets out to the world. People will ask, “Who did that?” The answer will lead back to you and other opportunities like those will follow. If the work you do is hurried, compromised, poorly crafted crap complete with messages of no value, odds are that’s what you get in return. And one day you will wake up and say, “How come am I getting such crap work?” It’s because that’s what you’re putting out there.

Rick’s thoughts on having faith in your creativity:

I think if you are patient and know that over time your work will be good, it will be. First, you must be true to yourself, true to the work you want to do, and to the level of care you want to devote to your work. Once you commit to that, I think that’s the biggest surrender you’ll have to make. It’s a big leap of faith because you are putting faith in your own ability. You’re putting faith in your own sensibilities and abilities to work with others to get the work done on time, and at the same time, make something of real value. It won’t be long before you’ll be rewarded with similar opportunities.

From what I have seen and experienced, every time I’ve chosen to hurry my life along or do it for the money, I’ve ended up being pulled back, pulled aside or pulled into a place I didn’t want to be. You can be proactive, but I think you have to be proactive in just making that leap of faith; that commitment to yourself; that commitment to the craft and to the continuum that we’re all in as we continue the trajectory and the tradition of the graphic design profession and art.

Thoughts on getting oriented to your location:

Before I became a graphic designer, I was a grad student of photography. I finished my graduate work at the University of Iowa. While there I took a letterpress class at the Writer’s Workshop. And, when I moved to Chicago, the photographic community seemed to be engaged in image making that I wasn’t either qualified for or interested in pursuing. It was very commercial work— hot dogs, corn flakes and beer. I’m sure there was better work going on in Chicago, but I really didn’t see it at first glance.

So, I decided maybe I needed to be on the other side. My other fascination was discovered in this letterpress class, and in some of my undergraduate work in design as a painting and drawing major. I went to various places only to discover I couldn’t get hired because I didn’t have a solid commercial background in design. However, I learned enough to generate a portfolio of magic marker renderings and key-line and paste up examples, which was enough to secure jobs that were production oriented and that fed me during my first two years in Chicago. And, with some good fortune, luck and a personal curiosity, I found myself at a design conference in 1978 and, finally, an opportunity to become an assistant to a very reputable designer here in Chicago who was in his late 50s, early 60s. His name was Bruce Beck. I stayed with Bruce for a little over three years, and when Bruce retired, I went out on my own.

Rick’s thoughts on getting started:

One of the first projects on my own was working as a freelancer of sorts. I wasn’t really working for other designers, but primarily as a textbook art director in a team of designers for a major Chicago textbook publisher. And, one thing lead to another. I started to secure lots of textbook work and work from smaller clients who needed identities, menus or what have you. Pretty soon I developed a reputation of being a good designer, easy to work with and reliable. And that’s what I’ve practiced ever since.

Working with Scitex:

The Scitex people actually wanted to start a school that taught people how to use Photoshop. They were looking at two designers in the final round. I remember one was April Greiman and the other was Thirst. As a fairly early adaptor to Photoshop, back in the days when there were no layers and only one undo, they gave us an opportunity to create magical images in a pretty straightforward piece. Now that was a fun project.

On the rewards of work:

Rewards for me come on a lot of levels. Looking back on all the work I’ve been involved with, whether it be individual or collaborative, I can’t say that this or that design has changed the complexion of contemporary society. There are very little examples of that kind of thing because the only one that comes to mind happened so long ago. I did that little ‘ear’ symbol in 1978. Maybe you’ve seen the little insignia at movie theatres or banks. It notifies/declares information access is available for the hearing impaired. Since then, the insignia has gone through all sorts of variations, as does any design over time. The original, however, was featured in I.D. Magazine and has become sort of a standard. That’s one little gem.

On icons and special projects:

Do I have an icon in my portfolio like Milton Glaser? Not yet. But, I do have work of mine in the Chicago community that is public and visible, and I think, it’s standing the test of time nicely, some better than others. We’re currently collaborating with an artist and group of architects on a 9/11 memorial for the victims from Hoboken, New Jersey. The memorial will be an island in the Hudson River. The island will be a kind of quiet destination, with very smart typographic narrative on the bridge. And, when you get there, each of the victims will be identified in a respectful way. This project continues to be a very good use of each of our gifts.

Rick’s thoughts on doing things differently:

Some have said that I should spell my name with an ‘s’ instead of a ‘c’ — Risk. But, I don’t feel that I take a lot of risks. It’s just been the natural way I’ve gone about doing things. And, I don’t know if I would do anything differently. Though, I would be curious to know, what would have happened if I would have landed in New York or London instead of Chicago?

On new business development:

Doing this interview is at the heart of my new business development program. I often tell my story to other people with the hope that they will pass it along. So far it’s worked. This year is the 20th anniversary of Thirst. At the end of 2007, we moved the studio back to the City proper which has brought us new energy and a reduced staff. The four of us in the studio now are planning to take a more aggressive and targeted stance toward business development which should be fun. All of us want to turn our direction to people, places, and things we’ve never explored.

Thoughts on the inspiration of attending workshops and seminars:

Absolutely I attend seminars and workshops. Having been a presenter or attendee at various conferences and workshops on four continents so far, has provided me with the opportunity to meet hundreds of designers, both in and outside of their environments.

Two years ago, I took Milton Glaser’s week-long course at the School of Visual Arts in New York. And, for the two summers prior, I attended the design inquiry at MCAD in Portland, Maine. The first year I enrolled as a participant; the second, I was invited to be a workshop leader. So, yes, I do try to stay fresh. By attending conferences one can become inspired. I also try to do as much creative work outside of the studio as I can; without the influence or permission of the client.

Giving back as a new business development strategy:

For the last 10 years, every five weeks or so I’ve traveled to a different university, college or AIGA chapter. That’s a lot of visitations, and for most, I don’t charge a fee. My reason for going is to share my work. I sit in on critiques and have assigned projects for the students to complete before I arrive. Then we review those projects while I’m there. It’s a good exchange of energy, I see the future generation of designers and get a lot of enjoyment out of doing it; hopefully the students do, too. Interestingly enough, over the years I’ve had the chance to continue to work with some of those people whom I’ve met. And occasionally designers I’ve met want to collaborate with me, or provide an opportunity, and it all works out.

Final thoughts for those just starting out:

I would just like to remind those who are just starting out that this is not an easy profession to stay completely excited with all the time. It is difficult, and it requires us to put ourselves out there. When we share an idea with someone, that idea comes under scrutiny. The scrutiny that it comes under often isn’t an endorsement of our idea. Sometimes it’s a harsh critique of our idea. And those ideas come from a special place within us. It hurts when your little baby of an idea gets kicked around. So the only message I can pass along is to enjoy the process; enjoy the learning. You are only given the opportunity when you are ready to take it. Find ways to conceal compromise. Reach out to other people. And, put some good things out into the world for us to see!

About Rick Valicenti of Thirst: A Design Collaborative

Rick forms relationships with his clients, and he earns their trust. What results is a personal conversation which draws on all of the clients’ experiences and fuses the boundaries between expression and promotion. While each individual piece may at times seem bizarre, slick, cold or inscrutable, the work as a whole has continuity, passion and depth. While Rick’s style has been emulated, the essence of his work is seldom recaptured.

Rick has juried countless design award competitions, including the Presidential Design Awards for the National Endowment for the Arts. His work is included in the permanent collection of the Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum and the 2006 Triennial, Design Life Now, and has been featured, critiqued and lauded in design publications worldwide, and has garnered awards from AR100, Graphis, CA, Print, Step, New York Art Directors Club, ACD100, Tokyo Art Directors and I.D. Magazine, among others. He has lectured extensively and exhibited his work around the world. Rick is a member of the Alliance Graphique Internationale (AGI), has served as president of the Society of Typographic Arts and was awarded the AIGA Chicago Fellow Award in 2004 for his steadfast commitment to the education of design’s future generations and the AIGA Medal in 2006, for his sustained contribution to design excellence and development of the profession. The Medal is the highest honor in the graphic design profession.

Rick Valicenti designs in collaboration with John Pobojewski, Bud Rodecker, Matt Daly, Tom Vack, Jeanne Gang/Studio Gang, and Janet Echleman.

Interview by Will Sherwood, MA, MSP
CEO/Chief Creative Officer
The Sherwood Group, Graphic Design / Web Design

24402 Vista Ridge Drive
Santa Clarita, CA 91355

Contact Us

Follow Will Sherwood on Twitter?
Connect with Will Sherwood on LinkedIn
The Sherwood Group’s Facebook page
Will Sherwood’s Facebook page
The Sherwood Group’s website


Success Secrets from Milton Glaser:

  • You have to work your ass off. You have to think about [work] as being the primary issue in your life. You have to pursue whatever talent you have and develop it.
  • I think entering award shows can be questionable because very often you don’t understand the vested interest that’s involved in putting them together. And they become a kind of trick of magazines and institutions to support their own efforts.
  • I’ve never had a new business development plan of any kind in place.


What does it take to succeed?

That is one of those cosmic questions that have absolutely no answer. And I’m going to be very evasive about general questions because I don’t believe many of them are answerable. They end up in jargon. They say, yes, hard work, conscientiousness, early talent, good luck, support of the mother, and all the rest of it. But it’s so rarely informative that I have to admit that I truly don’t know. The only thing I can think of was an illness in early childhood that forced me to become introspective. I rheumatic fever when I was a kid, about 8 years old. That kept me bedridden for about a year. It seems to me that there are trials that occur early, that provoke introspection, and that may be responsible for the commitment to your own invention.


Of all your work, what are you most gratified to have done?

I can’t say I am most gratified by anything. I think the issue for old-time professionals is sustaining. Right? What you want to do is keep working until you die. My great hope, and I’ve said this before, comes from an essay that I think is by, T.S. Eliot on the subject, where he says: “ The greatest blessing in life would be to die in the midst of work.”



Would you do anything differently?

Glaser: Oh, Probably thousands of things.

Sherwood: (Laugher) Anything that stands out?

Glaser: Not really. It’s so hard. As the Buddha says: “ Good yields evil. Evil yields good.” So it’s impossible to understand the consequence of any single action. As Groucho Marks said, “If I’d known I would live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.” But, outside of that, I don’t know if I could have done anything else.


Views on business development:

Sherwood: Do you have a new business development program in place?

Glaser: I do not. I’ve never had a new business development plan of any kind in place.

Sherwood: Really? How do you get clients? By meeting people and networking?

Glaser: Stumbling into people. Doing work that people noticed.

Sherwood: I recall the coffee table book, “Milton Glaser: Graphic Design.” Do you think that helped you to become recognized? Perhaps award shows?

Glaser: Oh, I don’t know. I don’t even know how to answer that. I think people seeing your work helps your business.



On entering award shows:

I think entering award shows can be questionable because very often you don’t understand the vested interest that’s involved in putting them together. And they become a kind of trick of magazines and institutions to support their own efforts. And you have to be wary about it, although it is the way that people get noticed. It indicates that somebody approves of your work, and therefore it must have some credibility. But I haven’t done very much of it in recent years because I became well known enough without it.



Ongoing training:

Sherwood: Do you attend workshops or seminars? I know you give those on occasion. However, have you ever taken those to improve your skills?

Glaser: The only one I can think of recently was about 10 yrs ago. I took a workshop on how to make monoprints. And, I used the information that I learned to produce a series of drawings to illustrate Dante’s “The Divine Comedy.” That particular workshop was exceedingly useful to me.



On building and sustaining a career:

Sherwood: If someone new to our industry were to ask you how build and sustain a carrier, what would you say?

Glaser: (Laughter) Well, you have to work your ass off. You have to think about that as being the primary issue in your life. You have to pursue whatever talent you have and develop it. Oh, I don’t know. All of the banal things that people will tell you about your own energy and desire are true, but you simply have to work hard. I don’t think of work as my job. I think of it as my life. The engine of desire is what drives the accomplishment.


Additional thoughts:

Sherwood: Is there any additional advice you might give to someone just starting out?

Glaser: Not outside of working hard. I mean what else is there to do? And it’s probably very good from a business point of view to be nice to people to people that you meet because they may re-enter your life. And is suppose networking for business is an important part to sustaining a livelihood. I’ve never done it, but I suppose from a business point of view it’s an essential part of building your career.



About Milton Glaser:

Milton Glaser (b. 1929) is among the most celebrated graphic designers in the United States. He has had the distinction of one-man-shows at the Museum of Modern Art and the Georges Pompidou Center. In 2004 he was selected for the lifetime achievement award of the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum. As a Fulbright scholar, Glaser studied with the painter, Giorgio Morandi in Bologna, and is an articulate spokesman for the ethical practice of design. He cofounded Push Pin Studios in 1954 and founded Milton Glaser, Inc. in 1974, and continues to produce an astounding amount of work in many fields of design to this day.

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