Curious Lola

Tips To Communicate With Your Designer

Recently, a fellow designer asked me the following…

“How do you help your clients feel less intimidated in telling you their ideas.”

Whuuuuuh?

I was blown away. It had never occurred to me that people might be intimidated to tell their true thoughts to the designers they hire.

Once this designer said that, I immediately thought how dangerous this situation could be.

To let a free-associating, visual stimuli addict run wild is just dangerous.

People could be wasting money, ending up with a design related to my favorite color of the day (orange) mixed with the origami something I made out of my pastry napkin from my morning coffee mixed with the slick detail from an airstream lunch trailer. However cool that may be, it may not relate to you. Somewhere down the road, you may look at my design and suddenly think…

“What the hell is that?”

Nobody wants that, so here are some tips on how to communicate with your designer to ensure you don’t have any “what the hell is that?” kind of moments.

Inside Every Designer’s Mind

In order to prevent such disaster, allow my to explain how a designer’s mind may work (ahem).
And this doesn’t just go for me, but most designers I know (and, therefore, it applies to every designer everywhere).

We view everything as if it has some useful information. For that reason we inspect how things are made, how colors change in different light, how long it takes for a pumpkin to rot…  All potentially useful information. These things zip around, running into things, tripping over each other, or sometimes just waiting. They are in there because we know that one day we will be sitting in front of you.

You will say something that will connect with something else and BANG, a great idea for you.

Or so we think.

Your Willingness To Be Open With Your Designer Is Critical To Your Happiness… Seriously

I’m not saying you won’t be happy on an existential level. You still might be happy, deep down. But you might not be happy when you see the results… know what I’m sayin?

Sometimes an essential part of design is just figuring out where your brain is at.

What will freak you out and what won’t. In that case, we may throw out a lot of ideas. Don’t worry, we will not jam pack your event full of nonsense. We’re just gauging your reaction.

What Can I Do?

Over the years, I’ve gained confidence that I am pretty darn good at nailing someone’s design boundaries and style. But what makes this process better for both of us is the following:

  • Bring images of rooms, clothes, events, flowers, hairstyles, vacations, whatever that reminds of the vibe you want to achieve. It can really be anything that helps us learn about you.
  • Tell us what you love, and tell us what you DON’T love and why. (it’s okay if you don’t know why)
  • Come with an open mind.
  • You can’t hurt our feelings, so just be direct if you have any reservations about a path we are taking.
  • Let us know what your priorities are.

That’s it, pretty simple. If you bring an open mind along with some of the above items, you can be sure your design experience will be that much closer to dream-making–and not of the nightmare variety!

Do You Excel At Chaos? Me Too! And This Is How I Turned Chaos Into Success

Painting equipment on a wooden table

Painting equipment on a wooden table

The Ugly Truth…

I’ve been called a slob before- my whole life actually. Just messy. I’ve lost roommates over it, enraged parents, and disgusted employees.

The fact is, I only clean for three reasons:

  1. To make space for another mess
  2. To avoid social humiliation (say if I’m having  party)
  3. To avoid strife between me and my spouse and employees.

If left to my own ways, I would end up like that hoarder muppet in Labyrinth.

As I’ve built a growing business, it has become clear that a certain level of organization, rules, and operation systematization is crucial to help me deal with the overwhelming chaos. It also allows me to live in a world with my much more organized counterparts. You could say, I am a reformed slob.

What did I do to solve it? Systemize!

What Does It Mean To Systemize?

A system is just a documented, repeatable way of doing something that achieves a desirable goal.

Documented so the system can be followed, measured so you know if it’s successful, and flexible so it can be improved. Once a system is in place and is generating success, you don’t have to think about the tasks to achieve that success–as long as you follow the system, the system will bring the outcome you want!

I view systems now as mechanics- and I can geek out about mechanics.

I ask myself, “How can I ease this operation so that as much decision-making as possible is automated?” I walk through the steps, document it, and try like hell to use it every time I have to do that task.

Voila, a system!

This way, all my creative fuel can go into less boring parts like actually forming and executing new ideas.

Approaching a boring task used to be like this….

“Ugh, so tedious, where was that thing I did before? So much to do. I have to move this stuff out-of-the-way first. So much stuff…  Maybe snack first… I love snacks. What was I doing?”

And this would continue until the actual amount produced that day was a shadow of what I knew was possible.

As it turns out, there are some studies in this area. They call it willpower, however that to me sounds like some sort of superhuman strength. When we mortals try to harness willpower we can only expect disappointment.

Really, willpower is only making the decisions that get you closer to your goal. And with systems in place this doesn’t require some sort of superhero strength.

Good Decision-Making Can Be Automated

You read that right: you can build systems to automate good decision-making.

That’s great because in Tierney and Baumeister’s studies on willpower in their book called (ahem) Willpower (non affiliate link), they talk about our brains having a finite ability to process information for that day. With every decision, you reduce your ability to calmly process data and come to a good decision.

Even small decisions affect your reserves.

That means, toward the end of the day, you have severely depleted your resources. In the morning, you fully intend to exercise, draw up a new proposal, and eat well. Around 5pm you are now sitting on a stool at happy hour eating cheese fries having only doodled over the cover of your notebook.

What can you do? Eating, sleeping, exercising, meditating, these are all things that can boost your metaphorical fuel tank. But, what can you do to preserve your fuel from reducing in the first place?

You got it! Systemize! (also called routine, but that’s boring.)

For example, if your goal is to get out of the house in a way that will not repel other humans, you will want to follow this system. I call it, the How To Leave Your House Without Being All Nasty System (patent pending):

  1. Get out of bed
  2. Take a shower
  3. Get yourself clothed
  4. Eat something
  5. Brush your teeth
  6. Fix your hair
  7. Get your stuff and walk out the door.

Congratulations! You have just completed creating systems and have not reduced your ability to make much more difficult decisions later on in the day.  This list represents an automated system you have repeated and mastered to the point that it is not a chore.

And you can do the same for MOST business tasks and operations.

Where Can You Find Systems?

Once you start looking for systems, you see them everywhere. Systems are routines you follow to get stuff done. (If it still doesn’t make sense, refer to the above example of How To Leave The House Without Being All Nasty.)

Once identified, then the critical task is to document it.

Here’s what putting together a flower arrangement looks like in our shop:

  1. Start timer
  2. Clean off workspace
  3. Assemble tools and compost bin,
  4. Get flowers and raise them up so I don’t have to stoop. Everything should be easily reached.
  5. Assess goal size and shape.
  6. Prepare container and Go. I even have a system for how to start flower arrangement which you can review here.
  7. Stop Timer.
  8. Assess time spent and see if it is in line with how much time I have left to complete other tasks. If I don’t have enough, I need to go faster or reduce a step. If I have time left, yay, I can go home early.
  9. Count flowers used of each type of flower.
  10. Document on my FLOWER RECIPE average time and any alterations to the recipe.
  11. Take picture.
  12. The picture, flower recipe, and time is filed away so that next time when I have a similar arrangement, I know how much time to budget, how much of what to buy, and what it looks like, each time I use this recipe, I document for which job it was used.
  13. Repeat steps 1-7

Later I view the receipts to ensure that my flower recipe is priced appropriately and make any necessary notes for next time.

By doing this, it’s easy to start work. More importantly however, with each iteration, I’m honing my profitability and can accurately estimate how many employees I need for how long.

My employees can also get into the habit of using this system and develop a sense for ways to make things more efficient. When you’re doing your quarterly or yearly review to gauge how profitable your jobs were, oh man it’s nice when they line up exactly where you planned them to be (or better).

That’s some serious satisfaction.

Where We Use Systems

We try to use systems whenever we can. Here are a number of areas:

  • Pricing: How to charge for what you do!
  • Mobilization and Load In: How we get everything ready to go, how we get it packed, and how we get started on site.
  • Payroll: How we track hours and get employees paid.
  • Invoicing: How we get paid!
  • Information sharing: How we share information internally.
  • Packing: How to ensure you aren’t running around looking for something on site.
  • Site and Venue analysis: What to look for, what to ask about, how to make a map.
  • Flower care: How to ensure flowers stay fresh and open nicely.
  • Yearly strategizing for labor, marketing, and expenditure budgets.
  • Flower ordering: How to make a flower recipe and ensure profits.
  • Proposals: What we show, and what we don’t,
  • Client Intake: What happens after we get an email inquiry and how do we make sure that inquiry is not lost
  • Client meetings: what we talk about, what we don’t, what info we collect, what processes happen next.
  • Photographing jobs and systems for naming files so we know who the photographer, client, and venue.

Need more info on how to systemize your operation? The first book I read on the subject was the E-myth. We’ll also be putting together a ‘Nuts and Bolts’ training system that will show you our backend systems.

Let us know what you are curious about in our operation and sign up to our email list to be notified when that is out.

This is part THREE of our ten part series: Things I Wish I Knew When I Started My Event Business

Check out Part 1 (marketing, baby) and Part 2 (experts) to get all caught up.

 

 

 

How to Make a Glorious Springtime Bouquet

“Don’t make things ugly.” This is really the only rule we have at Lola Creative, unless we’re going for ugly-pretty or ugly-scary/cool. But when it comes to bouquets for weddings, pretty-pretty is the minimum. What we really try for is more like, “HOLY HANDFUL OF DRIPPING EARTHLY MAGNIFICENCE!” – or something of that nature.

My first bouquets were barely pushing pretty-pretty. Mainly because I learned from the You Tube. My roses weren’t fully open, flower diversity was so-so, and the shape looked like my bouquet had been squeezed through my sweater sleeve. This changed while on a business trip to New York. I snuck out of my then ‘real’ job to take an intro bouquet class at the New York Botanical Garden. I learned a couple of simple tricks to get a full bouquet that looks like each flower could just continue on growing. We’ll go over that at our GARDENESQUE BOUQUET WORKSHOP. Register here.

But today we’ll just breeze over some terms for different types of flowers and how they are working in this bouquet, inspired by St. Patty’s Day.

bouquet

And here are the yummy, American and Lower Left Canadian flowers.

flower spreadOur flower classification is similar to others you may have seen but relate to their job in a bouquet.

Base: These are flowers we start out with, I typically start with three. Their main purpose is to support the other flowers ON TOP OF THEM and be a barrier for flowers around them that want to squeeze into the center. So don’t get too attached to them because you aren’t going to see very much of them. They are back up dancers. Now you could use them also as secondary, but I did not.

Focal: This is the one or two flowers to drool over and often the most expensive. We don’t want too many. These are typically near the middle and typically one is smack on top of my base flower so it has maximum room to stretch out and be fantastic.

Secondary: These are flowers to add color and build your bouquet out. They go all over the dang place. I typically choose one or two types.

Sprouties: These are flowers that are smaller and hover over the other flowers giving it some movement and lightness. For gardeney bouquets I use a lot of these and place them throughout. The stems need to be longer than your base and focal flowers. Sprouties can be flowers, pods, or small, delicate foliage.

Foliage: Here I use a few foliage to get a good garden variety. the rigidity and loveliness varies. For example, the box, which goes a bit unnoticed is rigid and will help keep flowers from squishing in and can help in supporting big floppy flowers. The delicate geranium is used a bit more like a feature because of its graceful arch.

Drapey bits: Not shown in the image above is drapey bits like the pieris, Placed near the outer ring or along the outside, they will make the profile of your bouquet look fab, add grace, and an elegant drippy quality.

Special bits: These are the pieces that I add last, after most everything is secured and I’ve had a chance to inspect the bouquet in a full length mirror. I then decide where these go to bring focus and character to where it needs it.

And THAT, flower friends, is the anatomy of a gardenesque bouquet. sign_up. for our bouquet workshop on March 28th to put all this good stuff to use and play with some of the lushest flowers and foliage our local farmers have to offer.

THIS could be what makes or breaks your event design.

When I was five, my friend, Angelina, pushed me into an apple tree during an after-school game of tag. The resulting branch in the eye shattered the lens in my eye.  I was a patch-wearing kindergarten pirate for a little while, and sight altered for always. At any moment I can transform my world by closing my right eye and see the world as a series of enhanced reflected light and de-saturated color. This led me to the believe that I had superpowers (like being able to make animals do what I want by staring at them) but also sparked a lifelong fascination with eyes and how we see.

Fast forward to now, I’m an event designer and our team produces everything in an event from a very small to a grand scale. The most critical issue we deal with on a daily basis is what to include in our designs and what not to. Editing. It can mean the difference between an irrelevant event that is quickly forgotten, and an event that wraps up an audience in time and space and gives them a life altering communal experience. While critical, editing is also the most difficult since there are so many options.

Brain Brain-gr

One tool I use right away is to think about the event and view the space in terms of light alone; in grayscale. It reduces what you have to work with to a series of shapes and contrasts.Your design then is to add shapes and contrasts, or take them away in order to focus on whatever you want to focus on. it turns out there is some good science behind this, and my amateur forays into observing and studying how eyes and brains understand what we see have led me to include it as a critical step in our editing/ design process. In fact, this concept is included in our upcoming workshops on March 7th and 10th on Design Principles. It will be rad and the venue is gorge.

Click Here Tab

This concept of our world as measures of light is called luminance and the information is processed in a completely different part of the brain than where color information is processed. This information is responsible for making us understand shape, location, dimensionality, movement, and important questions like “is this place/thing likely to kill me?” It’s understood first before any willy-nilly cultural perceptions like color can be applied to our visual understanding. This is what gives you the gestalt feeling of place. It organizes space and determines largely whether or not you feel comfortable. It also determines what you are likely to look at and what you are likely to ignore. The quick and dirty is that people see contrast in luminance first and clearer, even if the colors are contrasting but ultimately equi-luminant. People are less likely to focus closely on predictable repetition, or contiguous areas of equi-luminance. This is why the back wall with the screen and the neuron on the wall in the photos above sing while the table, items on the table, chairs, and ceiling do not. See for yourself how you can use this powerful tool to draw attention to different areas of your work on both a small and large-scale.

How to Make a Wintery Holiday Centerpiece with Easy-to-Find Evergreens.

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Short on holiday decor but have a lots of greenery?
For a lot of the materials here, you won’t need to look much further than your backyard. Follow these steps to turn your in season greenery into a holiday crowd pleaser. For more of these sort of tutorials and info on local workshops make sure you subscribe in the top right of the page!

01I picked up my greens from the Seattle Wholesale Grower’s Market– which to Seattleites, may as well be their backyard. They’ve got a wide variety of greens available that have all been grown locally. AND you don’t need a wholesale account to purchase on Fridays. It’s not important that you have the same greens, so long as you’ve got something in the same categories. Categories that I, ehem, have concocted after much experience, observation, and research….

  • Fluffy stuff: any foliage with a full, voluminous look, really a space filler but I don’t want to hurt its feelings. You’ll need 3-5 stems depending on the size of your dish. I am using an 8″ wide gold compote with elk heads (!!!:) !!!:)!!!) You can use all the same variety or multiple but I wouldn’t go more than 2. Here, I’m using some sort of Korean fir (or something), and Bay Leaf.
  • Armature Stuff: This can or doesn’t have to be pretty, since we don’t use foam, it’s a functional component to ensure all this heavy foliage has a nice tight structure to keep it in place. An armature is a term used in sculpture to give shape and support to a piece. You can think of them as bones. For my armature I’m using about 3 twigs cut down into smaller twigs of red huckleberry. You could use any small branch or even cut offs ends of the rest of the foliage.
  • Sprouty things: These can be graceful or spiky and are used in small quantities to give the arrangement a punch. It’s like a cherry on top. Too many sprouties and your arrangement can look muppet-like which is totally good in many instances but we’re going for something a little more traditional here. Here I’m using just one lovely ivy vine with a nice curvy shape to it, and one curvey branch of Pine. The ilex is the red berry, and while it is spikey, it’s acting more as an eye catcher.
  • Eye-catchers: These are bold elements that stand contrast more than anything else. You will want to severely limit these. I’ve used Ilex berry for my eye-catchers and though one branch has several twiggies, they are clumped in the same spot so the eye-catching is still only happening in one place. Just one ilex shown here.
  • Drapey stuff: Not always necessary but nice in this instance to cover the edge of the bowl. This is helpful especially to help camouflage my chicken wire cage. Drapey stuff is just that, something that is heavy enough to hang down or something with a graceful bend. I am using about 5 sprigs of cedar.
  • Other ingredients:
    • wide mouth container
    • chicken wire: approximately 10″X5″
    • wire cutters or tin snips
    • pruners or floral scissors
    • floral tape, waterproof tape, or if  your container has heads, you can use twine like me.
  • Time: I’d give it 45 minutes once you’ve got all your materials if this is new to you.

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First make a chicken wire cage, or floral frog by bending your chicken wire into a bubble. Loop the sharp ends over the connection points so the wire doesn’t slip. Shape cage into container.

 

04Since this is a low dish, you will want to secure the cage in place from above. Typically I would use tape but since it can remove finishes, and I’ve got these great heads, I’m going to use twine. It’s not so important that the tape holds up during the entire process. It’s only there to get you started. As you go on, the stems themselves will hold everything up. 05

Next it’s time to make an armature. As mentioned before, this is a crucial step to ensure your heavy arrangement is supported. Don’t think too much about what the arrangement will look like at this point. This part will likely disappear into the arrangement. It’s got more functional value than aesthetic. Clip or pull off any little twiglets that will interfere with inserting your twig into the cage. Remove twiglets and cut the bottom so that the stem end touches the bottom of the container, and the first twiglet ‘Y’ rests right inside the opening for the chicken wire.

 

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Remember, the point is to get a bunch of stems in place so your next step has a more secure support cage to be inserted into. More stems with less top growth are better than less stems with bushier top growth. So goodbye twiglets. We’re trying to jam up that base.

 

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Go nuts with twigs. The friction of stem on container, and twig on twig will make your arrangement secure.

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Next is the drapey stuff to cover the rim. Remove all the excess twiglets so what you are left with is clean and has its own clear shape. Cut the end and insert so the stem touches the bottom of the container.

 

 

 

06.e

 

This is the part when I got really into singing Mariah Carey’s ‘All I want for Christmas’ and forgot that I was supposed to photograph the steps. Basically I am adding the fluffy stuff and playing with placement on the sprouty bits. I know where I want my eyecatcher to sit so I’m leaving that open.

 

 

 

 

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Tuck in the eye- catcher. I left a spot for a fluffy piece of bay branch, too.

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And finally my sprouty ivy is the cherry o top of this pile of twiggy goodness.

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This bay is super yummy.

00Where you goin’ berry? Don’t you know it’s cold outside?

Stay tuned for upcoming how to’s. Be sure to subscribe to learn about upcoming events and workshops around the Seattle, Eastside, and Puget Sound. And do comment if there is something in particular you’d like to know more about. And have a very happy happy holiday.


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