What I Learned: How To Think

What I Learned: How To Think

My thoughts on thinking

If there’s anything I’d say is required for making a piece of art, it’s inspiration…

And sometimes inspiration is hard as hell to come by. Everybody hits walls while writing, exercising, learning something… honestly anything that you’ve gotta put effort into you can find yourself at a stand still at some point. It’s hard to get through and it sucks, you feel like your brain just decided to turn off, and there’s no hope of turning it back on.

Sometimes when this happens to me I have a real quick chat with my brain, something along the lines of:

Me: Hey I’d like to finish this project that’s due tomorrow please, it’s kinda important.
My brain: How about I think about some random shit that doesn’t have to do with it instead.
Me: Is there anyway you cou-
My brain: Nah.

It’s frustrating, but it happens, a lot. So, if you’re pursuing a creative career this is something that you kinda have to learn how to deal with really effectively. And what I’m going to say may seem basic but it’s something that I’ve seen time and time again here at the Artoholiks. The best way to get through a wall is to have other people to brainstorm with, and that’s the truth! It’s simple but it works, why waste hours by yourself sitting in front of a computer putting your fingers to your temples like you’re professor X in an attempt to get some kind of inspiration when you can just use other people’s brains?

And even though “Using other peoples brains” might sound like something a super villain in a cartoon might say it’s what you gotta do. Getting a bunch of people with a bunch of different perspectives gets you out of your own head (the one that doesn’t want anything to do with what you’re trying to accomplish) which is exactly what you need at that moment. That’s what the office here is always like, no matter what it is, whether its a photoshoot, a logo design, or planning an event, Iquan, Aaron, and Rasheedah are always bouncing ideas off of one another. Watching it happen everyday I come in is always an intensely fun and helpful experience because they are constantly inspiring each other and myself with an infectious energy.

So, the take away here is, when your brain isn’t working, just use someone else’s.

Respect the Process

Respect the Process

I walk into work, make my way to my desk and wiggle myself into the perfect spot in my seat. The rest of the day speeds by at a warping speed, dancing on its toes on the fine line between a phenomenal day and a crappy one. The acknowledgment and respect I give to the process determines the fate of my day. It’s an undeniable fact that there is great value in a plan, a compass, a blue print. The implementation of processes and procedures are a necessary element of not only operating a business, but life.  How do you go anywhere if you haven’t a clue where you’re going?

I did some research. I was trying to find the cold hard facts on failing businesses.  Nearly every publication has a different statistic, incorporating different samples, different indicators, blah blah blah. For example, an article posted on Forbes.com, states that 8 out of 10 businesses fail within the first 18 months. Successharbor.com asserts that according to the U.S. Census Bureau, 400,000 businesses are started each year in the United States and 470,000 die. Long hard pause. In a nutshell, studies show that startups fail at a highly alarming rate. It is commonplace, most businesses fail due to the lack of money. As entrepreneurial spirits, we would do well to value time as much as — possibly more than — money. I caution equating time to money (let’s talk about that later, in a different post), they are not the same but both are a necessary resource for any business.

What is a sure fire way to make the best use of time and in turn generate more revenue? Processes. You knew where I was headed with this, after all, the title of this post is “Respect the Process.” Logic would tell us, if we were able to develop processes and systems that allowed every aspect of our businesses to run with euphoric synchronicity, there would be more time, resources and overall capacity to sell goods and services. It may be slightly naive of me to suggest that all systems will flow seamless always, but I am one of those “aim for the moon and fall among the stars” types. Although we may not be able to immediately reach perfection, there is great benefit in developing processes and systems to sustain your business’s operations.

  1. As you approach each day, week, month, etc, you will have a clear plan of where you’re going and how you’ll get there. Another kind of planning that is essential, take your business through a strategic planning process, in order to identify who you are, why you exist, what void you are filling, and where you are headed.
  2. In the process of laying out plans, you are able to identify holes and areas of your business that require special attention, less attention, and/or a new process.
  3. Accountability! A clear plan for how work and business will be conducted will allow for increased accountability between you and: (1) your customers/clients, (2) your colleagues and staff, and (3) yourself. When you’re winging it, there is more room for justifying your crap and a constant avoidance of accountability.
  4. Build it and they will come. Laying the foundation to support and sustain the magnitude of work to come is a smart move.  We wish and hope for more business and increased revenue, but are we really in a position to provide the same great services and goods if traffic tripled? The development of processes that work now and are able to withstand growth are ideal.
  5. Processes that work allow for great customer experiences. I’m sure I don’t have to tell you what this means. 🙂

Get started creating processes by focusing on general areas, such as communications, workflow, client/customer experience, etc. Consider every level of every interaction. Anticipate resources and assets and fully utilize the tools you have available. Create templates of communications and other essential documents that you anticipate using periodically. Taking the time to understand how pieces of your business fit together will serve you well. For instance, understanding how clear levels of communication inform weekly goals and workflow will eliminate confusion and increase productivity. As you work, you will be able to respond, find solutions and create in a manner that serves the whole. Decisions will be well informed and over time will become more seamless. Remember, failing to plan is a plan to fail. Identifying and outlining your processes will save you time, money, and stress. That’s all for now folks.

What I learned: Reasonable Doubt

What I learned: Reasonable Doubt

and another one...

when you never listened to 90's hip hop...

One day at the studio we were having a conversation about music. During the conversation Jay Z’s and Biggie’s  albums came up and I mentioned that I never heard a full album of either artist. As a Brooklyn native I should have heard at least one album right? But that was not the case due to my mom being strict on me listening to rap music in my younger days. And if I was caught I had to write a one page essay on what the song was about and because of this I was not a big fan of rap. This is one memory from my childhood that I do not miss. Listening to a whole rap album is not ideal for me unless it’s Drake (singing rap, lol), but I decided to give Jay Z’s album “Reasonable Doubt” a try. To my surprise, I actually liked it!

Some of Jay Z’s lyrics required extra research because he raps metaphorically but for the most part I was able to understand his music and the picture he painted of his lifestyle. While listening to “Reasonable Doubt” I picked up on the obvious, he was rapping about his time as a drug dealer. Through his raps, I realized that he’s very smart, and he did not let distractions catch him off guard. Jay Z  seemed to be very meticulous  in how he conducted his business and he was always a step ahead. As a graphic designer, I was able to relate to his flow; just as Jay says, you have to think ahead to get ahead, the same is true in design. In his music, he is very confident, often comparing himself to big time drug dealers before and during his time. I came to the conclusion that even though, for obvious reasons, his life was very different from mine it was also relatable. Anyone can learn a lot from the life and times of Jay Z.

Being that I am a creative person I am also a visual person. I tend to go off the deep end with my imagination and that’s what drew me to his lyrics. His storytelling paints such a vivid picture, allowing me to live life vicariously through his music. This album gave me an appreciation for the 90’s and early 2000’s music, unlike today’s music — no shade intended, because I still listen to it — which only consists of mumbling and words that make NO sense. There’s clearly much to be learned from classics such as “Reasonable Doubt”, it definitely has lasting artistic merit.

WORK: Simply Pooka

Sometimes a new outfit (look) makes a big difference...

In January we wrapped up the first phase of a project with Pooka Pure and Simple, a skin and hair care product line.  When Pooka approached us, they were already an established business with a look and a loyal customer base and had already set up shop in Whole Foods, kind of a big deal. Right?

Pooka came to us in need of a new look.  The owner of Pooka wanted to maintain the heart of the brand while giving it a feel that made it stand out from its competitors.  Boy did we deliver! We crafted a new logo and branding that spoke to the liveliness and vitality of Pooka Pure and Simple.

We are now working with Pooka to select the perfect jars and bottles for new packaging solutions.  So, standby… Pooka will love it,  and we’re sure you will too. ?

WORK: LA Matcha

We love cafés and consider ourselves well versed when it comes to the café experience

this was a fun and beautifully executed project...

In January, we completed work for an amazing café opening in Los Angeles. This project was like a match made in heaven.? Aside from the fact that we love cafés and this client of ours is THEE MAN when it comes to everything café, this project gave us the opportunity to pull ?out all the stops as we took the La Matcha brand from concept to manifestation.

When Royce (check him out in Urban Exploring Season 2, Episode 1), our client from LA, came to us for help with building his dream café, we were super excited. We developed three logo and brand concepts, each just as dope as the next.? We crafted a brand that fit nicely with the parent company Table Diaries. We wanted to ensure there was seamless integration between the two correlating brands.

We dove into the project head first. My two hittas, Iquan and Aaron, approached the design from two different perspectives. Iquan and Aaron, the two illest designers ever,?? approached the design from two different perspectives. We wanted to make sure we considered every angle as we created the perfect look, feel, and voice for this LA spot. Between the two of them, Iquan and Aaron crafted a selection of stellar concepts. Royce loved them all but of course decided on one. That was easy.  (Disclaimer, creating through your passion can add a level of ease to nearly anything.)

Fast forward a little, Aaron and Migdale, our junior designer, were doing some research, scoping the scene for inspiration and BAM, they found a gem.  Inspired by a small spot in Central Jersey, came the creation of the sketch treatment seen in the La Matcha branding below.

This project was definitely had the fun-factor, playing on our obsession with cafés and our love for design.


a quick lesson on brand consistency

our creative director, Aaron Brand is ready to school you!

Whether your brand has been around for years or your brand just recently launched and hit the market, brands usually strategize to maintain brand consistency. For example, Heinz is one of the most famous condiment brands in the world, not only have they kept their brand consistent, but they have managed to also have fun with the brand’s packaging at the same time.

A good brand is built over time and requires thought, strategy, and consistent implementation. Let’s take a look at Heinz, a great example for taking your brand to the next level!

From the name to the logo, from the product to the messaging, everyone knows Heinz. It has been said that Heinz Brand is one of the most widely recognized brands worldwide.

Interestingly, their logo has remained largely unchanged since the 1900s. The Serif font and classic shield with green and gold stripes remains consistent.

A few helpful tips to help you maintain brand consistency:

  1. Don’t associate consistency with boring. Do you think working on Heinz ad campaigns is boring? Consistency actually paves the way to creativity with impact.
  2. Communicate to your team the importance of your brand. Start the conversation by asking them to name a few companies they admire and why.
  3. Create a Brand Standards Guide – the guidelines that map out how your logo, fonts, colors, tagline, etc. will be used. Make it visual with proper and improper usage examples. It has to be simple and easy to follow, or it won’t have the intended impact.
  4. Go through the Brand Standards Guide with your entire team and provide print and PDF copies for them to reference as needed.
  5. Provide access to the proper logo file types to anyone who needs them. Your team members shouldn’t be recreating your logo on the fly.
  6. Hold your people accountable and retrain if necessary. It’s okay to appoint some team members to be the “brand police” who flag down offenses and keep the peace.

Now that’s how you maintain brand consistency. I’m just saying.

MIGGY SMALLS: Here's what I learned...

from intern to jr. designer

a heart warming story from our resident millennial and her Artoholik journey.

They say, “Results happen over time, not overnight. Work hard, stay consistent and be patient.” That pretty much explains my journey with The Artoholiks agency. Let’s take a trip down memory lane to when I first met Aaron and Iquan at my Kean University portfolio event where we discussed my projects and they started giving me great advice to move forward in my design career. Fast forward to my first day, I had feelings of excitement and nervousness because it was a new experience and I did not know what to expect. A few months into the internship I had already learned a lot about the design world.

Each week I come in, I am introduced to new techniques and different avenues of design such as tracing, using a Wacom tablet, color correcting photos, assisting in designing logos, social media, designing for commerce sites, doing photo shoots and being social at creative events, just to name a few. I remember before graduating, my professor explained to the class the importance of having good mentors who invest in your growth. The best part about working for a small agency is that they are able to spend time with me to help me grow. From the many wise words of Ike — that’s Iquan —  “There should be more to a designer than just sitting at the computer designing for hours.” Those are the very words that have shaped my experience working for them and in turn helping me to be well rounded in the graphic design world. Every day I leave the office having learned something new ranging from real life stuff to design to even being inspired to go home and be creative! The Artoholiks agency has the best office morale which makes it even harder to leave at the end of the day.

This experience has taught me that I need to work smarter to become better at designing, staying consistent, trusting the process, and being patient because crafting one’s gift takes time. And because of this I have been promoted from Intern to Junior Graphic Designer. This promotion shows that despite my feelings I am
still making progress and I can’t wait to find out what’s in store for my future at this amazing agency!

Introducing the CLAV

We got that good good, we call it the CLAV.  After over 278 trips to outer space, we’ve got it figured out; to produce results for your brand, you need the CLAV method: Confidence, Look, Approach, and Voice.  We’ve been killing it, beaming light and life into brands for over ten years now.  If you do anything for an extended period time, you get good at what you do, you perfect your craft and you notice themes and commonalities throughout.  For us Artoholik folks, we started to realize that we were consistently slaying them (translation: we were producing great results).

We noticed that our confidence in our abilities were rubbing off on our clients — good vibes are difficult to ignore — some of whom came to us during the infancy stages of their branding and others were well established. What we noticed was, our clients were being fueled by our excitement to dive into their brands and produce the results they sought us out for.
Not everyone gets the CLAV; but those clients who do, we manage them all around in their confidence, look, approach, and voice.  It’s like a full-service car wash, undercarriage, wheel shine, vacuum, and air freshener included. Lol. The CLAV method is a framework for building a strong brand.  These four components add up to a solid brand identity.  Every client that comes to us is different.  Undoubtedly there are many clients to whom we apply our handy dandy CLAV method but there is a small population of those who are already confident in their look, approach, and voice and exude confidence in their product.  The confidence these cocky brands flaunt is what we aim to equip others with when we slap them with the CLAV.

As I mentioned above, many walk in the place with CONFIDENCE but may lack in other areas, such as look, approach and voice.  This is where we come in.  A little swag can make all the difference in the world.  We take that confidence and apply it to the new look we create, the approach we plan out, and the voice we craft.  An example of a brand we’ve worked with that has extreme confidence is Scotch Porter, a men’s grooming product line.  When we began our relationship with Scotch Porter, they had confidence in their product and what they were on a mission to accomplish.  In crafting the perfect look, approach and voice to communicate the SP brand message, their confidence went through the roof, leaving very little to be desired.  Our work on their brand identity has made them whole by giving them a new tier of confidence, confidence in their look, confidence in the approach, and confidence in their voice, allowing them the space to flourish as a premier men’s grooming line.

Moving along to LOOK, this has proven to be a common struggle for a lot of brands.  Many struggle with creating a cohesive look that gives them the distinction they are seeking.  Leading up to a recent political election, we worked with a local politician, Councilman Jerry Guarino.  His look at the time he hired us left much to be desired.  There was no evidence of any effort put into the look of his brand (image), a critical component in solidifying his candidacy.  We took the time to craft a look that expressed the confidence he already had in his political platform.  Needless to say he won the election.  Afterall presentation is everything.  Although we don’t have a correlation analysis to prove it, we can say with great confidence that the look we equipped Councilman Guarino with played a large role in securing his seat at the table.  We gave him a look that matched his voice and confidence, something the people could believe in.

APPROACH is critical, it’s the plan.  Failing to plan is planning to fail.  A brand can have confidence, a great look, and a voice that communicates the brand but all of these minus an approach that works is like having peanut butter and no jelly, bread and no butter, spring roll and no duck sauce (I like sauce), or all looks and no substance.  Venturez, a record label we’ve been CLAV-ing out, came to us with vision, an approach that just needed some finessing and of course some correlating C, L, and V.  Venturez had some knowledge on the direction they were going in and an idea of how to get there but just needed a comprehensive identity and some coaching surrounding their approach and how to mesh their approach with this new identity.

We recently finished a project, thefivewards.com, a HYCIDE magazine project.  This project resulted in a resounding VOICE and overall confidence, culminated in the site we developed for them, showcasing the look and approach we meticulously crafted.  For a project like this, mission heavy and community oriented, their voice is essential, with this in mind, we made sure the voice we brought out hit every necessary pitch and frequency.

In the delivery of proposals and pitches, we developed and continue to develop looks that WOW, utilizing approaches that work.  Our style of active communication with our clients has resulted in strategic plans that lay out phases and actions that we get behind and our clients have no trouble believing in.  In developing an identity for their brands and an approach for delivery and engagement, our clients subsequently develop a brand voice that speaks in tandem with their newly crafted look and approach.  Kind of like the first day of school, you roll up in the place with your new outfit and fresh kicks, ready to flex on cats, that’s the swag our clients walk away with. So to recap, remember:

If a dope brand is what you desire…
Try spittin that CLAV Method fire.
Confidence in your Look, Approach and Voice
will make sure you never feel a void.

drops mic…


When a brand is reshaping how to sell one of its products, they usually come up with a strategic marketing plan to have it compete with other rival brands. For example, fast food chain Burger King not only gave chicken nuggets a cooler name by calling them chicken fries, but they re-branded this product making it fun, yet nondisruptive once it re-entered the market.

According to Food Business News,
“Comparable sales at Burger King increased 5.4% for the year and 3.9% for the quarter on a constant currency basis, behind successful new product launches and promotions, including new Chicken Fries.”

Now that’s how you re-brand a product and take it back to market. “I’m just saying.”



Hi everyone! Now that we've had her all to ourselves for some time now, we thought it only right to formally introduce you to the newest creative of the crew, our Copywriter!  Although she's here to equip us with fire words and lines, Rasheedah has already begun to bless us with here skills in...

  • Project/Account Management
  • New Biz Dev
  • Internal Strategy
  • Creative Support

So when you see that fresh and new touch on your project, make sure you give her some credit.

Please show Rasheedah some love. Drop a comment!