Judge at the Shelf

Think of going to the bookstore—do you judge a book by its cover? Well “depends on the book” will probably be your answer. But it’s true, I know I do.

When scanning the magazine shelves at the check-out, think about the words, pictures and color that is screaming at you. The mag editors know 1 out of 5 people love Jennifer Aniston or Taylor Swift and that well sex still sells.

What I have learned over the past year is that the product packaging design and hierarchy strategy is extremely important. It really sets your product up for success! The product must stand-out on the shelves to be sold, and the product must be something that the consumer is excited and proud to buy, ideally over and over again. Depending on the audience, Millennials and Gen Y think differently than Boomers, so it matters what it says in the fine print too.

IMG_5467 IMG_2395

The message hierarchy on a product is crucial to the success of the packaging, because too much messaging sets up your design for an epic fail. Think about if GLUTEN FREE shouted at you before you even knew what the product was or what you were shopping for.

Ideas that Kick, the branding agency I work at, is super talented at finding ways to challenge the current packaging hierarchy and introducing solutions that will kick the competition off the shelf, literally.

Starting with the company operations is key to any business success. If you can’t keep up with the demand or the quality of the product—you are set-up for failure, no matter what the name or what it looks like.

So go ahead, judge that book by its cover. Grab that frozen pizza out of the freezer at Cub that has a new look, or throw in that box of granola that has beautiful packaging that makes you smile—give the brand a shot. Then follow-up with reviewing it, sending positive or constructive feedback, I may be working on it and would appreciate your feedback!

Always looking out for your brand,



Squirreled By The Yard

As a first-time home owner, I received advice to buy things that you really LOVE because those items will be part of your home for even longer than you think!

So once Spring came this year, my husband and I knew that we wanted to invest into a long-lasting outdoor patio furniture. We could have went with the packaged set from our local super store and kept the entire set under $400, but we were determined to find a set we LOVE.

Our deck is like a little treehouse nestled into a cozy Eden Prairie neighborhood.

There are no stairs leading up to the deck from our yard, so this table would have to be assembled on the deck or lifted above the rail around the back of the house.

We decided to go with By The Yard, from the small town of Jordan MN, where they have the process of taking recycled milk jugs and making the material into outdoor furniture that out-stands the hot sun, snow and the outdoor life of Minnesota!

We chose black for the table edges and a dark gray base, so that would also resistant any dirt—30 years is a long time to have a table folks!

We now have Maintenance free Outdoor Furniture made from recycled plastic milk jugs!

  • NO painting, fading or winter storage
  • Won’t crack, rot, or splinter
  • Color-coated stainless steel hardware
  • Ideal in any climate
  • Designed to last a lifetime
Logo from Bytheyard.net

Logo from Bytheyard.net

Just a few months later, right in the middle of our perfect Summer, we noticed a few grooved edge marks on the table top and base. Then realized just days later that our $600+ table was a sharpening tool for our neighborhood squirrels!

This was a big surprise to us.

We began to look through our many brochures and the online reviews again. Were we missing something? Was there a warning about animals or even preventative methods of stirring away animals to not chew on the furniture? 

This innovative company even has a furniture test program—so they lead you to believe that they stand-by their product.

By The Yard also states that over the 18 years…only 4 returns have been made too.

We were under educated on this whole squirrel thing and can’t believe the customer service we have received to date. I would have hoped there would be additional planning for these inquiries, we were prepared to prove we didn’t have squirrels anymore (which we don’t for 2 weeks now) and the company would replace or refund our experience in some way.

We bought our table at the Eden Prairie Bachman‘s, as it is also a trustworthy supplier of the latest and greatest outdoor and indoor accessories. We also have a request out to them and they are working with their buyer to try to resolve the issue. [UDPATE SINCE ORIGINAL PUBLISH DATE] We spoke with Bachman’s buyer and after they discussed internally and even tried to learn more themselves, Bachman’s proposed a $100 Bachman’s gift card because of the bad experience with By The Yard table. They wanted to recognize that we are a valued customer and that they have not received any complaints to-date and hope to use our testimonial to inform others on the squirrel teeth sharpening potential disaster. 

Again, we look at the By The Yard website and it says it’s guaranteed:
Yes, it is guaranteed for 35 years to never crack, break, rot, or peel. These are proven designs that we know will withstand the test of time. (but please be aware of the squirrels and the local animal population, for the table can turn into a tooth sharpening tool without little or no warning!)

Many of the overall product photos are featured in the middle of the woods, cemeteries, decks and pool-side. Where are the squirrels?

The answers By The Yard manager provided were exactly this:

Our initial recommendation on squirrel damage like this is to “scrape” the boards. You can purchase a scraper from us for $7, or go to your local hardware store and buy a wood scraper for the about the same cost. Scraping will keep the color the same on the damaged areas, as opposed to sanding which makes the color chalky and very noticeable.

The boards on the outer frame of the table top are impractical and costly to replace because that frame is assembled, then it is routed as one piece and you cannot match the individual boards easily. There is also the time of disassembly and reassembly which is significant.

We can sell you replacement pedestal braces, at a cost of $8.00. If you scrape the damaged area, you may find it to be acceptable.

If you would like to try scraping the areas damaged by the squirrel(s), and would like to purchase a scraper from us, just let me know or give us a call and we will get one sent to you.

You can get some pepper spray from your local hardware store, to apply to the furniture, some of our customers have been successful with this, or, our final recommendation is to get the squirrels away from the house, because they need to chew on something to sharpen their teeth.


Steve and I smeared pepper all over our table and tinfoil for the little furry guys—but that doesn’t help the already damaged table and scraping to add to the list, not to mention the blind-sided faulty lifetime warranty.

By the Yard’s Manager writes to us “final recommendation is to get the squirrels away from the house, because they need to chew on something to sharpen their teeth.”

In the current state, we would never recommend the By The Yard company to anyone. The pictures prove it—in less than a week’s time your new table is ruined.

How would we have predicted that we had neighborhood furry friends wanted to come over and sharpen their teeth on our new milk jug furniture over just a few days? Being a new homeowner, investing in something we were very excited about, this situation still makes us sick.

I consider Steve and I smart consumers and when it comes to reviews and educating ourselves on a products before buying—we trust others too.

In this case, we will be updating social media By The Yard to reflect our Squirrelly experience. I do hope this can be updated in the future with a positive consumer result, but at this time please spread the word about this terrible investment and company.  [UDPATE SINCE ORIGINAL PUBLISH DATE] We have not heard any additional solutions from By The Yard. 

Squirrelly mess for this first-time homeowner,



Shake it up!

Just have to take a minute to share my latest Summer obession—the yard game Jackpot (aka YAHTZEE!)

dicegame FullSizeRender drop
It’s a simple handmade wooden dice game made by a talented Mom of 3 in Minnesota. Her little mobile store is called Simple Charm.

Here is the breakdown on how this specific dice game set compares to the others:

– SOLID Cedar wood

– There is NO chemicals, wood stains or treatment put on the dice (AKA kid-friendly!)

– The bucket is included to shake and store easily

– Includes reusable score sheet for up to 6 players

– Easy to carry, the set is not heavy like some woods and holders could be

I highly recommend using this at the next family event or backyard party. It also may become my newest housewarming gift for friends! (shhhhhh)

I didn’t realize how popular this game really was until I Google’d it. Here are some comparable, more expensive, yard dice sets.


Crate and Barrel get fancy, $59.95 + Shipping







Snack Eyes Yard Dice may have your eye, but the price is $49.99+




Roll the dice folks and support locally made when you can! If you reach out to Holly via Simple Charm for that $35 cute dice set…tell her hello for me.

And remember to never cross-out your YAHTZEE folks! 




Did You Receive Your May Day Basket?

May Day is today, the 1st of May and it comes around every year. I can remember as a kid, my lovely mom Candee would make little May Day baskets and we would take them to neighbors. We would ring their doorbell and smile and/or leave it on their doorstep. It was a strange little tradition, but always put a smile on people’s faces and my mom especially loved getting a little crafty with us kids.

Well, welcome to 2012 and not only are little kids not suppose to ring door bells and run away or take candy from strangers, but who has the time to do this kind gesture?

Today, I delivered 31,038 May Day Flower Baskets. The baskets were super cute with white daisies and bright Spring flowers to cheer up strangers, neighbors and friends.

Ok, this was all done online, the social clubhouse Facebook to be exact. Social media has taken away the hand written notes, cards and birthday messages and replaced it with a post on your wall. (Sometimes that written note from Grandma is literally written on your Facebook wall, including the indents and a love you Grams.)

This cyber May Day basket concept came after talking with my mom about the May Day post for her work’s Facebook page. She reminded me to write something like “Hooray for May Day!” or “Happy May 1! May Day is here!” I took that suggestion to the next level making a hands-on sharing opportunity to increase brand awareness for Cedar Floral Design Studio and increase their likes.


The tricky part with posting a picture on someone’s wall as a Page is some have altered their settings so you can’t do so. Most cases the local businesses I wanted to deliver to had the front door wide open for me to ding-dong.

The businesses included with their page and number of Likes:
Chamber of Commerce in Owatonna : 218 Likes
Owatonna People’s Press : 358 Likes
Owatonna Library : 574 Likes
Steele County Free Fair : 3,102 Likes
Old Town Bagels : 370 Likes

The most robust business was a company that had started in Owatonna with over 25,000+ Likes, Josten’s. This one may have a lot of likes, but the odds of having them do a shout-out like down the street business Hair-i-Tage with 603 Likes, is pretty low.

Hair-i-tage Shoutout

The timing of the deliveries was at 4pm and Cedar Floral Design Studio was at 9 Likes total for their page. Within 3 hours they were at 16 Likes. (Not quite what you may be thinking with the amount of deliveries, but makes sense for the level of awareness this brand has and the factor of region.)

Cedar Floral Design Studio Facebook

Most of the page viewers may be night reviewers, but the page owners most likely would have been online during the day and not delivering at 10am may have effected the May Day activity slightly.

The design of the May Day basket was also taken into consideration. If you see the original that is pictured above you clearly see the “From Your Friends then the logo”, but some page owners but get scared with the branding so it is designed to look like a cheerful May basket without the branding. When someone clicks on it to see further though, they will see the logo and then also most importantly my tagging to the Cedar Floral Design Studio page itself. That is what is most important, is to get that user to go on my page and LIKE and possibly get engaged with my content.

This idea is just one of the many that I have to execute in my social media designing career. Stay tuned for the summary on results later this week and also for more of this MN design gal’s social thinking.

May you have a great rest of your May Day!

your flower delivery gal

1 word: mono

Many of us have been in Uptown and walk by a really cool looking blue door and wonder what is inside. Some may try to open it thinking it’s a new trendy little shop, other may look inside the window to find nothing but a large black staircase and a really cool tall-person made motorcycle.

Mono_doorLast night, Ad 2 members and friends got to experience mono and what happens behind the blue door.

With over 100 attendees and several walk-ins, this unique agency let us rowdy ad folk come and learn a bit about their work, space and who they really are. The keg was tapped and included Blue Solo cups (duh) and red and white wine along with a variety of after work appetizers, that of course I didn’t get to try. Why is when hosting events you never get to go pee or eat anything? 

mono’s co-founder and owner Michael Hart got everyone’s attention by banging on a beer glass and lead the night away with being genuine, funny and quite charming without trying. Of course I had to bring to their attention after his announcement the very large “Best in Show” award that they won on November 11, 2011 from the Ad Fed advertising awards aka the Addy’s.

There were 5 rooms with different speakers on case studies from Blue Dot to Virgin and the crowds made their way in to listen, question and enjoy.

Anne Mahoney (now Deanovic) and I had been planning this little get together since this summer actually. She wasn’t familiar with how the events went, but she surely nailed it with the casual atmosphere and the challenge of space that could have arrived. The fire alarm was only going off just for a few minutes before the crowd came and luckily no police or escorts needed to arrive.

blue solo cup

Instagram @mndesigngal

The kegs were gone at 7:30; which meant that it surely was a good time had by all.
Being able to come into an agency, approach then with an idea and get them excited about hosting people they don’t know and have it all be taken place in their house, can be a challenge, but once again a thrill and enjoyment. Shout-out help: also from Zach Zutler our Ad 2 membership chair (and a friend of mine who used to tend bar together back in the day) who interned at mono and then was hired!

Another successful event. [Check]

Thanks to Jay Larson and Sunny Chang for having their lens with them. Along with my random twitter friends and members with their #ad2mono tweets and mentions. Ad 2 volunteers Anita, Matt and Tim for ID’ing and being yourselves.

See you at Olson April 5th, this event has been in the making since my first year as Programs Director for Ad 2 back in 2008. (For reals)

Keep networking your little hearts out,

Job leads from last night? Yes. One really good one. Are you reading this? I can start April 9, better yet I can start April 2 and be trained in that first week in April.
Also another surprise visit by a social media manager who I have been talking with and admire, I hear he likes cats though.

Adults enjoy field trips too

Beer Thirty =For a group of hard-working men (and two full-time women), the best part of their week is Friday’s beer-thirty which involves a bit of chit-chat usually a handful of peanuts and some curse words. To celebrate the St Patrick’s Holiday tomorrow, I put together some simple designs to announce the company-wide field trip.

Featured below are where the signs were presented to showcase the Beer puzzle throughout the copy the week before the trip to Fulton Brewery.

break room culture awarenessmicrowave and learnhappy leprechaunHappy Employees = Productive Work Ethic = Happy Clients = $$ = Happy Owners


Brand Advocate and Culture-Planner-Extraordinaire,
mn design gal