The internet is full of design tips and tricks for the typical layperson. After all, this is the kind of information that helps us to learn and develop new skillsand design is a skill like any other. It demands time, training and experience.

Yet most of these posts seek to simplify design down to a few bulleted lists, and to give birth to easy do-it-yourself (DIY) design.

The question, though, is whether or not your average Joe should be designing graphics and content themselves, or whether they – and their brand – are better off seeking professional help.

Liz and I focused this week's talk on when you should and when you should not try to do it yourself when it comes to design work. At the risk of sounding like a total design snob, I made it clear that there is a time and a place for DIY design, but it is very limited, and very much dependent on the preexisting skills and experience of the DIYer.

Tune in to hear our feelings on this week's topic!

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Creator's Block co-host Liz Murphy is away this week, so I had a very special guest join me on this week's episode – previous Creator's Block co-host Jessie-Lee Nichols!

(cue raucous applause and cheering)

So essentially, while the word nerd is away, the designers will play!

In this week's episode, Jessie-Lee and I bring back the topic of brand style guides in order to dive into what goes into a successful visual style guide – it's more than just logos. We also go over why we use them in the first place, how we get buy-in from our teammates and how we build them out. Plus, I get a little peek into Jessie-Lee's new life as an in-house marketing manager, and how this has driven her to start building out a brand style guide for her company.

Listen in to hear what we have to say, and to hear Jessie-Lee's wonderful voice again!

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We're back with another episode to help you unlock your business' blogging potential. This week, we're pulling back the curtain on "how the sausage gets made" - more specifically, the physical act of organizing a blogging strategy and actually getting them written.

This topic is important, because so many people don't talk about it.

They'll wax poetic about developing the right strategy around blog topics, bringing in contributors and the value of having a strong promotion strategy, but there isn't much out there on how to actually create a blogging process that is sustainable for your business.

So, tune in as I take Shelby through how we create blogs for clients, and what processes may (or may not) be well-suited to your organization. There's a bit of tough love thrown in for good measure - as I've said before, content doesn't just appear from the sky - but I think we all came out better for it. Enjoy!

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As a designer who's worked almost exclusively for a marketing agency, I've noticed the divide that exists between designers who work freelance and those that work within larger firms. We are so much alike, yet our experiences can vary so widely since there are pros and cons to each path.

Even when I started out, the decision was whether to work for an agency – or perhaps internally within a company's own marketing department – or to head out on my own as a freelancer. And it begs the question, which is better, the freelance design life, or designing within an agency?

This week, Liz let me nerd out over design things with Joe Barsin, an Annapolitan freelance graphic designer whose work many Maryland locals will recognize under the Citizen Pride brand. He also brought us some awesome stickers, because he's just that cool.

With promptings from Liz, Joe and I talked about our own experiences in the agency and freelance worlds, and we discussed how Joe has managed projects as both a freelancer as well as creative director working with freelancers.

Check out the podcast below, and definitely check out Joe's design work

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The Guide to Creating Mind Blowing Content

Let's face it, there is a lot of content out there. How do you get yours to stand out?

Simple, make it mind blowing!

42 pages full of ideas for creating awesome content that converts visitors into leads and leads into customers!

We've talked about the importance of style in your content before - on this very podcast, on our blog and in one of our webinars from last year.

But this week, I came to the proverbial podcast mic with something specific on my mind: the importance of tone in your content.

You see, early last week, I was having a discussion with an account manager about a case study. We had received some feedback from a client regarding the potential inclusion of an element that, in my mind, would have dimished the power of the final product. 

Why?

Unlike a blog post, an eBook or a webinar, case studies are supposed to be results-focused, because readers don't want to be burdened by mounds of editorializing and exposition. In fact, the more fluff you try to put into a case study - no matter how noble your intent - the more you may undermine or water down the actual point of your success story.

This is just one example of how tone and message choices matter, when you're creating content for your business. So, that's what we're talking about this week.

Because, as we all know, often it's not just what you say, but also how you say it.

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There is a black hole in design projects. It's this realm right between the development of the creative brief and the presentation of those first few design concepts.

Sure, the client knows is that their designer is hard at work – brainstorming, ideating and being as creative as possible in order to deliver the most fantastical design concepts imaginable. Obviously.

But where exactly does the designer go? Do they trek through the mountains of Tibet in order to find inner peace and bolster their creativity? Do they flee to an uncharted island to perfect their focus?

Most project managers and clients probably couldn't say what goes on during this time. And it's problematic because then, when the first rounds of designs are reviewed, designs come out of left field and no one is quite happy with how it all came out.

Goals and expectations were not established, and feelings get hurt.

Mood boards are like a lifeline back to the mainland. They bridge this gap that we all struggle with, whether you're a designer or not. And they run both ways, helping both designers and clients communicate better with one another.

In this week's episode, Liz and I discuss my own process for using mood boards in design projects. I talk about the tools that I use to brainstorm design concepts and build out mood boards. In particular, I share how they help me communicate better with my clients and ensure that we are both on the same page regarding their needs and desires.

Flipping this concept around, Liz also shows how marketers and noncreatives alike can use similar tools to talk to their own designers. 

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Last fall, as I was perusing the lineup for speakers for #INBOUND16 and assembling my schedule, there was one session that immediately caught my attention:

"Could a Robot Create Your Content?"

Within seconds of mentally processing the title, I knew I was registering for it. I also muttered in a rage to myself that if the presentation was anything other the phrase "ABSOLUTELY NOT!" projected onto a screen for 45 minutes straight, I was going to completely freak out.

Because I'm a rational adult and a professional who never overreacts about anything, ever.

Of course, there was much more to the presentation than that. (In fact, it wasn't even close to my anti-robot vision.) And, as you might have guessed, the answer to that loaded question has many layers to it. 

That's why this week, after forcing Shelby to watch the recording of the session I attended (linked above), we're talking about robots. Are they nefarious, dark overlords who will ruin my life, as well as content and marketing forever? Or, are they like automation, where there may be a time and a place? 

One thing we know for sure is that we're in a new era of rapidly-evolving technology; that means it's time to start tackling these questions before the 'bots take over. So, grab your tin foil hat and listen in on our discussion... 

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Our work culture thrives on people telling others – coworkers, bosses, friends, spouses – how busy they are.

Really though, we love to say it. Don't tell me you never feel just a little bit of pride when you tell your friends that "No, I can't go out on Wednesday night. I'M BUSY."

But busy-ness becomes a dangerous trap. It's so easy to just say "I'm too busy" and to move along from one task to the next, checking things off your list without really putting your full brainpower into any particular item.

So when we feel like everything is on fire, and out inboxes pile up with endless newsletters and emails, how do we – as marketers, content creators, and designers – keep our creativity flowing and continue to think outside the box?

In this week's episode, Liz and I dive into the tools and techniques that we both use day-to-day to get ourselves out of the "check-the-box" mentality. We share how we push ourselves to keep thinking creatively, in order to fuel the passions that we both have for what we do, and to continue to produce higher-quality work.

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