Monday, July 30, 2012

Small Business Owners Wanted for Interviews

From Independent We Stand:
There must be some Dunwoody business owner out there who has a unique perspective on this question.

A reporter from a major news publication has approached Independent We Stand looking for business owners to interview for an article about the fines that small businesses often have to pay when they break city or state rules. Interested business owners should be able to speak to some or all of the following:

Is it tough for small business owners to keep up with the different rules they need to follow?

Are some unnecessary or over-the-top?

Are the fines for outrageous amounts, or amounts that are just too high for the average small shop?

On the flip side, are there any positives to city/state rules for running a business, like perhaps they prevent competitors from getting an unfair advantage?

Do you feel like you can speak to these questions? If so, just reply to this email or email us at But hurry as the reporter needs business owners to interview by today. This is one of the biggest business publications in the world and well worth your time if your are included in the final article.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Dunwoody Branded Signage pt 2: "What Would YOU Do?"

Recap:  City Hall convened an impromptu sounding board to review KMA's initial vision of wayfinding signage for Dunwoody.

For the most part, very few people hated the concepts outright.  Most in attendance, myself included, said they were essentially on the right track, just tweak the designs to make them more "homey".  I specifically said to use the materials and standards of monument signage in Dunwoody Village.

Given the feedback I can't explain why the same proposal, without any modifications at all, made its way to City Council and execution at the hands of public opinion.

The wayfinding street signage didn't get as much objection:  I'm betting because they are smaller, simpler, and wherever you are people expect a sleek and simple street sign.

The park monument signage (which will set the pace for similar signs for other municipal spaces - City Hall, Police Precinct, possible Fire Department) was problematic.  When you get beyond the purely subjective and emotional adjectives (ugly, etc) you drill down to the root, spelled out in the initial Branding Research Results from November 2010. Page 13 (within the document, after the TOC and cover, not the PDF page) asked "Would you like Dunwoody's image to reflect MOST..." then there was a forced choice between Past, Present, Future, and Other.  There was no "check all that apply".  Most of the comments associated with the "Other" choice indicated that there should be a combination between all three options.  So if you combine the "Other" and "Past" votes from the pie graph, that's about 25% of respondents with this preference.  It's a minority, but a significant one.

So the "branding project" came up with a modern-style set of logos and color combinations - which works because the majority of respondents expressed a preference for a current or futuristic "look".  It works on the web and on stationery, flyers, etc.  But when it comes to a physical monument, something that people will refer to as a landmark and think of in context with the community itself, that "significant minority" kicks in.  There are still a lot of traditional aspects to Dunwoody's collective thinking that deserve to be represented.  IMHO, these monument signs are the way to incorporate all three elements.

"Any time you're ready, wise-guy...."

So this is what I think would work.    This assumes that City Hall is sticking with the branding plan as-is without any modifications.

First, the parks/municipal monument:

Stick with material combinations that have been a Dunwoody tradition and are incorporated throughout smaller shopping areas in the Village overlay district, and even in the revived Georgtown Shopping Center entrance.  Brick (or stone) monument base and frame.  Painted wood (or composite facsimile if that can require less maintenance).  Engrave the text/images into the surface.  Double-sided, of course.

Keep the font, the colors, the alignment that are consistent with the logo.  Maybe even adjust the line height, width, kerning, etc to match what the logo was created with.  Instead of a giant asterisk (which was the one thing that did the most to turn off the focus group) scale the thing back and make it a small accent.  Still visible, still consistent, still an element that reinforces that this marks a city property, just not as a primary element that distracts the viewer from the actual content.

Speaking of scaling back, the original signs were about 8 foot square.  5-foot square would do the job for most of the parks and future municipal spaces.  The only park monument that would need to be larger is Brook Run - not only to match the size of the park itself but to leave room for changeable panels to announce events, etc.  (BTW - Rick, you're not the only one who hates the Concrete Monolith.  Lots of (half) joking suggestions about backing a Public Works pickup truck into it a few times.  I'm of half a mind to do naked cartwheels around the park boundary the day that ugly thing comes down.)

Put the Parks & Rec variation of the city logo in the corner for balance.  Maybe even put the street address in that space underneath the site name.  Lose the tagline for signage - that crosses the line into clutter.

Here's my concept for "Gateway" markers.

Same idea with a low profile.  Again, keep it to 5-feet high, maybe increase the width to 8 feet or whatever is proportional.

Same structural elements as above.  It can be made into a low enough profile to be used at the Winters' Chapel/Peeler intersection without blocking views.  Or, if that little triangle can't handle a monument sign, try installing it on the stone retaining wall around Dunwoody Point shopping center.  Scale it up for major gateways like Georgetown, Mount Vernon, Ashford-Dunwoody, etc.

Most of all, this isn't brand new and untried.  This type of monument signage has been used throughout the Village overlay district to convey commercial identities while keeping the sense of community from changing to fast.

Thanks for reading with me while I got this out of my system.  Have a good night!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Zoning Rewrite Project Next Public Meeting on August 1

The signs have gone up on the street corners.

Next session for general public input is August 1 at Dunwoody UMC Fellowship Hall at 7 PM.

The consultants are soliciting input on the first draft of the first module of the new Zoning Code.  (This is not all there is going to be it's just an initial draft of one section.)

Download and/or print your own copy here:

Please note that EVERYONE, both the sounding board and general public are getting this at the same time.  There is no super-double-secret access for the sounding board or for anyone else.

Comments are closed on this post.  All comments should be added to either the "Open Questions" tab or to the "Project Blog".   If you are concerned about blowback or other problems in response to open comments you can submit them privately via the email form.  Links to those are available to the left.

Please review at your leisure and make your opinions known by whatever means is more comfortable for you.  There are a lot of comments from a very small group of people and the process would benefit by having a wider range of citizen involvement.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Dunwoody Branded Signage - "When You're In a Hurry, Slow Down"

That was a piece of advice I got when working in a research lab in grad school.  The point being, if you don't have time to do something right the first time, you really don't have time to do it over if you screw up.

IMHO, the City did the right thing in suspending the signage plan in light of the public response.

When the branding initiative combined with the CVB and Chamber of Commerce was announced, I had some serious reservations about it for different reasons.  I made them known to TPTB (*The Powers That Be).  Then, because I like my job and want to keep it, I put my personal feelings aside and attended to the task at hand:  making the new branding standards function in the Chamber website and other online outreach.

I learned to be very objective, very detached, very quickly.

So with that background in mind, I'm going to be the Devil's Advocate here and go on record saying that I don't think the branding as it has been applied thus far, or the signage proposed, was as bad as some claim.  It's not perfect, it needs work, there were some clear missteps along the way, but in the grand scheme, it's not the Hindenberg.

I don't know any creative professional who has not experienced this scenario at least once:  you consult with your client or director, you come up with rough concepts, you flesh them out using every emotional technique in the book, your concept comes to life and the client loves it.  It does everything it's supposed to do, it applies to every contingency and situation.  The colleagues love it.  There's buy-in from everyone on the client's roster.  Then it goes for initial review to the general public, you're so happy with the accomplishment and proud to show it to the world.  And then... totally bombs.

Initial public review is a big, fat thumbs-down.  It's enough to make your question your profession and your life.  It's frustrating.  And no entity or enterprise or corporation is so high-and-mighty that it can't happen to them.  Even Coca-Cola got a galaxy-sized dose of humility with its meticulously-crafted, perfectly researched "New Coke" formula and campaign.

But it happens.  It's part of the creative industry.  I wanted to give the reps from both these organizations a big hug and expound on how much I understand.  I can think of some examples where I've been in the same situation with a client's website.  One took 8 different tries to get the appearance and delivery satisfactory to both the client and their audience. When it happens to me (oh, how it has happened.......:::sigh:::) I vent for a little while, then take a seat, a deep breath, maybe even a glass of wine, and evaluate the feedback.  When I clear my head I usually realize that the modifications necessary are a) not a personal criticism and b) not going to take much effort to incorporate.  Just settle down, review, rethink the box that you're thinking in, and you'll get on the right track.

First, establishing a visual representative identity ("branding") is necessary to building civic pride and community, especially when you have unexpected diversity.  If it wasn't important, the DHA wouldn't have invested in the first attempt in 2006.

Both Sky (which created the overall branding plan) and KMA (which designed the monument signage) did exactly as they were directed by City Hall and in practical terms, did everything right.  Sky put on an elaborate data-gathering plan to solicit input from citizens and the general public to frame their scope.  DunwoodyTalk linked to the survey results in his commentary on this issue.  Take some time to read some of the results written comments.  Not only is there a wide range of opinion, many of them are directly contradictory; some of the recommendations are even legally, financially, or physically impossible.  ("Close the college" is my favorite example.)  Rather than indulge in the luxury of focusing on one segment of this population to the exclusion of all others, Sky (under direction of City Hall) formulated a graphic that attempted to represent all of them, even as they contradicted each other.  You wonder why comprehensive branding plans are so expensive?  This is the reason why.  This is hard work that requires a lot of skill and expertise, as well as a thorough understanding of human psychology.

When your presentation attempts to encompass and represent as many viewpoints as possible, while marginalizing and excluding as few as possible, you get a presentation that becomes "generic" if you're going to keep it simple.

So the City has some options available at this juncture.

They can scratch the effort and start over.  Just absorb the loss and move on.  If you're the Gap, or Tropicana (which I mentioned on this subject in a previous post) you can move some finances around and go that route.  When you're a startup government entity spending tax money, it's a harder choice.  Besides, the survey results aren't going to change much, even if you issue new surveys.  That means the scope you're trying to encompass in your image isn't going to vary either.

They can modify what they have before using it on infrastructure investments.  Tweak a font, tweak a color combo, blend it with other graphics.  Basically, modify the official style guide based on current feedback.

They can hunker down and wait out the storm, then go ahead with their plans as written without modifying the style guide or other proposed implementations.  Doable and the cheapest option - but refer to the previous post and how long Dunwoody memories are.

"OK, wise-guy, what would YOU do?"  Stay tuned for Part 2 after I get some quality time with the kids.  Happy lunch break, everybody!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Dunwoody: City of Long Memories

When the City branding initiative was debuted to a less-than-enthusiastic response I remember hearing some insider comments along the lines of "Don't worry about it.  The furor will die down and everyone will forget and just accept it."

Not in Dunwoody.

No matter how large or how small the issue, it is unwise to assume that the populace will "just forget and accept" when their desires have been crossed and their needs ignored and their questions dismissed.

The further implementation of the branding initiative is only one example.  That situation is more complex than it appears on the surface and it's one I've had some experience in working for the Chamber.  That is enough to fill its own post on another day.

But in spite of the majority of public sentiment, City Hall is still pushing ahead with an implementation that is increasing the negative response.  Why?  What is to be gained by pushing a program that not only was not forgotten and accepted but is getting further criticism?  And who stands to gain?

ChattComm is another example.  Blogger Bob wrote a stellar piece on his own space this weekend that built on Greg C's comments via John's blog.  Why isn't the digital transfer of calls from ChattComm to DeKalb Fire (aka CAD to CAD) working yet?  This isn't a new question:  it came up when the ChattComm conversion was still being debated by Council almost a year ago.  But at the time, the question was dismissed, both by Chief Grogan and (then) Mayor Wright.

Looks like that one didn't get forgotten either.  Again, what is to be gained by pushing a program that faced quite a bit of resistance in 2011 and then not following through on the technical details?  And who stands to gain from it?

Let's not forget the multi-faceted arguments over green space.  First there was the proposed "greenways" that looked great on paper, but not from the back porches of the people whose property would have been confiscated to build them.  Then there was the rush to buy up the PVC farm and hospital properties.  At the time, City Hall and Council were justifying the purchases to increase park space, even though there has been some serious backpedalling by City Hall since then.  But the quote is clear in this Crier article from March 2011:  (emphases added)

“The addition of 16 acres of park land is a watershed moment for Dunwoody and a generational game changer for the Georgetown/North Shallowford community,” said Wright in the release. “The city council and I are thrilled to jump start the revitalization of the Georgetown/ North Shallowford area of Dunwoody and are relieved that this purchase will head off the inevitable development of the land for more apartments as well as help us move forward in our effort to eliminate our monumental deficit of green space.”
Which sounds great, until the development of said parkland was contingent on a bonds proposal that tried to include the kitchen sink (including purchasing apartment complexes).  Bonds are a hard enough initiative to get through a vote in a recession.  It might have passed if the language was more direct about what the money would be spent for and didn't try to encompass another property purchase.

Here's what the citizenry is going to remember from these fiascos:
1)  City Hall wants to take private residential property for public recreation.
2)  City Hall intends to ask for more money via taxes, bonds, etc, but is not going to be clear on how the money gets spent.
3)  City Hall intends to hold the citizenry responsible for voting against unclear bond referendums when the outcome isn't to their liking.  ("Well, it's your own fault, you voted against parks.  I guess you just don't like parks or children or families.  Shame on you!")

Someone is really out of their mind if they think this is going to be forgotten too.

The key to trust and credibility is consistency.  Dunwoody residents have very long memories.  If your modus operandi involves hoping people forget a gaffe or an idea that they're opposed to, you're in for a bad day at the office.

But for some reason, someone at City Hall has ignored this concept.  Who?  And what do they stand to gain from it?  And is City Council going to let them get away with it?

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Pushy Real Estate Buyer or Con Artist? You make the call.

A short time ago I blogged about an unsolicited letter in a format that was disturbingly unprofessional and unnerving to my family and neighbors.

Well it turns out that "Bajja" is unhappy with my assessment of his business approach.

I received a phonecall this evening from this person who disapproved the comments, but was unable to post such on the blog directly from his phone.  He believes that in spite of the method of contacting me and the lack of professional information, I should have called him on the phone.

This situation is officially weird and I am creeped out.  I do not know this person, still don't know their last name or their business name, and as I said in the previous post, the offer is respectfully declined.

Bajja, if you are reading this, your contact is unwelcome.  Dunwoody Police have been notified.  Any further contact from you by any method or medium will be considered harrassment and legally addressed as such.  Stay away from this property and the people in it.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Reflecting on Impressions

Jason Massad from Dunwoody Patch contacted me last night for some commentary on the proposed wayfinding signage.  I'm in the middle of some work for the next few days so I don't have a whole lot of time to expound here and I'll wait until Jason's story is finished before posting further.

In the mean time, here are my thoughts from November 2010 on the concerns being brought forward today.

The entire post is here


Logos & Branding - A Practical Analysis

A few weeks ago, the City of Dunwoody unveiled a new series of logos created by contractor Sky Design.
The City has learned a few hard lessons about branding and logo implementation in the process.

  • Just because you spend a lot of money on it, doesn't mean that everyone will love it.  Dunwoody joined the club with The Gap and Tropicana brands who redesigned their logo image and got their heads handed to them by their customers.  The Gap just abandoned the new effort (even though it was very stylish) and Tropicana is trying to work in their new logo identity with the old one.  It happens - you research, you conduct surveys and focus groups, you wear out your font file and your color wheel, and come up with a design that SHOULD be effective.  Then your PR person is issuing statements when your creation falls flat on its face. 

  • Google is your best friend.  Pay attention!  The original tagline for the city was "Smart People - Smart Place".  Sounds good, right?  The City of Plano Economic Development Board thought so too.  They used it first.  To add insult to injury, the tagline showed up on an internet search.  Trademarked or not, there was going to be a conflict.  Plano was on the phone to Dunwoody in about a day.  It's not worth the hassle to use a tagline that's been claimed elsewhere.  The new tagline is "Smart People - Smart City".

  • Large design firms with a lot of experience may sometimes cannibalize other designs. Even inadvertently.  The initial reaction on the local blogosphere was that the original logo looked too similar to both the Walmart and E-Trade logos.  Someone with WAY too much time on their hands lampooned that idea, as major newspapers commented on it.  Could be a coincidence but if the public sees a similarity it doesn't matter.  Others commented that even the unveiling video shown at the Music Festival was recycled from another presentation for another corporation.  Recycling happens.  Can you get away with it?  How lucky do you feel?
  • Monday, July 9, 2012

    INTRODUCING - Dunwoody Chamber of Commerce Version 4.0

    This is the fourth incarnation of the Dunwoody Chamber website, and the third since the site was recreated in Drupal.  Mr. Boyken and I had a little sit-down in his office soon after he was elected as Chairman of the Board and we had an in-depth conversation about how he wanted the Chamber presented to the public.  Sleek, upscale, and simple.  The above design is the result.

    We moved some information around and reorganized some categories so don't be shy about using the "Search" function in the red menu bar.  

    The most obvious upgrade is the "infographic" scrolling images on the front page.  Don't be fooled by how simple these "slideshows" appear.  There is a lot of complex programming behind the scenes that makes it work.  Kind of like the gears on a classic Swiss watch.  The greatest challenge was making it simple for the office staff to change these images in and out as necessary.  Check back once in a while and you'll see some new surprises!

    This week we're going to go through the post-launch punch list and continue the updates.  This includes planning for an all-new mobile version and possibly a smartphone app.  The first time the site went live I discovered some technical issues undocumented features that need to be accommodated.

    It's important for every major organization to have a web presence that is unique to them.  All of my themes, including those for content management systems, no matter how complex, are custom made from scratch.  I would hate to be the guy who had a website launch, then the public notices that the "custom design" is actually JSN Epic for Joomla (free version) with all of the default color and appearance settings unchanged.  Talk about a rip off!  (Hypothetically of course....)

    Please enjoy using the new interface with all of the functionality you have come to expect from the Dunwoody Chamber site.  The "Contact" link is the best place to ask a question or report a bug.

    Off to First Monday Networking!

    Sunday, July 8, 2012

    Last Chance to Check Your Computer for the Doomsday Virus

    This is not a hoax.  There is a real virus threat out there this time.  A check that will last less than a minute will provide priceless peace of mind.

    The Background:

    Several years ago, an internet crime ring based in Estonia released a virus that would redirect an internet user from legitimate sites to fraudulent ones.  The gang stole millions of dollars from victims around the world and eventually got nabbed by the FBI late last year.

    But the malware is still out there and your machine could still be affected.  If it is, you will not be able to access the internet.

    What You Should Do:

    There's a quick and easy check to see if your computer has been infected.
    Visit this site, set up by the FBI that will determine if your machine has been compromised by this virus.

    If you see a big icon with a green background, you're golden.  Nothing to worry about.

    If the icon has a red background, your machine is infected and it's a good thing you got to it now!

    You can learn how to fix your machine at this site:  There is a list of links at the bottom of the page to free tools that will clean you up in time for Monday.

    More information is available here from the FBI.

    Always, always, always keep your antivirus software up to date and do not click on links in emails or on pop-up ads that you do not know.  Do not use your credit card on sites that are not encrypted.  And DEFINITELY do not hand out your bank information or social security number, or other personal data to individuals who call you, no matter what they try to say.  Be careful out there!

    Saturday, July 7, 2012

    July 4th Parade - the Spirit of Dunwoody

    This recap has been making the rounds in my head since lunchtime Wednesday but I had a killer job commitment to square away first (which will be the subject of another post) and my grey matter is officially fried to a crispy golden brown.

    Any event, including parades that have over 130 entries and over 30,000 spectators is a logistical juggernaut.  What is a relaxed holiday morning for most families is a study in "how to handle Plan B" by the organizers.

    First - the BlackHawk chopper landing.  My husband was in the Village gathering Nectar of the Gods (coffee) when it approached and tried to land - at least three times.  He came back giggling about how tents were blown around like toys and how could anyone not think that the after-parade party setup would need to be better secured?  It was only later we heard that someone was injured and the story instantly became not-funny.

    Second - Dunwoody Police reported on their Facebook and Twitter pages that a child either fell off or jumped off a float and then was caught under the trailer.  I saw the golf cart take off down Mt. Vernon in response, and I remember thinking that it had to be a medical emergency.  Every parade parent's nightmare.  This is why I haven't marched in the parade with my own kids yet.

    Third - if the initial delay due to the injury wasn't enough, a classic car stalled out.  How did we know this?  Because the boy scouts accompanying the car pushed it to the end of the parade.
    It would have been easy to just ditch it in a side street and keep it moving.  These boys had some serious guts - and leg muscles - to keep their entry going.

    Any one of these events could have derailed the entire day.  But they didn't.  The parade organizers, police, EMS, and anyone else involved in running this parade dealt with the situation, assisted those who needed help, and kept the parade going.  That is what I call commitment and civic pride.

    Couple that with having Georgia's largest 4th of July parade hosted by a private not-for-profit, as well as a variety of fireworks displays around the area (we're regulars at Chamblee's display in Keswick Park) and you have a full day's worth of old-fashioned, small-town, family holiday fun, guaranteed to wear out the most energetic kid and the production requires little to no tax money for Dunwoody.

    Safety is always a conversation at parade time.  I imagine it will be an even bigger topic in 2013.  Unfortunately, there's not much the parade organizers and marshalls can do to enforce individual common sense in a 30K crowd.

    Case in point:  THE POTATO.

    I almost didn't believe Bill and Stacy during a DHA meeting when they said this exhibit was joining the parade.  Giant anything is a crowd-pleaser!  I still think it would have been funnier if someone "forgot" to tell Publix that it would be parking in their lot.

    Again, logistics with making sure the trailer can navigate Dunwoody Village Parkway, where to put it at the end of the parade, etc.  In spite of the above incidents that found their way through the crowd before this part of the parade came, in spite of the newly-heightened awareness of safety this year, you still had the scene below:

    The left wheels of the semi had to pull all the way to the left of the road to line up the trailer.  That front bumper and fender are no more than 18-inches away from the curb.  And what is on the curb?  Kids hanging out, of course, while their parents hang out right along with them.  Believe me if my kids were on that side of the street I would have yanked their little behinds off that curb faster than you could say "french fries".  This close call could have been the fourth big glitch of the day but thankfully, it wasn't.

    The parade is an example of why I'm proud of Dunwoody.  No matter what else is happening in government, our jobs, our neighborhoods, good or bad, there is always a time to put "every day" aside and enjoy all that we have in common.  

    Tuesday, July 3, 2012

    GoDaddy is having issues

    Some customers who host their sites on GoDaddy noticed error messages starting at about 7 PM last night.  I couldn't change their DNS to backup and the customer support line has had busy signals for almost 12 hours.

    If you host with GoDaddy, you're going to have to ride this one out.  Don't know if this was a DoS attack, straight hacking, or just a system failure.  Post a comment if you hear anything!