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MG TD Limited Edition Illustration

Newson April 15th, 2014Comments Off on MG TD Limited Edition Illustration

The most recent illustration in my continuing series of MG cars.  This effort combines more of the classic cutaway style of ghosting in the exterior panels (and some of the other components as well) with my signature, cross action technique. This development of style not only highlights the mechanical components but helps maintain the exterior shapes that are so much a part of the marque giving the illustration a more finished appearance as well as ties back to the heritage of classic cutaways.

Of special interest are the timbers—an integral component of the TD and earlier TC and “Y” and “A” MGs. It’s just so much of what makes a TD a TD that to not show it would have been criminal. The level of detail in the illustration reflects the level of detail in the car itself—from the octagonal medallions on each of the wheels to the signature emblem on the radiator and horn push. It’s all there.

How to Draw A Cutaway

Newson April 15th, 2014Comments Off on How to Draw A Cutaway

Recently I was chided for not having, in the opinion of the chider, sufficiently protected my illustration work from potential neer-do-wells…even though all of it is covered copyright and the logo is a registered trademark. I was a bit bewildered by the remark…and also a bit irked so, in reply I said, “You know you’re right. Anyone with a solid working knowledge of Adobe Illustrator, above average mechanical knowledge, and about 40 years of experience could whip one of these out in about 150 hours or so.”

But it got me thinking about putting together a simple DIY spoof on the whole business. Like many ideas, this one never went anywhere until…a customer who I often share pre-publish drawings with remarked on how cool the PDF file I sent him was. The files are large and it seemed his computer couldn’t open the file all at once but did so in layers. Kind of like fanning a deck of cards. The effect was as if he was watching me build the illustration. Well that sealed the deal and I knew I just had to try and make it into a video clip. Turn the sound up. The music is a hoot.

So, without any further adieu…

Once an illustrator…always an illustrator

Newson July 10th, 2013No Comments

Lockheed-featureI get to work on a tremendous variety of projects during the course of any year but I have a really soft place in my heart for anything illustrated—whether it’s cranking out technical illustrations of high voltage motors for Isovolta, renderings of various client projects or, in this case, recreating a lost decal of a famous MGB GT factory race car for a fellow fanatic.

Apparently the decal represented a two-race sponsorship for the #62 factory MGB GT car fro the Sebring and Nelson Ledges races only. To top it off, the roundel appears only on the right hand side of the car.

The challenge to recreating the sponsor decal was less about the overall layout—that was simple—but finding out exactly what all of the verbiage had been. In the end, I had only two very low resolution photos to work from and, even though enhanced, the best I could gather from wither of them was the two primary sponsors. The checkers motif, the tag line for Lockheed, and the “AP” in the center round were all “artistic” liberties taken to replace undiscernable material. It was a fun little project that made both the client and myself very happy guys. Men can be really silly.

Canadian Club Toasts DCT

Newson April 11th, 2013No Comments

cmmgrcc-siteI just recently completed a small pro bono site for the Canadian Modern MG Rover Car Club—a group of crazy Canadian enthusiasts who are into the whole post-1980 MG thing. Some of these modern British-built rides have of what’s akin to the old letter model nomenclature with names like TF, ZF, and the like. Others, like the Maestro, harken back to the days of the Magnette and other by-gone MG models. Thrown in with the MGs are the modern Rover cars.  Together there is wide and interesting variety of modern MG and Rover cars represented among the club’s ownership. And, as I found while working with the club leadership, there’s a tremendous bank of modern MG knowledge existing within the club.

The site is based on a Woo Themes “Canvas” WordPress layout that’s been edited to incorporate custom features not available within stock framework. Other than the custom touches, it’s a good example of how a smaller site can have a big look with the selective use of available plug-ins and widgets. Total build time was about a week (from concept to beta) and would typically be much less but I was doing the work in between paying projects. Here a few of the particulars:

  • I used the Appearance > Menu function to build the main menu as well as the Shortcuts menu. This let me use post categories as menu items, making it easy for the club administrators to just post up and tag the right category to place the post. Minimal learning curve.
  • The NextGen image gallery plug-in is definitely going to get a work out on this site with all of the available photo opps. There are already a half dozen galleries and more to come with the arrival of spring…and car show. Like the other plug-ins I used, NextGen has very small learning curve which means the club can spend its time adding galleries and albums instead of learning how the tool works.
  • WP slider plug-in was added as it provides more control than the onboard function that comes with the Canvas theme. Using it is a simple two step operation—create a new slider post, add the image, click “save” and you’re done. Turning slider images on or off is done by publishing or un-publishing.
  • Forum function is through BBPress and is easy for members to use (most of whom are familiar with the basic functions through their experience on other MG forums). Forum administration is also straightforward making it simple for site administrators to moderate. On the developer end of things, BBPress offers tons of excellent documentation, as well as short codes, and the like to help customize forums to suit specific needs.
  • The Slick Share social media buttons will eventually help the club build out its network
  • Adding one-clic log-in using FaceBook, Google, and WordPress (it also supports Yahoo) keeps things simple and makes it quick for returning visitors to sign in.
  • Lastly, I used the Duda Mobile scraper to create a simple mobile device version of the site. I stumbled on to Duda while looking for a simple way to quickly create maintain mobile site versions. I’m really sold on its simplicity and editing tools. Sure, there are more powerful scraper-based mobile site development tools out there but none, in my opinion, that deliver the combination of features and ease that the Duda product does.

Not a big site (yet) but it’s a very robust platform for its size and will support plenty of future growth without needing to be edited in any significant way.


Stratton Magazine Debuts New Site

Newson January 15th, 2012No Comments

Established regional magazine meet the web. Web site, meet Townsend Graphics LLC.

No matter how ‘straightforward’ things may sometimes seem, building a good web site, one that does what it needs to for the company or organization it represents, is rarely a very straight path. Throw in the need to optimize the site so people can find it when they’re searching then top it off with a need for the site to be more or less faithful to the print sensibilities of the magazine and, well, you have a very challenging project indeed. But a challenge worth taking on.

Stratton Magazine has been a regional favorite for more than three decades and enjoys a loyal and passionate following among locals as well as regular visitors to the Southern Vermont. Publisher Lee Romano has carefully crafted (and protected) the magazine’s visual identity as well as the character of it’s content putting a unique and decidedly up-scale stamp on topics as diverse as maple sugaring to convertible cars. Then there’s the photography of Hubert Schreibl’s that graces nearly every story. Simply the best. My job was to bring all that to the web, carefully rendering the magazines image in pixels instead of ink and paper while building an architecture that would support a robust SEO plan as well as future advertising.

Four months and who knows how many hours later, I think we got it. Like most big projects this one began with a plan and a set of goals. Also like most big projects, it’s fair to say that the plan—and the goals— were tweaked and adjusted along the way as the site began to take shape and new, better ways to reach our ends emerged. The end result is a satisfying blend of the needs of the site architecture to support the SEO and advertising functions and to do it in a way that represents the look and feel of the print publication.

Works for me. but,please, take a look for yourself at

Partnership Clicks On Townsend Graphics

Newson November 27th, 20101 Comment

The Downtown Rutland Partnership has chosen Townsend Graphics LLC to execute a re-design of the organization’s popular web site.

“I know it’s sounds cliché, but we couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to help boost communication about downtown Rutland through the web site”, said Townsend Graphics managing member David Townsend.” “Being able to help support the downtown businesses as well as be part of attracting more business to our area is very satisfying. It’s also a chance to take the existing web site to a new level, adding features that will make it easier for people to find what they’re looking for”, continued Townsend. The new site will also feature enhanced Search Engine Optimization (SEO) that will help make the Partnership more visible to popular search engines like Google and Bing.

Michael Coppinger, the Partnerhsip’s Executive Director, said, “We had a lot of interest in this project and the bids were very competitive.” Coppinger continued,  “Townsend Graphics’s experience in building successful sites for non-profits and their ability to help support site administration after completion of the work influenced our decision.”  The new will feature an expanded calendar of events function as well as page templates for Partnership businesses that may not currently have a web presence. The site is being designed to be self-maintained and will be easily updated by the Partnership, ensuring that content will remain fresh and up-to-date.

The new web site is expected to be ‘live’ in mid-December.

Westminster Crackers Warms to DCT

Newson October 4th, 20101 Comment

New Westminster Retail Packaging

Long time Vermont success story Westminster Cracker Company has chosen Townsend Graphics LLC to execute a re-design of the gourmet cracker company’s retail packaging. To help raise the visual appeal of the popular specialty food, DCT reached back into Westminster’s past, bringing elements of several of the company’s classic packages from the last 100 years.

“I wasn’t looking to make it a ‘retro’ look”, said Townsend Graphics managing member David Townsend, “but loved the simple, classic elegance of some of the older packaging designs from the 50s (and earlier). “The new designs borrow many elements from the past—color, graphic flourishes, and even language—to help create a distinctive, more upscale look.”

Larry Cirina, Westminster Cracker Company’s president, said, “The new look is definitely in synch with the character of our product.” Cirina continued, “We couldn’t be more thrilled with discovering a company like DCT in our own backyard, able to share our vision and execute on it.”

The new relationship was struck as the result of a happenstance mention of the company during a conversation with Westminster Cracker employee Roger Johnson.

The new packaging will begin appearing in select retail locations in the next month or two.

For more information on Westminster Cracker Company visit:

When “No” Can Mean “Yes”…No Zen Here

Newson August 24th, 2010No Comments

Or, how to talk a client out of wasting money.

Sometimes the best thing you can do when a client (current or new) approaches you with a new assignment is to, as clearly but respectfully as you can, let them know it’s not a good idea. This can be especially hard to do when you make money by selling your time. But I am convinced that, rather than just being the right thing to do, it’s also a smart thing to do. Helping a client make a good decision turns vendors into partners by building trust. Instead of just being an ad or web ‘mechanic’, you or your agency become someone they look to to help them reach their goals—whether that’s building brand, helping to sell, or just putting some polish on the old image.

Being seen as a vendor makes price the most significant (and sometimes the only) deciding factor on getting new work. When you’re only as good as the lowest price there are no points given for how long you’ve worked for someone, nothing earned for the last award-winning assignment—you’re only as good as the deal you can cut today. And there will always be someone willing to do the work for less. That seems like a very sharp edge to be on. But when you elect to share the client’s risk, however small it may be, you begin to change the relationship dynamic, earning your way from vendor toward partner and, in the process moving the discussion from being just about the money and the deadline to  the value of the work.

Most agency types I know simply loathe the idea of being a vendor yet every time we drop our pants and make the work only about the money we reinforce the vendor image in the mind of everyone we deal with—client, service providers, and the people we work with. Price as a sole deciding factor is a pernicious and noxious weed that invades our creative garden and chokes out our growth. It is tough in these economically challenging times to remind ourselves that value is the combination of price and utility. Abandoning our creative value at the altar of price today is going to make it difficult to reclaim when the financial ship rights itself.

Can turning down new work be the right thing to do? You bet. Smart thing to do. Yep. And if you want to feel good about making an ethical choice that’s okay too. Good clients are hard to find, harder to keep. We shouldn’t short sell ourselves or their loyalty by taking the easy way out. Maintain your integrity, support your true value and your business will benefit.

That’s my stand. You?

The Seven Questions of Advertising: Ready…Aim…

News, Resourceson June 3rd, 2010No Comments

In our information-cluttered age, it seems to be getting harder and harder to get people’s attention—the more advertising there is, the less effective it seems to become. There’s some truth to that. The average reader spends less than 3/10 of a second looking or listening to an ad. The sheer quantity of what’s out there in the form of advertising is called “clutter” in the ad biz, it’s rapid turnover is called “churn”. Churn and clutter put a high demand on on targeted messages, placed in front of the right audiences, using the kind of media they prefer.

For broadcast and print advertising, it’s crucial to make the connection between advertising and the results you expect. It’s not just a matter of making the right media buys, it’s also important to understand the kinds of customers you want to connect with and what will motivate them to action

So, how do you figure out what to say, who to say it to, and how to deliver your message? A good way to start is by asking some simple (but very important) questions.

We use a very simple tool for nearly all of our projects that helps define the audience we intend to reach, what we want them to do and so on. Called “The Seven Questions of Advertising”, it lays out the essential elements to any advertising assignment. Without further ado, here they are:

* What are we advertising? – What problem are we trying to solve?

* To whom are we advertising? – Whom are we trying to reach?

* What does this audience actually think? – What are their perceptions or opinions of us right now?

* What do we want them to think and/or do?

* What is the single, most persuasive idea we can convey? – one and only one.

* Why should the audience believe it?

* What are the development guidelines? – budget, deadlines, quantity, etc.

Just for grins, why not take a look at your current ads and see how they measure up to the “7 Questions?” Or, give me a call and bring your current ads in and I’ll be happy to share my thoughts with you on how effective they should or could be. Doesn’t cost you a thing and you might find out something that will help you reach a better result. 802-747-7561.

What's the "Big Idea" Really, What Is It?

Newson October 16th, 20091 Comment

Want to do your own thing? Start a new business? This is a loose transcription of talk I was asked to give to a group of aspiring new business owners. I never thought for a moment that it would ever go beyond the confines of the small group I was addressing but have had numerous requests over the past few years to provide a written account. Hope there’s something in here that will make you think or inspire you to try your own thing. I’ve updated a few of the time sensitive references to make things a bit more contemporary but, other than that, the transcript that follows is pretty much the way it was delivered.

A little bit about Small Planet – we’re a (almost) fifteen year-old advertising and design agency with clients both far away as Italy and as near as right here in town. Over the years we’ve grown from one employee (me) in a basement (my house) to as many as 22 people and owning our own building as well as a few sizes and locations in between. We’ve received numerous creative awards including a “Telly” – the advertising equivalent of an Emmy- for an original short (short film) we developed for one of our clients and have been cited as one of the “Ten-Best” design agencies in New England.

First, I have a confession to make; when I started out I had no idea where I would be today. I was just a guy and a computer with a few good contacts. I had a wife, two children, a mortgage and a car payment. Sound familiar? But I had an idea, I was deliberate, and I had a plan. I’m going to share with you a few of my experiences and how they helped shape my business as it is today…and will continue to shape it for the future. Maybe there will be something you hear that you can grab onto or that will help you figure out where (or if) you want to go.

So why, with so many creative agencies, did I think that this one would be different? I knew the world didn’t need just another design group and that, while I thought I was a pretty creative guy, there were thousands of creative folks in the world. What important difference could I bring to my business that would be meaningful to my clients?

For me it started with a general level of dissatisfaction with some of the standard industry practices and grew into a realization that not only wasn’t the way many things were being done a productive way to do business, it wasn’t very satisfying either. It took 23 years for me to get to that point. It was…the fabled death of a thousand cuts.

Remember when you were a kid? Growing up, how many of you told yourself, “When I have kids, I’m going to change how that works”, because of some perceived (or real) way your parents treated you? That’s how the idea of Small Plant developed. It began with questions about what I didn’t like or about things I would change if I had the power to change them. Here’s my short list:

  • I didn’t like the way clients were generally treated – as revenue streams rather than as people who had a problem that were looking to get solved
  • I didn’t like the “me first” attitude of most people in the agency environment
  • I didn’t like the financial disparity between the people who did the work and the people who found or managed the work
  • I really didn’t like the ‘burn out’ rate of those on the creative staff and account managers
  • I didn’t like the hierarchal way of thinking that kept collaboration out of the workplace
  • And I really didn’t like that most people in my business knew all of these things…and thought they were perfectly all right

For me, the joy had gone out of the work. It was hard to keep my head in the game and it showed. I was unhappy, out of shape, my work wasn’t as good as it could have been. I just wasn’t healthy…mentally or physically.

So what was the big idea? Really…what was it?

My ”big idea” was to provide opportunity for the personal and professional growth and learning that I didn’t get when I came up through the design ranks.

What you should notice about this “big idea” is that it doesn’t say anything about how profitable I wanted to be, or how fast I wanted to grow. It assumes if I can do what I set out to do, that profitability and growth will be natural outcomes of successfully executing on my “big idea”.

Here’s how that translates into a tactical reality. For Small Planet the client/job criteria are:

  • Can I really help this company?
  • Am I going to learn something with this assignment?
  • Am I going to have fun?

These are critical because they go to the heart of the creation of revenue.

  • If I genuinely feel I can help the client I’m going to be engaged in my work and bring my passion, my energy, and my enthusiasm to the assignment. I’m going to be their partner.
  • Learning something new excites me. So, if I know I’m going to get something out of the relationship I’m more committed to finding the right answer to the problem at hand.
  • Happy people make good work. Nothing new there.

What’s important to note here is the relationship of my revenue to my criteria. When I behaved consistent with my “big idea”, I made money. An interesting corollary: every job we’ve ever taken solely for the money has been an abysmal financial failure. Go figure.

So, you think, “this is all well and good but not really very practical.” ” How am I supposed to figure out how this is going to help me?” While I can’t answer those questions for you, I can share one of the ways these ideas manifested themselves in our business practice.

Partner or vendor?  I need to digress a bit here to lay the foundation for what I’m about to say. How many of you know the difference between a transactional employee and a committed follower? For those who aren’t familiar with the terminology, a transactional employee is someone who comes to work, does what you ask them, collects their check, and goes home. A committed follower brings their passion, their enthusiasm, and their energy to every thing they do. There’s a corollary in your relationships with your customers and other professional services you need to do your business. It’s called, “partner or vendor”?

A vendor:

  • Does what you asked them
  • Brings exactly what they need to do the work you’ve asked them to do
  • Gets paid and goes home

A partner:

  • Brings their enthusiasm and talent to the relationship
  • Will risk on your behalf
  • Brings their passion to each opportunity

Because I’m in a creative business, a business that revolves around the development of ideas and solutions, I need to people to be comfortable bringing everything they have to the table. People who feel valued and respected will do that. I simply can’t afford to find out the guy with the idea I need isn’t comfortable sharing because they’re not involved or not interested in my business.

The journey to today has not all been sweetness and light.  Among all of the “successes”, there were times (and there continue to be times) when I asked myself, “What I am doing?” – moments when I yearned for the simplicity of just going to work, doing my thing, and getting a check. Moments when I wondered if what I was doing was worth all the trouble. Trusting, believing in my “big idea” enabled me to overcome the self-doubt and the discouragement that are a natural part of growth and learning. In fact, those are the moments when real growth and learning take place. Those times when things aren’t going to plan are precisely the moments when believing in something unique, powerful, something greater than the simple motive of making a living is most critical…and most necessary.