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My PRK Journey

 

At Matt Jensen Marketing, we use a wide range of creative tools during our design process, but there’s no tool more important to a designer than his or her vision.

Joel Jochim, graphic designer and beard wizard, relies on his vision throughout the design process to create great visual work for our clients. After a decade of wearing contacts and experiencing discomfort in recent years, Joel went to Vance Thompson Vision to see if they could help. He wanted to see if they had a laser vision correction option to help him reduce or eliminate his need for contacts (while preserving and protecting his vision). Through a series of diagnostics, Joel learned he was a candidate for Photorefractive Keratecomy, or PRK. We sat down to ask him about his experience:

 

Q: What went into the decision to get this process started?

Joel Jochim (JJ): I had been wearing contacts for more than ten years, and most of those years had been fine and without issue. Eventually, my eyes started feeling uncomfortable on a daily basis, which is when I realized I needed a change. I had my eyes checked out to see if anything was wrong and it turned out my contacts were irritating my eyes to the point that they were leaving scars on my cornea, and even could have effectively left me blind. After the doctors at Vance Thompson Vision discovered that, they decided the scarring was significant enough to have the PRK procedure versus a more common approach like LASIK.

Q: What was your experience like with the doctors at Vance Thompson Vision?

JJ: The staff at Vance Thompson Vision was extremely personable and helpful. They were the only ones to alert me to what was actually happening with my eyes and gave me a clear path forward to improve my vision. Beyond that, they educated me about the treatment that was right for my unique situation.

Q: What was your recovery like? How is your vision now?

JJ: PRK is more uncomfortable in the recovery phase when compared to LASIK. While the procedure is quick and painless, I still took it easy the first week, especially in bright light. That being said, after that first week my eyes cleared up and felt better than they had in years. Six months later, my eyes feel completely normal and I have better than 20/20 vision. I genuinely couldn’t be happier with my choice to have PRK.

Q: What is one aspect of your life that has been improved, besides your vision, after this procedure?

JJ: The doctors at Vance Thompson Vision and the PRK procedure have made it so I don’t have “bad eye days” anymore, which occurred often in my life before the surgery. Making plans no longer depends on whether my eyes will be irritated or not. Now, I see better than I ever did with glasses or contacts and don’t have to worry.

For questions about PRK, call and schedule a free consultation with Vance Thompson Vision.

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Falling Up

In February 2018, I parked my car for my first interview at MJM, and as soon as I walked towards the door I fell up the ice-covered-steps within the first thirty seconds upon my arrival. Amazing, isn’t it? As I confirmed the secrecy of my fall, I brushed the snow off my pants and walked into the office as if nothing had happened.

That afternoon, though started with personal embarrassment, quickly turned into warm hellos as I walked into the office with wet knees from the snow and went into an interview turned full blown conversation of the office’s beginnings, discussion of strengths, and an affirmation that MJM is where I wanted to be.

As I reflect on just under a year from that wet-kneed interview, I’m very confident that infamous up-the-stairs-tumble was an accurate representation of how my time would be here—an experience of falling upwards.

My first couple of weeks as an intern, trust me, there was a motif of falling and embarrassment. In such a fast-paced world like marketing, things are ever-changing with the trends and the moment an account manager tells you one thing, it already changed by the time you’re gathering your own information. My creativity bloomed for practices to pretend I knew what I was doing in those first two weeks.

Though there was some adjustment to working, there also was a welcoming feeling as I started to settle into the office—just like my initial interview. It was the giggles on the couch with the account managers, the constructive feedback I got when I got off track, and the launch of my skills I didn’t know I had to develop my writing skills far beyond what I ever learned in school. Even if I were to fall, I would still catch myself on a higher platform from where I was before, each of my mistakes giving me more insight into how this industry works.

There’s a couch in the MJM space, which I like to call “my office,” that I work on most days that allows me to take a step back and allow me to really observe.  From “my office,” I can hear the bathroom door that absolutely slams behind me every so often and the pitter patter of dogs running in the apartment above us. On the contrary, there’s also this aura of creativity that emerges when I see a group gathered around a computer working on a project, the determination coming from the design team when they’re deep in a project, and the ambiance of all of the creative and tactical minds functioning in perfect (and sometimes imperfect) harmony.

I came into this office with snow-covered jeans but will leave with an absolute remodel of my knowledge about all things marketing. I touched client work ranging eye care practices, aesthetics companies, virtual training platforms, amongst many more. Did I mention on one of my first weeks our CEO made me draw and label an eye in front of some of this country’s leading ophthalmologists? It’s truly a whirlwind around here.

Though I’ve stayed on part-time as I “fell-up” back into my school year, this internship has given me a chance to reflect and analyze what I want to be doing in the future. If it’s anything like my time here at MJM, I’ll be just fine.

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Leaving Fruits of Young Trees: Connecting with the Land and Community

On a recent Sunday afternoon, my husband and I toured Coastal Roots Farm, a local farm that is unique to our area along the southern California coastline. According to their vision statement they “envision a world in which every community comes together to grow and share healthy food, care for the land, help their neighbors, and strengthen the connections they have with each other.”

Coastal Roots Farm is inspired by ancient Jewish traditions that connect people to community, food, the land, and social justice. They donate 70% of all that is grown to feed those in need in the community and sell the remaining 30% at their local farmstand.

During the tour we learned about the concept of “orlah” which means “leaving fruits of young trees.” Orlah requires waiting to harvest fruit for a tree’s first three years, and donating the harvest in the fourth year. In ancient Judaism, the fourth year’s fruits were considered holy and designated for those who were landless and social or religious servants. Orlah teaches us to care for the trees and allow them to establish deep roots before concentrating on production. It encourages farmers to value trees as more than a means to an end of consumption. The farm recently produced its fourth year of grapes from the vineyard and donated it to a local winery to share in community events. Next year is their fifth year growing and they will cultivate and sell the fruit for the first time.

Especially at this time of year, it is a good reminder of giving back to the earth to nourish the soil, being grateful for the bountiful harvest and sharing with those less fortunate.

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Thoughts on Design Camp 2018

Our content team voyaged north to Design Camp for inspiration from leading creatives, technique sharing and time together. Here were some takeaways from the team:

The theme of this year’s Design Camp was “Inside Out” and the goal was for everyone to put it all on the table—personally, professionally and creatively. As a classic reserved Midwesterner, my first reaction when I heard this was, “No, thank you.” But as I listened to the speakers and presenters share their stories, the more I started to think that maybe I do have a story of my own to tell. I have always shied away from doing personal work, believing that my purpose as a designer could only be derived by creating things for other people. But the presentations left me questioning the assumption that creating something for myself is inherently incompatible with creating things for other people.

This idea culminated in the final keynote from illustrator Andy J. Pizza who talked about how looking at gig posters had helped him dig himself out of a depression. Something that was meant to be functional and ephemeral had become someone’s lifeline. As designers, we have very little control over what happens to our work once it has been released into the world. Most often, we worry about people misunderstanding or even ruining our work, but isn’t magical to think that our work could be thing to turn someone’s life around?

So, still being a Midwesterner, I of course did not voice any of the ideas that were running around in my head during the actual weekend, but it has got me thinking about how I can use design to tell my own story. Because, maybe, there is someone out there who needs to hear it.

– Kirstie

Design Team in Brainerd, MN

Plaidurday 2018

Design Camp 2018 was a great opportunity to glean new techniques and meet skilled designers, but the most important takeaway I had from the experience was that even the most veteran designers out there undergo the same brief moments of doubt and near-burnout that all creatives do. Not only do they have these moments, but their experiences have taught them how to systematically push through these obstacles and return to creating their best work. We able to hear these and learn from these stories thanks to the vulnerability the keynote speakers were willing to show us, so I think we can all agree that we’re endlessly thankful.

– Joel

Design Camp was a fantastic weekend of fellowship and learning for our design team. We studied and discussed the creative process, inspiration, and collaboration and came home with some great tools to improve our work. One teaching theme emerged for me from a number of the speakers, and reflects a comment from a famous athlete:

”It seems like the harder I work, the luckier I get.”

A number of speakers reflected on how they fought through low periods of creativity or dead periods of work. For those that found their way through these periods, a common theme was ”just keep working.“ Work projects, personal projects, passion projects—find a way to keep working and producing. It was often this work borne in low periods that created the exposure or inspiration for future successful work. This kind of ”luck,” obviously, is created through dedication and intentional focus, and all creatives need to find a way to fight through their low periods and breakthrough. At MJM, having a great team of creatives around to work with and create with definitely helps support each individual creative as they work hard and create more luck!

– Logan

I have one core or foundational belief about creativity. It’s that new ideas are simply new combinations of familiar things. This concept of combinatorial creativity is only reinforced by conferences like Design Camp. It’s incredibly invigorating to spend a weekend retreat with like-minded designers and thinkers, getting inspired by the journey others have taken and the things they’ve learned along the way.

One of the workshops outlined a technique for ”Bulletproof Ideation” by combining ideas in a methodical fashion. We learned about the Bedno Diagram – a tool invented by designer and educator Ed Bedno—which provides a framework for seeing and exploring the intersection of multiple ideas. The process was very familiar, but I had never seen it implemented so thoroughly and methodically. And I was inspired by the suggestion to use the technique to reverse engineer ideas that have inspired me, to understand how their creator may have arrived at that solution. It was a good reminder that good ideas don’t come out of thin air, delivered by a muse in a ”eureka” moment. They are intentionally crafted and combined, and are accessible to all who are willing to work rigorously for them.

That last point connects back to the final keynote speaker, Andy J. Pizza. He shared the highs and lows of his creative journey, and wisdom he gained along the way, with the ultimate conclusion that there are no shortcuts for a fulfilling creative career. You have to do the work. And sometimes you have to struggle for it. That struggle might look like an exhaustive Bedno diagram, or piles of discarded concepts on the way to one workable solution. Learning to enjoy the process and to see it as intrinsically valuable is the key to going far.

– Brady

No matter what you want to learn, most skills and ideas are available to anyone who is interested through YouTube tutorials and Skillshare classes. You don’t need to drive halfway to Canada to find inspirational speakers or to learn interesting new techniques, but our design team does exactly that every year.

AIGA Minnesota’s Design Camp is a yearly retreat just outside Brainerd, MN. Each fall the MJM design team makes the trek up to northern Minnesota, and while the workshops and the speakers’ portfolios are interesting, to my mind they are not the most valuable part of the experience. The reward that compels me to make the trip is perspective.

This year that perspective had less to do with design methodology, new paper options, or printing techniques—it was something deeper. I felt like I heard two different answers to the question, “What is your work for?” Some of the speakers I heard and the designers I met talked about the scope of their portfolio and the size of their audience; they spoke about their personal brand and their career path. Good work equals more glory. Other people focused on the lives they had touched, the students they had taught, and the relationships they had formed with clients and colleagues over the course of their career. Good work means better relationships with people.

“What is your work for?”

Looking at my own past work, some of it has held up well, but much of it has not. Projects I worked on even 6 months ago can sometimes cause me to cringe. But the relationships I’ve developed with coworkers, students and clients are evergreen. Last year’s projects are getting stale; last year’s relationships are still a source of joy. Do the work, and enjoy the process, but don’t look to your work to make you happy. The work (whatever it is) is valuable, but it’s really only a backdrop to the things that matter most.

– Tim

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A Call for a Community Coloring Book

Our very own graphic designer/copywriter/baking extraordinaire, Alison Raaen, has been selected as one of two recipients of the South Dakota AIGA’s Idea Fund, a grant that helps fund designer-initiated projects that impact the community.

Her goal is to create a Sioux Falls coloring book inspired by the culture, landmarks, and ecology of the Sioux Falls community. Each page will be based on something found in the Sioux Falls area. This may include Falls Park, the Great Plains Zoo, the Butterfly House, farmer’s markets, or local cuisine. Alison has had the idea for a while, but the grant gave her the motivation she needed for the project to come to fruition.

As the designer of this project, she is focused on the “colorability” of the book, or how she can make people sit down and experience Sioux Falls in a brand new way. She wants as many people as possible to be able to share in the community and activity that the City of Sioux Falls brings. Raaen swears that this entire project is a learning process, so the book will evolve as time goes on.

“It’s tricky because I’ve never been formally trained as an artist by any means,” said Raaen. “I’ve just been sitting down and drawing each page off an app on my iPad. I think this also brings a message that this book is for everybody, not just those who are artistically inclined.”

She is focused on using her personality of naturally being a “maker” of doodles and design and channel it into a project. Though anybody can take a picture of a Sioux Falls landmark, Raaen hopes to bring a sense of abstract and vibrancy to the pages through her illustrations.

Raaen has six months to complete the project and will present the completed book at 2018 Sioux Falls Design Week. Beyond that, she is working to find cost-effective printing options with vendors and looking to have local stores carry the coloring book upon completion.

“It’s a mix of exciting yet scary being both the designer and director on this project,” said Raaen. “I’m not usually wearing both hats simultaneously at MJM, just because my projects are dictated by client need and now it’s just me and my imagination.”

As for long-term goals, Raaen said she would consider making a series of these books, one for each season. For now, she is just thankful for a beautiful city for inspiration, monetary support from AIGA, and a sense of community that goes along with Sioux Falls.

“I think it’s great that AIGA wanted to support the community to get people like me who wouldn’t have the time to create something we can share,” said Raaen. “With projects like this, it just gets everybody to care a little more about design.”

Check out the video below to learn more about Alison’s inspiration!

You make the MJM office proud, Alison! We can’t wait to stock up on coloring books come October.

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Designers Tackle the 36 Days of Type 2018

#36DaysofType

Each day a new character, and in our case, a new designer as we passed around the alphabet to explore type, animation, illustration, storytelling and more. Designers and illustrators around the world participated in 36 Days of Type by posting to instagram and connected with the #36DaysOfType hashtags. We decided to tackle the challenge as a team this April and May. Repetition invites creativity and crafting. We also invited the opportunity to try new techniques. We stuck (somewhat) to our original color palette and prescribed dimensions and dove in.

Each designer chose their favorite letter and gave some background. (Check out this reference for a quick guide on technical type terms.)

C

Joel

I always appreciate projects like 36 Days of Type for creating opportunities to try new tools and solutions in a design setting. I used much of that opportunity to explore computer-generated three-dimensional design and animation. While there are quite a few examples of this in the library of type we created, this “Inflatable C” is one of my favorite results of that exploration. While it’s quite minimal, it shows off some of the new options that the third dimension can create for designers like convincing depth in the subject and a more robust use of simulated physics. Along with all of that, this piece just makes me think of summer.

G

Kirstie

The double-story (or looptail) “g” is one of my all-time favorite letterforms. Even though it’s mostly superfluous, difficult to write and unrecognizable to the majority of population, I love how it seems to capture all of the personality of a typeface and its designer. For this illustration, I wanted to take full advantage of the letterform and do something playful to link the two counters. The shapes reminded me of pools of water, so I turned them into little ponds and, in the name of the letter “g,” added a goldfish leaping between the two. It’s a quirky little fish at home in a quirky little letter.

J

Alison

I think the most interesting part of a capitalized J is its arm. Many sans serif fonts do away with it for simplicity’s sake, but I like the way it can balance the otherwise asymmetrical form. I started with a grid paper sketch to articulate my idea. On paper I could visualize how to fit the two scoops of each J shape together and experiment with softly curved terminals. Then I moved to the Procreate app for iPad. I used a chalky brush to give body to the letter, and then used the eraser tool to define the edges and corners. Procreate allows layers so I could add illustrated florals between the tall, narrow J and the more squat, overreaching J tucked in where I wanted—and still have each piece editable. I fit organic shapes and ornaments in and around the ribbons to complete the bright composition.

K

Tim

One of my favorite aspects of the 36 Days of Type project was that it gave us freedom within a rigid structure. That sounds like a contradiction but it’s not—the project was completely open-ended, with no direction or client feedback, but at the same time, the content was inflexible (the letter of the day), the timeframe was limited (one letter each day) and as a team we also chose to limit ourselves to a common color palette. Freedom within constraints can lead to remarkably creative solutions.

For some of my letters I tried to build a formal letter shape, conforming to typographic traditions and crafted for legibility and grace. This K is an example. After looking at other K shapes in a variety of fonts and calligraphy I identified some of the geometric “bones” that I wanted to build my K around.

In other letter explorations, I chose a more conceptual approach. I thought it would be fun to build the letter P shape out of large, oversized pixels. In the animated version of this “P is for Pixels” composition, I created a digital sort of shimmer by slowly fading each block between a few different values of blue.

X

Brady

I love projects that require a series of explorations around the same prompt. Eventually your typical approach to the problem starts to feel tired and uninspired and you are forced to try something you might not normally consider. 36 Days of Type was that sort of project for me (even in just the 7 or so iterations I completed as part of our team approach).

Part way through my initial explorations began to lose their initial spark and I started looking around my environment at home for inspiration. We have a variety of patterned fabrics and other materials around the house, from curtains to coasters, and while studying them one evening I started to imagine how those patterns would look in motion. One pattern in particular happens to feel very much like a grid of geometric letter X’s.

Once I tested the idea with X, I wondered about the same concept applied to a different pattern-letter combination. It was interesting approaching the problem from the other direction the second time around, starting with a particular letter or number and trying to discover it in an already existing pattern.

You can see the whole set from the MJM design team on our Instagram account or by watching the video below!

Turning a Passion into a National Equestrian Championship

When you hear the word “equestrian,” what do you think of? The average person would probably think of the Kentucky Derby, old fashioned cowboys, or taking a pony ride at the carnival. In reality, it’s much more than that. I asked this question around our office and it was practically unanimous—horses and Katherine. That’s right, our beloved Katherine Kirby is an equestrian. For Katherine, showing horses is much more than a hobby—it’s led her to multiple national equestrian championships. Along with receiving many other awards this year, Katherine brought home a first place prize for Arabian Country English Pleasure as well as becoming the Arabian Country English Pleasure Champion.

Katherine started riding at age 8, and hasn’t looked back. “My grandpa Bill was a West River cowboy, and always had a string of horses that he’d ride into the Badlands. I loved nothing more than spending time on his horse farm, and took every chance I had to visit him in Wall and be with his horses,” Katherine said. Her parents found a farm called Performance Plus Arabians outside of town that gave lessons on Arabians and Quarter horses. After a year of lessons, they bought their first horse and began competing. Almost 20 years later, she and her family have begun a small breeding program, putting their home-bred horses into the competition circuit. They currently have a 3-year-old foal that’s going into training for the first time and two babies being born this month.

What does this have to do with anything?

Katherine has been competing in horse shows for over 20 years. Her favorite horse is her 11-year-old Gelding, CP Shenanigan. “I’ve been riding for so long and I’ve dreamt about horses like him, never truly believing I would have one. He is definitely my horse of a lifetime,” Katherine said. “I know I may never have another one like him. He is everything you would want in a horse. He is beautiful, full of attitude, competitive, and willful.” Shenanigan became part of the Kirby family as a two-year-old, and Katherine and Shenanigan have been competing together for nearly seven years.

Katherine and Shenanigan compete in an equestrian championship

Katherine and her horse, Shenanigan, competing in an equestrian championship.

Her nine horses train in Mantua, Ohio at the Stachowski Farm. They train year round, with light workouts from November to March to keep them in good shape. In competition, judges will look for muscle definition and general fitness of the horse, eloquence and grace, ability, competitiveness, and obedience. Katherine joins her horses often, using her weekends to travel down and train with them herself. The show season begins in February at Scottsdale, Arizona, and then preparation for Regionals starts in the summer. The regional championships qualify each horse for the Arabian U.S. National Championships in the fall.

This year Katherine spent 11 days, from February 15-25, in Scottsdale, Arizona, with two horses to compete in the 63rd annual Arabian Horse Show, which is the largest Arabian horse show in the world. She and her horses competed alongside 2,400 other entries and took home two first place awards and two second place awards.

One of the core values of MJM is curiosity and the MJM team is made up of incredibly curious people, with Katherine’s passion for horses only scratching the surface. We love you, Katherine! Thank you for being a part of the MJM team.

 

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Maintaining Traditions and Exploring the Future of Ophthalmology at ASCRS

It has been at least 20 years since I attended my first conference of the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgeons (ASCRS) and I haven’t missed a single year since.

What makes it so special? The conference attracts physicians and practice administrators from all over the world who attend to learn the latest advancements in ophthalmic diagnostics and treatments, as well as best practices for delivering care to patients. It also gives us a chance to meet informally with our clients from all over the country.

The team at Matt Jensen Marketing is proud to support many of the industry’s leaders in ophthalmology, helping them to spread awareness of new technology, clinical studies and procedures. This year, several members of the MJM staff (including myself, Matt Jensen and Logan Wang) will be presenting at ASCRS and the joint American Society of Ophthalmic Administrators (ASOA) Conference. Our topics include:

  • Can My Practice Afford Another High-Tech Device?
  • Creating a Winning Culture
  • Measuring What Matters: Create a HIPAA Compliant Patient Satisfaction Survey with Compelling Data
  • Innovating the Patient Experience: Five Ways Private Practices Create Raving Fans

The mission of ASCRS is “to advance the art and science of ophthalmic surgery and the knowledge and skills of ophthalmic surgeons by providing clinical and practice management education and by working with patients, government, and the medical community to promote the delivery and advancement of high-quality eye care.”

Our MJM team is proud to be a part of this organization now and for many years to come.

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Good Reads from 2017

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Three Design Lessons We Learned from Carving Pumpkins

We try not to take life too seriously here at the MJM office. We decided it was the perfect time of year to try our hand at carving some MJM-themed pumpkins. As it turns out, carving a pumpkin actually has a lot of similarities with design—as well as some unfortunate differences.


Here are a few things we learned while carving pumpkins:

1. Pumpkins Are a Blank Canvas

Just like in design, pumpkins allow you to start with a blank canvas to work on. And like with a project scope, your parameters are already set. In this case, the scope was defined by the size and shape of the pumpkin and what message we hoped our pumpkins would deliver to those who see it.
We wanted our pumpkin to be extra scary, so we carved Matt’s face into it.

2. There’s No Command+Z

Unfortunately, there are no undo buttons or shortcut keys when it comes to pumpkin carving. We learned this the hard way on our pumpkin featuring our brand new MJM logo. Because we couldn’t go back, we were forced to get creative in new ways and improvise—a welcome challenge.

3. Creating Is Fun

Okay, this one may sound silly, so hear me out. When you design on a computer all day, every day, you can sometimes forget that what you are actually doing is creating. A change of medium (to a pumpkin, in this case) is a surprisingly fun way to reconnect with the art of making things.

We love to see the ways other people choose to create, so share your Halloween creations with us!