Just Get Started!


Just Get Started!

<Random note>
I'm writing this while on flight - sitting in the exit row, with NO ONE beside me.  If you fly frequently, you know, this is EPIC.

<End of random note.>

"The secret of getting ahead is getting started." -Mark Twain

Archaic as it sounds, I use my trusty fine-tip pen and a pad of paper to make a job log every day.  Even if the job repeats day after day, I re-write the job on the new list every morning. Putting the pen to the paper is my routine, it’s how I ‘start’.  It's my ritual. (<After coffee, of course)

Projects that require creativity can be the most difficult to start. If I give my daughter a blank piece of paper and say ‘draw a beautiful flower’, she will get going, right away, drawing a beautiful flower.  If I give her a blank paper and say ‘draw something beautiful’ she will sit and sit until she asks me for ideas of what to draw.

Today I was challenged with brainstorming for a couple new marketing strategies. The question is open ended… “What can we do to drive customers to the business?” “What bait should we put on the hook in order to catch the (right) fish?”  

There should be no obvious right answer.  If there is, it’s not the right one. The answer will come together like the path of highways that take you to your Spring Break hotel. It'll twist and turn, and you’ll reach your destination only if you (first) start driving, and (second) follow the directions.  As with any creative project, the first concept will never be better than the second, third, fourth, etc.  

I’m writing this with a simple message of motivation.  If there is a lingering job on your log that has been chucked into the procrastination bucket, get it out today. Start. Ten minutes after putting my pen to the paper I had some pretty solid starting points for the marketing plans.  Granted, I know the end result will look nothing like my initial sketches but hey, it's a start.

I’m always shocked at how fast an idea comes together after I had put it on the shelf for months because I didn’t know where to start.  

Thanks for reading!

Note: If you want to compare your creative struggles with some famous and not-so-famous authors and artists - here's an excellent read with several inspiring and insane routines that artists employ to maneuver through their daily routines and get to get the work done.
Daily Rituals' by Mason Currey







Why should you care about SEO?


Why should you care about SEO?

First of all - what is it?  SEO (Search Engine Optimization) is the process of maximizing the number of visitors to a particular website by ensuring that the site appears high on the list of results returned by search engines.

The majority of web traffic is driven by major search engines - Google, Bing, Yahoo, etc.  Although social media and other platforms will direct visits to your site, search engines are the primary method that most people use.  

You can look at search engines as the pathway to your website that connects the internet user with what you offer. (service, product, information, etc.)



When Creativity 'Falls' Off


When Creativity 'Falls' Off


We encourage all of our clients to regularly challenge their creativity - make clever social media campaigns that generate engagement, write great blog articles that motivate/inspire/educate their audiences, produce vlogs (video logs) that look great, have great content, and solidify the 'human' relationship with your customers.  

The first blog article may come easy, you may whip it out in 30 minutes and it's fantastic... but the 10th blog post may feel the same as trying to get out of your pj's on a rainy Saturday morning... not happening too quickly.

If it's the 10th or the 100th post/article/script that you are writing, inevitable you will hit a wall. Creativity has to be forced. There's no excuse. This Fall we challenge you to ramp up your game, and here's how we will get you started: here's a list of topics consider in your creative efforts this Fall. Go get 'em!

  • Favorite Fall memory of all time.
  • Why do you love Fall?
  • Setting Fall 'goals' - What to get done before Winter strikes?
  • Your like or dislike of all things Pumpkin Spice.
  • Favorite Fall foods/drinks.
  • Share recipes (Crock Pot?)
  • Places to travel - Where to see the Fall foliage?
  • What's something new you want to try as outdoor time becomes less?
  • What are your Thanksgiving traditions?
  • Ask your audience questions about their Fall traditions.
  • Create a Fall challenge for your audience.
  • Do you plan to participate in Black Friday? Why or why not?
  • Write a review for a book that you recommend reading this Fall.
  • Pick a common Fall problem, and write about how it could be fixed.
    (Allergies, Pest Problems, Leaf Disposal, etc.)
  • Write a product review that you highly recommend using this time of year.
    (Leaf blower? Camera?)
  • Share other Fall blog posts.
  • Have you started Christmas shopping? When is it time to start?
  • Fall fashion/beauty/healthcare routines.
  • Did you know? Informational posts - This time in history... 
  • Give your audience a list:
    Top 10 Fall goals, 5 restaurants you must try, 6 weird hobbies to try this Fall, etc.
  • Interview: Publish an interview with someone related to the time of year.
    Football player? Photographer? Hiker/Adventurer?
  • Prediction post.  Weather, Economic, Summer Movies?  Purely speculative and just for fun.
  • Create a Step-By-Step guide: 'How to________' this Fall.
  • List of Benefits: 'Benefits of ___________' in the Fall.

Of course, all of these topics won't apply to everyone - use this list as a way to inspire your own ideas that relate to your profession/industry/company.  

Remember - Don't over-think. Your articles need to be simple and easy to read, and come with a personality. If you have extra time this season - plan ahead! Make a calendar and write out your plan - decide how frequently will you be posting, on what platform(s), and on what topic? Work as far ahead as time allows! 

We wish everyone a creative and productive Fall!

Thanks for reading! ~Angie



I have a great idea, but what's next?


I have a great idea, but what's next?

With the ‘Shark Tanks’ and the ‘Venture’ AND ’Adventure’ Capitalists all over the media, it seems like more and more people are getting exposed to the reality that their ‘million dollar’ idea really may be a possibility.  

Here’s how it goes: you get in front of the right people, you pitch a good product/idea, you secure a lot of money and voilà - you're a millionaire!  Uhmmm... no.

Their idea didn’t start as a pitch-able/invest-able product, it started as a sentence to a friend, peer, family member, etc. and went something like this… “So, I have this idea...”

Many entrepreneurs have a lot of ideas, but few are able to successfully execute them; yet, that’s the key.  Execution. Here are some steps that we suggest taking in your entrepreneurial pursuits:

  1. Validate your idea.  How unique is your idea?  Does it solve a problem?  Does it support a cause?  Does it appeal to emotions?  Is there a real need for it?  Share your idea with as many people as you can find, and not just friends and family - find people who will be honest with you.
  2. Consider using a resource such as www.launchrock.com - a free, web based application where you can setup a “coming soon” page, share your page, and start gathering feedback. 
  3. Do some market research.  Who will be interested in your product? How big is your target audience?  Will it be worth your time?  Will you be targeting a market that has an opportunity for growth?
  4. Team up with really good people.  Whether it be hiring employees, production, or consultants make sure that you don’t compromise.  Find the right people who share your vision from the very beginning.  That being said, don’t let anyone derail your vision - even very smart, creative and talented individuals - make sure that they don’t slow you down or make you lose track of your mission.  
  5. If you feel that your idea has been validated, the market is there, and that you have a good team - GET IT TO MARKET!  Don’t wait for the perfect product, perfect plan, and all of your questions answered; that will always be evolving.  If you are confident, launch it right away, and improve it with customer feedback and testing.

"My best advice to entrepreneurs is this: Forget about making mistakes, just do it."
-Ajaero Tony Martins

We practice what we preach!  New product line launching soon from IBA, watch for details about ‘Thousand Miles To Go” - Dedicated to all of humanity who never lost their sense of curiosity, who find happiness in experience, and new life in exploration.

Thanks for reading!  ~Angie





“Writing is 1 percent inspiration, and 99 percent elimination.”
― Louise Brooks

TL;DR is not gibberish. It’s internet slang for "too long; didn't read” – a response indicating that the previous wordy text was ignored.

Similarly, the term “wall of text” is used to describe an excessively long post to a noticeboard or discussion.

Ain’t nobody got time for that.

Even if you are not active in online discussions and forums, in today’s world of soundbites, instant answers, and short attention spans, it’s usually best to remain brief.

Here’s how:

  1. Get to the point. Don’t make readers wait until the end to figure out what you are trying to say. Make your point, then back it up, and if your point is well made, they’ll keep reading.

  2. Edit ruthlessly. Even if you have to write everything out and then go back and cut, cut, cut, take time now to save readers time later – or lose them.

  3. Keep it visually simple. No one wants to pore through a huge mass of text; put it in short blocks, bullet points or lists.

Keep this in mind no matter what you’re writing for, including:

  • brochures

  • postcards

  • bios

  • websites

  • descriptions

  • articles

  • and blog posts!

Thanks for reading! –Monica


Training vs. Trying


Training vs. Trying

Inspiration can be found everywhere. Last weekend I was a witness to amazing feats of fitness and endurance at the half Ironman in Benton Harbor, Michigan. Perspective is in-your-face when you see a woman crawling on her hands and knees to cross a finish line… sheer determination.  Endurance. 

With respect to that race, and the Olympic games, I wanted to share 6 simple points from an article written by Brian Gardner, ‘Marketing Lessons from the Ironman World Championship.’

Sure, you can try at anything… but will you be successful without putting the hours into training?  

  1. Respect the Race = Respect the Competition
  2. Good Sportsmanship = Good Business
  3. Stay in Front = Be a Leader, Not a Follower
  4. Just Go = Don’t Be Afraid to Push the Limits
  5. Look Back (Strategically) = Be Aware of what Your Competition is Doing
  6. Finish Strong = Be Fully Prepared for the Unexpected

Take a look around at those who are at the top of the business/marketing game. They didn’t get there overnight, and they certainly weren’t handed their current audiences and revenues on a silver platter. My guess is that - like Chris McCormack (2 time Ironman World Champion) - they’ve killed themselves with preparation.*
* Brian Gardner, 6 Enduring Marketing Lessons from the Ironman World Championship

“Embrace the suck.” - Chris McCormack
“Things that hurt, instruct." - Benjamin Franklin

Thanks for reading!  ~Angie



Color Conundrum


Color Conundrum


Have you ever seen color that looked great on your computer monitor, but when you printed it, it looked dark or bland? Or have you looked at paint swatches for hours, finally picked one, and when you put it on a wall, it looked awful? It’s a common problem, and one that we have to manage regularly. Here's a brief explanation of what's going on, what can be done about it. 

Red, Green and Blue lights combine to create colors on lit screens.

Red, Green and Blue lights combine to create colors on lit screens.


Color that we see on a monitor or TV is created by tiny Red, Green, and Blue (RGB) lights that are turned on or off, to blend together and give a visual impression of all of the visible colors. If you get a strong magnifying glass and hold it up to your screen, you can actually see the individual tiny lights. This is sometimes called “additive” color because these lights “add” their colors together. 

Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and blacK inks absorb light to create colors on printed materials.&nbsp;

Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and blacK inks absorb light to create colors on printed materials. 


Color that we see on a printed item, such as a business card, book, or newspaper, is created by combinations of tiny ink dots — usually Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, or blacK (CMYK) — on a surface (usually paper). With a strong magnifying glass, you can see these dots, too. When a light source (sun, lamp, etc.) hits the printed item, the ink pigments absorb some of the light, so that only certain wavelengths of visible colors are reflected back to our eyes, giving a visual impression of certain colors. Fabric dyes, paint, and other applied pigments do the same thing. This is sometimes called “subtractive” color because these pigments “subtract” certain wavelengths of light to give us the color we see. 



Unfortunately, colors created with light cannot be exactly duplicated with inks on paper, fabric/thread dyes, paint, or other pigments and materials. Even when manufacturers come close, printed and painted colors will look completely different under different lights (fluorescent vs. sunshine), and on different materials (paper vs. metal). Industries like ours that need to be able to reproduce exact colors have developed systems to standardize light combinations, ink mixes, paint formulas, and dyes. 

PANTONE® Color matching system

One of the most commonly-used systems was developed by a company called Pantone. Pantone is a color technology leader, providing color systems that match colors across a variety of industries and light/pigment technologies. This means that by starting with a color chosen from a Pantone swatch book or installed from a design software plugin, we are going to have the best chance for matching that color consistently, from our desk to a printer across the country. It also means a logo color will be readily identifiable, whether it’s on a website, printed on a business card, transferred onto a vehicle, or embroidered on a hat. 


Depending on where your color will be used, you will want to start with something like a Pantone color, to make sure it can be matched as closely as possible, across a wide range of applications. We have Pantone swatch books with thousands of colors to choose from, and Pantone makes more all the time. If you have a color in mind, we can match it as closely as possible, and it will look great on your screen AND when you print it out. 


Does your online reputation precede you?


Does your online reputation precede you?

I just returned from a week in Mexico and had a brilliant time, following in the footsteps of so many travelers before me, thanks to some strategic research into consumer reviews. From lodging to tours to restaurants, all my travel decisions were influenced by what I read online or what was recommended while there. The reviews I read were not 100% positive, but even reading the “bad” reviews made the businesses I chose appear more credible and let me anticipate some potential negatives; thus, I had more realistic expectations going into the experience and avoided some pitfalls other travelers experienced. In this respect, all reviews, good and bad, served a valuable purpose.

According to the BrightLocal Consumer Review Survey 2015:

  • 92% of consumers now read online reviews (vs. 88% in 2014)
  • 40% of consumers form an opinion by reading just 1-3 reviews (vs. 29% in 2014)
  • Star rating is #1 factor used by consumers to judge a business
  • 44% say a review must be written within 1 month to be relevant
  • Only 13% of consumers consider using a business that has a 1 or 2 star rating
  • 68% say positive reviews make them trust a local business more (vs. 72% in 2014)
  • Consumers are becoming more concerned about fake reviews

The businesses I frequented while in Mexico recognized the power of these reviews and many reminded us that if we enjoyed their services, they would appreciate our feedback on social media and travel sites. I had such a great time that I gladly signed in and added my two cents, happy to recommend their services. 

If you are not encouraging your customers to provide feedback through consumer reviews on your website and social media, you should. Reviews are almost as important as price in consumer buying decisions, they increase browse time on your website, and enhance sales up to 18% according to Reevoo stats. 

Embrace the legitimate consumer review. It is a powerful way to distinguish your business.



Facebook & The Love/Hate Relationship

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Facebook & The Love/Hate Relationship

You can gather a variety of stats on the internet, the information below is meant to be a general overview gathered from some sources that have up-to-date and fairly legit information, to give you a summary of what today looks like on Facebook.

Nearly 76% of American adults, using the internet, are now using social networking sites.  It's likely that you are one of them.  If you are a stats person, like me, you may find the information below interesting... or disturbing... You may love or hate social media, but the fact of the matter is, it's not going away anytime soon.  However, for those of you that are less than happy with the big blue thumbs up, read on to the bottom of the blog. There may be hope for a Facebook-Free Future. But don't do a happy dance yet... my prediction is that it will be replaced with another beast.


2004: 1 million
2005: 5.5 million
2008: 100 million
2010: 500 million
2012: 1 billion

And Today? How Many??

  • Worldwide, there are over 1.459 billion active monthly Facebook users
  • In the US alone, there are 162 million Facebook users
  • 1.038 billion people log onto Facebook every single day

Who are they?

  • Ages 18-29: 90%
  • Ages 65+: 35%
  • Women: 68%
  • Men: 62%
  • More than half of people without Facebook live with someone who has an account in which they use to access photos and updates.
  • Indiana has 2,225,460 Facebook users.
  • INTERESTING NOTE: There are 83 million fake profiles.

What are they doing?

  • Every 60 seconds on Facebook: 510 comments are posted, 293,000 statuses are updated, and at any given minute, 243,055 new photos are being uploaded.
  • Five new profiles are created every second.
  • The most popular activity on Facebook is clicking the 'like' button.
  • The second most popular activity is watching a video.
  • 10 Billion Facebook messages are sent each day.
  • There are 17 million location-tagged Facebook tagged posts every day.
  • Least Favorite FB activity?  People posting too much personal information.
  • 2nd Least favorite activity? Others posting photos of you without your permission. 

When are they doing it, and for how long?

  • Highest traffic occurs mid-week between 1 to 3 pm.
  • 50% of 18-24 year-olds go on Facebook as soon as they wake up.
  • Average time spent on Facebook per user, per day is over 20 minutes.

Did you know?

  • Facebook is banned in China, but there's a whopping 253 million daily active users in Asia.
  • Facebook currently employs over 9,000 people and it is estimated that Facebook indirectly created 4.5 million jobs in 2014.
  • You can pick a "legacy contact" to post to your page and manage your account in the event of your death. The person you choose will not be notified until your Facebook account is 'memorialized' at the request of your loved ones. 

And for thOSE WHO JUST WANT IT TO GO AWAY... What's the FB Forecast?

  • According to this article, some Princeton researchers think that Facebook will lose 80% of users by 2017.  
  • And, according to this article, Facebook will disappear by 2020.
  • And, according to this article, and graph below, Facebook may cease to exist in 2050.

So, I'm saying THERE'S HOPE FOR YOU, TOO:)

Sources: Pew Research Center surveys, 2005-2006, 2008-2015, www.zephoria.com, sproutsocial.com, statistica.com, wishpond.com, forbes.com

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Attitude check!


Attitude check!

“Never take life seriously. Nobody gets out alive anyway” 
― Sydney J. Harris

The other day, a bizarre freak occurrence in my garage caused the pull cord on our ancient garage door opener to get caught on some items being stored in there as the door was closing, and if I hadn't managed to stop it, the items would have been destroyed, possibly along with the rest of the garage door, rails, the ceiling, etc. Thanks to quick thinking and action, I was able to stop it in time, assess my options, and fix the problem. I also repaired some minor damage, and put additional precautions in place so it wouldn't happen again. Proud of my mad skills, I walked into the house, and a clothesline in the laundry room promptly collapsed, taking several clean, pressed shirts, a fire extinguisher, a potted plant, and some other items down with it. In my efforts to quickly retrieve fallen items, I also kicked over a large bin of dogfood. 

At this point, I could have felt sorry for myself, sat down and cried, yelled and cursed, and/or just left it for someone else to deal with. I could have given up and declared my day to be awful, ruined, and hopeless! But no, I chose to laugh, see it as an adventure, and challenge myself to not only take care of it (because I'm smart and capable), but to make sure to do it right and prevent a similar occurrence in the future. 

Sure, I didn't get everything else done that I wanted to do that afternoon, but I got to star in my own episode of The Three Stooges — all by myself! And my sense of accomplishment in a job well done, combined with the story of the whole thing, made for a great evening of laughter among my family. 

The only difference between that being a good day and a bad day was my attitude. How's your attitude today? If you need a pick-me-up, stop by and I'll tell you the whole story for a good laugh! 





It's January of the new year, and for many people, their resolutions don't last beyond a month or two. Does this happen to you? Maybe you can do it differently this year, and maybe some of our tips will help.


Rest, Recharge, and Hit the Ground Running


Rest, Recharge, and Hit the Ground Running

Here we are, nearing the end of another year. I don’t know about you, but 2015 has been a whirlwind. This Fall was especially busy both at work and home. At this time of year, it feels like a marathon to get to Christmas. If you’re lucky like us, you can set aside some time between Christmas and New Years to take a break. Regular vacationers benefit from:

  • Better physical health
  • More productivity
  • Closer family relationships
  • Newer perspectives
  • Increased mental power
  • Less burn out
  • Improved mental health

A little rest does a lot of good. IBA will be closed December 24 through January 1 for our annual reboot. Some of us will be hitting the slopes; others, the snooze. You can guess who’s who. 

Thanks to all of you who made our 2015 a brilliantly busy success. We’ll be recharged and ready to go with bigger and better ideas for you come January 4th.

Have a happy and restful holiday, and see you next year!



2015 Tips the Scales on Mobile Usage


2015 Tips the Scales on Mobile Usage

This year mobile devices eclipsed desktop computers as the primary method of internet access for users globally. Adults spend roughly 3 hours per day on a mobile device in the United States.

Time spent on screens by orientation (hours/day), USA


How does this impact you? First, mobile devices generally have vertical screens that don’t perform well with traditional websites. In addition, some sites that were built for mobile a few years ago may no longer fit the standards. Google has responded by now giving preference to sites that are mobile friendly in their search results. So what does this mean for your business? Well, if it’s not mobile-friendly, your site may not be getting seen.

At this point, you should be asking yourself:
Is my website mobile friendly? 

Google has this handy testing tool if you aren’t sure:

If the answer is no, there are two approaches to make yours a mobile-friendly web experience:

1) Build two separate sites - one for desktop and one for mobile. This approach optimizes the user experience as you can tailor your message and graphics to each audience’s needs, screen size, etc. It is also the most costly to administer. For businesses who are internet-based, like big online retailers, it makes sense to invest in the extra effort to always give the best experience to customers. For many other industries, the added cost may not be justified.

2) Build a single responsive website that resizes based on the user’s screen. With only one site to build and maintain, this approach lowers your overall cost. While you may not get a perfect display on all devices, a good responsive design makes sure all the important information is accessible to all users. For most businesses, this is a perfectly sufficient solution for their needs. 

The good news? Advancements in web design platforms in just the last year or two have made it more cost effective to get a new website with robust features like online shopping carts, socially-connected blogs, built-in SEO optimization, an easy-to-update CMS structure, and responsive (mobile-friendly) design. You may give up some customization using a template service like SquareSpace or Wix, but for the majority of businesses it can meet all the demands their industry and customers require at a fraction of the cost of a custom website. In addition, if you hire a web expert like IBA to put your site together for you, we have developer capabilities to make the templates more customized if needed. 

As you are looking toward 2016, now may be the time to invest in that website upgrade you’ve been putting off. Contact us for a quote. The cost may pleasantly surprise you.


Thankful. In Reflection.


Thankful. In Reflection.

THANKFUL: Within the scope of ‘work’, the number one thing that I am thankful for is that I am able to design, create, strategize and develop ideas that I get to see out from the very beginning, until they reach the end goal.  Because of this, I get great satisfaction from my job.  I truly love it.

Today (Friday) I got a little teary eyed when a client came into the office, glowing with enthusiasm about his business success in 2015. He’s been an iba client for almost 10 years.  We ‘started’ the self-employment journey at the same time, and are still working together, in a much different capacity, now.

Over the years, we’ve encountered the same ‘cash flow’ and ’14-hour day’ struggles.  We’ve had the ‘I could take a job somewhere and actually make money’ and ‘why do I have to be available 24/7’ conversations, but in the end, we always realize why we keep chugging away.  Because these businesses are our babies that we have nurtured and cared for, and that we can’t just let disappear.

REFLECTION:  I had been doing freelance for a few years when I found myself in a position of being solely responsible for putting food on the table for my children.  So I cranked it into high gear.  There was no option but to succeed, in some capacity, and iba was my only job.  I enlisted friends to help fold newsletters and prepare mailings by bribing them with wine (and good conversation), used tv trays for desktop space, slept 4 hours a night, did all of my own bookkeeping (that's terrifying if you know me well), and did it all with a slow PC and a cheap printer. At the time, if I had 4 jobs on the log, I was happy. Today, we manage in the range of 40-60 ongoing jobs on the log, on any given day.


Looking back, I honestly don’t know how I did it.  I’m not sure I could do it again.  Those beginning stages are brutal and require your blood, sweat, time, and tears.  However, at the time, I never even considered failure.  The idea of it not working never really crossed my mind.

I don't define success by wealth.  What I'm most proud of is designing a life that I love.  For many years I didn't know what tomorrow would bring, but today, iba is solid and growing at a nice pace.

How VERY THANKFUL I am, today, to have been through the chapters of my life, just the way they were written for me, and to be entering into my 10th year of business with the best group of employees and clients I could have ever dreamed up.

Life is good, and it just keeps getting better.  Cheers to reflection, when it gives you a pat on the back and reminds you how far you’ve come.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!


Oh WOW... It's November!


Oh WOW... It's November!

November is a very busy time of year for us, as we not only have companies in need of exhausting their marketing budgets, we have companies planning marketing for the next year.

For many businesses, the end of a year is the time to start thinking about their brand identity... Is it outdated?  Does it need a boost?  Time for a complete overhaul in the coming year?
Inevitably, we hear this:
I want to logo as recognizable as the Nike swoosh.

Here's our advice to you. Set realistic expectations and goals. After you set those goals, make a plan, and develop a method to review your success. We have a quote that we like to use:

"A goal without a plan is just a wish."

Success is determined by individual motivations.  At IBA, we all (fortunately!) share the same motivation: make a lifestyle that we are in love with.  None of us plan to be millionaires but each of us wants to live a comfortable life, full of creativity and freedom. You will never find us at work if our families need us, or if we simply need to spend a day outside, wandering, to enjoy the beauty of nature. But when we work, we work very, very hard.

We encourage you to sit down as soon as possible (I add a glass of wine to this part...) and think about these 4 things:

  • What is my definition of success?

  • What are my (realistic) goals for 2016? 

  • What's my plan of attack?

  • How will I review my success along the way?

Best wishes in this journey we share called 'living life to the max potential!' 

If you need help in the journey, we have tons of experience! Send us an email to share your words of wisdom, or your story with us. angie@iba-design.com



Body Art: A Personal Perspective

If you ask me, art is hard. Not everyone can do it, and even fewer succeed at it. Fine art is a very difficult industry to make a living in, hence the well-known phrase, "starving artist." Many creative artists who love to paint, draw, sculpt, etc. also pursue "practical" careers to gain a steady regular income, such as graphic design, furniture making, or tattooing.

I enjoy and appreciate the intricacy and complexity of tattoo art. I have known for a long time that I wanted a tattoo, but knowing it was both painful and permanent, I waited for years until I had something in mind that I would be willing to wear for the rest of my life. (Not to mention accounting for growth spurts and weight changes that can stretch or sag art—you don't want a rose tattoo to look wilted!)

As an artist and designer myself, I know how to develop concepts, and create symbols to fit those concepts. After 30+ years of thinking and planning, I finally drew out a design I would be willing to carry around forever. I created an arrangement of abstract shapes that represent some of the things that were important to me. I chose brown ink to appear more natural, the way a freckle would appear on my own skin. It also is the color of henna, traditionally used in India for ceremonial “temporary tattoos.” Then I had a tattoo artist put it on my shoulder:

As it turned out, a very talented local Fort Wayne artist named Jeff Stumpp was the one who gave me my ink. At the time, I was very particular about the design, color, placement, etc. and really, just about any tattoo artist could have done it. It was literally a transfer that he traced and filled in, requiring none of his own creativity or artistry.

A few years later, I became friends with Jeff, and came to appreciate his personal artistic style and talent; and while I still love my original tattoo, I wish he was still inking so that now I could get something more uniquely in his style. And I wish other tattoo artists were appreciated by people the way I now appreciate his work. 

So, I have begun a new personal project: to become, in a small way, a tattooed canvas, a living gallery supporting talented artists in Fort Wayne that happen to use the human body as a medium. In the same way that I would like to have a Picasso on my wall, I would like original art by talented tattoo artists on my skin. I will still stick to subjects that are meaningful to me, and symbolic of important aspects of my life, but I am passing the creative baton to them, allowing them to express these subjects using their styles and talents in a way that maybe they don't get to do every day.

It's one more way that I can support local art and culture, and I hope you'll follow along as I set off on my quest to receive body art from some of the best tattoo artists in town. I'll keep you posted as I add to my gallery!




I recently decided to stretch my comfort zone by learning Spanish in preparation for an upcoming trip to Mexico. Through online apps and tutoring these past few weeks, I can proudly say that I’ve finally mastered the sentence “El gato come una manzana.” [The cat eats an apple.] 

While this may not sound like much of an accomplishment, it has opened my eyes to much more. I didn’t realize how much I’d learn about myself as I try to step outside of my language and culture and see the world with this new context.

The first surprise is that my toddler makes a lot more sense. I can feel her frustration in not being understood with her limited vocabulary and inexperienced pronunciation. I find myself excited just to be able to identify “una manzana” [an apple] and can now relate to her excitement simply pointing out everyday objects. And I’m amazed at how quickly she picks up new words and complex sentence structures every day. 

Second, it makes me wonder just how much language itself influences our world view. For example, in Spanish (and many other languages) every noun has a gender that influences adjectives and other modifiers. How it was decided that magazines are feminine and books are masculine is beyond me. And a cat is not just a cat but a “gato” or “gata” depending on its sex. It’s been foreign for me to use gender so extensively to categorize at the same time there has been a conscious trend toward more gender neutrality in our modern American culture. 

Another difference that has been compelling is the way one refers to age. In English we say “I am [number] years old.” In Spanish they say “I have [number] years.” Your age, and some other attributes, are referred to in the same way you would possessions you have earned, not as something you have become. While I’m sure most native speakers haven’t analyzed it in this way, to me it seems the Spanish approach inherently places a certain respect toward aging that is lacking in English. This is perhaps something we could use more of in our youth-oriented culture.

Finally, learning a language is just plain hard work. I have a new respect for non-native English speakers who embrace this challenge. As Americans we have had the tendency to think everyone should bend to our culture and language.  Having made my career in the business of communication, I know the way you say something can make a big difference in what is received. It’s easy to hear broken English and infer the person’s intelligence, but have you ever tried to speak another language? Much is learned about others and yourself when you look at the world through another perspective.  I would challenge you to give it a try.  

I’m not sure when, if ever, I’ll find myself in a position where I need to say in Spanish “the cat eats an apple,” but the lessons I’ve learned in the meantime have been worthwhile and I plan to continue. I hope you do, too. 

¡Buena suerte! [Good luck!]

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.
— George Bernard Shaw

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