You’ll get no free advice from reading this blog.

November 10th, 2014


Underwood typewriter keys

As a naturally cautious person I spent several secretive months, whilst preparing to start blogging, doing a lot of research. The realisation that perhaps I did have thoughts that were worth sharing in some way had started to creep up on me, but I felt I needed to investigate what having a blog was all about first.

I read blogs and I read blogs about blogs and what I found in my days of covert research was one part interesting and useful to 99 parts repetitive and dull, dull, dull.

There were a few original pieces on purpose and content strategy for blogging which I found genuinely insightful and challenging, but as I researched further I quickly found that I was basically reading the same blog post over and over again. Not that everyone was writing about the same things of course, but that one particular style, structure and content template seemed to have become the only way to achieve proper engagement. It went something like this: ‘(insert odd number here) ways to (address common anxiety-inducing work or business problem here)’ for example: ‘Five tips to write the perfect CV’; ‘Seven things you must do whilst networking’; ‘Three signs your business needs rebranding’; and if you can write the entire thing incorporating a topical sporting parallel then you really have peaked. This last pinnacle of blogging achievement I think may be part of the Olympic legacy that the script-writers at ‘Twenty Twelve’ overlooked.

I was so very bored by it all. It left me wondering why the world would need another blog and not for the first time I closed my expectant Moleskine notebook with its pages still blank.

Then a large fact dawned on me, it arrived by email and was hidden in a recommendation sent from a lovely client to one of their contacts who was looking for a design company to work with on a rebrand. In amongst all the flattery my client had written this: ‘…and if you do end up choosing to work with GroganShaellDesign I know you’ll have a lot of fun.’ For me, that was the finest and truest thing she could have said. As I read this I had a vivid memory of my high school drama teacher and I falling about laughing as I recited the lines I’d learned for that term’s worthy play in a Birmingham accent (because, of course, a Birmingham accent is an amusing thing if you don’t have one, and possibly even if you do). I watched my fellow would-be thespians rehearse their as yet unlearnt lines drily and realised at the time, that I had been able to break out and be playful because I knew my part inside out.

I thought about the exciting yet stressful process we help many of our clients through when we work on new brand identity projects for example. The anxiety they experience trying to make such incredibly important decisions when there are often many unknowns and so much pressure to get it right. The terrible exposure of launching a new web product that often causes people to feel paralysed and incapable of finishing. I know this process so well, I know what people are likely to feel at different stages and the confidence that that familiarity brings allows me to be appropriately playful. There’s something about the momentary relief that laughing brings to the pressure of a concentrated mind that invigorates the decision making process. Humour is invaluable to me, because through it I can keep clients afloat, help them regain the moment to clear their minds and regain focus and of course it means we can all enjoy our work together.

I re-read my client’s lovely email and ‘Bingo!’ I realised that the reason I should blog is to give a real insight into what working with us is like. Our website ably conveys our values, services and recent projects but short of a cringe-worthy ‘Our Team’ page with the staff’s baby pictures on it, it doesn’t reflect the depths and oftentimes lunacy of thinking that characterise us and help to make our working process uniquely successful. So, you will, as promised in the title, get no recycled free tips from reading this blog, it will be original, it will be humorous and revealing and it will be a completely genuine attempt at communicating these things.

What was so funny about that post? I hear those of you kind enough to read this far scream. Well, I’m glad you reminded me because I’ve almost forgotten to ask: What do you call a septic cat?



  1. Love the way you write. Love the idea of the blog showing clients what it would be like to work with GroganShaellDesign.

    by: Ann on 11th November 2014 at 11:28 am


    • Thanks Ann, you are so kind! Hopefully I will manage to fulfil this massive expectation I’ve just sketched out!

      by: shaell on 11th November 2014 at 11:53 am


  2. when I read your blog I assumed I was the ‘lovely client’ who had said it was so much fun working with you. I checked, and in fact I wasn’t, but I should have been!

    by: Annie on 12th November 2014 at 12:20 pm


    • Annie! I’ve always assumed you tell people working with us is side-splittingly brilliant, several times a day. Just because you’ve not actually written it down doesn’t mean you’re not lovely!

      by: shaell on 12th November 2014 at 1:32 pm


  3. Alice, I love your writing – and what a brilliant reminder to only work with people who we can laugh with.
    No more rubber lemon faces in my life – that’s what I say – and hey maybe one day I will blog about it.

    by: lisa on 12th November 2014 at 6:12 pm


    • Lisa (or should I call you Ann for consistency?) Looking forward to your next lemon-free project and the imminent arrival of your ability to laugh about the last, sadly very lemony, one.

      by: shaell on 12th November 2014 at 11:35 pm


  4. I enjoyed this even more than your last blog!

    I enjoy reading your writing because it feels like every word has been considered, and I can vouch 100% that you are fun to work with – amongst 10s and 100s of emails, you are the only person who sends me (and appreciates my) pictures of grumpy cats (preceded by, of course, serious things like work). Which just brightens up my day.

    by: Poppy (Clissold Arms) on 17th November 2014 at 3:00 pm


    • That’s let the cat out of the bag eh Poppy!

      by: shaell on 17th November 2014 at 3:34 pm


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