Fresh Ideas and Talent From Unexpected Places

Getting wrapped up in the day-to-day tasks of managing projects, answering emails, running a business, and producing good work sometimes leaves creatives longing for the good old days when we could just, well, create.

There’s no need to look back these days, as we’re in the midst of a yet-to-be-revealed fine art project that has brought together a wicked team of smart, insightful and talented people and it’s been a great reminder of what can be accomplished through open creative collaboration where everyone feels free to share ideas (the good and the bad), debate concepts and do what it takes to bring to life a particular vision. Not that we don’t collaborate here on a daily basis, but the synergy working with this particular influx of new creatives is revitalizing.

When our client, Samantha Bergman, came to us asking if we’d be willing to bring her artistic vision to life by letting our unbridled creative wheels roll, we immediately started brainstorming. Looking back, our ideas were OK, but they evolved into a much clearer picture when we sat together and collaborated with the client and additional creative team members we hadn’t worked with before. The initial project has evolved from a single fine art photography gig into a long-term project that not only takes us to other parts of the country, but lets us push our skills in website design, marketing, social media and more.

Before signing off, we have to give a shout out to Kyle Juall for his photography assistance and COOCOOU27 for their vast collection of mid-century modern furnishings. When Michael Merisola and Kyle came to our home to pick up a piece of vintage furniture, we had no idea our meeting would reveal unexpected talent.

It’s an exciting journey and we’ll keep the updates rolling.


Learn more about Secret Valley Media Labs.

Jen Koss and Kim Cox

Just Sit Back and Listen

Not far into the development of iKoss Consulting’s new website design, it became apparent we needed to sit down with the client and listen to their story. Not only the obvious story of the direction and growth of their business, but those little gems of insight that are revealed through casual conversation. And we couldn’t wait to sit down and chat.

iKoss Consulting has been a client of ours since 2002 when we first developed their logo and first website. We’ve kept in touch with Blair and Jen Koss over the years and have always admired their ability to stay focused on a goal and achieve what they set out to accomplish. Plus, they’re intelligent, interesting and a lot of fun to be with.

After an afternoon filled with stories and laughs it became obvious we had to tell their story through their people, with Blair and Jen front and center. The consultants at first were a little hesitant to be subjects of a photo shoot, but after a glass of good Pinot they were fine. As we continued to shoot throughout the day, the group’s camaraderie and love for what they do was reflected in the camera lens.

Since the one requirement in building the site was to do so within the Microsoft 365 environment, which is very restrictive and makes most designers cringe, the images became the driving force of the site and social media channels.

Without taking the time to just sit back and listen to the client, we wouldn’t have learned that iKoss is people – people who work hard as a team to guide their clients through change.

To see the team in action check out

Bringing Out the Goods

As I pulled out some pottery I had in hiding I was reminded that it’s a good thing to put your work out there. You never know who you’ll connect with or influence. I’ve seen new relationships forged, ideas shared, new clients established and old interests renewed by putting yourself out there.

In this day of increased social media participation, a need has been met that allows for people to connect and share more than ever. Sure, the endless input and output can be overwhelming, but when planned and harnessed in the right way, amazing opportunities for learning and growing can be made available.

I’m looking forward to seeing what else can be uncovered.

It Feels Good When Things Look Good

Last night a few of us from SVML went to the Todd Rundgren concert. He looked and sounded great, the band was tight and energetic and the crowd was having a good time. We had a blast.

What really hit me was the evidence of Buffalo’s ongoing renaissance. Its once defunct waterfront looked alive and inviting. Historic buildings have been renovated and the fusion of old and new architectural elements is successful. The beautiful old cobblestone roads have been restored and new walkways and roads have been built where necessary. Brightly colored Adirondack chairs dot the green grassy park area. The sleek sailboats and colorful kayaks filled the river entrance to Lake Erie. And the bright flags emblazoned with the Canalside logo (which is nice) fluttered in the lake breeze.

Seeing all those elements come together as a fresh Canalside brand made it exciting to be there. You felt like you were someplace special, as though someone (or a lot of someones) cared enough to invest the time and money into creating a new identity and brand. If they cared enough to put forth this effort, then it must be worthy of taking part in. That’s the importance of a strong, well thought out identity. When it looks good it feels important. And that makes people feel good. When you make them feel good, they remember.


You Can’t Get a Treat Unless You’re Seen

The other day I stopped at the bank drive-through teller. As is most often the case, I had my dog, Bodi, with me. Bodi is accustomed to receiving lovely little dog cookies from the canister that shoots down from the vacuum tube. However, on this particular day, there was a new teller who had not been trained to give my dog his treats.

Bodi was also more subdued than usual and didn’t plaster his face against my car window in anticipation of a treat. When I pulled the magic canister from the tube, Bodi was standing on my lap sniffing it excitedly. To his great surprise, there was no cookie inside! I could actually see the shock on his face. I turned to him and said, “Bodi, how can you expect a treat when you didn’t make sure you were seen? The teller didn’t know you were here.”

This was a perfect analogy for any business. This brief exchange with my dog somehow gave me a new insight into how we market our clients’ business as well as our own. Questions we always ask are, “How is the best way and where are the best places to be seen?” If a business isn’t visible, how can it reap any rewards?

And I can assure you, Bodi will be making sure he’s seen the next time we’re at the bank.