Bob de Leon: RIP

I’ll tell ya right now, this is not my typical blog post. Yet, it’s one I feel compelled to write and share. I wish, though, I didn’t have to do so.

The Houston Creative Community lost a good and talented designer and thinker last week in Bob de Leon. I lost a good friend.

Bob de LeoonHe was way too young to leave us, but, then, we didn’t have much to say about the departure date. Thank God he did not suffer or linger. As I understand it, from attending his memorial service yesterday, he was home alone, quietly sitting in a chair. Then, his time came and he was escorted up that VIP Staircase.

I’ve known Bob for bunches of years – we shared several in-depth phone conversations, chased that little white ball around the golf course a few times, and generally pushed each other to do better when it came time to deliver creative that would make a difference. He was, and probably still is, quite passionate about the world of advertising and creativity’s role in it. He also had little patience for those who didn’t share his beliefs (clients).

It was to this end that he joined with me and others in getting Only in Houston (OiH) on the right path in its formative years. Born out of the American Advertising Federation Houston, OiH’s guiding light was, and still is to a large degree, to promote the talent and creativity here in Houston, Texas, in a way so compelling that clients would not need to look (or spend) elsewhere for top notch creative for their advertising and marketing needs. Yeah, we were all pretty passionate about that.

But Bob conveyed his passion in a quiet, somewhat subdued manner. He was not the “rah-rah cheerleader” type. He didn’t need to be. Once you were in a conversation with him, his passion would sink into your inner depths, whether you believed him or not. He was a gentle persuader. And he always had the data to back it up.

His approach brings to mind the old ad slogan: “When E.F. Hutton talks, people listen”. We need more people like Bob in our profession!

Throughout his career, he maintained the respect of his clients and peers. He was thorough in his approach to solving the problem and very detailed oriented when developing the designs that would accompany his thoughts. He wasn’t just into “pretty pictures;” they had to serve a purpose. That’s a mark of a seasoned designer, a creative thinker.

Though I never flew with him, Bob was an avid flyer of sailplanes (gliders, those without engines) and loved participating in competitions across the country. He was also very dedicated (again, the passion) to his work with prison ministries and had been serving in this capacity for several years.

Quoting from a poem written by an American aviator and poet, John Gillespie Magee, Jr., that was read at the service yesterday, this sounds like something Bob would have had on display in his cockpit (I don’t know that he didn’t):

Up, up the long, delirious burning blue,

I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace.

Where never lark, or ever eagle flew –

And, while with silent, lifting mind I’ve trod

The high untrespassed sanctity of space,

Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

I think that happened last week when he was taken home. Bob, we miss you. Peaceful travels, my friend.



Behance vs SoundCloud: One Listens, One Doesn’t

The average user of software can easily get mired in technical problems. When one finds an understanding and knowledgeable person in tech support, one feels major relief. Especially when the problem gets fixed.

However, when we come across an issue that’s perplexing even to tech support, our frustration heightens; patience goes poof.

I recently encountered this when trying to embed an audio file from SoundCloud onto my Behance ProSite portfolio gallery. It actually sounds more difficult than it was. I had successfully performed this feat and enjoyed the fruits of my labor while listening to my audio file in both FireFox and Chrome browsers. However, Safari wasn’t wanting to play along. Being on a Mac, this simply won’t do.

Behance logo

After messaging tech support at Behance several times (very good and insightful folks over there), they were finally able to re-create the error message I kept getting, and contacted SoundCloud on my behalf for input. Eventually, SoundCloud responded that I should go into the “advanced” section of Safari Preferences and un-check a particular box, which may have even been checked by default.

I’m not an average user when it comes to certain software. However, even I wouldn’t have known to go playing around in anything “advanced” unless I knew what I was supposed to do. The average user sure as heck wouldn’t even think about this. And it’s not our responsibility to do so!

SoundCloud logo

SoundCloud, in this instance, knew there was a problem. This embed issue had even been brought to their attention by other Safari users, according to what the Behance tech support told me. Yet, SoundCloud didn’t even post an alert or notice on their site to let users of the Safari browser know there’s a problem and here’s a possible fix.

They should have been more proactive, especially since they already had feedback. Like some other software companies, they chose not to do so. Way to treat your customers, SoundCloud!

As consumers, we have a choice of with whom we will play or with whose services and products we will use. It’s unfortunate that some companies seem to be focused on what they deem are more pressing consumer issues (some may be) like new and improved features; yet these firms may be ignoring a basic flaw in their product or service which would undermine whatever other goodwill they may be gaining. They either just don’t get it or they don’t want to get it.

Tech problems are not created equal; neither is tech support. Let the “buyer” beware, even if it is a free service.

Do You Consider Yourself Unreasonable?

Quoting George Bernard Shaw: “The reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him. The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

In our society, we more often than not equate one’s unreasonableness with stubbornness or we see that person in a negative light (maybe because he/she doesn’t agree with our stance).

Think about what Shaw is saying. With what do you equate progress?

As for me, the next time someone calls me “unreasonable,” I think I’ll thank him or her.

What do you think, world?

Wake Up Stupid and Stay That Way

Some of us may sense that we have no problem doing this; it comes naturally.

But there is a more serious aspect to this cute little title. It goes to one’s frame of mind.

Be open to anything today, any day. Don’t have preconceived notions about what’s going to happen.

I know – that’s easier said than done.

Listen more than you talk. For some of us, this really is a problem.

Observe and absorb.

Ask questions. Get clarity.

Ask more questions. Refine. Reflect. Reshape.

Now, see what you can discover.

Apple’s New Spaceship Campus: Innovation being rewritten

If you haven’t seen or read about Apple’s proposed new campus in Cupertino, CA, this “sneak peek” via Wired magazine will give you something to contemplate. Recently Cupertino city officials gave the go-ahead on development of this new campus.

This blog is partially about innovation and all things creative. When I read this article and looked over the sketches of the soon-to-be “Apple Campus 2,” I began to think of new versions of how that iWord could be applied.

Quoting from Wired, “At this point, there’s a good chance you’ve seen pictures of Apple’s proposed new headquarters — a 2.8-million-square-foot spaceship parked in a verdant man-made forest in the northeast corner of Cupertino. Since the first dozen or so renderings trickled out in 2011, however, we haven’t gotten a much better sense of what all the new campus will entail or what it will be like to work there.

“Until now.

“Apple may be known for its secrecy, but buried in Cupertino’s municipal archive is a wealth of detail on the project — including more than 20 previously unseen renderings of the new campus.

Sketch of Apple's new HQ

Image: City of Cupertino

“Seen for the first time is the space port-like entrance to the development’s subterranean parking lot, a cavernous cafeteria that spills into the grassy landscape beyond, and the glass pavilion that will serve as the entrance to Apple’s new underground auditorium — a secure lair where press will gather for future product launches.

“In short, these documents give us the most complete picture of Apple’s new home yet, a campus that Steve Jobs himself thought had a shot at being ‘the best office building in the world.'”

Progress would suggest that more buildings will be developed across the country with the same environmental and creative foresight the folks at Apple are showing with this design.

Architects and designers should never feel constrained about introducing new elements into the work place. Yes, money will always play a significant role, but isn’t it more important to develop an environment that is not only welcoming to Mother Nature, but inspiring to employees (and stockholders).

As you’re nodding “yes,” and you should be, keep in mind that society needs to do more of this. It’s not always about the bottom line.

Now, here’s a peek at the forthcoming mothership. Enjoy!

Lessons learned from SXSW

Recently at an American Advertising Federation Houston luncheon, Hugh Forrest, the interactive director of the ever-popular SXSW (South-by-South West) festival held each year in Austin, Texas, summed up lessons learned from the experience. While Hugh may be looking at these teachings from a SXSW perspective, they’re not exclusive to the festival.

They’re very applicable to life.

1.) If you try to innovate, you will inevitably fail.

2.) Failure breeds success.

3.) Turn weakness into strength.

4.) Patience. Patience. Patience.

Innovative thinking, let alone innovation, scares the heck out of people. It evokes change, and we all know what that means; the status quo is under attack. Attacking the various challenges inherent in putting on a wildly popular festival every year is risky business. You have to adapt, though. You have to appease, as best you can, your customers’ desires and needs.

If you’re lucky, innovation will lead to failure. Then, failure leads to success. Strange thinking, isn’t it.

Of course, we all need to learn from our failures, our mistakes. That’s the only way to realize some success.

In business, as in life, unpopular decisions are made.  They’re made for, hopefully, the good of the whole rather than the one.

Along the way, you discover different aspects of what makes you and your organization tick. There will always be areas (weaknesses) that need to be improved until you become quite good at them (strengths) or at least good enough to be acceptable.

Because of its popularity, SXSW has out grown Austin. You can still get tickets to go, but getting a hotel room is just about forgettable. Weakness. So, the event’s organizers are considering introducing a virtual element: Experiencing the festival from anywhere you happen to be. Strength.

You don’t have to be great at everything. Life doesn’t work that way. You must constantly improve, though, or else you’ll stagnate.

And in doing all of this, you gotta have patience, sometimes in rather large quantities.

As with any company or organization that tries to innovate, SXSW is continually learning . . . and growing . . . and failing . . . and succeeding . . . and learning . . . and, well, you get the drift.

Not a bad cycle to be in really.