Show us your Portland, Portland

by Dave Weich on September 18, 2014

What building—existing or long-since demolished—says ‘Portland’ to you?

Post a photo or a few short sentences in the comments section below. Everyone who posts (including you!) will be eligible to win one of two $30 gift certificates to Mississippi Studios. We’ll pick and announce winners on October 4th.

What got us thinking about Portland buildings? On October 7th, we’re joining Design Week Portland and to host Portland Past Present Future: Our Architectural Narrative.

See what we have planned and click for tickets.


For months, we’ve been working on the launch of a program called Narrative Mechanics. Find more information about it here and here.

For a couple years now, we’ve been working with Holly Andres on a series of portraits for the Oregon Cultural Trust. Apart from that, we’re big fans of her fine art photography.

In considering subject matter for Narrative Mechanics, I immediately thought of Holly’s work. She tells such rich stories—using only still photographs. With such a storytelling bug, I wondered, why not make movies instead? That one question led to many others. Before long, I was interviewing Holly to get some answers.

Ten weeks after that initial interview, here’s the result.

Wondering how we made this video? Read about our process.


Portland-based Community Inspired Professionals believes that business and community can thrive together. I’m pleased to be joining the group on Thursday morning to share some lessons about marketing.

Come join us! A good crowd is expected, but I’ve been assured that it’s not too late to RSVP.


Up! Up! Up with clients! We’re positively thrilled about the Oregon Cultural Trust’s 2013 fundraising results: a 25% increase over 2012 through the Willamette Week Give!Guide, with a $100,000 increase in giving on the last day of the year alone! Plus almost 1,000 new Facebook likes.

Here’s one, extra large (48-feet wide, to be exact) element of our campaign: the billboard we designed using Holly Andres’ photograph of Cheryl Strayed from our work with Holly in 2012. It spent six weeks at two locations in downtown Portland.

Read all about it in the Cultural Trust’s eNews.


Want two free tickets to the Northwest Film Center’s Saturday 7pm screening of Mistaken for Strangers?

So much of Sheepscot’s work supports arts and culture in Oregon that we figured, Why not give people the chance to experience some of that culture first-hand? For free. Welcome to our first in a series of giveaways, roughly organized around the idea of “arts and cultural events we’re most excited about, ourselves.”

Take your pick among three ways to enter the contest: 1) Add your favorite song or album by The National to the comments below; or 2) Add your favorite song or album by The National to the comments for this post on Sheepscot Creative’s Facebook page; or 3) Share Sheepscot’s post with your Facebook friends.

But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. You probably want to hear more about the film. Here’s a passage from Ned Lannamann’s review in the Mercury:

“Of the stuff I’ve been able to preview [from this year's Reel Music Festival], the best thing showing is Mistaken for Strangers (screens Sat Oct 19, director in attendance), a hilarious and heartwarming documentary from Tom Berninger, younger brother of the National’s lead singer Matt Berninger. Tom, an amateur filmmaker who still lives with mom and dad, is enlisted to join the National’s tour as a roadie. He brings his camera along, intending to make the definitive backstage tour documentary—but most of what he captures is his own failure to fulfill the simple tasks assigned to him. While the younger Berninger’s initial buffoonery is roll-on-the-floor hilarious, watching him mature on film and deal with sibling rivalry turns Mistaken for Strangers into something far better than another rock ‘n’ roll road doc. The result is a thoughtful, transformative, honest, immensely loveable movie.”

And here’s the trailer:

The deadline for entry is 3pm on Thursday, October 18th.
We’ll contact the winner later that afternoon.

Good luck!


Oregon Arts Summit 2013At Monday’s Oregon Arts Summit, I participated in a panel called “Media, Community, and Conversation,” which focused on “reliable, flexible tools for creating meaningful engagement, expanding dialogue, and generating enthusiasm for arts programming.” Here’s the original script of my presentation. (Special thanks to Portland Emerging Arts Leaders for the invitation.)

Today I want to talk about how your digital strategy should emerge naturally from organization’s objectives.

I’ll start by giving a simple example from our recent work.

In designing a new website for the Oregon Arts Commission, as we discussed their goals and reviewed content on the site we’d be replacing, we discovered that a simple, evocative description of their work and impact remained conspicuously absent. A typical user is unlikely to download a PDF and dig through your strategic plan; nor should they need to. And yet it’s vitally important that people know why you exist and what difference you make in the community.

We wanted to make this information as easy as possible to digest, so our team created a very short (48-seconds), animated infographic to do the job.

That’s really all I want to say about our work with the Arts Commission for now. Just that example.

Start with your objectives. Ask, How can digital tools serve them? Not, How can we have a Facebook presence? Don’t just decide, We should really be on Twitter. The question is: What new opportunities do these tools present that could help us achieve our mission?

“Digital” is your website. It’s your newsletter and blog. It’s Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Tumblr, Pinterest and Instagram. It’s Foursquare and it’s Yelp. It’s iTunes, Kindle, Google and Bing. It’s every app you haven’t yet heard of because you only have so much time in the day, right? Vivino—do you know Vivino yet? It’s like Shazaam for wine: You snap a picture of the label on a bottle, Vivino recognizes what wine you’re drinking. You get ratings and prices and comments from other users; if you choose, you can contribute to those comment threads, or you can simply save your ratings and your tasting notes privately so that next time you’re dumbfounded in the wine aisle of Fred Meyer in an instant you can retrieve the name of that Montepulciano you loved but can’t remember.

“Digital” is also the platforms and more broadly the technologies that no one’s thought of yet. Maybe some kid who’s learning about creativity at one of your workshops or in one of your audiences will imagine one into reality someday; there are boys and girls out there today who twenty years from now are going to be on the cover of Wired, for who knows what inconceivable expansion of what we now know to be possible, some technology that soon enough we’ll take for granted, such as, for example, carrying a phone, a camera, a notebook, a calculator, an atlas, a jukebox, a set of encyclopedias, a newsstand, a movie theater, and, yes, a wine steward in your purse or the pocket of your jeans.

The point being: More and more, like it or not, “digital” describes a state in which your audiences and funders spend much of their lives. Think, yourself, of the hours in your typical day, from when you wake up until you go bed. How many of your hours pass without either sharing or consuming some form of digital communication? Think about it. You checked your email or the weather or last night’s scores; you texted your spouse or your son; you snuck in a few minutes of Words with Friends. Now think about your organization and your goals for building not just audiences but communities. Pretty much every hour of the day, potentially, you have access to them. The New York Times this morning referred to contemporary American culture as “an always-on society.”

There’s tremendous competition for your audiences’ time, that’s true.

To be successful, you will have to make yourselves vulnerable. And you will have take risks. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the secrets to healthy digital relationships are not altogether different from the secrets to healthy face-to-face relationships: Have empathy. Give of yourself. Don’t make it all about you. Dare I say, love freely.

So, back to the beginning: What are your objectives?

Now, consider: What resources do you have? Potential funding or partnerships…staff members with a jones for this stuff. It’s possible—I would argue it’s even likely—that one or two impassioned staff members who thrive on digital communication will achieve more in a fraction of the time of a full-time hire who doesn’t naturally inhabit digital worlds.

Give them structure. Set purposeful, measurable goals. Empower them. Encourage the occasional failure. And then harness the creativity and dedication in your organization to apply these tools and technologies toward your success.


Why Do You Do What You Do?

by Dave Weich on September 9, 2013

The Oregon Arts Commission plays an important role in fostering Oregon’s high quality of life. But how?

This past winter, the Arts Commission hired Sheepscot Creative to redesign its website from scratch. (The new site launched earlier this month! Check it out here.) In the initial discovery phase of our work, as we discussed the Arts Commission’s goals for the new website and reviewed content on the site we’d be replacing, we found plenty of documentation that described the OAC’s strategy and output. But a succinct, layman’s evocation of their mission and impact remained conspicuously absent.

From that realization, an infographic was born. And then we animated the infographic to bring its story to life. (Big shout-out to Ryan Sullivan of Paste in Place for working with us on the illustration.)

Consider your own organization. I bet you know why your work matters. But are you sharing that information with your audience in a simple and engaging enough manner that they know, too?


Nate SilverDid you see that Fast Company ranked Nate Silver number one on its Most Creative People in Business 2013 list? Silver is a big data guy—many would say he’s the big data guy. He’s used enormous and complex data sets to forecast everything from baseball to Presidential elections to the weather.

Silver isn’t new to us at Sheepscot—The Signal and the Noise was one of our favorite nonfiction titles last year—but we particularly liked what Fast Company had to say about him as a symbol of the potential in marrying creativity and numbers:

It may seem odd to say we have arrived at a moment when data and creativity are bound together in the same vocation, not to mention the same person. Silver doesn’t have much of a problem with the idea, as incongruous as it might sound. “I think there are two types of creativity,” he says. The first is what he calls “pure expression”—a phrase to describe the work of musicians, poets, actors, dancers, and the like. “The other kind,” he says, “is finding different ways to approach and solve a problem. I’m not sure of the first kind, but I think I have a lot of the problem-solving type of creativity.”

Sure strikes a chord. In fact, the passage got us thinking that all of Sheepscot’s work might be expressed with a simple equation:


Invariably, our projects start with data, a foundation of raw metrics and trends: sales, web traffic, or other key performance indicators. Less tangibly, we also factor in a client’s qualitative goals: its mission and core values. And then our output emerges from a purposeful application of logic, language, and design.

That’s what we mean when we describe our work as “strategic creative”: applying creative sensibilities and skill sets to help clients achieve financial and value-based objectives.

Congratulations, Nate. We couldn’t be happier to see your problem solving recognized as the radically creative endeavor that it is.