Holistic Marketing and Design

February 15, 2018
by arossi

Becoming a New Yorker: Don’t Be a Hobo

As a newcomer to the city, the first obstacle you will probably be facing is finding a place to live. Sound simple? Well, if you don’t mind living in a box, then yes (though even here you’ll have some stiff competition from more seasoned hobos for prime box real estate). Alternately, if you own a fortune 500 company, you likely aren’t worrying to much about finding a reasonable place to live. For the rest of you, you’ll probably want to plan a little more carefully, so to help you find your dream apartment, or at least something big enough to fit your bed in, I’ll walk you through some steps that I think will make the transition a little easier.

STEP 1: SUBLET – Good neighborhood/bad neighborhood can be confusing enough, and you’re not even down to street level yet, so if you’re new to the city, why take a chance? There are dozens, maybe hundreds of sublets throughout the five boroughs available every single day, often at reduced rates. Take a look on Craigslist and pick one out to try for a few months.

STEP 2: ASK THE NATIVES – Your best source for information is going to be other people, preferably friends, but you can pump information from the people at work, in bars, at coffee shops, or really anywhere. Contrary to popular belief, many New Yorkers are friendly and more than willing to tell you all about the places they live. The more you find out before having to make any long term decisions, the better.

STEP 3: SLEEP AROUND – You heard right. now that you’ve got your sublet, get the hell out and sleep somewhere else once in a while. Stay with friends, lovers, accomodating strangers, anyplace but home. It’s important to leave your neighborhood and find out what its like living somewhere else for a day. If you feel comfortable enough, go ahead and walk around a few choice areas that are of interest to see if you feel at home there. Not all neighborhoods are necessarily what you’d expect, and you may be surprised at what you learn.

STEP 4: GO FOR A TEST DRIVE – Now that you’ve got some basic New York knowhow under your belt, it’s time to actually start seeing apartments. By now, you should have a general idea of what you want in an apartment and a neighborhood, and if you don’t, you’re not doing yourself any favors by rushing. At this point, it may be a good idea to visit some places that you think you can afford, just for practice. This way, you can establish more thoroughly what you’re looking for and how much it will cost you.

STEP 5: EYE OF THE TIGER: You’ve got all the information you’re going to need. It’s time to play for all the marbles. Keep looking at apartments, only this time, be ready to pounce. You’ll find that apartments come and go in a matter of days in this city, even less if they are particularly desireable, so you should be comfortable enough with your needs and limitations at this stage to make a decision on the spot. If you see something you want be prepared to snatch it up, and conversely, don’t be afraid to walk away if a place just doesn’t seem up to spec.

Now naturally, all this will take some time. If you don’t have that kind of time, or want to try and find something right away, you might want to consider finding an agent instead. Finding a qualified agent may seem even more difficult than finding a reasonable rent in Manhattan, but my friend and former employer, Niki , has built an impressive website that can help you if this is the path you want to take. One way or another, I wish all of my readers the best of luck finding their new digs, and hope that this advice has been helpful! Keep on watching for more lessons on Becoming a New Yorker!

February 15, 2018
by arossi

A Slice of New York: Di Fara Pizza

Last weekend my brother was in town with his car, so of course I wanted to show him some of New York’s finest pizza’s, but I also wanted to catch a ride to a pizzeria that is otherwise a pain to get to by subway. We chose Di Fara Pizza at 1424 Avenue J here in Brooklyn, which has topped a good number of pizza rankings in the last several years, as anyone who’s seen their walls of collected magazine and paper articles can attest.

The critical thing to remember about this place is that it’s a little pizzeria that suddenly got big press coverage starting sometime in the last ten years or so, despite having been around for closer to forty. This had significant impact on our pizza eating experience, as I’ll explain below.

The Pizza: 8
If I’m not mistaken, this is one of the few top pizzeria’s in the city that doesn’t use a brick oven to make its pies. Trust me when I say that this is in no way a bad thing. The pizza was delicious and perhaps the best part is that you can see the chef, who’s been making pies here for decades, ply his craft. Every ingredient and topping is sliced fresh right in front of you, and added with care before the pie gets put in the oven. The result is a pie with a delicious thin layer of mozzarella baked evenly over hand-made sauce with a slight drizzling of olive oil and topped with a flavorful and aesthetically pleasing portion of basil. The one thing that detracted from this pizza slightly is actually the exact same problem that Lombardi’s pizza had: the crust was soggy in the middle despite being thin and expertly charred everywhere else. As before, I’m forced to dock a point from an otherwise incredible pie.

The Toppings: 7
The toppings were tasty and we could see that they were fresh, as they were added literally right in front of us, but they weren’t as ubiquitous as many that I’ve had recently, and just aren’t particularly transcendent enough to get past simply being “very good” in my book. Really nothing special if you’ve had some of the city’s top pies before.

Other: 2
I regret this, but the truth is that Di Fara Pizza is another instance of an excellent pizza marred by a frustrating eating experience. As I said earlier, the chef makes each pie fresh, right in front of you, which is great. The downside is, he makes everyone else’s pies fresh right in front of you too, and the novelty wears off quickly when you’ve got a dozen orders ahead of yours. The fact that the pizza oven itself can only hold 2 pies at a time doesn’t help move things along either. We went at lunch time, about 1pm, and all told, we waited about a half hour in the congested line that was jutting out the door when we got there, and perhaps another half hour after that to get our pie.

I’d been warned by several pizza critics that it might take a while to get the food at Di Fara, and that they don’t necessarily serve the pies in the order you arrived, but even knowing this, the reality is frustrating and tedious. The place is small and cramped, your standard hole-in-the-wall with seating for maybe 15 people at a stretch, which ordinarily would be okay for a pizzeria if you didn’t have to spend an hour there waiting before you even get your food. This singular annoyance detracted considerably from the experience.

The Bottom Line
Don’t go out of your way. The pizza is good, yes, but the location is remote to most NYC commuters unless you have a car, and even if you can get there easily, you may be having second thoughts after the long wait for your food. I think that if you arrive on a really off-time, like 11:30 in the morning or something, you might not have to wait, but even a few orders ahead of you can back up the entire line by maybe 10 minutes a piece, so budget your time accordingly.

February 15, 2018
by arossi

Staten Island and Yet Another Slice of New York

The Holistic New York City
It’s been about two years since I moved to New York City, and in that time I’ve seen a lot. Sometimes more than I’d have liked in fact! But one thing I’d never seen was a little ol’ place called STATEN *EFFIN* ISLAND! Actually, the much more surprising thing is that I’m not even close to alone in this. It seems that virtually none of my contemporaries who live and/or work in the city have been to this “Forgotten Borough.” With that in mind, I’ll start with a (very) brief history lesson compliments of Wikipedia.

Fast Facts About the Fifth Borough
– There are nearly half a million people on this island. That’s about the size of Wyoming for you trivia buffs.
– Staten Island is also known as Richmond County
– But it used to be called Aquehonga Manacknong and Eghquaons by it’s 16th century Lenape inhabitants.
– The island became a part of our fair city in 1898

Island Hopping
One of the major reasons most New Yorkers haven’t bothered with Staten Island is it’s relative inaccessibility. Yes, you can drive there, or take the bus, or walk if you’re really brave or are stranded around the southwestern edge of Brooklyn, but given the average New Yorker’s utter reliance on the subway system, this is by far the hardest borough to reach for most. The only reasonably efficient way to get there is via the Staten Island ferry, which is a trip in itself!

The ferry runs from Battery Park about every half hour, but not necessarily on the half hour as promised. We went on Sunday and with the flood of foreigner tourists staring out in awe at the Statue of Liberty, speaking anything but English, it reminded me of what I imagine the immigrant experience might’ve been like. Except less smelly and arguably more annoying.

Is This New Jersey?
When we disembarked from the ferry we immediately were aware that the 90,000 people on there with us had somehow disappeared. We got turned around a bit trying to overcome my fear of city buses, but once we got on and started into this enigmatic and impenetrable island, we learned that it was actually…basically like New Jersey. There were trees, and grass, and roads that twist and curve over rolling hills instead of going in straight lines! And those roads, do you know what they did? They took us directly to pizza.

Joe and Pat’s Pizzeria
Right off the the 61 bus is a Pizzeria call Joe and Pat’s, which was honestly well worth the trip. In fact, it was one of the best pies I’ve had in the city! Fresh, simple, crispy but not crackery, I was really impressed by this unassumingly appointed Italian restaurant. It had all the standard fair, and some specialty pies, and all were excellent. Service was good, and the atmosphere was quiet and inviting. I’d go back, maybe not any time, but eventually. ;-)

August 24, 2012
by arossi

First Step to Success is…

More important than the quest for certainty is the quest for clarity. ~Francois Gautier

Bingo! How true this is and how often we overlook it.

Have you ever hired someone to build you a website and it just didn’t come out the way you wanted? Maybe the project stood still because your web developer was waiting on you to give her guidance or they lost interest altogether? I hear these ALL the time:

“My website isn’t working for me.”
“It’s just not what I had in mind.”
“I don’t think my website accurately reflects who I am and what I do.”

My response usually starts by asking them questions, like “what do you want it to do?” and “who are you looking to communicate to?” Almost 100% of the time these individuals can’t answer me. Why, because they were looking for an end product without thinking it through first.

I believe that websites should be an extension of ourselves and represent the vision we have for our business. This means that the site may not pop up overnight but the result will be more significant and far-reaching.

I know this from experience. My first website I created myself, quickly to have an online presence, it was a placeholder and I knew it.

When it came time for redesigning I had a team of people ready to help me but I didn’t know what to tell them. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to promote exactly and the designs I loved weren’t necessarily conducive to my audience, so I did what most people do, left it in the hands of someone else.

Bad idea. Months and months of time were spent on hand-drawing elements that were never used, meetings that went nowhere, and a mounting level of frustration for everyone. As the pressure built I had to begin making executive decisions just to get something up that worked and was workable in the future. Time spent: 6 months. Money spent: over $9000 and counting.

If this project were on my plate today I would have taken the time to get clear first and then execute the project.

How does one go about getting clarity? Here are a few steps I take before embarking on a new project.

1. Write out your goals. How can you know where to begin if you don’t know what you’re looking to accomplish? This makes math class seem easy, you have a problem that needs to be solved. Each project can be tackled in a similar vein once you know what type of result you are looking for.
2. Think about the end user. This may vary depending on the scope of the project but it helps to identify the tone of voice, look and feel that will be used. Think about where these people ‘hangout’ and what they have in common.
3. Know your budget. This is a part of your boundaries that you need to work within. If you don’t have a lot to spend, more of your time is usually required, so be sure to budget for this too. If you have more capital to work with you can hire more help but be sure to follow the other steps so that you’re hiring the right people for the job.
4. Determine whose help you’ll need. We can’t do everything on our own, that’s why people specialize. Knowing your limitations and being honest with yourself is the best place to start so you can see the gaps that will need to be filled. Once you know what needs you have, write out the attributes and skill sets of what you’re looking for.
5. Start with the low hanging fruit. New projects can often seem overwhelming when you try and tackle it all at once. It’s best to start where you are most confident and use that initial energy to help drive the more tedious tasks.

No two projects are ever exactly the same but the process one can go through to develop clarity before execution remains the same. I have learned from experience that it is better to stay focused on thinking things through and putting one foot in front of another first, rather than trying to leap to the finish line before the race ever started.

November 25, 2011
by arossi

Copyright Fair Use and How it Works for Online Images

This is such an important article for any blogger or anyone creating marketing material that utilizes images. I get asked a lot on what is standard practice for finding and using images. Now I have a resource I can send them to.

Please read!

By ; originally posted on Social Media Examiner

You’ve heard the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words, but when that picture is protected by copyright, the picture is only worth three words: cease and desist.

OK, that’s kind of a lawyer joke. But it illustrates how protective people are about finding their images used online without permission.

Copyright laws were established not to give the author the right to deny their work to other people, but instead to encourage its creation.

Article I, Section 8, clause 8, of the United States Constitution states the purpose of copyright laws is “to promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”