I found this inspiring JFK quote on the road.

This week my family and I loaded up the old Family Truckster for a road trip across the Lone Star State. We are covering Dallas, Fort Worth, Frisco, Plano, Waco, Austin, San Antonio and more. What I like most about this type of travel are the unexpected gems you discover along the way.

Doing Dallas

While we were in Dallas we decided to see the site of John F. Kennedy’s assassination. It was both interesting and sobering to see where this historic event occurred in 1963. We saw the book depository, although I still don’t know what a book depository is. We saw the route JFK’s motorcade was traveling in his last moments. We saw some grassiness. We saw some knoll. And we saw the JFK Memorial. Which made me think they must not have had many memorial options.

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The JFK Memorial in Dallas. It’s a cement box. 

The JFK Quote

We stopped into the JFK Museum store, where I was greeted by a JFK quote I had never heard before. Of course there are plenty of famous JFK quotes:

  • “Ask not what your country can do for you… ask what you can do for your country.”
  • “We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”
  • “Honey, let’s keep this our little secret…’

But I liked the new-to-me JFK quote better than any of the others.

“Things do not happen. They are made to happen.”  -John F. Kennedy

Making Things Happen

This quote summarizes everything I know about making an impact and achieving great things. It summarizes how you build and maintain a strong network of friends and family. It applies to everything from gardening to creating a new law to building a business from dust. These things don’t just happen. You have to make them happen.

None of the things you want in life will happen on their own. They require energy and action. This is both a warning and an inspiring call to action. It warns us that without action you will get nothing and have nothing. But with action you can have anything you are willing to work for.

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The inspiring JFK quote in the museum store in Dallas.

Key Takeaway

Action is everything. It is the difference between dreaming and doing. If you want something to happen you have to force it to happen. You have to will it to happen through your vision, action and energy. This simple rule applies to friendship, to entrepreneurship and every other ship in between.

Also, do more road tripping. It is the best way to collect dots and connect dots.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.

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What this crazy astronomer can teach you about business.

500 years ago there was a rebellious Polish astronomer named Nicolaus Copernicus. He was born with a name worthy of a faculty position at Hogwarts. More importantly, we was blessed with a contrarian world view. Copernicus developed a crazy heliocentric model of the cosmos. In this model, he declared the sun was the center of the universe, and the Earth and the other planets actually revolved around it. #ohnohedidnt

The Universal Truth

At the time heliocentricity was considered a radical idea. But as every graduating preschooler now knows, Ni-Co was right. His revolutionary solar-centered model of the universe soon changed how we viewed and understood the world. It applied rules and order that helped the world make sense. It also gave employees at the local Sunglass Hut a false sense of superiority.

Copernicus-Style Thinking At Work

The same thinking that makes sense of the cosmos can also be applied to business. You must never lose sight of who is at the center of the business universe: the customer. In your arena the customer might be called the client, member, student, attendee or John (#nojudgement). Regardless, the person paying for goods or services is the central figure around whom everything else in business revolves.

Customer-Centric

Your actions and decisions should always be driven by your customer’s wants and needs. Your products and services only exist to serve your customers. It is the customer that provides the forces that propel all business activity. Because without customers businesses drift into oblivion. (#Blockbuster #Sears #AllianceofAmericanFootball)

Your Customer’s Customers.

At my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, everything we do is driven by 2 forces: our customers, and our customer’s customers. Without those forces money does not move and business does not exist. Sales, marketing, engineering, research and development, customer service and accounting are all driven by the gravitational pull of the customers. Remember, you can dance with yourself, but you can’t do business alone.

Key Takeaway

If your business is not customer-centric, it is time to re-center. Ask yourself ‘What Does The Customer Want?’ before every business decision. Even better, ask them what they want, and what they want to avoid. It will help you maintain proper focus on the star of your show. And prevent you from thinking the world revolves around you.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them.

Why I now have a curiosity curfew.

I am a self-proclaimed Early Owl. This rare avian species is a cross between an Early Bird and a Night Owl. Which means I love to go to bed late AND get up early. It’s how I am squeeing* as much as I can out of life. (*Squeeing is just squeezing without the required Zzz’s).

Night School

I don’t sleep nearly as much as I should. But I recognize the value of good sleep. Whenever I force myself to get a little more of that night magic I feel even better. Lately, I’ve been going back to school on the power of sleep. My coursework includes the writings by born-again sleep evangelist, Ariana Huffington, including her books Thrive and The Sleep Revolution.

I have learned that only 27 percent of American grown-folk get the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep per night during the week. Only 10 percent prioritize sleep over other daily activities. And I want to be in that number, when the saints come marching in.

Your Best Bet Is A Better Bedtime

The key to getting more sleep is going to bed earlier. In fact, going to bed early is the adult version of sleeping in. Historically I have had serious trouble with this. And I have identified the main cause.

My late nights are not a result of drugs or alcohol. I never found the on-ramp to either of those hobbies (although they look fun). I don’t stay up late playing video games or studying pornography (although they both look fun too). I don’t guzzle coffee or energy drinks. Unless you consider chocolate milk an energy drink. I just call it delicious.

My Problem

My sleep problem is a result of a chronically curious brain. At night, when my wife and three children are in bed, my curiosity and I are ready to party.  I love to read. I gobble up books, magazines, and online articles like a turkey. My curiosity helps me chew through online videos, social media posts, and Netflix programing like a starving goat. My curiosity will devour everything and anything. The whole world is interesting to me. Which makes my curiosity the #1 enemy of my sleep.

If my curiosity is allowed to run feral, it will sprint past midnight, and well into the early morning hours. But my alarm is always set for 6am, whether I go to bed at 10pm (never) or 2am. I typically get under 6 hours of sleep. But I am working hard to up that to 7 hours.

The New Plan

I have come up with an idea to help me sleep more. It is borrowed from an idea that has been around since the invention of the teenager. I have implemented a self-imposed Curiosity Curfew. As of 11pm on weeknights, I have to put the books, magazines and iPhone down. I turn my TV/Netflix/Internetting device off. If I have work to do I can still do it. But no more exploring the world. It is the best thing I can think of to get my head to bed earlier.

Key Takeaway

Sleep is important. It’s how you refresh, recharge, rebound, reenergize and regenerate. If you are going to bed too late, identify the cause, and implement a curfew on the offender. It will help you increase your overall sleep. And getting enough sleep is both a health and quality of life issue. As good as you may think you are with little sleep, you are always better with more.

*If you know someone who could benefit from this story, please share it with them. 

How to attract good things by starting early.

I loved my college experience. But when I graduated, I was thrilled to be done with school. Like Alice Cooper. Yet I was far from done with my education. Since I graduated from the University of Wisconsin I have been busy acquiring self-directed micro-degrees. How? First, by making up this silly, but plausible term. Then, by reading. Not just reading for reading. I am constantly looking for new books, magazines and online articles to help me become a smarter, more effective human, a better business person and a more creative thinker.

7 Habits

One of my favorite micro-degrees came from reading  Stephen R. Covey’s classic, The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Reading books like these is akin to taking a college course, only without the chance to meet an attractive co-ed. In fact, I have learned, retained and applied more from books like this than from many of my college courses. (Sorry dude who taught that Emotions class junior year. That was worthless.)

Not Urgent, Not Urgent, No Emergency…

In his best-selling book, Covey introduces a concept that I absolutely love. It’s the idea of spending more time doing things that are important but not urgent. This is really where the magic in your life comes from. When I learned about this concept I realized that I already did a lot of work in this quadrant.

Check out the impressive quads on the chart below.

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The important but not urgent work is the key to all of the good things that have happened in my career. But as I have created and grown The Weaponry, my advertising and idea agency, this type of activity has been crucial.

Important but not urgent, in action.

I identify talented people who I want to join our team, and begin planting seeds. I plant seeds all the time that I don’t expect to bear fruit, nuts or vegetables for years. In fact, there are talented people in cities across America that I have been talking to about joining The Weaponry,  not in the next weeks or months, but in the next years.  

Why? Because great things often take a long time to develop. So I want to start the process as early as possible. My goal is not only to appear on the radar of talented people, but for the course of these talented people’s careers to begin steering towards me.

I want to create a gravitational pull towards me and my organization. How?  Through early conversations these valued recruits can begin imagining us making magic together. By creating an attractive vision of the future, the people start steering their courses towards this attractive future reality.

The Power Of Advertising

This early recruiting activity works just like marketing and advertising. Because advertising, through brand awareness and brand affinity, begins to create a gravitational pull towards products and services.

I have spent my entire career planting seeds about the merits of various brands. Eventually, by sharing those merits, customers, clients and members find their way to the brands that can help solve their problems or enrich their lives. And everyone wins. This is what I am doing now, both personally and professionally. And you can too.

Key Takeaway

To attract the people you want to surround yourself with, start early. Start well before you need them. Whether you are looking for friends, co-workers or customers, begin recruiting today. Offer others a picture of what a friendship, career or success could look like when you join forces. Do the important work early, before it becomes urgent. Then watch as paths alter in your direction. It’s a pretty amazing thing to see. It’s what highly effective people do. You know, people like you.

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Amanda Peraud and I met last week about the possibility of this senior at Illinois working with The Weaponry. It was a classic important but not urgent activity. Also, Amanda’s cousin Melissa Roth, is a good friend of mine. So this was also classic networking activity.

 

How much money do you need to start a business?

I recently watched an interesting story on TV about a business in Brooklyn called Ample Hills Creamery. It was founded by a wife and husband who both quit their jobs and went all-in on their unique ice cream shop. Obviously the business is doing well, or they wouldn’t be profiled on TV. But one specific statement in the story stood out to me.

‘The couple invested their whole life savings into the business.’  

This is a great line to capture attention. It says that the couple was daring, and brave. It says they risked everything. They were in a must-win situation. All the chips were pushed to the center of the table.

Now the audience has to know what happened next! Bravo, dramatic story teller!

Risking It All

Most people seem to think you have to risk everything you have to launch a new business. Most people don’t have the stomach for such risk (although it appears Americans have no shortage of stomach). So most people never consider entrepreneurship an option. And I don’t blame them. But do you really have to dig into your entire life savings to become your own boss?

My Story

I launched my own business in 2016. I had worked in advertising for 2 decades. Then, in 2015, several former clients encouraged me to start my own agency. I began by dabbling with a nights-and-weekends side hustle. I did a little freelance work for my friend Dan Richards at Global Rescue, and earned $16,000. A few months later I launched The Weaponry, my advertising and ideas agency. Global Rescue was our founding client. I opened a business checking and business banking account with Wells Fargo, and put $6000 into the checking account, and $10,000 into the savings account.

My Initial Investment

So how much money did I use to start my business? You could say $16,000, because that’s what I put into my combined bank account at the start. You could say $6000, because that is what I put in the checking account. Either of those answers could be correct. But they would be correct, like saying it takes 3 licks to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop.

No Money Down

The truth is that I started my side hustle by investing $0.00 into my adventure. All I needed to get started was my home computer, which I already had at home (hence the name home computer.) I was able to start providing value to others with the things I already owned. I simply needed action to start generating a new stream of income. I then diverted the new stream to form a reservoir. And once the reservoir grew large enough, it became my official pool of money to start my own business.

The Real Costs  

To officially launch The Weaponry I spent $120 to establish The Weaponry LLC with my state. That’s all I can remember initially spending on the business. I started by working out of my home office, using my home computer. That cost me nothing.

My first real investments in the business were a dedicated work computer, a MacBook Pro, and an iPhone. It’s amazing how much commerce you can facilitate with just those two resources. And most people already own those two powerful business tools.

Key Takeaway

Don’t be fooled into thinking you need a lot of money to start your own business. You don’t. It costs almost nothing to birth a business. There are always ways to start small. You can probably go MacGyver-style and create your own business out of things lying around your own home right now (or laying around your own home right now, depending on your grammatical choices and intended meaning).

You’d be amazed by how much you could do with just a single run to the grocery store, or the Home Depot. The cost to get on the entrepreneur-ship is much lower than you think. Even if you ultimately want to do big, capital-intensive things. You don’t have to risk your life savings. You just need to get moving. Follow the Yellow Brick road. And pick up as many of those yellow bricks along the way as you can.

*To find out more of the things I am learning on my entrepreneurial journey, consider subscribing to this blog.

The search for our second office: Part 2

In the summer of 2015 I began planning to open my own advertising agency. I knew that I would call it The Weaponry. I knew it would be an exciting adventure. And I knew that we would eventually have an office in Columbus, Ohio. Why Columbus? I’m glad I asked for you. My affinity for this hidden-gem is all right here.

I had lived in Columbus for 7 years and I knew a lot of very talented advertising professionals in the city. Just as importantly I knew a great number of brands and very talented marketers in C-Bus that could use a great agency partner.

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Columbus, Ohio. Our HQ2.

In the October of 2017 The Weaponry opened its first office, in Milwaukee. Our new office literally put us on the Google Map, and transformed our business. But just 8 months later we also had two full-time employees in Columbus. And we began planning for our expansion into C-Bus.

2019

By the fall of 2018 we committed to finding our Columbus office in the first quarter of 2019. We considered 3 different options for our initial Columbus space.

  1. Subletting, or sharing space with another business (not letting submarines or long sandwiches).
  2. Coworking spaces (which I always read as cow orking, but I don’t think that’s right).
  3. Stand alone offices space. (The office should stand alone. The people should sit together.)

The Sublease We Could Do

The Weaponry has a lot of great friends in businesses in Columbus. Several of our people invited us to explore sharing some of their unused space. This was not a totally foreign concept to us, as we had also explored subletting in Milwaukee during our initial search.

woman sitting on the chair using laptop

This is a smart option for many startups. But The Weaponry is no longer in startup mode. We have a unique vibe and culture, and we were concerned that sharing space with another business wouldn’t allow us to feel as much like us as we wanted. So after exploring the option with 3 or 4 other businesses, we decided subletting was not for us. And like the movie Frozen, we sublet it go.

Coworking Spaces

Coworking spaces are now everywhere. And for good reason. They offer a beautiful solution to many officing challenges. For newborn businesses these spaces offer an instant, fully functioning office, with all the amenities of a fully grown business. With just one call, and one payment, you can instantly have a furnished office, with wi-fi, printers, conference rooms, garbage cans and cool common spaces to hangout in, that are not coffee shops.

For solo-preneurs, coworking spaces offer a place where you can work near others, and talk to other people doing what you are doing. Which is attractive, and can be highly beneficial to your network. These spaces also prevent people working in a business-of-one from going all Tom Hanks in Castaway and talking to their volleyballs. #Wilson

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Sometimes you just want to be around other people, like Jake and Nina.

These spaces tend to be very new, because coworking is such a modern trend. As a result, the office spaces feel very contemporary. Which means they instantly let you play the part of new startup. or cool agency.

Coworking spaces also provide existing businesses flexibility as they grow. In fact, my friend Lara Shanley, Head of Marketing at Amazon Prime Now, was working in a coworking space in New York City when I saw her last summer. It seems Amazon can’t stop growing, and repeatedly runs out of office space. Coworking facilities prevent people like Laura from having to work Tokyo subway-style, or becoming office-less.

The coworking options are plentiful in Columbus. Our team toured 4 or 5 different spaces. Each one was cooler than the last. Some were part of a national, or international collection of shared spaces. Which would provide us with interesting options when traveling or expanding into other markets. Some were locally owned, which offered the sense that we would have local management eager to help if we needed anything.

But the turnkey co-working space comes at a cost. And the cost is a high cost, and little ability to personalize the environment. We realized through the search for space that an important part of our brand is putting a mark on our space. So we decided to look for a stand alone space of our own.

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We decided we really wanted to create our own space in Columbus, like we have in Milwaukee.

Key Takeaway:

There are a lot of different options for office space. They all have pros and cons. It is worth the time to explore each option, and find the one that feels right for you. We thought that sharing space would be a really good option. But like so many of us discover in our twenties, we no longer wanted to have a roommate. In the next chapter or our Columbus office saga I’ll share where we landed and why. I’ll also share some exciting news that has happened during our first month in the new space. Thanks for following along! 

Extra

If you are considering looking for office space, or interested in following The Weaponry’s story, you may also be interested in the following posts about how we found our first office in Milwaukee.

Looking for office space: A startup story.

Looking For Office Space Part 2: The Messy Middle.

Looking for Office Space Part 3: We Have An Office!

 

 

 

A fresh new look for one of the most loved brands in Wisconsin.

Last summer I got a very interesting call from a friend. She said she was conducting research for the University of Wisconsin Credit Union. And that following the research they would be looking for an agency partner, in Wisconsin, to help rebrand them. She began telling me how the UW Credit Union was a remarkable organization, with great people who delivered an excellent member experience. But I stopped her before she could finish. I said ‘Oh, I know all about the UW Credit Union.’

(To skip the fun back story you can scroll to the bottom, DVR-Style, to see the new work. But you will miss some interesting points and a giggle or two.) 

Back In the Day (When I was raised I’m not a kid anymore…)

I am a proud University of Wisconsin Badger. On my 3rd day in Madison, my freshman year in college, I made what I thought would be a quick trip to the UW Credit Union near my dorm. But when I approached the UW Credit Union it seemed that all 43,000 UW students were already in line in front of me. The only other lines I ever saw that long in Madison were outside Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday mornings, and in front of the Kollege Klub on Saturday nights.

I joined what appeared to be the entire student body, and stood in the longest line of my life, holding all of the money I had ever earned. All to open my UW Credit Union checking and savings accounts. I thought this place must be special.

And it was.

You’re So Money, You Don’t Even Know You’re Money!

The UW Credit Union became my primary financial institution, and would be for the next 15 years. My first auto loan was with the UW Credit Union. I borrowed $3000, paid it off in 11 months, and felt like a financial baller. But in 2007 an exciting career opportunities came calling, and it was time for me to fly (…time for me to fly…). So I left America’s Dairy Land, and the domain of the UW Credit Union.

Leaving Wisconsin (The Wander Years)

I moved to Columbus, Ohio, and then on to Atlanta, working my way up to the title of Chief Creative Officer. Then in 2016 I launched my advertising and idea agency, The Weaponry, and moved back to Wisconsin to be closer to family.  I had worked with several esteemed financial institutions, including Fifth Third Bank, Wells Fargo, and Huntington Bank along the way. And now I was hoping to put all of my financial experience to use with UW Credit Union.

They Meet

My friend Sue Northey introduced me to UW Credit Union’s Chief Marketing Officer, Anne Norman via email. We decided to meet for lunch. But I was in Milwaukee, and Anne was in Madison. So we met in Johnson Creek, an Outlet Malltropolis located directly between Wisconsin’s two largest cities.

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Anne Norman, about to sing the theme song from Laverne and Shirley.

Anne and I met for lunch at Hi-Way Harry’s, which for the unfamiliar, is the Rainforest Cafe of Johnson Creek. We had instant rapport. Although I think Anne has instant rapport with everyone. We quickly realized we shared the same vision for how great the UW Credit Union brand could be. We began talking next steps. Which are always my favorite steps.

The Mission

We put together a thorough proposal that was quickly approved. And we started to roll. We were about to strip the branding down to the studs, and reconsider everything. The logo, tagline, colors and personality would all be re-examined. When we were done we would create a look, language and personality that matched how great the UW Credit Union membership experience really was. Then we would create a fully integrated marketing campaign to bring the brand to life.

Assembling The Team.

My fellow Weapons, Simon ‘Sharper’ Harper, Kristyn’ K-Lil’ Lilley, Kevin ‘Lower’ Kayse and I met with the UW Credit Union’s marketing team, including Anne ’40-Under-40′ Norman, Justine ‘Happy Tears’ Kessler, April ‘Spring’ Laabs, Jocelyn ‘Let’s Ride’ Vande Velde, Becky ‘Shock Value’ Hubing, Jill ‘Rickert’ Rickert, Jill ‘Addy’ Addy, Andy ‘Hugs’ Schubert and Melissa ‘Everything Bagel’ Stapleton (because she does everything, not because she likes everything bagels).

Discovery

We started by digesting all that had been gathered about the UW Credit Union. The research revealed some really important findings, including:

  1. UW Credit Union is a very special place.
  2. UW Credit Union members love their experience.
  3. UW Credit Union invests time and energy in our members well before a bank would find any financial value in them.
  4. UW Credit Union really cares about the communities it serves.

However…

There was a common misperception that UW Credit Union was a starter bank. (Gasp!) Which is totes not true. But the strong and valuable association with the University of Wisconsin made people think it was a financial institution for college kids and recent graduates. They didn’t realize that UW Credit Union was an excellent financial institution for all ages and stages.

It was time to set the record straight.

Tagline

We explored a wide range of taglines to summarize how we support our members from their teenage years through retirement. Life changes bring on different needs and opportunities. And at the UW Credit Union we want to help you no matter where you are on your financial journey.

The new tagline:

UW Credit Union. Here for every you.

We are Here, whenever you need us. Which talks to UW Credit Union’s customer service that made them Forbes #1 rated credit union in the state. We are also Here in Wisconsin, just like our members. It explains why we care about your community, your neighborhoods, and your causes. Because they are ours too. We love the emphasis on You, the member. Because as a credit union, we only exist to serve you and your needs. Every symbolizes our flexibility and ability to adapt as your needs change.

Logo

We wanted a logo that was cleaner, simpler and easier to use. We wanted a contemporary look. And we wanted to it give us an identity that was distinct from other UW-related organizations, including UW-Health and The UW System itself.

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The old logo. It was ready for a good makeover.

New UW Credit Union Logo

The logo highlights the first priority of the organization: you. By highlighting the U in the  name in our flagship color, and making it of equal weight and importance to the name of our institution, we also convey our sense of responsibility to those we serve: You, our members. We also opted for a lower case ‘u’ because it felt more approachable, which is a distinguishing factor of the UW Credit Union. Also, we have taken the liberty to use ‘U’ and ‘You’ interchangeably. #creativelicence

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The new logo. If you overlay the square and the circle from the old logo you can see the inspiration for the new U-Leaf shape.

Advertising

With the new logo, tagline and brand standards in place, we began putting the new brand look to good use. We started creating all manner of new materials in a fully integrated program

First out of the gate are these New Billboards.

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If you know anything about Wisconsin you know we love to jump around. (Jump! Jump! Jump!)
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A very wise plant once said, ‘It’s been a long time since I rock ‘n’ rolled.’
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One of these is typically immature, the other is typically mature. But not always.
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Eventually, we all transition.
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People in Wisconsin have a funny was of saying things…
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From George and Weezy to The Wiz!

There are also new print ads.

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We treat everyone like an insider. Even Soda Pop and Pony Boy.
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This will appear in the Milwaukee Brewers program. And maybe a few popular dentist publication.

Radio

Here’s a radio script currently on air. I would attach the audio file, but I would have to upgrade my account to do that. And it’s too late at night to take on such monumental tasks.

At The UW Credit Union, we like to say we knew you way back when. When your only mode of transportation was the heel-toe express. When the only wheels you owned were connected to a pedal. We knew you when the only home you had ever considered buying was on a monopoly board. When your financial future was defined by the next pay check.  We knew you when your family was still supporting you. It was then, when you greatest asset was your work ethic and a dream, that we first invested in you.  The UW Credit Union. Here For Every You.

Credit Card Design

We then helped redesign the new UW Credit Cards. We turned the design on its head. Literally. Instead of the traditional horizontal design, we designed this card for the chip reader era, with a vertical orientation. To keep the design clean and simple we moved all the hard-working elements, including card holder name, number, contact info and legalese to the back of the card.

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Creating UW Credit Union credit cards was an in-creditable experience.

What’s Next

The new brand will also impact UW Credit Union branch design, television commercials,  sponsorships, debit cards and more. But the member experience will remain as good as advertised. Because people love the UW Credit Union experience. And we have certainly loved working with this great brand and the great team behind it. We look forward to all there is to come.

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This billboard showed up across the street from The Weaponry, where it was born.