Best Things We’ve Read and Written Lately

A compendium of Best Things posted on our homepage.
Gregor Gilliom

“They say the music you hear in middle school, as the brain is still congealing, is the music you’ll love more than any for the rest of your life. It’s certainly true for me. The imprint happened the summer between 7th and 8th grade, in Bill Wagenbrenner’s basement, listening to his older brother’s New Wave albums.”

DEVO founder Mark Mothersbaugh nearly died of COVID-19. Which made me realize: all the people we grew up admiring — the rock stars and actors and writers and sports greats — are now in prime COVID vulnerability. Here are a few thoughts I wrote on why we needed to keep masking and distancing during the pandemic.

“I am the ocean. I’m most of this planet. I shaped it. Every stream, every cloud, and every rain drop. It all comes back to me. One way or another, every living thing here needs me. I’m the source.”

These are the opening lines of an extraordinary new series of videos from Conservation International that give voice to the world’s natural resources — in this case, the ocean, with perfect voiceover by Harrison Ford. So simple, yet so effective. Made me wish we’d written it — listen to it here. (Also fantastic: Julia Roberts as nature.)

“If ProMusica were a fine wine or timepiece, you would hand it down through generations. That’s how special it is. And how much its patrons adore it. Yet here it is, right in your back yard, waiting to be enjoyed by anyone. Not every city has one. And we have one of the best.”

This is just one of several new narratives we wrote for our city’s world-class chamber orchestra, as they explored fresh ways to connect with audiences old and new. We loved working with Executive Director Janet Chen and her staff, and meeting the maestro and several musicians. This work earned Versatile Words an Award of Excellence in the recent Creative Best competition, hosted by the Columbus Society of Communicating Arts.

“Thanks for resetting our tone. It’s so much more sophisticated. We’re very happy with the way everything came together and appreciate all the work you did.”

So said our client at WSA, a unique architecture firm in the Brewery District. WSA creates stunning interior spaces that make corporate and learning environments more inspiring and effective. We wrote fresh content for WSA’s new website, in partnership with the amazing designers at FORT.

“When fuel isn’t plentiful and on virtually every corner, you become more mindful of driving. More strategic. More purposeful. Suddenly, you value those miles. You get fewer, so they matter more.”

I recently purchased an EV (electric vehicle) as my daily driver to work, and it’s been unexpectedly enlightening. Here are a few thoughts about it in a new blog post.

“It’s a little frustrating that the company that came up with great names like Walkman, Playstation, and Trinitron couldn’t come up with a better name than “WF-1000XM3.”

Tech blogger John Gruber on Sony’s new noise-cancelling earbuds. Gruber, who primarily covers Apple-related analysis, is one of the sharpest writers out there. I love this lament for Sony’s lost art of playful product naming – something that’s very hard to nail, but enduring when it’s done well. (While I’m at it, Gruber’s blog is consistently great example of clear, concise writing. And his site, virtually free of visuals, is a study in minimalism. When the writing is that good, the rest doesn’t matter.)

“So pull up that spandex, get on those gloves, pump up those tires, strap on that helmet, fill up those bottles, snap those selfies, saddle up, and clip in. Because you’re making an impact.”

This is a small portion of a script we wrote for the 2019 Pelotonia launch video, produced by our good friends at Outsider Video and Motion Graphics. We’ve helped Outsider with these videos for several years, and it was a thrill to see it debut live in front of a huge audience the night before the massive bicycling fundraiser. It’s an honor to be a small part of their mission (and a thrill to ride in it, as well). Best of all, the video won Best of Category and Judge’s Choice in the recent Creative Best competition, hosted by Columbus Society of Communicating Arts.

“Our residents tell us they love the feel of our communities. The attention to detail. The shared social spaces. The wellness programs. The colors and textures and design flourishes that brighten their days.”

This is a sample of our work on the beautiful Kaufman Development website, designed by FORT. The site recently won a local Addy Gold award. If you’ve never experienced a Kaufman community, it’s worth a visit – they’ve raised the bar for stylish living in Columbus. We were also proud to have contributed to the Addy Silver-winning website for New York-based fashion designer DZ Group, designed by Bonfire Red.

“A liberal arts education for my student? You’ll need to convince me. ‘It’s only good good for grad school prep.’ ‘There are no sciences.’ ‘It’s not practical.’ ‘The expense is staggering.’ These are four of the most common myths out there. Perhaps we can do some debunking.”

This is just one small excerpt from Swarthmore College’s charming “The Skeptical Parent’s Guide to the Liberal Arts,” one of many, many collegiate marketing pieces my high school senior received over the past year. Swarthmore’s pieces were by far my favorites, because the writing was so crisp and funny and insightful. And, I suspect, they were written for the parent, not the student. Smart move – our son ignored most of the print materials he received. But this...this was too good to ignore.

“The rule of three states: Things that come in threes are inherently more appealing. We couldn’t agree more.”

GMC adopted one of our favorite creative philosophies in a new campaign for its Acadia, Yukon, and Terrain SUVs. We often present three or more options for headlines, intros, and themes, to compare and contrast approaches. Clients love the extra effort and opportunity to be part of the process. Watch the ad.

“A $15 minimum wage is an antidepressant. It is a sleep aid. A diet. A stress reliever. It is a contraceptive, preventing teenage pregnancy. It prevents premature death. It shields children from neglect.”

Now THAT is an intro that makes you want to keep reading. The New York Times’ Matthew Desmond describes how raising the minimum wage makes a big difference in people’s lives. It’s also a great example of the Times’ beautifully designed, single-topic online features. Read the article.

“At the end of the day, content management will make or break your site. Here are 10 things we believe are crucial to success.”

We were proud to help web developer Process Interactive tells its story in a unique way. They’re great because they demystify web development so clients – the ones who will actually manage the site – make better decisions. We loved writing these tips to help prospects better understand their options.

“Apple introduces Macintosh. The computer for the bemused, confused and intimidated.”

That perfect, punchy headline was part of Apple’s very first Mac campaign, which debuted 35 years ago this week. Part of a spread magazine ad, it was a hint at the customer-friendly voice that would define and separate Apple for decades.