How Storytelling Informs Design

In this saturated marketing industry, everyone is trying to do the same thing: tell a story.

Whether you’re designing a poster for a non-profit event or creating an Instagram post about your new coffee shop, everyone is sharing their story with others. The way you visually design that story can make all the difference between someone engaging with your message or completely ignoring it.

Storytelling is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as “the activity of telling or writing stories.” Simple enough, but how you tell that story is incredibly important, and that’s what graphic design is all about! Most importantly, storytelling informs graphic design by presenting the challenge to communicate your message through visuals rather than through written or spoken mediums.

Let’s take a walk on the “Successful Storytelling” beach, shall we? To highlight the awesome food growers in our area who are members of HeyTurlock, I created the “#SupportLocal” campaign which ran through the month of September – the peak of Farmer’s Market season. As the lead content creator at HeyTurlock, I was both writer and graphic designer for this campaign, making the planning process more streamlined.

Blog header designed by Nick Lazar for HeyTurlock

What’s the Story?

The very first thing to do when starting a new design is to establish your goal(s). How do you want people to feel? What do you want people to know? What do you want them to do? For example, the goal of the #SupportLocal campaign was to celebrate the local farmers and artisans in Turlock and promote a sense of unity in the community. No matter what I was going to design, it had to all go back to this central narrative.

Draw People In

The best way to get people interested in your story is to entice them with your visuals. People will keep scrolling through their feed if your artwork isn’t eye-catching. I chose to incorporate minimal text in the graphics, but just enough for them to stop scrolling and dig for more information. The warm color palette and enticing visuals of fruit also add intrigue to the campaign.

Authenticity is Key

People love stories that are relatable and accessible. In a world where everyone can filter and edit their appearance to perfection, more organic and imperfect images stand out. Because of this, illustration is becoming a trend in design for several brands, and I chose to apply that to the #SupportLocal campaign. Hand drawing the fruit illustrations in my sketchbook, then scanning them into my computer to manipulate gave the whole campaign a textured and authentic feel that conveyed the ‘home-grown’ feeling I wanted people to identify with.

Incorporate Your Story into Your Design

Remember that the overall goal of graphic design is to convey a message. Yes, you should make it stand out, but make sure your design has elements that tie back to your story. Since the message of this campaign was to support local food growers, I chose to hand letter the campaign title and make it the central focus of the design. The illustrations all frame the main message of the campaign, showing that supporting local industries is fun and inviting.

Pro Tip: Ask a coworker who isn’t on the project to take a look at your artwork. Unbiased feedback always gives you a good grasp on the success of your work.

Read the HeyTurlock #SupportLocal blog post here!

Pre-Production: The Importance of a Shot List

By Phil Short, Video Director

Video has no doubt become the most engaging and effective method of storytelling that people and businesses use to convey a message to viewers. With so many videos being made and content being shared, a lot of businesses are trying to figure out how to do it themselves.

The process of video production can be a daunting one. A production can arguably be as simple as someone with a smartphone shooting a quick vlog post in their bedroom to as complex as a movie set in Hollywood. The differences between those levels of production are vast but one thing that all successful video productions should be doing is spending the necessary time in the pre-production phase. One of the most vital steps of pre-production is a shot list.

A shot list is typically put together after you have finalized your script or at least some kind of vision board that allows you to decide what footage you need to capture to tell your story, and at its simplest form is a checklist for production. It includes information that instructs the production crew of all the details they need to know to get the right shot, at the right location, with the right equipment and also in the most efficient order.

Let’s break down the components of a basic shot list and along the way, discuss the benefits of each so you can decide what information you might want to use on your next project.

Scene/Shot/Take Numbers Not all productions will require you to label your shot list via scene, shot and take number, but this can be extremely helpful to keep everything organized through the life of the production. This naming convention can then be integrated with your import/log process of the footage after the shoot and no matter who ends up handling the post-production, there will be no question what each and every video clip is and what order it is intended to be edited in.

Location Including the location of each preferred shot in your shot list can help divide up your production day(s) in the most efficient way possible. Let’s say your story starts outside at a park, then moves to a coffee shop, then ends up back at the park. The shot list order should always be organized around the best way to capture the best version of each shot and in the most efficient order for production. This will allow less set up and strike time for the crew, fewer instances of traveling between locations, and helps to consider all variables related to the location of each shot.

Talent Who will be on camera? Similar to location, knowing who will be on camera can be a variable used to decide shot order. This will also be used to create the call-times for talent.

Interior/Exterior Specifying whether a shot is occurring inside or outside is very helpful in determining what gear will be needed to bring on set. Specifying time of day can help in considering the amount of sunlight that will be available during production, which is a very important factor when shooting outdoors than indoors, for instance.

Shot Size/Framing Now we’re getting into the fun stuff.  How will you want to frame the shot? Wide shot? Mid-close? Over the shoulder? Outlining the framing of each shot before you’re on set can save huge amounts of time during the shoot and can really position you for success during the editing process. I prefer to think of the most pivotal shots in the story and outline the framing of those first, then work around those shots to move into and out of those pivotal frames.

Equipment For low-budget productions, the equipment can be as simple as an iPhone, but outlining any specific equipment that is required for each shot can help organize what needs to be prepped and packed along for the shoot. You don’t want to be the reason why a shoot is delayed because no one brought the necessary camera or piece of lighting gear. It can add up very quickly in production costs for simply not planning appropriately. A comprehensive shot list can do wonders when creating your gear list, so don’t skip this step!

Duration Including the expected length of a shot can have a large effect on the equipment that is required for the shoot. Many shots are 2-5 seconds long, but others can be a static interview set up that lasts as long as an hour.

Sound Depending on the size of your crew, detailing sound requirements will indicate to the sound engineer whether or not the subject on camera or the scene itself needs to have the production audio captured and what kind of gear will be required. This will also be important to know if it needs to be “quiet on the set” for audio isolation purposes of a given shot. Sound quality is often neglected with low-budget productions and can have a dramatic negative effect on the overall viewing experience of your content. Go the extra mile when it comes to capturing quality sound, and you won’t regret it.

Not all of this information may be required for your shot list, especially if you aren’t working on a movie set. But the next time you’re thinking about starting any kind of video, think through your project and come up with a shot list when preparing for your production date(s). You’ll find that the fewer details you have to be thinking about on the shoot day, the more you’ll be able to actually be in the moment on set and be sure that you captured every scene, shot, and take.

80/20: A Process for Tasty Results!

By Hannah Chance, Lead Graphic Designer

If you swing by our office on any given day, chances are you’ll hear someone say, “Remember the 80/20 rule!” Usually, it’s right before we start a project, and it’s to remind ourselves of this: Plan and think before putting all the pieces together.

Think of it this way: You’re making dinner and the recipe says it will take one hour to prep and cook. Now you wouldn’t just take all of the unmeasured ingredients, dump them into a skillet and wait an hour, would you? Nope! There are vegetables to chop, meat to season, and sauce to be made. Without taking the necessary steps, nothing would cook properly, ingredients would be added at the wrong time, and the meal would not taste or look as intended. Bottom line? Gross.

In hindsight, the recipe probably called for 40 minutes of prep time and 20 minutes of actual cooking. You would sort out which ingredients belong to which group, chop, season, sauté, and mix accordingly. What you get when you take the time to prep is a delicious, ready-to-eat meal.

Design must begin with prep. When it comes to a new project, the 80% part of the design process begins with a conversation with the Account Team to review the creative brief. We walk through the purpose and final goal of the project. From there, we decide on a creative direction that will fit all the requirements. Sometimes we exchange questions: Does it need to be a bigger document? Where will it exist and for how long? Does it all align with the client’s overall purpose? We brainstorm, sketch, and iterate, iterate, iterate until we are ready to refine to the final stages.

The 20% portion is when I head to my computer with a load of information, sketches, and clear direction for putting it all together. This is the beautiful moment when content and form merge. It moves swiftly because we have done all of the prepping. This is ALL a part of the #designprocess. Brainstorming is key to a successful outcome. You can defend the result because every piece has a purpose and a reason.

Think. Brainstorm. Have good ideas. Have ideas in general! Get it all out of your head and onto paper. Refer back to the strategy. Question if it all makes sense. Come up with a million more ideas. Edit, edit, edit. Aha! Things make sense! Time to make it come to life.

The next time you have a project, consider taking the 80/20 approach before you get overwhelmed with the task at hand. Take a step back, look at the ingredients, prep them, ask questions, make lists, sketch it out, pop the product into the oven, and voilà! You have an AC&C casserole! Is anyone else suddenly super hungry?

Rebrand, Reuse, Recycle: Why Your Business Needs to Change

Whoever said that in order to foster a strong relationship with your audience your brand must never change, didn’t understand the advantages of brand evolvement.

There are numerous reasons as to why revamping a brand is beneficial. For starters, colors, and fonts that were once upon a time popular go out of style and eventually look outdated. This is unappealing to the audience and makes the company look out of touch.

Following that point, change is good, we believe that a brand must always reflect your company values and products or services you offer. It’s your lens and perspective in the world.

An example of a company that knocked it out of the park with their rebrand is Tender Greens. As a restaurant whose brand identity is heavily associated with sustainability and homegrown cuisine, their original logo did convey that their food was organic and healthy but it wasn’t an accurate representation of their menu that went further than just salads. (Not to mention that artificial lettuce illustration and non-organic handwritten font.)

Old Tender Greens Logo

Pentagram, the agency responsible for their new logo explains how the “g” design is expressed, “The treatment of the ‘g’ helps shift the focus away from the name as a whole and puts the emphasis on the food, where it should be.” Their new logo now incorporates a modern, bold font with the “g” evoking a pan and plate, implying how their food is prepared.

Their logo not only reflects their company standards for locally sourced dishes but also incorporates their brand name in a clever way.

Tip: If you’re too intimidated to take the leap for a complete brand refresh, then start off with launching a campaign to test your limits. By doing something different with a temporary campaign, you can play with designs and find what works for you and your brand along the way.

Tender Green’s logo demonstrates that it’s okay to be playful with your brand. In fact, you have no choice but to think outside the box when consumers are floundered with advertisements left and right. Embrace change and keep pushing your brand forward!

In Praise of Old-Fashioned Media Relations

By Ali Cox

In the age of self-promotion, self-publishing, and self-everything, it’s rare to announce a new endeavor through the press. Over the course of my career, though, there have been a few special times when I’ve had the privilege of doing so.

I believe in journalism and public relations. I have a traditional PR background. In my younger days, I worked for the agencies Ketchum and Emanate and was part of the $21.5 million Series A announcement for the now-defunct Aereo TV.

But those experiences were 10 years ago — a lifetime when it comes to PR. Journalism has changed in that time, and PR has evolved tremendously, too. My employees might think I’m rambling about the good ol’ days here, but I’m not. I’m a marketer, and I love telling stories through many mediums.

One of those stories is that of First & Main. It’s a new restaurant in downtown Turlock, and it’s been a wonderful brand development project for AC&C. Our detailed project management has included social media content, a logo, a menu, signage design, and — of course — PR. In this case, we went the traditional route in addition to announcing the new restaurant via social media.

This project has reminded me of how much excellent journalism matters. I worked with Marijke Rowland from the Modesto Bee directly, as well as with reporters from the Turlock Journal. There is a time and place for professional journalism and PR practitioners to work hand in hand, and this restaurant is a stellar example of how the relationship can unfold beneficially. It’s been a pleasure to work with these news outlets and to serve as collaborators.

Of course, we’ll continue our work with First & Main on social media. That’s what savvy marketers do these days. But we’re grateful for the boost that traditional media has given this deserving restaurant, which promises to be a bedrock of downtown Turlock for years to come.

Learn more about First & Main through the Modesto Bee article and Turlock Journal article. Follow First & Main on Instagram @firstandmainturlock.

Why Gen Z is Your New Main Target

We’re all used to hearing about millennials and their stereotypes, but what about the up-and-coming Gen Z?

Generation Z (often abbreviated as Gen Z) is the demographic cohort that follows the millennial generation. Those who were born between 1995 and 2010 are typically referred to as Gen Z.

Fun fact: Gen Z is the largest generation yet with 61 million individuals in the United States ranging from ages 7 to 22 years, according to Bloomberg reports. In fact, they’re estimated to have a spending power of $143 billion each year.

Besides their spending power, there are three other major traits that set this generation apart: 1) Gen Z is the first to be considered “social media natives” who have only known iPhones, 2) they have always had access to the Internet and 3) they love video.

Gen Z is also considered to be curious, crave authenticity, and “want to be part of the solution and make a difference” as explained by Caitlin Mullen, author of “How Brands are Working to Capture Gen Z Dollars”. 

So why does this matter to us marketers?

Since Gen Z’s values are different than previous generations, their purchasing decisions are based more on personal principles and whether companies’ missions, goals, and values align with their own. “77 percent told Inmar Research they respond to advertisements that show people in real-life situations,” Mullen said.   

You should also take note that this generation’s go-to social media apps are Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube.

So what does that mean for us as content marketers who target Gen Z?

Since Gen Z has such a huge amount of power over our revenue stream and they consume information in a new way, our messaging has to cater to their interests and the mediums we use to advertise that message has to run through those outlets they spend the most time on. In other words, if we don’t revolutionize our advertising strategies to keep up with the new generation, we won’t see much of an ROI.

It is also important to keep in mind how this generation is making buying decisions when strategizing your next campaign. Tailor your messaging so that your service or product is conveyed as a relevant and positive addition to their life while keeping the authenticity alive.

Being progressive with your marketing tactics in order to reach (and convert!) Gen Z will help your clients stay ahead of the curve. #GenZ2020

Ali Cox & Company Named One Of Inc. Magazine’s Best Workplaces 2019

Ali Cox & Company Marketing is one of the highest-scoring businesses,
with standout employee engagement

TURLOCK, CA (May 16, 2019) – Local marketing firm, Ali Cox & Company Marketing, has been named one of Inc. magazine’s Best Workplaces for 2019.  To win the national award, Ali Cox & Company Marketing was singled out as one of the top 346 finalists out of 2,000 applicants for creating exceptional workplaces through vibrant cultures, deep employee engagement, and stellar benefits.

Ali Cox & Company marketing will be featured in the June 2019 Inc. magazine issue, and as part of a prominent feature.

Each nominated company took part in an employee survey, conducted by Omaha’s Quantum Workplace, on topics including trust, management effectiveness, perks, and confidence in the future. Inc. gathered, analyzed, and audited the data. Then all the employers were ranked using a composite score of survey results. This year, 74.2 percent of surveyed employees were engaged by their work—besting last year’s 72.1 percent.

The strongest engagement scores came from companies that prioritize the most human elements of work. These companies are leading the way in employee recognition, performance management, and diversity. It’s a different playbook from a decade ago, when too many firms used the same template: free food, open work environments, and artifacts of “fun.”

“When making decisions about how we develop our company culture, it’s really quite simple. I’m looking to facilitate an atmosphere where people are encouraged to be themselves and challenge their skills in an inspired setting, with cool people and where any idea is welcome,” mentions CEO Ali Cox. “Oh, and benefits, generous holiday PTO, flex time, office yoga, off-site team-building adventures, etc. are part of equation, too.”

All companies had to have a minimum of 10 employees and be U.S.-based, privately held, and independent—that is, not subsidiaries or divisions of other companies.

While researching the finalists, Inc. and Quantum saw distinct themes:

·      99 percent provide health insurance—and some cover the cost.
·      49 percent allow employees to bring pets to work.
·      65 percent take employees to offsite retreats to relax and recharge.
·      16 percent offer paid sabbaticals to reward length of service.

“With today’s tight labor market, building a great corporate culture is more important than ever,” says Inc. magazine editor in chief James Ledbetter. “The companies on Inc.’s Best Workplaces list are setting an example that the whole country can learn from.”

About Ali Cox & Company Marketing
Offering unique marketing strategies steeped in digital literacy, the firm has been built on the founder’s twenty plus years of marketing experience to provide stellar service. Services include content generation, social media, graphic design, analytics, websites and video creation. With office headquarters in bustling downtown Turlock, we’re proud to offer our experience and enthusiasm to leading regional businesses and the agriculture sector. With a focus in agriculture, the firm has differentiated and is a go-to local resource.  Ali Cox & Company Marketing has recently rebranded to AC&C Marketing and will be opening offices in downtown Sacramento August, 2019.  For more information and portfolio of work please visit ALICOX.COM

About Inc. Media
Founded in 1979 and acquired in 2005 by Mansueto Ventures, Inc. is the only major brand dedicated exclusively to owners and managers of growing private companies, with the aim to deliver real solutions for today’s innovative company builders. Winner of Advertising Age’s “A-List” in January 2015, and a National Magazine Award for General Excellence in both 2014 and 2012, Inc. has a monthly audience reach that’s grown from two million in 2010 to more than 20 million today. For more information, visit

About Quantum Workplace
Quantum Workplace is an HR technology company that serves organizations through employee engagement surveys, action-planning tools, exit surveys, peer-to-peer recognition, performance evaluations, goal tracking, and leadership assessment. For more information, visit

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Ali Cox  / / 917.882.4132

7 Steps to Achieving Your Never-Ending Task List

By Moonisah Ali, Account Coordinator

Sometimes our to-do lists can feel like those unnecessarily long receipts you get at Walgreens after buying a pack of gum: overwhelming and you just don’t know where to start.

Agency life (or just general work life) can throw you for a loop thanks to the variety of clients that come your way. Different projects, variating deadlines, and different tasks all at once can easily become daunting. Luckily, there are a few simple ways to make sure you strategically get through your task list!

  1. Purge. Review the week, and write down everything you know you need to do. This might make you a little anxious, but trust the process! You’ll have a clearer view of everything that’s on your plate.
  2. Learn how you work. Tailor your organizational style to you. If you are a tactile person (like me) and need a physical pen and paper to write down what you need to complete – do it! If an electronic list on your phone makes the most sense to you – use it!
  3. Where to start? Conquer the easily accomplished tasks first. Now that you’ve got your neatly organized to-do list that makes the most sense to you, it’s time to get started. Choose three tasks that you can conquer quickly and easily. Look at this as a “warm-up” to your more time-consuming tasks.
  4. Keep it simple. You might want to invest in programs that help keep you organized and that’s okay! But keeping it simple (like a pen and dedicated notebook) may be the best way to prevent multiple to-do lists in multiple places and feeling like you don’t know what’s going on.
  5. Set calendar reminders. Schedule reminders for your “hard deadline” to-dos. As much as we would all like to have a photographic memory and never forget all of the important details around us – we don’t. But we do have our phones fully equipped with a calendar app!
  6. Take breaks. If you feel like you are hitting a wall while getting through a task, take a breath, take a walk, or take a stretch! If you’re typically in an office setting and sitting 80% of the time, physical aches can become mental blocks. Getting a breath of fresh air, stretching stagnant muscles, and moving around helps increase blood flow and can get you back into your mental flow.

Taking the time to organize your to-do list and create a plan of action makes it all the easier to get through your task list. Happy accomplishing!

Does Teamwork Really Make the Dream Work?

By Haley Fields, Account Manager

How many times have you heard the phrase, “Teamwork makes the dream work”? I’ve heard it in staff meetings, client meetings, goal-setting sessions, and interviews. But does teamwork really make or break your work?  The answer is a huge, loud YES!

ACC is an agency that has built its foundation on team work and the notion that the team gets out what the team puts in. We take teamwork so seriously that we really only have one rule in our office: don’t e-mail your co-workers! That may seem crazy and yes, we do have to e-mail each other in order to get work done, but not until we’ve had a face to face conversation about the project. Only then do we follow up with an e-mail, document, or project specs.

A few of my favorite team-focused values here at ACC are:

  • We strive to contribute our most authentic selves by bringing positive and fresh energy to our office space.
  • We take pride in our individual accomplishments and feel comfortable asking for help.
  • We are self-motivated and push ourselves to grow. We are looking to push ourselves and learn new professional boundaries.

We work in an open office: no offices, no closed doors, OPEN! This creates a space where we can be honest as well as take advantage of the opportunity to truly work as a team. We bounce ideas off of each other, talk through client projects and gain perspectives we might have missed out on if we all had our own offices. Our teamwork approach takes us right into our clients’ doors, too! We act as an extension of their teams, seamlessly integrating ourselves in order to provide the best-quality work. I am so proud to be a part of this team. I truly believe we have created the ultimate #dreamteam!

Same Agency, New Name. A Note From Ali

Thanks to my friend Jason Falk at TANK Industries, my first real baby — Ali Cox & Company — was born in 2007. I had just left my post at IMG as the director of sponsorship services and was on my own in New York City. 

Sure, I knew a ton of people and felt confident enough in my marketing skills, but being on my own didn’t get real until my automatic direct deposit and health benefits were cut off. A self-employed veteran, Jason took me under his wing, designed my logo, help me hone my story, printed my business cards and scooted me back to my studio apartment on his Vespa.

Those early days were exhilarating and petrifying in the same breath. I had freedom! With that came risk — and I gamed up, over and over again. In those early days, the “& Company” portion of my company name referred to the friendly army of freelancers who were my partners and collaborators. We would team up depending on client needs, refer each other’s work, and support each other.

Fast-forward about six years to 2013. I relocated to my hometown of Turlock, California to focus on agriculture marketing (my true passion and now lifelong mission). The “& Company” quickly became about more than freelance partners — it now referred to full-time team-members on the payroll. All of a sudden, we were a full on agency!

Now, after three offices, a revolving door of interns, the addition of several key team members, and a few tremendously smart hires, we’ve outgrown our name. The agency is not just about Ali Cox anymore. It’s about a team of highly motivated, creative, disciplined, collaborative, and driven people who are making a name for themselves on their own with our clients. I just happen to be at the helm.

Do I still approve all of our strategy and see each item before it goes to print or is blasted? Of course, but all of the ideas are not mine, and all of the credit shouldn’t be mine. So we’re becoming AC&C Marketing. We’ve got a fresh new logo, a fresh new mindset, and a fresh new agency persona. AND … a new website with this very blog post — our first one!

We’ll continue to focus on delivering perfect work each and every day. And we’ll continue to hold ourselves accountable for two reasons: our pride and our clients’ trust. No one person at our agency will ever be perfect, but as a team we can deliver perfect work. And we do.

I’m more confident than ever in the future. Please help me in welcoming AC&C Marketing to 2019.