Hello, I’m Joni

an excitable brand strategist

A Few Focuses for 2021

05 January 2021

While I usually love end-of-year recap posts, in terms of both writing them and reading them, I couldn’t stomach it for 2020. I wasn’t in the right mindset to complain nor share things that went well. I wasn’t OK enough to read about the pain of others, or quite frankly, their triumphs.

It’s easy to feel hopeless right now and I find myself slipping into a quicksand trap of despair almost daily. Recently though, Ben has started to express more sadness and frustration, something we mostly somehow avoided for these ten-ish months. He’s so much stronger than I am, which is why his faltering was a significant wake-up call for me. The things I told him in an attempt to be reassuring are the things I should also be telling myself. And whether or not I actually believe them I have to at least try to for his sake.

I don’t generally participate in New Year’s resolutions, and even still I feel like this post is simply about more hopefulness and awareness in specific areas. If you don’t have the capacity to read on I completely understand and please know you are not alone—I couldn’t have brought myself to write this yesterday and possibly not tomorrow.

Fewer Projects

I’ll be taking on fewer YupGup projects this year, focusing on larger-sized undertakings with the very coolest, kindest folks possible. Over the past few years, we’ve really narrowed in on design for developers through startups and their personal projects and I’d like to keep on this track. As clients, I look forward to the collaboration and I’ve come to understand their audiences well.

We become close and get into long-term endeavors together. I work with people that don’t mind Ben running around in the background since there is no school and I enjoy meeting their pets and talking about the weirdo squirrel in the window behind me. I can’t imagine, on top of everything else 2020 brought, having to work with difficult clients that were not empathetic and enjoyable to know. 2021 will be about teaming up with these same folks and a few more.

Better Activity Tracking

I try to be as active as possible without triggering major chronic pain issues. I have always used an Apple Watch for this and recently found even more profound insight using Strava. Plus, I simply miss giving and receiving high-fives at the gym, and getting kudos is exciting. There’s community potential here that I desperately miss.

I’ve been tracking walks, rowing, and yoga. It’s even inspired me to get an indoor bike to better hit the monthly challenges. I invited my mom and am eagerly awaiting her first post.

Single Passion Project

While shuttered in this house with two other people I’ve thought a lot about what hobby we could all get into that we are equally passionate about. Hobbies bring joy and meaning to each day. I know I’d be in a more terrible place had I not discovered yoga, houseplants, baking, or any number of things I’ve gotten into and took to a weird level.

It turns out that the common theme is our love and appreciation for pollinators. Our summer was ruled by caring for larger-than-life sunflowers and tending to our certified monarch waystation gardens. Each day we saw countless bees, several hummingbirds, raised and released over 60 monarch butterflies. This winter we’ve gotten into bird watching and after setting up a variety of feeders we’ve been able to check many off the list of Delaware backyard birds. It’s thrilling.

We are going to keep up with this curiosity and learn as much as we can, teaching as we go and getting involved with a local nature center. We’ll continue to give away wildflower and milkweed seeds that we purchase or produce ourselves. There are already plans for the construction of the ultimate caterpillar house in the spring, after a couple of years of observing what works and doesn’t work.

There are so many possibilities here and I’m already smiling and energized just thinking about it. I’ll keep Twitter updated with our latest seed roll-out plans.

Books About Relationships

I find that I have no interest in reading design books anymore—at least for now. Some of my recent favorites were around fostering genuine connections with people, both professionally and personally. I want to learn about asking the very best, thoughtful questions (like with “Ask Powerful Questions: Create Conversations That Matter”) and make people feel as safe as possible while we develop lasting rapport and not as much about website conversion rates. While I get that this data is important and have built my career around marketing design, I also think there’s a significant case to be made around the psychology of sincere, bullshit-free human connection being more impactful for any brand than click numbers.

Revive Lost Friendships

I realized recently that I haven’t had a single friendship survive this pandemic. I get it, no one has any attention to spare. It makes sense, though when I can, maybe when the weather isn’t so dark, I’d like to be more mindful of reaching out to folks. I care about them, but each day feels stuck in survival mode and in the blink of an eye it’s over. Only to wake up and do it all over again with minor variations in details—there’s nothing left at the moment.

It also got me thinking a lot about past friendships and all the many mistakes I’ve made. For a bunch of reasons too heavy for this post, I tend to quickly abandon friends and family that prove to need too much, disappoint, or show the potential to cause emotional harm. Making real friends in your mid-thirties is nearly impossible from my experience, and I want to be a bit more patient and understanding going forward when these relationships inevitably hit rough spots.

Realistic Outlook

I’m not hanging on to this list as gospel or as a tool to use against myself when I don’t consistently measure up. These are just areas of life I’d like to be more aware of focusing on since they have proven to help achieve some balance and satisfaction in life. While in the face of great fear and treachery these things can seem silly, I’ve learned that it’s crucial to prioritize them in order to see any point in carrying on with a sliver of positivity.