When asked to write this month’s “Inspired at NDG” post, I had a really hard time narrowing down just what it is that inspires me.

As a designer, I feel like I’m inspired by everything around me — music, fashion, architecture, interior design, film, science, books, a quiet walk in the woods, a great piece of furniture — the list could go on for days.

Of those, fashion and interior design have given way to my love of patterns. There’s something about symmetry and repetition that can be really fun and exciting. While I love creating logos, I love creating visual brands even more. It’s designing supportive elements like patterns that elevate a brand and help it take on a life of its own.

Can you imagine brands like Coach or Louis Vuitton without their signature patterns? A simple pattern can help something go from “plain Jane” to interesting or luxurious.

While a logo is most often thought of as the piece that creates brand recognition, a pattern can be just as powerful, if not more. Burberry has it’s plaid. Missoni has chevrons. Even Charles and Ray Eames had their dot pattern.

Two of my all-time favorite pattern creators have to be interior designer Jonathan Adler and mod fashion designer Orla Kiely. Whether creating textiles for a sofa or a handbag, both designers have a clean, vibrant aesthetic with a touch of whimsy that speaks to the mid-century designs of the 1960s. As their patterns have gained popularity, both designers have expanded their reach beyond interior design and fashion. Now, their patterns are available to the masses via phone cases, notebooks, housewares and even wallpaper.

Working on various brands at NDG, designing a pattern is a challenge that I will take on any day of the week. I like to see what elements I can pull out from a logo to create something new and fresh. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. It’s always nice to experiment and watch a brand’s aesthetic grow and evolve. A pattern can be the main focal point of a design or used as a subtle background texture. Either way, it leaves a lasting impression of how we perceive and remember a brand.

It could be said that Beverly feels pretty at home in the homebuilding industry. She has focused on real estate advertising and branding for the vast majority of her career. After receiving a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from James Madison University, Beverly went on to work for some of the leading Washington, D.C., advertising and interactive agencies, including Pixels & Ink, Delucchi+ and Six Half Dozen. Away from advertising, Beverly loves to spend her time outdoors with her fiancé, Dave, and their two golden retrievers, Izzy and Loki.

NDG Communications recently kicked off a new client partnership by creating and launching a new website for Winchester Homes, one of the Mid-Atlantic’s premier homebuilders.

WinchesterHomes.com is now more user-friendly, allowing new home shoppers to easily find information on available homes and communities, through improved search filtering and maps. Visitors also have access to a wealth of resources to assist them during the home search process.

The mobile version of the site functions much like an app and makes it easy for potential homebuyers to pull up information on the go and even call sales managers with a single click.

With 35 years of success in the industry, Winchester Homes has a strong reputation and more than 11,000 loyal homeowners in prominent communities across Virginia and Maryland. Winchester Homes builds expertly crafted, highly personalized homes, including its line of luxurious Camberley by Winchester homes.

Winchester Homes is a member of the TRI Pointe Group, a family of premium homebuilders that design, build and sell homes in major U.S. markets. TRI Pointe combines the resources, operational sophistication and leadership of a national organization with the regional insights, community ties and agility of local homebuilders.

NDG Communications has been Winchester Homes’ agency of record since the start of 2015 and is now handling a full range of marketing responsibilities across a variety of platforms.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the new WinchesterHomes.com,” Winchester Homes President Alan Shapiro said. “NDG Communications did a wonderful job. I’m excited about the way our partnership is growing and I’m looking forward to the great things we’ll do together in the future.”

The new website is linked to NDG Communications’ proprietary RealResults homebuilder sales and marketing system, which blends content management, prospect management and results tracking into a single program designed to increase traffic and reduce the homebuilder’s cost per lead.

“The new WinchesterHomes.com is certainly one of the best websites we’ve ever created,” NDG Communications President Tom Nelson said. “By incorporating our RealResults system, we’re already beginning to see the impact that it’s having. We’re so grateful for the opportunity to work with Winchester Homes and to help them continue their long tradition of building excellent homes and communities throughout the region.”

About Winchester Homes

Winchester Homes, based in Bethesda, Maryland, is one of the area’s premier homebuilders. By focusing on personalization and unique features, Winchester Homes has helped more than 11,000 families create their perfect home. This focus on personalization is backed by award-winning craftsmanship, sound environmental building practices, a commitment to charitable giving programs and is a member of the TRI Pointe Group.

About NDG Communications

NDG Communications is an award-winning advertising and marketing agency with an emphasis on the homebuilding and real estate industries. The agency serves its clients by acting as a true partner and delivering real results through a measured approach to advertising, branding, digital development, production and media services. For more information, visit NDGcommunications.com.

Our clients don’t do it for the awards, and neither do we.
But it still feels good to win.

The NDG team celebrated with one of our great clients on Thursday night as Mid-Atlantic Builders took home four trophies at the Maryland Building Industry Association’s MAX Awards.

We were honored to share the stage on two occasions with Executive Vice President Stephen Paul and Vice President and Director of Sales and Marketing John Lavery. NDG worked closely with them on two of Mid-Atlantic Builders’ award-winning projects.

The sales center touchscreen inside the Somerset model at The Villages of Savannah in Brandywine won Outstanding Use of New Technology. And the Sorrento model at Parkside at Westphalia in Upper Marlboro won for Outstanding Sales Center.

Mid-Atlantic Builders’ Modena and Sorrento designs each earned Outstanding Home awards within their respective price categories.

It was a fun evening and one of the highlights of our 8 years as Mid-Atlantic Builders’ agency of record. It’s easy to do great work when your client builds award-winning homes.

Growing up in South Carolina, my parents would always drag me and my sisters to look at model homes and resale homes. My sisters and I would entertain ourselves by making up games and hiding in all the empty spaces.

It wasn’t that we were constantly moving. My parents just loved looking at the homes. And soon I did, too. I started to imagine what it would be like to live in this house or who would live in that house. What would their lives look like?

As I got older, I began traveling more and I noticed how much the homes changed from place to place. The formal spaces we grew up with in our home (which were only used on truly special occasions, like Thanksgiving or Christmas) didn’t exist in most of the homes I visited in foreign countries. Unless you count include Versaille, but in Versaille every room is formal.

At our family’s home in Egypt, where we spent summers, we had a formal living room and dining room, and our culture dictated that we welcome guests with the utmost hospitality. But we didn’t have a playroom and we just ate in the kitchen.

As I traveled, I’d create stories for the people I encountered — where they lived, how they lived, what they did. I still do this today when watching “House Hunters International” and working at NDG. So, it isn’t a big surprise that I really get inspired by people and their stories.

I love touring our clients’ homes and communities and then imagining the lives of the people who will live in there. How would they use this space? Who would this house work for? Who would want to live in this community? Working with our clients at NDG allows me to constantly engage this fascination of mine.

I really enjoy testing my stories against the market research and the actual traffic, and I enjoy shifting these stories to account for things I may not have imagined. Envisioning who will live in the homes and communities helps me pull together a marketing strategy and find the messaging that fits our prospects’ life story and their aspirations.

In a Letter from the Editor in the current issue of Architectural Digest, Margaret Russell signs off with a statement about Cuba and how “spirits are bright with hope for a better life. That’s a goal we can all aspire to, no matter where we live.”

I believe this is true in any of our clients’ communities and homes. Everyone wants a better life. If I can imagine what their better life looks like, I can help our clients make it a reality.

Late nights and 80-hour weeks. Breakfast, lunch and dinner eaten over a keyboard.

These are all things commonly associated with life at an ad agency, but we’ve learned that these are rarely things associated with great work. Creativity demands energy and inspiration. At NDG, we know that the lives we live outside our office fuel the work we do inside it.

A game-changing idea might find us halfway through a bag of popcorn, watching the latest Hollywood blockbuster, or halfway through a marathon, enjoying a runner’s high.

Our commitment to a great work-life balance is one of the reasons we’re able to find and keep top creative and programming talent on our team. We take the work we do for our clients very seriously, but we understand that there’s more to life than just work.

When we hire you at NDG, we tell you upfront what’s expected of you. We expect you to come to the office every day, work hard and work smart. Sweat the details, so the big picture takes care of itself.

When the work is done? Go home. Be with your family, hang out with your friends, do whatever makes you happiest.

Our creative director, Mike Metz, checks out in the evening and heads off to coach his son in youth soccer. He even plays in an adult league. We always know when he had a game the night before because he shows up limping the next day.

Abigail Witten, our media manager, dabbled in roller derby when she started at NDG. Now she’s starring as Margaret in a production of “Much Ado About Nothing.”

It’s not all fun and games. Social Media Coordinator Jackie Snyder takes night classes as she finishes the final credits toward her master’s degree in public relations. She’s a hard worker and never once has tried to claim that her dog, Chunk, ate her homework. Even though it seems plausible.

We’re not saying we never work late or that we don’t bring our laptops home with us on occasion. When it’s necessary to deliver the best work to our clients, we do it and we don’t ask questions. But late nights should be the exception to the rule.

Our goal is to keep our employees longer than most because we treat them better than most. Some of our best ideas find us when we’re off living our lives. Then we come to work refreshed and ready, as the giant sign on our wall says, to win the day.

We love it when a client comes to us with a big idea.

Brookfield Residential, a longtime partner and one of our favorites, approached us last year to tell us about a new, exciting project at the Avendale community in Bristow, VA. It’s an experimental home designed to test the latest eco-friendly technology, products and building methods.

Brookfield wanted to find out what really works and whether these energy-efficient features can be integrated on a larger scale into the homes it builds across Virginia, Maryland and Delaware.

The idea was in its infancy then, but they were excited about it. And that got us excited. The marketing push is now peaking. We’ve had a great time with it because it’s one campaign that involves team members from across NDG and draws on so many of our marketing capabilities.

Boiling it Down

First things first: We needed a name. We kicked around dozens of ideas, we mixed, we matched, and finally we settled on “The PureBlue Home.” It highlights the all-encompassing approach and ties it back to the company’s existing Brookfield Blue energy-efficiency program.

Then we debated the best way to explain such a unique, complex project. During a long brainstorming session, someone finally said, “It’s basically like a BMW concept car, isn’t it?”

That was spot-on. PureBlue is a concept home.

Talking it Up

With a widely understood reference point to anchor our messaging, we got to work.

We filmed a promotional video. We built a landing page. We created email blasts, banner ads and brochures. When visitors come in the door, they can use our touchscreen display to learn more about Brookfield and PureBlue. As they move throughout the home, they’ll discover iPads that reveal photos, videos and descriptions of the innovative features in the room.

We’re now in the midst of a strong public relations push, for which we’ve created multimedia press releases and news stories. We’ve launched a social media campaign to engage prospective homeowners, as well as interested media and industry professionals.

Of course, we’ve planned big events at The PureBlue Home for journalists, Realtors and home shoppers. The Grand Opening last weekend was a huge success.

The PureBlue Home is pretty amazing. And it all started with a big idea.

NBA Hall of Famer and accidental comedy legend Charles Barkley recently was asked whether it was possible to rely solely on statistics, not conventional wisdom, to build a championship squad in the NBA.

“I’ve always believed analytics was crap,” Barkley scoffed to a desk full of his amused television colleagues.

I’m sure Barkley was just trusting his gut. But according to John Hollinger’s well-respected Player Efficiency Rating (or PER), Barkley ranks 10th. Out of every pro basketball player who ever stepped on a court.

That’s right. Barkley doesn’t believe in the validity of the formulas that have rated him as the 10th-best player in NBA history. Take a moment to let the irony sink in.

I’ll be brave enough to disagree with Mr. Barkley (who is 6-foot-6 and once threw a man through a plate-glass window) and say confidently that statistics teach us so many valuable lessons. A famous statistician with a flair for the literary once declared, “In God we trust. To the rest, bring data.”

As an NDG Senior Marketing Manager, it’s my job to treat our clients’ marketing and advertising budget as if it was my own paycheck. I rely on analytics to know how to spend their money wisely. And how to make sure we’re never wasting it.

Tools like Google Analytics and NDG’s own RealResults homebuilder sales and marketing system give us the raw data to differentiate what works and what doesn’t. As successful marketers, we must adapt or perish.

The moral of the story about Charles Barkley is that truths aren’t based upon what’s in your gut, or what you believe—they’re based upon what’s in your reporting and analysis. When you eliminate the guesswork in your marketing strategy, the rest is a layup.

Tim Hoepfl joins NDG from our nation’s capital, where he worked at the IP law firm of Kenyon & Kenyon LLP. A paralegal in the firm’s International Trade Commission practice group, Tim assisted with casework for clients such as Apple, Sony and Robert Bosch. Tim graduated cum laude from Salisbury University with a B.A. in Writing and Rhetoric and amazingly, he hasn’t lost a single debate he’s been involved in since. His favorite things include his son Langston, a good book, his Baltimore Orioles, the way your feet feel in a brand new pair of socks, and listening to Al Green on vinyl.

“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” —  Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

A good writer grabs the attention of the reader at the beginning of the story. This holds true for advertising, fiction writing, reporting, letters or anything else that involves the written word. A reader must be drawn in and want to read more from their first look at your first words or they’re already lost to you.

Great books begin with a memorable first sentence. This is the what sets the tone for the rest of the story —  your inspiration, crystallized.  The first line can be a distant look or a close-up, but it encapsulates everything that the story is about. Ads are stories too, and work the same way.

The design team builds the story of an ad with pictures and fonts and colors, using images to evoke emotions and tell a story through visuals. I just get a few words. So, I have to make them count. I have to be able to find those perfect words and tell my client’s story in a fresh way.

I have to engage my reader at a glance with an intriguing headline. That headline has to make them want to know more about what makes my client’s product or service special. Then I have to tell the whole story to my reader, and make them want to read through to the end and learn more about what my client has to offer.

From start to finish, you have to get the most mileage out of the least amount of words. The first line of any story is the key point at which the writer engages the interest of the reader or fails entirely. If I can start with a good beginning to my ad’s story, then I can be sure my reader will see it through to the end.

5 Great First Lines of Stories

The man in black fled across the desert, and the gunslinger followed.  — Stephen King, The Gunslinger

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife. —Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much. —  J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show. — Charles Dickens, David Copperfield

The cold passed reluctantly from the earth, and the retiring fogs revealed an army stretched out on the hills, resting. —Stephen Crane, The Red Badge of Courage

Amy Gardner McNeal is a writer and editor from Baltimore, MD. A voracious reader and dedicated student of history, her passion for the written word is sometimes expressed in overly elaborate verbiage. Amy has worked as a freelance reporter for newspapers, websites and magazines, including The Washington Post and CBS News, as grant writer for nonprofits and as a freelance writing and marketing “jack of all trades” for clients in law, finance, technology and more. She lives in Bowie, MD, with her husband, Gerard, 3 adorable cats and lots of medievalia.

“What if …?”

That’s where my inspiration begins.

Those two simple words spark imagination and get our internal cogs moving. I’ve often heard people say, “I am just not the creative type.” But what they fail to realize is that creativity isn’t just art. It’s problem solving. “What if …” can build upon itself and spark others to join in to make things bigger, better and more efficient.

For example, when Alexander Graham Bell invented the telephone, his original intention was to develop a device that would allow his deaf wife and the deaf children he worked with to hear sound. He built on that idea and discovered he could send sound waves to virtually anyone in the world. Fast-forward 140 years, we now have phones in our pockets. Phones that take photos, record video and play music.

All because someone asked himself, “What if …?”

As a designer, I enjoy working with type and imagery. I love creating compelling, beautiful things, but really my job is to solve problems. If you need someone to buy your product or raise money for a non-profit, you have to understand the problems in order to connect with your audience.

Graphic design, by definition, is the practice of communicating a message visually and contextually. You have to connect with people emotionally as well. When people can relate to your message, it makes your work feel genuine. The most inspiring designs to me are the simplest. The easier the message, the easier it is to understand.

Albert Einstein once said, “If you can’t explain it to a 6 year old, you don’t understand it yourself.”

That’s what inspires me. And when I’m stuck, I simply ask myself, “What if …?” Sometimes I’ll keep it simple, sometimes I’ll go crazy. More often than not, those two simple words lead me down a path toward unexpected, positive results.

Brad Flaherty has officially been a designer for more than 13 years, but he has known that this is what he has wanted to do with his life since he was a kid. His career has taken him from Pennsylvania to North Carolina to Chicago and back home to Southern Maryland. His wife and two kids know him as the lovable goofball, but Brad knows when it’s time to get down to bid’ness. There is no issue with Brad connecting with people. His passion for design and his outlook on life allows him to relate to people in a genuine way.

We are fortunate. In so many ways.

We come to the office every day and we get to do creative work for a group of clients we deeply respect and whose missions we believe in. At the end of the day, we return to nice, warm homes with plenty of food in the refrigerator. As the holidays approach, we’re each looking forward to spending special moments with the ones we love.

So many people in this world are far less fortunate. So many people have no place to call home.

So this year, on behalf of our clients, colleagues and friends, NDG Communications is honored to make a holiday donation to World Vision. The contribution, though modest, will provide homes for five families in dire need.

We hope you’ll take a moment to visit NDGholiday.com to read our stories of what “Home for the Holidays” means to us. You’ll see why we chose World Vision and this cause, and why we think it’s such a fitting way to honor all those who partner with us at NDG.

Thank you and Happy Holidays.