Category Archives: Creative Improv

2012 Year in Review


  • Officially became free of all credit card debt while paying off 4 large debts using the debt snowball idea from Dave Ramsey
  • Completed numerous house projects – renovated kitchen, refinished shed, shutters, doors, etc.


  • Learned many new post-processing techniques to use while processing my photographs. Check out my photos here!
  • Became an exclusive contributer at, meaning I no longer sell stock photos at many other websites. Learn more here!
  • Speaking of iStock, my earnings have quadrupled from 2011
  • Cranked out many watercolor raster illustrations which were really popular on iStock. Check them out here!
  • Created 33 stock photos (photos and illustrations combined) in 2012. This is down 300% from the previous year but the new work’s popularity outweighs the previous work’s popularity

Website Design

  • Honed my WordPress, responsive design, and HTML5/CSS3 skills through constant training courses

My business, Creative Improv

  • Worked with 25 clients to create meaningful websites, logos and print collateral. 10 of which were brand new client relationships

What I ‘shipped’ in 2012

In 2010, Seth Godin challenged his readers to think about what they ‘shipped’ the previous year. So here’s goes:

  • Crushed 4 debts
  • Created 33 Stock Photos
  • Crafted 15 Websites
  • Designed 3 Logos
  • Designed 4 Print Pieces
  • Crafted 3 Motion Graphics Pieces
  • Created 4 HTML Emails



Just yesterday, I spoke to Lambda Pi Eta, the communication department’s honor society at Truman State University. I was connected to them by fellow Mountain Dew and Twitter addict, Don Krause (@santee). I was über nervous about speaking, as I always am, but I think I overcame that fear.

I talked about my experience with social media as the owner/designer of Creative Improv and why brands need to care about social media.

A few quick notes, I had tweeted to UPS and FedEx 3 times in the last few days (once during my presentation) and hadn’t received a response from them until just now. @FedExRobin responded – you can see her tweet here.

Check out my presentation below. I recorded it a day after I gave the presentation to the folks at Truman.

It seems that Google Local Business Listing has fallen under the radar, at least in my sphere of influence. So I wanted to share some advice to anyone who runs a small business or provides a marketable service.

What is it? Google Local Business Listing is a way to get your business on Google Maps and subsequently Google search results…for free.

Why is this important? When someone searches for your product or service along with your city, your business will show up, top ‘o the list.

Localized. As I mentioned above, you get free local advertising on Google. When folks search a keyword plus your city, local businesses are displayed above  the regular search results.

Build Street Cred Whether you sell cheeseburgers or wedding dresses, Google Local Business Listings is one big way to build your street cred. How? Customers can write reviews of your product or service for others to see. Don’t be shy about asking customers to write a review for you on Google. I’m not. This is also an incentive to provide top notch service and products to your customers, because you may receive bad reviews too!

How much does it cost? Nothing is free these days… but this sure is and…

It works! At least for me. I’ve gotten one client so far by using Google Local Business Listings. Google has begun sending out periodic stats on how many hits you receive from your listing as well! Now, you might be asking….

How do I sign up? Go here and login with your Google account and simply fill a few things out!

Today I presented to a group of teachers at Truman State University about using social networking tools and blogging to grow support for gecko mathematics – a unique math curriculum that was translated into English from Korean. Last year Creative Improv, the design firm I run built a website, blog and social network profiles for gecko math – we called it ‘Publish the Gecko‘, because it is a campaign to get publishers interested in gecko mathematics. This Summer, a grad-level course was put together to show elementary level teachers how to use this curriculum. I was asked to speak about the marketing of the curriculum through social networks and blogging and show the teachers how they might share things about the curriculum with their educator friends.

I will have a video of my talk very soon, but for now here is just a bit of what I shared:

  • TV, newspapers and radio used to be the global platform – today that global platform is the Internet – a world wide web filled with social networks, websites and blogs.
  • This new global platform allows ANYONE who has good content, products or services to gain support for free. This is HUGE.
  • Blogs – a successful blog is one that encourages interaction among the community of people with the same interest
  • Facebook – a way for businesses or organizations to reach their target audience on a personal level. It puts a face on an otherwise faceless corporation. If you have a business, you should have a facebook fan page and talk to your fans often and encourage feedback
  • Twitter – basically the SMS of the Internet – a quick way to share short messages. Retweeting or forwarding messages has huge endorsement power, because you are saying this person or business is worth paying attention to.
  • Retweeting has the power to make something go ‘viral’
  • All these online tools are a way to interact with a community of people online that have the same interests as you – whether it is someone else who shares your love for the Smurfs or someone who might be interested in your business, product or service. Dude, smurf it up!
  • Today, blogs, social networks and websites have provided the opportunity for anyone to pursue what you love – for more on this idea watch the following video (try to ignore the language)

Opportunity is missed by people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.

— Thomas Edison

Read ‘opportunity’ as ‘success’. Want to be successful (in term of business)? Work your tail off and be talented, rinse and repeat. Don’t expect ‘success’ over night. Gary Vaynerchuk sums it up nicely in the video below.

Path of Principles homepage, featuring a slideshow with images generated from Flickr, color-coded buttons and news/social media links

Path of Principles subpage featuring a visual timeline slider and popup captions to define certain keywords

Check out the live ‘Path of Principles’ website

We (Creative Improv) recently launched a website for the national Sigma Tau Gamma Fraternity. It aims to provide a home for their lifelong membership training program. This project focused on their program, prospective audiences and social media links. We gave specific attention to outlining key information via visual sliders as well as an ease of use and navigation.

Speaking of Creative Improv, have you become a fan on facebook or followed us on Twitter?

Have you subscribed to this blog’s RSS?

Creative Improv started over a year ago as a way for Michael Goldsmith and I to work together and provide web, print and identity design to clients. It has been a joy to continue to work closely with ‘Goldie’. It feels like a dream come true, to be crazy busy with design for such a wide range of projects as fellow artists, bands, museums, a math curriculum, and even a bridal shoppe.

We’ve had business cards since the beginning, but we’ve just now got letterhead and envelopes. Check them out below!

A technical note – we used for our printing and everything came out perfectly. The color was spot on and the ability to do a full bleed on the envelope was freeing!

Letterhead and envelope for Creative Improv

Business Cards for Stephen Emlund at Creative Improv

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Recently Jamie and I did a photoshoot with musical instruments, including his guitar and drums and my saxophone. Here are a few of the shots I got. I’ve put these up on for sale. You can also purchase prints of them by clicking on the image above and finding the ‘Prints’ box at the bottom right of the page.

You can see the rest of my photos on iStock here.

A brown duck at the St. Louis Zoo

Yesterday midday, my first photo was accepted to!

Check out my iStock portfolio. I’ve got four photos in there so far. 18 more photos are waiting for acceptance.