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Entries from December 1, 2008 - December 31, 2008


The Little Extra Things Add Value

SEED 3 Sketchnotes: : Be Utterly DifferentI just had my car fixed at Sippl's Auto Service, my local garage. They replaced the alternator, serpentine belt and belt tensioner, and even threw in repair of a ground wire that needed updating.

I was very pleased with the work, but the little thing that most impressed me was a repair they made on a plastic wiring cover under my dashboard they didn't mention.

That stinkin' plastic cover had been bugging me for weeks — I tried fixing the attachment pin, tried duct tape and yet it still fell down at my feet. Arggg!

But my garage fixed it with a new attachment pin, and didn't mention it. This little extra detail impressed me. Why? Because it showed that the mechanic cared enough to do this one little extra thing for me, his customer.

That's why I continue to take my cars to Sippl's — because these little extra details are a consistent thing they do, and I really appreciate it.

Giving a Little Extra = Value

I've been noticing when others give a little more like the example above, and am adapting this to my personal and professional life. It's not easy, because when I'm busy, the temptation is to do as little as I can get away with. But I've never found "as little as you can get away with" a good long-term solution. Eventually, it shows.

In my experience, giving a little more than expected does work. For a little additional cost, in time, or something extra delivered, I've found it builds trust and enhances my reputation as someone who cares about those I choose to work with.

Every day I ask how I can improve in this area. Some days I'm better at it and on some days I fail. But the point is to constantly try adding value by doing just a little beyond the expectation. I aim to keep improving at this every day.

Here's the question to consider — how in your professional and personal life, can you give a little bit more than expected? Is there a little thing you can do that isn't necessarily much more effort but communicates that you care?

When you find these little things, do them!

The little extra things add value.


Bullfrog Touch Logo & iPhone UI Design

outer-level-logo100.pngIn May 2008, Jon Trainer of Outer Level software came to me with a then confidential project — designing an icon and a UI screen for a top secret iPhone native application called Bullfrog Touch.

I've worked with Jon for years — designing the Outer Level logo, and creating an icon for LicenseKeeper, so I was happy to help translate his popular Mac OS X app Bullfrog to the iPhone.

Bullfrog Touch Logo Design

The first challenge was creating a new logo for the Bullfrog Touch application. I needed to incorporate the existing Mac OS X Bullfrog cartoon icon, created by Jordan Langille and adapt it to the iPhone. With the bullfrog icon on the left I chose Arial Rounded Bold for the Bullfrog font, applying a bright green glow in Fireworks.

Bullfrog Touch Logo

In the open space to the top-right of the Bullfrog text, TOUCH fit perfectly. I stayed with Arial Rounded Bold in all caps, adding jumbled alignments to visually suggest a bullfrog's jumping action and for a bit of contrast.

Bullfrog Touch Score Screen UI Design

Next challenge Jon needed help with visually was the scores screen. Jon had a rough idea of what he wanted, provided in a mockup screenshot I could use for reference:


Using Jon's sample as a rough starting point, I began researching screens on my iPod touch and online, to see how Apple and other developers had dealt with UI elements, fonts, colors, sizing and so on. After the research phase, I built a mockup in Fireworks, right on top of Jon's original sample screenshot:

Bullfrog Touch Scores UI Design

My goal was to make the scores screen clear, easy to read and use, while maintaining look and feel of the new logo into the UI design.

Jon was happy with the results, using the mockup and exported files as a reference for the final application UI. The colors and button styles and some of the elements were changed, resized and tweaked, but are still pretty close to my mockup.

Here's my original mockup next to the the final Bullfrog Touch scores screen:


Conclusion? That was fun, I want to do it again!

It was an interesting and enjoyable challenge working with Jon on this iPhone UI design project. I look forward to helping others on future iPhone app projects to keep exploring this fascinating new UI design space.

Bullfrog Touch was chosen as one of the best iPhone/iPod touch games to give as a gift, in the TidBITS Gift Guide 2008

Jon Trainer has a post about the design process on his company blog.

Thanks Jon!


John Harbor's Coffee House Lives On!

Picture 3.pngDecember 18, 2008 — John Harbor's is alive!
My favorite local coffee shop, John Harbor's Main Street Coffee House was in a bind on December 7th, 2008. They needed to raise $25,000 and/or gain new business partners by Monday the 8th in order to stay open on Tuesday the 9th.

Our family and some friends visited John Harbor's multiple times since the call went out for support and I've been very happy to see the open sign lit every day, as I pass by John Harbor's.

Here's an email from Jeremy & Erin at John Harbor's, letting their fans know they've survived with new business partners and a new plan:

A Special Thank You from John Harbor's Coffee House

Thank You from the bottom of our hearts.
John Harbors has made a difference in the community and now the community has made a significant difference in John Harbor's.

A single voice of thousands was heard on Sunday night, December 7th.

Since our request for help went out to our community, much has happened and I'm sure everyone would like to know.  Please share this good news.  Our community has helped, and in MANY ways. 

Entire congregations prayed as one for John Harbor's. Individuals stopped by and supported through purchases of gift cards, T-shirts, whole bean coffee, and gifting. The music that was from 4pm to 7pm lasted until 10pm!

A celebration was truly held on Pearl Harbor Day and I find it personally humbling that our community came together to save a dream that we all have come to share - a dream of community through a small coffee house.

Thank you!

For the part time employees... thank you!
For the full timers... thank you!
For the customers... thank you!
For the dream and hope that drives the team and the customers of John Harbor's... thank you!

Please, once again, help spread the word that John Harbor's is open for business due to God's providence.  We stand with new partners, a revised business plan, and much needed internal support.  Most importantly, however, we would like to thank everyone who prayed and gave their money and time.

As "A Thank You for Support" click here for a special gift from us at John Harbor's, print off the coupon and bring it in between now and Jan 31, 2009 to receive $1.00 off any beverage or $2.00 off your food order.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year,

Jeremy, Erin, Our New Partners, and the JH Staff

Thanks for your help if you supported John Harbors!

Here's the first press release from Jeremy & Erin from John Harbors:

You are invited to a special music benefit at John Harbor's!

John Harbors has made a difference in the community:
Erin and I take joy in the growing community and friends that we have come to know. It is part of the reason we open the door every morning.

The staff and friends of John Harbor's have come together on more than a few dozen efforts to bring joy, awareness, and financing to some wonderful local community efforts. We have opened our doors to the Invisible Children of Ghana, the Precious Children of Tanzania, and the AIDS Crisis just to name a few. It also brings us great pride to say that we have supported locally those with Cancer, church groups, community leagues, high school teams, and many other groups that we have touched on a daily basis.

But... we can no longer do this alone.

We have an immediate, dire challenge:
We need commitments to come up with $25,000 by Monday to insure we can open our doors on Tuesday.

How did this happen:
We were able to start John Harbor’s with hope, vision, a dream, and a small budget. Since the opening we have realized that this shoe-string budget is insufficient. We have tried on our own to improve and correct our financial situation but failed to obtain funding. This past miscalculation has led us to needing immediate assistance.

We do have a solution:
We believe that ONE is simply too small a number to ACHIEVE greatness! We realized that the way to serve our community is through getting the community more involved. We are seeking people who want to help make a difference in our community by becoming co-owners and co-laborers with us.

With 2 years experience and a broadened management team, we know what we must do to run John Harbors more effectively.

We don't want a free pass, just a helping hand:
While things can happen that are outside of our control, we will do our best to repay the community for helping us out. If your desire is to co-labor with us, there will be benefits. If you can invest, there will be profit sharing. Together we will ensure that your interests will be protected.

What you can do:

  • COME to our benefit event on Sunday at 4pm
  • Pass out the flyers (download PDF here) take them to your church and to your friends
  • Donate
  • Become a partner with John Harbor's
  • Stop by and get a gift card to bless your family with for Christmas
  • Tell others about our need, please help.
  • Blog
  • E-mail
  • Facebook your friends
  • Submit press releases
  • Call the people of influence that you know

Thank you so much for your support, friendship, and prayer! Feel free to contact me with your questions.


Jeremy, Erin, & the JH Staff

John Harbor's Main Street Coffee House
N88 W16521 Main Street
Menomonee Falls, WI 53051
262) 250-7700


CaffiNation Podcast 291: Mistakes Happen

caffination.gifMy friend Paul Rj Muller, producer of the CaffiNation Podcast, dropped me a line yesterday.

Turns out he recovered a year-old interview we had about the Sketchtoon Coffee Calendar from his iPod. He's added it to espisode 291 — you can hear the interview 31 minutes in.

Thanks Paul for including our interview in the podcast!


Coffee Achiever Interview at

cp-sketchtoon-calendar-2009.jpgI'm very honored to be interviewed and featured as Coffee Achiever for December 2008 issue of the iNeedCoffee newsletter.

I replied to questions from Alex Scofield, who crafted his article from my replies. It's fascinating to see how Alex's article compares with my interview replies. If you're curious, I've included my interview replies below.

Here's an excerpt from Alex's article:

"The coffee artwork in Rohde’s calendar is an outgrowth of his Sketchnotes. They’re a twist and a major upgrade on the margin doodles of a note-taking student – Sketchnotes capture an event utilizing visual elements and fonts that are as crucial as the text in the overall presentation."

You can read the entire interview and the other great articles at

Original Questions & Answers

Here are Alex's questions and my detailed replies, the basis of the final article.

Q: Can you say a little bit about where you grew up, where you went to school, and how you developed as an artist?

I grew up in Chicago, an area called Rogers Park, right on the border with Evanston, Illinois near Northwestern University. I went to school in that area through my Freshman year in high school, when our family moved to the Milwaukee area, where I still live today.

My elementary and high school years were very formative as an artist, because I drew all the time. That early experience of constantly drawing has been key to drawing and illustrating now that I'm older.

Q: How were SketchNotes born, or how did they evolve toward their present form?

They were born back in 2007 in a form clearly defined as "sketchnotes". I was attending a UX Intensive event put on by Adaptive Path in Chicago when I created the first set:

I decided to try intentionally including drawings and fonts in my notes to see if it was possible and how well I would be able to capture the event. It worked out so well, I've continued to take sketchnotes at other events:

Lately, I've been invited by organizers of several events like SEED 3, and An Event Apart to be the official 'sketchnoter' at those events, which has worked out quite well:

I'm scheduled to attend Word of Mouth Crash Course on December 10th, and SXSW Interactive in March 2009 as the official sketchnoter. I'm very excited about these and other future sketchnoting opportunities.

Q: Was there anything in particular that inspired the calendar’s coffee theme?

Our friend Kathy loves coffee and happens to have a coffee themed kitchen. We had a terrible time finding coffee calendars for her at Christmas, so we decided to create our own coffee calendar at Café Press.

A few years ago my wife and I created a coffee calendar with photography, which our friend loved. Then, as I had been sketching more in the past few years, I had the idea to do a calendar with an illustrated coffee theme.

So, I took my Moleskine pocket sketchbook to local cafes and began the illustration, which were scanned and colorized in the Mac and posted at Café Press as the calendar you can buy today:

It's been very popular as a gift, I think because there are so few good coffee calendars out there. Turns out I'm the top organic hit in Google search results for 'coffee calendar' along with my friend Ricardo Levins Morales' wonderful illustrated coffee calendar:

Q: Can you describe the “colorization” process used for the Sketchtoon calendars?

The art is all done in black and white in a pocket Moleskine sketchbook, scanned in and colorized in Photoshop.

I've found a few special brushes in Photoshop to created the mottled look for the dark brown, and the color for the coffee drinks was painted so it overprints the black artwork.

Q: The first time you colorized your art this way, was it a happy accident, or the expected result?

I've actually done similar colorizations in my career as a graphic designer, in particular some illustration work for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee years ago, with black and white art colorized in Photoshop.

I like this approach because I can easily change direction or colors by simply re-doing a layer of the Photoshop file.

Q: Do you ever do your coffee Sketchtoons while you’re drinking the beverage described?

Heh, great question! I've had most of these drinks, and a few while sketching the art at the local café.

Q: Do you remember when you first drank coffee?

When I was about 5 I spilled hot coffee on myself at my grandmother's house, but it hasn't deterred me! I recall starting to drink coffee regularly in college, when I worked as graphic editor for the Milwaukee Area Technical College Times. They had a coffee club I could afford, and during the cold winters, hot coffee was perfect.

Q: What is the café/coffee scene like around Brown Deer and Milwaukee? Any favorite places?

Of course we have the chains here, Starbucks and Caribou, but in Menomonee Falls where I live, we have an excellent local coffee shop called John Harbor's Main Street Coffee house. They feature great, locally roasted coffee, food, free WiFi, and live music:

Another Milwaukee area roaster and coffee chain called Alterra Coffee, with cafes all over the city in interesting and often historical buildings:

And there are all sorts of small, independent cafes and coffee shops around the city, too numerous to list.

Q: How big a part of your life is coffee these days?

Coffee is very important. I brew coffee in the morning for my wife and I to
start the day. At Northwoods Software where I work, I often pull shots of
espresso or make cappuccinos on the office DeLonghi Magnifica — which I have
to say is great to have around.

I also have a Krups espresso maker at home which takes pods as well as ground coffee, a French press and a handy moka pot.

Every now and then I like getting away to my local café for coffee to read,
or do a little sketching or design work in a relaxed environment.

Q: What is your favorite kind of coffee, or your favorite coffee-based beverage?

I like darker roast coffees and given a choice, I'll take a cappuccino or a well-pulled shot of espresso. For me coffee is all about taste.

Q: From the ‘Diner Coffee’ entry, I get the feeling that you appreciate high-end coffee, yet are okay with drinking diner coffee, too, depending on the situation. Am I right?

Yes, exactly! I like exploring a wide variety of coffee and surprisingly, some diner coffees aren't so bad. I think in the US there's been a positive effect of Starbucks and other coffee establishments improving the quality of coffee overall, which benefits we coffee fans in the end.

But I will say that when I encounter truly bad coffee I won't drink it. Life is just too short to torture my taste buds. :-)

Alex, thanks for the opportunity to interview with iNeedCoffee!

Check out the full interview at