Thursday, September 25, 2008

A Series: Building Our Upcoming "Myriad Creative Concepts Graphic Design" Website

Hello everyone. Today's post is an introduction to a new series of blog posts about the things that I am learning about web site construction as I work to design our own. Hopefully, you will ultimately benefit in the end. Some of these things learned may interest those of you who are considering putting up a website or improving your current online presence.

Our Myriad Creative Concepts website is now being planned and built piece by piece. This is my first attempt at building a website, soon to be found at Myriad will be our primary online business presence and will hopefully be easier for you to navigate than this Bloger blog. "Altar Card Artistry" will still be used to post articles about items of interest that I would like to share with you however. But, with a standard business website, you will no longer have to muddle through my windy posts like you do now just to examine our altar cards!

The Myriad site is being aimed toward simplicity, understatement, and visitor-friendliness. It is unbelievably complicated to build a simple website. Tons of programs to learn, several internet browsers to design for, many monitor resolutions to consider, and syntax necessary for search engine optimization. Not to be omitted: customer, economic, social, internet, and business trends. That's a lot for one boy to try to learn in a short amount of time.

First, there are the human considerations. I like to shop fast and simply. No glitz, just the facts, ma'am. None of us have time to waste with our busy lives. Paradoxically, it is very complicated to build a very simple, user-friendly website, display the wares, and expose them to the public.

Second, there are several programs that I am using to capture and create excellent images; make animations, write text, and lay out the new website itself. Those programs include Microsoft Word, Excel, Outlook, Printkey, Adobe Reader, Photoshop, ImageReady, and InDesign; Macromedia Dreamweaver, Flash, Fireworks, and Freehand. It is imperative that they can work well together, seamlessly whenever possible.

Third, search engine optimization is critcial for widespread publicity on the internet. Good web exposure requires knowledge of how the major search engines scan and promote a website based on its perceived content. There are several websites dedicated to assisting folks like me trying to learn the ropes of optimization.

Fourth, there are the rules, methods, programs, and strategies to an e-commerce website. This is an area I know little about but will have to learn. It scares the daylights out of me because I want to have fantastic customer experiences with very few headaches.

Fifth, how do I put up a website and protect it from hackers and thieves? Maybe I should consider hiring a security guard, eh?

In conclusion, I have learned lots so far. And, like everyone else learning to put up a site, I have lots more to learn. In my next series article, I will share a few basic points of each category that I have experienced so far. With each article, I will delve more into things.

Stay tuned for more.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Counterfeiting, Customer Service, Business Ethics, and Lessons Learned - Part Two

"No slogan." Hmmm, strange, I just looked for the slogan for the United States Postal Service and on their home page none was found. Maybe that's a good thing, maybe that's a bad thing. Maybe a little bit of both, eh?

Well, after my counterfeiting ordeal yesterday, read about it here, much of my day was wasted playing a detective ala Miss Marple from those wonderful PBS mysteries. I say, Miss Marple, because our hair is the same color and we share the same grim overall facial expressions.

Miss Marple aside, I frantically prepared the rush job Altar Card order to take to the USPS for Express mailing for delivery within two days to satisfy my retailer's customer wishes. I carefully packaged the altar cards securely to ensure they would travel undamaged.

Then, off to the post office went I.

A long line of people waited for service there. It was 3 PM and I had better things to do than stand in that line. But, I spotted two postal clerks working whom I had dealt with before.

I felt in good hands.

So, the line moved lightning fast, the postal clerk was in a genuinely good mood as usual, shipped my parcel at a reasonable price, and recommended that I take a stack of their mailing boxes FOR FREE to use in the future. That was great news alone. Then, she told me that I wouldn't have to pay extra for Delivery Confirmation this time like I usually do because it comes included in all Express Mail shipping transactions.

It all was too good to be true: a pleasant professional experience with the US Post Office, reasonable rates, free boxes, and it appeared that my customer just may get their Altar Cards by the Wednesday deadline.

Today, I checked online at the USPS website's Delivery Confirmation page. The package was already in Corpus Christi as of 11 am. That meant that the customer would probably receive my mailed package in under 24 hours from way over here in Ohio.

Yep, Time Warner and Cashland step aside, and watch the big boys like the infamous US Postal Service show you what good customer service is all about. And, unlike the others, they don't even have a slogan that I could see!

"The Power of You" is absolutely correct. Customer service, business ethics, accountability, competition, and market forces will make the inept companies bust sooner or later. It's tradition. It's the way of nature, I believe. No matter how good the improved "mousetrap" is, if there isn't good customer service, good supervision, and good management, a company will fail before too long - most of the time anyway.

And, the popular, fallible counterfeit detector pens that are passing errant judgment on so many daily, will go the way of the lie detector. Out of the limelight, but still around.

When FedEx and UPS entered into competition with the USPS, they knew they had to mature. And, they obviously have.

As a graphic designer turned fledgling small businessman, I'm trying to learn the ropes of business and ethics, and good customer service.

I think I'll try to do it the post office way. And, I am open to suggestions to any good businesspeople out there reading this. I may just publish your comments for others' benefit too.

Well, thanks for hanging in there to read about this true tale of my woe. I hope you have a pleasant evening, and if you have to run an errand ...

please don't ask me to go with you.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Counterfeiting, Customer Service, Business Ethics, and Lessons Learned - Part One

"The Power Of You." I had no idea, until this minute, that was Time Warner's slogan. Yes, I have power. And, yes, you have power. And, yes, companies that are "successful" have power. All of those, in my opinion, can be blessings or curses, or, maybe a bit of both, eh?

But, somehow, I know that I'm gonna preach to the choir here ...

Today was a great day. A strange day, that's for sure. But, a good day.

Let me just tell you my tale if you don't mind.

It all began when I tried to pay my internet cable bill at Time Warner Cable with a (gasp!) counterfeit $100.00 bill!! Now, imagine me, the owner of a company that designs and sells Altar Cards for priests to say Mass with, passing counterfeit American money. The attractive clerk rubbed one of those magical forensic pens across the evidence and declared it to be counterfeit. Thank goodness she didn't go ballistic on me. The popular counterfeit detector pens are, after all, infallible. Everyone knows that. After all, there was a long line of unhappy people who would have gladly lynched me on the spot just to have something good to say about their day. She just handed it back rather matter-of-factly and said it was no good and to whip out a different one and try my luck again. Actually, she was very nice and we had a good laugh about it.

Immediately, my mind raced in an effort to trace back to where I had obtained the bogus bill.

"Cashland." "Why those thieves," I thought ... Yep, a few weeks ago, I visited a (gasping again!) check cashing place. It was the only time, honest. Anyway, I went into Sherlock Holmes mode, and, dropping everything on today's plate, it was off to Cashland for me.

Well, I calmly told the Cashland supervisor that we were apparently accomplices in an underworld scheme. Well, to make a long story long, she was nice too. A bit abrupt but nice nonetheless. Maybe I should be thankful for that anyway. She reluctantly examined the bill in question with her priceless counterfeit detection pen and pointedly declared,(get this) that it was showing to be counterfeit on the front and genuine on the back. I gasped aloud in questioning surprise. (Hey, some days I just gasp a lot. Give me a break.) She was totally undismayed with her revelation of contradiction. She flatly refused to take it back and give me another one so that the cable bill could be paid. She just said that it should have been returned that day (two weeks ago). So, Cashland policy is, apparently, to disavow all knowledge of the cash that they dispense at their famous interest rates. And, in the manner of the ancient Spartans, I reckon that their business ethics declare them to be unresponsible for any bad bills that they pass if a customer doesn't catch them before the Cashland branch office closes for the day. That's my opinionated conclusion, anyway ... So, somehow expecting uncooperation, I asked her (she is the branch supervisor, by the way) where the nearest Dayton police station was so that I could get to the bottom of this mystery ala Poirot on PBS Mystery Theater.

At the district branch, the tall sergeant didn't like that I was interrupting his lunch but quickly assisted me regardless. He was very nice like everyone so far was. Actually, I was quite impressed with his friendly, professional demeanor and don't want to appear smug. The officer was just hungry and a bit grouchy because of it. Anyway, the cop inspected the tainted, otherworldly $100 spot and declared after careful testing that it was NOT counterfeit after all!! He had carefully scratched it with a pen knife. That scratch revealed the red and blue fibers woven into genuine American paper currency. However, he said that I can't, and the police department can't, force Time Warner to accept the bill.

Another officer approached and said that had I been carrying my own magical counterfeit detection pen that this event could have been avoided. He said that for only about $2.00 I too would have the power of the universe to spot counterfeiting schemers like the clerks I was tangling with. Puzzled, the recent conclusion of one side being good and the other side bad came to mind. Biting my tongue, I kept the peace.

The officer who's lunch was now stone cold recommended that I take it to a nearby bank and pawn it off on, er, exchange it.

That was enough for me as I bolted to the nearest banking facility.

At the nearby unlucky National City branch , the unwitting clerk was exceptionally nice too. Unfazed, I was skeptical. Twice bitten, now shy, I still felt like a thief as I handed her the bill and asked for two fifty's instead. Unbelievably, she didn't even blink an eye. She took the scratched, counterfeit detection marks and all $100 bill and gave me two fifty's in it's place.

I hurried out of the bank before she changed her mind! By the way, National City's slogan is "Banking Made Simple." That, indeed, rang true for me today. Thanks, National City. That was a real relief to see it played out in my case.

Rushing back to Cashland to update Witch Hazel, er, the friendly supervisor, I detailed the officer's methods and findings and educated her on her lousy detection pen. She still stood by the strange company policy they have there.

Really now, what else could I have expected? She was just blindly following orders like Lt. Calley and Oliver North alleged. That was my humble opinion anyway.

So, next, it was back to Time Warner Cable. The supervisor waited on me by chance. She was very nice. I explained all of the grisly details to her: her employee's error, my newly acquired counterfeiting detection methods, and implored her to educate her customer service agents against relying solely on errable counterfeiting detection pens. For the sake of my fellow Time Warner customers, I showed her how to scratch and see the red and blue fibers. And, I showed her how to rub a bill on a sheet of copy paper and see the green smude residue that real bills produce. Some of their customers surely were having perfectly good bills declared to be fake and getting quite the run-around like me merely because everyone blindly assumes that the $2.00 drugstore pens are foolproof. (And, of course, the supervisor at Cashland didn't know what she was doing with counterfeit detection either.)

At long last, two hours and $7.00 in gasoline later, I paid my internet bill with the newly acquired fifty dollar bills. I sheepishly suggested that I be discounted $5.00 for my gasoline. The nice Time Warner supervisor smiled widely and flatly refused.

So, I remained pleasant as I had all through this experience and just left dismayed and disgusted.

The whole thing was caused by the assumption of infallibility of widely used counterfeit detector pens. That's what they used to think about lie detector machines until proved fallible. Now, their findings are routinely dismissed in many trials. Perhaps, these nasty pens will be banned from use eventually.

Exhaustedly driving home, I began thinking of an order that a retailer of my altar cards requested this morning. Their customer wants their cards in only two days! It never dawned on me not to try get their cards to them in such a short timespan. I was determined to satisfy my retailer and their customer so long as it was humanly possible for me to do.

Then, I compared my business ethics with those of Cashland and Time Warner and couldn't understand how those businesses can be doing so financially well with such poor customer service, at least in my case anyway. I thought, whatever happened to tradition. Whatever happened to customer service? Is it out of style? Is there a new business ethic? Am I missing something? Am I being high-minded and maybe just biased?

Well, I didn't have time to go philosophizing about business conduct. I had a rush job on an altar card order to get out today. Thank goodness that they didn't have to be printed. They were in stock.

Tomorrow, I'll wrap this story up with Part II.

I'll let you in on how the US Postal Service handled my rush job when I took it there to mail ASAP.

Until then, I hope you have a pleasant evening and don't have to run any errands ...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Altar Cards Sale

Hello everyone. This is a first! We are putting our entire line of 12 inch, $49.00 Latin altar cards and English altar cards on sale for $39.00 during the rest of September, 2008. That's a 20% savings to you. Plus, you can take 20% off smaller sized cards too. So, take a look at our wide variety in our catalog, and send us an email of your selections.

Please note that this sale is being held solely by us and does not include orders of our products purchased through our friends, Adoremus Books or Wheaton Religious Gifts (known online as Church Supply Warehouse).

Check out the wide range of variety we offer in Latin altar cards. Whether reminiscent of vintage antique altar cards like Vintage Diamond (pictured), or entirely new designs like Red and Gold Border, whether small print like our Letter Sized Altar Cards, or the five exceptionally large print altar cards available, whether Low Mass or Requiem Mass altar cards, hopefully we have just the ones to suit your needs.

All of our designs for the Tridentine Mass have been proofread for accuracy and conform to the 1962 Missal. We dilligently strive to remain true to the time honored Traditional Roman Catholic Rite. However, we are only human and can err. Should you find the slightest typo, please notify us at once so that it can be corrected.

For our Anglo-Catholic friends, we are honored to have designed two sets of Anglican altar cards (Red and Gold) for you last month. Of course, they are also on sale with the same pricing.

Thank you very much for your consideration as your premier source of English and Latin Mass cards. Enjoy your weekend!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

9/11 Courage In Action: Still Alive And Well

Hello everyone. In honor of our fallen fellow Americans of 9/11/2001, I'd like to recount to you two unbelievable acts of courage that I witnessed just yesterday. That's right, yesterday, 9/10/2008.

It was a day that I will never forget. Just as I, and you, will never forget waking up to TV coverage of the World Trade Center crumbling, the Pentagon being kamikasied, and Flight 93 where those people tried desperately to regain control of the plane. May they all rest in peace now.

Yesterday, I woke up to an email from a middle-aged friend of mine who was excited about driving her new, red two-seater sports car - 20 miles! Let's call her, "Gail." Well, I have never seen Gail so excited. She was absolutely thrilled. You see, Gail has a horrible driving phobia. It terrifies her so badly that her husband has to drive her to the store. She never used to be phobic. But, she sure is now. "Bill," even bought her the sports car to try to coax her back into driving. To no avail. Poor Gail. She has been through the pits of hell with constant feelings of worthlessness, shame, and guilt because of this irrational fear. But, yesterday, she did it, she drove that darn car. And, she even took it on the interstate!

Gail has promised to drive the two-seater every day for three weeks, terror or no terror. She is determined to live in freedom once again. Just as the victims of 9/11 were attempting to do.

A few hours afterwards, I arrived at my doctor's appointment. Before I even got out of my car, a handicapped old man with holes in his pants was slowly pulling his wheelchair up the steep parking lot hill backwards. He had a very long way to go.

I was stunned. "In today's age ...," I thought.

He looked to be the kindest, most humble soul you'd ever wish to encounter. Of course, I asked him if he'd like some help. But, he just said, "No, when I'm alone, I have to do this on my own, so I will do it alone now." He kept calling me, "sir," like I was somebody important. He said he'd been in that chair since 2002. Six long years would probably humble me too.

I gave him the name of a social service agency. Hopefully, they can fix him up with a motorized wheelchair.

Like the surviving families of 9/11, he is handling the heavy burdens of past events in his life with humilty, dignity, and poise.

Just unbelievable to me. As I obsess over my little problems, and my own selfish desires, there are so many around me daily who remind me of what true courage is, what true humility is, and true humaneness is, I can't help but wonder how mankind has endured so much for so long just to survive on this rock of a planet we call Earth.

Oh, but for the grace of God, what would we do. What would we ever do?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Romanitas Press: A New Liturgical Media Publishing Company

Hello everyone. Today, I'd like to congratulate Mr. Louis Tofari on the grand opening of his brand new website, Romanitas Press. Romanitas, an apostolate of liturgical media for the Roman Liturgy, is led by Mr. Tofari, a professional graphic layout designer with many years of publishing experience. Romanitas is a source you may want to consider visiting often for your materials.

Mr. Tofari sent me a sample of his newly designed Server's Response Card. It is first-class quality and a very good piece of work. So, if you should need them, be sure to visit Romanitas.

Congratulations, Louis. May your publishing company and apostolate prosper for a very, very long time as you minister so well to others.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Downloadable Altar Cards

Hello everyone. Today, I would like to explain how to purchase and download altar cards and other materials from us in lieu of our standard shipping method. All of our Latin and English Mass materials and Prayer Prints are now available for download anywhere in the world. Priced at half the of cost of shipped products, you may find this a viable alternative for your needs.

Each file is in Adobe Reader PDF format and stored on the file sharing website, Google Docs. Merely set up PayPal and Google Gmail accounts and you're all set. (A Gmail account is necessary to use Google Docs.) First, make your selections from the catalog, next, from your Gmail account, send us an email to place your order, then submit payment to us, Myriad Creative Concepts, via PayPal, and we will send you an "invitation" to view, download, and print your order.

Please note that all of our altar cards are too large for printing on a personal computer except Letter Size Latin Altar Cards which are available for no charge by download. Also note that each order's prints contain a unique serial number watermark for identification. This prevents unauthorized mass reproduction of our copyrighted work.

Transfer your prints to a CD or Flash Drive and you can easily take them to your area printing company for professional printing. Then, take them to a quality framing shop and you're ready to go.

That's all there is to it. For more information, email us any time.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

A Few Broken Links

For you visiting us today, please note that links in previous posts to some of our product images have been broken temporarily because of site updating. However, if you click the Our Products links to the left, you will find that viewing the catalog and images is easier for you.

We found it necessary to do some organizing since English Mass materials have recently been added. Now, the English materials are in one folder and the Latin materials in another.

If you have any questions or require assistance, send me a note and I will assist.

Thanks for your patience.

Friday, September 5, 2008

How To Navigate This Business Blog

Hello everyone. Today, I'd like to explain to you why our blog business presence here is so unconventional. Standard business sites, as you know, contain links from their homepages to internal links of products and order forms. We are a small, grass-roots graphic design company that simply cannot afford business webhosting yet. So, we put up this blog that links to images of our work stored online at four popular photo sharing websites. Lastly, for inquiries and orders, we offer a simple email us option. For transactions, we prefer PayPal because orders and refunds can be performed very easily and securely. By year's end, we hope to put up a standard business website at

Although this method is unconventional, we do take our business seriously and wish to abide by traditional, tried and true business ethics of providing first class products, service, and warranty. Our business model is simple, based on the philosophy of John Wesley: "Earn all you can, save all you can, and give all you can." We try to provide priests the worldover great Latin and English altar cards and other materials they need to celebrate the Traditional Mass. So, please bear with us as we grow and learn.

This Blogger blog is the hub of our online "spokes" of online product image galleries that are constantly growing as we develop new projects. The photo sharing websites include Picasa, Flickr, Photobucket, and Zooomr. Even our catalog is stored online at these sites as pictures. Image galleries are great because newly released designs, like our line of Large Print Altar Cards, Standard Red and Standard Gray Requiem altar cards, and Anglican English altar cards can be found immediately via search engines. Then, when directed here, customers can visit our first-class retailers, Adoremus Books and Church Supply Warehouse, to review their listings. Many designs are so new that our retailers have not yet had a chance to list them for sale. But, if you see something you like, just ask about them at Adoremus or Wheaton Religious Gifts (Church Supply Warehouse). Or, you can purchase directly from us.

Recently, we have added spokes to our downloadable altar cards and materials in Google Docs. And, last but not least, we feature some great resource links and blogs you will surely find useful.

This set-up was the best way that we could think of to put up our business online at no-cost. If you have any trouble navigating, please write us and we will answer your questions.

Thanks again for your patience.

Monday, September 1, 2008

English Prayers At The Foot Of The Altar Cards Now Available

Hello everyone. By recent request, we have just completed designing an English Prayers At The Foot Of The Altar Card for the Anglican and Episcopal communities. To view a larger image of this card, click here. Like our Latin version for the Roman Catholic Tridentine Mass, this card features large, easy to read print.

Our recently designed English altar cards have been on the "boards" for months. We're pleased to have finally released them for you. Like many of our Latin cards, we will allow priests worldwide who cannot afford them to download them free of charge. Please click this link for details.

I'd like to personally thank Jonathan, the moderator of The Anglican Diaspora, for his warm welcome when I joined his forum requesting needed information. The forum is a wonderful source of community for Anglicans and Episcopalians. When you have some time, you may want to check it out.

Well, that's it for now. It's time for me to get some supper. Good evening, all.