San Antonio Graphic Design

By james | January 6, 2017 |

Case Study

We had an interesting request from a client at Briar Patch consulting. Our client was distraught over the construction plans proposed by his neighbor. The neighbor intended to build a large, two-story extension over his backyard garage. As you can see from the image below, the current garage has a minimal footprint and does little to obstruct his view.

San Antonio Graphic Design

Needless to say, when our client viewed his neighbors architectural drawings, he was compelled to take action. We were hired to create an accurate representation of what the new view would look like using the image above. The goal was to help the neighbor and the homeowner’s association understand the degree of obstruction and the potential loss of property value. There were several things we needed to accomplish in order to meet these goals.

Measurements and Reference Points

Using a copy of the architectural drawings, we were able gather the precise dimensions of the new structure. We also needed to get a reference point on the photo so the proper scale could be calculated. Luckily, we had access to a mathematician who helped us pinpoint the length and height of the structure, the roof-lines and the slope.

Alpha Channel

After establishing the reference points on the photo, we had to erase the area where the new structure would stand. The challenge was in keeping the large tree in the foreground. Photoshop and Gimp are great tools for graphic design. Personally, we use Gimp, simply because it’s free. Anyone who has worked on a project like this knows how time consuming it can be to etch out an alpha channel at the pixel level. Overall, the process took a little over an hour.

Building a New Garage

The garage had to be pieced together from three different photos. We needed a roof that sloped at the same approximate angle, white trim with gutters, and a brick wall of a similar color. Each image had to be sized, shaded and colored to match the proposed building. It’s important to note that our client wanted the image to look as realistic as possible.

Layers and Shading

The three images that formed the house were added as three separate layers inside the alpha channel. I had to darken the edges and add a slight blur effect to make the new building appear less stark inside the photo. Finally, I copied the tree inside the alpha channel and moved it to a new layer. Then I created a shadow for the tree. Here’s the final image:

San Antonio Graphic Design

San Antonio Graphic Design

Here are the two images side-by-side:

San Antonio Graphic Design

When our client saw the photo, he said, “That’s exactly what I was looking for. At Briar Patch Consulting, we pride ourselves in helping people on projects like these. If you need help from a San Antonio graphic design artist, give us a call @ (210) 390-4500. We also love designing new websites and running digital marketing campaigns. Finally, this project was just fun.

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Web Design Process, Part 2

By james | November 18, 2016 |

Web Design Process

The Web Design Process, Part 2

1. Written Content

Many of my clients loathe writing content for their webpages. Insert exclamation point here! Many web developers plead with business owners to provide them with written text describing their company. This includes the most basic stuff, like, the history of the organization and employee descriptions. Regardless, my personal experience is that most people hate to write. What to do?

Having published two books recently (with a contract for six more), I enjoy using my creative writing skills during the web design process. Blending the right words to create that perfect headline, or a compelling call to action is satisfying. Every writer dreams of producing something that people actually enjoy reading. With out a doubt, this drives their ambitions.

A friend of mine, who recently won the prestigious Christie Award in the category of fiction, had some brilliant insight on writing for clients. He said, “I started out as a journalist in a small town writing about everything from politics and religion, to crime and local sports.” He continued, “I didn’t know much about these areas until I learned how to interview people. I imagined myself as something like a WWII paratrooper. My job was to land on foreign soil, and if I wanted to survive, quickly discover the facts on the ground.”

2. My Approach

Surprisingly, anyone can write about someone’s business or product if they know how to gather the right information. Since I find what people do in life very interesting, this is not a challenge for me personally. Everyone has an interesting story and a core message. During the web design process, you need to draw these things out by encouraging them to talk about what they love. In fact, this is the kind of human interest material that keeps people engaged on a website. In the web design process, its a huge mistake to litter key words throughout a web page and hope that search engines will reward that site with top placement. If people do not stay engaged, they bounce away. And unfortunately, your webpage will suffer in ranking.

For example, in the roofing industry I discovered that “roof repair” was a frequent search phrase among homeowners with leaking roofs. Rather than write about how my clients were the best roof repair business, I described the experience of coming across a leak in your home. The page generated a huge amount of interest. And according to the analytics report, people stayed on the page long enough to read the story. As a result, the webpage ranked highly for that search phrase. My client earned a lot of money—success by most standards of measurement. To visit the page, click here.

3. Graphic Design

Our clients want their websites to look elegant and appealing. On the other hand, an ugly website will put a bad face on any company. It says to the potential customer, “This is the kind of service you can expect when doing business with us.” Many websites display clashing color palettes, over-sized images, poor load times, and cheesy logos. The old adage is, “A picture speaks a thousand words.” I would rephrase that by saying, “Poor graphic design will loose a thousand customers.”

Most importantly, hire someone who has an eye for design. While you may not be familiar with them, technical terms like: Layers, overlays, and opacity are the tools used by those of us who love digital artwork. Bottom line, possessing creative skills is an important quality in the web design process. And while creativity takes time, it’s critically important in developing the concept for the overall look of a website, especially if it’s being designed from scratch.

If you have a web design project you would like to talk to us about, please call, (210) 390-4500.

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Web Design Process

By james | November 14, 2016 |

web design process

The Web Design Process, Part 1

Whenever a client hires me to design a webpage for their business, I always begin with research. There are several things that I need to know about them before I write one line of code. While some of these steps may seem obvious, they have always inspired my clients to have confidence in my abilities.

1. I visit their business.

Not only do I want to know what they do, but I need to know what makes their company unique. Everyone has a special niche, whether that’s a product, a service or a core message. I remember working with a frozen yogurt company in San Antonio called Arctic Ape Yogurt. What I discovered is that their product and selection dwarfed any other frozen yogurt store in the area. The pictures I used in the graphic design phase, and in the content I wrote, called attention to this reality frequently.

2. I look for the key words people type into search engines.

AdWords is a useful tool to use during the web design process. It will tell you how many people are looking for your business category or services online. This removes all the guess work and actually corrects misguided assumptions. For instance, I designed a webpage for a church in San Antonio. While investigating, I discovered that people often search with the phrases, “Churches in San Antonio,” and “Churches near me.” Here is where written content matters most. Including these phrases throughout the website enabled us to take a small church that was virtually invisible online, and allow them to rank on the first page of Google. This is no small accomplishment given the fact that there are over 2,000 churches in the city.

3. I research the competition.

It’s a good practice to visit every webpage on the first page of the major search engines in order to discover how they got there. More importantly, I use “inspect elements” in Chrome to look at the tags and metadata. Not only that, but I also look for SEO tools they might be using. Perhaps one of the most revealing steps is to research their Domain Name and DNS settings. Often a company will rank well because they have been around for long time. Google’s algorithms seem to reward these companies. Even so, a new business can license their domain name for multiple years. This tells the search engines that you don’t plan to be a fly-by-night company. This is an often-overlooked and inexpensive way to help your SEO ranking during startup phase.

4. I design at their place of business.

It is not unusual for me to spend about 10% of my allotted time during the web design process with the clients. This practice has generated more positive comments than anything else I do. In fact, I’ve done this in some pretty hectic environments, i.e., music schools, restaurants, and even construction companies. The advantage I gain is receiving instant feedback from the owners and employees. Every web designer knows the pain of spending long hours on a brilliant concept only to have it rejected by the client. Miscommunication of ideas or expectations can be avoided sooner rather than later if you are getting input real-time.

Add your comments. I’d love to hear your feedback

To read part 2, click here.

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Church Web Design

By james | October 17, 2016 |

Church Web Design

Frustrated With Your Webpage?

Here’s a question we get asked a lot these days: “Why doesn’t our webpage look like yours?” That’s a good question considering that your homepage is the number one means of determining whether someone visits your church or not. Gone are the days of upgrading your Yellow Pages ad to 2X2″ and placing a grayscale photo in it.

You are now in competition with tech savvy Millennials who know more about web design and Social Media than you know about the minor prophet Joel. Perhaps you had a freelance computer geek in your fellowship who did the best job he or she could do under the circumstances. You may have even paid high-dollar for someone to design your site a few years back. But guess what? The world is moving faster now than ever.

Graphic design and the clothing you purchase have a lot in common. The styles change every two years. Templates that are used for webpages are getting more powerful, stylish and appealing every year. Whatever template your developer used a few years ago is already outdated.

Church Web Design Secrets

Allow us to share a few secrets about about designing a webpage for a church. The first thing you need to consider is that most church websites look alike. Nearly everyone copies the same logical progression for presenting their church to the public. Don’t make this mistake and you already have an advantage. When you surf the average church webpage, it looks something like this: “We have a music ministry, a children’s program, a youth ministry, a staff and some media. Click on our links, and we’ll show you all the times we meet, and how awesome it would be for you to try us out.” Blah, blah, blah. It all looks like a souped-up church newsletter, and we’re being kind.

Do you want to set your church apart from the parade? Do you believe that you are any different from the church down the street? If so, here are some things to consider. First of all, the lead pastor needs to take a high degree of interest in developing the webpage. This is true regardless of how creative your web designer is. He can’t put your heart, your vision, or your voice into the overall look of your webpage if he doesn’t have access to it. The most important sermon you are preaching to the watching world right now is preceded by a www. So guard your webpage like you do your pulpit.

Church Web Design Consultants

Secondly, while your web designer probably knows a lot about hosting and html, in most cases, he doesn’t know much about church, theology or you personally. You need someone to guide you in how to present what you have to say. I can’t emphasize this next point enough. It’s critically important for you to get your message and branding out there in a visually compelling way. There will never be another soul born on the planet who is just like you. If what makes you special in God’s creation can’t be seen or read on your webpage, it’s a crying shame. You only have one life to live and one ministry race to run. As the Apostle Paul said, “Run to win.”

Thirdly, your church members need to be taught how important it is to use the social media tools that we will build into your webpage. Nearly every member of your congregation has a social media platform. Are you leveraging this for the glory of God? You should be, because it’s the new evangelism. Are you giving them the tools to drive people to your webpage? Do you know there are things that you can do to increase the likelihood that your webpage will come up more often in Google’s search engine results?

OK, they didn’t teach you this stuff in seminary. But that church meeting in the coffee shop down the street is the wave of the future. They get it, and if you’re not speaking their language, an extinction class meteorite is about to slam into the atmosphere of your church. Don’t be a dinosaur.

DNA & Church Web Design

Briar Patch Consulting has a team of creative people who rock at web design. They understand how to pull the DNA out of your church and place it into your webpage. If you hire us to help you in this, the first thing we will ask you to do is start writing. Get out a piece of paper, a pen and write down WHY you have given your whole life for the cause of Jesus Christ. Tell us what you want your church to be in the future. Write with the kind of passion that King David and the Apostle Paul wrote when they were moved by the Holy Spirit. Lay it all out there and put some guts into what you have to say. Shoot clean and straight and don’t mince words. Somewhere there is a fire burning within you. That’s what we want your city to see whenever they visit: we’re kickin’ the devil’s

Church web design is our specialty.

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Organizional Values

By james | October 15, 2016 |

ministry values

Our Shared Values

1. Compassion Minded

One of the most encouraging things in life is to be seen and understood. Unfortunately, most people are so consumed with their own problems that they fail to notice yours. And by the way, if you’re in the ministry, you’re not supposed to have any problems. Right?

If you are a pastor, I know there are some Sunday’s where you have walked away from the pulpit wondering what went wrong. Next week you’ll try harder. So you end up wearing Monday through Saturday like a monkey on your back. The stress of performing up to everyone’s expectations is overwhelming at times.

Then there are those moments when you feel good on the inside. Everything seems to be going your way. All it takes to mess that up is a finance meeting or checking your email. You expected the world to give you grief when you entered the ministry, but not church members.

If anything I have said is resonating within you, then you need someone who is approachable and available. You need someone who will listen to your story, and pardon the cliché, feel your pain. I love what the Bible says about Jesus in Matt. 9:36, “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.”

Jesus was compassion minded. We are inspired by this trait so much that it’s our first priority, and one of our strongest values. Simply stated, it’s our joy to share the “mind of Christ” with you.

2. Creative Design

We were made in the image of our Creator, so our capacity to express this attribute of God is hardwired into our DNA. A creative mind normally possesses these two traits. The first is freedom. In other words, a creative soul is free from the distractions that seek to hold it hostage. Worry, fear and depression are chief among these. They are fierce enemies of a creative mind. The people with a high capacity for creativity have learned to deal with these threats quickly.

Secondly, a creative mind is a wandering mind. It’s energy is derived from such activities as meditation and imagination. It was Einstein who said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” So there you have it. The most brilliant physicist of modern times may have also been the most creative and imaginative.

Most churches don’t know what to do with the human imagination, and their leaders struggle to implement creative ideas. I actually have a theory about why this is so. It’s a given that Satan hates God. But he also hates us because we were made in His image. When we express any of the attributes of God, like creativity, he attacks us with the full force of hell. It’s the devil’s way of getting even. If you don’t believe me, watch very carefully what happens the next time you start moving toward artistry and originality.

Blessed are those who have the conviction and the courage to express their creativity in ministry. I applaud you for staying in the battle. Creativity matters to the Creator. He blesses it because it reveals the glorious side of His nature. The sheer beauty of creation lets me know that God values creativity.

One of the ways we can help you is by evaluating the level of creativity being expressed in your ministry. We have a keen eye for the artistic side of things, and a powerful sense of smell for the things that are worn out and decaying. We can give you both input and ideas on how to make progress. Our tool bag includes things like web design to capital campaigns that are specifically designed for your vision, voice, and ministry.

Let me give you an analogy that spells out the difference between us and the rest of the pack. Compare it to buying clothes. When you go to a department store to find something to wear, most of the cloths on the rack are not going to fit you… and most won’t look good either. It may take some time to find something you like. But if you go to a tailor, he or she will personally measure your one-of-a-kind-body. At Briar Patch, we tailor our designs for the body of Christ that meets at your church. Not someone else’s. We care about the way you look when it’s all said and done.

3. Fearless Focus

Many people run away from problems. I remember someone saying once, “Never trouble trouble until trouble troubles you.” It may sound good, but I couldn’t disagree with that statement more. Why? Simply because problems don’t go away on their own. They stick around, feed, burp, grow and reproduce.

To solve a problem you’ve got to run into it head on. The element of surprise is one of your greatest advantages. Be fearless when you arrive and keep your gaze fixed on the problem. If there’s one thing that I know about problems, whether it’s a broken process or a messed up person, focusing on it does more good than ignoring it.

If we have a chance to meet, I’ll show you my scars. I had to learn this one the hard way.

The problems we tend to avoid are the ones that have the strongest emotions attached to them. People react strongly whenever they are called out for misbehaving. You’ll also get “blessed out” by people who don’t want to let go of a particular ministry, especially if it enables them to feel good about themselves, even if no one else is getting blessed in the deal.

I call this “the reality of your calling.” Think about Moses, Jeremiah, and yes, even Jesus. I don’t know of anyone who gets a pass on this one.

So what can you do? Intensify your focus on the problem. Fearlessly crank up the light. Better yet, get the biggest spotlight you can find. Then get another set of eyeballs from the outside to look at it too. The main thing that separates true leaders from wannabes is a bedrock conviction that I call “fearless focus.” And one more thing, all great leaders recruit people to help them find solutions to their problems. You don’t have to face the battle alone.

If your mind is already starting to focus on something that needs to change or just go away, that’s pretty awesome. The only mistake you can make at this point is to let the problem fester until the pain it creates forces you to take action. It’s like a decaying tooth. It’s only going to get worse. So act now. Filling a cavity is less painful than a root canal.

Send me an email. I’ll let you know if I can help you.

4. Unflinching Honesty

You deserve the unfiltered truth about your current situation. Whether it’s an opportunity or a crisis, as a leader you need and deserve the facts. Given the nature of church work, this kind of information is not so easy to come by. There are two main reasons why this is true.

First, most people are reluctant, even somewhat fearful of saying what’s on their mind to a leader. But that doesn’t mean they’re not talking about it. There just not sharing it with you. Other people will hear all about it first. This never feels fair to you personally, especially when it circulates throughout the fellowship before you catch wind of it. This may be one of the reasons that Chuck Swindoll wrote a book back in the 90’s called, “The Lonely Whine of the Top Dog.” Leadership can be lonely because everyone acts differently when they are around you. As they say, “It is what it is.”

Secondly, the average church member places the pastor and staff on pedestal—a higher spiritual plane than they will ever achieve. From a theological perspective, we know this is wrong. But it’s reality. You live in a spiritual bubble that they’ve created for you. The vast majority are afraid to be disagreeable in your presence. This is why there is so much passive aggressive behavior in the average church.

I know what I’ve just written sounds negative. I’m just being honest with you. The reality is that you need to get the most accurate information available so that you can deal with it from God’s perspective. A good consultant is skilled at mining information by asking the important questions.

But for heaven’s sake, and for the future of your ministry, don’t bring someone in who isn’t your personal advocate. If I can’t be that for you, I’ll fire myself. You won’t have too. Don’t let a committee pick a consultant. Can I say that again? Don’t let a committee lead the charge of bringing someone in that you know little about. You can delegate a lot of things as a leader, but if you delegate this, you are playing Russian roulette. I’m speaking from personal experience here.

If you bring me in to help solve a problem or run a capital campaign, I’ll give you this commitment. I have no hidden, self-serving agendas. I’m not so much concerned about making a living as I am living Christ’s life with complete integrity.

5. Fiercely Competitive

Everywhere you turn, life is filled with competition. Consider how much we see on a daily basis: Football, basketball, baseball, ESPN, “The Biggest Loser,” “The Next Food Network Star,” “Survivor,” and “The Apprentice.” Most people are OK with the realities of competition in the workplace or at school, but not in their church.

The reality is that the Apostle Paul was one of the most competitive people who ever lived. Consider these verses:

Phil. 3:14 (NIV) I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

1 Cor. 9:22a (NIV) To the weak I became weak, to win the weak.

1 Cor. 9:24 (NIV) Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize.

1 Cor. 9:27 (NIV) No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

Gal. 2:2b (NIV) I wanted to be sure I was not running and had not been running my race in vain.

2 Tim. 4:7 (NIV) I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

There is no greater competition than of the struggle for the souls of men. We should approach this as a win or lose, winner-take-all scenario. Paul considered himself a “debtor” to those who had never heard the gospel. He was willing to be damned himself, “anathema,” if it could lead to the salvation of his Jewish brothers and sisters.

I don’t know how you feel about the competitive spirit, but I believe its one of the top values of people who change their world. I want you to win. I want your church to win. I look forward to hearing from you.

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Helping Churches Thrive

By james | October 15, 2016 |

Helping Churches Thrive

Are You Thriving Or Merely Surviving?

The primary goal of Briar Patch Consulting is “Helping Churches Thrive.” That may sound complex on the surface, but we understand the challenges involved in this arena. For instance, many churches have either plateaued or are in various stages of decline. The macro trends indicate that the majority of churches are treading water. People are fed up with hypocrisy in the pews, fraud in the pulpit, “religion as politics,” and old-school denominations. And who can blame them. You probably feel the same way too.

Even as the world has changed, our message is still the same. And while it’s supposed to be “good news,” it’s not viewed that way anymore by the average unchurched man or woman. So what’s the solution? It’s may not be as difficult as you imagine. In fact, here’s the key: Stop spending all your energy merely trying to survive!

The Spinning Plate Syndrome

You’re probably thinking to yourself, “Every day is about figuring out how to keep all the plates spinning.” There are meetings galore, finances to monitor, staff to keep focused, disgruntled members to soothe, events to plan, and the list goes on. It’s really no fun, and you’re probably tired of living your life this way. We can tell you our own tales about going to the church office on Monday morning and praying that Jesus would return within the hour.

Here’s the reality. This is a defeatist way to live and serve God. There’s nothing more draining than trying to survive. You weren’t meant to live this way. The Bible is filled with promises about God prospering you, walking in victory, living a Spirit-filled life and being more than a conqueror.This is why “helping churches thrive is so important to us.

Our hope for you is that you spend some time trying to figure out what you want to do in the ministry, and embrace the courage to launch a new beginning. This is where Briar Patch Consulting enters the picture. We are thinkers and strategists, listeners, fiercely competitive, and a quick to make friends. We see where you are because we’ve been there before ourselves. And more importantly, we know the way back home.

New Beginnings

For instance, think of when you were first called by God to enter the ministry. The experience was fresh, exciting, and you were filled with a fire in your bones. But over time, these things were beaten out of you. Sadly, now you’re merely surviving. We would like to help you stop living this way, and learn how to start over fresh and new. Even more importantly, God desires this for you, too.

Let us help you navigate the path to rekindle your vision. Call or send us an email, and let’s begin a conversation. It’s no accident that you found our website. You might even call it a tiny miracle. Helping churches thrive is a passion for us.

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The Origin Of Our Name

By james | October 1, 2016 |

Briar Patch Consulting Name

Br’er Rabbit

One of my favorite memories from childhood is the story about Br’er Fox and Br’er Rabbit, told by Uncle Remus. Over the years, this parable has served as a guidepost, both in the business world and in ministry. I think you might like it too.

Br’er Fox wanted to bring an end to Br’er Rabbit, so he set up a trap made of black tar. It was fashioned into the shape of a cute little baby, thus the phrase “tar baby.” When Br’er Rabbit came across this odd sight in the middle of the road, he thought the tar baby was being intentionally rude. The tar baby didn’t speak to him or even acknowledged his presence. Impulsively, he kicked it with his feet and grabbed it with his hands. Of course, he got stuck. The outcome was just what Br’er Fox had hoped would happen.

When Br’er Rabbit realized that he had been tricked by Br’er Fox, he quickly scrambled for a way to survive. So he pleaded, “You can kill me. You can eat me. But please don’t throw me into the briar patch.” The fox swallowed the proverbial hook, line and sinker, and tossed the rabbit into the thicket. Only when he saw the rabbit cleaning the tar out of his fur and prancing along on his merry way did he realize that he had been duped.

Br’er Rabbit survived because the Briar Patch was the place where he thrived.

There are several themes in this story that are common to the kind of experiences we’ve all had in life. Let’s be honest. You’ve faced a few foxes that were out to get you. There have been some traps set along your path, either by your enemies or those who played on their team. I’m sure you’ve even been deceived a time or two. And yet, you are still here. Now you’ve found your way into the BriarPatch. Congratulations!

Do you know what helps most when you are deep in the weeds trying to figure out a problem or struggling to come up with a solution? First, consulting with someone who’s already been there before. And secondly, someone who loves jumping into the briar patch with another human being. You see this type of reality in the Bible. It’s precisely why the relationship between Paul and Timothy worked so well. I can think of other examples too. David and Jonathan knew what it was like to land in the briar patch.

Bottom line… the name of our business means something to us. This makes it kind of Hebraic in a sense. Briar Patch Consulting is about helping businesses and churches thrive. You’ve probably already seen this on our homepage. Contact us and you’ll see it in action. No kidding!

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