The story behind our wheel light

If you’ve visited our studio, you may have noticed the light fixture that hangs from the ceiling in our entryway. 

When we were decorating the office, we must have bought (and returned) four or five different lights. Some were too big, others too small. Some weren’t going to be bright enough and others looked fine at the store but just didn’t fit the vibe of the new space when we hung them here.

Frustrated, we moved on focus to other details knowing we’d eventually find the right fit. 

A short while later, while organizing my shop, I came across a bicycle wheel my son and I had found at the curb in the trash while out on a walk. You could tell it had been well used and probably wouldn’t safely function any more but that didn’t stop us from carrying it home that day. At the time, I wasn’t sure what I would eventually do with it, but knew I might kick myself later for leaving it there. 

I brought the wheel up to the studio entrance and held it in place above my head. It was the right size! it perfectly fit the space and wasn’t too “heavy” for the room. My son, Caleb, and I scrounged around at the local hardware store for some “L” brackets, bulb bases, flat black spray paint and wire. When it was finished and hung in place, it couldn’t have been a better fit for the space. 


It’s been hanging in our entryway for about five years. Everyone who comes to our studio is welcomed by the warm glow of its vintage-inspired Edison bulbs. It’s a constant reminder to us that:

  1. The best solutions can’t be bought off the shelf, and just because it looks great somewhere else, design is personal and it doesn’t necessarily work everywhere. Truly unique design solutions happen when you take the time to dig through your resources to find the best solution for the problem. 

  2. The people who are welcomed to our studio are friends, fellow creative partners, and beloved clients. The spokes represent the people who make the design happen, who come to gather here from around the city to brainstorm and imagine possibilities. The bright bulbs remind me of the ideas that come from that collaboration and the warmth and welcome created by a job well done. 

Always in Tandem means working together with an incredible team and amazing clients to create something brilliant! It’s nice to have a daily reminder to walk past each and every day. 

In praise of white space & blank slates

I LOVE this post written by my Podcast partner Thad DeVassie for the Joy Venture Blog. You can read the original post and others like it here.


The designer refers to it as white space.

The architect: open space.

The artist: a clean slate.

The writer: a blank page.

Others may call it wasted or dead space.

And when the critics are looking over your shoulder as you contemplate your space, they might be the ones calling it out as under-designed, writers block, inefficient, or unfinished.


Space: an invitation with deep-seated fear

Many of us feel compelled to fill our space. We’ve bought into the idea that this it is what’s required of us. We’ve been led to believe that to behold the blank, dead, empty, open or white space somehow signals that we’re lazy or unproductive. Too often the result is that we act out of fear.

Instead we should be embracing what is not yet on the invisible sketch canvas of what’s to come. That is the invitation to discovering new-found joy.

Recently we embraced this invitation and went on a brief hiatus from Joy Venture (it’s our second such break since starting JV). In this downtime when we weren’t concerned with pushing out the next podcast, we had space to think about and do – other things. Things that were necessary, things that stretched us, and things that demanded out attention. But just as important, no thing at all. The idea of setting up margin in your life – not feeling compelled to fill your space, your calendar, your social feed, etc. – and leaving room to breathe, think about and pursue different ideas is important. These are themes worth touching on as we move forward.


Risks and rewards of exploring the space

Specifically we used our blank and empty space since November to scrutinize Joy Venture. There was real risk in confronting the fact that this thing we’ve poured ourselves into might have run its course – and we needed to wrestle with that reality.

  • Should we continue?

  • If so, where do we go next?

  • How might we do new and different things?

  • How do we stay true to Joy Venture’s purpose while also pursuing new voices and ideas?

 We also had to push back against conventional wisdom, which suggested we were foolish to “go dark” without new content for months. What about our followers? What about momentum? What about the timely posts you need to stay relevant? What about securing a sponsor to help us grow, grow, grow? 

To us, and specifically for the podcast, relevance has more to do with real interactions than it does regular rhythms to catch a surfing audience. We cannot do this for the likes and shares. We’re unable to run on the infinite treadmill of production and find joy in that kind of effort. We know that for most things in life less is more. We tend to cherish what’s finite versus what is in abundance all around us. We believe the work must resonate at a deeper level for people, ourselves included.

While we do look at our analytics, we hold dear the responses we get from people who take time to send us a thoughtful note. Those individual pieces of feedback obliterate how we think about the algorithms of visibility, should we ever feel tempted to allow data to dictate our joy.


Questions to contemplate

But this isn’t about us. This invitation also is for you, friend and follower. So we ask you, the individual who is at least moderately intrigued with this idea of discovering joy –

  • Have you embraced the white, blank, empty, open and dead space in your life? Why not?

  • Have you been feverishly filling your spaces out of obligation? Why?

  • Will you accept the invitation that space affords and create margin in the months ahead to see what you can begin to draft on the invisible sketch canvas?

  • What do you want to create that you’ve been afraid to pursue? What’s holding you back from taking the initial steps?


The space and time away from Joy Venture these past months confirmed its value for us, especially as others continue to discover what we’re up to and choose to listen and lean in. It has renewed us and refreshed some of our thinking about where we go from here.

All this to say, our hiatus has been rewarding and we’re ready to return to the podcast this spring with new episodes of insight and extraordinary individuals. We hope it will be the inspiration and encouragement you need to step off the treadmill of production to pursue things that matter.

Thank you for your ongoing encouragement of us as we pursue this endeavor in hopes of helping others discover, develop and spread their joy.


Strike while the iron is hot

strike while the iron is hot.jpg

Everything I remember from school I learned on field trips. 

Growing up south of Detroit, there was always an annual class trip to Greenfield Village. Henry Ford, distraught about the destruction of historical buildings (especially the homes and laboratories of America’s great writers and inventors), created a place in Dearborn, Michigan where he collected, lovingly restored, and put them on display for all to visit. I still take my family there every couple of years when we travel north.

To little me, visiting Edison’s lab and riding a Model T was fun, but I most looked forward to visiting the operating blacksmith shop. Our class would pile in from the cold and you could smell the soot and feel the heat from the forge. The blacksmith would then take several minutes to show us what he was working on and explain his process as well as share the history behind the career and life of a blacksmith in the early 1800s. Little me got impatient and really wanted to see him start banging on glowing red metal and watching the sparks fly!

I often hear the saying “strike while the iron is hot” when referring to making an immediate decision. Merriam Webster’s dictionary defines this saying as “to do something immediately while there is still a good chance to do it.” There is a notion of impatience to the context we typically use it in, and I think we have missed the message completely. 

Eight-year-old Jeremy wanted to see sparks fly. But, looking back, I now realize that our blacksmith friend was buying time while the irons in the fire were heating to the correct temperature. He would check them and carefully turn them as he talked and only when they were glowing the perfect shade of bright orangy-red, did he pull them from the fire with confidence and start working the soft metal to our amazement.

Striking while the iron’s hot is not about acting quickly or impulsively. It’s about having the patience to begin the creative process when have the information needed to do it right. Any sooner and the metal is not malleable and won’t bend or twist the way it should. As a designer this means asking the right questions and really taking time to check the project and turn things over until you know that the glowing red creative opportunity is the perfect color. 

As a young designer, I often found myself jumping to early conclusions and doing a lot of busywork sketching ideas and working on concepts. Nowadays, I often get asked if I have any ideas after having a brief introduction to the project. Honestly, I don’t. I have learned to wait for the right time to strike. This is also why we don’t work on projects that haven’t been put through the fire. I get this email a lot: “I have an idea for a logo for my company and I’m looking for someone to design it for me.” My answer is always “no, but I’m happy to go through the creative process and create something that’s right for you.”

Recently, I broke my own rule. At a new client’s request, I accepted a project where I knew that some of the key stakeholders would not be available for me to meet with. They were “too busy.” I still knowingly took the job and I lived to regret that decision. Projects like these remind me that cold metal doesn’t bend. It breaks. Another lesson learned the hard way. 

Speaking with another recent client, I asked why they chose to work with us given the other agencies he reached out to. His response, “You were the only one who insisted on flying across the country to visit with us in person. You demonstrated a desire to really get to know us.”

The name Slagle literally means “hammer.” At our studio, the sparks don’t fly until the iron is glowing just right.

Slagle Design wins four awards at Creative Best 2018

Last week, Slagle Design won four awards at CSCA’s Annual Creative Best Awards, including three “Awards of Excellence” and a “Judges Choice” by the talented Abby Haddican of Werner Design Werks in St. Paul MN!

Judges’ Choice:

Wooly Pig Farm Brewery

Special Thanks to:
Thad DeVassie of Ratchet Strategy and Communications
Chris Myers of Verb Garden, Inc.
Our clients, for entrusting us with their brands!

Recent Project: Tiffin University Rebrand


Challenge Conventional Wisdom

Slagle Design, in partnership with Ratchet Strategy + Communication recently completed a rebrand for Tiffin University. It was a pleasure working with their team to reimagine their brand identity and help them tell their story on a new way.

Our project covered logo and brand identity, strategy and communications, new tagline, admissions view book, application to printed materials, video production and photography.


“Thad and Jeremy were a pleasure to work with. Their respective talents provide a comprehensive marketing messaging approach and they are adaptable and flexible. They truly immerse themselves in their client’s organizational culture to find the messaging brand that most authentically represents that organization.
I highly recommend them!”

—Dr. Lillian Schumacher, President of Tiffin University

TU Viewbook mockup8.jpg
Banner mockups.jpg
TU Viewbook mockup.jpg
TU Viewbook mockup2.jpg
TU Viewbook mockup3.jpg
TU Viewbook mockup5.jpg
TU Viewbook mockup6.jpg
TU Viewbook mockup7.jpg

Chin Up, Chinchilla: Launching on Kickstarter today!

Tandem_tranparent BG@2x.png

I’ve always wanted to illustrate a children’s picture book. 

Two years ago, I was hanging with my friend Ben Stafford at the Creative South Conference and he showed me some concept sketches for a really cute book written by his wife, Beth. The drawings were great and he was really excited about the project. I have to be honest and say I was a bit jealous. I remember telling myself that my opportunity would come along someday.

Fast forward about a year, we hosted Ben and Beth on our Joy Venture Podcast (you can listen to the episode here). After the interview, Thad, Ben and Beth and I grabbed some tacos at Condado (YUM!) and the conversation turned towards childrens’ books. Beth looked at Ben, then looked at me and asked if I would illustrate their book! I was shocked. Ben is an amazing illustrator! I didn't even pause. "Absolutely! I’ll do it!" 

That was last November and here we are in mid-August, finally ready to release the book. It was far more time-consuming than I had anticipated. Far more difficult and way more rewarding. I started with pencil and paper to rethink the characters and even the style I would create them in. I wanted to push myself to do something different. I’m really happy with the results. 

So today, we release it into the world to see if people think it’s as great as we do. I feel nervous, exposed, and downright terrified. But I know I have done my best, and I learned a lot in the process. I will likely never earn back the hours I put into this book but it has brought me a lot of joy. Working with the Staffords had been a real pleasure and I would do it again in a heartbeat. I’m so thankful for the opportunity. I got to do a children’s book!

Hopefully, in 30 days, when the Kickstarter campaign is over, I will look back at this post and remember that–funded or failed—it was the process of creating that brought me joy, regardless of the outcome. 

The Chin Up, Chinchilla Kickstarter Campaign will be running from August 15 through September 14, 2018. If you like what you see, please consider buying a book or four. Christmas is just around the corner!

JOY VENTURE | Brad & Krystal Woodard on what it means to “Brave the Woods”

The one thing we’ve learned about our business is that no one is going to come to you and say “Oh, you want to do a children’s book, here you go” or “Oh, you want to teach or speak more, here you go.” If we want to do it, we’ve got to make it happen.
— KRYSTAL WOODARD, Brave the Woods

In order to brave the woods successfully, you’d better walk into them with a plan, some goals and the right tools. It’s not an analogy on how to work with Brad and Krystal Woodard, owners of Brave the Woods, but rather a mindset of how they look to build a family-run business that’s going to fulfill and stretch them in all the right ways. 

Brad is the face and accomplished designer behind their action-oriented moniker while Krystal keeps all things non-design running and mapping out the journey, quick to push Brad out of his comfort zone for the sake of growing. 

This Boise, Idaho duo stopped in Columbus as part of a cross-country workshop tour and talked with us about what motivates them and how they are motivating others. From Kickstarting a children’s book to support victims of Typhoon Haiyan in The Philippines, to crowdsourcing Artists for Education with educational design for teachers to use in the classroom -- doing good and building community are part and parcel of their craft. It’s those brave and unselfish acts that are key to their success and opening up opportunities that fuel their business, which also reveal new ways to do meaningful work and have a positive impact on others. 

JOY VENTURE | Kevin Ely on honing his craft (beer)

I brew beer that I like to drink, and I like to share that. Not that we won’t have 12 percent alcohol beers that knock you over, but that’s not our forte. We’re trying to brew delicate beers. I think simple and subtle can be very powerful.
— KEVIN ELY, Founder & Brewmaster, The Wooly Pig Farm Brewery

Kevin Ely knows beer. And now he knows how to build a brewery — quite literally by hand.

Kevin's story is a pivot of a different nature. Previously the brewmaster at Uinta Brewing, a nationally recognized craft brewery in Salt Lake City, Kevin and his wife Jael Malenke decided to move back to her hometown in Fresno and purchase a farm.

Fresno, Ohio that is.   

Armed with a degree in brewing science from UC Davis (yes, there is such a degree), Kevin is no hobbyist. Beer is indeed his career and he's a recurring judge at the annual Great American Beer Festival. Kevin shares with us his decision to start his own brewery in Ohio, the importance that family and community played in that decision, and why starting a farm brewery in a rural patch of rolling hills just made sense. Curly haired mangalitsa pigs ("wooly" pigs) that inspired the name actually roam his farmland and are visible from his taproom patio with cold beer in hand. It's both idyllic and intentional; it's also indicative of everything about this brewery. From the quirky name to the German-Bavarian style of beers he chooses to brew, down to his hand-made and hand-planed taproom — all of it is crafted with purpose and a story behind it. 

JOY VENTURE | John Robinson on shifting gears

There were seeds being planted suggesting ‘maybe I’m not living the life I’m supposed to be living.’ But I didn’t know at that time what it was or how I was going to do it... and so I found myself in that rut again.
— JOHN ROBINSON, Founder Johnny Velo Bikes

When you're a top performer in your industry, you don't think much about making significant career changes. That is until you find you're spending too much time from home, or realize that your performance alone can't save your job.

John takes us through a bumpy ride from the mountaintop peaks and through deep valleys of his life in corporate banking, revealing just how hard things can get before admitting some sort of change needs to happen. It's a story we believe will resonate with many.  

By the time John fights back the tears at the end of the podcast, hearing his decision to start Johnny Velo Bikes seems obvious and evident. His connection to bikes, cancer (as a survivor himself), community, and the surprise opportunity to finally become an entrepreneur are tailor-made for this story. But to seize it, to fully own it, he had live it out. And that's the hard part.

In retrospect, John just might tell you this was the most challenging ride he's ever been on — but also the one he was meant to travel.