‘Tis the season for chilly weather and something hot in your hands. Kansas City does not leave you hanging when you’re on the hunt for a pick-me-up. The TCD team got together and compiled a list of our top 5 coffee shops:

1. The Filling Station

With three uniquely designed locations, Kansas Citians love to “fill up” at The Filling Station, and so do we. This converted auto garage is often described as “bright” for its open lighting and rise-and-shine drinks. It’s efficient for those in need of a quick refuel, and welcoming for those running on empty.

The Westport location, with a drive thru, scores top points for convenience, and the Midtown stop, The Filling Station’s main location, offers a nice space to meet up with friends. Grab a coffee, or indulge in the delicious burritos, which are served all day. Whatever your mood, The Filling Station is guaranteed to satisfy your routine maintenance.

2. The Roasterie

Known for its air-roasted coffee, The Roasterie delivers a consistent coffee experience in each of its Kansas City locations. Its friendly baristas understand the art and flavor of coffee, crafting a well-blended cup time and time again. Pair it with a slice of coffeecake or Christopher Elbow Chocolates (a delicacy the Brookside and Leawood locations flaunt over their sibling stores) to jumpstart your morning or treat yourself after a day at the office.

Inside the shop with the iconic airplane as its steeple, coffee aficionados can visit The Roasterie factory every day of the week. Touring the Kansas City, Missouri, coffeehouse has become a local bucket list essential. After an educational lesson on the roasting process and the almost 40-year history of founder Danny O’Neill’s brainchild, guests enjoy free pour-over samples. Score.

3. Thou Mayest Coffee Roasters

Decked with wood and metal everything, this hip café and bar invites you into a relaxing, creative space. The coffee is smooth, and each sip is perfectly balanced. Thou Mayest promotes its adventurous spirit with coffee blends that speak to each kind of voyager, such as Smooth Operator and Wild Child.

Get in quick, because the place fills up fast. Sit on the main level, explore the upstairs lounge, or grab a seat on the patio. No matter the spot, Thou Mayest is a cozy gathering for friends or a serene scene for solitude.

4. Monarch Coffee

Midtown’s newest coffee shop is the talk of the town. Since opening its doors in May 2017, Monarch has been bustling with traffic. Housed in The Ambassador, at Broadway and Knickerbocker Streets, Monarch showcases a brilliantly white interior, further enhanced by incoming light from its floor-to-ceiling windows. Accents of black, gold, and mint add retro hints to a modern, clean, classic space. Cool, calm, and collected, Monarch baristas are ready to serve, carefully preparing excellent coffee while you settle into your place. Order a homemade donut for an even sweeter combination.

A distinct draw, Monarch offers a small event space in its lower level, The Drawing Room. Rent the room for art workshops, classes, and small parties.

5. The Michka Compound

You are likely unfamiliar with this family-friendly joint, as it is the home of your favorite TCD duo, Ron and Angela Michka. Since investing in a home espresso machine (the Breville BES870XL Barista Express, to be exact), Ron began his barista training, concocting super espressos, mochas, and the like. His kids especially reap the benefits of morning mochas prepared by dad, and his neighbors love to sneak over for an espresso nightcap.

While these 5 hit the top of our list, we also know you can’t go wrong with Parisi Artisan Coffee, Quay Coffee, and Oddly Correct (to name a few more). Wherever you choose, be sure to invite us, because we always love an excuse to drink more coffee.

Posted on: November 8th, 2017 by Laura Uber


In January 2016, ScaleUP! Kansas City welcomed 16 local business entrepreneurs, one of them being TCD’s Principal/Creative Director Ron Michka, to its third cohort.

ScaleUP! KC is funded by the U.S. Small Business Administration and facilitated by staff at The Kauffman Foundation. The program provides entrepreneurs with tools and resources to take their businesses to the next level, with an eye toward growth in sales and profitability.

Ron applied for the ScaleUP! KC program in November 2015, and The Creative Department, Inc., was selected to participate in this elite cohort of growth-oriented businesses. Over the course of four months, Ron collaborated with 15 other business owners and received specialized consulting from local business mentors and subject matter experts.

“A big part for most people, as it was for me, was taking time to step back and work on the business, not just in the business,” Ron said. “Running a business and being good at something are not the same thing. I had to take time to make that transition from being a good creative director to a good business manager.”

A big part . . . was taking time to step back and work on the business, not just in the business.

He likened the experience to that of getting a “mini MBA,” as the group learned more about finances and business management strategies.

“Learning about and connecting with business and financial resources was very helpful. Our peer-to-peer roundtables were the best, as we all shared similar business hurdles and were able to share solutions with each other,” Ron said. “I’m so grateful for the ScaleUP! experience.”

Ron continues to attend ScaleUP! events and meet with some of his original cohorts over coffee. Members of the group share business challenges and exchange strategies for growth and improvement.

On September 21, 2017, Ron attended ScaleUP! Kansas City’s sixth cohort graduation. He heard presentations from most of the cohorts and enjoyed conversation with current participants, ScaleUP! leaders, and other alumni.

Congratulations to the sixth cohort graduates, and best of luck on your business endeavors!

Read more about Ron’s cohort group, here.

Find out if ScaleUP! is a good next step for you and your business, here.

Posted on: September 22nd, 2017 by Laura Uber


You don’t need another statistic to be convinced of the commonality of smartphones, but if you did, we’d tell you 77% of Americans are smartphone owners. On top of that, mobile devices dominate online minutes. That’s why it’s more important than ever that your website is responsive, meaning that your site responds by adapting its design for varying devices’ screen sizes. If your website isn’t tailored to meet user expectations on phone browsers, you can bet your bottom dollar that your web traffic is going to take a serious hit.

Here are 3 ways your website might be warding off visitors:

1. Content is hard to see.

You undoubtedly know the frustration of the monotonous “pinch and zoom” to move around a page that’s not designed for mobile viewing. The browser extends beyond the width of your screen, and you’re required to swipe across and over to read long lines of copy. No one enjoys this experience. And as annoying as it is for your users, it’s hurting your brand as well.

Half of users abandon sites that aren’t responsive on mobile phones even if they like the company (Mobile Marketing). By the same token, half of users said they wouldn’t do business with companies with non-responsive sites. Wonder why this lack of responsiveness is so offensive to users? Over a third who visit sites that aren’t mobile-friendly feel they’ve wasted their time. (While these stats are consumer-focused, they offer relevant insights for B2B companies.) The lack of ease immediately tells your customers that you don’t care enough to make your site accessible for them.

Enhance legibility. A responsive site is easy to see on mobile devices. Adjust type and image sizes. The size you use on your desktop computer doesn’t always translate perfectly to a smaller screen. Be critical of your content. Keep pertinent information top-of-mind for your visitors, and remove unnecessary secondary elements.

2. Navigation is poorly (or simply not) designed.

It’s one thing to teach your site to conform to different browser sizes; it’s another to boast a functional user experience. Companies without a mobile-friendly site can drive as much as 61% of their mobile traffic to competitors, but even with a mobile website, 57% of consumers will not recommend your business if your site is clunky and poorly designed (Mobile Marketing).

A menu that fills up the majority of a phone screen makes it hard for users to navigate your site. Images that fit well with the text on your desktop viewer can become disorganized on mobile screens if the usability isn’t carefully considered. Mobile viewing is a condensed experience compared to that of a larger monitor. If content is crowded and dense, or links don’t meet expectations, your visitors are going to duck out.

Investigate your user experience. Put your newly optimized site to the test by asking users, who match your target demographics, to scour your site for any stumbling blocks or pain points. An action that seemed clear from the creator’s perspective might not be interpreted the same for a new visitor. Be open to critique, as it is key to anticipating your users’ unique experiences.

3. Load times are too long.

Over half (53%) of all mobile site visits are abandoned if the page doesn’t load within 3 seconds. THREE SECONDS. (Find this and more persuasive stats here.)

So, what’s hindering your load times? Two contributing factors:

1. Image/video assets
If your website is congested with unnecessarily large file sizes, it’s inevitable going to work harder to load the massive data. Evaluate your content, and take care of some cleanup if you have irrelevant, decades-old content, including ads, images, and videos, which are often responsible for site clogs.

2. Host service
If your website is housed on a shared server, you can lose control of how fast your site loads. Consider a dedicated server with a higher guaranteed speed. This option can be more expensive, but the additional cost may be worth it.

Cut out the clutter. Find your website’s “sweet spot,” and upload files conducive to web use. An easy solution: Export your images using Photoshop’s “save for web” function. A JPG file is your best option for optimization. Pro tip: Compress your image to its maximum dimensions on your site. This displays it at 100% rather than pseudo-shrinking a larger file in your site.

Creating a website is a monumental task, and optimizing it for mobile devices is an even bigger mountain to climb. Need help making your website mobile-friendly? We’ve been there. Whether you’re starting from scratch or migrating your current content to a responsive site, we’d love to help. If you’re not sure where to begin, we can evaluate your site analytics to discover how visitors access your content, whether it’s through a smartphone, tablet, or desktop. Contact us for a FREE consultation.

Take a look at two websites we recently redesigned and optimized for mobile use:
Académie Lafayette
PAR Electrical Contractors, Inc.

Posted on: August 4th, 2017 by Laura Uber


At TCD, we’ve had many discussions about what makes a client, an agency, a brand, or a person a “success.” We have felt for some time that the traditional explanation of success doesn’t “fit” with what we are striving for, in our work and our lives.

Dictionary.com provides this definition of success:

[suh k-ses]

  1. the favorable or prosperous termination of attempts or endeavors; the accomplishment of one’s goals.
  2. the attainment of wealth, position, honors, or the like.
  3. a performance or achievement that is marked by success, as by the attainment of honors.
  4. a person or thing that has had success, as measured by attainment of goals, wealth, etc.

We think the first item on this list is closest to the mark, especially “the accomplishment of one’s goals.” But so often, goals are measured solely in the categories of wealth and fame. We would argue that there are other ways to accomplish objectives and achieve success, in the areas of career, spiritual fulfillment, and life purpose.

Albert Schweitzer wrote, “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.” We look for opportunities to find joy in the way we live, every day.

How does this translate to our work lives? Often “success” in the design field is measured by developing trendy, cool designs, regardless of their effectiveness. We feel a greater sense of pride and success when our work achieves its objectives and produces results for our business partners, which is why “strategic solutions” is a critical part of our tagline. We reflected recently on other work-related successes:

We feel success when we create something that makes us proud. We feel success when we reach a breakthrough on a challenging project.

We feel success when we sidestep work to build relationships with clients. We feel success when our work makes a difference, when it positively affects people and our community.

We feel success when we unite as a team racing for the same goals. When one succeeds, we celebrate together.

Not every day is dominated by feelings of success, but the more we motivate each other to positively overcome challenges and give our best each day, the more we bring those feelings back to life. As a team, we are successful.

How do YOU define success?

Posted on: July 20th, 2017 by Laura Uber


In the midst of Kansas City’s excessive heat warning, entrepreneurs and small business owners alike steered away from their usual morning locations for a FREE small business workshop at the Kauffman Foundation Conference Center.

Sixty entrepreneurs representing a variety of industries — personal trainers, spiritual wellness coaches, public relations consultants, and, let’s not forget, designers — gathered to gain insights for the same purpose: using social media for small business.

Co-founders of SoLVE KC, Aviva Ajmera and Teddi Hernandez, led an outstanding presentation and discussion around making connections and engaging with our communities through social media.

As we evaluate our digital presence, we want to be ready and available for our clients, our prospects, and our communities. Ajmera and Hernandez helped us critique our current strategies, showing us how we can better engage with people and how we can personalize and target our message for those who want to hear it.

If you are an entrepreneur or a small business owner, TCD highly recommends SCORE workshops. (We’ll remind you again that they’re FREE.) We’re lucky that small business are so readily supported and connected in Kansas City!

Keep an eye on us, and engage with us, as we continue to get connected with YOU.

Posted on: July 18th, 2017 by Laura Uber


Kansas City is spoiled with America’s best barbeque. There’s no other place in the world where meat aficionados can choose from more than 100 closely located barbeque joints in the same area. And there’s no other place that faithfully hosts the best annual barbeque competitions and festivals, like the Great Lenexa BBQ Battle, which took place just last weekend, and the American Royal World Series of Barbecue, Labor Day weekend.

In preparation for Independence Day, a celebration often enhanced by barbeque, TCD team members voted on their favorite pit stops. Check out our top 5:

1. Q39

Since opening in April 2014, Q39 has rapidly become a new favorite for Kansas City natives. Smoked or grilled, your meal at Q39 will not disappoint, especially when embellished with their homemade sauces. The interior ensemble is complete with wood furnishings, industrial ceilings, warm lighting, and an open kitchen and full-service bar. Great food, great atmosphere. It’s undoubtedly our #1 pick.

2. Jack Stack

With five locations in the Kansas City area, Fiorella’s Jack Stack is a barbeque phenomenon. They’ve mastered their craft and maintained a loyal following in Kansas City. Their hickory-smoked meat is a local tradition and treasure. Jack Stack’s great service and ambience creates the prime place for a dinner date, a GNO or a celebration.

3. Joe’s Kansas City

Famously known for its Z-Man sandwich, Joe’s serves up stellar smokes every time. This quick-service stop offers satisfying portions at a reasonable price. As if Joe’s couldn’t be any dreamier, they will even ship their barbeque anywhere in the U.S. That’s good info to keep in mind as most restaurants, like Joe’s, close over the Fourth.

4. Woodyard

Woodyard Bar-B-Que is a quaint old place in an unexpected corner of the city (on Merriam Lane in Kansas City, Kansas). The family-owned business has been around more than 60 years and has been featured on programs by Guy Fieri and Anthony Bourdain. The restaurant is small and rustic, but outdoor seating is a must, so you can watch one of the chefs stack the slabs in the smoker or, at the very least, bask in the smoke-scented goodness.

5. BB’s

Another off-the-beaten-track favorite is BB’s Lawnside BBQ. This cozy venue might be known more for its live blues bands than its barbeque, but they’ve perfected both. Try their burnt ends and their giant battered home fries. BB’s menu also features Louisiana favorites such as gumbo and jambalaya, in keeping with its bluesy theme. Stop in on a Saturday afternoon for a jam session or any evening during the week to catch live music.

And since most of us will enjoy home-cooked barbeque on July 4, we also voted on our go-to barbeque meat choices, with pulled pork taking first place in our hearts…and our bellies.

TCD’s Favorite BBQ Meat

Have a wonderful July 4 celebration!

Posted on: June 29th, 2017 by Laura Uber


After final meetings, training, and phone calls, we are so excited to share that the Académie Lafayette website is live!

Lead designer, Megan Pace, led the initiative to re-map the entire site to create an interface that’s more intuitive and user-friendly. The new design more strongly showcases this amazing school to prospective parents, and it is easy to navigate for current AL families. Our introduction page helps users transition to the new website seamlessly.

Posted on: June 9th, 2017 by Laura Uber


In summer of 2013, Adobe announced a major shift in its software offerings: the end of relentless versioning of the Creative Suite (CS) to make way for its crown jewel, Creative Cloud (CC).

Four years later, some have continued to hold onto the last release of CS6, while others have charged ahead with the “latest and greatest” CC. As for us, we joined the movement kicking and screaming in fall of 2014. We’ve come to question if CC is really the best option, or if it’s the only option.

We made a pro-con list to illustrate our thoughts about Adobe’s Creative Cloud:

Pro #1: Access to ALL apps.

With Creative Suite, you only had access to the specific applications you purchased. With Creative Cloud, you can access your primary apps and dabble in others you wouldn’t have necessarily bought individually under the Creative Suite model. Creative Cloud has 28 desktop apps!

Con #1: Cost.

CC is not a one-time fee like CS. It’s a subscription you pay for time and time again, whether you set it up as a monthly withdrawal or an annual payment. Based on our past purchase/upgrade cycle, CC has been more expensive, which has been the biggest hurdle to overcome. After the first-year discount, CC costs tripled for our small business. Even with more available apps, we still only rely on the Big 5: InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop, Bridge, and Acrobat Pro. We are subject to comply with any cost increase, whether we like it or not, if we want to keep using our creative tools.

Pro #2: Despite its name, work offline.

You might think that Creative Cloud requires you to be connected to the internet to access any programs. That’s not the case. You do need an internet connection to download and update applications, but once you’ve done this, you can use your apps offline. An important piece of info regarding the cloud portion: a membership provides 20 GB of free cloud storage.

Con #2: At the mercy of Adobe.

This con is among our greatest concerns with Adobe CC. As a business, it’s imperative that we are always up-to-date with our subscriptions. Last fall (2016), we lost access to all CC applications on one of our “Creative Cloud for teams” accounts, while other users functioned normally. Instead of operating “business as usual,” the user and tech assistant spent the workday morning and afternoon contacting Adobe Support to resolve Adobe’s error. In the end, we lost billable hours and received a measly $25 credit from Adobe.

Pro #3: Get the latest updates.

A huge perk is receiving regular updates to any and all applications. With CC 2017, the latest version available, we’ve noticed a cleaner workspace and even faster loading and rendering times. After the launch of a new version, you can choose to install any updates as they arrive straight to your computer. These regular updates keep us relevant and educated on innovative discoveries in our industry.

Con #3: Mismatching versions.

With routine updates comes a constant need to watch for changes in interface and functionality. Clients and other team members can fall out of sync when they work on different versions within CC, meaning we may not be able to access documents as efficiently.

Our verdict

Whether you’re for or against “the Cloud,” you shouldn’t expect Adobe to take any steps away from its subscription-based services. Adobe’s market is in good health, so we know CC is benefiting the billion-dollar company.

For the record, we love Adobe products. We’ve been using their services since 1994. Their applications are innovative, robust and user-friendly. Would we recommend it? Yes, with a series of caveats, some listed above.

Monopolizing the market, Adobe surpasses all of its competitors. As users, we need to keep an eye on Adobe’s changes and be ready to question its functions and its rising rates.

Our solution

So how can businesses get more value from Creative Cloud despite the price increase?

1. Stay up-to-date. We aim to keep our Adobe products updated so we can work most efficiently for clients.

2. Use cloud storage. Collaborate and share high-quality, original files with clients and colleagues, even those who don’t have Creative Cloud.

3. Use more CC tools. We’re making an effort to expand our knowledge of CC offerings. What other apps can we utilize to increase our productivity? Take a look at what we learned about InCopy® and how to incorporate it into our workflow.

Tell us about your experience and participate in our poll below. What Creative Cloud applications do you regularly use?

Posted on: June 8th, 2017 by Laura Uber


A workflow where editors share revisions for designers to implement can add more time to a project than necessary.

Don’t get stuck in the back and forth of your editing and publication process.

For more than two decades, Adobe’s InCopy has streamlined writing and editing. The robust application allows copywriters and editors to efficiently collaborate with designers. While editors proofread copy, designers can simultaneously focus on InDesign layout, creating a more seamless operation.

Editing and updating with InCopy can increase accuracy and productivity.

Before you learn the specific operations of InCopy, here are 7 ways this tool can better your workflow:

1. It prevents edit overrides or duplicate efforts.

Editors can claim assignments and make changes to an article without worry of another user overriding any revisions. All users can see when a story is open and who’s working on it. Assignments claimed by you, or another editor, are not directly editable in the designer’s layout, which reduces any potential for accidental typos within your publication.

2. It works remotely.

The InCopy/InDesign workflow operates best on a shared server, where latest versions are saved in the same location. While this setup is ideal, a remote workflow is also an option. Share and receive files among your writers, editors and designers — even if you’re working at different locations — through a cloud drive or email.

3. It offers MORE editing capabilities than Microsoft Word.

You can format text, track changes and even crop images. Rather than sharing a revised Word document (or a scribbled paper of edits), you can make changes in InCopy that are then implemented into InDesign. With shared character and paragraph styles between the two applications, you can edit without altering any text already formatted by the designer.

4. It reduces the overall time spent on a project.

The ability to edit directly eliminates potential miscommunications in notes between editor and designer.

Designers can see when content has been modified and refresh the layout without ever inserting the new text themselves.

5. It shows how copy fits in layout.

Rewriting a sentence? Ensure your revised copy fits into the already-designed document. See how copy falls — where line breaks occur, where widows and orphans form, where text overflows — and make decisions to fix any issues.

6. It saves users from extra typing.

The text macro feature is a real time-saver. Instead of constantly typing — or more realistically, copying and pasting — boilerplates or standard copyright info, create keyboard shortcuts and let InCopy fill in the lengthy jargon.

7. It allows editors to create PDFs of the designed document.

Share PDFs around the office during your review process. Quickly export PDFs from InCopy without accessing the designer files. This isn’t necessarily a recommendation for final art but a solution for a tiny tweak before sharing with a colleague, for example. Where the original process involves contacting the designer and waiting on an updated file, you can independently edit and export.

Think InCopy can help your team work more efficiently? Without buying the entire creative suite, purchase InCopy through the Single App form for $4.99/month, reduced from $19.99/month last year.

Posted on: June 6th, 2017 by Laura Uber


It’s no news flash that sitting at your desk all day poses negative health risks. But “all day” reveals the key here. Standing all day isn’t the solution either. The real killer is remaining sedentary during a full day’s work.

That’s why TCD has invested in adjustable standing desks for designers Megan and Laura.

Their standing desks allow them to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the workday, increasing activity and productivity. The switch in position allows the body to move, benefiting physical and mental health.

A quick Google search will present hundreds of studies revealing that workers who practice this discipline of sitting and standing not only stay well but stay engaged and more alert also. Sitting, especially with poor posture, can leave employees cramped and fatigued at the end of the day.

Our designers use the VARIDESK Pro Plus 48. This standing desk holds two monitors on its top tier and a keyboard on its bottom tier. The raised monitors encourage better posture by keeping the head and neck up rather than hunched over.

“I absolutely love my standing desk,” Laura said. “It’s easy to raise. Plus, it’s very spacious, so it helps me stay organized too. It’s nice to be able to stand up and stretch my legs and then to be able to sit down when I start to wear from standing.”

With 11 adjustments, it’s easy to set the desk to your desired height. This is best determined when your arms are perpendicular to your body, with your forearms resting flat on the bottom tier.

“When friends and family swing by the office, the standing desk is usually the first thing that catches their eye, which typically leads to a quick demonstration,” Megan said. “It’s so easy to pop up from sitting to standing, even with two ginormous monitors and the keyboard tray.”

If you don’t have a standing desk, you can still practice good posture when sitting. Engage your abdominal muscles, and practice leg lifts and stretches under your desk. Another solution is to sit on an exercise ball (or some other chair that’s just unstable enough to keep you moving and supporting your weight). Take a break every 20–30 minutes to stand up — even if it’s just for a moment. It’s also a good idea to walk every so often. In our office, we encourage water consumption, so that can provide good reason to get up for a drink.

Take steps to be more active in your workplace. Find out if the VARIDESK Pro Plus 48 fits your workplace needs.

Posted on: May 26th, 2017 by Laura Uber

The Creative Department is a proud sustaining member of AIGA.

We follow AIGA's Standards of Professional Practice and adhere to its principles of integrity that demonstrate respect for the profession, for colleagues, clients, audiences or consumers, and society as a whole. We utilize AIGA's Basic Terms & Conditions and Intellectual Property Provisions to maintain the professional practices of the design industry.