Outlines, an experience in contrasts

We ran into a dilemma while creating the rolling titles for a new YouTube that will be downloadable from the website in January. The font I chose for the titles is Arial and its color is white. And while it shows up nicely when it is rolling over a dark background, like the gray carpet or the brown and black brindled dog, it disappears as it moves up the screen, blending right into the white walls in the background.

One solution is to run the words from left to right across the bottom of the display, contrasted against the black PetMassage table. The concern with that is, if one is using a mobile device, the message would be too small and move too fast to be read easily. Another suggestion, proffered by both Anastasia and my daughter, Samantha, was to outline the letters in a darker tone. Then, as the words move up the screen and onto the white background, they would still be legible.

So, let’s discuss outlines, what they are, what they do, and how we can apply them in our work lives.

Many years ago when I was in art school, studying figure drawing, I learned that the “outline” is a contrivance. It doesn’t exist! When we draw an object, there is no line around it, there is just the object. The outline is a device to create boundaries. It separates the object from whatever is contingent to it and similarly toned and colored, the “other.”

If it is a fold in draping of cloth, it indicates where the fabric turns and defines it as distinct from the lay of the fabric around it. The subject you want to define needs to be distinctly separated from all the similarly toned and colored items and spaces around it.

Designing a sign, the primary message needs to jump out from the rest of the design. Words pop when they are more prominent; when they are presented against a contrasting background, or by outlining the letters, if against a similarly colored background.

Our messages, intentions, and specialized services, like PetMassage, all need to be contrastive or employ defining outlines. To be noticed, they must be distinctly noticeable against the din of everything-ness that is going on all the time? In speech, we must speak clearly, enunciate the sounds, speak slowly, and stay within appropriately comfortable decibel levels. We must use terms, the definitions and references of which, have a commonality for both the speaker and the audience. The concept of “snow,” for instance, has one meaning in Fairbanks and another in Miami.

In our practice of PetMassage, we need to make sure that our movements and sessions are distinctly PetMassage. They are unique to this practice. Each PetMassage is a special event, a holistic journey toward canine wellness.

One way that I use to define the PetMassage session as an event that is special for both the dogs and their person, is to perform the PetMassage with the dog on a specialized PetMassage table. Even big dogs, like Borzois, Great Danes, and Giant Mastiffs, who barely fit on the 2 feet by 4 feet surface, are given their sessions on the PetMassage table. This creates a specialized ambiance and memory tag; similar to what I have learned to expect dining in a fine restaurant: pressed linen tablecloths and napkins, spotless silver service and glasses, professional attentive service, and fabulous cuisine. High anticipation. High expectations for an exceptional experience.

Initially most dogs, when lifted onto the table for the first time, make a “tag” connection with the other tables they have known. Based on memories from unpleasant experiences on veterinarian’s and groomer’s tables they can be anxious or show trepidation. They may attempt to jump away; and if that happens, they are gently held and encouraged to stay.

Dogs learn PetMassage table manners. They learn by experience, to expect that PetMassage is a different and more pleasing experience than they’ve anticipated. Their resistances are quickly resolved when they entrain with my breathing and sniff around discovering the scents that other dogs have left.

Yes, we do clean the table surfaces; still, the residual abundance of scents remain.

Dogs read the signals and know that many other dogs have realized comfort with their PetMassage experiences.

The breathing, the quality of touch, the awareness of the dog’s responsiveness to touch, and even just the intimacy of having someone being profoundly present, all combine to make the experience of the PetMassage absolutely unique.

Each PetMassage is an event. And it is treated and anticipated as a special treat, like each massage we get!

Each PetMassage is an event that is in dynamic contrast to the background of ordinary, day to day life. Each PetMassage is a carefully constructed and choreographed, intention-laden, potentially life changing occasion for the dog–and their person. Physically, emotionally, and socially, the dog before a PetMassage is different from the dog after a PetMassage.

Each PetMassage is at least two feet above the floor, on a specialized table. Combine that with all the specialized skills, methods, intentions, rates of movement and the calming pleasurable scents from previous clients, and what do you have?

You, the dog, and the dog’s person get a beautiful PetMassage; acutely outlined, an experience in

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