An Interview With Marketing Specialist John Swanson

John Swanson is the Owner of MANVIL, a creative services firm located in Portland, Oregon. Here is a link to his website:

John Swanson is the Owner of MANVIL, a creative services firm located in Portland, Oregon. Here is a link to his website:


Q:  What is a creative services firm?

A: For lack of a better description, a creative services firm provides marketing, communications and advertising services to businesses that either don’t have the inclination, skill-set or time to create their own.


Q: How did you get into the business?

A: It was built off a design brief I put together while studying for my second BA. The graphic I submitted was strong enough for me to realize I had to do something with it. An “M” with the heart of an anvil worked for a variety of reasons, and friends and family liked the concept. I knew I had a company to present, but I wasn’t sure I had a viable product to sell other than my skill-set. Graphics products and services were where the company really began. (More on this later.)

Q: What does client branding entail?

A: Client branding entails providing a mark or image that represents the client’s business, product or public persona. For some of my clients like LinkWall, atomic auto, or Down Force Motoring, branding is a display of their business mindset. LinkWall is broad ranging, stout, simple and accepting, atomic auto is green minded and based on a lot of Saab’s iconography, and Down Force Motoring is motor-journalism minded, opinionated, but illuminating.

Q:  What are “flash cards”?

A: Simply put, flash cards are double sided prints made for educating people about items such as tools. On one side of the card is the image of an item, on the other side of the card is a description of what that image is. The concept behind the MANVIL Flashcards is that they are for folks who either don’t know tools, folks who don’t know the names of tools in English, or for those who needed Traumatic Brain Rehabilitation aids.

The use of cards for TBI Rehabilitation came from the experience of Bob Woodruff in his recovery from TBI after an insurgent IED blew some of his skull open. When he said that his buddies had to draw pictures of simple items in order for him to retrain his brain function, I knew I was onto something that might be helpful.

Curiously, the cards make great coasters as well, which I suppose is nice when you need to keep water-stains from your work shop sounter.

Q:  What do you like about working in Portland?

 A: There are a lot of brilliant, wildly creative people in Portland. The food is great, and the weather is not too unlike my native home of Honolulu. (Wear another layer or two and they’re almost the same!) In 90 minutes I can be skiing, or surfing, depending on my mood. Not that I do those things all that often, but still, it’s a nice option.

Q: What don’t you like about it?

A:  As I mentioned, there are a lot of great creatives here in Portland, and there are not as many positions available as there are creatives. Competition is tight. Thankfully, my clients like what I do, and the word is getting out.

Q:  What was the most challenging job you ever had?

A: I agreed to cover the graphics for an event called The Portland Adult Soapbox Derby. ( The real challenges came to light as the principles who ran the event found they needed advertising, marketing, swag, tees and posters on a very tight timeline. Eventually the scope expanded as far as signage that had to be reviewed and accepted by the municipality, which only added to the punch. It was a long few weeks, but the event looked great, the theme was cohesive and I think everybody had a great time. I know I did.

Q:  Why should my readers hire your company?

 If your readers are looking for a small, intimate design firm to provide sound, well-developed, vector based graphics and production, then they would be well served to check out MANVIL and its work. I have had the opportunity to work on some great projects, which worked out really well for both my clients and myself. I’d like to continue the progress.

A:  What sort of marketing strategy would you use to promote my blog?

Q:  I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but MANVIL is a big fan of word-of-mouth. If your tweeting and whatnbot are working with you, stick with it. We’re not a big firm, and although we don’t have the capital needed to really blow sunshine up people’s butts, we do work hard to get the word out. I think the efforts you’ve put forth to promote your own blog are beginning to pay off, but it might take time. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Perhaps if you had some sort of recognizable brand graphics that displayed your intent… BTW we do that.

Q:  What was the greatest Internet marketing campaign ever?

A: I think the sleeper campaign for the 2009 South African thriller “District 9” blew anything that I’ve seen from Hollywood lately off the map. They covered a huge number of bases. District 9 had an off the radar website presence, was supported by great videography and content, and was melded into “straight to You-Tube”, “this isn’t a trailer” faux news stories. I’d rate a film that makes 7 times its production cost a success.

Please note; Eliza’s interviews are done by email. All answers are unedited and come right from the lovely fingertips of her subjects:)