Start an office cult

A colleague and I have recently been joking about starting a cult at our office. The busy researchers we work with sometimes don't see the value in communications activities, so we have to work hard on persuading and tracking the value of our campaigns.

We have learned to be strategic about who we persuade and how. What we have been doing has a name: powermapping. 

We identify the issue's stakeholder or decision maker, identify who she listens to and who she seeks out for advice, and foster relationships with those advisers.

Even if we can't directly speak to the decision maker because of her busy schedule, she will hear about our ideas from her advisors, creating an echo chamber. 

Creating influence in our office culture and in our marketing activities through powermapping lets us bypass objections about our ideas because it's coming from trusted advisors. 

It's also helpful because it lets others think it was their idea in the first place, and helps them develop better taste. A rising tide lifts all boats—so influencing colleagues to have better taste makes the whole organization better.

Every conversation with your colleagues is an opportunity to sell your ideas. So get excited about your work and start chatting at the water cooler. 

The best brainstorm ever

It's a well-known fact in the creative community that the best way to kill a brainstorming sesh and discourage people from sharing ideas (potentially great ideas!), is to shut them down. To say, "No, that doesn't align with our brand," or "No, we tried that last year."

Instead of saying "No, but..." say "Yes, and" during a brainstorm and watch your team feel that their ideas are important and validated. The possibilities will seem endless. Watch the energy in the room rise. Watch your team members get excited about their work. Watch the great ideas pour forth, and watch those ideas lead to more great ideas. 

Busy bee this spring

I am on fire these past couple of weeks, and it doesn't seem to be letting up any time soon. My work, spiritual, art, home, brain, and personal life have me so full. 

I am working on so many exciting design projects right now, I love it. I can't wait to share them with you here and in my portfolio. This work gets me fired up—bringing an idea to life is magical. 

Spring has me visualizing, dreaming, and manifesting left and right. I am calling for focus—hard to do when there is so much I want to create in this world...but focus is the name of the game if you're going to get what you want. And I always do.

I have some blogs up my sleeve for this coming week. In other news, Google changes its algorithm this Tuesday 4/21, so that mobile/responsive websites will be ranked higher than those that are not responsive...so make sure your's is responsive! If it's not, call me!

How the website scrolling trend can be tweaked to work for your website

Have you noticed the trend toward infinite scrolling on websites? This design follows the lead of Facebook and Twitter, which have endless amounts of user-generated content. It is great because it saves the user time, and it is also ideal for touch devices.

However, there are a few things that designers need to keep in mind to make sure that when they follow this trend, it works for a website that doesn't have endless amounts of user generated content:

  1. Add floating pagination to the left side of the site so that the user can navigate throughout the page, and knows where they are. 
  2. Make it finite scrolling instead of infinite, which can be overbearing and only works with endless amounts of information (e.g. a Twitter stream). Many users like a sense of completion after reading a page. 
  3. Make sure that the scroll bar is not broken so that it is not deceiving when it shows how much is left for the user to read.
  4. Use the scrolling pages to summarize a group of options and information and link to pages with more in-depth information. From the perspective of SEO, infinite scrolling houses too much content on one page. Right now, one aspect of Google ranking is a higher number of pages.

Two digital marketing tools for Twitter

Twitter is great for being a part of the conversation in your industry, and for driving traffic to your site. However, when you use the 80/20 social media rule (80% of the time discussing the industry, current events, the work of others; 20% of the time self-promoting), the links you tweet that drive traffic to others' websites don't do much to drive traffic to your site.

That's where Snip.ly comes in. Snip.ly is a tool you can use to add a call to action (CTA) in the lower left hand corner of the screen in a link that you tweet. For example, if I tweet a New York Times article, I can use Snip.ly to add a CTA so that when a user clicks my NYT tweet, they are able to view the article I tweeted, and also see my CTA which drives them back to my blog or landing page.

Click to Tweet is another tool that comes in handy. Add it to your newsletters or website with pre-written tweets, so that your user doesn't have to think of a tweet, and will be more likely to share your content (because it takes them less time and energy). All you have to do is copy/paste the HTML code.

Happy Friday!

How to raise the bar for yourself and your clients and do work that matters

I love this video of Seth Godin from Creative Mornings. He talks about being "patiently impatient" in order to bring your design and marketing career to the next level. This means, letting your boss and your clients take credit for when things go well, and making sure you take responsibility when things don't go well. It means leading others to help them make better decisions and have better taste. It means supporting your boss and your clients in a way that gives them the guts to do the work they are capable of doing. 

Perhaps most importantly, it means being proactive and asking for forgiveness rather than permission—Going the extra mile and choosing yourself for the exciting work. Taking on more responsibility. Great advice for anyone in any career! 

Creative mornings is an awesome resource and breakfast lecture series that may be happening in your city! Check it out.

Photography inspiration: Cadencia Photography

My recent vacation on the big island of Hawai'i left me with lots of new friends who are talented in many ways. Cadence of Cadiencia Photography was the dance retreat photographer, and I fell in love with her style of making images and telling the story. 

Cadence has been photographing hoop flow and yoga events for a few years now, and she is also a portrait photographer on Maui. Recently she has been documenting motherhood in Maui on her blog, and telling some pretty magical stories. Here is a sampling of some of her images:

Visuals communicate faster and better

During my time at Seattle Interactive Conference, one of my favorite talks was by Amy Balliett of Killer Infographics here in Seattle.

She talked about visual communication, starting with the juxtaposition of design versus decoration. Design is visual communication; it is telling a story through visuals.

It’s no secret that Pinterest is the most trafficked website—visuals are taking over the internet.

Amy dropped an overflowing handful of one-liners that designers can use to convince clients of the effectiveness of images and also that simplicity is important in visual communications:

·      More than 593 words on a page, and 77% of people run away.

·      Blogs with images get 94% more page views (I used this one to convince my team that we should use images on our blogs).

·      Visual information gets to the brain 60,000 times faster than text.

·      90% of the information we retain and remember is visual.

·      When a symbol is paired with punchy text, there is an 89 percentage increase in comprehension.

A beautiful example of a project that came out of Killer Infographics was this interactive infographic:

The client is The Solutions Project, and the idea was to show the ideal renewable energy mix for each state in the U.S, and as you scroll down you are told a story about the benefits of this energy mix (how much money we’ll save, avoided health costs, and the amount of space needed to make it happen).

It’s interactive, using an excel table of the data on the back end, so all of the data is dynamic (instead of a static picture). It was built from scratch with a team of developers. 

How to bring drab branding to the next level

A few weeks ago, a colleague asked me to write a quick guide for a non-profit professional association she belongs to. The organization does great work but their branding is sub-par. I am sharing the brand refresh recommendations I wrote for them in hopes that it may help you.

1. Use typography

Logo

  •  Incorporate more interesting typography into your logo (right now I believe it is Helvetica, which we see everywhere). The American Institute of Graphic Art has a slick yet elegant logo with only their acronym, and it is always set in a black box (sometimes they change it to different colors):
  •  Consider only using a wordmark without the papers image above the wordmark. Consider incorporating the name of the organization under the acronym wordmark. My favorite agency, Pentagram, has done many elegant and simple logos like this. You can view their website for inspiration:

Website

  • You could start using a custom typeface on your website. Some typefaces are an investment (for example, a suite can cost upwards of $200), but it is an investment in your brand and gives a very polished look to your communications. For example, I recommend the typeface Chronicle Display which you can purchase through Hoefler Frere Jones (typography.com).
  • If you are going to purchase a typeface, it would be helpful to consult with a designer who will be able to identify which typeface(s) you should purchase, how you would use them, and what standard typeface would contrast well with the one(s) you purchase. On the Hoefler Frere Jones website, they have a good tool which mixes and matches different typefaces together.

2. Expand the color palette

The color palette is good; blue and green inspire trust. However, you could work to incorporate accent colors, or other shades of blue or green that contrast or compliment the current colors. A good tool for doing this is kuler.adobe.com. Here are two examples of color palettes:

3. Be consistent

Style guide

While you are working out the details above, keep a record as you move toward creating a consistent brand identity. A style guide will help all members of your organization be consistent in how they use typefaces, the logo, and colors. A professional designer will be able to create a style guide.

Templates

A few templates that the organization may need are: one-pager templates; digital and printed letterhead; email marketing templates; and powerpoint templates.

A Remote Interior Design Project

A couple of weeks ago a faraway friend of mine asked me to help her with decorating her living room. I was thrilled to come up with some ideas for her.

Here is the inspiration (via pinterest): 

These rooms are opposites in a way—one is very simple, the other is glam—and this is the epitome of Jenny. She is the kind of person who only wears simple jewelry, yet she loves sparkly things and neon brights. She wanted a gray and tangerine color scheme. Her style is transitional, her budget small, and she already had two nice black lamps that she wanted to work around. 

carriejordaninteriors_JT.png

1. Lamps (already purchased)

2. Side tables: West Elm $109 each

3. Coffee table: 2 Lack high gloss side tables from Ikea. They would need to be painted with high gloss spray paint the tangerine color. $10 each. These can be moved to accommodate other seating arrangements.

4. Gray Couch: Ikea $500

5. Throw Pillow: Etsy $20 Since green compliments tangerine, it was good to add another color to the palette to keep it from looking matchy.

6. Kantha Quilt: Etsy. $40. Pink, turquoise, tangerine.

Total: $798

Visual trends in stock photography

Since Getty and Leanin.org created the Lean In Collection, a collection of stock images of modern women in work and life, stock imagery and visual trends have been hot topics.

What we see, hear, and experience every day defines our culture and our lives. Seeing images of empowered, kind, loving people make us empowered, kind, loving people as a society. That's why these changing stock photography trends are so exciting and important. 

Stock photography companies and the companies that use stock photography are figuring out that people want to see images they can relate to: images of regular people, rather than images of gorgeous people who seem unattainably perfect. Life is imperfect, people are imperfect, and people can relate to authenticity. 

I recently got an email blast from istockphoto.com that pointed out their focus on the visual trend of involved, emotionally available fathers. I love seeing this, and I love that these photos both recognize that men can be emotional and vulnerable, and encourage men to be emotional, nurturing, and vulnerable. Most of the men in my life are nurturing and vulnerable, traits that I love and admire—and it is very exciting that the images depicting men that we see in every day marketing messages reflect that. 

The rise of single-father households – along with the economic downturn – has led fathers to proactively redefine their position as both providers and nurturers. Take away the briefcase, and we see hands-on, emotionally-available dads comfortable in their fatherly roles. With credible brands focusing increasingly on authenticity, we see a shift away from idealized perfection and toward real dads doing everyday things with their kids – genuine interactions where simplicity, commitment and caring are key.
— Jacqueline Bourke, Creative Planning Manager at iStock

Simple, personal, approachable substance

I came across this web design article on Inc and it totally resinated with me.

…When I look at what’s hot in Web design these days, I’m turned off. It’s all a bit too slick, a little overdesigned. I’m sick of slick.
Most of these designs can be described like this: First, you see a huge photo with some text over it. Then, as you scroll down, the background slides away and another big photo with more text on it pops up. And so on.... Maybe you’ve seen this style—it’s starting to crop up everywhere. To a designer’s eye, it looks good, and it’s technically impressive, but I’m not sure it says anything meaningful about the companies using it. Worse (for those companies), it’s created a new kind of clutter: Too many companies look the same—all style and not enough substance.
— Jason Fried, Basecamp

While I'm definitely not sick of slick, I do believe there are places where it is appropriate and places where it's not. For example, landing pages are a great place to use this type of design because the style guides the eye. If you are asking the user to complete a certain action (usually the purpose of a landing page), it is focused, clear and uncluttered. 

However, slick design doesn't usually work with complex websites or companies because like Fried says, it's important to communicate the substance and meaning behind your brand. I for one am all about beautiful images and bringing emotion to a brand, but there is a time and place.

For brands, customer experience is everything

Last week I went to an event hosted by Aquent where Drory Ben-Menachem, Creative Director at Smashing Ideas here in Seattle, briefly spoke about the importance of UX. Here’s my summation of his great talk with some of my ideas woven throughout:

User experience defines a brand…a brand is no longer just a logo. UX should be called customer experience because it is every experience that customers have with an organization, digital and otherwise. It is much more than the website or the mobile app. 

Marketing and communications are of course a part of the brand experience, but customers will have many other connections to the company—through sales, through investing, through the local community, or through HR. In fact, receiving a negative review or 3 on Yelp can break a brand, because the readers on Yelp are having a brand experience. That shows the power of user experience.

According to UX Magazine, the job of a Chief Experience Officer is to understand users/customers, understand the business, understand the technology; figure out how the product or company should grow to support experiences; maintain an evolving strategy/plan of action to support and produce great experiences. A tall order, the person in this position is absolutely integral to keeping the brand consistent and focused on its goals and messaging.

Great customer experiences are simple; elegant; intuitive; fun; useful; memorable…and they are what brands are built on.