As part of AIGA's Design Week, I had the opportunity to sit on a panel of designers and nonprofit directors to discuss designing for good during an event luncheon. Our topics covered everything from design by committee, payment for services, crowdsourcing contests, creative freedom and, maybe most importantly, making a difference.
Designers have the unique ability to approach projects from a 50,000-foot view right down to the kerning on a business card. We need to understand both our clients' long-term goals and tactical initiatives.
In many ways, nonprofits operate the same way. Long-term goals of some of the nonprofits I've worked with include educating and enriching neighborhoods, transforming populations, developing workforces, saving lives, curing cancer and rescuing people from poverty. Amazing initiatives. But, these initiatives can't be accomplished without the tactical efforts of a devoted (and probably overworked) staff, programs, donors, communities, participants and (dot, dot, dot) you.
As a designer, some of the most important work we can do is cause-related nonprofit work. It's rewarding, exciting and, to be honest, every nonprofit client Designsensory has partnered with has contributed award-winning work to our portfolio.
So, get started. Find an organization you're passionate about and see firsthand what they're doing. Do your research by understanding their programs, participating in an event and meeting the people they're helping. When you start to see a mission through an individual face and name, you'll be motivated and inspired to help translate their story through design.
Arron Draplin of Draplin Design Co. spoke earlier in the week during AIGA's Design Week festivities and I couldn't phrase what he said any better: "Say yes." Really, it's that simple. Use your skills and give back a little. You'll be proud of the work and the difference you make.
Lindsay Miller traveled to Nevada for work with the 2014 Medal of Honor Convention, art directing a photoshoot at the facility where the nation’s top military award is minted. Lindsay and a video production team from RIVR Media were given security clearance and access to a process that has never been documented. We asked her questions about the medals, the trip and the overall experience.
DS: What does working with the Medal of Honor Society mean to you?
LM: It’s an incredible honor for me and the entire Designsensory team to work on the project. Understanding the reasons why these medals are awarded and learning about the people who earned them helped guide our process to brand and develop a campaign for the Medal of Honor 2014 Convention in Knoxville. These stories of sacrifice coupled with the opportunity to meet a living recipient like Joe Marm make you even prouder to be an American.
DS: Why go to Nevada?
LM: Northwest Territorial Mint, one of the largest of less than 20 mints in the U.S., is the company that casts the medals. The video and photography assets will capture the people, place and process of how and where a medal is made, sharing its journey from creation in its casting to consecration in its awarding.
DS: Tell us about more about the shoot.
LM: Don Routh of Northwest Territorial Mint gave everyone participating in the shoot an amazing behind-the-scenes tour, allowing us to capture never-before-seen footage of how the medals are cast. The craftsmanship, attention to detail and reverence is reflected in every part of the process. Jeff Muller, who oversees the production of the medals, explained even the blue ribbon affixed to the Medal of Honor is hand finished by a woman in Texas and, as a sign of respect, any surplus ribbon that isn’t used cannot simply be discarded.
DS: Beyond you as art director, who were some of the people involved in the shoot?
LM: Although he didn’t travel to Nevada, we work closely with Joe Thompson, who is spearheading many aspects of the upcoming 2014 Medal of Honor Convention. Joe helped make the trip and this unprecedented opportunity possible. Bill Waldorf was our photographer, and RIVR Media sent producer Nathan Haun and a small crew of videographers. Ed Hooper, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, author and military historian based in Knoxville, TN, joined us. Ed's depth of knowledge of the Medal of Honor's history and its recipients is instrumental in crafting the script and story of how the medals are made.
DS: What are you going to use the video and photography for?
LM: The photography will be incorporated into the entire 2014 Medal of Honor Convention campaign--the website, rich media, print collateral, environmental pieces and other branding components. These will be one-of-a-kind assets given to the Medal of Honor Society in perpetuity. When we began working on a bid document to bring the convention to Knoxville, we were surprised to find available such limited photo assets of the medals. We knew getting these photos would, over time, be more important than our use of them in promoting the convention; as a result, we needed to properly preserve and document the legacy of these medals for years to come.
DS: So, you were in Nevada. Did you gamble?
LM: Tempting, but no. We had a pretty tight schedule so the closest I got to gambling was seeing some slot machines at the airport. The view of mountains bordering Lake Tahoe was enough to convince me where I'd spend my time if given the chance to return.
Recently, I had the honor and fortune to take a little jaunt to northeastern Tennessee to judge the Pinnacle Tourism Awards for NETTA, the Northeast Tennessee Tourism Alliance. The region, located at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains, is an enchanting area, rich in culture, history and outdoor adventure.
My judging experiences usually focus on advertising, design and digital arts, so the Pinnacle Awards challenged me in new ways. Rather than critiquing designed artifacts or systems, the Pinnacle Awards focuses on DMO (destination marketing orgs) marketing and PR activities, their concepts, efficiency in execution, economic impact and quality of execution. The submissions ranged from public works projects to large public events, television programming, community awareness initiatives and more.
But, on this fine spring morning, the first beautiful day of weather in a long while, I was more than up to the challenge of reviewing the hard work of tourism professionals in the area. It was my first time to Jonesborough, TN, and the last few miles revealed a charming, idyllic setting amidst the verdant, rolling hills. Within this pleasant setting and with a little jolt of caffeine, I was ready to go. I joined forces with Doug Renfro, an award-winning television producer, and we got to work.
Before long, it was time to enjoy some lunch—and enjoy we did, at the Main Street Market & Cafe. I fancy myself a bit of a cheeseburger connoisseur, and their version of a Bacon Cheddar Burger held its own. My only regret? I didn’t try any of their desserts. I did, however, cave in at Earth & Sky Confections, opting for a box of craft, artisanal chocolates instead. This proved to be a sweeter decision. The chocolates, like the historic town, are sublime and brought a smile to my face long after the experience receded into memory.
Thankfully, the spirited work of these tourism professionals will not go unnoticed, and many fortunate folks will embrace the urge to visit. When they do, they will mint memories in northeast Tennessee and discover the virtues of that magical area.
At Designsensory, we are always on the lookout for new ways to bring better service to our clients. We’re especially pleased to be able to enhance our capabilities with still photography, video and motion expertise.
Our goal is to provide more integrated, end-to-end solutions with branded content in every medium. Our photography, video and motion graphics capabilities have already made a difference to several of our clients, including Patricia Nash Designs and the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development’s Travel South and Vacation Guide behind-the-scenes videos. We’ve been able to offer help at every step, beginning with preproduction services like scriptwriting, storyboarding, location scouting and booking talent, through the art direction of photo and video shoots, to postproduction editing and motion graphics.
Why is this new capability important?
First, it’s crucial to carry branding across all media, with content that reinforces the brand at every turn.
Second, the statistics are staggering: Web video keeps visitors on websites longer, boosts sales and minimizes buyer dissatisfaction. According to studies by Internet Retailer, 52 percent of consumers say that product videos help them feel more confident about their online purchases, and 66 percent will watch a particularly informative video more than once. And, visitors who have watched a video are as much as 174 percent more likely to buy than those who have not.
BizChair.com has tracked 33 percent of the company’s online sales to just 13 percent of its visitors—those who watched the online videos. Smartphone companies have tied video to increased sales in a very specific—and convincing—fashion. One million video views usually translates to 1.2 million units sold in the 12 weeks after a new product launch. Video is important to search engine optimization as well, since videos appear in about 70 percent of the top 100 listings for a search.
Our new capabilities mean a more integrated and more efficient process for our clients and—-we hope—-will translate into noticeable success.
The nice folks at Pest-Ops came to Designsensory to help locals rediscover a company that has been in Knoxville for 18 years. There’s nothing funny about pests, but Designsensory put some humor—and some shock factor—into Pest-Ops’ marketing, thanks to one big, scary bug.
A dramatic “Bug Off!” billboard campaign has had Knoxville drivers doing double takes when seeing that big, bad bug climbing the billboard surface and showing off its considerable antennae. The first piece of the “Bug Off!” campaign, designed to catch attention quickly and build brand recognition, won a bronze ADDY award.
The second round of billboards, with a pesky ant and a new call to action, is designed to further cement the Pest-Ops brand in motorists’ minds. Keep an eye out for those big bugs as you motor around West Knoxville!
With an illustration of Alexander Hamilton, our design for CRS (Courthouse Retrieval Systems) Data for the National Association of Realtors’ event invitation was right on the money. While giving a nod to an illustration style reminiscent of U.S. currency, the mailed piece brought together playful concepts and copy along with typefaces evoking a tone and feel from the 1700s.
Unique, multiple components of the mailer included a die-cut element that showcased in a fun and playful way the plentiful hors d’oeuvres and beverages that would welcome attendees. Targeting a small group of approximately 200 MLS executives, the direct mail piece attracted almost all recipients.
The intimate event was held at The Hamilton in the Penn Quarter neighborhood of Washington, D.C., and the invitation helped share the message that those attending would be welcomed with informal conversation, relaxed atmosphere and plenty of food and drink. Aligning its reputation with lawyer, banker and founding father Alexander Hamilton, The Hamilton bills itself as “Designed to capture DC’s creative renaissance and a food-savvy audience that draws influence from every corner of the planet.” The Hamilton’s logo—an illustration of a cool Alexander Hamilton with sunglasses—was inspiration for the design for the event invitation.
Being a digital-centric brand consultancy often means our first engagement with clients begins with their website needs. Designsensory, though, as our name implies, infuses creative messaging across media, connecting all senses. With the understanding that a brand is part of a larger ecosystem, our team of designers, animators, videographers, photographers, editors, programmers, writers and strategists together are stewards of Design Thinking, creating multifaceted branding solutions via diverse platforms. No matter the capacity or project you’re working on with Designsensory, consider your brand and each creative execution as part of a larger ecosystem.
Procter & Gamble’s Global Marketing & Brand Building Officer Marc Pritchard shared in a recent article, “Forget thinking about how to make a vine or sending out the most clever tweet. Instead, focus on how to connect to consumers using ideas so big they’ll work on any platform.”
Forrester Research’s Nate Elliott shared in a recent blog post, “Leading your brand with interactive marketing isn’t about choosing one channel over another; it’s about rethinking how all our marketing channels work together.”
Elliott points to these three steps to build a digital-centric branding ecosystem:
1. Engage users on your own website. Nearly every audience we’ve studied says it trusts a marketer’s own site more than any other marketing channel, including offline advertising and social media.
2. Distribute your content and engagement into social and mobile media. Your brand probably won’t make quite as big an impact through social tools as it does on your own site but social platforms will make your brand accessible to users who don’t find their way to your site.
3. Reach a broad audience with paid media. If you want to get your message out to millions of people rather than thousands, you’ll need to buy both online and offline paid media.
In the natural world, ecosystems can be as small and confined as a seaside tidal pool thriving with diverse aquatic life, to an increasingly complex yet interconnected ecosystem spanning multiple continents. The same is true in the branding world, from a simple neighborhood direct mail campaign to a multinational, integrated marketing communications campaign. Ecosystems are varied. Working with a brand consultancy that understands this dynamic will help your brand ecosystem thrive.
Through the creative we develop for BASI Pilates and the images, videos, conversations and stories the client shares with our team, we’re able to witness the transformations, the higher physical and mental aesthetic the exercises and education can bring.
Everyone here at Designsensory exercises in one way or another—with personal trainers and aerobics instructors, long distance runners, weekend cyclists and the occasional team of disc golfers. We all know the value of ongoing activity and its ability to, over time, better shape us physically and mentally. And, yes, some of us have tried Pilates!
Believe it or not, for all of our clients and, in particular, BASI Pilates, there’s definitely a link between well-rounded exercise routines and website updates. Regimented, ongoing physical activity and the resulting benefits for health and appearance parallel in so many ways website design and content improvements to better engage site visitors on a regular basis.
In this blog post, discover how the same elegance in physical poise and well-being attained through BASI Pilates extends to the refinement of form and function in the brand’s updated home page. With the brand celebrating 25 years of Pilates workouts, education and training, BASI Pilates needed to continue that same practiced, individualized and engaging experience with newly refined elements now found within the home page.
BASI Pilates stands for excellence, high standards, professionalism and hard work. We embrace these standards and are excited with the updated aesthetic.
Partnering with PetSafe to launch the brand’s first national advertising campaign has been a wonderful experience for the Designsensory team. Although we’re digital-centric, we believe that a big idea can expand to any media—and our creative team and collaborative partnerships gave us the chance to do just that with PetSafe’s national ad campaign, touching digital, print and TV. The campaign theme, “Keeping Up With The Joneses,” playfully tells through product comparison vignettes how PetSafe’s innovative pet products create more best moments for people and their pets. Bringing the big idea to life took some time and effort—initial brainstorm meetings, storyboards and sketching ideas, scouting locations, getting props, talent selection, scriptwriting, narrowing down music and sound effects, and making sure the brand message and call to action resonated loud and clear.
To get everyone on the team excited and to witness the campaign coming to life, we had an amazing “Keeping Up With The Joneses” launch party, hosted by PetSafe’s Senior Brand Manager Robin Rhea, that brought together many of the people involved in the projects. During the party, we had the TVs tuned to the DIY Network, timed so that everyone could watch the commercials live, knowing millions of others across the country were also connecting with the PetSafe brand.
It takes a great team to pull off a really special national campaign. A big shout out goes to our internal team and creative collaborators: Wayne Bowman, copywriter; Matthew Foltz-Grey, storyboard artist; and Scott Saulnier with RIVR Media. Most importantly, thanks to PetSafe and our key client contact Robin Rhea for continuing to trust Designsensory to bring the PetSafe brand and best moments to life.
Check out the latest ads and TV commercials here:
Curious about what tomorrow will bring for design, content, technology and business development, and for our clients and their customers, we are looking ahead to ask “What’s next?” We’ve asked the Designsensory team to chime in on their thoughts for some of the “big topics” they see making an impact this year.
Let us know how these might fit into your branding, and what other trends you find relevant to your business.
Joseph Nother | creative director & principal
The technology has gone from $30,000 a few years ago to $499 today. The ability for us to truly create and replicate objects will be a quiet, gradual crescendo but one that has deep implications for society. Small-scale manufacturing will force another evolution of merchandising and commerce as well as culture with respect to localism and decentralized manufacturing. Here’s something to consider.
Coexisting with Technology and Information
The countermovement to the idea that we are too saturated with technology and information will continue. People will continue to wrestle with where to commit their precious time and attention. In doing so, the pressure for brands to differentiate and deliver value will only increase. At the same time, there might be resonance in messages that emphasize a return to offline activities.
Whether as accessories to mobile apps or separate devices altogether, technology will continue to embed, integrate and augment human beings. Think fitbit, Quantified Self, Nike+ FuelBand, tracking devices, precursors to the Star Trek Tricorder as next steps to embedded and cybernetic technology (particularly if you put stock in Kurzweil’s singularity).
Matt Honkonen | business development
Sensory Intelligence (products like XBOX Kinect & Google Glasses)
Interacting with media and content is moving from point and click to motion and audio cues.
Susan Hamilton | content developer, writer, editor
“Fidgital” and More Effects of Smartphone Use
A growing body of research is tying obsessive smartphone use to anxiety, sleep loss and dangerous behaviors. With so many of us dependent on our phones for scheduling, information, connectivity and even waking up in the morning, the New York Times has coined the phrase “fidgital” to describe how we itch to look, to answer, to check just one more time.
Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains, says that the need to know what’s going on around us is an important primitive desire that has helped us survive. But, today, the excessive interruptions that accompany an omnipresent cellphone may be diminishing our ability to concentrate, to think deeply, to focus for longer periods or to even be alone with our thoughts.
“The smartphone . . . changes our relationship with computers in a way that goes well beyond what we experienced with laptops,” he says. Of smartphone users, studies have shown that 70 percent check it within an hour of getting up; about half check it continuously during vacations and on weekends; and 44 percent say they would feel “a great deal of anxiety” if they were without a phone for a week.
Why it matters to us at DS: How can we better structure our mobile design and content to give users meaningful information without feeding the compulsive “checking” for more?
Matt Montgomery | graphic designer
Both Apple and Google launched new and improved versions of their smart TV set-top boxes in 2012. Look for both to continue to push forward in this new market. Apple’s CEO, Tim Cook, has stated he wants to revamp the current TV experience. As these companies and others forge forward, look for more and more customers to abandon cable providers that haven’t evolved with the times. The catch will be what content is available. While Netflix and Hulu Plus offer users many options, traditional cable providers will slow this process down by clinging to their dated multichannel pay TV model as long as they can.
Joseph Nother | creative director & principal
Collecting data is no longer the challenge. Interpreting data into meaningful bites and using empathy and insights to drive creative solutions is the new art-science. The brands that have the foresight to risk resources in a educated trial and error will uncover new opportunities, learn much and gain even more.
Sarah Loebner | graphic designer
The Color of Design
I expect to see an increase in unique color exploration. With design leaning toward cleaner, simpler styling, color choices are becoming more important, and our clients seem to be more open to alternative color options.
Matt Montgomery | graphic designer
Look for the use of skeuomorphism, the practice of having interface elements mimic real world objects (e.g., making a note-taking application look like real paper), to continue to fade. Many major interface and OS designers have already begun to abandon useless real world metaphors. This trend can be seen in Google’s Android phones & tablets, Microsoft’s new Windows 8 OS and Amazon’s Kindle OS. Apple remains a straggler here, but I believe they will follow this trend as many of their applications start to feel clunky and “toylike” compared to competitors.
Matt Honkonen | business development
Content, Content, Content
Brands will be focusing more and more attention and marketing spend on content creation. This will also trickle into social sharing and content curation.
Susan Napier-Sewell | content developer, writer, editor
Content: Getting it Right
The lifeblood of an organization, content in all its forms—words, photos, graphics, illustrations, video and more—drives business and communicates brands. For those confined within a conventional publishing box, content creation, management and delivery continue to present challenges.
In 2013, more organizations will make the liberating journey toward and commitment to sound, intelligent content, reaping the benefits of refreshed and re-evaluated core messages and more, and stepping up to offer enriched user experiences. That translates to the right information reaching the right people at the right time in the right format and language on the device of a customer’s choosing.
Ways & Means: Content Marketing
Many marketers are still doing considerable head-scratching regarding effective implementation and results-measuring for the bright, shiny object called content marketing. Buck the head-scratching trend, and take stock of how you’re doing from the lists below while it’s early in the year.
Which types of content marketing do you use?
Blogs or digital articles
Existing social networks
Webinars or virtual events
Custom social communities
What percentage of your budget is dedicated to content marketing?
Less than 2%
2 to 5%
6 to 10%
11 to 18%
19 to 30%
Erin Slattery | content strategist
Social Content is the New “King”
Social media is no longer a nominal marketing experiment. It has proved itself in the marketing arena. Businesses realize its power to persuade and are willing to put forth the dollars—quite a few dollars at that—to boost their social weight. That being said, 2013 is about curating these efforts and rising above the social clutter. A strategic combination of content, engagement and promotions will prove most effective in reaching, maintaining and satisfying hungry audiences.
Audiences continue to demand content that is tailored to them. As websites grow more responsive, so must our content. Our audiences want more control over the content they view and the way they view it. Location-based specials and in-store promotions pushing consumers to social sites are just a couple of examples in the push to create a more personalized and localized customer experience.
Relevance Trumps Spread
Companies have quickly learned that while content is “King,” it is also expensive to produce and can become stale quickly. Focus your resources on keeping content relevant rather than trying to reach wider audiences.
Lauren Glisson | content assistant
Fairly new to business is the power of “distance learning." This is the power to bring in speakers or professors from a different city, state, country, with no cost. Students experience different cultures for free, using just plain old technology.
Currently, this technique is used in university classrooms and grades K-12, but this method can also be brought to the business scene. People in the branding and design field, such as those here at Designsensory, can now integrate clients and other business leaders from far away into our business at the click of a button, facilitating meetings, clients, and helping achieve global recognition.