Creativity effects creativity.
Regarding Designsensory's latest digital launches and our ongoing decorating-our-new-space fervor, one could ponder a conundrum worthier than the proverbial chicken and egg: Are we so inspired along the pathway to fulfill our clients' dreams that original ideas billow over into our personal space, or is it the other way around? Riddle you not, we will leave the question where it lives, between furrowed brows, and initiate a reveal of those client pathways we've traversed of late.
Fall 2010, for Tennessee Dept. of Tourist Development (TDTD), aptly themed Fall Into Adventure, is an enticing riot of colorful images and myriad pursuits for Tennessee travelers.
That Evening Sun, shot in East Tennessee and starring Hal Holbrook, met with critical acclaim, the site evocative of the brilliant production.
Nature & Outdoors (TDTD) presents Tennessee au naturel, ethereally yet earthily, covering parks, recreation, waterways and sports, plants and wildlife, natural wonders and the "Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways" initiative.
Down-home, Maryville’s Foothills Fall Festival floats like a butterfly, alive with concerts, art, and adventures.
Summer 2010 (TDTD) colorfully embraces the Sunny Side of Life, offering up lighthearted summer sojourns, tasty Tennessee fresh edibles and contemporary events.
The new Attractions (TDTD) section packs a wallop, as it explores the fast, fun, quirky, amusing and naturally appealing in the Volunteer State.
Onward and upward to Destination Jersey City, where the site literally sparkles with nightlife sizzle when viewing after the sun is completely down.
And, coming soon to this blog near you: what we've been up to in the world of print and our spirited decorating projects in the Designsensory batcave.
The beginning of March brought us to the end—really the beginning—of a long but satisfying journey. For nearly nine months, we have been hard at work developing a competing product with the likes of Mint and Wesabe. Both products are good at what they promise to do, but for many people who need more "personal attention" they leave much to be desired. Enter Solutions web app found at actfinancially.com.
Late last summer, two women entrepreneurs approached us with a detailed concept for a new financial tracking web application. Drawing on decades of corporate and financial experience, Jo Bittof and Nancy Lowery articulated a vision of a robust, user-friendly financial tracker surrounded and supported by educational materials, coaching and a personal rewards program. Their goal was to create a platform that would allow individuals and families to address bad financial habits the same way people learn to lose weight and get healthy: with an emphasis on education, accountability, habit formation, reinforcement and conditioning.
What is Solutions?
Solutions contains a full-featured set of budget planning and reporting tools. The transaction register is based on manual entry to force the user to maintain top-of-mind awareness of each and every transaction. For convenience, transfers between multiple accounts, cash withdrawals, reconciliation tags and commenting areas are supported under the register. At any time, the user can run reports on their spending and saving patterns as well as comparisons against their ideal budget.
Those interested in learning more about the whys and hows of financial planning and management can turn to two main areas for education and personal growth: the community and coaching sections. Community features forums, where people can ask questions, get opinions, be inspired by others’ successes, and learn from mistakes. A rich knowledge base is made available, easily accessed in the coaching section. There, the user can find skillfully written articles--sorted by topic—as well as quizzes, videos and a blog published by Jo and Nancy.
Finally, Solutions features a rewards system, to reinforce learning and good financial behavior. Each time the user completes a task in Solutions—such as reading an informative article or completing a step toward financial independence--they receive a reward in the form of "Golden Eggs." The eggs can then be redeemed for prizes.
It Takes a Village
As Designsensory moves from project development to release, our role transitions to one of promotion and refinement. We launched a beta-testing program to capture early adopters and early bugs, and now we provide an integrated online-marketing strategy.
Of particular note and pride to me is the sheer breadth and scope Designsensory played in the creation of this product. Starting with the brand identity and positioning we moved through architecture and feature planning, usability and interface prototyping, and design and technical development of the web-application itself. We deployed E-commerce to fulfill the user transactions and wrote the logic behind the rewards tracking. On the marketing side, we have concept, strategy and artwork in place for display, social and email campaigns to get the word out.
To sum it up, our entire team did a bang-up job on this application. The interface is magic, and the logic behind the number tracking, reporting and rewards programs is particularly amazing (woot to our tech team!). Also noteworthy is the detailed and inspired work Mark put into the construction of the user interface. We both worked hard to identify the values of the brand and to structure the flow of an elegant user-interface experience, but Mark stayed on tactical point throughout the whole development. His stamp of diligence stretches across every page, grouping and button, resulting in something cohesively articulated and pleasurable to use.
So, if you are a parent looking to find the money for braces or a recent grad with a new job looking to save for a home check out Solutions today. You bring the goals and it'll help get you there.
As we say hello to a new year we find ourselves saying farewell to a friend and colleague. After several years of service, Sara Lewis has decided to pursue an alternate career path and will be leaving the Designsensory family as a full-time employee this January. As a tribute to her service and time with us we thought we'd simply testify to her awesomeness as we wish her well in the future.
"It has been excellent to work with Sara - as my very first job in a strange new country, I was especially pleased to discover a work colleague who could be so professional and hard-working, yet still retain a great sense of humor and consistently upbeat attitude. Thanks, Sara! I will be sorry to see you leave the company, and wish you the very best of luck with your new career."
"Sara is fluent in lolcat and was always happy to chat with me in that vernacular when the situation called for it. And the situation called for it often."
"When I first joined Designsensory, it was Sara who made me feel at home. Lost in a sea of anagrams and protocol, she guided me through and helped me become a healthy, happy DSer. Always a smiling face, she made even the worst client requests seem mere trifles. I'm glad she's only going to be a small jump away."
"In my one month working with you, Sara, I’ve come to respect you immensely as a co-worker and like you very much as a friend. I will be coming to nab you soon for some shopping, gabbing, cupcakes and ice cream so start saving your pennies!"
"Sara's great! She works hard and is fun to be around. We took a detour one day to go up in the sunsphere for a little tourism research. (Then we had to stop by the candy factory for a little taste bud research.) I'll miss her happiness."
"Sara has the unique ability to bring order and organization to the office when there might otherwise be chaos. This unique skill, her happy personality, and her cake-making experiments (of which I was a happy taste tester) will surely be missed."
"What will we do without Sara? She managed both the best and worst of situations with grace and humor. As Isaac Newton said, 'Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy.' In other words, Sara."
- Susan H.
"Sara Lewis...where to start? First, lets change your middle name to Rocks, because that's all you ever did, was 'rock!' You made life so much easier and I am forever going to miss the pleasure of working with you. I do wish you the best of luck in your new adventures and hope nothing but the best for you!! Good bye my friend."
"Tis true . . . where you are concerned . . . 'Parting is such sweet sorrow.' Working with you has been a joy! You always come back with answers (good answers!) to issues raised; you are quite unflappable (and, goodness knows, we have surely tried your patience on a daily basis!); and you are most witty & pleasant (great tools in the workplace). So, I say not goodbye, rather "a bientot," which the French use as an informal farewell, meaning "See you later." Take care and great success in your new position."
- Susan S.
"Anytime, we lose a member of the team I am not only reminded of how fleeting time is but also how special a family we have become. I am reminded of how for a period of time our lives become intertwined, and you learn to appreciate the family, friends and colleagues that bring meaning to your short time on Earth. On a daily basis we fight the good fight shoulder to shoulder and it is those experiences that are minted in the history of our lives.
But with Sara, that loss is deeper. Since her first day, I have been honored and impressed with her devotion to spirit of Designsensory. She is professional yet fun, confident yet humble, diligent yet flexible and she has helped us grow this company with her dedication to service. As time went on she earned our trust, and as we grew larger she became the real face of Designsensory. The time spent with her has made us all better people as she has led the way with her compassion, strength and understanding for the needs of our customers, vendors and other team members. Now in the wake of her departure we must confront the void of her absence and reflect on the lessons she has taught us.
It has been a great privilege to have lived and worked closely with Sara. I am confident we will find a suitable successor but that special spark of positive energy, that ample and generous laughter and unwavering smile will never be fully replaced. Thank you Sara."
Sara, you will be sorely missed. Best of luck in the future and remember you will always have friends here at Designsensory.
Several weeks ago, Designsensory proudly and excitedly played a crucial part in the launch of a new Tennessee statewide tourism initiative: Discover Tennessee Trails & Byways. Governor Phil Bredesen, along with the Commissioner of Tourist Development, Susan Whitaker, announced an initiative that will take Tennessee Tourism to the next level.
The premise is simple: most travelers visit well-known cities within a state or region. Unfortunately, this often leaves so much left to be discovered begging the question: Is there an easy way to get people to leave the tried-and-true behind and explore new things. Tennessee's new tourism initiative answers that call.
The mandate from the State on this project could not have been more clear---create a wildly memorable website for people to engage a new ground-breaking, state-wide tourism initiative in Tennessee. We were simply told "Have fun and just run with this one." Well, we did!
This was one of those projects where we threw ourselves into an idea not exactly knowing how we would pull it off. Let me just say, I love the pressure and creative breakthroughs that come from this type of scenario. Creatively, my goals for the user experience were quite clear: meaningful movement, whimsical yet contextually-specific imagery, and visually something different from the conventional page and site structure. We wanted movement---not gimicky but something that made sense within the concept.
In surveying possible new ways to create movement without Flash I came across a jQuery plug-in called jParallax. As usual, our tech team and Josh, in particular, worked a miracle to get past the learning curve and make it work with everything else. The integration of this plug-in allowed us to implement the key conceptual element of the website---the left-to-right, east-to-west browsing action of the view-port area. Later, we would return to this code to deploy custom interactive trail maps based on the graphical print map found in the brochures.
It's quite incredible to think that the entire site, which when all the trails finish development and go live will include thousands of backroad finds and hidden gems all served up from essentially one "page". In the end, what is most experimental is not the visual or technical design but the organization and browsing behavior. This website could have easily evolved into a typical "menu, click-to list, click-to tertiary page with a sidebar" routine. Instead, as the emotional appeal of the initiative suggests, we left our comfort zone and explored new ground. Hopefully, the ends will be as satisfying as the means.
The early feedback could not have been more promising. Here is a videocast from a well-known online design resource (Thank you Unmatched Style):
Anyway, give the website a go and see what you think. Better yet, travel to Tennessee and experience the trails firsthand. As the initiative blossoms over time, we hope the interactive experience leaves a memorable impression with the explorer in all of us compelling people to...hit the trail!
If you want to learn more about the website, visit our portfolio page. You can also interact with the initiatve on social platforms (courtesy the hard work of our partner agency Paramore|Redd). Participate in the development of the trails on Facebook, stay informed on Twitter and post images from the trail to Flickr.
What a year 2009 has been already! Here's the latest bit of heartfelt news. I am pleased to announce Designsensory has officially been awarded a second term with the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development as their interactive agency of record.
In turn, we are partnering with our peeps at Paramore|Redd on the online marketing initiatives which includes email, social and viral initiatives all driving back to the tnvacation family of sites.
If you spent any time with us for the past several weeks you would know this was a more emotional win than the many we are thankful to be awarded. So, why all the mushy gushy sentiments you ask?
Well, our work with the state has always been a labor of love. For nearly five years we have poured hour upon hour on this project. In many ways our stewardship of tnvacation.com has defined our professional and personal lives. It made many things possible when we were just starting out as a going business. We have grown steadily through this time and have developed some great relationships in the process. Most of all, a lot of life was lived in those five years!
When the rebid process finally arrived in late 2008, it certainly brought with it moments of retrospection and a great deal of stories to boot. As you can probably guess incumbent agencies do not eagerly await the rigors of the rebid process. Nevertheless, what a way to re-evaluate, refresh, research and recommit to a program. It's a great way to stay hungry and keep the fire burning.
This victory was especially sweet to me, Brandon and the crew here at Designsensory. Though the results were released a few weeks ago and I am most happy to share the news with you now.
Here's to another great five years. I know the best is yet to come!
Several weeks ago we had the pleasure of taking a quick trip to Abingdon, Virginia. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Highland region in Southwest Virginia and steeped in Old World tradition, Abingdon succeeds in transporting the lucky traveler to a different time and place. Rumor has it that Abingdon is also an old childhood stomping ground of a certain Technical Director here at Designsensory.
Anyway, we found Abingdon a magical setting when we were there last but it is surely going to hold a special place in our hearts now. The business that brought us there weeks ago (bidding on their tourism website RFP) has concluded and we have been graciously selected as their new development firm. Our task: redesign www.abingdon.com.
With visual inspiration like the photographs above and a heritage that goes back to the formation of our country and the Revolutionary War it should prove to be fertile ground for some great authentic design. Thank you to our friends in the Abingdon Town Government who granted this opportunity. Time to work some magic of our own. ;-) Stay tuned...more to come in early 2009. In the meantime, experience Abingdon for yourself!