Category Archives: Branding

Creating Mood Boards and What They Should Convey

Oh, the good ole mood board. Its so powerful and yet so subjective in what it should be and contain. Its not an easy thing to define exactly and it feels like everyone could have a slightly differently approach to it as long as it conveys the right things; style, feeling, tone, etc.

Google called it this, “an arrangement of images, materials, pieces of text, etc., intended to evoke or project a particular style or concept.” … and I don’t hate that definition.

I broke it down a bit differently to give instructions on creating one.

  • The end goal is to convey the style and tone in the design you are concepting out
  • The audience is usually a creative director or client stakeholder
  • Use elements from research, past designs, current collateral from the same brand or newly created elements
  • Re-create any elements that are too far off-brand (like the completely wrong color or image) but don’t spend too much time making them perfect
  • When you squint, it should start to mimic the design style you have in mind

I actually think this is a powerful practice to complete even if you’re not showing a stakeholder for approval but only for yourself. Its not easy to have the discipline to do that, but I bet it will pay off in the long run in making you a stronger visual communicator.

Creating Digital Content w/ No Audio from TV Commercials

As soon as I saw the first IBM Watson national spot where they had people conversing with Watson in creative ways, I knew I wanted to do something with it (since IBM is a big client of my company and we have free reign to try new stuff sometimes). The TV spots had cool settings with very visual surroundings, and very unique looking people (from a cute little girl to Bob Dylan) which I thought would turn out really well in some cool motion graphic treatment across a large-scale videowall. The commercials also featured some good tag lines around cognitive business and also good witty banter between Watson and the featured person. A great challenge to turn it into digital content.

My first opportunity was for a much wider digital canvas, a 7 portrait screen array which is about 3 times the width of HD. But this wasn’t a hindrance, as its a normal thing we do and actually gives you a lot of freedom in creating supporting graphical treatments to surround any existing HD footage or maybe use to put some title text or supporting messaging.

The biggest challenge on these were the audio because the videowall we were creating content for didn’t have the audio turned on due to it being in a corporate lobby and not wanting to be overly distracting. But the audio piece was the compelling part of the video which highlights the value and personality of Watson.

So we transcribed the people talking to Watson and figured out how much of it we should try and use and how to show the text on the screen. We decided to have some messaging on one side of the screen, and then for the actual conversation we treated it almost like a text message string or chat client type of format, where each speaking person had a little avatar/headshot with their line. Then each one would animate onto the screen after a few seconds, trying to mimic a conversation, and essentially allow a viewer in this corporate lobby to see this really cool visual piece and then follow along with the text-based conversation.

Here’s a couple examples, the text on the right is too small to read, but it animates through the conversation/audio:

 

Banner Ads Giving Insight to Client Animations and Motion Graphics

You see a beautiful client marketing example and then when you really wonder how they envisioned it with motion, you’re stuck. Of course you can dream up some motion treatment but you know they have very experienced agencies or people already doing it. Then, it happens, you randomly see a new banner ad one some random webpage that is the exact campaign and shows the animation treatment. Opa! Champaign (or beer) falls from the heavens, angels start signing … you got the insight you need and you didn’t have to bug your client to go through the endless channels to try and find that answer (that they really didn’t understand how to ask anyway).

I feel stupid admitting this now but I use to take multiple screenshots to try and capture the essence of the motion. Then I was slapped on the back of the head and introduced to Quicktime’s screen capture feature where you can easily record a specified part of your screen and save it as a video. And, its free. I know, crazy talk, right? When SnagIt costs money, but a video capture tool is free with the Quicktime app that we’ve all had on our Mac’s forever.

Then the little problem of assets come into play. You hope and pray that the PDF you received (or downloaded from the client website) allows you to open it in Illustrator and easily separate the layers. Usually you get lucky and you’re able to at least save out the background and its in some decent size format for you to leverage in a HD or UHD/4k manner.

Just for reference, www.Moat.com is a good site to easily throw in a client name and it pulls up all their online media. BUT, this does not let you play any motion clips, only view the static media. But its still a  good tool to use if you want to quickly glance at a brand’s newest online styles or marketing campaigns. It has become a staple in my online client stalking repertoire.

A Year Full of Company Blog Content and It Didn’t Kill Me… Almost

We’re closing in on the end of the calendar year which marks our first full year of company blog content. It was a big goal this year, for our company to step up its marketing game and try to create custom content for a full year of weekly content … which turned out to be sometimes bi-weekly but that was fine. It wasn’t easy, but we did it amidst our crazy work schedule, client nuttiness, product builds, hiring madness, etc. (www.signet.tv/news)

I actually found it really fun to take time out of the craziness and sit back and think … if we’re industry leaders (like we like to envision ourselves), then what do we want to say, what do people want to learn from us… and then position those ideas into compelling and engaging blog articles. Ok, I don’t know if we fully hit that, but it was a good start and I feel really good about us hitting that next year.

BlogPics - Company blog year full embed

At first the struggle was what to actually write about; company news, project highlights, partner callouts, etc. Some initial ones turned out like case studies and not really news or industry trends, so we shifted a little and made them more like news-worthy project stuff or true industry ideas that are helpful. Some articles were easy to include a cool picture and then we started creating small/simple videos to embed for some ancillary context through video (which I would guess most people prefer).

If anything, our learning experience was invaluable. I learned very few people who say they will write articles, actually will. BUT, I learned people do like to ideate about them, so next year I’ll just hold brainstorming sessions and then extract enough info from that person to outline the article and have a copywriter do it up.

You can view it here: www.signet.tv/news

The client doesn’t have cool motion stuff… Fine, we’ll get creative

Whenever we do a media wall project, we try to look for impactful media to really impress people with and that usually is best served through motion like a video or motion graphics. In this scenario with Lockheed Martin, they only were able to get access to some high resolution brand images. But I will say that the brand images they had were some of the best styled brand imagery I’ve seen in a while.

We ideated internally on how we can make the most impact with what we had to work with. Some initial ideas was to just use the images and slightly animate them in the background, like panning side to side with a slight zoom change, giving a very slight sense of motion.

Then we settled on the idea of taking out some main subject elements of the brand images and creating a subtle motion graphic. So we cropped out the main element (like a satellite or fighter jet), manually filled back in the photo, and then concerted out how to animate those main elements back over the originally composition. Our end execution had the main subject extremely slowly moving and twisting, which creating a cool effect where the viewer was reading other text on the screen but then after a few moments would notice the background and take a few extra seconds to try and figure out that its actually moving, because the object was slowly overlapping different from the text boxes over it. Overall the clients loved it and was so surprised at our innovative approach to work with their media.

 

Stock Photos: The Hunt in Today’s World

There’s almost nothing more frustrating than coming to a great idea for the photo direction, but then not exactly finding the right image. I couldn’t imagine trying to find the right stock photo way back in the day, before websites with metadata and account preferences and fancy features. I do have to admit this is a frustrating process and almost silly thing to bitch about, since before the more advanced internet of things, this process was so much harder when your only option was to plan, budget and execute on a custom photoshoot to capture that perfect image.

Anyway … websites like istockphoto.com have made it so efficient to not only find the perfect image, but to repeatedly use their tool for ongoing campaigns, special needs, and any research. From all the autosuggest category tags, which is actually extremely very helpful if you think about the fact that they are showing you what actually tags have content, and you don’t have to peck and hunt via crazy words that you just came up with.

The “light boxes” on istockphoto are also worth a shootout. They are essentially just folders to save your image ideas in (and what a cool way to brand it and make it sound more connected to the industry) … anyway … The real reason I love this is because I used to take thousands of screenshots when doing research for images or just mood boards, and it was a pain because I was always ensuring I also captured the ID or URL, in case I wanted it and then couldn’t find it again (starting the craziness of the process over again). I fill those light boxes up, and love the comfort in knowing every idea is one click away from purchase.

And thank god, they have the additional filters like file type, because I can’t stand seeing illustrations when I’m looking for a photo. Theres way too many people out there essentially doodling in illustrator and trying to sell it professionally as stock work.

When Clients send you what they think is enough branding to work from

I love when a client is asked for their brand guidelines and instead they send over some random files. I don’t hate them for it. I really just find it amusing and fun to analyze. It usually consists of some type of Powerpoint template file, so jpgs, and a PDF or two. Some people get put out and want to over-analyze it and fight to get the “official” and latest brand guidelines, but I’ve been on the client side before and that isn’t always the easiest thing to track down.

It becomes a challenge, to really try and fit to their brand with the simple assets given. To try and decipher their brand code, color palette, photo styles and any graphic treatments, with only the few samples you’re given. Its a challenge of pure art direction, mixed with graphic and visual intelligence that is actually fun if you aren’t already swamped with work and deadlines. And the amazing thing is usually these type of client stakeholders aren’t that picky, and sometimes (very rare) your new take on their branding execution sparks a fire among their company and they start using your new execution on various brand pieces or extensions. There is a fine line to ride here, which only experience can speak to, but it can be fun, and as long as your honest and get approval from your client stakeholders, don’t be scared to push it a little … or a lot!