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.
I just can’t help myself to always snap a few, or a shit-ton of pics with my cell phone at a client location when we’re there for meetings or other, non-photographic reasons. They are so helpful. Clients love to see past and future mockups actually placed in their environments, and it is sooooo hard to get images from them of their spaces.
The fun part is that you’re not actually suppose to be taking pictures and using them, especially not for your marketing purposes. So usually I’m creeping around before the client lets us in, like around reception in the public area, just snapping cell phone pics in a non-discreet manner like I’m just reading text messages horizontally… which nobody ever does. I’ve only been called out at a client retail location but never in a corporate office. But I have been told before to be sure not to get any computer screens in my pictures.
My favorite is getting people in the pictures also. Especially since most of our digital work is based on engagement… so I want some people in there either looking at a screen or about to touch a screen. I get a lot of receptionists in there, some random guests, even some co-workers (they really hate it usually).
Of course the pics aren’t the best but usually if you get a steady and in-focus shot, you can photoshop that bad boy in some professional fashion to make it work. Lets be honest, iPhones will take a pretty badass picture these days and will work for most needs these days, and a hell of a lot cheaper than paying for a photoshoot or high res stock images (… don’t get me started on prices of high res stock images of fucking office building interiors!!!).
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:
Its actually more about sharing than writing. I somewhat dislike writing and absolutely hate trying to make my writing actually correct in english and punctuationally accurate (and sometimes I like to make up words like “punctuationally” and use parenthesis too much for my extracurricular thoughts). BUT I really enjoy sharing experiences to others and using all the knowledge I absorb to make a difference and possibly assist others in their experiences. The other angle I like about this is becoming an influencer. That term is buzzing right now as entrepreneurship is all the rage and becoming influential to younger people is not only helpful, its actually sought after by the young people in order to stay inspired and motivated in today’s crazy distracting society.
I’ve found myself writing about design topics, creative team stuff and also business type practices. Its an interesting forum where I feel like I can contribute in all three areas but also become more appealing to leadership opportunities and startup type companies if I come across as strategically understanding organizational methods and ways to ensure people adhere to them or can easily digest and excite against them.
My goal for 2016 is to start taking steps to becoming more of an influencer which essentially helps me become a better team lead when people find you more influential too look up to, trust and follow. So this whole LinkedIn platform for people to publish more article type content, rather than just an update post, is a great way for people like me (who are not writers nor want to be professional writers) to have an outlet and are encouraged to post some content to it. When I say “encouraged”, I mean how this actually adds value for the writer, as in having content posted out for all your connections to see and also other people to have the opportunity to read as well.
I’ve only written 2 of them to date, but I’ve see some of my connections ‘like’ the articles and also been messaged by random other people just for them to tell me that they liked them. Its an interesting feeling to have strangers tell you they appreciate your article which essentially appreciating your time, effort and experience. Its an addicting feeling. If I could scale that up a bit, I think I would want to learn more about writing (maybe take a class) and really exploit that feeling for possible revenue opportunities.
It never fails, my work productivity on a plane is around 200%. You don’t have the normal distractions and for some reason I always fall into this super-productive zone where I just want to get as much shit done as possible before the plane lands. Maybe its because I know I should maximize what I get done in this zone because once I land, its usually back to the chaos of the office, home, or some fun travel plans. Regardless why, up in the clouds is my secret office, my sweetspot.
My favorite task to do in the clouds is write. I can bang out blog articles left and right and don’t know why. is it the heightened focus? Maybe it has something to do with travel being somewhat motivational to me because I love it. It has this successful factor to it in my mind because you have the means and freedom to do it… not sure about that, but just my random thought on the matter.
The other benefit, or detriment sometimes, is now wifi is pretty standard on all planes. So now you can stay connected for emergencies, or appear to be working somewhere if your boss doesn’t know you stuck out on a friday for a early long weekend. But it is nice to have access to email because you’re undoubtably going to have at least one thing to respond to in real-time which is always helpful and also shows your team and peers you’re dedicated and even when traveling you’re attentive and adding value.
The funny part is when the person next to me notices what I’m doing. It happens about a 5th of the time in my experience. Usually they try not to watch or bug me because I have headphones in and am banging out work… but the curious and outgoing people always tap my shoulder, about as soon as the flight starts its descent and i’m putting away my laptop. Their comment or question is the funny part as its usually some version of, “What were you doing that whole time” or “What type of work do you do because that looked interesting.” That always cracks me up because they essentially caught me scribbling notes by hand or drawing little wireframes during takeoff, then transcribing them on my laptop once I get that out, and they are always curious if I was just playing around or if it was truly some form of professional activity. Then they sometimes find out the client, or they saw a logo of a fortune 500 brand they recognize and then its more comical to them because they see this young (at least i feel young, or think i look younger or more casual than your usually business professional) guy cranking out work for a big time company while being all cramped and semi-limited in the small airplane seat and awkward seat-back tray.
This also reminds me of my thinking on work/life balance (which I don’t even really like how that term is named really), and if I can fly out on a Friday, work on the plane and airports (during layovers) for at least 4-6 hours, then I love it. I get work done while flying my ass to some other city to visit friends, have an outdoors adventure, visit family, see random sites, etc. That is how I am enjoying life currently!
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.
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.
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.
Looking towards the next year, I started looking into media buys aligning to our 2016 marketing budget allocation, which is when I felt some extra gray hair coming in. (like I needed that) I had captured all the influential industry outlets that I wanted to target and now was the time to reach out for all their material and pricing. Doesn’t sound that hard, does it?
I setup folders per each website and event that I was targeting, which already got confusing because some companies owned multiple, and some events actually mapped back to some industry websites but didn’t actually have their own section. But, at last, I got that ironed out and put their various PDFs in each folder. Yeah, various PDFs… each organization sent between 1 and 4 PDFs that ranged from pricing tables, screenshots, audience graphs, media examples, etc. So that was fun.
Then I took a deep breath, went and bought some beer, and then started trying to compare the options. Each one was completely different in how they package and price their options. Literally, from pricing media per view, per 1000 views, per page, per email, per month in an email, per blast, per 1000 emails, etc. And the best is, no sales person wants to give you the easy answer because they actually want to know your budget, then they’ll sell you a sweet package for about 130% of your budget. I’m not mad at them. They know its easy for us to approve that then haggle for weeks with them.
So you finally get the sales people to give you buttoned up proposals of clear options so you can really compare them. Then the hard part…. presenting those options with your recommendations to your boss, controller, or anybody else who gets to chime in. Now I know just to prepare to go back and forth with those proposals at least 3 times before everyone is happy and satisfied. I’ll just plan on writing another blog article after Q1 next year, when I share marketing results and get feedback galore on how I chose wrong!
Every once and a while it seems like a certain client aligns to your interests and you feel like you’re just having fun and not really working… which makes it super easy to go the extra mile. Recently GoPro, a brand I live for and love, became a client of ours and when they asked last minute if we’d film the construction of the new retail kiosk, my answer was, “Duh.”
It was 6pm on a Wednesday and the client asked if we’d setup cameras to capture time-lapse footage during the 2-3 day construction. I was actually leaving for the gym at the time, but I was happy to completely shift my plans to figure out how to make that happen for such a cool brand. I actually had no idea how a GoPro camera could be plugged in for power and continuously video a time-lapse, but I knew enough about the normal usage to be confident we could figure it out.
We double checked our GoPro inventory on hand and then headed to Fry’s for the items we thought could bring this together: USB power cords, outlet adapters, memory cards, etc. We stayed late (which probably involved some beers) at the office trying various time-lapse settings and doing the math on how different time-lapse captures would produce certain length of footage (based on frames per second) and how much memory on our card would that take up (so it didn’t fill up over the night and shut off before morning).
Arriving at Fry’s at 7am before they opened to setup the cameras, was very early for us 2 who went, but was still fun to get them setup from each side and test the initial footage on our phones to see how the time-lapse was capturing the view at this huge store area. We essentially had to drive to the Fry’s store multiple times over Thursday, Friday, and even Saturday morning to make sure they were still and that nobody have messed with them. But overall it was a blast, and I enjoyed staying late and even working over the weekend to edit all the footage (which was essentially 4 days of footage – 2 days from each camera) maybe because of the hope that GoPro would pass it around and maybe it shows up on their social outlets … we’ll see.
Last year I noticed Behance started introducing company pages where multiple designers can associate their work to their company’s page. This immediately made me think about attracting design talent by them seeing all the cool range of work that our company handles and how it can help them get the coolest portfolio.
I like to promote the fact that our company will help grow a designers portfolio like no place else. And sometimes thats hard to show a potential hire without having to whip out a powerpoint presentation and start showing mockups. The behance page seemed like the thing to easily shoot a designer, or even put in the job posting for them to go checkout. (I’m tired of just having people checkout our website because I hear too many weird things which makes sense because potential hires is our sites target audience)
After asking the design team if they would want to pursue a behance page for their portfolio, which they answered yes, I took this a little more seriously and figured out a way for us to ensure we load up that company page. I asked the project management lead to give the design team 2 fridays off of client work over the course of 2 months. She didn’t really baulk at it and just essentially skipped those friday’s in our project plans, almost like a holiday. I planned with the design team to have a behance day, and we figured out which projects to try and tackle. The days were pretty relaxing, even though creating a portfolio page is always tricky (us designers are so picky when it comes to presenting our work… probably like a model getting dressed in the morning… or not, that just came to me) After those 2 fridays, the company page is now loaded with over 10 new projects ranging from mobile apps, tablet apps, data widgets, video walls, motion graphics, social media, etc. It was also the perfect timing because we were wanting an intern after the first of the year and were seeking out local colleges for talent … we’ll shall see.
And it was a great way to start playing with final projects and products in a marketing manner, like how to position them in real environments and make them look super sexy for when we want to start using them in our real company marketing material.
My old wise Chinese design professor said if I didn’t write this shit down it would vanish in thin air. Note taken, here is my daily discoveries of the ever evolving design world around me.