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.
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:
I love Netflix and I don’t mean just lounging around with my iPad or my Roku at home, binge watching shows and movies (although I do love that too) but their innovative approach to their business, products and now show production and strategy. Even their strategy to go after original programming and then how they executed on creating such amazingly addictive shows like House of Cards, Orange is the New Black, Daredevil, and Peaky Blinders (a little less known buy my favorite).
Their latest move that got my head spinning and yelling “genius” in my apartment to myself is when they had a new Marco Pollo episode at the top of my Netflix home page under Shows Recommended For You. I had watched the full first season of Marco Pollo (which is amazing) but I knew the second season couldn’t be out this soon. So I obviously clicked on it and was surprised to see the description saying something about it being a special feature episode on the back story of one of the main characters. Genius! Who does that? I’m guessing they filmed it during season one and just planned on having it in their back pocket drink the wait for the next season.
It did remind me of some special feature stuff you’ll see online or on YouTube for certain shows. Like having the show staff do some speaking about the shooting of the new season and maybe show some raw footage. But there’s something that always bugs me about seeing the actors and actresses out of character, and it seems to lessen my connection to the show since it starts to emphasize how its not real. The accents are gone, you see the set creation (making the realistic settings crumble back into the real world) and instead of getting me excited about the next season, I’m now feeling disconnected with the show I once felt was real.
I do feel like I need to say that I feel their business model around their original programming could be optimized a bit. I’m a little scared to say it publicly in case it catches on and it comes to fruition and then it ends up costing me way more money in the long run. Hmm… why do they release an entire season at a time? What benefit do they get for me to binge watch an entire season at once, over one weekend or one night? Do you see where I’m going here? We all know you have the whole season ready at that time, but why wouldn’t you release like 1 a day, and then possibly charge a very small nominal fee to watch the next one early? And to explain it in a dramatic way, when House of Cards season 2 came out and after episode 1 killed off Zoe Barnes, how much would you of paid to watch the next episode right then immediately? $.99? $1.99? $9.99? $49.99? Personally, if I knew that next episode was done but not being released for a whole other week, I’d for sure pay up to $100 (or if you know me, it might be more even) to watch that sucker.
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.
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.
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.
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.
With my second visit to a stadium experience center (you’ll see the SF 49ers and the Sac Kings above pictured), its amazing the effort and detail that goes into promoting a new sport stadium center and how impactful it really is. Its one of those things that you never really think of or know exists until you’re fortunate enough to be involved and see the production and experience of it.
The centers are usually nearby the new stadium location and can view the construction, but it is a promotional area that features renderings of the stadium in different mediums; digital 3D renderings, architectural models, to actual suite rooms with projection walls showing the view to the playing area.
The actual suite rooms are the most impressive and might need to be since selling the suite space is one of the key goals. The room has the actual layout, furniture, materials, and actual seats. And the wall were the view would be is sometimes a projection wall with game footage so you can get a sense of your view and perspective.
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!
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.