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!!!).
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.
Article 1: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/scouting-college-design-graduates-senior-show-neil-rieger
Article 2: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/dont-hit-send-folder-snippy-email-24-hours-neil-rieger
I don’t know if theres a better all-around team building event outside of a happy hour. Remember thats considering cost, time and outcome as the determining factors of calling it better than like a real excursion. It sometimes gets messy (not always as down and dirty as the picture with this blog post) but thats the aspect of letting your hair down with your co-workers and having fun.
Even if someone doesn’t drink, thats ok. Its called “Happy Hour” not “Drink Alcohol Hour” (which sounds sort of fun too, to me at least). We’ve had people attend and not drink alcohol. There’s usually a slough of appetizers and random good eatin’ that gets ordered and passed around. Between all the food you can handle, maybe a delicious virgin drink (get creative with it if you don’t just want a coke or iced tea) and all the funny banter and talking shit on clients, what’s not to enjoy even if you’re dead sober?
This particular happy hour we were celebrating 3 project deployments which is a great way to get something on the board, to celebrate team success. Now, we’re pretty casual so we just winged the happy hour and let everyone chat but you can even go more structured and really talk about the projects and almost lead the conversation in certain ways to really get your ROI on that happy hour. I’m not sure how I feel about that but the idea floats around my head sometimes as a way to really ensure your attendees have that opportunity to vent about those projects because this is when you want them to bitch about that client instead of during business hours at the office.
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!
Sometimes you just need to take over a room, sprawl out all your shit (and by “shit” I mean tons of prints outs, whiteboard markers, pens, tape, push pins, snacks, drinks, dogs, etc) just to get yourself focused in on the large challenge at hand. It surprisingly gets you motivated in an indescribable way and tunnels you in, eliminating the other normal day-to-day distractions.
In the latest situation, the project was challenging enough but then myself and the lead designer both were sick at the beginning of the creative concept sprint, and of course our deadlines were really tight and not moveable. So at the beginning of the next week, we checked out were we were and I got a little freaked out knowing how much work still needed to be done to really impress the hell out of this new client. I took some deep breaths and said, do what you need in the next 30 min in order for us to take over conference room 2 for war room madness the rest of the day. We printed out client branding examples, video stills from the best client vids, conceptual research of bad ass interface and UI graphics, site maps, and project wireframes. The room was beautifully littered with shit all over the walls and table for us to start our work session.
I think madness is key, as it helps you hone in on your messy situation and then your mind can’t even fathom other normal distractions; like email, text messages, other employees dumb chatter, etc. I usually like to start scribbling over the print outs, using like a red whiteboard marker to circle/asterisk elements on the print outs that we liked and want to pursue. Then you freestyle the hell out of your whiteboards (did I mention you HAVE to have a whiteboard in your war room?… cuz that is a must) and be sure to snap pics of your progress at certain points because you will erase it randomly in the heat of the moment.
Then get some outside opinions. Don’t just keep your ideas within your small group, and I’ve seen some heated debates fester in that little space which is usually getting hot and smelly. Take a break, stretch, go find and call in an outsider to gauge your progress down your solution path. See if there’s other random ideas the pop up. I’ve noticed people like to be invited in, checking out your Ray Finkle style room of horror, and provide helpful spitballing. Try it out and see.
As a designer, you should enjoy diving into research and just getting lost in your explorations. Its time away from the pressure of always creating and designing something, and just letting lose on the interview (or in the physical world, I guess). But it is good to have some initial goals to help get you started or else you’ll spin worse than a … oh you get it.
My goals for branding research usually starts with competition, then industry, then related media. And I set my goals on finding examples for Logotypes, Symbols, and Color. That gives you at least some high level ideas on where to start and my goal is to always fill up a tabloid size InDesign page with little screenshots.
At first, I just go on a web rampage and just splatter little screenshots all over my InDesign canvas, but at least on the appropriate page for logotypes, symbols, or color. Then you’ll start to discover some trends or relationships where you can start grouping your research or hone in on your searching.
For this research, I was looking specifically for Product Suite Families and any relationship from the Parent Product down across the Individual Products. This was fun as its something I don’t think I’ve ever really looked into. I was amazed how some product suites leveraged typefaces consistently across the entire suite, while some completely disregarded that. Some used colors in some relational manner like taking them from the parent symbol, while some just used the one main brand color and used it to make each product icon or symbol look like its within the product suite.
After about a 4 hour research session, at least I have a good 6 pages of cleaned up examples. Another tip is to not get too hung up on thinking of how each element can apply to your specific needs. That will drive you nuts. Just go with the flow, faster the better probably so you don’t overthink something and leave it out. Get it all in your InDesign file, clean it up (leaving some on the canvas and not on the actual page), and then sleep on it before really going through and thinking about which is best for you to apply to your project.
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!
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.
Staying connected to the local colleges that have design departments is a bit tedious but an important task that I try to fit in. There almost needs to be some mechanism or website that fulfills this need. Now, I’m just relying on Facebook and hoping those design programs are posting about upcoming shows or related news. There’s way too many talented college students who could truly benefit from experience like an internship or even talking to professionals in the real word and get some key advice.
At one portfolio show I was surprised to be the only person there from an outside company. There was just the students and few professors. I admit I was taken back by that, and when I approached the professors afterwards, they were almost surprised I showed up. I thought that might be the point of these shows. At my university, our senior show was advertised to every single agency and design firm in a 100 mile area … and about half of us got internships and interviews.
I do feel like a bit of a stalker having to follow the schools on Facebook and then when I see a picture of work hanging up, I almost want to comment and ask if it’s a public show. Here I am, practically begging to get in there and catch some of this talent … BUT shouldn’t that be the other way around? I would absolutely love it if I had department heads at these design programs contacting me on a regular basis to discuss opportunities for their kids, or asking me to come in and talk about digital media and real world projects. Hmmm, I think I have a new goal. I’ll make this happen soon.