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 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.
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.
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.
Its amazing to see how data visualizations have been pushed from a development standpoint, which helps designers know which cool affects can come at a smaller development effort and not break the bank or timeline.
When decided on the actually graph or chart type, its easy to have 3 or 4 that really fit your data in a good way, but then it becomes more of a cosmetic discussion on what looks better or fits better with where you’re displaying it at. Even stylistically the development Libs or plug-ins make the design more streamlined as they have built in CSS treatments like gradient shading or drop shadows.
A lot of the libraries really focus on the animating of the actual graph pieces which really make any data vis really pop. Even if the end visual seems sort of plain, that first 1-2 seconds when it is animating into its full representation, any client or stakeholder will be wowed with the motion graphic aspect of it.
I’ve been researching spaceship graphics for a mobile app game we’re wanting to concept out, and I’ve been really impressed with how some designers have approached a more flat-ish skew-morphism style which really comes across contemporary and professional. It also helped me to see all the various states and pieces these designers are putting in this sprite-type view of their graphics.
The other important element is the overall brand of the game, and before I even thought of a logotype or identity, I was worried about the color palette. Some designers were really pushing the boundaries of normal color convention and going with a wide range of colors and chromas. I expected to see some monochromatic ranges mixed with various grays and black, but most of the ones I saw were using at least 3 or 4 different colors and some neutrals or browns in the mix also. I love doing this type of research before I start just to help me step up my game and not re-invent the wheel, or don’t start way behind the industry when these examples can boost my starting point.