Category Archives: Design

Creativity and the art of successful communication

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2084669164_f531120bf7_oPop quiz: Which of these do you agree with?

A. Creativity is the act of turning new and imaginative ideas into reality
B. Communication is not something I equate with creativity
C. Creativity in communication is prized and hard to obtain
D. Creativity in communication is best left to artisans
E. Creativity is just a trendy buzzword and grab-bag term that I tend to ignore

Picasso, whose birthday was on 25 October, became one of the most influential artists of the early 20th century, and has a lasting legacy that got us thinking about creativity – particularly the role it plays in creating effective and engaging communication.

One of the reasons Picasso’s skills are so vital when it comes to communication is because visualisation is paramount in our communication schema. In fact, you have likely heard the findings of Dr Albert Mehrabian’s 1950’s study: only 7 per cent of communications is verbal, while 38 per cent is tonal and 55 per cent is visual – body language and facial expression. This why creativity is such an important component in how we communicate.

At the c word we think the key to successful communication comes from being creative. Though we acknowledge being creative is no easy task. Not all of us have the skill of Picasso!

So what is creativity?

Richard Foster, a lecturer in management at Yale and director of McKinsey attempts to answer this question in an excellent article titled “What Is Creativity?

“Creative solutions are insightful, they’re novel, they’re simple, they’re elegant, and they’re generative,” he says. “When you find one creative idea, more often than not it triggers other ideas in the same fashion.”

When crafting communication, your key messages should be:

  • Visual
  • Insightful
  • Novel
  • Simple
  • Elegant

Simply put, they should be creative. Do your communication objects deliver you clear, concise and creative communication?

The American poet, Clarissa Pinkola Estes wrote:

“To create one must be able to respond. Creativity is the ability to respond to all that goes on around us, to choose from the hundreds of possibilities of though, feeling, action, and reaction and to put these together in a unique response, expression or message that carries moment, passion and meaning. In this sense, loss of our creative milieu means finding ourselves limited to only one choice, divested of, suppressing, or censoring feelings and thoughts, not acting, not saying, doing or being,”

So how do you become more creative in your communication?

Start by reading:

Next week: creative storytelling

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It was the early ’90s. Wacko Jacko was all over MTV and a busty blonde named Pammie ran in super slow-­mo along a Californian beach in THAT red one­-piece. Something else rather big was brewing that decade too. Special engineers with their thinking caps tightly screwed on came up with an idea, a little thing they called the ‘world wide web’. Sound familiar?

The first website was launched into cyberspace in all its pixelated, clunky glory. Back in the cringe-worthy era of the ’90s, flashy marketing sites, animated GIFs, scrolling text and drop shadows were the ‘it’. Dial-up modems everywhere screeched like landing UFO’s as people started to connect to something extraordinary, unknown and exciting.

Fast forward to 2015 – we’ve come a long way, hopefully.

It’s been almost a quarter of a century, yet there are still a number of websites out there lacking in any form of innovation. So, ask your mum nicely to get off the landline so you can dial-up and get familiar with some of the ways your page is offensive, and how to c = combat it of course!

#1. Your site is stuck in slow motion.

A slow website is not acceptable. People don’t like waiting – it’s simple psychology. If your website functions as though it was created for dial-up, it’s easy for a customer to think that you’re providing a dated product or service. Time is money and no-one has the time or patience to wait for a slow loading website – think of potential customers. If you want people to visit your site again make sure it gives them the quick hit they’re looking for.

#2. Your website is hard to find. – we’re not playing Where’s Wally here.

So you’ve spent time and money on a glorious new website (ahh, I love the smell of HTML in the morning) and you’re just sitting back waiting for the leads to come rolling in… waiting… waiting… Was that a tumbleweed? “Where the bloody hell are you?” A website without SEO is like a VW without diesel – there’s no point running it. Make sure you’re one of Google’s good friends (or at least a Facebook acquaintance) and people can actually reach your site through a search engine.

#4. Your site is undercover

Unless you are an agent on Homeland, there’s no conceivable reason you’d publish your contact details in the sixth paragraph of your final page in white text on a white background. Make your contact details BIG and easy to find. You never know who might be in a hurry to get in touch.

#5. You have an anti-social website

People who deny the importance of social media are like the people who believe we never landed on the moon. The social realm is real, my friends, and it’s not going away. By allowing your content and your images to be share-able you get more visibility, which means more traffic, better search engine rankings and more lead generation opportunities. A quick tip – put your social icons at the top of every. single. page. Some people will still miss them.

#6. Your site is stuck in back when double denim was cool.

Remember that website improvement you suggested back in 2010? There are children who have now mastered their parents’ iPad since your light-bulb idea. If the cycle of life moves faster than your website refresh cycle, then it’s a pretty sure sign that your website is out-dated.

#7. Your site is still using the landline

Do you have a mobile and tablet responsive website design? If the answer is no, your website is absolutely in need of some TLC – you need a new site, friend.

#8. Get your brand out

For your brand to stand out it has to tell a meaningful story that catches people’s attention and engages them with emotion and feeling. Using a templates or themes has a place,we’re  not denying that. However, if you really want to develop a unified brand and vision direction, you’re going to need to put your own distinct flavour onto your site and ensure that your online presence is a reflection of your real world existence. There’s not point copying something if it doesn’t reflect who and what you are.

#9. Your site doesn’t come with an instruction manual

Consumers might be visiting your site, but if no-one is attending events or subscribing to your e-newsletters , chances are, you’re lacking some clear calls to action. Direct your customers and make your site a ‘journey’,  direct customers to take some kind of action where you are capturing their “deets” or lead them to get in touch.

#10. Your site has a good face for radio

While what’s on the inside counts, if you don’t take pride in appearances, you’ll be counting your followers on one hand. Don’t overwhelm your virtual visitors – simplicity is often key. Allow for space, don’t’ fill every nook and cranny with complex design, animation, special effects or clutter. The best way to keep visitors focused on your message is through valuable content, simple layouts, good organisation and immaculate design.

#11. Your site is full of clean-cut men in white t-shirts

There’s nothing more frustrating than clichéd stock imagery. Some stock libraries are great and certainly serve a purpose, but the cheesy ones depicting a world of smiling white families, happy-go-lucky employees and men in cheap business suits shaking hands make me want to throw my coffee at the screen. A solution to this? On-brand, unique images (yours) and graphics are just as important as a working contact form and good grammar (perfect grammar in fact).

#12. Your site is leading me on a wild goose chase.

When a person comes to your site you want them to know what to do next. Alright, maybe they’re suspicious of your stock photo choices, or perhaps your template format really grinds their gears. But visitors may be able to look past those things if they can immediately understand your websites purpose, the value they get out of it, and what they need to do next.

If all else fails. Ask yourself this question: Can the average Jo-Blow use your website? If you’re unsure, ask the least tech-savvy person you know to take it for a test-run and give you some feedback.

If you’re currently hiding underneath your desk in silent mortification at the harsh reality of your current website conundrum, don’t reach for the bottle just yet! Simply start by adopting some of the tips above, taking baby steps towards maintaining your online presence – this goes for Social Media too. Begin by tackling the points you know to be within your budget and resources, and jot down a plan of attack (and follow through) to leave those pixelated, bulky nightmares behind you and nothing beautiful engaging browsers lie ahead. It won’t happen overnight…

Check out this article from Marketing Mag for more great hints.

Cheers,

Jack and the c word crew

Creativity in the city

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C is for cities creating catchy content.

A recent trip to the Sunshine State, and a pre-schoolies stay on the Gold Coast, got us thinking about a place and its brand – AKA destination branding. What should a destination’s brand represent? Culture, characters, customs … the list goes on.

With city branding on the mind, we thought we’d share some of the research we found about cities and their brands (including our very own Melbourne of course).

Do costume designers make good brand makers?

We were intrigued to discover that an Oscar winner; part of the design team for the film The Grand Budapest Hotel has given Dublin a new visual identity. Meet Annie Atkins.

“This new brand (with associated logo and designs) seeks to communicate Dublin’s unique position as a vibrant capital city bursting with a variety of surprising experiences and a destination where city living thrives side by side with the natural outdoors.”

 

DUBLIN dublin2

Source: Failtre Ireland press release

The new identity, featuring pastel colours and clean newsprint typography is not what comes to mind when you think of Dublin (there is no St Patrick’s Day greenery or shamrocks in sight!). It comes with a new tagline: ‘A Breath of Fresh Air’, this in itself challenges ingrained perceptions about Dublin, and perhaps Ireland as a whole. The branding makes you want to visit this hip, pace-setting city and #lovedublin. Dublin is in fact a very liveable city and worthy of this new branding.

oui oui oui

On our search we also discovered that earlier this year the new branding for the Saint-Didier-au-Mon-d’Or in France was released. Another stellar effort by designers. The before and after effect I’m sure you’ll agree is outstanding.

A classic for the big apple

An oldie but a goodie. Standing the test of time and one of the most successful examples of destination branding is the now iconic ‘I heart NY’ logo, designed by Milton Glaser in 1977. IhearNYAlmost 40 years later, the logo still generates $30 million a year in merchandise sales alone. We’ve all been there, done that and bought the T-Shirt!

(Left) Milton Glaser’s iconic ‘I Heart NY’ logo

A more recent example of successful destination branding is the ‘I amsterdam’ campaign. The campaign uses clever wordplay to invite tourists to play and stay.

amsterdam

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ‘I amsterdam’ logo sculpture is a popular photo-op for tourists.

The big M continues to shine

Locally, an example of impressive destination branding is the City of Melbourne branding, designed by Landor in 2009. We moved away from the leaf and into the future with the modern M branding – a modern brand for a modern city.  melbouren

City of Melbourne logo by Landor

 

Tourism New Zealand has been using its ‘100% pure’ tagline for a while now, but is expanding it with ‘everyday is different’ while maintaining its simplistic graphic – I guess the scenery speaks for itself.

The rebrand for the city of Porto, designed by White Studio last year is simplistic yet effective. At first glance it is almost facebook-esque.

porto

 

Porto branding by White Studio

We can’t go by without mentioning London’s transitions – particularly post 2012 Olympics. And another Landor design for Hong Kong – which has transformed the international city’s logo into a modern brand, while incorporating the traditional dragon.

BHK_Primary_Logo_4C_English

At the c word we are always interested in design.

How would you portray your home town through a logo?

Our CEO’s challenge for the weekend: get the sketch book out and come up with a  concept for his hometown of Woombye (yes, that’s a real town) 🙂

Cheers, Jack & the c word crew

Can I borrow a biro? I just want to jot down my google results

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Google has changed its name, creating Alphabet as a parent company for Google and many others, and now changed its logo – all in the space of a month. Haven’t seen it? Just google it. Notice I didn’t use a capital ‘G’ in the case of the word Google? That’s because it’s not just one of the world’s biggest brands, synonymous with web search, mobile browsing, email, photos and other tech startups. But also it’s now used as a pure verb – meaning to search the web.

There is a beautifully written piece from the New York Times in 2009 that explores brands as verbs. It focuses on Google and its Micosoft rival Bing. The use of brands as verbs is a good thing and the positives far outweigh the negatives. According to the article: “The risk of becoming generic is so low, and the benefits of being on the top of someone’s mind are so high”.

Take Xerox as an example. A large percentage of people (particularly Americans) use the word “Xerox” interchangeably for photocopy. This was frowned upon at first by the ‘big-wigs’ of the company, who thought it would pigeon hole them into a market and forever associate them with the good, the bad and the ugly of office photocopiers (who hasn’t wanted to kick a photocopier before?). However, the use of the word is marketing of its own, and far outweighs any negative connotations.

Google as a company has a rich 17-year history, evolving from a simple search engine to so much more: Google Maps (the only way I can find a restaurant), Gmail, Android, Chrome, YouTube and the list goes on. “The name of the company has now become its own verb in the dictionary,” the Today Show announced in the US back in 2007.

When we logged onto our computers on the first day of Spring, Google had done something different again. To our shock they changed their logo. Using the classic Google colours, simplifying the typeface, and moving to simply being G. On the day, Google teased us with a Google Doodle of the old logo being wiped away by an animated hand, probably using our tears as a lubricant, before replacing it with the new one.

While some people hate change, we love it. It’s a c-word after all. The new look for Google, a simple, sleek recognisable design seems in line with its parent company Alphabet. You’ll get used to it. And we bet, if you haven’t already you’ll google something later today.

Cheers, Jack & the c word crew

PS. What other brands have become verbs – add your own in the comments below 🙂

Say cheese… composition, cameras and capturing the crew

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cwordfionaphotos

This week we chatted with Fiona Hamilton, one of Melbourne’s best freelance photographers. She spent more than 28 years at the Herald Sun as one of their photojournalists, and has snapped frames of people and things from John Howard’s eyebrows to the Queen. We were lucky enough to have Fiona as our photographer for our latest round of head shots for our company credentials.

Keeping with the theme of photography, we thoughts we’d discuss some tips for getting the best out of your corporate head shots.

Firstly, you don’t want your photo to look like your passport shot from the millennium, so wear simple clothes and hair that won’t date. No point wearing this season’s Oscar De La Renta if you’re going to regret it in 12 months time. And using your selfie from last Saturday night just won’t do.

Try and look a little bit happy, research from New York University, has found that people sporting positive expressions — with upturned eyebrows and an upward curving mouth, even if they weren’t overtly smiling — are more likely to be perceived as trustworthy. So potential clients or employees are going to see you in a positive light.

Fiona used a simple set up, complete with white backdrop and lights at all angles to avoid the unwanted “double-chin”. She maintained constant communication to keep you moving and looking your best. Our tip: work out your ‘best side’ and stick to it. There are some pretty simple do’s and don’ts including not showing too much teeth and never having your mouth completely shut – this can make you look “smarmy”.

We did a couple of cheeky candid poses, but being professionals here at the c word we did as we were told (mostly).

Here are 5 tips for keeping your corporate profiles looking their best. Remember once your image is out on the world wide web, all it takes is a simple “Google” and they are anyone’s for the taking.

  1. Take a deep breath and prepare.
  2. Keep your look simple – nothing too distracting – also use an iron if you own one. It’s worth it for the overall outcome.
  3. Remember you’re posing, not performing – find a look that suits you and stick with it. Make sure it looks like you too.
  4. Listen to your photographer – this isn’t their first rodeo you know.
  5. Make sure you check the end result and you’re happy with it – you don’t want to be stuck with something you don’t like. In the digital world, the turn around is quick so your feedback is important.

If you use a professional, you’ll be directed through your shoot and although they’re just “a photographer not a miracle worker”, they will show you what to do.

Cheers, Jack & the c word crew

JEB takes JAB at top JOB

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There’s nothing more contagious than good old-fashioned enthusiasm from a presidential candidate. And what better way to project that political eagerness than by adding an exclamation point to your campaign logo?

On Sunday, John Ellis Bush, known colloquially by the snappier acronym JEB, did just that in unveiling his 2016 logo. It sure is enthusiastic, capped off by an actual exclamation point.

What the….!

Many critics quickly pointed out that the logo is missing his surname, though given how politically charged the Bush name is, perhaps that’s not surprising. (Consider: Hillary didn’t even find it necessary to spell out her first name in her logo).

On Sunday, a day before officially announcing his bid for the 2016 U.S. presidential election, former Florida governor Jeb Bush tweeted an image of his new campaign logo. Designed by GOP consultant Mike Murphy ‘the Jeb!’ logo is a variant of the same design that Bush used when he was elected governor of Florida in 1998.

Red is synonymous with the Republican party – some say because the Times once wrote “Republican begins with ‘R’ and so does ‘Red’.

So we can see Jeb’s colour choice here making perfect sense. His clean, crisp typography, banal as it is, is also not bad. But as the leader of a political party, was a little more detail needed? Only time will tell.

As for the exclamation point:

Does anyone remember the “Seinfeld” episode in which Elaine breaks up with her boyfriend over his failure to use an exclamation point?

In case you missed it, Elaine’s boyfriend had written down some phone messages, one of which said that her friend had had baby. Elaine found it “curious” that he didn’t think someone having a baby warranted an exclamation point.

“Maybe I don’t use my exclamation points as haphazardly as you do,” he quips.

When Elaine later tells Jerry about the break up, he responds: “It’s an exclamation point! It’s a line with a dot under it!”

But in fact, I think it is one of the most exploited, abused, overused, and misused punctuation marks in the English language. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen an exclamation point after the most mundane statements.

For example:

  • See you on Friday!
  • I can’t wait for lunch!
  • I hate exclamation marks!

But, back to Jeb who would obviously make great boyfriend material for Elaine. Just look how social media reacted to his logo:

Cheers,

Jack! and the c word crew

Communicator’s Corner with Slavica Habjanovic

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Slavica Habjanovic a cool communicator from HASSELL

Slavica Habjanovic a cool communicator from HASSELL

Slavica Habjanovic is the External Communications Advisor at HASSELL (a successful Australian architecture firm with offices throughout Australia and overseas and a very cool Melbourne rooftop). She’s also a columnist and editor at the Croatian Herald

What’s your elevator statement – who are you professionally and personally?

I’ve always had a love of words, writing and ideas…As a child, I was quite shy and found it difficult making friends, so books and writing were the centre of my world. That love has really defined me – every job or role I’ve had has been connected to giving a voice to people and ideas. I started off as a language tutor, translator and magazine editor and then moved into newspaper publishing, digital communications and public relations. In my current role at HASSELL, one of Australia’s largest design practices, my work involves sharing some amazing projects with the world.

As you’d expect, design, beauty and culture are my other passions in life. I hope I’ll always be lucky enough to be able to work in these areas and use my PR and communications skills to help make the world a more lovely place to live in by promoting the beautiful and moving creations people make!

My favourite activities include concerts, clubbing, visiting galleries and the theatre, nature walking and wandering around the city.

Tell us about your typical day in communications?

Ha! A typical day doesn’t really exist at the moment as there are so many different tasks that pop up. Generally, my work involves collaborating on marketing collateral, maintaining the practice’s website, working with the media, writing news articles and developing campaigns.

When did you first know you wanted to work in communications?

I think I’ve always wanted to work in communications! It’s been a natural progression from a love of writing and getting ideas out there. I also love publishing but sometimes it can get a little repetitive as you generally work on marking texts up and working by yourself for the first few years. I love the variety of communications and the fact that you get to work with a lot of people.

Who’s your communication hero/mentor?

I have worked with a few amazing people who have taught me heaps – how to be diplomatic, how to manage your workload, how to make a text fabulous, how to develop your creativity and leadership skills. Honestly, some of my school and university teachers were fantastic mentors and it’s great seeing such inspirational people in the education system.

Which tools can’t you live without?

Blogs, Twitter, Photoshop, Facebook, Google, my style manual, chai, chai and more chai. Oh, and a printed dictionary (I’ll never get used to working with screen versions) and KissFM for great beats to keep me going.

What are the biggest challenges in your role?

A very democratic and flat management structure means that we often have to try and meet everyone’s desires, which can be challenging! Also, creative tension between departments can be a little tough to deal with but is also essential; otherwise you find you can get into a rut if you get too comfortable with doing things a certain way.

Tell us about the best campaign you’ve ever worked on?

Close to my heart and probably the largest project I’ve ever led – the Croatian Film Festival, which started in 2009. It was massive – my team and I started with a budget of $0 and had to convince sponsors to get behind us and the Croatian film organisations to trust us with reels and reels of invaluable film.

It was so much fun creating something from nothing, coming up with a unique visual identity, working frantically for months and months and then finally standing there on opening night at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image on the stage, looking at the capacity-packed cinema and thinking, ‘We did it!’.

Many eminent people from the industry and media got behind us and it was such a great feeling being able to share some of my favourite films from Croatia on the big screen with Australian audiences. An experience I’ll cherish and value forever!

One of the best things to come out of the event was the Festival trailer we made for all of $50 – it played on a number of movie channels and at Federation Square.

We’re also working on some really exciting campaigns at HASSELL at the moment – keep your eyes and ears open for news in the coming months.

Which campaign do you most admire?

Wow, there are so many of them. The Old Spice campaign immediately springs to mind – it always makes me giggle and there’s no doubt it was a hit! I think a lot of the film festivals do amazing campaigns, for example the Melbourne International Film Festival is always fresh and interesting.

Another one of my favourites is for Karlovacko beer in Croatia – they started a series of ads a few years ago and used three actors who became the faces of the brand. The thing that made the ads special was that they were unbelievably witty, well written and such great mini-stories that took place in 10 or 15 seconds. The actors just pulled the characters off so well – I highly recommend looking the ads up on YouTube if you speak Croatian!

What’s been the biggest change to communication/marketing/public relations since you began your career?

I haven’t been in the industry for all that long, but social media has definitely changed the face of human communication and business since I was at university. Who knows where the future will take us – it’s so exciting and as many people would say, an exciting time to be alive.

If you had to cut/keep something in your communication budget, what would it be?

I would always try and keep the best graphic design we could afford – it makes such a difference in any marketing material or campaigns you are doing. Cheap design just doesn’t cut it. Also, great writing is essential for any campaign – you can’t cut corners with that. I would probably look at cutting back on printing costs and consider more digital options.

What quality do you look for in your communication team members?

Being able to work as part of a team, creativity and initiative, a sense of fun and style. A strong eye for detail and the ability to write extremely well. Natural curiosity and a willingness to both learn and teach are essential.

What’s your favourite brand?

I love quirky and beautiful brands from all walks of life. In local publishing, Frankie magazine has built a great brand and community that follows it. In travel, Emirates really take customer service to the next level but make you feel like you’re in the most luxurious plane in the world, even if you’re only travelling business class. I admire brands who have managed to reinvent themselves and adapted to changing times over and over again – Apple, Jaguar and Swarovski are just some examples. Classic and timeless brands are ones I look to for inspiration as well such as Villeroy and Boch, Bvlgari and Lindt. So much can be learnt from them all.

What book/blog do you think every communicator should read?

I absolutely loved ‘Losing my Virginity’ by Richard Branson for its very detailed look into how the Virgin brand was built. It proves that no road is easy and we shouldn’t take the work and success of others for granted.

What tips do you wish you’d known starting out in communications?

How important it is to plan your campaign down to the smallest detail you can think of. Risk management – what to do and what not to do in a crisis. More often than not, we learn from our own mistakes about that one.

Finish this sentence:

‘Communication is…‘ the key to life!