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Wave Goodbye to the Old Kings of Creative

 

I started my career in the late 70’s as an illustrator, while I studied design. My first clients were those cartoon maps, posters to get into clubs and some books for FitzHenry & Whiteside aimed at children. I was successful to earn enough to live on but it was a bit hand and mouth compared to corporate design which I moved in to.

I won awards for designing logos, books and annual reports. I drooled over the paper samples the paper companies gave me. Getting a budget big enough to buy some incredible paper to make my designs shine through was fundamental. Getting a big enough budget to be able to print on a metalic or glossy finish would give my designs the finishing edge for victory.

You worked blind. You needed to imagine what it would look like as a finished product. There was no way of seeing it until it rolled off the press and the ink dried!  The absorbency of the papers would have an impact. I used to swap out the standard yellow for a fluorescent yellow when I wanted to give the colours an extra pop. I back filled black with 100% cyan. Another other trick was double printing black and mixing gloss and mat. On an annual report that was costing $250k to print I gambled on printing faint blue lines to help hold a metallic silver and dark grey over tint.

I remember another AD printing using a 85 dpi screen on heavy textured raw paper and having a font that had a .5 pt outline text to be overprinted on images. I cringed when I saw the comps and tried to tell her it would be a mistake. On a glossy cast coat paper at 200 dpi + it may have worked. Unfortunately for her, she was a Mega-Bitch. After working too many late nights and weekends as her junior-slave I gave up. What a disaster! I did have a small smile at seeing her comeuppance of not taking more care on how it was going to be printed.

Thee paper companies themselves sponsored a lot of the print awards. Coffee table books were huge sellers and you could make a name for yourself designing these.

Logos were big business. A 1/4 million for a logo? No problem. Top designers were almost Godlike with their name on the studio door.  G. Ryan Design. G was for Gerald my hero and boss. His collection of Jaguars was eye dropping and it was fantastic to work in an old warehouse in a crumby part of town with a 150 of the coolest hipster designers you could meet. The other thing to getting that award was hiring a top notch illustrator and again that was down to budget. It was a repeatable formula.

When it comes to design and print the budget to spring for innovative printing techniques and cool papers are almost everything for creating The Kings of Creative.

In the mid- late 80’s I got involved in adverstising. It was also about budget. Working with Pete at BBDO on the TV spots for Colubmia music we knew we were onto a winner when we were given carte blanche with a massive budget. The budget was so big we had a 32 piece orchastra to entertain us (and provide music) for 4 consecutive mornings along with our morning glory cocktails. We felt like Kings.

BBDO had the biggest brands (and budgets) and BBDO grabbed a whopping 40% of all the awards that year. The King pin of them all was Mike Rutherford, the CD. The parties for advertising art and directors were legendary. A lot of these would be hosted by photographers (we each had our favourites) and these would be filled with models, advertising execs, creatives and out clients of course. We used to use the company limo to run errands like pick up more sushi. Sandwiches yuck!

I was an Art Driector and very ambitious but I got a wake up call when I was told point blank by Mike, that because BBDOs biggest accounts were cars (Crysler), beer, sports shoes (Adidas) and computers (Apple, Hewlette Packard) I could forget ever working on those on the account of having breasts. Not that he would remember me by anything another other than the one with the tits.  The fact that I had already won an award for Hewlette Packard for some direct mail work did not count because that was when I was a designer and was not in the same league.

In advertising cars, beer, sports brands and tech products create kings because they have the biggest budgets and the noisiest presence.

Eventually I tired of 80 hour weeks and having team meetings at the Brass Rail (a strip bar in Toronto) on Wednesday afternoons watching the lap dancers writhe on the laps of my male co-workers and decided to go into digital. Digital didn’t exactly set the world on fire at first and was looked as career move DEATH . There were no awards, limited creativity and not a lot of clients.

To the creative minded and visionary digital with the constant change offers unlimited potential.

The world of digital is more complex and has become almost a game of two halfs. The first half is the agencies that have sprung up in the guise of marketing, communications or advertising and believe it is the message that matters. Content is king. The (content) message of course is about ensuring that bigger brands get an even bigger market share and consumers consume more. This still the the world of the Old Kings of Creative. The creative and art directors (mostly white males)  are still coming up with ideas for bog roll and winning awards (sponsored by companies within the same industry as their own). It is also not surprising that clients who give their creative teams carte blanche and healthy budgets also have a clear advantage over those less fortunate and having less scope.

The second half has been what is happening in the Enterprise Sectors – Apple, Google, Facebook, Twitter, eBay… etc. The game changers. Here functionality is King. You cannot compare the success of Facebook (which is still a website) with a site for toilet paper. It is the game changers that have made the biggest impact. We would still buy toilet paper whether there was a website to promote a particular brand experience.

Now as the web has truly grown up it is no longer digital media. It is digital life. Functionality and experience are inseparable.

Creative now sits under User Experience in most of the bigger companies. Customer experience is also merging with user experience. The message is all about the user and bridging the gap between what the Brand or services deliver and what end users expect.

User Experience is not about coming up with ideas and throwing it to a wall to see if it sticks. User Experience is about applied insight and becoming the new R&D lab to test ideas and push innovation that predicts what users need.

It is all about performing research, analytics and analysis to deliver a great experience. I certainly for one am glad I am no longer working blind. The AD that did not forsee the 85 dip problem with a .5 hairline got sacked and rightly so. The design may have cost $10k to produce but the high volume printing would have been £250k+.

The old kings of creative are on the way out and so are the titles CD and AD eventually as
UX continues to evolve.

If you want to know who the new Kings are, it is the end user sitting in front of his Internet TV (or mobile, tablet, browser etc).

 

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Having a Pervasive Experience, While Discussing Pervasive Experiences

MC HammerSalesforce’s mega event Dreamforce is on now. If you thought it was just a sales tool then think again. There is a reason why MC Hammer was in the audience and it has to do with the powerful impact social media has on businesses.

Salesforce is one of the biggest tools in the pervasive UX arsenal. It is not a pure UX tool in the way Axure or User Zoom are but it has a much bigger impact. It is like comparing an asteroid to a beach pebble.

The strong CRM capability extends the user experience far beyond the reach of the webpage from a business perspective. Every thing is done in real time. In their demo they illustrated how you could go up to a Coke machine and pay using a smart phone. That purchase could be tracked, appear in a loyalty scheme and get “liked” on Facebook.

With 45,000 people in attendance, over the next couple days, at Dream Force I feel like the only one left out. But according to Facebook and Twitter I am in great company. It was a packed house on both fronts on Twitter and Facebook. I could not resist a posting a cheeky comment on their Twitter feed about “what happens when cars start talking to each other”. Only because I know that these get displayed on screens at the event and this was my way of saying “Hi” to a fellow co-worker in attendance. Hi Sam, did you see me?

 

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Sketching with Wacom’s Inkling

Every once in awhile a new gadget that comes out that makes me go “I WANT!!”. Ok admittedly more often than once in awhile but far less often than spotting new dresses.

Wacom has a new pen coming out that can allow you to sketch and import directly into Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, Sketchbook or saved as a JPG, BMP, TIFF, PNG, SVG & PDF for use with other applications. Oh yes. Almost sounds too good to be true.

As an ardent sketcher this is great news for story boarding and sketching user journeys. I may even be able to get my sketching back to where it was before I became a wireframe machine in Axure/Visio/whatever…

Taking photos or scanning in is ok (minus of course the big downside of the actual scanning)
but nothing compared to having the diagram in a native Adobe format.

 

Coming out this month! Whoo hoo.

View the details on the Wacom Inkling page.

Women in Despair
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Pervasive User Experience (UX)

Pervasive  User Experience is about extending the user experience and connecting it to the world users live in and work in as well the service or product. Pervasive UX is not about the what and how in the beginning, but it does get there.

First it is about the who and the why, understanding the needs of the end users and everything they will come into contact with. There is almost a cascade effect that can occur from user interaction not unlike the Butterfly Effect . Pervasive UX is disruptive. It is likened to a chaos theory. It ignores the silos in an organisation and breaks down barriers. Back-end processes and structures become invisible. Users are broadcasters and promoters of what matters to them.

It is a moving target. Social media, augmented reality and smart devices are driving user experience into uncharted territory. User experience is travelling beyond the traditional boundaries. It cannot be defined by what happens on a web page or within a single application or service.

User experience has gone from being a tactic sprinkling of usability, to keep the hippie mongrels at bay with their wacky usability principals, to becoming a new business model as brands struggle to keep up in fast paced multi-channel world.

Users identify with the method in which they interact with a company, product or service. Companies are only as good as their call centre or their sign up process. To the consumer mobile services are retailers. You walk into a shop or go online and buy. How is this a telecommunications company to the average Joe on the street? It is not. When users are online it is a digital service. This digital service extends beyond the pages or even the site. Digital is now the dominant interface for a lot of businesses.

If digital is now the dominating aspect then social media is the glue. The social media phenomenon extends the reach of the user experience. Every touch point a user has with an organisation should provide a seamless experience. A pervasive user experience strategy forms part of the core philosophy of an organisation.

This has a big impact for businesses as user expectations and perception is rapidly changing. During the Dot.com boom companies rushed in to offer services before the infrastructure and take up of the web was at a mass level. Now it is users who are in charge and the companies need to adapt and understand these new pathways. Business processes need to be re-engineered to become more usable to the user.

An example that comes to mind is my recent stay at the 4 star, La Centre Sheraton in Montreal I experienced the full Faulty Towers Experience, diagram below.


Until I got into my room I was having a mostly positive experience.

  • I asked about the staff about the top floor bar. I was abruptly told it was unavailable. I finally found out it was only available to Elite Members.
  • The complete lack of WiFi filled me with horror. Room internet access costing more than an expensive meal. Business lounge day care centre  gave me a full free 30 minutes on one of their computers.
  • At check out they charged us extra per bag regardless of size to hold them until our flight. Lining up at both the checkout and the porter desk. The porter desk is as far as the hotel management is concerned a separate business unit.
  • The experience was not a good pervasive experience. Everything was about sales. There was nothing about keeping me as a customer, engaging with me or recommending them to friends. It was as far as I am concerned a “one shot deal”. Good bye Sheraton.

 

But something of a paradigm shift is happening. It just has not made it to most companies yet. I wrote in another article on Disruption Innovation that employees of companies are tired of waiting for the company to give them tools to do their jobs better and are taking to the web to collaborate. This is called Shadow IT. But how much money and time have companies wasted and are wasting to replicate what is already there?

Suppose I am applying for a credit reference  to rent a property.

Why is it I am expected to print 6 months of bank statements? Why can I not simply click on a button on my bank site that says “send reference to” and fillout a few details? Surely the renting agent does not to see that I spent £xx on shoes, when all they want to know is whether I have had a steady income and no overdrafts? Surely that is worth something to some one and would help reduce fraud. What happens with those 6 months of printed bank statements that get sent to the letting agent, how do I know they were appropriately destroyed?

Tactical UX starts with a project, a budget and a list of vague requirements and go down the process route of producing personas, wireframes and a solution. By then it is too late for UX to contribute on a strategic level.

Pervasive UX ascends to the Grand Strategic level of an organisation and can give companies a constructive advantage.

The chief role of User Experience strategists are:

  • Bring a customer perspective to problems through deep understanding.
  • Account for and minimize bias.
  • Identify business opportunities promote end user well being.
  • Facilitate a balance between business goals, user needs and technology.

 

The foundations are there, the semantic web did arrive and is silently increasing. Data is more open and augmented reality has taken off. It is all about delivering big connected experiences now.

We are looking at situation where user experience strategy has taken on the task of being a catalyst for positive change and disruption.

Please comment and let me know what you think.

01-09-2011 16-48-14
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Mental Notes for User Experience

Came across these Mental Notes, from Stephen Anderson, and thought they might be great for workshops. On occasion I still find there is a lack of common understanding of what UX or user experience is.

These notes look like a great way to offer a fun teaser as a warm up excercise. I am interested to know if other people are using these and what results you have had.