Keys to Determining Quality Design by Forward Mastery

I found this blog by Kasia Johnson of Forward Mastery to be useful.  She provided some insights into branding that I had not previously considered.  I think this rings true given that we live in a visual-first and social-media driven world.  Your brand – your image – your design must be consistent and build on quality design principles.  Why?  I read a stat recently that said it takes “seeing” something 17 times before your brain recognizes that it has been seen before.  That’s due to how much our brains are inundated with information and images on a daily basis.  As a result, if you’re brand, design, and images are not consistent across ALL marketing platforms (not just your website), including social media and other digital, then you risk getting lost.

Good stuff, @KasiaMJohnson!

Here’s the link and original blog:

http://forwardmastery.com/keys-to-determining-quality-design/

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KEYS TO DETERMINING QUALITY DESIGN

Today’s topic is the keys to reviewing design and how to use them effectively. Do you ever look at a website or an ad and know that there’s something off about it, something just not polished but you’re not sure why? Well I guarantee you it’s the design elements not playing off of each other correctly.

What do I mean by that? In order for the visual branding to be effective, it has to have a balance. So I’m going to teach you how to differentiate good design from bad design with three simple steps.

This is a really fun topic for me because I studied graphic design in college. Also I’ve spent many, many hours driving down the highway, I’m sure just as you have, looking at really, really, really bad banner ads and trying to figure out what were they thinking, and why they spent so much money putting that ad up there.

There are several ways to find the creative balance. If you’re asking, “Do I even need to know this, as an entrepreneur, as a business owner?” I’m going to say yes. Because sometimes as entrepreneurs, we don’t have the budgets to hire somebody to design things for us and we try to do it ourselves, or we do hire somebody, but maybe our budgets aren’t very big so we have to help them along.

By knowing the key points to reviewing design, you will be better at understanding why some brands work better than others. With everything being digital these days, it’s very important how you portray your brand online, and that the user experience is easy.

Did you know that half of mobile user activity results in a purchase? That means that half the people that actually use their phone to go to a website and browse, end up purchasing something. If the website is really complicated, if the balance is off, and the branding is not aligned, they’re going to opt out and they’re going to go somewhere else.

Let’s talk about the key points to looking at really great design. Number one is fonts. Whenever considering font usage, make sure to only use two font families whenever it comes to your design. For instance, Ventura or a Helvetica, you’re more than welcome to use different aspects of that font, like a thin, a thick, and italic.

But anytime you have more than two to three fonts, everything gets disconnected. Overdoing fonts effects legibility and causes disconnect from the message. Also, your design will look really busy and distorted.

Then the wrong selection of type can ruin a brand. So it needs to complement that vision. Make sure, too, that your fonts are Web‑friendly because if they don’t download correctly, your design is going to be all over the place.

If you’re ever looking at somebody’s design, take a look at how many fonts that they’re using. Right then and there, I can tell if they’ve actually gone to a graphic design school, or if they’re just kind of piecing something together.

Another key point to consider, whenever looking at design is alignment. Is there balance between elements? How are the elements positioned? Are they cohesive and as one structure, or are they all over the place? Are the elements proportioned? Is the entire piece uniformed?

One way that I check that is very simply. I go up and down with my eyes, let’s say on a website, or maybe it’s a piece of collateral that’s a brochure. Is everything aligned from the top to the bottom? Is the copy aligned with the image at the bottom? Can I draw straight lines? Usually there’s either two sets of rows, or three sets of rows, or four sets of rows. But everything should be mostly aligned.

Then I go to left to right and I do the same thing. Is everything aligning mostly the way it’s supposed to? Now sometimes you’ll have key elements that are here and there just to pop. Or maybe one piece is a little bit bigger, like an image, but overall, are the pieces aligned left to right and up and down? That’s a really good way, whenever you’re looking at someone’s portfolio and you’re trying to hire a designer, to see if they know what they’re doing.

The third key point that I want you to consider is the one‑third rule. This is really, really important, to have one‑third of images, one‑third of copy, and one‑third of white space. A lot of times what happens in design is that everybody wants throw in everything, as much information as possible, and they’ll put in so much content, so many images, so many colors and the eye cannot rest. Then we get overwhelmed subconsciously and we opt out.

So make sure to follow the one‑third rule and put 30 percent of space, whether it’s black space, white space, that everything else, all the other elements have space to breathe. Whenever I’m speaking or teaching a workshop, I pull examples from the real world as the things to do, and then the things that aren’t working really well.

I found one example that a consultant, who’s a marketing strategist and she helps people brand their business. But when you go to her website, the minute that you see it, you see six different fonts, you see about six different colors, the fonts that she chose are not legible and there’s no consideration for alignment. She put some images here, some images there. They’re cropped off, and then just copy, and then threw a logo right in the middle of it and a little bit more information about her.

Now as someone looking in, I’m thinking, “How is she going to help me with my business, if she can’t even brand her own business?” So just having a website isn’t enough for your credibility.

Today’s three forward strategies, when assessing design, is number one, count the number of fonts that are being used. If you have more than two font families being used, that’s too much. Your branding will not look cohesive.

Number two, check the alignment of all the elements on your design. Make sure that your eye goes up and down and see if everything is aligned, and then left to right and make sure that the elements are aligned.

Number three, take a look at the one‑third rule. Make sure that there is enough space as there is copy, as there is images, and there’s plenty of room for everything to sit nicely and to breathe.

So the takeaway for today is that fonts, alignment, and balance are the best keys to assessing design. If you enjoyed this podcast, please share with your friends and colleagues, and if there are any other topics on running a business or building a brand, you would like to hear about, please leave a comment.

Remember the time and energy you put into your brand determines the success of your business.

Thank you for your time, and I hope you keep rocking, and dream big!

Kasia Johnson

 

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#quality #design #brand

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Video Interview with Pete Cashmore of Mashable at SxSW 2014

Every year at South by Southwest, we land an interview with The Pete Cashmore of Mashable. And each year he gives us a great interview. This year was no exception. I found his comments around the impact of social and how his company is investing in studying and reporting its impacts to be fascinating.

Kid Invents Kangaroo Cup with Her Dad

This is a great story!  A girl, Lily Born, notices that her grandfather keeps spilling his drink due to Parkinson’s Disease.  It upsets her and wants to do something about it.  So she invents a cup with her dad that doesn’t spill and calls it a Kangaroo Cup.  

Here’s a video with Lily in it:  https://d2pq0u4uni88oo.cloudfront.net/projects/981087/video-383707-h264_high.mp4

I love these kinds of stories!  Way to go dad! 

http://skokie.suntimes.com/2014/06/03/lincoln-jr-high-student-invents-kangaroo-cup-dad/

 

Update: Story is picked up by Fast Company! Super impressive!
http://www.fastcodesign.com/3031501/11-year-old-makes-an-unbreakable-spill-proof-cup-for-her-ailing-grandfather

Sears, Customer Service, and What NOT To Do

Sears Please Stop Posting

Sears Motto

I love social media.  It gives customers a voice and platforms for the world to see.  Social Media can also provide lots of business and life lessons.

Let’s take Sears for example.  Long story short, I’m having problems with a recent purchase.  I purchased online and chose to pick up in store (BOPUS is the industry term).  What was promised in 3 days, took 9 days for me to receive.  The item weighs 150 lbs and requires keys.  Upon picking up the item, bringing it home and opening it, I discovered there were no keys and no instruction manual.  So, it’s a defective product.  That happens.

So I call the 1-800 number provided on the packing slip / receipt.  When I choose operator, the automated system disconnects me.  I try a second time with the same results.  My next step is to go online (www.sears.com) and search for another customer service number.  I dial it.  The representative does not understand BOPUS and insists that UPS must have damaged the product. She says she will send UPS out to pick up the item, but that could take a week.  Then she puts me on hold.  

After 5 minutes of hold time, I put my phone on speaker mode while I listen to some incredibly obnoxious muzac and I begin tweet to @Sears.  My goal was 1 tweet for every minute on hold.  After 30 minutes, I gave up and hung up.  In the meantime, people from companies such as 7-11, US Airways, Dell, and Zappos chimed in on the conversation as well as an up-and-coming musician with a large social media presence.  It was nice to engage with people during the process.  I felt it was a sign of solidarity as I was getting bashed by a giant corporation.  

After a 20 minute break, I call back a second time and spend another 30 minutes on the phone with a much nicer representative who was very sympathetic.  Kudos to her.  However, the issue was not resolved.  Her first solution?  I will call the warehouse and have them ship you the keys.  Really? How many different types of keys does Honeywell (the manufacture of the product) make for this product?  Even if you found the keys, how long would it take and can you ensure that they are the right keys?  The answer of course is “I don’t know and no.”  This go around I post on Facebook as well.

This morning I get a response on Facebook long before i get a response on Twitter.  (I have attached that message.)  My interpretation = please stop posting and no focus on resolving the issue.  Other friends start joining the conversation on Facebook as well.  As for Twitter, it took Sears over 13 hours to respond and it came from a terrible Twitter handle: @Searscare, which I don’t think was branded properly as it looks like @SearS-C-A-R-E-S to me.  

Nonetheless, the problem isn’t resolved, but I’m having fun in the social media spaces at Sears’ expense.  The problem still isn’t resolved, but Sears has finally given me a Case Number. However, the caveat in their communications with me is that 1) Case Managers are super busy, 2) they will prioritize responses, and 3) I should expect a response (not a resolution) within 24 hours.  Wow!  Is there a better way to tell a customer he or she is not valued or appreciated?  🙂  Probably not.

So here’s a very polite response on the Sears Facebook wall, where I was asked not to post again.  Enjoy!  

Here’s some free #socialmedia and #customerservice advice:
1. Please do not ask me to stop posting until AFTER you have resolve the issue or gotten it start. Please do not begin the conversation with “Stop Posting”

2. Do not ignore #Twitter. If YOUR customers are using a social media channel, then YOU should be engaging on that channel too. 13+ hours AFTER I began reaching out to you for help is when I finally received a response. And that response, was “Stop Posting here and go to FB.” Yet on FB you also told me to stop posting? Why? You have a customer in distress and you’re telling me to go away.

3. You should consider changing your Twitter handle. @Sears is okay, but @Searscare looks like @SearSCARES. Not well branded.

4. If my friends and other social media influencers are commenting on my posts, do not try to intimidate them. This is an #opportunity for YOU to #engage them. Trenton Laird provided you with an excellent case study and coaching. Heather Vanderwaal also reached out to you. Show some warmth. Show some compassion. It’s #customerservice 101 – the basics. And be careful how you address people. There are lots of influencers in the social spaces and you do not know their reach. Perhaps looking at people’s #Klout scores ahead of time will tell you how to prioritize.

5. Research / Read / Share social media case studies among your staff. Continual #training is what will make you better. #Dell / @Dell is a great example. I know you have reached out to them in the past, but chose not to leverage their free social media command center tours. It would be eye-opening for you. #Starwood Hotels Starwood Preferred Guest® (SPG) (@spg) is also a great example. They have always provide fantastic customer media support and resolved any issues I’ve had immediately — making me a much for loyal customer. Loyal customers = more money for you.

#PleaseFixMyProblem #FreeAdvice

[also attached is a copy of the Sears Motto]

 

An Interview with The Newsroom Guest Star Amin El Gamal

Video

Streamed live on Jul 29, 2012

Episode #14 of The Social Sports and Entertainment Show with Chris Yates features special guest Amin El Gamal who is an actor who was the guest star on “The Newsroom” episode 5.

Amin joined us with a friend of his from college, Jill Wurzburg, and his brother, Abrahim El Gamal. Amin really opened up and talked about how attending “clown school” during college made him prepared for anything. His brother was a big help in bringing up how Amin was involved in theater even when he was six when he started a production company out of his garage with stuffed animals as the cast. He even shared information about how his grandmother was a child actress and how she influenced him to become an actor.

During Amin’s time on “The Newsroom” set he was able to meet some of the cast/crew and shared a few of his thoughts about them during the broadcast. He speaks about the large differences between the film industry and the way a theater is ran. Amin even explains what he did to prepare for the show and how the research that he did helped him with influencing the crew on making some subtle changes to the show that made a large difference.

Overall Amin is a very friendly person who enjoys using social media to connect with his fans so be sure to connect with him by clicking on these links:

Personal Website: http://www.aminelgamal.com/
Personal Blog: http://aminelgamal.webs.com/apps/blog/
IMBD Profile: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm3221416/
Twitter Profile: https://twitter.com/aminelgamal
Facebook Profile: https://www.facebook.com/AminElGamal
LinkedIn Profile: http://www.linkedin.com/in/aminelgamal