Author Archive for IQ

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  • 12.17.14

Head to Head:

IQ designers duke it out over “how to” or “how to not” follow a brand’s style guide.

Head to Head Style Guide Design

Point: The Type-A Guide to Following Design Rules

By: Lauren Weir, Sr. Designer

Our creative team nominated me to write the point of the article — establishing why you should stick to brand guidelines and how to work creatively within them. And while I’ll give you that I’m the type of person who neatly orders my pens, keeps a daily game plan on my signature yellow notepads and may or may not be easily compared with Monica from FRIENDS, I still have fun and sometimes I show up to work in a banana suit. I just think of brand guidelines like a pair of moon shoes — sometimes kind of clunky, but they help you jump to new heights. They’re also infinitely cool.

Brand guidelines are so important to designing for a brand because they explain and uphold the values and importance of the brand for which you are designing. A strong brand will help increase recognition and brand loyalty, which is directly related to a company’s success and profitability. As Smashing Magazine points out, brands have to reach people through so many different platforms that recognition is critical. As designers, if we do not help a company clearly communicate their messages and uphold the definition of their brand then the brand will start to develop on its own through customer opinions in spaces like social — and we all know how that can go south pretty quickly.

How to stick it to the Book:

  1. Make sure you and your client have a complete understanding of the brand guidelines. Take time to go through the guidelines with your client and ask questions. By sitting down for a conversation first, you’re avoiding the future problems that could arise if the brand guide has any holes. Figure out how strict the guidelines are and what will still be considered within the guidelines if it is not explicitly stated. This will give you a clear understanding where the designs can start to move forward. You can also for a clear idea of what to measure your design successes on and give you, as a designer ground to justify the designs you have produced. You can become a design partner for your client, making recommendations for their design in the future, rather than just a production artist for what they envision for their brand.
  2. Experiment within your limits. Think mixing different martinis, rather than making a mix drink with gin, Bailey’s and Chardonnay. Creating and following parameters set by guidelines can give you the chance to try a ton of experiments on different pieces to create interesting designs that relate back to the brand. For example, within a color scheme, try combining the colors in a different way or in different proportions to create something that is different than what is expected. Sometimes the most successful designs come from a new or updated perspective on already existing guidelines.  Guidelines can help you narrow down what areas to experiment in, rather than spending all of your time looking at the endless design options. Put your design energy in the right places, rather than the places that are already defined.
  3. Measure back to the guidelines. Keep brand goals, audience needs, key messages, and brand personality central to each and every decision made in designing for the brand. It is easier to justify your design decisions because the client has already approved their guidelines. Once you can design really well and with new ideas within the limitations given by the client, you can clearly understand the best way to adapt the brand to new platforms (social, mail, web, etc). The most successful and gratifying design systems work show a strong brand voice and visual style across multiple mediums without becoming too repetitive.

There are many brands out there whose designers rely heavily on the visual guidelines and still create some badass designs. Like these:

Counterpoint: How to Design Outside the Style Guide (and not get caught)

By: Carol Montoto, Associate Creative Director

So I was nominated to write this counterpoint by my team. I guess they see me as that annoying creative who just won’t stick to a style guide. Maybe that’s slightly true, but I see a style guide as just a guide and not an end-all-be-all. It’s tough exploring creative directions to take a brand without wandering outside the style guide a bit. Rebellious design superhero, Paula Scher, talked about guidelines at the Adobe Max Conference (13:00).“Guidelines are difficult things because they’re rules that prevent bad things from happening, but they don’t really promote good things TO happen.”

It’s not that I think designers should irresponsibly blow off style guides and have a creative free-for-all. But as creative experts, it’s our job to ask questions, challenge the rules when necessary, and push our creativity beyond its limits. Personally, it’s my favorite part of the job. The key is to use brand guidelines to maintain the spirit of a brand. As long as your brand remains consistent, recognizable and the design doesn’t suffer, the guide has accomplished its goal. As John Moore from Idea Sandbox put it, “A Brand Style Guide is essentially an internal communication compass. It provides guidance on how a business should communicate the Identity, Personality, and Authenticity of a brand.”

Common Style Guide Challenges

There are some style guide challenges every designer is familiar with. An incomplete style guide is the most common. Its creator can’t predict what all the uses for it might be in the future. For example, often it is created for print, not for digital. This leaves important brand details such as color (CMYK versus RGB), and fonts (web-friendly) up for debate. The ridiculously strict, 598-page style guide is just as tough to work with. As blogger Geri Coady explains, “Guides can be so strict that it can be virtually impossible to introduce a little creativity.” If you are spending more time measuring pixels than exploring creative directions, just take a step back. The last thing you want to do is kill any amazing ideas you have because they might not exactly fit the style guide. Sometimes, the style guide looks like the ugliest pair of moon shoes you’ve ever seen. If following the style guide is forcing you to make bad design decisions, you’ll need to bend the rules a bit, for everyone’s sake. Chances are that making some small tweaks will vastly improve the design without looking off-brand. If you can pull this off while keeping the brand police happy, nice job.

How to Design Outside the Style Guide:

  1. Know the rules before you break them. Read the style guide. Thoroughly. Really get to know it. THEN you’re ready to challenge the rules. You’ll need to have a good reason for doing so, not just because you think it’s fun to break rules. (Sorry.)
  2. When in doubt, share your thoughts with your client. Even something as small as an inverted white logo on a dark background may just have never come up for a brand. Crazy, I know. If you want to challenge the style guide, why not just talk with your client? Paula Scher suggests making your client a co-conspirator with you (16:52). Be up front and explain to them why you need to deviate from the brand guidelines. You’d be surprised how effective this can be.
  3. Don’t let the style guide become a design crutch. At the end of the day, people will see the final product and NOT the style guide you are following, no matter how beautiful that guide may be. Don’t be afraid to push the creative. The brand police will rein you in if necessary.

Above all else, just remember, “I was just following the style guide” is not an excuse for bad or boring design. Have fun and rebel — responsibly.

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  • 11.14.14

7 Key Insights by Maurice Levy, Chairman & CEO of Publicis Groupe

Reposted from the Berlin School of Creative Leadership blog.

Maurice came to the Berlin School of Creative Leadership to speak about how big data, e-commerce, digital transformation and two billion new consumers will affect the creative industries. In picturing the communication landscape of tomorrow and the importance of re-thinking the intersections in a blurred world, he shared what he claims to be his personal formula.

1. The “Blurred World”
2. Speed
3. Digital Transformation
4. The Formula: IQ, EQ, TQ & BQ
5. Pioneering in Today’s World of Advertising
6. The Issue of Collaboration
7. How to Align People

1. The “Blurred World”
“We used to live in a world where we would categorize companies and industries, even people, in kind of formatted ways. This person is an engineer. That company operates in the automobile industry. These days everything is blurred: People are blurred. Companies are blurred. Even time is blurred. Think of a company like Amazon. What kind of a company is it? A bookseller? A retailer? A media outlet? The great thing about that is that we can now think about the intersections in a way that we never thought of before. Today you can be very creative and successful in redefining these blurred lines.”

2. Speed
“We are living in a time of speed. If you think about something today, and if you really believe you can do something different – you’d better do it bloody quick. You just have to move fast or somebody else will probably take your idea. Think about companies like Facebook. At the same time, existing companies are struggling to keep up. Even if you have been very successful for a very long time – if you’re not taking the right decisions today, your company can get close to death by tomorrow. This is very much true if you think about tech firms and companies, but as our world continues to digitalize, it’s not only them anymore.”

3. Digital Transformation
“Remember the Internet bubble? In 2005, we were basically in dead seats, no one was investing in digital anymore and yet – you could see the change happening. I’ve heavily invested since 2006, because I did observe the people in the streets. How they were using their mobile phones, how they were shopping online. And I knew things were about to happen that would impact our industry in a game-changer kind of way. Anyone remembers Sony’s Walkman? Why haven’t they invented the i-pod? They were on the wrong technology path, basically.”

4. The Formula: IQ, EQ, TQ & BQ
“How can you be a pioneer in today’s world of advertising? In advertising we can change the way people see the world. If we manage to engage with them emotionally, we infect their brain. But what we need today is not only smart ideas that connect brain and emotional intelligence. We need these four: IQ, EQ, TQ – which refers to technology quotient – and BQ…be bloody quick.”

5. Pioneering in Today’s World of Advertising
“In advertising, we are supposed to be at the forefront of everything that is new. We are supposed to be the Avant-garde, to take risks – but we also have a high responsibility towards the client. There is some paradox in that. We cannot predict exactly how people will react to something. We have to accept that there is no secure recipe for success or total control. People are analog, not digital. But no matter what you do, if you believe in what you’re doing, stick to it, fight skepticism, and at the same time, be cautious about what you’re doing – at least make sure that your idea would cause no harm.”

6. The Issue of Collaboration
“We don’t live in a world of manufacturers anymore, in which companies used to design, develop, produce and distribute their products under the same roof. We all have to go for collaboration. Big data is a big issue and the new markets of China, India and Africa – just imagine the scale of two billion new consumers. We’ve started early to collaborate with Google, Facebook, Twitter, with different start-ups and media outlets. I believe this trend of collaboration will increasingly play a big role in the world of tomorrow, and the way in which we will manage business effectively.”

7. How to Align People
“A pioneer is not a group of people. A group of people can be pioneering in what they do, but there is always the one who is leading the way. It’s crucial to align people. Stay curious. Observe. Accept. Be flexible and alert. Make sure you give a few directions that everyone understands. No one has a better idea than everyone together. Don’t refuse to learn from somebody else, that’s just arrogance. I hate complacency; and I always like to think that the greatest success is yet to happen. If your team has the same spirit as you, you’re heading in the right direction.”

 
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Mobile First Website Design

IQ brings #KNOWvember to you

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  • 11.04.14

Mobile First Website Design

by Jay Littman

Mobile First

When it comes to responsive design, the concept of mobile first is not a new one. It was first coined by Luke Wroblewski (LukeW) in 2009.  However, as time goes on, it only becomes more apparent how important designing with mobile in mind will continue to be.

As of February of this year, Americans use tablets, phones, and other mobile devices 55 percent of the time they go online.  At IQ, we’re no strangers to responsive projects. We want to ensure that this huge portion of our clients’ traffic is able to access their sites without anything breaking. But we do have internal debates over which should come first: desktop design or mobile?

I tend to vote for mobile first. We know designing for mobile is important, but why design for mobile first? There’s several reasons to explore:

1. Forced Focus

Designing mobile first forces you to focus. Because when designing for mobile, you want the quickest loading time possible. That means cutting out anything unnecessary to the user experience, paring down a site hierarchy to the essentials, and keeping the core purpose of a site as the only content left standing.  Designing for mobile first requires designing the simplest, quickest method to get the user to what they want from your site. Then, in desktop versions, expanding upon that design while keeping those core functions top of mind.

2. Smaller Real Estate, Bigger Design Challenge

One of the key elements of designing for mobile, and also possibly the most intimidating, is that space is limited on a phone screen. Mobile design is the tiny NYC apartment where you end up using the oven for storage if you don’t plan for your small space. But if you do plan ahead, you can end up with a space that is streamlined and incredibly elegant. I will admit that this is not an easy endeavor, but your designs will be better for it.

3. Enhancements versus Degradation

Let’s get a bit technical. When you design for desktop first, it means loading all of the content that would be seen on the largest platform and then reducing it to the mobile version. The trouble is your user already had to wait for all that content to load on their smartphone before they can get to the mobile version of the site… if they indeed waited and didn’t just close the page out to find something else. Designing for mobile first means allows a minimal amount of content to load first, streamlining the experience. This is a lot faster and means your site gets enhancements as it moves up to desktop, instead of degradations of content when moving down to mobile.

These are some of the things we consider when beginning a website design project here at IQ. This method may help you find a few ways to improve your user experience all over, not just on mobile. So on your next site design project, try starting with mobile first and see where this aspect of creative intelligence takes you.

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  • 09.17.14

Budgeting 2015 – The Essentials

marketing budget done wisely

Since digital channels are where so many interactions happen, brands need to make sure they have the essential digital technology pieces in place.  These include:

website / mobile / blogs / social / email / search / content / ratings & reviews / marketing automation / analytics / commerce

While almost every brand probably needs a website, the exact recipe should be determined by the right strategy work, as we discussed in this recent post: 5 Steps to a Defensible 2015 Marketing Budget.

The idea is that modern marketing is circular not linear. You never come to a dead end and everything connects and supports everything else in the brand ecosystem.  In order to do that you need to have certain technology pieces of the puzzle in place before you jump to tactics.

You probably already have a website. It’s should be the core of your ecosystem. This is where you are free to cultivate and convert to the best of your ability. But all websites are not created equal. A modern marketing websites should:

  1. Have landing pages that are customized by where viewers come from.
  2. Tell a persuasive brand story customized to each viewer’s interests.
  3. Attract search with content designed for SEO.
  4. Enable advocacy with content and social media.
  5. Use Responsive design to enable viewing on any mobile device.
  6. Identify visitors and deliver relevant content.
  7. Produce comprehensive activity analytics.
  8. Enable speedy marketing updates with a flexible CMS.

These are the basics of a modern brand website. The key, however, is in how you execute them. You messaging, branding, content, design and user experience are all the product of your strategy work, without which your site may not resonate with consumers or produce the leads and conversions you hope for. Whatever the ingredients, the fundamental idea is that your digital marketing infrastructure should enable you to execute and adapt quickly and easily.

Advertising and acquisition tactics alone rarely close the deal anymore.  Consumers, B2C and B2B, need to do research, evaluate, talk with friends and peers, and be cultivated. It’s a complex soup of influences and interactions. The good news is that it can be mapped and understood, so that armed with that knowledge you can deliver the right message to the right person at exactly the right time. In order to do that, however, you need to have some essential mechanical pieces of the puzzle in place first.

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  • 09.15.14

5 Steps to a Defensible 2015 Marketing Budget

5 Steps to a Defensible 2015 Marketing Budget

Just the fact of being asked for specific budget numbers often makes marketers jump straight to tactics before they’ve developed the strategic foundation that should drive those tactics. Unfortunately if you haven’t done that work yet for 2015, it’s probably too late for your budget process. But either way it’s never too late to start doing it the right way.

The 5 steps to an effective, defensible marketing plan:

1.    Don’t Guess

The powers that be need to recognize that before you decide where, when and how to spend money, modern marketing requires some pretty sophisticated strategic planning. While your team’s instincts and experience are probably good, you’d be surprised how wrong gut decisions can be. The Connect, Cultivate, Convert model does a good job of explaining why this complex environment requires a formalized strategic approach.

2.    Do the basics

The foundation starts with traditional research and insights, like customer segmentation, competitive review and persona development. But it’s what comes next that really counts.

3.    Journey Mapping

You need to know what the key interaction points and influences are on the way to purchase, and then advocacy, for each target segment.  This tells you when and where to interact with each target segment, but it’s still not enough.

4.    Content Strategy

You also need to know what to say, and how to say it to each segment at each interaction point. This comes from the work of a Content Strategy.  It includes social media listening to discover what people are saying, and studying search activity to find out what people are doing. This work reveals the psychology of the consumer at each point in their journey and provides essential direction to creative messaging.

5.    Playbook

At this point you have a strategic plan, which includes who you are targeting, when and where you should engage, what you should say and how that messaging should be delivered, but you need one more thing. The final step is to translate all this strategy into an actionable plan.

The Playbook should:

·      Prioritize tactics based on their ability to deliver against goals
·      Lay out tactics in priority over time
·      Show how each tactic ladders up to the strategy
·      Provide budgets for each tactic.
·      Project ROI
·      Identify KPIs for performance measurement

Tactics should include campaign work to connect with new prospects, tactics to cultivate prospects and customers over time, and tactics to convert prospects into customers. Some tactics may be one-time, others may be evergreen and part of your on-going marketing infrastructure.

When you’ve taken these five steps you will really be ready for budget time. You will be able to tell your management exactly how much you need, why, and what the ROI will be. You will be able to explain how, in the context of corporate goals, you got to your strategy, how the tactics you recommend will accomplish the strategy and why you have prioritized certain tactics within the time period. You will be able to justify each tactic, why it makes sense and how it ladders up to the long-term vision for the brand.

You may not be quite ready to deliver, however, if you don’t have the right mechanics in place. In our digitally centric world these are mostly digital assets like an effective website.  These technology components, of what essentially becomes a brand ecosystem, enable you to consistently turn the activity you generate with advertising and marketing into sales and loyalty.  But that’s another post.

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  • 08.20.14

Do’s & Don’ts of Creating Brand Videos

Marketers have woken up to the need for great content to influence today’s savvy consumer, they have also recognized that a lot of it has to be video. Not just commercials once or twice a year, but a steady stream of compelling, relevant, valuable videos. That’s a pretty tall order, which is why this primer for making brand videos is so useful.

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  • 07.23.14

How smart is your agency?

Test your Agency's IQ

In 1940, smart was all about writing snappy copy for newspaper ads. In 1960, smart was a TV spot with a catchy jingle. Today, however, smart is something entirely different.

The modern advertising agency (or whatever you want to call it) has to be smarter, or at least more broadly skilled, than ever before. Of course, agencies always say they are good at everything, but are they really? With digital added to the mix, the list of what they have to be good at has grown so much longer and challenging.

The Agency IQ Test is 10 simple, multiple-choice questions, followed by a score and analysis, that will give you a quick idea of how your smart your agency might be. The test is, of course, neither scientific nor entirely serious, but at the very least it should get you and your colleagues asking the right questions.

Take the test now to see how smart your agency really is.

Want to know more about IQ? Contact Us

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  • 07.16.14

“Don’t interrupt me when I’m interrupting you”

IQ - Facebooks "new" old model

 

This is one of my favorite quotes from Winston Churchill, and what Facebook might be thinking as it tries to ram a new ad model down the throats of brands and consumers alike. Having already vented in my last post about this, I thought the greater implications of their actions on social media worthy of further comment.

A Giant Step Back

When Facebook decided to make brands pay to post content to their own fans, they took a giant step back into the old ad world.  Faced with ROI pressure brands can’t afford the luxury of content oriented posting, instead they have to turn to fast pay-off tactics like promotions, coupons etc.  This puts us back in the old world of interruptive advertising, where you’d be watching TV or reading a magazine and an ad would interrupt you. Consumers put up with this model in the pre-digital years because it seemed like a reasonable exchange; get the content in exchange for watching the ads. That was before we retrained them.

We Are Not a Captive Audience

Fast forward to today and digital consumers.  We don’t like interruptions, we don’t like delays and we don’t like ads. We have been schooled to find and use the most efficient ways to answer questions, solve problems, research solutions and evaluate options. Digital consumers are not a captive audience, so if ads interrupt our flow and slow our productivity we won’t put up with it. That’s why it’s more likely you will survive a plane crash or win the lottery than click a banner ad.

The Post-Advertising Age

Facebook just wants to make money, which is fair enough. But just because advertising is about the only business model that might work for them, doesn’t mean it will. The problem is that we live in the post-advertising age. We still need to tell brand stories; we just can’t do it effectively with conventional ads anymore; at least in digital channels. Even armed with all the creativity in the world the only way to consistently get the attention of the digitally empowered consumer is with relevance and timing.

Changing Hearts & Minds

So if marketers can’t use ads to get their message across, what’s a brand to do? The way to the digital consumer’s heart and mind is by serving up the right content at exactly the right time. The right kind of content is that which is appropriate for the context. So if someone has clicked to watch a video about planting a lawn, don’t have a pre-roll ad for Home Depot, have lawn care tips courtesy of Home Depot. The big difference is that one supports the consumer’s journey, while the other interrupts it. Seems simple enough, but the complexity comes in planning where and when to connect with each consumer segment, and developing just the right content for each situation.

The Magic Algorithm

The temptation today is to think that marketing has become a predictable machine. All you have to do is crunch some media numbers, apply an algorithm and magically consumers will come flocking to your brand. Of course this is what the purveyors of all manner of media ad wizardry would have you believe.  This ignores, however, the need to connect the dots; all the touch points that have to become one consistent story, personalized as narrowly as possible. Everything a brand does, therefore needs to be built on a foundation of consumer insights. This includes the critical exercises of mapping the Consumer Decision Journey* and developing a Content Strategy. Together they tell a brand when and where to connect with each target segment, plus what to say and how to say it at that critical moment. At the same time this work lets brands see, understand and design the cumulative effect of all the interaction points together. Inevitably this leads brands to shift their thinking from a product oriented, advertising approach to a content oriented, consumer approach.

The Training Wheels Come off

Facebook is trying lots of things (a few pretty out there), looking for ways to cash-in on their huge audience.  Some may work, but this shift to making brands pay to reach their own communities isn’t probably one of them, because consumers, let alone brands, won’t stand for having the content they came for taken away.

The good news is that social media marketing is not over; it’s actually shifting to a more mature model where brands have much more control and influence. What we are seeing with social media is the same kind of shift that we saw when users graduated from AOL’s training wheels to managing their own online experience. That’s happening now as consumers are becoming more experienced, and Facebook’s move is only going to accelerate it.

So it’s time for brands to strike out on their own and connect directly with their consumers without going through the gatekeepers anymore. That means starting with the foundational work to discover the when, where, what and how, which will drive their new social media, marketing plan.

* Mckinsey & Co

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  • 06.20.14

IQ CEO & SoDA founder at Cannes Ad Festival

Tony Quin, CEO of IQ Introducing a SoDA session at the Cannes Advertising Festival

Tony Quin, CEO of IQ Introducing a SoDA session at the Cannes Advertising Festival

Top digital agency minds came together to discuss innovation today at a SoDA Session hosted by Microsoft at the Cannes Advertising Festival. Tony Quin, Founder and Board Chair of SoDA, kicked off the Session which focused on how agencies are tackling digital product and service innovation along with their more routine advertising and marketing duties. The panel included moderator Shane Ginsberg, President of EVB; Rick Barraza, focusing on design Strategy, quality experience and design at Microsoft; Donald Chestnut, Chief Experience Officer of SapientNitro; and Adrian Belina, Founder of Jam3. Together, they discussed the challenges of merging the short-term, fast turn-around agency culture with the very different dynamics of developing products designed to last over time. All agreed that while brands are demanding new ways to connect with consumers, questions of IP ownership, ensuing operations management, and how to assign resources are on-going challenges.

The panel concluded that the opportunities for agencies to lead clients into new opportunities driven by digital product and service innovation are still huge, and agencies are perfectly positioned to answer the challenge of developing the creative and technology innovations that brands need.

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  • 05.28.14

Connecting, Cultivating, & Converting Modern Consumers

This deck presents a simple to consume and communicate vision for how to approach the complex new marketing environment. Of course many experienced marketers will know much of what is contained here, but they may not have a simple way to connect the pieces and think about it holistically, or more importantly to communicate to those less sophisticated than themselves. With that in mind our Connect, Cultivate and Convert method outlines a new model for marketing.

 

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