Web Design Lives!

I'm not dead yet!
I’m not dead yet!

 

Someone over at UX Mag has declared that web design is dead, and we all need to be UX designers now. Hmm. Now I know how those medieval scribes felt when Gutenberg came out with his fancy new printing press. Or painters when the dagguerotype meant no-one would ever have their portrait painted again, or, much more recently, graphic designers when the introduction of the web meant no one would ever need print collateral again.

Over and over, we hear about the death of one artistic discipline in the face of a new technology, and over and over, the old tenaciously survives. Often, the shift exemplified by the new highlights unsustainable practices in the industry surrounding the old field.

Take music, for example. Record labels built their business model around having control over the expensive technology needed to record and distribute music. Powerful home computers, ever-improving software, and digital distribution gutted the foundation of that model. So for (at least) the past decade, the industry has been in upheaval as it simultaneously tries to patch a desperately broken system and reinvent itself. And yet, music is not dead.

I have friends who work as wedding photographers. A difficult industry in the first place, it’s increasingly hard to explain the value to consumers. As digital cameras have become ubiquitous, everyone’s got a friend with a decent consumer DSLR who they’re pretty sure can just get some pictures for them for free, or “as their wedding gift.” Meanwhile, people who do hire photographers now expect to have full rights to their photos to reprint and redistribute as they please, without coming back to the photographer each time. Yet my friends can still make a living. They’ve responded to the changes in technology and culture, and adapted their business models to work.

What wedding photographers have done, what musicians are doing (and labels are still figuring out), what practitioners of all sorts of disciplines have done throughout the ages is what we need to do. We adapt. This isn’t a big deal. Frankly, we’re better positioned than those who’ve worked in most of these fields throughout history. Web design has always been in flux, and we’ve always been racing to keep up with the latest trends and technologies.

So now there are new trends (template sites, social media), and new technologies (mobile, automation, the ever-elusive AI). What do we do? Adapt. We learn how to work with, through, and against these things as necessary, and we build better websites. We look at the trends and tech that we need to integrate, and we figure out how to do it well. We’ve always designed user experiences. We just do it on the web, so we call ourselves web designers. Web design lives on.

Exceptionally Adaptable and Effective!

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Source: adsoftheworld.com

EXCEPTIONALLY ADAPTABLE is one of our Core Values here at Staples Marketing, and it’s a trait you can see in our work. It’s a characteristic that we apply in all situations. We take a look at all of the elements we have available to us – both obvious and not – and create new and innovative solutions that best incorporate those elements.

For example, our national award-winning entry at this year’s American Advertising Federation Awards was our CHOOSE YOUR RIDE vehicle for the Wisconsin DOT. The front half of the car was decorated exactly like a Highway Patrol vehicle and the rear half was decorated just like a taxi cab, making a very strong statement about drunk driving.

All over the world, advertisers utilize space and materials in similar ways, with some fantastic results. Take a look at how some others have adapted to situations, and enjoy!

http://www.viralnova.com/eye-catching-advertisements/?mb=weirdworld

Inspired Fun with a Twist

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Source: http://www.boredpanda.com/useless-object-design-the-unusable-katerina-kamprani/

If you read the recent post on core values by agency partner Steve Stocker, you know that one of our core values is INSPIRED FUN. This means that we love doing what we do and honestly have fun with our coworkers and clients. Together, we change the way people think, feel and act, and to us, that’s inspiring. As the old saying goes, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” We believe that if you do the work that you’re inspired to do, you will find fun in what you take seriously!

However, there is also something to be said for finding seriousness in what you consider fun. The following link shows how a 3D modeler chose to turn functional design on its ear. It’s fun for the sake of fun, but very impressive and well-designed fun, which makes the work an excellent self-promotional piece. Enjoy!

http://www.boredpanda.com/useless-object-design-the-unusable-katerina-kamprani/

The Matrix

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Source: http://nullpointerdruid.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/the_matrix_0057.jpg

Our agency recently compiled a matrix of the services we offer. Why?  Because we learned that even some of our longest-running clients and closest media partners weren’t aware of everything we do.

Now, I’ve been with Staples for a long time. Just over 14 years, actually. And even I was surprised by the matrix. From focus groups to restroom advertising, we really do-do it all. Pun intended, because I started looking back at all the crazy things I’ve been part of for the sake of getting the job done. The types of things that won’t make the matrix because, chances are, we’ll never have to do them again.

For me, one of the strangest by-far was to put on my swim suit one chilly autumn morning, jump into the pool at Greenfield Park, and help corral hundreds of piles of plastic dog doo for a photo shoot. Let me tell you something about plastic dog doo and water, every little movement creates a tsunami that sends plastic dog doo scattering like they’re little motorboats. It was everywhere. And this particular morning, it was my job to use my 6-ft wingspan to keep these little bombs in the vicinity of where they needed to be.

Like I said, this is the kind of stuff that won’t make the matrix. If it did, it would be right under “Website Hosting” and be called: “Weird Stuff We’d Rather Not Talk About. Ever.”  But if it means getting the perfect photo of a little girl going down a waterslide into a pool filled with water that’s been polluted by lawn fertilizer and dog doo, we’ll do it.

By God we really do-do it all.

Responsive Web Design 101

responsive-design-crop Four years after Ethan Marcotte coined the phrase in his seminal article on A List Apart, responsive design is recognized by web designers not as just the way of the future, but as an essential technique for the present. But while we designers all agree on this, we often fail at the most basic needs of any new technique: explanation and advocacy.

What is responsive web design?

If you’re still unclear on what responsive web design is after reading that first paragraph, it’s a perfect example of the way in which designers sometimes fall short. Responsive Web Design is the practice of designing a single website which intelligently adapts to various screen sizes. From this brief explanation, let me give a demonstration: we recently created a website for our client Host & Keane. If you pull it up on your smartphone or tablet, elements on the page reflow to maintain their hierarchy, but better fit on the different screen sizes. This is the core of this technique.

Why do it?

Now that we’ve got a clearer picture of what responsive design is, the question is: “why do this?” Well, first of all, when we build websites that are semantic, with a clear hierarchy, adding responsiveness to that isn’t incredibly difficult. Sure, it’s additional work, but if the site is well-built, it’s not overwhelming. So that’s “why not,” but again, “why?” The fact is, since modern smartphones came on the scene (ushered in by the iPhone in 2007) mobile web use has exploded. Even on our decidedly non-responsive agency website, over the past six months, nearly 50% of our traffic came from mobile visitors. Now you’re probably thinking, “Great! If your site is seeing such a high percentage of mobile traffic, clearly this technique isn’t necessary!” But the real picture isn’t so rosy. While desktop visitors on average spend nearly 3 minutes on our site, and visit 6.5 pages; mobile visitors seem to get quickly frustrated, as they leave (on average) before 30 seconds, visiting 1.3 pages. Now the Host & Keane site gets a lot less mobile visitors as a percentage of its total traffic, but of those it does get, they visit only slightly less pages than desktop visitors, and they spend time more in line with what desktop visitors do. As an agency, this is an area where we are constantly working to improve, but for the time being, I hope you’ll come away from this with a better understanding of what responsive design is, and why it’s necessary as a part of your web strategy.

Flex Your Brand, Go Digital!

Digital Board Header

Digital billboards are nothing new, but they are growing in popularity and for good reason too. As a next generation platform for advertisers, digital boards allow businesses to interact with consumers, create custom content and make maximum impact.

Traditionally speaking most billboards you see are still vinyl, BUT if you are looking for more flexibility and versatility then digital billboards may be a viable option.

With digital boards you can schedule different ads to run at different times, even create several ads to rotate. We successfully used this media approach for Metra’s 2014 Summer Campaign in Chicago. By rotating several boards Metra is able to reach a variety of consumers with different messaging thus expanding their marketing efforts and potential ridership threefold.

Another great benefit is the ability to directly respond to market conditions within minutes. Leinenkugel’s Brewing Co. recently took advantage of this by promoting its Summer Shandy with special weather-responsive boards. By utilizing weather sensitive technology the digital ads change as clouds roll in, showers falls, or the sun shines. See article here: http://www.digitalsignagetoday.com/news/leinenkugels-sells-summer-shandy-with-weather-responsive-digital-billboards/

If you’re interested in flexible outdoor advertising or simply intrigued please drop us a line. We are always developing new and creative ways to improve our clients marketing efforts!

 

Take a Hike!

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Struggling to come up with a creative idea? Feeling stuck trying to reinvent the wheel?

My advice: Go take a hike! No, really!

I recently read a study by Dr. Marily Oppezzo (a Stanford graduate student at the time of the study) and Professor Daniel Schwartz, in the Stanford Graduate School of Education. What they found was that exercise of any kind helped improve thinking skills and helped to boost creativity. They found that after exercising, it markedly improved people’s ability to generate creative ideas, perform better in tests regarding memory, decision making and general thought organization. They found that the effects of a short 8 minute walk lingered long after the exercise had ended.

Why? The theories include improving the individual’s mood and allowing the paths of creativity to bloom more easily. Alternatively, it might also help to break down the wall of our brains hyper-rational filters allowing the wild creative thoughts to come crashing through.

I know when I feel like I’m spinning in circles and having a tough time, taking a quick stroll around the building really does help me to clear my mind and refocus on the task at hand. So instead of staring blankly at the issue you’re struggling to solve, step away and allow your mind to become inspired!

Find out more! http://news.stanford.edu/news/2014/april/walking-vs-sitting-042414.html

Learn more about Traci

Designing Ahead of the Game

Simplicity.pic

As a graphic designer, I need to stay on top of my game.  So, I keep up with the latest design trends, BUT in order to stay relevant, I must also foresee the future.

Since I am constantly looking at and studying future trends, I am able to incorporate those trends into eye-catching, yet strategic design that adds value to a client’s overall marketing materials. Here is one trend to watch that could help you take your marketing efforts to the next level in 2014:

This year the shift has been toward simplicity and visually pleasing design. As the products around us become more intelligent and with communication platforms increasing it is becoming more and more important to keep things simple. This trend is no more apparent than on the web.

See how simplicity can improve your brand: https://creativemarket.com/blog/2013/11/11/simplicity-in-web-and-graphic-design