Why design matters?

Ho — here's a blog topic! Designers justifying their craft, and using Apple as a case study? Such novelty! Let the cliches flow forth eh?!

But hold your judgement for just a moment — we think there's something here for even the staunchest Windows advocate and anti-apple crowd. 

Yes, two beautifully eloquent statements on design from a business that's built a small empire on its principles. Y'reckon there's something worth keeping in mind the next design project y'embark on? Indeed…

1. Design as functionality, not aesthetic.

"We've always thought of design as being so much more than the way something looks. It's the whole thing. It's the way something works on so many different levels. Ultimately of course, design defines so much of our experience." — Jony Ive, Senior Vice President Design, Apple

It's easy to slip into the habit of using 'design' to refer just to aesthetic. Yet, the word means far more than that. Conceiving, planning, function, purpose, strategy, structure, experience — all fall under the definition of design. That means most of us design on a daily basis. Whether it be building a program, creating IP, thinking of business opportunities, or even how we've structured our service delivery. It sings to the importance of purpose in each and every piece of design we produce. 

Which seques perfectly into the second takeaway...

2. Design to simplify complexity.

"I think there is a profound and enduring beauty in simplicity. In clarity. In efficiency. True simplicity is derived from so much more than just the absence of clutter and ornamentation. It's about brining order to complexity." — Jony Ive, Senior Vice President Design, Apple

There's a common assumption even among designers that minimalism is simple. Madness! Effective minimalism is actually deceptively difficult. Think for a moment on how easy it is for any of us, in basic Word-processing software, to add filters and meaningless ornamentation? True? Now consider how much harder it is to pull design back to the bare minimum required to communicate a message, yet still look good. 

And that's the key. 

Too little design and it looks incomplete and undesigned. Yet the moment design overtakes and overwhelms the content — it's failed, no matter how beautiful it is. It's a reminder of the importance of producing great content, and the role of design to bring order, simplicity, clarity and propel the message. 

Want to hear all this from the horses mouth? Leap over to www.apple.com/au/ios/ios7/

Chilli plum duck, roti canai, and 2 satay chicken skewers, please.

A few years ago, Jen decided we needed a local restaurant.

A place she could call and order 'the usual'. 

A place that knew her by name. 

And, a place that would one day repay her loyal patronage with open arms and a warm embrace. 

Hit fast forward through three years of placing exactly the same order every Friday night at a family-run Malaysian restaurant and Jen finally got that hug. Habitual order clutched in one paw and cocooned by the entire family, d'you think it got emotional? Yep. Are our lifespans shortened considerably from the vast quantities of MSG? Certainly. Was it worth it? Most definitely. 

Now, ain't that the cutest darn story y'ever heard? 

"Sure is. But, what the heck does all that have to do with me and my team or organisation?!", you may ask.

Well, it's a tale about the perks of consistency, friend.

In marketing we know this, everything that is produced is created with the same colour, the same font, the same style, the same palette. Consistency is king. Colour outside those lines and the achievement of brand recognition leaps out of your reach. These are proven principles that deliver results. 

So here we are communicating consistently and ‘on brand’ with our customers, but our employees get the slop that we dish out as an after-thought, usually oozed out in Outlook but the bucket-load. 

And, if like us, y'believe that the success of business is shaped as much by the actions of employees as through marketing or advertising, then why the heck do you serve ‘em from the bottom of the barrel? 

You want to engage and build trust with your staff? You sure do! 

Promote uptake of programs and ideas to drive culture and behavioural change within the organisation? Yes please! 

Motivate staff? But, of course! 

Plant your message in their fertile minds? Actually, I think they call that mind control...

So then, how do we communicate consistently with our staff? 

Here's three ideas:

1. The big picture: Marketing boffins sure love flinging the word 'strategy' around with gleeful abandon, but what about your strategy for internal communications? What's the tone, language, look and feel of your communications with staff? 

Create a quick mental checklist applied to everything you deliver. Are you crystal clear on your overarching objectives, values, your message, and the tone in which it's delivered? Does every piece of communication clearly convey these things? Mentally ticked those boxes? Click print/send, y'clever devil!

2. A rhythm of communication: To build real rapport & trust — consistency in your communication is needed, both in timing and design. So, whether it be a fortnightly internal e-newsletter, a training video series, or the same order every Friday night — establish a rhythm. 

3. Style guides & templates: Now hold those feelings of apprehension! No need for weighty tomes or self-righteous rule books — an A4 page is all you need. An at-a-glance reference of your fonts, colour values, logo variations and secondary elements. 

Then create templates. It doesn't need to be overly stiff or corporate — heck — make it funny, entertaining and engaging. But simply by using a consistent template you'll start to build recognition and habit — leading to trust. You'll save yourself a ton of time re-inventing the wheel. 

Yes, the moral to this missive is that you won't always feel like chilli plum duck* — nor using the same font, or sending out a newsletter each week — but the rewards are there for those who resist the cravings for variation. Would Jen've got the hug she longed for, if every time we felt like Malaysian on Monday we gave in to our satay lustings?… 

Perhaps in time, but not near as quickly. 


* And let me tell you how we’ve longed for that sweet, sweet beef rendang.

End of a long week in the Territory

Warm summer evenings, endless beaches, great people and good times—actually, come to think of it, spending time with our friends at East Arnhem Shire Council in Darwin is exactly like a Corona ad.

Video Blogging

We've been seeing heaps more video content getting out there which is fantastic. However the one common mistake we see people making is having their camera placed below the eyeline. This is really common with people using their computers to record their vids. The problem with shooting below the eyeline is that it's really unflattering (we're talking double chins, nostril hair and dark rings under the eyes here). The simple fix - if you're using your laptop, chuck a couple yellow pages underneath (they're still good for something) and if you're using a tripod, lift it up so that when you're talking to camera you're lifting yours eyes ever so slightly up. This will make your eyes appear larger, lighter and more engaged.

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Tips for a top presentation!

1 image per screen

1 large photo that everyone can fully see is better than 2 or more smaller photos that no one an see

1 word or short sentence per screen

Whole paragraphs do not belong in a presentation - hand out more information on a sheet of paper if you need to.

Use images wisely

Real images from your workplace or organization are always more powerful than stock images or photography.

If you do have to use stock choose wisely!

Mix it up!

Is it possible to start with a video of slideshow with music? This will captures the attention and focus of the room. Also if you're nervous, it gives you time to relax!

One thing that no small business should forget...

My father-in-law Llloyd is a farmer. He's a wealth of knowledge of all things country, but I certainly wasn't expecting a schooling in business from him last week.

We were back on the farm for the event of the year - the annual Cooyar bush dance. The talk that night began with the usual well-worn topics of blight and famine, before turning to the impressive turnout, then to the conspicuous absences of a few locals. In a town of less than 6 houses, it's pretty hard to be inconspicuous, and in this case it was a couple of well-known local business owners who'd pulled a no-show.

And that's when Lloyd dropped this nugget of wisdom:

"If you live and work in a community, you'd reckon you'd show up to the dance wouldn't you?"

As small businesses all of us are at the mercy of our community - be it on a street, suburb or city scale. In the daily hustle it's easy to get caught up in extracting as much from them as we can, and forget that the businesses around us need us as much as we need them.

Why should we expect anything from that community if we aren't giving back to it?

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Forget about SEO and just be awesome

Have you ever Googled yourself?...

Entered in a search term that relates to your business to see if you came up on the first page of search results?

I have, and the results were depressing. A few years back I was spending a lot of time worrying about Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). If we were on page 6 for "Branding Gold Coast" how on earth would people find us?

I think the allure of SEO for many of us is that it feels like a free lunch. A silver bullet solution to our marketing and sales efforts (or lack thereof). As long as the traffic is magically flowing in from searches it absolves us the guilt of not picking up the phone and make those painful sales calls. It spares us the awkward coffee meetings where the stench of the Dreaded Sell hangs in the air. More traffic means more chance of winning - it's a game of numbers right?

Wrong.

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Take the "F" words out of your website

Lately it seems we've been talking to a lot to people who are at their wits end with their websites. They're either too hard to update, don't have the features they want and/or is costing them a fortune to keep up-to-date.

So, for this weeks post we wanted to ensure you take the Fight and Fright out of your website. It's a case study in how building your site the right way at the start will prevent any nasty suprises in the future.

Bonus: Make sure you check out our 9 tips for building your website to learn more.