The Creative

The Secret to Successful Design Strategy and Collaboration

August 21, 2014, Best Practices, Design, Rachel Jones, Strategy

Strategy and Design

Just last week, I worked on a last-minute rush project and found myself thinking, “Wow, I really wish I were part of the process sooner. Not only would I be more successful at solving my client’s problem, I would be more invested in what the client is trying to accomplish.”

On some projects, simply polishing up the aesthetics is not enough. Some projects seriously benefit from an intimate and thoughtful design strategy and collaboration. In the end, dear client, you’d much prefer to have us both working on how you communicate your message, not just me dressing up some graphics I barely understand.

 We’re in an era of user experience, and as designers, we’re tasked with creating not only the most engaging user experience but one that also captures the shortest of attention spans. Eight seconds, and then they’re onto the next thing. “What’s that song on Spotify?” or “Ooooh look over there at that cool Lego thing on YouTube!” or “Even better, did you see that Jimmy Fallon skit last night? Hilarious!”

 But I digress.

Steps for Successful Design Strategy: Step One: Have the Idea, Step Two Call the Designer

 I realize designers can’t always be in the process from the beginning. Projects just don’t work that way, and there are legitimate reasons for that last-minute rush. But when possible, sooner is definitely better than later. I’m happy just fantasizing about a client calling up to say, “Next quarter, we’re looking for new ways to approach our press kit. Why don’t you come in next week and we’ll talk about what’s new and trending?”  At that point, you got me—I’m immediately invested.

When I have time to research and learn new trends that are applicable (and some that aren’t), I can go into a meeting prepared with ideas, develop a synergistic energy with the client, produce a successful buzzworthy product, and—hopefully—earn accolades all around. Isn’t that much better than calling to ask me to perform a miracle on a project that’s gone completely off the rails and can you I have it done by tomorrow?

 Our value as designers lies in our ability to see things differently, solve problems, and manage the minutia. Massimo Vignelli (if you don’t know him, look him up) says, “There is no design without discipline. There is no discipline without intelligence.” Discipline and intelligence both take time. All I’m saying is: when I have time to do every part of my job, you’ll be happiest with the work.

Written and Illustrated by Rachel Jones, PPG Art Director

My Guide to Benefit Enrollment Season…

August 19, 2014, Adam Grossman, Best Practices, Design, Erika Harada, Strategy

…or How I’d Rather Be Writing About Football Season

Game on!  Benefit Enrollment

If you’re a fan of the end-of-summer vacation, the first day of school (going yourself or sending others off), or sports in general, the final weeks of the third quarter are a good time of year. Baseball playoffs are right around the corner, and NFL training camp is about to kick into gear. All the quarterbacks and linebackers are about to see just how prepared they are for the year to come. We in the business world can learn a lot from these athletes and the work they do in the off-season. It’s been said before, but preparation definitely is everything.

Early September, most of us are in our offices still getting over a sunburn, but our HR departments are already hard at work. The end of Q3 is their busiest time of year. While we’re making our fantasy football picks, they’re already deep into the complexities of benefit enrollment season. Whatever office-sponsored plans you participate in as an employee—health insurance, dental, vision, 401K—HR is responsible for making sure you know your options and getting you set up. Here at ProPoint, our one-person HR department deftly handles an office this size, but if you work at large company, your HR team is going to need some support.

Get Creative with Benefit Enrollment Communication

A thorough presentation or video can go a long way to not only educate employees about their benefits but also drum up excitement for entire process. That is no small task—ask any HR manager. This is where preparation is key, and good HR departments will be on this months beforehand. With the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, all the health care rules shifted, and many HR material needed to be rewritten. There are ways to navigate this ever changing landscape by creating dynamic and engaging communication materials for their employees. Emails, over and over again, are not the answer. HR departments have options like demos, narrated videos, or web-based or mobile e-learning applications. Even be creative and go with an eCard. Try a silly photo. Creative and silly go a long way.

To all the HR Directors out there who have been preparing away while we were catching up on some summer reading, thank you. This fall, we’ll try to open all your emails and pick our health plans by the deadline you set. You know how we can’t stand reading the fine print, so please have compassion for us, and the more engaging your materials are, the happier and more well-informed we’ll all be.

Written by Adam Grossman, PPG National Account Executive

Illustrated by Erika Harada, PPG Designer

Beautiful Evolution: Tech and Graphic Design

August 15, 2014, Design, Graphic Design, Monica Siguenza, Social Media, Strategy

Graphic design and tech evolve together.

Graphic design is an ever-evolving career. For us designers, the challenge is constantly learning new software to keep up with the trends and newest tech. But exactly what makes it challenging keeps it interesting, and that constant education is a large part of why we do this.

Several years ago before the world was consumed by screens of all shapes and sizes, the main source of communication companies used was printed materials. Sure, computers were in the picture, but their place was mainly at home. Businesses still heavily relied on print to get their brand and message out in the world. As effective as it was at the time (and for centuries and centuries before), print has its downsides. First, there’s the cost, and second, there’s the complexity of labor of distribution. Almost overnight, smartphones and tablets entered the scene and eliminated many of the obstacles of print.

Thanks to mobile devices, businesses can communicate more effectively and reach larger audiences. Since the devices we use for communication have changed, the way we communicate through these devices and the messages we send should changes as well. Enter Twitter and the ubiquitous use of the hashtag. Hashtags are a good example of a major tool for communication and advertising that can only exist in our world of digital and mobile media; in the world of print, they don’t make any sense at all.

As tech changes, so does graphic design, and so does the way we communicate. One influences the other, and communication remains a fluid thing, constantly adapting and never fixed. At some point, everything will evolve.  The best we can do is look for new and better ways to communicate, stay as close as we can to the edge of the new technology, and create beautiful things in whatever media is available to us at that exact moment.

Written and Illustrated By: Monica Siguenza, PPG Designer