It’s here – the final UX report that I’ve mentioned in several previous blog posts!
For the past few weeks, I’ve been researching different effective UX methods for evaluation of a website in preparation for a redesign. The company’s website that I chose to research is PM&J. They are a vendor for large retailers that provides products like apparel, pet items, and soft home goods.
I conducted several studies including a comparative analysis, personas and scenarios, surveys, interviews, card sorting, usability studies, as-is and to-be analysis, and a concept model. Throughout these methods of study, I was also able to evaluate and come up with recommendations for change.
The main aspects found that require change are content updates, navigation, and information architecture.
Content on the website appears clean and easy to comprehend, but when looking into details, most of the content is outdated, originating from as late as 2016.
The navigation appears straightforward, and it’s easy to get from point A to point B. However, there are some dropdowns that users have expressed that are confusing.
Lastly, there are quite a few areas to improve the information architecture. Most of the information on the site is written in paragraphs with few images, making skimmability flawed. The “Products” pages do not offer visuals of the actual product that PM&J is capable of, and they feel more like an extended “Services” page. Contacting PM&J can appear challenging if the user doesn’t understand what the contact form is asking. And there are some parts of the PM&J process involving their clients that is lacking details.
The above points go into depth within the UX report – how the issues were found, specific reactions from participants in different methods of study, and recommendations for the redesign based off of these.
If you’re interested in reading more into this, check out the UX report attached to this post, below!
This last week, I conducted usability testing for a UX report that I’m creating (coming soon!) for a company’s website, called PM&J. Usability testing is one piece of the big puzzle, but one of the most essential ones. So, I’m writing an entire post dedicated to the process!
Usability testing is a technique to understand how users think when navigating websites and utilize that information to organize the structure of a site for ease of use.
The idea behind it is to assign tasks to participants relating to a site’s navigation, and observe as they complete the tasks. Participants should speak through their task, letting the moderators know what they’re doing, and why.
Simply put, usability testing will typically reveal surprising usability flaws of a website.
Putting together the materials
To begin my process, I put together a script of what I would say to the participants of the study. This allowed me to provide them with all of the necessary information that they would need, including disclaimers about their actions and asking consent that they be recorded. If they agreed, I also created a consent form for them to sign and return back to me.
The tasks are arguably the most important part of a usability test. They need to be clear and provide the participants with a scenario to complete the action.
Tasks were as followed:
You are a sourcing specialist for a company and need to source soft patio furniture for the upcoming year. You heard about PM&J through word of mouth, but you don’t know much about them as a vendor. Find out if PM&J can provide you and your company with soft patio furniture.
You are the same sourcing specialist as before. You have other vendor partners you’ve worked with in the past and are unsure it’s worth exploring a new connection with PM&J. Find out what sets PM&J apart from its competitors.
You bought a pet bed from a store, and the cover ripped. Your pet loves this bed, and you want a replacement cover. The store no longer carries this item, and they have directed you to the vendor, PM&J. Find out how you can reach someone at PM&J about this inquiry.
You’re an existing client of PM&J and want to know more about what the company launches with other clients. Find out if there’s a portfolio of product launches or press release information.
You are a business owner and rely on conventions and events to build relationships. Find out where you can learn more about PM&J through events.
Conducting the sessions
I guided the usability study sessions three separate times with three participants.
These tests are typically done within a controlled lab, but due to the pandemic, the sessions were done via a recorded zoom meeting.
Each participant was asked the same five tasks, and I was able to use their recorded responses to analyze the results.
2/3 participants took the same route by hovering over “Products” and then selecting “Home.”
The other participant took a different path by first selecting “Our Story,” then “Private Label Expertise,” to then the correct path, “Products” to “Home.”
2/3 participants mentioned that “Home” as a category under “Products” was confusing, as they thought that would normally direct them back to the home page of the website.
All participants found “Competitive Advantage” very quickly and easily, which is the correct path.
2/3 participants mentioned that they found the “Competitive Advantage” link in multiple locations on the site and that all were clickable and easy to access.
2/3 participants went straight to “Contact”
The other user expressed that they would want to find the solution under “Products” then “Pet.” But then directed to “Contact” like the other two.
All three participants were confused about the contact form on the page. The form indicates that the user requires a retailer name, which didn’t align with any of the participants thoughts on the action they needed to perform.
2/3 participants ended up eventually finding a contact email and phone number in a small font in a different location on the page.
Each participant first navigated to the “News” section on the website and found blog posts specific to PM&J’s partnerships.
They all found additional categories on the side of the posts to narrow down their search, which they expressed seemed helpful.
After staying on the page and exploring for an average of one minute, the participants then realized that the content of the posts was very outdated, with the most recent post being from 2016. Each user expressed concerns with this, as they weren’t sure they’d find this a trustworthy page for resources.
Task five resulted in the longest average time to complete.
None of the participants could find event information under the navigation dropdowns and were left unconfident if they’d be able to complete this task.
Eventually, each participant found that there is an animated newsletter at the top of the homepage that expresses a Global Pet convention. However, it’s located on the third page of the animation, so easily missed, and it doesn’t provide any actions.
Additionally, only one of the three participants noticed that the event was advertised for 2020, which made them feel as if the site is less reliable.
Overall, I found that after conducting the test with the three participants, there were some things that I expected would be issues, but also a few surprises. For example, I didn’t expect task 2 to be as quick and easy as it was for the users – “competitive advantage” didn’t sound like a straightforward option to me, but all participants were confident in this selection. But that’s why usability testing is such an important part of UX!
From these results, I’ve illustrated some recommendations for the site, which you can see in my final UX report – next week!
Pannafino, J., & Mcneil, P. (2017). UX Methods: a quick guide to user experience research methods. Cduxp.
In my last two blog posts, I explained UX methods that I’m planning to conduct for a UX report. This week, I’ve gathered details about another method that’s ideal for visual design and aesthetic appeal. This method is called desirability studies.
Desirability studies are informative for designers to launch an engaging look for a new or existing website, making sure it responds well to the audience. They’re also helpful to know why different designs evoke specific responses from the users.
How to do it
To begin a desirability study, you first need at least two different visual layouts of an application. The versions of the applications may be your own to test before launching or existing sites that are comparable, in preparation for a redesign.
Next, form a list of adjectives, both positive and negative. Make sure the list is randomly assorted, so the good and bad adjectives are intertwined; however, the list may still have some structure, such as being alphabetical, if that’s what you want. The list should range from about 30-50 words. This is the main tool that participants will use when performing the study.
Performing the desirability study is quite simple from there. Gather your participants – they may be predetermined by you, or unaimed volunteers participating in this study as a survey. Whatever works best for you as the organizer.
The participants will then see the different visual versions of the application, and select 3-5 words that best represent each version.
Results will help you to understand what the users thoughts are towards each design. Ultimately, knowing what the users are thinking about the design will assist the selection of which visual application to use that will respond best to the audience.
Mad*Pow Media Solutions is a strategic design consulting company, which performed a desirability study in 2010 for their site. Before they conducted the study, they set up some goals of what they wanted their audience to experience when using the site.
The site should feel professional and trustworthy for the users.
The site should not appear too promotional which could discourage customers.
The site should feel friendly and genuinely approachable.
Users should feel comfortable with a sense of empathy through the design.
The goals listed above helped the design team to develop two different visual layouts for their application.
The team conducted the study through a survey and separated participants into three different groups. Group one was shown only the first design option and selected five adjectives of the premade list that they thought best described the design. Group two was shown only the second design option, with the same objectives. Group three were shown both designs and asked which one they preferred. In total, the number of participants was about 150.
Their results indicated that group three was inconclusive. However, having measurability from group one and two were incredibly helpful, and resulted in design two as the winner. It ultimately portrayed more adjectives that aligned with their goals.
From this study, the team was able to start from design two and make modifications as they saw fit, resulting in a final design.
Another desirability study was conducted for Yahoo! Personals, which used cards that represented brand values, but also used paired opposites.
Examples of the paired opposites include the following:
Uninteresting – interesting
Forgettable – captivating
Each participant that partook in the survey was given cards with predetermined adjectives and asked to select five that best matched their response to the design. After the survey, the participants were then interviewed to understand their responses and why they chose those cards.
The team was then able to assess and deliver their best possible application for the users.
Overall, desirability studies are often overlooked as a UX method. However, they’ve proven to be very useful to launch products that the audience identifies with and align with the company’s purpose.
I will not be conducting a desirability study for the UX report I’m creating, but that’s simply because there are other methods (like the ones I wrote about in my previous blog posts) that will be more useful at this time for the site I’m proposing a redesign for.
Do not overlook this UX method! Implement it into your own research, and find just how helpful it can be for the design of your product.
Concept modeling is a visualization that shows the relationships between all elements within a subject region, in an abstract way. The idea is to find connections – both apparent and less apparent – between each relationship of the users in the region. Then, in this case, apply those connections to a user interface.
Once these relationships are found, they can help designers to identify functional requirements that make the UI cleaner, simpler, and easier to understand. The overall goal is to have a view of what it is, what it does, and who it helps (the users). This process should be used before launch or as a redesign tool to grasp the full picture of a project.
How it’s done
First, find all of the nouns that associate with the problem, and write them down. Aside from the fact that the concept model process is used for UI, developing the model should not include UI terms or broad concepts. Instead, the purpose is to list all factors that relate back to the users’ problems, and what they wish to achieve. For example, rather than saying “controls,” use specific elements of a UI that the user will go to when interacting with the site, like “products” if it’s offered. So, at this point, re-write or reorganize the words as needed.
Starting the chart
Once you have all nouns, place them inside boxes, ovals, or whatever fits your needs to begin developing a visual chart.
Making connections in all possibilities
The next step in the process is to use arrows to relate the nouns with actions. By doing this, the main elements connect to one another. This part of the process requires some deep thinking, as some connections are not going to be obvious, and may help you find more elements or actions than originally anticipated.
Finding as many connections as possible is a good thing – it will help to have a deep understanding of the relationships that aids in the design for UI.
Audree Lapierre wrote an article about her own experience creating concept models for a website project that she developed, called Min. She began her process by utilizing the use cases that she’d previously worked on, which made way for prioritized subjects, like “tasks,” and “people.”
After developing a few drafts of the concept model, this is the final version. Lapierre then planned to use this model for the site developers for their data model.
Another instance of real-world examples is listed within an article written by Shamal Jayawardhana. Jayawardhana created five different examples of conceptual models in order to explain in detail to the readers about how they’re used and how they’re helpful with UI design.
He began the process by explaining how to create a concept model with Vertabelo, then detailed the five examples with different scenarios:
Simple Employee Management System
Simple Order Management System
Online Shopping App
Simple Library System
Hotel Reservation System
However, instead of filling the concept models out in detail, these five examples are templates that can be used as reference points for his readers. It’s a helpful approach to giving the audience members a better understanding of concept models for different systems, and the possibility of starting from the ones he created.
Overall, concept modeling is a fun visual process that requires some initial understanding, which evolves into a deep understanding of the relationships between the essential elements in the UI system. I chose to discuss this UX method because of these reasons – and I’ll be implementing this process into my own research for a UX report that I’m currently developing. It’ll be helpful for me to have a better knowledge of who the users are, what their problems are, and how the problems can be resolved through an easy-to-use website.
I’ve always been a visual learner. Explanations or exercises with words alone has its place and need, but depending on the situation, visuals may be so much more effective.
An as-is and to-be analysis is an excellent example of this.
What is this analysis and when is it useful?
As-is and to-be is a comparison between a present circumstance and a future one. The tool is best used when there’s a current process or system that needs revising for ease-of-use or to eliminate issues.
There are many instances where the analysis is helpful. It can be used for yourself – say you need to change the order of operations when doing laundry – your current process may be to add detergent before the laundry load, but this creates issues that there’s either too much or not enough detergent, creating missteps. So instead, you change the process for the future to add the detergent after the laundry load. This is more of a casual example of when the process is useful, but it is feasible. Otherwise, as-is and to-be can effectively help teams and work processes.
In the world of user interface and experience, this method is extremely useful when comparing systems and upgrading them for improvement for the users.
How to create an as-is and to-be method
First, you’ll want to begin the comparison by visually mapping out the “as-is” portion of the interface. Whatever visual routine works best for you is great as long as it directly compares two situations, i.e. flowchart, fishbone diagram, mind map, etc. This is all about how the interface currently works, and should be as detailed as possible – make sure you’re not leaving anything out! Map it out in ordered steps – how would the user manuever inside the system?
Once you have the “as-is,” use the same layout to map out the “to-be” by altering the ordered steps in a new way. This may require some critical thinking, brainstorming with teams, research, and testing before and after this point, all while keeping the end user in mind. Draft up a few options in order to find the best solution.
After finishing the analysis, the process still isn’t quite done yet. Discuss with team members, test it within groups or individually, and make changes as you find necessary. Overall, the analysis will benefit the system by pointing out the best experience for the user, possible risks, and different end results.
One example of the as-is and to-be analysis is shown from the CUNY School of Law. Students used a paper-based system that required a lot of time tracking down signatures, exchanging physical documents, and filing. On average, they spent about 9.3 hours per week doing this. After realizing the unnecessary amounts of time, the students wrote the process out, and made changes to the system for a digital application. After implementing the digital system, the time to do the documentation went down significantly, and the application prompted students automatically if actions were needed.
Another example involves StoneGate Senior Living. Medicaid funding required a bundle of paperwork to the state for each live-in resident with a short 30 day turnaround time. The process was not automated so the possibility of forms falling through the cracks were higher, requiring that the process start all over again. They took a look at the as-is structure, and developed a to-be structure by making the process automated. The team identified all necessary check points, and had them automatically transition to the correct staff members for each step. If any information was missing, a flag would appear to inform the team members. By transitioning the as-is system to a to-be system, they reduced billing issues by 25%.
The as-is and to-be method has shown itself as an effective tool for improving systems. If you’re at a point where you want (or need) to update a process for ease of use, consider this analysis. In a few weeks time, I will use this method myself for a UX research project. Like I said, I’m a visual learner, so it seems that this comparison will definitely be worth doing! Stay tuned!
Product design is a broad term for designing items for an end-user. In my own experience, there are different types: the type that I know and love so well – non-digital physical items, and then there are digital spaces like software or the product that holds digital space itself, like smartphones.
Technology is ever-changing – and realistically, the everyday products we use are digital ones – smartphones, laptops, tablets, etc. This is why I’ve come to understand that “product design” is increasingly referring to the digital realm. But should the term mostly refer to digitally applied design? Absolutely not – while the most common focus of UX is for digital, design is design is design. These thoughts aside, the focus here is designing for digital spaces.
Mental models are the users’ assumptions on how something should work. Behind a screen, audience members use their mental models with how they think an interface should look and function based on past experiences with similar products. However, they’re also subject to change if the feature at hand is not an unwritten necessity, like using a light interface versus a dark one. There are some features, though, that may confuse users – like if a store’s website navigation menu were not towards the top of the page. If a user can’t easily find how to get where they want to go, they’ll likely not waste much time trying to find out – which may affect the store’s sales.
This is why mental models are an important concept when designing for interaction. Deeply thinking about mental models should happen at the beginning of the process, as it will be like a backbone for usability.
In contrast, iterative design can be used during any stage of product development. Iterative design is essentially prototyping, testing, analyzing, and refining. The idea for the best turn-out is to fail early – so ideally, this part happens before launch, but it can also help refine a product afterward. The sooner you design something that doesn’t work how you’d thought, the better – because then it can be improved for potentially the best outcome.
Personally, I couldn’t help but compare the principles behind designing for digital to designing for analog physical items. When thinking about mental models, I began realizing how anyone could use a dish towel – where it sits in the kitchen, how often it gets used, etc. – and how the design of a simple dish towel could change (or not) based on these models.
Then, iterative design is essential, but I think it often gets forgotten more with physical items (more so the ones that have already been designed, like dish towels) rather than digital spaces. Here’s why: results aren’t as easily measurable as this doesn’t involve click rates or time spent on a page. Also, long testing processes with focus groups and interviews may not be as feasible without measurable actions, and while most launch timelines are quick. This is why these designers focus on the market research, trends, and personas to back up their product – but I think they can often forget that collaboration and feedback in many ways can substitute measurable actions.
Alternatively, iterative design for physical items that are new and innovative isn’t frequently forgotten. This is because there are fewer – if any – market research products that help sustain design feasibility for the user without testing.
Ultimately, mental models and iterative design go hand-in-hand and are equally important for the design of a product. Maybe the first prototype failed because the designers’ perceived mental model of the user was incorrect, and that’s when analyzing and refining comes in for a repeated process. Both at that time would be modified with the ultimate purpose of launching a great product for the end-user.
Baxter, K., & Courage, C. (2005). Understanding Your Users A Practical Guide to User Research Methods, Tools, and Techniques. San Francisco, CA: Elsevier Science & Technology.
Let’s take everything back to about seven weeks ago when I’d started thinking about the endless possibilities of creating content. A question came up for me… What isn’t content? Where do I draw the line on what I can or can’t do when it comes to content?
I’m still not even sure the answers to those questions – I mean, I do… But it’s very broad!
I’d decided early on that I wanted to utilize my new-er found knowledge of motion design. Great, okay, good start. Now, how? What can I present to the world (or at least the intended audience) something digital that moves and that benefits them?
Someone had brought up the idea of a newsletter to me, and it’s something I never would have considered. When I think of newsletters, I just think of retailers advertising their promotional sales. It was, however, an excellent idea to bring awareness of a particular topic to groups, and instead of advertising, it informs.
Well, if you’ve been following my blog, you know about Ladapaw Letters – an emailed bi-weekly animated newsletter focusing on owning pets with a deeper look at animal adoption. The result of my content creation journey.
Ladapaw Letters Development
To briefly summarize the process it’s been for me and this branded animated newsletter: it has been a journey, in simplest terms. If anyone were to tell you creating content is easy – which, I don’t know who would actually say that – they’re lying to you. Yes, you can be a master at a particular thing, but that doesn’t mean there’s no planning, or roadblocks that happen along the way.
Anyway, developing Ladapaw Letters required many steps in order to get to its completion of three different newsletters:
Research. And I mean a lot of it. I didn’t know yet at this point what topics I’d choose to develop my first few newsletters, so I went to town with it. Several different resources for pet adoption rescue vs shelters, puppy mills, general statistics about adoptable animals, best food options for pets, best training methods for pets with different backgrounds, and so on. It was also at this time that I created and distributed a survey about potential newsletter topics from interested audience members. Also gathering their emails to send the letters to, if they were interested any further.
Planning. This was before pre-production and based on the research, then put into possibilities, and organization. Here is where I made my project proposal, which laid out the purpose and planned outcome of the newsletter. Also, with more refined planning, I was able to define the first three newsletter topics and develop a project management plan to help me stay on track, through Trello.
Pre-Production Planning. More planning, but refined for the overall outcome of the three newsletter production and post-production processes. Here, I developed a detailed outline for each of the three letters, including storyboards that planned the animations, and the resources to back up the information.
Production. Throughout three weeks, I focused on the production of each newsletter. This began with creating the template of each “page” in Illustrator. Then, entering the final written content into the layout and illustrating graphics of animals to give the letters character. Once that was finished, I imported the Illustrator files and began animating them in After Effects – a process that of course, took much longer than I’d predicted.
Production continued? I found out quickly, during my first week of production, that I’d need to split out the production tasks a bit further. I needed to give myself more time to focus on the animating, then give my head a break to go back to the newsletters and re-look to see if there was anything I could improve before post-production. And of course, there were improvements to be made! This added a lot of unplanned time, which proved to be difficult, but I was able to push through.
Post-Production. This is when I’d export my final animated newsletter into a looping GIF, and enter it into the email template I’d started for each newsletter – which automatically gets distributed to my audience at a planned time.
The Future of Ladapaw Letters
It’s almost impossible not to think about the lengths this could go – so from the beginning, I’d thought about extending the platform from email to social media, particularly Instagram. In fact, it’s something I thought to ask during the survey I conducted in the research phase, because realistically, I wasn’t sure how many people would want to view newsletters through their email. Well, I found out from that survey that they do! So, I decided to start Ladapaw Letters as the emailed newsletter, and in the future, the letters could also get distributed through an Instagram account to reach a larger audience.
Then, I had to think about what my audience members are going to do with this information. Do they just take it all in through the newsletter then it’s finished? Each letter presents direct references to the material, but it’s very brief. Something that came to mind was to add the resources again below the emailed newsletter so that anyone who wants to do more digging on their end can.
Possibly, to gain more actions from the Ladapaw Letter audience, the brand could promote or put on events to help local rescues and shelter organizations, while raising awareness about pet adoption in general. Educational and charitable events that may have pets up for adoption, local pet businesses, and of course the adoption organizations in a social setting.
The Final Outcome!
So, folks – head on over to my portfolio page for the final presentation of my journey with Ladapaw Letters, and enjoy. Cheers!
And here it goes, the last newsletter of my seven-week dedicated time for developing Ladapaw Letters. This one is all about rescues, purebreds, and purebred rescues.
To help me develop the outline, I put together some valuable questions to ask myself when looking through the research I’d already gathered. Then, I could decided if I needed to find more resources pertaining to the questions.
What are rescues? What are mixed-breed animals? How many animals in shelters and rescues are mixed, and how many are purebred? What makes a purebred a purebred? What are breeders? What makes a responsible breeder vs an irresponsible one? Do I briefly touch on puppy mills? Why are most rescue animals mutts? What’s the percentage of purebred rescues? Why do purebreds end up in rescue situations?
Using these questions as references, I could then expand them into a detailed outline that touches on all of these meaningful points.
By now, I know I can’t go into a topic for a newsletter without a well-thought-out outline. With much thought, here is the outline I developed for the final newsletter.
This section is all about what makes rescue animals what they are, and how they get there.
What are mixed-breeds, and why are they so common in rescue and shelter organizations?
This section is all about what makes purebred animals what they are, and how they came about. Focusing on breeders.
What are purebreeds, and why are they more scare in rescue and shelter organizations?
Ultimately there are pros and cons to both options, and it’s always best to weight what’s best for the family.
Using the same layout that I developed previously, I entered in the written content, referencing the storyboards from pre-production to ensure the planned animations would still work well. To no surprise and similar to last week, I ended up re-arranging and changing things as needed from the storyboard.
Here is the detailed animation plan for this page in particular:
“Ladapaw Letters” animates from the top into the center top, “major reasons…” information starts to follow in after “Ladapaw Letters” from the top, down. Right side information animates in from the bottom. The cat walks in at the same time, from the right. Once each piece of information animates in, the references fade down. They fade away before the “major reasons…” animates out to the bottom, and the right-side information animates out to the top. The cat walks off to the right, returning where it came.
After I was finished in Illustrator, I then separated the layers out and imported everything into After Effects to begin animating. Animating isn’t something that is done in a short amount of time, at least not for me yet. Because of this, I’ve chosen a strategy to re-use the same walking animals in each newsletter, and re-arrange where they come from and go. It’s also a nice consistency feature to have. In the future, I would plan to use new characters retrospectively.
Now that the animations are finished, the next step is to export the newsletter into a looping GIF. The GIF makes it possible to have the newsletter play simultaneously within the email that’s sent to the audience, rather than clicking an external link.
Well folks, this is the last production stage for my first three initial newsletters of Ladapaw Letters! Next week, stay tuned for a detailed project page that reveals the three newsletters.
Newsletter number two! This one is all about rescues – focusing on what they are, their missions and purposes, different types, and funding.
Here are some questions that helped me to gather the corresponding research:
What are rescues? What do rescues do? What kind of animals can you adopt from rescues? What are their processes? How do they find the animals to rescue? How do they care for the animals? How do they make money?
From these questions, I pulled together the outline for this newsletter.
Just like with the first newsletter about adoption, I created a detailed outline to follow for each animated page.
What is an animal rescue?
This section is all about the rescue mission and process.
Rescue mission & process continued
This section is focusing on fostering
Types of rescues
Types – breed or age-specific
Funding & care
Where do they get their money?
What type of care they provide to the animals
The answers to any of the questions in the introduction require a bit more information than simply one sentence. From this outline and the research I’d gathered, I found that this newsletter would be a bit more text-heavy than the first one. This is totally fine – each newsletter should provide the best information for what the topic is. The question then for me, was how I’d lay it out so it doesn’t look overwhelming with type.
Since I created a layout last week for the first newsletter, I was able to start from that for the second one. Again, using Illustrator, I entered all of the written content, re-arranged, and re-wrote as needed. During pre-production, I created a storyboard to follow for the animation plan, however, given this newsletter was a bit more substantial in text than the first newsletter, I had to adjust how everything animates.
I also had to lay out the text in a way that doesn’t look overwhelming, which required a bit more thinking on my part. This is another reason why I love that the newsletters are animated – so each page doesn’t look like too much, and the information can still be easily legible with a steady pace between transitions.
Here is the detailed animation plan for this page in particular:
“Ladapaw Letters” animates from the top into the center top, “what is an animal rescue?” information starts to follow in afterwards. The bunny begins to walk in at the same time, from the right. Once each piece of information animates in, the references fade down. They fade away before the “what is an animal rescue?” and all else animates out to the right, including the bunny, returning where it came from.
The next step was to bring the finished illustrator layers into After Effects to animate the text and graphics just like last week’s first newsletter. It’s nice that this is the second time I’ve done this now for the newsletter, as it felt like animating went a bit more smoothly. While it was still very time-consuming and challenges presented themselves along the way, I think each time will prove to move along better than the time before.
Once again, I’m leaving the GIF export and setting it up in MailChimp for a little bit later so that I can look back and see if I want to make any improvements along the way. Hopefully, my fresh mind will be able to identify anything that might make it that much better for the audience.
I’m really happy with the information I was able to present in this newsletter, and looking forward to developing the third one!
After completing and distributing a survey during pre-production, I found my first three topics for each newsletter. Topic one is all about pet adoption. While pet adoption is broad, I narrowed it down to the main generalized features about it.
Here are some questions that helped me to layout the newsletter:
What does it mean to adopt? What are the benefits of having pets, and adopting pets? What are the potential setbacks? How do animals end up in shelters or rescue organizations, and why are there pet surrenders? What do you do to prepare and know you’re making the right decision?
If I haven’t already said it enough, Ladapaw Letters newsletters are animated. This allows them to have more information presented to the audience as the content moves along at an appropriate pace, and it progresses from one piece of information to another.
To further narrow down each sub-topic, I developed an outline to follow. The subjects of the outline are meant to progress from one to another, and following along in a meaningful manner.
General benefits of having pets
This section begins the Newsletter with a brief touch on mental and physical benefits of owning pets
General facts & stats on animal adoption
What does it mean to adopt animals?
Brief intro on saving lives when adopting & why
Average costs of adopting pets
Surrendering pets & reasons behind it
Use a pie chart on most common reasons for returning animals after adoption
Weigh the factors – children, allergies, costs, etc.
Do your research
Wait for the right one
The concept of Ladapaw Letters requires extensive – and I mean extensive – amounts of research. Each subject of the information is based heavily on proven facts and statistics while removing any sort of bias. So, using the outline above, I sorted the resources I’d already gathered and wrote the content. To keep my process clear, I used a color-coded system for which piece of information went with which reference, so I then could accurately source within the newsletter.
I used Illustrator to develop the layout of the newsletter, which I then brought into After Effects to animate the text and graphics.
To start, I referenced the storyboards made during pre-production to ensure I followed a guide for where each written information should land and balanced it out with graphics of animals. I had to modify the “script” as needed to fit the pages and make the most sense for the letter itself.
Each page follows the outline directly with the information corresponding to it, as well as the references.
With the storyboard, I already had an idea of how each piece of content would animate in and out, though it did have to be modified for the overall layout. The idea is that the newsletter loops – starting with a blank page, then “Ladapaw Letters” shortly following afterward, with the written content (with pop-up references) and animal graphics to add some character.
For this particular page, here is the detailed animation plan:
“Ladapaw Letters” animates from the top into the center top page, “did you know?” information starts to follow in afterwards one by one from the top, down. The dog begins to walk in at the same time. Once each piece of information animates in, the references fade down. They fade away before the “did you know?” animates out to the right, and the dog walks off to the left, returning where it came from.
Once the illustrator layout was finished, I brought all of the layers into After Effects to begin animating. I began the animation process by working on the written content – animating in and out – and then moved on to the animal graphics.
After finishing the production parts of the letter, it was my original plan to then do the post-production by exporting the animated newsletter to a GIF format and uploading it to MailChimp. In MailChimp, this is where the letter would be scheduled out to send to the group of emails I’d gathered previously. I already knew going into the production stage would be challenging and time-consuming, but it wasn’t until actually doing it that I found it’d be better to wait to do the post-production at a later time. This would allow me to re-look at the work afterward with a fresh mind and make sure I wasn’t rushing the process with both production and post-production.
This was a big hurdle, but I’m so glad that the first Ladapaw Letters newsletter is [just about] finished and ready to send! Now that I’ve set up the layout for one, I feel that creating the rest of the letters will be a bit smoother as I have a base to use. It’ll only become more fluid as each newsletter production passes, and I’m excited for you all to see the finished products!
When I began my design career, I was surprised that creativity wasn’t the center of all of it. Being technical is a large part of the process, if not to say at least half of it.
Pre-production is technical. It’s the gathering of research, planning, and organizing that makes the project come to a whole. To go into a project without drafting content, scheduling locations, times, materials, and so much more is setting it up for failure.
This week, I created and distributed a survey to help me better understand what my audience is truly interested in. The survey was short and to the point – letting the users effectively communicate their wants.
Additionally, the survey was a way to gather emails as my first group of audience members for the newsletters.
I’ll now dig into what the questions were and the responses they got.
“Ladapaw Letters is a bi-weekly email newsletter that informs the recipients about individual aspects of pet adoption. The concept will bring to attention statistics, details, and helpful tips focused on rescuing animals. Each newsletter will have a different topic – specific and based heavily on research, i.e. training a timid [recently adopted] dog or the benefits and
Yes = 11
No = 0
Maybe (please specify) = 2
I am not in a position to adopt an animal
Rescuing self propagates puppy mills
“Out of these topics, which, if any, interests you? (select all that apply)
General adoption facts & statistics
General fostering facts & statistics
Puppy mills – what are they and how do they work?
Shelters – what are they and how do they work?
Rescues – what are they and how do they work?
Things to expect when adopting pets
Things to expect when fostering pets
Rescues vs purebred vs “purebred” rescues.
Are any topics missing? Is there any specific topic you’d like to learn more about?”
Preparation for adoption/fostering; Consideration for success on your first adoption/foster; Challenges/Success when handling your first adoption/foster
I can’t think of anything else
What about telling a specific story of someone who’s adopted a pet and their experience?
“Ladapaw Letters may expand to display its newsletters on an additional platform than email. Is email a good way to reach you? Would you prefer viewing your newsletters a different way, like a Facebook page or Instagram account?”
Email works just fine for me! = 10
I don’t really look at my email, but I will for Ladapaw Letters. = 1
I’d rather see the newsletters somewhere other than my email. = 2
“If you feel ready to start receiving emailed newsletters from Ladapaw Letters, please enter your email address here. Thank you for your time!”
11 emails out of 13 responses.
With the results came a few surprises. I was a little bit shocked to see that food health was one of the least-liked topics of the ones listed, although it is the topic that appears to be the least related to rescue. Food head is a broad topic, but can be directly related to animal adoption.
I was also surprised to see a comment in the first “maybe” section of the question – “rescuing self propagates puppy mills.” But, this is exactly the reason why we need more awareness on the subject – to break false stigmas. Receiving this answer helped me to add a potential newsletter topic called false “stigmas of rescuing.”
Ladapaw Letters Pre-Production
On top of my additional research, I defined each of the three newsletters that I plan to create within the next few weeks. This includes the topic, information, and resources, developing a draft outline, storyboarding, and planning the animations.
From a deeper understanding after more research and the survey, I chose the three topics I’d use for the three newsletters:
General adoption facts & stats
Rescues – what are they and how do they work?
Rescues vs purebred, vs purebred rescues.
While two of the three topics listed were not the highest-rated topics (but a close second), I had to think about what kind of order of operations would make the most sense for the newsletter – particularly at the beginning. Beyond these three newsletters, the fourth one would be things to expect when adopting pets, and the fifth would be basic training. This order of topics allows a smooth transition from one to the other.
The outlines for each of the three newsletters use color-coded references so that I can easily cite back to the source of each. Within the outlines, I wrote out specific details that pertain to the topic – that I will then rewrite into my written content during production starting next week.
Storyboard with Animation Planning
Storyboards are a great way to visually illustrate what happens within each frame – something that’s commonly used for video planning or motion graphics. Because the newsletters are animated, it was appropriate for me to create a storyboard with planned animations for each newsletter.
I fully expect that these will change as I get to the production stage throughout the next few weeks. As the written content is finalized, and I go to Adobe After Effects to begin animating, there’s no doubt I’ll come across details that require modification for a better outcome. Either way, the storyboards are going to be a valuable resource for me to reference when I get to the animations. We’ll see when I get there!
Lastly, I’ve written the draft email content for each of the three newsletters which include the subject and body paragraph. During post-production, I will edit these for the final content and send them out.
This week proved to be a ton of technical planning with my pre-production tasks! And with that, I feel very organized and READY for the creation of each newsletter. Next week is production for newsletter 1 – pet adoption – looking forward to it!
Throughout my life, I’ve had a love-hate relationship with planning. I’d try to plan my future, and it’s not an exaggeration when I say that nothing turned out how I thought it would… To be fair, attempting to plan something that’s ever-changing – like your LIFE – it’s just not always going to happen how you’d originally intended.
But that’s just the thing – everything and anything that you plan, you have to go into it realizing that it may not go how you’d prepared it to. So, to plan or not to plan… It’s almost always necessary to have some sort of plan. It’s just better to understand what’s realistic, what’s not and to be adaptable.
“If You Fail to Plan, You Are Planning to Fail”
When creating a content-based project, planning is a thousand percent necessary. This is the controlled variable to which knowing what you’re going to do, and putting manageable action items into account will only help you to succeed.
It’s week two of developing my content creation project, Ladapaw Letters, and this means it’s time to organize my to-do’s in a way that makes my goals achievable. Trello, like any PM system, works wonders by visually guiding your project with effective organization tools. This is a very easy-to-use application where you can create boards, lists, cards, checklists, and more!
Using a Trello board, I laid my lists out as such: research, pre-production, production, and post-production. Within each list, there are specific cards, then within each card, there are specific tasks on a checklist. Then, for each of these tasks, I’ve made a deadline for when I’ll have them completed.
As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I’ve started this project with extensive research. My sources and bibliography are going to remain living throughout this entire project. This week, I broadened my bibliography with sources like motion graphics tutorials, and I began annotating citations that I gathered last week. Annotations aren’t a quick task, so to ensure that I break these all up into smaller doses, I will continue to build my bibliography with more annotations each week.
In addition to the living bibliography, I also have a survey on my to-do list. This is meant to both broaden my understanding of what people would like to see covered in the newsletters, and start as my base audience by collecting email addresses from those who are interested.
My pre-production plans include all of the artifacts that I’ll need to produce the actual newsletters. Through the next five weeks, I will create three newsletters – each newsletter card on my Trello board includes the same action tasks.
I’ve planned to do all of these artifacts during week 3 so that I know what to expect with production in the following weeks, as this will be the most time-consuming, and major task. I need to set myself up for success with my production tasks weeks in advance to allow for the most smooth transition.
During pre-production, I will also create my account and set up the email distribution service with MailChimp.
Following a similar layout that I’ve used previously with motion graphics projects, I think it makes the most sense for me to do the production in weeks 4-6. Week four, I’ll create the first of the three newsletters, week 5 I’ll create the second, and in week six I’ll finish the third. This will allow me to have enough wiggle room and editing as needed for week seven, the final week.
Again, each newsletter card has the same tasks as the process will be the same for all.
Post-production is simply to export and import the finished newsletter – first, export it as a looping GIF for the email, then import it to MailChimp to prepare for sending. Maybe I shouldn’t say “simply” as these are a big group of tasks, but it seems much more simple than the previous steps like production – which is the biggest hurdle. Post-production is exciting because it’s here where I will see my completed newsletters and have the satisfaction of scheduling them to send to the audience members!
While this is a lot to accomplish in only five weeks’ time, I’m excited to build each newsletter! Next week, I’ll have a complete understanding of what each newsletter will cover as a topic and visual layout. See you next week!
If you were asked, “what is your dream job?” Do you have an answer?
I’ve been asked this question many times, and I think I’ve followed my answers as much as I possibly could throughout my life.
When I was a kid, I wanted to be everything and anything – an artist, a doctor, a geologist, a “flower girl,” whatever that means. And I remember distinctly someone telling me, “you can’t be that many things, it’s impossible.” Well, right. I can’t be all of those things that I listed above – they aren’t consistent with each other, and I’d spend most of my life just trying to get there.
But, my mindset hasn’t changed that much – I’ve evolved to understand that I can’t do everything under the sun, but I can use my skills and transfer them into other places. My design realm started with art, then to apparel, then to products, and now to graphics. While still incorporating all of them into my daily life.
Now, I’ve been asked this question again, and I had a hard time deciding as I feel very happy with where I’m at presently (designing pet products). My career journey has already come a long way. Then, when thinking about content that I’ll love to create, I started thinking more on the personal side, outside of a job as my career.
My Content Creation Project
When I really dug into myself – what I love outside of my work-life, and how I want to advance in the graphic design world, I realized what this looks like for me.
If you’ve been following my blog, you’ve seen that many of my projects revolve around my dogs. They’re basically my world, and I’ve found that I’ve become very passionate about pets’ livelihood in general. There was a point where, for a short time, I was a local rescue volunteer on the digital/events side. And now, my current job also helps with this as I understand what kinds of equipment are necessary for domestic pets.
I decided to use this passion and knowledge for my content creation project and work it into informational newsletters revolving around pet adoption. Each newsletter would have a different topic and get sent out via email in bi-weekly installments. Content for each newsletter could include (but is not limited to) statistics, benefits/potential drawbacks, breeds/colors, return rates & why, necessary equipment, basic behavioral information, etc.
The ideal audience are those looking to adopt, who’ve already adopted, and some newsletters may benefit pet owners who’ve maybe chosen to shop. This project could lead to many open doors, including telling specific stories or developing campaigns.
I’m planning to use my knowledge of design and design tools, as well as some motion design tactics that I’ve recently learned
Before diving into creating the actual content, first, there’s tons of research to be done. I basically need to become a master on each topic that this newsletter could have, and at the risk of stating the obvious, the information has to be credible.
So, I began my living bibliography which will only keep growing as I continue this project. I found valuable sources about adopting pets in general, puppy mills, animal shopping, breed/color/gender statistics and those effects on becoming adopted, return rates – which include behavior issues, dietary restrictions, and more. So I then found more resources about training and potential diet needs for rescues, animal psychology, and the list keeps going. All of this information is only the beginning of a much larger ongoing task I have at hand here.
I’m sure I’ll need to add more graphic and motion design tools to my sources, as I’m hoping to advance those skills as well.
In addition to the living bibliography, I put together a project proposal listing out the specific details of the project goals and solutions, continuing deliverables to get each newsletter done, and staying on track. This is essential to have all necessary information about this project in one document that I – or anyone else – could continue to reference throughout each individual newsletter.
I’ve got my work cut out for me, but the next step is to plan all of the artifacts so that I can stay on track and deliver the best newsletter possible. I’m looking forward to building this project out, and hope you’re ready to follow along with me through my blog! Stay tuned for more about Ladapaw Letters!
This is it! I’ve learned the basics of motion design, and it’s time to continue advancing with more projects. This week, I’ve decided to experiment with something I haven’t quite tapped into yet. Risky, right?
Yeah, it is. But there’s only one way to keep building skills – and I decided to challenge myself. Well, let’s take a look at what to do after completing animated projects, some more research, and my final motion project.
Chapter 11: Show & Tell is the last of Animated Storytelling by Liz Blazer. Throughout the book, she went through many how-to’s on effective storytelling elements, and now, presented ways to get your finished story into the world.
The first step is to get your story out there by submitting it to the right people/places. And to do that, you need to make sure your story is packaged in the right way – meaning, give them everything they need to submit your video if it’s selected for a showing. If you submit to a film festival, here are a few assets needed:
The title logo and still, which will get presented along with the film, program, advertising, etc. is like the image branding for your piece.
An intriguing summary of the film that’s one to two sentences long.
A tagline – this usually gets printed in programs or online.
Your bio kept short and sweet.
The story of the film – which you’ll especially need for interviews or afterward if the film gets selected to show at the festival. This should start with why you made the film/what inspired you, and include mistakes that might’ve happened during development.
The next step is to determine where to show your film. You need to find the right audience, the ones that will be loyal to your film and films moving forward.
Third, a film festival may not be for you, and that’s fine. Instead of trying to receive awards, getting quick feedback on your work could be more valuable. Post online to get more immediate responses that can help your work, or inspire you for the next project.
Building your network is the fourth step. Connecting with peers and like-minded artists will help build a loyal audience, but in return, you need to be that for them as well. Be supportive towards your peers, tease your work, and continue building your network in person as well.
Finally, share your work, and don’t stop.
Because of my interest in 3D capabilities (particularly in After Effects), I focused my research this week on 3D animations.
This advertisement uses characters that have the effect of 3D with lighting and dimension. I enjoy watching this ad because of the colors, movement, sound effects, and effective story.
Another intriguing animation here uses a mix of 2D and 3D features to show items shredding through a spinning cylinder. I love the mix of the different animation effects, and it’s a great looping animation to add to a website to visually show the viewers what happens.
Lastly, this Sherwin-Williams advertisement uses effective animation with rendered paint chips to create different animals. The effects of the renderings and animations make this a beautiful composition and feels inspiring.
Something that I haven’t quite covered yet (until this week with advanced motion) is digital character animation. So, I wanted to figure out what it means to develop a 2D illustration of a character and render it to animate in After Effects.
I decided to make this more advanced by tapping into how to utilize the 3D layer feature in AE. I’d briefly learned how to use 3D last week with my UI animation, and thought that I might be able to take it to the next level this week.
So, I dove into quite a few tutorials about initiating 3D, lighting, textures, and the camera tool; and with these, I was able to develop my last project of a monster spinning. HOWEVER, I found that 3D characters aren’t typically made in After Effects alone, but use multiple programs. And after many trials and errors at my level of animation expertise, I had to find another direction – a “faux” 3D effect with 2D shape layers.
In week four, I illustrated a monster for my stop motion animation, and I wanted to use it again for this. I did have to simplify the illustration a bit to keep it mostly symmetrical and so that it didn’t affect the speed quality of AE.
This short spinning animation was very challenging and took me way longer than I’d intended. I would’ve liked to be able to achieve character feature animations like eyes blinking or the mouth smiling, but the spinning with moving limbs around, lighting elements, and texture features – I’ll just have to come back to that later.
Overall, I’m really happy with the 3D-like effect I was able to achieve and that I could test my hand at digital characters, which is something I’d like to continue building my skills in.
After completing the book, I’ve learned a lot about animating and storytelling for animation and film. Especially in the first few chapters where they were all about developing the story concept in pre-production, how to find your story structure, unlocking your potential with the story, and so on – I’ve come a long way in the last seven weeks of motion design just through these readings.
Then, with each project, I was able to put that knowledge into work. At the beginning of the last seven weeks, I’d only known the basic knowledge of creating a GIF in Photoshop. This was helpful during the first week where I created three different GIFs, but I very quickly started learning programs I’d never used before, like Animate and After Effects.
I’m really glad I was able to keep using After Effects and build my skills with its features. These last seven weeks involved many, many tutorials, and it was worth it!
As for the next steps on where I hope to go with motion design, I’d like to develop my skills with more advanced digital motion graphics and the use of 3D. I know I will keep working on these, and I’m excited to hopefully help others with animated logos, and create projects for myself as well.
There are many opportunities to use animations effectively, and one important thing to think about is the user interface and experience. If you’re designing an app or a website, animation can help move the user from one section to another with ease, or help them to complete an action.
This week, I’ve continued working on animation features for a brand I developed previously, Stitched & Sable Living. I’ve already created a mobile and desktop website layout, so the next step was to figure out some of the functions of going from page to page. Before I did this, I needed to do more reading and research on effective UI animations.
Chapter 10: Animate! in Animated Storytelling by Liz Blazer gives the reader helpful tips to stay on track and make sure to prepare effectively for the simplest ways to get started and keep going.
You have the full-fledged plan for your animation, but when it comes to production, unexpected things might come up or it may be more difficult to stay on track as originally planned. To help with this, Blazer recommends first create a production calendar – fill it in backwards (starting with the finish date), and then make it accessible for you and others to give yourself the incentive you need. Secondly, make sure there’s no room for error in your technology. Everything should be up-to-date, working, and you need to save your work often. Nobody wants to lose all the work done to an unexpected crash.
When it comes to actually animating – there may be some more daunting scenes than others. Because of this, Blazer advocates starting with the easier, more fun, short sections – which will keep the production moving while also building confidence. Also, the daunting scenes mentioned early may be able to break up into smaller sections, and if that’s possible, make sure to split them up and animate them separately to make it less intimidating.
Finally, there are a few production aspects that you need to think about beforehand, and modify as needed for the best story:
Be strategic about movements.
Plan character poses and where they’re going to avoid mistakes or go out of character.
Use anticipate & follow-through, i.e. before and after movements to give a more natural feel.
Note your directional movements – do the characters move horizontally, vertically, diagonally, or circular? This helps with the intensity of situations or gives the subjects more character. Then, make sure to map these movements on the storyboards.
Use the rule of thirds – keep your subjects out of the center as much as possible.
Mix up the shot length. Changing the shot length, and using a wide shot to a medium shot to close up (not particularly in that order) for each scene makes the experience more enticing.
Mix up the shot timing. Changing the time of each shot will make the story less predictable.
Use motion blur. Subjects that move without a blur might look less realistic. Using blur can emphasize parts, and make the moving parts look more natural.
While at this point, you’ve already found the score, ambient sound, and SFX, you still need to remain flexible. Depending on how the story develops, the sound may need to change.
The sound should match up with the timing and pacing of the story and subjects.
You can’t rely on sound too heavily, otherwise, it will end up doing all of the work, which may not be the best for the story. Hit mute every once in a while to make sure the sound isn’t the lead.
I enjoy this UI animation because there are so many sequences happening throughout, and they all make sense. My favorite part is when the cyclist shows up as a loading screen between pages (0:19) – it’s representative of what the user selected on the application, and interesting to look at, all while not taking too long for the user to lose interest.
The sound effects with this animation help to enhance what’s happening. I enjoy the movements, renderings, and loop that the creator made with this. While there isn’t an exact indication of a finger or mouse cursor, it’s easy to tell what the user would do to make this animation happen.
This UI animation is effective because of its smooth and easy transitions for the user. There’s an appropriate amount of information for the user to know what they need to do
This add-to-cart animation is a simple, but functional and worthwhile piece to include for a user to know that their items were added to their cart.
Another example of a loading animation – this flying bird with an envelope is perfect for a messenger app. I enjoy the refresh movement on the screen, and the short but fun amount of time to view the bird.
Going off of what I did last week – creating an animated logo – I chose to use a previously made website mockup for the user interface animation. So, I brought in the layers from Illustrator as a base, then used After Effects to create the elements of the UI animation.
For the UI animation specifically, I rendered up a mouse cursor, which moved to the top menu for “SHOP.” When the cursor hovered over “SHOP” I made the letters animate larger, and with a fade-in. Once “SHOP” is clicked by the cursor, a new rectangular menu animates as a pop-up, where the letters then turn into a back arrow key. Within the new menu, the cursor hovers over different main categories, which then reveal more specific categories. Eventually, the cursor hovers and clicks the back arrow key, and returns to the main page, with the animation repeating itself at the beginning, but just in reverse order.
When I started this week’s project, I thought I’d create something much simpler. But it really made the most sense to me to show the website home page as I’d imagine it, then to show a series of directions that the user could go. It was a lot of fun, but definitely took some practicing to get everything right!
If you’ve been following my blog, you know it’s no secret that I love my pets and focus a lot of my projects on them.
A few months ago, I designed a logo for a brand that I developed, along with its web presence. This week, I had the chance to animate a logo – and what a great way to utilize a project I’ve already done, and to make it better.
The logo is for a brand called Stitched & Sable Living – a home and living product store for those looking for practical items that style their home. With an added benefit of having access to items for their pets! Pets are, of course, part of the family.
Chapter nine: Technique inAnimated Storytelling by Liz Blazer describes the different techniques and styles that accompany your animation.
She goes into detail about experimenting with techniques whether they’re your typical go-to or not. This isn’t to simply expand your skills, but to have the best technique for what your project is.
Different techniques include:
2D Stop motion
3D stop motion
And different styles include:
Film & type
Overall, the point is to find the technique and style that works best for your animation, then to try and find a hybrid of it with your comfort technique.
And if you can’t find a hybrid, there are workarounds:
Import still images – you may find what you need by simply searching for it.
Shoot live-action footage – to get the image you need.
Staff up – it may be more efficient to hire the talent than to spend the time on it yourself.
Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas developed the 12 principles of animation for creating a better, more realistic animation. These are a great base to start from when animating, or preparing to animate. One of the best ways to fully understand the principles is to see them in action – so, I’ve found a few videos that show great examples of some of the principles.
Tom & Jerry is a fun, exaggerated cartoon about a cat and mouse rivalry, and shows tons of these principles within each episode. In this clip, between 0:29 & 0:41 shows principle 9. Timing, principle 5. Follow through & overlapping action, and principle 1. Squash and stretch. Timing represents the number of frames between each action – right at 0:29, Jerry’s legs move very quickly from being down to moving up. This depicts the feeling of surprise and severity of Jerry’s movements. After the mouse is back up, he turns into a ball and shoots around to different areas of the frame which shows follow through & overlapping action, specifically for the drag that happens between his fast movements. Finally, when his body is rolled into a ball, he hits the ground and bounces back up, showing squash and stretch.
This clip of The Road Runner shows an easier-to-follow representation of principle 5. Follow through & overlapping action than the previous research example. At 0:13 the road running stops running and shows the follow through action by moving back and forth from the fast movement to now being stopped.
This episode of the Pink Panther uses principle 10. Arc. From 0:42 to 0:47 the Pink Panther and a caveman move a rectangular stone on the long ends. The way that the stone moves when falling or being pulled up is in the shape of an arc to more realistically look as if it’s being moved – where if it were to follow a straight line down to the ground, the rock would look like it shrinks during movement.
Who doesn’t love the squirrel from Ice Age? He’s well known for the quirky and exaggerated adventures that always seem to end badly for him. This animation of the squirrel uses principle 10. Exaggeration, and principle 12. Appeal. All of his actions result in some exaggerated outcome and facial expression – for example, from 0:14 to 0:18 he has several reactions that perfectly depict what’s happening – really satisfied to really confused, to really scared. Also, the character himself is appealing to look at – he has interesting features and was created with dynamic design in mind.
Finally, this clip from How to Train Your Dragon uses principle 8. Secondary action starting just after Toothless eats the fish, at 0:48 where he licks his lips. This gesture supports the main action of eating by being satisfied with what he ate afterward.
The idea behind the brand’s logo and presence includes “mascots.” These are different drawn characters or features that are recognizable towards the brand because of their similar style and colors associated with the brand as a whole.
Because of the hand-drawn look, I thought it would make sense for the animation to feel as if it’s being drawn directly onto the screen. So, I started with this for the dog in the main logo. As the dog becomes more prevalent, the word “Living” begins to animate in, along with the arched border and ending with the text features.
I originally created this logo in Adobe Illustrator, then brought the layers into Adobe After Effects to begin the animation. I’m still new to After Effects, so I had to watch a few tutorials on how to get the lines to draw in. Instead of using some of the original AI elements of the logo, I re-drew the lines with the pen tool in AE to get the animated effects that I wanted.
Finally, I added a sound effect of a pencil drawing on paper to begin the animation, with a fade-in of some music that accompanies the mood well.
See my finished logo below!
I had a ton of fun working on this animated logo! The result has the look and feel that I was going for, and I’m happy with the outcome. With a little bit more time and practice in the program and animation as a whole, I think I’d like to add a little ear twitch or tail wag to the dog for a little bit more character. Overall, I’m looking forward to working on more digital animation projects in the future!
Here goes nothing… Here went nothing? No… Actually, I did something!
This week, I’ve created my stop motion animation, titled “I Won’t Eat You Cause You’re Too Tough.” It was a full-on process, just like any project that requires a ton of planning, prep, and simply put – just to do it. Let me just say – it was so worth it!
Below I go into detail about readings and research that helped me bring my final stop motion animation to its fulfillment.
Before getting into the production of my stop motion animation, there was still quite a bit I needed to know beforehand. Chapters seven and eight ofAnimated Storytellingby Liz Blazer are all about sound and designing the world that your characters are set in.
Chapter seven: Sound Ideas, starts by telling the reader that sound should lead the story. Oftentimes, sound may come as an afterthought. But, the sound is truly what pulls the needle through the thread. Your storyline could become impaired if there’s no prep work on what sounds are used during the animation. Blazer starts by identifying different types of sound:
Diegetic sound – a sound that’s typically visible on screen, and comes from the physical world, i.e. baby crying.
Non-diegetic sound – a sound that isn’t implied by an action, and enriches what’s happening in the story, i.e.
Then, there are different sound features that are typical when producing a film or animation.
Sound effects are artificial – they’re not music or dialogue, but a sound used to emphasize what’s happening – like footsteps, or a “ding” when someone has an idea. Blazer recommends identifying where you might want to add sound effects in your story, then trimming the list in half – because it is possible to overdo it.
Music can also be used as a sound effect rather than a score. This would be an example of non-diegetic sound – like a “wah, wah, wah” for emphasis on a disappointing situation.
The music that belongs with the story should be well thought out. It should match the theme and personality of the characters.
There are a few other things to consider when scoring your animation. Silence may help the story just as much as music can, as long as it’s used in the right way. Additionally, scoring against the scene could be something that’s useful – like an ominous character using upbeat music to accomplish their task.
Blazer lists out a few steps that are helpful when matching dialogue to a story and character:
Lines should match the personality of the character.
The characters’ should speak in a natural way – instead of writing the script out in the most straightforward (and obvious) way, using subtext can help the dialogue flow.
Dialogue should set the mood of the scenes.
The ending of the chapter reminds the reader that these steps are just as important if the animation has only an internal monologue.
Chapter eight: Design Wonderland is solely to find the setting of the animation, which the author calls the “world.”
Just like the standard “yes, and…” practice used in improv, going along with anything that helps bring the story to life is a great practice for finding the story’s world. Once again in this chapter, Blazer lays out steps to follow to help identify what this world is, and how it works.
Be influenced – look at other stories whether they’re movies, shows, books, short films, etc., and see if you can’t find a spark of inspiration. Also, looking at our natural world is a great source as well – like religions or animals.
Time & place – identify what time (past, present, future) and place (providing obstacles for the characters).
Physical order – earth has gravity and a sense of time, so maybe your world should go against those if it makes sense for the story. Although, “don’t just do it because it seems cool, do it because it’s meaningful to telling the story.”
Social order – what are the social laws in this world? Maybe everyone is nocturnal and so it makes more sense for the characters to begin their day at 8 PM.
Visual order – after determining the above, the world needs to visually represent it. Think about the lines, shapes, and colors of this world.
Talk about the use of ambient audio, sound effects, and music. This UFO story begins with a man walking outside, where the setting’s audio shows through along with sound effects of the man’s confusion – then comes the UFO. Not long after this, the background music becomes more prevalent and follows through with the rest of the story.
This animation includes great sound effects along with background music. The background music stays constant, while the sound effects for each separate animated story change to match them perfectly – cow’s mooing, to milk pouring, then a hockey game. Not to mention there’s some intriguing text animation using the milk!
This text animation is effective because it has smooth motions – the lines that create the word “lines” are bright, shining, and come from different directions. I love how when the lines move in and out of the frame, their old – now implied lines resonate for a little while longer before disappearing.
I really enjoy this text animation as it has a story with it. The letters are balloons, beginning flat on the ground, then blowing up and coming together to form “love & peace.” The colors used in this animation are wonderful as well – the whole animation feels whimsical and peaceful.
Production & Post-Production:
Last week, I did the pre-production of this stop motion animation. With that, I created a pre-final storyboard with colors, characters, and the theme.
This week, when prepping for production, I needed to create my characters, setting/backdrop, and ambiance. Because I chose to use paper cutouts of my characters, I created them digitally to get a really nice amount of detail – which I would then print, cut, and put together. I was at the point where I had the base of my characters and props but needed to solidify the sound before printing them out in case the storyline was going to be missing anything.
Through my readings, as stated above, sounds should help lead the story – and you can’t think about it afterward. Let me just say, I’m so glad I found the right sounds beforehand. Finding my ambient sound, music, and sound effects helped me to recognize certain facial expressions or props for emphasis that were necessary for the story. It was at this point, I could finish digitizing the details, and begin the nitty-gritty before “filming.”
Getting into the production, I got everything set up, and I knew exactly what I needed to do because of all of the prep work. This made me confident to do what needed to be done. Stop motion is challenging not only because of the time needed to create them but because it’s difficult to tell if the subjects are moving consistently. I noticed that there were a few choppy areas and my camera moved once or twice, which I didn’t realize until post-production and brought the image sequences into Premiere Pro.
While those pieces of the animation weren’t intended, I feel great about the outcome! Post-production editing went smoothly for the most part – and I just had a few hiccups when some of the sound effects didn’t quite match with the actions happening in the animation.
Just like I stated in my blog post last week, this is now my second time creating a stop motion animation. And I must say, all of the processes for pre-production, production, and post-production helped me to form a much more successful story than I ever previously thought I could create using stop motion.
Stop motion animation is one of the earliest, if not the earliest ways to animate. It’s tedious, as the process involves taking incremental photos of a subject so closely that when played in order, it looks like a moving video. Today, stop motion is still widely used because it’s so effective when done the right way.
I’ve made one stop motion animation before, and it was made the right way, but it’s not something you can learn and be good at overnight. So, my point is – it was crap. BUT there were so many things I didn’t know about how to make a successful stop motion, like how many frames per second to make, or storytelling with objects, colors, and cohesivity. Now, I’ve been able to do more readings and research to help me out again as I make the journey to creating more stop motion animations.
Chapters five and six of Animated Storytelling by Liz Blazer continue to go into depth about the pre-production process of creating animations.
Chapter five: Color Sense describes the basics of color: hue, saturation, and value. If you don’t already know, here’s a brief description:
Hue – the color name
Saturation – intensity of the color
Value – the lightness or darkness of the color
In the previous chapter, Chapter four: Storyboarding, Blazer explained what it is to create a storyboard, and what it should look like. Now, with colors – the author recommends making a color script to understand what direction to go with the color story of your animation. Color is essential for the story to tell the audience exactly what it’s meant to. And, it can be tricky.
There are a few steps that can help identify what colors to use, and when within an animation.
What color would work best in the animation, if only using one color?
Experiment with that one color in a color script, then find an accent color that supports it.
After identifying the color palette, there are other things to keep in mind. Here’s a list of particular things to look out for when working on the color script:
Design for movement – make sure that what’s intended to be the focus, is.
Limit the palette – makes it easier for viewers to process.
Be careful with saturation – use this for more important aspects of the story, like the emphasis pieces.
Support the subjects – use white space in the scenes, they shouldn’t be too busy and take away from the focus.
Chapter six: Weird Science is a fun chapter telling the readers how to find their “weird science” – which is creative experimentation. By doing this, it’s a great way to see if the story you’ve already laid out needs any more tweaking to make it more compelling.
To first find what your weird science is, there are a few ways that can push your creative brain. Blazer recommends these experiments:
Make bad art – change things around how you normally wouldn’t, like making subjects the wrong colors, or move really fast and see what the outcomes are.
Use the edge of your skillset – work in your expertise, but just far enough out that it makes you uncomfortable. It could help you find a new way to work and fill in gaps within your skills.
Then, make the work you’d want to do for a living – refine it enough so you’re still challenging yourself, but it should be what you want.
Using these experiments and then applying them to your current animation project could help to make it that much more compelling for viewers. A good way to see if your animation needs working on before production is to take another look at your completed storyboard, make a table, and list where you could experiment with each scene. Then, if you find that any of the ideas are worth a shot, try it out and see if it helps the story.
With stop motion, there seems to be endless possibilities. You can truly use just about anything to make one – inanimate objects, yourself or others. To gain a bit more perspective on stop motion, and what can be done to create these animations, I did some research and found a few examples that helped me in my process of creating my own.
This stop motion video is extremely detailed, with so much going on. I enjoy how the fruit and vegetables are utilized as the subjects for this animation – with carvings or slices, etc. The transitions are also very notable between shots – like the zooming in and fading out at 0:25, or the colored backgrounds moving in/out of frames.
This animation uses paper cut outs to create scenes of a dog, Coco. It’s a longer stop motion video, so I know that a ton of time and detail went into it – which isn’t surprising as that’s part of the stop motion process.
Here’s another creative stop motion animation that uses fruits and vegetables (watch until 2:18). The sound effects and visuals of the foods getting shaved once hitting the edge of the pink background is satisfying to watch, making the video very effective.
Claymation is another technique typically used with stop motion. This animation is extremely smooth between each frame, and I like that the creator used different shot angles and perspectives to get the right layout.
Finally, I really enjoy this stop motion animation not only because it’s colorful and creative, but because it’s animated in a loop. This animation also moves along perfectly with the background music and sound effects, so it was some great planning on the creator’s part.
This week, I created two options of stop motion animations. One of these two will go into production next week. For both of my stop motion ideas, I put together a storyboard and pre-production planning document to help me solidify my plans.
Stop Motion Animation 1 – Linear: I Won’t Eat You Cause You’re Too Tough
I decided to focus on Halloween themes as the American Holiday is soon approaching, and it’s on my mind, as I’m sure it’s on a few others’. Halloween is such a fun time of the year, it can be colorful, spooky, cute, funny, and brings a lot of creative energy!
This stop motion animation is inspired by lyrics from “Purple People Eater” by Sheb Wooley, which say “I wouldn’t eat you cause you’re so tough.” The story I put together has a traditional linear storyline of character, character conflict, and resolution.
In my [colored] storyboarding, you can see that I would create some paper cut outs of my own version of a halloween monster, and a few skeleton extras. Throughout the animation, the monster – with it’s stomach growling – walks towards a few scared-looking skeletons. At which point, the monster reassures them by saying “I won’t eat you cause you’re too tough” (note that I changed the line slightly from the famous Halloween song).
I used color for my storyboard – while most are simply black and white – to get a better understanding of the colors to use for this animation. Yellow-green and red-purple are complimentary colors, and also work perfectly for a Halloween themed story.
This is my favorite option of the two, but I also know that it will be more time consuming and complicated as there are many movements to consider. For that reason, I’m still unsure if this will be the animation I decide to produce! I guess we’ll see this time next week.
Click below for the full pre-production planning document I made:
Stop Motion Animation 2 – Non-Linear: What is That Sound?
For my non-linear animation option, I decided to go with the beaded necklace version – which is a story solely influenced by sound.
Inspired by the last stop motion animation I found through my research, I want to make my non-linear story piece a loop.
I found some great, creepy royalty free music that made me think immediately of eyes of a character popping dramatically up away from its head. It’s harder to explain with words than it is with the visual storyboard – so below for the visuals.
From this storyboard, you can see that this monster-type character appears to be sleeping, then hears a sound, making its eyes move along with the “dings.” This goes on for a few seconds, seemingly getting a bit more dramatic before calming down when the music slows down. Then it repeats, forever.
Again, this storyboard uses color. This time, I thought the yellow and blue color combination would work well in this story’s favor, so I wanted to make the storyboard reflect the overall ideas before going into production.
For this, I would either use clay or paper cutouts as my medium.
I enjoy this option because it will be fun seeing how the animation comes to life through the music. Although, I’m positive that making the eyes move perfectly to the music will be a challenge, and it’s something I’ll need to actively work through if I decide to make this one in production.
Click below for the full pre-production planning document I made:
Before getting started on production of one of my two stop motion ideas, I created a short test animation to get in the right headspace. Of course, I stuck with the Halloween theme for this as well!
This animation shows a pumpkin, with little black clay pieces rolling in to create a face on the pumpkin. To best form the face, I ended up taking photos for this stop motion video in reverse, starting with the face on the pumpkin, then having them ball up and roll away. At the end, I wanted the music to continue and fade out, but I didn’t like just having a blank black screen, so I also animated a “HAPPY HALLOWEEN” for a good closure.
I really enjoyed using the sculpy clay that I’ve had forever, and have never used until now. But it was difficult when the colors started mixing together. Also, the pieces kept sticking to my fingers when I tried to move them, which I now know to prepare for.
After all of my readings, research, and my test animation, I have a feeling that when it comes to my production of one of my two ideas above, I’ll have to modify certain things as I go just out of complexity. Stop motion is not a simple task, so thinking through as much as possible beforehand is definitely necessary. We’ll see what ends up being my final stop motion piece next week!
I asked my other half if he knew what cinemagraphs were, and he responded with, “are those like the moving paintings in Harry Potter?”
Well, not quite, but it was a good guess. Cinemagraphs are a moving picture, but a hybrid between photo and video – typically most of the image is static, while one part of it moves in a continuous loop.
To be honest, cinemagraphs are a really cool way to show audiences an image that exposes more – the moving element brings the photo to life. So, this week, I was on a journey to create my own cinemagraphs while using knowledge I found through readings, research, and tutorials.
Throughout Chapters two, three, and four of Animated Storytelling, author Liz Blazer describes how to effectively realize a story topic, lay it out, find the narrative, and storyboarding it for pre-production.
Chapter two: Storytelling, is all about using a story structure. There are classic story structures, and there are non-linear story structures. Either one is fine to use, it depends on the story, and how you want it to be told.
Classic Story Structure:
The character has a problem
The character works towards the solution
The character solves the problem, typically in a surprising way
Non-liner Story Structure:
This way is to essentially build around your inspiration, and then to build a structure around it. There are many ways this can be done – including beginning the story at the end, or to make it like an interactive puzzle.
Chapter three: Unlocking Your Story, goes into more depth about how to bring the story to its overall fruition by finding the narrative or experimental form. During this chapter, Blazer explains that overall, the goal is to have a clear and prominent topic, the story begins at the right place, and features characters with interesting secrets that motivate them.
Chapter four: Storyboarding, tells the reader all about what storyboarding is – which finds the visual elements that suit the story in the most effective way, and how to do that. To first begin with the storyboarding, you need to create thumbnails, which are the very roughly sketched visuals that accompany the story. Once these thumbnails are arranged in the order desired, they should be refined as much as needed. Then, the storyboarding continues by adding the dialogue to the thumbnails.
During the storyboarding stage, composition elements, framing, and staging need to be thoroughly looked at. Is the shot going to be a close up, wide shot, medium shot, other? Always use the rule of thirds to make the framing more interesting. And, staging need to be clear so the audience can truly understand the depth of what’s happening in the story.
Cinemagraphs aren’t quite the type of storytelling that Liz Blazer’s talking about, as they may not always give the audience a detailed plot, but they can lay out a visual that’s open to interpretation for the audience to see a story.
To first begin my own attempts at creating cinemagraphs, I needed to do some research and find inspiration. Below are a few cinemagraphs that I find very noteworthy!
This Cinemagraph is appealing to me because the liquid in the glass not only glistens, but so does its reflection on the table. The ambiance is also very telling – to me, it looks like the story involves a business man who’s taking a needed break from work, or just finishing up his work day with a drink.
There are quite a few moving parts in this cinemagraph, which is interesting because it makes me see more the longer I look at it. With two parts, the outside rain and leaves on bushes, to the candles on the inside, again, this cinemagraph sets a distinctive mood that almost feels like I’m in the photo.
I enjoy this cinemagraph because the moving parts are reflections rather than the actual subject itself. The lighting feels like it fits the ambiance of the city with how it’s depicted. It almost feels ironic to what appears to be a quiet street with nopeople, but the reflection is of a taxi.
This cinemagraph pulled me in because, to me, it looks very complicated. The globe and the womans arm are moving both directly, and in the reflection; then there’s also the curtain blowing in the wind. It kind of astonishes me, it’s intriguing and balanced.
This is one of the first cinemagraphs I saw during my research, and it’s one of my favorites. It’s similar to the look and feel of the taxi’s reflection, but there’s no reflection. Instead, the image is looking into a barber shop. What I really love is that there’s the spinning knob on the outside of the shop on the right side of the photo, and another one inside the shop on the left side of the photo.
From this research, I learned that all cinemagraphs tend to have a mood or a theme, which is its story. They make the viewer almost feel like they’re there, inside the image. So from this, I knew that I wanted to follow the same thoughts in preparation for my cinemagraphs.
Cinemagraph 1: Wine By Candle
Red wine sets a mood. It’s often drank during romantic evenings or celebrations – in movies, there’s typically candles and a nicely prepared dinner along with it. So, I wanted to portray a similar feeling of the drinks standardization.
For this cinemagraph, I used photoshop which helped me to modify the lighting and colors to get the darker ambiance that I wasn’t quite able to get in the video alone.
Cinemagraph 2: Nilla’s Ears
Of course I had to make a cinemagraph of my pup! Last week, I created a GIF of my other dog, Ezzy, so it was only fair that I make a cinemagraph of Nilla this week.
When I began shooting for this cinemagraph, finding my shot composition wasn’t the easiest. I had to retake the video a few times to get the most interesting and best shot – using the rule of thirds, finding an interesting angle, and so on. And of course, with a puppy, I had to stay patient. So, what I found to be better than waiting for Nilla to sit still and do something, I used a fan to make her ears move.
Because of the fan, I think the overall look is a bit choppy, BUT it does look like her ear is blowing in wind, so I think I got the point across with this.
For this cinemagraph, I used Adobe After Effects – a program completely new to me. But it was the right program for this cinemagraph! The thing I found when using After Effects is that it seems to have fewer steps than making a cinemagraph in Photoshop, but I also needed to make sure that my video shot was as clear as I wanted it to be as I knew I couldn’t edit elements out or in like I could with Photoshop. It just made me think more like a photographer and videographer when getting my shot!
Cinemagraph 3: Mug Reflection
I was inspired by the cinemagraphs that used reflections, so I decided to make one of my own showing a spoon stirring tea directly, and the hand that moves the spoon is seen in the reflection. It’s interesting because with the reflection, the spoon stirring motion and hand moving motion almost looks like they move in an opposite direction!?
For this cinemagraph, I used Photoshop again. I wanted to add a few features to it like the “To Do List” which worked well for me when using this program.
Something that was challenging about this was the string of the tea bag getting in the way of the spoon, making the transition between frames a little bit more noticeable. It’s not something I would’ve thought of while shooting the video as this is my first time creating cinemagraphs, but now I know to look out for those types of things. If I were to do it again, I’d re-shoot and completely avoid the tea bag string. Learning lessons!
I thoroughly enjoyed making these cinemagraphs! It was a lot of fun, and they’ve helped me on my journey to understand animation, and telling stories/setting themes.
You’re having a text conversation with your best friend, and they ask, “do you want to go to the state fair today?” and there’s no better way to respond to that question but with a GIF.
Particularly in the world of instant messaging, GIFs help to show a certain thought, feeling, or emotion that you might not get from text alone. With their short, silent, looping animation, they quickly tell a story and are popular for those reasons.
With GIFs comes animated storytelling. Animation and digital motion designers may create GIFs to share their ideal story using images, sketching, rendered characters, and so on.
Animated storytelling by Liz Blazer lays out steps to create animation and motion graphics. In Chapter One: Pre-Production, the author states three questions that you need to know when beginning a project:
What is it?
What does it look like?
What is it made of?
If those questions are unanswered, there are a few steps to help:
Concept development – use this step to make a creative brief, which identifies objectives, audience, deadline; then, brainstorm the concept’s elevator pitch and tagline.
Previsualization – this step is to find the overall look and feel of the project.
Asset building – the last step involves gathering all of the assets which are the pieces needed to begin animating the story.
The three steps break down everything you need to help bring the idea to fruition. It’s a very detailed process as the thought really needs to be nailed down before executing – BUT it’s also OK if you do this process, then when designing, the concept changes. That’s when it’s important to go back a few steps to refine the new direction.
One last thing that’s helpful at the end of the pre-production process is to create a style frame. This is a single image – that would be incorporated into the animation – which ties down the overall look and feel. They’re full-color visualizations of a character, background, or similar that would be part of the planned production. This helps to know if the concept aligns with all goals and concepts before beginning production.
Before creating my own GIFs using the steps that Blazer lays out in her first chapter of Animated Storytelling, I need to do some research – what makes a good GIF?
This GIF has a fun style and a cute little story about a mermaid, who looks happy to see – and waves to whoever is in front of her then goes back to her home underwater. The GIFs creator likely used an onion skin technique to complete it.
Using another approach, this GIF creator likely made a quick video of someone painting a pink brushstroke, then looped it. I think it’s effective because the colors are bold, and it implies crafting or DIYing adventures.
I enjoy this GIF, as it doesn’t so much tell a story, but it’s enjoyable to watch. I have a hard time understanding how this GIF loops, which entices me to think about it more.
This GIF appears to have originated using stop motion. While stop motion is a whole other type of animation, this one loops to make a GIF. I like it (not only because it’s Halloween-themed, and the Holiday is approaching) because this one does tell a quick story about a cat and a jack-o-lantern. It’s another way to get creative when thinking about making GIFs.
Lastly, I like this GIF because it uses text as the figure of the composition. It’s something to remember when telling stories or using tones – it can be done with words too.
Overall, from this research, I found that GIFs might not need to have as much of a story as they do thoughts/feelings, or emotions.
GIF 1: Rainbow Pinwheel
Pinwheels are meant to spin. I’ve had this rainbow pinwheel for a while now, and haven’t yet put it outside for its purpose. Instead, it’s been sitting as a static decoration inside my home.
My thought behind this GIF is that the pinwheel comes alive, sort of like a Toy Story situation. Using one of the aspects from the concept development step in Blazer’s Animated Storytelling, here is a full sentence, known as the elevator pitch that includes the tone, plot, and theme of the GIF:
Happy rainbow pinwheel begins to spin inside, being its true self.
I took a photo of the pinwheel, then used Photoshop to create this GIF, starting with that one single image. Working off of one image – and in my case, attempting to move the pinwheel to look like it’s spinning – can be tricky. Perspective comes into play, so unless you have multiple images to work off of, creating a photographed GIF may take some practice. I used cut out images in Photoshop, and managed to change the colors of the pinwheels to make it have the spinning effect for one fluid looping animation.
GIF 2: SHINE
Who doesn’t love the retro look of light-up billboards? Well, I enjoy it and thought it’d be great to create a GIF with this style.
Inspired by the GIF I found through my research that uses a word as the subject, I decided to create one of my own. This uses the onion skin technique in Photoshop – where I drew the same image (rectangle billboard) over and over in different frames, with the word “SHINE” motioning in throughout.
One sentence elevator pitch: Bold billboard spells “SHINE” for people to see.
GIF 3: The Ezzy Dance
One of my dogs does this cute little paw dance when she’s about to get a treat or go outside to show her excitement. It’s an adorable personality trait of hers so I thought it would be perfect to capture using a quick, short-framed GIF.
Using the same sentence structure as the above GIF, here’s the elevator pitch for this GIF: Excited dog, about to get a treat because she’s been a good girl.
To create this GIF, I used Photoshop. I enjoy line-drawn art styles, so reverted to this look for the GIF. The original plan was to use the same onion skins as the above GIF, but more detailed. As I drew it up, I realized this doesn’t need many frames to get the simple dance across, so I changed my direction to use frame animation instead of video animation.
There are many different GIF styles, and I think I nailed the traditional choppy look with this one. But If I were to try this again, I would like to grow my skills using the onion skin effect with video animation so it could look more like fluid movements! To be continued on my end.
Ultimately, GIFs can have a lot of storytelling power. You can create a GIF that doesn’t have an obvious story, but it should have a tone that provokes its essence.
Zee.dog is a brand that designs and sells fun, urban, and trendy pet products. The business began through the founders’ personal experiences with mass retail pet products, and how they aren’t “cool” enough.
“Zee.Dog was founded with one major purpose: to Connect Dogs and People. We design and build products of expression, ones that help make your life and your dog’s that much cooler.”
zee.dog’s mission statement
Throughout the last few weeks, I’ve been working on a social media strategy for zee.dog. I’ve researched and studied different aspects of social media marketing – things that theoretically should work, and work well with consistency and persistence.
One of the immediately difficult parts for me with this involved how zee.dog’s social media already looks ideal. However, that’s surface level. Yes, zee.dog is already doing many things right, but they still aren’t getting the engagement that they should for the average posts per week, and follower counts – specifically on Instagram and Facebook. The audience awareness already looks good, but it’s unclear if those are all of the right audience members for them, and a great way to improve it would involve more campaigns.
From my observations, I developed two SMART goals:
Increase awareness – we would like to see a 10% growth on Instagram’s follower count within 3 months.
Increase engagement – we would like to create more customer/brand engagement by increased listening and response on all active platforms. This should increase by 80% within 6 months.
All in all, these two goals should help to earn the success of return on investment.
Something that inspired me with the brand is that they’re already doing collaborations with other retailers to create new, limited time only products. It’s a proactive way to introduce the brand to new audience members – ones that may already be loyal to those other brands involved in the collabs.
So, I pitched a campaign idea which is rooted in developing more collaborations to reach more, potentially loyal audience members. In general, is already significant – but another great aspect of this pitch is to do more audience listening BEFORE creating the collaboration. This helps the audience to feel more engaged, and helps zee.dog to know beforehand if the collab will be desired.
Secondly, I pitched another campaign idea which is less call-to-action focused, and more to create social media buzz – connecting users in different ways. Zee.dog’s brand is for fun and bold audiences, humans buy the products for their pets, but we have to remember those pets personalities as well. To utilize ambassador and influencer marketing – again, for more reach – zee.dog should have a one day campaign with dog’s accounts taking over the brand’s channels.
Overall, this social media pitch took a LOT of work to identify the best approach! I gave myself a challenge choosing a brand that’s already doing many of the right things – I just needed to figure out what specific changes were needed for improvement.
I’m trying to remember a time when I’d be able to scroll social media without sponsored ads. And I can’t think of it. I mean, I know there was a time when social media advertising was more organic than it was paid, but when? I don’t know. Let’s Google it.
2011. Facebook introduced the option to have sponsored ads in 2011, and since then, paid social media advertising trickled to other platforms. Now, it’s become so advanced that most of the major social media apps dish out sponsored ads almost constantly onto news feeds. Hence, why I can’t remember to before 2011 when this wasn’t as prevalent.
Organic feed is so innocent. And I like it because of that. But, sponsored social media ads have a greater, more effective purpose – especially for the brands that pay for them. And for this reason, I have a list of pros and cons for the use of paid social media ads, specifically for brands.
Sponsored ads can reach audiences much faster than organic ones. Organic feed can take many posts to get the attention brands are looking for. By paying for ads, the reach is greater, and more efficient.
They can also reach a specific targeted audience. Facebook features something called “Facebook Targeted Ads” and Twitter features something similar called “Twitter Custom Audiences” which lets you choose who to send the sponsored ads to.
They don’t have to be so expensive. Even for as little as a few cents for each click, this advertising method would be worth it to add to the marketing budget.
Sponsored ads need monitoring on effectiveness. Using analytics helps to determine how any particular ad is performing. If it’s not great, maybe it’s not worth it to continue spending money on that ad.
They also need monitoring for engagement. When there are any comments that need addressing, it may be difficult to keep up with responses within an appropriate amount of time.
It can be difficult to learn the ins and outs of paid advertising on social media. There’s much that can go into it before sending out those ads, like learning who the right audience members are, and how to effectively post and track them.
Let’s remember though – there are two sides to the story here. There are the companies who use social media advertising, and then there are the users of the apps – also known as potential consumers of the ads. So while these pros and cons above are weighed out for brands, this doesn’t take into consideration the consumers of the ads. So, I’ve laid out one pro and con for the social media users alone, and sponsored ads that run on those apps.
Pro: A person may be looking for a product or service very specific. And while making the search, different social media ads may pop up across different apps or web browsers. This could help that person to find the exact thing they’re looking for, resulting in a faster, easier search and successful purchase.
Con: Social media is made to be addictive. And ads on social media may appear bothersome to users. With paid social media advertising, and the algorithms that pair with them, the users also may be more controlled than they realize. Their feed is their feed for a reason, and very possibly, their purpose could be to generate impressions or clicks – which then spirals into more, and more, and more. Great for businesses with those ads, but maybe invasive for the people on their apps.
Now, let’s talk about sponsored social media ads that were done right!
BarkBox is a subscription-based company that sends you and your dogs a box of toys and treats every month.
In search of paid social media ad campaigns, I came across a recent one for BarkBox. I’m not a customer of theirs, but I do get ads from the company all the time. I know it’s because I design dog products and am constantly searching online for them to get trends and design research – BarkBox likely uses Facebook Targeted Ads, and I definitely look like the right audience member for them.
I love this sponsored ad because it’s relevant to a continued quarantine due to the pandemic, it makes me interested to scroll to the other photos, and there are several call-to-actions for different reasons (although, each “get offer” leads to the same thing – the websites main page).
Regardless that I’m not a customer, I do strongly admire the quirky brand, what they do, and their products. Also, the advertising is always spot-on.
So, I did some more digging and found an awesome BarkBox ad campaign that has measured results from Facebook so we can know just how effective some of their paid ad campaigns are.
Scoob!Is an animated movie that came out in 2020. BarkBox collaborated with Warner Bros. to create a box catered to the Scoob! Movie. The launch was so successful, that BarkBox decided to re-launch it again later that same year – a remarketing tactic that’s great for established and new audience members.
The second launch was even better, as the marketing team was able to work through any kinks that showed up during the first round launch. This sponsored ad displayed on Facebook with imagery, and animated video of the movie characters and dogs enjoying the toys. Engagement included many likes, comments, and shares, and the ad campaign resulted in a 27% lift in branded search site traffic.
I think this sponsored ad campaign was so successful for a few reasons. One, because it’s remarketed. Repurposed content is a great way to engage members who’ve already shown interest in the past. Also, BarkBox used copy which reminisced voice from the movie characters themselves, which helps keep the post consistent with the content and more effective. Something great to learn from this ad campaign is how BarkBox took an already successful ad and made it even better from previous results.
The Farmer’s Dog
Of course, the next sponsored ad I have to talk about is another dog one! I mean, that’s basically all I get now for ads, and so many different dog brands do such a good job with their sponsored advertising. But maybe I also feel that way because these ads are catered to me.
Anyway, The Farmer’s Dog uses ads that involve ambassadors and influencers to increase their reach. This one in particular utilizes video from an influencer, Liz Lovery who shows the food, talks about its perks, as well as her dog who enjoys the food – for more benefits than just taste.
The ad’s copy is enticing because it calls out right away why you should be interested – because of its benefits. It’s human-grade and pre-portioned specifically for your dog, which is a huge plus for those looking to feed their dogs something that’s better for them and their health. And this ad is successful for all of those reasons.
I think something to learn from this sponsored ad is that The Farmer’s Dog used a personalized video of the actual product being used by its consumers. Video is increasingly rising in importance as it grabs viewers attention. Also, influencer marketing isn’t a bad way to get the product out either. This way, the ad might reach both The Farmer’s Dog audience, but the influencer’s as well.
Overall, sponsored ads can greatly help brands reach audiences, and fast. Of course, the ad needs to be enticing for its viewers, needs to have that audience already identified, and have call-to-actions that will get the clicks. Once a company figures that out, they’re ultimately on the right track in their marketing objectives.
To build a community is to share impactful experiences between members. Brands can build communities through their website and social media channels to provide those interactions with members, advocates, and owners of the brand, creating overall positive encounters.
Chewy and Lego are two brands that have a great built community through their social media and online experience.
Chewy is an online-only product store for pets. And while the brand sells products, it is exceptionally known for its customer service.
The brand has grown considerably within the last year, during the COVID pandemic. Throughout this time, their efforts to continue advancing in customer service helps to grow their memberships and, therefore, build the community further.
Chewy has and advertises their 24/7 phone line, chat, and now offers features like connect with a vet – which provides initial vet consultations online.
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will always remember how you made them feel.”
A great brand initiative is the#ChewyBoxLovewhich uses their boxes as a source of community building with their customers. The hashtag is used mostly on Instagram – their platform with the most engagement – but also on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. Facebook is another social media channel that proves to have tons of engagement.
#ChewyBoxLove also helps create the user-generated content side of their social media marketing. The brand has an affiliate program, but it doesn’t currently look like brand ambassadors or influencers are directly utilized on social media.
Chewy also provides many how-to blog posts and infographics which directly mean to help customers find answers to anything pet-related. And with each social post, the brand provides consistent responses to customer and user questions via social media.
Because Chewy is an all online business, their commitments offline aren’t very applicable – However, it appears to completely work for the brand.
Lego is a very well-known brand that’s been around for decades. And with the boom of the internet, it needed to find new ways to interact with customers.
Throughout the rise of social media, Lego has built its roots with most engagement via Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. The brand does an exceptional job by actively responding to comments on its social media pages, creating consistent content, and actively involves its community members.
Lego hasaffiliate programs and uses professionally photographed UGC on its Instagram. On Twitter, Lego has #LegoFanFriday which gives fans the opportunity to display what they’ve recently made with their Legos or Lego sets.
The brand provides its ideas site for users to vote and be active with contests, product votes and ideas, and more. Through this, fans have been able to vote for new Lego product concepts and branding like the 90th-anniversary retro logo.
By using these tools that involve their audience members and building an online community is a great way for the brand to grow its memberships, also known as their Lego VIP. Lego VIP includes special offers, points systems to earn and redeem, and additional reasons to buy more.
Outside of the online encounters, Lego also has immersive in-person experiences like Legoland stores, resorts, and theme parks. In addition, Lego took the initiative to involve itself in movies – The Lego Movie was a huge hit in 2014, which now has the popular characters included at Legoland and its own theme park.
Overall, building a community for brands and audience members to be a part of is a great way to involve loyal feedback, and keep customers wanting more. Through the examples of Chewy and Lego shows that interactions between customers and brands can be very effective for the brand itself.
Right, but not a financial audit, a social media audit – it’s different! Social media audits examine network accounts of different company brands. And the reasoning behind them is to find opportunities to raise engagement, resulting in better sell-through with products or services.
Within the last week, I performed a social media audit for HomeGoods. Who doesn’t love HomeGoods – it’s always restocked with trendy, cost-effective home items that are hard to pass up. However, although they have such a great in-store experience, they aren’t quite as well driven on the digital side.
Here are the social media accounts HomeGoods takes advantage of:
They also have a LinkedIn page, but I didn’t include it here as it doesn’t pertain to product engagement (it also has the lowest follower count at 7,927 followers).
Most HomeGoods social media accounts don’t have a lot of traction – few posts, and low engagement. After reviewing the social media audit I made of these accounts, it’s prevalent that HomeGoods could expand their presence and engagement.
Deeper Dive into Three Social Media Accounts
While HomeGoods doesn’t have an excellent post-per-week schedule (with an average of half of a post per week) on their Facebook page, it does have many followers at 3.2mil. The average of those followers are also within a good age range to be the company’s ideal audience, as home buyers, renters, etc.
Because the posting is at a low rate, the interaction is also lacking. Each post averages at about 100 likes, and for 3.2 million followers with 12 posts in the last six months – that is not a lot.
It’s not very surprising to see that HomeGoods activity is larger on their Instagram than all other platforms. The follower count of Instagram is the highest of all others at 3.4mil, so it makes sense to have the most interaction there.
Using photo content is a great way for HomeGoods to show their customers what’s in store, and to use seasonal promos.
Out of all of HomeGoods social media accounts, YouTube has the lowest number of subscribers. However, it’s definitely worth it for the company to continue expanding its content on the platform. Recently, they have had much activity with a series of commercial episodes, featuring Jillian Bell, called Home Sweet HomeGoods.
The video ad campaign is not only entertaining but engaging for audience members. The six episodes combined have an average of about 1 million views. Props to HomeGoods for thinking of this marketing masterpiece! To continue their growth on the platform by using video advertising series may not only help their engagement on YouTube but others as well.
HomeGoods Social Media Opportunities
Overall, HomeGoods social media is lacking in engagement. But with lack, comes opportunity. One of the great things about social media audits is that they provide the chance to see where there’s any downfall, to pick it up.
Some of the main areas of opportunity I see involve the three networks I dove into above, and according to my audit, these are the most essential platforms that HomeGoods could benefit from.
Here’s a list of opportunities for HomeGoods digital reach expansion:
Begin to actively post on Facebook. There’s a solid audience.
Continue actively posting on Instagram.
Use more meaningful captions
Utilize the #GoFinding hashtag more often
Develop even more relevant hashtags
Continue actively posting on YouTube.
Develop more video ad campaigns as series
There are a few how-to videos before Home Sweet HomeGoods premiered. This is also a great way to continue video posts when in-between the big projects.
Advertise the big promotional campaigns like Home Sweet HomeGoods on other social media accounts with direct links. HomeGoods has done this a few times, but it isn’t consistent. This will help to not only have more posts on each account but to bring loyal members to different sites and have more engagement.
By utilizing these opportunities for digital growth, HomeGoods may in turn effectively drive more customers to their stores. Of the three platforms, Facebook is high up on the focus list as it has a high following. Though Instagram has the largest following and engagement, it may be a bigger priority than Facebook. Then YouTube has the most potential for growth if they continue doing what they’re doing with the video series and more.
Ultimately, HomeGoods social media has a ways to go. But like I said earlier, this is where social media auditing provides many opportunities!
Who remembers Myspace? I do! It was my first social media experience. And at the time (approximately 2006 to be exact), I had no idea what social media was. We were just within the first decade of the widely accessed internet, with little comprehension of where that would take us.
Now, social media essentially IS communication. For not only personal reasons, but for businesses as well. The vast majority of people around the world have smart devices which can be accessed from their pockets. They contain just about anything you can think of – calling, instant messaging, GPS navigation, wallets, and access to all sorts of applications for almost endless ways of communicating and finding information.
With this advancement of technology, people and company reach have needed to adapt.
Social Media’s Importance
So, is social media important? Well, to put it simply, yes. It’s an integral and significant part of our society. It helps us to connect with family, friends, and even strangers. It aids us to visually learn about others, different cultures, world or local events and news, businesses – whether large or entrepreneurial, and so on.
Being knowledgeable and doing our research will help prevent the spread of misinformation, which is a not-so-great aspect of social media. Doing this will also help us to use it much more effectively and for its better purposes.
Businesses are able to use social media to build up their brand and audience awareness, loyalty, reachability, and ultimately, make sales. With the rise of social media, the audience’s attention has moved from traditional news, billboards, and commercials, to what’s on their phones. Because of this, companies have found it necessary to make their own social media accounts to stay visible to their customers. In this case, social media is important for businesses to make business.
Taking advantage of social media campaigns for successful product experiences
Coors light has used a few campaigns since the beginning of the coronavirus outbreak. One, where they gave out free beer to anyone on Twitter who used the #CouldUseABeer hashtag. And a second one, shortly afterwards, where they made a Clone Machine for those working in Zoom conference meetings.
What’s engaging about these is that the company has found ways to deliver powerful movements which relate to people’s emotions about staying home and working virtually (for those who are able to). And thus, effectively increase their brand awareness, and sell more of their product to consumers.
The company listened to their customers – an impactful interactive marketing technique – and collectively delivered beer to those who #CouldUseABeer. They also took action to continue marketing towards their audience members, still affected by the pandemic.
The future of social media
To be honest, I don’t really know where social media will be in the coming years – all I know is that it will continue to advance. However, social media has steadied out due to its maturing – meaning that the apps that have been developed have consistently secured their audience members, and thus secured their purpose with loyal communities.
That’s not to say that apps won’t experience more change. With the constant growth of virtual experience, we will definitely continue to see advancement in all things technology.
Here’s a list of what I think could progress within social media over the next five to ten years:
More virtual or augmented reality.
Continued subscription options for those who don’t want to see ads crowding their feed.
More audio and video capabilities.
There is one more feature I think could be utilized in the future. Switching gears back to Myspace here – I wouldn’t be surprised if other social media apps took advantage of some of the perks of the early to mid 2000’s media hit. With our attention spans continuing to decline, what better way to tell users who we are than with a favorite song and decorated home page?
Using social media in a functional aspect is important. Yes, that means to also be ethical and do research beyond the posts that receive so many shares – finding a credible source. That said, social media is great for building virtual communities, connecting with others, and for businesses to reach their audience (and vice versa). And to put it lightly, social media is not going anywhere – it will evolve to some degree – but it is here to stay.
Have you ever viewed an infographic and thought WOW this is so cool, I never thought this subject could be so interesting!
Maybe you have, and there’s no judgment here. Because that’s just it – infographics WORK by adding visual detail that keeps a viewer more interested than if they were to simply read about it. It’s a great way to spread information quickly when intended.
Data visualization that goes hand in hand with infographics also helps to put a perspective on numbers and statistics that are difficult to visualize without them. Which helps make the audience understand the information more effectively.
In short, this is why infographics are a powerful tool. Complex topics become more enjoyable and easier to understand. If you have a subject that you’d like to communicate with an audience, consider building one – there are many templates available, or you can build one from the ground up.
In this article, we’ll talk about what infographics are, each section within them and their significance, misinformation, design elements and principles, and a simple step-by-step process of how to get started.
What is an infographic?
Visual information has been around for ages. In fact, cave paintings from 30,000 BC could identify as some of the first visual stories and infographics. Egyptian hieroglyphics in 3000 BC were also very early ways to communicate information visually.
More modern forms of infographics started to appear around 1786 where William Playfair wrote a book involving many statistical data visualizations. Since then, visual data has grown immensely and transformed to the use of infographics.
Infographics typically have three parts: visual data, graphics, and text. Each bit, just as important as the other, however, they should not show as equal amounts. It’s essential to remember that infographics are widely effective because our brains respond about 60,000x faster to visuals than to text alone. This is a phenomenon termed the Picture Superiority Effect by psychologists.
Depending on the information topic, and the overall layout, the amounts of each part may vary quite a bit. Typically, as long as all three are present, it’s completely fine to vary the amounts of each, but sometimes you may find a larger variance in data visualization as it’s often not entirely necessary with informational graphics.
Some of you may be thinking,well infographics are data visualization, aren’t they??
The short answer to that is, yes. However, data visualization is just one piece of the puzzle. They are only one graph or chart which specifies a single piece of data. Where infographics usually provide several different visualized data which connect the pieces of what the infographic tells you.
This can be illustrated as maps, pie charts, line charts, bar graphs, and so on.
Graphics are what help tell the visual story. Have steps for people to follow? Use graphic images of what that task is, or a character performing that step. What about an environmental infographic about wildlife in a specific area? Show graphic images of what those animals or species are.
The graphics are really what make the infographic come full circle by showing the viewers another visual glimpse of why they should care, and often resonates with your audience.
There should always be text within an infographic. Without it, leaves the viewer room to interpret the data or graphics incorrectly. While data visualization almost always has a key, that still doesn’t mean the audience is going to read it the same way as another. The text helps to keep the viewer on track of what they’re seeing and helps to prevent the spread of misinformation.
“And the same way that you cannot understand a piece of text If you don’t read it carefully, you cannot understand a chart without reading carefully as well.”
While there should be text, it’s also essential to know the balance of when to narrow down the text. It should be kept simple. If there’s so much, it’s possible that the graphic will look more like another piece of writing only, and won’t keep the viewers interested.
This infographic is a good example of what NOT to do with your text. It’s overcrowded and visually difficult to look at. There are too many font colors, sizes, and locations to follow smoothly.
Instead, there should be more white space, separation of groups, and fewer sections of text. This graphic is a good example of these.
Misinformation in design
A designer can either intentionally or unintentionally spread misinformation. A term also widely known now as “fake news.” It’s essential to take the research seriously and remove any cognitive biases from the work.
The research must be credible and fully understood so you can translate properly. This is one way to help you to prevent the spread of misinformation.
For example, companies that specialize in pet kibble will use infographics about the properties of their food and how it supports dog or cat health.
While it may not be false information, it does promote aspects that your dog is getting the full, proper nutrition from dry food alone. When, if the research is fully done, you’d know that’s not the case.
On the reverse side, biases also show up with raw food diets, like this infographic. This again isn’t false information, but it is meant to persuade the audience to transition to a raw food diet. Knowing when to identify biased infographics will help you to know how to avoid it yourself.
It just goes to show – more information is needed for anyone to make a proper decision. Added text around the infographic helps explain to viewers what they should take away from the data.
What makes a graphic compelling?
Compelling means that it keeps the attention and interest of its viewers. Simply having the information all put into one place doesn’t mean that the infographic will keep the audience’s focus. Infographics should use design techniques like the gestalt principles, color, and text psychology.
There are reasons that certain design elements, colors, and text attract the interest of its prospects.
The Gestalt principles and elements
Some of the most common Gestalt principles are:
Similarity. Elements belong together if they look similar.
Proximity/Grouping. Elements that are closer together appear to be part of the same group, and vice versa.
Continuity. Components that are visually associated with each other are easier to distinguish a continuing line if there is none.
Figure-Ground. Objects may be perceived as either the figure or the ground.
Bright, warm colors. These colors energize the viewers and make them alert, possibly with a higher chance of calling to action.
Dark, cool colors. These feel more relaxing and tranquil
Complementary colors. These complement each other and bring out their best contrasts
Beyond the basics, each color is also associated with meanings and different feelings. There’s a reason specific colors are used for different products, actions, or information. Choose your colors carefully to match the content.
There are endless amounts of fonts, but each lies in a specific group. The main groups are:
And within each group evokes different emotions from the viewer. Depending on the content of your infographic, the font should resonate with the overarching idea. The fonts chosen can promote a particular feeling or reaction from the viewer.
Combining compelling with effectiveness into an infographic? Follow these steps.
Step 1 – Know your audience. Whenever you make something for general consumption, you MUST know who might take part in it. Not everything you present will be for everyone so your audience will be the driving force in what you make.
If your audience isn’t identified beforehand, the direction of your infographic could result in fewer views and therefore, less spread.
Step 2 – Find your data. What do you want to share with your audience? What is important to them and how do you want them to be informed? These are all great questions to get you started.
Step 3 – Define the scope of your infographic layout. There are many different ways to show your data – and some charts are better than others depending on what it is.
Statistical infographic layouts are ideal for a lot of data visualization. Elements can include surveys or numerical data that resonates in percentages.
Informational layouts usually have less data visualization and more graphics, and text. The data may not be as scientific with the opportunity to provide numerical charts, but the information is still very researched and refined.
Timeline infographic layouts are best used for visualizing the history or chronological order of something.
If comparing, a slope chart is effective for this. If comparing multiple groups with hierarchy, a sunburst might be the best option. These are a few less popular graphs that might be more interesting for grabbing your viewers attention.
First, choose the base of where the information will go. Then, the layout for how you will visually demonstrate it. Then, the content – remember – text, data, graphics.
Step 4 – Defining the scope of the style.
colors, and type have psychological aspects behind them which promote different feelings from the viewers. So choose them carefully – make sure the color scheme is with like colors to prevent confusion or too much to look at.
The type you use also has an affect on how the viewer perceives the information. Especially since there’s likely to be less text than there is visual, the fonts chosen do have a big impact. So again, choose carefully depending on what you’re going for.
Summing it up & Breaking it down
So, there it is – the reasoning behind your WOW’s of taking in information!
Infographics are powerful tools to get data out effectively, and if they’re also compelling, they have a better probability of resonating with the audience.
Breaking it down – successful infographics will have data visualization, graphics, and text, as well as design elements and principles, no misinformation for cognitive bias, color and text psychology, and developed for a particular audience. Also, an accurate layout for the type of infographic. That’s a lot! But, keep following this article as a guideline, do your diligent research, and practice your design skills. You’ll be surprised how each step comes together!
Storytellers have a ton of power. They can alter perspectives by showing their viewers only what they want from behind a camera screen or by creating misleading visual data.
With images, the photographer can capture exactly what they intend to, and how as long as it’s possible. Then, the photo most likely goes through an editing process, which may cause some further shifts from the real image. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s unethical, though.
Editing photos is very common, particularly for photographers who do it for a living. And let’s be clear – there’s nothing wrong with having some set prefixes to change general lighting, and coloration so that the image has the right style.
Also, taking photos from unique perspectives is an art form, and shows evidence of a good photographer. Consider that photographers may have to stand, sit, crouch, or climb to get the angle they desire.
However, editing can be taken to the extreme, resulting in an unreasonable outcome. Over the years, photoshopped images have become a huge talking point as beauty standards are controlled and unrealistic. And many celebrities (particularly women) have spoken out about the impractical edits made to their bodies through image retouching.
One of the top 10 doctored photos is where Oprah’s head was photoshopped onto Ann-Margaret’s body. Talk about being discreet, first of all… But, why couldn’t Oprah be pictured in her own body?
Similar to stock photo clichés, where, again, particularly women pose in arbitrary settings, always smiling. Why always smiling, laughing, having a good time with seemingly un-funny products or settings? It’s not real, and goes to show that the perspective of women are often controlled by the storytellers.
Essentially, visual storytelling can be very much unethical by spreading unrealistic standards. And while this issue is more recently well known, I think it’s still one that needs attention. Photographers and editors shouldn’t have the control over what someone else truly looks like.
Minnesota is known as the land of 10,000 lakes (ppssst, the real number is actually 11,842 lakes). If you follow my blog, it’s likely you already know that this is my home state. And with all of the freshwater here, we as residents need to be wary of invasive species that can negatively impact them.
Zebra mussels are a continuing issue as they like to hitchhike on water-related equipment, and move from lake to lake. They’re a known invasive freshwater species in the area, but still, not everyone [who should] knows or understands the significance of the spread of zebra mussels.
Because of this, an infographic is the perfect way to help make anyone aware of what zebra mussels are, why they’re a threat, and how to prevent their hitchhiking. See below for my zebra mussel infographic.
Use colors that make sense together and with the information given.
Cite sources/use call to actions. See my references listed at the end of this post.
Of course, I also had to follow the steps that I’ve defined from my previous blog post, “How to Create an Effective and Compelling Infographic.” The steps are fairly basic, but within each one, I’m going to describe a little bit more about what went into this process.
Step 1 – Know your audience.
My audience are those who live near and travel to fresh bodies of water, particularly in the midwest, United States. Zebra mussels arrived in the US by a contaminated cargo ship back in the 1980’s, so their largest population is near the great lakes. I kept this in mind when designing.
Step 2 – Collect your data.
The data, of course, is about zebra mussels. I learned a lot during this research and made sure I touched on all of my questions to ensure I provided the best information for my audience. It helped me to narrow down to pointing out what they are, their threats, their spread, and what we can do to prevent their continuing spread.
Step 3 – Define the scope of your infographic layout.
There are many different infographic layouts available, but the layout very much depends on the content. For example, if sharing chronological information, a timeline layout would work well.
Because my information is just that – very informational, I wanted to section it out per stats and call outs I shared. So, this helped me know to use a sectioned, informational style graphic.
Step 4 – Define the scope of your infographic style.
As far as color goes, I chose to use cool colors that mimic water and environment, and to also keep the audience psychologically relaxed as they learn about something that might not be so fun. I also made sure to use complementary colors from blues, greens, yellows, to orange.
With my font, I chose to use a bold typeface for the title and subtitles – something that would give the audience an alarm that this is important, but also organic enough to follow suit with the rest of the design. Then, there’s a secondary title font which is less bold, but still has an accommodating character to it. Lastly, the subject font is a basic sans serif so it’s easy to read and understand.
The elements I used are all rounded, circular, and organic. By doing this, I kept a consistent feel throughout the infographic.
This infographic was very fun to create, and it makes me feel proud to share issues related to my home state. Especially now, in the heat of the summer time, it’s essential to be aware of zebra mussels, and to stop the spread.
EDDMapS. 2021. Early Detection & Distribution Mapping System. The University of Georgia – Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health. Available online at http://www.eddmaps.org/; last accessed June 30, 2021.
Data visualizations have been booming for the last five plus years. It’s true, we used to find out all of our information from reading it or hearing it in detail, but with the growth of technology comes the growth of graphics, and we’ve been able to present information in newer ways.
With that, there are good ones and there are not so good ones. The good ones feed us the information in an effective way, and lay out how it should be understood. The not so good ones may provide what looks like effective information, but it may be misleading for the viewer, or done in an uninteresting way (which may not keep the viewers attention).
For these reasons, I developed a presentation titled “How to Create an Effective and Compelling Infographic.” Throughout the five minutes, I walk through what makes an effective graphic – including how to reduce the spread of misinformation – and the design behind a memorable, compelling one.
I go through a series of four steps to do this:
Know your audience
Collect your data
Define the scope of your infographic layout
Define the scope of your infographic style
To hear more – take a watch below. Enjoy!
In a few weeks time, I will expand on this topic in a written essay. Come back to learn more about what makes information compelling, easy, and authentic to understand. See you soon!
Cairo, A. (2020). How charts lie: getting smarter about visual information. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.
Throughout this pandemic, all of us have experienced change in some way.
Something that I’ve noticed happening for me is the transformation of my work attire. Like many of those who can, I’ve been working mostly from home for the last year. So, of course, I haven’t had much of a necessity to dress business casual anymore – at least not fully.
Pajamas all day every day! Who doesn’t love that!?
I mean, I definitely enjoy having the option to wear comfy clothes every day. But while that’s a truth, I do sort of feel a loss of routine and individuality through the change.
Routines help build a foundation to each day, and my morning schedule has drastically adjusted with working from home. And simply put, a lot of that has to do with choosing and putting on an outfit, or lack of that process.
Applause to those of you who’ve kept up with a regular healthy routine while working from home!
The reality of this is about the amount of change during this pandemic, resulting in the term that’s been widely popular from the start – “the new normal.”
Which leads me to my photo essay! Photo essays present a story through visual images which accompany the text. However, a person should be able to understand the story without even having read the written words.
“Presenting a story through photography communicates a different — often deeper — understanding of person, place, event or narrative”
There are many different types of photo essays. One of the most popular types is one that captures events. Historic events in particular are grabbing and show the truth beyond mainstream media.
Of course, with the pandemic, a lot of places and events are on hold – so finding one to cover was out of the question. I had to come up with an alternative. My mind went right to making a transformational photo essay, which is another well-known option.
Because I am the subject behind the photos, and I’m using my experience as a base, this essay may almost come across as a photo story instead. However, the point of this wasn’t to bring up my experience as an individual only.
The goal of my photo essay was to visually show the change in work attire for those who’ve been working from home during the pandemic, through my own experience.
Through the essay itself, it should elevate the understanding of the situation – a new routine which involves a lack of a routine.
My Design Analysis
I decided to present an artistically visual essay for my photojournalism adventure. The tonal background of the pages transition from light to a dark brown, which accompanies the change of photos of office attire, to home wardrobe.
The decision to use the different tints and shades of brown bring out the photos as their foreground/backgrounds include these as well. The gradient also helps bring forward the monotonous repetition of getting out of bed, choosing to put on the first thing in sight, and beginning the work day. Browns and beiges are typically used when wanting to bring out other colors, which is exactly what I’d planned for the essay.
As for fonts, I used a Serif for the title, and accents – which promotes a traditional feel for the essay. I wanted it to be strong but classic for the contents of the paper. For the sub font, I used a Sans Serif, which promotes progressiveness that would work well with the transformation aspect.
That said, after taking many photos, it’s possible you’ll find a new direction in the story with what was captured, and that’s OK too.
However, that’s not how my process worked. I had a week to develop a transformational photo essay, which means I had to decide what they would look like and how they would operate early on.
With photography comes different shots – wide, medium, close ups – different perspectives, views, focus, lighting, etc.
To get different angles and views of the photos, I chose to begin with straight framed shots to focus on the outfits in front of a door for a neutral setting. Throughout the movement, the shots become more wide to show the background of my home office as well. In addition to the wider shots, I also placed myself in a position for the rule of thirds.
All together, what makes good visualization includes information, the story, the goal, and visual form. Through using a transition period with the pandemic, information about that period, a goal of showing the transition and how it can affect routines, then the overall design, I think this turned out as a successful photo essay.
I’m a visual learner. Let’s be real here, there’s a lot of information out there that uses words, but forgets the infographics to accompany them. Do I really want to spend my time searching for answers by reading statistics? No, not really.
Adding visual data helps back up the story, and answers questions. While including a unique visual is more memorable to keep information retained.
This week, I dove into a project that would help my understanding of the importance of visual data and infographics. So, I had to ask myself, how should I do it?
Sarah Illenberger is an artist who’s known for creating visuals through objects. It’s a unique way to get the information out, especially when infographics are mostly done digitally now.
What a great way to incorporate 3D with 2D! I decided to use physical objects as the base for my design direction.
Research For My Design
For my visual data, I wanted to find statistics relating to the humanization of pets, specifically dogs. Millennials and Gen-Z are consistently raising the average amounts of pets per household versus babies, known as the “fur-baby” trend.
“Trend” to me sounds like this will die-out, but I don’t think it will. We’re treating our pets as family members, and because of that, we’re giving them healthier alternatives to what’s been standard for years before.
One huge factor with better quality of life is their food.
Dry food is becoming less and less popular as it’s majorly processed and less nutritious. Fresh and raw food diets are growing as a better alternative for our pets’ health, longevity, and happiness.
According to a study in 2018, following up from the same study made in 2008, 78% of dogs are provided with some real food in their diet.
This is the data I ran with for my take on visual data.
My Visual Design
For my design, I created a twist on the sunburst effect, where the hierarchical order goes from the outside (being a higher percentage) to the inside (lower percentage). The data moves in a spiral to show continuity and movement.
While the dry food percentage has gone down over the years (therefore not the highest percentage), I wanted to begin with it as it’s been a standard base for most pets. The more recent typical transition from dry food usually starts with mixing it with fresh food. In this way, the spiral also shows an approximate chronological order.
I used oak tag paper as my Spatial Substrate – the space where the data is created.
This is most often seen as 2D while most infographics now are digital. But in this case, it’s a mix of 2 and 3D. 3D for when I set up the space with the objects, and 2D for when the photo was taken.
The visual elements I used to appear on the substrate are mostly points and volumes. From a graphical perspective, there are also lines.
The individual pieces of kibble and fresh food are serving as points and volume as they grow larger or get smaller.
The lines are used as a visual key to indicate the data.
With the visual elements are properties which make the elements less or more significant.
The spiral uses orientation which shows both approximate hierarchy and chronological order.
The size/volume of the sections of food indicate a larger or smaller significance to the percentages.
As mentioned before, the colored lines are a key for indication.
This project was a lot of fun! It’s been a long time since I’ve made a visual design in person rather than digitally, and it was nice getting back into it again.
I hadn’t really thought much about the importance of data visualization before now. I’ve always known them as something added onto information rather than a large factor in understanding said information. From now on, I’ll likely notice myself looking for more visual credibility than ever before!
Every kind of design has something in common. You have to think of the end user. It’s true, really, designs are made for a purpose, and that purpose is for someone or something! So, how do you design to take a customer to action? Having a brand that’s perceived as intended, and evokes strong emotions within their users is an excellent start.
To really dig deep into the visual intentions of UX design, I chose a website to analyze and then create a mood board for it. If you know what mood boards are used for, you may be thinking.. Why design a mood board for a website that’s already made? Well, the purpose of this is so I can put all of the thoughts behind the design into action. I’m a hands-on learner, what can I say?!
Before making the mood board, I first had to examine it from a critical eye. A great way to do that is with identifying some of gestalt principles used within their UX design.
The site I chose for this perception/emotion analysis is called zee.dog. As a designer of pet products, and a lover of animals myself, I thought this would be a great opportunity to understand the awesome brand better. So here’s a little more information I found by looking through the site.
The website itself is very black and white. It’s straight to the point, and while the zee.dog logo has quite a bit of personality, the feel is functional. The interesting part is where the product comes in. They use their product as an enhanced branding opportunity. All of their items are bright, fun, and energetic. Instead of using the website to showcase their multiple color schemes, the product says enough.
It’s the perfect blend of urban and expression – two words used within their brand.
Zee.dog identifies themselves as a lifestyle brand for pet products (and have recently opened their merchandise to humans as well).
Gestalt Principles in Web Design
The product pages are all laid out the same way. Product image angle, lighting, and the items are set up so every one of them looks identical to scale and spacing. With this principle, we can easily group these together as being part of the brand’s elegant organization, and telling the users that each of these products on the page function the same way.
Within the drop downs of the main menu, each group of items are placed near each other. The master product is semi-bold, where the sub-products are listed beneath it in a lighter text. Between each list of products is whitespace which separates them (shown with the yellow highlighted area). This shows the proximity principle where the users can perceive each of them as one.
Just by looking at the zee.dog website, you can tell that they take an urban and modern approach to their brand. But how can we see that?
While each product and product category has different colors associated with it, the color scheme is prevalently bright. Vibrant colors tend to energize the user. This can be helpful for their target market audience, who are looking for something fun and different from the major retailers.
Mood boards are a fun and effective way to tell the visual and emotional story. For my mood board, I used a futuristic font to write the words “Urban. Lifestyle. Expression.” which are words that describe the brand and website. There’s a photo of a man with his dog in a space outdoors that looks concrete, showing the urban side of dog, human life together.
The main color scheme is subdued with white, grays and black, like their website. It’s clean and functional. The pops of color are vibrant and energizing. Because I’m thinking this would be a mood board for before the site’s actually designed, I included images of rough dog drawings which could be illustrations for a potential logo.
The textures are simple, like concrete or a chevron to promote the feelings of an urban lifestyle as well. Overall, the mood board is not overly populated, just like the feel of their brand and website.
I’ve made many mood boards in my day, but I must say that this was quite different, and enjoyable to do it the reverse-way. It really did help me to understand in some way the designers’ thought process on creating their site. From thoughts and emotions in typography and colors, to logistical organization with gestalt principles, I was able to create a successful on-brand mood board for zee.dog.
When scrolling through Instagram, do you like a post because of the photo or because of the caption? Or both? For me, I always thought that I liked a post because of the image, and a great written story with it is an added bonus.
“Instagram is not about photography; it is about visual communication.”
Well, sure, the image is the driving force, but the written aspect is what brings something full circle. The image of the post should tell the story without words – visually communicating with the audience. When a certain photo draws us in, it’s time to reflect on it. What about it made you stop scrolling, if even for a few seconds? What’s the mood brought forward by the colors, or the subject(s) if any? Where was the photo taken? What was the moment like when the photo was captured?
Then, the written communication brings more context to the image. It’s that person’s true story that relates to the photo which we connected with. The caption could make us, as the viewer, more inspired by the relation, as long as it connects to the visual story.
This aspect of visual storytelling is what’s called non-dramatic storytelling. The viewer has a chance to make their own connections to a photo before reading why it was posted by its author. Then, the caption brings us to understanding of how it was intended.
Non-dramatic storytelling – an open form of communication which allows participation or interaction to a certain degree.
So, the point is that images, stills, graphics – they all tell a visual story. As Andrew Losowsky says it in Visual Storytelling – the essence of visual storytelling is the combination of emotional reaction and narrative information.
Seven Images and Their Stories
As a part of my own understanding of visual storytelling, I’ve analyzed seven different photos and what they generally say.
This painting appears to tell a story about a celebration. If you don’t know what the “La Belle Époque” is, no worries, because Renoir illustrates a perfect vision for us viewers. At first glance, there’s no question that the couple on the dance floor, to the left of the setting are the focal point. Then, it’s easy to move your eyes to the subjects who have a closer depth perception, and to see all of the soft smiling faces. Everyone is dressed in formal clothing, drinking and eating from the possible concession stands in the background, then, of course, dancing. The lighting is shining through the leaves on the trees, so it looks like the evening, as the sun is setting.
While there’s a lot going on within this painting, the background doesn’t distract, it adds to the story. Within the four principles of visual storytelling, this setting is not staged, and feels authentic. From this, it can be presumed that the story is a happy, entertaining party evening outside with family and friends.
This classic book – The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien has had many different covers throughout the years. This one is the 75h anniversary edition, which takes a more modern approach to the original cover. While more modern, it has also been simplified. Regardless, the many mountains indicate much time spent outside, and quite possibly, a journey through them. The big, bright sun – either setting or rising – also depicts many days going by before reaching a destination, or the climax of the book. With this cover, the story genuinely feels like there are obstacles to be had, which is an aspect of storytelling that keeps the audience wanting more, stated by Bo Berstrum in Essentials of Visual Communication.
Continuing with The Hobbit, for my next storytelling analysis, I decided to find a movie still from the first of the three movies – The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. While the title of the movie literally says “journey,” what else can I inspect about this still? Bilbo is running, and looks to be quite eager – so he’s excited. The background is a beautiful village that looks happy and peaceful; while to the sides of him show a valley in land mass, so it appears that he’s leaving the village behind. This must be where his journey begins; the starting point of the main story.
This is the main display image on Nike’s website right now. The caption that follows it states “Stability and Support for Miles.” Simple and to the point, the image shows exactly what the caption intends. These shoes are dirty, which imply that the person wearing them has traveled a long way. It also shows the wearers loyalty to the shoes – so they must be worth buying, right? Out of the four principles of storytelling, this one shows relevancy to the audience. Nike’s audience are mostly those who are athletic, and find necessity behind the quality of their performance wear, so the dedication of the person wearing these shoes is valuable to the audience.
Caribou Coffee is a very popular chain particularly in the midwest. In the logo, you can see a coffee bean, with lines. The lines continue onto the upper part of the logo, representing antlers – very likely Caribou antlers. This makes me think that the story behind their brand is warm and welcoming, earthy, and maybe even organic. Logos are an essential part of a brand, because it visually represents it within a single aspect. And like Andrew Losowsky says in Visual Storytelling, more than half of the brain is dedicated to visual input.
Photos that tell good stories involve many aspects, according to Seth Gitner in Multimedia Storytelling for Digital Communicators in a Multiplatform World. One aspect that Gitner mentions is silhouettes. While he does say that they’re often cliche, they definitely can be used to better tell the story. In this photo, there are three birds by water at sunset, and they look like they’re trying to find dinner.
This is an iconic photo of Albert Einstein which shows a humorous side to him. One that may feel like it’s a misleading part of his story, but is only what makes this a captivating one. The black and white of the photo, in accompanying his age, makes it known that this was taken a long time ago. His hair looks a little out of sorts, and the tongue-out vibe makes it look like Einstein was having fun at the time this photo was taken.
When we think about the act of analyzing what we see… It sounds like homework. But we do it all the time, without even realizing. There’s always a story accompanied with a visual, and a lot of the time, we digest it without thinking deeply about it. Which is why some Instagram posts pull us in more than others!
Gitner, S., & Gitner, S. (2016). Chapter 1: In What Ways Do We Think about Visual Storytelling Every Day. In Multimedia Storytelling for Digital Communicators in a Multiplatform World (pp. 1–33). essay, Routledge.
Klanten, R., & Losowsky, A. (2011). Introduction. In Visual Storytelling: Inspiring a New Visual Language (pp. 1–7). essay, Prestel Pub.
I’ve done it! Made a mini documentary, that is. I chose to document the story of our family cabin being built, told best by my dad. As my last audio and video design project, I can confidently say that I’m glad it ended this way, and I definitely used everything I’ve learned throughout the last seven weeks within it.
At the beginning of this class, I was a true beginner to audio and video design; I really didn’t know a thing. Maybe besides my general knowledge of design, which did help a bit. But reading about each chapter, then actually doing it was not easy.
Starting with a podcast, I first learned more about sound. Now, I know the different types of microphones and how to select them based on what I’m planning on doing. For example, I bought a lavalier microphone for this mini documentary. It’s omnidirectional, which means I had to be careful about background noises, as this mic picks up a lot of sound.
In addition to making my own audio, I also have a better understanding of sound effects like ambient noise, and background music to match the visuals and story.
Then, moving from sound to the camera, it was time to learn about the camera. I now understand camera basics – what goes into them and how they work, overall. However, I’d like to know more about how to adjust the important things like exposure, aperture, color temperature, light meters, and depth of field. This, of course, falls back onto me as I need to do more research on my own camera. But it would be nice to have some resources for basic adjusting for the circumstances.
Composition rules for video are very similar to basic design rules, so reading about these weren’t a huge surprise to me. Though, I never thought about how they work with a camera. Something as simple as changing angles to get a unique perspective really helps with added depth to the composition. And attempting this was a whole new ballpark for me… But it worked! Using rules like leading lines, balance with color or masses, and the rule of thirds allows for optimal picture to video.
A few chapters that were particularly helpful for this mini documentary are lighting and doing it. In combination with everything else I’ve learned with camera moves, sound, etc. understanding lighting is essential, especially when setting up interviews on human subjects! I was able to use a basic set up with a key light, fill light, background and back light for optimal picture. Shooting the script out of sequence also helped me with this mini doc, as I would come up with additional questions after what we’ve already talked about.
Once you have the footage you need, the next step is editing. This is the part that really brings the audio with visuals to life! Using establishing shots, basic sequences, L-cuts and J-cuts, audio and music all help to tell the story the way it’s intended.
Besides the readings from this book, I’ve also learned about the editing softwares – Adobe Audition, and Premiere Pro. I followed tutorials to learn the programs, and it helped greatly when I needed it!
Overall, I now watch videos or movies with a new perspective. I’m able to call out what camera moves the camera people have done – like tilts or pans – as well as the screen direction and axis; or what editing trick the editor has used – like using basic sequences, and L-cuts or J-cuts. I can now watch one scene and see just how many camera locations there were for optimal editing. It’s an interesting new outlook I have with just simply understanding it better.
On my own end, I now know how to implement different filming and audio rules, and can edit them to make sense for what I want the audience to see. I’m no longer a beginner, but competent when it comes to audio and video design. I will be able to use what I’ve learned here and implement it onto future projects… Maybe I’ll work on more mini documentaries about further addressing our family cabin!
L-cuts and J-cuts are important editing tools when making videos. In this documentary, L-cuts are used at 0:54, 1:42, 2:13, 2:37, 2:53, and a few more. The cuts are done well because it starts with seeing the person who’s talking, then it goes to B-roll that relates to what they’re saying. I particularly enjoy the L-cut at 2:53 because the man talks about how great the restaurant is but he’s sad it’s about to close, while the B-roll shows the same man with one of the employees hugging each other. It adds to the story in a nice way.
This mini documentary shows a few J-cuts that are done well. The first J-cut happens at 0:10 showing B-roll of trash, then an interviewee talking about it before seeing them. This also happens at 0:19, which is nice because the video follows the same overall layout which makes it easier to follow as a viewer.
This was a really fun project, because it’s so close to home – I mean, it’s the cabin, it’s our family’s home away from home.. But it’s just a cabin!
I interviewed my dad about building the cabin back in the late 70’s and early 80’s. We got so much footage, I could make probably at least three more mini documentaries about different aspects or stories.
Instead of using narration, I opted away from it. My dad told the story so well, that my narration would seem out of place. It also doesn’t help that I wasn’t alive during the time the cabin was built, so I don’t have a lot of credible reasons to talk to it. It makes more sense for him to tell the story than it would be for me.
The B-roll I used supports the history of what my dad talks about, by using old photos from the time rather than family at the cabin in real-time. The photos are truly the best way to show what my dad references when building the cabin, and I was so impressed by how my grandma documented this in old photo albums. To work these into the documentary well, I added animation effects, like the Ken Burns effect.
Like I said earlier, my dad and I shot so much footage. So I know I can make more videos like this in different ways, like what it’s like up there now instead of back then. I’ll also be able to speak to it better in this aspect!
People tell stories all the time. But that doesn’t always mean they’re good stories. OR, maybe the story is a good one, but the way it gets told might not keep listeners interested. That’s why the story, how it’s told, visualized, and produced is essential if you want people to pay attention.
This last week was my preparation to make a mini documentary that does just that – tells the story well in all aspects.
Chapter 7: Lighting explains that lights are essential when filming. Schroeppel breaks down exterior and interior lighting, and useful ways to utilize and modify both.
Exterior lighting includes the most common source of light – the sun. Though, depending on the time of day, the sun can prove difficult to utilize.
There are a few pieces of gear that can help when the sun provides unideal shadows while filming. Reflectors can be used to reflect the light from the area that provides it, onto the area that needs it. And fill lights (really any light source) can be used to add light from the area that has too much shadow to even out the light distribution.
Interior lighting typically uses three different kinds:
focusing quartz – this is a type of light that can direct both spot lights – narrower and focused circle of light, or flood lights – wider and broad circle of light. This option leaves a hard edge between light and shadow.
Broads – lights that are similar to a focusing quartz, though, they don’t focus on a specific point, and can be evenly distributed or softened.
Softlights – use bounced lights that are directed towards the inner curve of the white or silver inside, and the reflected lights are what shines on the subject.
Basic interior lighting set up goes as such:
First, placing the key light to the side of the camera at 45 degrees above the subject. Then, setting up the fill light on the opposite side of the camera where the key light is to fill in the shadows. Next, placing the backlight behind the subject, which provides a ring of light onto them, visually separating them from the background. Lastly, setting up the background light to illuminate it with some depth, but leaving it slightly darker than the subject.
Chapter 9: Doing it describes helpful directions for actually filming your video. Schroeppel goes into detail about planning, shooting scripts and storyboards, shooting out of sequence, communicating, and working in uncontrolled situations.
When planning for shooting a sequence, make sure to know your audience, their reactions, the story, etc. Then, decide how everything is going to work when shooting – the camera, lighting, and subject placement, and variety of shots. Use a slate – shot identification at the beginning of each shot.
Shooting scripts help to visualize better which shot goes with which piece of writing. And storyboards help to visually represent each shot with a simple drawing.
Shooting out of sequence is ideal to reduce the amount of set up and take down that would go into shooting in order. For example, if you’re set up for a wide shot of the setting, and you also have another scene that uses that same shot location and set up, it’s beneficial to film the shot that uses it, even though it’s out of order.
Communicating is always a good way to go about projects. The film might be your baby, but that doesn’t mean only you know about what’s going on.
Working in uncontrolled situations will always happen. It’s good to prepare for them by getting as many shots for b-roll as possible when the weather or situation permits.
This short clip about Colonel Sanders uses narration from the guest of the show for this episode, and the editing includes his introduction. The shots are primarily L-cuts as there isn’t any added ambient audio to use J-cuts, which is fine because that’s the style of Drunk History.
This clip from Mythbusters is another great example of effective video/visual storytelling. The audio is clear, of course, and the shots have a nice balance of L-cuts and J-cuts. It’s also nice to have the animations with ambient audio when Adam explains the science project.
Another example of Mythbusters, only this one is from 2009, so the production doesn’t sound or look as high quality as the newer episodes. Though, it is hard to say if this is a tape-over from the screen of a TV. The sound of the narrator and the team are a bit more muffled, like the editing could have used some effects to help make the audio more crisp.
Developing my own mini documentary:
There’s a lot of rich history in my family, and there’s a great heirloom that we all get to use today – the family cabin. In the late 70’s and early 80’s, my grandparents decided to build a cabin that the family gets to use every summer for their own small getaways.
I’ve had the privilege to grow up using it, and have known the simple fact that it was built for this reason. Though, I don’t know much about the extensive work and planning that went into it.
So, I asked my dad if he had any photo albums about the family, and of course, my grandma Dorothy had many that were handed down to him. It was truly amazing looking through the old photo albums and seeing what their life was like years before I was born.
Attached to this blog post below is a document for my pre-production planning of this mini documentary. Next week I will have done the production and editing for my mini doc, and there’s a lot of work ahead!
At this point, I have planned the story of what it will be about, and the overall direction of shots to include the interview, b-roll of photographs and albums, and of the cabin. I’ve also shot a few different b-roll options of the photo albums themselves. The albums are at my home now, so I’ll be able to get more footage throughout this week before the interview.
The interview with my dad is next on the to-do list, and along with that, we both need to solidify our scripts better. I’ve sent him a list of questions to think about, which should help him to know better what he goes into depth about, and what he doesn’t. He mentioned that he’d like to go into detail about certain things that he knows will be interesting for the listeners, but needs to better identify it. We’ll re-gather once that happens, and begin shooting the interview!
How-to videos have become increasingly popular with the growth of digital access through smart devices. It’s so easy to pick up your phone and search “how to …” at any given time when you need that information. They can be for any subject, such as “how to fill a tire” or “how to fold a fitted sheet” – typically things that are short, and fairly simple to learn.
In my case, I’ve made a how-to video for a basic task that anyone could use! Throughout this past week, in preparation for this video, I’ve done some reading and research that have helped me with development.
Basic sequences break up one long scene into several shorter ones. By doing this, it helps the viewer to stay interested, and it’s easier to watch, rather than one long shot of the same view. Schroeppel gives several tips in this chapter, like:
Involve a change in image size and camera angle (at least 45 degrees) with each new shot.
Avoid jump cuts, unless intentional. Jump cuts jump from one view to another dramatically – for example, a medium shot of an egg, to a close-up of an egg, without any change in angle or framing. Instead, use cutaway shots – like a view of one egg on the left, to another view of an egg on the right.
Use smooth transitions, like cutting on the action shots. To cut on the action is to show movement in two shots from different perspectives. For example, beginning to grab an egg viewed from the right, and finishing putting the egg into the pot from the left.
Use clean entrances and exits. A simple way to do this is to start with an establishing shot, then having movement go into and out of the shot, ending with the same establishing shot without movement. This makes it easier for the viewer to understand.
Screen direction is the direction that the subject is facing when viewed through the camera. With this, comes what’s known as the axis of action, which is the line between where the direction of subjects switches at a 180 degree.
Overall, the best option is to try not to cross the line. However, Schroeppel does offer editing solutions to help prevent confusing viewers when there are shots that cross the line:
When the subject changes direction on screen.
There’s one continuous move with the camera – instead of cuts.
Stopping on the line – using a neutral shot, like b-roll in between the shots where the line is crossed.
Use a reference point – like a focal point in an establishing shot before the crossed line.
Cutting on the action
One video I found that has very smooth transitions in editing, is this scene from Moulin Rouge! I’ve watched this movie many times, but now that I watch it knowing the differences between cutaway shots, crossing the line, and different framing, I notice just how smooth the scene is. There are many over-the-shoulder shots that make sense when the subject is talking or singing.
Another thing I noticed, is that the camera never crossed the line. The actors moved around the scene to change positions, but it was all in front of the axis, so it makes sense for the viewers. There were many chances for the camera to cross the line, like at 1:46, where the camera is just about to cross, but it doesn’t.
Here’s another scene from Mamma Mia! that has smooth transitions. An interesting thing about this one is there are quite a few pans involved in the camera movements, instead of cutaways. This is an editing technique that makes sense with the scene, as the men from the bachelor party invade the girls at the bachelorette party.
A good example to note on the smooth transitions is between 0:18-0:33, where there are a series of different close-ups, medium shots, and wide shots, all shown from different angles.
The last example that I found of smooth transitions is this scene from The Sound of Music. While dancing, there are many different shots, including wide shots, medium shots, and close-ups which flow nicely together. Something different to point out on this one is cutting on the action. There are many cases of this in the scene, but one to note is between 1:00-1:04.
So, time for my how-to video using continuity in video and editing.
I recently have found myself googling how to hard boil eggs a few times! This isn’t a difficult task at all, but while I don’t do it often, I’ve needed a refresher on it. How much water per egg count? How long do you boil them for? Well, seems like a great idea for a simple how-to video that allows for good video and editing opportunities.
With continuity, you need to film the same task several times. To get different angles and framing with smooth transitions, you can’t just take a small shot of the pot filled with eggs, then move the camera to get another one. For best results, filming the task through at least three times helps for the best results.
See below for my how-to video on hard boiling eggs!
This week, I shot and edited my first video montage. I was able to explore the park near my home with a camera, which was something I’ve never done before – besides using the one that’s on my phone.
To prepare for editing this video montage, I read Chapter 10: After the Shoot – Editing from The Bare Bones Camera Course for Film and Video. Schroeppel goes into detail about why you edit, rules of editing, and adding sounds and effects.
Editing happens to distort the reality of what your viewers see, all while making sense for them to register and understand the message.
Read the script to understand how viewers should react to the program. Also, use logs to know what scenes, shots, takes you have, and if they’re any good to use or not. Then, use paper edits, where you construct the audio and the message based on the cut-up sections of an editing log.
Establish and Re-establish
Begin with your establishing shot – the setting. Then, show different shots. However, the viewers typically can’t remember the scene from three shots ago, so visual reminders of the establishing shot are important.
Use Basic Sequences
Basic sequences should be used to cut away with related images to the story. These related shots in the same location break up material cohesively and smoothly.
New Shots Should be Different
While visual reminders in editing are important, each shot should be different enough from the others. The difference can be in content, framing, or both – something so the audience doesn’t get confused by seeing shots of a similar thing back to back.
Use Appropriate Pacing
Pacing is used for the viewers’ ultimate understanding of the video. If you show a shot for 5 seconds, when they really need 10 seconds to understand it, they will be confused. On the contrary, if you show a shot for 15 secons when they only needed 8 seconds, they’ll become uninterested.
L Cuts and Reverse-L Cuts are different editing methods for sounds.
Background Music and Library Music
Background music is essential for cohesion to the message. It needs to resemble what the story is so the audience can relate to it, but shouldn’t be noticeable enough to take away from the shots. This is where library music is great for the background as it doesn’t have high peaks or low valleys.
Separate Audio Tracks
Separating audio across as many tracks as possible helps with editing. Separating the tracks in the editing software you use will help to not only stay organized but to make sure the sounds are exactly what you intend when editing.
The first 10 seconds of this video is what I’m focusing on for the editing analysis. This shows a quick commercial that Daniel Shiffer made in his own dining room. Some transitions between shots are so fast it’s hard to tell there are any effects happening, but it doesn’t feel overwhelming to view it either. I can see that there are added effects in the transitions because the shots don’t feel punchy, and there is a fade-in at 0:06.
Because the commercial is only 10 seconds, the pacing needs to be very quick to get the full message across to the viewers. The fast pace and sound effects are well done, and this appears to be a successful commercial for Cheerios.
This video is very intriguing to watch. With the many closeups, and some extreme closeups, mixed with both fast and slowed down shots make the video feel friendly and professional. The pacing between shots feels perfect – where the shots of the food being made are quick, but not too fast so the viewer still understands what’s happening, and the other shots of the finished food are slowed down for appeal to visit the restaurant.
This editing style has faster pacing, which goes along with the music. It feels happy and upbeat. There are quite a few time-lapse shots that help add to the quickness of the video. Many of the shots don’t have any transition effects between them – they’re just cuts – but there are a few that have fast fades to black or white between shots. It’s not hard to tell that whoever took these shots and edited this video knows what they’re doing, as you can easily identify all composition rules and a fluid final video that makes the viewers want to go to Rome!
For my first time creating and editing a video, I’d say I’ve come across a whole new learning process. You can’t just take running video and put them together with smooth transitions; it needs to have visual composition – like I wrote about in a previous blog post – and it needs a communicated message.
This montage is of a local neighborhood park and trails, not far from my house. I feel fortunate – and I’m sure my dogs do too – to have this perk! Of course, with shooting outdoors comes some complications, like weather.
Choosing to shoot this location in early April, I knew that the shots wouldn’t be quite as beautiful as they would if it were May through October – when the leaves have grown to when the leaves change and fall. And because this week in particular has been gloomy, I didn’t have the chance to shoot the happy community that I intended. Most everyone appeared to stay inside.
Because my shots felt more empty, this helped me to change the direction of my message. So, I modified my script to talk about the current Pandemic, and the effects it’s had on the park. To fully grasp the ideas, I took shots like the closeups of the blowing grass and cattails, and different perspectives of the empty baseball fields and basketball court to make the message known to the viewers that something has changed with the park.
Overall, it was a really fun project, and I learned so much from it, though, still much to learn. While I, of course, would have loved it if the weather were nicer and more people were outside for the direction I was intending; that’s just part of the process and I needed to adapt. The end of my reading from The Bare Bones Camera Course for Audio and Video talked about separating yourself from the work to review it at an unbiased level. Does the montage deliver the message? I think it does!
It’s time for me to begin the video design process! A process that, like audio design, is completely new to me. But, never fear, because that’s why I’m here – to learn and develop some new skills.
In preparation to make a video montage of a location with subjects of my choosing, there have been quite a few tasks to do. First, it proved necessary to catch up on some reading to know how to go about it; then, find some video examples that help me to visualize good composition; and lastly, to create some documents that will help the pre-production process.
Schroeppel starts his book with the basics of the camera, which really goes into the nitty-gritty of it – what cameras are, what goes into them and how they work, and how to use them. So, what do I need to know about how to use cameras? Well, there are image sensors (CCD or CMOS), exposure, aperture, color temperature, light meters, and depth of field for starters. Schroeppel clearly explains each one, and how to use them for the best photo or video.
Chapter 2: Composition, Schroeppel lists several composition rules for optimal pictures or videos. To name a few – rule of thirds, balance with leading looks, color, and masses, angles, frames in a frame, leading lines, and backgrounds. To see visuals for each of these composition rules, check out my visual comp shot list document below.
Chapters 5 and 6 go over different camera moves and montages. Moves with the camera add to the look and feel, in addition to the composition rules, these can be used to create the overall picture. Different camera moves include tilts, pans, and zooms ins and outs. Where montages, to get an idea, are primarily used in commercials, include several different shots of separate locations, angles, and other compositional aspects.
In addition to the book’s readings, I also indulged in a few articles. “Video Pre-Production Planning Check-List – 11 Steps to a Successful Project” is the first of the three. Within this article, author Jimm Fox sets a clear checklist for planning before production. The checklist is made to help those planning a video to accomplish accordingly with steps like defining objectives, audience, and budgeting for beginning the process. Then more planning steps to follow include getting approvals, length of the video, and scheduling to stay on track.
“Acting Tips: 12 Camera Shots Every Actor Should Know” is the next article, written by Helen Kantilaftis. Kantilaftis breaks down different shots and why they’re important. Each explanation of the camera shots are written specifically for actors to understand, but it’s also very helpful for people like me who are learning video design. The shots listed are written as subheadings and include their acronym like a wide shot (WS), medium shot (MS), and close up (CU). See more examples of these camera shots in my visual comp shot list document below.
The last article I read is “Storyboarding Tips: How to Plan & Visualize Your Next Video” which helps to visualize a video design before execution with drawn pictures of the scene. Author Mark R Robertson lays out three notable considerations for storyboards, including – always do them before filming, they’re like the blueprints; don’t worry about being an artist; and that it helps to visualize the process at the beginning. As a part of the article, Robertson also includes a video that helps to visually experience why storyboarding is important.
This video is a great montage of different places in Italy with a light music track and nice ambient audio. There are many different composition rules used within the montage, like the rule of thirds at 0:38, and balancing masses – a lot of the time, but specifically at 0:20, and framing 0:26.
This 2014 commercial for Chevy uses balance-leading looks at 0:11. It’s also just an awesome story!
This Nike commercial is another great story. There are a few different rules used, like the rule of thirds at 0:12 and leading lines at 0:40.
Developing My Own Video Montage:
For my own montage, I put together a pre-production planning document, which includes my first time using storyboarding! The document below clearly states what my intentions are with the video montage – to shoot a light-hearted piece about a local neighborhood park and trails – with a drafted script and storyboards for visuals.
To learn the camera better, I also put together a document of different shots for good composition. While I can manage to read how to do something like this, actually doing it is definitely a challenge – especially when using subjects that don’t always take direction well. I tried my best to get nice shots that clearly show the composition rules, and I learned a lot by doing it first-hand!
In 7 Secrets for Getting Pro-Sounding Vocals on Home Recordings, author Gaetani gives an effective list of how-to’s for home recordings. The article is specific to music recordings, but of course, is helpful for podcast recordings as well. A few pieces of information that really stuck out to me is 2. Hack your bedroom – set up your space for good reverberation with a mix of soft and hard surfaces; and 4. Get the right mic levels – make sure you’re not peaking out.
When reading the second article, Sound Advice: Editing Audio for Video, I read just how essential audio is! A lot of us want to put video as the highest importance, however, Robertson explains just why you should focus on the audio before the video. The reason really comes down to – If you don’t have good audio, the audience won’t continue to watch the video.
At that point there, it’s a good indicator to begin with audio editing, as it’s sort of the backbone of if the production makes sense. Audio is important, everyone!
Waze Air Dancer Commercial:
Okay, if we want to talk about awesome audio and video, all we need to do is check out this commercial for Waze from 2020. It starts out with an inflatable air dancer at a bar, talking about how he’s lost his job because he’s not needed anymore. The 1:35 minute commercial tells an entire story, and almost makes me feel bad for him and his family, even though it’s a comedy!
The ambient audio is what really gets me. It’s perfect – there are a lot of different locations and scenes, and in each one, there’s the ideal sound effect that goes with it. Like the ripping of the paper at what looks like AA, the police car sirens, and beer glasses clinking in the bar.
It’s a great commercial, so check it out to see what I mean.
Adam Ruins Everything:
Adam Ruins Everything is a pretty cool show. I found a good example of this because it uses great video and audio together, and also because it has a similar vibe to what I’m putting out for the Unpopular POVcast, just without the detailed references.
On the same theme of commercials, this clip talks about the agenda behind them. The video goes between “real-time” to video commercials – and it’s effective, not only from the video but the audio too. Notice how the sound changes between the two. The commercials that Adam and Adam look at together have subdued audio that is distinctly different for the audience to tell that the sound comes from the TV’s.
iPad Air Review:
For the last example with both audio and video that I found to analyze – I chose this YouTube review of the iPad Air 4th generation. Lately, I’ve been researching different iPads, in preparation to buy one – specifically for Procreate – and this is a review that caught my attention.
The introduction to the review is a montage of different video that focuses directly on iPads, along with a nice music track to pair with it; which then leads into his voice-over. The combination of montage, voice-over, and clips of him talking in real-time kept me engaged, and I couldn’t help but notice how smooth the audio and video went together. He sure knows what he’s doing!
I had a lot of fun putting this together! It was definitely challenging, though. It was the whole ordeal – finalizing the invisible script, working in Adobe Audition for the first time, and learning what levels are best, distance away from the mic, De-essing, and so on.
Of course, I also needed to find music, ambient sound, and sound effects that match with the brand of Unpopular POVcast, which also correlated with the episode. This was a fun part of the process, and I’m pretty happy with what I found!
For recording, luckily, I invested in a USB microphone with a pop filter mask. And I really think that my audio turned out at least 10x better than it would’ve without them!
Something that I did struggle with on the microphone, is that it’s omnidirectional, rather than directional; and I ended up picking up more noise than I’d like to. I had to figure out new ways to reduce the noise, outside of Audition before recording; which took up some time, and it was all a learning process.
But I have to tell you… I am so happy with the end result! All that prepping really proved to work out well in the end. Listen to episode one of Unpopular POVcast below! Or, you can also hear it here, on Soundcloud.
Audio design and the concept of creating a podcast are COMPLETELY new to me!
This week was the first time I’ve had the chance to experiment with audio – and I dove in. I ordered a USB microphone and pop filter mask to ensure nice quality from the get-go. Along with that, I downloaded audacity, and a few more Adobe programs for editing.
In preparation to start a podcast, of course, there are a few things to go into it beforehand. My steps for podcast pre-production went as such –
In The Bare Bones Camera Course for Film and Video, written by Tom Schroeppel, I learned about sound. With sound comes vibration, frequency, amplitude, types of microphones, and effects that help with audio editing. One thing that really caught my attention was reverberation – here’s why:
Two days before I read Chapter eight: Sound, I had started playing around recording my voice with my fancy new tools. One day before I read this chapter, I recorded more using the same mic location, effects in audacity, and level of voice, but in a different room. And I was surprised to find that the audio sounded distinctly different; the new recording was more echoey! WHY?! The short answer is because of reverberation.
My living room has soft furniture with a large area rug, and a nice mix of hard surfaces. Where my studio is mostly hard surfaces with 2 large tables, and sewing machines; it does have carpet, however, but the table I work at is at standing height, so it’s farther away from the floor. This caused an echo to happen when I moved from the living room to the studio!
Interesting enough, and I’m glad I found this out first-hand to help my knowledge with audio recordings.
When it comes to podcast development specifically, I learned a lot from the Podcraft Podcast. Within their series, there are specific articles relating to an invisible script, injecting personality into that script, and perfecting the script. Reading through these articles, and listening to the narrated podcasts for them, I realized just how essential the pre-production planning of a podcast is.
It was at this point that I needed to do more research on podcasts already out in the world to learn more about how they incorporate what I listened to from Podcraft Podcast.
Creative Pep Talk:
Creative Pep Talk is a podcast I’ve been listening to for a few years now – it’s grabbed my attention more than any other podcast thus far. Here are the reasons why:
Andy J Pizza evokes his personality through his voice – he’s fun, entertaining, and engages with the audience, even though they’re listeners at a different time of recording his episodes.
The music at the beginning of each episode is branded towards his podcast – I know that it’s his when I hear it, and it immediately pulls me in.
This is a podcast I’ve found recently, but it caught my attention with the way this episode begins by a quote from the interviewee rather than introducing the podcast. By doing this, it shows the variety of ways to grab the audience’s attention without stepping away from the brand of your podcast.
Being Boss is another podcast I’ve listened to for a while. I like their introduction and layout. Similar to Creative Pep Talk, they begin their episodes with their branded music track, and introduce the podcast/episode & cast. Their voices and their script keep me interested with the personality and subjects. They have easy transitions and always have something worth-while to talk about.
Developing My Own Podcast:
When it came down to deciding what to make a podcast about, I really wasn’t sure for a while. It wasn’t until I started thinking more deeply on who I am and how I view myself in society that made me realize… I have some different views from my peers!
My point of views mostly differ from the generation before mine: Gen X; as well as about maybe 60%-ish of my fellow millennials. That number is extremely rough, as I’m basing it entirely off of what I’ve seen personally. But from this, I DO know that there are others out there with similar, unpopular POV’s like me. And I knew this would be a great audience base!
What it really comes down to is being more vocal about living your adult life your own way; disregarding or having the conventional aspects of life as an afterthought. Breaking the adulting stigma – that we need to know what we’re doing, or have a plan/timeline that follows what we’ve been taught to know, and so on.
So, I wrote up a pre-production document which involves a mind map of all topics I immediately thought that I could include, and a solid draft of what the first episode will be! Check it out in the link below.
Have you ever been to Minnesota?! To be more specific, have you ever been to Minneapolis, Minnesota? Whether you’ve been here or not, you’ve probably heard about how cold it is. Well, sure, it is cold in the winter – which seems to last about eight months out of the year some years.. But, that’s not all to it!
Minneapolis has a thriving arts base and community, and is surrounded by water, whether it’s the Mississippi river, some of the many lakes of the 10,000+ the state is known for, or creeks and waterfalls. It preserves nature, history, and the people that make the community what it is. During the Spring, Summer, and Fall months, everyone and anyone is out enjoying it.
Using my knowledge of design, I formed a travel brochure for an agency called “Explore Minnesota,” focusing specifically on the biggest and most populous city of the state, Minneapolis. When thinking about the Minnsota agency, I knew I needed to make sure that the branding matches back to what Minnesota is all about – art, community, and nature.
Choosing the direction:
Because Minneapolis was built around the Mississippi river, adjacent to Saint Paul – the state capital – and is abundant in water and trails that revolve around it; I decided to go with a cool color palette to resemble this – blues and greens.
The Minnesota state lines also have a very distinct shape, and a lot of local branding utilizes the states outline. So, using that shape as a focal point inside the brochure felt like the right move. By doing this, I also chose to break the standard grid that brochures provide. The element is big enough that it overlaps onto the other pages and the text is wrapped within it instead of around it.
Maps are necessary when telling others about locations, so I wanted to use an illustrated map that is used distinctly to understand the proximity of the locations of the landmarks. Recognizing the approximate location of these destinations will also help the audience because Minneapolis is split up not only from the river, but from the freeways as well. I thought this map would add to the fun and laid-back feel of Minneapolis.
Choosing the destinations to focus on for the brochure wasn’t difficult, however, I did have to narrow them down since there are so many worth-while visits! I chose what I think are the most notable locations for a wide audience, whether they’re looking specifically for nature and community, arts, or sports.
Executing the design:
I based the composition around the Minnesota shaped text box, as this is the focal point, and it already breaks the grid like I wanted. The illustrated map made the most sense to have at the bottom of the brochure and span across each page that specifies the destinations in the map.
The upper portion of the inside brochure follows a more traditional layout for easy understanding, but still breaks the grid a bit by wrapping the text around uniquely placed circular images. Using circular images made the most sense for balance with the organic feel of the river and lakes in the map.
As for the type, I chose a nice display font that feels urban, but fun like Minneapolis; and the body text is a clean sans-serif for easy readability. There’s also a third font that’s used for emphasis, but less distracting than the header font would be within paragraphs.
Branding “Explore Minnesota,” the logo has what represents a river between the two words, sort of symbolizing the Twin Cities, separated by the Mississippi. The tagline is “10,000 lakes, and a lot more” since the water is an important aspect to constitute Minnesota, but there truly is a lot more than that.
Well, after viewing the brochure, would you consider visiting Minnesota?! I of course would recommend coming when it’s one of the warmer months so that spending time outside isn’t so straining. Summers are hot and humid, but the many water resources help tone it down a bit. Regardless of if you’ll stop by or not, welcome to Minneapolis from “Explore Minnesota” travel agency.
Once you have a brand identity – a purpose, core values, goals, strategies; with the visual aspects like a color palette, typeface, and a logo – it’s time to think about the website. The site is not only necessary for a one-spot hub to show your product or service according to the brand, but to have that hub to include easy navigation and call-to-actions that benefit the audience. The combination of staying on brand and meeting the consumers needs with an ease of use way will bring back loyal audience members.
With the brand identity that I developed (see Stitched & Sable Living’s brand here in another blog post), I pulled together a homepage for both a desktop and mobile device. In a time and age where there are several devices – all different sizes, and used for different purposes – as a designer, you have to understand that the website layout needs to be adaptable for any application. A responsive website design will adjust itself to fit each screen size for an understandable use per the devise.
For a successful website design, you must at least have:
Responsive or adaptive design
Among more, but these are the main callouts I have here.
My Website Design Process:
Beginning from the brand identity, I started the layout with creative strategy in mind.
How could I communicate to the audience a bold image and tagline that immediately grabs them in?
What kind of call-to-actions could I include on the homepage to get the audience searching for more?
Then, I developed a site structure with a content outline. The web structure would have a bold image at the top with a tagline; and a header for the name of the site with navigation to different pages. The content would include what makes the site stand out – product pages for different purposes (for you, for the kids, for the pets, for you & them); moving down to a specific spring collection for those looking for seasonal items.
The empty boxes are placeholders for actual product.
Because Stitched & Sable Living is a product shop, the homepage is scrollable to reach different navigation points specific to what the audience is looking for. I think this is an important aspect for the website because the consumers could look for quite a few different possibilities, and find what they need easily.
It was at this point that I was able to start forming the design into a grid layout.
While the grid is split into three columns for the desktop website design, the mobile screen couldn’t hold so much of that information before getting too small to read or touch. For that reason, the mobile screen has two columns for better ease of use. However, to keep the design unified from the two different devices, both grids are modular. A modular grid, described by Robin Landa in Graphic Design Solutions, is where there are consistent horizontal divisions and vertical divisions.
Another notable difference between the desktop and mobile version of the site is that the mobile version scrolls to five screen-lengths rather than the three screen-lengths of the desktop. Just like the reason I changed the number of columns, this was necessary for readability and touchability on the mobile screen. Besides these changes, though, the site remains intact as a universal
So, if you’re designing a website – remember, you are not only designing for the brand itself, but for the audience to have the best access possible to benefit from your brand! Keep these notes in mind when developing your own successful website.
After developing my brand – “Stitched & Sable Living,” it was then time to think about how to advertise in a way that communicates to my target audience the purpose of the products, and why they should buy them.
In my previous blog post, “Brand Identity: Stitched & Sable Living” I talked about the underlying purpose, values, market, etc. of the brand. So, truly, the main benefit I found worthy to differentiate the brand from competitors was that some of the home products tie back to pets (or really, any part of the family).
Have a clear message to communicate to the audience
Motivate the audience to a call-to-action
OK – so choosing my differentiator is a great way to grab attention. Check!
“Everyday Goods – for you and them.” simply communicates the message along with the images. Check!
The logo in the bottom corner helps the audience to know where this ad is coming from and to go there for any additional information or product. Check!
Designing the Ad:
Having the message, and using my resources was no problem…
The ad should be simple, so there isn’t much text on the design, but it’s powerful enough to know that the audience member can buy multiple items of the same essence. I utilized the logo’s typeface – as this is now an integral part of the brand. Just like how I mentioned in my previous blog post, the main Sans Serif font is for a more classic, modern visual interest, where the script is used so the audience knows there’s a fun, casual side to the brand.
Colors of the brand are essential to use in the ad as well so the audience can recognize it to be from “Stitched & Sable Living” before seeing the logo in the corner. I decided to use the same color background and colors for the font to balance with the logo. Also, what’s nice about the banana print on the products is that the yellow ties into the logo as well, helping to unify the overall design.
However – I think the overall message could be more clear with the images!
The issue for me is – since “Stitched & Sable Living” doesn’t actually have any product (at the moment) I found it difficult to advertise! I thought about taking pictures of similar product, but I don’t have anything like what “Stitched & Sable Living” would have, so that didn’t work. The only way I could show the [non-existent] product was to illustrate something that might be on the line-up.
Luckily, I have an already-made banana repeat print (for some masks I’ve made previously) that worked perfectly as one of the graphic prints that “Stitched & Sable Living” would provide.
Illustrating a hand towel and bandana worked out well for the ad – and it shows what I mean when I say that some of the products sold at “Stitched & Sable Living” can match as sets – a useful hand towel for the kitchen and a fun accent for the beloved pet family member.
I believe that my advertisement shows what I’ve wanted it to – that the product is inclusive for you and them (them being really anyone, but ideally for the pet). If I could do it differently, though, I’d want to have actual product to use and style it in a home, and with pets – likely a dog or a cat. In my mind, I think of an animated advertisement, where it goes from a mom or dad character with their item (a hand towel, placemat, coaster, pillow, throw, etc.), to their child with their item (pillow, rug, wall tapestry, etc.), to their pet with their item (bandana, bowtie, pajamas, bone toy, etc.) Maybe I will get there at some point soon.
If you’ve ever thought: “I’ve got a GREAT idea for a new brand!” Well, that’s awesome! Follow your intuition, and start growing that brand.
I’ve just spent the last week attempting to develop the brand I’ve been wanting to for some time now, and let me tell you – it is NOT easy! It’s not just the brand, it’s the entire brand identity. You know, the market audience (who are you selling/providing for?), the products or service, company and values, the colors, the type, and so on.
Before I even had the chance to think about the visual identity of my brand, I spent some time making a list of essential need-to-knows about the brand itself. In order to design a brand identity you need first: a purpose, core values, goals, and strategies, said Robin Landa in Graphic Design Solutions.
Here’s what I came up with:
What is the brand going to sell?
Practical, stylish home products and accessories.
Exclusive products with matching pet items.
Goals for the Brand:
To sell soft home products that are [mostly] practical; that can be used to both style the home but have use. With the benefit of matching items back to their pet family members.
Words to describe the brand: Fun, unique, colorful, happy, modern, stylish, inclusive.
The fun colors, patterns, sayings on some of the products help to make the brand distinctive against competitors; one of the main goals for visual identity; described in Graphic Design Solutions.
Goals for the Target Market:
Those who are looking for practical items that can also be used to style their home. Also, having the benefit of having access to items for their pets!
Young families [typically] whether it’s just a young couple, a young family with children, or pets.
Some of the products (like fun rugs, or pillows) could be ideal for children, so the age range for the target audience may be broad as well.
Why I Came Up with this Brand:
I bought my home with hand-me-down furniture and no decor. I got my first dog during this time, and I found it necessary to think of her when I decided on new furniture, decor, and overall products.
As a product designer at heart, I thought about customers having the access to find useful and ‘pretty’ home items, that also have matching items for their beloved pets – that maybe don’t need to be practical, but a great benefit!
Pets are part of the home; they’re family.
After understanding the brand identity without visuals, of course, visual identity was next on the list. Before I could start brainstorming logos, I needed a name. This took more time to develop than what I had so far!!
I did a lot of word brainstorming – writing down words similar to the brand, finding synonyms of those words, highlighting what I liked, researching other similar brands, etc. The brand name needed to communicate the products as stylish, fun, and inclusive of pet family members.
After almost endless thinking and crossing out discarded names, I finally found it!
“Stitched & Sable Living”
“Stitched” for softgoods; “sable” as in the color; and “living” to represent that the products are for your livelihood at home.
Because my dog was part of my inspiration in the products, I thought it would be great to include her in my brand development – hence, the color sable.
She is mostly black with a white chest, but in the sunlight, you can see a brown tint coming from her undercoat. This is called sable – it’s a warm brown color that’s can often be found on different dogs!
Due to the meaning behind the brand, I thought it would be appropriate to have animals as “mascots” for the brand.
Similar to Moomah Cafe (branding designed by Apartment One) – instead of having one mascot, I wanted to include many. What makes them recognizable towards the brand is the style of the illustration and the colors. Having a brand be identifiable is another main goal towards visual identity, from Graphic Design Solutions.
At first, I was wary of having a dog as a mascot, because the main products sold with Stitched & Sable Living are meant for people, and I didn’t want the logo to confuse anyone that it’s meant for dogs only. So, I illustrated a few different options before finding my main logo. One of the discarded logos doesn’t include any animals; instead, a hand sewing needle to represent the “stitched” aspect of the logo. While I enjoy the logo, I couldn’t move forward with it because I knew I needed those mascots to best communicate the inclusivity of the home brand!
So, I designed my main logo with an outlined illustration of a dog – which looks very similar to mine, I have to add – and I don’t feel that it will be confusing for the audience because of the title and overall design. The logo is balanced between image and text; but the text is centered around the image – making it a combination of a logomark and logotype, however, more influenced as the mark (dog).
In addition to the main logo, I decided to design a secondary logo. This logo is a bit more simple; its text is the main focus, making it, again, a combination of both a logomark and logotype, but this time, more influenced by the type (title).
As for the type, I used an all capital Sans Serif for the “Stitched & Sable” to add to the modern, styled feel of the brand; where the word “Living” is a script to add to the casual, fun side of the products.
The colors were chosen as such:
While not all of the colors are in the logos, I would ideally like to find ways to incorporate them into the website (which is non-existent at this point). The iconic color of the brand is, of course, sable – so I chose complimentary warm colors to go along with the rich brown. Orange means adventurous, where yellow means happy, so those are two important colors incorporated into the brand as well. To balance the warm colors, I added one soft cool color – malachite green. All of these colors, while definitely colorful, are natural, and inviting.
To come up with a logo you first need to come up with your brand identity; and as you can tell after reading this blog post, there’s a lot that goes into it! However, it’s worth it. Just because this wasn’t easy, doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t have done this work. I feel great about having a way to visually communicate the brand, Stitched & Sable Living. If you still have that A+ idea for a brand – start by doing as much research as possible so you can begin working on a brand direction, your brand colors, and arguably one of the most important visual aspects of a brand – your logo.
At first glance, what do you think this movie is about? Let’s grab the obvious: there’s a dog, a cartoon-like bird, fencing in the background, and there must be a wish from one of the characters, since it’s in the title. The colors are bright and playful; it looks happy. But what about the fence in the back? Maybe rather than happy, it’s hopeful. Something to think about..
During the last few weeks, I’ve been learning a lot about graphic design techniques – the principles, elements, composition, presentation, typography, color, and so on. Well, to create a fictional movie poster is exactly what shows how far I’ve come with my new design knowledge!
What’s the movie about, who are the characters, why should the audience be interested?
The emotional aspects of movies (and really all content) is what grabs the audience’s attention and keeps the information in their memory, best said by Robin Landa in Graphic Design Solutions.
I turned to doing lots of research (which is an essential part of the design process) on all posters, but of course, focusing on movie posters to understand what the required content is. Through this, I found that I particularly enjoy posters that have a mix of images and illustration.
Eureka!I should design a poster for a movie that has a mix of real and cartoon!
Understanding my concept helped me to determine that the emotion of my movie is an adventurous, playful, and overall happy one.
It also helped me to understand that my story should involve animals, thinking back to Looney Tunes, and the iconic Space Jam.
I knew at this time to look at more recent posters with the same idea – like Happy! Looking at posters specifically with this concept made the direction more clear to me.
During this phase, I was able to grab images, sketch, and develop my poster further. Luckily, I have an amazing photo of my dog, Ezzy, where she looks truly happy with almost a glimmer of hope in her eyes. I thought that was perfect to sketch a base around her as the focal point.
Esmeralda’s Wish is a fictional movie about a dog named Esmeralda who lives in a shelter, and unfortunately doesn’t have a great beginning to her life. During one of the nights in the shelter, she has a wonderful dream of an amazing adventure with a new friend, a cartoon-like bird named Monty. The dream lasts the majority of the movie, and instills hope into her. After the dream is over, she gets adopted by a family, who also happen to have a pet bird!
Telling the Story Through a Poster:
The visual hierarchy of course starts with Esmeralda, who’s looking up in the direction of her cartoon bird friend, Monty, who is the second point of focus. Which then leads up to the title of the movie.
The pink swirl helps move the eye from main emphasis, to the next, to the next. I included this swirl throughout the composition to not only move the eye, but to add another cartoon-like element. Also, the swirl helps to show dimension and lighting as well. There’s a gradient of pink and light colored bubbles that help to make the swirl look 3D. I intended to keep the light source for the entire composition off to the right, since the image of Ezzy shows that the light source was from that direction. So, the swirl looks illuminated from the right side by these bubbles as well.
Colors used in this poster are intentional to add to the cartoon vibrancy. But they’re also used to provoke a happy, energetic, adventurous feel that the movie shows when Esmeralda is dreaming.
From my text analysis, I mimicked what I found – the title being large and interactive; the actor and premier date text are a nicely pronounced and secondary sans serif to the title. Then, the credits are another san serif, condensed, and with two different x-heights to interpret importance.
Designing this poster began as a challenge, and ended with a composition that I am so happy with! I believe that the poster tells the story, which is truly the thing I was most worried about.. How do you make a successful, unified design that tells the story you want it to tell? Well, it’s a long process, but the result is so worth it. So, tell me, after another glance, do you see what this movie is about even after I told you?
The album, Bob Dylan’s Greatest Hits featured an iconic poster, designed by well-known graphic designer, Milton Glaser. The artwork of Bob Dylan became so famous, that the style has been heavily reproduced by others. It was about time that I followed these footsteps with my own rendition!
Getting into it:
For this rendition, the purpose for me was to start from a preexisting image for my graphic interpretation of the poster. I knew I needed to choose a photo of someone’s profile and strip the details down to their economy stage; basically, keeping it simple. Then, ensuring I’d be able to add a bold statement with different colors – which in this case, would be with the hair.
Because this poster and style have ties to music, I believe that many of the newer interpretations choose to highlight celebrities or very well-known people. When thinking about who I wanted as my subject, I realized that I have a photo of myself that would work perfectly for this! Back in 2018, I had a portrait taken where I flipped my hair – It took many tries to get the image, but it was well worth it; especially now, where I get to recreate it.
Now that I had my basic layout started, I needed to think about the colors to use for my hair. For the three separate posters, I decided to use tonal variations. I chose the three secondary colors for each of the separate posters. That way, I knew I could get two cool colors (which are also complementary – purple and green) and one warm color placed in the middle to balance them out.
I was also influenced by these colors because of color psychology, and I wanted to choose colors that represent myself.
Purple– mysterious, understanding
Orange – adventurous, happy
Green– natural, balanced, authentic
With three separate posters laid out next to each other, the separation I used is called rules. The rules are the spacing/stripes/lines between blocks to act as the dividers between the posters.
Okay – so I finished the posters! But wait, there was one last element to include to truly make this a rendition of the famous poster. I needed to find a font that accurately constitutes the style – a bold, solid character approach. I found one called Hunt that worked perfectly for my name. I used white because I think that this is the negative space in the composition, as everything else is either black, gray, or a variation of different colors.
Overall, this project was very fun to create my own interpretation of the Bob Dylan poster by Milton Glaser. I particularly enjoyed learning about different colors and their meanings and positioning them with myself. This helped me to continue my knowledge of graphic design, and I would strongly suggest this to anyone else looking to expand their knowledge of design as well!
Typographic design may come more naturally to some, and less naturally to others. For me, I’ve always chosen text that I like without thinking about the design behind it.. But, that’s not what typography is about. It’s an extremely important element behind compositions, and should never be an after thought because it’s all about communicating to the audience. The way a word is represented – the font used, written message, etc. – can change the way it’s interpreted.
That said, I’ve been so excited to learn more about typography! My background and impulses tend to lean towards an artistic approach with hand-drawn lettering IF I even decide to use type in my work. I have experience with design on a product level but no experience with typographic design.. It’s time to change that.
This week, I used my new knowledge of typography, design elements and principles, and composition to write the word “whimsical.” The purpose was to visually represent the words meaning.
Here’s what I did:
I chose “whimsical” because I gravitate towards the style of the word. It’s playful, friendly, unique, and organic.
Thinking about the process, It made sense for me to use a script, rather than a serif or sans serif typeface. A script is different because it appears as cursive instead of print. The font I started from is called Biloxi Script.
Beginning with the Biloxi Script font, I also utilized a text effect tutorial, which helped me to not only advance my Adobe skills, but also because it has a 3D, organic feel that I thought would work nicely with the cursive script.
According to Robin Landa in Graphic Design Solutions, you should never use a font at its automatic setting. So, I changed the kerning of the letters right away. From there, I knew I could start the text tutorial to create the effect I wanted. However, I quickly found out that with my chosen text effect, each letter needs to connect to one another – sort of making the kerning that I’d already done less significant.
The eucalyptus drawings are a part of the final piece because florals and natural elements are often associated with whimsy context. Simplicity with my drawings was important to me so that I could ensure the word to be the focal point. Because, of course, the aim for this experiment is to represent the word, but also challenge myself to focus more on the type rather than the artistic styling.
By artistic styling, I mean that with typography and design, the purpose is to create a solution for the audience – in this case, communication. Where art doesn’t necessarily need a solution; it’s more interpretive. And I needed to keep my head focused on the solution rather than just making a pretty image.
While I think the final piece represents the meaning of the word “whimsical,” and I’m very happy with the result, I think the readability could improve. Words that are easily readable make for easier communication. If I were to do it over, I think I would separate the calligraphic lines from each letter to make the letters appear more like themselves; similar to how I had the word before using the text tutorial.
Typographic design definitely doesn’t come to me as naturally as it may for others. However, I’m planning to continue my practice with typography so I can hopefully better manage design communication for my intended audience. I’m looking forward to advancing these skills!
You’re vacationing with your loved ones on a camping trip – hiking, swimming, canoeing, kayaking – the whole works. Throughout all of the fun adventures, you decide to take it all in at this moment. While kayaking down a creek, towards your campsite and happy family, you feel complete.
Seems like a happy story, right?! I hope so because that was the point.
This week, I was challenged by adding multiple different photos into one image to tell a story. I decided to use images from different trips that I’ve taken in the past, sort of vicariously living through them during this Pandemic, where most of us are likely sitting at home most of the time.
Part of building a story out of already-taken photos was to utilize composition principles. To get this composition right, I first felt that I needed to pay attention to perspective above everything else. Of course, all other design elements and principles matter to create a unified piece; but if I didn’t have the perspectives right, the entire story would be off.
To create the illusion of spatial depth that Robin Landa explains in Graphic Design Solutions, I used many depth perception cues. The first notable one is relative height, where I made sure that images that appear closer (like the flower and kayak) are bigger, while images that appear farther (like the man and dogs in the middle ground) are smaller. Relative height also helped me to establish a foreground, middle ground, and background.
Another depth perception cue I utilized was atmospheric perspective, also known as aerial perspective. By achieving this, I blurred elements that should be farther away, like the mountains, and trees in front of the mountains.
Without going into too much more detail about perspective, I want to note a few more things – like the titled plan created by the creek and the superposition or layering of elements in the composition.
I used a vertical format because of the titled plane from the creek. By doing this also creates a vertical eye line, so I decided that I needed to add some diagonal elements – like the flower in the front, and the tree in the middle ground – to add movement through the piece. I didn’t want the composition to appear static.
The image that I used for my base background has so much greenery, so while I added other elements during development, I wanted to balance the cool colors with warm reds and oranges throughout the piece. The red from the kayak, oranges from the flower and mushrooms on the tree, and pink in the sky helped balance the final composition.
I have to be honest, this WAS a challenge. Using separate images to create a whole, and having the composition make sense by changing perspectives, lighting, angles, and so on proved to be difficult. Overall, I’m happy with the final piece – I believe it does tell the story that I wanted it to – the happy, colorful camping trip that I wish I could be on right now!
I always thought that abstract artists just create anything they feel in the moment. Well, they do… However, there’s a lot more that goes into the composition than just placing paint onto a canvas. There’s a sort of freedom that comes with abstraction – the style and approach is completely up to the artist; but, to make a piece of work unified, there are necessary elements and principles to consider.
On my journey to discover more about graphic design solutions, I’ve started by assessing abstract art and have made an attempt to recreate an artist’s style while analyzing the components typically used within their work.
The abstract artist I found myself most drawn to is Christine Ay Tjoe. Interestingly enough, she graduated with a graphic design and printmaking degree at the Bandung Institute of Technology in 1997! So, her knowledge of creating compositions while using design solutions is not new to her, and it shows.
Once I felt comfortable with Ay Tjoe’s abstract style, I chose one painting – To See the White Land – to focus on for my own creation.
I became instantly drawn to this work because she uses bold colors, but balanced her composition with negative space from the foreground and between the organic shapes and lines. Ay Tjoe successfully uses both active whitespace, and passive whitespace to make sure the distribution of elements in the composition has necessary visual weight, which brings balance.
Active Whitespace – Space used to move the eye from one element to another.
Passive Whitespace – Space used to bring breathing room to the work, creating balance and space that’s easier to look at.
My attempts to mimic Ay Tjoe’s style began by drawing back to the design elements – line, shape, figures versus ground, texture, and pattern defined in Graphic Design Solutions by Robin Landa. Of course, elements aren’t the only thing that bring a composition to its final stage. Design principles like hierarchy, alignment, unity, and – like I’ve already mentioned – space.
As far as elements and artistic styling go – I used photoshop’s tools with different brushes to create visual textures, opacities, and layers to ensure I achieved the depth of colors and figures necessary to accomplish Christine’s technique. To See the White Land is an oil painting on canvas, so creating a paint-like look – digitally – was essential for me with the organic shapes, lines, and blending of colors that Ay Tjoe uses in hers.
While focusing on design principles, I noticed that her balance with negative space also influences hierarchy within the work, creating a focal point. This can be done with triangle hierarchy, or the golden mean. What I really wanted to do was create movement within the composition by doing the same.
Triangle Hierarchy – Used to control the viewer’s eye – what they see first, second, third, and so on.
The Golden Mean – A mathematical equation that creates proportions for an overall progression of sight lines.
While this was my first attempt of this study, I didn’t quite achieve the golden mean to its entirety (it is an equation after all), but you can see what I was going for here with movement, and focal points.
This experiment has truly helped me to understand first-hand how design elements and principles are used in creating design work. What do you think, is there anything that you see in my composition that I missed addressing?! After all, art and design can be unique to the viewer as much as I can try to persuade a particular view.
I didn’t always know my creative essence. Creativity has been a center in my life for as long as I can remember, but it’s been a long journey for me to know why I make what I do. Using this as a premise, I wrote a long-form article on understanding your creative essence, based on what I’ve done to understand my own.
Now that I’ve completed my long-form article, I realized that I need to consider how I’ll make it known and read by audience members. Social media!
In another blog post, I visually displayed that writing for each platform is necessary to gain the right reaction. So, below I did it again, but with my own social media accounts and a real article that I want to get out into the world.
Here’s what I wrote for three different platforms, meant to gain traction for my article.
For Twitter, I wanted to keep it short and simple – relating to its signature 280 character limit. While this post is notably lower than that limit, Twitter is also a platform known for its ease in retweeting and fast scrolling. Choosing to focus on the five different creative types, this post should gain quick interest and result in a higher click rate.
LinkedIn’s purpose is for professional career development and networking, so I needed this post to market towards that. Luckily, my long-form article has roots in one of those main subjects – development. I wanted to keep this post personal and get to the point that reflecting on yourself will help build confidence and identity with the always fast-changing creative fields. The image is a hand written visual of finding my values, that relates to the self-reflection noted in the first sentence. This shows the audience that I actively used my noted exercises to find my creative essence, and that they could easily do the same.
This post was the easiest to write since I imagined how I would want to write to my friends on Facebook. I focused a fair amount on myself (since, you know, I did write the article) but also related it to how it can help the readers. At the end of the post, I thought it was necessary to point out that there’s a bonus to finding out your creative type, ideally engaging more members out of their curious nature.
Using different approaches for the same long-form article and staying native to each platform should help result in higher clicks – making my article known to the digital world! I’m excited to see the result, hoping that my audience members will understand their creative essence through my writing.
It’s 6 p.m. on a Tuesday. You just got home after a long day of work and decide to sit on the couch and scroll through Instagram as a mental release. There, you see a post made by your friend Dave, who briefly expressed his day at the golf course with a celebration beer.
Moving on, you hop over to Facebook, where you see another post of Dave’s about the same thing, but the context is entirely different; now you know that he was there for business, and not just taking a ‘lax day away from work.
That same evening, you’re curious about what’s on Linkedin. There Dave is again! And again, Dave posted the same content about his workday at the golf course, but this time, you know that he worked hard to earn a client’s sale and that he loves his job.
How interesting… On these different platforms, you had the chance to encounter the same Dave, but three different ways. You wonder why Dave described his day so differently with each post and realize that it’s because the context he used was developed specifically for that platform’s audience.
Context– what follows a subject, event, or idea and gives it the utmost understanding for a group of people.
“Content is king, but context is God.” – Gary Vaynerchuck in Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook. Context is meant for how a story gets told, native to the platform it’s for. While what we create has strong potential as long as the guidelines are set in place, the content may require change based on where it gets posted and who sees it.
Vaynerchuk uses this analogy for marketing on social media, though, it is possible to use this approach with any non-fictional story, like our friend Dave did. As we saw above, a photo and description for Instagram won’t have the same effect if posted to Facebook. The audience per platform changes and responds differently, and altering your voice can strongly influence a greater result with a responsive audience.
Have you ever written something that you genuinely didn’t enjoy? Think back to when that was and try to dissect why you struggled with it. Was it the way you wrote, the mood, the subject, the intended audience?
Ironically enough, this post you’re reading now is one that I grappled with. While what I wrote initially answered all the necessary questions, I didn’t get the concept out how I wanted to. As I thought deeply about this, I realized that I didn’t think about how I’d like to tell this subject’s story and instead went at it how I thought my audience would understand it. The result was a reasonably well-written piece that made its points; however, it was bland. The irony is that this post’s content is about writing for yourself and the audience; so, let’s dive in together to better understand why this can be troubling.
“You are writing primarily to please yourself, and if you go about it with enjoyment, you will also entertain the readers who are worth writing for,” William Zinsser explains in his book, On Writing Well: The Classic Guide to Writing Nonfiction. While Zinsser talks about writing for yourself, he isn’t implying that the audience is not important. The audience is essential because it builds a relationship between the writer and the reader. So, why is he declaring to think about yourself before the audience? Well, if we look closer to what Zinsser’s paradox is, we’ll understand that the purpose of this isn’t to disregard the readers but to look inward to achieve the ideal audience.
According to Zinsser’s paradox, writing well is required to achieve readers, but the author’s voice needs to be authentic to attain readers.
Technical writing is the first of the paradox: to achieve readers. Writing well can become a skill over time, but if the final blog, article, book, etc., doesn’t flow, has grammar errors, or doesn’t keep to the point, it will not gain an audience. Writing doesn’t come naturally, as Zinsser puts it. To write well enough to gain viewers requires cleaning the mess several times before a piece is published or posted. Only when writing has been ruthlessly dissected to its most understandable form can style and voice enter the room.
Following the second point of the paradox, the author must genuinely write for themselves to have the ideal audience. Just like how self-confidence and willpower resides in the mind, the practice of writing for yourself will bring more satisfaction, and in turn, will award you with a meaningful audience. “The more of yourself you put into your writing, the more human and engaging your work will be.” Mark Bernstein, in “10 Tips on Writing The Living Web”.
Writing authentic, technical craft for an audience is doable, as long as it’s completely understood. However, this dichotomy is meant for nonfiction, as said in the title of Zinsser’s book. So, do these contrasting goals work for all other kinds of writings? Think about it this way: while a teen fiction novel has the voice that makes it so, that doesn’t necessarily mean that the audience will only be teenagers. J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series, managed to gain audience members of all ranges because of the content and voice she used that was authentic to herself and her interests. So yes, while there are differences in writing approaches to nonfiction versus fiction, the paradox process should remain the same for both writing types.
Let’s go back to the problem I had when writing this post. The issue wasn’t so much the technical aspect of the paradox as it was the voice that I used to approach the subject. My writing wasn’t engaging enough, meaning readers would likely not get to this point in my post. The paradox is quite simple, but we may need to remind ourselves of it with each piece of writing to ensure we’re meeting the needs of both ourselves and the audience. To write technically is to write honestly for yourself, while the attitude used to attain readers will help you reach a loyal audience.
As a young child, I had already begun the search for my creative identity. My love for art trumped all other subjects, despite that early grade school was heavily visual-based for all anyway. Still, I learned to thrive with creative art activities and quickly identified that I like to communicate visually, only advancing as I grew older.
There was a time when I thought I could proceed my creativity into writing. I live in my head with almost constant flows of ideas that have the potential for a win, and writing appeared like a good way to bring that out. However, my sudden interest in writing quickly faded into nothing, and I returned to the visuals that I knew and loved so well.
Besides the required writings through continued schooling, It wasn’t until I began my professional career that I started writing again. Creating blogs and product descriptions for a retail website was new to me, but I adapted quickly. Writing for these purposes was simple, realizing that the information only required skimmability, and it didn’t need much meaningful content. I realize now that this writing style was not very valuable to myself as a writer or for the audience – though, it was an attempt to keep the retailer as up to date on the web as possible. My realization came from extensive studying on reading, writing, and creating content in the world of our distraction economy; I’ve learned quickly that script for digital platforms has transformed to become easier to read.
Because of what’s said above, I’ve come up with a few conclusions for myself:
Coming up with the ideas to write about is the easy part.
Writing non-valuable web-based content is simple.
Writing meaningful content is difficult.
As I learn to become a better creator through the master’s program Interactive Media and Communications, I’ve discovered that writing a blog post every week, which requires purpose and reaching my intended audience, is challenging. I always knew that writing was demanding – it takes a long time to develop the ideas into words, write in a way that makes sense, and revise, revise, revise. However, to be a knowledgeable source for my intended audience has been well worth it in the end, though it doesn’t always feel like it in the middle of the creative process.
Something that assists me in getting through the creative process is a writing process. If I ever retained an exercise for writing, I didn’t perceive it until now, where I’ve needed to make my writing more worthy. I begin my writing with something I like to call idea sentences. After identifying a topic, I’ll write down all of my propositions in the form of sentences as if those sentences belong in the blog or article, similar to a brainstorming session. Sometimes, as I write down words, new thoughts come to mind, and I move on quickly. Once I have several idea sentences written down, I decipher which ones are worth keeping and revising, re-locating, re-wording, and continued to form valid paragraphs.
After idea sentences are revised and shifted into separate paragraphs, I typically take leave to give my brain a break and return to writing with a fresh mind. Essentially, my entire writing process is revising. I write quickly, leave, return and revise, take a break, add and revise, and so on. Through this writing process, I’ve advanced my ability to write well for meaningful content.
So, am I a writer? It seems that even if I don’t feel it at times… A writer am I.
There are many ways to become a stronger writer, although an often overlooked tool is by analyzing what you read. While learning to become a better writer, I’ve taken this approach by finding examples of what makes for good writing versus poor writing and examining why. As I advance in my ever-changing design profession, my curiosity for learning more about others’ experiences continues, so I used my interest in this subject for this reading exploration.
Expect Change in Your Design Career. Choose Growth. by Tim Van Damme is an excellent blog post relating to the advancements in design, the positions, and the people themselves. The author and speaker segues his blog by introducing a “future-proof” way to approach design and career change. He then moves to five elements that have a high potential of evolving, then to four things that should likely remain consistent, all while providing hyperlinks to related text to advance his credibility and research in his writing. In addition to the writing, the blog post supplies a fair amount of white space, original illustrations, and call-to-actions that help keep the audience interested. Overall, the read was pleasing and left me feeling like I received necessary information on the subject.
“As Dr. Daniel Gilbert of Harvard points out, “Your future self will be a different person regardless of effort and intention.” Because change is inevitable and growth is optional, my advice is to design your life and your career wisely.”
Another article, written by Sarah S. on Linkedin, “The Evolution of The Fashion Designer,” talks about the changes that she’s experienced over several years in the fashion industry and gives her two-cents on what should improve. The article begins with a strong note that fashion designer positions need to adapt to treat designers better, which pulled me in to read more. However, as my read went on, I quickly realized that the statements appeared opinion-based and didn’t have any links within the text. I often found myself desiring to reference more evidence of what the author was writing about and felt that opinions alone weren’t reliable enough to keep me captivated. In addition to the questioned reliability, the article’s layout left me re-reading sentences with difficulty understanding where the transitions happen. The read conclusively left me less interested in the subject than when I began.
“For those companies who think it’s OK paying a Design Director $75K or an associate $15/hour you should reconsider. You certainly aren’t paying for the talent and experience that these candidates have.”
While both writings make valid points about the changes in the design field, Van Damme used more reliable research, a layout that was easy and engaging, and helpful suggestions used from both his experience and findings. Sarah S’s article, however issued a few flaws in achieving the presumed goal. The article could use some revision to reach a more meaningful conclusion by using Van Damme’s blog’s similar features. Ultimately, I learned great insight from product design and fashion design experts and helped advance my knowledge of what makes for good writing and writing that needs improvement.
Well, sure. But also, when life hands you ever-changing, vastly advancing technology, you must adapt.
Without adaptation and understanding of what the changes bring, we’re at risk of losing our individuality and other necessary things associated with our lives and personalities: satisfaction, meaning, motivation, etc.
The attached white paper dives deep into the issues at hand when finding meaning in the distraction economy, greatly influenced by Cal Newport’s Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. I’ve aimed to re-write and re-deliver the many effective strategies, meant specifically for individuals with busy and inspired lifestyles or leaders wanting to advance their teams’ dedication.
Suppose you identify with the directed audience mentioned above. In that case, this report will give insight and thorough strategies to work with intensity, accuracy, desire, and inspiration, while also achieving a more fulfilling life with meaning behind the work. By following and sticking with the steps, you will gain more depth, less shallow work, and have a better work-life balance while pertaining to your own values identified through the reading.
So, let’s *cheers* to some lemonade and get started!
So many ideas, so little time. Personal project after personal project and I can’t get myself to start – or if I get started, so much time goes by that I lose interest and move onto the next task or new idea (flawed decision-making*).
Why can’t I follow through? Whenever I identify a new project, I get thrilled, which makes me feel as if that would strike motivation to finish the activity. I would think. Then, life happens – I get so preoccupied with daily functions like my regular 9-5 job, cooking, cleaning, running errands, and finding time to spend with loved ones. I let myself become overwhelmed with those subjects, that when I do find time for myself, I want to “relax” and indulge in scrolling on my phone. Something I’ve always thought was harmless.
However, not so harmless – Cal Newport would suggest. Part of Newport’s theory on achieving deep work is about minimal digital entertainment, if any at all. Sounds fanatical, right? I thought so. It turns out, he has some valid points that are worth at the very least thinking about.
In two of Newport’s Wall Street Journal Best Selling books, Deep Work and Digital Minimalism, the author talks on points about the effects of social media and how to tame them. While there are many details he goes into, the main takeaway is to analyze your social media/digital entertainment use and if it’s positive, negative, or has no impact on your personal and professional goals.
Think of it this way: what do you want to get out of your use of Facebook? Most say they want to stay updated on friends’ and families’ lives, and it’s a good way to keep in touch with others. However, how much would you use Facebook if you were charged by the minute to be on the site? The number of minutes should go down significantly – meaning that the amount of time needed to get that satisfaction of connecting with others on a digital foreground is a lot less than what most of us really spend.
I decided after reading these rules that Newport has laid out, that I’m going to test this for myself, out of curiosity and out of wanting to push myself to start fulfilling my goals.
Here’s my case study:
Grow personally and professionally by learning from new experiences
To create content for others, inspiring creative motivation.
Activities that support my goals:
Research and implement new ways of thinking and experimenting.
Continue researching patiently and push myself to create.
Here’s my own analysis of the social media apps I use and if they are positive enough to keep using:
Here’s my plan moving forward for the next 30 days:
In the above visual representation on social media apps that are or are not worth my time, I’ve determined that Instagram is NOT personally useful; however, it would be beneficial towards my goal of creating and distributing content. Here’s the thing: I’m now quite there yet. I don’t have enough content to support this goal or to justify using the app.
I plan to partake in a partial digital sabbatical by not using Instagram for 30 days, and in turn, use that time where I would be on Instagram to create content every day, with a prompt.
Digital Sabbatical – long breaks from the internet. Separate from a digital sabbath, which are short, reasonably frequent breaks from the internet.
I emphasize partial because I’m not breaking up with the internet entirely, just the one app.
By doing this, I will allow myself to focus on my goals, removing the distraction of the app, and end the experiment with enough content that would give me a head start for distribution, both this year and next. I’m also experimenting with a new process of creation which I’ve never done before: the prompt.
Using the above prompt, I aim to create visual content related to each theme and subject. So, here’s to new experimentations and we will see what the results have to hold – 30 days from now!
*Choosing to move onto another task or project when you haven’t finished the previous one is flawed decision-making. Like I stated in one of my earlier blog posts, Keeping Up with Your Ambitions, staying focused on one project at a time is best to achieve high-quality and elite level work.
Last week, I was designing silhouettes and prints/patterns for a fabric repeat for pet beds. I found myself very much enjoying the creative process – identifying the target market and researching past common trends, understanding my direction, and diving in from there. While in the midst of creating pattern repeats with their correct pantones, I found myself – out of what I thought was nowhere – on my phone scrolling through who knows what app for whatever content I somehow felt was missing from my life until then. I thought this was unnecessary, and it didn’t register why I found myself there subconsciously.
Thinking on this subject, when I’m working on a project, I have discovered two things: that I don’t like taking breaks (except to eat and spend some time with my dog,) and I don’t like to be bored. It wasn’t until this circumstance happened – or my realization of it – that I knew these two things go hand in hand.
Cal Newport, in his book Deep Work: Rules for Success in a Distracted World, discusses his second rule for achieving deep work: embrace boredom. Immediately, my mind went haywire, wondering what he could refer to for this subject when deep work requires so much focus, and boredom promotes distractedness. Well that’s just it – boredom with smart devices do promote distractedness; however, we need to embrace it in order to separate it from our deep work practice.
By doing this, there are two goals:
Improve your ability to concentrate intensely.
Overcome your desire for distraction.
“A culture that is stuck in the moment is one that can’t solve big problems”
There’s no doubt that we, in the digital age, are increasingly distracted by the temptations of our smartphones and what they hold within them. We become stuck in the moment – like Clive Thompson talks about in his article “Social Media is Keeping Us Stuck In the Moment” – and the present of what’s happening in the world, that we’re forgetting how to work effectively.
Newport, in Deep Work, mentions that instead of partaking in an “internet sabbath,” or a “digital detox,” we should take a scheduled break from focus to give into distraction. In this case, we are setting ourselves up for success when we work because we won’t find ourselves subconsciously in a loop of social media when we’re not supposed to be, and instead, have given our mind ease since there will be a time, possibly soon, to gratify those desirable distractions.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post: “My Facebook Detox“. This was an attempt to begin putting an end to the addiction of going on social media when not needed. During the five day period without Facebook, I realized more-so the change in push notifications than feeling the need to go on the app. Which, due to the increased push notifications, I started to think about different reasons not to go on the network site – like the addictive systems that are engineered into it, and realizing my sociometer gets put onto this public platform, which could be used against me in ways to return to the site.
Sociometer – A mental measure that notifies us how we do in the observations of others.
After my detox, however, nothing really changed. I still go on Facebook almost whenever I feel like it – and haven’t felt the need to avoid it further, despite the negative effects both the network and users can have. The feeling of wanting to go onto the app comes naturally to me.
Instead, after learning about Newport’s theory of scheduling distraction time, I thought it was remarkable. I could see already, without ever having attempted it, that it would promote better and undistracted work, while still appeasing that distraction at some point.
I’m so thrilled by this step in the process of deep work that I decided to implement it as soon as possible. As I’m writing this section of this blog, I’m not allowing myself to go on my phone until 8:30 PM. It’s now 6:50 PM. I have an hour and 40 minutes until I get the distraction that I crave, and I’m fully invested.
While removing yourself from the internet may be difficult on aspects besides that they’re just distractions, there are points to consider to help to structure this rule:
Using internet for your job? This still works. If your job highly relies on internet use for whatever it may be – email, searching the web, building websites, etc. A way to schedule your time using the internet can be done in narrower steps, say every 15 minutes. It’s important to pursue advancing your ability without the internet so that you don’t find yourself continuing to ignore the significance of this rule.
Scheduled time from internet use MUST be followed. Again, even if you find yourself in a predicament, not sure if you can finish a particular task without accessing the internet, you still must resist. If you give in, even if just to look at an email, you’ll likely find yourself having a hard time not glancing at another tempting distraction, such as another email that may appear urgent, though it’s not. Don’t let yourself treat the barrier between internet and no internet as permeable.
Organizing time without the internet is beneficial at home, too. This will just help to really engrain the process. Of course, there are exceptions such as texting someone back who you’re meeting that same evening, or to look on your GPS for a meeting location.
Additional helpful tools to consider adding into your day to embrace boredom and continue building your mental muscle for deep work:
Commit working on tasks in a certain amount of time. Challenge yourself to work on something, while using deep work, in a shorter amount of time than what you’d give yourself originally. Commit to it, too by telling others about it or setting a noticeable timer in front of your work station. This will help to push your cognitive abilities while working with intensity.
Productively meditate. Make sure you have time where you’re occupied physically, but not mentally, such as walking, biking, showering, etc. If going for a walk or a bike ride, try to make sure it’s in a less crowded area with some natural elements, as more productivity tends to happen when there’s less to think about outside of that realm – for example, while walking through a busy city, we tend to use more consciousness of what’s happening around us instead of thinking about what’s really important. This is a good opportunity to take a break from your work – you know, the kind that I don’t like to do because I think it’ll be too divert from the task at hand. Taking the time to do this will help you to return with a fresh mind and often times think differently than you would if you didn’t take that productive break.
Frame your memory. This is a lesson for you to continue pushing your cognitive abilities, which will help when diving into deep work more often. Using attentional control – which measures your ability to maintain focus on essential information – will promote working intensely, like the first goal mentioned above. “Your ability to concentrate is only as strong as your commitment to train it.”
Begin the professional workday at 9:00 AM – from home
Break at 11 AM – eat lunch, spend time with my dog
Finish the workday at 5:30 PM
Have a beer with my SO
Cook dinner, if needed
Misc. – watch TV, social media, etc.
Bed by 10 PM
Though days may vary slightly, this is my go-to routine each day. It seems to work – until I get distracted by factors like social media, music, my dog acting up, etc. I haven’t come up with a solution to resolving the implications that come from this. While some of the issues are out of my control (usually – sometimes, if my dog is acting up, it could be because we skipped a morning walk); however, most of it is due to my habits. I oftentimes want to be distracted.
A 2012 study called the “experience sampling method” had 205 adults with beepers. When the beeper went off, the individuals wrote down how they felt and what desires they had – which resulted in the conclusion that people fight their desires all day long. This study was done by psychologists Wilhelm Hofmann and Roy Baumeister, described in Cal Newport’s Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. What’s most interesting about this study is that the typical desires that the adults felt were related to shallow activities like going on social media, surfing the web, and listening to music. They only succeeded in resisting these distractions half of the time.
“You’re a disciple of depth in a shallow world.”
The above quote struck me, as I think significantly about work in a professional business surrounding versus otherwise. By attempting to achieve depth, I’ve quickly learned that my professional work layout does not help promote deep work, but instead, shallow work.
David Dewane, an architecture professor, who met with Newport, author of Deep Work, discussed a system called “The Eudaimonia Machine.” In fact, this machine is actually a building represented for individuals to achieve deep work, though it is only an illustration.
The Eudaimonia Machine – A rectangular building with five rooms and no hallways, meaning to get to any place within the structure, you would need to go through the other rooms.
The Gallery.A space that acts as an introductory room with examples of work produced within the building meant for inspiration of others.
The Salon. A social space with a coffee bar, full bar, seating, and WIFI, meant for discussion and argumentation between people.
The Library. “The hard drive” space with a record of everything created within the space; copiers, and scanners helps collect information.
The Office. A space with a conference table, whiteboard, and some other desks or cubicles. This is meant for some of the shallow-type collaboration and thoughts.
The Deep Work Chambers. 6’x10’ rooms that are soundproof, meant for uninterrupted work and total focus. Dewane mentions that the process should be 90-minute intervals of being in and being out of these rooms.
I explain the rooms in order of the eudaimonia machine because this would be an effective workspace that promotes deep work; whereas, most business settings have developed their spaces on openness and collaboration, which actually encourages shallow work.
Thinking to myself, “I hope there’s a way to incorporate this into the open, meeting-filled style of the corporate setting.” Luckily, Newport explains helpful strategies that individuals could absorb, which will aid their efforts – in any environment – and be focused around deep work.
Choose your work philosophy:
The monastic philosophy. This philosophy encourages maximizing deep efforts by removing shallow obligations. An excellent example to understand this is by making a tremendous and impactful change on routines – such as deleting email altogether. Doing this will be more difficult for others or yourself to get in touch with each other; however, it removes the daily and time consuming shallow work of checking and responding to emails.
The bimodal philosophy. This philosophy asks you to dissect time with stretches for deep pursuits, and the remaining time is open to everyone and can also be shallow. Carl Jung’s approach to deep work uses this strategy. He identifies a large amount of time to go to a small home in the woods dedicated solely to work, where contrastingly, uses the rest of his time away from this space to collaborate, be involved, and do shallow work.
The rhythmic philosophy. Using this strategy is the easiest way to implement deep work in your daily life. Examples include: writing a joke every day if you’re a comedian (Jerry Seinfeld’s approach to never-ending jokes,) marking X’s on a calendar for when you’ve completed something, or setting aside time each day specific for deep work.
The journalistic philosophy. Shifting gears by using whatever free time available is the backbone of this philosophy. Doing the deep work needed to complete a project can be done at any given moment, possibly going as far as socializing with friends, then actively working away from them, then back with friends after a few hours.
Looking back to my routine for each workday, I find myself in the rhythmic philosophy standard. Using time each morning (7:30 AM – 9 AM) to work on my personal projects promotes a rhythmic routine and ritual into my deep work practice. While this is the first step in identifying how to change your work habits for deep work, many additional factors will help as well.
Choose spaces that will promote thinking deeply. Move to a radically different place from your familiar environment, and get inspired by your undistracted surroundings.
Work with others, at least sometimes. Though collaboration settings like open workspaces actually promote shallow work, having others bounce ideas off is helpful. When the time allows, and it’s reasonable, choose to use the whiteboard effect*.
Shut down at the end of each day. Choose when you are finished with work for the day and make it known to yourself and others that you will not be thinking about the jobs at hand until the following day. However, this can be easier said than done; make a ritual of ending the workday by thinking ahead on what tasks still need finishing, and how you can achieve that at another time. This will help you to work better when you do return to work and lets your brain rest.
Convince yourself that you’re multitasking – even though you aren’t. A study is written and measured by Shalena Srna, Rom Y. Schrift, and Gal Zauberman in “The Illusion of Multitasking and Its Positive Effect on Performance,” focused on the effects of subject perception of multitasking. After many focus groups with controlled and varied elements, the conclusion was that if you have the perception of multitasking, your work will be performed better. This isn’t to get confused with the studies showing that multitasking does impair your abilities to complete a task successfully (like Sophie Leroy’s article “Why Is It So Hard to Do My Work?”). The mere outlook on completing tasks has the power to make you create work more successfully.
*The Whiteboard Effect: A back-and-forth collaboration, frequently on a shared whiteboard, can push you to think deeper than if you were to do this alone.
Imagine this: you’ve decided to make a courageous and ambitious decision to start a side hustle, to design and sell products via an e-commerce based website. You’ve heard time and time again from others “starting a business is not easy!” and “most startup businesses fail, you need to have a plan and work hard,” which is not wrong. However, you’ve identified the perfect white space opportunity, are knowledgeable about the industry, and are in the prime of your professional life – sure that starting an online business is doable for you.
Inevitably, you’ve run across an overwhelming state of assessing what needs to be done to make the site go live, not focusing yet on what will need to be done afterward. You’re scrambling, wondering when to make time for all of these tasks that need to be done to create a successful website. Starting the business sooner rather than later feels ideal, but you’re unsure how to set everyday deadlines and stick to them with an already busy lifestyle.
What’s missing here is a visual organization process of all tasks to meet successful criteria, achieving goals by a specified time. The best way to start this is to look into and begin implementing a project management process into your life, focusing specifically on day-to-day tasks. Determine what is necessary for beginning your determined journey:
Understand your scope. Create your project plan.
Know how to access resources. Use templates to make processes easier, recognize who you may be able to talk to, and grow your knowledge or product.
Know your risks. What could potentially be an issue when developing your site? What could possibly be an issue when developing your product? Think of everything and have a plan.
What are your objectives?
Scope. Continue to reference what your scope is for your plan.
Identify your timeline. Start with one, then move onto another.
Decide on a budget, and go with it.
Once you’ve identified all of what’s above, it’s also essential to understand working with your time on a personal standpoint. Identify what’s most important to you along with the implementation of a side hustle. You’re struggling with time involving professional endeavors, but what about personal time? The idea here is to work smarter, not harder, so that quality of life, in turn, remains high. Downtime aids in recharging energy. Closing your mind from work at the end of each day is essential in promoting healthy work during the next day, a strategy for routines from Cal Newport in his book: Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World. How, especially when starting a business (possibly all on your own), can you not work too hard?
Know your abilities. Identify if you’re the best person to be doing a task, and ask for help. For example, f you aren’t knowledgeable in marketing, use resources, if possible, to get assistance with this. Remember, getting feedback from others helps aid in success too.
Understand your boundaries. Learn to say no, and make it known to others. You can assess this yourself when “no” is necessary.
Set your daily calendar. Schedule each day.This is where the project management system comes in handy.
Speak to others. Again, use your resources and know when to reach out. If you have access to someone who may have been a mentor before or could potentially be one in the future, ask for support. Getting assessed or assessing others helps build you up professionally.
Implement processes. Document ways to achieve any particular task. Measure it to ensure that it works and adjust them from there.
Ask questions. Change happens, and we need to adapt with it. Ask yourself how you’re doing things currently, and update them according to times, trends, technologies, etc.
Thus far, my project management knowledge has been gained throughout my professional career, using software like Netsuite and Asana. These have been useful tools for managing many deadlines and scheduling with capacity in mind. Personally, I have not used a tool for project management, but now is as good a time as ever when venturing on a journey with deep work.
I began my individual project management journey with a course from my Master’s program (Interactive Media and Communications at Quinnipiac University) so that I can keep track of my coursework in a timely and intact manner. The tool that I decided to use for this is Trello. I’ve found that Trello is visual-based – you can attach images and assign deadlines, which helps ease use.
The method used above is called Kanban*, which is the most efficient day-to-day project management technique.
Kanban – a method for project management that helps in continual delivery, processing tasks in cards like “To Do,” “Doing,” and “Done.”
In the past, my strategies for assigning myself tasks for personal projects have been to scribble thoughts onto the closest pieces of paper I can find at any given moment. This helped me in an instant, however, it has become an issue when I still can’t find the time to achieve these, but also when I lose the tiny scribble in my mess of random notes.
Using Trello to layout my assignments with due dates has proven to be a successful transition from my little scribbles.
Everything can be found in one place! I’m not searching through my computer or desk for a random piece of information that’s critical, but hard to find.
Trello sends reminder emails. If somehow you’ve spaced on a task that should be due soon, Trello recognizes this and sends you a reminder.
Sense of accomplishment. The “Things to do,” “doing,” and “done” cards help me stay organized and visually see all of what I’ve executed, encouraging a feeling of fulfillment.
*Kanban is the method used and described through this blog post. If you’re interested in project management methods that are not specified for everyday tasks, see this article: “The Definitive Guide to Project Management Methodologies” which will explain the other useful management strategies.
Throughout the past five days (today is day six), I’ve been enduring an experiment where I’ve learned that social media is addictive, distracting, and not as necessary as I may have thought before.
Here’s my journey on proactively attempting to be impotent on using one of the most popular and influential social media websites and apps in the world: Facebook. I’ve gone over 120 hours without once opening or interacting on the site. The cognitive voyage has not been comfortable; however, it has been very telling. Here it goes.
Day 1 (Tuesday): I’m busy. I just started a new job and need to stay focused on my immediate large project which threw me right into the position with minimal training. I don’t have an issue with not opening Facebook. I know that I can’t, and I don’t.
I realized already on day one that I can achieve Deep Work: undistracted amounts of time, which push cognitive abilities to their limits. My designs were flowing*, and my pace kept moving faster as I was getting used to the process. The pressure was there, but it drove me to work better without the distractions and keep my focus on what was important.
*flow: a term that psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi uses to describe a mental state when someone is stretching their mind to its limits to achieve something difficult and worthwhile. Cal Newport in Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World uses this connection to illustrate why Deep Work is meaningful.
Day 2 (Wednesday): 24 hours after starting this process, I haven’t opened my Facebook app, and I feel like I’ve accomplished something.
I got a friend request within these first hours – I know because I received a push notification. At the beginning of this experiment, I thought about turning my push notifications off to be less tempted to use the app, but I decided last minute not to because:
I didn’t want to go through the (minimal) hassle of turning them off just to turn them back on again once I was done with my five-day undergo.
I wanted to see if my experience would be more enticing – and, therefore, a little more interesting. I was right about this.
I received several push notifications that I had to ignore. At this time, the number showing up on my app is at 13. I’m not entirely sure that I’ve ever willingly allowed the reports to get this high, and yes, it did seem high to me.
I’ve concluded that notifications residing on an app are always alluring to me – enough so if just to open the app to remove the numbers attached to it. I resisted doing this as well.
Only under 10 hours later, my notifications still reside at 13. In my head, I wonder, “maybe there’s a cap on the number of notifications that show on my Facebook app?” That can’t be it…. Right? However, it seems that when I access Facebook more often, I get more push notifications sent to my phone. I thought, “maybe this is just a way that they keep me returning for useless feed because they know that I come back for more.” Which is possible – Ramsay Brown in “What is “Brain Hacking?” Tech Insiders on Why You Should Care” describes us social media users as “guinea pigs,” referring to us being used in experiments through Silicon Valley – based on the data of how we use our phones, then changing our device’s reactions to get us returning to our apps.
“Put simply, the less time you spend on Facebook doing things that don’t matter, the fewer notifications you’ll getfor things that don’t matter.“
Day 3 (Thursday): Now, the app has recognized that I haven’t gone on it for 48 hours; the notifications are at 19. So there’s not a cap on these numbers like I initially thought. They must just slow down.
Also during this day, I encountered something fascinating: I received a Facebook notification through email. This caught my attention right away (as I also get push notifications of when emails arrive), and I thought it was odd. Doing some research, I haven’t gotten a notification through email AT ALL before now – and I’ve had this particular email linked to my Facebook for five years. Just a happenstance? I think not.
Day 4 (Friday): 22 notifications. Work’s done, and now it’s time for the weekend. I’m having a more challenging time not using Facebook this day. My thumb still absent-mindedly hovers over the app on my phone screen, but I catch myself every time. This only happens when I’m bored and looking for some comfortable brain stimulation through social media. Like Newport has put it in his book Deep Work: we tend to gravitate towards easy work.
I never really thought of myself as addicted – and I know that I already use my phone less than others around me. When I have physical interactions with friends and family, I typically forget to use my phone – though I still have it in the convenient placement: my pocket. However, I’ve quickly identified that I almost unawarely open social media several times throughout the day, no matter what I’m doing, if not stimulated enough – unless using Deep Work.
Growing up, I had an issue with how much I watched television. THAT, I believe, was a young addiction. However, I made it essential that we never had the TV on while eating dinner with family. It made it too difficult to have actual conversations.
At that age, I realized that most other families did not do this and sat while immersed watching whatever was on the television at the time, whether it really mattered or not. As phone technology progressed, I also noticed that this became a distractor during family dinners as well. This is where I made connections that TV and phones’ advancement continued to become more influential in our lives.
Jean M. Twenge in “Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?” invented a generation name for those who have not been alive without the internet, or were very young when the internet first emerged (1995-2012): iGen. This generation uses their time distinctly different from other generations, even millennial’s where some of them might be close in age. The time used is mostly on their phones, at home, with little human interaction with friends and family – because they have easy access to be able to communicate through smart devices instead. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that the amount of time is what’s to worry about. Lydia Denworth in “Social Media Has Not Destroyed a Generation” determines at the end of the article, that it’s not how much it’s being used that affects your mindset, it’s how much you feel you control it (or if it’s controlling you).
This is where I’ve realized that I’m not addicted, and I can control myself with social media, and therefore, being less affected by the use of it.
Day 5 (Saturday): I’m at my family cabin, for what’s probably the last time this year before we close it up for Winter. As I sit out on the end of the dock, dog by my side, views of the calm, clear lake water and a slight change in leaves, with soft clouds grazing the blue sky, I feel peaceful. It’s an escape from the attention that I typically seek through social media – when I don’t have anything else to do. I don’t need my phone up here – the views, surroundings, and company are all I need. It’s where I can spend actual quality time with who I consider being my family – we get to know each other better up here. And a great influence in this is that there’s no social media to distract and take away from it.
Day 6 (Sunday – today): The experiment is over according to the timeline set for this. However, I didn’t instantly feel the need to open my Facebook and see what I’ve been missing. In fact, it was the opposite. I almost felt that opening the app now would be disappointing. As I write this section of the blog at home now, I don’t want the tangled mess of endless notifications and scrolling through feed to see mostly pointless memes and content that doesn’t matter and doesn’t bring satisfaction. I want to focus on what matters to me; like science writer, Winifred Gallagher has said:
“I’ll choose my targets with care… Then give them my rapt attention. In short, I’ll live the focused life, because it’s the best kind there is.”
While most of us love the escape it creates – the flight is typically unnecessary and often overused. There are also questions on if what we view through our smart devices is real or not real – and does it matter if it sustains our brains for just a little bit?
Big tech companies have been adjusting how we digest information on smart devices for quite some time now. Our gadgets are meant to be addictive and create algorithms for each individual, which help promote sales, and other content which occasionally seems unnecessary.
Tristan Harris describes in “What is “Brain Hacking”? Tech Insiders on Why You Should Care” that these companies are “shaping the thoughts and feelings and actions of people. They are programming people.” Larry Rosen, a psychologist of technology, also mentions in the same article that we tend to check our phones every 15 minutes or less, even if there’s no alert.
“Over time, the long merger of man and machine has worked out pretty well for man. But we’re drifting into a new era, when that merger threatens the individual.”
– Franklin Foer
We’re at risk for our individuality.
Especially during these times – while in a Pandemic – social media and use of smart devices have increased significantly.
With the added use that most of us are indulging in during our time at home, we’ve let ourselves become even more addicted, and even more susceptible to Silicon Valley engineering our brains through our gadgets.
Coronavirus Infodemic – affects our responses and advances confusion on what sources are trustworthy, causing fear and furthering rumors.
It appears that we’ve become more accepting of information that we see or read, without confirming if it’s real or not. For example, the conspiracy theories on if masks actually work, resulting in the comprehensive push back from (mainly) Americans.
Social media = information poison
So here are some words of advice:
Use some of your time each day to be without any smart devices. This will allow you to be yourself without the constant algorithms shaping what and how you might think. Learn to be yourself, and DON’T let yourself lose your individuality!
Having the capacity to complete tasks is essential, there’s no doubt about that. This goes the same whether you build your schedule or are in a “normal”* 9-5 setting with many peers. In my experience, capacity is hard to make; however, not unachievable.
We’ll start by assessing business-type capacity, then move onto building capacity for yourself.
You’ll notice that I use a fair amount of quotation marks throughout this blog post section. Bear with me, and you’ll discover why.
Capacity building meetings, with a base of: “how can we stop unnecessary work and make time for what’s most important?” as well as working with others who need information sent back to them STAT are examples of what I’ve experienced in a business setting. Including adding chat apps instead of email for the “short, quick, and easy” way to communicate, moving workstations closer together to encourage collaboration, and have many meetings scheduled – no matter what the “important” subject is.
In Cal Newport’s book, Deep Work: Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, businesses have been gravitating towards open spaces and collaborative environments, thinking that this is a great way to get employees communicating effectively and continuously. However, this promotes distractions, and in hand, reduces deep work while advances shallow work. If you’re unfamiliar with deep work – reference another of my blog posts, Keeping Up With Your Ambitions.
Shallow work – logistic-style knowledge work with not much need for cognitive ability, which doesn’t add much value to this world’s content.
Another personal example of working with a business – which often finds capacity building difficult, while also promoting shallow work – is that working from home “does not work.” Amidst the coronavirus outbreak, where working from home has become much more influential, we’ve had to discover what this means for businesses and how to make it work. For some companies, the transition has been much smoother, where others have had difficulties.
Personally, working from home has been successful, and here’s why:
I’ve been able to have fewer distractions.
I have had the opportunity to find answers to my questions myself, making my work feel more fulfilling.
I’ve been able to focus on the work that’s important.
Disclaimer: this may not work for every individual, as some positions require much communication, and yes – communication is typically “easier” while in person.
Note: The use of “easier” above also contributes to the principle of least resistance. As Newport describes it: the easy work – like directing questions towards others instead of solving it themselves – is increasingly more acceptable in the workplace because of the promotion of collaboration.
= distracted work.
The businesses that have resistance to change by not allowing working from home unless absolutely necessary is a result of not having clear information on whether this actually works. There’s no data available to confirm that being home while working is beneficial, and therefore, has been placed within the metric black hole.
Metric Black Hole – An area in our system that makes it hard to measure individual contributions.
Deep Work capacity building:
How can you build your capacity and complete your tasks in a timely and effective manner:
It’s basically doing the opposite of what businesses are increasingly advancing towards with their employees.
Remove yourself from the collaborative setting, at least for a bit. People tend to think they need answers quickly to resume their work and will add distractions to your work. Noting back to the principle of least resistance, this is an attempt to make their work easier. Set aside time for where you ONLY work on your tasks – that means no email, no chat, no phone, and make it known, among others.
Don’t try to make yourself look busy just for the substance of it. Just because you may look busy doesn’t mean you’re productive. Busyness as a proxy for productivity is a trend among workers who may not have clear indicators of their work value and, therefore, choose to have the visibility of being busy. Make time for what matters – whether you’re truly busy or not.
And remember, remove yourself from distractions. Again, find a time where there’s no email, no chat, and NO PHONE. Make sure the time without your phone is the longest, as this is a distraction always. It’s true that phones, whether they’re used for work or personal, have addictive qualities. “This thing is a slot machine,” spoken by Tristan Harris, a former Google product manager, on smartphones in the article “What is “Brain Hacking”? Tech Insiders On Why You Should Care”. Find time without these distractions, and you will thrive.
I’m ending this blog post with a substantial quote; take the time to think about what this means for you while you’re building your capacity to create what you love.
“Creativity is above all a mental act. Any time one has to make a choice, any choice, there is an opportunity to be creative and therefore, the possibility to make more of one’s life.”
*Normal. How can “normal” be defined? The world is ever-changing, and so are our norms. Advancing technology and the growing spirit of self-starters (not to mention the Pandemic that we’re residing in) are, in turn, increasing the ability and willingness to transform the way we work. Speaking from personal experience and my audience’s desire to thrive with creativity: do what feels right and screw all the judgmental cynics that turn their nose to you. “Normal” can and should be individualistic – do your normal.
Cynicism can be described as a general lack of trust or belief in those inspired by ambition.
As described in another blog post, Keeping up with Your Ambitions, deep work needs to be involved to achieve them in an elite way. Those with ambitions desire to accomplish something through hard work. With growing initiatives in each individual, new tasks must evolve with technology and our continued screen-focused world. How we produce work needs to be modified with our ever-changing environments.
“The resonance of printed books – their lineal structure, the demands they make on our attention – touches every corner of the world we’ve inherited. But online life makes me into a different kind of reader – a cynical one. I scrounge, now, for the useful fact; I zero in on the shareable link. My attention – and thus my experience – fractures.”
– Michael Harris
In his article “I Have Forgotten How to Read,” Harris talks about how reading in a screen style setting has affected the way he takes in the information. However, different generations can adapt contrastingly to others, which means that younger generations are typically willing and able to take in information from a screen.
This goes hand in hand with the way we produce work.
I used to draw and paint using 2D methods with a pencil or paintbrush to put things into perspective. Using the physical technique directly onto a piece of paper or canvas is original to me; however, I haven’t used this form of generating work in years. I’ve adapted to using computer-aided systems in making art. This doesn’t mean I should stop creating in my original form; it just states that I have moved onto another way of creation which works better for my audience.
In addition to my change in the way I develop art, I’ve altered my work quantity depending on media situations and trends. Meaning I may make more or less art depending on circumstances like societal changes.
Harris’s interesting comparison is that online algorithms tend to generate unwanted content, referred to as “garbage,” where creators and their content is similar in the aspect that ideas are generated quickly and sometimes unnecessarily. “Beauty in, beauty out,” he said. This analogy is with a cynical mindset.
Here are some Do’s and Don’ts for creating while cynicism is involved.
Understand that the world is changing, and not everyone adapts with it. You’re creating for an audience, and in doing so, your audience may change over time. This is not a bad thing; learn to adapt with the change and continue to create for your audience.
Learn what your audience needs. Depending on notions like societal changes, cultural context, author history, can change what your audience is looking for. Continue to identify what their needs are in these aspects.
Remember what deep work is and how to eliminate distractions. Focus on your deliberate practice by continuing to develop your skills and keep attention where it’s most productive. Remove yourself from distractions that will prevent you from doing this.
Use social proof as a means for manipulating your media. According to Ralph Waldo Emerson in his article, “How to Remember What You Read,” social proof is identified with opinions of audiences and media. It can be manipulated by the creator to make a piece of work more known. Creators may have access to buy their way into producing a popular project – recognize this and be authentic in your own way.
Believe your content is garbage. It’s not for everyone. “Beauty in, beauty out” is an excellent way to reference your work when creating according to the times and trends. The relevance of what’s made may not always be there, but the value behind what you make leads to more successful creations.
Stop creating. Grow from what you learn from each piece of work. Make a list of projects you want to do, and give yourself a timeline, while focusing on one task at a time. This will help you become the best in your field.
To sum up, creating work in a world of cynicism is in the will to adapt.
Having ambition – whether it be for self stimulus or an audience – is common among creators. However, this isn’t always easy.
As a creator myself, I often find my brain going in all sorts of directions. The ongoing projects that snag on my mind keep me motivated; however, if I focus on all at once, I honestly won’t achieve each idea to my fullest potential. But why is that?
Deep Work – put in short – is the act of distracted free concentration, which can create new and unrepeatable value to content in this world if done successfully.
Newport interviewed Grant to learn how he’s achieved deep work while maintaining a work-life balance. A noteworthy way Grant produced material at an elite level was by sectioning off each piece of work into one long period; meaning, no multitasking.
Multitasking nowadays is often identified as a skill in this screen-run world of advancing technologies and entrepreneurial attributes in organizations. However, juggling work is not the answer to achieve high-quality work, even if tasks need to be done in a short amount of time. Attention residue, introduced by Sophie Leroy in her article “Why Is It So Hard to Do My Work?” is an effect that comes with multiple projects, or moving quickly from one project to another. The residue left over from a previous task is often passed onto the next job, making the quality of work less valuable. This is important to understand when working with high ambitions.
If you’re a determined creator like I am, and have multiple light bulb ideas which are essential, here are a few steps to help keep those ambitions rolling:
Remove yourself from distractions. Give yourself a distraction-free workspace. This includes turning off or removing your phone from your space, which affects your cognitive ability. If working on a computer, don’t have email or any other tabs open unrelated to your task. Choose to work without music. Ensure that the time dedicated to your work is by yourself – no one else should be able to approach you during this time.
Dedicate to one project at a time. This helps to keep focus for the best outcome. If you’re worried about time, think of it this way: time used to master one task helps build the next one’s skills. By keeping focus and practicing your most productive approach will also lead to turning jobs around faster.
Give yourself a break. Once done or almost done with a project, take a break. Mentally move onto another part of your life – not another project just yet. Use this time to receive feedback from peers on your work so you can go back to refine it for the best outcome.
Learn from the process. Using these steps is a form of deep work, where you can build your skills in the process of mastery. Keep your attention where it’s most productive – take advantage of what you learned from your previous task and adapt in order to develop your expertise.
Remember these steps and keeping up with your ambitions will become fluent!