Whiskey Series Takes Inspiration From Wild West

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Born in upstate New York but “like many freedom loving Americans before him,” Josh Jevons made the journey west. Now based in Denver CO, Jevons has used this as an inspiration for packaging for the Grand Teton Distillery that captures the spirit of the Wild West.

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The series visualizes stories and myths of legendary pioneers, frontiersmen and adventurers of the wild American west. Says Jevons: “From Teddy Roosevelt’s dagger-clad bout with a puma to a bloodthirsty manhunt by Blackfoot tribesmen, these labels celebrate the western spirit of adventure, tenacity and grit.”

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The labels feature custom diecuts and metallic ink, and feature custom illustrations and handcrafted type. Continues Jevons: “The aesthetic is intended to communicate the rugged nature of the stories as well as the place in which the whiskeys are made, the Teton mountains, while maintaining a modern feel.”

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This article originally appeared in GDUSA.

60-Second Super-Cool Fold of Another Week

Nearly 300 episodes strong, thousands of professionals around the globe look forward to my weekly dose of folded inspiration.

Get a sample of her inspirations here and also at the VMA Design Conference June 15 in San Francisco.

The 7 Habits Of Highly Creative People

The most commonly held belief about creativity is that it’s elusive, esoteric and unique only to the anointed few.

The ancient Greeks believed that creativity was this divine attendant spirit that came to human beings from some distant and unknowable source, for distant and unknowable reasons. They called these spirits daemons. The Romans had a similar idea as well but called the spirit a genius.

Centuries later, not much has changed. The only difference is that we no longer attribute creativity to divine spirits, but to special individuals. We think that it’s only Beethoven, Picasso and Mozart who have creative genius.

Except that’s not true.

Today, we deconstruct and analyse even the most elusive of processes. We come to understand that there are specific behaviours and mindsets which anyone can use to reach a desired result.

Here are the seven behaviours of highly creative people.

1. Steal Like An Artist

There is a truth that the aspiring creative must first recognise. We need only turn to Austin Kleon’s book, Steal Like an Artist, to learn this:

“What a good artist understands is that nothing comes from nowhere. All creative work builds on what came before. Nothing is completely original.”

One must realise that the idea and inspiration for a piece of work comes from many sources at once. Every new idea is just a mashup or a remix of previous ideas. It’s why, quoting Jonathan Lethem, Kleon writes that “when people call something ‘original,’ nine out of ten times they just don’t know the references or the original sources involved.”

Hence the recommendation — steal like an artist.

The good artist emulates the style of another as closely as he can. The great artist selects elements from others’ work and incorporates them into his own mix of influences. He does so tastefully, knowing that the right fusion will create something that is uniquely his, although not completely original.

So learn to steal like an artist — the entire world is up for grabs.

2. Always Be Researching

To find something worth stealing, one must look in the right places.

Input facilitates output. There’s no getting around that. The quality of the information one consumes determines the quality of work one will produce.In a world where noise often drowns out the signal, finding the best ideas can often be difficult.

There are two ways to get around this. The first is what Kleon calls branching, which is useful for exploring variations of an idea.

“Chew on one thinker. Study everything there is to know about that thinker. Then find three people that thinker loved, and find out everything about them. Repeat this as many times as you can. Climb up the tree as far as you can go.”

That’s not the only method of sieving out valuable ideas. Originality stems from creating something that has never been seen before. Which is why bestselling author Ryan Holiday turns to the classics whenever he is in doubt.

Classic pieces are ‘classic’ for a reason. They’ve survived the test of time. The philosophy of Stoicism goes back to the ancient Greeks, but Holiday showed how those ideas are relevant today in his books Ego Is The Enemy and The Obstacle Is The Way. He didn’t come up with those ideas; he applied them.

It’s not enough to just observe your surroundings. The creative actively seek out the best ideas from all places. They’re always researching.

3. Enter New Domains

As we gain more experience and expertise in our work, we become more entrenched in a particular way of viewing the world. It makes us more efficient as we eliminate part of the thinking process, but the downside is that we become less receptive to new ideas and less responsive to changes.

It’s as Abraham Maslow observed: he that is good with a hammer tends to think everything is a nail.

That’s a death sentence for any creative who hopes to do good work. It’s also the surest way for a company to go out of business within the next few years.

Search engines had existed long before Google along, but were limited in use because the results displayed weren’t what users wanted. Google changed that when it adopted a new approach for returning results, choosing to focus on quality rather than popularity.

The inspiration for this change? Academic publishing.

In the academic world, one can easily determine the quality and relevance of a paper by how often it is cited. The best research papers rise to the top, while the more limited ones fade into obscurity. It was an elegant idea which Larry Page was only too happy to introduce into Google’s search algorithm. It’s now known in the world of Search-Engine Optimisation (SEO) as back-links.

Original and creative solutions don’t always come from reinventing the wheel. Rather, it comes from developing innovative applications, not imagine completely new concepts.

You can start by finding two completely different ideas and combining them.

Or as James Altucher puts it: have idea sex.

4. Be More Prolific

Thomas Edison was famous for being relentless in experimenting. The sheer quantity of his experiments would eventually result in him holding the record for having the most patents — over 1090 in his name. Picasso painted over 20,000 works. Bach composed at least one work a week.

Most of these works never amounted to much. They were creations which the average man on the street would never have taken a second look at. It turns out that none of us can accurately predict which ideas will hit and which will miss.

The solution? Produce so much work that one piece will inevitably stick. If only one idea for every ten that you come up with is good, all it means is that you should be working on a hundred ideas to come up with ten good ones.The same goes for writing, composing, or painting.

It’s widely assumed that there’s a trade-off between quantity and quality — if you want to do better work, you have to do less of it — but this turns out to be false. Quantity breeds quality. The act of creating something, no matter how lousy, is practice for creating a better one.

And that’s why Steve Jobs rightly said, “real artists ship”.

5. Give Yourself Permission To Suck

Creating more work sounds like a good idea in theory, but it’s difficult in application. The single and most important reason is that we don’t give ourselves permission to suck.

Stephen Pressfield knows this too. IThe War of Art, he names the fear that all creatives have — he calls it the Resistance.

“The amateur, on the other hand, over-identifies with his avocation, his artistic aspiration. He defines himself by it. He is a musician, a painter, a playwright.Resistance loves this. Resistance knows that the amateur composer will never write his symphony because he is overly invested in its success and over-terrified of its failure. The amateur takes it so seriously it paralyses him.”

The problem is that we’ve been trained to tie our self-worth to our accomplishments. If that’s the case, who then, would willingly create a piece of work that would be used to judge him?

For this reason, Pressfield says that we must turn from amateur to professional. Only then can we produce truly creative work.

“Resistance wants us to stake our self-worth, our identity, our reason-for-being, on the response of others to our work. Resistance knows we can’t take this. No one can. The professional blows critics off. He doesn’t even hear them. Critics, he reminds himself, are the unwitting mouthpieces of Resistance.”

The way to creativity is to create a lot, and the way to create a lot is to give ourselves permission to suck. People will forget the mistakes and garbage we make, but will remember our best works.

6. Embrace Constraints

There are many barriers that can prevent us from creating a good piece of work. But the essence of creativity is making do with what we have. In fact, Austin Kleon suggests that it is necessary:

“Nothing is more paralysing than the idea of infinite possibilities. The best way to get over creative block is to simply place some constraints on yourself.”

He goes on to explain how having less helps us:

“One, getting really good at creative work requires a lot of time and attention, and that means cutting a lot of fluff out of your life so that you have that extra time and attention. And two, creativity in our work is often a matter of what we choose to leave out, rather than leave in — what is unspoken vs. spoken, what isn’t shown vs. what is, etc.”

Constraints are not the enemy. Many creatives understood that and went on to produce masterpieces because of constraints, not despite them.

Dr. Seuss was challenged to write a children’s book with only 50 words. The result was Green Eggs and Ham, which went on to sell over 200 million copies.Having constraints was so vital to fuelling creativity that Dr Seuss would set his own limits to work with for his other books. For example, The Cat In The Hat was written using only a first-grade vocabulary list.

But perhaps the most famous example is Hemingway’s six word story. Nobody is likely to forget For Sale: Baby Shoes, Never Worn anytime soon.

7. Develop Your Ritual

Creativity doesn’t come easily.

The process is frustrating. There’s hardly a good barometer with which we can use to measure our progress. It’s elusive. It’s why we give ourselves a pass whenever we can’t come up with good ideas or do any creative work.

But what does the architect, the lawyer, or the doctor do when they aren’t inspired? They still get down to work.

It’s essential then that we create a routine or ritual which we can rely on. Systems work, and prevent us from falling victim to our mood. The painter, Chuck Close was unequivocal on this point:

“Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work. And the belief that things will grow out of the activity itself and that you will — through work — bump into other possibilities and kick open other doors that you would never have dreamt of if you were just sitting around looking for a great art [idea].[…]If you hang in there, you will get somewhere.”

Creativity is a process. There’s a system that one can apply methodically to generate good ideas. It’s not an esoteric field that is the sole domain of the genius. But one must do the work, no matter how difficult.

Just remember Chuck Close’s last line — if you hang in there, you will get somewhere.


National Geographic Redesigns Print Edition

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National Geographic‘s May issue marks the unveiling of its most significant redesign in nearly two decades, increasing the quality of its paper stock, introducing a new front-of-book section, and creating additional room for the photography and visual storytelling that are at the core of the brand. The iconic yellow border is retained and referenced. “The new National Geographic delivers the same sense of wonder readers expect but with a bolder, more provocative, more captivating eye,” said editor-in-chief Susan Goldberg.

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To develop the new design and the strategy around it, Goldberg, along with Emmet Smith, creative director for the magazine, teamed with Godfrey Dadich Partners who helped conceive the look  and feel of the new features, as well as a pair of new typefaces that debut with the redesign. “This next evolution of National Geographic brings to bear the full set of tools available to the contemporary magazine,” adds Smith. “It allows us to more fully showcase the spectacular work of our photographers, reporters, and artists — and, in turn, provide an even better magazine for our readers.”

PATRICK_SCOTT

The design firm grew out of a project to redesign WIRED magazine when Scott Dadich was editor and asked Patrick Godfrey headed his own studio. “It was an honor for us to collaborate on such an iconic brand – to dive into a 130-year history of cartography, photography, typefaces, and journalism, then design a new kind of magazine for today,” comments Dadich. “Redesigning the magazine enhances its ability to deepen people’s understanding of the world and their role in it.”

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This article originally appeared in GDUSA.

60-Second Super-Cool Fold of the Week

Nearly 300 episodes strong, thousands of professionals around the globe look forward to Trish’s weekly dose of folded inspiration. Get a sample of her inspirations here and also at the VMA Design Conference June 15 in San Francisco.

Pentagram rebrands Battersea dogs and cats home to visualize “personality over sentiment”

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Pentagram has rebranded London’s dogs and cats charity Battersea, introducing a “family” of watercolour illustrated characters as its icons. Led by partners Marina Willer and Naresh Ramchandani, the rebrand of the renowned charity includes it dropping the “dogs and cats home” from its name, and introducing a tagline “Here for every dog and cat”. The identity intends to visualise the charity’s commitment to unconditionally care for all the animals that come through its doors.

The rebrand retains Battersea’s signature blue colour, used across abstract illustrations to represent a variety of dogs and cats, and subtly communicate the charity’s story. The illustrations are pared back and devoid of facial features, while remaining expressive and showing individuality. “They appeal to people’s compassion and humanity, without victimising or stigmatising the animals,” Pentagram explains. The sharp wordmark aims to balance the aesthetic of these hand-drawn images, employing the typeface Franklin Gothic, which Pentagram says “injects an element of authority” to the identity.

The thinking behind removing “dogs and cats home” from the name stems from the word “home” implying a permanent dwelling for the animals, when in fact the intention of the charity is to re-home them with families. Pentagram also says it wrongly implies the charity operates in just one location, as opposed to its three sites.

Pentagram worked with Battersea to develop the brand strategy, tone of voice and visual identity to present the charity “as both a compassionate caregiver and a leading authority in animal welfare, creating a brand that strikes a balance between warmth and expertise,” the design studio states. Its approach was to “strike out against” negative connotations used by the charity sector such as “shock tactics, well-worn tropes, and euphemistic and overly-sentimental language,” preferring a honest and straightforward image. This includes a suite of portrait photography that “puts personality over sentiment”, showing the eclectic creatures that can be found in its homes.

The branding was also designed to be flexible, to adapt to various campaigns and fundraising initiatives, for example Muddy Dog. For this campaign, the identity is given a “playful spin” using a hand-drawn typeface “Battersea Paws” and tongue-in-cheek headlines.

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Creative Thinking Skills

Creative thinking skills use very different approaches to critical thinking skills. They involve a much more relaxed, open, playful approach. This can require some risk-taking. Creative thinking skills involve such approaches as:

  • Looking for many possible answers rather than one.
  • Allowing yourself to make wild and crazy suggestions as well as those that seem sensible.
  • Not judging ideas early in the process – treat all ideas as if they may contain the seeds of something potentially useful.
  • Allowing yourself to doodle, daydream or play with a theory or suggestion.
  • Being aware that these approaches necessarily involve making lots of suggestions that are unworkable and may sound silly.
  • Making mistakes.
  • Learning from what has not worked as well as what did.

In this section, you can learn more about the processes and what creative thinking really involves:

A state of mind

Creative thinking skills are as much about attitude and self-confidence as about talent. Creativity is often less ordered, structured and predictable. As you are not looking for ‘one’ answer, you are likely to come up with lots of suggestions that are not ‘right’. This can be difficult if you are more used to analytical and logical approaches. It can also be experienced as ‘risky’ as the prospect of making a mistake or not coming up with an answer is more likely.

Creativity and emotions

Strong emotional self-management is often needed in order to allow creative thinking states to emerge. It is important to be able to cope with risk, confusion, disorder and feeling that you are not progressing quickly.

Creative thinking techniques

There is no limit to ways there are of thinking creatively. Some techniques you can begin with are:

  • Brainstorm ideas on one topic onto a large piece of paper: don’t edit these. Just write them down.
  • Allowing yourself to play with an idea whilst you go for a walk.
  • Draw or paint a theory on paper.
  • Ask the same question at least twenty times and give a different answer each time.
  • Combine some of the features of two different objects or ideas to see if you can create several more.
  • Change your routine. Do things a different way. Walk a different route to college.
  • Let your mind be influenced by new stimuli such as music you do not usually listen to.
  • Be open to ideas when they are still new: look for ways of making things work and pushing the idea to its limits.
  • Ask questions such as ‘what if….?’ Or ‘supposing….?’.

Combine analytical and creative thinking skills

Many important breakthroughs in science and innovation have resulted from:

  • Focusing on a subject in a logical, analytical way for some time, thinking through possible solutions.
  • Daydreaming or distracting the mind, but holding the same problem lightly ‘at the back of the mind’.
  • The answer has often emerged on dreams or daydreams when the innovator was not trying so hard to find the answer. However, the daydream on its own did not achieve anything.

Keep an ideas book

Inspiration can strike at any time. Ideas can also slip away very easily. Keep a small notebook to hand so you can jot down your ideas straight away.

This content has been written by Stella Cottrell, author of Critical Thinking Skills and The Study Skills Handbook.

Learn Typography

For many people, trying to learn typography is a dark art. It’s mysterious, even intimidating for some. This isn’t an experience that I’ve imagined, it’s one that I’ve gone through personally. As a young student studying graphic design at Art Center College of Design, I felt intimidated by the work that I saw in the student gallery. After all, this was some of the best, most progressive work that was on display. I remember walking by the gallery and thinking to myself, one day, I hope my work will be as good as the work that I saw.

Perhaps you can relate. Maybe you’ve seen a few portfolios on Behance or Pinterest and thought the same thing. How is it that someone, who has access to the same tools, fonts and images as me, do such incredible work? What’s the difference? How did they learn typography? What makes them so special and me less so? The answer came to me in the form of a petite, well dressed man with a British accent. His name was Simon Johnston and I was fortunate enough to have him as my Type I instructor. I didn’t know it then, but that class was about to fundamentally unlock the mysteries of design to me and my fellow classmates. I would actually learn how type works.

The first assignment he gave was perfectly designed. It taught us the principles of typography: legibility, alignment, contrast, spacing, scale, proportion and balance. I would later learn that the assignment that he gave us was the same one given at the Basel School of Design— founded by legendary designers Armin Hoffman and Emil Ruder. As I completed each week’s assignment, I felt my skill and confidence with type grow. It was an amazing feeling. I could now look at books that featured amazing designers, and feel that I knew the invisible principles at work. I could see the grid structure. I felt like Neo in the Matrix when he  was first able to see the code that made up the virtual world. It was truly exhilarating.

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After that semester, I remembered returning to the student gallery and looked at the work again. My feeling had changed. Don’t get me wrong, the work was still amazing, but now, instead of wishing to do work as good as what I saw, I realized that great work was achievable. In that moment, a quiet, introverted student, became a confident designer, eager to apply his knowledge to all kinds of design problems. Learning about type and typography taught me about space and proportion, something that could be applied to virtually anything. I’ve used what I learned to design furniture (book shelves, desks, etc…), building facades, interior spaces and everything else that has a visual form.

Now, years have passed, I’m running a motion design studio. But the one thing that keeps coming up, with the influx of new designers, to our shop, is that they lack some of the fundamentals of typography—they lacked the same knowledge that I got so many years ago. I would sit down with my designers, help them learn typography, and go over basic principles with them. At one point, I even conducted classes at our office to train our staff in typography. After doing this for a few years, I got tired of saying the same thing over and over again as each new wave of designers came into our office. One night, I sat down and wrote a few key tips on typography. This document turned into the “Typography Manual”, which then turned into an animated video. Surprisingly, the video took off on Facebook garnering over 350k views and 10k shares. We touched a nerve.

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I started to get emails and messages telling me how they learned more about using type in that one document/video than every other source combined. Wow! That’s pretty cool. I got more messages asking for book recommendations and courses to take. Honestly, I didn’t know of such a resource. There were good books on the history of type, grid structure, but I didn’t know of a single resources that actually helped people learn typography the way I learned it.

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Designed by Matthew Benkert at Art Center College of Design
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This has led me to where we are today—the creation of the Design Fundamentals series. It’s a four part course on Typography (repetition and contrast, grid construction and application, typographic details and optical adjustments, and layout) with live work sessions (typography posters) where you actually get to see and hear us work through a design problem. I’ve combed through books, done the research, and applied everything that I’ve learned about typography in this one class. The Typography course answers these fundamental questions:

  • What typeface should I use? Do you have recommendations?
  • How is the Golden Ratio calculated?
  • What is the Fibonacci series and how do I use it?
  • How do I use grids in my layout?
  • What are book recommendations where I can learn more?
  • Why are certain characters drawn that way? They look odd to me?
  • How do I achieve optical balance in designing logos and letterforms?
  • How do I mix typefaces?
  • + more

In a way, it’s my attempt to recreate the learning experience that I had at Art Center. Hope you enjoy and let me know what you think.

You can support the Futur, and learn typography by purchasing the course now.

AUTHOR CHRIS DO

This article originally appeared on Futur’s Website. You can hear more from Furtur’s Chris Do at the VMA Design Conference on June 15th in San Francisco. Join us.

Ten Things You Should Do Now To Get More Clients

I get tired of fielding questions around how to get more clients, so I’ve decided to write an article on things you need to do right now before going online and asking, “Help. How do I get more clients?”

Before you go hire a business coach or sales person, enroll in an online course, follow a get rich quick scheme, do this first. Warning, this is a long list of things to do. No easy answers, no quick fixes, but the bare minimum of what you need to do before looking for more help. Remember, people hire who they know, who they like and who they trust. So time to get known.

1. Build a website. State what you do clearly, then back it up with great examples. Show me. Don’t tell me. Make sure the site is responsive, avoid anything that will slow down or impair the ability for someone to navigate your site. This includes: Cinemagraphs, parallax effects, tricky animation or unconventional interfaces. A simple hamburger menu with the following will work: work, about, contact. Use a legible and neutral typeface. Limit the number of colors you use. Have a simple logo. If you don’t have one, just typeset your name in Helvetica Bold using upper/lower case. Make your site SEO friendly. Name the images on your site with descriptive names. “Untitled” or “Final_final_03” doesn’t count as being descriptive. Instead, try “Los-Angles-Design-Branding-Anime-Expo”. Basically, help Google classify the images so that if someone is searching for you, they can find you.

2. Update your LinkedIn profile. Start with having a professionally shot photo. Keep it simple (white, grey or black backdrop). It’s worth the investment since you’ll be able to use this elsewhere. Ask yourself, would I hire me based on this photo? Would I dive deeper into this persons’ profile? Do they appear professional, credible and friendly? Is this someone I can trust with my money? Is this someone I can see myself being around for a long period of time?

Write a captivating headline instead of a job title. Focus on a user/customer benefit vs describing what you do. What do you do for them? An example could be “I help small brands look like big brands.”

Update your education, work history, awards and accolades. Get a few, well written, but sincere testimonials.

3. Get on Behance. Have 3-5 in-depth case studies of outstanding work. Make sure they’re labeled and tagged appropriately to make sure others can find you. Keep the photography or mock-ups simple to make your work shine. Where appropriate, document the creative process. Put the time and energy into designing every component so that it looks as attractive (and expensive) as possible. Look at your work through the lens of a prospective client. Would this excite them? Could they envision working with you through the work that you presented? Is the thinking clear? Are you focused on craftsmanship and detail? Is your typography excellent?

Not sure about the impact of Behance on your sales leads? Watch this video with Farm Design Founder Aaron Atchison.

4. Ask for referrals. Reach out to current and past clients and ask them for a referral. Tell them that you’re growing your business and have additional capacity to take on more work, that you’d appreciate any referrals or recommendations to anyone that could use your services. If they know someone, offer to contact them directly vs. leaving it in their hands to follow through. People are busy after all and you don’t want to add any additional work on their plate.

Why would you say this? One, it’s fun to share exciting news. Two, they won’t worry about sharing you since you are growing your team. Some clients actually do worry that you won’t be available any more, or that you’ll become more expensive as a result. You can address by saying that, “Yes, our rates are going up, but I appreciate your business and loyalty. I will do my best to work within your budget moving forward and will give you preferential pricing.” Lastly, people don’t always think to refer you. It’s just not top of mind. So if you want something, you have to be willing to ask for it.

5. It’s old fashioned, but have a business card and use as a tool to engage with others. Keep it simple and tasteful. Make sure you say what you do and that your contact info is legible. Other than that, avoid using additional photography, illustration of artwork on your card. It’s a name card and not a billboard. Use 1-2 typefaces (max). When you are at social functions and have an opportunity to meet a prospective client, don’t give them your card. Instead, ask for theirs. Say, “I’d love to follow up with you after this event. Do you have a card?” When they give your their card, hand them yours.

It’s more important to get their contact info than to give them yours. This way, you can follow up vs. waiting by the phone or inbox for them to reach out. The next business day, follow up by connecting with them on LinkedIn. Add a short note reminding them of who you are. Keep it short and simple. Close the note by inviting further dialogue if there’s interest. You could close with something like, “If you would like to continue our dialogue about rebranding your company, I would love to help. Please let me know.”

6. Join communities and organizations. Be active in both social groups (Facebook and LinkedIn) and trade organizations. Chances are, there’s a professional organization within a few miles of where you are located (AIGARGD (In Canada), Entrepreneurs’ Organization, Meet up groups, etc…). Build relationship with people without trying to sell. Find out more about who they are, goals and challenges. The people that you form a genuine relationship will become your best resource for leads, people and resources. This is a long term activity that will not appear to be helpful or productive in the short term. If it’s online, post relevant articles. If it’s in person, volunteer to help. You can do simple things like set-up or clean up an event. You can help find speakers or be one yourself. Whatever you do, make an investment in the community to which you belong.

Here are some others you can join: Futur NetworkFutur Feedback/CritFutur Pro Members($75/mo.).

7. Invest in a good interchangeable lens camera (ILC or DSLR) and start taking pictures. Take photos of everything you do, places you go and things you see. Why buy a camera? One, your eye will become much more aware of composition, color and lighting. Two, you’ll learn a new skill. Three, you’ll be motivated to visit new places and do exciting things. Four, you’ll start to learn the value of having beautiful photography and how powerful a single image can be. Five, your social media posts will look much more interesting. I’ve had good results with the Panasonic Lumix cameras Gh4, Canon 5d Mk III (or even their entry level Rebel line), Sony A7s and Sony A 6500.

8. Read these 10 books:

9. Subscribe/listen to these 10 podcasts:

10. Watch these 10 videos:

Congratulations, if you’ve made it this far. If you’re thinking to yourself, yeah, I’m doing all of this and I have a ton of leads but am having trouble closing prospects. Or, if you struggle with overcoming objections or pricing work, you might want to consider the new Business Bootcamp we just launched. Click here for the details.

Finally, find a mentor and offer to work for free (for a period of time). Apply your skillset to help someone you admire. Reach out to them and offer to help them with something specific that taps into your strengths. Getting access to someone that you really look up to can change the way you think, but it can also open doors for future opportunities. You never know where this will lead.

This article originally appeared on Futur’s Website. You can hear more from Furtur’s Chris Do at the VMA Design Conference on June 15th in San Francisco. Join us.

Creating Empathy in an Artificial World

Written by Sherine Kazim

WHY DESIGNERS NEED TO MOVE ON FROM PERSONAL DATA TO PERSONALITY DATA.
Ever since I wrote that piece Emotive UI about designing intention and reaction for the full spectrum of 32 emotions, one thing continues to plague me: empathy. There’s no doubt that the best experience designers are highly empathetic. They have an incredible ability to interpret and relate to users which, in turn, helps them create more engaging interactions. Paramount to these experiences is personalization — always giving the impression that each interaction is unique and specifically catered to that particular user. These days, designing with personal data is table stakes, but what about personality data? Is it possible to design for personality in order to create higher levels of empathy?

THE RISE OF RELATIONSHIP DATA.
MIT Professor Rosalind W. Picard, wrote about Affective Computing in 1995 and described it as the ability to simulate empathy. Its premise relies on a machine’s ability to adapt and respond appropriately to human emotions. These emotions are derived from human behavior. By behavior, I mean the ways in which a person communicates aspects of their personality, either through implicit or explicit actions.

Typically, behavior and interaction among humans is mostly implicit — passive emotions and expressions. Subtle cues are manifested through voice, gestures, meaning, and language. All of which form a person’s unique personality. If we downplay the implicit piece, and not simultaneously take into account the five senses which help us process communication, we could easily misinterpret someone’s behavior, misidentify their emotion, and ultimately miss a connection. Further, without fully realizing how the data relates to each other and the message, we will assume user intention.

Relationship data stems from our sensory streams working together so we can analyze, understand and emotionally respond to any given situation. For example, if someone uses non-threatening language, while speaking softly and avoiding eye contact, we may infer from those three sensory streams that this person is shy. In turn, we may consider a measured response with non-confrontational verbal and emotional language. If, for whatever reason, we lack confidence in our potential responses, we can seek out more relationship data — content and context — for further analysis and validation.

THE CASE FOR A MASTER ALGORITHM.
For empathetic experience designers, data sets are our new palettes. In particular, relationship data which helps us develop our human intuition, will be at the forefront of machine prediction. With Apple purchasing emotion-focused startup Emotient, and facial recognition startup Realface, it appears that our design future will emphasize personality-driven data. This is important because having geographic, contextual, demographic, psychographic, and analytics data — the hallmarks of personalization — won’t be enough anymore. Instead, we’ll have to contend with an increased hunger for human data. We’ll continue to see AI materialize on various physical and digital platforms allowing us to determine the user’s emotional state far better than any empathetic designer can do with just user interviews and audits.

To successfully define personality as it relates to communication, designers will now have to combine four different types of behavioral data:

  • Gestural Data. The way we would identify conversational tone via face and hand motions.
  • Physiological Data. The way we would measure heart rate, blood pressure and skin temperature.
  • Facial Recognition. The way we would verify a person, and interpret their emotions and expressions.
  • Deep Learning. The way we would understand speech, and how language is used.

It’s that potent mix of personal and personality data that will give way to hyper-customized experiences. It’s a mix that could ultimately help us determine the user’s intention.

Let’s pretend that we’re monitoring physiological data and we see that a user’s blood pressure spikes a split second before the opening line of a conversation with a customer service rep. We might assume that the customer is upset, but we would still be uncertain as to why or his intention. Is he angry, nervous or pressed for time? Will he yell, punch or intimidate? No idea. For us to understand his intention, we’d have to access a greater portion of his everyday life — everything he interacts with online and offline so we can determine patterns of behavior. All of those data streams would need to be tracked and analyzed so we could get a sense of his big picture. Only then could we organize appropriate communication and responsibly adjust it to fit his personality. Essentially, personality data is making the case for creating a master algorithm.

“When faced with a machine, humans talk like a machine.”

THE NEED FOR BETTER TECHNOLOGY.
Besides creating the master algorithm, in order for companies to better understand their users, they will need to create emotion databases. This will be time consuming because it relies on someone (yes, a human) to determine facial expressions. It’s highly subjective — literally someone is tagging someone else who is posing and acting out those emotions. That info is then validated by an expert (yes, another human). The issue is that the interpretation is only as good as the actor. It’s difficult to capture spontaneous, dissipation and faint transition of emotions. It’s challenging to understand why, measure how, and guess when they’re about to happen. And, it’s overwhelming for the people tasked with tagging the emotions of thousands, millions, eventually billions, of users.

Second, let’s be honest, the hardware and software for facial recognition just isn’t quite there yet. Ask anyone in law enforcement and they’d be hard-pressed to disagree. While it’s passable for identifying broad characteristics, it will have to get better for us to pick up on the subtleties of expression. China’s Face++ is promising, and if we continue to improve the platforms while combining it with AI, this should prove to be one of the most powerful breakthroughs in technology and an essential to determining personality.

Finally, we’re still mastering natural language when it comes to interacting with devices. For some reason, when faced with a machine, humans talk like a machine. When we talk to Amazon’s Echo, we usually say: “Alexa, [wait for response indicator] “what’s the weather today?” But, when we talk to an actual human near us, we tend to say things like “Hey, what’s it like outside?”No name. No pause. No time. All context is assumed. Interacting with machines is unavoidable, so we need to design them to act and react in a more human-like way — give it unique personalities — ones which compliment our own personality and can adapt to our emotions. When the Mini Cooper car was reintroduced in 2002, one of the most delightful brand experiences was the voice interface. Drivers were able to pick a gender and an accent for how the car’s navigation system would communicate with them. Although the voices were all programmed to give the exact same responses, there was something magical about picking one, about identifying the personality of a passenger that we wanted to join us on our journey. It was a great start, and it’s good to know that empathetic experience designers are still the ones in the driver’s seat.

This article originally appeared on Sherine Kazim’s Website. You can hear more of her muses at the VMA Design Conference on June 15th in San Francisco. Join us.