Five Metrics That Prove Social Media Is Working For Your Business

by Matthew Goulart. Founder of Ignite Digitial, an experience-driven digital agency.

If you aren’t using social media for your business, you’re doing something wrong. To put it into perspective, Statista reported that of the 3.17 billion people using the internet, 2.3 billion are active social media users. In other words, if your business isn’t using social media as a marketing tactic, you’re limiting your potential reach.

However, simply creating an account on the most popular social media platforms won’t instantly move you out of the fools’ category. Social media marketing takes strategy, persistence, time, effort and measurement. To ensure your social media efforts are paying off, and more importantly, to determine which tactics work and bring the highest ROI, here are five key metrics to watch closely.

Conversions

Every company wants to see conversions. Whether it’s direct marketing or social media marketing, if it doesn’t convert, it has no purpose. While this point can be argued when it comes to social media, there is no denying that conversions are still a top priority. Conversions show the number of people who took the extra step and entered your sales funnel via your social media page. This can be gauged by tracking website traffic, online sales, registrations completed, subscription forms submitted, etc.

To convert, you must first have effective calls-to-action to entice your audience and get them engaged with your content. Then you need to use an analytics tool, such as Google Analytics to track and monitor their engagement. Once integrated into your website, you can see how many people reached your website via your social media and what kind of social media content is bringing in the highest conversions.

Search Volume

What better way to determine if your social media marketing strategy is working than using search volume metrics? Search volume allows you to see how many people are searching for your company on search engines. This is an important tactic because you’ll be creating an online presence, and as a result, consumers will be searching for your company online. Search Engine Land reported that 85% of consumers have used the internet to find local businesses. Therefore, if you aren’t seeing a spike in searches for your company, your social media marketing strategy needs to be revised.

There are various tools you can use to track search volume, with Google offering some of the best. Google Analytics and Google Trends are two tools that can monitor the changes in search volumes. These tools can provide you with valuable knowledge on how to engage customers better, as they also analyze your direct competitors and compare their results with yours.

Brand Presence, Image And Engagement

We can’t say it enough: Simply having a social media account won’t get you the results you’re after. In order to capitalize on these modern-day marketing tools, you need to learn how to use them to build a strong online presence in order to further engage with your customers. The secret to social media is to connect with your consumers on a personal level. By doing so, you can build trust and loyalty, brand your company’s image, and ultimately, increase engagement.

Furthermore, not all interactions are positive and you need a strategy to address negative feedback. In order to do that, you need to have a tool to track the remarks, comments and statuses on social media that could tarnish your brand. Tools such as Facebook Insights, Twitter Analytics, Google’s Me on the Web Tool, and Social Mention allow you to monitor your online reputation in seconds. Some will also send you notifications when a certain keyword is associated with your company, such as scam or fraud.

Followers And Likes

One of the easiest ways to keep track of your social media marketing is by checking your number of followers and likes. If you have a high number of followers and they’re consistently growing, your social media campaign is essentially working. However, it’s just as important to monitor the number of likes your content garners to ensure your followers are also interacting with your brand.

Scanning through every single one of your social media posts on a regular basis just to measure likes can be a daunting task. Instead, there are analytic tools provided by the platforms that do this for you. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all offer analytics right on each platform. However, you can also use third-party tools such as the Epoxy app, Klout widget or Social Blue Book website to track your followers, likes and social media presence as a whole.

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Return On Investment

The best thing about social media marketing is that you don’t have to spend a dime to see a return on investment. It’ll take time and effort, but it can be a cost-efficient marketing tool. You can complement your time and effort with paid advertisements or by hiring a social media marketer to capitalize using your social media strategy. Either way, whether time or money spent, you want to make sure it’s worth it.

Tools such as Kissmetrics, Google Analytics and the analytics tools provided by social media platforms are excellent for monitoring ROI. These systems will show you data such as which social media campaigns are the most profitable, which social media ads perform best, which individuals or group of individuals convert, and much more. As such, you’ll be able to invest your time and/or money more strategically moving forward.

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, Instagram, LinkedIn – there certainly is not a shortage of social media platforms to choose from. As a rule of thumb, pick from the most popular and the ones specific to your niche. If your business is highly visual, use visual-focused platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest. If your content is based on text, Facebook and Twitter may be the better option. Then implement a strategy that incorporates these five key metrics to ensure your social media tactics are as powerful as they can be.

PR, media strategy, creative & advertising execs share trends & tips Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.

The Era Of Creative Work Is Just In The Beginning

It iPhoto by kychan on Unsplash

It is slowly becoming a feasible option to make a living from creative work.

According to a UN study, the ‘creative economy’ — that is the part of the economy, which trades in any kind of goods and services that are of creative nature — was a $547 billion industry in 2012.

The study concludes that the creative industry has been growing by an average of 8.6 percent per year between 2003 to 2012 and continues to do so, “despite the economic deceleration of the world economy”.

In the few years since then, a lot has changed.

Companies like Patreon, which allow creators to monetize their work on a membership basis, have been launched. Services like Amazon CreateSpaceare becoming more and more of a viable alternative to traditional publishers.

Youtube now provides a full-time income for thousands of video producers worldwide. Anybody can now sell their music anytime, using services like Spotify, iTunes, Google Play or Amazon.

Painters can auction their artworks through a large variety of online services. Any kind of creator can sell merchandise to their fans through services like Teespring or Redbubble.

In short, new ways of monetizing our work keep popping up every single day.

And, more importantly, competition among such service providers, becomes more and more fierce, every single day.

This is good news for us. The more service providers are competing for creators to use their services, the more beneficial the conditions for creatives, are going to become.


But let’s go a little bit back in time…

As Jack Conte, CEO of Patreon, has said in his TED Talk:

“The whole machine in 2013 that took art online and outputted money, was totally non-functional. It didn’t matter if you were a newspaper, or an institution, or an independent creator. A web comic with 20,000 monthly readers, would get paid a couple of hundred bucks in ad revenue”.

His argument was that until a few years ago, most companies were focused on providing the infrastructure to store different kinds of arts, and distribute it in various different ways.

These were companies like shipping businesses, marketing firms, record labels, book publishers and so on and so forth.

But then, platforms started to develop, which made it possible for creators to directly share their work with their fans. No longer was it necessary for any kinds of creators to make use of a middleman, who would take care of marketing and distribution.

Within a few years, this whole distribution infrastructure that existed for a long time, was completely bypassed.

Since then, there simply was not enough time for a new system to develop, which provides a reliable way of monetizing creative work.

While new service providers are slowly showing up in every single industry, they simply didn’t have enough time to evolve to the point, where they can provide for a decent living for masses of creative people.

Right now, only the top few percent of creatives on these platforms, are truly earning a decent living.

Soon, a large percentage of these creatives, will.


When doing creative work becomes a ‘normal’ career choice….

Today, most people are still shocked, when their children announce to them, that they want to be an artist. The fear of their children ending up poor, is simply too strong.

Being an artist, regardless of what kind of art it is, is simply not considered to be a stable and secure career choice.

Jack Conte believes, that our generation will be the first to witness a change in this situation.

And I want to believe it with him.

I don’t know if it is going to be Patreon, which is going to make the change. But I believe that the competition among all those service providers, will get the infrastructure to the point, where most artists (if they are really hardworking and keep pushing forward) can live off their work.

With that, I don’t mean becoming rich.

I think that if becoming rich is one’s goal, then becoming an artist is the wrong career choice, in the first place. All I am talking about is being able to make a living, to the point, where we don’t have to worry much about money.

The ability to make a living, by doing the thing we love the most.


Our responsibility

Having said that, I also believe that all of us, who want to turn our passion into a career, have a responsibility.

We can not just rely on other parties to make it possible for us, to make a living off our art.

That would make us dependent.

That would make us depend on being children of the right circumstances.

Once we are in that mentality, we have already lost. It is only when we recognize that it is us, who have to take control over our own destinies, that we have a chance of ever getting anywhere.

As Benjamin Disraeli famously said:

Circumstances are beyond human control, but our conduct is in our own power.

I think that you and me have as much responsibility to contribute to the infrastructure of making it possible to make a living from our art, as anybody else does.

That doesn’t mean that you need to become the CEO of one of these service companies.

All it means is that you need to step up in a way that is within your possibilities, and that make sense for you as a an individual.

Let me give you a very simple example.

Casey Neistat is one of the world’s most successful vloggers. Until recently, he has mostly been busy building his own vlog, while at the same time also running a media company.

Now, he has decided to start a new project called ‘368’. He has basically rented a massively huge office space in New York. There, he wants to build the necessary infrastructure, to bring on many smaller Youtubers, who can use the space to create their art.

So, he is building video production studios. Music production studios. And everything else that a creative space needs — sports facilities, relaxation areas, quiet work spaces and so on and so forth.

He wants to make it possible for these smaller video creators, to focus full-time on the process of creation, without being worried about money.

Now, he is inviting different people from different aspects of life to join him on this journey. Jack Conte, for example, has famously pitched Casey via a viral video, and basically offered for Patreon to somehow sponsor these smaller creators, in one way or another.

At the same time, Casey has now somehow convinced one of the founders of Reddit, to provide the necessary technical support to turn that project into reality.

Casey Neistat with Reddit founder Alexis Ohanian

Of course, these are all big names.

Most of us simply don’t have the resources to do something similar. But still, we all can do something, that is within the realm of our own power.

We all can step up and take responsibility for helping the community of creators. We all can take little steps, which will make it a tiny bit easier for artists to make a living off their art.

The question is: what little steps can YOU take, in order to help the community?

I’m not talking about something large here. I’m not asking you to invest a lot of your time and resources into something, in a way that will seriously disturb the work on your craft.

Especially, if you are still struggling to make a living yourself.

All I am saying is that if you want the infrastructure for creators to move forward, then you can not simply rely on other people, to do all the work for you.

You yourself have as much responsibility in this matter, as everybody else does. In the end, it is a task that we all need to tackle together. We, as creators, are responsible for turning our profession, into a real career choice.

We shouldn’t be dependent on anybody else.

As creators, we should also be the creators of our own fate.

After all, this is what we do best, isn’t it? Using creativity to solve difficult problems.


Conclusion:

First of all, let me say this: no matter what kind of art you are passionate about, you will make a living off your art one day (if that’s what you want).

We are part of the first generation, which is in the privileged position, that every single artist can reach people directly through a gazillion of different means, and therefore build their very own tribe.

But this is the mindset of dependency.

In the end, only you yourself can create your own destiny.

Michelangelo lived in the 15th century. At the time, artists were among the lowest classes of all. They were mostly looked down upon. Basically, they were used as tools by rich patrons, to show off how much ‘good taste’ they had for things of beauty.

What many people don’t know is that Michelangelo came from an aristocratic family, that had lost pretty much everything.

Michelangelo decided that he would restore the family honor. But since he couldn’t do that by re-entering the political arena, he did it by turning the whole artistic profession around.

He decided that he would not be treated as a ‘pet’ by powerful men. He even resisted the calls of the most powerful man of the time — the pope himself.

That was something unheard of at the time.

In the end, he had achieved much more than he ever set out to do. He became one of the most respected (and richest) men of his time. He became the creator of his own destiny, through sheer willpower and determination.

He was a man of action.

A man who would fight for his goals every single day.

“The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming…” — Theodore Roosevelt

Let’s all take responsibility for our own destiny.

And together create a future, in which being a creative, is a desirable career option, for anybody who wants to pursue it.


Call to action:

Jordan Gross and me have just recently started to create a community called struggling forward. We are a community for creators, who are helping each other through the process of going through the struggle, on the way towards our dreams.

Feel free to send an e-mail to rettigtim@gmail.com, in case you’re interested to participate in the community.

This article originally appeared in Art + Marketing.

Best Buy Unveils Rebranding That Was a Year in The Making

 

Best Buy is tapping its own 100,000 blue-shirted employees as the stars of its new marketing campaign, a rebranding effort designed to highlight the retailer’s personalized customer service. On Wednesday, the Minneapolis-based electronics chain is rolling out a new website and logo, and will air TV spots later this week.

Best Buy puts the tag outside in new logo.
Best Buy puts the tag outside in new logo. Credit: Best Buy

“It’s really about building more aggressively toward serving customers and helping change lives with technology,” says Whit Alexander, a three-year veteran of Best Buy who was promoted to chief marketing officer last year. “We needed a way to tell the story a little differently through how we interact with customers.” Alexander says the new work, which has a “rallying cry” of “Let’s talk about what’s possible,” positions Best Buy as an inspiring friend that can help consumers achieve their goals.

Work on the campaign started roughly a year ago. The “big thrust” of the new work was done internally, notes Alexander, adding that Best Buy still works with a number of agencies including Redscout, Grey and Wunderman on creative strategy. Grey recently created Best Buy’s holiday campaign. Starcom handles media duties for the retailer.

Best Buy debuts new out-of-home ads.
Best Buy debuts new out-of-home ads. Credit: Best Buy

A year after consolidating its marketing department and eliminating the role of chief creative officer, Best Buy is back to bulking up its in-house creative team. In November, the company hired Bruce Bildsten, who spent two decades at agency Fallon, as executive creative director. The brand is in the process of hiring dozens more for the creative team.

“We’re proud of the internal team we’re assembling here,” says Alexander.

In a 30-second TV spot “Talk the talk,” Best Buy employees counsel customers. Everything in the video is black and white, save the bright blue shirts of the staffers. A 60-second version will air digitally, while 15-second clips will also debut on TV. Academy Award winner Errol Morris directed the videos.

The retailer has also debuted a new logo, after some 30 years. The Best Buy name, still in black letters, is outside of the yellow price tag, which retains a diminished location in the bottom right corner.

Best Buy representatives declined to specify the budget of the new push. Last year, the retailer spent $139.3 million on measured media in the U.S., according to Kantar Media.

Despite the crushing omnipresence of Amazon, Best Buy has been holding its own with consumers, thanks to a customer-experience-focused strategy that positions stores as showrooms. CEO Hubert Joly is credited with the plan, which he unveiled six years ago in an effort to transform the company for the modern age.

In the fourth quarter, Best Buy posted revenue of $15.4 billion, a nine percent rise over the year-earlier period. Online comparable sales, which represent 20 percent of U.S. sales, were up 18 percent for the period. Net income was $364 million for the quarter. It reports first-quarter earnings later this month.

Getting to the top is hard, staying there is even harder.

Open Table Case Study by Sequitur

Everybody knows OpenTable. Even our moms. Which is cool, because they never seem to understand what we do. Anyway, when the folks on the restaurant side of the company reached out to us with a tasty, challenging problem to solve, we leapt at the chance. Basically, they were the first-mover in the market with the biggest customer base and the largest network of diners, but they weren’t sure how to convince new and existing customers to try their brand new, cloud-based product. While many OpenTable employees came from the restaurant industry, there wasn’t a deep cultural understanding of what their customers really valued. And having spent the past 18 years adding innumerable features, OpenTable had kind of lost sight of how big the idea of hospitality actually is in the industry. And that was causing them to miss a slew of great product and marketing opportunities. So, we brought the customer’s voice back inside the company, holding a series of workshops and office hours (more on that later), and producing some authentic, documentary-style videos to realign the team around what they always sensed was their true mission: helping restaurants create memorable moments for diners.

Tall order, up!

WHAT WE DID

  • Creative
  • Prototyping
  • Research
  • Strategy
  • Teaching
  • Video Production
  • Workshopping

OpenTable

The Whole Story

THE PROBLEM

Getting to the top is hard, staying there is even harder.

OpenTable is far and away the most dominant player in the online reservations space. They’d been first-to-market with a hardware and software solution that could replace the traditional reservations book. And after spending 18 years innovating incrementally, their offering on the restaurant side was starting to feel a bit tired, overpriced (even though their fee structure hadn’t gone up in nearly two decades), and not particularly in tune with the evolving needs of restaurateurs—even though the network of diners using OpenTable to book reservations had grown to 23+ million people a month. Having defined the category and built the business around a leased hardware solution (basically outdated terminals), the company was trying to pivot to a cloud-based solution redesigned from the ground up to deliver greater mobility, actionable insights, and a simpler UX. With a whole host of nimble competitors—from Resy and Reserve to Yelp—nipping at their heels and stealing away frustrated customers, it was time to pause, do some digging, and figure out to promise (and deliver) real value again.

THE RESEARCH

Help us get back in touch with what made us great to begin with–knowing our customers and serving their needs.

We kicked off our engagement by getting to know people within the company—across the entire organization, from Sales and Marketing to Product, Engineering, Support, and Brand. Not surprisingly, everyone knew there were some big issues that needed fixing. There was a clear sense internally that OpenTable was seen as the most complete, but also most expensive and (possibly) least innovative player in a market full of upstart rivals. Management copped to having built an untidy product line that had grown in an ad-hoc fashion over nearly two decades. And the Product team was antsy about having a large cohort up and running on a legacy product that was about to go bye-bye. Sales was looking for an edge to differentiate themselves from growing competition. And there was increasing pressure to scale the business globally. Change was always afoot, but also fleeting. And, even though no one saw their dominant position going away anytime soon, everyone seemed to be struggling to identify a compelling, credible, new promise that they could hang their hat on.

-OpenTable_Portfolio_08

Which pretty much bore out when we went out and talked to restaurateurs around the country. To a person, everyone agreed that OpenTable works. It feels expensive, but it delivers real value—mostly because having tens of millions of people walking around with your restaurant in their pocket is too tantalizing to resist. That’s how people are making reservations nowadays, right? But here’s the thing: no one we talked to really felt like OpenTable ‘got’ them. They didn’t feel like the folks at HQ understood the challenges of running a restaurant in today’s environment.

Complicating matters further was the fact that restaurants are maddeningly hard to segment. There are fast food, fast casual, fine casual, casual chains, fine groups, and every other combination and dining innovation that might give someone an edge. How could any one product appeal to such a wide range of needs?

THE INSIGHT

Would you like sparkling or still?

It didn’t dawn on us until we were about halfway through our discovery interviews—somewhere in Denver (which, BTW, is an insane foodie mecca all of a sudden)—that this gig wasn’t going to be like any other one we’d ever done. Normally, the people we interview out in the world start off seeming a bit put out by having to take time out of their busy schedules to talk to stupid old us. But here, things were different. Every time we sat down, the first question that came our way was: ‘Would you guys like some water? Sparkling or still?’ Seriously. Every single time. Which makes sense, in retrospect. These people are hardwired to serve. They were there to take care, to comfort, to look after the needs of others—to be hospitable.

There is definitely a “tribe” of restaurant people. Everyone knows everyone. People jump from resto to resto. And they just didn’t feel like OpenTable was in the tribe. More than anything else, restaurant folk live and breathe hospitality. For them, the sometimes soul-crushing, inevitably low-margin grind of running a restaurant was worthwhile solely because of those little moments of delight—those eye-poppingly beautiful, delicious experiences only they could create. And, to them, OpenTable just didn’t seem to be cut from the same cloth. They seemed like a big tech company that just happened to be in the hospitality industry. But they weren’t happy about it. They wanted OpenTable to treat them like they treat their customers. They wanted to be served, to be heard, to feel like OpenTable had their back. Funny thing, that’s exactly what OpenTable wanted, too. It’s why they were cooking up GuestCenter. It’s why they hired us. It’s why they were so hungry to get to know their customers better.

Bottom line, the restaurateurs we talked to didn’t feel like OpenTable saw the world with the same service-oriented eyes they did. The product was basically a good fit, but the attitude, over the years (especially at the top of the company) felt off. And in a world where relationships really matter, some serious counseling was in order. Because the growing rift was leading to all sorts of (negative) magical thinking. Long-time customers were starting to convince themselves that if they just turned off OpenTable, nothing bad would happen. People would keep coming. Things would be fine. Right?

Not so great a mindset to let fester, especially with competitors knocking at the door. Time to square up some tension and kickstart the sort of hospitality-driven innovation that OpenTable was great at, back in the day.

OpenTable_Portfolio_33

THE ANSWER

Practicing hospitality.

Like any chef, maitre-d’, general manager, or hostess will tell you, you can’t really fake this stuff. Running a restaurant is like putting on a show. It’s like theatre, like dance. You need to make the near impossible seem effortless. Every little moment needs to be considered, choreographed—even or especially when it’s scorchingly, blisteringly difficult to pull off. And when you’re part of that world, that mindset, everyone you deal with holds you to a higher standard. And that that’s where OpenTable had been falling down. Sure, they’d built this amazing crew of Restaurant Relations people who would go over and above for their customers. But that same work ethic, that same relentless focus on hospitality, wasn’t really coming through—even though it was actually pretty deeply ingrained in the field and at HQ. That’s where we focused our efforts during our first off-site workshops with folks from across the company.

OpenTable needed to operationalize their approach to hospitality. They needed to relearn how to treat their customers like their customers treat their diners. And we helped them begin to figure out what that would take from the Product, Engineering, Sales, and Marketing teams. What would it look like if the entire company hit the reset button and started thinking differently about how they go about their day-to-day?

“To entertain a guest is to be answerable for their happiness so long as they are beneath your roof.”

ANTHELME BRILLAT-SAVARIN

1825

Leaning into this notion of taking responsibility for the wellbeing of your guests, your customers, we worked with folks on the inside to develop a pithy, memorable set of five simple commandments—from ‘Know thy customer and anticipate their needs’ to ‘Empower thy customer and give them control’—that could help shape decision making across the entire organization. Over the course of two day-long workshops, we formalized a methodology for making good on big promises (about the power of the network to enhance hospitality, operations and marketing) in tangible, meaningful ways. Discussing, formulating, and agreeing upon these simple yet profound principles aligned this group of influential managers—giving them purpose, energy, and permission to start making meaningful change.

Then, we shifted gears to segmentation—something everyone within the company told us would never, ever be possible. For some reason, the prevailing notion in the halls of OpenTable was that every restaurant was a completely unique, wholly distinct snowflake. Their needs, their goals, their ways of looking at the world were all wildly different. Which, in some ways, of course, is true. But when we started parsing through the hardcore quant work that had started the quarter before we were hired, we realized that (regardless the size of the restaurant, the focus of the cuisine, the concept, the menu, or the particulars of the scene in which the restaurant operated) the basic, fundamental emotional drivers of the decision makers within the restaurant were easily categorized.

The more we looked at it, and the more we unpacked the data, the more we realized that you could build simple, clear emotional segmentation around five distinct ‘types’—all of whom have different needs that OpenTable was uniquely well-suited to meet. And, as we started socializing this new approach to understanding (and engaging with) customers, things suddenly started taking on a ton of momentum. Where previously, the company had taken a one-size-fits all approach to product and communications, now everything from feature prioritization, email marketing, and customer support comms could be custom-crafted based on a clear understanding of a specific customer and segment need. Seriously, it was like a bunch of bare filament Edison bulbs (of course) going off every time we walked out of a conference room after a meeting. And while there’s still work to be done, it has been super-gratifying to see our approach to segmentation start to take hold.

“Rudi and Ed have an insatiable curiosity, and the ability to home in on the most important details. The work we did together was both effective and fun. It led to concrete deliverables like customer segmentation, new websites, and product marketing videos. And it contributed to a renewed sense of purpose across the organization.”

ALISA WEINER

Vice President of Restaurant Marketing
OpenTable

THE WORK

Getting the story straight.

With insights in hand, segmentation sorted, and a high level messaging framework at the ready, we shifted gears to execution. The immediate problem became: how do we get 600 people on four continents on board and firing away with these new tools?

Of course, time was of the essence—as the battle for hearts and minds in the restaurant space had started heating up and GuestCenter was finally ready for prime time. To speed up the process, we embedded ourselves within the company for several months of our engagement—spending what our client ingeniously dubbed ‘Office Hours’ every Tuesday and Thursday from 12:00-5:00 at their San Francisco headquarters. During that time, we took what we learned from our insights and workshops and helped the rank and file understand it and execute on it. And, together, we and our host of collaborators set about crafting new ways to tell the OpenTable story in an audience-informed fashion. With a relatively pithy and pointed messaging framework in-hand, we hammered out everything from site messaging and direct response campaigns, to strategic frameworks for content marketing and industry events—all the while, serving as a sounding board for folks on the Product team as they explored new features and functionality targeted at solving the particular needs of each of our segments.

The most public manifestation of OpenTable’s new vision was their restaurant-facing websites (starting in the US, and also launched in the UK, Australia, Germany and Japan). They needed a simple and compelling way of signaling the real value of GuestCenter, the company’s all new, cloud-based product offering. Working closely with the Opentable marketing team, and the smart, hard-driving crew at Fantasy Digital, we evolved the value proposition, brand voice, imagery, and site architecture. The existing versions were a convoluted patchwork of buzzword-heavy, feature-centric, me-me-me marketing messaging–all hidden behind a intimidating lead-gen forms. Not the best user experience, to say the least. And not the best way to shine a bright light on the groundbreaking innovation already well underway within the company.

Lastly, to bring things around full circle (and show the wider world that OpenTable actually does understand the dish-shattering pace of real restaurants), we brought in our pals Danny NiederJesse Dana, and Donavan Sell to shoot a series of short-form documentaries about folks in hospitality biz using GuestCenter to delight their guests, streamline their operations, and reach more diners. They told true stories in an honest way that reflected OpenTable’s renewed commitment to delivering unique value to restaurateurs, while at the same time highlighting the benefits of exclusive new features only available on the cloud-based product offering.

 

THE ENDING

Just an amuse-bouche.

Having gone so deep with our pals at OpenTable (and having built up so much shared history with our compatriots and drinking buddies within the company), it was a bit tough to step away from this one. Sure, there were plenty of speed bumps along the way—so many moments of ‘Holy shit, how the hell are we going to pull this off?’ But we can’t say enough about how gutsy they were—staring down the challenge of transforming an 18-year-old incumbent into a nimble, attentive, user-led organization striving to build tools to help restaurateurs delight their diners and grow their businesses. Like any good story, this one is still very much a (very satisfying) work in progress.

Can’t wait to see what’s for dessert…

We picked this up from Sequitur’s website to give you a taste of what they will discuss at the VMA Design Conference of June 15, part of AIGA’s SF Design Week. Join us!

For Illustrators, the iPad Pro Is (Almost) an Everyday Computer


Can an iPad Pro replace your laptop? Is it a computer or a tablet? A production machine or a toy? Those questions have been dogging the iPad Pro since it was introduced in autumn 2015. When the latest iPad Pro debuted in 2017, with a more robust version of iOS that included file management and improved multitasking, choosing either a MacBook or MacBook Pro or iPad Pro becameeven more difficult for mobile users because iPad Pro looked like it could (almost) do everything a laptop could.

iPad pro laptop or computer

iPad Pro user with Apple Pencil, multitasking, photograph copyright © 2018 Apple Inc.

So what exactly can iPad Pro do? Maybe a better question is What can’t it do? Apple’s commercial, What’s a computer shows how versatile the device is and by the end of the video, you might ask yourself if the word computer is relevant anymore. Yes, iPad Pro is capable of a lot and is a powerful tablet or laptop (or whatever) and by all accounts, it works like a computer. But if you’re an illustrator and you really want to see what it can do, take a look at how other illustrators are using it with the Procreate app.

iPad pro laptop or computer

Clovers by Nikolai Lockertsen, screen capture via Procreate Latest News

Hello, iPad Pro

When the original iPad debuted in 2010, it appeared to be a big toy, a grab-and-go device for browsing the web, reading, and playing games, as well as email and messaging. It’s gone through various iterations including the erstwhile iPad Air, as well as today’s iPad and iPad Mini—both of which MacRumors suggests not buying because updates might be coming soon. But when iPad Pro debuted in 2015, it looked a lot less like a toy.

iPad pro laptop or computer

Drawing on iPad Pro with the Apple Pencil, photograph copyright © 2018 Apple Inc.

Today’s iPad Pro comes with either a 12.9-inch or 10.5-inch diagonal display and that smaller model is larger than the standard iPad’s 9.7-inch diagonal display. The iPad Pro renders colors better and has a faster chip to power the heavy-lifting that graphics, paint, and video apps require. Compared to other iPad models, the iPad Pro is, simply put, just better—in all ways—especially when you couple it with add-ons. Pair an iPad Pro with a Smart Keyboard and it’s a laptop. With an Apple Pencil you can draw and annotate, and digitally paint in apps.

iPad pro laptop or computer

iPad Pro, Apple Pencil, and Smart Keyboard, photograph copyright © 2018 Apple Inc.

One Device to (Almost) Run It All

iPad pro laptop or computer

Illustration by Emma Berger

Emma Berger, who is an artist at Laika and freelance illustrator, has been a loyal iPad Pro user, and was an early adopter in 2016. “I had been researching different types of mobile Cintiqs as well as one stationed to a desk. I was skeptical about the iPad Pro until I used the Procreate application, and then the choice was pretty clear.” Berger calls her work “relatively low maintenance” and in addition to the iPad Pro, she uses a MacBook for Photoshop since it offers some functions not available on the iPad Pro. She also uses a scanner. But for the most part, her work happens on the iPad Pro. “For colored drawings I’ll use the iPad almost 100%. The linework will be done by hand and scanned, the rest will be completed on an iPad.”

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Emma Berger, initial drawing

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Emma Berger, completed illustration in Procreate

Berger will import artwork into her iMac and back into the iPad because according to her, “there are certain things that an apple pencil can never replace.” This is especially true when it comes to inking by hand, which requires her to scan the work and use Photoshop to prep the file. Then it’s off to the iPad Pro for coloring and lighting. “If I were to only use the iPad Pro for everything (and sometimes I’m still able, but no all the time) I would loose some of what makes my illustration unique.”

iPad pro laptop or computer

iPad pro laptop or computer

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Illustration sketching, coloring, development, by Emma Berger

Photoshop has been and continues to be the de facto art, photo, and illustration application. And then there’s Procreate, which Berger calls “the closest thing to Photoshop, no doubt.” For Berger and other illustrators, Procreate is a smart, cost-effective option compared to Photoshop—and it can do an awful lot.

iPad pro laptop or computer

Autumn Dance by Goro Fujita, screen capture via Procreate Latest News

According to Berger, “Photoshop is crazy expensive and there are a lot of people who don’t need all of it’s amenities. That being said, I don’t think Procreate has surpassed it, nor will it do so in the future, but it is the next best alternative. In general, I think working on an iPad is also the next best alternative to the 3,000 one would normally have to put into a full Photoshop Wacom work station.”

Unlike Berger, Trudi Castle, is still very loyal to Photoshop. “For me personally, Photoshop is so powerful, has so many options, and is completely what I’m used to.” Castle is a concept and game artist living in Vancouver, Canada working at Red Hook Games on Darkest Dungeon. She began using an iPad Pro at the end of 2016 and was impressed by how great it felt to draw on with an Apple Pencil. She uses the iPad Pro for “sketching and roughing ideas” but “nothing final, ever.” The drawings she’s done, some of which are on her Instagram, are more sketchy and fun, such as the drawing done in Procreate below.

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Trudi Castle’s drawing done on an iPad Pro with Procreate

“I’m super comfy doing art at this level of development on there, and maybe over time I will start to do more rendered images. But for now, it’s more like my fun program for when I’m sitting on front of the TV and relaxing,” says Castle.

End-to-End Creation & Production

Other illustrators such as Castle use an iPad Pro more recreationally, whether it’s with Procreate or Clip Studio. For Berger, Procreate does what she needs and it works for her, and yet she’s quick to point out that that it might not work for everyone, especially if your work “requires more detail, file size, or a different interface.” Even for the work she’s done almost entirely on an iPad Pro, Berger has to move between Photoshop and Procreate, from MacBook to iPad. But if you’re a creative nomad and freelancer who’s out and about, and who needs to be mobile, the iPad Pro can work for end-to-end production, and be your dedicated device. Nicholas Kole has been using it for just that.

iPad pro laptop or computer

Ristorante Humberto, created in Procreate on the iPad Pro, a personal project by Nicholas Kole

Freelance character designer and illustrator Nicholas Kole—who’s designed for the likes of Disney—has used an iPad Pro as his onlydevice. He’s able to get what he needs accomplished without having to lug around a laptop. And for the most part, he doesn’t even need to use a desktop computer. Yes, Kole does have an iMac that he occasionally uses for invoicing, email, and type setting. But for the most part, it’s all iPad Pro all the time.

iPad pro laptop or computer

Jellybots, a personal comic and character design project by Nicholas Kole, now a Patreon project

Before committing to the iPad Pro, Kole looked at the Microsoft Surface, but he had his doubts because of his long-time loyalties. “I’m an Apple boy, and have been since childhood—so I’ll confess my bias there. iOS just makes sense to me, and the Windows equivalents always frustrate my sense of the flow of menus and apps.” The Surface also had some odd interface issues, according to Kole. “At the time I tried a Surface, the device ran full-featured desktop versions of the apps I wanted to use. The unchanged desktop UI of Photoshop felt cluttered and hard to navigate on the smaller screen, with gestures and the stylus feeling like afterthoughts.” Castle, who had a Surface Pro 2, found it to be “no way near as portable or light” as the iPad, and she found that the Surface “could get as hot as the sun!”

Kole does his art and illustration from end-to-end on an iPad Pro with Procreate, and calls himself a “huge Procreate user” who believes in the app wholeheartedly. “When I stepped into Procreate—which has a lot of powerful features hidden from immediate view, and accessible through simple gestures designed well for the touch screen—it was a big shift towards embracing what the iPad does best and leaving behind the idea that it had to function exactly like a laptop. I like the overt simplicity and the ways in which it functions, at first, more like a sketchbook than a laptop.”

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A sample of settings, development art, by Nicholas Kole from the Wingfeather Saga book series for Shining Isle Production

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Nia Igiby, one of the main characters of Wingfeather Saga, drawn by Nicholas Kole for the recently completed animated short

Well-Tooled

If you’re an illustrator who is thinking about getting an iPad Pro as a companion to your laptop or desktop, it can be an expensive companion if you max out storage, get an Apple Pencil & Smart Keyboard, as well as AppleCare+ and cellular connectivity. But iPad Pro is still a lot less expensive than a 512GB MacBook Pro, and iPad Pro might be the only device you need.

Plenty of illustrators and Apple loyalists have an iPad ProMacBook Pro, and an iMac (or iMac Pro). But if you want one device that’s portable, versatile, and powerful, the iPad Pro could be your one and only computer, that’s also a tablet, laptop, toy, sketchbook, and camera—and a whole lot more.

iPad Pro product photographs via Apple Newsroom Press Releases, copyright © 2018 Apple Inc.

Procreate 4 screen captures via Procreate Latest News

This article was originally published in How Design.


Join us on June 15 for the VMA Design Conference during AIGA’s SF Design Week for lots more resources and inspiration.

5 Steps to Finding Your Next Big Idea from Spanx’s Sara Blakely

There’s a myth amongst entrepreneurs of the “lightning strike” — the “aha” moment when an idea just comes to you. In reality, it’s rare to find a successful scale entrepreneur whose big idea landed on their lap. It’s more likely they were already on the hunt.

If you want to find your big business idea, you have to surround yourself with the human equivalent of a pack of bloodhounds. And when you find yourself on its trail, follow the scent relentlessly. And be ready to act when you think you’ve found it.

I wanted to talk to Spanx founder Sara Blakely about my theory:

I believe there’s only one way to find your big idea: Look for it. Look for it. Look for it. And then act.

Her story of spotting, pursuing, and realizing her big idea is as legendary as it is unlikely. She came up with the idea for Spanx at the age 26 by cutting the feet off a pair of pantyhose. With no background in fashion, fabrication, or business, she grew it to a billion-dollar company that reinvented underwear — without ever taking outside investment.

Her story is the perfect parable for any entrepreneur looking for their first — or their next — big idea. Here are 5 key steps from Blakely from our conversation on Masters of Scale. If you’re not yet a listener, subscribe on Apple podcasts or find all of the episodes here.

Step #1: Clearly Define Your Purpose

“At 26, I was selling fax machines door to door for a living. I literally had a moment where I pulled off the side of the road and was like, ‘I’m in the wrong movie. This is not my life. Call the director or the producer. I’m not supposed to be being escorted out of buildings and having business cards ripped up in my face all day.’

And so I went home that night and I wrote down in my journal ‘I want to invent a product that I can sell to millions of people that will make them feel good.’ This was something that I set intention for. I had really asked the universe to give me an idea that I could bring to the world.

The Bigger Picture

Different people have different ways of expressing how ideas came to them. Sara will tell you that she asked the universe, and the universe answered. I would interpret it a bit differently. I’d say Sara kept asking the same set of interesting questions, starting with “Is this my big idea?” And one day, inevitably, the answer was going to be “Yes.”

Step #2: Always Be On the Hunt for Your Big Idea

I wanted to wear my cream pants to a party, and I was a frustrated consumer that had no undergarment to wear under them that wouldn’t show. So I cut the feet out of my own control top pantyhose so I could throw them on under my pants and wear any kind of great strappy heel. And it worked beautifully, except for they rolled up my leg all night at the party.I came home that night and I was like ‘This should exist for women.’

I meet women all the time that have been cutting the feet out of their pantyhose for years trying to solve undergarment issues for themselves. And they’re always like, ‘Why didn’t I do Spanx?’ And I really just think it’s because I had been looking for this and was prepared in my mind to go for whatever idea presented itself.”

The Bigger Picture

First, notice the words Sara used: “This should exist.” Those three words flicker like a neon flashing light over a truly big idea. They’re your clue that you’ve stumbled on something with real potential.

Sara had spent years scanning the horizon for that neon sign, and she was prepared to go for whatever idea presented itself. All the other women who had the same thought simply went to their party and back to work the next morning, leaving the neon sign “This should exist” behind them in the night.

And this gets to the heart of a major misconception around entrepreneurship. There is a myth that big ideas drop out of the sky, land in your lap, and transform you into a billionaire the next day. This almost never happens.

Yes, Sara did have a key moment of inspiration, in her bedroom getting ready for a party, and that matters. But you have to look at what happened before that moment. Sara had already oriented herself squarely in the direction of a big idea; she’d been on the hunt for the last 10 years. Whatever kind of idea you’re staking out, you have to be intentional about looking for it.

Step #3: Put Yourself in Situations Where Inspiration Is Most Likely to Strike

“I’ve identified where my best thinking happens, and it’s in the car. I live really close to Spanx so I’ve created what my friends call my ‘fake commute.’ I get up an hour early before I’m supposed to go to Spanx and I drive around aimlessly in Atlanta with my commute so that I can have my thoughts come to me. And I thought of the name Spanx in the car.”

The Bigger Picture

Sara knows that she does her best thinking in the car. So she intentionally creates the time and space — first thing every day — to open herself up to new ideas. This may seem like an interesting bit of trivia. But it’s more important than it seems. As an entrepreneur, you have to put yourself in situations where YOUR great ideas are likely to strike.

Step #4: Once You Find Your Big Idea, Pursue It

“I went to Neiman and Saks and asked: ‘You know, what do women wear under these white pants?’ And the sales ladies would always say, ‘Well, we don’t really know!’ or they’d point me in the direction of the shapewear that did exist and it was really thick and dreadful and too much control or not what I was looking for. And then there was like regular underwear, which left a panty line that was visible so there was this big gap.

So I was doing two things: I was trying to determine if there was a marketplace beyond just my own thought and what I wanted. And at the same time, I was iterating the product. I tried to make the prototypes myself. I went to fabric stores and bought elastic and tried to paper clip it to the end, and then I tried to sew it. It was through the iteration of the prototype that I really started to love it and love what it could do for my wardrobe.

I like to tell people that what you don’t know can be your greatest asset if you let it. If you have the courage. You know, a lot of us second guess ourselves and think ‘Well, I didn’t go to school for this’ or ‘I’m not an expert’ so we don’t ask the questions or we don’t pursue it.”

The Bigger Picture

You can’t scale an idea that only lives in your head. You have to act on it — because that’s the only way to find out if it has legs.

And great entrepreneurs know: Not every idea is going to succeed. But every idea should be treated like it could. You can only know in retrospect which ideas go the distance. But even if your first idea doesn’t take flight, it may land you at the doorstep of your next big idea.

Spanx may have started as normal pantyhose with the feet cut off, but that isn’t where it ended. The classic Spanx, which women by the millions now rely on, are the length and shape of bicycle shorts. They look great under pants and dresses, never creating seams or lines.

You could compare them to old-fashioned corsets, except that Spanx are breathable, flexible, and invisible under clothes. They’re architectural marvels. The waist lines have an incredible non-sticky grip that keeps them in place. The legs don’t roll up or show through clothes. But none of this existed yet when Sara first had the idea. She saw a gap in the market, and started building toward it.

Step #5: Find Help in the Right Places

“I didn’t tell anybody my idea for one year. I didn’t want to tell friends and family because I didn’t want to invite ego into the process too soon, and so I kept it a secret from everybody in my life and didn’t seek validation. But I did share it with manufacturers, patent lawyers, or people who could help me move it along. And by doing that, I didn’t spend my first year explaining it and defending it. I just spent it pursuing it.

An idea is its most vulnerable in its infancy, and that’s also the moment in human nature we want to immediately turn to our right or left and tell our coworker or friend or boyfriend or boss, you know, ‘I have this idea.’ And out of love and concern we hear a lot of things that stop us right in our tracks.

‘Well, sweetie, if it’s such a good idea why doesn’t it already exist?’ And ‘Well, you know, even if this idea does take off, Sara, you’re going to spend your savings, and the big guys will knock you out of the water in six months.’”

The Bigger Picture

It’s so important — for entrepreneurs and anyone with an outlier idea — to remember that not everyone has the entrepreneurial mindset. Many people will tell you, “That’s crazy. That’s risky. You’ll never succeed. Lots of people have tried this and failed. What makes you different? Why don’t you just take a nice safe 9-to-5 job?”

So if you’re the kind of person who gets discouraged or bullied out of your idea, you might want to do what Sara did — and keep it to yourself.

But there’s also a real advantage to feedback. I do my best thinking when I’m around people who challenge me, who poke holes in my ideas, and who can tell me where the landmines are.

It’s not that Sara didn’t have any input. She just figured out where to get the most useful input, from people who knew the ins and outs of the business. And she shielded herself from the kind of criticism that might have crippled her.

Reid Hoffman

Reid Hoffman Influencer

Find the original publication of this article on LinkedIn.

Join us on June 15th at the VMA Design Conference, part of AIGA’s SF Design Week for more inspiration.

Making a 32ft wide mural for SPUR

We keep finding ourselves here. Last time I published an article I spoke about how I went about creating a 3D cut map for Matson’s office in Oakland with Stamen. In this post I’ll outline what it took to make a 32′x10′ high res satellite image (that’s 13,824,000 pixels) for SPUR’s office in SOMA.

SPUR is a Planning and Urban Research Association based out of San Francisco with offices in Oakland and San Jose. They asked Stamen to create a satellite image of the Bay Area to highlight the breadth of their operation.

Setting the boundaries and aspect ratio

We knew two things early on. One, we wanted to show the entire Bay Area; from Marin to San Jose and San Francisco to Vallejo. And two, we wanted to fill the space the piece was going, a roughly 14’x40′ wall. If you’re familiar with the Bay you will know the area of interest runs vertically whereas our wall was a very wide, horizontal area. We decided to rotate the image counterclockwise to compensate for this.

pre rotation
post rotation

Sourcing the satellite imagery

Typically images of this size (like billboards) are viewed from a distance so the resolution of the image isn’t a priority. However, since our map was going to be displayed in a room where it could be seen both up close and from a distance we wanted to use the best, highest resolution imagery we could get our hands on. So we reached out to our friends at DigitalGlobe.

Satellite imagery is made up of many small images tilled together to create one large seamless image. DigitalGlobe sent us these tiles for the entire Bay Area. They looked like this:

The area of one tile. We had to stitch over 100 of these together.

The resolution was excellent. I actually had to reduce the size of the imagery. Here is the full-res area over Stamen in the Mission District.

That’s Stamen, on the south east corner in the middle.

Stitching the tiles

After we received all the tiles from DigitalGlobe it was time to stitch them together. Alan, Stamen’s lead cartographer, created this map for me. It shows the location and number of each tile in relation to the area we wanted to show. I used this as a guide for knowing where each tiles goes as well as what tiles to not use.

Tiles in relation to the area of interest

Preparing the files and installing the map

Finally, I needed to prep the files for the printer, Dynamite Digital. We decided to print the map on a adhesive vinyl that would be applied to a substrate attached to the wall via french cleats. To help make the process easier we divided the image into 8 equally sized images and applied them to 8 identical substrates.

David, the installer, applying the first section.

We were really thrilled with the piece. It’s hard to capture just how BIG the map is and the amount of endless detail you can find in the images. If you want to see the map in person head over to SPURS website and check out the many events they hold in the space.

Get ready to hear more about data visualization when Eric Rodenbeck of Stamen
gives us his perspective on June 15 at the VMA Design Conference as part of San Francisco Design Week. And yes, this article was hijacked from the Stamen website. Check it out!

Whiskey Series Takes Inspiration From Wild West

WHISKEYHEAD

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.

EXCLUSIVE MOCKUPS FOR BRANDING AND PACKAGING DESIGN

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.”

EXCLUSIVE MOCKUPS FOR BRANDING AND PACKAGING DESIGN

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.”

EXCLUSIVE MOCKUPS FOR BRANDING AND PACKAGING DESIGN

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.