Posts Tagged ‘design’

Playing with the box it came in: design, all the way through

Monday, August 31st, 2015

We get excited about great, powerful design here at NOW, and this is an example.

If you speak to groups, then you should probably know about Garr Reynolds, whose book Presentation Zen has saved countless audiences from terrible presentations. Focusing on both speeches and visuals, Reynolds advocates a design aesthetic rooted in principles that owe as much to Japanese culture as to Zen itself.

A few years ago, he brought out a DVD with an accompanying sketchbook, packaged as The Presentation Zen Way. And while the content is terrific, the package itself is arresting in its beauty.

This is the box it comes in:

The Presentation Zen Way: box

And this is what you see when you open it:

The Presentation Zen Way: interior

It’s a bento box! With pencils for chopsticks! And Post-Its that evoke pickled ginger!

The “wow” factor is immense (and the photos can’t do justice to the actual package). But the impact lies in the way the brand has carried all the way through from content to the little envelope the pencils come in. Every interaction with the packaging reinforces Reynolds’ message of simplicity and grace… and reminds the viewer of the principles behind it.

Kids are famous for tossing the expensive present aside and playing with the box it came in. That won’t happen with this; Reynolds’ presentation advice is too valuable to let it gather dust.

But for us, this is a reminder of why it’s worth going to such lengths to make thoughtful, effective design permeate every aspect of our communications. Whether we’re promoting principles for effective speaking or policies for social justice, every interaction with our audience is a chance to reinforce our message, and design — great design — helps make that happen.

It’s pretty. But is it strategic?

Monday, August 24th, 2015

The problem with pretty is it can mask a serious problem.

That brochure’s gorgeous. That video’s beautiful. That website is so tasty you want to gobble it up.

And every one of them could well be a waste of money.

We’ve seen a spate of videos like this over the past month or two: well-executed, beautifully shot or animated, meticulously edited… and strategically, not worth the three minutes we spent watching them.

We’d never knock good design; give us something eye-catching and compelling any day. But the problem with pretty is that it can mask a serious problem. If a piece isn’t strategic — if it doesn’t deliver its message in a convincing way — then pretty doesn’t matter, and neither does clever or funny (as painful as that is to admit).

Our first goal isn’t entertainment: it’s persuasion. It may sound harsh, but if a piece doesn’t move your audience toward supporting you, then it has failed.

That doesn’t mean you can’t use beauty or wit to earn your audience’s attention. But the way you do it can’t get in the way of your message.

Here are three questions to help you see past the dazzle and decide whether a piece really is strategic:

  • What’s the one thing you remember after seeing or hearing it? If that one thing reinforces your message, then great! If it doesn’t — if it’s a clever joke or glorious image that doesn’t deliver your message — then this piece hasn’t done its job.
  • Will someone who skims the piece get your message? A lot of people skim print ads and brochures. And most viewers won’t watch your video all the way through. If your message is one tiny little nugget at the bottom of a sea of off-message cruft, then this piece hasn’t done its job.
  • Does anything in this piece effectively contradict your message? I’m not talking about parody; if it’s clear that you’re making fun of your opponent’s point of view, that’s one thing. But if the piece appears to be dismissive of a serious issue, or makes jokes that undermine your point, this piece not only hasn’t done its job — it’s working against you.

Just because a piece is lovely, even moving, doesn’t mean it’s strategically effective. That’s where your strategic judgement has to come into play, setting aside aesthetics and asking the hard questions that can justify an effective use to time and money — or avoid a wasteful one.

Don’t let your campaign get a bad wrap

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015

Notice something a little… off about the federal Liberal campaign bus wrap?

Somewhere between the designer’s monitor and the printing press, a font went missing… and with it, the metrics information that keeps a typeface’s spacing from looking wonky. (And this isn’t a little problem with kerning; “CHANGE” has broken into two separate words.)

Designers and politicos alike have been snickering about this, and rightly so.

Amateur-hour flubs on a national campaign should be embarrassing—and not just because graphics nerds might laugh at you. Good, professional design inspires confidence and reinforces your message. Sloppy design mistakes do the exact opposite, especially if they play into a Conservative narrative that the Liberal leader just isn’t ready to be prime minister.

Even if someone has no design training, and even if they only catch a glimpse of that bus wrap, they’ll know something wasn’t quite right… and it’ll undermine their confidence.

How can you avoid the same mistakes? Well, you can avoid the biggest one by voting NDP on October 19th. But in the meantime, here are four key lessons to make sure your design works for your campaign, instead of giving it a (cough) bad wrap: (more…)

Dennis McGann’s vision, 12 years later

Friday, August 30th, 2013

Dennis McGannToday marks 12 years since Dennis McGann, one of the founding partners of NOW Communications, passed away.

A lot has changed in NOW’s world during those dozen years. Today, mobile devices are everywhere. Sophisticated animation tools can readily bring to life the kind of concepts that used to seem outlandish and impossibly expensive. The tools of publishing are in vastly more hands than ever before, and a growing number of working people – and the organizations that represent them — are challenging the power of corporate narratives.

It’s an exciting time, and we can only imagine what Dennis would have done to reach and engage audiences today.

One thing we do know:

It would have looked fantastic.