By David Curless, Art Director
It was all looking so positive. Dynamic client, interesting sector, decent budget.
And then I read the final paragraphs of the brief: “We use a royalty-free image library. We will not be commissioning bespoke photography for our new website.”
With those two sentences, my whole enthusiasm for the project drained away. Why am I being such a design drama queen about this? Because it gives a clear indication of the lack of importance the client is placing on the quality of their content. Just another website viewed as an empty vessel into which they can pour the same old content and job done. We’re online.
THIS IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
Imagery is an incredibly powerful and efficient way to communicate complex messages and all of us are hard-wired to understand and analyse imagery in the blink of an eye. That’s 50 milliseconds. Or to put it another way, we can process and understand imagery 60,000 times faster than text. So in that blink of an eye, your visitors are making their mind up about your organisation. Do you look credible? Do you look like an organisation they might want to do business with?
We are equally adept at recognising, and dismissing, clichéd stock photography. All those handshakes, water droplets and gleaming white teeth are registered immediately as false and having no real connection to your company and values. Hackneyed imagery of this kind is positively damaging to your brand. It draws attention, in a very public way, to the fact that you either: can’t be bothered to think about what you want to tell visitors about yourself; or even worse, you don’t even know what it is about your organisation that makes you special.
Either way, you are sending a very negative, muddled message and in today’s highly competitive marketplace, customers have little, if any, tolerance of this sort of lazy thinking.
So, if you want to communicate clearly and positively, think carefully about what makes you stand out from the crowd, tell the great stories about yourselves, show your personality (come on, you must have some), decide on the key messages you want your visitors to come away with and get bespoke imagery working hard on your behalf. The care you put into this will place your organisation ahead of the competition. In the end, what you pay for commissioned imagery will be repaid time and again by the benefits it brings to the perception of what you stand for and the values you hold.
By Ryan Sackett, UX Consultant
Outside of my day to day as a UX Consultant at Precedent Towers, I decided that balance was needed for a better work life balance, so I decided what better hobby to take up than – you guessed it – more UX stuff!
I have helped run UXPA Scotland, a network that is designed to support people who research, design and evaluate the user experience of products and services for the past few years now. Over the last year I have taken charge of the ever growing events schedule, and, specifically the programme of speakers.
Despite occasionally wondering if without realising it, ‘has UX slowly taken over my life’? I get so much out of it that I know doing more is better than nothing at all. But like many of us with out of work ‘professional hobbies’, my efforts are sporadic and time intensive and you find yourself in a constant juggling act , trying to ensure you can accommodate it all.
A few weeks ago, after being approached to help out with the forthcoming UX Scotland conference, yet another UX work/hobby that I couldn’t turn down, I found myself reviewing a huge stack of submissions from members of the UX community looking to speak at the event. Delighted and daunted just about summed it up.
I couldn’t escape the fact that there are so many interesting facets to UX. The discipline is so vast and varied that choosing the right mix of speakers and topics was no mean feat. I was grateful that I had so much involvement finding speakers and content for the events programme for UXPA Scotland as the task ahead was a daunting, and in truth, reviewing talks for a paying event felt like a different beast altogether. When the quality is so good and those submitting talks are people you respect, judging becomes all the more difficult.
I made my choices, made them again, then again and after a bit more deliberation I got there in the end. I’d been supplied with a criteria, but in the end found that gut instinct seemed to balance out three key factors – how current the topic was; if the talk felt practical; and, finally if the content sounded interesting.
I am happy to report my selections all satisfied at least two of the three criteria and I’m looking forward to seeing them, and as many others as I can squeeze in, when the conference rolls into Edinburgh on June 20 & 21 this year.
By Lindsay Herbert, Head of Digital Marketing
This weekend was a heavy one. I meant to stop after just one on Saturday at the Tate Britain at the Schwitters exhibit, but before I knew it, I was binging on Lichtenstein and ‘A Bigger Splash’ at the Tate Modern, followed by blowing the last of my mind on Sunday at the jaw-dropping Russian exhibitions at the Saatchi Gallery.
To try and redeem myself this Monday morning, bleary eyed and sore, I’ve collected three thoughts that relate well to my work as Head of Digital Marketing that I hope will also be a help to others. Two of the thoughts have a strong digital connection, whilst the last is just a general thought I need to remind myself of more often.
1) Untitled. (Really?)
First, knowing what a picture is about doesn’t just help to understand it, it can give you an appreciation of its value. Cartoon-like tattoos of chains and sad, busty women on moustached men, looking not unlike aged portraits of Shoreditch hipsters in the Saatchi Gallery, took on unsettling new meaning when the captions revealed them to be the gang tattoos of lifelong Russian criminals. Or at the Lichtenstein exhibition where the captions showed just how many of the paintings were borrowed from private collections – meaning that despite their iconic status and societal value, when the exhibitions ends we’ll likely never get to lay eyes on many of these famous works again.
It made me think back to my work on the web and the time it takes to load those big carousel banners many brands are so fond of (or at least, fond of the in-fighting they often resolve internally), and it’s worth thinking of the potential value added when making the call on whether to include space in the carousel template for that precious, value-adding editable text.
2) Yours sincerely, the Tate Modern
My second thought relates to the DREAM Destinations seminar series we’re currently running (next stop, Edinburgh!) and how attractions like galleries can (and are) using technology to forge closer connections with their visitors, and bridge the time between in-person visits.
The moment I scanned my membership card at the Tate Modern, an email popped into my Hotmail account asking what I thought of the Lichtenstein exhibit. Whilst I thought the wording could have been a little less praise soliciting (‘Looking at the comments so far, it’s clear that people have enjoyed…’) I was still impressed, first by the efficiency and then by the fact they thought to ask at all.
It’s also noteworthy though that it was my second visit to the exhibition (yes, I’m really getting my money’s worth out of my membership!) and the second time receiving the same email. Should the second email have been different and recognized me as a repeat visitor? In an ideal world (where the Tate gets the unlimited marketing resource and advanced CRM it deserves), yes, but it did prompt me to wonder what other ways the Tate could have bridged the virtual and real life gap.
For example, I was disappointed when my favourite paintings weren’t available for sale as prints at each of the galleries I’d visited – could I have been asked to vote online for which additional prints should be procured for their online shop? Could QR codes have been added to the paintings so scanning saved them to a list of favourites that I could then share and refer to later (rather than have to surreptitiously snap photos of the captions for my own un-shareable records)?
One thing I will say, even though I didn’t click through on either email from the Tate, was that I was touched to see the curator’s name pop up in my inbox. It was a sign they are keeping track of my interactions with them in a meaningful way – one that should later result in fewer ‘email all’ messages down the road – but more importantly, tells me my visit is helping them shape future visits for everyone.
3) Art: The brain’s drain cleaner!
The last thing I’ll mention is how standing for hours in four different galleries this weekend, overloading my brain with creativity and introspection, is making me oddly eager to get stuck back in at work this snowy Monday morning. I don’t know how some of the most impressive things I saw (like a giant painting at Saatchi gallery that from far away looks opulent and intricately detailed, but close up is actually made from systematically torn and paint-soiled cardboard sheets) are going to factor into the projects I’m working on, but the feeling in my head right now is a bit like the one you get right before a great idea pops in.
Not a new revelation I suppose, but a good reminder as to why we should all reboot our brains and trade staring at pixels for paint strokes whenever we get the chance.
By Adrian Porter, Head of Strategic Research
For reasons that will become apparent I found myself today looking for the origins of the phrase that forms the title of this blog. As is often the case I was distracted by an apparently unrelated news article, this time on the Boy Genius Report (BGR) website.
The item concerned the unveiling of Microsoft’s new tablet device and was titled ‘Microsoft Surface tablet is sincerest form of flattery for Apple’. I was intrigued.
The article quoted Topeka Capital Markets analyst Brian White writing in a note to investors:
“If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the compliments from Microsoft poured down like a torrential storm on Apple last night. At the same time, this event indicates to us that Microsoft is still searching for its own identity in the post-PC era, something that has come naturally for Apple with the rise of the mobile internet.”
Of course the question that everyone is asking is whether the Surface is a serious contender for the space that Apple has dominated in recent years. White’s assessment was quite blunt when he said; “we found little in yesterday’s presentation that would convince us that a consumer would prefer Surface over an iPad”. (more…)
By Harry Rees
With graduation only three months away, and the final hurdle fast approaching, I felt my placement at Precedent could be my most important one to date. Previously I had been mentored by Ed Richards (senior designer, Precedent Cardiff) for a live brief at Cardiff Met. Within that short space of regular one hour discussions, I always took away something positive and a fresh perspective. Hungry for more, I was keen to reunite with my former mentor.
The two weeks I spent at Precedent where highly enjoyable and memorable. Not only did I learn so much about the industry I’m passionate about, but essentially what makes it so great.. and that’s the people!
Precedent’s friendly, welcoming vibe allowed me to slip right in and feel at home. They allowed me to explore creative avenues, ideas and thoughts in a number of discussions and presentations.
By , Commercial Director
In our digital finance report Integration or Isolation? and subsequent digital finance forum we showed a range of great examples for social engagement in financial service organisations. This included the @RBS_Economics insight tweets, @SkandiaTeamGBR’s digital curation of its own content and other relevant information sources and @Zopa’s really personal customer service approach. We also looked at Fidelity’s proactive Facebook page and how some firms such as Investec are starting to maintain their LinkedIn company pages.
At the forum the biggest single issue shared with us during the roundtables was the challenge of compliance. Feedback from the event stressed how much marketers were looking to Precedent and similar digital agencies to answer their compliance challenges. Clearly we can’t alone answer what are often complex regulatory challenges. Keen to take on the challenge we proposed a roundtable event under Chatham House Rules to get marketers and compliance professionals together to explore these issues and hopefully find some positive recommendations.
By , Senior Designer
Ed Richards tells of the design student mentoring taking place at Precedent’s Cardiff office in conjunction with UWIC and Cardiff Council.
After mulling over the design brief set by Cardiff Council, our students Sarah, Ashleigh, Alex and Harry were given a week to go away and do as much research as possible based around stats, facts and how creative ideas could in some way change people’s commuting patterns in and around Cardiff.
We began with an initial discussion on how we could really hope to change people’s habits. We talked about ideas around awareness on climate change and how by making one small change, it could make a big difference.
However, we knew that using climate change as a hook for people to alter their behaviour in today’s current climate was not enough; people now worry more about their finances and grabbing a bargain than global warming. This fed into the idea that to change people’s patterns we would need to reward them in some way which would make it attractive to change.
My time at Precedent
By Matt Rickard, summer work experience in business development at Precedent
Continuing with our mini series, we hear from Matt who worked here over the summer.
During my summer holidays I realised it would be a good idea to get some work experience. So I set about getting some and it just so happened that our school had a few fiercely competitive slots open.
I looked for something that I was interested in and considering I am taking both IT and computing as A levels, Precedent fitted the bill perfectly. I wanted to learn more about what relevance both my subjects had in an actual computer based business.
I would be shadowing one of the directors of Precedent, Mark Sherwin. He then showed all the meetings I could attend which turned out to be around two a day. This gave me a chance to see how a digital project runs from just a brainstorm all the way up until final pitch in front of clients with lots in-between. Other than going to meetings I have been involved in market research and testing.