Pitch perfect

I'm working on another pitch right now. It's a good brief that requests a 'big idea', but in this instance it's a matter of showing how we work, rather than the complete work.

read a few interesting articles about selling work in to clients lately. it's such an important part of the design work that it can't be ignored by designers. It's nice to think that great work sells itself, but the truth is that anything that pushes the brief in to a new, unexpected solution is going to take some hard work to get through.

smashing magazine is running an article, which gives a much more confrontational point of view. however it does have some good points about backing up creative with stats and facts. i don't subscribe to the notion that 'business people' talk a different language and should be treated differently. in my opinion, that kind of approach does nothing but open the 'them and us' divide between client and agency.

anyone who has been in a pitch or worked for a creative agency can see a little bit of themselves, somewhere in mad men. even if your not interested in the drama you can't deny that the pitches are as close to perfection as you could expect. design observer has a beautifully written post on the show and it's approach to pitches.

scamp has blogged about 'how to present ideas' which makes a very good point about having conviction in your pitch. it's our job as designers and art directors to bring the passion and excitement to the presentation. if your flat and detached the work will be tainted with your demeanour.

here is my top five tips for good pitching
  1. don't just chuck it down on the table.
    create a fuss and generate some excitement.
  2. back up your plans with stats and facts
    your strategy needs to be based on something solid.
  3. pour yourself in to it
    it's OK to make it personal, in fact the more powerful you make it, the more people will connect with the sentiment behind it.
  4. be convinced by yourself
    if you don't truly believe in your work then you'll need the world's best poker face on, in order to convince the client.
  5. choose your battles
    carefully gage the situation and carefully pick the points at which you fight and submit. it's important not to fold at every decision, but don't wage a war.
and one last thing. how you set your pitch up, is entirely up to you. but make sure your comfortable. if you prefer to stand up and be formal or if you like to invite conversation throughout, ensure you control the environment and let everyone who goes in with you know how your going to run it.

Black. It's the new black.

Black phone, black wallett, black watch, black sunglasses. Now i just need my bank balance in the black and i'm all set.


apple's product blog

when apple released it's iphone update, it also annouced the mobileme application. by all accounts the mobileme launch was rushed and a slew of angry bloggers have taken issue with apple after they lost emails and data.

i don't have an iphone and i'm deeply unhappy about that fact, so i really don't care if a few of apple's customers have problems. apple is not a faultless demi god, it's like any other organisation, it has the tendency to fuck up. I don't care about that, what i do find interesting is there response.

they have opted against the usual press release/apology route and gone for a blog. the blog details the problems and how they are working towards a solution. oddly the blog opens with 'steve jobs has asked me...' - although the author is not stated it seems a very unusual tone of voice, almost as if steve jobs and the blog author are not entirely connected.

this is the first high profile use of business blogging that i've come across. i've seen adobe's development blog (when they bought macromedia), but that was dull as hell. i will be watching to see what they do with the blog in order to engage their users.


brighton branded

what the heck is this?

i was on brighton beach at the weekend and this stone i picked up had 'brighton' stamped on it. is this a branding initiative or have the city council started claiming rights over the stones?


the bbc's new roster

design week has run an article on the bbc's new design roster, which covers the new entries and exits from one of the country's most coveted pitch lists.

the new stripped down roster no longer includes Poke, Wolff Olin's or Attik. I don't know if these agencies didn't make it through the application process or if they simply decided against it this time round. Either way they are all conspicuous by their absence, considering their reputations in their respective fields.

This time round there are not many agencies representing the south, only local boys Designate have managed to secure themselves a spot in the 'Marketing communications' section. it seems that their widely known, but unpublicised search for a new creative director hasn't dented the agency's new business results.

All this talk of the beeb's roster and looking at the agencies included has wet my apetite somewhat. i did a fair amount of work for the bbc when i was at victoria real and although i know it's a huge organisation that can seem unwieldy at times, i know that getting on that list would be a benchmark for how far preview has come. the roster is set for the next two years, so that's how long i've got to make an impact at the beeb. any pointers?

stanford states the bloody obvious

The Web Credibility Project

some of america's greatest academic minds have spent three years researching more than 4,5oo people's views on the web to come up with a list of utterly obvious guidelines.

good work!


Channel 4 - room to grow

i got this in the post from channel 4 today.

it's an invitation to an event hosted by c4. the link between the enclosed sunflower seeds/test tube and the event is a little tenious, but it got a great response when it arrived and we've started growing our seeds in the studio.

i intend to go along, even though it may not all be relevant, i'd like to hear what they have got to say and i've been looking for a reason to get back in with channel 4 for a while.


i was more than gutted when i missed out on tickets to Monkey (journey to the west) in london. however i feel slightly better about missing out since i saw the details for the album.

if you haven't already heard me bleeting on about how much i like damon and jamie's work, let me just say i have probably collected more gorillaz artwork and music in my house than most healthy adults.

additionally the gorillaz team have been working with the bbc to adapt monkey's visuals and music for the upcoming bejing olympics. you can download your own desktop monkey. not dissimilar to our desktop prefect, except they opted to build it using adobe air. the results are stunning and even though i have interest in the games i couldn't help but install it.



Paul Der Van - random thoughts and good questions

Paul writes a marketing blog that poses questions we should all be asking ourselves.
read and comment. thankyouplease.

Are you a digital native?

Following a discussion i had with friends at the weekend about the merits (and lack of) of social networks in the workplace, i wanted to post something about Alan at Criterion's recent presentation on accomodating digital natives in the workplace.

Just to clarify digital natives is the name given to the generation of young adults who have are growing up with myspace, mobile web and online gaming.

you can download notes from the presentation here. but my favourite parts include...

A historical backdrop
The Silent Generation (1925-1942)
The Depression generation, The sandwich generation.

Boomers (1943-1963)
Beatniks, hippies, mods, rockers, Generation Jones, The love generation.

Generation X (1964-1981)
Slackers, The twenty/thirty somethings.

Generation Y (1982-1992)
The corporation generation, Spoiled generation, Generation whY

Digital natives (1992-now)
Millennials, iGeneration, The MySpace generation

Do you speak the langueage?
Digital Aliens
Silent Generation. Latecomers to technology. The internet, podcasts, SMS, online gaming and wireless networks are largely alien concepts to them

Digital Immigrants
Boomers. Those who reached adulthood without digital technology. While many embrace new technologies, some do so reluctantly.

Digital Adaptives
Generation X & Y. Willingly embrace the technologies they saw evolve into consumer durables.
Digital technologies began to emerge in a mass sense during the teen years of GenerationX.

Digital Natives
Millennials have enjoyed the luxuries of digital technology their entire lives including the massive and lucrative video game industry.

You know you're a digital immigrant if...
● You say 'www' before web addresses
● You print out your emails
● You email, fax and post the same document
● You then phone to make sure it got there

The presentation goes in to more depth about recruiting and educating digital natives and is really worth a read.


2008 objectives review

we are about half way through the year which makes for a good time to review my progress. at the start of the year i posted my personal objectives for the year here. some are going well, some are not. still plenty of work to do...

2008 - This is what i've set out for the coming year.

1. Expand the creative team
No real movement here. As this is dictated by work demands. boo. must try harder.

2. Win at least one new client pitch
At the start of the year i ticked this off. we won a competitive pitch that has since been launched and is now developing in to phase two. we've also got some more creative pitchs lined up, so i aim to surpass this one.

3. Execute our marketing plan as scheduled
Everything is going pretty much to plan so far. One piece of press has been delayed as the client has yet to implement our work and one project has been delayed in trade organisation hell.

4. build a secure extranet for proofing and signing off work
This is well underway and will hopefully be up and running before the end of the summer.

5. develop the "15" project for 2009
Shhhh. This is my big future project that i intend on launching in 2009. It's going to need lot's of work this year. So my intention is to get complete buy-in from the whole company and get production and planning moving.

6. add copywriters to our freelance roster
really tough one this. i've met a few very talented writers that i will hopefully get the chance to work with soon. but i'm still lacking a concept developing, ad writing half of a creative team. the hunt continues.

6. Find a CD mentor
nothing official has been set up. however i did get the (eye opening) chance to meet up with james at attik in a mentoring capacity. i will continue to look for something regular though.

more, more, bigger, faster, stronger, more, more, up, up and away.


Designing Demand

Yesterday we were paid a visit by a very nice chap from the Design Council's new programme Designing Demand.

The Designing Demand project is awesome an deal that offers assitance to businesses by finding ways for design to drive company's forward. An associate from the Design Council holds workshops and meetings within companies and then recommends routes forward and agencies to work with (this is where we arrive with our winning smiles).

I'm really looking forward to seeing the project roll out across london and the south east.


i got piles

i've always got piles of stuff on my desk. just things that have come my way, that i like the look of.

generally items in my pile fall in to two categories. 1: leaflets, brochures and other nice printed things that i wish i'd done. 2: unusual finishes or stocks that i haven't seen before. i keep them in my pile until someone can tell me about how it's created.

blog life balance

when i started this blog i had no intention of doing that much with it. since i got in to a rhythm it's hard not to post loads every day. i can feel a temptation to put everything on here, leaving very little inclination to actually say this stuff to anyone.

my first job out of uni was hec. tic. everyday i had loads of projects to complete as well as ongoing tasks and regular responsibilities. i got very organised, very quickly and since then i've stuck to my process of sorting tasks and staying on top of work. fitting blogging in to my work load hasn't been hard so far.

the system i've created with blogger means that anytime i have a selection of draft posts that i just tweak and publish when i'm in the mood.

iain tait's blog hierarchy is a pretty good take on the way people approach their blogs and it's also interesting when people feel self imposed pressure to blog. if i ever look at my stats i tend to stop writing for while. the more i think i'm not being read, the more i'm happy to say.


Asos - magazine or brochure?

I got given a copy of this lovely piece of work recently. It's a promotional item for online fashion store Asos. It's a very clever spin on the old catalogue format. It takes a lot of direction from glossy fashions mags.

It has a contents page, features, interviews

The standard fashion shoots are in there too, but the genius part is that with each of these magazine style items every shot carries a catalogue number. so if you like what you see you just drop the number in to the site's search field and your on your way.

is it a catalogue or is it a magazine? what ever it is it's bloody nicely done.


Choosing a designer

this is an interesting article from the design council on procuring design services. although i can't imagine many people who would benefit from reading this will be digging round the design council's site.

none the less it's worth a read and it got me thinking of all the different ways in which clients go about selecting agencies. Creative pitches, credential pitches, tenders, recommendations, studio visits, friends, consultants, pitch lists, yellow pages?!

Creative pitches
I'm no fan of pitching. everyone in the industry complains about it, but it's impossible to avoid. It certainly seperates the shine from the shit and gives clients an opportunity to see what an agency can really do, as long as they run it properly.

Credential pitches
Not as hard on the agencies and i think a great way to decide if you've found the right fit.

No body, anywhere in the world likes tenders. fact. no one likes writing them, no one likes reading them. They are tricky and in my opinion the most impersonal route.

Often seen as a safe bet, but it can put a strain on friends and other third parties.

Consultants/Pitch Lists
More and more clients are turning to creative/marketing/brand consultants to guide them when selecting agencies to use. Many consultants are very good at getting a thorough brief and working out who is the best team to deliver and who is the best fit of personalities. it also gives clients the opportunity to navigate through the cowboys and let some one else screen potential partners. I guess they are creative pimps. No wait! - that implies designers are the hoes.

I'd like to know from designers and clients what the most successful route to procuring creative services actually is (statistically speaking). i wonder if there is a way to quantify which one produces the best long term results.

Silver Cross Brochure

I just got a copy of Silver Cross's new brochure.

My word, it's a beautifully crafted piece of work. I found saw it on Love's blog and these cacky photos don't do it justice. If your in any way interested in graphic design, photography, printing or copy writing i suggest you get yourself a copy of this asap.


Cutting costs, looking cheap

one of the discussions i find myself having time and again with clients is how to maximise their small budget as a 'start up'. before we go any further let me state something very clearly: small budget does not mean cheap!

a small budget can be used to create a massive impact in the right hands. cheap design work is ill conceived and poorly executed. the difference is important.

one of the most common mistakes i've found is cutting back on print costs. when your dealing with print quality, your dealing with a tangible item. cutting corners in this area is going to show out like a sore thumb. when your building a business from scratch you need to make a good impression every time and the difference between a flimsy, digitally printed business card and one that's been litho printed with special finishes is going to be the difference between those businesses who are taken seriously and those who are going nowhere.

the secret to getting more from your designers is in the planning stage. the more time you take to sit down and discuss your needs with the designers, the more scope there is for them to devise and solution that won't crush your bottom line.

instead of not paying for decent print work or a reputable agency, how about not paying for six redesigns because you can't decide on the copy structure. being organised before you approach the agency will radically reduce the amount you'll pay for project management and artwork.


Attik partner moves on.

Article on Adweek about one of Attik's partners, Will Travis moving on to a new role in their parent company. By all accounts Will was highly instrumental in driving Attik forward with business development. It will be interesting to see how this effects the agency's direction. Fairly interesting article i particularly love this bit about Will trying to break the US...

Travis didn't have any business contacts when he arrived in the states, so he spent six months pitching prospects at the British Chamber of Commerce, plumbing family connections and using a Yellow Pages he purloined from a U.S. hotel room. He lined up about $250,000 in business to fund Attik's first year of rent and opened with assignments from Simon & Schuster, NBC and Columbia Tri-Star.

Now that's a man with determination on his side.