Archive for the ‘design’ Category
18th November 13
Latest in a series of cross-posts we’re publishing here from the monthly tech column we write for Marketing magazine in the UK. This article first appeared in the October edition.
For half a decade or more, marketers have been told to expect ‘the year of mobile’ as we watch helpful graphs plot an inexorable path to where x marks the spot: the moment mobile overtakes desktop usage globally. And yet still we see mobile marketing spends failing to keep up with user behaviour (source: KPCB, Internet Trends report, May 2013).
Some businesses are notable exceptions. It’s no surprise that smartest and most marketing-savvy of CEOs, Burberry’s (now outgoing) CEO, Angela Ahrendts, recently declared a wholesale commitment to a mobile first strategy:
“Our design teams design for a landing page and the landing page dictates what the store windows will look like, not the other way round. In creative media, they’re shooting for digital, then we are turning it back to physical… now let’s do everything for mobile and then take it back to desktop.” (CEO Talk, Business of Fashion, September 2013)
Okay, so this approach may not work perfectly for every geography, category and every audience (Ahrendts is clear that their core target audience are Millennials), but if a company the size of Burberry can adopt behaviour like this and win, what’s stopping other organisations?
With the benefit of hindsight, the issue is easier to call. We’ve had at least three false dawns for mobile marketing:
i. innovations in hardware, specifically tablets
ii. mobile apps
iii. responsive design practice
Don’t get me wrong, each of these has brought tremendous value in multiple ways, but none of these has provided a perfect solution to marketing on the move. We know most tablets stay at home. Branded apps fail more often than not (as I’ve shared before in this column, 80% of branded apps have less than 1,000 downloads according to Deloitte data published in 2011). Responsive design is an elegant solution some of the time, but of course can’t solve every communications and design issue all of the time, particularly with banners.
Truthfully, most marketers still stare at the real estate available on a mobile ‘phone and frown at the tiny little ad units with even tinier little links contained within them.
So what now? Enter cards. Yes, cards. They don’t sound like the key to the mobile marketing universe, but bear with me for a bit. Cards, aka modules, are not new in digital media, services like Pinterest and Flipboard are built on cards, for example. What is exciting is how cards are rapidly emerging as an elegant design pattern to distribute individual, small packages of information (if you’re a marketer, a light bulb should have just gone off in your head). Witness Twitter Cards (enabling multi-media data to appear in-stream alongside tweets), Google Now, Spotify’s Discover service, not to mention Google Glass, for which “timeline cards are core to the user’s interaction” according to their developer guidelines.
It’s important to note cards aren’t simply an html rectangle; think instead of a manipulatable pattern you can arrange in stacks, flip over or fold to expand or contract the information. Aggregated content can be marshalled and presented depending on different, personalised criteria: location, interests, behaviour etc.
Quite fundamentally, the likes of Google Now show us how mobile use is forcing a move away from a web that mimics the publishing world of old (linked pages of content), to individual, dynamic and shareable pieces of content instead. Cards that feel beautifully native to a mobile experience, not a mobile version of something born on a desktop. As cards as a communication canvas becomes a new norm, it strikes me the opportunities for more effective, more exciting mobile work will only grow.
Perhaps finally, we have found an elegant solution to the real estate of a small screen.
5th November 13
One more in a series of tech columns we’ve written for Marketing magazine this year. This article by Adam on flat design appeared in the September issue.
Author: Adam Powers, Head of UX, BBH London & BBH Labs
Sir Jony Ive revealed his vision for Apple’s iOS7 operating system on September 10th, and the SVP of Design’s vision of the world is flat.
This redesign is about more than just eradicating embossed buttons and drop shadows. In typically thoughtful mode, Ive declared, “True simplicity is derived from so much more than just the absence of clutter.” For the first time in perhaps a decade though, Apple is joining a movement rather than creating one.
The flat design movement has been gaining momentum amongst technology companies for some time now. Looking back, it may well have been Microsoft Windows 8 design team that pushed things past the tipping point. They created a crisp, clean and minimalist approach where geometric shapes, bold colours and sharp corners dominate the rather nice operating system. The next flat design fans were Google, with their new aesthetic applied across a dramatically improved suite of applications (Google Maps, I adore you). Then came Yahoo’s elegant weather app, but many others have followed.
Like many art and design movements, flat design was a reaction to the dominant aesthetic that preceded it. Skeumorphism – the approach that borrows affordances from a user’s day-to-day life and translates that to screen-based design with the aim of aiding comprehension. All that stitched leather, aqua shine and drop shadow of the past few years was borne from that belief. It goes back further, to the days of WYSIWYG computer desktops where the workplace norms, such as files, folders and trash cans, were employed in the language of the operating systems to help us comprehend and participate in the desktop computing revolution.
Fans of this flat aesthetic, ahem, cite this change as a sign of the maturity of human and computer interaction. Our interaction with technology no longer needs to be disguised to make it more palatable. Flat design embraces the constraints and challenges of screen-based design and runs with it. Minimalist and utilitarian design that foregoes excessive ornamentation and is sensitive to bandwidth and functionality.
Before I get caught up in adulation of this latest expression of modernism, we should pause.
It would seem that flat design might come with risks. That (once?) esteemed voice of digital usability, Jakob Nielsen, has undertaken extensive user testing focussed on everyone’s must have tech – the tablet. After testing on a whole range of fondle slabs, Jakob concludes that flat design is not optimal for tablet devices. It would appear that the absence of hover-states on tablets, combined with departure of drop shadows and the ‘less is more’ conviction of flat design, means there is “…a dearth of distinguishing signifiers for UI elements.” i.e. It is harder to intuit what is and is not clickable and therefore things are harder and less satisfying to use.
This presents a very specific challenge, but I would suggest that there are a couple of wider reaching challenges that face the flat design movement.
The first is the ever present spectre of commodification of the web. Look at the search returns page on Google, the tightening embrace of iOS and Android design guidelines or the increasingly far-reaching rules for brands on Facebook or Youtube – it’s just getting harder for brands to cut through on tech platforms and services. Though the folks at YouTube etc. might argue that brands should focus on the quality of their content rather than the ease with which they can spray their colour palette across their respective brand channels. Either way, the flat design movement does appear to be at risk of further contributing to the commodification situation.
The second challenge that I see is that much of the impetus behind flat design is from Europe and North America – where there is long history with Modernism.
What does a critical market like Asia make of flat design, for instance? A Hong Kong based expert, working at the juncture of global marketing and technology, advised me, “Whether you’re considering ux design, user testing or anything else for that matter, you mustn’t think of Asia as a single market. China is as different to Japan as it is to Australia…and each has quite a different relationship with technology…”
Actually, one doesn’t have to look too far for some quite specific insights. This Tech in Asia blog observes that in China, Vietnam and Thailand, flat design may frequently be interpreted as overly austere or ‘…a lot of hot air…” It also proposes that for many of these commercially important markets, it is in fact ‘crowded design’ that performs best.
Somebody better tell Jony.
5th September 13
This is the third cross-post this week from a few articles we’ve written this year for a tech column in Marketing magazine. This one from the June issue looks at designing for mobile web versus native apps: as mobile moves to centre stage, should marketers design for every operating system and every device, or opt instead for the mobile web?
Last month’s column covered how wearable tech is likely to succeed for no other reason than it makes intuitive sense once you try it. Just as mankind ditched pocket watches en masse in the first half of the 20th century (albeit reluctantly at first: apparently your average British male stated they’d “rather wear a skirt than a wrist watch” until after WW1), it follows that we won’t carry around a smartphone when we can wear one instead and stay handsfree.
When it comes to designing for mobile however, wearable tech throws up additional demands in an already quite complex space. Designing for different operating systems on a bunch of different handsets and tablets is going to look like child’s play when wearable tech fully enters the arena. It’s going to get harder before it gets easier.
Enter the mobile web. I usually subscribe to the view that the more complex a task, the simpler the solution needs to be. Native apps increasingly dominate mobile traffic, currently delivering four times the volume of the mobile web and yet… why design separate solutions for different OS when you can have the broader applicability and lower costs of designing for the mobile web instead?
In truth, there is no one mobile solution to rule them all. So how best to navigate development choices now, with one eye on the future?
Here’s a dead simple guide to ‘what to choose, when’:
1. Native apps
If you’re designing a service or utility (task-based) app that requires real speed and you want to use the native features of the OS running on a given device, then for now your best bet is to code a native app, think Instagram.
2. Web apps
In other words, apps that live entirely online and run in a web browser tab. If you don’t need the native features associated with iOS or Android, say, and the purpose of your app is primarily information-based – to the extent it needs constant communication with the server – then you’re better off building a web app. An example of this would be Forecast http://forecast.io/, the weather app built using HTML5. No need to go to the app store, just search, download to your home screen and you’re good to go. Forecast also puts to bed any assumptions that a native app interface is de facto better. As Forecast themselves say, it’s more a question of users getting familiar with the progress that’s been made:
“It’s 2013, and mobile browser technology has advanced tremendously in the past few years: hardware accelerated transforms and animations have made it easy to create perfectly smooth, jitter-free, interfaces..”
3. Hybrid apps
In short, each of the approaches here have a role, it depends on what we’re trying to achieve. For marketers, I’d wager we default to a native app too quickly. The question to ask is “will this app provide genuine utility or entertainment that users will want to return to of their own accord in future?” If the answer is closer to “no, this is a short term campaign to promote a product launch” then let’s do everyone, including our CFOs, a favour and build a light, responsively designed web page instead.
Love this related post on cards as a design approach that solves many of the perennial issues around mobile – it’s must-read: Why Cards Are The Future of The Web, by Paul Adams @ Intercom.
21st June 13
I must have been around five or six when I at least subconsciously realised that my dad worked for ‘a brand’.
Taxiing through Schipol yesterday I saw the iconic KLM logo everywhere and it was for the Dutch airline, with its consistently modern, clean, emblematic branding, that my dad worked.
As children my sister and I saw plenty of that logo. On company Christmas cards and letterheads that lay around our home. On the multilayered paper tickets (always standby, always a nervy adventure) that took us away to places I now realise were exotic destinations in the 70s. And everywhere in the office at Heathrow, where we sometimes spent the day with Dad at work, in the dog days of the summer holidays.
And so yesterday it struck me that my taste in design might hark back to those days, to that logo. The simple morse-like arrangement of cross, over four dots over long dash. The discreetly powerful, squatly confident KLM in Noa Light. An imprinting of intelligent, stylised, corporate identity leading to a fondness for deliberate, thoughtfully bland urbanity. An interest in unplaces. The appreciation of the aesthetics of the shipping container and transport logistics hubs. Digitally rendered fictional suburbia. Street view art.
And taxiing through Schipol I thought about this. And this small thought, the memories, speak to the power of good design and branding and how a logo, assuredly deployed, can imprint itself on a person and shape them, years later, like a paternal hand from the past.
25th October 11
Short answer: you bet. In fact, $300,000 is a downright steal for a t-shirt when you consider we’re sending every cent of the purchase to some very needy kids (via the U.S. fund for UNICEF) in the Horn of Africa.
For our latest effort, in a proud history of humanitarian efforts, BBH New York and UNICEF have teamed up with Threadless and NYC artist collective Christine and Justin Gignac to launch Good Shirts: a clothing line priced to help.
Each Good Shirt is sold at the exact cost of the aid item depicted on the front of the shirt. So, in the case of the cargo plane, the shirt is the exact price of a cargo plane to transport aid – $300,000. Don’t worry: not every gesture need be this grand, we’ve got shirts for every budget, starting at $18.57- the cost of three insecticide treated mosquito nets.
Many thanks go out to our distribution partners at Threadless who went above and beyond to make this project a reality. They rallied behind the idea like most good partners tend to do; even going so far as to alter their website’s back-end code to allow for our unique pricing structure (which in code land is a seriously big deal).
The landing page: www.threadless.com/UNICEF went live today. Please check it out and just maybe purchase a shirt to help the children in the Horn of Africa.
Oh, and for the art directors reading this, the pictures can be found here:
We are excited to launch this new product with the UNICEF U.S. Fund. This is one of many ideas that agencies around the world are doing (see the 50/50 project for other projects). Tell us which projects you are most excited about?
19th November 10
Author: Matthew Gladstone (@gladstonematt), Partner, BBH London
So it’s official, “Applications are the white goods of the 21st century” and sales of virtual goods have crossed the $2bn threshold in the US and iTunes has over a billion downloads.
But, as we all know, not everyone is enjoying the party – Thom Yorke has told young bands not to tie themselves to the sinking ship of music companies, Murdoch is trying out pay walls for his newspapers, and a US court has caused outcry by ruling that people who have bought discs of software don’t actually “own” them – they cannot sell them second hand on eBay.
I think the difference is a lot to do with packaging and branding. Or, to be precise, virtual packaging and branding. People who are getting it right are getting paid more than those who aren’t.
What packaging and branding do is to create a sense of property and ownership. And property and ownership are norms that tell us to value and pay for things. Which are big problems in the virtual economy.
So my provocation is this: “Virtual packaging” is one way to create that sense of ownership and property. Just as the pioneers of branding created commercial value when they put trade-marks onto commodities in the tangible world – branded them as “theirs” – we have to reinvent packaging and branding for the virtual world.
The most obvious examples of this are Apps (packaged, single-purpose, branded on the button, tangible with a finger, made unique to you through use) and, at the other extreme, music (downloaded via anonymous browser, no presence other than a line of text in a database, totally generic). And who is persuading people to pay more successfully?
I think that one day we will look back at the App v.2010 and laugh at its crudity. One day we will have virtual packaging as iconic as this:
But let’s go back to the beginning.
My first wake up call was overhearing the oft-debated morality of downloading music. Free file sharing? Fine. Normal. That’s how you get music. Why the question? But walking out of a store with a cd without paying for it? Shoplifting. Stealing. Wrong. Equally obvious.
So what’s the difference between download and CD? To the artist, none. But to the user, one was packaged – physical, shiny, found in a shop – the other, just a piece of anonymous data accessed through a browser.
Look at Murdoch vs. the App. No detailed data are available yet, but anecdotal reports say that iPad apps are performing disproportionately well vs. subscriptions accessed via browser. And Ben Hughes, global commercial director and deputy CEO of the Financial Times, says the iPad is a “game-changer” for the newspaper industry. It’s the app vs the generic packaging of the browser.
Which leaves our last example – the action against someone selling software discs on eBay. The Software and Information Industry Association (USA) is breaking our norms of ownership and property when it says “I own that physical thing you bought”. We all feel that physical things belong to the person who buys them.
So the App is really just a virtual box. iTunes or Amazon just a virtual shop (no shit). Things that have cleverly used the norms of ownership and property in the virtual space, to make us more likely to pay for them. Right now the virtual retailers seem to be way more sophisticated than the products they sell – but hopefully that will change.
So here are some starters on creating virtual packaging (some of these may seem uncannily obvious or familiar to the real world, but maybe that’s the point):
- visual identity which differentiates the object
- tangible, touchable
- a differentiated experience (sounds, colours, even haptic “textures”)
- adaptive to the owner – evolving into something distinctively personal to the owner
- hard to copy and transfer; the sense of a physical transfer, not a lossless virtual one
Perhaps it’s time music came in Apps. As we said earlier: branded on the button, tangible, with a memory of what I did last time, with an experience unique to each app or band. Perhaps it would even be like a gatefold of old, but on steroids. Now that’s something I’d pay for.
We’d like to know what you think. Who’s doing this well? Do you know anyone who works in the world of packaging who’d want to comment?
11th August 10
Here’s more information on the technology, and the project behind it (below). For further details, including Microsoft’s research paper and more films, visit their site, here.
Systems such as Google Street View and Bing Maps Streetside enable
users to virtually visit cities by navigating between immersive
360panoramas, or bubbles. The discrete moves from bubble to
bubble enabled in these systems do not provide a good visual sense
of a larger aggregate such as a whole city block. Multi-perspective
“strip” panoramas can provide a visual summary of a city street but
lack the full realism of immersive panoramas.
We present Street Slide, which combines the best aspects of the
immersive nature of bubbles with the overview provided by multi-perspective
strip panoramas. We demonstrate a seamless transition
between bubbles and multi-perspective panoramas. We also
present a dynamic construction of the panoramas which overcomes
many of the limitations of previous systems. As the user slides sideways,
the multi-perspective panorama is constructed and rendered
dynamically to simulate either a perspective or hyper-perspective
view. This provides a strong sense of parallax, which adds to the
immersion. We call this form of sliding sideways while looking at
a street facade a street slide. Finally we integrate annotations and a
mini-map within the user interface to provide geographic information
as well additional affordances for navigation. We demonstrate
our Street Slide system on a series of intersecting streets in an urban
setting. We report the results of a user study, which shows that
visual searching is greatly enhanced with the Street Slide interface
over existing systems from Google and Bing.
19th May 10
Authors: Brad Haugen, Hal Kirkland & Masa Kawamura (@BBHNewYork)
Asher Roth is an artist who is uniquely in touch with his fans. After all, his brand was brilliantly built on the back of the web community Ning. This platform forged bonds and fostered conversations between Asher’s team and their fans. Since the end of his first tour, everyone was simply waiting for what he would do next.
So while this project arrived at an extremely busy time at BBH New York, the opportunity to work directly with an artist who encouraged creative freedom, and to experiment both conceptually and with new technologies, was super exciting; a luxury not often afforded within every advertising brief.
Luckily Asher, an incredibly web-savvy and prolific blogger knew what he wanted from the start.
“I want my website to really show my fans who I am. I want them to realize that I am just like any of them, and that I’m human. It has to engage them on that level.”
It didn’t take long before the idea for the site began to evolve. Of course, after some initial concepts were discussed, we had to make sure what we were suggesting was even possible, hence partnering with the geniuses at AID-DCC in Japan, a production company renown for pioneering the introduction of augmented reality into Flash.
The way the site works is simple; an illustration of the website is printed on a card around the size of a credit card. Whenever a photo is taken of the card by Asher or one of his buddies and uploaded, that photo instantly becomes the top-page of asherrothmusic.com. Meaning Asher can literally carry his website in his wallet and fans can follow him wherever he goes.
When fans visit the site, the first thing they see will be the latest updated picture, which could be anywhere from Asher holding the card on stage at a performance, to Asher watching TV with his buddies. Each image is dated and labeled, so fans can make a connection with the context in which the photos was taken.
Using FLARToolKit, the program tracks the design and shape of the card and then literally launches the site’s interface from its surface. Each graphic element then matches the exact color of the card therefore enhancing this illusion and giving the site a visually organic quality that matches Asher’s style.
The next step for the site is to connect with the fans even more and to get them to submit their own photos. The next album release will have the card featured on the cover. In this way, fans can become a part Asher’s site as well and help to build the already pretty crazy library of photos.
The platform is also totally geared to maintain engagement. Several sponsorship and competition strategies will be implemented over the course of the year, each providing both fans and sponsors a reason to keep coming back.
BBH-ers have worked on music projects before, not least for MySpace (see: http://j.mp/7nFiYF). But this project taught us many things about the music industry. While it’s a creative industry, for the most part, music labels tend to be a little old-fashioned and somewhat formulaic when it comes to promoting their artists. Even though an artist may be promoted via many channels and social networking platforms, sometimes the user experience can come across as a bit of a box-ticking exercise i.e. must have Facebook page, MySpace, blog, etc, instead of thinking an original way that the artist can legitimately connect with their fans.
With Asher, we were lucky to have an artist who is also a creative thinker and is willing to take a leap of faith in order to keep his brand authentic, especially since the technicalities of the concept were difficult to articulate in the beginning. On complex projects like this it’s easy to get bogged down in the minutia, rather than merely concentrating on the bigger picture. Asher really gave us some breathing room, and the project benefited greatly as a result.
Asher has really opened a window so that he could share his day-to-day life and experiences with his fans. It’s a direction that many others in the music industry could learn from. Of course, it helps a great deal if the sentiment is as sincere as his.
Overall, the site is far better represented by exploring it for yourself, in which case we hope you do.
It would be great to hear any feedback as it is in a constant state of development.
But before we go we’d just like to put a big thanks out there to everyone that made it possible.
Creative Directors: Masashi Kawamura, Hal Kirkland
Art Directors: Masashi Kawamura, Hal Kirkland
Technical Director: Tomohiko Koyama (Saqoosha)
Designers: Yuri Morimoto, Masayuki Nishimura
Business Director: Brad Haugen
Account Director: Lindsay Kopec
Content Director: David Wilsher
Project Manager: Yoko Yamazaki
Flash Developer: Tomohiko Koyama (Saqoosha), Kenji Mori
Programmer: Masaru Kinoshita, Tomohiko Koyama (Saqoosha)
Illustration: Yuri Morimoto, Yumi Yamada
Music: Asher Roth
Production: AID-DCC, Katamari
7th May 10
Author: Calle Sjoenell, Executive Creative Director, BBH New York
Over the last two weeks I have noticed an interesting phenomenon around people with iPads. Maybe it’s because I haven’t got one yet (I’m trying to refrain until my birthday) so I’m more aware of those who do have them already. Right now I can have more of an outsider’s view on this new device.
That said, it’s become apparent that I’m far from an outsider. Barely an opportunity goes by for someone with an ipad to share something with me. “Check this out”. “Look at this”. “Let me show you something”. Users seem to want to show off new apps, cool new vids (and of course the device itself). I am very often drawn into the experience others are having around the iPad. We literally gather round, pull up chairs.
Unlike a laptop, it’s super easy to ‘turn and share’. Unlike the iPhone, it’s genuinely shareable (the iPhone is unashamedly personal, even private). With the iPad you can gang around at least three, four people to see something together. It all feels very natural.
So I’ve been thinking, is this one of the true revolutions with the iPad? It’s the first truly communal computer. Almost like sharing stories around the campfire.
If that’s the case, how should that impact how we design content and applications for it?
22nd April 10
We recently announced our first iPad application, the Cool Hunting app initially presented by our client, Cadillac, and developed in partnership between Cool Hunting, BBH New York and Front Ended. If you missed our original post explaining the design challenges, take a look here.
For those who’ve not got their hands on an iPad yet, here’s a short film giving a taste of what it feels like to use. One thing we’ve noticed in using the iPad so far is that there’s quite a gulf in user experience between apps developed specifically for the iPad versus those developed for the iPhone.
This Coolhunting app is definitely in the latter category, and whilst we learned a huge amount about how we’d do things next time, we’re pleased with our first experiment on this newest of platforms.
Download the Cool Hunting app (here) and see what you think.
Thanks to @BBHNewYork’s @GriffinFarley for the prompting to post this.