This week we sat down with Graydon Gordian, FortyFour’s director of content & editorial, to talk about his past as an amateur boxer, his love of basketball, and even a little bit about life at the agency.
Where are you from?
Austin, Texas–keep Austin weird!
What brought you to FortyFour, and how long have you been here?
I had been working at Turner, which is where I’d been since I first moved to Atlanta from New York. But I’d always been intrigued by the agency world, so I called a friend of mine who ran an agency, Thomas Frank [Founder and Executive Creative Director of FortyFour]. We talked, and I started as contractor before coming on full time as the Director of Content and Editorial. It’s been almost 2 years to the month.
What’s been your favorite client project so far?
My favorite project has been Phobio. Phobio is a software company that makes device trade-in and workforce communication platforms. We have a close relationship with the executive team–we’re not just their agency, we’re a strategic advisor to their organization, which is what we always seek to be. Our work has included a multi-phase website redesign. A big part of that effort has been developing a broader corporate messaging strategy for the organization. We’re adding value in a lot of ways and framing the future of their business–it’s fun.
FortyFour has been growing quickly, and this past year, we officially added business analysis to our competencies. But you might be wondering: what is a business analyst, and why did we need one here?
Business Analysis Defined
The business analyst (BA) acts as a bridge between the cultural and technological sides of a digital agency. From the UX designers to content strategists to technology directors, various agency teams have a difficult time integrating the myriad projects and platforms in which they’re working. That’s where the BA comes in.
At the beginning of any project, the BA gathers all the requirements and develops a game plan. Through consumer research, design thinking, customer journey mapping, user flows, prototypes, and user stories, BAs are able to round-up all the requirements a new project will bring with it. Their goal is to ensure a consistent product vision, from the initial client discovery phase to the product release and through ongoing maintenance.
Was Thomas Jefferson a prototypical UX designer? According to Paul Landon, a user experience principal here at FortyFour, the answer is yes. Read on to learn about his interesting theory–and what else he loves about UX, life at FortyFour, and Atlanta in general.
Where are you from?
What brought you to FortyFour?
Before becoming a user experience designer, I worked in architecture for several years. But I’d had a longtime interest in digital, so it seemed like the right trajectory to move out of architecture and into UX. I started working at an agency. One of FortyFour’s managing partners had worked at the same agency, and our networks overlapped. I could see that FortyFour had a great creative team, plus more structure and leadership, which was important to me. So I joined the team, and now I’ve been here two and a half years–Taylor and I started the same day, actually.
What’s been your favorite client project so far and why?
On my first day, we kicked off Exide’s website redesign project. It was a great opportunity to impact their brand globally and tackle a very complex set of website challenges. The architecture had to provide a more organized framework for very diverse business units, appease internal stakeholders, and speak across industries. We created a strong, scalable solution. It was the largest website I’d worked on at that point, too, so it was cool to work on every stage of the process. I learned a lot.
The retail industry is in a state of flux. Legacy companies are still trying to navigate the move to ecommerce, and the new upstarts are learning why a physical presence is useful. Out of that turmoil, the retail landscape has come to be dominated by two firms: Walmart and Amazon.
Walmart has done a fantastic job of rebooting their ecommerce strategy in recent years. Marc Lore, who has run the ecommerce business unit since Walmart bought his company Jet.com for $3 billion in 2016, has taken what Walmart Labs was supposed to do and super-charged it with acquisitions and a laser-focused strategy.
Walmart has built out a brand strategy through the acquisition of companies like Bonobos, ModCloth, and Moosejaw. This lets them offer unique products that can’t be directly price shopped across retailers (Bonobos) while also leaning in to premium brands (through Moosejaw and ModCloth) for the customers who don’t consider themselves “Walmart shoppers.”
With that work underway and performing well, Walmart is focusing on additional customer experience points. Recode writes of two such projects, focused on a personal shopper experience for “high net worth urban consumers” as well as a rethinking of the in-store shopping experience. We’ll leave the latter alone for now because “fixing in-store shopping” could be a book’s worth of thoughts.
We recently sat down with the talented Taylor Daniel, senior designer here at FortyFour, to learn more about what inspires her work, what she loves about Atlanta, and what she drinks at 4:30pm on Fridays.
Where are you from?
What brought you to FortyFour, and how long have you been working here?
I heard about FortyFour when I was making a move from Birmingham, and I was wanting to grow my skill set in digital & UI. FortyFour was attractive because it’s independently owned and run–a place where you could get your hands dirty and learn faster because you could work on both large and small accounts. The creative leadership came from big agencies and companies, so I knew I could learn from those experiences on a more personal level. And 2.5 years later, here I am!
What’s been your favorite client project so far, and why are you proud of it?
I’ve learned the most and done the most with CREDO Mobile. They came to us for help with digital marketing and e-commerce, but as we’ve built a relationship with them, we’ve helped them with their whole brand. The opportunity to define a brand and create the look feel has been awesome. Then, working on the UI of the donations and e-commerce sites–it feels rewarding to be part of a project from start to end.
Phobio is known as a leader in the device trade-in space, but they’re more than a brick & mortar retail service–and they needed some help communicating that on their website. In partnership with the Phobio team, we’ve embarked on a two-phase effort to elevate their brand with updated designs and refreshed messaging. We’re proud of our hard work so far, so we wanted to take the opportunity to share the results of phase one and to congratulate our teams.
Phase one of the project began with discovery sessions to uncover what makes Phobio so great at what they do. Over the course of several conversations, we learned that they’re innovative and entrepreneurial, continually setting and resetting the bar for device trade-in. Their team is serious about software, but they also have vibrant personalities and a warm culture. So we realized that a pretty simple question seems to drive the Phobio team: what if we make device trade-in awesome?
We’re excited to announce that Google has recognized FortyFour as a leader in digital marketing and paid search advertising. Earlier this week, FortyFour received the shiny new badge that proves it: our agency is a certified Google Partner with a specialization in search advertising.
Google Partners are agencies who have proven to be both knowledgeable and successful in various advertising specializations. To become a paid search Partner, FortyFour had to pass Google AdWords product certification exams and demonstrate six months of sustained client performance in search advertising. Some of our most impactful work has come with partners such as Case-Mate, where we more than doubled paid search activity year over year, and Manhattan Associates, where we saw cost per conversion drop by 25% after taking over their program.
“Digital marketing, and search marketing in particular, remains an important pillar for brands,” says Director of Digital Marketing Ryan Anderson. “It’s an opportunity for companies to develop and deliver messages that resonate with their audiences. I’m proud that we’ve worked with our clients to do exactly that.” And FortyFour is proud of our digital marketing team for earning this certification–congratulations!
This holiday season, we decided to give back to Atlanta, the city that made us. We divided the office into three teams, and each team chose a local charity to support: the Atlanta chapter of the International Rescue Committee, The Giving Kitchen, and The Atlanta Children’s Shelter. In a little over one month, 57 donors helped our teams raise $2,500 to benefit those charities. But it gets better–the partners at FortyFour generously matched every penny donated to each cause, which brought our grand donation total to $5,000. We announced the final numbers at our belated holiday party, giving everyone that much more reason to celebrate.
We’re thrilled to be a part of this community and thankful for the opportunity to give back. Thank you so much to everyone who helped us make a difference this year!
Brands are eager to capture the attention of millennials: the generation that came of age around the 2000s, was the first to adopt social media, and has driven consumer culture since it began gaining purchasing power in the mid-aughts. Famously picky and equally loyal, millennials are an audience every brand strives to be on the good side of.
Our longstanding partner Coca-Cola has done just that. According to Business Insider’s recent study of millennial brand loyalty, the most refreshing drink on the shelves is also millennials’ most beloved beverage. Out of a hundred iconic brands—including Apple, Nike and Amazon—the study ranked Coke as millennials’ ninth favorite.
At FortyFour, collaboration is at our core. Working closely with our clients keeps us aligned on the goals and objectives of our work, and for each step of the process, it allows us to explain why we make the choices we do and what impact they have on the overall outcome. For example, typography is often considered an aesthetic component of the designed end product, but today, it’s as important to the overall user experience as ever. Using only type, we can guide a user to take a specific action, help them prioritize certain bits of information over others, or prime them to anticipate what comes next. That’s powerful stuff that we want our clients to understand so they can engage with us in a conversation that results in the best work possible.
What other elements of typography do we want our clients to consider during the UX phase? Let’s discuss.
When a new website design project kicks off, a common practice is to start designing a page to explore the visual direction for the site. This makes sense in some ways: clients like seeing pages because it’s the most obvious way to visualize what a site is going to look like—and, after all, that’s what they’re paying for. Typically this means starting with the homepage and exploring the design system through the context of that page.
The problem with designing the homepage first
The homepage is the first thing a user see on the site. It’s the foyer, with doors leading to all the other areas of the site. The problem is, homepages tend to be the most unique page on the site. Elements on the homepage often only serve one purpose: to drive a user to another area of the site. These homepage elements are some of the least reusable elements on the site. So why do we start with a page that does so little to inform the rest of the site? Why start with pages at all?
It’s one we’re all faced with often but for the user experience designer, it’s a surprisingly difficult question to answer. If I simply say, “I’m a user experience designer,” I’m often met with a glazed expression and an awkward silence. I sometimes say, “I design websites and mobile applications,” but then people tend to think I’m a developer or a graphic designer.
In our defense, the entire field of user experience design has difficulty defining exactly what it is we do and the role we play. As a standalone discipline, the role of UX is still fresh and, quite frankly, a little controversial.
On one hand, we’re investigators. We interview, analyze, and sort out the who, what, why, and how of a project. We establish the foundation upon which the team designs and builds the site or app. On the other hand, we’re planners and problem solvers. We create site maps, information architectures, content outlines, user stories, and various other tools that serve as a roadmap for what users encounter. These define how they navigate the site, and how they accomplish their goals. But the fun doesn’t end there. Once the practicalities are sorted out, we slip into the creative role and explore the visual manifestation of this information through wireframes and prototypes. These are the blueprints that visually describe what we’re building.
Years ago, while on vacation in California, I had the fortunate — albeit slightly overwhelming — experience of sharing a cab over the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge with the VP of Marketing for a very large home goods company. The conversation inevitably veered toward what I do and, upon discovering I worked for an advertising agency, what my agency was like.
Secretly hoping to get a foot in the door for some new digital business, I quickly set to giving her the list of amazing things our agency could do and the attributes that set us apart from the rest. There was only one problem: My explanation, while factual, wasn’t amazing or very compelling. Long story short, I got the business card, but not the follow up.
So while the business deal wasn’t struck, I came away with the discovery of a monumental problem: I didn’t know how to sell the company I so enjoyed being a part of.
Fellow Atlanta biz MailChimp invited FortyFour Director of Analytics Ryan Anderson to chat data. In marketing it’s tempting to collect an endless bounty of data and attempt to pull conclusions from there, Anderson says — but that isn’t necessarily the best practice. Read the whole MailChimp interview here and don’t forget to check out Anderson’s blog post (also about data! What a guy) here.
We’re so excited to see our partner CREDO get recognized for all the great work it’s doing supporting progressive causes. We’re not the only ones impressed, either. Fast Company published a piece applauding the company’s philanthropic efforts, as directed by its clientele. FortyFour’s contributions — including content, design, and video work — also appear in the article. We’re proud our contributions could help propel this brand’s growth, especially when paired with such good causes.
The promise of digital centers around just how measurable everything is.
A marketer can go into an analytics platform and instantly see impressions, clicks, and spend by different audiences, times, and creative treatments. With on-site tracking, they can measure performance down to the individual marketing channel. The operations team is able to see how order volume changes during sales and by time of day. Finance departments can tie back every cent of revenue and cost directly to its source.
In theory, this data makes it easier to run an effective business. The marketing team can optimize around the best performing tactics, operations can forecast and plan for labor spikes, and finance has a clear view over how all of this impacts the company’s profitability. More conversions are good, less spend is good, on-time orders are good, and this is where most of our revenue comes from.
Digital platforms have become more sophisticated. The amount of data they collect and can report on has increased exponentially. This has been celebrated by many people in the business world. We agree — having that data available to a business is great. But companies should be diligent in how they consume data. Continue reading
The internet is synonymous with two things — shopping and something that rhymes with “corn.” Today I’m going to focus on shopping.
Magento 2 has been out for over a year now. If you’re not familiar with the Magento platform, it is a powerful, open-source (read: free) e-commerce solution that offers users an impressive suite of features to help their business in a highly competitive online market. As of today, the current version number is 2.1.3. There have been significant improvements to the codebase since it first released November 2015. Let’s take a look at just a few of those, in no particular order.Continue reading
Clear, consistent communication helps build trust between brands and customers. If a brand doesn’t seriously embrace a hard-lined style guide, it can come across as sloppy or unprofessional. Get your message across by establishing a defined, concise brand style guide and disperse it throughout the company to maintain compelling copy. Teach everyone from junior marketers to senior executives to follow the same rules, and your brand’s voice will be recognizable in all company communications.
FortyFour has a standard approach for developing brand style guides. Our rules include:
Pick a base style
It’s an unnecessary headache and time-suck to create a brand style guide from scratch, so lay a foundation with a pre-existing, somewhat common style. No one style is superior to the rest, just make sure you’re consistent. If you go with Chicago Manual Style, that means serial commas are standard. If you go Associated Press Style (which is industry standard in journalism), they are not. This ensures all content under the brand umbrella, including promotional materials as well as external and internal communication, is consistent. Continue reading
Shifting careers is often hard to explain. Whether you’re moving departments or starting over in an entirely different field, you’re likely to face a litany of retorts.
At first, I had trouble explaining my jump from the well-defined architect trajectory to the comparably young field of user experience design. Initial attempts to communicate parallels between the design of website interfaces and the construction of buildings were still lacking.
But after five years and trial-by-fire agency experience, however, I like to think I’ve refined my story. Below is a version of that, highlighting the exciting correlations between my former Architectural employment and current Experience Designer role.
Context is crucial
Understanding and operating within contexts is still essential to great work — all of the best architects and experience designers do it. They examine physical factors like the building site or device screen size and adjust design decisions to accommodate for these influences. Great designers also recognize and execute against non-physical determinants such as office politics, project budgets. All of these factors have a hand in shaping context-driven solutions. Moreover, a finished building or marketing website never stands alone; they’re one element in a collage of multifaceted contexts, a collage that affords architectural and experience design professionals an opportunistic medium through which to creatively work.
If you’ve worked in marketing in some capacity in the last few years, you’re probably familiar with a certain syndrome. It’s called “bright, shiny object” syndrome, and it affects marketers all over the world as they become distracted by the latest fad or trend in the marketing world. Whether it’s Snapchat for your B2B financial firm or Instagram for a funeral home, you may have been the victim or carrier of the syndrome (and that’s OK). With all of the new channels and marketing opportunities developing almost daily, it’s increasingly difficult to stay on top of the digital marketing world.
This is why few channels have lasted with the development of the internet as a more lower cost sales vehicle.Continue reading
Our agency is excited to announce further growth efforts in the e-commerce sphere. We now employ 10 developers specifically certified with the leading, enterprise-class e-commerce platform, Magento. Magento is written in PHP (hypertext preprocessor), a popular open-source, general-purpose scripting language malleable for web development. One in every four online businesses operate on Magento, making our team’s finesse all the more valuable. With so many developers on staff well-versed on this crucial platform, we can tend to clients’ needs even better, while keeping their brands’ practice as modern as possible.
FortyFour banded with Exide Technologies to revamp the battery brand’s entire website, alongside new brand guidelines for the company as a whole. We also developed several human resources videos and marketing campaigns, among other contributions. Read more about our work with Exide here.
The top casual dining destination asked FortyFour to revitalize its 70-year-old brand. We were so excited to breathe fresh life into the Americana favorite and attract new customers in the process. We worked closely to modernize Shoney’s across social media channels, as well as outside the digital realm with in-store menus, to-go cups, and billboard treatments. Read more about our work with Shoney’s here.
Our agency has been steering the digital presence for customizable Coke bottle program, Shareacoke.com, so it makes sense we’re merging it with the Coke store. Now all personalizable Coke bottles, as well as other Coke goods such as apparel and collectables, are available at one umbrella site. It’s not just bottles anymore.
Our agency expands beyond traditional advertising copywriting with a new, dedicated content team. The department will tackle content strategy and editing services, among other content needs, to better ensure surpassing clients’ expectations. We plan to use our content team as a force to further propel FortyFour forward in the digital space.