Over the years we’ve had several clients ask for help with high-level corporate messaging — things like their corporate values. I’m excited every time the opportunity comes up because I’m a believer that corporate values can be more than pleasant sayings on a poster in a conference room: they can generate real business value. I also believe that many organizations miss out on that opportunity by misunderstanding the true purpose of corporate values.
Like any piece of internal or external messaging, crafting compelling, effective values depends upon understanding both the audience and the medium via which the content will be delivered. What’s fascinating about internal communications like values is that, sometimes, the audience and the medium are the same: yes, you want your employees to read your corporate values, but you also want them to ingest and evangelize them. Your employees—not a poster, internal email, or speech at an all-staff meeting—are the vehicle by which values are implemented at scale.
Love it or hate it, group chat has a place in the day-to-day life of every agency. No more sitting in a pod with a designer, a UX lead, a project manager, and a developer to make decisions: newly available tools are changing the development process for the better. Group communication tools have increased transparency, improved efficiency, and strengthened collaboration with our clients.
Here at FortyFour, we have group channels for everything: for projects, for teams, for favorite TV shows, for random thoughts (and there are a lot of random thoughts). Catching up daily on the kitten and Nicholas Cage memes can be time consuming, but distractions aside, we’ve found that private and public chat rooms have enabled us to make decisions without losing momentum.
Before we sing the praises of group chat, it’s worth noting that it has its own drawbacks. According to research that I found online (it must be true), every distraction costs somewhere between 20 minutes and 2 hours of productivity. On top of having an open floor plan and a highly collaborative environment at FortyFour, our group chat never goes away. Everyone has to learn to manage the distractions in their own way.
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.
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?
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
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