Archive for February, 2011

The case for the case study

In talking with design comrades, we often debate how best to present our capabilities in a way that makes sense to clients and prospects. Too often, we position our services in a vague or esoteric way, with terminology that requires further explanation.

We go through our creative process. We name the steps. We define the deliverables. And we preach about the value of a powerful brand. It’s our way of differentiating ourselves from others who may be competing for the work.

Yet so often the prospect is still a bit confused. Plus, of course, this approach is not always smart once we remind ourselves of the importance of talking about our client’s needs rather than our own internal processes.

In response to this challenge, Luke Mysse of Crossgrain is suggesting the use of a single case study as your presentation to a new prospect. We’re developing these now for our business-development efforts. But foremost in our minds are the following ideas:

  • Choose one — just one! — that’s relevant to your audience.
  • Make the presentation highly visual for impact.
  • Define the challenge, the tactics used, and the results. That’s it.
  • Trust that your designs are distinctive enough that you don’t have to emphasize their importance.
  • Instead, focus on the tangible business results that your efforts helped deliver for that client.
  • And finally, treat the case study as the start of meaningful dialogue, rather than as a call to action.

In a similar way, Fast Company magazine tells us that tech conferences have all but banned boring PowerPoint slide shows in favor of short, fast-paced product demos.

“It’s not about bullet points or the company, but what have they built?” says Finovate CEO Eric Mattson.

For those used to sharing portfolio samples and client lists, or walking prospects through a discussion of design methodology, etc. this can be quite a departure.

How effective can the single case study be as a presentation? Stay tuned.

The automation of branding

Don’t know if this is a cool new tool, just a curiosity, or a sign of the coming apocalypse. But this London-based startup company intends to help entrepreneurs design logos, websites and business cards instantly using their simplified web interface.

BuildaBrand’s approach is essentially to break down the brand-building process into a simple step-by-step exercise. The user is asked questions about brand values, and then BuildaBrand’s proprietary algorithms provide a selection of logos, fonts, etc. that you can tweak to your heart’s content.

Skeptics call this approach “vending machine logos,” and of course a logo should not be mistaken for a brand. But it may be a starting point. And it raises the question asked by designerscouch.com: “Can brand development really be automated, or created via an algorithm, or is it something that can only be created on a personal and strategic level?”

CEO Justin Chapney sidesteps it deftly, stating: “”We are trying to lower the barriers to entry for startups by providing them with accessible and affordable tools. Eventually, we would like to provide branding knowledge and support as well as products.”

And what does this say about the value of automation as a replacement for creative thinking?

“Our algorithm and the way it has been constructed is the result of years of branding experience and a lot of strategic research,” Chapney says. “All our designs are originated by designers, from the symbols to the colour palettes.”

Intriguing. Scary. And I definitely signed up for their closed beta.


Robert Hyndman

can be reached at his Laguna Beach studio, 949.497.3179, or by using the form on the Contact Me page.
February 2011
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