THE BLOG

29
Aug

Is There Method To This Madness?

Hello, you lovely design people! It’s been a while since I’ve posted on here and felt it was time to start flexing my linguistic muscles once again. We have been doing a lot of brains forming in-house recently — from developing exciting new brands from scratch to shaping the future for existing companies — all if which requires idea generation.

And what do you know, that brings me right to the main topic I would like to talk about: what is the most effective process for coming up with amazing ideas?

Below you will find our tried and tested route that we find works best. There are of course many external factors at play during a project, but this process keeps us grounded and allows ideas to flourish — always crucial at the initial stages of any project. The method to our madness:

 

1. Truly understanding what you’re trying to communicate

How could one generate new ideas based on something they have no idea about? Ridiculous, I know, but chocolate teapots aside, having a deep understanding of the requirements, requests, and responsibilities is key to developing a killer idea. A dear friend of mine, Abraham Lincoln, was right to say, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe”. Ask as many questions as you need, or ask as many as you feel is socially acceptable — whichever comes first.

 

2. Start with the words

Once our brains are stuffed to the brim with knowledge of the task at hand, we move onto refining the language that surrounds the requirement. This involves chopping up meeting notes, re-reading initial emails, and honing in on the first bright sparks that come to mind. We find brainstorming can signpost potential directions for projects, which later develop into themes.

 

3. Move on to mind mapping

With ideas ripe and ready for the picking, the mind mapping process allows us to delve deep into our subconsciousness and connect the dots. It’s important to start very broad and general with mind mapping — sometimes you can find yourself putting pressure on linking these ideas back to the brief’s final outcome. But by starting wide and honing in nearer the end it grants us the ability to develop ideas that would never have been available with a narrow viewpoint. Also, as we are visual creatures; the endpoints of our mind map are most effective when they are nouns, as this is something we can visually represent.

 

4. Researching key terms

After some group discussions and along these ideas to soak in, we then select some key terms that become apparent on the mind maps. We take inspiration from books, artwork, and online research. Initially, we find it most effective by staying away from similar outcomes (be that a logo for example) and focus more on literal representations of the key terms. And if anyone uses a ‘Stock_3D_business_people_putting_puzzle_pieces_together.jpg’, they’re fired (see image above for reference, you heathens).

 

5. Reflecting on research imagery

A core part to idea generation is joining the dots — seeing the emerging patterns in the research and deciding which is most fitting for the brief. I previously mentioned that it was initially most effective to not link back to the brief’s final outcome — but now is the time to do so. Moving away from the wide and honing in on particular parts of the research that fit the brief’s message. These groups are what form out themes.

 

6. Thumbnailing the themes

Time to start drawing. Putting pen to paper and making some initial marks gets the creative juices flowing. It’s always a good idea to keep things rough and loose, unrestricted and free from too much control. I personally find it most effective if I continue sketching multiple ideas inspired from the research imagery until I can’t see it from any other angles. At that ‘burn-out’ point it’s time to take a step back and review.

 

7. Breath and refine

Go on, grab a cup of coffee, take 5, and give your brain a breather. Fresh eyes unclog the mind and open up a new perspective on some of your design choices. Upon reflection of thumbnails, we like to select the ones that are working well and have potential, before refining these ideas with help from our research and words taken from the brief.

 

8. Rinse and repeat

Continue developing and refining these thumbnails until you are confident in a selection of ideas. It’s never smart to propose a design that you don’t feel works just to please the client because the client will always choose this one. Survival of the fittest I say, let the thumbnails battle against one another until a brilliant (and slightly intimidating) group of ideas have formed.

 

9. Digital development

Only after the intense labour of love for our thumbnail sketches is over will we then move onto the computer. We feel it’s good to see the computer as a tool, instead of a creative outlet (an expression that is engrained from college lecturers). Paper and pencil are quick, loose, and unrestricted — and although it may seem faster to just jump on a computer, the process will take much longer if not executed properly. A lot of the time we will send our clients refined sketches before moving onto the computer, just to really nail the initial idea.

Our process is always changing as we learn and adapt to the current design climate, but it’s something we use on a day to day basis. It makes even the most ambitious projects much more manageable and exciting, no mean feat!

 

Alongside this process list, we want to share some top tips on idea generation, you lucky devils you:

  • A lot of idea generation is simply finding links between existing ideas
  • Recreate literal objects in interesting ways which tie together multiple messages
  • Always start broad and work your way back in
  • Take inspiration from absolutely anywhere, not just Pinterest…
  • Breaks are important
  • So is coffee
  • Don’t be afraid to explore the unknown, that’s where excitement lives
  • Fall in love with your ideas

Alas it’s time to conclude the chronicles of idea generation. Go forth and shower all projects with wonderful and weird ideas. Now with numb fingers, I bid you farewell, but I’m sure we’ll speak again very soon…

Reiss, Designer & Director of Client Happiness.

staff_170502_0542

Reiss is a multi-purpose designer with a broad range of skill-sets.

He loves being a part of any creative activity — whether it’s mapping out a user experience, getting his hands dirty with some copy or even re-building bits of his motorbike.

A born people-person, Reiss is never happier when showcasing ideas from his vividly wild imagination and working with clients to see them through to completion. Once an architect, he has a keen eye for conceptual ideas and never tires of learning new things.

16
Aug

Let’s Get Social

Social media platforms definitely like to keep us all on our toes. The constant changing of image sizes and algorithms make it hard to keep up. So to make sure you stay on top of your social media game we have put together a handy Social Media Cheat Sheet (yours to download and keep — and don’t worry it’s printer friendly) that contains all the latest sizes, best times to post, and a little top tip thrown in there for good measure. In this blog post, we’re going to break down each platform and delve into each section of the cheat sheet to give you some extra information.

Twitter
Starting with Twitter, our most social of the platforms. Focussing on creating a community, engaging with your customer, and keeping the sales advertising to a minimum is the best way to approach this platform. Giving behind the scenes access or sharing information that is valuable to your customer are great ways to build a personality for your brand.

The best days to post on this platform are during the working week (Monday – Friday) with people being most active during their lunch hour through to the afternoon (12.00 – 15.00). Another great time to post is around 17.00 when people are likely to be commuting home from work looking for some post-work light relief.

When sharing images the best size is 1024 x 576px. While the desktop version can support square images, the mobile app chops your images into a rectangle shape so keeping to this aspect means that no important information will be lost when sharing on mobile.

Top Tip: Brand Recognition Through Hashtags
Creating a branded hashtag is a great way of tapping into user-generated content and engaging with customers easily. This means you won’t miss any tweets related to your brand if they only use the hashtag and not your company’s Twitter handle.


Example: Alzheimer’s Research UK uses the hashtag #sharetheorange to not only create awareness of their campaign but to collate user-generated content that they can retweet and share on their own social media channels.

 

Facebook
Next up it’s a social channel that most of us are very familiar with; Facebook. With so many people and businesses across the world using this platform, it really is a must have for any business.

The best days to post on this platform are during the working week (Monday – Friday) with people being most active between 09.00 – 15.00 (when most people should be working — but we will keep that between us). By posting between these times, it gives your content a good chance to be seen throughout the day and ready to hit that key sharing time (18.00).

So now that you know when to post, let’s talk about what to post. For Facebook, the best size to use for posts in 2000 x 2000px. This gives you more vertical real estate making your images a greater chance to be seen and clicked on when scrolling through the newsfeed.

Top Tip: Human Stories
People like people. So whether it’s a member of your team raising money for charity, somebody making a great contribution to the company, or even a birthday celebration — let your viewers get to know the people behind the brand for maximum engagement.


Example: Our ‘Meet The Team’ campaign last year featured each team member and a few of their favourite things. This allowed our followers to gain an insight into the people behind the designs. Using a short gif made the post visually interesting and helped keep viewers engaged for longer.

 

Instagram
Now for our most visual platform — Instagram — where your images really do the talking. Whether you are using photography, graphics, or video, this platform is a great place to promote your brand and it’s personality.

Engagement on Instagram is pretty constant throughout the week with Sunday being the only day that can see a slight dip. Again, commuting times (07.00 – 09.00 or 16.00 – 18.00) and lunch times (11.00 – 13.00) come out best for engagement so you want to have your post ready to hit these key times. With video engagement on the rise, the best time to post these is before 21.00.

Instagram has been pretty constant with its image sizes, with the standard size being 1080 x 1080px remaining unchanged since the platform launched. They now offer portrait and landscape alternatives, but square still remains the most popular.

Top Tip: Use Hashtags Quickly & Effectively
Keep a pre-organised list of hashtags that relate to your content in your emails or on your phone so they can quickly be copied and pasted into the comments section. You’re allowed a maximum of 30 hashtags per post.


Example: At the loft, we keep between 15 – 20 key hashtags saved in the notes section on our phones. This means when we post a new image, we can quickly copy and paste the relevant hashtags into the first comment of the post. Putting the hashtags into the comments section rather than including it in the caption ensures that the post doesn’t look messy.

 

LinkedIn
And last but certainly not least, the business heavyweight; LinkedIn. Professional and a great way to make some key B2B connections, LinkedIn is the perfect place to show off your expertise.

With work on the mind, the best days for engagement are between Tuesday and Thursday once again with commuting times (07.00 – 08.00 or 17.00 – 18.00) being the best time to post. Avoid between 22.00 – 06.00 when engagement will hit a lull.

Like Facebook, posting square images gives you more vertical real estate on the LinkedIn newsfeed and luckily using the same post size (2000 x 2000px) works perfectly. This will make your post stand out while the image quality remains high on both desktop and mobile.

Top Tip: Educate & Delight
Infographics are 300% more likely to get shared than any other content. Label each infographic with your LinkedIn page as the source so viewers can easily find your page.


Example: GE Renewable Energy used an infographic to explain the benefits of their product quickly and easily to their customers. Keeping it simple and highlighting key details makes the infographic effective and it definitely attracted attention with over 400 likes in just one day.

We hope this blog post has unravelled some of social medias greatest mysteries. Is your media in need of a refresh? Let’s get social, find us on all good social media platforms @tlcstudios.

Laura, Designer & Director of Noise

Laura

Miss Noisy! The team’s very own socialite and one who masters every situation she finds herself. Laura is the lady for every occasion. She has a formidable array of skills as a creative, diplomat, agony aunt, blogger, Tweeter, art-director, team player and our own favourite — noisemaker. A more perfect dinner companion, you will be hard-pressed to find.

13
Aug

Tradeshow Banner With A Difference

At the loft we love a challenge, so when the Violence Reduction Unit Scotland came to us and needed a unique, bespoke tradeshow banner in 48 hours we rolled up our sleeves and got to work. As part of the Police Scotland, the Violence Reduction Unit Scotland was formed to target all types of violence — ranging from gang fighting to domestic violence to bullying in the workplace and schools. The work they do is incredible and we have had the pleasure of working with them over the past year.

VRU Scotland didn’t want a pull-up banner, they really wanted something bespoke, that was in keeping with the graffiti visuals we had created for them. With this in mind, we came up with a few alternative ideas to the traditional tradeshow banner. In the end, it involved some MDF, vinyl and a whole lot of black spray paint. And here is how we did it.

 

VRU_1

1. Vinyl & Vans

The tradeshow banner was for one of their projects, Street & Arrow. This project hires former offenders for twelve-month blocks. During that time workers are paired with a mentor who can help them master everything from basic employment skills like time management to managing money and relationship issues. The design we went with included the Street & Arrow visual which features a man taking his hoodie off to reveal a chef’s uniform. This visual comes with a double-take message on perceptions.

In order to get the Street & Arrow visual on to the MDF board, we decided to use vinyl as a stencil. First we started with creating the artwork and sending it off to a printer who was able to get the vinyl cut and ready for us the next day. Next, came the problem of working out how we were going to transport a 2-metre tall piece of MDF to the warehouse (where we were going to create the tradeshow banner) and back — introducing the van.

 

VRU_2

2. Prime & Prep

Van hired, vinyl collected and MDF bought, early the next day we headed to a warehouse to get started. Before we could apply the vinyl we needed to prime the wood. For this, we used two coats of clear primer. This took the better part of the morning as each coat needed a good few hours to dry. Once they had dried we applied the vinyl. This part of the process was the most delicate and had to be carried out slowly. Starting at the top and only applying a small section at a time, we smoothed the vinyl so that there was no bubbling. To ensure this we got inventive and used a credit card to smooth each section. Before peeling off the outer layer of the vinyl to expose the stencil we sprayed the board lightly with water to make it easier to remove.

 

VRU_3

3. Spray & Reveal

Vinyl applied and ready, it was time to spray paint. One bit at a time we covered the full stencil in black spray paint ensuring we kept an even coverage across the whole design. While we waited for the spray paint to dry we went for a quick donut and coffee stop. Feeling re-energised it was time for the big reveal, after double checking that the paint was dry, we removed the vinyl stencil piece by piece to expose the final design.

 

VRU_4

4. Display & Deliver

Next, we attached a fixing to make it stand. To make it easy to transport we went for a photo frame style stand. Now at the loft, we love any excuse for a couple of photos so after we finished posing with the completed tradeshow banner, it was time to put the banner carefully back into the van ready to be delivered to the client early the next day.

Creating the tradeshow banner was a whole lot of fun, the client was really happy with how the banner turned out and Reiss got to fulfill his lifetime dream of driving a van!

Laura, Designer & Director of Noise

Laura

Miss Noisy! The team’s very own socialite and one who masters every situation she finds herself. Laura is the lady for every occasion. She has a formidable array of skills as a creative, diplomat, agony aunt, blogger, Tweeter, art-director, team player and our own favourite — noisemaker. A more perfect dinner companion, you will be hard-pressed to find.

13
Aug

Creating Company Culture – ‘Getting Buy-In’

We’ve been doing some work on the old folio recently – going through the back-catalogue, reminiscing about projects of yore and doing a bit of work on some of the company’s greatest hits. At the exact same time, we’ve also begun to work with a new industrial client on defining a very rich, strong and vibrant company culture for their brand.

Working on the current project and by stumbling upon past attempts has reminded me of some of the challenges involved when creating or defining a company’s culture. One of the main hurdles is ‘getting buy-in’ from everybody in the company. You see the brands with the strongest, most effective and successful cultures are the ones that have as many people bought-in as possible – this includes commercial people, technical people, financial people, other leaders, etc…

Successful and culturally strong companies will use their values, a vision or mission to inform every decision they make such as who to hire, how to manage resources or even manage crisis. So to help those who are thinking about giving this a go, we thought we’d put together a quick guide to help you get buy-in from other directors, board members, staff or stakeholders when creating that cultural framework for your brand. Enjoy!

1. Involve everybody
The most powerful cultures are created when everybody’s had a say in shaping it. So if you can… ask the team about the company vision, get everybody’s thoughts on the values and find out what makes your company special compared to all the others? There are different levels of practicalities with this and some stakeholders will be more involved than others. For example, for those owners who want to keep a tight grip on things – determine the values yourself but give everybody in the team a say in how they enact those values each day for a more effective outcome.

2. Use language that people can relate too
Vision, mission statement and values may not be words to everybody’s liking. In the past we’ve used phrases like – Who We Are, What We Do and Where We Are Going. We’ve used the word ‘Beliefs’ instead of ‘values,’ we’ve used expressions like ‘Reason to Believe,’ ‘Purpose Beyond Profit’ or even ‘Our Cause’ instead of ‘Mission Statement.’ At the end of the day, getting people to buy-in is more important than using a particular set of words, so have some fun and use whatever words you are most comfortable with.

3. Go beyond the obvious
Integrity, trust, honesty are regularly brought out as values by corporate organisations, these, alongside behaviours like ‘moulded around our customer’s needs.’ There is nothing wrong with any of them at all, however they are likely to be seen as the minimum people would expect from an organisation rather than the hallmarks of a great company.

Better to think a bit more deeply about this one – for example, go past integrity or honesty and talk about your transparency which is a bit more distinctive. However, if you must have ordinary values, then compliment them with extraordinary examples of behaviour which emphasise your commitment to that value.

For example…

Trust

‘We are the only company in the Wealth Management Sector which discloses all possible fees over a three-year period to our clients so they understand the maximum investment  – before an initial meeting.’

Or…

Integrity

‘We will always help you find the most cost-effective solution for your requirements  – even if it means suggesting products from a competitor.’

4. Use practical examples
Practical examples are absolutely brilliant at getting buy-in from potential sceptics. A few years ago, we worked with a ‘systems and software intelligence provider’ and and once we began to talk to developers about some of the more practical parts of what they do day-in, we started to get real buy-in for the values.

In this case…

‘Updates are made to our software, in advance of forthcoming legislation changes.’ helping form a company value of creating ‘Legislation Driven’ solutions.

This was something the entire team, particularly the technical people, were very proud off and a powerful customer-facing message too.

This nod to more practical concerns undoubtedly helped to get buy-in from the entire team for other values too.

5. Make something which can be customer-facing
Using the previous words as an example, it is always easier to get buy-in from the more commercial people in your company if you are able to craft something which is customer facing. Everybody who has the commercial success of their company at-heart always prefer some words that they can also present to potential customers – whether it’s on a pitch document, the website or somewhere else.

This also includes the creation of designing something presentable that can represent the values – anything from a one-page document that people can keep at their desks to something more imaginative like a cool vinyl wall-display or even a lanyard for people to wear so they can see the values they‘ve potentially helped to shape while they are working

6. Be creative
Again, in addition to the previous words, you can have sooo much fun doing creative things with your values – play with the words, combine different parts of the exercise, introduce graphics, etc…

I’ve included a few cracking examples below.

officeBranding

You can’t beat a creative wall mural which creatively shouts out what the company is about.

Team lanyards with the company values are excellent for fostering team spirit, creating a deeper understanding and are cool to wear too.

 

s3-brewdog_charter--default--600

The Brewdog Mission is unsurprisingly as compelling, authentic and uncompromising as you would expect. Genius!

That’s all for now, have fun putting those values together and don’t forget to get buy-in from as many people as you can. As always, if you need some help, give us a shout…

Benedetto

BB

Benedetto is a Creative Entrepreneur. He is on a mission to create a more exciting future for people using the power of bold and beautifully developed ideas. He is the founder of the loft, a design and branding house which operates worldwide helping companies bring their brands to life in the most imaginative and effective ways possible. He likes to make things happen fast and in a big way.

 

04
Aug

‘Designers-With-Soul’

At the loft we’ve been working with MCR Pathways for a number of years now.

For those that aren’t in the know, MCR Pathways are an incredible charity that exists to ensure that ‘every disadvantaged young person in Scotland, gets the same education outcomes, career opportunities and life chances as other young people.’

They mainly do this by providing supportive mentors who meet the young person for one hour each week at their local high schools.

In the past, the loft has provided creative support and work-experience opportunities to the charity. However, amazing designers Reiss McLeod and Laura Campbell have taken this not one but several steps further. They’ve passed their exams, did their training and are now fully-fledged mentors. Pictured here in their favourite haunt (Paesano Pizza,) they will both commit one hour a week to help their mentees create a better life for themselves. An absolutely wonderful commitment!

They meet their mentees in a few weeks time and are incredibly excited to help a young person as well as make a contribution.

‘Designers-With-Soul’

We salute you both…

If you would like to help a young person and want to get involved in mentoring, please check out… http://mcrpathways.org 

 

04
Aug

In Celebration of Great Mood Boards

At the loft, if there’s a part of the creative process we truly believe in, it’s the creation of mood-boards. We love mood-boards because they take us to a different place mentally, they give them an almost infinite source of creative ideas and they also help to guide in the process further down the line.

This week we were having a chat about mood-boards in the studio and stumbled across a few crackers..

Both were for car-design projects and both are absolutely brilliant.

Industrial-Mood-Board

The ‘INDUSTRIAL’ board by Kevin Roy shows old abandoned factories and warehouses as the main inspiration. What’s so brilliant about this board is the way the images aren’t just industrial but have been treated in an industrial way too. Mainly black and white with flashes of colour, some of them are horribly low-quality and the line-tracing is rough too but all that adds to the desired emotion being chased by the designer. Ken goes further by experimenting with typefaces that are similar in style too as well as inserting the bold ‘YELLOW and BLACK’ striped caution signs. Finally, the acid-feel of the album cover on the top-right of the page completes an outstanding board.

Art-Deco-Moodboard-720x405-2

The ‘ART-DECO’ board by Nick Turner (https://bit.ly/2MgJN6l) is equally as impressive. We have a beautiful exploration of shapes, patterns and rich colours which are all key to the ‘ART-DECO’ look. We have subtle nods to Futurism and Art Nouveau in there as well but what’s really lovely is the subtle vector lines over the top of the entire board.

Both are amazing mood-boards and what makes them so good is that they completely describe the themes they are covering in the purest, most expressive and honest way possible.

For us, inspiration is vital to any creative action, it’s what makes it all worthwhile. If a mood-board’s job is to inspire, then both of these would give any designer of any type the richest source of inspiration to get going.

Bravo!

Benedetto

BB

Benedetto is an ideas-driven Creative Entrepreneur. He is on a mission to unleash the power of creativity to create a better world – for people, business and society. He is the founder of the loft, a design and branding house which operates worldwide helping companies bring their brands to life in the most imaginative and effective ways possible. A real man on a mission. Benedetto likes to make things happen fast and in a big way.