• Beyond flat design

    On: January 19, 2015
    In: feature
    Views: 3743

    For the past three years, the world of interface design has gotten flatter and flatter. Bevels, drop shadows, gradients and photo textures have gotten dumped in favor of bold colors and clean lines. For good or ill, this is a trend that is not going anywhere soon.

    One man's trash in another man's trapezoidWhere did flat come from
    When people’s attention first drifted from the physical world to digital approximations, it was seen as comforting to reflect the look and feel of actual objects. Graphical PCs had desktops, calendars had circled dates and curled edges and deleted files were dumped into cartoon trashcans. This is called ‘skeumorphism’ (try that one at your next cocktail party), and the concept controlled interface design for decades.

    Today’s users don’t need these obvious metaphors. They know their files are located inside directories without pixelated manila folders. This has led to cleaner designs, simpler iconography and a more streamlined way of looking at the online world.

    Falling flat
    Made widely known by Windows 8’s Metro interface and later iterations of iOS, flat design is easily the most dominant trend online. But its simplicity itself has its drawbacks.

    Usability. As symbols and shapes overtake literal interpretations, it becomes harder to determine the function of more abstract elements. Squares, circles and various arrow shapes mean different things on different sites, and it is often hard to determine what is a button in some circumstances. Color becomes a much more important indicator of function, and if not used wisely it can serve to distract more than inform.

    Personality. Another concern with simplified, flat design is an increasing sameness across the web. Your simplified symbol in a colored square is only so different from your competitor’s. And even those full-bleed photos that your colored boxes appear on top of start to look the same after a while.

    Details and interactions become more important as things get simpler, and your brand’s personality needs to be brought out in more subtle ways.

    Standing out in flat
    Since this design trend is not going anywhere (and often provides us with clean, useful interfaces across many platforms), it is important to find ways to make it work for you.

    Type. Years of web designs may have led you to believe that there are few choices in online typography. Now, there are many ways of embedding vast numbers to type choices in your design (far beyond comic sans). Clean distinctive type can be a great way to personalize your flat design and stand out from the pack.

    Transitions. With fewer, simpler elements, how they work together becomes more important. Interface elements can expand and contract, choices slide in and out, and smooth transitions from item to item help the user connect with your design.

    Choices. I suppose it goes without saying, but with fewer choices each one becomes more important. Is your color scheme bright or monochromatic, modern or retro? If you are using photos, do they educate or stimulate emotions? There is little room for decoration in flat design, so thoughtful decision-making becomes more important than ever.

    Is flat design here to stay or is it just latest trend? How do use it to create your own voice, or have you moved on to the next big thing? Let us know!



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  • To thine own self be… flawsome?

    On: February 4, 2013
    In: feature, Uncategorized
    Views: 3759

    To thine own self be flawsomeIn our hyper-connected media age its nearly impossible for anyone to keeps secrets– just ask Beyoncé or Mitt Romney’s fundraising team.

    There is a growing movement in corporate communications to let your customers see your whole personality — warts and all– and humanize your image. Marketing media is no longer a one-way channel, customers can respond to your message almost as fats as you put it out there. There is a conversation going on about you, and its in your best interest to join in.

    Contrary to what you might feel in you gut, customers feel better about companies when they can read both good and bad comments about it. In fact, a recent survey shows 68% trusted reviews more when there were both positive and negative statements.

    Not only that, but opening yourself to comments gives you fast, open feedback that cab help you improve your products and service. And its been shown that customers value honesty and openness more than the illusion of perfection that sparks cynicism and disbelief.

    This movement even has a kicky name (as all marketing trends must): flawsome. I can’t say I’m behind the name, but I can totally get behind being brave enough to tell the truth about yourself. And to that end, here are a few tips to show your flawsomeness.

    1. Be open. Enable comments on your communications, and reviews on your products. If there are open forums where your customers gather, join in the conversation.
    2. Be transparent. Share reviews from other sources. Acknowledge mistakes and communicate your plans to repair them. Don’t try to hide errors, because they will be found and waved in your face.
    3. Be responsive. Embrace the feedback, both good and bad. Not everyone is going to like you, but how your listen to and react to these people will show your strengths and might even convert some of the ‘haters’ into customers.

    Your company spends a lot of resources and effort to tell people that its awesome, and perhaps opening yourself up to your own humanity might help them believe it. No matter what, closer engagement with your customers can only make the relationship stronger– flaws and all.

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  • This is not design.

    On: November 11, 2011
    In: feature
    Views: 2586

    Have a nice dayLove him or hate him, this little guy’s got staying power.  But it’s not design. It’s a design.

    Design is not the end-product, but the process used in its creation. Or, as the dictionary puts it, “the thought behind the action”. This is the idea that drives everything we do.

    It may seem tempting to wrap your company’s products in the latest style or charge them with cutting edge technology and sent them loose to sell. But with a landscape littered with dancing CGI packages or computer-enhanced ‘talking’ creatures, it might not be the best approach for you.

    At Whirli-GIg Brand Design we do things the hard way. We take a good hard look at your company, your products and the way you do business. We talked to your customers, your competitors’ customers and try to form a picture of how you are perceived in the marketplace.

    Then we take that image and bring the best parts to life– and share them with the world. Customers are too smart these days to be taken in by gimmicks for long. But by communicating your true advantages and engaging with the marketplace, we can build your customer base and generate long-term relationships.

    The hardest dollar you will ever earn from a customer is the first one. When you get that opportunity you should make the most of it. Don’t have a transaction, start a relationship. And good relationships are built on trust.

    How do you design trust?

    It would be difficult to question Craftsman Tools’ commitment to quality when they offer to replace any broken tool for a lifetime. Or the simplicity of the Apple’s iPhone when the commercials are nothing but a faceless demo of fingers actually using the product.

    Any product worth promoting has an inherent competitive advantage, and we’re willing to help you find it, and use it to build relationships with your market.

    Earn their trust today and reap the rewards for years to come.

    And, have a nice day.

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  • Branding never stops.

    On: October 21, 2011
    In: feature
    Views: 2553

    Many people think that branding means having a logo, and maybe a tagline to go under it. But to us, branding is the summation of everything your customers see, hear and even ‘feel’ about your product.

    We like to think of it as your company or product’s lifestyle, the summation of mental connections your customers’ make about you. That said, most “branding” efforts are misguided, expensive and wasteful.

    Traditional branding (like institutional advertising and sponsorships) can build awareness, but ‘awareness’ has never sold anything. And amorphous goals like ‘brand affinity’ are difficult to measure and require a large investment of time and capital.

    So how should you brand? The short answer is ‘in everything you do’. Since your brand is a reflection of everything your customers think and feel, it should be part of everything you do. From your logo and packaging to your customer service scripts and on-line forms, it should all work in service to your brand. Nothing is too small to overlook and you should steer clear brand dissonance.

    If your brand is all about value, you might want to avoid the Jaguar cross-promotion. Environmental responsibility? You might want to rethink those plastic bags. These things are closer to your brand than any high-flown ad in a trade journal.

    Not to sound cynical or mercenary, but every nickel you have to spend on promotion should be put toward driving customer behavior. Why invest in trying to make people like you when you could be getting them to click ‘like’ on Facebook and telling their friends about you.

    Modern marketing is a two-way street, and you can build loyalty and ‘affinity’ by actually listening to your customers and investing in their continued support. Don’t tell them your focused on the future with an expensive mailer featuring soaring eagles, invite them into your process and show them your vision.

    The first step is to understand your brand, and just not the one you talk about it your annual report. Talk to customers, prospects and competitors (if you can) and try to get a feel for how you are really seen in the marketplace.

    Then find a way to involve  people in the brand. Invite input, reward cooperation and do everything you can to connect the best aspects of your brand with their lives.

    And, most importantly, don’t stop.

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