Milka's New Ad Will Make Chocolate and Film Lovers Happy

This Week, Ad Week and Ad Age have both commended European chocolate company Milka for their new Christmas ad. Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the mastermind behind "Amelie," the commercial tells the story of a little boy who simply cannot wait for Christmas. He builds a time machine and attempts to bypass the season of Advent and jump ahead to December 24th. It is whimsical, artistic and charming. Thomas Hardmeier, the Director of Photography for the Ad, posted it to Vimeo yesterday, and it is certainly worth a gander. Check it out!


Why You Need Templates in Microsoft Word

Does your organization have a standard style for case studies, media releases and other office documents? How about a Word document that gets updated internally on a regular basis – maybe by multiple people – and needs to look consistent?

Almost every business does. And unless you want to continually re-tweak your design – or worry about people accidentally shifting the layout of your document, you should think about using Word templates.

Once created, templates are easy to access and use over and over again. From the built-in, generic templates that Microsoft developed, to custom templates that are professionally designed to enhance and clarify your message, Word templates can play a vital role in your workflow, regardless of the size of your business. For instance:

An individual, small-business owner uses invoices, stationery, proposals and other documents on a regular basis. But if you’re opening up an old letter or proposal, deleting the old content and replacing it with new content, end that habit now! Any of these documents can and should be set up as Word templates. This will enable you to start a fresh document with all the components that need to be standard, already in place. Then, when you click Save, Word will save it as a document by default, keeping the elements of the template unchanged, ready to be used again.

Departments, work groups or collaborative projects within a larger organization can benefit from the use of Word templates as well. Especially when the group’s communications need to reflect the company’s and/or group’s identity, templates can enable consistency and collaboration to go hand in hand. By creating stylized templates for reports, memos, agendas, purchase orders and more, anyone can add and revise content while maintaining a consistent, professional presentation.

For a company, templates are about maintaining the brand. From memos, purchase orders and invoices to business reports, newsletters and case studies, business documents provide an excellent opportunity to reflect the organization’s brand consistently. Word templates can help avoid accidental changes, such as shifts in logo placement and display, font substitutions, and added or deleted graphics. Once again, a Word template satisfies this need, and can be write-protected to keep it from being inadvertently revised and saved incorrectly

Get in the habit of using templates in Word. They are easy to set up and easy to use. You can customize a template from scratch, use Word’s built-in template options, or work with a professional to create branded templates that reflect the culture and services of your organization. If you need a consistent look and feel for a document that can be easily edited, changed or re-written, you’ll appreciate how using a template can lend a sense of speed, ease, reliability to the work you do.

Decatur Is Making You Look Twice

The City of Decatur, and for that matter all of Atlanta, has always had a great fondness for its artists. Street art. Fine art. Arts festivals. Music. Film. You name it. In its effort to encourage talented citizens and foster a community of collaboration and beautification through individual expression, Atlanta has exploded with color. There is an itch here among artists to paint the whole city, to cover every surface in character and to showcase the raw talent which seems to run rampant down Krog St. Although much of this beautification has been done with questionable legality, developers and government officials have caught onto the huge potential for outreach and citizen involvement through street art. Instead of discouraging the practice altogether, public officials have turned graffiti on itself, encouraging ATL-ian artists in their crafts with more law-friendly options. Open calls for submissions ask for ways to keep fresh concrete and newly stacked brick walls from remaining colorless for long -- and maybe even to unite the local community.

The Beltline project is a perfect example. Proponents claim that the program not only stimulates economic development in the area, but also “breaks down economic and cultural barriers.” These efforts bring together rich and poor, sculptors and graffitists, photographers and musicians, citizens and government. They encourage us to see beauty all around us -- not just on concrete walls or mile markers coated in acrylics, but in our neighbor who painted them for us.

In this same vein, the City of Decatur recently launched a project that that challenges local makers to beautify the mundane: the traffic signal box.

Don’t even know what that is? Yeah, that’s the point. But get a load of Decatur’s; you will never un-see these otherwise invisible boxes.

traffic signal box art

Initiated by Larry Holland and backed by the Decatur Arts Alliance, the Decatur Downtown Development Authority and a handful of local businesses, the Decatur Box Project received donations from the community sufficient to paint 15 boxes by July 2016.

traffic signal box art

There is an undeniable parallel being drawn here. What are these artists doing with all of this? They make us look at something we once walked right by. They make it beautiful, give it a chance. But they are illuminating more than just their city's infrastructure. Ever thought about the man sitting against the wall on your walk to work as a talented artist? Maybe he painted that mural you stopped to look at this morning, but maybe you didn’t stop to talk to or look at him. By forcing us to look at a metal box, to look at his work, he forces us to look at him. There is a fire that is spreading in Atlanta, a culture on the rise. A culture of lifting up the under-appreciated and the overlooked, giving them a chance. It’s altogether wonderful and inciting, and it’s happening on an electrical box near you.

traffic signal box art

Artists tag themselves using their Instagram handles, so if you like what you see here, check out their work online.

traffic signal box art

Take some time on your lunch break today to check out the beautiful work your neighbors are cranking out all around Decatur!

social media business

Is Your Business Ready for Social Media? Here Are Three Questions to Ask

How many times have you heard (or said): “We should start a Facebook page to post about the great stuff that we do.” Or, “If we’re not on LinkedIn, we may as well not exist.” Or, “Why don’t we have more Twitter followers?”

Probably plenty. Your company does lots of things, and it’s likely that some of them would work well on social media.  But being on social media is not the same thing as having a social strategy – and a social strategy is what will make social media actually work for your business. So, before you jump onto a platform, create your page and start posting, there are a few things that need to be decided first:

Who do you want to talk to? 

Are you looking to keep talking to your existing customers?  Maybe you’re looking for social media to help you find new customers?  Or you want to share knowledge and engage in dialogue with your colleagues in your industry?  If your defined audience is “everyone,” it will be somewhere between difficult and impossible to create an effective social media strategy. When you define your intended audience, setting up a content strategy, platform specialization, and messaging becomes so much easier – not to mention more effective.

Who will be doing the talking?

Will it be your company president, marketing director, an intern?  First off, you wouldn’t put an intern on the evening news to represent your company, so please don't put them in charge of representing your company on your social channels. It’s a simple, common misstep that can have serious consequences for your brand. Regardless of who posts on behalf of your company, be sure that guidelines are in place to make your messaging platform, tone and direction clear and easy to communicate. Think of it as media training for online channels.

What are you going to talk about?

Prices Slashed 50%! We’ve just been recognized as a Top Place To Work :) 24 Hour Sale! Meet Our Newest Staff Members….it’s easy to see: Digital whiplash is a real thing, and it isn’t good for your communications.  Focus conversation on your social platform on what you really want to talk about – your workplace, your environmental policies, employee highlights. Save the E-Commerce and latest sales initiatives for other platforms or channels. You’ll build more trust with your audience that way.

These often-missed initial three steps will help guide the development of a comprehensive social strategy. By doing this important legwork up front, you will be well on your way to having your social media strategy pay off big.

Halloween environmental graphics

Ghosts, Goblins… and Environmental Graphics

Eerily lit jack-o-lanterns. Light-up ghosts lining the walkway. Tombstones on the front lawn. And that cauldron of candy bars on the front porch with the note reading, “Zombies asleep inside – don’t ring the bell. Quick - take some candy before they wake up!” You’re probably envisioning Halloween. I’m seeing some pretty awesome environmental graphics.

Environmental graphics are one of my favorite areas of creative work – sort of where industrial engineering meets graphic design. They often show you where to look, where to go and how to get there – all while reinforcing the mood you should be feeling.

That Halloween scene is a great example. The jack-o-lanterns tell everyone that trick-or treaters will be welcome there. The ghosts on the walkway show how to get to the front door. The tombstones reinforce the eerie mood. And the candy cauldron and sign tell people not to ring the bell, but to take some candy while highlighting the fun part of the holiday.

Of course, not all environmental design is that dramatic. Think about the easiest airport you’ve ever traversed. From almost anywhere you might be standing, you can look around and see something that will show you where to go. Those signs are all the same shape and color so that once you’ve seen one direction, the rest are easy to spot. And the combination of font size and typeface make the signage easy to read from a distance. Everything feels crisp, clear and uncluttered.

Or take the example of Atlanta’s Center for Civil and Human Rights. Everything there takes visitors on a journey from immersive history experiences to walls of history that feel like they’re coming straight from the era in which they happened. You feel comfortable moving slowly from exhibit to exhibit. As you ascend through the floors of the space, you’re taken from past to present, finally emerging in a bright, upper-floor area that inspires emotion to turn to action.

In both cases, (unless you’re a professional designer yourself) you’ve probably never noticed how all of these components come together to guide your way. If the environmental designers did their job right, their work is all but invisible – all you know is how easily you’re getting from area to area, how you don’t feel rushed in some places and how you feel effortlessly whisked along in others.

One of my favorite environmental design projects is the one we’re implementing now for Kimberly-Clark. The goal was to communicate K-C’s global reach, international brands, commitment to sustainability and corporate culture to visitors and employees. We began by identifying who would be likely to be in key areas of buildings and what component of the K-C story would be easiest to tell on the walls.

In the public-facing spaces, we wanted to tell stories of how the K-C mission to lead the world in essentials for a better life come alive all around the world. So, in Beijing, we captured the scene of a young couple bringing home K-C products in the baskets on their bicycle. In Rio, a woman is carrying clear shopping bags that reveal a variety of Kimberly Clark necessities. We even used a drone camera to capture a dramatic landscape in Utah where Huggies® and Pull-ups® happen to be made. Other walls feature the logos of Kimberly-Clark brands – both those known in the North America and others familiar to consumers all over the world.

Moving deeper into the building, elevator lobbies feature the numeral for the floor – as well as that number spelled out in all of the 20+ languages spoken by Kimberly-Clark employees worldwide. Environmental sustainability initiatives are highlighted. And messages about what qualities characterize Kimberly-Clark and its employees line hallways, reinforcing pride and commitment.

Look around you. If certain places always make you feel a certain way, when certain locations are always easy to get around, no matter how many other people are there, it’s possible that it happened by accident. But it’s probably the work of an environmental designer.

psychology of color

Psychology of Color

So much has been written about the psychology of color: how colors affect our moods, which colors make us salivate, and which ones help us to relax. All of this research is, of course, valid, useful and readily available. So what do you need a designer for?

If color choices were as easy as consulting a research cheat-sheet, a brand’s color palette could be quickly selected, and every smart company’s brand color would be equally successful. But it’s not that simple.

Choosing colors for a brand often starts with a color swatch book or a computer monitor. Colors are paired up and combined, and they communicate different attributes and elicit different feelings. Paying careful attention to these results, the designer chooses color combinations that best represent aspects of a brand’s image. Collaboration with colleagues first, and ultimately the client, assures that the attributes associated with the colors are appropriate and powerful.

In the end, a brand’s colors, applied to the logo and marketing materials, reflect the personality of the organization. If you think of the logo as a person that greets you, the colors are the clothes it wears. Do they set you at ease? Do they inspire you? Do they make you hungry? How do they affect your mood? And what do they say about your brand?

These are the questions that designers tackle constantly, every day. Investigating what colors work well together in different lights; exploring how different combinations communicate different moods, tones and concepts; noticing how colors on a screen look different from the way they may look on a page. Our design experience gives us the ability to answer these questions quickly and consistently. Perhaps most importantly, an expert designer can listen to your plans for the brand and translate that into colors that bring the brand to life.

Read part 1 of blog here!

Read part 3 of blog here!


Twitter removes 140 Character Limit on Direct Messages

Last month, this announcement from Twitter appeared in its community forums:

Sachin Agarwal, the DM Product Manager @ Twitter announced:

Sachin Agarwal tweet

The change is due to occur on an undisclosed date sometime later this month, but already, people are excited. This is what Phil Blum, Time Warner Cable’s Senior Manager of Social Media Customer Care, said in response:

Phil Blum tweet

Here’s why this will matter to businesses: Twitter remains on the forefront of real-time communication within social media.  But even in real-time, distractions, connection issues, and myriad other things delay the delivery and consumption of each 140 character morsel.  So, a quick, four message exchange can potentially take upwards of five to seven minutes…an eternity in the world of Social Media.

The exchange could take even longer when you consider that prior to this past April, the business would first have to ask the user to follow the brand before a DM exchange could take place.

Without that hurdle – and with 10,000 characters available for each DM – (more than 170 times the old limit !), a customer issue that once would be resolved in a 20-minute exchange could potentially be resolved in half the time.

For brands, this change rounds out a series of changes that help position Twitter as an even better solution for brand interaction with consumers, especially in the customer service arena.  No longer will frustrated customers need to send three or four messages to communicate their frustration. In short, this will be a win for brands, looking to improve their overall perception on social media, and for consumers, wanting things to happen immediately so they can get back to their days.

Today, 51% of consumers perceive brands that engage with them on social media for customer service issues more favorably overall.* Add in the fact that just under 50% of consumers expect a response from a brand within one hour,** and the implication is clear: every opportunity to optimize each interaction has the potential to lead to a happier customer and a potential brand advocate.

* 2014 State of MultiChannel Customer Service Report, Parature

** Edison Research