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Designing “with and not for” people with autism

by: Neil Potter on

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Blue State Digital has co-designed Ambitious About Autism’s new website by working directly with young people who have Autism.

Ambitious About Autism is a charity which offers education and support, raises awareness and is involved in campaigning and lobbying.

BSD has designed the site “with and not for” young people with autism and has looked to “not just tick the accessibility box” but “fully embrace all users”, according to BSD senior account director Ali Walker.

“Although there are other autism charities they don’t really give support to young people with autism or their parents,” says Walker. She describes the Ambitious About Autism as a “disruptive brand”, which is looking to enact change and offer support.

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The previous site engaged a small active community, but a need was identified to drive further, broader engagement and increase fundraising according to Walker who says BSD was appointed in February last year to this end.

The consultancy has taken an “action-orientated approach”, which means encouraging people who use the site to take increasing levels of action and to become more involved.

Walker calls this “moving up the ladder of engagement”, a process which encourages people to become advocates, supporters and donors.

“Many parents are time strapped and cash-poor so they are not in a position to donate but they are building brand awareness and will drive fundraising in the future.”

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One of the key sections of the site is My Voice, a forum section co-designed with and directed towards young people. Parents have also been engaged. My voice will be “an authoritative voice”.

A strong voice will be garnered through structured debate, led by stakeholders and by including the voices of the charity’s Young Patrons –who attend party conferences, meet MPs and campaign.

“There are separate forums for adults and young people. There’ll be web chats and organised things like Google Hangouts. It’s aimed at 16- to 24-year-olds and will tackle problems like employment as many young people feel they have been left on their own without advice or a voice.”

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A new topic-based “About autism” section has been created and is geared to accessing information quickly. It also integrates with the forums.

“The whole process is about lowering the barriers and increasing engagement,” says Walker.

5 ways to tackle creative block

by: Neil Potter on

Stuck in a creative rut? The answer lies in mockups, explains Jerry Cao of UXPin.  

Designer's block is a downward spiral. It's a lot like quicksand – the more your struggle, the deeper you go. But what are you supposed to do, just sit there and sink?

We know what it's like, so we want to throw you a rope. Here are 8 strategies that we've found useful in unblocking ourselves, all of which can be executed specifically with mockups.  

 

01. Redraw existing sites

If this sounds like mindless busy work, it's because it is – but that's exactly what you need. Shifting your focus out of the problem at hand and onto something still design-related will reveal new options, whether on the screen or in your head.

Why redraw existing sites, though? As you (re)build multiple sites, you'll start to notice repetitions in structure and recognize similars skeletons behind the design. You'll see UI patterns implemented in various ways, but learn which elements are always the same, or should be. It's a practice that's always helpful in general for sharpening your skill as a designer, but when you're blocked, it could be a life-saver.

As recommended in Web UI Best Practices, first begin with skeletal wireframes, then move into detail. Each new phase reveals different elements you hadn't thought of before, and challenge your creative thinking in how to recreate them.

02. Zoom out

both literally and figuratively. Perhaps the reason you're stuck is that you can't see the forest for the trees. Try shifting your viewpoint away from the details and onto the big picture – and the best way to do that is to physically change your viewpoint.

Working in a zoomed out view of a mockup creates the proper context you need to reevaluate the problem. You'll see how each element relates to the whole, and notice layout choices you hadn't seen before.

New methods of rearranging paragraphs, columns, sidebars, menus, navigation bars – anything, really – will come to light just by changing your perspective. 

03. The Blur Test 

The blur test is a personal method of Lee Munroe, which he describes on his blog. It's used to test visual hierarchy, but can also help in designer's block by giving you a fresh outlook on a mockup.

The idea is that you view a blurry version of a screen so that, with the details obscured, you won't be distracted when analysing how the overall format fits together. Yes, visual details are the most important part of a mockup, however, these details won't matter unless your visual hierarchy is on point.
Image courtesy of UXPin via Lee Munroe

Munroe recommends taking a screenshot at blurring it with a Gaussian Blur filter in Photoshop by 5-10 pixels. Your screenshot will be reduced to colourful blobs, text will be unreadable, and you'll be able to see which blobs stand out (and which ones don't, but should).

04. Try new software

It's a poor craftsman who blames his tools… but a clever one who experiments. Trying out new design tools gives you an immediate change, or at the very least a distraction.

The excitement of a new “toy” might be enough on its own to inspire some new ideas. If not, exploring the new features and relearning your old techniques might spark something inside you previously forgotten. Equally possible, you might realise how much you miss your old software's features, and the reason why might be the inspiration you were needing. 

05. Design badly on purpose

This may seem like one of the more “alternative” strategies, but it's also one a lot of respectable designers use successfully. Often designer's block is less about not having any ideas, and more about not having any good ideas. This puts a lot of pressure on you to stop thinking up bad ideas, and designing badly on purpose alleviates that pressure.

As graphic designer Alexander Charchar suggests, try creating or recreating your mockup with a few ugly design elements. Use that creative but illegible font. Clash the colors of the icon against the background. Make the logo tiny. Indulge in any fun or goofy instincts, then still try to structure the overall layout so the design makes sense. What happens is you're still thinking critically about the design, but with a new calmness in the absence of pressure.

At the very least, you'll get those bad ideas out of your system, and have a bit of fun before a more serious fresh start.

Even the best of us are susceptible to designer's block from time to time, so it's helpful to know which ways work best for unblocking yourself.

In addition to these mockup strategies, there's the tried-and-true methods: get plenty of sleep, exercise, eat healthy, and try to distract yourself a little bit. And remember to relax – battling designer's block is a battle against yourself, and the best ideas sometimes surface in passing.

 

 

What should the new government do for designers?

by: Steve Lowe on

Erika Clegg, co-founder, Spring

“Having cut the deficit, Britain is in an increasingly strong position and it’s a course worth holding. Britain is famed worldwide for its inventiveness and creative edge: those characteristics underpin economic growth nationwide, not just in our own sector, and I would like to see them properly quantified and nurtured. The combination of a strong government and highly vocal organisations – the DBA, CIF and LEPs, for example – empowered to advocate for and act on behalf of their own constituents, gives us power as a nation. It is also crucial that the Government fosters interaction between business and schools: this will help to shape the next generation of British talent.”


Graham Shearsby, executive creative director, Design Bridge
Graham Shearsby, executive creative director, Design Bridge

“The Government is thankfully now acknowledging the UK design industry’s global reputation and influence, and indeed the huge contribution it makes to the coffers of the country. We have an inherent natural talent and are acknowledged as world leaders, so why are we not putting creative education at the heart of the curriculum instead of marginalising it?  Around the world, global investment and enthusiasm in creative education is actually rising rapidly, so why is ours being strangled? I am looking for the Government to seriously rethink the current National Curriculum and support, encourage and nurture our future generation of creative talent at this critical early stage of their lives – just imagine what we could achieve then.”


Mark Bonner, founder, GBH and president D&AD
Mark Bonner, founder, GBH and president D&AD

“The UK is in a race to compete with emerging economies, driven by fear. Our government believes that we need more academics – and we need them fast. The solution? STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths. It’s Nicky Morgan’s deft rebrand of Gove’s hugely unpopular EBacc proposals – an educational policy which sidelines the creative subjects for ‘more’ academic qualifications – and which the creative industry believed was defeated in 2012.

Well, EBacc is back – like a recurring nightmare – only now its called STEM. Just what kind of grey future are we designing? I believe creativity is the very DNA of a successful economic future for the UK. The creative skillset should be thought of as a fundamental partner to each STEM subject, as bonding pairs, not as either/or enemies of academia. How will our young people make leaps, think laterally and problem solve without creativity? This is not about right versus left brain, this is an opportunity for national, ‘one brain’ thinking.

STEM needs to evolve into STEAM fast, Mr Cameron. A is for The Arts: fundamental to our nation’s economic future. The Conservative vision for the UK’s education is a myopic one where creativity makes way for more academic achievements. We need a government that believes in a future where creative ability can be amplified by education, regardless of privilege.”


Margaret Manning, group CEO, Reading Room
Margaret Manning, group CEO, Reading Room

“The British Government, and particularly the UKTI, has been hugely successful in promoting the export of British design. I would ask that this assistance to UK design businesses is continued with a strong emphasis on support for the entrepreneurial talents of our design community. This will directly contribute positively to the UK economy. In addition, with the booming landscape of digital, it should recognise that design and design-thinking are every bit as important as the STEM subjects. I’d like to see further recognition and promotion of the innovative companies who successfully mix design and technology to produce digital excellence. The UK is a key international financial centre – it could, and should, be a key international digital centre of excellence.”


Patricia van den Akker, director, The Design Trust
Patricia van den Akker, director, The Design Trust

“Many designers are freelancing soletraders or run very small agencies, and instead of just creating policy for big businesses the new Government should start investing more in these microbusinesses, who make a huge contribution to the UK economy. 95 per cent of all businesses are very small but very few are profitable, with very little government research and knowledge available (see last year’s EU VAT Moss debacle). They need a bigger say in government, HMRC needs to communicate better to them, and they need practical support such as tax breaks, help with childcare costs, equal access to pensions, and decent broadband across the UK to run online businesses.”

How to keep long-term design projects exciting

by: Steve Lowe on

 

Pali Palavathanan, founder and creative director, TEMPLO

“I worked on a rebrand for a well-known airline, which took the best part of two years from start to finish. There were many creative routes, more than 400 tail fin designs, a bespoke typeface and at least two months’ of final logo artwork tweaks. The project had lots of twists and turns – a year into the work, the main design route was dropped in favour of a more conservative approach. Our direct client left the company and someone new came in. We then had to condense two years of designs into a six-page PDF for the company founder to sign off. The best motivation is to remember the end goal when things get tough – seeing the designs in full flight.”


Karen Hughes, creative director, This Is True North
Karen Hughes, creative director, True North

“18 months (and counting) is the longest period of time I’ve worked on a project. The key to keeping lengthy projects interesting begins with future-proofing the original concept: rigorously testing the idea, ensuring it’s strong enough to pass the test of time and has enough mileage to flex across an endless number of channels and scenarios, and remaining fresh and engaging throughout. From there, the way to keep up momentum and enthusiasm for a job is to continually push and challenge your original thinking. Don’t be afraid to take things in an unexpected direction, always be open to new ideas and seek out interesting collaborations.”


Felicia Rosenzweig, partner, Prophet
Felicia Rosenzweig, partner, Prophet

“We recently designed a global visual identity system that took over a year in the making to get corporate stakeholders and all the markets engaged and ready to go. While working out the details, we focused on two key things to keep it interesting and motivating for our team: 1) Introducing a continuous stream of boundary-pushing real-world inspiration, and 2) empowering the team to propose enhancements all along, not just act on feedback. Starting a project with energy is fairly easy – keeping the positive energy going through endless iterations is harder but essential for both the impact of the end product and the learning experience.”


David Godber, group chief executive officer, Elmwood
David Godber, group chief executive, Elmwood

“Maybe this is a slightly philosophical answer but my longest running project is actually me! My life so far has been an education: many roles in different sectors and within numerous countries and cultures, the thousands of people I have met (many of whom I call my friends) – and I’m still learning about the wonderful world that we live in. As for keeping it interesting, well for me it’s about the people I meet from all walks of life, their stories and challenges. These are what keep me inspired every day. And I think I’ll be on this particular project for about another 40 years – at least I hope so!”

Clerkenwell Design Week – the highlights

by: Steve Lowe on

 

This year’s Clerkenwell Design Week will feature a series of talks, events and exhibitions covering all aspects of design.

The fifth edition of CDW runs at a series of venues around the London district of Clerkenwell from 19-21 May.

As part of the CDW talks programme, Design Week editor Angus Montgomery will be chairing a session entitled “The people vs graphic design” which will look at design in public spaces and also at perceptions of graphic design as a discipline.

The session features panellists Jonathan Barnbrook, Tony Brook, Jim Sutherland, Sarah Hyndman and Patrick Myles and has been organised by Monotype.

The free talk will be held at the Farmiloe Building at midday on 19 May. To reserve a ticket visit www.clerkenwelldesignweek.com.

Other speakers at CDW include Sebastian Conran, Patrizia Moroso, Morag Myerscough and Bethan Grey.

Monotype is also presenting its WordPlay installation as part of CDW. This will see local designers create installations around Clerkenwell – with seven words set in seven different Monotype typefaces.

Other installations include The Invisible Store of Happiness – a 3m-high wooden sculpture created by Sebastian Cox and Laura Ellen Bacon – and a multi-coloured glazed pavilion on St John’s Square, designed by architect Cousins & Cousins.

There will also be a series of open showrooms around Clerkenwell and an exhibition at the Farmiloe Building’s Design Factory, which will showcase work from brands including Anglepoise, Benchmark and Thonet.


Clerkenwell Design Week runs from 19-21 May at venues around Clerkenwell, London. For more information visit www.clerkenwelldesignweek.com.

50 questions to ask a client prior to designing a logo

by: Steve Lowe on

 

Before you begin to design a new logo for any client, it’s essential to get a solid understanding of the brief. This means you're going to have to ask a lot of questions to draw out as much information as possible. Doing so will help pave the way to a successful outcome, bring the client's vision to life and hopefully build a long lasting relationship that will result in repeat business.

Many of our recommended questions cover all grounds and help you to figure out the client's background, its target audience, its strengths and weaknesses and its goals – everything that you really need to know to satisfy the client's needs. Here are 50 questions to ask a client prior to designing a logo. Obviously, you won't have to ask every single one, so just use this guide as a helpful checklist...

About the company

  1. What is your company/organisation/product/service name?
  2. How long has your company been established?
  3. Can you describe your business?
  4. Why was your company started in the first place and what was the motivation?
  5. If you had to describe your business in one word, what would it be and why?
  6. Who are your main competitors?
  7. What sets your company apart from the competition?
  8. How do your competitors market themselves?
  9. What services or products do you provide?
  10. How big is your company? (number of employees? revenue?)
  11. What are the strengths of your company?
  12. What are your weaknesses?
  13. What are the long-term goals of the company? Where do you see your company in 5 years? 10 years? 30 years time?

About the target audience

  1. Who is the primary target audience?
  2. What is the target audience's age group?
  3. Are they mainly male or female?
  4. Where do most of your audience live?
  5. What is the average household income of your target audience?
  6. Are there any new markets you'd like to break into? If so, what would they be and why?
  7. If your customers had to describe your company in one word, what would it be and why?
  8. How do most of your customers find out about your company?
  9. How do you plan to communicate with your target audience?

About the branding

  1. What are the values and/or mission statement of your company?
  2. What is the current logo?
  3. What do you like and dislike about the current logo?
  4. Why are you looking to change the logo? What do you want the new logo to accomplish?
  5. Do you have a strap line or slogan that goes along with your logo?
  6. What words describe how you feel when you look at your current logo and branding?
  7. What three attributes would you like your target audience to think of when they look at your new branding?
  8. Which of these words is a better fit for your brand? Traditional or modern?
  9. Which of these words is a better fit for your brand? Friendly or corporate?
  10. Which of these words is a better fit for your brand? High end or cost-effective?
  11. Which of these words is a better fit for your brand? Consumer or Trade?
  12. Why does your current branding use those colours, fonts, etc.?

Design Preferences

  1. What colours or colour palettes do you like and why?
  2. Where will the logo be mainly used? Print, web, etc.?
  3. Are there any elements from the existing logo that you'd like to keep and why?
  4. In your opinion, what defines a successful logo?
  5. Are there any restrictions to consider when designing the new logo?
  6. Is there anything that must be included, like existing brand elements, words or icons?
  7. Looking at other people's branding, what logos do you like and why?
  8. Are there any logos that you particularly dislike and why?

Budget, Timescales & Management

  1. Do you have a budget in mind for the new logo?
  2. How many revisions or concepts would you like to see? (consider how many you can offer – this varies from designer to designer)
  3. Do you have a deadline that needs to be considered?
  4. Who will be the internal decision makers on this project? Giving feedback and approvals? (Stress to the client that the less decision makers, the better!)
  5. Will there be anyone else involved in this project? Any third party sub-contractors or other agencies/freelancers?
  6. How frequently would you like to meet? Weekly? Monthly?
  7. Is there anything else you'd like to add that we haven't already covered?
  8. Finally, what would you like the final work to produce? What materials would you like to see as a result of this new logo? Would you like a 'brand guidelines' pack for future reference?