Coachella 2017: Behind the Scenes with Album Art Designers


Creative Cloud

In less than two decades Coachella has come to dominate the music festival landscape. But behind every great band is great album art. Album art represents a meeting of music and design that can create captivating results. We sat down with some of the designers whose album art will be featured this year on posters and merchandise at Coachella to learn more about the inspiration behind their designs.

Tacocat takes on Coachella culture

For Tacocat, the key to great album art is collaboration.We threw around a lot of ideas for Lost Time,” says band member Emily Nokes. “But in the end the focus landed on Kit Cat clocks — those little cat clocks with the moving eyes and tails.”
Emily had grown up with one of the clocks in her kitchen, and her bandmates were more than familiar. “We sat down and had everyone create their own versions of a Kit Cat clock. We made tons of them, and they became the album cover. It’s fun to have people guess which ones they think were made by which bandmate.”

Tacocat’s album art shows the band’s collaborative efforts. Band members drew their own versions of Kit Cat clocks and combined them to create a unique design.

For Tacocat, designing album art is very natural and very seamless. They’re simply, “making something we like to look at,” Emily explains, “and not necessarily trying too hard to tie the art and music together, because they naturally do that anyway. We’re making both of them from scratch.”

At the end of the day, it’s platforms like Coachella that encourage these creative convergences, something that’s central to Tacocat and to their fans. “Our music and art is an extension of us as people,” Emily adds. “People who have a specific sense of humor and sense of style that translates to everything we do.”

Creating, collaborating and curating with Warpaint

Mia Kirby, designer for Warpaint’s latest album Heads Up, has always loved working with fellow creatives. “Working with artists and musicians is my favorite thing to do,” she says. “I think most of the people I’ve worked with trust me to understand what they’re looking for, or trust me to bring something else to the table that they haven’t seen or thought of.”

For Mia Kirby, it’s important that the album cover design match how the band feels creatively about their music. Her latest work with Warpaint will be featured at Coachella.

Emily says she wants her album art to be eye catching, not too obvious, but also not too abstract. “Mainly I want the band to feel that the album package matches how they were feeling creatively with the music.”

Creating a finished product that works for everyone involved can be a challenge, but Mia says the result is worth the effort. “I truly like to bounce ideas back and forth with the band,” she adds. “I do care deeply about what each band member thinks and feels. Warpaint consists of four different girls with different opinions who are all creative. At times you can kind of feel like you’re losing the plot by going back and forth with each individual, but eventually, we always end up agreeing and happy with the result.”

Chicano Batman fights for freedom & self-expression  

As Chicano Batman’s album designer Allah-las was deciphering the sometimes-haunting messages behind Freedom is Free, he started to see a pattern. “For me everything has the same meaning underneath all of the layers,” he explains. “We, like everything else, are cosmic beings. We are infinite like nature itself.”
Allah-las believes often we aren’t using those innate powers for good. “We’ve created havoc on this planet,” he adds. “We commit genocide all over the world in the name of freedom.”

Allah-las wanted the album art he created for Chicano Batman to paint a tapestry of the gruesome realities of the modern human condition.

Through his artwork for Freedom is Free, Allah-las hopes to shine light on this global downturn. “The point of the piece, is that we are already free, and the status quo as we know it is what’s really suppressing us and all other plant and animal life on this planet.”

Allah-las describes his album cover as, “a tapestry of love that contains the gruesome realities of our present human condition.” It leverages everything from hand drawings to books to Adobe Photoshop to bring the tapestry pieces together. His hope is that we “bring our world back to harmony with itself.”

Leaving something to the imagination for Bonobo

Designer Neil Krug sat down with Bonobo in LA and, almost immediately, the album cover began to take shape. Bonobo’s advice to Neil: Make it beautiful but sinister. “He was really clear about what he had in mind, and I immediately knew what to do,” says Neil.
Those words clearly resonated with Neil’s own creative journey. “I just went in that direction and tapped into those things in my mind and composed the scenes,” he explains. “I tried not to be too heavy handed with it, to leave a little bit of ambiguousness so that people can read whatever they want to read into it. I don’t necessarily need to spell everything out for the viewer.”

Bonobo asked designer Neil Krug to create something beautiful but sinister for the “Migration” album cover.

That, he believes, creates the best multi-platform experience. “I think it is more fun,” Neil says. “I personally like it when whoever is the maker of the work leaves a little bit for me to get into and figure out. Maybe it is just my own interpretation of it and the way it makes me feel is all that is meant to be felt.” To Neil, that’s the modern art of it all — and that’s exactly what his Bonobo cover delivers.

Designing Culture: Creating Design Aware Organizations


Creative Cloud

Design is becoming inextricably linked with the creation of products and services, especially within technology, as John Maeda’s annual design in tech report highlights. As the value proposition of design is gaining more traction, questions are arising about how design fits into companies, and why, when and how it should play a role. ‘Design culture’ is in part the idea that design can permeate the DNA of a company and its modus operandi.

Design works best when it operates as a holistically across an organization, that plays nicely with other functions and approaches. In order to do this, leaders need to build design cultures that are contextually appropriate and contextually aware. In tandem with this, there are some tried and testing ways to foster design culture. I spoke with three design leaders in an agency, a product start-up and an enterprise company about what design culture means to them, and how to make it real.

What is Design Culture?

‘Design culture’ is a nebulous (and potentially trend driven!) term. Ryan Rumsey, Director of Experience Design at EA, talked about design culture as “Organizational intent in identifying the core purpose of an activity before going out and trying to do something.” Linda Nakanishi, Design Director at Nascent, echoed this, and talked about the crucial role design plays in understanding the problem, user and organization before building something. One of the value propositions of design is that it can envision products and services that people truly need and love, by deeply researching user needs.

Tom Creighton, Design Director at Wealthsimple, had a slight reframe on the term design culture, preferring the term ‘design awareness.’ “Design aware company culture means giving teams the room to scope and discover a problem through the process, rather than having rigidly defined scope and requirements from day one,” said Creighton. This is an interesting reframe, which potentially shifts from the notion of a pervasive or monolithic seeming ‘design culture’ to one that allows space for recognition of the appropriate uses of design. It also emphasizes the role and responsibility of design in problem framing – making sure that we are building the right solution for the right problem. When a company uses design to ask why before building something, design culture is born.

So how do you know when a culture of design awareness exists in your workplace? For Creighton, the ‘un-scoped scope’ with clear desired outcomes is a function of design awareness. Similarly, for Nakanishi, it means that a design perspective becomes an inherent requirement of the work, even to the point of impacting the type of work and projects that the agency takes on. From Rumsey’s perspective, one clue that design culture exists is that people pause for a moment before they draft business requirement documents and roadmaps.

How to Foster Design Culture

Building something as ephemeral as culture is certainly easier said than done. How do you get to a place where design is valued and recognized as an important part of creating products and services? Nakanishi, Creighton and Rumsey elaborated on some of their strategies and tactics.

Make a clear value proposition: Leading a design function in an organization requires being able to articulate the value of the approach. It’s also crucial to bridge any potential disconnects between design teams and the management or leadership of a company. Creighton captured this really well, “Part of what I’ve discovered in my career is that certainly a lot of design culture is about practicing design and doing the work – but the thing that’s not often taught, that should be a core component, is how to explain the value of design to people who aren’t designers or aren’t design thinkers.” A common mistake among designers can be an overemphasisover-emphasis on process rather than outcomes. Growing design culture requires a clear articulation of the value design brings in terms of the end game – whether that’s efficiency, revenue or user engagement.

Coalitions of the willing: Rumsey talked about the importance of finding willing partners and collaborators, who are excited about the possibility of using design to solve challenges. “It is difficult to take on design without shifting some of the operational models, and to do that you need to find champions who are working on smaller things,” said Rumsey. Part of the advantage of this approach is being able to demonstrate early successes, and grow the interest and curiosity around the approach. “It leads to people saying hey, how’d you do that, can you help me too?” says Rumsey. This is one way of using problem solving as a Trojan horse for design, sneaking it into the environment without being too directive or pushy.

Creating community: Culture is people, and all of the design leaders emphasised the importance of sharing knowledge within the design team and beyond. This can take the form of weekly design team meetups, or a broader team show and tell. There is something to be said for having really disciplined, organized check ins that are focused on product design, and this is part of what Creighton advocates for at Wealthsimple. On the other hand, while Nakanishi’s team does have design focused show and tell, they are experimenting with more cross-disciplinary sessions. “Through cross-discipline sharing, design culture will spread. At a project level when the full team is involved from the beginning, they will be exposed to the design discovery phase and they can contribute to the discussion.” said Nakanishi.

Design is not just for designers: Both Nakanishi and Rumsey mentioned the need to open design up beyond an exclusive club for those with explicit design roles. One approach Rumsey uses is to run design workshops over a lunch hour. He explains, “What I say is, ‘I’ll buy you a pizza and share with you how designers work.” No one wants to be ‘educated’ or lectured to, so this is a great strategy – get people to come for the pizza, and leave with the design bug! These opportunity workshops allow teams to explore design approaches themselves, as well as serving a clever dual function of allowing Rumsey to identify potential projects, partners and do some pre-scoping.

A Key Design Culture Enabler, and Blockers to Watch Out For

A key success criteria when growing a design function is having buy in from a high level. Without some executive or management team support, seeding and growing design culture can be an uphill battle. “If people at a higher level don’t see value in it, there is a risk that resources don’t get put towards design, for example not including research budget when scoping or not being willing to resource more than one designer to a project. In the past, I’ve pushed and struggled with this, and if it’s not supported it can’t grow,” said Nakanishi. In Creighton’s context, design as a key strategic differentiator means there is excellent support and buy in. “From an investment perspective, our offering is fairly conventional – the differentiator is the way in which we are offering them. The C suite has a huge awareness of design and the importance of design – the solutions we are coming up with are design solutions, not financial ones.”

What about blockers to creating design culture? Resistance to change, a feeling that design is ‘not for me’, or misunderstanding of design are common themes. When Rumsey joined his organization, the word design was already being used, but in a different context – that of solution architecture. “This can lead to massive amounts of confusion around the word design. For example, people trying to understand what designers are accountable for, and what parts of the work should they be involved in?” said Rumsey. For organizations where design thinking is a new way of working, it can require lots of capacity building to get people onto the same page.

Designing Culture is a Team Sport

The design leaders I spoke with unanimously emphasised the importance of people. From hiring developers who have a user focused mindset, to an openness and willingness to learn from each other across the organization, at the end of the day design culture is spread and maintained by teams. As Nakanishi put it, “Design culture is about having good people who can rally with you. It’s not about doing it all yourself, it’s about finding good people you can trust and do it together way – rallying together with other managers to grow the culture you want.”

Civil Rights Icon Earns Much Deserved Attention 60 Years Later


Creative Cloud

Dolores Huerta’s first major success as a community activist came when she partnered with César E. Chávez in the 1950s to form the National Farm Workers Association. Sixty years later, she is still a vocal feminist fighting against economic injustice. While the history books detail the work of Chávez, Huerta is not well known, and her work was often attributed to others.

The documentary film Dolores, directed by Peter Bratt, shines a spotlight on Huerta and her lifelong commitment to equality and civil rights. Jessica Congdon, the film’s Editor and Ben Zweig, the film’s Assistant Editor and Post-Production Supervisor, previously worked together on two other documentaries. The film premiered as part of the U.S. Documentary Competition selections at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and has since screened in numerous film festivals across the United States, including the Women + Film Festival in Denver, CO and the San Francisco International Film Festival

Adobe: How long have you worked as an editor?

Congdon: I’ve been an editor for more than 20 years. I started working on commercials in San Francisco and was a co-founding director and editor of Umlaut Film, where I still do some commercial editing. I started cutting feature films in 2001. I edited the film Dopamine, which went to the Sundance Film Festival in 2003. I also edited Miss Representation and The Mask You Live In with director Jennifer Siebel Newsom, which went to Sundance in 2011 and 2015, respectively.

Adobe: How did you get connected to Dolores?

Congdon: Peter Bratt was interviewing editors for this project and he and I really hit it off. He’d just watched Miss Representation and was really struck by it, so that played into his decision to bring me on as the editor. Over the course of us working together I also became a co-writer, which is one of my credits on the film. Peter is one of the most fabulous directors I’ve ever worked with. He’s really creative, collaborative, and just a lovely soul.

Adobe: Why did you decide to work with Adobe Premiere Pro CC?

Congdon: When we started cutting in February 2015 I was still working in Final Cut Pro 7, but we all knew the sun was setting on that product. I was a bit begrudging about transferring over to Adobe Premiere Pro but Ben really advocated for it and I trust him a lot. I agreed to try it and after using it for a couple of months I grew to love it and can’t see going back. There are so many great things about Premiere Pro that made the workflow really smooth.

Zweig: I knew that adapting from Final Cut to Premiere was very doable. What really sold me on the Premiere features was the ability to lay in visual effects right in Premiere Pro and watch them back in real-time.

Adobe: Tell us how Dolores came together.

Congdon: After Ben loaded everything into Premiere Pro I worked on an assembly for a couple of months. Eventually we had a three hour string out that we transcribed. From then on Peter and I would go back into the original transcripts of the interviews, write out what we wanted like a script, and then I would construct it.

Once we had a solid A-roll cut we started pulling in the archival footage on another layer and working and reworking it. We did a lot of focus groups and eventually locked the cut in July 2016. Then it was just a matter of doing all of the archival clearances, getting everything approved, scoring the music, and submitting to the Sundance Film Festival.

Zweig: We hired Jennifer Petrucelli, who is an incredible archivist, and she searched far and wide for every possible piece of Dolores’ history since her birth. Even the family welcomed us into their homes and shared their personal photos with us. Volunteers of the United Farm Workers Movement had boxes of photos that we scanned and catalogued.

Adobe: How was your experience working with Premiere Pro?

Congdon: Working with Premiere Pro has become so second nature to me it’s hard to remember what it was like before. I love its organization structure and how it links directly to files. We shot with a three-camera setup, with one camera shooting 4K and the others shooting regular HD. We were able to sync those up and load the 4K and HD content into Premiere Pro without transcoding. Because it is a historical documentary, we also had more than 200 hours of archival footage. We had many different sources and were able to bring everything in without transcoding, which made the workflow so much quicker.

I love the way Premiere Pro deals with graphics, creating titles, and doing moves. When I have to communicate with an After Effects artist I know there’s a really easy workflow. I’ve also started to lean heavily on features such as the Lumetri Color panel, Warp Stabilizer, and Morph Cut.

Zweig: I was familiar with Warp Stabilizer from Adobe After Effects. When we were able to use the feature directly in Premiere Pro it eliminated that extra step. There were a lot of shots of Dolores on the move and we applied a really simple stabilization and it worked beautifully. We were even able to use it on some old marching footage that was really shaky and it smoothed things out.

We also appreciated the integration of Photoshop directly in Premiere. The ability to right-click on a still image and bring it into Photoshop, adjust any of the levels, do some cloning or spot healing, and then simply reimport back into Premiere and continue going on with the online process was a tremendous timesaver.

Adobe: What interested you about this film?

Congdon: When I first became involved in the project, I didn’t really know about Dolores Huerta. She’d been an interview subject for Miss Representation and I knew she was an activist, but the more I discovered about her story the more riveted and furious I became that nobody knows about her.

Dolores was César Chávez’s original partner in founding the National Farm Workers Association but for a variety of reasons she’s been forgotten or written out of history intentionally. She’s a somewhat controversial figure who has evolved and taken on many challenges, from gay rights to immigration. She understands that every struggle needs a heroine and she’s always there, unwavering in her beliefs. She’s been doing this for 60 years and she hasn’t burned out, which is a lesson for all of us that you can’t stop fighting. The struggle for justice is never going to end and she’s a perfect example of how you have to keep fighting.

Adobe: What’s next for you?

Congdon: In the past five years, I’ve started doing more writing and directing. I’ve been working on my own film on Crista Luedtke and how she has single-handedly transformed Guerneville, California from a sleepy river town into a hipster destination for Northern California. We’ve also been doing a food and travel television series with Crista called Places + Plates where she travels to various countries, meets the people there, and samples the different cuisine.

Learn more about Adobe at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival

Learn more about Adobe Creative Cloud pro video tools

 

 

Image Is Everything: Making a Good First Impression on Social Media


Creative Cloud

It’s no secret that social media is essential to modern business. Social networks allow you to reach current and new consumers, spread your message, and build your brand. Still, creating a social media account for your business can be intimidating. The good news is that no matter your preferred social platform — whether Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or Snapchat — basic design principles can take your business’ profile from average to eye-catching.

Humans are visual by nature. One third of our brain is dedicated to processing images. So,  when you are skimming through a news feed on your favorite social media network, an interesting image is far more likely to catch your attention than text alone. The clear directive is that using well-designed, compelling images in your social media publishing will greatly improve your readership and help engage your audience.

Visually stunning images, like this depiction of the neurons in the human brain, capture attention better than text alone. By ALEXEY KASHPERSKY.

Before you can stun your followers with beautifully designed content, you’ll need to launch your social media presence.

Select a social platform.
Each social network — whether Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, or Snapchat — has its own, distinct user demographics.

Get to know which networks will  help you reach your target audiences, and then put your effort toward the platform that will get the best results for you.

Set up a business page.
Depending on the social media platform you select, you’ll set up either a page or a profile for your business. Because the majority of U.S. adults use Facebook, we’ll focus our instructions on this social media site, but remember that these principles apply to all social networks.

As you set up your Facebook page, you’ll be asked to fill in information about your business — location, contact information and a description of what you do. Then comes the fun part — choosing your profile and cover photo.

Your profile and cover photo are the first visual elements visitors to your page will see. A good practice is to have your profile picture be your company’s logo. This allows visitors to your page to immediately begin associating your logo with your brand.

Your cover photo is an opportunity to be a bit more creative than simply using a horizontal lockup of your logo. With some basic Photoshop skills you can overlay text or other shapes, or experiment with photo effects like shadowing and changing color palettes.

Cover photos can be a combination of captivating visuals, texts, and shapes like this mixed elements photo. By ALISON HARRIS AND THE SOUTH.

Make an editorial calendar.
An editorial calendar is a great way to keep your social media game on track and help you accomplish your goals. To get started, make monthly or quarterly goals for publishing new content. These goals could include how frequently you want to post, what messages you want distributed, and how many people you would like to reach.

Next, make a detailed plan for content that will help you meet these goals. If your goal is to post about company products twice a week during your first month, calendar out which product each post will be about and what information you will share in each post. At the end of the month, you can look back on your calendar and see where you were successful. Did you follow your posting schedule? Which posts performed the best? What is working well, and what isn’t? Then, use these insights to make new calendar plans.

It can take time to achieve your goals. Pause to enjoy even the smallest of successes once you start seeing results.

Customize your images.
As you plan the content for your social media posts, skim through your own social media news feed and notice which images grab your attention or, even more importantly, which images get you to click. Chances are, they will not be traditional stock photos. Instead, they will be images with an intriguing thought or call to action. Try combining an interesting image with a great quote from your article, a compelling question that your article answers, or an interesting statistic or chart. Employing basic design principles can help you incorporate text in a visually appealing way. Delivering this blended strategy takes more time than just using text or a free photo, but will pay off in its ability to engage your readers.

 

Combining images and text from quotes can communicate your message while grabbing a social media user’s attention. By ALISSA SCHUROV.

Leverage tools and resources.
Designing compelling images for your social media campaign is a lot easier with the right tools, and when it comes to design, Adobe’s Creative Cloud software sets the standard. Adobe Illustrator CC and Photoshop CC are incredibly powerful and robust tools, while also being very accessible: You don’t need to be a master to get started.

Step-by-step tutorials and learning resources from Adobe Support, as well as products like Adobe Spark (a free graphic design app), make it easy to get comfortable with the software and on your way to producing any design you can dream up for your social media post.

Design-distinguish your posts.
According to the Global Web Index, the average person has five social media accounts. With social media, you have a few seconds at most to engage viewers before they scroll past. Your goal is to stand out and do something different than the competition. Here are some ways to distinguish your posts with great design.

Color. Find a unique and interesting color palette for your designs. Don’t overdo it with too many colors. But look around. Don’t be afraid to take influence from great color pairings you see from other designers’ or illustrators’ work. Another excellent tool is color.adobe.com where you can explore color combinations in depth and find pairings that complement each other.

Animation. Adding motion to your design can be a highly effective tool in commanding attention. GIFs are quickly becoming standard on social networking sites, and they are easier to create than you think. But all great things can be used too often, so mindfully leverage animation effects with restraint to ensure you do not annoy and frustrate your viewers. Cinemagraph-style animations or other subtle motions are great to draw the eye without over stimulating.

Simplicity. In a cluttered, busy news feed, a little bit of visual “rest” for the eye — by way of a tranquil, minimal design composition — can sometimes be the best way to attract viewers.

Minimalist designs like this one can be a welcome addition to a cluttered newsfeed. By PEECHAYA BURROUGHS.

Brand your message.
Most everyone hopes for their message to “go viral” by being shared and reshared far beyond its original publication. In these extreme-viral cases, sometimes the original source can become obscured. The solution to not losing control of your branded content is to be sure you include your logo and any other appropriate branding in your designed image. This will ensure credit is clearly given where credit is due.

Hashtags are another excellent way to connect your brand to your content. They can also be a fun tool for engaging your audience, promoting certain products and ideas, or creating a community around a contest or event. It’s easy to get “hashtag happy,” so start with establishing one winning hashtag for your brand.

Hashtags are a powerful tool for expanding your brand on social media. Selecting an effective hashtag, like this one promoting Montana tourism, can be one of your best social media decisions. By NOELLE CANTARANO.

Remember your goal, but respect your audience.
Don’t do damage to your brand by irritating or annoying your audience. Respect your readers by being clear and helpful in your messaging and what you are offering, but never attempt to manipulate or trick them into taking action. For example, withholding a critical piece of your story in your headline in order to get a click (“You won’t believe which mega star was just arrested”) is likely to frustrate more than entice and puts your content in a category that may not be consistent with your brand.

Stay up to date on trends.
The networks we rely on to share our content, such as Facebook and Twitter, are continually being updated, enhanced, and refined. New features and capabilities are introduced regularly and frequently. Don’t miss an opportunity to be among the first to utilize a cool new feature that will excite your audience. Doing this will not only give you a way to stand out from the rest, but also will enhance the perception of your brand as being trendsetting and technologically savvy. For example, in late 2015 Facebook added a feature for displaying 360º virtual reality videos. The early adopters of this technology received — no rightfully earned — a lot of attention.

Building a social media page for your business from the ground up can seem intimidating — and it’s a commitment — but with some basic tools like those available through Adobe Creative Cloud, you can consistently create beautiful, visual, and shareable content.

Creating a Product from Nothing: A UX Perspective


Creative Cloud

It can be a dream assignment, or a nightmare task. Your goal is to make a product from nothing, to come up with the ‘next big thing,’ and the only stipulation is that product must grow the business. You may have a very high level topic (like forms, for example, but more on that later), or you may have a completely blank slate. Where do you start? And just as importantly, when is it time to move on to the next idea?

There are many approaches you could follow if you want to come up with concepts and test if they are going to be successful. Here are a few key ways to develop your company’s next big idea.

Approach One: Find The Problem First

Developing a brand new product idea is like working at a startup, except you have no idea what that startup does. A good way to start is hypothesize a problem, establish it exists, and convince people it’s worth solving.

A great way to do this is to follow a Lean UX methodology and put out value propositions to a target group. You talk to people and see the ways the products and services they use could be improved (faster service, lower price, more accessible, more convenient, more intuitive). By watching what gets them excited, you can hypothesize a problem to address.

This leads to some contextual research on their workflows; interview a lot of potential users to understand their day, so you can identify pain points and get a clear idea of the unique problems they’re facing. It’s here you can develop a solution that becomes a product.

Approach Two: Prototype The Solution First

While finding a problem to tackle first seems like the most logical way of conducting UX research, there is another approach that can be very successful. By creating a prototyped solution first (based on assumptions, intuition, or past research), you can quickly determine if your product is a home run, or not.

This requires a certain amount of ‘buy in’ from your stakeholders; they need to believe in you and your idea, at least to a certain degree. This can be a tough sell when you don’t have a clearly demonstrated problem you’re solving.

Sometimes your instincts are right; the product you prototype ends up being a big success. But even if your idea doesn’t land it may spawn another idea that does. This is a great thing about prototyping and exploring solutions first: it can lead to unexpected breakthroughs.

This is what happened when we were tasked to develop a product to help people create forms. We did a lean startup type project to help people find the right form to use, and nothing came of it. What did come from that failed idea, however, became a highly successful product. After a few pivots along the way, we decided to concentrate on form completion. We created Adobe Fill & Sign DC, a 5-star rated mobile app that makes filling out paper forms as easy as snapping a picture of them with your phone.

Take A Shot, And If It Doesn’t Go In, Try Again

It can be very frustrating working on projects that may, or may not, actually become products. When I think back to the times our ideas were scrapped after months of work, it makes me queasy.

Here’s how I deal with it: I’m a big basketball fan, so I imagine myself being a shooter in a basketball game. He or she always believes the next shot is going to go in. Even if they don’t land the shot, they believe they will next time. That mentality will keep you going, and eventually you will get ‘nothing but net.’

It’s also important to keep learning from failed projects. That will help keep you motivated; you’ll try things differently next time. You’ll set different expectations, structure your team differently, do user research at a different time.

Know When To Throw in The Towel…and When Not To

No matter your approach, being able to tell when your project is succeeding and when it’s failing is important. When you’re trying to create a viable product from a blank slate, you have to know when it’s time to pull the plug on your idea. There’s a fine balance to giving up too soon, and letting a project drag on forever.

You don’t want to give your idea just a couple weeks, that’s too short, but you will want to make the call within a few months. You have to give yourself time to explore the space you’re learning. At a point when you realize you’re not learning anything new about the space and you’re desperately fishing to support your hypothesis, that’s when you go back to the drawing board.

Of course, if you hit a breakthrough in that time, get ready to feel like you just nailed a 3-point shot with a second left on the clock. If you’re able to create a viable product that serves a need no one knew existed, your company will consider a slam dunk, and that will just make you just want to shoot more and come up with the ‘next big thing.’

How the Micro-Moment is Changing UX Design


Creative Cloud

Consumers interact with brands thousands of times every day, from commenting on social media posts to online shopping and beyond. It’s a constantly evolving marketplace that leaves brands fighting for customer attention and engagement. UX design was born from this need to capture and keep users’ attention.

Optimizing UX design can create stronger customer loyalty and increased conversions. However, designers fall short when they focus only on big picture features and functionality. The key to optimizing the user experience is found in the smallest consumer actions: micro-moments.

Defining the Micro-Moment

Customers’ interactions with a brand are made up of thousands of micro-moments; tiny sub-actions and details that keep a customer engaged and guide them through a designed navigation process.  Brian Barrus, President of Studio-Element, explains it like this, “There are a few objectives that I think these micro-moments help to achieve. One of them is to try to eliminate the friction between all those steps that a user goes through in interacting with software, whether it’s an app or a website.”

Customers often appear to make purchasing decisions at the drop of a hat. Abandoned online shopping carts should be seen as a sign that a micro-moment or two needs to be optimized in a business’ conversion process. This can come down to something as simple as a customer not being able to easily find a button or not knowing where to look on their credit card to find the CVV number.

These micro-moments, also called micro-interactions or micro-mini-interactions, are driving customer behavior, signaling a necessary change in the way designers approach the user experience. The trouble is trying to track down just what it was that made the customers abandon their carts.

Analytics are Key to Optimizing Micro-Moments

UX design is built upon the ability to interpret and respond to consumer behavior. With today’s analytics, designers no longer create a product that looks nice, check off the box, and move on to the next project. Instead, they have the chance, and consumer-driven obligation, to really fine tune experiences around even the smallest design element.

Think about something as simple as which size button works best to navigate users to the next page of a website — small button or big button? This is a micro-moment that in the past would have been overlooked because the size of the button doesn’t seem to be as important as just having a nice-looking, working button in the first place. However, modern analytics and processes like consumer testing and rapid prototyping give designers the ability to study in depth what size button customers prefer. Like all micro-moments, the size of a button seems like a tiny change, but multiple tiny changes can make big differences for consumers.

UX designers looking to optimize their user experience and increase conversions can easily start focusing on micro-moments in several ways:

  1. Pay attention to trends. Don’t confine yourself to your own design lab as you search for new ideas. Look at how other designers are using micro-moments to their advantage. Pay attention to the trends you are seeing in the world around you because a lot of these trends become the new standard rule for user interaction.
  2. Put the customer in control. Brands, marketers and designers often think of UX in terms of getting the user to complete the actions they want them to complete. However, it’s important to remember that to the customer, the experience is a positive one when they can easily complete the actions that they want to take. For instance, new technologies like eye tracking show that users are much more likely to read an article to completion if they can easily scan through it first and see how long it is rather than it being broken up into multiple pages. Not sure what actions users want available to them? Ask. Interviewing consumers about their experiences can yield helpful insights into micro-behaviors.
  3. Don’t underestimate the entertainment factor. It’s easy to downplay entertainment as a lesser value in UX design, but entertaining users is a valid goal designers should pursue. Entertained customers stay interested and engaged. Try using small, subtle animations — micro-animations if you will — that you could include on a roll-over or hover effect or an entertaining something that happens as a user enters a new page.
  4. Give the user feedback. When users complete an action using your software, it’s important to give them validating feedback. This feedback lets the user know, “Yes, you completed the action you were to trying to do.” One example of successful feedback in micro-moments is the Facebook “Like” button. When users click the Like button, it does more than simply change colors or have a check mark in a box. UX designers at Facebook programmed the Like button with subtle animation. After a user clicks the button, the icon grows and pops up. It’s a simple action that is simultaneously entertaining and affirming, and it keeps users coming back for more. Even negative feedback, like error messages, can be made into positive experiences.
  5. Adopt a mobile first mentality. Advancing technology has pushed the customer experience into the mobile universe. Brian Solis, a digital analyst, author, and futurist says that because the mobile universe is built on micro-moments, designers need to embrace this mobile-first mentality. “We need UX designers to be champions of change, to reimagine the customer journey for a mobile world, and be part of a cross-functional effort,” Solis says. Designers can keep micro-moments in focus by framing the user experience on every platform with the same approach they use for mobile.

Micro-moments help achieve business goals.

Though they are seemingly small things, micro-moments can create a big business boost. Mike Jones, managing partner of Resound Creative, a brand and experience design team, sees this in his work every day. Recently, his team researched the micro-moments on a client’s e-commerce site. A small change, cutting an online registration form from 22 fields to nine, gave the client a 24 percent increase in online registrations. “It’s amazing what benefits such simple changes can make,” Jones says.

Likewise, Peter Sena, founder of Digital Surgeons, attributes a focus on micro-moments to achieving a 47 percent decrease in bounce rate, a 25 percent increase in mobile page views, and an increase of 17 percent average order value for client Camelbak.

Responding to and perfecting micro-moments is one of the best ways for a digital product to stand out in today’s marketplace. Think about the first iPhone. Compared to its competitor, Blackberry, the iPhone features really weren’t all that different. Both phones performed the same basic functions — making phone calls and browsing the web. What was revolutionary about the iPhone was its customer experience. By refining the tiny details of the user interface, Apple was able to present a product that customers felt was intuitive. Using an iPhone was easy, enjoyable and entertaining. That is the power of optimizing micro-moments.

Changing the way UX designers think.

As designers work to optimize user experience through improving micro-moments, the biggest challenge isn’t as technical as it is mental. Micro-moments present an opportunity for the UX design industry to change the way it approaches design. The things designers often think of as minor details are in reality making or breaking products. It’s not always so much about the big picture features and functionality of a product. Really, the small, tiny details can be just as revolutionary.

WSU Student Creates Viral Tonight Show Video With Creative Cloud


Creative Cloud

Daniel Radcliffe is usually the one with audiences under his spell, but this time, it was Jake Sirianni’s turn to do a trick. To draw attention to his internship application (number 9816558) for The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, Jake took footage from one of the late-night talk show’s most popular videos — a segment of Daniel rapping on the show — and, according to Jimmy Fallon, “somehow” replaced the rapping Radcliffe with himself.

A Few Secrets to Sirianni’s Success

Jake’s video went viral and earned him not only a summer internship with The Tonight Show, but also his own featured segment on the show. Creating the video wasn’t easy, but with the right tools and work ethic, Jake was able to bring his vision to life. Here are a few keys to Jake’s success that you can apply on your next creative project.

Know Who Influences You and Channel Their Work

Jake’s initial idea for the video was to rap about some of The Tonight Show writers, honoring the laughs they have given him over the years. However, the idea evolved as he realized that the video could also provide him an opportunity to get his foot in the door and even elevate his chance of earning a coveted Tonight Show internship. The show’s writers, “Jo, Becky, and Borelli,” still made it into his rap, along with “Haskell and Opsal, my comedy mentors,” but Jake says he has other heroes who have also influenced his work.

First, he named Lorne Michaels. “He’s been really close to my heart since freshman year of high school,” Jake says. “I just really enjoy his work and his hard work ethic — for obvious reasons, he’s my media broadcast hero.”

Second is Gary Vaynerchuk — an entrepreneur, YouTube sensation, and all-around interesting guy who has been motivational to Jake.

Third is the rapping composer of hit Broadway musicals, Lin-Manuel Miranda. “He’s super creative and a really hard worker,” says Jake. “While I worked on the video, I’d be listening to Hamilton, and I’d say that three of his songs, “My Shot,“ “Take a Break,“ and “Non-Stop,” were kind of like the anthem throughout this whole project.”

Find Ways to Hype Your Work With Yourself and Others

Jake spent between 60 and 80 hours working on the project — and has no doubt that it was worth it — but finding that much extra time in an already-full semester was challenging. The internship was his dream, but extra motivation always helps.
“One of the hype factors or reminders for me was writing the number 26 on both of my hands — as you see in the video,” explains Jake. “The purpose of that was just to look down at my hands and to remind myself to work on the project at any moment that I had free, or sometimes even in my not-free moments when I should be doing other things.”

Jake used the number 26 — referring to Blackalicious’s “Alphabet Aerobics” rap used in the original video — to create social media buzz for his project and keep himself motivated.

People would see “26” on Jake’s hands and ask what it meant. For Jake, it was a reference to Blackalicious’s “Alphabet Aerobics” — the rap performed by Daniel Radcliffe in the original video — but Jake kept the project’s details a secret. Instead, he would respond with a simple, “That’s a secret project I’m working on and hopefully it works and pays off.”

Promoting his secret project on social media also helped hold Jake to his goal. It wasn’t unusual to find Jake Snapchatting photos of his hands in the middle of the night as he sat up working on his project. By the time his video launched, Jake had developed a steady social media following.

Use the Right Tools to Help You Get the Job Done

Jake wanted the video to look as realistic as possible, as if he belonged in the original video. He says Adobe After Effects was his biggest asset in this project. “A lot of the process was about duplication — trying to maintain that base reality of what looks normal without it actually being normal because you’re taking out one of the assets and replacing it,” Jake says. To create the effect, he used the hide tool and continuously placed the image of himself next to Daniel to make sure that everything from size to placement looked as normal as possible.
Jake started using Adobe products in high school and has had his own student subscription to Adobe Creative Cloud since just before starting college. “For a student, it’s very affordable, and it’s a great program overall — very easy to use,” says Jake.

Jake spent nearly 80 hours filming and editing his video — along with help from his friend, Matt Haddow, shown here running camera for the video shoot. The final project had 82 layers in Adobe After Effects.

In the end, Jake had 82 layers in his After Effects composition. With Creative Cloud, he says he was able to go from Premiere to After Effects to Audition very quickly and easily using his personal MacBook Pro. With such a hectic schedule, being able to work on the fly and be adaptable was essential. Jake says he also appreciated the workflow between apps and that he easily could look up tutorials for how-to information and best practices.

Work Hard and Be Patient

Like Gary Vaynerchuk, Jake believes that, at the end of the day, it all comes down to hard work and patience. If you have the ability to be passionate about something you love and to put in the time and work necessary — with speed at the microlevel and patience at the macrolevel — you will eventually achieve your goals. It’s the hard work that matters.

Be Self-Aware

Jake’s advice for his peers is to be self-aware. “Know your weaknesses as well as your strengths and do what you’re really good at,” says Jake. “Get in the mindset of doing, doing, doing. If you’re a content creator, always create content. if you’re an artist, put things out there. Be comfortable failing and risking spectacularly; be able to push the envelope appropriately.”

At the end of the day, being self-aware of your strengths and weaknesses — and capitalizing on those strengths while working around those weaknesses — is how you make a place for yourself and unlock the power of your creativity.

What Lies Ahead for Jake

Jake will head to 30 Rock in New York City this summer to continue honing his creative and technical skills behind the scenes of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.

Illustrator CC’s Anniversary Updates Are Waiting for You


Creative Cloud

In honor of Illustrator’s 30th anniversary, an update for Illustrator CC 2017 is now available! This update will make your designing life a lot easier: easy cropping of images, a redesigned Color Themes panel, performance improvements to the New Documents panel, and various stability enhancements.

In this release, we’ve added a highly requested feature from users. Over 1.92 million users have shown interest in this feature since 2012. Now, designers can crop images directly in Illustrator. When an image is placed into a document, you’ll see a crop option that will enable users to adjust simple crop handles. Cropped images discard the excess parts of the image, thereby reducing the file size and improving performance of files. Prior to this update, users had to edit images in Photoshop or find workarounds to gain these benefits — but based on high demand from users we developed this time-saving feature.

We now have a new Color Themes panel which lets users create, explore, save, and retrieve color themes across applications. You can capture color themes from pictures and photos on the go with Adobe Capture and have them waiting for you in Illustrator. The new panel also helps you create new color themes with smart assistance based on color theory mixing and combination guides.

You can install this new release through the Creative Cloud desktop application, or check for new updates within Illustrator by choosing Help > Updates. For full details of what was added, changed, and fixed see our  “What’s New” page.  If you have features you’d like to see in future releases, let us know here.

Join us on April 7 at 1 p.m. PT to learn what’s new on YouTube Live with Paul Trani.

Artist Spotlight: Ingrid Tsy


Creative Cloud

3D artist Ingrid Tsy previously caught the attention of Adobe when she was tasked with creating the landing page images for Adobe Marketing Cloud’s Target and Primetime. Her signature style of fluid lines, sharp textured patterns and surreal color pairings have brought her recognition in the design field. The futuristic, highly abstract designs lending perfectly to leading innovative brands, hence her previous clients including not only Adobe, but Lexus and the Coachella music festival. As our featured artist of the month, we spoke to her to find out more.

Adobe Stock: Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative background?

Ingrid Tsy: Hi, my name is Ingrid and I’m a 3D artist based in London. I got started in graphic design back when I was in high school making posters and event visuals for the student’s association. At the same time, I started learning Photoshop and Illustrator, and before I realize, I’m suddenly making things from brochures, birthday cards to banners for friends. A few years ago, I decided to pursue graphic design in London and I absolutely love the design scene here.

AS: So how did you get started in digital art professionally?

IT: It started last year during my second year in university. As much as I enjoy set projects, I don’t feel the adrenaline and freedom the same way as when I’m creating for myself. I guess a lot of people started “Everydays” because of Beeple, including me. That was when I first touched on 3D and have since been creating every day for one and a half years. Personally the “Everydays” project is just a playground to practice, but slowly, and luckily it brings me commission requests and attention to my work. I’m very new to freelancing but it has been challenging and exciting. The best thing is along the way I met so many like-minded artists/designers who inspire me a lot!

AS: What are your perceptions of stock images, and do you think the perception is changing?

IT: I think the perception of stock images is changing in a good way. For contributors it is such a good platform to showcase and make money off their hard work. I used to associate stock images with clumsy watermarks and floral patterns but it’s different now! It’s so much more about quality than quantity. They are great for reference and texturing: sometimes I will throw in a couple images to Photoshop for quick mock ups; other times I will browse for inspiration.

AS: How would you describe your style?

IT: Not very sure if I can pinpoint. But one thing I know is I love organic forms. Part of starting the “Everydays” project was also to experiment with different visual trends and understand what I like and don’t like. It really doesn’t matter if I have a distinctive style or not because at the end of the day when you have fun creating work, it shows through.

AS: Where do you find your inspiration?

IT: Anything and anywhere!

There are so many designers I absolutely admire like Iris van Herpen, Tom Wiscombe, writer J.G. Ballard and director Satoshi Kon. Terry Gilliam’s Brazil and Lars von Trier’s Melancholia are the only few films I go back all the time for their stunning production design and cinematography. Otherwise I love to travel – the streets of Japan and Hong Kong make me feel like I’m in a sci-fi world.

AS: What are you excited to work on in 2017?

IT: Right now I want to get better at 3D sculpting. When my friends see my work they always wonder how they’re going to look when 3D printed. I realized most of my work exists within the screen so it will be quite exciting this year to try materializing some of the 3D sculpts I’ve made.

AS: What music do you currently listen to whilst working (if any!)?

IT: During the day I will put on music that pumps me up. I love working in the dark so when the sun sets I usually put on either softer tunes or podcasts like The Collective, Art Cafe, Design Cinema etc. I’m getting more into listening to podcasts instead of music because it’s so interesting to hear what other designers of other disciplines have to say.

To discover more of Ingrid’s work, check out her Behance portfolio and website.

 

XD Essentials: How to Develop a Product Strategy


Creative Cloud

One of the most common misunderstandings among business leaders is that having a product strategy is optional. With a “ship it yesterday” mindset, some companies hope to uncover their strategy in the market, but this simply doesn’t work. It’s easy to spot dozens of shipped products that seem to be STILL looking for users because they were built without a solid understanding of the target audience. These products were built to solve non-existent problems. Incorrect solutions can be fixed, but solutions can’t be found for non-existent problems!

Rather than relying solely on your intuition in product development, you should create a product strategy.

What is a product strategy?

Just as a business has a strategic vision of what it wants to be when it grows up, the product has its own strategy and destination. Product strategy defines a product’s journey. As with any journey, you have to have a vision for where you’re headed. Your vision helps you define a destination (target condition) – the ultimate user experience toward which you’re aiming, and the experience outcomes that you want your users to have. You can plan your route towards the target destination by focusing on exactly what you need to build. By setting the goal (challenge), you can adjust the direction of your product efforts.

Product strategy is a combination of a vision and achievable goals that work together to direct the team towards a desirable outcome — the ultimate user experience. Image credit: Melissa Perri

3 Critical UX Questions For Your Product Strategy

Before any product features can be decided upon, you need to develop a clear picture of what the business goals and user needs for the product are. Answering the following questions will help you:

Who is your user?

Personas make it easier for designers to create empathy with users throughout the design process.

It’s impossible to design a successful product without knowing what audience it should target. A lack of user research puts a project at high risk of missing user needs, creating a product with no users and therefore no revenue. In order to prevent this from happening, users should be part of the design process from day one.

What helps you answer the question:

“The persona” drill is a critical activity for UX designers. This results in well-researched personas that act as a proxy for the user. Such personas help you better understand real users and in turn, make more human-centered products.

What should be considered:

As the author of Leah Startups Laura Klein said, all too often the personas we create tend to be descriptive, but not predictive. If you can create a good persona, it means you know not just what your users are like, but the exact factors that make it likely that they will become and remain a happy user. Until you can identify the specific things that make a person want to be a user, you don’t have an accurate persona.

What goal is the user trying to achieve with your product?

Answering this question will uncover the jobs the product is hired for. Customers buy products and services to help them get jobs done. This means that users will use your app/web service only if it fulfills a need or solves a problem they have.

Your user goals should be laid out clearly, because you can only accomplish your goals if your users complete theirs. Your product should deliver value to users, and if it does, that value also comes back to the product’s creator in the form of increased use.

Product-market fit means a product in a market that it can satisfy. Image credit: leanstartup

What helps you answer the question:

Products are used by people, so putting users and their needs first is a good idea. You need to zone in on user-focused areas of inquiry. Before you begin to define the core user experience of your product, imagine what users would say about its final version. What do you want them to say? How can you develop a product to create that feeling?

What should be considered:

You have to find the sweet spots between what users want to make their lives easier, and what the business needs to accomplish in order to survive and grow. The product you design must hit that sweet spot of product-market fit.

Sweet spot is where product provides value to both business and users.

What primary tasks should the user perform on a daily basis with your product?

As was said before, user experience should have a primary role in defining product strategy. However, it’s really important to know, not just what your users try to accomplish (goals), but how they are going to do it and remove all obstacles from their way. Design can manifest the strategy: include it upfront and allow it influence the strategy.

What helps you answer the question:

A customer journey map can help you to define an intended experience outcome. You can define the entire user journey for a product or service by creating a journey map. A customer journey map is a very simple idea – it’s a visualization of the process that a person goes through in order to accomplish a goal. When you map out how your customers explore your products, it becomes very evident where they are hung up and what they are missing. This will help you develop the best product road map: decide which features are critical and focus on removing bottlenecks that reduced user engagement.

While maps take a wide variety of forms depending on context and business goals, certain elements are generally included. Below is a template of a customer journey map from Nielsen Norman Group:

Customer journey maps help teams understand and address customer needs. Image credit: NNGroup

  • Zone A: This section contains information about (1) a persona (“who”) and (2) the scenario to be examined (“what”).
  • Zone B: This section is the heart of the map. It contains the details about experience, usually aligned across (3) phases of the journey. The (4) actions, (5) thoughts, and (6) emotional experience of the user throughout the journey.
  • Zone C: The output should vary based on the business goal the map supports, but it could describe the insights and pain points discovered, and the (7) opportunities to focus on going forward, as well as (8) internal ownership.

What should be considered

All too often teams define features for a product without understanding their goals for its user experience. Keep in mind that good product strategy is not about just shipping lots of features. Quite the opposite, any features that you release to market should first satisfy whatever minimal experience your team has defined.

So many companies today want to get features out the door fast, regardless of whether the features are actually useful and well designed.In order to create good UX companies need to obsess about user and customer needs, not features. Image credit: Bigdoor

The Lean Startup movement made the concept of a Minimum Viable Product popular. A team first needs to validate that they’re solving the right problem for the right audience, in the right market. Only after that should they polish their product.

MVP is a product that has the minimum set of features to prove the most essential hypothesis in your business. Image credit: Brianpagan

However, recently, there has been a bit of a backlash against this concept for setting the bar too low. A new concept called Minimum Loveable Product suggests that product teams should define the few essential features and implement them very well, so users will love the resulting product or service. A polished, streamlined execution of a few key tasks often makes a difference between a good and bad product.

Image credits: Brainhub

A Few Important Moments To Mention

The Importance of vision

Before you start any project, you must take the time and do the work to set a clear vision for your product or service—one that will be useful for your users. When your team is working on a project, they don’t need to know every detail about the final outcome—concepts can be refined in process—but your team does need a clear vision and reference point against which to assess all of their decisions.

The vision defines your high-level goal for where the company or business is going.

Product strategy isn’t an action plan

A lot of business leaders are taught to think that a product strategy is a list of desired features with deadlines that teams work toward. This kind of thinking is a trap. When we lock ourselves into planning to build a set of features we rarely stop to question if those features are the right things to build to reach our goals. We stop focusing on the outcomes, and measure the success of teams by outputs. This often happens on agile projects when teams understand their short-term, narrowly focused goals, but have no conception about what the big picture should be.

We need to switch from thinking about product strategy as something predefined, and instead something that is uncovered as we learn what will help us achieve our objectives. Sometimes, instead of just saying, “Yes, let’s do that!” it’s better to take a step back and ask, “Why are we building this thing? Should we do this in the first place? What is gonna happen as as result?”

Product strategy isn’t set in stone

Product strategy is not meant to be something you create and never touch again. Don’t get caught up in making product strategy perfect or exhaustive in nature. Start primitive and build from there. Product strategy is a living document, and it emerges from experimentation towards a goal. You will update as you collect more information and as your business grows.

Product strategy should be based on your user’s vocabulary

The exact words you use to describe your product strategy are equally important as the strategy itself. Users know what they want to do and have their own words for that—your job as a UX designer is to decode this language and build a product that’s easy to understand. Don’t write the vocabulary from the top of your head. Instead, research and reuse the existing language of your audience:

  1. Conduct interviews, surveys in order to figure out what exact words users use while speaking about their goals, tasks, and objects.
  2. Borrow terms from established software products that your users know well.

Let’s Wrap It Up

Everything that was said above can be summarized into one short sentence: you must deliver the right features, with the right user experience for the right people. In order to get our designs to work we need to focus our design efforts on the right things: audience—goal—tasks. Define your target audience, then research their problems, and finally, focus on building a product that solves those problems!

Conclusion

Product strategy should be your number one tool to justify user experience decisions. You must start every product-development project by defining the experience that you want people to have with your product or service.

Whenever you’re working on a product—creating a new one or adding new features to an existing one—make sure you make all decisions with strategy in mind.

Life’s too short to build something nobody wants.

Ash Maurya