Go remote! A two-word solution to all of your work-related problems right? OK… not so fast. But there is some truth to this mindset; surely you’ve heard this phrase before. Maybe you’ve said it to a friend or family member in need of a quick mental boost. Because the idea of working remotely is enough to overcome a case of the “Sundays” — you know, the dread you’ve felt from the thought of going into the office on Monday.
To be fair, plenty of people don’t mind facing the day after Sunday (shh, don’t speak its name), but that doesn’t mean they don’t value the option to work remotely. In fact, having options is the secret to creating loyal, happy, and productive team members; it’s good for everyone. It cultivates a sense of flexibility that permeates through the business.
The Iron Triangle of Employment
During his TedxRichland talk titled Remote Working Revolution, Justin Jones introduced three decisions that a person must make prior to accepting a traditional job, using the iron triangle of product development. This design principle states that you can prioritize any (and only) two of the following three results at the expense of the other: quality, time, cost.
Justin’s example, “the iron triangle of employment,” is a spin-off of a product development principle that reflects the three factors influenced by traditional jobs: where you live, where you work, and what work you do. Very rarely does a person find alignment among all three factors.
To his point, remote work empowers a person to choose their location, employer, and type of work, eliminating the need to choose between the three. When you can choose all of the factors, life is good. (Although at DN we always insert a 4th option to this equation too, that people and employers must also know their ‘why’ — but that’s another topic.)
Richard Branson and David Coplin — Remote Work
Since the creation of Designing North Studios in 2012, the team has delivered many solutions to happy clients all over the country, all without a central brick and mortar office.
Have you incorporated PANTONE Living Coral into your workspace? If you haven’t, you’re not ready for 2019. It’s that simple. Why, might you ask? Well, Living Coral is more than just PANTONE’S color of the year;it’s the product of in-depth research collected by color (and psychology) professionals who searched the world (both physically and metaphorically) for relevant feedback and inspiration, even exploring distant cultures for use cases.
Much like Blue Planet 2 –BBC’s unprecedented documentary on the world’s oceans — PANTONE Living Coral is to be experienced, and the team at Designing North is excited to inject this energy into our own studio. This year especially, we could all use the positivity and warmth this color provides. Good vibes only.
Yes, even you can benefit from “an infusion of modern life,” whether you work from home, a coffee shop, agency, or traditional office. Because keeping up with the times is best done by integrating a social-media-friendly color into the work environment.
Fortunately for you, this color will adjust your mood in the best way possible. Bring on the smile! And feeling of ‘I’m in a good place’ — yup, that’s how you should feel about your workspace.
We’ve laid out the reasons why PANTONE Living Coral exists and is so well liked, but that doesn’t help you incorporate the color into your workspace. For this task we turn to the studio team and Executive Creative Director Lisa Peacock.
We live by the mindset ‘there’s no detail too small,’ and nowhere is this more apparent than in our design studio. Naturally, this served as the team’s source of truth for bringing Living Coral indoors; we think it will inspire you to do the same. Here are some ideas you might not have considered previously, for incorporating PANTONE Living Coral into the workspace:
Living Coral in the Workspace
First, decide how Living Coral can accent your current workspace and provide just the right balance of color. Will it be on the desk? The wall? Or both?
Whichever you choose, why not start with a simple Living Coral notebook— printed with the appearance of a paint chip, of course. Or, there’s this weekly planneroption as well. Both place a splash of Living Coral on your desk at all times and fit within your current workflow.
Now for the wall… Have you seen this Paint Chip Calendarfrom Paper Source? It pleasantly displays hues of Living Coral as well as other complimentary pantones, and makes the workspace pop. You can also create your own calendar using Canva (it’s free!). Choose a calendar template and add Living Coral anywhere on the page, or overlay a tint on your favorite images. We promise it’s quick and easy and allows for personalization.
It’s no secret that plants belong on every desk, in every office — including yours. Much like Pantone Living Coral, plants inject life and add a contextual element — why not mix the two. Incorporate this vibrant color into the workspace by adding this coral plant pot to your space. (Just our two cents: it looks best with a green succulent or small cactus.) We can’t help but think of the iconic pink stucco and aloe verde you find in the American Southwest. Pure harmony.
If planting isn’t your thing, substitute the pot for a vase. This Bright Ceramicist Vase from west elmin coral is a great option. Or this glass option from World Market. These also looks great with a touch of soft green; eucalyptus or fern stems are all you need. Another option would be to purchase flowers in Living Coral, suitable for the desk or any corner of the office. There are so many florals to choose from, including roses, peonies and snapdragons. In fact, Blooms by the Boxhas an entire page of flowers (for Living Coral) to order from. It’s almost too easy!
Incorporating Living Coral into the workspace doesn’t have to be a long-term project; it can be a day-to-day decision. You have enough commitments in life, right?
Simply arrange the bottle with the planner, notebook and plant — Done. You have yourself a well-curated desktop arrangement. Go ahead, do it for the gram! These “Mocktail” bottles are another creative option for infusing Living Coral into the deskspace. And they represent the light-hearted, is-it-Five O’Clock mindset. And for those who prefer a CBD variety, these sweetgrass sparkling water dropsfrom Dram are a must.
You know where else Living Coral looks great? On white walls. This accounts for the majority of workspaces across the globe. The combination balances the warmth of coral with the cool of white, providing balance for the eyes and mind. But wait.
This isn’t just creative banter; it’s us encouraging you to put some art on the walls of your workspace. A quick search online for Living Coral art turned up results, but few compelled a purchase. So we turned to Etsy and found this pleasant piece of geometric Living Coral art. We see the sun surrounded by rolling red rocks (maybe Arizona or Utah), what about you?
Color psychology is real. Very real. It’s a communication tool and so much more: moods and feelings can be conjured up based on a certain color, where it’s seen and how it fits — or doesn’t — with the surrounding environment.
In fact, Pantone’s researchers travel the world just to see color in its natural environment. Some, such as Living Coral, are so special that it’s shared with the public for consumption. And it’s safe to say this year’s choice is welcomed by many. Most importantly, Living Coral is a perfect addition to the workspace. With just the right dosage, it will brighten your day — from the walls to the desk.
If you have ideas on how to incorporate Living Coral in the workspace, we’d love to hear them.
Working remotely; you either love it, hate it, or have no idea what to think since it’s not an option at the moment. If you fall into the latter, be patient — your time is coming. At least that’s what the data tells us.
Did you know that 43% of today’s workforce spends at least some time working remotely, according to Buffer’s latest report on remote work? If you are eager to partake in this autonomous lifestyle, rest assured it will be commonplace in the near future.
A virtual studio with a design and development team spread across the globe, we’ve learned the ins and outs of what it takes to succeed as a remote workers. In fact, we see this shift to virtual teams as a part of elevating the human experience, a component of living well Monday through Sunday, not just on Friday and Saturday. But to be honest, the majority of this experience rests on the company culture itself. Remote isn’t a destination, it’s a mindset.
Remote teams function best within a company culture that embraces communication, collaboration, and of course, distance learning. Additionally, no matter which group you identify with (love it, hate it, maybe in the future), there’s one incredibly important detail to consider when working remotely, one that we see overlooked time and time again.
That is, you are a product of your environment. Which why we encourage you to take a cold, hard look at your workspace (current or future) and design it to be your ideal working environment. Even better, craft it to be a space that delights your senses and invites feelings of joy throughout the day. Because it’s the small details that have a big impact on day-to-day happiness as a remote worker.
Whether you are a designer, writer, social media strategist, marketing consultant, etc., becoming a productive remote worker is dependent on feeling good in the moment, and accomplishing this begins with controlling your environment. As a remote team that has successfully navigated challenges associated with telecommuting and freelancing (feeling of isolation, lack of communication, disengagement, etc.), we believe one universal factor of remote work deserves extra attention.
It’s called joy. To find it, optimize your physical environment and stimulate mental cognition. With personal examples to share, let’s walk through how you can increase your happiness as a remote worker by paying special attention to your environment and feelings of joy.
Take Control of Your Space
While discussing the concept of “finding your flow,” Managing Director Lisa Peacock touched on the importance of having control within the working environment. Specifically, she shared,
“I need to first get control of my environment, this means that everything around me is visually pleasing — which brings about a calming effect (that includes noise and movement as well) to create an internal organization of thought. Feeling the calm allows me to jump into the storm of flow where my immersion in whatever I’m doing goes unnoticed until I’m done with my work.”
As it relates to psychology, flow is a state of mind where our actions and cognitive thoughts progress with seamless transition, providing incredible satisfaction and enjoyment in what we are doing. And according to psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, ‘flow is a finely tuned sense of rhythm, involvement, and anticipation.’ The importance of flow and its contribution to success as a remote employee can’t be overstated. And it directly correlates the designed environment to having control over personal choices.
To gain control, identify your ideal setting — where do you work best? What do you need around you to feel at ease? (For us, the ideal setting means pets close by, or a window setting that allows for ‘California Dreamin’: plenty of natural light, a view of the outdoors, and visually pleasing elements that balance the physical space with color and shape.)
To accomplish this equilibrium, start by designing a space that reflects youand empowers yourchoices. As your vision unfolds, think like a UI designer — fixate on the look and feel of your workspace. If possible, start with a blank slate; remove clutter or clear out a room completely. Next, choose wall colors (if you don’t know where to begin, start with white — you can introduce color with objects and art). From there, choose objects, mixing color with texture and even smell. Try being creative with a wall gallery and add small plants throughout the room and on the desk. Finally, add your technology tools and ensure you have space to move and remain organized. These small details culminate into a “healthy” environment, one where the nutrients take the form of color, shape, smell and sensation.
In her book Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things to Create Extraordinary Happiness, Ingrid Fetell Lee talks about creating a space “where you can never be real sad or angry.” She further explains, “…designers were making me realize the kind of abundance that really matters, not material accumulation but sensorial richness.” Applying this mindset to your remote environment, the ideal aesthetic can be created by layering color, texture, and pattern, and you don’t need much stuff to achieve this.
Pioneering the ‘100% distributed culture,’ the Dribbble communityoften shares their experiences working as remote freelancers across the globe. In a recent blog post, a multidisciplinary designer described his connection with the “chosen” environment versus one that’s forced:
“Comparing my office space with the spaces I use working at home, I noticed that I’m way more productive when I can choose my workspace. Hopefully, in the future, more and more companies in Germany will realize that remote workspaces are a good thing.”
Get Organized, Stay Organized
Remember, creating success in the remote environment means paying special attention to the small details, embracing those moments of elation and flow that lead to joy. Fortunately, there are well known “tricks” for you to keep in your back pocket. One in particular entails organizing your space, even increasing its functionality whenever possible. Whether it’s daily, weekly or monthly, get in the habit of rearranging items in your office, adjusting seating arrangements, location of the computer or your orientation towards the window. Add organizers to the desk; swap plants and restore the “white space” surrounding your tools. For example, here’s a look at a single workspace rearranged to accommodate additional accessories, while creating more functional space and, you guessed it, organization.
As Buffer’s 2018 work report concluded, the vast majority of people working remotely do so from their home office (78%), not coworking spaces and cafes. So although social media portrays a remote workforce dominated by the “WeWork empire,” people are actually finding the most success at home. And personal organization is a contributing factor.
Of course, staying organized pertains to more than the desk and project folders. You — the remote employee — are just as much a part of the workspace as your computer and must clear your mind to be productive. However possible, do this daily — make it routine. Advice given by author and subject matter expert Brianna Wiest, ‘begin and end the day by taking notes; put your thoughts (and feelings) on paper and review your emotions’ — and how they impacted the day. This builds awareness and trains you to “go positive” during your most productive hours, creating an environment conducive to good work and good vibes.
Getting (and staying) organized calls for a commitment to oneself, accepting the ups and downs and knowing when to work — or when to take a break. So, along with the to-do list, outline your day as often as possible and pay special attention to your needs (i.e., breaks, outside communication, focus, inspiration, and finding flow). Ideally, getting organized will facilitate a sustainable workflow that aids in long-term happiness and satisfaction with work. Additionally, staying organized and in control of feelings and emotions is the key to crossing current goals off the list while preparing for what lies ahead.
Stay Active and Over-Communicate
Office chat… it’s often taken for granted by office-bound employees. But finding joy as a remote employee is partially dependent on talking with team members, often. Cats are great and all but they simply can’t provide healthy dialogue throughout the day. (Yes, we’ve seen the Facebook videos and were just as impressed as you. Still, you need more than moew-speak.)
A point well-articulated by the Ladders blog, successful remote workers establish an active morning, afternoon and evening routine, rich in team communication. This includes regular phone and video calls, even for the sake of clarity on a task. Additionally, get comfortable ending project calls with brief conversations about last night’s game or that ridiculously emotional episode of “This is Us.” Don’t worry, you aren’t losing focus for doing so; you are connecting with coworkers the same way an office employee would. We’ve already become avatars thanks to our new iphones. For the sake of joy, let’s preserve human-to-human conversations while working in the remote environment. ‘You’re going to be smiling and laughing less at work as a result of being alone, and spending less time around your coworkers. Do something to make yourself laugh.’
“You communicate too much,” said no remote team member ever. Strict meeting policy or not, consistent communication is a gift among those without a central office. It’s value is realized beyond the boundaries of team performance or project success. On a deeper level, communicating daily replicates the quality interaction employees require to remain engaged and productive. In fact, by establishing a schedule of one-on-one calls, team video chats, and project-performance round-table meetings, remote workers can derive more joy and feel better about their position.
Increased productivity and focus are a byproduct of consistent communication. Words shared by the studio’s Executive Director, “It’s about sharing good content when found, being inclusive, highlighting people’s accomplishments, encouraging them to share with each other, be funny, be accessible, let go where you can, and assist where you see struggle.” It may require more work, but communicating effectively leads to feeling more joy in the remote setting.
American author Chuck Palahniuk said it best, “Find joy in everything you choose to do. Every job, relationship, home… it’s your responsibility to love it, or change it.” When you filter out the many surface-level reasons people choose remote work (all valid), this decision almost always boils down to a search for happiness and joy. Fortunately, accepting the responsibilities associated with remote work grants you control over the physical working environment, and therefore the joy it provides. A design studio with creatives located across the country, Designing North Studios believes a positive space influences good work. So, if it’s joy you are looking for (along with cool team members and engaging projects) we think you should check us out.
First Orion was building products with passion. They were on a mission to tackle the large-scale epidemic of scam and robocalls to consumer mobile phones. But you wouldn’t know it from their website or their messaging.
During the discovery process, as we learned more about First Orion, we realized that all of their differentiators were not coming through in their online presence.
First, they are filled with real data scientists creating the algorithms that allow their specialists to analyze the data around the scam and epidemic of robocalls. Which, let’s face it, is real superhero stuff. And like any good superhero, being authentic about their mission, especially for a company like First Orion, is truly about ‘sharing what’s “under the cape.” And what’s under there is not just the data and the knowledge, it’s a palpable drive coming from their team to protect people. We felt it during discovery; the people at First Orion displayed a sense of passion for protecting us. Just as we communicated a passion to craft a solution for their current problem: an outdated digital presence, lacking a story, lacking a customer journey with these superheroes.
There wasn’t a person at FO that didn’t express a true desire to do the right thing. It was refreshing to see such autonomy around ethical decision making. They could see all the data, all the bad actors trying every second to get through to our phones, unrelenting, and it was so inspiring to unearth this amazing commitment to be part of the change, part of this kind of ‘protection team.’
The Design Challenge
Content is the biggest challenge for every project. But we have techniques to organize process. We introduced something new to our process this time called ‘priority guides’ that allowed the client team to not get distracted with visuals and really focus on the content and message. The design team was then able to mock-up wires with real content vs. your standard latin placeholder. It’s a hard technique, because most people can be very visual — but it forces everyone to read.
In terms of the First Orion voice, it flowed well for us after our interviews in discovery. There is quiet confidence, a humble pride, and a heartfelt knowledge that comes across from everyone. It was important for people to know that First Orion knows their stuff, they are careful with data, but that it’s all wrapped in a good sense of polite Arkansas humor. It makes you what you are: approachable. And this is what the new content communicates.
The ‘Aha! Moment’ — Yes, we had it
The Aha moment was the combination of our initial ‘superhero’ idea for website launch 1.0 combined with the transparency visualization. That everything coming through the phone would be in full color (or transparent) if your mobile carrier chose FO as their protection partner. Hence all the main areas of the website showing full color via the phone, black and white/blue-tint everywhere else. Illustrated well with the home video where a phone is being waved over a crowd of people seeing only color via the phone screen — and every other customer being protected with the FO logo on their phone.
Soon after we felt the superhero emerge for us as a creative team. We drew a cape on one of the data scientists, because we had written that heroics were emerging from their product line. From there, we were inspired to move away from showing real devices with real product shots, and we just sketched. The telecom space is crowded; everyone looked the same. We wanted to introduce simplicity but ensure that FO stood out from the crowd… We were moved by the First Orion mission statement and subsequent tagline (Transparency in Communication) to illustrate transparency and what that really meant. This led to our idea of the phone becoming a trusted source again, where in full color, you could see who is calling and why.
A unique truth to this project: it was the client that inspired us most. They are superheroes, but not in a goofy way. Their “powers for good” are understated and authentic — like a sketch or doodle you make on a piece of paper. Because when you’re sketching or doodling, truth emerges. And we think the truth is pretty hip. So ‘hip’ just came naturally — feedback we received directly from First Orion upon launch: “The new website feels decidedly more hip than a traditional corporate website.”
Favorite Design Element
We love the subtlety of the cape. You find it in a few places; it covers (no pun intended) a few themes. It symbolizes that First Orion, carriers, businesses, consumers: we are all superheroes in this fight against mobile scam, robo, and spoof calls. Coming together is what makes us stronger. But it also illustrates that unlike many data companies who may have something to hide. First Orion wants you to see what’s under the cape. This aligns with their mission of Transparency In Communication — so the cape does its job in many aspects.
“We’re a hip, progressive, start-up company with a flair for creativity, said Traci Campbell, Corporate Marketing Manager for First Orion. “We’re packed full of professional and smart people, but we don’t need our voice to be overtly corporate.” The friendly style, tone and language begins to create a cohesive “First Orion persona” across all our digital marketing efforts, including social.” The cape is the perfect symbol for this message. But this benevolent character is non-fictional, and their powers help create super consumers.
The Final Product
It speaks to each audience uniquely now. What First Orion is to a mobile carrier is different for a mobile consumer. We crafted numerous journeys to the right message, the right product, the right information on how to be a part of this ‘superhero league’ in support of First Orion’s quest for complete transparency.
We met them and considered them true heroes in this battle. And believed they were truly fighting for us. So we positioned them as the heroes we knew them to be, succinctly explained why to each of their very important audiences, and hit the launch button so they could share their story everywhere.
Of course, the client always gets the last word: “FirstOrion.com has undergone a complete makeover, thanks to our own Corporate Product Marketing Team and the brilliant folks at Designing North Studios. They have worked countless hours to give a new look and feel to the website, designed in mind to speak to each of our unique audiences. The combined team put together a concept that paints our employees as the superheroes of call transparency, tirelessly crusading for justice against spam, scam, and robocalls and battling for people to trust their phones again.”
Sharing her feedback on the redesign, Traci Campbell said, “The new site gives First Orion a fresh persona in the marketing world. It also got into the nitty-gritty of what First Orion provides to carriers, businesses, and consumers. This new space will allow us to provide more information to each of our customers in a way that speaks directly to them and lets us showcase our products in a new and exciting way.”
About Designing North Studios:
Designing North Studios is an interactive design studio focused on digital solutions for web, mobile, and branding initiatives. Our mindset: attention to small UX extras makes for big UX impact. A bit different than your average agency, we were started by UX designers and can engage in a project as a team (Hire-A-Team) — or you can rent one of ‘ours’ (Rent-A-Star) for yours. If you have a project you’d like to discuss or are in need of a *designing north star* for your existing team, give us a buzz or shoot us an email.
When you freelance for a living (that is, a paycheck isn’t guaranteed every two weeks), leaving your client with a positive lasting impression is critical to your success. And when you are responsible for sourcing new work, reputation is everything, worth its weight in gold. So how you approach projects and interact with clients matters. It’s part of your brand, and serves as the foundation of your brand equity. But what if we told you our approach to success was really just a different way of thinking, one that fosters extra effort no matter the circumstance — Would you want to see it in action?
We call it the Designing North mindset, and it goes a little something like this:
Some people add a little extra to everything they do. They perform north of expectation with a focus on — and appreciation for the small details. By celebrating the small, they illustrate the belief that being a hover above ordinary has a larger, cumulative effect on good work.
As a design studio we celebrate them: she is; he is; they are — Designing North. The only question we have is, “Are you?”
A bit different than your average agency, we were started by UX designers and can engage in a project as a team (Hire-A-Team) — or you can rent one of ‘ours’ (Rent-A-Star) for your project. Of course, this position carries significant responsibility to uncover the right people for each and every project. This is where ‘the mindset’ reveals its merit, time and time again.
The nature of our work demands a continuous quest for those with this mindset, and in doing so we uncover the people adding a little extra to the world around them. Using their thinking and action as an example, let’s see what ‘the mindset’ looks like in its purest form so you can think about how you might position yourself a hover above the rest in your line of work and in life.
She is* a techno-philanthropist on a mission to change the lives of women living in poverty in Latin America. But don’t let the diminutive figure of former director of worldwide leadership development at Apple, Inc. fool you. Because of Dorothy’s Linked Foundation and its dynamic partners, thousands of women and their families now have access to basic health needs through their rural pharmacy models.
After receiving a ‘windfall,’ both she and her husband, former Google Vice President of Engineering Wayne Rosing, decided to focus their talents and treasure on the things that interested them most. For Dorothy, that meant launching sustainable and scalable health initiatives in Latin America, and for Wayne, it meant developing a global network of telescopes to advance astronomy. Dorothy treated the foundation like a start-up. It was 24/7 in the beginning, but is now chugging smoothly along, thanks to hard work, a great team, learning from mistakes, and sharing successes.
“My husband and I have a very nice life, but we wanted to keep it simple – uncomplicated. We didn’t want to spend our time managing our ‘things’. That has zero interest to me – too much complexity. We were excited about the potential to make real change in our own lifetimes.”
That is the tagline for Café Momentum, a new american restaurant in downtown Dallas, TX. What sets this restaurant apart is its founder Chad Houser, and his purpose: “I take kids out of jail and teach them to play with knives and fire – and make the community better.”
Café Momentum’s staff is composed mainly by boys and young men who previously served time at a detention facility for nonviolent juvenile offenders. During a 12-month, post-release internship they earn $10 per hour while gaining experience in all aspects of the restaurant business.
The restaurant also includes a classroom where the interns receive instruction on skills such as financial literacy, anger management, art, and social media.
“It’s not just about giving these young men a job,” Houser says. “It’s about creating a holistic environment where they can be immersed in all the tools and resources they need to be successful in life, which extends far beyond working at a job.” “I’ve been told every reason why it won’t work, everything from ‘these kids will never show up, these kids can’t cook this food, restaurants constantly fail’… over and over and over and over again,” said Houser in his original promotional video. “Someone has to believe in these kids. Might as well be me!”
Since its opening two years ago, Cafe Momentum has garnished a 4.9 star rating and even earned a grant from a youth opportunity fund to help provide opportunities for more young adults.
Eddie Donnellan and Tim Gras
Eddie and Tim’s friendship began as two teenagers surfing the San Francisco coastline together. Not only was the Bay Area their home but it also provided an escape from the challenges they faced in life. Many surfers are drawn to this sport for its thrill while others enjoy the competition. For Eddie and Tim it was different, less personal and more about harnessing the healing power of the ocean to eventually share with others.
Into their professional careers the duo worked together at the Edgewood Center For Children and Families, in the mental health field. It was here where they witnessed how the simple things in life had a transformative effect on troubled children who were labeled as “lost hope youth.” Things that we take for granted, like access to the ocean and mother nature were eye-opening experiences for their patients – even life changing. Both Eddie and Tim never lost hope, no matter the circumstances of the child.
With a strong belief in their work, Eddie and Tim decided to channel their passion for helping others to create the MeWater Foundation – a program to inspire, educate and empower youth as well as their families. In their eyes, they owe it all to nature. Whether it be the ocean or the mountains, they spend their days exposing children to the outdoors, away from the hardships of inner city life. The mentorship they get from MeWater uncovers an emotional intelligence that these youth would otherwise never find. They begin to develop social skills they never knew existed — A life changing moment.
Kim Skarritt, once a professional canine problem solver, is the proud owner and facilitator of Silver Muzzle Cottage. Here, in Northern Michigan, Kim and a small team of supporters run this 501(c)3 as a hospice care center for older dogs that have nowhere else to go. Other than the shelter, of course. But we all know that a shelter is no place for a dog, especially an old one living out its last days.
“We feel they deserve more, that they shouldn’t die alone in a cage. They deserve love and dignity in their final days, months and years. We’re dedicated to the rescue, adoption and lifelong care of these senior dogs.” – Silver Muzzle Cottage
Kim’s mission began while running Bowsers By The Bay, the only 100% cage-free boarding and social rehab facility on Northern Michigan. As her training facility grew, Kim started connecting with local shelters, where she learned just how many old dogs were abandoned or overlooked. Even left on the roadside in some instances.
Although Kim understood the difficulties of caring for older dogs, she still couldn’t live with the thought of loving animals, loyal to the human beings kicked to the curb.
As Kim explains it, Many people will say “I just don’t think I could do it – I couldn’t take on a senior, knowing I would lose them so soon.”
But Kim and her team approaches these situations with a slightly more positive mindset, one that is capable of solving this all-too-common problem.
That was the only motivation she needed to do something about this problem; Silver Muzzle Cottage was born. Fast forward two years and Kim is still making a significant impact in her community. Don’t take our word for it. Check out the Silver Muzzle Cottage Facebook Page to see the cute faces that have come through her doors. Who doesn’t love a heartwarming story of human kindness towards animals, to brighten the day.
Coral Restoration Foundation
Ken Nedimyer has dedicated more than 40 years of his life to diving in the waters off the Florida coastline. Year after year, he watched as the area’s coral reefs begin to die, one after another. When the reefs died, the fish disappeared, abandoning the only environment they called home. Across the entire globe, coral reefs occupy less than one quarter of 1% of the marine environment, yet they are home to 25% of all fish species. Understanding the science, and therefore the problem at hand, Ken decided to dedicate his life to regenerating coral through farming.
In a recent interview with Great Big Story, Ken Nedimyer explained his simple reasoning for becoming a coral farmer, “ I’m tired of watching it die, I need to do something about it.”
It all began with the idea of propagating staghorn coral in an offshore nursery. It’s often difficult to cross the threshold of idea versus action, but Ken passion for reefs was too great to be hindered by skeptics. He “dove” in head first, starting with his underwater garden. And just like a traditional roadside farm, Ken learned to follow specific seasons: one optimal for planting and the other, harvesting.
Pretty quickly, Ken gathered help from his family and friends to begin scaling his efforts. And this became the basis for the Coral Restoration Foundation. Astonishingly, Ken and his team are planting twenty to twenty-five thousand reef fragments a year. Something that many critics said could never be done. Ken is living proof that a little passion and hardwork can go a very long way. But he isn’t one to boast his success. Rather, he has a more humble way of looking at it: “another day, another coral.”
Like his brothers Keith and Dan, Chris Malloy started on the scene as a traveling surfer with a knack for big waves — his success eventually landed him a spot in the 2006 Eddie Aikau Big Wave Invitational. As if that wasn’t enough adrenaline for a lifetime, Chris also completed multiple expeditions across the globe.
Perhaps Chris Malloy is even more synonymous with adventure films. After all, he did produce nearly two dozen, many of which were well-regarded among the filmmaking ranks. After achieving fame in the action-sports industry and experiencing many parts of the world, Chris decided to focus his future on values such as simplicity, tradition, creativity, sustainability and conservation. He now resides on a ranch in Lompoc, CA with his kids and wife, Carla. In their transition to a more sustainable life, Chris and Carla have become ambassadors for a “food movement” — teaching others how to consciously choose sustainable food sources while questioning the origin of market bought goods. They even travel the state teaching others about their findings and physically showing people how their local communities can be the best solution for healthy, freshly grown food.
After traveling for months on end to better understand the latest problems in the agriculture business, Chris Malloy partnered with Patagonia Provisions for his latest documentary, Unbroken Ground. The short film highlights four main food-production problems in the United States (and more importantly, the brilliant minds working against the status quo to design a solution) that all pose a very serious threat to the safety of our environment (and the world’s environment), health of our communities, and ability to feed the ever-growing population. These thought leaders are confident that their work is designing more sustainable methods for food production; they are the ones dedicated to current problems that often remain outside of our influence: regenerative agriculture, restorative grazing, new crop development and selective-harvest fishing.
We recently had the pleasure of Joining Chris and his family for a viewing of Unbroken Ground, followed with a Q&A on the journey he took during the film. The event, hosted by The Ecology Center of San juan Capistrano, California, brought the local community together for a sampling of food harvested onsite and a think-tank on how ‘we,’ as a community, can adapt our habits (eating and purchasing) to support regenerative-food production while restoring the environment.
But even more important, is the reality that farmers, fishermen, landowners, store owners, and consumers can all share the benefits associated with ‘smart’ eating choices that benefit ‘our’ planet. We salute Chris, his mindset and his effort to bring like-minded people together for the cause.
You don’t need to go big to have an impact. And you certainly don’t need to be extraordinary to find success in the long run. Instead, approach your work and relationships with a mindset that *hovers just above*, one that motivates you to always give *a little extra effort* and *delivers just a bit more* than what’s expected. Small goes a long way. This is the sweet spot we can all find with the designing north mindset, a simple way of thinking beyond mediocrity and meeting expectations that rewards those who adopt it entirely. In essence, when looking to impress clients, don’t be what occurs most; be a permanent reference point for what is desired. You won’t be forgotten.
*designing north* : it’s not a location, it’s a mindset.
The take-away feeling an end user records from an experience in a digital environment reigns supreme. With almost any product or service accessible via wifi and a connected device, user behavior is most accurately analyzed with patterns of interaction between people and technology devices. In fact, many people spend a significant portion of their day “glued” to mobile screens (for the average consumer, that’s 5 hours per day), scanning social accounts, browsing trends, visualizing their ideal self and inevitably measuring digital self-worth.
Equally important, people search for answers to difficult life-questions using digital experiences as validation. And they are convinced by their findings, certain their devices (and someone else’s experience) confirm reality. Whether this is good or bad, it supports the idea that people can arrive at sensible conclusions upon interacting with well-designed digital touchpoints — websites, web apps, and mobile apps.
With this understanding of the digital world, we believe the described experiences increasingly influence the way a person thinks about the following four questions:
Who do you want to be in life?
What do you want to do?
What makes you happy?
What is your passion?
Referring to younger generations (ahem… millennials and gen z), people commonly learn about their “authentic” desires through research conducted on a smartphone, often dreaming vicariously over project photos or videos shared by someone with a “purposeful” occupation/existence. Ultimately, these experiences influence the discovery phase for both students and young working adults:
What do you want to study?
What school do you want to attend?
What career path do you want to pursue?
What company do you want to work for?
John Richardson, an adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa and head of English at Ashbury College reiterates that “Technology is less intentional and more intuitive for 32% of the population, and their social skills are morphing into a hybrid of technology and face-to-face contact” — therefore, solutions must be designed to reflect these nuances.
Most importantly, if digital thresholds have become the gateway for self-discovery, we (as journey crafters) want to further examine this same process in order to support young people in making better (well-informed) choices about their education and career. We repeatedly talk about the rising costs of attending universities and how difficult it is to correlate a degree with success — or passion with career prosperity — in the real world. And it’s time we further examine the many options already being touted as the future of learning, the ones that have been available for years and may simply be in need of experienced and strategic UX designers to better craft their purpose and impact for developing generations.
Believe in the User and Their Experience
It’s time we embrace the inherent superficial value of digital and social media as a life-advice tool — our pixel reality — that empowers people to believe in themselves, explore new opportunities, and provide constant reinforcement through it’s craftily designed feedback loop: claps, likes, shares, comments, or “You have to see this!”
While watching the ‘Astrology’ episode of the Netflix series, Explained, scientists and current astrologists presented data supporting the idea that something doesn’t need to be real in order to have real effects — sorta like social media. It’s called the placebo effect, and it states: “The belief in something can be enough for it to work.”
In fact, further research proves that many people admittedly know they are taking “the fake pill” (or accepting an absence of the real thing) yet still record a positive effect.
Feel better faster with the reassuring words from the doc; a bit of wishful thinking, don’t you think? Not quite. A new study conducted by Stanford University revealed the true power of believing in a positive outcome: healing. The study, published by Alia Crum, assistant professor of psychology at Stanford University’s School of Humanities and Sciences, hints at the use of the placebo effect beyond pills. Healthcare providers, in this case, significantly reduced healing times of allergic reaction patients using encouraging words about recovery times.
As you can see, if the effect (and affect) is in our minds, and belief is enough to inspire realness, companies should be more willing to support UX designers and more importantly, the UX process. UX practitioners craft journeys that empower people to be moved: students to personalize their education, workers to develop their professional path. All according to what people want, feel, and most importantly, believe.
Academics, careers and finances; these are key factors every student should consider before making one of the most important decisions of their lives: what college to attend and what career to pursue. But how does a developing adult gather the key information required to make sound choices on such weighted subjects? e believe personalized digital experiences can have a profound impact on a person’s choices, leading to greater feelings of success and ultimately happiness.
‘Money’s Build Your Own Rankings’ tool is a great example: it enables prospective students — and parents — to quickly adjust their needs (the input) and receive a research-supported list of schools and programs best suited for their life (the output). Not only does this provide simplicity, it reduces the frustration felt by those who truly don’t have the time and resources to independently identify their best options.
Good Design and Passion for the Problem
Considering the obstacles students and institutions currently face (affordability, location, academic preparedness, program choices, etc.), Designing North Studios recognizes that addressing these challenges with good design solutions is also really good business.
As the previous Director of Web Communications & Branding at Stanford Law School, Lisa Peacock (Designing North Studios’ Executive Creative Director) has been thinking about this for years, and was asked to develop a tool for law students while at Stanford: SLS Navigator. This web app enables students to not only find courses offered at the law school based on their area of law interest, but across the entire university as well. It also suggests journals to reference, blogs to read, influencers to follow, and in some instances connects them with alumni who work day-to-day in those areas. The real stand-out feature, is that it also helps the students to ‘cover their bases’ – if they can’t decide between criminal law and corporate law, the app shows them courses they can take that work for both (just in case). That saves students from not heading down one wrong path, or delaying graduation because they didn’t take the right courses. What a concept, right? When asked about the project, Lisa had this to share:
“I think that every school should have something like this. I started with the following premise: what do I want to be when I grow up? Then you can take courses, read things, follow people, etc. that might cover various paths — so when you finally decide on a specific path, you’ve at least made some initial broad decisions that still count towards graduation and your focus.”
Simple, user friendly, and results oriented, SLS Navigator is still relevant ten years after its inception, and remains a testament to the positivity felt from good, inclusive design. Additionally, as it pertains to the student experience, let’s acknowledge that the process involved in choosing an education and career path must always account for the evolving needs of a digital-savvy (not dependent) generation.
The amount of data at our fingertips today is unprecedented, and what better way to use this information then design solutions to reduce uncertainty for students burdened with life choices: what school to attend, what career to pursue, where to live, and how much to spend. In a way, this approach embraces the art of paying it forward — helping the people who society will eventually rely on to create positive change in the future.
At this very moment, designers, scientists, and educators are looking for new ways to collaborate, with the vision that all students will eventually feel empowered to personalize their campus — or virtual — experience. As a design studio, it’s our goal to simplify the digital matrix of tools, processes, and lingo which serve as a means to this vision, while crafting thoughtful experiences for everyone involved. It’s what we love to do.
As one of the NFL’s most prolific leaders, Aaron Rogers said it best, “Surround yourself with really good people. Because the people you surround yourself with are a reflection of you.”
The application of this message for your life may be slightly different than Aaron’s, but the end result remains the same: the people you pick will largely influence your success in life, including the levels of happiness you experience — so pick’em wisely.
From Aaron’s football field in Green Bay (with ten other teammates) to our design studio in the San Francisco Bay Area (with an ensemble of creatives), we believe the most influential factor in determining success is choosing the right people: the people you work with, partner with, and associate with.
It’s a mindset we carry into every client project, using it to make “game-time” decisions: do we go for it — or not? Do we submit the proposal — or direct our attention elsewhere?
Rarely does it fail us.
Because (in the words of legendary NFL coach Don Shula) “The one thing that I know is that you win with good people.”
So, using our mindset as guidance, let’s take a look at what it means to pick your people.
Who You Work With
Success doesn’t occur in a closed work environment. Remote or on-site, cultivating a functional team that jives is dependent on laying the initial foundation: choosing the right people.
And more often than not, this choice aligns with a specific mission statement. That is, you choose to work with individuals who align with the company purpose — and/or — business culture.
For example, Patagonia employees are hyper-involved with the recruitment of new team members, often inquiring about one’s interest in the environment and sustainability, even asking prospective team members to consider the footprint of their application materials — the potential waste involved.
If you read Patagonia’s mission statement (“Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis’), you can see why they have been successful over the years: pick good people and let those people choose who they want to work with.
As the Executive Creative Director for Designing North Studios, Lisa Peacock is viewed as the architect for the current team of designers, strategists, and creatives that all work together today. But we must reiterate, this didn’t happen in a vacuum.
When selecting her starting team, Lisa relied on the designing north mindset to guide her through the growth process:
“It takes dedication, commitment, and most importantly, really good people to make a design studio tick” she says.
“I always knew that the people I was looking for to work at Designing North Studios would be my Designing North Stars.”
Finding these people, attracting them, and creating a studio environment wouldn’t have been possible without a shared purpose: really good people coming together and displaying their talents, and delighting clients in the process.
To this day, our studio members add a little extra to everything they do — it’s who they are. Their career, how they live, the relationships they nurture — it’s all influenced by delivering results just north of expectation, embracing the small details throughout any process.
This approach, believe it or not, really does add happiness, success, peace, and love to the global experience — which for us, is the biggest UX of all.
Who you Work for
Whether choosing who you work with — or for — the premise remains constant: it’s important to pick your people. Remember, your success depends on it.
Speaking to the strength of today’s most successful companies, the ability to inspire employees around a mission is a powerful tool. In fact, this messaging helps influence a person’s choice with regard to employment or collaboration.
Similarly, this inspiration often permeates throughout an industry, reaching potential partners, clients, and firms who are out there searching for ideal work — and people.
In essence, they’ve learned to choose who they complete work for, connecting the dots between happiness and success by way of affiliation, fulfillment and satisfaction — a result of associating with like-minded, purpose-driven people.
Hipcamp showcases this mindset flawlessly: Reviewing their checklist for prospective talent, the first — and most crucial — bullet point reads:
“As a team, we’re committed to striving toward and evolving these shared values in ourselves and in other team members.”
Through this lens, working for an employer versus client may share more similarities than previously thought.
In both scenarios, a conscious choice is made to spend significant time working; choosing people, teams or companies that strongly align with your values offer the reward of time well spent, elevating the human experience.
Your human experience.
Using our studio example, choosing a project (who we do work for) is an extension of who we choose to work with as individuals — those who relish in the small details and strive to deliver effort that’s a hover above expectation. Values, mindset, and even subject matter all deserve attention when making this decision.
We know from experience: Alignment with a client’s mission equates to optimal engagement and communication, the pinnacle of choosing who we do work for, especially in the journey-crafting business. Essentially, we look for that mindset in all directions, be it freelance talent or the ideal client.
Our best partners, for example, understand world challenges; are dedicated to the future of education; and are passionate about heading in the right direction — their projects reflect this ideology.
Others have been voted the most ethical companies by industry and peers.
Some even challenge traditional business norms in order to lift entire communities from poverty. It’s all really good work that deserves to be supported with passion and commitment from fellow believers. That’s us!
Ultimately, choosing who receives your time and energy can significantly impact your feelings of success. Money aside, it’s an opportunity to enrich the human experience with a sense of purpose, satisfaction, and belonging.
If you are like us, you want more of this. Not just for yourself, but for others as well.
Who is in Your Network
Interconnectedness. Support. Opportunity. Exposure. Everyone wants it, but few know where to find it. And crafting the right network is a crucial step towards experiencing personal and professional success.
Fortunately, personal and professional networks function to serve the people who maintain their existence — you! Of course, networks require cultivation — and grow best when crafted with care and intention, with a greater-good value proposition.
Even with a plethora of technology tools, the human component remains most valuable. However, if you expect your network to have your back, there’s one factor you should pay extra attention to: the people!
That’s right, a network is only of value if you can build it with the right people.
But how do you decide who is right for your network? Well, why not start by looking to the people you choose to work with — and for. Chances are good they know exactly where you need to be networking.
As creatives living with the mindset, many of us share ties to the same networks embedded within the digital design industry.
Past jobs, current friends, old co-workers, etc., they all shape who we are in the present and influence who we will become in the future.
That’s the beauty of cultivating a network reflective of your true values and interests: It’s always working for you — much like smart investing.
However, pursuing interests by way of networking will present person challenges. Always keep your eyes peeled, there are limitless temptations of money, greed, and fame within various industries these days.
Take the tech startup community, for example. From hidden agendas to a plethora of funding channels, it’s not uncommon to witness the suppression of values in the name of making investors smile.
It’s OK to be stubborn.
It’s OK to be picky.
It’s OK to vet before welcoming new members — it’s your network! And it’s “health” depends on you. So be patient. Cultivate and curate on a regular basis.
Collaboratively, we branch out to meet new people, learn of new opportunities, and even cross digital borders, accessing other communities of interest; let’s say from a design community to a primarily tech community, for example.
If your visualizing an imaginary “jump” from one social channel to another — let’s say, instagram to LinkedIn or Twitter to Vimeo — you are spot-on.
Each community brings new introductions and opportunities for connecting with good people. People chosen by you.
Designers of various disciplines (UX, UI, XD, IxD), Illustrators, graphic artists, writers, videographers, creative directors, etc., all form the design “arm” of our individual networks.
Similarly, each person may have complimentary network extensions created with connections from previous employers and friendships.
Using the studio for reference, part of Lisa’s network may offer consistent resources in the form of design projects for the team to work on, while that of a team member may uncover new freelancers to join the team, further growing the studio’s presence.
Their titles may only identify their outer layer (what we see on paper) but their work and communication symbolizes what lies beneath. A mindset for success.
Picking your people is undoubtedly one of the most important decisions you will make in life. Viewed as an opportunity to control destiny, this responsibility is ongoing, surfacing every time new relationships are made.
Who you work with, who you work for — or complete work for — and who you form a network with all play an active role in shaping what success looks like for your life. If you haven’t figured it out yet, people are the second most influential component of your life.
Life creates many problems for humans; some, you may be familiar with. Fortunately, designers create many solutions for life’s problems. Using the principles of Life Design and a human-centered approach, there are many creatives, technologists, and educators in this world who dedicate their time to thinking differently and creating a “better path forward” — usually for the benefit of others. They are designing north.
As it stands, there are many talented designers and thinkers in this world all working diligently to help us understand how good design can change the world. We recognize them; we thank them; we support them. Now, let’s celebrate them. The following TED Talks discuss the transformative power of good design, leading with examples we can all understand and relate to:
When we Design for Disability, we all Benefit
“I believe that losing my hearing was one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received,” says Elise Roy. As a disability rights lawyer and design thinker, she knows that being Deaf gives her a unique way of experiencing and reframing the world — a perspective that could solve some of our largest problems. As she says: “When we design for disability first, you often stumble upon solutions that are better than those when we design for the norm.”
We are all Designers
Journalist John Hockenberry tells a personal story inspired by a pair of flashy wheels in a wheelchair-parts catalogue — and how they showed him the value of designing a life of intent. (From The Design Studio session at TED2012, guest-curated by Chee Pearlman and David Rockwell.)
The Art of Designing New Perspectives
Before Daniel Disselkoen studied at the Royal Academy of Art in the Netherlands, he read through his share of textbooks while studying law and philosophy. One day, he realized he didn’t want his own ideas to be tucked away in journals. Today, Daniel is one of the leading interactive artists of his generation. Daniel runs Headmade: a concept studio where he and his team turn thoughts into tangibles. His ongoing fascination in social behaviour and interaction results in playful interventions in the everyday life. Daniel believes curiosity trumps routine.
Simple Hacks for Life With Parkinson’s
Simple solutions are often best, even when dealing with something as complicated as Parkinson’s. In this inspiring talk, Mileha Soneji shares accessible designs that make the everyday tasks of those living with Parkinson’s a bit easier. “Technology is not always it,” she says. “What we need are human-centered solutions.”
Shape-Shifting Tech will Change Work as we Know it
What will the world look like when we move beyond the keyboard and mouse? Interaction designer Sean Follmer is building a future with machines that bring information to life under your fingers as you work with it. In this talk, check out prototypes for a 3D shape-shifting table, a phone that turns into a wristband, a deformable game controller and more that may change the way we live and work.
Design with the Blind in Mind
What would a city designed for the blind be like? Chris Downey is an architect who went suddenly blind in 2008; he contrasts life in his beloved San Francisco before and after — and shows how the thoughtful designs that enhance his life now might actually make everyone’s life better, sighted or not.
Brilliant Designs to Fit More People in Every City
How can we fit more people into cities without overcrowding? Kent Larson shows off folding cars, quick-change apartments and other innovations that could make the city of the future work a lot like a small village of the past.
A Robot That Eats Pollution
Meet the “Row-bot,” a robot that cleans up pollution and generates the electricity needed to power itself by swallowing dirty water. Roboticist Jonathan Rossiter explains how this special swimming machine, which uses a microbial fuel cell to neutralize algal blooms and oil slicks, could be a precursor to biodegradable, autonomous pollution-fighting robots.
When Art Collides with Data
Charts and graphs are the default for data analysis, but some data sets require a little more humanity. What do you call a hairpiece worn by a man? How southern was William Faulkner? Carrie Roy answers these questions and more though sculpture, woodwork, fiber arts, photography, and even virtual reality.
The Beauty of Human Skin in Every Color
Angélica Dass’s photography challenges how we think about skin color and ethnic identity. In this personal talk, hear about the inspiration behind her portrait project, Humanæ, and her pursuit to document humanity’s true colors rather than the untrue white, red, black and yellow associated with race.
As Tim Allen of Microsoft sums up our approach to design, “We should all … understand how each of us is an individual and is unique, but also focus on what is universally important to all of us. That way, we can increase access, reduce friction, create a more emotional connection — in literally whatever you design.” This is inclusive design. Good design.
If you haven’t already heard, 2018 is the year of humanity: a year of inclusivity, togetherness, and kindness. In fact, it’s a chance for ordinary people to be celebrated for the small details and a reminder to everyone that we don’t need to be extraordinary to feel humanity. The fact remains, we all have a little extra to give society and one another, rallying together using action for the greater good — we can’t help it, it is our human nature. To demonstrate this mindset, we have curated the following five examples, which speak to the heart of humanity and reinforce our belief that humanity will validate the power of good in 2018. So, as we say, go humanity! We encourage you to say the same using #gohumanity2018 in your social-media conversations and visit gohumanity2018 for more feel-good stories and inspiring acts of humanity.
A feeling of “we are all in this together” for the U.S. Ski and Snowboard team in Pyeongchang.
This may not have been his first experience on center stage, but Shaun White’s reaction to seeing his fellow Americans’ cheer for him during a historic gold-medal run was a priceless — a reminder of how connected we really are, especially during events as symbolic as the Olympics:
Lifting women and children out of poverty with help from four-legged friends and a dedicated mentor: that’sThe Grooming Project.
Natasha Kirsch’s pursuit to create change for the homeless women she worked with reminds us that as humans — we all have the power to make a difference in another person’s life. With a focus on the small details, her ingenious solution has led to employment and personal development for those who never had a chance. Although dogs weren’t part of the initial plan, they now serve as the means to a sustainable future for these women and their families.
A collective for creatives seeking big change for a small island using small efforts: FUERTE by Focus Lab — humanity rests in the people of Puerto Rico.
Six months later and many Puerto Ricans continue to live without food, water, and electricity as a result of hurricane Maria. At a time when confusion and political agendas have overshadowed the regions call for help, a small group of creative professionals are reminding the public that their small contribution can make a big difference. Their individual efforts may be small and seemingly ordinary, but their collective energy is anything but:
“‘Daddy, I love that you’re kind,’ he said to me.” “And if when I’m gone, that’s what my son says of me, I’ll rest in peace.” A professor’s extra effort and kindness comes full circle:
Dr. Henry Musoma of Texas A&M University is known for always adding a little extra to every one of the classes he teaches — extra engaged, extra supportive, and extra caring. As a student in one of his classes he makes one thing very clear: he cares about you.
The garment industry is showing a commitment to people in 2018, and it’s good business:
Over 100 companies sign to renew the transition accord, covering over 1,200 factories and over two million Bangladeshi workers from workplace dangers including: fire, structural and electricity dangers. In May of 2018, this legally-binding document will go into effect, supported by some of the largest garment brands in North America and beyond. Not only is this a significant leap forward for the industry, it’s a reminded that every business must put people first if it wishes to truly succeed.
Only a small sample of the positivity experienced throughout society this very moment, these five stories have us feeling pretty good about humanity in 2018. From kindness and togetherness to celebrating the small details, there are many people in this world contributing to the vision for a better tomorrow for all. Whether it’s a friend, family member, random person or yourself, if you have a story to share we’d love to celebrate it using #gohumanity2018 visiting our good-news feed.
User experience (UX) and and retail are getting together, again. But this time, it’s going to be different.
This time, retail strategy and UX are going to get things right; brick-and-mortar and digital will finally accept their marriage as a lifelong union with their sum being greater than their parts, and relationship goals will soon refer to the comfortable, personalized attention that a “store” experience should provide customers.
Wait a minute… did we say customers? We meant people! That’s right, these renewed vows between design and retail will make life easier and more enjoyable for people — they have feelings after all.
These two fields of practice (retail and design) will finally share the responsibility of changing retail for good; they are poised for a new beginning, and ready to commit. And through strategic senior leadership, retail professionals and creative pros will commence thinking around experience design and more specifically, getting the right people on board to craft the ultimate user experience for people and the communities they associate with. People aren’t satisfied with simply living anymore, they want to design their lives. So… as we like to say, it’s time for a redesign.
A UX Perspective on Retailing
We were once students of retailing sciences in the Retailing and Consumer Sciences program at the University of Arizona. And to be honest, after learning to analyze people and their purchasing behavior we never really stopped being a retail student. In class we (myself, peers and professors) would discuss a controversial question that served as a “hot-button” for many students: “Is retail dead?” Of course, we all had unwavering beliefs as college seniors, but still, a handful of us — including myself — felt a bit of uncertainty and perhaps, fear towards this question. Could we really be investing so much time and money into a dying practice?
It wasn’t until we gained exposure to UX design that we finally had the answer: Retail is not dead. In fact, retail was never close to dying, nor did it need to. Sure, it may be going through a prolonged midlife crisis… but then again, maybe it just needed to find a partner to guide it in a more promising direction.
From attending conferences and listening to the many podcasts and webinars that discussed the world of retail, it’s no secret that even the most prominent retail giants are constantly searching for a ‘better way’ to grow their physical presence, or change it up completely. But in a time when technology literally brings the world to our fingertips, what is left for retail, and even more importantly, what can retailers do to provide this field a new “lease” on life?
The answer lives in the “UX of it all” — how does a user experience translate into a feeling or emotion that people want to relive and can recognize time and time again with satisfaction?
Companies such as Nordstrom, Apple, Goop, and even Nike are embracinguser-centered design to provide class-leading UX for brick-and-mortar; they are no longer designing solutions ‘for’ people (there we go with people before customer), but rather, ‘with’ people. The people they are designing for never leave the center of the equation, everything revolves around them. And as we have learned from the many digital projects we worked on in our studio, this is the way it should be. It has potential to breath new life into the paradigm around retailing. So, although many of these names have been around for many moons, they are what we consider the new retail — a stark contrast to the legacy retailers we are so familiar with.
The New Nordstrom (User) Experience
“John W. Nordstrom believed success would come only by offering customers the very best service, selection, quality, and value.” Although the world has changed significantly since 1901 (Nordstrom’s start), Nordstrom’s ideal customer hasn’t; and both the in-store and online journeys are still crafted with these values in mind. Only now, the company has more advanced capabilities beyond just the omni-channel mindset. In fact, it’s expected that the Nordstrom guest will have a personalized, unique experience that is convenient for their life. The company’s latest store innovation reinforces this point: although people have time (to shop), they don’t have time to waste.
As Nordstrom explains their latest concept, “We know there are more and more demands on a customer’s time and we wanted to offer our best services in a convenient location to meet their shopping needs. Finding new ways to engage with customers on their terms is more important to us now than ever.”
Nordstrom’s latest store concept (3,000 square feet, instead of a typical Nordstrom box size of 140,000 square feet), aims at offering an experience that reinforces the positive interaction among people based on wants and needs, while matching those to the brand’s personality (in this case, Nordstrom). From stylists to beauty service providers and consultants, guests will have access to the ‘full fashion treatment.” But calling this an enriched experience would be an understatement. With “bars” in the stores, where thirsty shoppers can order juices or wine; visitors can completely “let go” and relax as though they are at a special event. The company noted that skilled retail professionals will still be an integral part of the redesigned UX, and stylists will be doing what they do best: curating outfits for shoppers while reducing, if not completely removing the stress they feel when searching for that perfect outfit.
The retail atmosphere has much to learn from the digital space, and Nordstrom is proving that they can enhance the UX of a store by following digital trends. We know that websites have at most 15 seconds to win the attention of a visitor, and that’s on a very, very good day. So, as technology further integrates the on and offline channels, should companies expect different behavior for store visitors? We think not. But companies such as Nordstrom are learning how to quickly gain the attention of visitors by creating and therefore offering ‘WOW’ moments in stores.
Today at Apple
Soon, a typical conversation with friends and family will begin with, “Today, at Apple…” That’s how good the Apple experience is expected to be with their ongoing store-experience redesign.
When I think of Apple (the brand), the first visual that comes to mind is that of an Apple store. You know, the one with the perfect lighting, modern-display furniture and big glass windows that often showcase a clever merchandise arrangement.
It’s because we can recognize the in-store experience of Apple. Purposeful UX practitioners have made it instinctual.
As our Executive Creative Director & Managing Director at Designing NorthStudios, Lisa Peacock explains the reasoning for my recognition:
“Well-constructed experience design (backed by well-understood psychology) presents people with things that are recognizable. And it doesn’t even have to be exact. By providing people with familiar visual, auditory, even tactile cues, they are able to tap into associative memory much faster with less cognitive load; decision making becomes instinctual and follows a pattern of flow, and recognizable experiences provide a sense of calm and enjoyment — the pinnacle of user experience.”
The user experience (UX) associated with these retail locations is engaging, friendly and interactive. You don’t forget it, even if you only visit a couple of times. Plus it transcends into Apple products; once you use an iPhone or iMac you recognize the experience across device interfaces (UI), and after visiting their store once you quickly learn where you need to be to find the assistance or information you need.
The process is also repeatable and usually very satisfying. This is the foundation for Apple’s continued success with brick-and-mortar, and with the success of their brand in general. It’s the driver for continued innovation in a discipline (retail) that hasn’t been kind to most large companies. From the digital-device solutions to the shopping and technical support, everything Apple designs is reinforced by user feedback. Apple’s senior Vice President of Retail, Angela Ahrendts, says it best in an interview with CBS This Morning,
“Our soul is our people. And our job is to enrich their lives, change the world.”
Wouldn’t you support this mindset?
These are the words you want to hear from a retail leader, especially when they speak to the importance of user-centered design. They aren’t enriching their lives with a product, they are doing so by providing a curated opportunity for people to have life-changing experiences using technology (the product is simply a tool). In other words, the store, “it’s the largest product that Apple produces.” If this statement caught you by surprise, you’re not alone. But isn’t it refreshing to hear that retail is in fact, not dead?
All 500 of Apple’s retail locations will soon offer a redesigned experience (beginning in April) through the implementation of new hardware, further transforming the retail experience (or “Town Square” as Apple calls it) to embrace community gathering, education, and engagement.
Lined with trees, The Genius Bar matures to The Genius Grove (in a few locations) and the expertise of its support offering evolves as well: staffers called “Creative Pros” will specialize in music and photography to educate and assist, and even more importantly, further develop the bond that Apple has formed with its loyal community. This is the face of a “new retail,” one that is determined to connect people rather than sell products. This is “Today at Apple.”
This is the paradigm shift we will all come to embrace as the brands we already love, continue to learn more about us and the lives we ‘want’ to live. The way I see it, if brands such as Apple successfully create the ideal store environment, the term ‘shopping’ will no longer be a worthy descriptor of the dynamic relationship between person and store.
The Goop Lab
From the sound of it, it might not be what you expect. But what if the “new retail” had very little resemblance of the old version. What if transparency of a seller’s intentions wasn’t an issue because the customer was in complete control of how they record their experience?
Goop, Gwyneth Paltrow’s lifestyle brand, is rewriting the script for how a retail store should look, feel and function, and the latest rendition involves a journey into brick and mortar as an experience (and mindset), not just a location — hey… I’ve heard this before. But don’t for a second think GP is doing things the old fashioned way. If anyone has a modern mindset for what the word retail means, it’s GP and her team of design thinkers.
Titled Goop Lab, this space is less of a store and more of a state of mind. Designed by the creative visionaries (Standefer and Alesch ) who also crafted her personal residences, Goop Lab is an extension of GP’s life (including her childhood) and all of the experiences that have made it so memorable. In other words, the physical location is an exploratory experience of what home should feel like. Goop Lab is a narrative of the brand, and it was created to be a permanent location for people to bask in this story and share the vision.
Situated in Los Angeles’s Brentwood Country Mart (a dreamy neighborhood for many Hollywood stars), Goop Lab includes a fully functioning kitchen, greenhouse, porch, and living room, allowing visitors to feel at home. Their dream home.
This unique experience is also interactive in a way that will remain with visitors long after they leave and return back to their own homes. It’s also educational by design and offers hands-on learning from the kitchen to the garden and beauty room. Rather than design a store, GP and her team crafted journeys, and ultimately these journeys were conceptualized into a user experience. This is the saving grace for retail as we know it.
As Standefer says most eloquently, “This idea that retail is dead . . . it’s nowhere near it. But it’s about doing it in a way that’s really soulful, and thoughtful and truthful.”
Nike and Coach 2.0
If what we are hearing is true, size doesn’t matter for the future of retail.
As the physical and digital worlds converge in a ceremonial “joining of hands” for what we hope is a lifelong honeymoon, many upscale retail brands are scaling down rather than beefing up the UX associated with their store experience. And it’s quite possibly the answer that humans need to once again make lasting memories with the products about which they are passionate.
Rather than scaling back the number of stores, these innovative brands are opening new doors and embracing a mindset of quality over quantity. But don’t let size fool you, these smaller environments are bespoke in nature and educational by design. The following brands are both physically and psychologically designing a future where UX design and retail strategy are partners in innovation.
The New Nike
With an already impressive digital and physical store presence, Nike is turning to the people who know them best (their customers) to design a new store experience. Certain flagship locations, like the one recently opened in SoHo, are encouraging people to lead their own experiences with a much more personal setting.
With more resemblance to a training center than a store, these locations put visitors in the driver seat. Whatever the sport may be, Nike has outfitted these locations with loads of software and interactive technology, offering animmersive learning environment. Their adjustable basketball hoops and virtual courts provide a user experience that’s truly unforgettable and undoubtedly fun. And there’s a “kicker,” the digital experience doesn’t end with the virtual touch points; guests can order their gear on-the-spot and have it shipped to their homes with the confidence that it will fit and perform as expected.
Sh. Can you hear that?
That’s the sound of retail professionals around the globe clapping for a (what could be) permanent decrease in online-return rates. Also, and it’s a big also, guests can save data collected from their Nike+ App and use it later for purchasing gear online; it’s the ultimate user experience. There’s no pressure! And yet, the entire experience is still very simple: guests participate in a clinic, workout and purchase, all wrapped up in one engaging package. Oh yeah, that’s what really good UX looks like.
A Design-it-Yourself Experience
Unlike other brands that are speeding forward with technology, Coach is welcoming guests to their New York flagship store to slow down and enjoy the moment through learning and interaction. Made to order isn’t a new term for the retail industry, but it is one that breaths new life into the store experience. For this iconic handbag brand, it’s being reinvented as Coach Create: a design-it-yourself experience.
Coach’s newest flagship store embraces the values associated with craftsmanship and learning. Not only can guests watch artisans physically make new bags, but they can do so after ordering the exact design that they like best. From this offering, we can again learn how good UX puts the customer in charge of the solution-forming process. As guests choose their dream bag, craftsmen consult and build the item piece by piece for onlookers to watch. In doing so they form a bond and naturally learn about the goods they are purchasing (or planning to purchase). Although it doesn’t get much more authentic than this, Coach is actually strengthening their digital personalization program as well. It’s yet another testament to UX design and a bright future in retailing.
The Retail Experience Then Versus Now
The companies we’ve highlighted are investing in a ‘new’ brick and mortar concept. And although their physical stores will be smaller in size, the experiences associated with them are larger than life. They are transforming the stigma people have regarding traditional retailers (the ones who have focused on product and sales formulas for so long have fallen behind, their values no longer aligned with the modern human. Although criticism is easy to give, we understand change isn’t always easy; it takes time. So as new leaders emerge, others will follow.
There is a new and emerging importance for values such as enrichment, education, community, and purpose. Legacy retailers must design a reason for people to visit them, and they must do it with greater detail. A new shipment of merchandise, end of season sale, or sporadic discounts on select goods that may or may not be in stock when a person arrives is no longer a measurement for satisfaction. People want clean, design-oriented stores, friendly and engaging staff (REI and Nordstrom), targeted, well balanced product selection and most important, an environment that puts the visitor in the driver’s seat, guiding them through their journey; a mapped out experience for every step. This may sound complex but it really isn’t.
We design this online experience every single day. With the right investment in technology, even legacy retailers can change in a big way and design their own path forward. For the sake of discussion, let’s place Best Buy in the hot seat. Their stores used to be synonymous with immersive experiences and highly passionate employees. Now, you’re more likely to find generic accessories rather than devices themselves, and oh yeah, how about you come back for a Geek Squad service plan when you eventually find what you’re looking for.
With the continuous surge from Amazon on the digital front (their purchase of Whole Foods, their introduction of Amazon lockers), and encroachment from off-price retailers who specifically target the merchandise mix of legacy retailers, every current and new retail store must serve a purpose. Or better yet: create a new one. As we see it, that purpose must be to provide a new and rewarding experience, one that will require the skills of UX designers and knowledge from interaction design (IxD) to get right. An active example, PUMA city is a ‘mobile’ store that encourages visitors to hang out enjoy the scenery and show off their new kicks.
UX design and retail strategy are “getting together” for good. And we will all benefit from it. Our lives enriched, our experiences enhanced and our time-well spent. Said eloquently by Rachel Shechtman, founder of Story, “If time is the ultimate luxury and people want a higher return on investment of their time, you need to give them a reason to be in a physical space.”
The first steps will be simple — discover what people need and design new solutions to exceed them. And for once, the product doesn’t need to be the center of attention. Instead, the people using the product get to drive their own experiences seamlessly across a digital and physical landscape. So the next time someone asks you if retail is dead, you can look them in the eye and provide them the ‘no’ they are looking for.