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Design | 02-Jan-2015

Six major trends, and the challenges they pose for the profession (which AIGA will take on as its challenges), emerged from our research. These trends define design’s role in a much broader, strategic context than its roots: the making of things and beautiful things. Although that remains an important contribution, they will be a manifestation of a solution that may involve many different forms, including intangibles such as strategy and experiences. Among designers and educators, there has been an enthusiastic response to taking on these trends, although there is also anxiety about whether designers are adequately prepared to take on the broader context of the roles these trends imply for them. They were, in the order of importance as identified by designers:

Wide and deep: meta-disciplinary study and practice
Designers must be able to draw on experience and knowledge from a broad range of disciplines, including the social sciences and humanities, in order to solve problems in a global, competitive market of products and ideas.
As the contexts in which communication occurs become more diverse, designers need to experience meta-disciplinary study as well as training deeply in specific disciplines. They must understand the social sciences and humanities in order to understand the content they are asked to communicate and they must understand how to work collaboratively with other knowledge and practice specialists.
Begin with the facts, then handle the details.
Next you’ll want to separate out the essentials that you want everyone to understand from the details and supporting facts that will bolster your argument. These secondary elements are then slotted in as modular on-demand details or side routes that your audience can explore on an individual level. For example, someone viewing a story about demographics may want to dig deeper into the data about their hometown before moving on to the conclusion of the story. These, microinteractions are important because they that will allow users to freely navigate and dig deeper without feeling like they’re missing the key points of the story.
Expanded scope: scale and complexity of design problems
Designers must address scale and complexity at the systems level, even when designing individual components, and meet the growing need for anticipation of problem and solution rather than solving known problems.
Design problems are nested within increasingly complex social, technological and economic systems and address people who vary in their cognitive, physical and cultural behaviors and experiences. The role of the designer is to manage this complexity, to construct clear messages that reveal to people the diverse relationships that make up information contexts and to deliver sustainable communication products and practices to clients.
Targeted messages: a narrow definition of audiences
Messaging will shift from mass communication to more narrow definitions of audiences (special interest design), requiring designers to understand both differences and likenesses in audiences and the growing need for reconciliation of tension between globalization and cultural identity.
The most effective means of communicating has shifted from broad messages for large audiences to narrowly targeted messages for specific audiences. This is the result of both media capabilities (in terms of narrow-casting and mass customization of messages) and also global dynamics. This trend demands a better understanding of a variety of cultures, the value of ethnographic research, a sensitivity toward cultural perspectives, and empathy.
Break through: an attention economy
Attention is the scarce resource in the information age, and the attention economy involves communication design, information design, experience design and service design. The trend toward an “attention economy” encourages discussion of what is currently driving clients’ conception of form, the attraction of business to design and the problems of designing for a market that values the short term “grab”.
Sharing experiences: a co-creation model
Designers must change their idea of customers/users to co-creators (mass customization) to coincide with the rise in transparency of personal and professional lives (social networking, blogging, etc.). This trend focuses on user-centered issues through a filter that identifies appropriate methods for understanding people (for example, the current movement toward ethnographic research, rather than focus groups). It brings communication design closer to the work of product designers (who really have the attention of business) and the emerging area of service design. Social advocacy issues both emerge from this phenomenon and are empowered by it.
Responsible outcomes: focusing on sustainability
Designers must recognize that the pursuit of excellence involves focusing clearly on human-centered design in an era of increasingly limited resources, in which appropriateness is defined by careful and necessary use of resources, simplicity, avoidance of the extraneous and sensitivity to human conditions. Popular, political and business forces are all coming to grips with the challenges of working in a world of limited resources. Designers, as those who use creativity to defeat habit in the solutions they propose, must assume a leadership role in proposing responsible uses of resources. This involves both the traditional concept of sustainability and also an understanding of appropriate technology and resources for the uses proposed. Responsible outcomes embody ethical issues, social need, global imperatives and the unique contribution of design thinking.
Build the responsive framework.
Now it’s time to create a responsive framework that lets your audience determine how the story is told. Simple features such as breadcrumbs and smart user-driven navigation are essential to help guide the user. Interactive infographics, charts, maps, and other data driven or detail components can be particularly compelling when the viewer wants a deeper dive. And while the particular technology or medium you use is secondary to what you’re trying to communicate, each has its own pros and cons. On one end there are web-based interactive options as seen in The New York Times Interactive Features,Bloomberg Visual Data and various web-based apps that offer unlimited freedom in functionality, interactivity and data integration. However, they require particular expertise to create and may require a live internet connection to view.
On the other end are more traditional options such as interactive PowerPoint, Prezi, and Google Slides that are more restrictive but are also more accessible to the lay person. The technology you choose depends on your audience and resources, but remember that there are a lot of different ways to tell your story.
Whichever path you choose, intelligent application of responsive storytelling will keep users engaged longer and create a valuable experience that tells a more effective narrative, reinforces your credibility, and instills trust in you, your message and your brand.

Business | 16-Jan-2015

In 2015, you have an opportunity to take some risks, change how you market and sell, as well as define your niche in your market. Here are my predictions for ideas and trends that will shape sales and business development for top performing companies in 2015.

The Role of Salespeople Will Evolve
Savvy customers don’t value old-school, pressure-based, manipulative sales methods. In fact, many executives say they’ll decide to not select a vendor because of a negative sales experience. Customers value subject matter experts (as I highlighted for 2014 Trends). As customers increasingly value subject-matter experts, salespeople need refined consultative skills. Top companies will invest prudently in teaching those individuals how to identify and cultivate opportunities that are a great fit for your business – not old-school selling tactics. They’ll discover how customers make buying decisions and what you can do to add the most value for your customers. This will lead to better alignment between buyers and sellers and will put both parties on the same side of the table.
Tightly Integrated Sales & Marketing
According to The Digital Evolution in B2B Marketing research by CEB and Google GOOGL -0.87%, the average customer is more than half-way through the purchase process (70% on the high end) before speaking with a vendor. This means that content marketing and sales strategy must be tightly integrated. According to SiriusDecisions, B2B organizations with tightly aligned marketing and sales achieved 24% faster revenue growth and 27% faster profit growth over a three-year period. Here’s an interesting read on it.
Increases in Weekly Business Role Play
In the past, companies would have an expert show up and hope for results. That type of one-and-done training (sales or otherwise) does not provide a lasting result. In 2015, the top performing companies know that weekly practice reinforces concepts and allows your team to execute under pressure, in the moment. In 2015, look for tools to facilitate reinforcement economically while monitoring results for management.
Divergent Customers – Price vs. Value
There are two competing initiatives in the market for 2015. The first one is increased pricing pressure for anything that appears to be a commodity. I’m probably not the only person who has scanned a bar code in a big box store to have Google show me if there is a better price elsewhere. For those selling a perceived commodity, you’ll see more and more pricing pressure eat into your margins. This means you have to do one of two things: 1) Figure out a way to deliver a commodity more efficiently than others in your market; or 2) Develop a strategy to ensure that what you sell is not seen as a commodity. Nearly every business can differentiate itself. The shame is how many unique businesses make mistakes to turn their unique offering into a commodity. Top companies in 2015 will know if they compete on value or price, and avoid the opportunities that are not a fit.
Customers Will Pay A Premium For Verified Results
For years, buyer’s worked to convince sellers that price was all that mattered. After years of disappointment from the low bidder, savvy buyers realize that results matter. Let’s face it, if you paid half price but didn’t get what you needed, it probably wasn’t a good deal. In 2015, top performing sellers will develop skills to demonstrate value and earn higher margins. Be thorough – top performing buyers will ensure they are getting superior value per invested dollar in a solution… not just lip service.
Simplicity and Portability Will Drive CRM
Customers expect each person in your organization to know their business. Sales and marketing organizations historically added so much to CRM systems that reps spent more time entering data than using it. Top performing companies will strive for a balance between data collection and ease of use. When it comes to CRM, you are better having a simple and easy platform that masterfully supports mobile devices than to have a complex system that nobody uses. Numerous products have emerged to allow for complex back-end systems with simplified front-end interfaces for reps and for mobile use. Increased mobile adoption improves data quality as highlighted in this study published by CRM technology comparison website Software Advice.
New Marketing Strategies To Repel The Wrong Clients
Precise strategies will prevail compared to shotgun approaches. In 2015, with improved alignment between sales and marketing, top performing companies will no longer waste time and resources trying to drive “views” or “clicks.” Instead, in 2015 the top companies will develop plans to attract the best customers. The elite companies will define what Marcus Sheridan calls “anti-personas” to know which customers will likely waste your time. Look for companies to define who is NOT a fit for them, not just who IS a fit. Management will start asking “Why are we speaking with them” more than “Why don’t we speak with them?”
Recruiting With Work/Life Balance
Savvy companies will realize that people matter. Driving them into the ground is not a good long-term strategy. Companies will develop innovative ways to improve employee well-being leading to better retention and happier customers, too. As Shelly Dutton mentioned in her article “Employees are tired of sacrificing so much of their lives for their employers. They want a better way to balance work, family, and a sense of personal purpose. In fact, 70% of workers in the U.S. – and 87% of workers worldwide – are not fully engaged and personally invested in their work. Take a look at LT Business Dynamics, a regional accounting firm. How do they attract and retain the best of the best? “Employees often give up the ability to enrich their personal lives due to work,” said Tim Hawkins, founder of LT Business Dynamics. “We setup our sabbatical program to engage their minds. Traveling is an important part of that. We give them the time and money to make a difference in the world and their lives. They become better people. You hired great people, it makes sense to invest in them to retain them.” In addition to a great environment, they offer a paid three-week sabbatical after every three years of employment.
Content Marketing Trends/impact
According to the latest research from Content Marketing Institute, the majority of B2B firms plan to increase both their content marketing budgets and content volume in 2015. This means that you not only need to create content, but your content has to deliver greater value than others in your space. You need to be comfortable giving away your best stuff. Top performing companies will include links to content in virtually every sales interaction. This only works if you have valuable content in the eyes of your customer.
Interdisciplinary Workshops
Though I do not agree with Marcus Sheridan when he says salespeople are going away, I do think the role of salespeople will evolve. The best companies will recognize that the entire organization can contribute to valuable content, and each team member plays a role in selling. Look for companies to invest in interdisciplinary workshops that bring the entire company together to gain perspective on sales, marketing, and customer experience. No longer can you thrive with silos. The top performing companies are already doing this, whether you know it or not.

Architecture | 12-Feb-2015

When you think about the future, how do you envision the built environment? According to this article, originally appearing on The Huffington Post as The Architecture of the Future is Far More Spectacular than You Could Imagine, the future is closer than we might think – current projects are already answering the imagined needs and desires of the next generation. From a tower with rotating floors to a park with the ability to cleanse raw sewage, check out fourteen projects believed to embody the architecture of tomorrow, after the break. Every great architect is — necessarily — a great poet. He must be a great original interpreter of his time, his day, his age.” Those are the words of one undeniably great architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, whose visions of harmonious design and innovating urban planning amounted to his own brand of organic architecture. We’d argue that Wright wasn’t just an interpreter of his time — he was able to foresee the needs and desires of ages ahead of him. The architect is — necessarily — a visionary capable of seeing into the future. In the spirit of architecture’s fortune telling abilities, we’ve put together a list of our favorite contemporary designs that shed light on the future of our visual world. Behold, 14 designs that show the architecture of tomorrow.