// 5 things we love about slack //

Our team has recently jumped on the Slack bandwagon, and for a good reason. We love how it is helping with our overall productivity as well as communication with the members of our team who aren't in the same zip code. So, to encourage others to try it out too, we've  put together a list of the top 5 things we love about Slack: 

  1. Less emails! Slack provides an additional step in decluttering our already crowded inboxes. Being able to send little things and one-liners without being in an email, has been great for saving time and encouraging more fun conversations as well. 
  2. Organizes conversations: Slack uses channels to distinguish different topics of conversation, these remain public and open to the group, but keep content organized. With opt-in/opt-out features, you can choose to be a part of a discussion or not, and can always go back and reference something if you're feeling left out. Basically the channels help eliminate some of the crazy noise that comes with group messages or long email threads. 
  3. Viewing Files: We are going through a redesign right now so there are many files, photos and links being shared. The ability to upload and share all of those files in one place makes it easier to view and have an immediate discussion about them. The integration with Dropbox and Google Drive also makes this process much easier. And speaking of integration, Slack partners with a variety of services to help boost productivity even further. We <3 collaboration.  
  4. Great for all devices: We love that Slack not only looks, but works just as great going from our desktop to our phones to our tablets. The design is customized for whatever device you are using, making it easy to communicate on the go or at your desk. 
  5. Express yourself: Who doesn't love emoji's and animated gifs? We might overuse them, but we definitely take advantage how they help us truly express ourselves. 

// recruiting users for inspiration & validation //

A key principle of the human-centered design process that we teach and believe in so strongly is the importance of putting your product in front of real users at every stage of the process — from conception to sketch to wireframe to prototype (paper, PDF or tappable) to the result of each development cycle, user feedback can quickly and cheaply test our assumptions and keep us from investing a lot of time, money, and energy into a product no one wants.

Whether you want to talk to users for the purposes of inspiration (before brainstorming and prototyping) or validation (after prototyping), here are some tips for reaching people in your market.

Identify your audience

You will need to identify key segments of your audience and then work to recruit them. Who will you look to as sources of inspiration? College students? Young professionals? Working mothers? Young couples without children? Parents with young children?

Recruiting users

We have a few strategies for recruiting users, including:

  • We use Facebook’s ad tools to target users by age, ZIP, gender, likes and interests, employment status, and more.
  • We contact schools and community groups and ask them to refer us to individuals. We try not to be too on-the-nose about this: For example, if we had access to a journalism class, we’d ask them to refer us to a friend.
  • We partner with or sponsor an event that targets the audience we want to reach.

We point our ad clicks and other referrals to a survey where users can apply to participate, but are not guaranteed to be accepted. (We use SurveyMonkey or Google Forms.) From there, we can hand-pick the best candidates and contact them directly.

We usually incentivize participation with a gift card for $50-$100 presented at the end of the session. (We have participants sign an acknowledgment of receipt for accounting purposes.)

// implementing inspirations //

In our latest prototype, Hidden Gem, we took a different route stylistically based on research and our target audience. This meant I had to stray away from my comfort zone and own design style, but that is also what makes it fun and challenging. 

So, project background: 

Our team was asked to think about the "future of classifieds." Through multiple garage sale interviews, flea market browsing, estate sale observations and surveys, we found that the treasure hunting thrill is what truly drives people to those in-person sales experiences. We also found that there is not a great outlet for those treasure hunters to be able to map out and plan that experience, as well as show-off their best antique or vintage finds. Thus, Hidden Gem was created. Hidden Gem is an online mapping tool & niche treasure showcase, as well as e-commerce platform for those avid treasure hunters. 

From our survey, we found that 70% of the treasure hunters that randomly volunteered for the survey were women, so the design reflects that with a more whimsical and fashion magazine look. Gathering inspiration from sites like http://besottedblog.com or www.etsy.com, and packaging like http://www.thedieline.com/blog/2014/11/12/unelefante-toffee. Because the garage sales evoke such a nostalgia and reminiscing feel, as well as the wonder that comes from where these items have been, or what's there story... it seemed important to incorporate that overall feeling into the work as well. That's why a collage-like look is featured on the homepage through cutout items, just like kids do by cutting out pictures from magazines and pasting with elmer's glue to make that bigger picture. We felt it was really important for that nostalgic feeling to be included in the designs to reflect the users desires in going to these sales. 

Here you can see the visual inspirations: 

And here is how those inspirations were implemented into our project: 



// atlanta brief //

This project was the definition of rapid prototyping and fun design. The app was a concept for a news-digest like, mobile news outlet for the Atlanta area. It really tailored to the area through geo-targeted content and a large emphasis on the high commuter rate in the city. This meant features such as traffic, commute time to work, and an audio option all included. 

The app itself featured a modern font, Dosis, bright and vibrant colors to break away from standard news colors, and fewer but more in depth content blocks. 

Take a look at the prototype here: 

// disruptive innovation - our brand //

Before I even began my first day on the job, I knew our brand was the first project I wanted to tackle .

Why? 

  • We had no online presence 
  • We needed to have an outlet to for design tools & innovative thinking 
  • We need to be marketable & practice what we preach 
  • We need to be visible to the rest of CMG (slowly, but surely) 
  • We needed to have consistency in the multiple presentations & other materials we were creating and sending across the company 

So, here is what we created: 

// typeface // 

// colors // 

// iconography // 

// website // 

our_website.jpg

// deck // 

Now, all of the future collateral we create, will be recognizable as the Innovation Team. This can be applied to not only keynote decks, print collateral, but design-thinking toolkits we will create as well.