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The Influence of Culture on Design

By:  |  May 16, 2018  | 


In this moment, we are probably less connected than we will be tomorrow, but a lot more connected than yesterday. To clarify: a milestone in the history of human connectivity was recently reached- people with internet access now make up the majority of the world’s population.

This means that anyone can now freely access any type of information, and anybody can see and find the logotypes, digital ads, and websites that we create. But with more than half of the planet online, how do designers make sure that the people who access their work will understand the messaging, even if they are influenced by a different culture?

Graphic design around the world has similarities. Colors, text, images, and symbols are usually included and commonly used by designers worldwide. However, an American designer would not understand a design the same way a Middle Eastern or Japanese designer would.

So how does one’s perspective of a specific culture influence design, and how we can make sure that we express the right message within the design we’ve created? For instance, almost every human-being on the planet sees colors the same way, but culturally-specific markers can affect symbolism in colors, and change the context of the message and brand perception.

Cultural influence can be seen during important events like weddings or funerals: in swathes of Asia, dark red symbolizes prosperity and is commonly used in marriage ceremonies, whereas white is used during funerals and mourning. Religious culture can also influence how color is categorized. For example, in Judaism, blue and white symbolize heaven and earth. Middle Eastern countries also consider the color blue to be a protective color, therefore front doors are often blue to ward off evil spirits. In Hinduism, blue or dark blue is linked to the powerful good divinity Krishna. 

A working example of how context changes connotation can be seen in Europe and the U.S., where green often symbolizes health and implies sustainability. Pharmacies and medical services in Europe are marked by a green cross, a symbol that in the U.S., is more likely to mark the location of a cannabis dispensary. Instead, red crosses are used for medical institutions. Red and green in particular tend to have some cross over; for example, McDonald’s in Europe use green as the primary accent color to imply a connection to healthiness, rather than the red it has remained in the U.S.

Storytelling can also be strongly affected but local context, with or without typesetting. Based upon local linguistic cues, a particular audience might be more inclined to read from top to bottom, right to left, rather than left to right, affecting the considerations that must be observed during the design process. The shape of linguistic units, whether using the Western alphabet or say, Hangeul, can also drastically affect the ways in which text is set or leveraged in design, both to add symbolic significance, and as a geometric shape.

In such a setting, conveying messages through symmetrical, neutral iconography may seem like a good option, however, even the body language cues and symbols that one takes for granted may mean something completely different across the globe. For example, in the U.S., pinching the thumb and index finger together in a circular shape with the other three fingers extended commonly signals “O.K.”, but in Japan, that same circular shape stands for “Money”, the shape of a coin.

There are large implications to be drawn: for one, designs are not universally understood the same way, and detailed ethnographic and market research into a target audience may be ideal to draw an accurate bead of what sort of design approach would best suit local demographics. Symbols and visual interpretation are also deeply intertwined with historical and sociocultural currents, including matters that may require more subtle handling. However, returning to the fact that the majority people now have access to the Internet brings up the question of how globalized design currently is, and what that means in terms of a possible standardization, or international standard of design, especially with design history and all sorts of design styles now more accessible and easily circulated than ever. Culture impacts design, but design also affects the perception and development of culture.

Sources:
The Guardian
We Are Social
Nicte Creative Design
Muzli
Design Nation

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Why Visuals Strategy is Social Media Strategy

By:  |  April 4, 2018  | 


These incredible stats show that we are completely surrounded by information on social media. We can therefore guess that this explains why the average customer’s attention span went down from 12 seconds in 2000, to only 8 seconds in 2017, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. That is officially less than the attention span of a goldfish (9 seconds).

Knowing this fact, half of you probably left this blog post already. But let’s keep going.

Why is it so important to have visual content when posting on social media?

First of all,  40% of nerve fibers to the brain are connected to the retina, and it takes us only 0.25 seconds to process visual content, compared to the time it takes for the brain to process text-based or verbal information.

But isn’t text actually visual content? Not exactly – text is like a lot of little images, that’s why it is faster for our brain to process “real” visuals like images or videos than text.

Some sources even suggest that visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text! Besides, eye-tracking studies show internet readers pay close attention to information-carrying images. In fact, when the images are relevant, readers spend more time looking at the images than they do reading text on the page.

Not convinced? Well, I guess you didn’t even see the word “cat” added in the pizza recipe above. This is simply because your brain focused only on the image since it is easier and faster to process, and barely on the text.

Since visuals are easier to process for the brain and we allocate only a few seconds for each piece of information, it is logical to use systematically visual content when posting on social media.

The facts below show why including visual content in your social media strategy is essential:

  • Facebook posts with images see 2.3x more engagement than those without images
  • Tweets with images receive 150% more retweets than tweet without images
  • People remember only 10% of information heard 3 days ago, but retain 65% of the same information when it is paired with a relevant image
  • 4x as many consumers prefer to watch a video about a product than to read about it

Bottom line, the best practice when posting on social media is to publish visual content as much as possible instead of text only, as long as the visual is of course relevant.

Ideally, custom images or videos should be created for each post. For example, infographics are a great way to create custom content. Infographics are “liked” and shared on social media 3X more than other any other type of content! Utilizing custom created visual content is a great way to present any kind of information. It is also a good solution to bypass the word count limits for Facebook Ads or Twitter.

Sources:
Hubspot
SproutSocial
EyeQ
Slate

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The Digital Acceleration of Design

By:  |  February 21, 2018  | 


Marketers are intimately aware that their audience is increasingly of a visual, on-demand nature. Video, mobile, and experiential marketing are all on the rise, for many of the same reasons – the emergence of social media, personal live broadcast platforms, video streaming, and mobile games mean that entertainment is more accessible and available than ever before. As companies compete to increase their audience and create lucrative side ventures, so have the ad platforms that monetize them become more aggressive.

The end result is that the average person is saturated in all sorts of visual noise throughout their day, and as a consumer, trained to digest, filter, and discard visual information quickly. This has placed a premium on distinct brand and visual identity. The more coherent and creative an identity is, the more a company will stand out. But post-Instagram, post-web, everyone is a designer. A host of filters, apps, and web-to-code applications make it easy for anyone to show off well-balanced photos, polished typography, and simple but appealing websites.

For designers, the pressure is on. The prominence of visuals in the ever-accelerating web and mobile landscapes mean that designers must do more to stand out, and make a name for themselves. It means that as their work becomes industry necessity, it is more easily taken for granted, more easily re-posted and ripped off, and in the true nature of social media, becomes more susceptible to the disproportional promotion of influencers or celebrities. The deluge of start-ups and tech companies have also changed design as an industry, placing an increasing demand on designers for hybridity in both design and development. The rise of mobile, responsive design has feted simpler, minimally colored logomarks and wordmarks that display well on screens.

But in contrast – print has become even more coveted and prized, with almost a luxe reputation, and designers delight in playing between the perceived tensions between their web presences, the interactivity of video or motion graphics, and their analog, real life experiences in their day-to-day. Social media means that designers can reach a larger audience and fuel their own work opportunities, and also have free network of peers and mentors available to them, right at their fingertips. And now, the audience can talk back: designers can hear feedback about their work and campaigns directly from the people it was intended for.

The influx of digital experiences and new emphasis on visuals highlights the practical tensions and contradictions in design, and make it clear that design is ubiquitous. Designers commanding a large virtual audience will are asked for merch or to speaking engagements, and typography giants are featured in published tomes produced by the likes of Gestalten and Phaidon, anchoring otherwise digital productions in physical form. Seamless brand systems require that the sensationalism of their visuals not supersede or be mutually exclusive from their core concepts and messaging, so that customers can engage and interact with the brand. The tech industry’s need for convenience and simplification produces branding that lies on two ends of the spectrum: sophisticated, with hypercondensed symbolism, or completely staid, using the color scheme, font, and iconography of ten other start-up brands before it.

The digital and the analog are interdependent, and visuals lose potency when created devoid of meaning and symbolism. Design styles and aesthetic rely upon a chain of associations between perceived value, presentation, color, and texture, to evoke a specific reaction based upon the cultural and social context of the intended audience. In that sense, even as the potential of 3D, motion, and interactive design is explored, at its core design remains tied to the visceral, individual experience.

 

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Getting the Most From Your Agency Inquiries

By:  |  January 18, 2018  | 


Not all agencies are created equal, just as all clients have different needs, and the best fit comes about when an agency and their culture fits the need of their client. But how does a client know what they need, and by extension, how an agency can help them? Oftentimes, considering a couple questions before contacting agencies can be a big help in streamlining goals, and narrowing down on the scope of services truly needed.

1) What are my end goals in seeking a marketing agency?

The nuances and distinctions between different types of agencies present in the marketing and advertising landscape may not be immediately clear, but can be critical in setting up a fruitful agency search. If strong branding and a cohesive company look & feel are essential parts of the planned marketing strategy, agencies that have strong creative departments and branding portfolios should be considered, alongside creative agencies that specialize exclusively on branding work. If an extensive advertising sweep is being considered, including online display ads, extensive out-of-home space, and full-page print ads, rather than a marketing agency, a media buying agency may be a better target. For an all-rounder strategy that includes marketing, PR, creative work, and digital marketing, integrated marketing agencies like Spritz can’t be beat in the range of services offered under a single roof. Each agency type has its own advantages.

2) Who do I want to be working with?

It is not uncommon for a potential client to be concerned about their eventual point of contact. Clients want to know that the work being done for them is considered important and that they are getting their money’s worth. In many ways, these considerations are addressed by a question of agency size. Larger agencies may have years’ and decades’ worth of relationships behind them, be able to handle larger-scale campaigns and rollouts, and have larger budgets, but smaller, boutique agencies have less bureaucracy and red tape, have close relationships with local communities, and are much more nimble and quick to react to sudden, unexpected crises.

3) What is my budget, and how does that compare to standard market pricing?

Many agencies, especially those that offer a wide variety of services, will tailor and match their pricing to their clients’ scope of services. That said, agencies still need to be paid a fair price for their work, and due to their custom approach, may not offer pricing structures that can be easily estimated. Marketing also often involves costs that may have not been fully considered – print or digital advertising costs, printing costs, sponsorship and activation costs, etc. When considering cost as part of the equation in an agency search, it is often easier and faster for clients to do a little research to discover what typical pricing might look like, assess what their budget might be, and prioritize the marketing services they need most if a little penny pinching is needed.

Finding the right agency can make or break a client’s marketing strategy. Reviewing an agency’s case studies, seeking third-party rating sites, or examining awards and accolades are all additional ways to gauge an agency’s efficacy, culture, and approach. Research and prepare prior to an agency search to get the most, and the best out of inquiries and eventual RFPs.

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Marketing for Holidays

By:  |  December 4, 2017  | 


The last quarter of the calendar year is a hectic, yet very profitable time for businesses. Marketing efforts are amplified to align with the holiday season. And while this is a very exciting time, it can also be difficult to create a campaign that cuts through the noise. Here’s a quick guide for beginning marketers on creating a holiday campaign that’s cause for celebration!

  1. Get in the spirit!

    Brands benefit from aligning their messaging and visual identity with the holiday and connecting with their audience. The holidays present a great opportunity to communicate brand values with a custom hashtag. Trouble coming up with a hashtag? Companies can repurpose popular holiday sayings and integrate into their company name or tagline. And if nothing meshes, make the hashtag an earnest, personal message to your  target audience. Spritz Tip: Update your logo with holiday colors (orange & black for Halloween, red & green for Christmas, red, white, and blue for 4th of July, etc). This can be in turn used in all digital & print marketing materials.

  2. Check your calendars – check them twice.

    Brands should plan out all holiday efforts at least 2-3 months in advance. This provides ample time to order any promotional items, make reservations, and, most importantly, avoid the headache of congested & over-priced holiday deliveries.Holiday gifting campaigns & loyalty rewards programs are great ways to incentivize consumers and acknowledge affiliate partners. Time is needed to successfully execute these initiatives during a stressful holiday period. Your customers are frantically looking for last-minute purchases to make their holiday festivities complete, and it’s a good time to step in and offer a solution. Spritz Tip: Boost product promotions and giveaways 2 weeks in advance of the holiday via boosted Facebook posts.

  3. Guide your customers.

    An easy way to reach your audience during this time is to give them a written guide on how to “survive” a certain holiday. Everyone looks for tips to make holidays and events run smoothly, so it’s great to give your brand’s personal insight on how to make it an unforgettable occasion.By packaging holiday tips with a product or service, brands subtly integrate their services with holiday customs and practices. For example, to celebrate Halloween, a Spritz restaurant client coordinated a holiday campaign through e-blasts and social media inviting customers to wear a costume to their establishment in exchange for a free item. Spritz Tip: Share all your tips through a social media series with your hashtag. Another option is compiling a blog (like this one!)

Holidays are stressful, but are great opportunities to make memorable experiences for many customers. Brands can cut through the holiday clutter with the proper alignment & planning.

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