design

Where Winners Spend their 2%

I don’t know if you remember but for close to a decade, starting around the mid-2000s, people couldn’t shut up about Steve Jobs. This seemed to coincide with the release of the iPhone, YouTube, and social media, which makes sense.

All of the content seemed to herald Jobs as Tech-Jesus. The iPod was the second coming of the WalkMan, but better, and iTunes seemed to have solved the music industry crisis brought on by Napster and P2P sharing sites. Truly, Steve was a god among men. I was unmoved by all of it.

Maybe it was because of where my head was at the time but it all seemed a little fan-boyish to get so wrapped up in a dude that owned one outfit. And they were making a cell phone? Without a keyboard? Way to waste a billion dollars, my dude.

Except it was everything. But I never appreciated why before I saw this video.

My biggest takeaway was Steve discussing how they looked at Information Technology and how companies were obtaining it. All of them spent around 2% on IT, but they differed in where the bulk of those purchases went. Not-so-successful companies spent it on management productivity. Successful companies spent on operational productivity.

What does that mean?

It means that regular joes were focused largely on incremental improvements to how they already did things. A better email client, server, PCs, etc… Successful companies were focused on applications that could do repeatable and automatable things for them. The second requires more effort than buying something off the shelf. Applications had to be made and coded at a time when that wasn’t an easy thing to do. Steve focused on applications when the vast majority of people had never heard of the term.

The iPhone dominated with the advent of apps. Your phone could do things now. Your phone could execute tasks that tangibly made your life better. For at least three years, you couldn’t go a month without someone telling you about the next killer app you needed to download. What could the Blackberry do? Bang out long-winded emails with ease? That was about it.

This especially resonated with me as that’s where our focus is; automate and create custom functions that add continuous value. In our business, competitive advantage looks like high renewal rates and lower operating costs, and the best way to get there is with great systems.

RIP, Steve. At least one of your movies was really good.

Radioactive Cats, Communication, and What We Routinely Get Wrong.

We’ve been talking to people from around the country, in various industries, and one result has been remarkable – we barely understand each other. We’re using the same words but mean different things.

We expect different common words and pronunciations based on region. But what about a benign word like “invoice” – something you wouldn’t think be up to interpretation?

On more than one occasion we’ve had a whole meeting only to realize we had two different conversations. We realized at the end we were speaking past each other and needed to define common terms. All parties thought it was a successful conversation up until the point something cracked and we realized we hadn’t understood each other at all.

Most communication is pushed out in our “personal” dialect; the words and phrases we intrinsically understand. Because those words are the same as someone else’s words we assume they mean the same thing we mean. That makes sense; we interact with the world via the same tools we use to understand it. However, it’s worth remembering the words of this old dude who wrote Pygmalion:

I thought about this when reviewing a notice I came across recently; it went something like this:

DO WHAT WE SAY! We’re very serious.

Consequences that you’ll face if we don’t get the thing we told you to give to us the way we want it.

Something vaguely legal sounding. Blah blah blah. Repeating something else from another part of the note.

More things about stuff you don’t care about. DANGER!

Blah blah blah without proper grammar or punctuation. Very outdated process for collecting the thing and information – you can only do the thing this way. Another not really related piece of information that’s super easy to misinterpret. This probably shouldn’t be in this notice at all and if it is, definitely shouldn’t be in this section since it’s divorced from the first two sentences above and is likely to be overlooked but we’ll say it was there and your fault for not having absorbed it.

Mess around and find out. We WILL cut you.

Yours sincerely,

Not a human being

This is normal and it comes from an honest place. The person that wrote this desperately wants you to know all of it. They’re throwing their best pitches at you; all the classics. Bold. ALL CAPS. Underlined italics. Different fonts. Highlighter. Different font color. Changeups with various combinations of the above. It’s a technicolor whirlwind of sound and fury that fails to achieve its purpose.

It doesn’t fail for a lack of effort but from a lack of proper consideration for the reader and for the purpose of the communication. It succeeds in checking a box that says “send notice that says X.” But it doesn’t communicate. More on that in a moment.

It reminded me of the Yucca Mountain problem. How do we store nuclear waste for 10,000 years and effectively warn future humans to stay away? Think about it for a minute.

Languages are constantly evolving and changing. Symbols we use to signify danger may not be interpreted the same way in 500 years. A circle with a line through it doesn’t have any intrinsic meaning to a human who has never encountered it.

Weathering and other conditions can erase or erode warnings left in hundreds of years, let alone ten millennia. Even warnings of danger and mystical curses could be ignored like they were when we cracked open the burial tombs in Egypt in less than half that time. Artists and scientists have come up with some cool ideas but you can see where most of these could easily fail.

Maybe something uninviting? I’m already curious.

My second favorite suggestion had nothing to do with the nuclear waste tomb. It looked instead to what has remained a constant in the human race for all of recorded civilization; our love of cats. Seriously. The idea is to engineer cats to change colors when exposed to radiation and then spread the customs and knowledge that if a cat changes colors it’s time to leave the area. They’re called Raycats and I’m totally into it. It’s not the easiest solution but it does have the benefit of being totally badass and I don’t even like cats.

The prevailing thinking seems to be the kitchen-sink approach; put up signs in stone in every known language, creating the most uninviting surroundings imaginable, and hope to god that’s enough to dissuade future people from letting their curiosity get the best of them. Good luck.

This is the sign they chose.

My favorite idea is born out of reframing the problem.

Stated problem: How do we communicate to future people that this area is home to deadly stuff? That’s a tough one.

Restated problem: How do we keep people from messing with this area for 10k years?

The answer to the second problem is to do nothing. You’ve already placed it in the middle of an actual desert and buried it under thousands of feet of rock and lead. Without any marker or indication of the tremendous effort put into the place, why would anyone bother to excavate? Erase it from existence and let time be your friend. But I digress…

When we want to communicate something the onus falls on us to ensure we’re thinking of how our message might be received. Will it be understood the way we mean it? Most messages don’t have the ability to transmit more than a couple things in a meaningful way so use your bandwidth wisely.

Who is this for?
What do we want them to know or do?
What’s the easiest, way to communicate that?
Is this message urgent, important, or some combination of the two?
Could our message be easily ignored, misunderstood, or confused?
Should this be two separate messages? More?
What’s the most effective method to transmit the message?
Are we using terms and language our user understands?
Did this communication simply check a box or did it do its honest best to transmit information from us to them?

Thanks for reading. On your way out, exit through the gift shop:

All your room are belong to us

Another year and another order of “Renew your lease now” banners and bandit signs. Ah, student housing – you have few predictable moments, but this is certainly one of them. Last year we wanted to mix it up and do something that would catch an eye because face it, no one is reading your plain text “Renew and save!” signs. They’re not, so stop lying to yourself.

So, we came up with these. I really enjoy them and was proud of the fact they had no contact info on them -they weren’t supposed to. You know where you live and you know where to go if you want to renew. The signs beg you to read them all as you’re not exactly sure what’s going on. Plus, everyone loves memes – that’s why they’re memes.

Aaannndd

This one still sits in my office.

This one still sits in my office.

IMG_2824 IMG_2826 IMG_2821 IMG_2823

I love it. Still cracks me up a little every time.

I love it. Still cracks me up a little every time.

Deadlines are deadlines! Yeah....

Deadlines are deadlines! Yeah….

You know that feeling.

You know that feeling.

Personality trumps Plain, Every Time

Our new in-house, Marketing-Strike-Force-of-Awesomeness have been laying siege to the plain vanilla world of the tired & trite student housing adverts of old. Ben & Jerry themselves have trembled under the audacious show of flavor perpetrated by these skilled ninja-confectioners-of-imagination.

Calling themselves the Triple Threat, these three complimentary legs of the tripod are the razor’s edge of our marketing outreach to our; 2500+ Residents, future clients, and the rest of the Orlando market.

So, seeing as how they go into the field plain-clothes style for the bulk of their media making, we decided they’d benefit from press passes – as that’s what they are in so many ways. Lanyards made sense since they could be easily slipped on, so I told them to go ahead and whip up something for themselves.

I wasn’t disappointed…

Fabreesh

Fabricio Torres makes some of the most amazingly shot and edited videos you’ve seen, and he does it with blazing speed. We can conceive, shoot, edit and upload timely content in a matter of a couple of days where before it would have taken weeks.

Chanty

Chantell Cruz took these photos and a ton of amazing shots for our Resident events and advertisements. She’s a true artist behind the lens and we couldn’t be more impressed with her ability to capture it all, from the sublime to the stolen moment.

Danaenae

Danae McDermott designed these passes and all of our graphics for flyers, ads, Resident announcements, and anything else we may put out. She’s insanely talented with Adobe Suites and can crank out a professional design in no time.

I was beyond blown away by the quality and the personal expression they put into these passes. They’re conversation starters for sure and show that we don’t take ourselves too seriously. The rest of the team liked them so much they’ve been spoiling for their own. Ultimately, I can’t say no.

Special thanks to our very own Gregory Eisenberg for finding such a remarkable team, bringing them together, and letting them do what they do best. I couldn’t be prouder or more excited to work with such a stellar cast.