Through the lens brightly.
Knowledge is power.
Think of us as a hand. Your strategic plan, whether developed by you or by us, is located in the palm (right where the lifeline is.) The fingers represent the services we provide: identity, print, web, photography and video. Depending on the strategic plan, one or more of our services may come into play. If your goal is to build a photo/video library, then you can use us just for those two services. If your plan calls for a full-blown branding project, then all of the services would most likely come into play. Most importantly, when the plan calls for the full range of services, they all work together to form one visually harmonious end product.
Is there a home for conceptual photography in the digital age?
One of the defining characteristics of a conceptual photograph is that it deals with subject matter that is difficult to photograph. For example, the image above illustrates targeted drug technology.
Another challenge is how to illustrate services that are cerebral in nature and therefore difficult to photograph. The four images below represent some of the services of an intellectual property firm and convey that the company for which the images have been created is operating in a cerebral and therefore challenging business environment.
Conceptual imagery requires the reader to stop and think about its meaning. In this respect, the web often functions in the exact opposite way, where the faster one can get a point across the better. As a result, conceptual imagery has yet to find a home on the web. But the internet is a work in progress, so hopefully it will eventually get there?
Building a photo/video library
Occasionally we get called on to help a client build a photo/video library with no connection to an actual branding project. When we start shooting, we like to get client input before getting too far along. One of the benefits of digital photography is that we can show the client our shooting style on the spot. With video, that process is a bit more complicated.
Because our video shooters are also our video editors, they tend to shoot based on how they would edit the final video. However, when we are not likely to be the final editors much of what we shoot might be seen as superfluous video with no purpose, when in fact, a portion of what we shoot is intended for transitions and for other editing purposes that add energy to the final video. So, if we have the time and the project is long enough, we like to show the client a short video to validate our shooting style.
Such was the case with a Vertex project (play video above,) which was made from the first days footage of what was to be several days of shooting at various locations.
Also see the selected still photos below to get a sense for the visual continuity that results when you shoot still photos and video at the same time.
How one of the oldest forms of communication dictates how we think today
There was a time when home page content had to appear “above the fold.” If a user wanted more info, he had to click into the site via a drop down menu. Thus home pages always seemed to have that “squeezed” look, the most obvious sign of which was the banner photo at the top.
But a funny thing happened on the way to smart phones and tablets; “below the fold” became obsolete as hand-held devices and touch screen technology began to take over our consciousness. Scrolling for further information became second nature to the point where it’s not uncommon to see people subconsciously dragging their fingers across their laptops or desktops these days to get things to move.
This is a great shift in usability for both clients and web designers, because it turns a relatively small area into something much bigger and potentially more robust, where each downward scroll can reveal new information.
In addition to our own site, we are beginning to design our clients’ websites to optimize scrolling. (See Pursuit Consulting.)
What do focus groups really tell us? Insight #1.
Focus groups play a necessary role in aiding marketing decisions, but they run the risk of squashing creativity in the process, insofar as they tend to push decisions toward the center. The expression, “democracy breeds mediocrity” applies, i.e. when too many people are asked to arrive at a decision, you can be sure it will be one that reflects such a wide range of views that the mediocre center is the result, which is fine, if your market is in the middle. Think laundry detergents.
But what about a product or service aimed at a much more discerning audience?
A common expression from a focus group participant is, “Well, I liked it, but I didn’t think others would like it,” which misses the point of a focus group. The fact that a person likes something is exactly what a focus group should be about, and not what one of the participants thinks some other person would like. And yet that is the way focus groups often function, i.e. a participant relegates his own opinion believing he is being asked to judge how others may respond. A better way to begin a focus group is to pose the question to the participants, “We want to know what YOU think, not what you think someone else would think.”
Why photos and video “together”?
There was a time when photos were the visual backbone of a branding project, but as internet bandwidth has grown, so has the use of video. Improvements in video production technology have spurred this growth as well and have led to what we refer to as small footprint video wherein we can be far less obtrusive than a major video production house. As a consequence, when we are hired to shoot photos or video separately, we encourage the client to shoot both at the same time. Here is why:
First, it ensures visual continuity when still images and video resonate the same visual message. (See video clips below from a variety of shoots.)
Second, the cost of doing photos and video separately far exceeds shooting them together.
Third, it can require a considerable amount of time and energy on the part of the client to set up one shoot or the other. Better to set things up once and shoot photos and video at the same time.
Boston Children’s Museum
Trust in print
If print is dead as many people claim, why do we continue to get all those catalogs?
It is because retailers understand that print is where we are inspired to buy and what to buy, whereas the web provides us with a quick and convenient way to buy it?
Does this mean we cannot make decisions based on the images we see on the web?
Yes and no. The web is very transitory, i.e. what we see there today may not be there tomorrow. The result is a certain lack of trust with that which we see on screens. Print, on the other hand, can be held in your hand and has a sense of permanence and therefore a higher trust factor. It’s a small but important point when it comes to relying too much on the web instead of also recognizing the role print has to play in the way we make decisions today.
This is also true of corporate communications and the role of the printed annual report, where trust is an all-important factor.
A good designer listens between the lines.
More often than not, our job is to listen to our clients’ goals and objectives and identify the nuggets of information that can be hidden in what they are saying; nuggets that spark solutions. Listen to Bob Kellerman, director of our San Francisco office.
Creativity is the child in all of us
Check out Micky’s enthusiastic take on the subject of storytelling.
Why shoot photos first?
As the term implies, we like to begin branding projects by shooting actual location photos…before we begin the design process. This does not mean we shoot all the photos needed for the job, but enough so we can capture a client’s culture in photos that will be used in our subsequent layouts.
There are several benefits to this approach:
First, the photo process provides a window into the client’s culture, which gives us a better sense of how to tell their story visually.
Second, we use the photos in the actual layouts. This helps the approval process enormously insofar as managerial decision makers will see their own company represented as opposed to viewing a series of placeholder stock images, which they have a hard time relating to.
Third, we shoot using several different styles, so as well as approving our design solutions, a client is able to weigh in on the shooting style that best fits the company’s culture, something that is best identified before we continue shooting.
Listen to Tom Kraft describe this process with client Numeric, above.