We need Hookturn now, more than ever.

Features to be significantly changed. Decommissioning of 360documentaries, Hindsight, Encounter, Into the Music and Poetica… One possible redundancy with the merging of Books and Arts Daily and the Weekend Arts teams… By Design and RN First Bite to be axed."

The Guardian lists some of the casualties of the ABC funding cuts.

As our government literally decimates the national broadcaster, I’m even more conscious of the need for the ongoing telling of Australian stories in whichever way we can.

We take a lot of pride in where we come from. As Melburnians we’re constitutionally required to be parochial. Once every 18 months or so I travel to New York City and I marvel at its inhabitants’ parochialism. They put us to shame. I’ve travelled to Austin, which has the unique position of being a parochial enclave inside of Texas, itself probably the most parochial place in the world.

I’m speaking about parochialism as a virtue, which opposes my personal economic beliefs for globalisation. But the two concepts can and should co-exist.

It’s too late to fight against globalisation. The device you’re reading this on exists through globalisation. Your refusal to pay three times as much for underwear supports globalisation. It’s a part of our lives and, as much as people complain about losing jobs to overseas, there’s not a lot we can do about it. Globalisation is simply the law of comparative advantage writ large.

This is where parochialism comes in. It is possible to have a healthy mix of outsourcing to other countries while having one’s own outlook. We must find a sustainable balance.

This discussion—the economics, the cities, the ABC cuts—is about how we choose to define our culture.

Places are defined by how strongly people identify with the local culture: bringing people together and creating sense of belonging.

And it is culture that’s at stake here. The ABC has been forced to cut programs that talk to our culture and open our minds to who we are and what our position is in the world: as Melburnians, Australians, and even antipodeans (hello, New Zealand).

Politicians who lie for to get into office are an age-old question that will continue to haunt us. But the culture thing? Well that is in our hands.

We created Hookturn to share local stories and opinions; to learn about the world through how it affects us.

When politicians decide to reduce our power to build our own culture, we need to fight back. We need to produce more shows and encourage more people to listen to them. We need to focus on the quality of the shows to make sure that our programming is something we can be proud of.

This means sacrifice. For me that sacrifice is at least 20 hours on top of my full-time work, every week, to help get our programs out to you. When a show isn’t released on time or doesn’t match our quality criteria, that’s on me.

Hookturn is a way for us to continue our strong Australian culture of storytelling. It’s one thing no one else in the world can do on our behalf, and we value that very highly.

It was this time, a year ago, that we introduced Hookturn as a label and began seeking out programs to release as podcasts. It’s been a lot of work but the feedback from listeners has been encouraging.

It’s a sad day when a government won’t protect the long-term interests of its nation. Storytelling has always been part of the Australian culture. We would love for Hookturn to continue to coexist with a government-funded broadcaster and all the other Australian independent producers. The more the merrier.

At a time when cherished parts of our culture are in jeopardy, we need to act. I choose to create programs that tell our stories. Your choice might be to seek out Australian media and support it through purchases, donations or spreading the good word. Maybe you have a show in you yourself.

Whichever way, we need to protect the things that help to define us—the points of difference that help us understand who we are. Our experiences cannot be outsourced.

Annual Reports and Shareholder Reviews: It’s the End of the Line for the PDF dumping ground.

If we’re going to send people online, let’s do it with respect.

 

A couple of months ago, National Australia Bank sent a letter out to its shareholders advising them of a change to the way the company would now report. Instead of the the traditional Shareholder Review (and optional Annual Report), the company would now mail a much smaller Summary Review, and would direct shareholders to a PDF posted online if they wanted more detailed information.

On the face of it, this seems laudable—we all want to save paper and resources—and in keeping with NAB’s sustainability policies. But there is a real problem here, and that is that NAB is still sending people to a PDF*. In 2014! Read more

ANZ Shareholder Review Print and Online 2014

For the fifth year running, ANZ has trusted Floate with its Shareholder Review.

Since 2010, Floate Design Partners has worked with Australian icon ANZ bank to produce the comprehensive online version of the ANZ Shareholder Review. Starting in 2013, we’ve been working together with the dedicated investor relations team at the bank to conceive, develop, and produce the Shareholder Reviews from start to finish—from initial strategy through narrative, art direction to print, wireframes to website deployment.

ANZ-Shareholder-2015-print_cropped_leftThis year, we worked extraordinarily closely with the bank to ensure that a strong narrative flowed through both the print and online version of the review, and that the way the narrative was presented was right for the format.The print version looks like it was designed to be read on paper and the digital versions (mobile first, naturally) look like the document was always meant to be read online. Importantly though, the different media work together and present as a cohesive suite.

We’re working on a comprehensive case study, but in the meantime please take a look at the Online Shareholder Review, or if you prefer, download the PDF.

Are you looking to meaningfully communicate with Shareholders in the digital and traditional space? Are you ready to move your reporting online and better inform your stakeholders? If the answer is ‘yes’ then we want to help.

Don’t be scared to share.

Last week I went to a meetup about strategy and content in New York. The theme was ‘Show and Tell’ and each attendee was supposed to bring a piece they had worked on to discuss the thought behind its content and design.

Only four of us braved the surprise sub-zero November weather to turn up to a meeting room at EMC’s office and we were probably all a little disappointed to begin with. But soon we realised that with so few of us there we didn’t have to restrict ourselves to three to four minute time limit. Just as well. The things we brought with us demanded more attention and investigation.

A content strategist brought her hybrid strategy/publication schedule template, designed to teach her large accounting firms marketing team that there was more responsibility to creating material than just releasing white papers into the wild.

A self-starting web-designer shared his vanity project to produce online documentaries to capture all sides of a story.

A strategy designer shared an intranet created for one of the world’s largest banks to help employees get all the information they needed about their own employment (payslip records, accrued holiday leave, promotion and training opportunities), and how it was being used by the bank to improve employee retention.

I shared a recent Shareholder Review we created for one of our clients to discuss the narrative concept and how the content was able to exist in different formats online and in print.

We left amazed at the work we were all doing and I realised something really important: as an industry we don’t share enough.

Sure, there are some who share. There are those who stand up at conferences and talk about what they’ve learnt. We see them all the time and too often it’s the same faces over and over again.

Unfortunately, those of us at the coal-face rarely  talk about or show off the work we’re doing unless we’re pitching to new clients.

That’s not enough.

What I saw that night is that there are people who, like us, are trying to solve difficult problems every day. When we work in isolation these seem like really unusual or even unique problems. If we shared these problems more often we might find that we’re not alone.  We might even find someone else’s problem is congruent with ours. Their solutions might have value for our projects.

We can learn from the experiences of other people even when (and perhaps especially when) we work in different fields. Some challenges are universal.
Designers need to learn the value of talking to one another about our work and why it excites us. We should also share our disappointments to show that it’s unreasonable to expect every project to be 100% success.

The luminaries who publish books and tour the talking circuit do some important work, but if they’re the only people we listen to we are going to end up with a homogenised set of solutions. But evolution’s strength is in variety.

Let’s resolve to regularly share our experiences and talk to each other about the problems we face in creating our work. It takes a bit of guts and it can be a daunting task, but we will never improve if the only thing we share is exasperation at tight or mercurial deadlines. The power we have to improve our work is in sharing our problems, methods and results.

How to Magic Yourself Better

We do a show that we release as a podcast about being better designers. It’s called The Nudge. In it we try to cover some of the issues we think designers face and try to find people who can teach ways to improve on that.

But we don’t often talk about the things we’re currently doing as a studio to make us better designers; The things we’re doing to make ourselves work smarter.

Recently we finished two massive projects. One was the ANZ Shareholder Review. We’ll post a full case study about that shortly. The other was the redesign of the way one of Australia’s major sporting bodies presents itself to the world.

These two projects took up every resource we had and then some. Many of us worked without weekends and up to 80 hours a week to complete these jobs on time.

That’s not a brag: It’s an admission. It shouldn’t have happened. We should have been able to work smarter and avoid working harder.

During those two projects we already started looking at what we can do next time to make the work go easier. We knew that the way we were working wasn’t great but we were stuck for the moment. Mid project isn’t a great time to swap between task managers, for example.

But then again, is there ever a great time to do such a thing?

We were using Basecamp for our task management and project related communication. Or I should say, we were kind of using it. Basecamp became a dumping ground for files and messages, tasks that were never completed. It was a graveyard of work we had done, work we had intended to do, and it never gave us an understanding of what was happening right now.

We think this might be where our problem was. Basecamp is an excellent product but it just wasn’t working for the way we do things.

Right now we’re trying two new (to us) products: Slack and Asana.

Slack is a good team communication tool that many of our colleagues and friends had recommended.

Asana is a task management set of apps that gives the opportunity to categorise tasks in a number of ways, nest tasks to be as granular as we like, and offers snapshots on projects and their progress over time.

We’re still in the early days of using these systems and we’ll try to keep you updated on what we discover about them and ourselves.

At the moment, though, it’s also important for us to realise that these systems can’t make people work better but they can offer the opportunity to improve our processes.

Just like buying a new notebook doesn’t make you write that novel and having a new bat doesn’t make you a better cricketer, having new productivity tools isn’t going to magic us into working better. It will take tenacity, discipline and support from each other when things get tough.

We’re lucky as well that we work in a team. Hopefully we can do that better soon too.