Tag Archives: design

This week on ‘This Australian Life’

I grew up in Australia in the late seventies and early eighties, so it was natural for me to think that someone else’s culture was more valid than mine: The TV shows we saw were mostly imported; The local content was news or soap or procedural cop dramas; Australian children’s television was always solid, but as kids we were already given the sense that things that were made for us were of less consequence than things created for adults; And shows for adults that had a sense of quality came from the US and UK.

Is that how you remember it? It’s definitely the way we, as a culture, talk about it—especially when we have the inevitable "Why can’t we produce good comedies" discussion we love to have.

To believe that requires excluding the comedies like Auntie Jack, which led to Norman Gunston, without which we would have never had Let the Blood Run Free or The Games.

There were also the Kennedy-Miller mini-series, the way for which was paved by Crawfords productions, which eventually led to Simpson-Le Mesurier productions and the excellent Good Guys Bad Guys in the early nineties.

Australia is a giant country with a relatively small population. Our two most populous cities (only the second smallest distance between two capital cities in Australia), are almost as far apart as Paris and Berlin. We feel isolated from each other as well as the rest of the world, and as a result there is an insecurity in our actions.

Recently a friend told me he wanted to start a podcast festival in Melbourne. His intention was to invite Marc Maron and John Hodgman, and their presence would encourage other big names to come.

He never mentioned an Australian podcast he would like to invite.

So, why do we look externally for validation?

When I went to my first Webstock conference (realistically one of the best-run events I’ve ever had the pleasure of attending), I was disappointed that a New Zealand-run event didn’t have any antipodean speakers.

I thought about this for a bit. Should we blame the organisers? (They are lovely people and work very hard.) Maybe they had evidence to show that local people weren’t a big enough draw card. That’s definitely what other attendees had suggested to me.

If this is what attendees think, based on just attendee-to-attendee discussions, then it’s probably true enough market research.

But this problem doesn’t happen with other countries or cultures. The aforementioned US and UK both host plenty of web-design conferences that draw huge crowds.

Do we just accept out cultural cringe and live with it, or do we fight against it?

This is a design problem. This is a problem of getting people to accept something they unconsciously reject. Its a problem of changing minds and behaviour.

But is it a problem worth solving? What are the costs associated with building antipodean pride?

There is a very real possibility that we fear realising our already perceived irrelevance—that, despite everything we have already given the world (wifi, bionic ear, ova freezing techniques), we still never think we’ll be listened to when we talk. And there’s nothing worse than an irrelevant body pretending it has validity. How embarrassing!

There is, however, the contrary position. If we are supportive of our own work and push ourselves to produce better products, then maybe it won’t matter what others think. Maybe we will develop a confidence to be content with our own attention.

This is not about local design for local people. It’s about holding our own work to an international standard, supporting it when it reaches that level and encouraging efforts to surpass it.

We can only do that one step at a time. It’s going to be tough, too, but relevance is demanded, not requested, and that takes grit.

On design education, they said it better.

I’ve been talking (ranting?) to whoever would listen about the state of design education in this country for about a decade now. It’s one of the recurring themes of our podcast The Nudge.

Mike Monteiro has been giving versions of his excellent “How Designers Destroyed The World” presentation around the world for the past year.

Today, Jeffrey Zeldman had this to say about Mike and design education.

As Mike sees it (and I agree) too many design programs turn out students who can defend their work in an academic critique session among their peers, but have no idea how to talk to clients and no comprehension of their problems. We are creating a generation of skilled and talented but only semi-employable designers—designers who, unless they have the luck to learn what their expensive education didn’t teach them, will have miserably frustrating careers and turn out sub-par work that doesn’t solve their clients’ problems.

This is not a problem unique to Australian design programs. It’s worldwide, and we need to address it now.

 

Empathy for The Devil (or, why we do The Nudge).

Empathy is a powerful word, and a strong emotion. It’s the ability to understand what someone else might be thinking. It’s being able to understand how someone else might feel, or how they might respond to a given situation. It is rarely one’s first response; it requires a certain spark of selflessness.

And it’s fundamental to the way that we view design. To be able to do great work, we need to understand and empathise with our audiences, the users of the products and websites we design, and importantly, our clients.

We at Floate think that learning to better empathise with people who are not designers is a path to growth as designers. That’s why 18 months ago, we started what we think is an unusual design event – one where it’s not designers telling other designers about how annoying their clients are.

The Nudge is an on-stage conversation with someone who works on the client side; it’s a chance for clients to tell us what challenges they face, and for designers to find out what goes on behind closed doors. This way, we can get an understanding of how and why the decisions that affect our work are made.

The on-stage guests are never Floate clients. This isn’t a showcase for us. We do this because we want designers, including ourselves, to understand the context that we work in, and to start to empathise with what clients experience on their side of the project. In a sense, The Nudge is the antidote to the poisonous attitude that gave rise to Clients from Hell.

We’ve also expanded our reach a little and created a podcast where we talk to non-designers about their experiences working with designers, and listen to their views on subjects designers could know more about. We’ve spoken with Marketing Professors and sex workers, and a range of people in between. Even founders of startups. Through it all, we find we learn the most when we ask non-designers what they think designers ought to know about their world.

Tomorrow night (September 25), our guest is Sean Hall. Sean is the General Manager of Brand Marketing at Telstra –– he’s going to talk to us about what it’s like to work on a rebrand as large as Telstra’s, and the challenges that can arise when working with external design teams. We’re very grateful he can join us and hope you can come along. I’m buying the drinks.

 

You can RSVP to the event at Eventbrite.

 

The Nudge is also a podcast. Maybe you’d like it.

Pick up the &%#$& phone!

Pick Up The &^%$&^%$ Phone

I spend a lot of time lamenting the unwillingness of designers to get on the telephone and actually talk to clients or suppliers. Apparently so does Greg Storey at Happy Cog. He recently wrote a great post about it and rather than re-hash it, we thought we’d make a nice motivational poster. Greg, hope you see this, and hope you like it.

Illustration by our own Marty Cook.

The importance of being mobile.

A picture of three mobile websites on iPhones.

A picture of three mobile websites on iPhones.

We’ve written before about the importance of strong mobile designs for hospitality websites. Over the past year, we’ve launched a number of responsive sites, including large-scale work for ANZ and Origin Energy. More recently, we’ve built and launched sites for some much smaller (but still fantastic) organisations that are very close to our hearts. Having had these sites online for some time now, we can tell you some of the things we’ve learned. Read more