Professional Studies

Joanna Lush – Digital Agencies

Today we had a talk from Joanna Lush who spoke about the roles within digital agencies and what we should expect when going into the industry.

Joanna started by stating 4 typical sections within an agency:

  • People who do the thinking
  • Creatives
  • Developers
  • Social media

I found this information interesting due to the fact there is now a section based solely on social media. It occurred to me how important it really is within an organisation and that there are jobs out there purely to control social media and interact with people. Joanna said this position was called Social Media Managers and they do things called “social monitoring, moderation and content generation”.

Joanna then went on to talk about the stages of a project and how companies use a waterfall method of work. She used an example of it being like building a house:

  • You can’t draw the plans until you know what you want.
  • You can’t start building until you have the blueprints.
  • You can’t put the walls in without the foundations.
  • You can’t start decorating until you’ve done the walls.
  • You can’t move in until it’s all been signed off by the housing inspector.

I found this interesting and useful as it helped me understand how the waterfall method works in a simple and easy way to understand. All the stages relate to a project, for example, the first point relates to needing the client requirements and the last point relating to testing the product before release.

Joanna ended by telling us the last process of producing work for a client. She said there is evaluation and maintenance of the product and two questions:

  • Does it do what it is supposed to do?
  • Did the client like it?

I went on to research the waterfall method some more as I will most likely be sticking to it when I go into the professional. (Buzzle.com, 2005) talk about maintenance on their site and how  “this phase of the model is virtually never-ending”. It continues to take place for the length of the contract you have set with the client. They would pay a maintenance fee in order for you to continue small amounts of work on the software for them if they want upgrades or fixes if problems arise.

References:

Parekh, N. 2005. The Waterfall Model Explained. [online] Available at: http://www.buzzle.com/editorials/1-5-2005-63768.asp [Accessed: 2 Nov 2013].

Mike Hawkyard – Pitching

Today we had a talk from Mike from Amuzo. This company was originally based around marketing. Now it is focusing on mobile Apps and has Lego as it’s biggest client.

Mike’s talk was all about pitching and how to win a client. He started by giving us the main points that are needed in order to have a successful pitch. These were:

  • Start with what products you have made already – state that you can be trusted.
  • Be prepared.
  • Make sure your audience is listening.
  • Talk over a video while it is playing instead of watching it like the audience.
  • Be confident.
  • Give statistics
  • Discuss legal issues.
  • Discuss how the future of it can improve – e.g. monetizing it.
  • How the product is expandable.
  • Summarise the presentation.

Mike gave some very good advice on how to act if your audience aren’t listening or focusing properly on your presentation. He said we could start by making them ask questions so you can get full marks. They will only get the information they want that way. This can be a very clever technique to use and worked for Mike when he pitched once. I further researched pitching techniques and found the same advice elsewhere. (openforum.com, 2011) said “If managers, employees and suppliers aren’t energized by your pitch, they won’t follow your lead.” This is exactly what Mike said and is very good advice as I know myself, if a presentation is boring and not gripping, you will not listen as much as when you are really interested and engaged. Openforum also had “finally, work on the material until you know it cold.” as it’s last point. This is also advice that Mike gave us, stating that if you are unprepared for a presentation/pitch, your listeners will notice immediately and therefore not take you seriously.

Another very helpful piece of advice Mike gave us was to “never ever ever ever ever pitch live stuff”. This is due to the high chances of failure and therefore loss of potential client. Mike told us to use a video if we are demonstrating as we can perfect that and know that everything works when presenting.

Mike then moved on to give us some interesting information about grants and the fact that there are more available in Dorset than in London. Everyone assumes the money is in London when in fact there is a lot elsewhere.

Mike finished by telling us to never stop trying and to not take no for an answer. If we fail, we should ask what they would like to see next year in order to accept us. This I thought to be an interesting and helpful piece of advice as we can then fulfill these expectations and they then don’t have a reason to not take us on the next year.

References:

OPEN Forum. 2011. 7 Tips For Proposals, Pitches And Presentations. [online] Available at: https://www.openforum.com/articles/7-tips-for-proposals-pitches-and-presentations/ [Accessed: 20 Nov 2013].

Richard Wallis – The client

Today we had a talk from Richard Wallis, a senior lecturer from the university.

Richard started by defining the key message “The client is everybody’s business”. The talk would be based around the client and different practices in the industry.

Richard said there are 3 key relationships:

  • Audience/User – recipient of the product.
  • Producer/agency – me.
  • Client – person you make the product for.

Richard then spoke about winning the client and pitching:

  • Decide on a market.
  • Research and understand it.
  • Know whom you’re aiming at.

Richard said we need to have a great idea – “Is this a creative and groundbreaking idea?” – this isn’t the right question. He said the correct question is actually – “Is this a great solution to the communications challenge this client is currently facing?” This I thought was very good advice due to the common misconception that designing should be new and ‘groundbreaking’ but in fact I really only need to match my client’s needs. I will not get paid more for thinking up a new way of designing. My client is only interested in their needs being met.

Richard then spoke about pitching and how important it is to get it right. We have to sell our ideas and “the competition is tough”.

He then gave us a helpful checklist on what to include in a pitch:

  • The project name
  • Summary
  • The user experience
  • How it works
  • The look and feel
  • The technology
  • The USP

Richard then ended by giving us some helpful information on how mistrust can occur and producer-client relationships can breakdown – Missed deadlines, spiraling costs, failed expectations/product disappointment and poor communication.

As I will be dealing with clients throughout my professional work, I thought it be a good idea to further research client relationships and how to keep them strong. “The first step in laying the groundwork between the company and the client is taking the time to know the client”(Wikihow.com, undated). This point I thought to be very useful and interesting as it makes your client know you are treating them as a person and care about them, rather than just being another client. You can also build a stronger relationship with your clients by having  “ongoing communication” with them. The client needs to know they aren’t being taken for granted and “The worst perception a client can have is to feel insignificant or forgotten.” This information will definitely come in handy when I start dealing with clients in order to be more successful.

References:

wikiHow. n.d. How to Keep a Client. [online] Available at: http://www.wikihow.com/Keep-a-Client [Accessed: 1 Dec 2013].

Laurence Topham from the Guardian

Today we had a guest speaker called Laurence, a video and interactive producer for the Guardian Newspaper.

Laurence spoke to us about the different projects he does at the Guardian and his thoughts on them since he started there in 2008. He said he has a lot of freedom to make what he wants and has to use his initiative in order to attract the audience. I found this interesting to learn that in the industry you can still have a lot of freedom even when not working for yourself or as a freelancer. I have a strong interest for video editing and it helped me a lot hearing that you can go into the industry with freedom. I like showing my creativity and being given a simple brief to which I can go my own direction with would be great!

Laurence said he has to really learn his audience in order to make the best work. He used the example of the short video he made on Obama rather than the 20-minute documentary he was expected to make. I found this to be good advice as the work I do always has a target audience in mind.

Laurence went on to talk about the fact he doesn’t go out with a film crew or director. He is by himself and has to “research, shoot, edit and upload” the videos on his own.

Another piece of advice Laurence gave us was to create a relationship with our subjects. Laurence created a good relationship with the family he was filming in Tasmania about he bush fires there. He said the work was a lot more enjoyable and worthwhile due to this.

Laurence also said that it is very important to learn from our mistakes. This I thought to be an obvious thought but when put into practice, I have made the same mistakes repeatedly when looking back at my work and it helps to take a moment to realise them and act upon it.

Another interesting piece of advice Laurence gave us was that “people don’t like to read online”. This was helpful as a lot of my work has text involved and I can use this information to make sure I don’t use too much and put off my audience.

This then lead on to Laurence ending by stating “less can be more” and minimalistic design can be very effective.

 

Intensive Professional Studies Day

Today we had a few guest speakers in to talk to us about their experiences in the professional world and what they thought we need to be aware of.

The day kicked off with Trevor Hearing explaining what being a professional actually is. He explained that professionals themselves are those who turn their skills into making money and are the best at what they do. Trevor went into depth about how being a professional is how you perform in relation to other people and creating an identity for yourself. Are you confident in what you do? Do you inspire confidence in others? These are the thought provoking questions put forward to us that separate the amateurs from the professionals.

Tim Wright also spoke to us about his professional career. This talk was a lot more geared towards Digital Media Design as his work is interactive and features the skills we are developing. I found this talk very engaging due to the vast amount of examples used and explaining behind them. Tim instantly dived into telling us the importance of keeping up with the rapidly changing media industry – “Expect the digital media landscape to change every 2-3 years.” He warned not to fall behind and risk losing out. This, I thought to be very good advice as I know for a fact the most money in the industry is in the markets with the newest technology as the designers using that technology will be in high demand.

Tim explained how big in the industry user generated content is now.

He used this interesting statistic to explain the types of users on the internet:

80% viewers – sit behind the screen, watching.

16% lurkers – occasionally have an input but rarely.

4% players –  Always adding content and contributing.

These statistics I found to be very true and we have to think about this when creating user generated content projects as 80% of people using it will not actually ever contribute.

I have gone on to further look into this and found the work of Jakob Nielsen and his ‘Participation Inequality’. Jakob researched the figures and also found the downsides to the inequality. Consumer feedback is one of the downsides, meaning there aren’t enough people posting online with feedback and therefore “you’re getting an unrepresentative sample.” (Nielsen, 2006). This is the same with customer reviews. Nielsen went on to discuss how to combat participation inequality and the point he made, alongside Tim, was to “make it easier to contribute”.

This brings me onto another point Tim made. Tim promoted the idea of user generated content projects as it’s then the users that do all the work, making our lives (as the designers) very easy! This can also combat the inequality of contributors, if you make the CMS easy to use that is!

Tim also mentioned to always try to say YES to work no matter what it is. This felt like good advice as being particular about your work can limit you greatly and you could miss out on lots of opportunities by not looking at the bigger picture.

Tim ended his talk with a thought provoking quote from Alvin Toffler – “If you don’t have a strategy, you’re part of someone elses strategy”.

References:

Nielsen, J. 2006. Participation Inequality: Encouraging More Users to Contribute. [online] Available at: http://www.nngroup.com/articles/participation-inequality/ [Accessed: 15 Nov 2013].

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