Category: design

A Grumpy Salesperson

I do not make it a habit of speaking ill of former co-workers, bosses or employers. Whenever I have gone on the attack, I’ve only gone after the idea, never the person. With this in mind …

The other day I stumbled on to this quote from Jakob Neilsen:

A bad website is like a grumpy salesperson.

At first, it made me laugh. Then  pause. For more than two years of my life at Schlumberger I worked tirelessly to align the work my MarCom group was doing with the needs of the sales team. Since the downturn, the oil and gas space has been terrible spot to be in, so beyond being altruistic and merely wanting to help the company succeed, there was also a fair amount of self-preservation in the rationale, too.

Schlumberger unfortunately has one of the worst websites on the planet. At one time, it was a treasure trove of information that I routinely consulted in order to learn  more about technologies and techniques for producing hydrocarbons.

The vision was that it would be a sales tool. But in reality, it is a bloated, antiquated, dusty library.

Or as Mr Neilsen puts it, a grumpy salesperson. Someone who knows an awful lot but isn’t particularly good about sharing that knowledge.

I met with one of the lead sales trainers back in 2016 and he told me something that scarred the wee wee out of me. He stated that more than 85% of buying decisions in the B2B space are made prior to contacting a salesperson. Contact being a phone call or a simple click of a button requesting more info. Therefore, the site has to actually work harder to facilitate the buyer’s journey down the sales funnel. (Boy, I love all this jargon.)

To further these thoughts, when your site is a library, it bets the question: When was the last time you bought a book from a library?

Look at a randomly sampled page. The kitchen sink is there, I promise, if you can find it. What on God’s Green Internet would make you want to actually click on any of this noise? Even with years of experience with this site, I still get lost and confused.

That sales funnel is all filled with sticky, goopy stuff. The site actually hinders the buyer’s journey rather than enhancing it.

No longer being in the organization, I am not privy to any plans for the site. My understanding is they are going to relaunch it in January and I wish them well.

Post It Note Design

It is unofficially “Tool Week” at rat etc. First, a walk down amnesia lane blowing the dust off the lowly pica pole. And now, another useful tool …

The Post It Note.

As you are no doubt well aware, a large part of my disdain for “Design Thinking” is that when you Google the term and look at images representing the concept, most are of the shots of hipsters with stacks of Post-It notes (some stuck on glass walls) and with Sharpies in hand working their magic. I’ve participated in design thinking workshops and have not been impressed, largely because I’ve used many of these methods for years as part of my own way for working. I’ve never once found a Post-It useful for anything other than for its intended purpose — to remind me of something I knew I would forget if it was not written down.

Note the line quality — no Sharpie here.

Let’s travel back in time to 20 October. It is a day that will live in the annals of Design History as “The Day Mr Ratcliff Designed with Post-It Notes And Did Not Complain About It”.

I was on a crash assignment at Sysco and needed to come up with a story quickly. The project was to walk our friends in the Corporate office through the new process of engaging with my team. The challenge was to do it in a fun and memorable way rather than relying on a plain ol’ PowerPoint diagram.

As usual, I started in my notebook (Moleskine #64) but found that drawing and redrawing the action was taking way too much time. On my desk I spied an innocent stack of bright yellow Post-It’s. I quickly scratched out the story, made adjustments, jump from frame to frame then went back to fill in the gaps. It was glorious. And fast. I quickly cobbled together the story and started working on the visuals.

And I have Post-It Notes to thank for the help.

Every tool is useful. There is a time and a place for everything. Be resourceful and open to new approaches and tactics. Maybe even Design Thinking, of course.

Exit Pole

There was a time when every working designer had at least one pica pole sitting on their drawing board. It was an indispensable tool of the trade that was as needed as drafting tape, Rapidographs, X-actos, french curves and breathing.

Being that I was still working in picas in the late 90s and getting fussed at by my CD for it, I’m willing to bet few practicing designers today know what a pica is.

It’s pretty easy: A pica is a unit of measure equaling 1/6 of an inch. 12 points make up one pica, so 72 points equal one inch. End of the math lesson.

If you want to get serious about printed typography, you will want to work in picas. I found working in picas gives designers more precise control over layouts than inches ever can. Inches are clumsy — of course, everyone knows I’m one of the few Americans who would rather go metric, but that’s another story.

I found this pica pole while going through stuff on my wife’s drawing board. She uses it just to draw straight lines and doesn’t give a second thought to the markings on it. I used to walk around with a pica pole all the time. It was also handy to smack someone if they got too randy.

Designers today who mostly work digitally would do themselves a favor learning and working in points and picas. Believe it or not, points translate exceedingly well to pixels, the new standard for measuring just about everything. Being pixel-perfect is a sign of quality to an old dog like me.

The I’s Have It

As this site has been assembled over the years, it has lacked focus.

Although it is a personal website, being that I am one of those people who is strongly defined by their work, it has needed that glue to hold it all together. I’ve been stewing on this for a while and I am finally ready to move forward with a philosophy, a cohesive thought about what I do and what I had to offer the world as a Designer.

I used to think I made logos, ads, movies, websites and other sundry things. That is true. Along with that simplistic view on my work, I have also proclaimed that it’s the act making these things that gets me out of bed every morning — the challenges that keep me interested in the things I do. This has been truly a simplistic way of looking at things and entirely wrong.

So I dove into the deep end. Pulling a Simon Sinek, I asked myself “Why?” over and over again. Much like a scene out of Ant Man and the Wasp, I’ve gone deeper and deeper down inside and found an answer to all those why’s. I was looking for answers that were not about me, why design, and how I can help make the world a little better than before.

Over the past few weeks I have been working in earnest to compile work I’ve created over the years. It now populates this site. Not everything, but numerous pieces that represent this philosophy and shows the world what I actually design:

Identities, Information and Influence.

I’ve looked at a number of other words to describe what I do, but all those words merely describe things. For me, Identities, Information and Influence are not things, rather they are outcomes. These are what I strive for, toil over and pour myself into so that together with my clients we will  make the world a better place.

Not only are Identities, Information and Influence outcomes, this is also a flow. A way of looking at design in total.

Identities are the most basic building block of communication, the starting point to broadcast who you are to the world.

Information design helps people you are trying to reach make better decisions.

Influence is the goal — to encourage change and make it easy to take further action.

This is a simple yet rich view of Design, one which I will continue to explore conceptually within this site and practice with my clients for years to come.

Mistertaken Identity

As if the cultural appropriation Robert Francis does to get unsuspecting voters to think he is Hispanic isn’t bad enough, Mr O’Rourke (here’s another clue) also borrowed from the design of a Texas staple. His campaign logo bears an uncanny resemblance to Whataburger’s Spicy Ketchup packet.

The only thing worse than plagiarism, is a spoiled Democrat winning a Senate seat here in the Great State of Texas. Get out to vote. And while you’re at it, grab a Whataburger, too.