Question of the Week: How do I fix my Scattered Personal Brand?

Designing Designers
May 29, 2008

Image by: Dan Shirley

The Question of the Week comes from Ezra, who read and wanted to expand on some of the ideas discussed in my Pillar Article: How to be a Design Superstar.

I am a movie director (somewhere between newbie and
“superstar” as I do manage to get paid now, somehow.. and am joining the dirs. union). I have just finished my third feature movie. In addition to directing movies, I do a bunch of editing (TV, film, commercials etc.) So my question is: how do I brand myself on the web, what is it that I want people to see when they look me up? I know this is left field of graphic design superstardom but it all seems related..

Obviously they will see my IMDB page which lists my past work but then they will click to what? I have a confusing and unfocused web presence and really need to get it on point..

Actually Ezra, is not the first person to ask this question, I actually have received a few questions of the same nature. The answer actually revolves around Point 3: Buy your name as a dot com, and therefore I think it is a good time to expand on that point.

While I am not a Search engine optimization (SEO) expert, I do at least understand the a few SEO basics to explain why it is important buying your name as a dot com domain name.

Firstly the Internet tends to be like that of a spider web located in a great cross-wind. It catches all the good bits, but it gets splattered all over the “web”. This is also the problem that Ezra is experiencing. Basically Google search is damn good at what it does, and therefore if you do a Google search it returns everything it can find on you in its results based on a descending order of relevance.

Now the objective of this discussion is to be that big spider at the center of the web. So when people look for you on the web you want people to that “big spider” first, rather than all the other splatters. In Google terms it means you want to come up at the top of the search results. Not only that you want to manage what people see as this “big spider” as well.

As hinted in the previous paragraphs this means getting to the top of the search in terms of most relevance. As what Google searches for is websites, it means you have to bite the bullet to create your own. If you are serious about your personal branding, and want to manage what people will learn about you on the Internet, the best way is to start your own personal website.

Not only that, if a keyword (your name etc.) is part of the URL or web address, Google will see it as more relevant than a website with the name in the body text. This would also mean that you will beat out all the other networking sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, or

Now you can use Facebook or LinkedIn any other website that has your profile as your “face” online, but the problem is that your name keyword will be lost within the body and thus you will have problems fighting with all the other “web splatters” to come up tops. You can however “re-direct” your domain name to a profile page on a networking site, but if you have gone this far it is not much more to set up full website.

Here are some other tips in buying your name as a dot com and setting up your site.

1) Where possible always try to buy a dot com. It is a top level domain (TLD), and the most frequently searched for. If dot com is not available (very likely), try dot net or dot org. Though dot net was meant for networks and dot org for non-profit organizations, there are still considered TLDs.

2) If you cannot get your name as a, go with a dot net instead. Worst case, then goes with a dot org. Don’t be too worried as the important thing is to try and get your name keyword in the URL as much as possible.

3) If you cannot get your name as a keyword for all .com/.net/.org as your name could be already purchased or you have a similar name to that of a celebrity, the next thing you can try is to buy a domain name that is a keyword or your personal brand. You remember that SWOT analysis you did on yourself? You can now apply some of the terms here as part of your domain name.

4) So if you decided to use other keywords from your personal brand as keywords in your domain name URL, do make sure you have your real name as a keyword in your website description. This can be a powerful way to differentiate your self, and many personal sites have such brand keywords as domain names. This is one!

5) You might like to consider using Content Management Systems (or CMS) such as Blogging backbone or self-hosted; or perhaps the more flexible Drupal to help be your backbone of your site, so that you would only need to focus on your content.

6) Now that you have planted a stake on that central spot on the web as a “big spider”, you now have what I would call a node. If you create a section that links to all the other “relevant” posts about yourself on the web you can have some measure of control of how people will see your web persona.

Ok that is about it! This article focused more on the concept of setting up a website, rather than the details of doing so. I kept it fairly generic as there are tons of other sites that do a better job of teaching you the details of setting up a website, improve your SEO, and use WordPress etc.

At the end of the day the most important thing to remember is no matter how you do it, get that name keyword as a domain name as a first big step!

Best of luck Erza, and do let me know if you or any of my other dear readers need more help?

Ringshot: The Evolution of The Slingshot

Industrial Design
May 28, 2008

Image from Flickr

Sometimes there comes a design so simple and so clever that I just have to share it with all my readers!

Check out the Ringshot slingshot designed by Shira Nahon as part of the 2008 Holon Institute of Technology (H.I.T) Industrial Design department “Next Exit” Exhibition, in Tel Aviv, Israel.

Ah…this brings back memories of me slinging a rubber band between my thumb and first finger and shooting paper bullets at unsuspecting classmates. I believe this product elevates this stunt to the next level, now with greater power and accuracy.

Every school boy or girl will be dying to get one. Nice work Shira!

Where do Boom-boxes come from?

Industrial Design
May 26, 2008

Design Exchange of Toronto, which calls itself “Canada’s national centre for the promotion of design,” claims that the Project G stereo, which Clairtone Sound Corporation produced, was “conceptually original, technically and functionally perfect, and aesthetically superior.”

It was “the epitome of a design icon.”

No sure about you, but I do quite like it, in a strange Monday morning way. The world’s first boom-box or all in one lifestyle stereo perhaps? Nice emotional advertising layout iPod style eh?

So what happened to this so-called design icon?

Check out the rest of the article here at Nova Scotia News.

Naoto Fukasawa: Without a Thought

Design Leadership
May 23, 2008

Now this guy on the right has to be one or my all time favorite Industrial Designers. Simply because he has been able to successfully combine his unique design philosophy with a very obvious sensitivity to manufacturing constraints. Something a lot of designers these days do not seem to be able to do well.

He is truly, I dare say, a Designer’s Designer.

Dwell magazine has published online an interview conducted in September 2006 with Naoto Fukasawa, probably one of the best known Japanese designers in the world. In it he shares his unique design philosophy, which I sense is a reinterpretation of Dieter Ram’s thinking (someone who Naoto looks up to) and a strong dose Japanese Zen philosophy.

Though the interview is a little old, it more than highlights the fact that his design philosophy is timeless. Check out a few snippets of his thoughts:

Could you tell us more about your “Without Thought” philosophy of design?

People shouldn’t really have to think about an object when they are using it. Not having to think about it makes the relationship between a person and an object run more smoothly. Finding ideas in people’s spontaneous behavior and realizing these ideas in design is what Without Thought is about.

How did you develop this philosophy?

Designers often want to make something special, something that really grabs people’s attention. But I realized that when we actually use these products, whether or not they are special is not that important. So I decided it would be a good idea to look at people’s subconscious behavior instead—or, as I call this principle, “design dissolving in behavior.” I realized then that design has to achieve an object “without thought.”

Check out the full interview and Images via: Dwell Magazine Online

Jonathan Ive on Apple’s Industrial Design Strategy

Design Leadership
May 21, 2008

Claire Beale is one of the lucky few that has been granted a rare interview with Jonathan Ive, who, unless you have been under a rock in the past decade, is Apple’s senior vice-president of Industrial Design. You know, that guy responsible for the iMacs, iPods, and iPhones etc?

Here it is with all the good parts and non design bits snipped off. The Bold bits are mine.

Asking him what good design really is seems like a good place to start. “Oh, that’s a tough question,” he groans. “The word design is everything and nothing. We think of design as not just the product’s appearance, it’s what the product is, how it works. The design and the product itself are inseparable.”

Apple is unique, Ive says, by being in the hardware and the software games; design permeates through everything. “We have a very clear focus that all the development teams at Apple share, a focus around trying to make really great products.

“That can sound ridiculously simplistic, almost naive, but it’s very unique for the product to be what consumes you completely. And when I say the product I mean the product in its total sense, the hardware and the software, the complete experience that people will have. We push each other, we’re very self-critical and we’ll take the time to get the product right.”

For many people working in the creative industries, the bedrock of Mac believers, Ive is a hero, a creative genius: the man who transformed computers from grey boxes to objects of desire, design statements.

That’s what D&AD has recognised and rewarded. But you don’t have to be a creative purist to appreciate what Ive does. For everyone who loves Macs and iPods and iPhones for their intuition, for their clean aesthetics, for their leading edge, elegant functionality, Ive is the man who made technology both beautiful and accessible.

No doubt creatives the world over would like to know where Ive gets his inspiration from. So I ask him. “I never feel that I can answer this question in the way that people wish I would,” he admits.

“It’s easier for me to talk about my motivation, the focus on finding something that’s better and new and that becomes self-perpetuating. As you discover something new, as you get to the point where you manage to do something that hasn’t been done before or that other people have said it’s not possible to do, I think that just feeds into the creative process.”

It helps, perhaps, that he’s designing products that he and his team love to use, in their jobs, in their lives. “We don’t have to take this great intuitive leap to understand the mythical concerns of our users, because we are the users.”

Does he see advertising and design as close creative cousins? “There is an important relationship between the products of creative endeavour,” he explains. “And the breadth of creativity brought together by D&AD is what makes it unique.”

But he doesn’t bring his creative sensibilities to bear in the advertising manifestation of his design work; he leaves that to Apple’s advertising agency TBWA\Chiat\Day. “I’m friends with some of the guys who work on our advertising but we focus on our relative disciplines,” he says.

I sat next to Jonathan Ive at a D&AD ceremony many years ago. I had no idea who he was and by the end of dinner I still didn’t think he was anyone “significant”. He was charming, polite, quiet, no sense of self-importance, no desire for attention. Nice.

If you read the Jonathan Ive cuttings file not a big book, he rarely gives interviews you’ll find the same few scraps of information over and over: Jonathan is shy, he’s modest, he’s private. The boy from Chingford who became the British designer of his generation, lives quietly in San Francisco with his family, enjoying few obvious trappings of success beyond the odd Aston Martin (no doubt loved for its beauty rather than a symbol of status).

Despite the ubiquity of his designs, Ive insists that he doesn’t get an ego rush from seeing so many of us using his products. “I’m not driven by making a cultural impact,” he says. “That’s just a consequence of taking a remarkably powerful technology and making it relevant.

“My goal is simply to try to make products that really are meaningful to people. Ultimately there is something motivating and inspiring in seeing someone using an Apple product and enjoying an Apple product.”

Last month’s Apple results showed strong sales of the iMac and the launch of the stunning iPhone has soared profits at the company by 36 per cent to more than $1bn. That’s a lot of people using, a lot of people enjoying.

Ive was nearing the end of his four-year industrial design course at Newcastle Polytechnic (now the University of Northumbria) when he first used a Mac. After years of combat with PCs, the instinctual Mac was a revelation.

“I remember it really clearly, the moment when I realised that technology could be accessible and intuitive. And I had a real clear sense of the people who made it: it speaks to their values and preoccupations. And that’s what makes Apple a remarkable and unique company.”

Two decades after that moment of epiphany, could he imagine working anywhere else now? Ive laughs, but his answer is emphatic. “No.”

So…will we be able to do the same? Now that is the 6 million dollar question folks!

Extracted from The Independent via PSFK.

Nintendo Wii Crowdsourcing?

Industrial Design
May 20, 2008

I fired up my email today and low and behold, I received an official Nintendo press release of their launch of their Wii Ware Shop.

While the famous (or infamous) Virtual Console allowed the relaunched of old classic Nintendo system games on the Wii, the Wii Ware shop is meant for digital distribution of original titles made especially for the Nintendo Wii.

Personally I am looking forward to Square Enix’s FINAL FANTASY CRYSTAL CHRONICLES: My Life as a King, but what was more interesting is this last paragraph in the press release.

WiiWare also empowers consumers to determine with their Wii Points which games have the ability to become the next big thing. Consumers will assist in the creative process as their choices will directly determine the success of current projects and direct the plans for future ones.

Sounds like Crowsourcing to me, or is it? Users buy Wii Points to download games, thereby naturally voting for their favorites. Apparently in “My Life as a King” you can buy special items and clothing in a buy as you use type situation. Probably the more popular clothing type could mean more variations in the future. Good way to make money don’t you think?

Wow two Crowdsourcing posts in a go, one right after another! If you have not already, do check out the interesting conversation in the previous post.

Can we Crowdsource Great Designs?

Design Leadership
May 16, 2008

I stumbled over an interview conducted in 1957 between Mike Wallace and Frank Lloyd Wright where he discussed his thoughts on the common man and designing for the common man.

Wallace: What do you think of the average man in the United States who has little use for your ideas in architecture, in politics, in religion?

Wright: Are you speaking of the common man?

Wallace: The average man, the common man, I think that you have sometimes called him part of the mobocracy—part of the mob.

Wright: He’s the basis of it. I think the common man is responsible for the drift toward conformity now. It’s going to ruin our democracy, and is not according to our democratic faith. I believe our democracy was Thomas Jefferson’s idea. I mean I think Thomas Jefferson’s idea was the right idea, but we were headed for a genuine aristocracy. An aristocracy that was innate, on the man, not of him…not this by privilege but his, by virtue of this own virtue, his own conscience, his own quality, and that by that we were going to have a rule of the bravest and the best. But now that the common man is becoming a little jealous of the uncommon man, as H. I. Phillips wrote the other day, “It’s getting to the point where” he said… “Well, what’s the punk got we ain’t got? He’s just got the breaks that’s all.” Now that’s going to ruin the common man, because the uncommon man is his vision. And I believe what you call the common man is what I call the common man, a man who believes in nothing he can’t see, and he can’t see anything he can’t put his hand on. He’s a block to progress.

This got me thinking about today’s big marketing buzz word Crowdsourcing or following the Wisdom of the Crowd or in Wright’s words the “Mobocracy”.

With the crowds making the choice or calling the shots in today’s Internet environment, it there an avenue for designers to leverage on this so that we can do genera breaking superior design?

There are those who believe in the idea of “Consumers as Creators”. They believe that by gathering the “Wisdom of the Masses”, we can finally design products that we can be sure they want. Or can we?

Like this post I wrote a while back: The appropriateness of getting your customer to design a product for you? I think this buzz word is a bit of a dud and grossly misinterpreted.

While Threadless, Cambrain House, Digg or StumbleUpon are great examples of Crowdsourcing systems, in my opinion, it actually leans more towards content selection, rather than content creation.

Wait a minute?

That’s right, Consumers are not really creating anything. The majority of them are selecting from a pool, which means it is a win situation for the consumer and owners of the Crowdsourcing system, but not so much the creators. Notice I used the term creators as they could be consumers as well. Which is where I think some of the misinterpretation problem comes in.

I would imagine that for every one cool Threadless T-Shirt made, there would be a majority of designs that quietly fall off the back of the bandwagon. So in this case where is the benefit to the creator?

But what about what Wright said? Do you think his amazing body of work is a result of listening to user? It does not really look like it, and it sounds like he did not care one bit. What about Apple? They seem to be very happy telling us what to like and we, equally happy, lap it up with little questions ask? Is there more to this equation? What about market research and critical insight?

Therefore, are the game breaking design solutions something what everybody wants (read mediocre/conformity or optimized) but may not need? Or something designers think we might need (read innovative but high brow) but may not want?

What do you guys think? I know that most of you would be jumping up and down at this time, but I’m thinking out loud here and am looking for what you guys might think about this issue. So do have your say!

How best to Manage “Design”?

Design Leadership
May 13, 2008

Wow a burst of link love and pointers from all my friends today seem to revolve around this theme. So I thought to compile it all right here in one place!

1) Managing Successful Client and Designer Relationships: Adaptive Path Blog.

2) Managing a Product’s Experience seems to be the key these days: Core77 Blog.

Transcendent product design is a matter of philosophy and approach. The reason product development has gone wrong is that people stop at the worst time—when the solutions are most convoluted. What Eastman knew, what Jobs knows, is that you have to go beyond; you have to think about the experience people are having.

3) Managing a Creative Environment, perhaps in your studio?

4) Managing Creativity De Bono Style.

5) Managing the Future of Design!
Martin Konrad’s recent master thesis in industrial design explored the areas of design democracy, personalization, and mass customization. A great read.

Give Credit where Credit is Due

Designing Designers
May 12, 2008

This is interesting. In the many portfolios I have seen, rarely have I seen a portfolio that clearly indicates if it was group work or a project done with a team. If fact, it happens so infrequently that I sit up and take notice when a portfolio actually has credits.

In today’s Internet environment the term “don’t take a dump in your own backyard” is becoming more and more relevant as your “backyard” has become a lot bigger than you think.

Here are 3 examples:

1) I’ve noticed in a portfolio some great sketches from designer A. Later, in another designer B’s portfolio, I noticed the same sketches.

2) There was this great project in a digital portfolio that did not credit any other members in the design team that I knew were involved. What’s worst was that there was no information in the area that designer played a part in. That area, which I heard, was actually small compared to the scope of involvement of the other designers.

3) Finally awhile back, I interviewed 2 different designers who worked on the same project, but both did not credit their partners (i.e. each other). They only admitted it was group work when I asked.

With people publishing a lot of their design work online or turning their portfolios into a digital format, giving credit where credit is due is becoming a lot more important, as you will not really know where your work will end up. Imagine your creditability as a designer if such conflicting information falls in the hands of potential employers?

Here are some things to consider and think about:

1) There is no shame in playing a small role in a project. Sure, by all means showcase the entire project, but do highlight that area(s) you were involved in, and paint a picture of your role in the greater scheme of things. You will come across as humble and a great team player.

2) It is pretty easy to tell, based on your number of years of experience, how much you should be capable of doing. So please, when you sell, don’t over sell!

3) Find a small space in your portfolio, preferably at the start of each project, to credit all the other people involved. “Designed with…” or “With additional support by…” is always a good thing as good Karma does go around.

4) Expect probing questions on your participation in a project. I wonder if a list of activities, or perhaps a highlighted numerical percentage of involvement, could be useful in giving an indication on your involvement?

5) However you have to be realistic as you can’t possibility credit everybody. There is no point crediting that tea lady who brought your hot drinks, or that engineer that helped you convert your NURBS into a Parametric Model, or even that designer who sketched their 2 cents worth. Even with design awards, we often only credit people who played a significant role in the project. Basically anyone who’s input had an influence in a project’s final outcome.

6) Finally, it is sometimes difficult in team based design environments to really divide up the design work. It is not always so clear cut. Occasionally, you might have come up with an idea in a concept sketch, but it was re-sketched for a presentation by someone else. Or an idea you were developing was changed to a completely different direction by your design manager. Even I myself once developed a design all the way to production based on a 10min Photoshop rendered sketch. In this case, what would you do? If it helps explain the scope of the project, I think it would be all right to show this and all related work in your portfolio, even if it was not yours. But do clearly state, where your part role and influence took place.

At the end of the day, I supposed this is one of those so called unspoken codes of conduct. Thus most of the time we trust and take what a designer says at face value. However, I’m sure a lot of such activities will slip through the cracks. Whether it may be a result of ignorance or intent, I think the only thing standing in the way is a guilty conscience.

So what about you? Do you credit your teammates in your portfolio? If so how do you do it? Experienced any horror stories? Anyone “claimed” credit for work that was rightfully yours, either partially or wholly? Do have your say and I look forward to reading all your comments.

Stefan Sagmeister – Things I Have Learned in My Life so far

Industrial Design
May 08, 2008

This looks like it’s been out for awhile, but the Guru of Graphics has recently launched his book of wisdom that I’m sure will be a massive hit. I’m going to get it, at the very least for the “type candy”!

Check it out at Amazon: Things I have learned in my life so far

Via: Design Crit

Edit: Regular DS reader Drew suggests you watch Stefan in action on Ted. Thanks Drew!