Peel light

Peel light

yoy jp peel 1 yoy jp peel 2 yoy jp peel 3 yoy jp peel 4

OLED corner wall light from Tokyo based design studio YOY, composed by spatial designer Naoki Ono and product designer Yuki Yamamoto.
Photos by Yasuko Furukawa.

4 Things You Absolutely Need to Start Selling Online

Creating an online store is a process that may seem mysterious and complicated when you first look at it. This guide will help to simplify the process and get you selling in no time. If you want to use WordPress to manage your e-commerce operation, then FoundationDesign can take you there from start to finish.

There are two ways to sell on your website. The quickest way is to add a “Buy Now” button, which is linked to your account with PayPal or another payment processer. The transaction will then take place at the payment processor’s website and not on your own.

The second way to sell on your website is to use your payment gateway’s API to process transactions directly on your website. This means that when the customer checks out, everything happens on your website. This is preferable to the customer getting redirected to another site for the purchase. It’s this second process that we’re going to focus on in this tutorial. So let’s take the guesswork out of it and walk through the four main elements that you will need for an effective e-commerce setup.

1. Merchant Account

A merchant account is a type of bank account that allows your business to accept payments by debit or credit cards. This is not your own business bank account. You will need to acquire a merchant account. You may be able to get one through your bank, but sometimes this isn’t easy for a small business. More than likely you will need to go through an intermediary for an internet merchant account. When selecting a merchant account provider, you’ll want to research and compare fees among them, make sure they offer a guarantee, as well quality support and policies that suit your business’ needs.

2. Payment Gateway

A payment gateway is an e-commerce service that authorizes payments for online businesses. It handles the technical part of the transaction processing, similar to the way a physical POS (point-of-sale) terminal would do so onsite for a retailer.

Some merchant accounts come complete with their own payment gateways. However, the gateways may not be compatible with your shopping cart, so you’ll need to make sure that you’re not getting set up with some obscure gateway that no cart will support. Also, you don’t have to use your merchant account provider’s gateway. You can select one on your own. You are probably safest selecting from one of the most widely-used gateways, such as PayPal, Authorize.net, Google Checkout, 2CheckOut, or Amazon Payments.

We can’t necessarily recommend which would be best for you because each business will have different needs and varying volumes of transaction. However, we can offer a few tips to help you with the selection process.

Tips for Selecting a Payment Gateway:

  • Easy to Integrate with WordPress – Do a little research to make sure that your payment gateway will be easy to set up with WordPress. It’s helpful to already know which plugin you’ll be working with to provide your shopping cart, as you’ll need your gateway to be supported by the shopping cart you use.
  • Performance and Reliability – You’ll want to choose a payment gateway that is known for rock solid reliability, as you don’t want their service to go down when your customers are trying to make purchases.
  • Security -Your customer’s information must be safe with the gateway that is processing your credit cards. Therefore, you want to make sure that the provider follows industry standards for encryption and security protocols.
  • Support – Select a payment gateway that is known for providing excellent support, because it will be taking a percentage of your sales. Make sure that they will be able to answer any of your questions and swiftly handle support issues if anything goes wrong.

3. SSL Certificate

SSL stands for “Secure Socket Layer”. SSL certificates are used to confirm the identity of a website or server, encrypt data during transmission, and ensure the integrity of transmitted data.

If you’re processing transactions on your website, you will need to have an SSL Certificate. Ordinarily, this is something that you obtain from your host. If you do not purchase it from your host, you can usually get your hosting provider to install the certificate for you. For most sites, an SSL certificate will generally be in the range of $20 to $80 a year, depending on your needs.

4. Shopping Cart

There are many shopping carts for WordPress available and the one you choose will depend on the complexity of the functionality your store requires and what gateway you intend to use to process your payments. You have many to choose from in both the free and premium categories and I suggest that you make a checklist of everything you’re hoping for your cart to do before settling on a plugin.

What to Look For in a WordPress Shopping Cart Plugin

  • Updated for the latest version of WordPress – This is important for security reasons as well as a sign that there is an active development community surrounding the plugin to continue to improve it.
  • Ease of Implementation – If you’re setting up your store yourself, then you’ll want a shopping cart plugin that is basically plug and play, unless you have decent experience with PHP.
  • Payment Gateways Supported – You will either choose your cart based on what payment gateway you’re planning to use or choose your gateway based on what your cart supports. In either scenario, you’ll want to verify which gateways are supported.
  • Design of the Cart – If the shopping cart you select is very unattractive right out of the box, then you’ll need to spend a lot of time theming it and it will take you more time to get off the ground.
  • Documentation and Professional Support -You’ll want to select a cart that has decent documentation and support for customizations you want to add now and in the future. While your store may be a simple setup at first, you want the ability to expand as necessary.

Conclusion:

The bottom line is that if you have a website dedicated to selling online and you don’t accept credit cards, then you’re losing massive amounts of business and opportunities to further brand your products and services.

Certainly, the ease of simply adding a “Buy Now” button that redirects you to an offsite payment gateway is probably much less time consuming to set up. However, in this scenario you will lose your ability to keep your branding consistent throughout the purchasing process. Why sacrifice your traffic for a little convenience? This is your website and you want it to be as professional and effective a tool as possible. If you put a a little more effort into how your online store is set up, you’ll have total branding control over your transactions, as well as the ability to steer and retain your customers.

Google Panda & Penquin Leaving Your SEO Efforts A Mess?

Google Panda and Penquin make Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, a confusing subject for a lot of small business owners.
The reason it causes so much confusion is partly to do with outdated SEO methods still being touted by some people, and Google search algorithm updates making those methods actually harmful to your site ranking.

Why does Google SEO matter?

By keeping up on the latest search engine updates (such as Google Panda), and using good SEO practices on your site, you can improve your search engine rankings.

The higher on the page your site shows up, the more likely people are to visit it, since Google lists the most relevant content first.

If you use your website to gain clients and make sales, you need to pay attention to SEO.

If people can’t find your site in the search engines, you’re going to lose money to your SEO-savvy competitors.

What are Google Panda and Penguin?

Attempting to filter out some of the junk content on the web and return quality information to its searchers, Google rolled out two recent updates, called Panda and Penguin.

To put it simply, Panda is a content quality filter. It checks your site for duplicate articles, or multiple articles on a similar topic, with slight keyword changes.

It also looks for short articles, or those without any helpful content, written just for search engines instead of for real people.

Penguin is similar, driving down a site’s search rankings if it finds:

* Keyword-stuffing: Loading your site’s meta tags or contents with keywords meant to attract search engine spiders
* Cloaking: Showing search engine spiders different content from what shows up in a user’s browser
* Any other tricks intended to fool search engines into boosting a site’s ranking, without adding any value to the content for real readers.

Any of these issues can cause your site to get a lower ranking in Google’s search engine. This lower ranking means less traffic — which can mean a significant loss in revenue if you get a lot of sales from your website.

How can I rank better with my SEO?

There are several things you can do to keep your site high in the search engine rankings.

They include:

* Update your site regularly. You can do this in several ways; probably the easiest is to start a company blog and keep it updated on a regular schedule. Make sure you’re writing your posts for real people, not search engine robots, and you’ll get a boost from Google.

* Do some keyword research using Google’s Adwords keyword Tool. Find one good keyword that matches the content of each page of your site, and build that page’s content around it. Note: Do NOT just shoehorn this keyword into every sentence of your page. Keyword stuffing will hurt, not help your rankings. You should structure your content so the keyword flows naturally.

* Use social media to promote your content and gain links back to your site. Google’s algorithm uses this buzz to determine how useful people think your content is. If you create great content that a lot of people share, it can help your search rankings.

How do I know my SEO strategy is working?

Measuring SEO success means keeping track of your website’s statistics every month. It’s important not to place all of the weight on search rankings; while rankings will help you gain visitors, a more important metric is how many of those visitors convert into sales.

A keyword that brings in a lot of visitors who look around and leave without buying is one that you should consider scrapping.

(Via Viral ideas.Trends. Inspiration.)

Dieter Ram’s ten principles of “good design”

Dieter Rams introduced the idea of sustainable development and of obsolescence being a crime in design in the 1970s.Accordingly he asked himself the question: is my design good design? The answer formed his now celebrated ten principles.

Good design:

Is innovative – The possibilities for progression are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for original designs. But imaginative design always develops in tandem with improving technology, and can never be an end in itself.

Makes a product useful – A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic criteria. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could detract from it.

Is aesthetic – The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.

Makes a product understandable – It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user’s intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.

Is unobtrusive – Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression.

Is honest – It does not make a product appear more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.

Is long-lasting – It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.

Is thorough down to the last detail – Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.

Is environmentally friendly – Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.

Is as little design as possible – Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.

My Week With the Leica M9

My first camera was the Nikkormat FT2. As far as features go, it was slim. The only luxury it had was a built-it light meter. There was no aperture priority, a maximum shutter speed of 1/1000 sec and, obviously, no auto-focus. This camera which I received 11 years ago set the tone for the way that I take photography to this very day. Even though I primarily shoot in digital, I only use prime lenses, most of which are manual focus. I bought the Nikon D700 entirely on the basis that it had a full-frame sensor and would accept all my old manual Nikkor lenses. I prefer the manual/prime lens combination for a few important reasons. The manual experience puts the shooter in much more control over composition. When I nail a shot with a manual lens, I feel a much greater sense of accomplishment than I get with an auto-focus lens. I prefer prime lenses due to their smaller/lighter profile, and general superior image quality (at least without breaking the bank).

Speaking of breaking the bank, this leads directly to the Leica M9. The Leica rangefinder is nearly a perfect fit for my photography preferences. Leica’s M mount collection consists entirely of manual, prime lenses. Many of these lenses are amazingly small and produce some of the best quality possible (in the right hands). In short, Leica image quality is legendary. The problem is that these cameras are notoriously expensive. A new M9 goes for roughly $7,000 and their lenses range between $1,300 and $10,000. I have wanted to shoot with a Leica for nearly a decade. I decided that if I couldn’t buy one, I could rent one for a week. Since the rental service didn’t offer the 50mm Summicron lens I was interested in, I got the 50mm Summarit.

So why am I writing about a 4 year old camera when there are countless articles written by far more experienced/credible people taking photos? Well, from everything I can tell, the people reading this blog are not professional photographers and may not have even heard of Leica prior to this post. I felt it would be a way to expose a group of people into a completely unique photographic device, and why it’s an amazing camera.

It turned out renting the M9 was a very bad decision because after using it for a week, it has been painful to go back. The camera met my expectations in image quality (even with their ‘worst’ lens) and far exceeded my expectations with everything else. If you know anything about Leica, you simply expect a properly captured photo to look amazing, but it’s hard to quantify the ‘small things’ about using a Leica until you actually use it.

My Impressions

Image Quality

I went out with the M9 and my D700 on the first day to compare results. I intentionally did not compare the photos pixel for pixel; I just wanted a high-level comparison. I didn’t see drastically sharper images from the M9/Summarit than I got from my D700/Nikkor f1.4. The Summarit may have been sharper, but the Nikkor f1.4 was sharp enough. The big difference was the natural contrast and tones that the Summarit delivered. The colors and contrast already felt right.

Many times, I would import the M9 photos into Lightroom and the images wouldn’t need any adjustments. As someone who constantly is fiddling with the RAW files from my D700, this blew me away. It’s hard for me to explain how the M9 photos felt right, they just did. Additionally, the contrast delivered straight from the lens was not something I was able to replicate in my D700 photos by simply increasing the contrast once in Lightroom.

One important note is that the M9′s sensor delivers notoriously poor image quality at high ISO. I think I shot one photo at ISO 1600 just to see for myself. The Leica delivered as promised. This was one area where my D700 blew it away hands down.

Focusing & Framing

Setting up a shot with a rangefinder is quite different than with the SLR. I don’t want to go into the gory details of the differences between SLR and rangefinder viewfinders because that could take a whole article. The gist is that a rangefinder’s viewfinder’s view is independent of the lens on the camera. This video concisely describes the M9′s viewfinder:

I loved the ability to see what was outside of the shot because it gave me greater awareness of my surroundings. After going back to shooting with my SLR, I felt like I had tunnel vision. The rangefinder framing process felt more flexible – I could keep the camera up to my eye and still have a general understanding of what was going on around me.

Focusing took 15 minutes to feel natural and so much better than my D700. It’s important to note that the D700 is not designed for manual photography. In many regards, I was very happy that Nikon provided any manual focus options to begin with. However, you can quickly tell that the feature is not a top priority. I could go on for paragraphs as to how the manual focus mechanism on the D700 is sub-optimal, but this article is about the M9. Suffice to say that a camera designed for manual focus will be better at manual focus.

Ergonomics

The body of the M9 feels more solid than the D700 (a difficult feat) and it considerably smaller and lighter (roughly 2/3 the weight of the D700). The M9 doesn’t have any rubberized areas and it can feel quite slick. This intermittently scared the hell out of me since there were times when I felt I could drop it. The body doesn’t have a built in handgrip, which I’m OK with, but I’d never carry the camera without a strap around my shoulder. The M9 camera body may not be ergonomic in shape, but due to its smaller shape and lighter weight, it still feels great in the hand.

Shooting Feel

What grabbed me the most about the Leica is the quality with the highest subjectivity. The overall feel of the Leica, specifically its size/weight and incredibly quiet shutter, made it the most enjoyable camera I’ve ever shot with. The camera and its lenses are so small that I found unsuspecting subjects were not intimidated when I pointed it at them. I could frequently get away with people not even knowing that I took a photo of them because it was so silent.

The poor-quality preview screen had the interesting side effect of stopping me from chimping every time I took a photo. I spent less time worrying about the photos I had already taken and worrying more about capturing the next shot. This feeling was magnified by the fact that I knew the camera would deliver a great photo if I held my end of the bargain (nailing the focus, not pointing the camera directly at the sun, etc.). It was a wonderful feeling to know that I was the bottleneck for every shot I took.

Rent One. Seriously.

I ended up loving the M9 for the way it let me take photos as much as the photos it produced. On the surface, the camera is tremendously overpriced, but it provides an entirely unique shooting experience. In a way, you are paying for what the camera allows you to experience rather than what it can do for you.

(Via Some Random Dude.)

What Font Should I Use? Five Principles for Choosing and Using Typefaces

By Dan Mayer

For many beginners, the task of picking fonts is a mystifying process. There seem to be endless choices — from normal, conventional-looking fonts to novelty candy cane fonts and bunny fonts — with no way of understanding the options, only never-ending lists of categories and recommendations. Selecting the right typeface is a mixture of firm rules and loose intuition, and takes years of experience to develop a feeling for. Here are five guidelines for picking and using fonts that I’ve developed in the course of using and teaching typography.

1. Dress For The Occasion

Many of my beginning students go about picking a font as though they were searching for new music to listen to: they assess the personality of each face and look for something unique and distinctive that expresses their particular aesthetic taste, perspective and personal history. This approach is problematic, because it places too much importance on individuality.

The most appropriate analogy for picking type. (Photo credit: Samuuraijohnny. Used under Creative Commons license.)

For better or for worse, picking a typeface is more like getting dressed in the morning. Just as with clothing, there’s a distinction between typefaces that are expressive and stylish versus those that are useful and appropriate to many situations, and our job is to try to find the right balance for the occasion. While appropriateness isn’t a sexy concept, it’s the acid test that should guide our choice of font.

My “favorite” piece of clothing is probably an outlandish pair of 70s flare bellbottoms that I bought at a thrift store, but the reality is that these don’t make it out of my closet very often outside of Halloween. Every designer has a few favorite fonts like this — expressive personal favorites that we hold onto and wait for the perfect festive occasion to use. More often, I find myself putting on the same old pair of Levis morning after morning. It’s not that I like these better than my cherished flares, exactly… I just seem to wind up wearing them most of the time.

Every designer has a few workhorse typefaces that are like comfortable jeans: they go with everything, they seem to adapt to their surroundings and become more relaxed or more formal as the occasion calls for, and they just seem to come out of the closet day after day. Usually, these are faces that have a number of weights (Light, Regular, Bold, etc) and/or cuts (Italic, Condensed, etc). My particular safety blankets are: Myriad, Gotham, DIN, Akzidenz Grotesk and Interstate among the sans; Mercury, Electra and Perpetua among the serif faces.

A large type family like Helvetica Neue can be used to express a range of voices and emotions. Versatile and comfortable to work with, these faces are like a favorite pair of jeans for designers.

2. Know Your Families: Grouping Fonts

The clothing analogy gives us a good idea of what kind of closet we need to put together. The next challenge is to develop some kind of structure by which we can mentally categorize the different typefaces we run across.

Typefaces can be divided and subdivided into dozens of categories (Scotch Modern, anybody?), but we only really need to keep track of five groups to establish a working understanding of the majority of type being used in the present-day landscape.

The following list is not meant as a comprehensive classification of each and every category of type (there are plenty of great sites on the web that already tackle this, such as Typedia’s type classifications) but rather as a manageable shorthand overview of key groups. Let’s look at two major groups without serifs (serifs being the little feet at the ends of the letterforms), two with serifs, and one outlier (with big, boxey feet).

1. Geometric Sans

I’m actually combining three different groups here (Geometric, Realist and Grotesk), but there is enough in common between these groups that we can think of them as one entity for now. Geometric Sans-Serifs are those faces that are based on strict geometric forms. The individual letter forms of a Geometric Sans often have strokes that are all the same width and frequently evidence a kind of “less is more” minimalism in their design.

At their best, Geometric Sans are clear, objective, modern, universal; at their worst, cold, impersonal, boring. A classic Geometric Sans is like a beautifully designed airport: it’s impressive, modern and useful, but we have to think twice about whether or not we’d like to live there.

Examples of Geometric/Realist/Grotesk Sans: Helvetica, Univers, Futura, Avant Garde, Akzidenz Grotesk, Franklin Gothic, Gotham.

2. Humanist Sans

These are Sans faces that are derived from handwriting — as clean and modern as some of them may look, they still retain something inescapably human at their root. Compare the ‘t’ in the image above to the ‘t’ in ‘Geometric’ and note how much more detail and idiosyncrasy the Humanist ‘t’ has.

This is the essence of the Humanist Sans: whereas Geometric Sans are typically designed to be as simple as possible, the letter forms of a Humanist font generally have more detail, less consistency, and frequently involve thinner and thicker stoke weights — after all they come from our handwriting, which is something individuated. At their best, Humanist Sans manage to have it both ways: modern yet human, clear yet empathetic. At their worst, they seem wishy-washy and fake, the hand servants of corporate insincerity.

Examples of Humanist Sans: Gill Sans, Frutiger, Myriad, Optima, Verdana.

3. Old Style

Also referred to as ‘Venetian’, these are our oldest typefaces, the result of centuries of incremental development of our calligraphic forms. Old Style faces are marked by little contrast between thick and thin (as the technical restrictions of the time didn’t allow for it), and the curved letter forms tend to tilt to the left (just as calligraphy tilts). Old Style faces at their best are classic, traditional, readable and at their worst are… well, classic and traditional.

Examples of Old Style: Jenson, Bembo, Palatino, and — especially — Garamond, which was considered so perfect at the time of its creation that no one really tried much to improve on it for a century and a half.

4. Transitional and Modern

An outgrowth of Enlightenment thinking, Transitional (mid 18th Century) and Modern (late 18th century, not to be confused with mid 20th century modernism) typefaces emerged as type designers experimented with making their letterforms more geometric, sharp and virtuosic than the unassuming faces of the Old Style period. Transitional faces marked a modest advancement in this direction — although Baskerville, a quintessential Transitional typeface, appeared so sharp to onlookers that people believed it could hurt one’s vision to look at it.

In carving Modernist punches, type designers indulged in a kind of virtuosic demonstration of contrasting thick and thin strokes — much of the development was spurred by a competition between two rival designers who cut similar faces, Bodoni and Didot. At their best, transitional and modern faces seem strong, stylish, dynamic. At their worst, they seem neither here nor there — too conspicuous and baroque to be classic, too stodgy to be truly modern.

Examples of transitional typefaces: Times New Roman, Baskerville.

Examples of Modern serifs: Bodoni, Didot.

5. Slab Serifs

Also known as ‘Egyptian’ (don’t ask), the Slab Serif is a wild card that has come strongly back into vogue in recent years. Slab Serifs usually have strokes like those of sans faces (that is, simple forms with relatively little contrast between thick and thin) but with solid, rectangular shoes stuck on the end. Slab Serifs are an outlier in the sense that they convey very specific — and yet often quite contradictory — associations: sometimes the thinker, sometimes the tough guy; sometimes the bully, sometimes the nerd; sometimes the urban sophisticate, sometimes the cowboy.

They can convey a sense of authority, in the case of heavy versions like Rockwell, but they can also be quite friendly, as in the recent favorite Archer. Many slab serifs seem to express an urban character (such as Rockwell, Courier and Lubalin), but when applied in a different context (especially Clarendon) they strongly recall the American Frontier and the kind of rural, vernacular signage that appears in photos from this period. Slab Serifs are hard to generalize about as a group, but their distinctive blocky serifs function something like a pair of horn-rimmed glasses: they add a distinctive wrinkle to anything, but can easily become overly conspicuous in the wrong surroundings.

Examples of Slab Serifs: Clarendon, Rockwell, Courier, Lubalin Graph, Archer.

3. Don’t Be a Wimp: The Principle of Decisive Contrast

So, now that we know our families and some classic examples of each, we need to decide how to mix and match and — most importantly — whether to mix and match at all. Most of the time, one typeface will do, especially if it’s one of our workhorses with many different weights that work together. If we reach a point where we want to add a second face to the mix, it’s always good to observe this simple rule: keep it exactly the same, or change it a lot — avoid wimpy, incremental variations.

This is a general principle of design, and its official name is correspondence and contrast. The best way to view this rule in action is to take all the random coins you collected in your last trip through Europe and dump them out on a table together. If you put two identical coins next to each other, they look good together because they match (correspondence). On the other hand, if we put a dime next to one of those big copper coins we picked up somewhere in Central Europe, this also looks interesting because of the contrast between the two — they look sufficiently different.

What doesn’t work so well is when put our dime next to a coin from another country that’s almost the same size and color but slightly different. This creates an uneasy visual relationship because it poses a question, even if we barely register it in on a conscious level — our mind asks the question of whether these two are the same or not, and that process of asking and wondering distracts us from simply viewing.

When we combine multiple typefaces on a design, we want them to coexist comfortably — we don’t want to distract the viewer with the question, are these the same or not? We can start by avoiding two different faces from within one of the five categories that we listed above all together — two geometric sans, say Franklin and Helvetica. While not exactly alike, these two are also not sufficiently different and therefore put our layout in that dreaded neither-here-nor-there place.

If we are going to throw another font into the pot along with Helvetica, much better if we use something like Bembo, a classic Old Style face. Centuries apart in age and light years apart in terms of inspiration, Helvetica and Bembo have enough contrast to comfortably share a page:

Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as just picking fonts that are very, very different — placing our candy cane font next to, say, Garamond or Caslon does not guarantee us typographic harmony. Often, as in the above example of Helvetica and Bembo, there’s no real explanation for why two faces complement each other — they just do.

But if we want some principle to guide our selection, it should be this: often, two typefaces work well together if they have one thing in common but are otherwise greatly different. This shared common aspect can be visual (similar x-height or stroke weight) or it can be chronological. Typefaces from the same period of time have a greater likelihood of working well together… and if they are by the same designer, all the better.

4. A Little Can Go a Long Way

‘Enough with all these conventional-looking fonts and rules!’ you say. ‘I need something for my rave flyer! And my Thai restaurant menu! And my Christmas cards!’ What you’re pointing out here is that all the faces I’ve discussed so far are ‘body typefaces’, meaning you could conceivably set a whole menu or newspaper with any of them; in the clothing analogy presented in part one, these are our everyday Levis. What of our Halloween flares?

Periodically, there’s a need for a font that oozes with personality, whether that personality is warehouse party, Pad Thai or Santa Claus. And this need brings us into the vast wilderness of Display typefaces, which includes everything from Comic Sans to our candy-cane and bunny fonts. ‘Display’ is just another way of saying ‘do not exceed recommended dosage‘: applied sparingly to headlines, a display font can add a well-needed dash of flavor to a design, but it can quickly wear out its welcome if used too widely.

Time for another clothing analogy:

(Photo credit: Betsssssy. Used under Creative Commons license.)

Betsey’s outfit works because the pink belts acts as an accent and is offset by the down-to-earthiness of blue jeans. But if we get carried away and slather Betsey entirely in pink, she might wind up looking something like this:

(Photo credit: Phillip Leroyer). Used under Creative Commons license.)

Let’s call this the Pink Belt Principle of Type: display faces with lots of personality are best used in small doses. If we apply our cool display type to every bit of text in our design, the aesthetic appeal of the type is quickly spent and — worse yet — our design becomes very hard to read. Let’s say we’re designing a menu for our favorite corner Thai place. Our client might want us to use a ‘typically’ Asian display face, like Sho:

So far, so good. But look what happens when we apply our prized font choice to the entire menu:

Enough already. Let’s try replacing some of the rank-and-file text copy with something more neutral:

That’s better. Now that we’ve reined in the usage of our star typeface, we’ve allowed it to shine again.

5. Rule Number Five Is ‘There Are No Rules’

Really. Look hard enough and you will find a dazzling-looking menu set entirely in a hard-to-read display font. Or of two different Geometric Sans faces living happily together on a page (in fact, just this week I wound up trying this on a project and was surprised to find that it hit the spot). There are only conventions, no ironclad rules about how to use type, just as there are no rules about how we should dress in the morning. It’s worth trying everything just to see what happens — even wearing your Halloween flares to your court date.

In Conclusion

Hopefully, these five principles will have given you some guidelines for how to select, apply and mix type — and, indeed, whether to mix it at all. In the end, picking typefaces requires a combination of understanding and intuition, and — as with any skill — demands practice. With all the different fonts we have access to nowadays, it’s easy to forget that there’s nothing like a classic typeface used well by somebody who knows how to use it.

Some of the best type advice I ever received came early on from my first typography teacher: pick one typeface you like and use it over and over for months to the exclusion of all others. While this kind of exercise can feel constraining at times, it can also serve as a useful reminder that the quantity of available choices in the internet age is no substitute for quality.

Dan Mayer’s interest in graphic design began when he was five years old and visited a printing press on a 1979 episode of Sesame Street. Originally from the US, he recently spent five years in Prague teaching classes in design theory and history at Prague College and providing art direction for Dept. of Design. Dan currently freelances and splits his time between Prague and Berlin. His work and more examples of his writing can be found at www.danmayer.com.

Interview With Nadine Chahine: The Art And Craft Of Arabic Type Design

Interview With Nadine Chahine: The Art And Craft Of Arabic Type Design:

Today we’ll explore the art and craft of Arabic typography with Dr. Nadine Chahine, who lives in Bad Homburg, Germany. She is an Arabic Specialist at Monotype GmbH and is an award-winning type designer who has created typefaces that are being sold worldwide.The beauty of typography has no borders. While most of us work with the familiar Latin alphabet, international projects usually require quite extensive knowledge of less familiar writing systems from around the world. The aesthetics and structure of such designs can be strongly related to the shape and legibility of the letterforms, so learning about international writing systems will certainly help you to create more attractive and engaging Web designs.

Q: Where does your love of typography come from?

Nadine: It’s something I discovered during my graphic design education. I was fascinated by the contrast of the black and white, and the tension between angles and curves. Type is a design ingredient of immense power and it feeds into our collective memory. Its expressive power, its ability to convey both mood and identity, and the many different forms that it can take lead to a very rich field to play in. It is one that is dangerously addictive. The more one learns about type, the more drawn in one is. Very willingly, of course!

Q: How did you come to design type?

Nadine: I started playing around with type in the second year of the graphic design course, and got into things in earnest in the final year. It was then that I decided that I want to pursue this as a career and joined the MA course at The University of Reading, UK. The course really put me on the right career track and provided the kind of educational setting that supported both practical and theoretical typographic explorations. It’s been 15 years now since I drew my first letters, and I still wake up every day with the desire to draw some more.

Q: According to your blog, you joined Monotype in 2005 (known as ‘Linotype’ at the time). Can you summarize your current role at the company?

Nadine: I am the Arabic Specialist for Monotype (as we have rebranded in March 2013). I am responsible for our Arabic projects, and that involves designing typefaces for the library and custom ones for our clients. I am also involved when externals design for us. Last year we collaborated with the MIT Age Lab on legibility research into the effect of typeface style on driver distraction, and I was part of the team. As it is exactly aligned with the PhD research that I completed in October, I’m very happy that I am now involved in legibility research as well as in type design.

Closeup of the early sketches of Zapfino Arabic.

Q: What is the biggest challenge in designing an Arabic typeface?

Nadine: There are design challenges in drawing letterforms that, when put together, appear as one continuous pen stroke. There are also challenges that are more existential in nature, such as the face of modern Arabic typography and how closely tied it is to calligraphic references. We have so few well-designed typefaces that it is often the case that the typeface one is working on presents a design problem that has never been addressed to date. There is also a lot of freedom in that, so it’s not too daunting.

Q: How do you design? What does your design process look like?

Nadine: It starts with a vague idea that I try to formulate on paper or, usually, on computer. It takes a while for what I draw to match what I want the typeface to do. That usually involves generating many versions of the font, testing it out in sample texts, making modifications, and repeating the process until the typeface becomes itself. I know that sounds a bit funny, but a typeface goes through adolescence and eventually grows into the best that it can possibly be.

Hermann Zapf’s corrections to Zapfino Arabic.

Q: From the initial idea to the finished product, how long does it take for a new typeface to be born?

Nadine: Sometimes it takes years and sometimes it is a matter of weeks. Some designs are simply more complex and need a long time to mature. Others are straightforward, and if you’ve designed in that style before and the client is in a hurry, they can be finished quite quickly. It used to take much longer when I first started out. Every time I made a few changes, I’d need to test immediately, and then would agonize endlessly over which version is better. These days it is, of course, easier, and the ability to control a curve gets better with practice. There are still styles that are hard to design and require a lot of effort. The more complex and organic the curve, the more attention it requires.

Q: Frutiger Arabic, Neue Helvetica Arabic, Univers Next Arabic, Palatino and Palatino Sans Arabic, Koufiya, Janna, Badiya, or BigVesta Arabic. Do you have a personal favorite?

Nadine: Koufiya is special because I drew both the Latin and Arabic, and the concept is fully mine. Some of my typefaces I prefer to others, but I try not to tell. 🙂

Q: Where do you get your inspiration from?

Nadine: It is always the streets of Beirut. Not the way my city is now, but how I wish it to be. When I studied graphic design in Beirut, I was always frustrated by the low quality of available Arabic fonts. It felt as if this is a reflection of a much larger state of being, of everything that is not OK in our part of the world. And that was a state of affairs that was intolerable, and so I set about trying to make my environment look better, one letter at a time.

Simulation of how the eye moves across a line of text and the pattern of fixations.

Q: What is your favorite part about designing type? Do you also have a least favorite part?

Nadine: There is an ‘A-ha’ moment, when all the pieces suddenly fit together. That is the most gratifying moment, when the vague idea suddenly becomes a reality. For the least favorite, it’s designing the numerals. That is my punishment.

Q: In your opinion, what makes a great typeface?

Nadine: A typeface has a function, and the greatness lies in the balance of achieving that function with the pure aesthetic value of the curves themselves. Adrian Frutiger wrote that a typeface is like a beautiful group of people, rather than a group of beautiful people. He has designed some of the greatest typefaces that we know, and very likely redefined what a sans-serif typeface is supposed to look like. When you see his work, the kind of designs that are meant to become part of our lives, the curves that he draws, the elegance of movement and interplay of black and white, you know that you are in the presence of greatness.

Q: What are you working on at the moment?

Nadine: Zapfino Arabic! It’s the most challenging typeface that I have ever tackled. Both exciting and scary!

Q: What have been your biggest achievements so far?

Nadine: There are the design collaborations with Adrian Frutiger, Professor Hermann Zapf and Gerard Unger, and the design awards. The typefaces, of course, are my babies, but I am especially happy with my PhD. I did my research on the side of a very busy work schedule. It took five years of working six days a week and barely any holidays to get it done, and I still cannot believe that I managed it!

Specimens of Nadine’s typefaces.

Q: Arabic Web fonts are still at a disadvantage because some typefaces do not display correctly in certain browsers and devices. Why is this the case? What needs to happen for this to change?

Nadine: Current desktop browser support has resolved this problem, but we still need the public to upgrade to the latest versions. The devices are a different story and still far from where we need them to be.

Q: We recently ran an article on Helvetica on Smashing Magazine. As the creator of Neue Helvetica Arabic, what is your opinion on the issue?

Nadine: Helvetica is a divisive typeface and passions run high when discussing it, as you can see in the comments. The important thing to keep in mind is, Helvetica came to light in a set of circumstances that might never repeat. In other words, the stars were aligned and this propelled it to the place it is now. I’m not sure we will ever have a typeface that comes close to what Helvetica is. This has to do not with the design of the typeface, but with the role that this typeface played in our lives 50 years ago and has played till today.

Gebran2005, designed for An-Nahar newspaper in Lebanon.

Q: How do you see the type industry evolving in the next 10 years?

Nadine: There is a very big push today in the direction of non-Latin type design. I expect this to continue to grow, and I do hope that we evolve into a more global approach to the design of letterforms and visual communication.

Q: What advice would you give to young readers out there who are interested in becoming type designers?

Nadine: Get into it! It is a very fulfilling design practice, and one that is highly addictive and enjoyable. My advice would be to attend one of the many type design conferences that take place regularly and to talk to other designers to see what the work is actually like. There are many resources online about type design, and starting there to get an overview is also helpful.

Early sketches of Zapfino Arabic.

Q: How can readers find out what conferences you’ll be speaking at or attending, and workshops you’ll be organizing throughout 2013?

I usually mention these on Twitter, and sometimes on Facebook and my blog.

Thank you for your time, Nadine! We sincerely appreciate it.

Lessons in Design: Typography Dos and Don’ts |  Control Group

Lessons in Design: Typography Dos and Don’ts |  Control Group: ”

by JOSH HESTER on April 25, 2013
Josh recently gave this presentation to his fellow co-workers as a primer for typography (the study of type) and its role in graphic design, as an adaptation of a presentation that he gave to his Type 2 students at Queens College. The goal was to get as many non-designers in the room and expose them to something that they probably hadn’t even considered before. If people came out of the talk knowing the difference between a ‘smart’ quote and ‘dumb’ quote, then he considered the presentation a success.

Typography Dos & Don’ts on Slideshare

New Evian Viral – Dancing With My Baby-me

New Evian Viral – Dancing With My Baby-me: “

Evian is back with a new video that, unsurprisingly, features dancing babies, or to be more precise, dancing baby-me.

After the teaser video that was launched almost a month ago, Evian presents the full video that is part of a new campaign.

Babies are not new in Evian’s advertising communication, they have been the cornerstone of Evian creative since 1998. The year when ‘Waterbabies’ were introduced. Later, in 2009, Evian came up with Roller Babies which is the third most-watched campaign of all time with 206 million views, according to Visible Measures.
And now, almost four years later, the babies are back.

Baby & Me / The New Evian Film

The question might be, if the new Baby&Me video will be as successful as Evian’s ‘Roller Babies’, but we will see. In my opinion the video has a potential to score even more views, already got more than 2,7 million in 3 days. What do you think, which one is better? To make the comparison easier for you, below is also the Roller Babies video, which is currently on 64 million views. A long way to go for Baby & Me, but only time will tell.

Evian Roller Babies international version

Evian is starting this global campaign, which is going to include also outdoor elements featuring portraits of adults and their baby versions and also an app. The name, unsurprisingly named ‘Baby & Me’ ( available starting mid-May) will transform uploaded pictures of adults into their ‘baby versions.’ Might be interesting to compare with your real baby photos? I’d give it a try.

 

What about you?
How do you like the new video of Evian? Using the same theme, however successful in the past, does not mean it will be a blast again…or does it?

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Google And Facebook Launch Tools To Die Digitally

Google And Facebook Launch Tools To Die Digitally: “

What happens to your social media profiles when you die? This has been the question that has been going around the web lately, and Google and Facebook have the answer for you.

Have you ever wondered what happens to your Facebook page when you kick the bucket? Maybe a morbid question but, now that important information about your personal life is increasingly being stored in the cloud, it is a relevant one.

Google
Google recently launched the Inactive Account Manager. This feature makes sure your personal information, Google documents and e-mails or YouTube videos are shared with loved ones or deleted when you have been inactive for a certain amount of time.

After 3 to 12 months, depending on your own wishes, Google will send you a notification, after which your last wishes will be granted.

Facebook
What about Facebook? They haven’t got an option that lets you delete your entire account, but have several features with which you can make sure you can be remembered when you die.

There is the Facebook ‘If I Die-app’ that can be used to record a farewell message for your selected friends and family.

Furthermore, your loved ones can choose to convert your personal profile to a memorial page on which your Facebook friends can post comments, photos and videos to commemorate you by. Facebook makes sure any personal information like contact information and status updates can be removed from the page.

Digizeker
A Dutch company called Digizeker offers digital vaults in which details of  your virtual activity can be kept in case you pass away. For 50 euros a year, your accounts and passwords are safely stored. Only certain people you have authorized get access to the contents of your vault, and are able to delete anything.

My Opinion
As morbid as thinking about your social media channels after your death may be, I think it is definitely becoming more and more important to make sure your loved ones can delete anything that can be remotely painful to them after you die.

These apps can help in the process, but are certainly not enough yet. The possibility of deleting your data has to be spread to all major social networks, making it easier for the people you leave behind not to be obliged to go through your online things.

Of course it is possible that your loved ones do not want all of your social media activity to be gone, so being able to choose what gets deleted and what won’t is an essential feature of future new services like this.

What About You?
Do you think services and apps like this are going to become more important? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

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About the author
Marion aan ‘t Goor is a Social Media Consultant at ICON&Co. You can connect with Marion via Twitter and LinkedIn.

The post Google And Facebook Launch Tools To Die Digitally appeared first on VIRALBLOG.COM.

USAToday.com: Redesigning One of America’s Most Popular News Sites

USAToday.com: Redesigning One of America’s Most Popular News Sites: ”

This is the story behind Fi’s re-imagination of how news content is consumed on the web.

 

BACKGROUND

Newspaper readership is in decline. In fact, print media in general is gasping for air, in a desperate search for the path back toward relevancy in our increasingly digital world. It’s not that our appetites for news and information have faded; they certainly have not. The core challenge for publishers is to somehow evolve along with the preferences of their audience. This evolution has been from paper to pixels, and it shows no signs of slowing. In fact, a Pew Center Research 2012 news consumption survey shows that fully 39% of Americans polled prefer to receive their news digitally vs. more traditional offline sources. From fourth place in 2008, digital news consumption is now second only to televised news programming.

Digital is 2nd leading news source for Americans

Gannett Company, Inc. keenly observed this trend earlier than most, and began to embrace the new paradigm by investing in their own digital evolution, specifically with USA Today. After turning inward for several months of workshops, they began the search for the ideal partner to shepherd along the course they had charted. Out of twelve world-class competitors, Fi was the clear favorite, and we eagerly embarked on the journey with one of the most prolific and familiar news sources in publishing.

Narrated by Fi’s creative leads, Irene Pereyra, Global Director of UX & Strategy and Anton Repponen, Global Creative Director, this video is a look at Fi’s story and strategy of redesigning one of America’s most popular news site. Please note that all of the imagery featured in the video was work-in-progress during the lifecycle of the project. Obviously, the end result turned out quite differently.

 

GETTING STARTED

Fi wins the USAToday.com redesign work

The centerpiece of the USA Today evolution strategy was a comprehensive rebranding across all of their properties, timed to coincide with their 30th anniversary. Print, digital, even the iconic logo, were all in line for a full makeover. While Wolff Olins set out to craft the new branding guidelines, logo and identity, our teams dove into research and discovery toward the next generation of USA Today online.

USA Today rebranded logo

Defined by bold decisions, and the challenge to fully disrupt news consumption in the digital space, the plan for the new USA Today was aggressive, and that’s the way we like it. The new experience had to be like nothing before it, paving new ground toward the future of digital publishing. This was familiar territory for both partners involved. USA Today has always been on the forefront of innovation with their bold use of color, and headline-driven editorial approach uncommon in their marketplace. Similarly, Fi has continually pushed the bleeding edge of innovation for many iconic brands in the digital space. Staying true to our shared heritage, and unconcerned with what the competition was doing, we set out to fully reset the bar for a news site in the twenty-first century.

AR_Soundbite

DISCOVERY 

So the course was set, and now we took the deep dive into what it really means to be a trusted source of news, and defining the true wishes and desires of a modern news consumer. There was no doubt we needed a feature-rich and engaging experience that aligned to the updated USA Today brand, but what we were really after were the pivotal insights into the industry and its audience that would inform our architecture and design.

Discovery Phase

The targeted Discovery phase included four core components, working together by sequentially layering key insights from one phase onto the next.

Discovery phase includes 4 key areas

  1. Discovery Research: Very simply, this phase is all about defining the market, the needs, and the opportunities. What are the core mechanics and drivers of the business? What are the existing pain points for news consumers? How can we better serve the needs of journalists and contributors and help them reach the widest possible audience? How can we offer a superior ad experience for both advertisers and audience?

  2. Innovation Discovery: Informed by the previous phase, now it’s time to define our approach toward relieving pain points, serving needs, and delivering on identified opportunities. Beyond that, how do we do this in a way that is truly unique and groundbreaking?

  3. Experience Strategy: Herein we map user flows and journeys ad infinitum. Continuing to modify and iterate until we reach a state where every rendition of the end experience is sensible, efficient, and delivers on the charted objectives from prior phases.

  4. Creative Concepts: With every critical component of the foundation clearly documented, now we do what we do best: design. Organically iterating in a continuous feedback loop with the team at USA Today, we began to conceptualize the framework for an experience built on said foundation, and rapidly come away with a clear vision for the end result.

Character archetypes overview

Here’s a quick glance at one of the Discovery Research documents – a snapshot of user behavior.  

While personas are common and often useful, our approach toward user definition is focused on archetype development. Creating these archetypes based on a set of specific questions defines our approach from a behavioral perspective, as opposed to inventing personas in a vacuum.

When are people coming to the site? From whence are they coming? What are their objectives? How much time are they willing to spend? Are they coming from mobile devices? Which ones? What is their level of comfort and savvy with the Internet in general?

Once we truly and deeply understand the natural behaviors and preferences of our user groups, and in this case how they consume mixed-media news content, then the products of our subsequent phases are sure to be productive. This exercise lays the foundation for the architecture, framework, and creative vision and overall experience.

 

UX & DESIGN

Fully informed by the research and analysis from the prior phase, now teams of subject-matter experts from both UX and Visual Design come together to begin the heavy lifting toward manifesting the vision.

UX & Design

Many weeks spent in discovery yielded a series of insights that equated to a world-class primer on how people read the news. Informed by natural behaviors – Mom starts with the Life section, Dad with Sports, for example – one key insight was that it’s very rare for any reader to consume the entire newspaper from front to back. Any UX or Visual designer could pick up our comprehensive analysis and within hours be an expert ready to deliver on the designated vision established. Very quickly the framework took shape, and a brilliant disruption of the section-by-section analog convention was the basis of our philosophy.

Analog sectioned manner to read news

irene_soundbiteMost people don’t end up at a news site on the home page. Instead, they’ve likely landed via organic search, social media, or an email forward. This led our architecture to serve those habits and patterns. Our solution involved a radical simplification of a typically very deep framework, essentially providing a two-level structure, with individual articles being the primary focus. Assigning each a unique URL, and layering them directly over the main section page behind it, allowed users to easily share or link to a particular article, and continue reading from article to article without ever having to hit the home page.

Digital sections broken up

Essentially creating one long page for each section, the hovering articles became the heroes, and this philosophy became the basis for the entire experience. An added benefit to this simplified approach is that the resulting flat architecture made for massive efficiencies in the development of UX and Design templates. This modular approach offered economies of time, effort, and total costs as well. Instead of unique layouts for each and every section, we found the critical path toward most sensible delivery of a vastly diverse set of information. This offered a streamlined and flexible format that catered to user needs, as well as the swift evolution of ever-changing news cycles.  

Individual story page

Typically a massive evolutionary redesign like this would be designed in a fully-responsive manner, offering a tailored desktop experience specific to the device on which it was consumed (e.g. tablet, smartphone, etc.). In this case however, USA Today already had a quite robust offering via iPad and iPhone apps, so we took a singular focus toward making the desktop experience be the very best it could be, as a standalone environment yet still fully accessible via device-based browsers.

USAT-Mobile

We invite you to dive in and get familiar with all of the opportunities the new usatoday.com offers for discovering and consuming news in a way that’s custom-tailored for today’s digital landscape and habits.  Here’s a quick look at the highlights of the final result.

 

IMPACT

Even in its beta state, the new USA Today site was fully embraced by users and industry colleagues alike. The AIGA design community lauded the experience as ‘impressive’ and ‘unprecedented.’ Fast Company touted the full-page ad experiences as ‘luxury‘, and the leading educational voice of journalism, The Poynter Institute, reviewed the site as ‘a digital re-envisioning’ that may ‘elevate its importance in this time of transition for journalism.’ The site has gone on to receive an FWA Site of the Day, followed by Adobe’s The Cutting Edge Award which highlights work that best features the newest capabilities of the modern web.

RFORD_Soundbite

The site has gone on to receive an FWA Site of the Day followed by The Cutting Edge Award by Adobe which highlights the best work and capabilities of the modern web.

FWA Cutting Edge Award

Now that usatoday.com has officially gone live and matured with time, the work has been featured in the design press as a case study example for the next generation of digital publishing. Web Designer Magazine wrote a 5 page spread on the new design in Issue 207 and titled the story USA Today: A New Frontier in Digital Publishing.

USA Todays redesigned website

In the March 2013 issue of .net Magazine, USA Today’s simple page app structure was the topic of discussion in the publication’s How We Built section.

Page1

Like the music and broadcast industries before it, digital has forever disrupted business as usual for print publishing. The grand takeaway from this project, for Fi, was that no matter how much content you have to offer, no matter how disparate, less is most definitely more in terms of presentation. Today’s savvy readers/consumers no longer simply skim above-the-fold and move on. Instead, they come with a specific purpose, a mission if you will, and our job is to offer an experience designed to help them fulfill those missions on a regular basis, in the most efficient way possible. Similarly, for the publishers and advertisers, we meet their end objectives by providing an innately shareable experience that lends itself to the broadest organic reach available. In sum, the new usatoday.com delivers a news site that serves the core business needs of those involved in the production and delivery of the content, while catering specifically to the needs and objectives of its rapidly expanding digitally-native audience. If we make it easy to consume and share content in a way that’s natural and familiar to the reader, we provide a winning proposition for all involved.


ABOUT FI

If you think about it, digital is a daily touchpoint in almost everyone’s lives. And for the most part, we rely on it… crave it, even. And when digital experiences surprise, delight, and simplify life for the end user, it’s a beautiful thing. That’s what Fi is, an agency producing beautiful digital experiences.

Boutique. Nimble. Bespoke. Describe us as you please. The fact is we operate as a smaller agency compared to others by design despite our global footprints in London, New York, San Francisco and Stockholm. Our size allows us to stay ahead of the disruptions digital brings. And our clients understand the type of results they’ll get from us. We don’t just get the job done. We help fix the inherent problem.

To check out the latest Fi projects, visit here. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and G+.

 

Urban Adapter

Urban Adapter: “

rocker-lange_urban-adapter 01

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Proposal for a street bench that can adapt to different site conditions and functions, such as recycling containers, flower buckets or billboards, designed in 2009 by Rocker-Lange Architects for Hong Kong & Shenzhen Biennale.

The project ‘Urban Adapter’ is based on a digital parametric model. At its core the model utilizes explicit site information and programmatic data to react and interact with its environment. That way the model’s DNA structure is capable of producing a variety of unique furniture results. Together they generate an endless family of new urban bench furniture.

rocker-lange_urban-adapter

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rocker-lange_urban-adapter 11

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The Not Knowing Path of Being an Entrepreneur

The Not Knowing Path of Being an Entrepreneur

By Leo Babauta

 

Lots of people who start businesses try to control outcomes:

  1. A vision for your business’s success.
  2. Goals to get you to the successful vision.
  3. Try to get the most productive day (out of yourself, or employees).
  4. Try to produce certain amounts, or hit certain metrics (pageviews, followers, revenue, sales).

Unfortunately, the ability to control outcomes is an illusion. This is one of the fundamental lessons I’ve learned in my six years of being in business for myself.

You don’t really know how things will turn out.

And this is OK.

In fact, it’s pretty awesome.

Yes, not knowing how things will turn out — day to day, month to month, year to year — is crazy scary. I’m not gonna front. It’s so scary you might wake up drenched in sweat.

But not knowing is what makes being an entrepreneur more amazing than working a regular desk job with a regular paycheck. We take risks, we fail, we don’t know what’s going to happen, we not only put our toes into the waters of the unknown… we dive in, headfirst.

Yes, not knowing is scary. But if you embrace it, not knowing can be liberating, and can be an advantage.

Let’s look at how it’s an advantage, and how to stay present in the middle of the unknown.

 

The Advantage of Not Knowing

Quiz question: What causes us the most anxiety? Million dollar answer: Wanting things to turn out a certain way. Wanting an outcome — wanting the person you love to love you back, wanting people at your meeting or presentation to like you, wanting a million customers, wanting to be the next Apple or Twitter or Starbucks. This is the cause of our anxiety, because when we want that outcome, we fear that it won’t come true, and we strive for it to come true, and of course it might not.

There are a million possibilities, and wanting just one of those possibilities is a little crazy. What’s wrong with the other 999,999? Will our worlds fall apart if that one outcome doesn’t become a reality? No. We’ll be just fine no matter what.

Seriously. You’ll be absolutely fine even if the outcome doesn’t happen.

So when anxiety comes up, if we learn to let go of needing that outcome, we can then let go of the anxiety.

So advantage #1: we have less anxiety. What happens when you have less anxiety? Well, you’re happier. You are happier when you meet with customers or clients or employees. They feel your happiness. They sense that you’re cool with how things are going. You are less desperate. You don’t need things to turn out a certain way — you don’t need this one sale. You do your best to make it happen, but you’re cool even if it doesn’t.

Other people bet everything on making their outcome happen — but what if it doesn’t? Then they’ve lost everything, with no clear direction of where to go when it fails to happen.

So advantage #2: we aren’t as tied to one bet. That’s a single point of failure. Not a great idea. Instead, we are OK no matter what happens, and so any outcome of a meeting, a project, a launch … we are good with that, and no outcome really messes us up. We flow.

Another problem is that people who think they know how things will turn out … they’re fooling themselves. No one knows.

And that’s advantage #3: we are more honest. Admitting to ourselves that we don’t know is much more honest than thinking, hoping, things will turn out the way we want. Honesty is important because if we’re going to act, we should do so with open eyes and a clear assessment of the situation.

Honesty with customers, readers, clients, employees is important too. Admit you don’t know. They will trust you more, because not only are you telling them you don’t know, you are clearly OK with that. You don’t know what will happen, but whatever happens, you’ll deal with it. That’s powerful.

Those are just a few advantages, but actually the advantages are many. You don’t have to plan as much because not knowing means you realize that detailed plans are useless, and actually a waste of your time. You spend less time worrying, more time executing. You aren’t consumed by the horrible fear that you’re doing the wrong thing, because you learn that there is never a perfectly ‘right thing’ to do — not generally for your business, or specifically right now.

How to Walk the Not Knowing Path

The Not Knowing Path of an entrepreneur is scary, but honestly, what path isn’t?

Here’s how to walk the path:

  1. Admit you don’t know. This is obviously the first step, but it’s hard because we often want to think we know, or at least that we can make certain things happen the way we want them to. We think we can will things to happen. That’s not true. Many things fail despite Herculean efforts to make them succeed. We don’t control the future, we can’t know the future. We don’t know. Admit it to ourselves, and to others.
  2. Watch for anxiety. When you start feeling anxious (and that will always happen, probably numerous times a day), look inward for the source of the anxiety. What are you hoping will happen that’s making you anxious? This awareness is the key to everything.
  3. Tell yourself you’ll be OK. You become aware of an outcome you’re hoping for … now tell yourself that it doesn’t matter if that outcome happens. It really doesn’t matter, even if we’ve made up this story for ourselves that all depends on it happening. It doesn’t matter, and no matter what happens, we’ll be OK. Life-and-death situations are possibly the only exception to this, though I’m of the mind that even death is an outcome that I’d be OK with.
  4. Consider worst-case scenarios. What’s the worst thing that could happen? Someone doesn’t like you, doesn’t think as highly of you as you’d like, a meeting ends in anger, a sale doesn’t happen, the business fails. How bad is this worst-case scenario? How likely is it to happen? How would you cope if it did? Honestly, I think you’d be fine no matter what.
  5. Know your principles. Take some time to think about what should guide you, if you aren’t guided by trying to make something specific happen. If you’re not tied to an outcome or vision of the future you can’t control, what would guide you? Step back, reflect. What drives you? Why do you do what you do? For example, some of my guiding principles are wanting to help others, wanting to act compassionately, wanting to do things I love, and building trust by doing those things.
  6. Act on principles, not goals or detailed plans. Once you have your guiding principles, let them guide you on a day-by-day basis, moment-to-moment. You don’t know how something will turn out when you act, but you do know whether this action is in line with your principles.
  7. Breathe, and smile. In the end, not knowing can be scary, but liberating and profound. You are in the midst of a turbulent sea, and are afloat without knowing where anything will go. But that’s always true, even of people who don’t admit it to themselves. So enjoy the ride. Look at the amazing place you’re in, and smile. Because this path of not knowing … it is the path of life itself.

‘If you realize that all things change, there is nothing you will try to hold on to. If you are not afraid of dying, there is nothing you cannot achieve.’ ~Lao Tzu

(Via zenhabits.)

Thinking of Starting a Business? Click On Specialised Online Retail

Thinking of Starting a Business? Click On Specialised Online Retail
By Judith Ohikuare | Inc. magazine

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E-commerce is nothing new.

What is new is what shoppers are looking for: deals on an ever-widening spectrum of niche items–custom-cut button-down shirts to personalized greeting cards, made-to-order eyeglasses to vintage furniture. Look to fast-growing sectors such as fashion sample sales, greeting cards, and photo printing.

Yes, it’s still growing–a lot.

Sample sale site revenue grew almost 50 percent from 2007 to 2012 and is projected to increase 12 percent a year through 2017. Online greeting card revenue is projected to grow 6 percent a year through 2017.

Kitschy, customizable options in areas like greeting cards are striking an emotional chord with young, tech-savvy consumers–and commanding high prices.

...But forget shoes

There are 1,166 online shoe sellers; two of them own a 16 percent share. Find a less crowded niche, and carve out a specialty.

Tech savvy matters

Getting attention can be expensive—so you’ll need to find the best IT talent to develop your retail site.

Bootstrapping is common…

…but established retailers are buying. Think Thrillist’s acquisition of trendy men’s fashion site JackThreads.com and Shutterfly’s purchase of stationery company Tiny Prints.

Ideal prior job?

Techie with an eye for flair and care. Remember Zappos’s 365-day return policy: Successful e-tailers provide great customer service.

 

FD-FD_mini_logo_96x96  Checkout Foundation Design’s E-commerce solution for Redhead Office

Do You Need A Designer? Flowchart.

The Do You Need A Designer? Flowchart by German freelance designer Sabine Ahrens. This tongue-in-cheek flowchart challenges potential clients to consider their options.

Sabine Ahrens, a from Hamburg, Germany, has come up with this intriguing approach to getting new clients by trying to get them to see things from a designers point of view. Did they really need a designer? If so, why did they need one? And were there perhaps good reasons why they shouldn’t hire one?

After pondering these queries, Ahrens came up with the flowchart shown below, which is reminiscent of the kind of pop-psychology ‘follow the arrows’ quizzes that teenage magazines are famed for.

Featuring thought-provoking questions such as “Have you received positive feedback about your visual identity?” and “Are your logos and promotional materials part of a bigger brand identity?” the chart guides the potential client through the maze of considerations to reach a number of conclusions as to whether or not they need to hire a freelance designer.

Ahrens has created 150 limited edition prints of the poster, which on sale on her website. Its a light-hearted yet innovative approach to getting work (while earning a little cash on the side) and I applaud it.

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