Design Strategy Uncategorized

What’s My Passion?

Minutes ago, I finished Gary Vaynerchuk‘s “Crush It!“, a simple, concise book that demonstrates ways to “cash in on your passion.” First off, it’s a great read and highly recommended (I’ll be starting his new book, “The Thank You Economy” in the coming days).

More importantly, the book lays out several steps to developing your personal online brand and eventually monetizing it. Perhaps the most critical of these steps is identifying your passion and committing to talking about it better than anyone else.

Over the years, I’ve put lots of hard work into several subjects (online), be it wiffleball or design. I also lived most of my life focusing on 3-5 passions, knowing the world is just too big to digest everything. Well, the time has come to potentially reduce that list to 1 passion for this site and my personal brand. The tough part: deciding on that passion. Here are the contenders:

  • Design and Branding (extremely broad and difficult to differentiate myself)
  • Living simply (admiring simple design and strategy, reducing the amount of “stuff” in one’s life)
  • Golf (the sport I will play the most for the rest of my life)
  • Technology (potentially in over my head)

There are other topics where I’m sure I could “crush it,” but this decision is an important one. I may even be forgetting something incredibly obvious – please make recommendations that may or may not appear in the above list.

In the words of LeBron James, what should I do?

Media Technology

Netflix to Offer Netshows

Earlier this week, Netflix made a shocking announcement – they would license a TV show, distributed exclusively to its huge network of subscribers. The show, “House of Cards,” will be executive produced by David Fincher and Kevin Spacey and is based on a 1990s British miniseries of the same name.

There are potential game-changing consequences with this announcement. First, it invites studios and producers to distribute their content solely through digital channels. Other content-providers (iTunes, Hulu, etc.) may offer their customers their own exclusive content.

Secondly, there’s the major questions of advertising and money. How will these shows generate money? Will Fincher, Spacey, and their production companies earn percentages of Netflix subscribers? Perhaps “House of Cards” will have 1-2 title sponsors who’s advertisements will run during the show. Fascinating.

Perhaps even more fascinating is the effect this agreement (and future ones) will have on cable companies. With the advent of content-distribution tools increasing in popularity (Apple TV, Roku, etc.), combined with existing digital content providers (iTunes, Netflix, Hulu Plus, etc.), consumers are moving towards a model where content is consumed selectively. Imagine: rather than paying hundreds of dollars for your monthly cable bill where users receive innumberable channels, customers can pay smaller fees per channel, per event, or per show. We’re already seeing this with Apple’s recent iOS upgrade where Apple TV owners can watch NBA and MLB games without the need of a cable box.

In years past, customers craved as much content as possible for a flat rate (see Comcast, Time Warner, Xfinity, etc.). More and more, the same customers are looking for increased customization and value for their content dollars. Will “House of Cards” continue this trend or serve as an anomaly?

Design Strategy

The Importance of the User Experience

Companies develop brand equity, or how users see a brand based on its name, through various outlets. Advertising, sales, and reputation play a big role.

I would argue the most important builder of brand equity lies in the user experience.

The Netflix user experience makes for many happy customers, both on and offline. Their web site offers a simple, well-designed, and pain-free experience for browsing, organizing, and watching movies. You can watch, browse, add to your queue, and make adjustments to your account. That’s about it. That’s a strong user experience.

On the flip side is The Daily, the world’s first subscription-based daily news source built specifically for Apple’s iPad. During The Daily’s free trial period, millions of users downloaded the app hoping for a revolutionary experience. What they found was more “breaking” than groundbreaking. Painfully slow download times, clunky navigation, and unexpected app failures created a poor user experience. Because of this, The Daily is struggling to fix their user experience to save any hope of success.

When developing strategy, site architecture, or web sites, I always try to think about the user experience. At HB, we recently partnered with OTE Corporation to launch a site that needed to provide clean, visuals and messages to its audiences. By placing focus on the user experience, we hope to engage customers as simply and efficiently as possible.

Books Design Technology

Hitting the Books

As a student, I read because it was an assignment (see: Wuthering Heights). As a young adult, I read becuase it was an adventure (see: Sin City). Now, as a professional, I read becuase it is a necessary part of intellectual and career development.

Trust AgentsLately I’ve made myself famillar with technical books, including A Book Apart’s HTML5 for Web Designers, CSS3 for Web Designers, and Sitepoint’s Create Stunning HTML Email That Just Works. My latest venture will be Trust Agents by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. This is a departure from the technical books I’ve been reading of late.

As I mature as a designer and creative thinker, it’s important to be both a technical master and strong strategist. With Trust Agents, I hope to broaden my knowledge into the non-technical side of creativity. What are you reading?


My Favorite Albums of 2010

2010 has come and gone, and it was an incredible year for music. Have a look at some of my favorite albums of the past year (and beyond)…

The Black Keys, “Brothers”
This blues-rock tandem had great success with their single “Tighten Up” and the rest of the album does not disappoint. Far and away my favorite rock album of the past few years. It’s a shame it took me so long to discover them as this is their sixth album.

Kanye West, “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”
The world’s biggest ego and hype machine, Kanye delivered yet another legendary album at the tail end of 2010. His unique style, attention to the smallest production details, and creative drive make for an incredible listen. “All of the Lights” may be my favorite track of ’10.

John Legend & The Roots, “Wake Up!”
When I heard that Legend and The Roots, two of my favorite artists, were teaming up for a collaborative album, I nearly fainted. This album of covers all center around awareness and engagement. Their teamwork is timeless and makes for an incredible listen, both live and in-studio. “Hard Times” kicks off the album with a bang.

Black Milk, “Album of the Year”
The world’s greatest producer that no one knows, Black Milk released his sonically impressive album to great reviews. His constant lyrical improvement combined with unmatched heavy drums and production make for another successful Milk album. His last three albums, including “Tronic” and “Popular Demand” are all impressive.

The Roots, “How I Got Over”
Despite their everyday job as The Greatest Band in Late-Night, The Roots still delivered not one, but TWO albums in 2010. “How I Got Over,” an album increasingly more optomistic than their previous releases, delivers the famouts Roots Crew sound with which we’re accustomed. The title track is a banger.

Drake, “Thank Me Later”
This rapper-singer sold incredible amounts of his mixtape… and his first studio album continued the trend. Drake’s music walks the line between hip-hop and R&B and does so with a unique sound. “Fancy,” featuring T.I. and Swizz Beatz is probably the most radio-friendly (and upbeat) track on the album.

Bonus Album: Alicia Keys, “The Element of Freedom”
Although released in 2009, Alicia’s fourth studio album used a combination of new electronic and synth sounds to craft another brilliant collection for 2010 – yet another album that works from beginning to end. “Un-thinkable (I’m Ready)” affirms what I already know – that I want to marry Alicia Keys.

Bonus Album: The xx, “xx”
Another album from ’09, The xx’s debut album is one that doesn’t fit my usual tastes. However, this London-based band has been a permanent go-to throughout 2010. Their soft, synth take on R&B makes for a unique and soulful album full of simplistic beats, reduced vocals, and a sensual vibe. “Shelter” steals the show