Monthly Archives: January 2011

Mapping social networks

As a lover of maps and social media I can’t get enough of this infographic showing social media networks represented by land-mass size. Updated last year following a 2007 version that showed a dominant MySpace and non-existent Twitter, the map from 2010 below shows just how large these communities are – and facebook has since grown to 600 million users…

The 2010 Social Networking Map
Flowtown – Social Media Marketing Application

Visit to facebook

During my 8 hour stop-over in San Francisco last week (returning from the land down under) I manage to squeeze in a visit to the facebook HQs where I met up with Rhea who showed me round their inspiring offices.

Visit to facebook

Visit to facebook

It’s a (wo)man’s world

I would never describe myself as a raging feminist (much to my mother’s disappointment), I’ll admit I like to benefit from the traditional cliches of being a woman when it comes to getting into a bar or having a man let you go first through a door.  However being a woman in the 21st Century from a middle-class upbringing, living in a developed country means that I have a definite sense of supposed ‘equality’ between the sexes – particularly when it comes to the workplace.

I’d like to say I’ve never experienced any gender-based exclusion in the workplace, or rather I’d like to never admit that I had perhaps allowed or not fought hard enough against it happening. Perhaps this was why I tried to find other excuses or reasons for why I had been treated differently to the (heterosexual*) men in my previous office.
It started small, almost unnoticeable, things like lower pay, longer hours, less travel or other perks; issues never discussed particularly when working for a not-for-profit and which I attributed to my age and position. But as I rose in role and length of service within the organisation I noticed that although those around me were benefiting from work trips, more opportunities and a greater voice I began to question why that was not also occurring to me.
Forget the travel or the fact that I was the only staff member at my level using a personal phone (a budget Nokia rather than the office-paid iPhone every male was handed when walking through the door) it was the attitude of the person in charge which made me feel as though my voice was not only weakened but non-existent.

Now don’t get me wrong – I’m no wallflower, I’ll be the first to say what I think and that was no different, I had a physical voice but was left feeling that that voice was neither listened or respected at the top. One day during a team meeting, I looked around the room and noticed that of those sitting around the large table 60% were female – a good balance you might say particularly in the charity world were women often far outnumbered men. However of those 10 females, only myself and one other were of a senior position compared to 7 of the 8 males.
These figures aren’t shocking I know, particularly compared to those in the corporate world when women fail to break through the glass ceiling, however it was the attitude with which the status of women was treated within the organisation that began to fall into place when the person in charge told me that it was ‘hard to find senior women with experience so really the only way is to bring them in at the bottom and train them up’. Hard to find senior women?
My head spun as it immediately began creating a list of top women I knew within the sector, and then again to the shock at what I had thought were old ideas portrayed in Mad Men of women as secretaries only. Was I really hearing this from a supposedly progressive organisation and if so what was it like in the corporate world?

At TED Women last month, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg discussed her thoughts on being a senior woman within the corporate workforce and the roles that both sexes have to play when it comes to gender equality. Some of the statistics she cited stood out in her talk: of the 190 world leaders only 9 are women, even in the not-for-profit world that is typically associated as more ‘female’ only 20% of Directors were women. She questioned the usual reasons and rationale for the gender inequalities (childbirth, attitude to females and of females themselves) and discussed how women not only need to be respected more but also to respect themselves more – to quite literally ‘sit at the table’ and place themselves in the middle of the action.

The role of women in the workforce is no new topic, nor is the issue of women’s empowerment more broadly in the developing world. However even at the top organisations in the world are womens’ rights really being noticed or more importantly being acted upon?

The Guardian this week reported that the new UN agency for women ‘UN Women’ (launched next month) was already falling behind on commitments needed to make a difference: ‘The World Bank has estimated it would cost $83bn to achieve millennium development goal three (promote gender equality and empower women). But very quickly the start up budget [for UN Women] was set at around $500m.’ Can the public really be expected to shift their ways of thinking if the organisation in charge continues to quite literally undervalue the role women have to play in the global arena?

There’s no easy answer to this, we’ve already come a long way since my grandmothers’ or even my mother’s day and some might say we’re being greedy but in order to work together towards a more equal world in both the developed and less-developed worlds we need to value and respect both the men and women in our workplace. With the 100th anniversary of International Womens’ Day in March this issue will only increase as we will be forced to reflect: how far have women really come in the last century?

*And then the issue of being a non-heterosexual man in the workplace is a whole other issue!

A designer’s brief

Not quite getting what you want or expected from the designer you’ve commissioned? Not quite certain what you want but sure on what you don’t want? Wondering why they just aren’t getting it? There’s a key to getting it right when briefing designers and yet so often people get it wrong…here’s how to avoid that situation and make the most of a designer’s creativity and your resources.

Ever been in that situation where you’ve ‘briefed’ a designer: told them everything in your head about your visions for the project, what you want the design to imply, how you want it to be the best thing since sliced bread (or perhaps the iPhone) and you send them off on their merry-way to use their creative genius and magic a fantastic design, only to find that when the designs come back they’re nothing like what you imagined. In fact they’re exactly what you don’t want – and you can’t work out why didn’t they just get it?!

Well let’s take a few steps back before heaping the blame on the designer’s inadequate mind-reading abilities and assess what went wrong.

You briefed them, right? You used words such as ‘edgy’, ‘different’, ‘inspiring’, ‘brand consistent’ and ‘ground-breaking’, you may have also explained everything to them about your company or organisation and why you need it just ‘so’, you may even have written a 4 page ‘design brief’ outlining all this and detailing your future strategy and plans, hell even your personal development ideas. But did you actually tell them what they needed to know?

There are 2 key points to remember before beginning a brief:

Keep it brief

A brief is called a ‘brief’ for a reason. Having worked with numerous designers and agencies I know they’re incredibly talented people who have such creative flair and can get it so right when properly directed but I also know that that’s where their talents and passions are focused – they are creative, visual people, they’re not going to be at their best reading a 4 page document and even if they do they’ll likely be visualising ideas before the end of the first page*. So keep the brief – brief.

*Obviously this doesn’t apply to all designers – I’m sure there’s some text-loving ones out there so no offence intended!

Make it count

It’s not just about the length of the document. You can have 2 pages of absolute drivel or 4 pages of intense information overload but neither is correct nor directive – let alone inspiring. When writing a brief you need to ensure you cover all the necessary and, more importantly, relevant information that the designer needs to know. So that doesn’t mean your purpose for being or life’s aspiration, it means the crucial details that will influence not only the design but also those who view the final product/design.

So what should it cover?

Background/Overview of project: it’s important to give a background to the reasons why you’re doing the project so that the designer has a proper understanding of how this fits within the wider plans of the organisation or campaign/project. Keep it short and sweet though – no more than 2/3 sentences.

Aim of project: why are you doing this particular project? To achieve what objective or goal? To meet what purpose? By clarifying this you can help outline the context and overall requirements for the design.

Audience: who is the main target and what is the outcome you want? For example perhaps the design is for a campaign page to encourage people to take an action or donate, or perhaps it’s an advert aimed at politicians but for members to support. Either way know both your target and your audience. Who will see this design and what do you want them to do/feel upon seeing it?

Use: where will this design appear? This is important to determine what the technical criteria is such as layout, resources, size. There may also be certain legalities or standards that need to be flagged if, for example, the use is public/mass media so defining this will help shape the outcome.

Tone: what vibe do you want the design to portray? It may be stern or friendly, educational or informative, shocking or humourous. Whichever way it’s important to note this to ensure that you don’t end up with a hilarious design idea for a serious topic – or vice versa!

Key message: if there’s a key message or slogan that needs to be featured then spell it out. It’s important that your design is on brand as well as your message and that both work together well so outlining what the message or slogan is and how it should feature is crucial.

Technical requirements: this should be pretty straightforward but always double check that your requirements can be realistically and sufficiently met within your resources and budget. For webpage designs outline the technical integration, if the designer is expected to do this outline the supporting platform and other specifications. Equally if the design is for print or a still image outline the colour guidelines and size.

At the end of the day it’s down to communication – clear, calm and concise guidance and feedback is essential throughout the design process. Once a brief has been submitted you should clarify and queries with the designer before they begin first designs/mock-ups. If you’re not getting what you want or what was specified (if it was!) then you need to clearly outline what parts you aren’t satisfied and discuss directly with the designer their thoughts on how to improve it to meet your requirements. You won’t get it right first time but often there’s a reason behind why they have done something in a certain way – perhaps design related or perhaps down to simple misunderstanding.

Working together clearly to outline your expectations from the start will allow a smoother, more efficient process and a more successful outcome.

For a fantastic summary on how to write a great web brief see Rachel Collinson’s blog post on the FairSay site.

A change of breeze

And so it begins…

If you ask any of my friends who they know who uses, engages with and is constantly glued to their facebook or twitter account I’ll definitely be top of their list (I often have friends call me and ask advice on anything from online promotion to how they can hide that picture on facebook from the guy they’re seeing…) yet I’ve never indulged in a blog.

I use the word ‘indulged’ in particular as I have found blogging to seem rather self-indulgant, enjoying the sound of your own voice, thinking anyone will care what you think. Yet what do I advise people or companies to do who need to get their brand and identity out there online and offer content to their social media followers? Start a blog.

So here I go practising what I preach…just me giving my thoughts on what’s happening in the digital world out there…enjoy…