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Thomas Kenyon

Design from Boston

By | Design, Team | No Comments

We recently spoke at Design4Drupal Boston on how to design better websites, specifically on the Drupal CMS open-source platform. The “we” includes myself along with Maria Beam, our Design UX, and Frontend Developer; who I would also like to mention was the instigator of this caffeine-induced idea to propose a design session to the Design4Drupal organizers. Anyway, for whatever reason, they accepted and we were off to Cambridge to talk design at the MIT Stata Center. Being from Boston, with a father who attended MIT, this would be somewhat of a homecoming if I hadn’t left when I was 5. But at the very least, we wanted to share a little from our presentation so you can gain insight into how we look at design here at Bluetent.

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Maria taking a load off on the steps of the architecturally conflicted MIT Stata Center.

So Why Design for Drupal

You’re probably wondering why there is even a need for a conference on design for Drupal. Heck, you may be wondering what is Drupal. Drupal is an open-source web content management system. One of, if not the most robust and supported open-source web platforms in the world today. We use it here at Bluetent to build medium to large scale websites where we will need to deploy complex features and functions. Basically any website that is a mission critical, commerce engine for our clients. For this purpose, it excels. Saving time and money, leveraging a huge worldwide knowledge base for support and long term investment. This is all good except for one thing. It is hard to design for Drupal… really hard. So difficult in fact there is a conference dedicated to sharing knowledge and discussing ways to make better, more beautiful Drupal websites. But, I’ll leave Drupal geek out posts to the developers and we’ll focus on the right brain stuff.

Think Like an Agency

At the end of the day, we decided to do a presentation on design. Not for Drupal, not really even for web, but rather the design process and how to implement systems that create better results. Systems that create great design are nothing new for creative businesses like Advertising Agencies or Graphic Design Shops, but for Web Shops, you might as well be speaking greek because they are built to tackle complex code challenges, and not design. So in order to design better, we work to “Think Like an Agency” and thus, that became our presentation title. As a web shop turned digital agency ourselves, we are constantly looking at how we can improve our systems of design to better align with proven agency workflows. Little by little we implement these in our everyday tasks and want to share how we look at this new way of thinking for a web development shop turned digital agency.

Slides from Think Like and Agency

The following are a few of the slides from our Boston presentation, and some great quotes on design from people other than ourselves.

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It doesn’t hurt when getting ownership buy-in that good design is good business. Think of a company you enjoy doing business with that clearly doesn’t value design. Probably not much coming to mind?

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Before you do anything, if you want to design better on the web, you need to make sure your logo and brand strategy is up to the task. For us this was job one, and you can read more about that job here.

 

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Agencies and Web Shops ask very different questions. Good design starts with good questions.

 

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It’s easy to forget, (we do it all the time) but we always need to provide the expertise to our clients in development AND in design.

 

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You knew a cat image was going to make it in eventually. More examples of being the expert and asking the right questions.

 

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Believe it or not, good design doesn’t just come from a talented individual, it comes from a very structured process.

 

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The design flow we use here at Bluetent. This process allows us to foster great ideas within the context of business goals.

 

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A sampling of the roles required to deliver great experiences online.

 

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People respond to good design, and response is commerce.

 

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Bad design and bad process are easy to spot.

 

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Everyone is a designer. OK, not actually true, but everyone offers designers incredible feedback and without it, they are flying blind. So we get everyone involved in design because it makes it better in the end.

 

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Great quote by a fairly successful fellow. But it sums it up nicely.

 

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The End

So a Powerpoint presentation doesn’t exactly translate the story all too well, but I hope you get the gist of how we approach design in our digital agency. Design is not a luxury, it is the cornerstone of successful projects, and in turn, successful business. It starts with an investment in your brand and emerges in a process that is as old as the Ad Agencies that rely on it.

That wraps up our design insight from Design4Drupal. I’m off to continue telling everyone who will listen that I “went” to MIT.

 

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About the Author

I am a brand strategist, experience architect, and overall digital nerd living the unheard of dream working in the mountains of Colorado and doing meaty design in the digital space. My expertise is in telling the brand story and fighting the good fight for great design in a web shop turned digital agency.

 

New Brand New Focus

By | Design, Strategy | No Comments

With every company there comes a time where you need to do a brand audit. Take a critical look at your brand and see if it still tells the right story. Brand messaging has to be clear with not only your clients and perspective clients, but also with your own people. Bluetent’s brand  served us well during the first decade in the digital landscape, but it didn’t take an exhaustive audit to see it was getting a little murky. So between the hours of client work and sleep, we began our own brand design process and wanted to share.

First, the old logo in question. Served its purpose well, but not ready to carry a new brand strategy in its current form.

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Where We Almost Went

Making what was old, new again, was a logical first step in our new brand process. The old logo had a lot of elements that could easily be refined. Best of all, if all you do is refine your logo, you can simply replace the old logos with the new and no one would be the wiser. But this cost-effective path was quickly revealing far bigger issues. The more we cleaned up the elements, the more common the logo became. The clever play on the @ symbol and our tent icon was becoming less and less clever, and more and more like an anchor. So it was decided, that we were not going to get anywhere with a refinement process and needed to start from scratch.

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Defining Bluetent

We are Bluetent, one word, our word, one company. We don’t sell tents, although we would have made a pretty penny renting blue party tents these past years. Simplifying the name was a critical step in defining who we are. This monumental shift in our brand served as a catalyst to ignite the brand process and begin to weave the Bluetent story. The next thread in that process was tightly knitting together a positioning statement.

A digital agency for travel, tourism, and beyond

To say developing a tagline is a challenge is an understatement. Nothing forces you more into making decisions that will reverberate throughout your company more than a positioning statement. A good test of a successful brand strategy is how honest the story, and how consistently it is told. A tagline is like the cover to that book. We have grown up from a marketing company to a full service digital agency. But more importantly, we are specialized. If your company needs to connect your destination to travelers, we have you covered.

The New Logo

With name and tagline all nice and tidy, it was time to get the Sharpie out. The beauty of the logo creation process is how unchanged it is despite the evolution of some enticing digital tools. Just sketches on paper. Lots of paper. But once the dust settled, we had our logo. Bluetent was reborn, focused and ready to emerge. A bold new symbol free of any common elements, and inspired by the dimensional surfaces that we craft digital experiences for.  Finally, we had our mark, and with it, a new typeface that was friendly, techie, and frankly, us. vertical-circle Some early reiterations of the digital mark show applications through web, print, tee, and what appears to be a killer app. Brand-Boards Brand strategy is an art of subtle communication. A clear brand will guide your company in little ways in every day tasks. Whether deliberate communications from sales teams or simple interactions with project teams, if everyone in the company understands the brand strategy, you will find your company naturally moving in the right direction. With our new digital brand strategy out in the wild, we are already seeing the benefits of taking a fresh look at our brand, and taking the risk to tackle it. We would love to know what you think of our new brand so comment here or connect with us in Twitter space @blue_tent. See there’s that @ symbol again.