May 11 2017

DWP: Good Design Solves Problems

On April 28th, Upswept Creative hosted a panel discussion at HQ as part of Design Week Portland. What started as a fun idea tossed to the group in one of our team meetings very quickly evolved into a fully realized, (and totally booked!) event. Creative Director and Benevolent Overlord Sarah had been thinking a lot about design, and what makes good design really work. So we assembled a diverse set of design professionals for our panel and happy hour, to help us explore the topic, “Good Design Solves Problems.

Our hope was to represent perspectives on design from multiple design disciplines, so  panel consisted of Design Scientist and Innovative Strategist Stef Koehler, Architectural Designer Callie Coles, Apparel Designer and Founder of Hubris Apparel Rita Hudson-Evalt, and Upswept Creative’s very own Sarah Giffrow, who specializes in website design and branding.

THE DISCUSSION

 

Design Week Portland panel
Our wonderful panel, from right to left: Stef Koehler, Rita Hudson-Evalt, Callies Coles, Sarah Griffrow, and the moderator, Josselyn Haldeman.

The panel dove right in, addressing the question at hand. How does good design solve problems? Kohler spoke on her practice of making the problem bigger, “see all the parts,” she said. “Look at it as a system. Don’t make it simple, complexify it.”

A major piece of creating beautiful, problem-solving design is finding out exactly what a client’s problems are–and that can often be tricky. The panel agreed that most clients don’t have the language to communicate exactly what they want, and that means it’s a designer’s job to pull it out of them. “The client may not know what the problem is. Get ahead of the problem…Make the dress that lets them feel like themselves,” said Hudson-Evalt.

Sarah chimed in with an approach all of the panelists could agree with: communicate with your client. “Have a conversation. Engage with the client to pull answers out.”

As an architectural designer, Coles described how she will go into a space to observe how people use it. When do people start looking confused? Where do they look for direction? “[There is] no substitute for observing what people do real space,” said Coles.

“[Create a] balance between ‘brand’ and what the user actually wants to get to. First impressions- big photos, catchy phrases- can get in the way of finding the pie or buying the shoes. What is the interaction the end-user wants?” said Giffrow.

Design Week Portland nametags
Professional name tags. So fancy!

This touched on a major theme of the evening, empathy. To get inside the end user’s head, a designer has to be empathetic to that experience. Hudson-Evalt suggested, “Talk to people constantly, what they need from the dress/what they want. Realizing themselves in the mirror.”

UNTIL NEXT TIME

Team Upswept Creative had such a blast putting on the event, and we hope everybody who came out enjoyed themselves, too. Thank you to all of the panelists, Design Week Portland, and our lovely audience for braving the heat to make it out to our little event.


Apr 27 2017

Cherry City: A Case Study in Design Work

Working in web design can be a complicated process. A lot of creative decisions need to be made while working under a deadline, and within a budget.  Both functionality and the client’s needs have to take  priority, all while looking prettier than the previous iteration. So how do the pros do it? We’d like to give you an example from a recent web design project we completed for Salem, Oregon’s roller derby league, Cherry City Roller Derby.

STARTING OUT

Cherry City came to us with an outdated website, in terms of both content and design. The platform on which their site was built made it difficult for league leadership to post updates. Key information for a roller derby league would get buried in the design. Upcoming events like fundraisers, bouts, and recruitments  were hard to find. League sponsors were also not prominently featured, making sponsorship a less attractive prospect. That can be a big problem for a non-profit!

ROLLIN’ UP OUR SLEEVES

We knew we wanted to build the site on WordPress. This would be a big usability upgrade for Cherry City, and would help them keep  the site’s content fresh and up-to-date. But, we also had to consider how to organize the content in a more beautiful and less confusing way.  Upcoming events needed to be easily accessible, and presented in a consistent visual format.

All of the important elements, front and center on the first page.

We drew on our experience working with Portland’s roller derby league, Rose City Rollers, to find approaches that we knew worked with this kind of content. We knew that public bouts needed to be at the forefront of their online presence, so we made their games the star of the show. But, Cherry City also puts emphasis on recruiting, and makes a special effort to be a welcoming league that keeps its members and volunteers engaged, so we created space in their Events area to highlight Recruitment events as well.
Keeping track of Sponsors at different levels would be important to growing their sponsorship base. We also knew that the same individuals could be involved with multiple teams or committees. We created structures for both Sponsors and Team Members, so Cherry City could easily manage those details all in one easy-to-find place, instead of updating multiple pages.

THERE AND BACK AGAIN

Make sure your site works on mobile, too.

To get the visual and functional improvements we were all looking for, we communicated regularly with Cherry City’s all-volunteer Board of Directors about our design inspirations. We shared with them our wireframes and graphic mock ups, ensuring that we were persisting in the right direction on the project.
After many rounds of feedback, and all of our tweaks made, we were happy to launch their brand new website near the beginning of April!  Their league leadership is quickly gaining comfort with the new structure we’ve built, and they’ll be able to keep their fans, future skaters and volunteers, and sponsors engaged with ease.


Mar 02 2017

How to Give Feedback to Your Designer

Designers have a reputation for being fussy, opinionated, and disinterested in client feedback, or even for needing to have things their way concerning your project. But your pals at Upswept are here to say that when you work with us, that is simply not the case. We believe that design is a collaborative process between client and creative, and not some mystical and unquestioned transformation that happens in the secret chambers of our studio.* When we put our expertise to bear on your project, we need to hear from you along the way to ensure the end product be everything you hoped it would be at the outset.

Whether you are working with us or another design firm, we present below some advice on how to make the most of giving feedback to your designer so that it can be pleasant and productive for you both.

Define your problem; discuss how you’ll measure success.

Consultation over coffeeEven before you set to work on space and color, meet with your designer and. Your problem may be as simple as, “My business has grown and we need to update our logo and branding.” Or more complex: “Our website is 10 years old and looks clunky and outdated, so it needs a contemporary look and a new content hierarchy, since our focus has shifted from written to video content. Six board members have to approve the new design, and we need it live in three months.” Budget is often a big constraint, as is turnaround time. Be forthcoming about your needs and constraints and expect your designer to do the same. Starting work on a poorly-defined project often leads to frustration as well as wasted time and money.

Extend this problem-solving philosophy into giving feedback.

Instead of talking about what you “like” in a design, stay focused on which aspects are solving the problem most effectively.  Of course you have to like what your designer creates for you — really, you should love it. But framing feedback in terms of affection isn’t all that useful in refining your design. No matter the nature of your redesign, the product needs to be both aesthetically pleasing and do the job you need it to.

Avoid design by committee.

Often a project has multiple stakeholders who need or want to weigh in on the project. Take a moment to consolidate everyone’s feedback, whether you are meeting with your designer in person, or sending an email with notes. Putting your feedback into one unified voice will make it much easier for your designer to understand and tackle your list, and help to mitigate communication overload.

Get curious.

Every element, from font choice to color, should be chosen intentionally by the designer.  If there is a component that you don’t like or just don’t “get,” it’s OK to ask your designer to explain her thinking behind that element. You don’t have to agree with the result of your designer’s cognitive process, but approaching critique from a curious place instead of a critical one can help illuminate the path towards brilliant success for both you and your design team.

Slow down.Ask More Questions image

First impressions of the design will be important when your design is working in the wild, so they should hold a lot of weight in the feedback phase.Your thoughts on the design may not change overnight, but you may have an easier time delivering concise and useful feedback once you’ve slept on it.

Mention the good parts.

Not only is it practically useful for us to know which elements you think are working well, it also feels nice to receive positive feedback before we get into what still needs adjusting.

Let’s work together.

You are the expert in your business and your knowledge and feedback are critical to the success of your project. Design is our jam, and together we can uncover the problems that must be tackled in order to propel your business forward with find effective, bad-ass looking solutions.

*Sadly, no real secret chambers here.



Sep 26 2016

Building a Nest for a Happy Brand

When we first met with Emily of Happy Nest, she had a busy day-to-day of running her professional organizing business and caring for her young children. She had the start of an online presence, but her brand didn’t feel like a good fit. “It’s just… not awesome,” she told us. So, we made a plan to turn her disappointment into excitement, and rebuilt her brand from the ground up.

Photography: a view into a brand

Professional Headshots Portland
Professional headshot of Owner, Emily (hair/makeup: Jessica Belknap)

Our photography session was a great opportunity to get to know her work and what drives her. When I moved through the spaces she’d organized, I could quickly see how her organizing work could make an entire lifestyle more orderly. And, as a mother of three (including twins!), she clearly had to be smart and creative with her solutions to keep her own life running smoothly.

Emily’s work is about creating balance and ease, rather than rigid rules. So, “helping you create a more calm and peaceful nest,” was a great way to capture that ease and show that her solutions are designed to fit your life.

Logo Design: making a nest modern

Finding the right look for Happy Nest’s logo was no small feat. The first logo had a flat, illustrated look to it, but we soon learned that Emily craved a cleaner look that wasn’t quite so literal. After a few rounds of design, we arrived at a logo that felt like just the right fit for Happy Nest.

Website Design: simplicity and structure

The Happy Nest web site didn’t have complicated needs, but, “simple,” doesn’t mean, “boring.” We wanted to create a clean look that echoes the structure that Happy Nest can bring to your life, and we’d learned a lot about Emily’s personal style and aesthetic during the project. We saw pleasing colors and clean geometric patterns in her own decor. So, we let photos from our photography session set the tone on her homepage, and framed it with patterns and colors that spoke to her.

Then, we did rounds of testing to ensure that the site worked well on mobile devices, because her clients are often busy, on-the-go people. The end result is a site that communicates her brand more strongly, and makes details about her services easy to find. (and really, if there’s anyone should have a well-organized, easy-to-use web site, it’s a professional organizer! 😉 )

Desktop web site
Desktop web site

Mobile site
Mobile site


Jun 24 2016

Why Letting Purpose Drive Your Brand Makes Your Business Stronger

13346343_1196444653700637_7813261431133060895_oJessica and I recently enjoyed a panel discussion at Pull The Weeds, an exhibition and event centered around purpose-driven branding hosted by FIRNW. Kirk SouderThom Walters, and Jen Michaelis Van Arkel shared their thoughts about what drives branding when social good is at the center of the organization.

The most obvious purpose-driven brands are the ones that are engaged in social change–particularly organizations in the non-profit sector, organizations that do good. But, purpose is important to every brand. Walters commented, “we’re moving into an economy of influence and experience.” Today’s consumers are active and engaged, and they choose the brands that align with their own personal values. In our digital world, access to a company’s values and impact on the world is merely a click away. Consumers won’t fall for a veneer of good–they’re informed and insightful, and they demand authenticity.

Many small businesses and entrepreneurs also set out on their path because they have a hope to live out their own purpose, and do work that aligns with their own values. Walters believes that, “brands are living entities; they have souls,” and they’re constantly evolving. And, that makes a lot of sense, because your business is also constantly evolving.

Simply put: what your business brand needs right now may not be the same as what it’ll need a year from now. And, as Souder phrased it, “the alignment between the soul of your brand and the soul of the people,” is key to building a brand that’s strong and that will grow with your business. It’s a good idea to check in with yourself every so often, and see if and how your business and your values have changed.

And, when you connect your business with doing good in the community, you’re doing something that can have an incredible and lasting power! Many non-profit organizations that focus on community work can only do it through grants and charitable donations, but a business already has an income, and is already self-sustaining. As Souder notes, “if you can tie a plow to [for-profit companies] to do good… they’ll be able to do it without a constant influx of philanthropy.”

And, as Michaelis Van Arkel stated, “it’s not necessarily about size.” To her firm, the size of the business is less important than the strength of their desire to do good. When your potential clients and customers share your values, they’ll still be drawn to you and be more likely to choose you, no matter how big or small your business might be.

Considering your company’s impact on the world isn’t just good for the world, it’s also good for your bottom line. By addressing society’s challenges, you have the opportunity to create shared value. You have an opportunity to create an economy of sustainable change by looking for what’s culturally relevant, and tapping into that.


May 12 2016

All Work and No Play Makes Dull Creative Work!

It’s all too easy to get stuck in work mode. Working long hours, rushing to the gym, then going home to eat something and fall asleep. Only to wake up early and do it all again. But as a creative agency–or any type of business, really!–it’s important for us to remember take play breaks.

Design Week Portland helped us take a break a few weeks back. This year’s opening party featured fun and games to help creative types unwind. For me, it can be hard to silence the little voice in the back of my mind, reminding me to send that email or make sure I did that thing I was supposed to do (remember that thing?!). But it was impossible to be distracted by projects and to-do lists while I was snuggling a 5-week-old puppy or defending my Jenga champion crown.

The next day, I felt a little lighter thinking of that adorable puppy and that silly 60-second portrait drawing. Those happy memories brought a smile to my face when I needed a boost, and I felt more ready to take on the creative challenges of my day. A little excitement can go a long way in replenishing those creative juices. People are like cars: we all need to stop and refuel from time to time.

This week, find time to play more. See what happens when you give yourself a recess. Does it make you a happier person? More creative? More inspired?

Creating something fun in a different medium can recharge you for your everyday work.
Creating something fun in a different medium can refresh you for your everyday work.
There's nothing like a cute puppy to melt away stress and get you ready to create!
There’s nothing like a cute puppy to melt away stress and get you ready to create!

When you need to recharge, try challenging your brain (and your reflexes!) in a fun and different way.
When you need to recharge, try challenging your brain (and your reflexes!) in a fun and different way.



May 06 2016

Bringing strong brand to web design for Random Order Pie Bar

The "Before" Picture: Random Order's old site didn't incorporate their updated branding.
The “Before” Picture: Random Order’s old site didn’t incorporate their updated branding.

When a once-humble pie shop gains a worldwide audience, a lot of eyes will suddenly be looking for it, especially on the internet--a lot of business dream of that level of fame, but not all of them are ready for it! It’s easy for a potential new fan to see you in a magazine or on TV, pull out their smartphone, and go online to find the best pie in Portland. That means the pressure is on your web site to make a great first impression, and give them what they need to find you.

Random Order Pie Bar was more ready for fame than some, when Travel & Leisure magazine first rated their Vanilla Salted Caramel Apple Pie among “America’s Best”. When the owner of Random Order reached out to Team Upswept, they had updated their signage, menus, and other brand assets with a bolder and more polished look, and they also wisely gathered high-quality photos of their beautiful and positively scrummy pies!

But, even with all of these assets in their hands, their brand refresh was far from complete. None of their new brand imagery was being used effectively in their online presence, and they were also losing potential customers because of their not-so-mobile-friendly web site. The overall look-and-feel of the old web site felt heavy and staid, which didn’t fit at all with the welcoming and active environment of their cafe. That’s where Team Upswept came in!

Our new homepage design made bigger, better use of Random Order's updated logo and gorgeous pie photos. (click to embiggen)
Our new homepage design made bigger, better use of Random Order’s updated logo and gorgeous pie photos. (click to embiggen)

Our first order of business was designing the new web site to make the best use of their brand assets. Their updated logo now shows front-and-center with a gorgeous, full-width photo of their now-famous pie, and brand fonts are also used prominently, to tie in with their printed menus and advertisements. Their “Pie to the People” tag line also appears in multiple locations throughout the site, so this clever catch phrase can stick in the minds of future tourists and customers.

We also updated their menus to highlight both their pie flavors and cafe selections, with prominent calls to action for special ordering your favorite pie, or visiting the shop for a coffee drink and a slice. And, of course, we incorporated more of the lovely photos of the food, drinks, and cafe space throughout the site, to share the quality of their hand-crafted treats, and the community they’ve built over the years.

Random Order's new mobile site achieves the goals of the desktop version and makes it easy to view for people on-the-go.
Random Order’s new mobile site achieves the goals of the desktop version and makes it easy to view for people on-the-go.

And, now that Random Order’s reach extends far outside of its Portland, Oregon home, we made sure their web site would be easy to use for visiting tourists and local enthusiasts alike, by building a web site design that displays gracefully on mobile devices. With more and more people using mobile devices to learn about their pies–especially when traveling in from out of town–it’s absolutely critical that Random Order Pie Bar have a mobile site which is easy to use.

The new mobile site for Random Order achieves the same goals as the desktop version, and brings the brighter, more welcoming look to people on-the-go, and folks who are looking to sample a slice or a whole order of their famous pies can easily find their location or contact them with questions or special orders.

If you know me, then you know that I get more than a little excited about pie, so working with people who make some of the absolute best pie in Portland was a total blast. My only complaint? Looking at all of those photos made me so very hungry pie. Maybe that’s my cue to head up to Alberta St. and grab a world-famous slice for myself! 😉

Portland branding and web design by Upswept Creative


Jan 11 2016

Breaking It Down: Setting Goals for 2016

The Future Is In Your Hands! Start Setting Goals and Make a Plan for 2016!

It’s a new year, and everyone has resolutions and setting goals on their mind. If you’re anything like us, you might start feeling sort of anxious or overwhelmed about all the possibilities. You keep telling yourself to floss more, drink more water, go on vacation, catch up with friends and family, do yoga, etc.

Setting Goals for business: physical, emotional, relationalTo help combat the anxiety that comes with having so many options, we like to break our goals up into categories: the Physical, the Emotional, and the Relational. Some of those examples may apply more directly to you as a business owner (seriously, go on vacation!) than others, the basic principle still applies. In what ways can your business improve physically, emotionally, and relationally? Here are a few suggestions:

The Physical

Everyone has something about their office that makes life harder. The printer never works. You don’t have enough space. Where have all the pens gone? Take this time to reflect on your physical space, and come up with some ways that you might be able to improve it.

The Emotional

Have you ever noticed how great it feels to do something nice for someone else? Find an organization that matters to you and give what you can. whether it’s time as a volunteer or a regular donation, you’ll notice your happiness levels increasing.

The Relational

Is it time to expand your network? There’s nothing like bouncing ideas off fellow business owners for feedback or support. Think about joining a network or organization that’s related to your business to spice up your relationships.

Don’t Know Where To Start Setting Goals? We’ve Got Your Back.

We’re growing and changing here at Upswept HQ, too, and that means we can do more for you AND do it better. We have some awesome new team members coming aboard to lend you a helping hand, whether it’s with the small stuff, or the big visions. (you’ll meet them soon!)

  • Struggling with the Physical? We can help you make your business look fabulous on the outside with strong design, attractive and usable web solutions, and smart content strategy.
  • Looking for the Emotional center of your business? When you do a branding and web project with us, we’ll be taking you through a more in-depth Discovery process, so you feel confident in your message and do better business.
  • Feeling disconnected on the Relational side of things? We’re now taking on Social Media Management! We can help you create new content, manage campaigns, and navigate the technical side for you, so you don’t have to waste your precious day-to-day on Facebook.

We can help you formulate an action plan for making your brand image smarter and prettier in the new year. A consultation with us is always free, and we love helping you grow! Click the link below, answer a few questions about your project, and we can take the wheel.

Talk to us! We like you already. »

Hearts, successes, and good vibes to you in the coming year!


Jul 01 2015

Open Source Bridge Day 2: You Are Not Your User

Day Two of Open Source Bridge encouraged us to look beyond our own experience, and try to see the world through a different lens. Not only does it help us be more compassionate as people, but it also helps us create and code better design and user experiences for everyone we want to reach.

Algorithms Can Have Powerful Consequences

Open Source Bridge Keynote: Carina C. Zona talks about using data insights responsibly.
Carina C. Zona talks about using data insights responsibly.

Carina C. Zona opened Day 2 with “Consequences of an Insightful Algorithm” and talked about the incredible number of things we can learn about people through data, and subsequently, the potentially hurtful actions that can stem from it. Zona brought up several examples of big-name companies who have used their data less-than-responsibly, such as FitBit’s public exposure of sexual activity on profile statistics, or even more disastrous, Target’s advertisements towards pregnant women exposing a teen pregnancy. Big companies can learn a great deal about their customers by gathering and analyzing customer data, but they can easily fail at using that data responsibly.

Inadvertent algorithmic cruelty–a phrase coined by Eric Meyer–is, “what happens when code works in the majority of cases, but fails to take other use cases into account.” These types of things often happen because the consequences of how data is being used aren’t being thoroughly considered, which is easy to do when you assume that your customers and users are similar to you. That means that people outside of the assumed majority can get hurt.

We all have biases, whether we’re aware of them or not, so it’s important for us all to consider what motivates our choices, and how that can affect others who don’t share our biases. Data can be an extremely powerful tool, but it’s up to us to be honest and trustworthy, to use data responsibly, and to actively counter the biases that exist in ourselves and our culture.

Good User Experience Means Seeking Other Perspectives

With the Day 2 keynote fresh in my mind, I attended multiple sessions that encouraged all of us in tech to reach outside of our own perspectives, to think and learn about users who are different from us, and use that knowledge to create better user experiences for everyone.

Amelia Abreu facilitates a session about creating better design with user research.
Amelia Abreu facilitates a session about creating better design with user research.

Amelia Abreu and Rachel Shadoan facilitated a longer-form session, Dog Food is for Dogs: Escape the Crate of Your Perspective with User Research,” which focused on escaping the limitations of our own perspective through user research. We know our own projects inside and out, but our users don’t have that same advantage, so it’s part of our job to do the research and learn more about the people we’re designing for.

The session focused on a couple of different strategies to help us learn to see beyond our own experience: first, we looked at a photograph and brainstormed about everything from the circumstances and feelings of the people in said photo, to potential solutions to their problems. Later in the session, we broke up into several groups and explored different scenarios, so we could strategically think about the different types of people who might work with our projects, what’s exciting them about our work, and what their struggles might be.

The clear message here was that we need to consider a variety of people when we create user experiences. People tend to congregate with others who are just like them, so that can easily lead us to assume that our experience is the only one that matters. Our user scenarios should be based on field research, or we risk falling into tropes and our own biases.

In a similar vein, David Newton tackled the topic of making web design more inclusive in Universal Web Design: How to create an awesome experience for *every* user.” Newton looked at successful examples of universal design in the real world–such as curb cuts to improve accessibility for wheelchairs, strollers, and bikes–and then expanded on the concepts of universal design and how they can apply to Web Design.

Creating web design that’s intuitive, flexible, and easy to use in a variety of situations was a big topic here, and it’s one that I loved talking about. A good universal design works for us, and we don’t really think about it until it’s not there when we need it. No matter what type of web site we’re building, be it business, personal, or community, our number one goal? We want people to use the site. If you have a web design that’s confusing, or that isn’t easy to use for all of our users, then your web site is falling down on the job.

Newton went into a detailed run-down of tips, concepts, and best practices for making web designs more accessible. And, he also stressed the importance of listening to and considering a variety of users. Diversity is not only about the user, but also how they access the web, what devices, connection speeds, and so forth. We were encouraged to listen to our users, respond to their email feedback, do focus groups, and do our best to learn what they need, so we can create a better web site experience for everyone.

In short: “Remove barriers. Make things easier for users, even if it’s a little harder for us [as designers and developers].”

Did you miss out on the conference? Look back at Day 1 of Open Source Bridge, and take a look at some of our photos on Facebook.