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.


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.



Feb 12 2016

This Weekend! Photobooth at Valentine’s popUP!

12627964_618424141640355_1148175536_nCome see us at the Valentine’s popUP event, and get in on our festive and fun photobooth for Valentine’s weekend! Stop by on Friday for the kick-off cocktail party, or visit us over the weekend and browse some super-amazing locally-made goods. Pick up something special for your sweetie or yourself, or share the experience with someone you like.

And, we’ll bring the fun in our photobooth! We’ll have some fun Valentine’s-y props on hand, and we’ll be ready to make some lighthearted and fabulous photos with you!

Valentine’s popUP at UP Design Lounge
4048 N Williams Ave., Portland 97227

PHOTOBOOTH HOURS:
Friday: 6-8pm (or later!)
Sat. & Sun.: 11am-3pm

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Jan 27 2016

A Pie-Filled Peek at Smarsh Week 2016

We were pretty pleased to return for Smarsh Week this year, to capture some of the happenings during their activity-filled multi-day event! Employees from the many global offices of this tech company converge in Portland every year, to engage in a variety of events and mixers in and around their Downtown PDX headquarters.

A special treat on the Smarsh Week 2016 agenda was a pie smashing event, done to support fundraising for the Movember Foundation, to help them in their continuing fight against cancer. A dozen-or-so employees offered themselves up as tribute–including several members of their Leadership Team–and together raised over $1000 for the Foundation.

We couldn’t resist this incredibly GIF-able moment featuring CEO Steve Marsh, braving his pie-in-the-face like a champ. Big ups to everyone at Smarsh for being all-around lovely people, and for doing good in the community!

Smarsh CEO supporting Movember fundraising efforts by getting pied in the face.
Smarsh CEO supporting Movember fundraising efforts by getting pied in the face.

Nov 17 2015

Photos from 2015 Swashbuckler’s Ball

Photos from the 2015 Swashbuckler’s Ball are now online!

Did you see us in action at the Swashbuckler’s Ball? We were happy to return for another year to capture this “grand night out for pirates, buccaneers and nautical miscreants of all stripes,” and now have candid event photos from the event online!

You can take a look through the online gallery, download your favorites, and even order prints of your most memorable moments. Just click the button to see the full gallery.

View the Full Photo Gallery »

Portland event photography - the 2015 Swashbuckler's Ball
Portland event photography - the 2015 Swashbuckler's BallPortland event photography - The Young Dubliners at the 2015 Swashbuckler's Ball
Portland event photography - the 2015 Swashbuckler's Ball
Portland event photography - the 2015 Swashbuckler's Ball


Sep 16 2015

Maker Faire PDX: Making it More Super!

“Hi! Do you want to become a superhero?”

“...YES!

“Well, come on in, and we’ll get you started!”

Maker Faire PDX was a blast this year, and I was so excited that Upswept Creative could be a part of it. I’d wandered around the event last year as an attendee and loved seeing all the amazing forms of making–prop fabrication, robotics, smithing and leatherworking, mechanical wonders, even cheesemaking! So, when I got together with the Alter Egos Society and had the idea to work with their fantastic costume accessories and a Superhero Photobooth, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.

We got to spend our time at Maker Faire transforming people of all ages into superheroes, and creating photos that we turned into 4×6″ trading cards! Before we photographed them, each person created their own custom mask with the help of Alter Egos Society, and it was a lot of fun seeing the designs they came up with. The people who visited our photobooth were consistently enthusiastic, open, and ready to have fun, and it was incredibly energizing.

And really, who doesn’t want to help someone feel like a super-powered hero of the people? 😉

These are just a precious few of the fantastic folks who came by while we were at Maker Faire, and a few peeks at the process of planning and putting it all together. We have more highlights posted on Facebook–there’s just too much awesome to share them all here!

Finding the perfect out-of-this-world backdrop.
Finding the perfect out-of-this-world backdrop.
Designing a trading card border and test printing.
Designing a trading card border and test printing.
Alter Egos Society spearheaded the custom mask making!
Alter Egos Society spearheaded the custom mask making!
I wouldn't have made it through the weekend without a heroic photo booth assistant!
I wouldn’t have made it through the weekend without a heroic photo booth assistant!

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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.


Jun 25 2015

Open Source Bridge Day 1: Everyone In Tech Matters

We’re spending a big part of our week at Open Source Bridge, both taking in wisdom and taking photos! On Day 1, I spent a lot of time wishing that I could be in multiple places at once, but I did make it to a couple of different talks which drove home the message that tech needs to strive to be more inclusive, more socially aware, and more collaborative.

Stepping Towards True Diversity in Tech

Kronda Adair opened the Open Source Bridge conference by talking on what we really need to do to encourage diversity in tech.
Kronda Adair opened the conference by talking about what we really need to do to encourage diversity in tech.
Kronda Adair kicked off Open Source Bridge with “Put Up or Shut Up: An Open Letter to Tech Companies Seeking Diverse Teams,” which gave direct talk about the problem of diversity in the tech industry, an industry that continues to be dominated by white males. One startling statistic: “50% of women in tech quit the industry within 10 years.”–not simply their jobs, but the entire industry. Hiring more women and other underrepresented demographics into tech companies does help, but as Adair stated, it is simply not enough.

Adair emphasized the importance of companies throughout tech stepping up and putting real weight behind their stated desires for diversity.  Empathy is key to creating an environment that is welcoming to all, and a supportive work environment is key to retaining people from those underrepresented demographics.

In short, it’s important to create a space that’s safe for everyone, and that allows diverse groups to flourish. It means not allowing members of your company or community to act badly without consequences. Value interpersonal skills as well as technical skills. Give access to tools and education, and inclusive healthcare. It can even be as simple as taking the time to learn an unfamiliar name. When you think on diversity, don’t simply wonder, “how do I add diversity?” but ask, “how do I make things better for everyone?”

When Fear Takes Hold, Reach Outward

Adam Edgerton shares what happens when fear hits on a project, and how to handle it.
Adam Edgerton shares what happens when fear hits on a project, and how to handle it.

In an afternoon session, Adam Edgerton looked at what happens when the project management cycle gets scary in “Project Fear.” He touched on the very real issues of burnout in all facets of tech–Edgerton suggested that burnout is one major contributor to why people quit the industry–and the feelings of uncertainty that come with joining a new project or a new company. “Impostor Syndrome is most strongly associated with high achievers,” so even those who are expert and capable, and performing well, may feel the fear that comes with uncertainty

New hires can take anywhere from 6 months to a year to gain the background knowledge about a company that’s needed for them to perform well, so patience is key. Edgerton suggests reaching outward to help combat uncertainty–asking questions and doing research to gain the background you might be missing can help you find the “a-ha” moment of understanding. It’s also important to balance your gut feelings and your logic, much like our friends Kirk and Spock. And, allowing yourself to talk about struggle and share it with others can help relieve the pressure that leads to burnout.

Your Job Impacts Your Community

Kelsey Gilmore-Innis talks on the surprisingly long reach of tech dollars in politics.
Kelsey Gilmore-Innis talks on the surprisingly long reach of tech dollars in politics.

An afternoon session with Kelsey Gilmore-Innis, “Your Job Is Political,” dove into the long reach of tech dollars in politics. Using her knowledge of tech leaders in the Bay Area, she went into extensive detail about venture capitalists in tech, the surprising number of tech companies they’re tied to and invested in, and most importantly, where their political interests lie–and subsequently, where their millions of dollars are going.

A sad truth of our political system is that money continues to command a great deal of power, and the work you do as an average tech worker contributes to advancing political interests that you may not support. If you don’t take a position, but your bosses invest revenue from your labor in politics, you are not impartial. Be aware of who is at the top levels of your company, and what they are doing (or not doing) to benefit your community.


May 28 2015

WebVisions PDX: Design is about People

I got to drop in on the WebVisions Portland conference earlier this month with a longtime collaborator, Jen Barth of Big Small Brands. The conference was a multi-day affair, but even a one-day peek felt like time well spent!

The two talks I attended on Friday morning weren’t especially similar, but they had one very important thing in common: they were people-centered. A design can be the most aesthetically pleasing thing in the world, but it won’t be successful if it doesn’t consider the people involved in making it, and the people who will be using it.

It’s All About The Interface.

Sarah Hall talks at WebVisions about how design affects people, and how people can inspire design.
Sarah Hall talks at WebVisions about how design affects people, and how people can inspire design.
Sarah Hall talked about “The Science of Art,” and got nerdy about the way our brains work, and how we can use that to make better design. The human brain has a variety of ways to perceive and interact with the world, and good design considers how people will respond to it.
Why are we so obsessed with Web Design and UI? Hall summed it up wonderfully: “Your interface affects how you understand and process the world around you.” So, if you want your work to be understood, you need design that helps the people you want to reach understand what you do, and reach out to you.

How You Connect People and Ideas Can Make You Memorable.

Ultimately, design is about connecting, and connecting isn’t just about person-to-person, either–it’s about how our brains connect and relate things together. Sometimes, things that might otherwise be completely unrelated feel like a natural connection, in your own mind. One of the roots of creativity, as Sarah Hall put it, “is divergent thinking, and how you make connections between disparate things.” When we consider how the people we want to reach will link one idea to another, we can make design that’s easier to understand, or design that catches the user’s attention and becomes more memorable.

Good Design Means Working Together.

Adam Connor’s talk, “Working Better Together: Characteristics of Productive, Creative Organization” was focused on the creative team, rather than the end user, but the people-centered approach still rang true. He talked about how each person’s role in a project can overlap, and stressed the importance of understanding each person’s role, looking for shared values, and building trust within the team and with the client.
One thing we do a lot of at Upswept is encourage our clients to give good, honest feedback, and Connor’s approach is similar: he encouraged everyone to be involved in the design process. Each person is important to making the end product Awesome, and having everyone–even the client–involved makes that final result even better.

Good Design Thinks About The Next Step.

Another comment from Adam Connor that really hit home for me is that, “real design does not have an end point. It is infinite; it is iterative.” It makes perfect sense for our clients, too, in my mind: your business is always growing, changing, and evolving, so your design should grow and change with it.
Don’t get me wrong: this doesn’t mean having a web site that’s constantly under construction, or ordering new promotional flyers every other day. But, the web site or branding that’s perfect for you today probably won’t fit you so perfectly a few years from now. Your business depends on how people respond to it, and your design should reflect that.
So, when you’re thinking about the next steps for your business, think about how that might affect your design needs, and plan for it. Even a great design can be improved, whether it’s right now, or sometime in the future.