Sep 27 2018

Website Case Study: Portland vocational school

We recently worked with a known leader in vocational training here in Portland, Oregon, and you’ll find many of their graduates building thriving careers here in town and beyond. In 2017, however, they decided to revamp their online experience, to better connect their audience with the details they don’t already know about their diverse programs.

We partnered with them and brought our skills in website design, custom web development for WordPress, and content strategy to create a website that entices new students, and connects current students and alumni with the information they need.

The Goal: Give Control Back to The User

When our client first contacted us, their previous website was failing them in a number of ways:

  • Prospective students couldn’t find what they needed–the information was often there, but buried beneath a confusing website structure. This led to frequent phone calls about basic questions, wasting both new students’ and and their staffers’ precious time.
  • The visual design was inconsistent with their established brand standards and print materials. There were bright, distracting colors and “quirky” icons that just didn’t make sense with their grounded, calm, and welcoming culture.
  • They felt a lack of control over their content. Their previous website was so difficult to update that they didn’t feel empowered to do so. This led to inconsistent updates, and information that was misleading or outdated.

Our goal was clear: dig down into the complex muck, zero in on the most important needs of both the school and its audience, and refine it into a design that more honestly communicates what it’s like to attend or receive their services.

The Process: Getting To Know You

Our new website design gives prospective students a closer look at what student life is like the school.

Our Content Audit and Content Map make a great starting point for websites like this one–this client had an embarrassment of riches in terms of written content! So, we started by digging in to establish goals and identify sought-after content, and reorganizing it all in a way that flows more naturally.

While content review was happening, our Grayscreen Prototype gave their team a visual frame of reference for the site structure–our grayscreen is like an interactive wireframe, so they could get a better understanding of how elements fit together, what goes where, and how they can keep their content up-to-date. We also got to present them with our ideas for customizations, such as custom Content Types and Templates to make it even easier to manage their own pages and blog posts beautifully.

Design Mockups were where we brought their visual brand back into the picture, but also where we put their content-driven goals into action. We moved away from the bright “clown car”  colors, introduced organic textures, and brought in new photos that showcase their Student Life experience. We also built in eye-catching and clear calls-to-action, so viewers can more easily find what they’re looking for and what the school wants them to see.

Finally, while we were putting the site through rigorous pre-launch testing, we also hooked up our client’s staff with Training and Documentation, to help them feel like empowered managers of their new website. We walked them through the Dashboard functions they’d need most often, answered their questions, and equipped them with a handy custom-written user guide to refer back to and share with new staff.

The Results: More Engagement, Less Headache

No longer struggling with an off-brand website that they can’t update themselves, this client now has more time and energy to expand and grow their marketing. We’re not only driving traffic to their website — we’re also authentically reflecting the student life experience they offer, and encouraging visitors to take the next step towards admission.

Is your outdated website holding back your growth? Upswept Creative can free you, too, from the struggles of intimidating Dashboards and confused branding. It all starts with a conversation.

Get in touch to begin! »


Jun 07 2018

Nellie McAdams is Safeguarding Oregon’s Farmland

One of my favorite things about client work is getting to know a little bit about each person we work with, and what makes them passionate about the work that they do. Uncovering and connecting with the story of their work is a key step in creating authentic design. It’s also just fun to learn new things, such as these figures about Oregon’s agricultural land:

  • Oregon is 25% agricultural land
  • In the next 20 years 64% of that land will change ownership as the current generation of farmers retires
  • That comes to 10.5 million acres changing hands, potentially irreversibly affecting Oregon’s natural resources, economy, and culture

Working Together for Working Lands

Portlander Nellie McAdams has made it her business to help protect those 10.5 million acres from development. In 2017, we worked with Nellie and Maggie Sisco to develop an infographic to explain succession planning and working land conservation easements that speaks to farmers, the general public, and decision makers about  the threats to farmland and how we can all help farmers safeguard their land against development.

Farmers comprise less than 1% of the population and, even for the motivated, Nellie says it can be difficult to break into the industry without a family connection. Startup costs are high, margins are low, and both the weather and the markets can be unpredictable, making farming for a living a challenging proposition.

Nellie’s professional background in environmental law and agriculture, as well as her lived experience growing up the daughter of a hazelnut grower, places her at an ideal intersection. She can relate to parties on all sides of farm succession.

Nellie McAdams chatting with Team Upswept. Photo by Sarah Giffrow.

Nellie says she was drawn to the farming lifestyle for personal reasons. For her, working the land is deeply gratifying, as are the natural connections with land and community, and she feels lucky to be set to inherit her father’s land when he’s ready to retire. For her, a farm is not only  a commodity to be bought and sold, but also an heirloom and natural resource. Both sentimental and practical in nature, it farmland more difficult to divide among successors than a typical business or estate.

When we met last fall, Nellie was splitting her workweek between her own farming training, and her outreach and program development work. In partnership with several organizations, Nellie leads programs that support a retiring generation of farmers with succession planning. They’re also building support for the next generation of Oregon farmers to help them gain the business and land-management skills they’ll need to succeed at farming.

Our Safeguarding Oregon’s Farmland infographic is at work for these three organizations

The Oregon Community Food Systems Network is a collaboration of 40 nonprofit organizations and allies dedicated to strengthening local and regional food systems to deliver better economic, social, health and environmental outcomes across the state. They provide networking, information sharing, research, education, training, planning,  fundraising, and more to participating organizations in pursuit of their vision: that all Oregonians will have meaningful access to healthy and affordable foods that are grown and processed regionally in an environmentally and economically resilient food system.

Rogue Farm Corpsmission is to train the next generation of farmers and ranchers through hands-on educational program and the preservation of farmland. They do so by offering practical training programs and farm succession planning and access to land workshops.

The Oregon Agricultural Heritage Program(OAHP) was passed by the 2017 Oregon State Legislature to help address the challenges of preserving farmland from development and helping farmers pass it on to the next generation. The program provides voluntary incentives to farmers and ranchers to support practices that maintain or enhance both agriculture and natural resources such as fish and wildlife on agricultural lands. OAHP was developed by a collaborative of organizations representing natural resource conservation and agriculture, including farmer and rancher representatives.

Good Design for Farmland

When Nellie and Maggie approached us to develop the Working Lands infographic, their “rough draft” was in pages of notes that  looked more a grant proposal outline than a snappy single-sheet infographic for public consumption.

The first phase of our work was in helping them and their stakeholders narrow down the scope of the document and refine the language to be concise, direct, and effective. Using color, typography, simple icons, and an intuitive content structure, we were able to communicate a lot of information into a relatively small space while maintaining a visually appealing and user-friendly look. After we completed the final product, Nellie told us that the development process of refining the images and talking points helped her better communicate about the issues in the rest of her work.

What makes you passionate about your work? Team Upswept can’t wait to hear about it, and work with you to reach your ideal audience and grow your business. Click to Get Started and schedule your consultation with us.


Apr 26 2018

Letting Go: 3 Things Holding You Back From an Awesome Brand Redesign

Do you get an uneasy feeling in the pit of your stomach when you look at your logo? Do you feel sheepish when you hand out your business card? You may be thinking about a brand redesign, or even know deep down that you need to refresh your brand… and yet, it feels like an awful lot of work that you don’t feel prepared for.

I’m not going to tell you that rebranding isn’t a lot of work, because it does take time and energy! That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, however. In fact, if you’re overwhelmed in your work, a rebrand may be exactly what you need.

Even if you think you have to stay the course, here are some thoughts that shouldn’t hold you back from a brand redesign:

“I don’t want to lose the brand recognition I already have. ”

Businesses both big and small can stay strong, even through multiple rebrands. (IBM logo evolution via Hongkiat)

You’ve worked hard to build your customer base, so it’s totally normal to feel hesitation about turning people away. However, we’ve seen a variety of businesses update their visual identity, and still keep going strong–the trust they’ve already built keeps their loyal fans coming back, while updated branding attracts new eyes.

As long as you make the right adjustments to your branding, you can keep your audience and keep evolving your business. Your creative team will often guide you through how to debut and start using your new brand assets, so your customers know what’s happening. It will take your audience a little while to adjust, but new branding will help you make sure the customers you love will stick around.

“My current logo is already on all of my tags, t-shirts, signage, etc.”

It may seem like a lot of trouble to incorporate a new logo and brand messaging. And yet, isn’t it a bigger problem to have a brand you aren’t proud of stamped all over your marketing?

Sticking with your current branding means everyone who engages with you will see an ill-fitting brand that makes the wrong impression. And, that outdated brand will continue to draw in all the same people–including the “wrong fit” clients that you don’t want to keep attracting.

It’s true that printing new business cards, having new signs made, or replacing other brand assets will take some time and resources. But, investing that time and effort now will help you connect with more of the people who are right for you, and that will make your life much easier in the long-term.

“I don’t have time to deal with that right now.”

Time is precious in any business! But, if you don’t have time right now, when will you? Free time rarely appears on its own–you ultimately have to make the time for things that are important to the growth of your business.

And, consider this: how much time could you save if your marketing was refined for who your business is now? If you can attract more of the right customers, and fewer customers that don’t fit, you could save a lot of time in your day-to-day. You could deal with fewer questions or less back-and-forth on pricing, you could focus on your best and most beloved products, rather than maintaining a huge product line. The possibilities are plentiful!

 

Rebranding is daunting–I get it! It’s a big task full of tough decisions. But, thinking critically about your brand is how you not only survive, but thrive in an ever-evolving business landscape. Facing your fears, acknowledging where your brand can do better, and making those tough choices will leave you feeling refreshed and reinvigorated about your business.

Remember, you don’t have to do this alone! Upswept Creative offers all the resources you need to have a successful brand evolution: web design, logo and graphic design, and social media management to get the (new) word out. Contact us right now to start feeling good about your brand again.


Apr 13 2018

Design Monsters: The Committee

Often a project has multiple stakeholders who need or want to weigh in on a project. We call this designing for a committee. Whether your team of stakeholders is co-owners of small business, an entire non-profit Board of Directors, or representatives from each department in your operation, it can be quite valuable to tap into the knowledge and perspectives of a diverse group. But designing for a committee can also contribute to confusion, frustration, and missed deadlines. Here’s how to get it right.

Opposing Opinions

It may be tempting to send your designer a digest of everyone’s feedback. We’re always asking for more feedback, aren’t we?  But this is a case when quantity does not equal quality.

If one person on your team likes the green color in our logo concepts, and another thinks it’s too evocative of grass clippings, that leaves your designer with no clear path forward. We cannot both change and not change this possibly-too-grassy green, and we may not have a firm grasp on whose opinion carries more or less weight within your group.

Make sure you distill your group’s opinion in a coherent way. It should sound like it could be the opinion of one person.

Confusing Communication

Effective communication with your designer is key. As the Committee grows, however, so does the risk for communication breakdown, especially over e-mail.

You may feel tempted to e-mail five of your team members about your project, and copy your designer so they they can “overhear” the conversation, but that can actually be counterproductive! For one, there is a social context that your designer is likely wholly unaware of. They don’t know the dynamics of your team as well as you do. They can’t rely on existing relationships to understand the subtext of the messages.

Additionally, details can also be easily lost in long group e-mail discussions. Sifting through e-mail threads to look for possibly-actionable directives isn’t an effective use of your design team’s time or expertise. A clearly-stated action is guaranteed to get the job done faster.

The Committee by Indigo Kelleigh, 2017.

Curb the Committee

Being mindful of your communication and workflow can make all the difference in keeping dangers of The Committee from derailing your project. Here are our top tips:

Develop a trusting relationship. At the risk of sounding like a relationship counselor, you’ve all got to trust each other. Keep in mind that you’ve hired your design team specifically for their experience and expertise. Making you look awesome is why they’re here, and your cooperation and trust lets them do their best work!

Set expectations and boundaries, and speak up if something’s not working well for you. Talking about expectations at the outset of a project is an important part of getting started, and becomes even more critical if you’re working as a group.

  • Ask for a transparent project plan and an estimated timeline.
  • Discuss the ways you’ll all help to keep the project on-track, such as responding to queries within an agreed-upon period of time.
  • If your designer hasn’t provided you with any, ask for feedback guidelines to help make the most of your review.
  • If you have a problem, let your designer know what’s up promptly instead of simmering in your dissatisfaction. Sometimes workflows or communication plans need fine-tuning.

Assign a single point of contact to communicate with your designer. It’s likely that they have one individual who’s managing the details of your project, so your point of contact can take on a similar role. Over time, you’ll get to know each other’s communication styles, making collaborating on the project easier and more rewarding.

Take a moment to consolidate everyone’s feedback, whether you are meeting with your design team in person or sending an e-mail with your notes. Putting your feedback into one unified voice will make it much easier for your designers to understand and tackle your requests, while taking advantage of the richness of multiple perspectives.

Are you feeling as excited as we are about leveling up your brand’s presence online and in print? Team Upswept can’t wait to dig deep into the design problems keeping you up at night. Let us know what’s on your mind and schedule your free Clarifying Consultation today.

 


Mar 15 2018

Design Monsters: Scope Creep

We’ve already discussed one of the most formidable monsters of them all, the Problem of Good, Fast, and Cheap. Now, let me tell you about Scope Creep, how to stop it in its tracks, and still achieve the final product you want.

The Siren Song of a Private Patio

When I was a teenager, my parents decided to add a room to our house. Before very long this discussion ballooned to include an additional bathroom and a private entrance (via a small enclosed patio!) to my bedroom. Soon we were looking at catalogs of shiny fixtures and carpet samples because, my folks reasoned, if we were already doing some work, we may as well do all the work.

Thankfully, a voice of reason intervened and wrangled the project back down to its original scope, chastising my parents for submitting to a case of “While We’re At It-itis.” I never did get my private patio.

While We’re At It-itis, better known as Scope Creep, is a well-known monster we encounter frequently in all kinds of design projects. Scope Creep leads to unforeseen changes, because it keeps moving the creative target, which can be frustrating, expensive, and time-consuming.

Be Strong; Resist Temptation

Scope Creep is dangerous because it is distracting to both client and designer.  There should be some room in a project to pause and adjust course if new constraints or ideas come to light, but beware of veering too far off of the planned path—it can be hard to find your way home again.

Scope Creep is expensive, too, in terms of both time and money. When you want to add components or features that weren’t part of the original project, your design team must research the new idea and figure out how it will affect the structure of project as a whole. That means they have to divert attention away from doing the work you’ve already contracted them to do. And, once the door is open for more work, it’s so easy to lose your grip on deadlines and budgets.

Scope creep monster by Sarah Giffrow, 2017.

A “No” is Not Forever: Plan a Phase Two

It doesn’t have to be a negative experience when the designer you’re working with pushes back against incorporating new ideas into the work they’re doing for you. When inspiration strikes late or the problem you’re trying to solve changes shape, bring it to the table to find out if it can be reasonably included in the project scope you all already agreed on. Sometimes the answer is Yes!

Other times, though, the Creepy Monster must be put at bay, and one of the best ways to do that is simply drafting a Phase Two. Like you did at the outset of your work together, collaborate with your designer to make a new list of desired features for Phase Two —  Integrate your shop’s POS with your website’s e-commerce engine! Schedule a photography session to create high-quality visual content for your marketing materials! Plan a new managed social media campaign to show off your shiny new assets and drive traffic to your new website! Just because a new feature doesn’t fit right now, doesn’t mean you have to give up on it forever.

Team Upswept loves getting to know you and your business, and creating a project plan that solves your problems with beautiful and strategic design! Get in touch to schedule your free consultation so we can get started slaying those design monsters together!


Feb 02 2018

Collaborate with Us!

Partnership and Collaboration are two of our core values at Upswept Creative. We bring this collaborative spirit to all of our projects, not only putting our individual skills and expertise to work as a team for our clients, but also nurturing partnership with our clients.

Getting to know you and your business over the course of our work together makes the final product more genuine and truly representative of what you do and who you are. When that authenticity shines through from your social media accounts, brand identity, and website, you attract more of your ideal audience — the kind of folks you want to work for, and who will appreciate your work.

Starting Strong

We want working with us to be pleasant and easy, and maybe even a little fun. We know that you’re plenty busy running your business without adding website design to your to-do list, which is the whole reason you’ve decided to look us up in the first place!  Your investment on some level, however, is necessary in order for us to make the awesome happen.

Before we meet with a new prospective client, we like to get to know a little bit about where you are with your business and your branding, which is why we ask you to fill out a short Get Started questionnaire. When you meet with us for a consultation we’ll talk about your pains and goals in even greater detail.

We want to meet you where you are, and  if you can speak to these questions, even loosely, that makes it a lot easier to find you on a map.

Photo by Ken Treloar on Unsplash

 

  • Why am I starting this project now?
  • What is working now with my current website and social media?
  • What problems do I hope to solve with this work?
  • Do I have a sense of how I want this to look and sound when it’s done?
  • What resources can I give to this right now?
  • What does my ideal partnership with a creative agency look like?

Digging In

When you work with Team Upswept, we keep you in the loop with preliminary mockups and planning documents. We ask for your feedback all along the way to ensure that our understanding of your business goals and your aesthetic preferences are as solid as our expertise in design.

We won’t  get your website launched in a week, even if you ask us very sweetly to do so, simply because a week is not enough time to make a researched, strategic, cohesive, unique, and totally rad-looking solution that shines your light to your target audience (like squid to a bright jig at midnight).

You have the most important role in any job we take on.  As the client, we are looking to work both for and with you in order to deliver a product that authentically represents you, your business, and your brand. Want to know what it’s like to collaborate with us? Fill out our short survey and schedule a free consultation! We’ll get your project started off on the right foot — with teamwork!


Jan