Don’t get charged with Death by PowerPoint: A simple hack you can use to unboring your next presentation

Image courtesy of Halans Photography

Image courtesy of Halans Photography

Is the news really just b-grade entertainment? Do you suffer from Phantom Cat Syndrome? And what is the correct way to peel a banana?

I heard the answers to these questions and more at the Oxford Art Factory on a warm spring night last week, during the 17th Ignite Sydney evening. The event felt like a shorter, rowdier version of TEDx Sydney, featuring 14 speakers and three bars that never stopped serving.

Speaker Hugh Saalmans gave us the hard truth that the world is ending, and explained how we can prepare for the apocalypse. To cheer us up, Chloe Boreham showed us that life is full of little loving moments, if you look for them. Life saver Lucy Schott revealed her dark secret: she is terrified of the ocean. Doug Suiter told us the story of a cat sleeping in the centre of his bed, forcing him to contort himself around his favourite pet, only to wake up to find no cat, and a needless back ache (an apt metaphor for obsolete habits dying too late, he posited).

As always, an eclectic bunch of speakers populated the Art Factory’s stage, the only commonality between them being their passion for a chosen niche topic. Ignite Sydney carefully chooses the speakers to capture a broad spectrum of topics, and anyone can throw their hat in the ring to be in the running. The catch? You must use a 20-slide PowerPoint presentation, and each slide gets exactly 15 seconds of fame. If you do the maths, that’s a neat 5 minutes to get your message across. to quote Ignite curator Stephen Lead: “Enlighten us, but make it quick.”

Sounds challenging? Your delivery and timing would need to be on point, no doubt. But on the other hand, it’s a strange reality of the creative process that this kind of limit can elicit a more imaginative approach. Ignite's presenters were unknowlingly receiving a masterclass in design: putting constraints around a project can help you push through creative blocks, and make the end result that much more unique.

Indeed, technical tinkerer Michael Kordahi gave several examples of ‘beautiful constraints’ during his 5 minute talk about the hacker mindset: Jerry Seinfeld famously imposes the personal restriction of never swearing during his standup routines (a constraint that perhaps many of us would struggle with!). Then there's Brian Eno, who created the infamous Windows 95 startup sound, but was lacking inspiration when the brief came to him. “We want a piece of music that is inspiring, universal, blah-blah, da-da-da, optimistic, futuristic, sentimental, emotional, this whole list of adjectives, and then at the bottom it said: and it must be 3.25 seconds long.” This final, bizarre constraint made him laugh, and stirred some imagination up too: he ended up submitting 84 tiny tunes in response to Microsoft's request.

But you don’t have to be a legendary comedian or composer, nor a hacker, creative professional or public speaker, to benefit from this technique. Next time you need to make a presentation, consider imposing some constraints. What if you had to get your point across in only 5 minutes? What if every slide was on a 15 second timer? The constraints need not be time-related, either. Designer Jarrod Drysdale imposed an arbitrary constraint when designing his online course: he had to use the colour green.

And, of course, take inspiration from other great presentations and check out the next Ignite Sydney event! It won’t disappoint: I drank… and I learned things! I learned that we all suffer from phantom cat syndrome from time to time; that peeling a banana ‘from the bottom’ is the best way; and that mass media news really does make more sense if you imagine it as entertainment. Moreover, I learned a great hack to make my own presentations faster, more fun and more engaging.

What beautiful constraints do you use when you need to get creative? What other hacks help you to ‘unboring' your messaging? As designers of intelligent communication, the Freckle team are always curious about what works for our readers, so feel free to drop us a comment or an email.

Have you got good guts?

freckfast4_img.jpg

Four years ago, a life-changing event set Fiona on a path of discovery which she shared with us all at our latest Freckfast.

How many times have you made a New Year’s resolution to eat healthy? I know I have, but often my good intentions have fallen by the wayside. Four years ago, though, something happened to change all that. I was placed in the isolation ward at Royal Prince Alfred hospital for a week followed by five months recovery at home. Six months after my hospital stay, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. This life-changing event motivated me to set out on a journey to assist with my medical management. I did extensive research; I was looking for a diet to heal, stabilise and recover.

There’s a lot of conflicting information out there but, for me, the big find was GUT HEALTH. Guts are amazing! They are core to our health and wellbeing, influencing everything from the function of our immune system to mental health and energy levels. Did you know that your gut is home to some 1000 different types of bacteria and serves as your number one defence against all disease? Like I said, amazing!

I discovered that all sorts of conditions can be due to a leaky or bad gut: gas,  bloating, IBS, food intolerances, seasonal allergies, regular infections, colds and flu, chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety, eczema… the list goes on. More often than not, food is to blame. Excessive consumption of many things like alcohol, caffeine, sugar, gluten, dairy (from cow’s milk) and processed foods can alter your gut flora triggering chronic inflammation. I used to think of inflammation as the swelling and pain caused by arthritis or a sprained ankle. I now know that it is an underlying cause of some of the world’s major health problems and chronic diseases, multiple sclerosis being one of them.

So, what can you do to beat inflammation? A good way to start is by trying to maintain a healthy pH within your body by eating more alkaline foods. This doesn’t have to mean huge changes to your diet. Something simple like adding lemon to your water every morning can make a big difference. It’s one of the many tips in the book Love Your Gut by Sally Joseph (a good friend of our Director Tiff!). Sally’s book also contains recipes and a 2-week restart programme. I highly recommend it.

With so much information about the best diet to follow splashed across our screens, it can be difficult to make a choice. On the Daily Mail website, there seems to be a different article about diet and health every day. One day we are encouraged to eat meat, but the next day it is all about salmon. Then we are told to eat oily fish for glossy hair, sweet potatoes for healthy skin, kale to boost collagen. Paleo, Raw, Atkins, Ketogenic… there’s no end to it.

My preferred option has to be the Mediterranean diet, and this is not just because I am married to one spunky Sardinian! Although, Sardinia just so happens to have one of the highest populations of centenarians in the world… No, I like the Mediterranean diet because it is a really easy food plan to follow, plus it’s totally delicious! I include lots of olive oil along with plant-based foods, fresh fruits, beans, nuts and whole grains. The diet also comprises fish, poultry, eggs and a small amount of red meat. And – wait for the best part – WINE!  Everything in moderation 😉

I believe that making important changes to my diet has really helped me manage my MS symptoms. And I think eating well can make a difference to everyone. In Australia, obesity has doubled in the past 30 years. We’re now officially ranked as one of the fattest nations in the developed world. Beyond the individual health risks and quality of life associated with obesity, take a look at the huge economic burden it generates (financials are, after all, my area of specialisation!) In 2008, the Australian Bureau of Statistics estimated the total annual cost of loss of productivity and carers’ costs due to obesity to be around $58 billion. Whatever happened to everything in moderation?    

So, time for change. Will it be easy? Nope. Worth it? Absolutely!

Fiona cracks us up at Freckfast, held at Quattro Passi in Darlinghurst

Fiona cracks us up at Freckfast, held at Quattro Passi in Darlinghurst

How to keep business animated over Christmas

A well timed, well designed and well executed seasonal message can build brand awareness and set you up for the new year.

merry-christmas-pixel-art-greeting-gif-21.gif

Yep, it’s that time of year again. The Christmas squeeze is on – end-of-year fatigue is setting in and everyone needs everything done before Christmas.

It can be a tough time of year, but it can also be a great time to reach out to your customers, suppliers and colleagues to do some all-important brand, relationship and trust building.

Back in the day, you’d spend hours signing Christmas Cards and licking envelopes (what’s an envelope…?). And don’t get me wrong, your customers will still respond to that personal handwritten touch. In fact, with personal snail mail becoming a rarity; a well-designed, unique and brand-aligned Christmas Card can provide some much needed cut-through.

In 2017, a lot of communication is done on the run, so contact via email or messenger services is far more common – but it can be difficult to cut through. Creativity becomes your key weapon against inbox fatigue. Here are some things to consider for your seasonal communications.

Be Relevant

It’s Christmas, so be Christmassy. If your audience doesn’t do Christmas, then just be full of holiday cheer.

Be personal

Email is a personal medium – make personal references in your email using dynamic content and a segmented database. Perhaps mention the last project you worked on, or the next one after the holidays.

Be useful

Don’t just send a greeting card email. Add something useful to your email, such as a calendar link to your holiday trading hours, or a Christmas Shopping List.

Be Creative

This can make or break the recall of your brand over this busy period. Be funny, be naughty, do something which surprises your audience so that they remember and talk about you over the holidays. But make sure it’s on brand! Doing or saying something that is at odds with your brand values can cause big problems in the new year.

Be Animated - Literally

This is really part of being creative, but it is worth mentioning with regard to email, because animated GIFs are a relatively easy and festive way to create impact in the inbox. Just make sure the creative is well thought out and executed – and adheres to the last 4 points!

We would love to help you come up with a killer Christmas promotional idea or email campaign, so give us a call now to make sure it’s ready BEFORE CHRISTMAS!

How to work effectively with creatives

A Frecklist to save you time and money, and make creative teams like you

shutterstock_482235484.jpg

As self-described 'designers of intelligent communication,’ the team here at Freckle know that intelligent communication starts with the creative brief: a detailed chat with you about your project over coffee or Skype.

A good creative brief is clear and specific. But many of the biggest problems we are trying to solve in our professional lives tend to come with an evolving problem space or amorphous constraints: half of the solution is in successfully framing the problem (in designer speak we call these ‘wicked problems’).

So, how can we design an intelligent brief from the start, given the complex, and often abstract nature of Next Big Things?

This is an important challenge in our line of work. As a full-service agency, our journey with you is not only ‘brief to product’, but also ‘idea to brief’ (sometimes even ’strategy to idea’ or even ‘zero to strategy’). We pride ourselves as adept ‘brief whisperers’.

Design is a collaborative process, so what can you do on your end? In our experience over hundreds of projects, we found that certain simple approaches to the briefing process can translate into real savings in dollars and time for the client.

So, here are our seven heavenly virtues for how to work with creatives effectively and avoid brief Hell.

Have a system

Even for creative projects (arguably especially for creative projects), using strict systems and processes leads to better results. Again, the more organised you are with your brief; the more efficiently and effectively the creatives can work; and the more money, time and stress you’ll save! Does your team have a project brief template? Use it. It ensures you don’t miss any important information. Don’t have one? Maybe the creative team can help you out. Friend of Freckle Colleen Keith uses a handy template for graphic design projects, which you can find at the end of this article.

Got style?

Just like executives communicate in PowerPoint, designers communicate in style guides, aka brand books. Does your team have one? How about an online brand asset portal? Getting these to the creative team from the start can be a big timer saver if it exists and is accessible to you. Doesn’t exist? Consider adding a branding component to the project. A brand is an investment in future creative projects: if you start with one now, it will save you time and money in the future.

Channel your inner creative

A picture is worth a thousand words… even if that picture is scrawled on the back of a crumpled serviette in lipstick. Concepts in the early project stage certainly don’t need to be pretty, and they can be a valuable time saver. Roughly drawing something allows you to focus on the concept instead of the details (see below), and communicates an idea much faster than a long-winded email. As writer Dan Harmon said, making something crappy and then improving on it until it’s great, is much easier than making something great from nothing. So go ahead and get crafty. Sketch something out or make something simple in PowerPoint. Even making a video can work if that’s more your communication style. Find examples that are similar to what you want and share it: “make it look like this, but green." 

Be mean

An important part of the creative process is iterating on concepts to get from rough sketch on serviette (see above) to refined idea to finished product. In the course of this, a lot of versions get discarded. This is a bit different to some professions (in medical, for example), where things have to go right, the first time, every time. Course correction is part of the process and good designers remain detached from feedback about specific ideas. It’s important to be as clear as possible about what is working and what isn’t, so be direct in your feedback. It’s not mean, it’s design!

Understand these weird creative types

Designers are weird. I think you have to be a little weird to have a strong opinion about the best geometric sans-serif font (it’s Gilroy, for the record). Misunderstandings about differing work styles are common enough that Designer Jarrod Drysdale wrote a book about them (actually, two books: one for designers and one for non-designers — a truly non-partisan work of literature). If you work with creatives a lot and you want more advice like these, then I recommend his book(s), The Tiny Designer (a short, easy read).

Hate emails

Alright, hate is a strong word and emails aren’t all that bad because they create an e-trail of ongoing progress and agreements. But if you ‘hate’ them just a little bit more, then a few things will happen. First, you’ll put more thoughts and action items into each email so that you can send fewer emails (a great way of doing this is to have a single point of contact between the creative team and your team). Second, you’ll make each email very clear so that there is less back-and-forth.

Read before sending! Have you clearly delineated actionable items from general information or high-concept ideation (bullet points are good for this. Creatives really love bullet points)? Have you used full names and/or version numbers to make your comments painfully specific (instead of “can you change the picture of the guy”, “can you change the image of the guy in the suit in the October newsletter, page 4, version 2”)? Hate can be great.

Ask the dumb questions

The brief is the best time to ask all of your 'dumb questions’. They say ‘there are no dumb questions’ and this is especially true for creative briefs for several reasons. First, sometimes great ideas can come out of dumb questions. Second, questions that you think are dumb can often reveal assumptions of blind spots in the brief. And third, design is technical. It’s not your job to know why an EPS file is better than a JPG for print collateral and the creatives will be happy to talk you through this. In fact, knowing the technical constraints can occasionally blind us to bigger picture thinking. If in doubt, a good rule of thumb for briefs is to start less prescriptive, and more outcome-focused.

MVB (Minimum Viable Brief)

By Colleen Keith.

WHO / Who is involved? Main Contact, Team and Company (for new clients)

  • Who is the main contact for this project?
  • Are there other stakeholders or team members that need to be/will be involved?
  • BONUS: What is the estimated timeframe for sending feedback or making decisions? Teams often take longer to reach a consensus than a single person.

WHAT / What is needed? Project Deliverables

  • Project objectives, vision, goals and expectations
  • Specs from printer, supplier, web developer, manufacturer, social media sizing, etc.
  • Include all reference the Creative will need and info about usage/placement ie. BRAND STYLE GUIDELINE, logo(s), typography/fonts, print or web spec docs, FINAL edited copy, high res photos with licensing, reference material ("make it look like this”), supplier contact info, graphics, stats, etc.
  • TIP: Inform your Creative at the beginning what file format(s) you’ll need,and if there’s anything special required i.e. crops and bleed for print materials.

WHERE / Where will the deliverable(s) be used? Web/Print

  • Specify Print, Web, Outdoor, Product, Packaging, Internal, Presentation, etc.
  • How long will it be in use?
  • If it’s a physical piece, think of where it will go - e.g. Is it being hung up? At what height? Outdoors? Behind glass?
  • TIP: If it’s for social media, specify which platform & area so Creative can check the most current sizing specs and recommendations.

WHY / Why are you creating it? Who’s it for? Target Audience

  • What is the main message? Secondary message?
  • Who is the target audience? How will they engage with or act upon the project? CTA (call to action)?
  • What is the tone you want to communicate?
  • TIP: Providing demographics and history of the target audience, your competition and your brand can be helpful.

HOW / How to provide files and communicate

  • How will you be communicating with the Creative? Phone, video conference, email, project management platform, texts, messaging, etc.
  • How will files be shared or sent?
  • Who should they be sent to at each stage?
  • TIP: Set up calls or meetings ahead of time based on the timeline to keep the project moving.

WHEN / When is the product needed? Deadlines and Timeline

  • What is your final deadline? What is this deadline based on i.e. printing, online upload, etc.
  • What are the incremental deadlines? If you don’t have any, best to make some.
  • When are you available for feedback or discussion of issues?
  • TIP: The more information you can provide about the timeline, the more seriously your Creative will treat your deadlines.

HOW MUCH / How much can you spend? Quote and Budget

  • Do you have a budget for this project? What is it based on?
  • Need a quote? Ask up front.
  • TIP: This area will be based on your working/billing arrangement with your Creative. Do you or they prefer to work with set project fees, hourly rates or retainer agreements?

WHAT ELSE / Anything else important?

Anything else that you feel is important to mention that will help the Creative do their job more effectively? Even if it isn’t essential to their work, it can be helpful to give them as much information as possible. The more they know, the more they’re “in the project” with you.

Are we alone in the universe?

Thoughts, ponderings and infinite questions by Jim, Senior Designer

Space is big. Really big.

Space is big. Really big.

Grab a cuppa, settle in and join me as I take you on a warp-speed journey into space, the universe or more specifically, some of the theories that surround the question: are we really alone? 

Space is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.

Douglas Adams, The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy

Adams was right. There are 400 billion stars in our galaxy alone and 170 million galaxies in the observable universe. Astronomers estimate that there are 70 sextillion stars in the known Universe. Try wrapping your mind around that.

Space is big, so big that when Stephen Hawking tells us it’s endless, we’re happy to accept the fact and get on with our lives. Or are we? Delve a little deeper, and you’ll discover humanity isn’t comfortable with the idea that space is endless. And that we might be completely alone in this vast void probably concerns us even more.

So, are we alone?

We've pondered the nature and size of space, and our position in it for many thousands of years. But, it’s only in relatively modern times that we’ve tried to address some of the big questions with mathematics and science.

One of the first people to tackle this was an Italian physicist called Enrico Fermi who, in the 1950s, formally posed his famous question, commonly known as The Fermi Paradox.

Put simply; the Fermi Paradox raises two completely contradictory observations.
If the greater Universe is indeed infinite, then it stands to reason that there must be an infinite number of habitable worlds with intelligent civilisations living on them. 

This is an absolute mathematical certainty. 

If that's the case... where is everyone?

In 1961 one of the founding members of the SETI Institute, Frank Drake, decided he was just as uncomfortable with the concept of infinite space as everyone else and attempted to address the contradiction of The Fermi Paradox once and for all.

He set out to calculate the possibility of intelligent life arising, flourishing and, crucially, communicating in our galaxy. To do this, he scaled down the scope of things to something our human brains could more easily fathom.

The Drake Equation uses eight variable factors including:

  • the rate of formation of stars in our galaxy;
  • the likely percentage of those stars supporting planets in a habitable zone, i.e. not too close or too far from its sun, with water and atmosphere; and
  • the likely percentage of those planets sustaining the necessary molecules to spark life.

The Drake Equation rather optimistically calculates that there are between 5000 and one billion intelligent communities capable of interstellar communication in our galaxy alone.

Obviously, these are huge variations in outcomes, but even at a minimum, you’d still expect there to be someone close by, right?

Well, not necessarily.

Scientists are a pretty pessimistic bunch, and they don’t believe anything until they have evidence, can examine it and prove its existence.

UFOs, Chariots of the Gods, the Nazca Plains Markings, Project Bluebook... they’re all fantasies to scientists, and they've come up with a whole bunch of theories to explain why we are essentially alone!

These numerous theories are collectively known as filters. Check these out and see if you agree.

1. Intelligent civilisations are just too far apart

If space is infinite, we might simply be too far away from one another to make contact. We’ve sent probes into space declaring our whereabouts and the nature of our species. However, by the time anyone or anything receives our messages, humankind may have been extinct for millions of years. Similarly, signals we receive from deep space - and we’ve come tantalisingly close on a few occasions - may have been transmitted by long-dead civilisations.

2. It’s too dangerous to communicate

I love this theory, and so does Stephen Hawking. Think about this: whenever civilisations with differing technologies have met on Earth, the results have always been disastrous. Think about what happened with settlers in North America, South America and Australia.

Perhaps it might be in our best interest to keep quiet and stop trumpeting our presence to the galaxy. After all, there may be hugely intelligent and malevolent species out there that thrive on enslaving everyone and everything they encounter. What if the galaxy teems with beings and they’re all thinking, “Shut the f*s# up Earth! You’ll blow our cover!”

3. The Zoo Hypothesis

This one is plain rude! Earth might simply be a biological oddity allowed to exist for the amusement of higher beings, like a reality TV show. We’re all a little bit dumb, and nobody wants to have a conversation with us any more than we want to have a chat with a sloth.

4. The Simulation Theory

Nothing is real. Everything we experience is an elaborate imaginary construct... you've all seen The Matrix.

5. Aliens are real, and they’re already here!

If you've ever seen a sci-fi movie like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, The Thing, The Fiend Without a Face, etc. then you'll be familiar with this idea, too.

The list goes on.

But the most compelling argument, in my opinion, is known as:

The Great Filter

The Great Filter theory was first proposed by Robin Hansen in the late 1990s and has since become perhaps the most compelling argument for why we might never reach the stars.
Essentially, it can be defined as a pivotal event in the development of a civilisation that brings about its devolution into a less civilised state, or its destruction.

In other words, all civilisations will fiddle around too much with science and blow themselves up.

By definition, any advanced civilisation can only achieve intelligence through its quest for knowledge and territory, and its need to procreate and expand.

This is the one constant of The Drake Equation that we know we can apply to any civilisation, be it our own or any alien civilisation in the Universe.

If single-celled microbial life evolves anywhere in the Universe, just as it did here on Earth 3.7 billion years ago, it will immediately begin to multiply and compete for space and sustenance. If that single-celled life succeeds and evolves into multi-cellular lifeforms, it must develop sexual reproduction techniques and therefore must develop an inclination to compete for compatible lifeforms with which to share its DNA.

This inclination inevitably leads to a quest for dominance even in non-sentient creatures. All creatures strive to dominate the best territory to feed, mate and spawn. It’s the absolute driving principle behind all life, human or otherwise.

All life is hard-wired to compete, to question and to wage war for territory and resources, and it's considered by many to be inevitable that our inquisitive nature, devious intelligence, greed and territoriality will either wipe us out or prove to be the greatest test of our evolution.

Some believe we've already passed the test with two World Wars, while others predict it's in our (near?) future. But if we can pass the test with our knowledge and technology intact, then we may well be able to unlock the secrets of the Universe.

Or perhaps we might discover that there’s nobody out there. After all, it's no more impossible than the impossible size of space.

I'd like to bookend this little article with another perfect quote from Douglas Adams who once again beat science at its own game when he wrote:

It is known that there are an infinite number of worlds, simply because there is an infinite amount of space for them to be in. However, not every one of them is inhabited. Therefore, there must be a finite number of inhabited worlds. Any finite number divided by infinity is as near to nothing as makes no odds, so the average population of all the planets in the Universe can be said to be zero. From this, it follows that the population of the whole Universe is also zero and that any people you may meet from time to time are merely the products of a deranged imagination.

Thanks for reading!

Adobe ‘Make It’ Conference 2017: Design. Passion. Sharpies.

goodman enews.jpg

I spent my Thursday blissfully binging on inspiration at Sydney’s beautiful new ICC, a kind of in-the-flesh ‘Netflix & Upskill’.

Adobe has expanded its product range and community massively over the past few years and its annual Asia Pacific ‘Make It’ conference has grown to match. This year featured an eclectic array of exhibits, workshops, speakers and demonstrations, great food and drink, and even a live musical/dance performance.

The vibrant festival of creativity reflects our gradual shift into what James Noble, founder of Carter Digital and awesome speaker, calls the Design Age. Already, we’re seeing that it’s no longer about the technology nor the information, both of which seem to be outpacing us all. Now there are few gatekeepers and few limits. The personal video recorder in your pocket is probably better than what professionals used in the 80s, and much smaller too. Technology is merely a conduit and our approach to projects should reflect this. We need to take the technology considerations away, design a solution to the problem and then add back in the technology required.

I attended ‘Adobe Make It’ as a graphic designer, but the attendees I met were from a range of professions — I even found an accountant! And why not? In the Design Age, creative problem-solving is becoming more important for all of us, because, let’s face it, when the friendly robots take our jobs, some of the only roles left for Homo sapiens will be the creative ones. But whether you’re a creative or not, I think some of the things I learnt at ‘Make It’ can be applied to your career. In the Design Age, we are all becoming creative problem-solvers with abstract, multi-directional-hyphenated titles on our business cards. So here’s what I wanted to share – and it’s all about passion, a running theme at this year’s conference.

It’s great to be passionate about what you’re working on, but Gareth O’Brien from animation agency Buck asserts that it has been an important business metric for his team. The difficulty lies in justifying so-called ‘passion projects’ for a busy individual or team, especially when there is business to be done and money to be made. But for Buck, 'passion projects' have been important in creating new revenue streams: Gareth notes that when you look at the agency’s work, there is often a clear line from passion project to similar paid client work immediately after. The underlying message: Make what you want to make more of and you will proactively define your career. And that’s not all. By pursuing a passion project, you can win design awards, learn, do something you believe in (like help a non-profit with a campaign), improve team culture, and have fun, too!

Watch the talks from the main stage speakers as well as the pre-conference Sessions on demand here.

Watch the talks from the main stage speakers as well as the pre-conference Sessions on demand here.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? But how on earth are you going to fit passion projects into your already-packed calendar? Gareth offers some advice. The project needs not be something you just made up. You can use a real brief from a real client; the ‘passion’ part can be you going above and beyond to explore an exciting angle or add value beyond the budget. In fact, having the boundaries of a real brief can be creatively beneficial. And also, passion projects need not be huge undertakings: we can all think about ways to work on tiny side-projects every now and then.

Of course, the concept of passion projects is nothing new: many creatives have created careers by investing time in exploring, playing, and honing a style or a craft they’re naturally interested in. Two speakers were striking examples of this because of their niche specialties. Kitiya Palaskas ultimately made up a new job description for herself: she’s a ‘craft-based designer’ who makes designs out of felt, and piñata-esque props for various creative applications. Meanwhile, Timothy Goodman has recently become well-known for his illustration work using his preferred medium, the humble Sharpie. Both designers used passion projects to build a habit of constant practice and experimentation, and kept one eye open for opportunities to create unique income streams in their personal businesses. And both have published books to showcase their success: Piñata Party and Sharpie Art Workshop.

All the speakers at ‘Adobe Make It’ made the case for stoking your creative fire, not only because life is sweeter that way but also because creativity can make a difference to what your business looks like moving forward. So whether you’re a graphic designer or an accountant, whether you work on them in your personal or professional life, passion projects have a place — more so than ever as we enter the Design Age. I left ‘Make It’ with a recharged inspiration to, well, just make it. I’m going to brush the dust off my Wacom tablet and start making something, for fun and for profit. And I’d encourage you to do the same. Not sure where to start? Just pick a place — any place — and go from there. To quote Tim Goodman: “You gotta make a lot of stuff before you start making stuff like yourself.”

Freckle’s War On Waste

war_on_waste@1x.jpg

I went to Africa a few years ago. We rode a truck from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania out into the Masai Mara. As we entered a small town on the edge of the National Park, we were greeted by the Masai locals - a beautiful race of people. The warm, orange sun crept slowly toward the horizon and the local kids cast long shadows as they herded their goats back to their village. And, drifting along in the warm breeze between the kids, the livestock and the acacia trees were hundreds of bright white plastic bags, empty water bottles, coke cans, crisp packets, cigarette packets, Mars bar wrappers, containers, newspapers and toilet rolls.

In amongst so much natural beauty, there was SO. MUCH. MESS. “What are you doing?” I wanted to shout out to the Masai. And then, I realised that we are no different over here. In Australia we produce 50 million tonnes of waste every year. Of that 50 million tonnes, 12.5 million tonnes is being produced by Australian workplaces. That’s about around 23 wheelie bins per worker per year! So in an office of eight people we are wheeling out 184 bins of waste. In fact, the only difference between the Masai and us is a garbage bin. We clean our waste away so it’s out of sight and OUT. OF. MIND. But the thing is, it’s not gone. Just forgotten.

This got me thinking, I can’t fix Africa, but what can I do in my patch?  Well, I've decided to set us a challenge: To reduce our office landfill-bound waste to one small shopping bag a week by Christmas. Yes, that’s right: from two 50-litre bags to one small shopping back per week. We’re looking at reducing our waste by about 75%. It’s huge.

collage - war on waste.jpg

Here are the three things I think we could focus on to start:

1. Recycling.

Freckle's strata don’t provide recycling facilities so I’m going to create a bag so I can take our recycling home with me once every week or two. This means I’m going to care a great deal about how much paper we use. I’ll also pull together a poster that shows us which plastics can be recycled so it makes it easy for us to get it right.

2. Eat or repeat.

Like Mum always said: “There are starving people in Africa.” It’s true, but there are two million starving people in Australia as well. I believe the key here is: Don’t buy more than you need, and if you do, store it properly so you don’t have to throw it out after one day. Obviously, some bits of food we can’t eat, so I’ll be ‘repeating’ them. Yes, I’m saying we should start our very own Freckle worm farm.

3. Multi-use. Reuse, Repurpose, Upcycle.

If we make something, let’s aim to keep it in the system for as long as possible. This goes for projects we do for clients as well. And once that something has become useless, let’s try to find another use for it.

I also think we could make a real effort to print double-sided. I know we do already, but it’s worth noting that for every 100 reams of paper printed double sided, we can save about one cubic metre of landfill, a tonne of greenhouse gas, and a couple of trees. Not to mention a 50% dollar saving for the business.

Finally, let’s not use it in the first place. Plastic bags are a good start. So, for our garbage let’s start using bags that are already in the system, instead of buying new ones. I know, plastic bags are bad, but practicality and hygiene in a work environment means that we have to be smart about it. And, of course, coffee cups … I ran some numbers. If eight of us have one takeaway coffee a day, that’s 1,440 cups a year – more than 20kg of waste. Hands up, who needs a reusable cup? How about we order them this week?

Let’s do this together. Over the coming months, I’m sure we can all come up with ways we can make our 83sqm a more pleasant place to be.

There are plenty of resources out there to help. One worth having a look at is Business Recycling. It is run by Planet Ark and NSW EPA and provides loads of information to help businesses reduce their impact on waste generation.

Just because we can’t see rubbish, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Rather than figuring out new ways to deal with our waste, how about we stop creating it in the first place?

What are your top tips for reducing waste in the workplace?

Want to know more? Here are some fantastic resources about waste and what we can do about it:

 

OzHarvest

The Conversation

Foodwise

Business Recycling

EPA

 

 

Freckfast 1: How to get things done

For as long as I can remember, I have tried to organise my time so that I can get stuff done.

Even as a 7-year-old, I would set myself clear KPOs and keep to a strict schedule so I had more time for play! Old habits die hard. But I know I’m not the only one who likes to have structure in my life. One of my friends has ‘Sunday sort-outs’ where he divides his afternoon into the tasks he wants to complete; another has a spreadsheet with icons to tick off once goals have been achieved. And then there are methodologies like The Checklist Manifesto and Bullet Journal, which have seriously huge followings. There are whole communities of us out there who like to be organised.

I stumbled on the book Getting Things Done by David Allen on a plane journey a few years ago. The system is simple: You empty your mind to be able to engage with what is important to you. And, do you know what? It really works. It allows me to free up my mind and focus – and I know I am more productive as a result. One of the best techniques for me is mind sweeping. When I ‘mind sweep’ I capture everything I can in writing, without giving it any extra thought at the time. If you looked, you’d think I’d written in code with all the squiggles, lines and icons. But when I pick through my shorthand, I can see all sorts of patterns – and inspiration often leaps off the page. I find it so effective.

I’m also a big fan of ‘Morning Pages’, an exercise developed by author Julia Cameron. Once a week, I write down my thoughts stream-of-consciousness style. It all comes tumbling out, but I keep going for about 15-20 minutes each time. And the end result is amazing. The process of writing often helps me to resolve those niggling problems I didn’t even realise I had. It also frees up my mind, sharpens my focus and ensures I use my time well to get things done.

These techniques are simple and effective and I truly believe they can work for everyone.

What techniques do you use to free your mind and organise your time effectively?

The inaugural Freckfast was hosted by Senior Designer, Luke McConaghey. Thanks Luke!

The inaugural Freckfast was hosted by Senior Designer, Luke McConaghey. Thanks Luke!

Freckle: Designers of Intelligent Communication

Freckle-mac-book_Hidden-Value.jpg

A few months ago we embarked on a journey to rediscover what it meant to be ‘A Freckle’. We decided that the reason we're here is to use design to enrich the lives of the people we work with, the brands they represent and the audience they are trying to reach. But that takes more than just creating something beautiful. It requires digging deeper to find what's truly valuable for your audience. It requires intelligent design.

So we've repositioned ourselves as Designers of Intelligent Communication: Brands. Campaigns. Events. 

Our new website represents this new approach, encompassing everything we're known for in the industry – ease of use, scaleable service, direct access to senior designers – but with a new focus on helping you to find, own and communicate your hidden brand values and enrich the lives of your audience.

This is the continuation of a story that started over 12 years ago, in the back room of a Surry Hills office block, and we can't wait to start writing the next chapter.