Interview with a Freckle: Jacquie Synnott

 Jacquie is the newest member of the Freckle team. Following her job interview and getting settled in, we thought we would sit down with her for an 'unterview', and get to know the person behind the CV.

Jacquie is the newest member of the Freckle team. Following her job interview and getting settled in, we thought we would sit down with her for an 'unterview', and get to know the person behind the CV.

What do you tell people you do at awkward speed networking events?

I manage the daily workflow between our designers and clients, ensuring all jobs are looked after and effectively run from start to finish. When I’m not doing this, I’m probably at home taking photos of my cat.

If you weren't at Freckle, where would you be?

Before Freckle I was working as a full time Graphic Designer at a large Australian architecture firm called Architectus; creating in-house visual communication pieces including HR campaigns and property marketing collateral.

During this time (and for some time before!), I wanted nothing more than to work in production management, at a small branding agency and focus on freelance graphic design projects in my spare time. When the opportunity at Freckle arose, I grabbed it!

What are your greatest strengths and ‘quirknesses’?

My strengths lie in the technical aspects of design. From creating technical drawings to technical spreadsheets… I enjoy the methodical process of design problem solving.

I also know my way around a table-top hand loom! All thanks to a bad flu and access to YouTube just over 3 years ago, I’m now a proficient hand weaver. I guess you could call this my greatest ‘quirkness’!

Who aren't you?

Out of all the things in life that I am not, I would have to say I am not the type of person who confuses purple for blue.

Where do you see yourself in 5 minutes?

Replying to 3 emails at the same time, whilst dreaming of dumplings for dinner.

... 5 days?

Planning a trip to South East Asia to make the dumplings a reality!

Are you a Mac or a PC? Dog or cat? Tea or coffee?

I am a cat sipping on a takeaway coffee in front of a MacBook, and I know many people who can vouch for this.

What could Freckle clients ask you about, that you could expertly talk about for three hours?

Around two years ago I worked at a creative production design studio in London specializing in the design and installation of retail window displays and pop-up shops. This is during the time when my love for production design blossomed. If a Freckle client was to ask me about the creative production involved in an event or retail space, spanning from signage to installation manuals to props, I would be able to chew their ear off on the topic! Firing off questions such as “Is it legible? Is that at eye level? Is it adjustable??” so on and so forth…

What will your ‘Freckfest’ talk be titled?

With all the construction and general development happening in Sydney as of late, I’ve become extremely interested in urban design within big cities. I think I would base my Freckfest talk on a great book I’m reading called Happy City by Charles Montgomery. This isn’t set in stone though; you’ll have to wait to find out!

Branding: this time, it's personal

When someone in an elevator asks me what Freckle is about, I say something like:

"We’re an agency that designs brands, campaigns and events."

The concept of brands in particular is what first got me excited about working in design. I started by dabbling in Photoshop, and went on to study advertising. I found advertising oddly inspiring. Perhaps this was because I suspected there was another angle to it than just manipulating society in order to sell them junk food and get rich by destroying their health — something about finding truth, or revealing hidden value in brands to change perception en masse — and indeed I found this attitude in Todd Sampson and our other mentors once I got into my studies. At Freckle we have this origami analogy: you take a piece of paper and ‘reveal the hidden value’, in transforming it into an animal.

I had the same suspicion when ‘personal branding’ first became a meme. What if we took time-tested concepts from brand strategy and applied them to the brand that is you? The idea is promising — but how far could you push it before the analogy broke down?

It seemed that for the most part, personal branding meant something like “Always wear the same quirky tie to networking events”. Frankly, that seemed a bit lame to me. We have probably all had the experience of chatting to someone at a professional event, and feeling like you never quite get past their well-rehearsed sales small-talk playbook. I always walked away from those interactions feeling a little ‘icky’.

 Is personal branding more than just wearing a funny hat?

Is personal branding more than just wearing a funny hat?

Was personal branding limited to some kind of persona adopted by public speakers? I wondered if the Freckle approach to branding could work. Something about revealing the hidden value of ourselves. Now, that seemed a lot less icky as a goal. Empowering, even?

At the latest Creative Mornings Sydney meetup, I heard our approach validated by the (potty-mouthed) 'brand guy' himself, Richard Sauerman:

“There isn’t a brand persona ‘me’, and a real ‘me’... they’re the same fucking person.”

Amongst other projects, the brand guy runs personal branding workshops along similar principles as the Freckle way: looking to reveal the best of ourselves… and not just with a quirky tie.

 Richard Sauerman at Creative Mornings Sydney.  Creative Mornings is an international community of professionals. The Sydney events happen every month on the last Friday in the Workshop, Redfern.

Richard Sauerman at Creative Mornings Sydney.

Creative Mornings is an international community of professionals. The Sydney events happen every month on the last Friday in the Workshop, Redfern.

How to create your personal brand strategy

Brand strategy can easily be over-complicated — but in thinking about a personal brand we learned that you can get the ball rolling pretty quickly. If you’re starting with the attitude that you’re just trying to reveal the positive traits that are relevant to your goals, then chances are you already have a couple of items that come to mind. You know who you are, at least roughly. Mental blank? Sauerman would suggest that you might be letting anxiety get in the way ("Don't be bland… popularity is for mediocre people”). Make a short list. How can you align your communication to these traits? Now you have a personal brand strategy.

Personal brand checklist

  1. Write down your strongest personal traits
  2. Choose your ‘favourites’, the ones that align with your personal/professional goals
  3. For each favourite, brainstorm how a person with these traits might behave
  4. Select some behaviours that feel authentic for you to commit to

Example: yours truly

As a graphic designer, I thought about the traits that creative professionals are valued for. Some sprung to mind immediately: they have imagination and humour, they’re willing to fail, and they’re open-minded. Does my CV reflect these traits? I have created a CV that begins with long-form prose, and has no ‘past employment’ section. Of course, this is not appropriate for everyone but works well for my profession and skillset and, most important, feels authentic to me.

Example: Doctor Jason Fox

Having previously mocked quirky clothing as a personal branding tactic, I mention should Doctor Jason Fox, a public speaker, writer and consultant, who is an example of how to do it right. The difference is that it comes from an authentic place: his professional appearance is an extension of his personality.

 Doctor Jason Fox: quirky style done right.

Doctor Jason Fox: quirky style done right.

Branding strategy is about consistently presenting the best parts of your product/service/group; seen in this light, personal branding is not something limited to entrepreneurs, or even to business goals. Is the world hearing what you’re trying to express?

Do you have a personal brand? What is it and how do you communicate it? As designers of intelligent communication, the Freckle team are always curious about how our readers reveal the hidden value of themselves or their teams using branding strategy, so feel free to drop us a comment or an email.

 

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?

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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.

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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!