Meta Refreshed.

Meta Refresh 2014

It’s been close to 5 months that I have moved to Bangalore.  Today, I attended Meta Refresh 2014 for the first time along with a bunch of designers and developers from Adobe. One of them was a even presenting about SVG. I was pretty excited about the whole 2 day conference and the sessions that were going to be conducted. However it kind of didn’t go that well. Meta Refresh turned out to be a bit disappointing for me. Leaving that aside, the conference had a lot to offer despite the overall disappointing set of presentations. I wanted to do a post that covered the entire 2 day conference, but decided to only throw in the most relevant bits I picked up.

Vision is different from ideas.

I have a vision. I have an idea. I have a vision and an idea. I going to take that vision and that idea and build a product. I’m super awesome. No. Vision is the long term goal. Idea is the path to that goal. Ways to get there change. Some work. Some fail. Some ideas are good and some are bad. Having said that, it’s only natural that we change our path to our goal as often as possible. Sometimes we change our steps, improve the idea, sometimes backtrack or ditch the idea, because we thought of a better way – a better idea. The point still stands – the vision never changes, despite the ideas that change. This is a subtle warning that we often very easily overlook. Define our products on a vision and not an idea. Change how you want to build it. Don’t change what you intend to do with it. Decouple the vision for a product from the idea you have for the product. People on a team need to have different ideas. But most importantly they need to have one vision. Building your product involves validating your vision. Post that validating your idea for it. Validate, prototype, test and iterate on the ideas. But focus on the vision. When both the idea and vision merge what you end up with is a product based on an idea but a compromised vision. Drive the vision on a solution to a real world problem. Drive the idea on user’s feedback. Very often we are building products with a vision that already have others in the same domain. Simple – We need to disrupt. We need to incrementally improve. That’s where we need to change our ideas. There is no harm in building products with a vision, a vision shared by thousands of others. What matter is the way we solve it. The way we fulfil our vision. They way we build it. The idea we build it with. Have a vision. Have several ideas. Many may have the same vision. Don’t bother. A few may have the same idea. That’s where you need to improve. You need to disrupt. Keep the vision, change the idea.

It’s not full responsive. It’s  called full responsibility.

You designed a fully responsive site for your product. Awesome.

  • Case A: I’m guessing that means it’s fully accessible to your all the users. Well my site site can easily resize within the browser. Well most browsers. Well most modern browsers. Okay maybe guys with IE probably won’t be able to access it.
  • Case B: I’m guessing that means it’s fully accessible to your all the users. Well my site site can easily resize within any browser. Definitely all browsers. Yes, I even considered for IE. Okay maybe it will work but I’m sure if it’s still functional.

Clearly full responsive is not full functional. We build for the web. The web is a medium. Browsers allow us to access that medium. And what the web contains is experiences. When we build, we need to design for full responsibility. Responsive is good. Responsive is needed. But functional is more important. To think of it the web grows so fast. The way the people access it changes every day. The medium through which they consume these experience changes every month. And the content experiences that define this web change every second. The web is changing faster than we can imagine. Build with backward compatibility. Don’t just design for backward accessibility. Design for backward functionality. I guess here’s where it makes sense to build your online product as a stack of blocks. Build it in a way that even if a block doesn’t play well with browsers from 3 years ago, that domain of users can still access as well as use it. It’s hard to build with independent blocks and fall backs, but that’s the need. You can’t assume that just because you keep up with the fast moving web, so do your users. The pace is very different. Their access point, and means to access the web change slowly. So designing full responsive is not the answer. Designing for full functionality is the answer.

Design for the workflow not the task. 

We often tend to build products with a single model. A model that we assume fits all our users. If it doesn’t we usually state those aren’t our users. We engineer products based on a model that is almost always focussed on a task. Very rarely on a workflow for that task. Online transactions for example. I keyed in my card details and hit submit.

  • The task is very simple – Debit the amount for the user’s account.
  • The workflow was equally simple – Take the user’s payment details, debit the amount and provide a confirmation.

However we focus  and only design only for the task. So while the experience of filling in my card details was easy and provided a sense of security, the other half of the workflow – waiting for the confirmation wasn’t that good. After I hit submit, pop up windows appear with the age old rotating GIF loaders, some including even blank screens, all one after the other keeping the user pinned and clueless till it all goes away and few seconds later a confirmation message appears. Clearly we missed this part of the workflow. The part where the user waits for his confirmation. In the offline world, the user hands over his card, it’s swiped and the transaction is completed. Doesn’t it make sense that we map this same experience to the online product we are building for that same very task? Yes off course. What was missing in the above design was the part where you continue to engage a user even after he has completed his part of the workflow. It’s absolutely necessary to engage the user with visuals that don’t boggle him but atleast let him know that stuff’s happening behind the scene. Having said that, progress bars or animated GIFs are not the best options. Designing for these workflows involve carefully replicating the user’s offline mental model with value proposition and trust symbols. In the real world the when the user swipes his card, does he see how the transaction being processed from the device to the provider? No. So then why online? Think about it. All he cares about is, take the money, give me my service and confirm it’s completion. Hide the unwanted details but map every single action with relevant feedback.

Design Escalators not Elevators.

Probably the best thing I heard all day. Design escalators and not elevators. Both serve the same purpose. Take a person from point A to B without having him to walk that path. Heres the thing, you lose power, the elevator stops. The person is stuck. You lose power, the escalator stops. The person is not stuck. He can still walk up. Design needs to be like this. Design needs to have a fallback functionality. Products need to be able to engage with users even when they have no power or means to and for that they will need to rely on the design  – needs to be like an escalator.

Top #10 Blogs – Digital updates and Inspiration

 

   So this week I decided to share a couple of blogs that I turn to daily for some creative inspiration.  Though I’m a blogger, I really don’t love reading that much. If I do get hooked to a book or a blog, it’s definitely got to be something different.  And yes there are a couple of blogs that I turn to daily.

These blogs get my attention simply because their content is:

  • Unique
  • Accurate
  • Updated daily
  • Simple and innovative
  • Live to their concept
  • Most importantly quality content

So here you have it. A couple of blogs I check out daily for creative inspiration from around the world.  These are my top 10 picks for daily news and updates on everything from design, tech and web to marketing, social media and campaigns. Everything from a national to global scale.

Mashable 

One stop shop for all the news and updates on the online globe and various social web platforms.

Design Taxi 

Literal definition for creative content. Everything from art to architecture.

TechCrunch

You need to know every new gadget. You need to know every new tech Start up. You need to follow TechCrunch.

Inspiration Feed

Lives by its name. Great spot for inspiration and resources. Design and web specific content.

Social Samosa

A-Z of the Indian Social media scene.  Lots of fun stuff and interaction.

Seth Godin 

His words are powerful and pack a punch. Subscribe to his blog and be amazed.

Digital Analog

If you yet aren’t aware of what mixed media and art is, follow these guys now. Loads of creative content.

Kyoorius

Design and Art and everything in between. Proud product of India.

WAT Blog

Everything form Web, technology, advertising and their intersection.

Campaign Asia

This is a must for everyone who wants to follow the latest happening in marketing, advertising and brands in Asia.

Photoshop Ninja – Design / Photoshop Workshop in Mumbai

On February 18, 19 I will be conducting my first ever Photoshop Workshop in Mumbai. It is a 2 day workshop open to all college students at cost of Rs.100 (for both days). Really excited to do it.  To checkout more on the event go to Photoshop Ninja


The Guys who put the ‘DESI’ in Design

 

Design in India is on a constant treadmill of development since the past years. Initially design in evolved in India as basic art which blended with a little concepts from the west. We had the skill but not the tech. Today it’s a totally different ball game. Though we still look upon the west for opportunities and inspiration, we haven’t copied an entire form of art. In fact we had our own renaissance. Due to the lack of tech support, we extensively developed the hand skill. We may have opened doors to platforms like Illustrator and Photoshop years after evangelist in the west were working wonders with it. Still today, we have an art that we define as our own concepts and ideas. Today we are in power with some of the big design lands like Australia, US and Canada.

Over the past few months I scavenged the internet in search for individuals and organizations that shared the same blood thirsty addiction and love for design. It was hard to come upon many but I did find a few. From individuals to various events and conferences DESIGN in India is no longer a quiet profession. Today everyone from a concept builder, visual artist, graphic designer, brand & identity builder and designers in general are few to come across but great in demand. These are the guys who push doors open and step out of the BOX, so turn your concepts, ideas and startups into a reality all within the Digital space.

Whether you are a amateur or a professional or even a student (Like me) stepping out into the design world is not rocket science. Harnessing the power of Social Media, Online technology and tapping your potential to push your creativity and skill to the next level is what is going to let you leave a foot print.

So in this post what I basically intend to cover is a few interesting concepts and organizations and events I bumped across in my little search for the Guys who put the DESI in Design.

Breeding ground of future artists:

   

 Fundamental Fest (FDM) – Symbiosis Institute Of Design Pune

The annual design festival of Symbiosis Institute of Design (SID), where ideas amalgamate with creative freedom to form a fun filled extravaganza. – @FDMfest

Great opportunities to vent and learn much more about design and art from young folks, talented guys in the business as well as the conferences organised .Right from their event logo to their website, Fundamental has a lot to offer for the budding artist in various forms. I missed it this year but next year will be a sure trip.

RGB Fest – National Institute Of Design (NID)

Students from India’s foremost design and art institutes will come together for a 
three day exchange of ideas and experiences. RGB 2011 will be a platform for inter-
college networking through exhibitions and competitive events. In addition to this
we host a series of unique workshops and interactive sessions with professionals 
and experts in the fields of design and design education. With original work across 
design spheres being shared alongside electrifying performances, RGB 2011 promises 
to be a bigger, better and wackier experience!

RGB reminds us of days where hand drawn illustrations were the tools of trade. With its various events in the Event Nagar RGB has a wide scope of entertainment all arranged for you design freaks

FX School – Mumbai

Right from Photography, to animation and even digital painting FXSchools serves it up on a platter. Recently it was ranked as a top institute for animation in India. Follow their facebook feed and twitter stream for live action from within their fort. Have a peep at their student’s work and get inspired. With some of the best faculty and tech, they are an awesome platform to learn from. Its one of the very few courses that offer Digital Painting. Personally I regularly look up at their site and updates for various courses and student’s work. A very friendly faculty that understands your queries and guides your potential in the right path.

Now for some Design events and competitions

DesignYatra 2011 – Goa

A journey that began in 2006 Designyatra was a journey that we undertook in 2006.The conference celebrates design excellence, provides insights into the future of brand and visual communications while simultaneously bringing together the design and corporate community in India. The conference has been attended by a cumulative audience of more than 8500 people from all over India and around the world.Kyoorius Designyatra is a forum initiated by Kyoorius and guided by top designers and creative heads.Kyoorius is a not for profit organization initiated by Transasia Fine Papers, incepted to fuel a design movement in India. This involves building awareness amongst design buyers (i.e. corporations, organisations and government) of the kind of value design can create to empower business. Kyoorius is identified as the total embodiment of the aspirations of the creatives in India….

Kyoorius  Organiser of Kyoorius Designyatra and publisher of Kyoorius Magazine.Kyoorius is initiated by Transasia Fine Papers to fuel a design movement in India. This involves building awareness amongst design buyers (i.e. corporations, organisations and government) of the kind of value design can create to empower business. Kyoorius Exchange is identified as the total embodiment of the aspirations of the creatives in IndiaKyoorius organises a variety of activities channelised towards instilling a sense of community amongst creative professionals and become a sounding board that resonates the ideas and developments that the community is capable of producing.

 

 Graphic Competitions 

A freelancer’s confession

How it all began…
Freelancing has always been something I wanted to engage in. The fields of Print and graphic had caught my attention ever since I first started using Photoshop and Illustrator. It all began when a cousin of mine who is a printer by profession, asked me to design a couple of logos for a music event  company, ever since then I have received many such opportunities via him to experiment and vent my creativity. Besides the part of me being able to  earn small revenue, what these opportunities had to offer were amazing. To begin with, several  of these orders were a test of my creativity. Time  constrains and design specifications were something I never worried about till date. Deadlines and final finishing was something that I only realized after  a couple of rejections. Basically these were the first steps of mine into graphics arena. Besides that, I had opportunities to design graphics and Print media  for several college events and volunteer services which I offered to the youth magazine. These platforms helped me explore more options of building my  skills. These two years was a period of learning for me.

It wasn’t long before I joined twitter that doors for exploring graphics was thrown open for me. Twitter had so much to offer that today I am a  Twitter addict. I have gained tremendous knowledge and skills using twitter. 60% of my ability to build out of the box and take a canvas and transform it  into something -I owe to the talented groups and individuals that share it on twitter. Twitter was the first place I actually got to communicate with  freelancers from different parts of the world. Soon after I was hooked by the graphic web and network I made a blog. Initially I dedicated it only to  Photoshop. But later posted content on various media such as illustrations reviews of graphic softwares and video editing tools. After a fairly long period  of sharing and learning, I termed myself as a freelancer on twitter.

Not aware of various factors that were needed to be considered I went out head on. I didn’t have a title or a website just my mail, twitter handle and LinkedIn Profile. Not much happened but later, something sparked. I happened to be introduced to someone on twitter who needed a couple of logos to be designed. This was my first time that I had received a client without a third person. Soon we got on the phone and met up. In a few lines I ended up bagging the order and ultimately getting paid for it. But the reason I am writing this post to tell you how horribly wrong I was in calling myself a freelancer. Confused? Well I was completely unaware of what awaited me ahead. To be more specific here’s what I mean…

Give me brief history of your background…

Ok here’s the very first thing the client asked me. Slightly dazed and confused, I didn’t exactly know what to say. So I rattled out all the history of my growing stages as mentioned above. My very first wrong move. I didn’t have portfolio ready and organized. I didn’t have any history timeline to quote. So I landed up saying a lot that I shouldn’t have said.

What I learnt:

1.)    Build a website that showcases your portfolio and contact details and basic bio. For example.

2.)    You need to have a title that you go under. For example JCreations or Magikarts. A logo and letterhead is a must.

3.)    Have a short summary of your work always ready to explain how skilled you are.

4.)    Your portfolio must be accessible at all times.

Show us some of your work and give us a quotation…

This is where I destroyed 80% of my chances. At that time most of my work was on Behance Network. However some of my good work wasn’t there due to technical issues. So I hurried and uploaded everything on Picasa and linked my client to it. Very unprofessional, but I was saving my boat from sinking. When it came to the quotes, I didn’t know how to shoot. Since till date all the payments received was given by my cousin and I never interfered in that area. So I didn’t have an idea what to do. However I managed to convince them into carrying the conversation forward. My luck was really good.

What I learnt:

1.)    A portfolio is what you wear to your meeting. Have it ready 24×7. Select your showcase wisely.

2.)    Have a separate mail ID to deal with clients to reflect your professionalism.

3.)    When a client wants to take the conversation forward grab him tight and pamper him. What I learnt here very importantly is: Prepare a small write up about yourself along with contact details and necessary bio. Along with that prepare a client info sheet. Put this together and mail it to the client. This gives him a picture that you are there and active. You look more professional and the client can also fill in the info sheet which you can collect later when you meet.

4.)    The main idea in having a client database is that you have a record for your work which supports your title as a freelancer later.

5.)    I didn’t do this so at the end of the day when the client had finished all the work and payment we were both happy, but I didn’t have any proof of my work done for him on paper.

The first meeting….

We decide on a nearby location to meet up and discuss the order. The 2 major mistakes I made was, my location selection and time. My laptop battery died in the process of talking and there were no available options to charge it. The location I selected was very noisy and crowed. The time was late evening and both of us had to hurry after some time.

What I learnt…

1.)    Chose your location wisely and pre think about it.

2.)    Make sure your hardware is there supporting you all the time and never lets you down.

3.)    Save your battery during conversations by hibernating

4.)    Silent it is the louder your discussion gets.

Please change this, We don’t want it that way…

Ok after my meet, I had the idea in hand and now I had to begin making the samples. I never gave an estimate and never took an advance or kill fee. Big mistake here. A week into my designing, the client called up and changed the concept. A week’s worth of my time was wasted.

What I learnt…

1.)    First get a proper quotation sheet ready which describes your rules and regs.

2.)    Make sure you take a kill fee of a small amount so that just in case the client cancels the order, your efforts don’t go unpaid.

3.)    Get a deadline set. Be careful here don’t be in a hurry and mess up your schedule.

4.)    Mention how many times you are ready to make changes in the samples after you designed them. Some clients expect you to make changes more than 8 times after the second meet. Nothing wrong some make changes till the client is happy, but your quotation should justify your effort here.

5.)    Always call up the client and keep him posted on the progress. If early in finishing it, call him up. It only shows how efficient you are.

6.)    Another thing that just struck me was, when I the client needed some technical explanation I didn’t know it. However thanks to LinkedIn Groups I managed to connect with a large group of designers who helped me out. So always have a network of people whom you can count on.

Ok the amount is fine when do I pay you, and how will you give them to me?

Finally after several changes and the losses I ran into the final order was ready after 4 seating which each lasted for at least 3 hours. More mistakes happened here. I didn’t have bill ready to give him. I didn’t have a cd rom to burn it on a disc. So I just landed up taking the cash in hand and mailing him the order.

What I learnt…

1.)    Have a bill of sale ready with your logo and title.

2.)    Mention first itself that no mail transactions will occur.

3.)    Either get a pen drive or more professionally burn it on a disc for them.

4.)    The bill of sale accounts for your work.

5.)    Give them a thank you note and also a feedback form.

6.)    Contact them after a week and check if they need any changes in the logos or designs for their site etc. So this way you create a bridge which will bring them o you in future.

7.)    Also if you are on sites like LinkedIn ask for a recommendation for your work.

8.)    Incase in unavoidable circumstances you have to mail the order. Like in my case where the client dropped his pen drive on the way. I uploaded the order to a mail, but asked him to pay me before I hit the send button. I than allowed him to access his mail and check if he had received the mail before he left.

So this is how a long tiring journey ended up. I however ran into a loss since I had designed more than what he paid me for. But this was an eye opener for me. Now I have begun getting things organized for my further clients. Just to break it down here’s what you’ll need…

1.)    A website or Showcase containing bio, contact details and your portfolio.

2.)    A title, logo, letterhead, E-mail ID .

3.)    A PDF of your history and a client information sheet.

4.)    A quotation sheet with all the rules and possible combinations of payments. Importantly types of format provided. Number of seatings for changes, deadlines, and your kill fee.

5.)    Suitable locations to meet clients.

6.)    A bill of sale ready.

This is how I plan to move on in this field. Everyone has their way I have just shared mine. It may seem right to some or wrong to some. Please comment and share your opinion so I can learn.

Freelancing is not a cake walk. It’s a lot of work. Think about it. Don’t just tag yourself or you’ll land up spelling it wrong like me.

Time-lapse (Clouds)

Finally figured out the right location, and with supporting weather conditions I was finally able to shoot this video.

Location: Kovalam Kerala

Realtime: 45:23

Size: 1.5Gb

Aspect ratio: 16:9

Rendered time: 1:03 min

Rendered size: 6.03MB

The video was shot using a  CanonPowershot A450. However I did not use a tripod. Just placed it over a makeshift support. I changed the frame rate.