The Art Of Paying It Forward Without Spending A Dime

We’ve all been there before, caught up in the routine-of-things with little thought for what life has to offer outside of “the daily grind.” Rarely, do we take time to think about the others before us who “paid it forward” in one way or another, granting opportunities that would have otherwise never presented themselves.

When we pay it forward, we commit and act of selflessness that transcends our connection to other humans on the planet, elevating the human experience in a positive way. Whether it’s an act of kindness, faith, or even compassion, it all makes a difference and can potentially set off a chain reaction of reciprocated behavior.

Just imagine a world where a simple gesture could snowball into a global movement; wouldn’t that be something to witness?

Life presents many opportunities to pay it forward, often when you least expect it. But you don’t always have to wait for someone else to initiate a good deed. The truth is, you can be the catalyst to set things in motion, with any person you interact with.

Here are 10 fulfilling ways to pay it forward without spending a dime:

1. Substitute reimbursement with a request to “pay it forward”

You’ve just helped a fellow driver install a spare tire on the side of the road. He/she kindly offers a twenty dollar bill for your time and efforts. The temptation for “cold cash” may be strong, but chances are good you didn’t pull over to make a quick buck. Instead, ask the driver to return the favor for someone else who experiences a similar situation, in the future.

2. Offer mentorship

Regardless of age, profession, or relationship, everyone can benefit from a mentor in some aspect of their life. But finding one can be tricky. Sharing your time, knowledge, and experiences with others following in your footsteps, creates a feedback loop for personal development that strengthens the human experience. As the saying goes, “Be the mentor you wish you had.”  

3. Call a friend, family member, or acquaintance to see how they are doing, and listen

Life is busy. We get it. But everyone can make time for family and friends, right? The funny thing about life, it has a way of coming between you and the people you most want to spend your time with. Again, you’re not alone.

Those who most love you likely thought about you at least once, this very day. So why not give them a call and ask how they are? A simple gesture, it affirms that they are in fact important and top-of-mind, even during life’s busiest moments. Be an ear to talk to; pay it forward without speaking more than a few words.

4. Write positive reviews for small business that you support

These days, reviews are everything. They can make or break even the most successful business. Just look at social media’s impact on the boom of new products and services; it’s all about how many people “like” your business. When you have a stellar experience at a store or service provider, let others know how good it felt while also helping the business serve more people, and do good work in the process.

5. Offer your seat/place in line

As simple as it seems, why is it so rare, to see people give up their place in line… time and competition possibly? Lines are a daily routine, and yet they never get any easier to stand in. Even so, there are those who struggle both physically and emotionally, to stand in lines, to access needed services. Offering up your place in line to someone who could use it, goes a long way in paying it forward. Simple and selfless, it’s sure to brighten someone’s day.

6. Teach someone else a skill you have mastered

Mastering a new skill is a highly rewarding experience for most people, and often motivates continued education. In a world with so many like-minded individuals, there’s always another person trying to pick up the skills that you already have. Why not help others along, saving time and money with their efforts — chances are they will feel inspired to do the same. Think of it as a power to teach and influence through generosity. Now that will put a smile on your face.

7. Spend a day complementing those around you

Could you be positive for an entire a day? What about offering up nothing but compliments to everyone you speak to? Not an easy task! But when you see the good in others you are seeing the good in the world, and helping others do the same. Not to mention, it feels pretty good when you can be the root of someone’s happiness.

8. Donate blood at a local drive

Paying it forward with the “gift of life.” When you are healthy, you have the remarkable power to help someone who is not. Local blood drives make the process as convenient as possible and add immediate aid to the healthcare community. By sharing your experience with your network of friends, you can be a difference maker for someone in need while influencing your peers to get out and donate.

9. Spend some time picking up trash in a public area

Paying it forward has never been easier. Trash is everywhere, and always needs a trashcan to call home. Most people understand that we share this responsibility yet it’s more appealing when they see someone else initiating the action. Next time, try becoming the leader of a cleanup movement in your local community.

10. Facilitate progress in helping someone realize their dreams

“Keep dreaming,” a phrase that we toss around regularly to ease the letdown of reality. But what impact could we make if we all helped one another inch closer to our dreams? Yeah, it could be HUGE. Often, we hold the “golden ticket” to another person’s progress, and with a little generosity, can facilitate the realization of another person’s dreams. Whether it’s providing an invaluable contact or something larger, think about offering it up next time someone shares their dreams with you.

Think of paying it forward as an art form — the art of harnessing compassion, kindness, or faith in society. The more of this art you practice, the more beautiful the world can be. These forms of selflessness are far more impactful on society than we often give credit, and inherently provide food for the soul, long into the future. Even more exciting about “paying it forward,” it doesn’t have to cost a dime. And why not get creative in the process. Here at Designing North, it’s our mission to design a community that lives north of expectation, in the name of elevating the human experience. Be the global count.  

Pets In The Design Studio: Designing North Studios

Pets and Their Designers

From a cheerful Golden Retriever named Lily, to a more stoic Australian Bearded Dragon called Mokee-Djimba, The success of Designing North Studios is an extension of the good company we keep at work. Here in the studio we love pets and welcome them into our daily lives, no matter where that take us. This often results in lunch at the dog park.

Morale, stress, productivity; these are all valid reasons for inviting a pet into the studio, but none are as important as the love we feel from their presence. We think it’s safe to say, they make us better designers. Although unthinkable, it’s true that not everyone wants to work alongside their pets. Which is why the option to do so makes our team tick. Without further ado, let us introduce some of the four-legged stars of Designing North Studios:

Golden Retriever

As the Managing Director of Designing North Studios, Lisa Peacock shares her workspace with a glowing Golden Retriever named Lily. When asked, ‘Why do you enjoy working alongside your pets?’, Lisa made it clear that her day in the studio wouldn’t be complete without a dog: “She knows what I need, and never fails me. She always reminds me when it’s time to get up and take a break (paw on knee). But funny enough, she always waits until I’m off the phone.” Now that can’t be said for most coworkers.

Golden Retriever in the grass

Golden retriever

Australian Bearded Dragon

v:shal kanwar is a creative director at Designing North Studios who also shows creativity in his choice of pets. With the name Mokee-Djimba, it’s not just the appearance of his Australian Bearded Dragon that demands attention. And no matter how complex the design problems get, or how fickle a client can be, Mokee-Djimba never gets flustered. Additionally, they share a passion for a vegetarian diet. To our surprise, v:shal’s bearded dragon is quite the calming presence in the studio. In fact, he often spends the day just chillin on the shoulder of his owner while he works — scaly weaponry and all!

Australian Bearded Dragon

Black Labrador Retriever

Heading up content strategy at the studio is Dan Salcius. It’s been a dream of his to share his work day with his black lab-mix Gracie and cat Keystone — yes, he’s named after a beer commonly found on college campuses. His two furry friends keep him company day after day no matter the circumstances. But what he enjoys most is their ability to shed humor on any situation.They have a candid approach to reminding Dan that life doesn’t always need to be so serious. He also appreciated their forceful nature when it’s time to go for a walk or roll around outside, in the sun. They don’t take no for an answer.

Hiking with a black lab

House cat in the backyard

Traditional Persian Cat

Chris Mohler heads up many creative projects at Designing North. But she doesn’t do it alone. And as a gifted graphic designer she also happens to spend hours on end in front of the screen. Fortunately she has her cat Lucy to keep her company. Lucy is a Traditional Persian whose biggest contribution to the day is showing up for repeated coffee breaks — a true shoulder to lean on.

Cats-and-coffee

Maltese-Poodle

Grant Klein also leads the charge for creative projects at Designing North. He too has a trusty sidekick to share the day with, as long as that day doesn’t involve contact with anyone or anything. Unfortunately Grant’s Maltese-Poodle, Truman, hasn’t quite learned when is not an appropriate time to bark… queue the conference call. Although Truman can’t spend everyday in the studio, he is always thrilled to greet Grant at the door after a long day of solitude.

Maltese Poodle portrait

Black Labrador Retrievers

Julie Farrell is the Head of Marketing at Designing North Studios. She has spent many years working alongside her sister/brother duo of Black Labrador Retrievers Molly and Ranger. Not long ago, brother Ranger became ill due to old age and passed at the age of 13 — that’s 79 in dog years, according to the AVMA. Only days later, sister Molly passed from what’s best described as a broken heart. Although tragic, this bond proves that our pets are far more connected to the world than we give them credit for; affirmation that they could be the most loyal co workers around.

Black lab on the couch

Black lab on the couch

Sir Dave Mason – The Cat

Straight from Designing North’s Head of Technology himself, his studio cat Dave Mason is an excellent co-worker. Says “hi” in the morning and get’s on with his own agenda during the course of the day (mostly sleeping). Occasionally he’ll wake up and stroll over to my monitor to assess the mouse activity. A moment of virtual small creature murder (the mouse) is usually enough to keep him satisfied, then he’ll wander over to one of the other computers and sleep on the warmest part, the keyboard. This cozy slumber has previously resulted in emails being sent to a client who questioned the prolific use of “ffffffffffffffffffff” in the message text. Sadly, unlike his namesake, Dave Mason does not play guitar. In fact he makes no noise at all, no meow, no purring, just a silent bump against the leg to demand attention, which can be somewhat unnerving when sat in a darkened office at night, only to feel an involuntary leg movement. He’s just cool.

Dave Keeping my notes warm

We have learned that cats often spend the time required to think through complex problems. Just take these design thinking cats for example.

California’s ‘Super-Bloom’ 2017: User Experience Design Madness

California’s ‘super-bloom’ leads to a ‘super-boom’ of tourism, traffic, and confusion.

Wildflowers are popping up all over the map in Southern California — a place largely known for mars-like droughts — is turning once desolate landscapes into a colorful array of white, yellow, orange, and purple — the ideal contrast for your Instagram feed or Facebook wall. And as we have learned time and time again, when all media streams descend on a single subject, reality is quickly distorted; reflecting individual imagination and creativity in a method that portrays a universal reality.

We all want to experience the same feeling of excitement as the next person — missing out might trigger anxiety. It’s commonly referred to as FOMO (fear of missing out), and represents the California wildflower ‘super-bloom’ very well. In order to keep our dreams in sight we latch onto pictures, videos, and written words from strangers who have been where we have not. Sounds harmless, right? Unfortunately, it’s quite the opposite; something the town of Anza Borrego recently learned.

The LA Times reported: JoAnn Maiter, a part-time employee of the Borrego Springs Chamber of Commerce, said she couldn’t remember how many phone calls she’d answered. Dozens and dozens.

“We’re swamped. You can’t even get into our visitor’s center right now,” she said, adding that nearly 300 people had already signed into the visitor’s log by noon on Friday. “They’re coming from everywhere — absolutely everywhere: Canada, Minnesota, Chicago.”

From a user experience perspective, you can’t design a guaranteed outcome, you can only design for an experience — which may or may not lead to the desired outcome. Even with all of the user research in the world there will always be situational factors that a designer simply can’t control — unless artificial intelligence has something up it’s sleeve.

External forces such as social media, rarely follow this thought process and often distort reality to a level that we can’t recover from — the ‘Super-Bloom’ is a prime example.

Impact of Media on Perception

A well respected photographer uses his highly trained eye, creative vision, and advanced equipment to capture a brilliant image of the desert bloom. As most experienced photographers do, he then uses post-processing skills to perfect the image and shares it with her thousands of eager followers; with a well written message of inspiration and eternal wanderlust. It’s a dream-worthy scenario and nearly every human on the planet wants to experience this feeling personally. And this is the expectation they have, all the way up to the moment they finally do — “the moment of truth.”

As was the case for many visitors, the ‘super-bloom’ introduced a reality that wasn’t entirely true to the stunning imagery and influential media viewed online — an all-too-common scenario in this “digital age”. Just like a moment in time, every human can’t experience the exact same event the way another person did previously. 

Anza Borrego Wildflowers

Instagram photos by professional photographer Scott Kranz

From a user experience perspective, I am able to understand why a highly anticipated natural phenomenon has turned into a complete headache for thousands of people. A quick comparison of expectation versus reality reveals two different scenarios; we all want the one that aligns with our media viewing experience. But not everyone will experience the event in the same manner; under the same conditions.

The first 500 visitors to the region likely had a great time; roads were clear, the sun was still rising, services were accessible, and fellow adventure seekers weren’t breathing down their throats. By the time ten thousand people flooded the park, reality took a turn for the worst.

Importance of Understanding User Behavior

When talking about the field of UX, understanding ‘user’ behavior through and through is a fundamental rule. Unfortunately, most professional industries — outside of the digital design or human factors realm — forget to rehearse their use cases, often leading to more harm than good.

Read more on the differences between UX, XD and other practices around UCD.

In predictable fashion, the governing bodies that control this impacted region, have been promoting the “super-bloom” for months — picking up the intensity over the past few weeks — as they prepared for this abundance of excitement in their own backyard. Shortly after, the media took hold and the conversation snowballed from there — fake news!

Because our studio practices the user-centered approach, I quickly recognized a parallel between the work of a UX designer and the experience that these state parks and media outlets were hoping to deliver. More importantly, I concluded that the managing bodies of these parks didn’t do their research on the possible user groups that might ascend and make up most of their visitors. As you might expect, the resulting experience was best described with frustration and disappointment — and that’s putting it politely.

Whether they were in communication or not, the media and state park services did a fantastic job promoting this natural phenomenon; you might even believe that it was a planned event from the look of coordinated PR efforts. In this case, it’s not what they did, but rather what they didn’t do that made the experience memorable.

Whether it was the severe underestimation of potential attendance or lack of education leading up to the event, the disconnect between visitors (users for all intended purpose) and the parks themselves was too great to recover from. From a user’s perspective, this is where the disconnect made the most impact:

I was promised once-in-a-decade-flowers yet I was never educated on what a super-bloom entails; how it looks and how it’s different from my garden at home — a bed of roses is far more spectacular than a patch of dandelion. Given the rarity of this phenomenon, it’s safe to assume that the majority of visitors didn’t have detailed knowledge on what exactly they were going to see; Leaving this experience up to my imagination was a risky approach to rely on.

Apply Design Thinking

Prior to the weekend, visitor estimates were casually tossed around. Whether a backup plan was strategized or not, it was evident that the actual attendance to the region was far greater than expected. The lack of parking — yet alone physical space — direction, and transportation resources caused a once relaxing environment to quickly become stressful and borderline dangerous.

Design thinking example

Hosting a large number of visitors — similar to a sporting event — called for an increase in staff or personnel to at least assist visitors during their travel, yet alone manage their experiences while visiting. This region in particular required off-road access to view some of the most appealing landscape. With no prior education or experience in off-roading, hordes of visitors took to the trails without proper equipment or professional direction; conflict ensued for many, positioning select groups against each other. Have you ever seen a Hyundai Sonata attempt a water crossing? We hadn’t either until this trip.

With consideration for the needs, wants, and limitations of visitors, the ‘Super-Bloom’ experience could have been something special. And had I not been working shoulder-to-shoulder with a team of UCD practitioners, reminding me daily how design should solve problems, I’d still be confused and frustrated from the tension felt during the experience. Understanding the gaps, missed communication, and lack of research helps to alleviate the disappointment I felt (kinda). Who knows, in the next decade we might just see designers in charge of the solutions to the problems we identified — wouldn’t that be smart. The events of the 2017 California ‘Super-Bloom’ are a reminder that design thinkers are needed everywhere; in every company and perhaps most especially when it comes to serving the people experiencing government services.

Design thinking can transform. Let us show you how that paired with a UCD approach can open the door to new possibilities.

Five Ways Technology Will Change Our Lives By 2022

Whether you plan for it or not, your life will change in five years due to information technology breakthroughs. “5 in 5” as it’s called, is an annual series of imaginative predictions revealed by IBM, that aim to change the lives of humans through the implementation of ground-breaking technology. These predictions transparently serve to foreshadow the advanced  innovations that we can expect see in the near future. If the theme is artificial intelligence, you may just find your professional career intersecting with these advanced technologies sooner rather than later; are you ready for change?

AI Mental Health Tools

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience a mental illness in their lifetime, with combined treatment costs being in the trillions – an alarming statistic to say the least. IBM predicts that their breakthrough implementation of AI will change the world for many people living with mental illness, and it’s how they plan on accomplishing this that’s most intriguing.

With the goal of early detection for developmental disorders, mental illness and degenerative neurological diseases, IBM plans on using a mix of automated cognitive systems — “simulation of human thought — to analyze a person’s speech and writing.” We find this advancement to be incredibly exciting; we are talking about cognitive computers here… whoa. Big data is finally ready to make an impact in our daily lives, not just sales numbers.

The use of AI is only in its early stages . IBM plans on using data points in combination with modern wearable devices — watches, monitors, earbuds — and imaging equipment to create a more complete picture of a person’s health than ever before; without the need for an office or specialized tools. Signs that were once invisible will now be transparent and manageable to the patient through wearable devices — this greatly reduces the barriers that healthcare presents to many people. AI technology of this form will alter healthcare as we know it. How many professional fields can lay claim to a statement like that?

Hyper-imaging With AI

The next five years will also reveal a change in how we interact with the environment, but not in the way you might predict. The self-driving car has been a hot topic of late for the sheer fact that human hands no longer need to control the steering wheel — still weird to imagine. Even before most of us see one of these on the road, IBM is already developing cognitive computers that will further enhance their reliability and safety through hyper-imaging — seeing beyond the domain of visible light. The concept of millimeter-wave imaging paired with sensors is making much of the invisible world now visible. Black ice, fog, and distant objects will no longer be out-of-sight; they may remain out-of-mind for us humans but our vehicles will certainly be aware.

In five years this eye-opening technology won’t be limited to our cars, it will translate to our health. Imagine taking an image of your food to determine its exact nutritional value — or lack thereof. Or what about imaging your meds to ensure that you know exactly what you are ingesting. Better yet, what if your video game could pair with augmented reality to physically see through solid objects? Like our own body? Crazy, right?

AI technology through connected devices

Digitizing the Physical World

Data is all around us; every second that ticks away mass amounts of data are being recorded, we just can’t see it. The data that we speak of is commonly used to educate us on our ecosystem although it’s often outdated since it takes so long to organize after collection. Researchers have revealed that data scientists spend nearly 80 percent of their time scrubbing data before analyzing it. IBM is confident that this will change within five years. Real time is going to bring real meaning.

Our human lives are connected with our possessions: watches, phones, computers, appliances, thermostats… the list goes on for days. According to IBM, there are already more than 6 billion connected devices relaying data on a monthly basis — we are truly living in a matrix. Through this digitization of the physical world, macroscope technology will reveal insights on the fundamental issues that affect every single one of us living on earth.

In theory, algorithms and software will soon aggregate, organize, and analyze data on anything we choose, including soil, water, food and even space. And yes, this data will be searchable by all, likely from your phone — if those still exist in five years.

Medical Labs on a Chip

In five years, wearable technology will determine when a person should see a doctor. The guesswork of being human will slowly vanish as nanotechnology advances. With the use of hyper imaging, computer chips will see (read) bodily signs and fluids that are invisible to the naked eye. The way IBM puts it, “The goal is to shrink down, to a single silicon chip, all of the processes necessary to analyze a disease that would normally be carried out in a full-scale biochemistry lab.” Take a minute to visualize that — an entire lab fitting into a silicone chip.

In five years, you and I will have access to handheld devices that can read biomarkers — thousands of times smaller than a human hair — while sending it to a secure cloud without lifting a finger. In combination with other real-time data from devices such as a sleep monitor or fitness watch, AI software can quickly analyze an individual’s health for immediate detection of problems. But will this be fast enough to fill our insatious appetite for immediate satisfaction?

Think about this technology as a liquid biopsy. It’s goal, to revolutionize the traditional tissue biopsy, making it more comfortable, accessible and convenient. Large populations may soon have the ability to detect disease before it even forms. That is, if your healthcare is generous enough to cover it — did we just go there?

Speed of Light Pollution Detection

Most pollutants are invisible to the human eye; unfortunately their devastating effects are not. Methane — the primary component of natural gas — is said to be the second largest contributor to atmospheric warming — yes this is a real ‘thing’ outside of China. In the U.S. alone, emissions from the industrial oil and gas sector account for the largest source of methane output into the atmosphere. The EPA estimates that natural gas systems leaked more than nine million metric tons of methane into the atmosphere in 2014 alone — a number so large that it’s incomprehensible.

In five years affordable sensors will line natural gas pipelines, wells and storage facilities; monitoring for any signs of a leak. The detection process will soon take minutes rather than weeks, drastically decreasing the overall environmental impact. IBM predicts that this sensor technology will do more than detection, it will also reveal the path that harmful gas travels before entering the atmosphere.

Maybe the environment isn’t your first priority, but let’s talk about how sensors can enhance your personal life in five years. This real-time sensor detection process can work on your breath as well; diagnosing respiratory disease will likely become a quick and convenient process. The days of expensive and invasive respiratory testing will soon be behind us.

Does all of this technology have your head spinning? If IBM’s predictions are accurate — their track record being  pretty darn good — the next five years will reveal scientific tools that enhance the way humans live and interact. The invisible world will become clearly visible, opening the door to breakthroughs in health, medicine, and the environment. Maybe then the validity of so many accusations wouldn’t require years of discussion. In five short years these five innovations just might become ordinary.

We happen to have a few predictions of our own when it comes to Technology and human interaction; let us show you what we are working on here at Designing North Studios.

5 Minutes On TV Show Ideas With Lisa Peacock – What Are You Doing?

A podcast mini-series from Designing North Studios, exploring all of the wacky and wild tv show ideas that a person can dream up.

Have you ever found yourself dreaming of a brilliant tv-show idea? Or wondered what people do at home after a long day at the office? Ever thought about putting these two things together? Well, our unconventional creative director, Lisa Peacock has.

Imagine, you’re driving home from work; the sun is nearly setting and people all around are scrambling to get home to family and friends — anticipation for cocktail hour is how I envision it. As excitement for the day’s resolution stirs commotion, you withdraw focus from the current moment in time to ponder the possibilities of what people do as the sun begins to set. As cars crawl into garages, and living rooms light up, an innate curiosity sweeps over — what are they doing? This is where Lisa suggests that the show begin.

Knocking on doors in search of fascinating stories. What better way to uncover the evening habits of everyday people?

Call it a weird curiosity; but it’s as raw as reality tv can be. Everyday people being presented with an unexpected opportunity to share their story with a media audience; no script, expectation or designed outcome, just a candid search for fascinating tales of life right at cocktail hour. After all, we truly believe that everyone has a story to tell.

Do share! We are always open to hear about outlandish ideas you may have brewing.

2017: Out with the Old and In with the Why

 

Some ideas are worth revisiting.

At the beginning of every new year, we all love the idea of a clean slate; starting brand new. Reinvention, exhilarated innovation, new message, new mantra, new you! Hmm. The design world is constantly evolving to solve an array of seemingly new problems — some are new, but honestly, most are the same old same old. Our head of technology always likes to say “There are no new problems, just new solutions.” And like many other design-thinkers who manage to stay ahead of their time with the ideas, discoveries, and theories; Simon Sinek’s “The Golden Circle” theory hailed earlier mid-decade seems to have reason to sparkle again. As a theory it is by no means bulletproof (or new), but as a brand building exercise this concept could prove useful for many of today’s companies. With 2017 underway, Simon’s concept is quickly resurfacing as a strong tool to answer many of the challenges that current brands face when connecting with their more values-driven, authentic-seeking, transparency-embracing customers — or – let’s just call them what they are; millennials. How to connect with a new generation is not a new problem, and this generation might not even need a new solution.

The Why

At the core of every action we take lies a reason to why we took that action. Similarly, brands that experience long-term success understand why they were capable of such success. When relating this thinking to a business — big or small — it’s easy to neglect the ‘WHY’ and focus on the ‘WHAT’. The Golden Circle reinforces that brands, companies and people alike should focus on why they do what they do as the foundation of their business. In other words, communicating from the inside out rather than the outside in, presents the opportunity to connect with individuals on a much more personal level. Here at Designing North Studios, we predict that this simple concept will play a large role in how successful both young and experienced brands will be in 2017. As the Designing North Studios brand mantra says, ‘It’s not a location, it’s a mindset” — our mindset is our WHY; our fundamental reason for doing what we do.

Here’s an interesting way to demonstrate the importance of operating from the inside out on a personal level. Think about the job interviews of your past and try to remember how each one played out. Chances are good that you don’t remember the majority of them since they didn’t connect with you emotionally. Each one likely began with a ‘what’ formatted question and didn’t excite a response that tapped into your creativity or emotion. Now imagine if every interview began like this: Why do you do this profession and why are you here today? It’s transparent that you could relay your core message much sooner and with much less words; The Golden Circle drives this point home. As soon as the ‘why’ becomes more than an income or sales driver, a true purpose can be identified; your brand’s purpose for being.

The How

From the core of The Golden Circle we move outward one layer which represents the ‘HOW’. Still less obvious than what a brand does, how they do it reveals their differentiation amongst the competition. When a brand can accurately and consistently identify how they do what they do, they will likely be able to replicate and further strengthen the how factor. As 2016 has foreshadowed, the coming year will challenge brands to transform the ‘how’ into visual content that’s strategically created with purpose (reflecting the why factor) and uniquely shared across social media channels. Simply ‘knowing’ how a brand creates value isn’t personal enough for individuals to form a lasting connection. It needs to be experienced. This is why content truly is king and will continue to be the foundation of personal and professional bonds between brands and real people; not just those termed consumers. The ‘how’, or value proposition, is still just as important as ever but will require a bit more creativity to convey and bring to life in 2017.

The What

The outside of the Golden Circle is comprised of the ‘what’ layer and refers to a brand’s or individual’s ability to communicate what they do. Of the three layers it’s the easiest to identify which is why brands commonly rely on it to define their business. Unfortunately the best things in life don’t come easy – but you already know this. As history has shown us, there once was a time when answering a simple question – what do you do? – was enough to connect with like-minded consumers and possibly spark a person’s interest, enough so to draw them to your brand. We believe those days are gone. With technology we see innovation, and with innovation we see change which is why the ‘what’ no longer suffices as a credible factor for brands to be accepted as a part of one’s life. Now, more than ever, human beings need more than ‘what’ to make a purchase, they want to personally connect with the ‘why’.

How is it that only a few brands have achieved unthinkable success when the vast majority remain average given the same resources? How is it that an even playing field can appear to be so one-sided? The explanation may lie in the ability to create value from the inside out rather than the outside in. The Golden Circle could play an integral role in revisiting, reinventing, and rethinking the success of both current and new brands in 2017.

Designing North Studios’ strategiests and designers know a good theory and when to revive it.

When you are ready to take a look at your brand from the inside out, get in touch.

Amazon Alexa: Negotiating With a Belligerent Two Year-Old

Released in November 2014, Amazon’s personal assistant, Alexa, is making her voice heard across the globe. Although her speech is crystal clear, her understanding of the unique environment around her may take some time to develop. She also happens to be a fine listener — as the U.S. court system is discovering. But can she truly assimilate into any family? Well, that depends on how much character you’d say your family has. Our head of technology at Designing North Studios, Nigel Peacock, shares some of the quirks of introducing Amazon’s Alexa into a new home.

“Using Alexa to connect my home was a fairly easy process, and, when paired with a few choice IFTTT recipes — a digital connection between your apps and devices — I soon had our house working like the flight deck of the USS Enterprise — “beam me up Scotty”. Alexa is a font of knowledge and adept at controlling anything from refrigerators to robots yet we don’t have norms to judge our experiences; it still feels pretty experimental at this point.

Similar to how you might engage a ‘real’ family member, Alexa is always listening for the wake-word ‘Alexa’. If any of your household happen to also be called Alexa either a) have them adopted or b) change the wake-word to ‘Amazon’ or ‘Echo’. Option b doesn’t seem seem to invoke the emotional connection you may want with your virtual personal assistant  but it’s probably more humane than off-loading your relatives — we’ll leave this to opinion.

Using the Alexa app you can help her learn by marking how successful a command has been.. This is particularly useful for someone like me having grown up with an affliction such as a London (England) accent. The trouble is that  Alexa very often expects more drawn out syllable sounds than my vocal gymnastics can produce . This provided some low-brow entertainment for my ‘murican family as I attempted the intricacies involved in pronouncing “sauce”.  Is it source, sarse, saass who knows? Least of all Alexa. In my opinion a similar feature applied to drive-through window operators would help the fast food industry cater to those whose dialect is not from the backwoods of Arkansas.

For now Alexa can only listen to one Spotify channel at a time. Not really an issue if your only companion is a solitary online voice assistant. However if you have several family members all equipped with their own Echo Dot then Alexa coupled with Spotify, will provide some interesting playlists. Bursts of Ding Dong Merrily On High interrupted by The Insane Clown Posse regularly featured during our holiday festivities.

If you have any experience negotiating with a belligerent two year-old, then you’ll be well equipped to converse with Alexa. She’s dogged in her refusal to do anything not aligning with her preferred syntax. Being British I’m pre-disposed to say please and thank you regardless of the quality of service. It’s been said that we would thank our torturer if they said please before ripping out our fingernails. Alexa on the other hand has no time for such pleasantries  and, unless you speak to her like the family dog, will bluntly refuse to accept your repeated commands to turn the kitchen light on.”

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