Subscribing to the Agile Mindset: a Clear Opportunity for UX Designers and Developers to Make Great Products

A collaborative relationship using agile methodology among digital designers and developers can ultimately be the biggest factor separating a good final product from one that is great. Of course, this perspective assumes both teams are authentically agile, and embrace the Agile mindset using Agile strategies — yes, Agile is equal parts culture and lifestyle. All or nothing. Traditionally, using the same word four times in one sentence would be considered excessive; however, in the digital environment, designers and developers must be agile and do Agile, embracing the word as both an adjective and noun.

Adaptability, pace, and continuous improvement are often the words spoken when describing the advantages of using agile methodologies for development teams. And on a similar note, a UX practitioner might be heard describing their process as incremental and iterative with a focus on thoughtful features requiring sprints. In both instances, there’s an understanding that the customer must be heard and the end-user must be happy.

So, although differences between these two departments exist, each having slightly different needs (such as constant communication among developers versus time for research required by designers), a partnership with shared goals is most conducive to fostering the agile environment. Most important, we believe UX designers and developers can occupy the same sandbox in harmony, creating a much more productive environment than if they were separated. Reviewing the thoughts and advice presented by industry experts, we have identified the most important factors to consider when integrating design and development teams in an agile environment. This is how both teams can subscribe to Agile:

Co-design and Co-create

Participatory design, as it is referred to within the design community, describes the act of stakeholders designing with one another rather than in separate silos. An important detail for truly agile teams, this shared or co-design activity serves to meet the needs of end-users and most importantly, guarantees that solutions are usable and rewarding.

However, a nuance of co-design as it relates to cultivating an agile environment, practitioners should bring developers into the design process and developers return the favor for designers. Similar to making smart financial investments, designers can approach co-design (participatory design) with a give-a-little-get-a-lot mentality. By sharing important details, explaining their significance, and proving their value, designers can set the tone for inclusivity on most projects.

Co-creation on the other hand, the act of bringing people together for a mutually inclusive outcome, is critical to the modern agile team of designers and developers. In essence, this concept emphasizes that design and development should happen simultaneously, with both teams sharing responsibilities and working in unison for a more valuable outcome. A transformative experience for agile teams, co-creation motivates project members to be involved in each others work. And that’s the secret sauce. The more developers believe that designers are listening to capabilities of the technology, the more engaged they will be when receiving requirements — the fruit of user research and customer journeys.

As the agile development cycle illustrates, design and development shouldn’t happen in succession. These two teams of practitioners should place equal importance on planning, research, design and development, ultimately allowing them to successfully co-design and co-create — the embodiment of interaction over process.

Flexibility for All

A collaborative relationship between digital designers and developers, one that embraces agility, is dependent on everyone embracing the art of showing flexibility. Unlike waterfall methodology, agile values interaction over process, forgoing strict rules to allow for continuous iteration and change. Of course, some processes still exists in the form of research. Both designers and developers should “have the ability to respond gracefully to change,” says the Norman Nielsen Group.

The truth is, if just one person rejects this mindset the team and therefore company is not truly agile. This is often a common misconception made by both internal and external stakeholders; it’s either all in or not in at all. Therefore, for modern technology organizations or digital design firms where the design and development teams live under one roof or in close proximity, project success is largely determined on everyone’s ability to expect, anticipate, and invite change.

Through the lens of a UX professional designing in a healthy agile environment,

“Flexibility is dictated by how comfortable developers are with UX designers working ahead of sprints, especially on user-research and thoughtful design ideas,”

says Lisa Peacock, Executive Creative Director of Designing North Studios. “Being in-sync doesn’t necessarily mean working at the same pace; teams can still be on the same page when designers gather optimal information and data to effectively report back to DevOps.”

Similarly, flexibility also represents designers’ efforts to respect managed task lists and development timelines, as well as having mindfulness towards how many iterations are too many. Additionally, agile teams outperform the rest when they “win” at the game of trust. Of course, designers must understand that trust is earned not granted.

UX professionals are at the mercy of the user but wouldn’t have it any other way. The user-above-all-else mindset is one that values research, real-world testing, and solutions-crafting to make experiences pleasant and memorable, especially for digital products. Although this mindset is largely driven by creativity, important processes exist to uncover key requirements for the project, and designers should validate these requirements with developers using transparency. Supporting sentiments from the Nielsen Norman Group express that “UX professionals must rigorously validate design ideas, improve them, and communicate that rigor to the rest of the team in an honest and approachable way to gain developers’ trust.”     

The User is the ‘North Star’

Agile teams that seamlessly integrate both UX practitioners and developers wholeheartedly believe in the power of the user. In other words, their work evolves with the end-user at the center, from beginning to end. This inherently adds immense value to the groundwork a UX designer is accountable for: user-research and user-testing.

Many industry professionals fail to recognize that UX design is more scientific theory with well over 20 years of practice behind its title. In fact, the UX community should be looked at as a body of knowledge in its own right that is approached with well tested theory and dedicated practice. From a client’s perspective, it’s not easy to differentiate between all designers while identifying exactly what expertise they need for their project. And often, this is true for developers as well. This explains why a large number of predominantly visual designers (or UI designers) have filled the gap in supply and demand with a quick transition into the UX field. Unlike teams that “get UX,” teams that don’t do agile well will likely fall into this trap and ultimately serve up a biased solution to a real and complex user problem.

A team of UX designers and developers thriving in an agile environment views user behavior as a framework, mindset, and strategy. They measure their work in unison with data to ensure that final products are best for users rather than a reflection of what one person assumed to be the best solution. And like all good things in life, the balanced application of UX knowledge is viewed as a principle rather than input on thriving teams. Any potential gaps between design and development are quickly filled by finding common ground — understanding of the user’s needs. Specifically, the acceptance that thoughtful and considerate design details are paramount to a great final product, and the time it takes to craft these details respects the speed required to remain agile. As a good mother says often, “everything in moderation.” This couldn’t be more true when weighing time constraints versus the need for thoughtful details.

The simple truth is that digital products are most useful when UX and development teams effectively operate with each other, embracing the agile mindset. A key factor to all digital solutions: specialists are needed when building complicated things. More specific to our discussion on thriving agile teams, specialists should understand and embrace each other’s work and most importantly, want to work together for the greater good of the end-user. With the right people in place and the right leadership to guide these people, the critical factors of speed, efficiency, and detail can in fact exist harmoniously. So, as it stands today, agile environments most conducive to long-term success are defined by co-creation, flexibility, and a user-centric approach. If your team is currently in the process of applying agile or wants to understand what techniques should be used, these core factors offer a great starting point for integrating the complex roles among practitioners.

 

Pick Your People, Your Success Depends on it

As one of the NFL’s most prolific leaders, Aaron Rogers said it best, “Surround yourself with really good people. Because the people you surround yourself with are a reflection of you.”

The application of this message for your life may be slightly different than Aaron’s, but the end result remains the same: the people you pick will largely influence your success in life, including the levels of happiness you experience — so pick’em wisely.

From Aaron’s football field in Green Bay (with ten other teammates) to our design studio in the San Francisco Bay Area (with an ensemble of creatives), we believe the most influential factor in determining success is choosing the right people: the people you work with, partner with, and associate with.

It’s a mindset we carry into every client project, using it to make “game-time” decisions: do we go for it — or not? Do we submit the proposal — or direct our attention elsewhere?

Rarely does it fail us.

Because (in the words of legendary NFL coach Don Shula) “The one thing that I know is that you win with good people.”

So, using our mindset as guidance, let’s take a look at what it means to pick your people.

Who You Work With

Success doesn’t occur in a closed work environment. Remote or on-site, cultivating a functional team that jives is dependent on laying the initial foundation: choosing the right people.

And more often than not, this choice aligns with a specific mission statement. That is, you choose to work with individuals who align with the company purpose — and/or — business culture.

For example, Patagonia employees are hyper-involved with the recruitment of new team members, often inquiring about one’s interest in the environment and sustainability, even asking prospective team members to consider the footprint of their application materials — the potential waste involved.

If you read Patagonia’s mission statement (“Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis’), you can see why they have been successful over the years: pick good people and let those people choose who they want to work with.

As the Executive Creative Director for Designing North Studios, Lisa Peacock is viewed as the architect for the current team of designers, strategists, and creatives that all work together today. But we must reiterate, this didn’t happen in a vacuum.

When selecting her starting team, Lisa relied on the designing north mindset to guide her through the growth process:

“It takes dedication, commitment, and most importantly, really good people to make a design studio tick” she says.

“I always knew that the people I was looking for to work at Designing North Studios would be my Designing North Stars.”

Finding these people, attracting them, and creating a studio environment wouldn’t have been possible without a shared purpose: really good people coming together and displaying their talents, and delighting clients in the process.

To this day, our studio members add a little extra to everything they do — it’s who they are. Their career, how they live, the relationships they nurture — it’s all influenced by delivering results just north of expectation, embracing the small details throughout any process.

This approach, believe it or not, really does add happiness, success, peace, and love to the global experience — which for us, is the biggest UX of all.

Who you Work for

Whether choosing who you work with — or for — the premise remains constant: it’s important to pick your people. Remember, your success depends on it.

Speaking to the strength of today’s most successful companies, the ability to inspire employees around a mission is a powerful tool. In fact, this messaging helps influence a person’s choice with regard to employment or collaboration.

Similarly, this inspiration often permeates throughout an industry, reaching potential partners, clients, and firms who are out there searching for ideal work — and people.

In essence, they’ve learned to choose who they complete work for, connecting the dots between happiness and success by way of affiliation, fulfillment and satisfaction — a result of associating with like-minded, purpose-driven people.

Hipcamp showcases this mindset flawlessly: Reviewing their checklist for prospective talent, the first — and most crucial — bullet point reads:

“As a team, we’re committed to striving toward and evolving these shared values in ourselves and in other team members.”

Through this lens, working for an employer versus client may share more similarities than previously thought.

In both scenarios, a conscious choice is made to spend significant time working; choosing people, teams or companies that strongly align with your values offer the reward of time well spent, elevating the human experience.

Your human experience.

Using our studio example, choosing a project (who we do work for) is an extension of who we choose to work with as individuals — those who relish in the small details and strive to deliver effort that’s a hover above expectation. Values, mindset, and even subject matter all deserve attention when making this decision.

We know from experience: Alignment with a client’s mission equates to optimal engagement and communication, the pinnacle of choosing who we do work for, especially in the journey-crafting business. Essentially, we look for that mindset in all directions, be it freelance talent or the ideal client.

Our best partners, for example, understand world challenges; are dedicated to the future of education; and are passionate about heading in the right direction — their projects reflect this ideology.

Others have been voted the most ethical companies by industry and peers.

Some even challenge traditional business norms in order to lift entire communities from poverty. It’s all really good work that deserves to be supported with passion and commitment from fellow believers. That’s us!

Ultimately, choosing who receives your time and energy can significantly impact your feelings of success. Money aside, it’s an opportunity to enrich the human experience with a sense of purpose, satisfaction, and belonging.

If you are like us, you want more of this. Not just for yourself, but for others as well.

Who is in Your Network

Interconnectedness. Support. Opportunity. Exposure. Everyone wants it, but few know where to find it. And crafting the right network is a crucial step towards experiencing personal and professional success.

Fortunately, personal and professional networks function to serve the people who maintain their existence — you! Of course, networks require cultivation — and grow best when crafted with care and intention, with a greater-good value proposition.

We aren’t the first to proclaim the importance of networking for a successful career. In fact, current research reinforces the importance of face-to-face networking for career growth.

Even with a plethora of technology tools, the human component remains most valuable. However, if you expect your network to have your back, there’s one factor you should pay extra attention to: the people!

That’s right, a network is only of value if you can build it with the right people.

But how do you decide who is right for your network? Well, why not start by looking to the people you choose to work with — and for. Chances are good they know exactly where you need to be networking.

As creatives living with the mindset, many of us share ties to the same networks embedded within the digital design industry.

Past jobs, current friends, old co-workers, etc., they all shape who we are in the present and influence who we will become in the future.

That’s the beauty of cultivating a network reflective of your true values and interests: It’s always working for you — much like smart investing.

However, pursuing interests by way of networking will present person challenges. Always keep your eyes peeled, there are limitless temptations of money, greed, and fame within various industries these days.

Take the tech startup community, for example. From hidden agendas to a plethora of funding channels, it’s not uncommon to witness the suppression of values in the name of making investors smile.

It’s OK to be stubborn.

It’s OK to be picky.

It’s OK to vet before welcoming new members — it’s your network! And it’s “health” depends on you. So be patient. Cultivate and curate on a regular basis.

Collaboratively, we branch out to meet new people, learn of new opportunities, and even cross digital borders, accessing other communities of interest; let’s say from a design community to a primarily tech community, for example.

If your visualizing an imaginary “jump” from one social channel to another — let’s say, instagram to LinkedIn or Twitter to Vimeo — you are spot-on.

Each community brings new introductions and opportunities for connecting with good people. People chosen by you.

From the American Marketing Association (AMA) to the Professional Association for Design (AIGA) to DribbleBehance, and even LinkedIn, these communities shape the larger network we associate and interact with — and call our own. These are the people we choose to associate with.

Designers of various disciplines (UX, UI, XD, IxD), Illustrators, graphic artists, writers, videographers, creative directors, etc., all form the design “arm” of our individual networks.

Similarly, each person may have complimentary network extensions created with connections from previous employers and friendships.

Using the studio for reference, part of Lisa’s network may offer consistent resources in the form of design projects for the team to work on, while that of a team member may uncover new freelancers to join the team, further growing the studio’s presence.

Their titles may only identify their outer layer (what we see on paper) but their work and communication symbolizes what lies beneath. A mindset for success.

Picking your people is undoubtedly one of the most important decisions you will make in life. Viewed as an opportunity to control destiny, this responsibility is ongoing, surfacing every time new relationships are made.

Who you work with, who you work for — or complete work for — and who you form a network with all play an active role in shaping what success looks like for your life. If you haven’t figured it out yet, people are the second most influential component of your life.

The first is you.

So go ahead, get out there and choose wisely.

Your future-successful-self will thank you.

 

Designing Your Life Using Artistic Creation; a Lesson in Mental Clarity, Empathy and Fun

Have you ever thought about designing your life? Essentially crafting a “tomorrow” that gets you excited, feeling ready for what’s next. If you have, good for you — you’re one step ahead of most. Our tips will keep you moving forward. And if not, we can help you get started. Echoing the words of every parent, “You aren’t getting any younger!”

The most common question we encounter is where do I begin? And from our many experiences in the design studio, working with others to develop the ‘designing north mindset,’ we can confidently say that artistic creation is a great place to start.

As American writer, filmmaker, philosopher and activist Susan Sontag once said,  

Do stuff. Be clenched, curious. Not waiting for inspiration’s shove or society’s kiss on your forehead. Pay attention. It’s all about paying attention. Attention is vitality. It connects you with others. It makes you eager. Stay eager.

She was talking to you. Yes, you! And like Susan, we believe in you because you are artistic.

Whether you just smiled in acceptance of this warm complement or smirked and replied, “yeah… right — that’s me,” the truth is that artistic ability resides within you, and with a little bit of time and practice you can experience the many benefits associated with it. One of which is the ability to design your life, creatively building out a plan and executing specific steps to reach your goals outlined in that plan.

So how exactly can this be done?

Well, unlike most aspects of life, art is entirely subjective; it is not confined by boundaries nor does it adhere to strict qualifications. In fact, if you were to paint, draw, build, or design something (using your creative brain, of course), you have the freedom (and right) to call it art. That’s the beauty of it! Art empowers our minds to think beyond what we know and reach for our curiosities.

Using a digital experience presented by The Washington Post, This is Your Brain on Art

As one freelance artist puts it,

Pursuing art is a really great analogy for the rest of life, some days you make that beautiful painting or the sun is out perfectly, and other days you are really in the throws of life.

It’s subjective nature is best understood by the way architecture or fine art can elicit completely different responses from people. We once stumbled upon a quote that read, “architecture is the art of wasting space beautifully.” Our perspective on creativity changed from this day forward. Now we help others craft their ideal life, putting their artistic skills to work.

Artistic Creation Organizes Emotions and Feelings

During her TED Talk “Powerful Art Activist,” artist, Zaria Forman related human actions to behavioral psychology, explaining why humans take action and make decisions based on emotions, above all else. Zaria also shared her belief that art is one of the most effective methods for reaching our emotions. In other words, art can be a tool for accessing feelings you never knew existed, or that you have been trying to reach for years. Hint: you will need these to begin designing your path forward.

But how does the act of creating something (anything) through artistic ability impact your emotions and allow you to uncover feelings?

The answer can be experienced when you first clear your mind and dedicate yourself to the act of creating. You see, artistic creation is free of rules; the only limitations are the ones you impose on yourself (so, stop it already!) — this is a refreshing change from most of life’s responsibilities. Whether you pick up that pencil, pen, brush, tool, mouse or instrument, in that very moment you are actively making sense of whatever thoughts or ideas you have stored away. And often, these ideas are the result of things you have felt, heard or seen at one point in time.

So, when you tap into your creative brain, to physically create, you allow yourself the time and mental capacity needed for reflection, adding context to life…your life. It’s this self-reflection that gives way to reasoning which leads to understanding, which results in a feeling and finally translates into emotion. We need this process as humans. If we don’t get it, tension and frustration slowly creeps in. Hint: some tension and frustration is natural; however, if it’s constant you likely need to design a new plan.

As you will see, artistic creation is a powerful tool that you have access to — you just need to learn to use it. When you do, it can offer clarity on what “living” truly means to you.

Artistic Creation Cultivates Empathy

Have you listened to those prescription medicine commercials for stress or depression that usually end with a lengthy curated list of terrifying side effects? And somehow they play it off as though it’s no big deal.

Well, you might be surprised to learn that using artistic creation is also synonymous with a long list of side effects, but not the type you should cringe at. In fact, they will probably bring a smile to your face. The cultivation of empathy is a prime example; being creative in an artistic manner allows you to learn to be empathetic, and if you already have a high level of empathy it increases your ability to reason and adapt to other people. Hint: working well with other people is a sure way to get to where you want to be much quicker. In essence, don’t be afraid to collaborate. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

This idea is also linked to self reflection, as turning experiences into a tangible, creative form (art) forces you to remove yourself from the problem (not so fun) and inspires an openness or mindfulness towards others. As you create and accept the subjective nature of art, reactions towards others become more sensible, and the concept of understanding becomes less confined to strict rules or the reliance on what we know versus what we have to learn. And yes, there is in fact an undiscovered world out there for you to explore, and having empathy will make it much more enjoyable. Remember, just because it’s unfamiliar doesn’t mean it’s not for you.  

When you begin sharing your creativity with others or allow others to share theirs with you, skills such as collaboration, communication, and problem-solving will become second nature thanks to empathy.

As you work on your artistic craft, try creating work from a different perspective, maybe one that challenges your routine or go–to process. Think about people you look up to; someone you are intrigued by; or a piece of work that can reach many different people who may interpret it in different ways. Can you adjust your perspective to meet their preferences? This certainly isn’t easy, nor is it intended to be. Creating for others draws you out from your comfort zone to look at a world that is filled with unfamiliar ideas, values, and behavior. This builds empathy. This builds character. This makes you a more effective designer. And you can’t design your life until you think like a designer.

Artistic Creation is a Process for Fun

That’s right, FUN! For so many activities in life, especially daily routines, the word fun rarely creeps its way into the equation. This is why, when you finally discover the fun of creating, especially using processes you share with others, it feels really good (all tingly inside) and nothing like work. And… It feels easy; it’s accessible; it doesn’t cost very much apart from a few tools or supplies, and you can fit it into your schedule. So when you learn to make time to create you are actually learning to have fun. See, doesn’t that sound fun?

We recommend making time for artistic creation for the same reasons we recommend drawing at work or taking pictures on the weekend: these activities offer stimulation and pressure you to respond with feeling and emotion without fear of being wrong or the criticism of screwing up. Remember, art is subjective. If you say it’s art, well guess what, it’s most definitely art. Others like you will embrace this mindset.

Artistic creation also alleviates too much exposure to “the process.” Think about your job or school, they are defined by some sort of process that gets you from here to there, or from this beginning to that result. And that’s fine for some things in life but doesn’t it seem like we have created a process for everything? Sure it may increase efficiency, but usually at the expense of fun. This is why artistic creation is such a valuable activity to explore. The process of creation and using artistic abilities to express the meaning behind your thoughts and perspectives can be wildly rewarding, especially when those around you recognize and appreciate what you’ve created. Once you share this excitement you will want to experience more of it. Although being creative can still a process, it’s acceptable to omit the parts that don’t suit you and just do the ones that are enjoyable… don’t try that in the office!

A critical step in designing your life, sometimes you have to re-learn how to have fun, a mindset you were told to “grow out of.” With the help of societal pressure (yeah, it’s society’s fault!) we over-fixate on hard work and production and fun never has an opportunity to surface. But with a small mindset shift you can adjust your habits to make room for that feeling we all seek in our lives: fun.

Artistic Creation Transcends Reality

This doesn’t happen often, but we are in fact encouraging you to be unrealistic. Because why not! Through learning to make time for artistic creation to expressing yourself and developing empathy to accepting that it’s good to have fun more often than not, leaving reality behind becomes perfectly acceptable behavior. In fact, it makes you a more desirable person to be around and therefore a more desirable person to work with. It doesn’t matter if you have been an artist for years or are just getting started, it’s OK to “go rogue” or “get wild” using your artistic abilities — the result will likely be more interesting to others.

Artistic creation is an invitation to think way outside the box. Think about how you live your life today and compare that to how you would like to live your life tomorrow. Best of all, think about what you do to earn a living compared to what you wish you could do to earn a living. These are the thoughts that make artistic creation so much fun, and they serve a valuable purpose in fostering all of those “unrealistic” ideas that most people don’t want to hear about.

For example, about two years ago I mentioned to a friend that I wanted to build a small container home where my wife and I (and at least one dog, maybe four) could work/live in a modern studio that perfectly fit our needs. You know what he said to me? “Get real.” So I decided to create a Pinterest board solely focused on this vision, and continue to complement this by writing about what this life will look like when it’s actualized. Fast forward one year and I now have all the urban planning and building information required to find out perfect plot. Not to mention detailed boards of what I want every square foot of the home to look like. I even have a list of companies willing to get started on the project — thanks Pinterest!

Case in point: artistic creation lets your mind trespass on ideas we train ourselves to think of as “off limits.” The farther into your dreams you dive the more reward you are likely to experience. So, whether you are a realist or surrealist, practicing artistic creation lets you freely transcend the two worlds without criticism. Simply put, it trains you to embrace the unexpected, a concept best described by an inspirational young man (Sef Scott) from Plano, Texas. “Remember, if you are following in someone’s footsteps, you will only get where they want to go.”

High school senior with autism, who is usually nonverbal, delivers an 'unexpected' speech

High school senior with autism, who is usually nonverbal, delivers an 'unexpected' speech that steals the show at his graduation ceremony."Do the unexpected. It is your life that you are living, not anyone else’s, so do what fulfills you." https://abcn.ws/2LQIfj4

Posted by ABC News on Thursday, June 14, 2018

Artistic creation will set you on the journey of designing the life you want. It’s an intangible tool that nobody can take from you. It has the power to uplift suppressed emotions and bring feeling to a mind that was left for numbness. By simply practicing with art you can learn to be empathetic and collaboratively share your ideas with others.

No matter the form of artistic creation you seek, the process is unlike most others — it’s fun! And possibly the most important benefit of all, actively using your creativity will provide a valid reason to be unrealistic and, just for a moment, see things the way you dream them to be. It may be just the tool you need to turn a dream into reality. Now, get designing.

 

Horse On The Loose: A Designer-Sister Duo Passionate About Equestrian

What do you get when you cross an illustrator and a graphic designer that both share a passion for all things horses? Horse on the loose, of course!

Horse on the loose is a collaboration between a sister duo who were looking for a way to share their love for everything equestrian with the world. Sister Andra happens to be a member of the Designing North team as well; we are very proud!

From shopping, to work and travel they envisioned a product that could be seen by others and instantly recognized by the larger equestrian community. Naturally they landed on the trusty tote; a bag for all purposes. But not just any tote. These bags are custom printed in Los Angeles, CA with unique illustrations representing dressage, jumping, and southwestern equestrian culture.

 Of course, there’s always more to the story than meets the eye. To go beyond the vibrant colors and flawless horse silhouettes, we asked Andra for her inspiration behind Horse on the loose, and the details that led to its launch.

Horse on the loose Story

“My sister Roxana and I started Horse on the loose at the end of last year. I live in Los Angeles, California and she lives in Transylvania, which is in the northern part of Romania. The two of us share a passion for horses and all riding disciplines. I’ve been taking dressage and jumping lessons for more than 9 years; incorporating this style into our designs was a natural progression for me.”

Horse on the loose tote bag

“I currently ride at an eventing barn called Goldspirit Farm in Los Angeles, CA. My sister has also been riding for two years now in Cluj-Napoca, Northwestern Romania. Although we are over 6,300 miles apart, we often spend holidays together and love to go horseback riding wherever our travels take us.”

“Besides having a passion for horses, we are both artists by trade. I am a graphic designer and and my sister is a painter and illustrator. Since my earliest memories, we have been drawing horses for fun, and to this day it’s still our favorite subject. With such a great distance between us, it’s comforting to know that my sister and I share the same passions and enjoy talking about art and horses whenever possible. But Horse on the loose is so much more. From two different continents, we are building a brand based on a shared interest and are able to display our talents in the process; I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Inspiration for the Designs

The inspiration for the designs originated more from a graphic design approach, rather than illustrative. The horses are very clean, edgy and stylish; we want people to recognize the designs without leaving too much room for interpretation. However, the designs cater to riders in the various disciplines, leaving room for a little personalization. These riders are a more sophisticated audience, seeking something unique that speaks to them.

“I’ve been to quite a few tack stores throughout the years and never found a tote bag that “spoke” to me. Most were either too generic looking and childish, or super high end and overpriced. I guess I simply wanted to produce a product that is affordable yet still looks great for everyday use. Secretly, I am my ideal customer — I’m an artist after all. “

Horse on the loose tote bag design

With the recent ban on single-use plastic bags, totes are more than a trend at the moment and you can take them everywhere, including the barn! But these bags give riders the opportunity to show off their hobby to the outside world as well.

How did you end up with these unique designs? And where can enthusiasts find them?

Funny enough, I was working on a wall graphic for an equestrian event management company in San Diego. I presented them with various looks, amongst them was something similar to the style we ended up using on the bags. They didn’t choose that look (my favorite of course), so I decided to use it for myself.

Horse on the loose tote bags for equestrian

Besides selling the bags through our online store, we are sending a few to some equestrian shows across the country as competition prizes.

In the future I hope to expand the line to feature more horse-riding disciplines such as racing and polo. Maybe we can put the designs on other merchandise; only time will tell! Until then, I hope you enjoy the bag designs and please share them with other horse-loving friends.

Are you an illustrator, graphic designer, or enthusiast for all things equestrian? If so, Horse on the loose would love your support!

 

 

Marketing Plan Template for Tech Startups

Early stage tech startups are primarily driven by engineers who believe in one or several of the following statements:

  • We are making the world a better place
  • We are disrupting a stagnant industry
  • We have a solution to a prevalent problem

When you are deep in the weeds of developing a new tech product it may be hard to objectively evaluate the chances of your innovation to succeed in the marketplace. I’ve spent the past four years soaking up the San Francisco startup culture. Several of my friends, classmates from Stanford GSB and former colleagues have joined or funded startups. The million dollar question: “What’s the next hot tech company?” comes up at virtually every happy hour and every dinner. Being a geek at heart and marketer by passion, I’m spending my time at the intersection of technology and business thinking about how to turn an innovative product into commercial success story. Although a universal formula for creating the next game changing company like Uber, Dropbox or Netflix does not exist, the most successful tech companies have one thing in common. They are investing as strongly in product marketing as they are in the product development.

Innovation cannot happen in the vacuum, especially not in the highly competitive markets of today. The key to surviving and thriving as a tech leader is to constantly re-win your customers’ business by delivering real value. And how do you know that your product is set up for success in the marketplace? In order to answer this question I’ve looked at a number of hottest tech startups as well as well established companies to distill the critical elements of their marketing strategies. I synthesized the results of my analysis into a sixteen steps’ marketing plan checklist. Each step is explained threefold:

  • Definition of the business term that is the theme of the discussed step
  • Example of how a successful company implemented the step
  • Insights from my work as business consultant and product marketer

“Marketing Plan Template for Tech Companies” is a framework for you to:

  • Get to know your customers and your competitors
  • Learn how to quantify your product’s value and how to communicate it
  • Define realistic business objectives and strategies to achieve them

My marketing plan template features lessons learned from  some of today’s hottest Silicon Valley companies. Let these great brands inspire your own success:
TeslaNetflixDropboxGoogleTheranosDocuSignMarketoBreatherSuseWalgreensLyftRiverbedNokiaUberCiscoTrunk Club and Salesforce.

I hope you’ll find my marketing plan useful. I look forward to your comments and suggestions!

Justyna Bak is a marketing strategist and an engineer so naturally her passion is to help fantastic tech products succeed in the marketplace. Her marketing experience ranges from mobile networks and devices at Nokia, data center and cloud at Cisco, to user experience monitoring and optimization at Riverbed Technology. Connect with Justyna on LinkedIn and check out her TechSurprises blog.

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