Archives for posts with tag: creative development

Purely in a visual sense of course. We have all read with great interest the new design shift that has taken place at Apple with its new iOS. There is an interesting dynamic to this shift in design philosophy as Apple moves from “skeuomorphic” design to a ‘new modern swiss’ design style favoured by its competitors such as Microsoft’s Windows 8.
Skeuomorphic design mimics real world objects. The phone icon on an iphone has an image of a phone that none of us have in our houses today. It reflects the ear and mouth piece of a dial phone.

Steve Jobs believed that computers should be so simple that anyone could use them. He felt that this would be achieved by an interface design where digital elements resemble real world objects. When you analyse familiar digital objects, you see that this philosophy is embedded at many levels in how we access our digital content. The envelope is the first choice for email and SMS messages. Opened and unopened envelopes create a neat distinction between opened and unopened envelopes. On an Android Samsung phone the email icons is even more archaic. It uses an envelope with a red wax seal, an 18th Century prop but with a modern @ pressed into it. It’s not just the appearance of apps and icons, some of them also behave like their old-world equivalents, the note app having a page curl…

This design philosophy is familiar and quickly accessible to everyone. Steve Jobs would approve.

The design style that Apple is now following has another interesting angle, it is the result of a seismic shift within the company, which saw the previous head of iOS, Scott Forstall, outed in favour of British born-designer Sir Jonathan Ive, who oversaw the new software.

Jan Dawson, chief telecoms analyst at Ovum, said it ‘represents a massive overhaul of the look and feel of the operating system, which has remained largely unchanged visually since the original version.’ However, he said the changes could be too much, by stating: ‘The new version is almost unrecognisable, which will make it polarizing. Some people will love that their phone feels new and different, while others will be disoriented by the newness.’

Apple has an amazing history of making objects that look and feel like nothing else. They didn’t invent the mp3 player, but what they did with it was amazing. Every product, from its packaging to other digital touch-points look like the pinnacle of design. I’m an Apple fan and I think that it’s taken them too long to realise the UI world has changed… and it wasn’t them that did it. The new Windows UI did that. Its minimal layout, flat colouring, strict typography and no unnecessary ornamentation was a complete paradigm shift for the market and makes Windows clearly distinguishable from its competitors.

Apple is now playing catch-up with its rivals. What looks like Helvetica Ultralight is an obvious choice rather than an innovative one that Microsoft achieved with Segoe. Helvetica Ultralight is generic modernist design; not Apple’s Myriad Pro, not built on Apple’s iOS past, and obviously not the herald of a new way at looking at user experiences.

It doesn’t create that distinction and have that incredible Apple touch that we all appreciate. It feels like everything else. Rather than being Apple. Has Apple lost its shine? Well, in a design sense it has. Any shines have been replaced by flat colours and opaque layers and as a trail blazer in design and innovation – I think it’s lost a little shine also. I wanted to see something different, something that made me think differently and from the screen grabs I’ve seen, I’m a little disappointed.

James Chantler is Creative Director at Happy Creative, a full service marketing and creative agency based in Blackpool, Lancashire. To learn more or contact us please go to

I was recently browsing the internet and came across a site highlighting the “Top 100 Adverts of All Time” as voted for by viewers of Channel 4 and Sunday Times Readers (

A quick look through and many were familiar but what struck me was that a large majority (and many of the top ads) featured music. This got me wondering; along with imagery and subliminal messaging, how does music actually function in advertisements? It is obviously a powerful aid as many top brands use well known musicians and artists as well as top film directors to produce their prestigious adverts.

Historically, music has been an important component in advertising. Jingles, background music, popular tunes, and classical arrangements have always been used to convey selling points, set an emotional tone for an advertisement, and to influence listener’s moods.

Many advertising practitioners and experts in the field think that music performs a variety of useful communication functions. These include attracting attention, putting the viewer in a positive mood, making them more receptive to message arguments, and even communicating meanings about advertised products.

One of the main functions of music in adverts is to make them memorable by using a really catchy melody. Early advertising in particular, used music as a sort of mnemonic device with rhyme and repetition enlisted to keep a brand name in mind. But music can also be used to entertain making an advert more appealing and attractive to the viewer. It can have several other important functions: it can emhasise dramatic moments within the advert, create coherence and support an advert’s structure and continuity (David Huron 1989).

Interestingly, music doesn’t particularly need to have a special affinity with the product or service it is being allied with, to play an effective and useful part in it’s success. The best advertising campaigns always communicate a message that is effortlessly remembered though. That tune that gets stuck in your head and will not budge is a testament to the power of music when used as a tool to enhance the spoken word.

Music can help set the mood, inspiring human emotion, thought and act. Even if you watch a foreign film (or even a partially silent movie like “The Artist”) and don’t understand what the actors are saying, through the music chosen, you can usually make out what the sentiment of the scene is.

Music has the power to evoke desirable triggers of brand recognition, for example: trust, reliability, great service, friendliness…all these can be represented by a carefully chosen piece of music that fits the emotion the advertiser wants the viewer to feel about them.
So, music can be extremely powerful when used in advertising even when we are not aware of all the hard work it’s doing. But I guess that’s the whole point isn’t it?

A couple of my favourite adverts which use music effectively are: John Lewis, Never Knowingly Undersold who used “She’s always a woman to me” by Billy Joel and Twinings Tea advert.

Twinings produced both a visually stunning advert and married this with haunting, ethereal music by Charlene Soraia, “Wherever you will go” to promote the brand.

What are your favourites?

Debbie Lewis is a Customer Support Executive at Happy Creative, a full service marketing and creative agency based in Blackpool, Lancashire. To learn more or contact us please go to

If a picture paints a thousand words, then why can’t I paint you?

Quiz nights in the local pub when I was young were often punctuated by the opening lines of the Bread hit, If. Of course it was generally only the first couple of lines that were ever played, mainly for the amusement of the older crowd to sing along to. Not quite as much a crowd participation event as Sweet Caroline, but it was certainly a pleasant interlude. By the way it was a hit in 1971 , as my dad would point out, he of the encyclopaedic pop knowledge for anything pre-1978. 1 point in the bag!

Still, the old proverb that inspired the line “a picture paints a thousand words” remains as true today as it did at any time. With the huge amount of content and knowledge easily accessible at the end of our fingertips (or on our smart devices) it seems we are exposed to the equivalent of 100 copies of ‘Crime and Punishment’ everyday…and sometimes it’s just overwhelming.

Partly this is exacerbated by the need to give our clients, customers or suppliers as much information as we can to help with their decision making. Individuals within B2B companies and consumers are making buying decisions based on the knowledge they gain from search engine sources, blogs, social media and company websites. It’s a seemingly endless task for many of us to keep on top of the additional information we need to provide day after day.

Sometimes it just makes our heads hurt. We are after all a visual species, our learning and memory is very much based on pictures. I can’t be the only one that remembers those memory challenges on Record Breakers with the late Roy Castle. Once they’d completed the challenge, the ‘secret’ of the contestants’’ success was always explained by the way they created a journey of pictures turning words, numbers or objects into a visual walkthrough. Visual representation is an inate way of learning, just look at the learning devices created for babies…A is for Apple.

With the increasing importance of social media as a primary communication channel and the challenge that this creates in getting sometimes complex messages over in few characters, Infographics have become a fabulous tool in any company’s armoury.

Never tried one? Well here’s a few tips in how to create a powerful infographic:

1. Pick a topic.
An infographic can be used for anything. We’ve created them for boots, teaching material, training tips and even a couple of birthdays. Any kind of information can be turned into a powerful infographic.

2. Create/Collate your data
Data, in whatever form is the crucial part of any infographic. Create it, collate it, however works best for you.

3. Framework your information
Before you embark on any design, you must arrange your information on the page.

4. Design
A powerful infographic design has the ability to entertain, inform and take sometimes complex information and turn it into a simple representation. The design of your infographic is the key to success.

5. Links and Distribution
Remember an infographic will need to be carefully distributed in order to be successful. Social Media, blogs, customer service and your website are all key channels. With these in mind you’ll need to ensure your infographic (whether it is a static or interactive one) includes the key links to landing pages so you can monitor successfully.

Infographics are an excellent tool for any business. Let’s face it, would you rather spend hours writing chapter and verse on classroom management techniques or would you rather produce something like this…

A picture really does paint a thousand words, even if I never did get that answer right in the pub quiz. I will now.

Simon Brooke is a Director at Happy Creative, a strategic marketing and creative branding agency based in Blackpool, Lancashire. To learn more or contact us please go to or @Happy_Creative

If this question was to be asked a decade ago the answer would have been a very simple one. When your time came, everyone you knew told you that “you HAD to get a degree. It’s the only way you’d get anywhere in life.” However in a matter of years the situation has changed dramatically.
The U.K has seen a rise in students aged 18-24 who choose not to continue their education any further. This is largely due to the rise in tuition fees, which has risen from £3000 to a maximum of £9000 per year.
Unable to afford this, most students have taken the option of going straight into employment with what little qualification they have, whilst students leaving university, who cannot find jobs related to their course, have taken part-time jobs to avoid going into debt.

So is it all worth it in the end? Did the past 3-4 years at university make any difference to your future? The question that is rarely asked is whether all the education received from university makes a difference in the world of employment. Is it possible to move up in this world without a standard degree qualification? Speaking as a designer who narrowly escaped the wrath higher tuition fees I can speak from the design side of this argument. Here is what I learned from my past 4 years as a student and what pitfalls current and future students should avoid.

Personally I feel that my own university education only helped to a certain extent. Whilst throwing money at an institution is not the answer to all of life’s problems I feel as though I expected a lot more from them (especially for the amount I had to pay over 4 years) than the limited time I would get with tutors in return. A lot of my design instinct primarily came from college education and self-interest in my area of design. A good portion of my growth came outside the classroom in libraries and online tutorials due to my own curiosity. It says a lot when services you can get for free do more to further your future than the one you pay £3000 per year for. Don’t get me wrong though, I am not saying that my university didn’t teach me anything. However I feel that they have promised me more than they could deliver. Overall the experience I got from university was great. The interaction with my peers and challenge of pushing myself to greater lengths was exciting. But speaking in terms of the quality of teaching, I wasn’t entirely satisfied. Of course this could simply be the university I went to or only my course in particular. There is no way to know now whether it could have been any different had I gone elsewhere. I think the same rings true for any course outside of design where you are left to your own devices to think more independently.

There is also the unrealistic expectation that with a university qualification you will be an expert in all areas when your education is finished. However this is entirely untrue (as myself and many other design students before me have learned). There are many skills, many advices, and a lot of information that a student cannot learn about in their three/four years regarding the fast paced world of design. Things like client expectations, the quick turnaround with some projects, tight deadlines etc. The biggest shock for me was how fast paced design studios are in comparison to the lenient two/three weeks you get on a single brief.

In the design world one of the most important factors in gaining employment is experience. This brings up the age-old contradiction. How can you get any job experience if no one hires you without any? Some ways around this include freelance work, entering design awards & competitions and work placements. These are areas you can focus on where your qualification isn’t more important than your ability to speak and work as a designer. The pitfalls of looking for a design job without degree qualifications are the level of work you find. No one expects to land the role of creative director within their first year so naturally you’ll have to start at the bottom and work your way up. It will be tough at first but ultimately it will save you spending £27,000+.

The best advice I can give is to do your research. Go to the university you want to join and ask questions. Ask as many questions as you want. Find out about your surroundings, what the living standards are like, where is the nearest superstore, how long does it take to travel from A to B. Ask current students what they think about the university. Remember, they will give the most honest answer (it’s not their job to sell the course). Never stop questioning even after you have settled on a decision. Bear in mind that if the worst of the worst comes you can leave or still complete the first year. You’ll have one bad year instead of four.

Hakim Shujaee is a Designer at Happy Creative, a full service marketing and creative agency based in Blackpool, Lancashire. To learn more or contact us please go to

When Marty McFly skateboarded onto the silver screen in 1985 to the echoes of ‘The Power of Love’ he set the bar when it came to time travel, skateboarding and Johnny B Goode.

The ability to travel back and forth in time has always excited scientists from the very early scientific thinkers to the modern day.
As business people and marketers we are dealing with a struggle everyday of how to change our future.  How we can win that new piece of business, or keep the customers we’ve worked so hard to get?

Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away (wrong film reference I know) marketers would have turned straight to their trusty leaflets and got printing and delivering.  This utopia has long since hit the manure truck, and with good reason.

Four major factors have impacted directly on this form of marketing within the last 5 years.  The first is the obviously and seemingly unstoppable rise in the prices of mail.  Last years rise in the basic price of 1st and 2nd class prices, allied to the redevelopment of the mail weight and dimensions has undoubtedly had an effect.

Second, and linked directly to the first factor is the large squeeze on marketing budgets across the board.  As the credit crunch has hit businesses, the marketing budget has taken the brunt of the cost cutting.  Return on Investment has (finally) become the buzz word from the boardroom across the country.  Expensive large mailings are out unless you can prove where every penny has benefited the business.

Third is the large backlash against ‘direct mail’ that saw huge public campaigns backed by programmes like Watchdog very vocally turning ‘direct mail’ into public enemy number one.

Now those of us within the marketing industry, and particularly those of us who class ourselves as direct marketing specialists all know that the direct mail referred to in these campaigns was really not that.  The direct mail that caused so much outrage (quite rightly) is the unsolicited mass marketing machine gun approach based on simple numbers.  With mass mailings like those, the more you sent, the bigger the number of new customers/orders/sign ups.  This was purely down to using one measure…conversion %.  Not a bad measure, but when this is the only factor you are considering you will always come back to the conclusion that the more you send the bigger your return.  For us direct mail aficionados though, unsolicited mass mailings will always remain the preserve of lazy thinkers or huge marketing budgets.

The fourth and final factor has been the rise of digital marketing, particularly the (relatively) new kids on the block email marketing and social media.  These have undoubtedly changed the landscape and if used correctly can dramatically enhance any marketing mix.  As a huge advocate of these I could go on, but what these new kids have done is create a marketing DeLorean.
The real star of the Back to the Future franchise, the DeLorean, was the vehicle that paved the way for Marty McFly to travel across the fabric of time.  In the same way, the massive leap in digital marketing over such a short period of time has allowed direct marketing to re-define its place as an exciting hoverboard of marketing opportunity.

Let me explain.  For many people, digital and email marketing in particular has replaced many of the functions that some of the larger direct mailings used to do, with added brilliance.  Through correctly executed email marketing campaigns you can see return rates, click rates, create a ‘warm’ sales database, cleanse a huge list of contact emails.

An unfortunate consequence of the rise and rise of email/digital has been to create a certain amount of ‘white noise’.  Remember when your post box was full of direct mail, some of it unsolicited and it all used to get filed…in the ‘special’ draw (ie. bin) without being read.  It is already the same for many emails/tweets/updates.  White noise filed away in the recycle bin without even being opened.

It is these factors that have opened up the 88 miles an hour required for the direct mail DeLorean to come screeching back into the future.

Well crafted, developed direct mail has always played an important role in acquisition or retention strategies, and thanks to digital marketing, its part is now becoming ever more crucial.  Well developed direct mail can have a disruptive effect, essentially breaking the ‘white noise’ created by all manner of other techniques.  After all some marketing lessons remain constant whatever the techniques employed, getting your message seen being THE most crucial step.

Getting through the gatekeeper is the big challenge for many businesses, and it is increasingly a niche that direct mail can fill.  After all, when did you last receive and email?  Minutes ago, seconds ago?  Do you remember what it was?  When was the last time you received a hand-written letter?  Or even a package?  If you’d sent that last sales email in a box in the post (with a nicely developed message) do you think it would at least have been read (rather than auto filed into the recycle bin)?  Probably!!
Obviously once you’ve got your message seen, you need to be able to create all those other psychological factors associated with any great selling tool, as well as representing your brand in the best way.  And it is these factors that distinguish great disruptive direct mail from the average leaflet.

Some ‘flashy’ talkers will talk about distruptive marketing, acquisition and retention strategies being driven by a direct mail piece.  But any direct mail piece must be crafted from a position of understanding, about what you are trying to achieve and where its place is within your branding and overall strategic plan.

Allied to the digital media that are now available to direct marketers, it turns as direct mail piece into a central pillar in any acquisition or retention campaign.  Measurement, click-throughs and most importantly ROI (return on investment) become even easier to track through the use of emails, microsites and links.  Instant sales returns are no longer dependant on timing your follow up sales calls correctly.  The new kid on the block has turned the 1985 hero into a legend in 2013, and it is why the call to go Back to the Future are rising.

But, the most thrilling thing is that according to the Back to the Future franchise we are now only 2 years away from hoverboards.  Now that is exciting!!!



Simon Brooke is a Director at Happy Creative, a strategic marketing and creative branding agency based in Blackpool, Lancashire. To learn more or contact us please go to or @Happy_Creative

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