We all want a greener, more sustainable world, yet the process of going green still seems to instil fear in some people. Good designers, on the other hand, embrace the move towards sustainability. Not only does green thinking lead to creativity and innovation, ultimately it’s good for business, which to us means happy clients.
Take annual reports, for instance, which are both a legal requirement and an eco-nightmare. After all the work, money, paper and ink that go into printing them (not to mention all the printing of proof copies prior to the actual print run), they mostly end up in the bin. They have served nobody – neither client nor recipient nor environment. Continue Reading →
For a long time we did too. We know how long they take to create, how much effort goes into making sure every page is perfectly designed, every figure excruciatingly accurate and exactly how many rands it costs to produce. But we’ve never really known who actually engages with them.
That is, until we focused our publishing, brand and digital expertise towards the reinvention of the good old annual report from an old bogey printed item, to an online, mobile-friendly experience. Continue Reading →
A phrase thrown around quite commonly when discussing websites, “responsiveness” has come to denote a website or application’s ability to adjust to various devices. For the most part, this translates to a website that scales to different effect with different devices and/or screen sizes.
But is the type of device that you use the only thing that should be determining your web experience? In an article published by Fast Company, titled the Future of Responsive Design, various other considerations are put forward as possible triggers for responsiveness. These include your current location, previous articles or pages that you have viewed, the time of day, the weather, and just about anything else that you can think of. But what do we utilize when designing a unique online experience? What matters to someone when they are browsing the web?
The most common, and admittedly fairly poor, example of this kind of responsiveness, in terms of catering to “individuality”, can be seen with online advertising. The ads that you see on your Facebook feed are specifically targeted at you. A machine somewhere latches on to a scrap of information about you, and suddenly, “oh, you’re a woman! I know! You must want to sell your eggs, right?” No.
For your entertainment, see some equally bad examples of “responsive” advertising below.
A better example of content responsiveness would be social media sites that cater almost specifically for the individual. You essentially create your own Facebook feed, by deciding who you are friends with, which pages you like, how much information you reveal, etc.
However much you choose to engage with content on a site like Facebook, one thing remains clear: the use of web page templates has become an industry standard. No matter how different your brand, product, or band is, each page looks exactly the same. Besides for the 80×80 pixel profile picture and the newer cover photo, your page looks just like everyone else’s.
So how do we strike a balance between content and viewer?
At the end of the day, good design is good communication. If your layout can adjust to the type of content you’re presenting, it will be more effective in communicating. You cannot expect a design to be as effective as it possibly could be when it hasn’t been considered in itself, but rather as an extension of the great big creature simply known as “your website”. A photo essay is not the same as an article about dog costumes, yet because of the nature of their content, you may find that similar elements become important to the viewer. Images, for example, would probably be the most important element of each article. Any other information is secondary, because all initial impressions rely on the imagery.
Doubtless, incorporating these considerations into your design requires time, effort, and money, three notoriously elusive commodities. So what do we do, as a small South African agency without access to a lot of first world tools?
We sit and carefully consider user experience, content hierarchies, and what it means to effectively communicate. Being in situations where technology or limited resources discourage you from your goal, while challenging and frustrating, also forces you to focus on the most essential aspects. What is the key message? What is the easiest, most effective way of communicating that message? How does that message change depending on who is receiving it?
At the end of the day, we often have to make due with what we have. Although the future of responsiveness as proposed in the original article seems like something that should be fairly obvious, implementing such ideas is often a far-off reality for the majority of the world. It then comes back to the designers and other creative problem solvers to break the mold of what we think we can do, providing solutions instead of problems.
By Mea Jordaan
The question “Are you for – or against – flipbook magazines and why?” appeared in a publishing forum recently, prompting the desire to shed some light on how we at Infestation view publishing for, and in, the digital stratosphere.
There were well over 160 responses to the question, each person passionately adding their opinions to the ongoing debate – with many in support of the technology. In their favour, flipbooks were at one time the only easily-accessible technology for someone wanting to publish online. To date, many still believe this technology to be a viable option, since the possibilities that rich media adds to enhance the reading experience, is a definite plus.
The other reason for the fierce debate though, is that skeuomorphism is one of the last old -school vestiges lurking in the online wings.
The desire to emulate what we can touch, hold and smell in real life, still seems to exist in online publications, even though we’ve left it behind on most other platforms. This can possibly be put down to the fact that the reading needs of Boomers and Millenials have somehow smashed together to form an uneasy alliance, and while the Millenial still can’t figure out the fuss about print being redundant, the Boomers can’t envisage a world without it. So we hang onto ornamental design cues that were necessary in the original, but refuse to acknowledge that these structures are no longer needed. The cheesy sound of the page turning as we click to ‘flip’ the online page is a classic example of this redundancy.
People want flipbooks because it resembles the familiar. The fact that the mechanism doesn’t work that well on all mobile devices and browsers, gets overlooked. Ever tried reading a flipbook on your phone? After 30 seconds you will tire of waiting for content to load. You will also get horribly lost on the page while you frantically scroll around looking for where you left off at the bottom of the last column. And yes, for a user’s online experience, columns fall under the category heading ‘relic’ – useful in print, but not great on a mobile phone.
Not only is the user experience generally quite poor in Flipbooks, but search engine optimization is also difficult because most are still Flash or image-based at the core. Long-tail search results are harder to attain because, in most cases, not all text is available to search engines.
So where should digital publishing be focusing its efforts?
In truth, we need to first be asking WHAT needs to be communicated to WHOM, and only then figuring out the best mechanism or platform to do so. In other words, the medium is only a means to an end – whether this be a custom-designed white label app for enticing a tourist to engage with your business, a content-managed WordPress newsletter to keep your staff informed of the company’s activities, or an EPub aimed at selling a recipe book on Amazon. Each case warrants a tailored approach when publishing for an online environment, to ensure a greater user experience.
What’s all the fuss about producing publications that are optimised for mobile devices?
There are now three times as many mobile phones in the world as there are computers, and 66% of people get their news on mobile devices. Readz notes that 112.5 million adults in the US are expected to own a tablet in the year 2016. The tablet is a lean-back device: something you use when you have spare time and are relaxed, and is best for longer-form journalism. A recent Pew study showed that 73% of tablet owners read in-depth articles at least sometimes, including 19% who do so daily. The Association of Magazine Media also found that users with both mobile and tablet access, spend 23% of their time reading magazines on their phones. With tablets, that number is more than three times this, at 75%!
While mobile phones are for snack reading of brief articles in short sessions (like when you’re on the bus), mobile phones are increasingly a gateway to long-form articles. It is ironic then that in a recent survey in the US and UK, 60% of respondents felt that nothing could be done to make them read more often on their phones, with many saying a poor user experience as the reason.
So while rich media and cross-platform accessibility are two very important factors in the future of publishing, user experience should be the number one priority with those wishing to get content to market, and in turn, getting the market to engage and respond to it.
No wonder then that Flipbooks lost the original market share they gained – they simply stopped innovating the user experience.
Subscription-based digital magazines that are truly successful, are those getting the balance right not only in terms of publishing best-practice (content marketing, discoverability, successful advertising sales and hard-working subscriptions bases) but also focusing strategically on what is experienced by the user when they are reading, and how they absorb content in real time.
What we really should be doing, is taking a long hard look at the specific mix needed for each individual publication in order for it to successfully serve its niche in the market, and then figure out the technology needed to create it.
As a Cape Town design agency passionate about the Mother City and the design that is not only part of its heritage, but also part of its everyday fabric of life, it would have been remiss of us as an agency not to put forward a project during the World Design Capital 2014 Call for Entries, which not only celebrates design, but also showcases how design can play an integral part in the various ways we engage in the social environment. Below are two shortlisted projects that have made their way out of Infestation and soon, onto the world stage:
THE OFFICIAL CAPE TOWN DESIGN GUIDE
It’s easy to say design is everywhere, but for the visitors coming to Cape Town next year – and even the locals – it isn’t always easy to find design, particularly across the sprawling beauty of the Mother City. Based on the vision of an economically enabled design community and on the London Design Guide, The Cape Town Design Guide uses the principle of one city, one map and multiple routes. Accessible by web or app, the portal’s detailed, site-specific information allows users to map their way around WDC2014, connecting them to designers, events, venues, studios and the wider design community.
“With next year being WDC2014, there will be a lot of attention from visitors and media coming to Cape Town,” says Infestation’s MD, Christo Maritz. “We’re hoping the official Cape Town Design Guide portal will connect visitors to experience design by finding design to see, to do and to buy, and ultimately experience Cape Town from the perspective of the people who know Cape Town best.”
CLEAR DATA SCIENCE VISUALISATION
If you’ve ever wondered what it would look like to map out the millions of conversations people are having on Twitter around one specific mention, wait no more. Clear, a group made up of Nix Harwood, Mark Wilson and Ben Hartt, have managed to put the words to pictures and show the real picture behind our massive global community. They will be sharing, through data visualisation, quantitative and qualitative information, the online conversation surrounding WDC2014 amongst those engaged in the various events and those looking in.
“What’s great about visualisations is that they can be viewed in real time and you can access them on any device with a web browser – no special apps are necessary,” explains Clear co-founder Nix Harwood, who is also an Infestation brand designer. “We propose that WDC could use our project to show the sentiment of the social media commentary on how design is transforming lives during the year of 2014.”
For more information on both the official Cape Town Design Guide and Clear Data Science Visualisation, as well as other WDC2014 projects, visit World Design Capital 2014
(Or in other words, what exactly is Digital Publishing?)
Without trying to unpack an answer to this question by applying mathematics , consider that the string would be as long as it is, from where it started, to where it ended. Or you could say it is twice as long as half its length. Whichever way you looked at it, this riddle still seems largely unquantifiable, right?
This sort of grappling with a string that has no end, is much akin to our quest in early 2012 to get a handle on Digital Publishing – the deeper you seem to dig, the more answers there seem to be – you just need to know which one to pick.
It is largely accepted that the term ‘digital’ is associated with the intangible, the untouchable, the changeable, whilst the association with ‘publishing’ is of something having mass and matter, a physical product that occupies space.
How then, you might wonder, did the phrase ‘Digital Publishing’ become such an oxymoron?
Not only is the acquisition of knowledge in this area a bit like floating a paper boat on the Vaal Dam, more pertinently, there is a veritable rabbit hole of information you will fall through, trying to do just that. By scrabbling through our own Warren, we began to uncover the issues in more detail, so that some of the deep magic behind it, has become understandable, quantifiable and useful for all.
Digital Publishing demystified, if you will.
Watch this space for a series of posts dedicated to Digital Publishing, where we will start to unpack the pivotal issues with you.
This episode of trying to debunk digital printing is the first of an Infestation series. Please feel free to add your perspectives, give feedback or ask any questions relating to this topic.
By Sam Bainbridge
How far we have come from the days when you couldn’t speak to someone if they weren’t at their desk near their phone? Remember when you had to make a mental note, or write on your hand to remember something when next you were at your computer?
As far as convenience goes, most of us are lucky enough to carry the world in our pocket via our smartphones. Information at the touch of a button couldn’t get any easier, could it?
Well, it just has.
You know that moment when you’re driving and you see the most amazing sunset and you wish you could share it with your friend living in the UK?
What you would do is (hopefully stop your car first) grab your smartphone, snap the sunset, open an app, type a message, insert your friend’s number and then send it.
Now, with Google’s latest amazing invention, Google Glass, you can just speak, and without having to pick up a phone or push a button your friend can see exactly what you are seeing, in real time.
In essence, your smartphone is turned into a pair of glasses which overlays information onto what you ‘see’, and seamlessly integrates voice control into the process. You can find out anything, any time by simply asking your Google Glass. You can share moments with friends and family as they happen, real time.