August 21st, 2023 by Helen Webber
July 20th, 2023 by Helen Webber
Future Positive works with the world’s problem solvers, helping to make the complex more compelling. We help them communicate their value in ways that their current and future customers find understandable, valuable and engaging. Our Future Five series collects insights and advice for B2B businesses to embrace and realise their potential. In this edition, we focus on collaborative creativity.
Omaid Hiwaizi – Planning and Development Director
In the dynamic world of B2B businesses, the ability to innovate and think creatively is a key driver of success. Embracing collaborative creativity as part of your culture and business processes can lead to groundbreaking solutions, enhanced customer experiences, and a competitive edge. Creativity also plays a crucial role in unlocking complexity within your organisation, paving the way for streamlined operations and efficient processes. We’ve collected some examples of creative processes, some of which you may already use, and some which you might consider:
- Embrace Cross-Functional Brainstorming:
B2B companies face complex challenges that require innovative solutions. Embracing cross-functional collaboration is a powerful creative idea that can unlock the full potential of your organisation. By bringing together diverse perspectives and expertise from different departments, you create a fertile ground for innovative thinking and problem-solving. This creative approach not only fosters a sense of unity within your company but also enables you to tackle complexities that may have been otherwise elusive.
With cross-functional collaboration, you break down silos and encourage open communication among teams. As each team member brings their unique insights to the table, the collective brainpower becomes a driving force for transformational ideas. This creative technique sparks synergy, encouraging individuals to think beyond their immediate domain and explore possibilities that may have been overlooked in a more isolated environment. You can do this by:
- Regularly hosting cross-functional brainstorming sessions.
- Encouraging open communication and active participation from all team members.
- Fostering a supportive environment where diverse perspectives are valued.
For example IBM, a global technology giant, adopted cross-functional collaboration through their “Design Thinking” approach. By bringing together experts from various domains, IBM developed Watson, an AI platform that has revolutionised the healthcare industry by providing personalised treatment plans based on a patient’s unique genetic profile. This collaborative effort enabled IBM to unlock complexity in processing vast amounts of medical data, leading to a groundbreaking solution that benefits both patients and healthcare providers.
- Enable a Culture of Experimentation:
Innovation often thrives in an environment that encourages experimentation and embraces the idea that failures are stepping stones to success. Fostering a culture of experimentation is a creative approach that empowers many companies to take calculated risks, explore uncharted territories, and uncover hidden complexities in their operations. By fostering a culture that celebrates trying new ideas and where learning from failures is encouraged, you create a powerful engine for creative problem-solving and continuous improvement.
In a culture of experimentation, your people are inspired to think outside the box and challenge the status quo. They become more receptive to exploring new possibilities and pushing the boundaries of what’s possible. Fear of failure is replaced with a growth mindset, where each setback becomes an opportunity to learn and evolve. Why not try:
- Creating dedicated spaces or time for employees to experiment with new ideas and technologies.
- Implementing pilot projects to test new concepts on a smaller scale.
- Encouraging post-project analyses to retrospectively identify learnings and apply them in future endeavours.
A great example is Google’s parent company, Alphabet, which exemplifies a culture of experimentation through its “X” division. By embracing failures as learning opportunities, X has developed numerous groundbreaking projects, including Project Loon, providing internet access via high-altitude balloons, and Waymo, an autonomous vehicle technology company. These ambitious projects involve solving complex technical challenges, and the culture of experimentation has been pivotal in unlocking new possibilities and driving technological advancements.
- Focus Creativity on the Customer:
The heart of any successful business lies in understanding and meeting the needs of its customers. Customer-centred creativity is a powerful concept that puts clients at the core of your innovation efforts. This enables you to uncover complexities in your clients’ operations and design solutions that address specific pain points and challenges.
A customer-centric approach prioritises the discovery of customer insights, as clients’ needs and drivers reveal valuable perspectives that inspire creative problem-solving. By being open to feedback and actively involving customers in the product development process, you’re making sure that your solutions are tailored to meet their evolving needs. Ways to do this include:
- Conducting customer journey mapping to understand clients’ experiences and pain points.
- Actively seeking feedback from B2B clients through surveys, interviews, and focus groups.
- Co-creating with customers by involving them in the product development process.
HubSpot, a B2B marketing software company, places a strong emphasis on customer feedback and insights. Through ongoing customer surveys and interviews, HubSpot continuously enhances its products, ensuring they meet the evolving needs of B2B clients. By creatively addressing their clients’ marketing challenges and aligning their software to customers’ workflows, HubSpot unlocks complexities in the marketing landscape, driving success for businesses of all sizes.
- Actively Collaborate with External Partners:
In the interconnected B2B world, collaborative innovation with external partners can be a game-changer. By working creatively with third parties, you open doors to fresh perspectives and breakthrough ideas that can unlock complexities in supply chains, technology, and market access.
Collaborating with partners allows you to leverage complementary expertise and resources, accelerating your innovation journey. By pooling together knowledge and skills from different organisations, you can tackle complex challenges that may be beyond the scope of a single entity. You can do this by:
- Cultivating close strategic partnerships that align with your business objectives.
- Collaborating on joint R&D projects to explore innovative solutions.
- Leveraging complementary expertise to unlock complex market opportunities.
A great example of collaborative partnership is that between global technology and engineering company Siemens, and leading aircraft manufacturer, Airbus, to develop an innovative manufacturing process for lightweight aircraft components. By creatively combining Siemens’ expertise in additive manufacturing and digital twin technology with Airbus’ knowledge of aerospace engineering, they unlocked complexities in material selection, production efficiency, and quality control. The partnership resulted in complex 3D-printed parts using advanced materials, leading to lighter yet robust components for Airbus aircraft. This breakthrough allowed for improved fuel efficiency and environmental sustainability, showcasing the power of B2B collaboration in driving innovation and overcoming industry challenges.
- Cultivate a Growth Mindset for Continuous Improvement:
Encouraging a growth mindset within your company will foster adaptability, resilience, and creative problem-solving. By cultivating a culture where employees embrace challenges, view failures as opportunities for growth, and seek continuous improvement, you unlock complexities in your operations and drive innovation.
A growth mindset encourages employees to take ownership of their learning and development, empowering them to explore creative solutions to complex problems. This creative technique creates a positive and forward-thinking organisational culture that celebrates progress and values effort over immediate results. This is achieved through:
- Encouraging continuous learning and professional development opportunities for employees.
- Recognising and celebrating employees’ efforts and resilience.
- Setting stretch goals that challenge employees to explore creative solutions.
Case Study: Microsoft’s transformation from a software-focused company to a cloud-based services provider was fueled by a growth mindset. By empowering employees to learn and adapt to new technologies, Microsoft successfully transitioned to a cloud-first business model, attracting numerous B2B clients to its Azure platform. The growth mindset within Microsoft unlocked complexities in cloud computing and positioned them as a leader in the tech industry.
Creativity is a vital (and often overlooked) catalyst for B2B business success, regardless of industry or size. Embracing cross-functional collaboration, enabling a culture of experimentation, focusing on the customer, actively collaborating with partners, and cultivating a growth mindset for continuous improvement are essential elements for harnessing creativity. By integrating creativity into your culture and business processes your organisation can stay ahead in a competitive landscape and thrive in an ever-changing business environment.
Future Positive works with the world’s problem solvers, helping them communicate their value in ways that their current and future customers will find more understandable, valuable and engaging. If you’d like to collaborate creatively with our small but highly experienced team to help unlock your next technical brand or marketing challenge then do get in touch. From microbiology to new energy, we’ve spent decades making the complex more compelling for companies the world over.
June 17th, 2022 by Helen Webber
Our Future Five series collects insights and advice for B2B businesses to embrace and realise their potential. In this edition, we focus on AI.
Omaid Hiwaizi – Planning and Development Director
In today’s rapidly evolving business landscape, harnessing the power of AI has become increasingly crucial for B2B businesses seeking to stay competitive and drive growth.
In fact, according to Gartner, 85% of B2B leaders believe AI is crucial for future success1, with 79% already implementing it. AI adoption in B2B brings substantial benefits, including increased efficiency and productivity. Accenture’s study shows a 40% cost reduction and 60% productivity boost2. McKinsey reports a 50% improvement in decision accuracy through AI-driven analytics3. AI streamlines processes, automates tasks, and enhances customer service. Juniper Research found a 70% improvement in response times with AI chatbots and a 95% reduction in manual errors for improved efficiency4.
However, many businesses shy away from taking steps in this direction, concerned about the technical complexity and potential operational risk in trying new ways of operating. We think every business should at least consider the opportunities available to them, so we’ve collected some examples around key business areas for you to consider:
Following we outline five key AI applications for B2B businesses and the platforms which can simply be deployed – many without the requirement for deep technology integrations.
- Customer Support and Chatbots:
It’s never been more important for businesses to provide efficient and personalised customer support. Perhaps the least complex of AI solutions to implement, AI-powered chatbots require training to give customers helpful guidance. However, this is an iterative process, and businesses can implement the software quickly to deal with basic queries, then expand their remit. Platforms including Tars, Acquire, and Chatfuel automate responses, handle customer queries, and offer personalised recommendations, focusing human intervention where it’s most valuable and improving response times. Whether it’s resolving issues or offering product suggestions, AI chatbots enhance the customer experience while minimising support costs.
- Tars (https://hellotars.com/) – AI-powered chatbot platform for customer support, automating responses and enhancing customer experience.
- Acquire (https://acquire.io/) – Customer support platform with AI chatbots to handle queries, personalize recommendations, and improve response times.
- Chatfuel (https://chatfuel.com/) – AI-powered chatbot builder for creating conversational experiences and automating customer interactions.
- Sales and Lead Generation:
Every business needs to generate quality leads and optimise the sales process – and there is an established field of lead management solutions out there that many companies use. Integrating these platforms into the business operation however can be complex – due to data integration issues but also the opportunity (or challenge!) to rethink how marketing and business development work together. Embracing an AI-enabled platform could maximise the benefit of machine learning to analyse large datasets and identify high-value leads, predict buying intent, and recommend personalised outreach strategies. AI platforms such as Node, Lusha, and Seamless.AI excel in this domain. By harnessing these platforms, you can streamline your sales efforts, boost conversion rates, and optimise your lead generation strategies.
- Node (https://www.node.io/) – AI-driven sales and lead generation platform that identifies high-value leads and predicts buying intent.
- Lusha (https://www.lusha.com/) – Sales platform leveraging AI to find contact information and enrich lead data for effective outreach.
- Seamless.AI (https://www.seamless.ai/) – AI-powered lead generation platform that provides accurate contact data and helps optimise sales outreach.
- Marketing & Personalisation
Successful marketing is the right mix of efficient reach with accurate and personalised targeting. While it can be simpler to focus on reach, and complex to focus targeting and messaging, incorporating AI-driven marketing automation platforms like Blueshift, Emarsys, and Segment offer the best of both. They incorporate machine learning algorithms to analyse customer data, behaviour, and preferences, enabling B2B companies to deliver targeted and tailored marketing campaigns across multiple channels. By providing relevant content and personalised offers, you can use these platforms to enhance customer engagement, increase conversions, and drive revenue growth.
- Blueshift (https://blueshift.com/) – AI-driven marketing automation platform for personalised marketing campaigns across multiple channels.
- Emarsys (https://www.emarsys.com/) – AI-based marketing automation platform enabling businesses to deliver personalised experiences and optimise customer engagement.
- Segment (https://segment.com/) – Customer data platform that utilises AI to analyse and activate customer data for personalised marketing campaigns.
- Supply Chain Optimisation:
For businesses that produce physical products, efficient supply chain management is critical – particularly across borders and in scenarios where components are sourced from multiple manufacturers. There are a number of well-known solutions that require significant financial and technological commitment – complex to implement and manage. A simpler way to progress on the supply chain optimisation journey is to implement AI and machine learning platforms that predict demand patterns, optimise inventory levels, and provide real-time visibility into shipment tracking and logistics – including ClearMetal, Locus and LigiNext. By harnessing these technologies, you can enhance supply chain efficiency, reduce costs, and ensure timely delivery, ultimately improving customer satisfaction.
- ClearMetal (https://www.clearmetal.com/) – AI-powered platform for optimising supply chain operations, predicting demand, and providing shipment tracking visibility.
- Locus (https://www.locus.sh/) – AI-driven supply chain optimization platform offering intelligent route planning, fleet optimization, and real-time logistics visibility.
- LogiNext (https://www.loginextsolutions.com/) – AI-powered platform optimising supply chain operations, providing last-mile delivery optimization, and real-time tracking capabilities.
- Financial Fraud Detection:
In our digital world it’s critical for every business to focus efforts to protect financial transactions and customer data. Navigating this complex scenario can be made simpler using platforms that use machine learning to analyse vast amounts of transactional data and identify tell-tale anomalies that can indicate potential fraud – including Simility, Forter, and Feedzai. These platforms provide real-time monitoring, fraud prevention, and authentication solutions, enabling you to safeguard operations, prevent financial losses, and maintain trust with your customers.
- Simility (https://www.simility.com/) – AI-driven fraud detection and prevention platform offering real-time monitoring and authentication solutions to safeguard financial transactions.
- Forter (https://www.forter.com/) – AI-powered fraud prevention platform providing real-time monitoring and protection against fraudulent activities in financial transactions.
- Feedzai (https://feedzai.com/) – AI-based fraud detection platform leveraging machine learning to identify anomalies and prevent fraudulent behaviour in financial transactions.
Future Positive works with the world’s problem solvers, helping to make the complex more compelling. We help them communicate their value in ways that their current and future customers will find more understandable, valuable and engaging. If you’d like the benefit of our small but highly experienced team to help unlock your next technical brand or marketing challenge then do get in touch. From microbiology to new energy, we’ve spent decades making the complex more compelling for companies the world over.
January 5th, 2022 by Helen Webber
Nature is all around us. The air we breathe, the grass we walk on, the (endless) rain that falls from the sky. Hardly surprising then that its power, strength, shapes and hues provide equally endless inspiration to artists, designers and creative thinkers the world over. Close your eyes for a moment and picture a car – notice how animalistic that front grill is? Ever seen a staircase that looks like the inside of a shell? A stadium, cut not unlike an oversized bird nest? Or, ahem, a personal favourite – that chocolate bar designed to look ever so much like a mountain..?
As the sweet spot where engineering, chemistry and biology collide, biomimetics takes things one step further towards the incredible – through the synthesis of systems and materials to mimic the natural world. Imagine finding a natural alternative to plastic via the genomes of sea creatures; or how the kingfisher’s beak inspired Japan’s famous Bullet Train. And then of course there’s the direct harnessing of nature – the way that gusts of wind, sunshine, tide movements and river flow are all transformed into renewable energy.
Over the past year or so Future Positive has been working with clients in this inspirational field – companies making a difference with initiatives like geothermal energy, clean hydrogen production and sustainable lithium mining. And for me, nature has been a key source of launch and return when ideating logos, branding and end-to-end concepts.
For one client that’s pioneering sustainable, lower-impact lithium production, (a much-maligned material which is pivotal to decarbonisation through its use in electric vehicle batteries), we looked to the colours of natural settings where lithium is found – verdant green plains, lakes and arid desert – from which to draw a colour palette that went on to play out across architecture, staff clothing and stationery. To accent this an impressive mirrored sculpture of our proposed logo created a dramatic contrast by simultaneously reflecting its surroundings. These complementary factors allowed lithium production sites to blend harmoniously into their environments, appear almost hidden (unlike mines and evaporation ponds), but still retain an element of the wow factor. In my mind the result is not unlike a top-secret base worthy of any James Bond villain.
Another client produces underwater LiDAR technology which inhabits the deep blue, and offers precision capture of details on the seabed, as well as the chance to document shipwrecks and long-flooded ancient ruins. We looked at underwater sea-life for inspiration with the logo, specifically the humble jellyfish with its smooth dome shape, trailing tentacles and directional movement.
We also wanted to create a feeling of synergy between the company and its underwater workplace, so we called on a colour palette based on the ocean depths; from the froth of the surface to the dark blues of the deep. Even without thinking, we use circles when showcasing the colour palettes, the most natural form there is.
The conceptual roll-out of this project nods to nature, while respecting the environment that the client works in, which feels like a responsible approach for a company working so closely alongside Mother Earth.
So, the synergy of nature, technology and design continues to be ever-present in Future Positive’s work, particularly as we continue to collaborate with clients that are pushing the boundaries of science in harmony with the natural world. My research constantly reminds me what a precious resource our natural world is, and how, as a species we still have so much to learn from, and be inspired by.
So as you go about your business today, just take a moment to notice just how much nature has inspired some of your favourite products, packaging, transport and, if you’re anything like me, chocolate bars, too.
December 1st, 2021 by Helen Webber
Over the last few weeks I’ve been slowly making my way through The Beatles: Get Back, Peter Jackson’s epic 7-hour Disney+ documentary, made from 60 hours of beautifully restored, fly-on-the-wall footage originally shot in 1969.
Regardless of whether you’re a fan of the music – and putting the drama, politics and social history aside – it offers an unparalleled immersive window into the creative process of one of the world’s most successful bands as they write, rehearse and record new material.
While there’s a lot to take in, here are eight key points about creativity that were reaffirmed for me by the film.
1 Get the environment right
Don’t be afraid to go somewhere else entirely if the creativity isn’t flowing. Get Back begins with The Beatles working on initial ideas on a huge set they rented in Twickenham Studios since the original intention was to perform new songs there as part of a TV special. However, it’s clear after a while that the space just isn’t working (Ringo later refers to it as “too big”) and so partway through filming the whole production relocates to Apple Music HQ in London’s Saville Row. Here the group immediately seem more comfortable making music. Never underestimate the importance of place in what you produce.
2 Find a way to document ideas
There’s one sequence* during the seven-odd hours of footage where Lennon and McCartney get into a tangle over the correct order of parts in a new song; finally agreeing things would be easier if they wrote it all down. It may hark back to the duo’s early songwriting days when they didn’t write things down on purpose: the thinking was that if they couldn’t remember a new song the next day then it wasn’t memorable enough to be a hit. But what you do notice is that as soon as they begin recording songs onto tape at Apple and listening back to them, they get a more concrete sense of what they’ve created, what’s working and what isn’t. Finding a way to document ideas or record creative progress – whatever form it takes – makes it much easier to improve.
*Ironically I can’t recall which song this was as I didn’t write it down myself…
3 Everyone feels intimidated sometimes
A period of success can result in creative egos that get in the way, so it’s reassuring to hear a multi-million-selling group talk about other musicians they consider more talented than they are, as well as bands of the time with better songs than theirs. At one point Peter Sellers turns up (working on a movie project with Ringo), and the members of the biggest band on the planet don’t seem to know how to connect with a fellow celeb; leaving him to awkwardly wander off after a while. My take home was that even those considered at the very top of their creative game are subject to the same insecurities as everyone else.
4 Make room for the mundane
In today’s era of on-demand global entertainment choices it’s easy to forget that, here in the UK, the collective evenings of the nation were once shaped by the schedule of just three television channels. And the Fab Four were no exception. For all their superstar friends and party invitations, we still hear them come into their workplace in the morning and discuss what was on TV the night before. “Did you see that sci-fi on BBC 2 last night?” asks George before going into a lengthy description of the plot. But in the ordinary they still find inspiration to create the exceptional: Harrison arrives one day with the beginnings of a song called I, Me, Mine with a melody inspired by the incidental music from a film he’d watched the previous evening, played by an Austrian brass band.
5 Know when to stop
Tempting as it can be to smash through a project, especially when you’re on a roll or, more often than not, up against a serious deadline, it’s just as important to take time out. Yes, a break can be about tired people having a rest, but there’s also the need for creative types to ‘refill the well’ with other activities and time away. Even when faced with a seemingly impossible live performance deadline the band draw a line at working every day of the week. By insisting “I’m happy to work Saturday but not Sunday too; you need at least one day” McCartney is protecting his bandmates and the quality of their music.
6 But also, never stop
We see McCartney playing the same basic riff over and over again while Ringo listens and yawns. Other parts are added as it’s revisited during the sessions and the riff magically grows into the title track Get Back. As well as illustrating McCartney’s work ethic, it’s fascinating to see one of The Beatles’ creative techniques firsthand: rather than waiting for the right lyrics to magically appear, fully formed, or halting the process they preserve momentum by singing headlines from the newspapers lying around or even gibberish. At another point Lennon helpfully suggests to a stuck Harrison “just sing cauliflower”.
7 Take time to play
For many years 1969 was seen as a fractious period in Beatles history that led to their demise, but Peter Jackson’s cut reveals a lighter side to events. Even among the boredom, obvious frustrations and, at one point, Harrison actually quitting the band, there is evidence of much fun being had. Whether it’s singing entire songs in comedy voices, Lennon’s quips or McCartney’s young daughter imitating Yoko Ono screaming into a mic, the ability to laugh together remains a critical part of being in any creative team.
8 Let things evolve
Uncertainty is ok and you may end up in a completely different place than you envisaged. The early song idea we hear Lennon strumming in the sessions with the lyrics ‘On the road to Marrakesh’ eventually becomes Jealous Guy from his 1971 solo album Imagine. Even the filming itself originally began with the intention of creating a TV special and concert before it evolved into a documentary film and rooftop concert. And while you choose where to stop, nothing creative is ever truly ‘finished’, as Harrison says about the Beatles songs – when we play them live, we change them…
Of course, everyone will take something different from finding the time to watch Get Back. At the very least you’ll gain a new perspective on the music that these people, still in their twenties, created over 50 years ago and how, when they really needed to, they came together.
To see the part that creativity plays in every Future Positive project you can access our 3-step approach here.
Image generated using artificial intelligence at Wombo.Art using ‘The Beatles and Creativity’ as a prompt
October 8th, 2021 by Helen Webber
Tired of the same old seasonal soundtrack? At Future Positive we’ve chosen some alternative Christmas music playlists compiled by Spotify users. From Brass Band to Bossa Nova — our gift to you is a range of styles to freshen up your festive listening.
DAY 24: Trap (NSFW) – If your Christmas is all about the bling then this selection of remixes and reworkings should be right up your street
DAY 23: Tijuana – Can anyone else hear trumpets? This playlist adds a decidedly-kitsch sound to your musical mix that’s as 70s as a polyester space hopper
DAY 22: Reggae – Let the sunshine of Jamaica warm those chilly December days, as the Rastafarian red, gold and green replaces gold, frankincense and mer..mur..er, the other one…
DAY 21: Punk (NSFW) – Feed your inner rebel by pogoing around to these spiky seasonal numbers. And remember, it’s not everyone that can pull off accessorizing with safety pins.
DAY 20: Peaceful Piano – If you’ve ever wanted to have your own private pianist then this playlist is just for you. Now sit back and sip a sherry as they tinkle their ivories enthusiastically in the background
DAY 19: Orchestral – Christmas gatherings can be a tight squeeze at the best of times, without having to find space for a tuba player. Thankfully the whole symphony orchestra comes packed into this seasonal playlist
DAY 18: Metal – If you prefer your Jingle Bell Rock with an extra portion of rock, how about a little Twisted Sister with your turkey? Just make sure you turn your speakers up to 11
DAY 17: Lo-Fi – In contrast to the standard fare of polished Christmas pop songs, this playlist serves up a selection of crackly, slightly wonky and more laid-back tracks
DAY 16: LGBTQ+ – This Christmas why not invite everyone along to celebrate their individuality under one giant rainbow banner of awesomeness? We’ll bring nibbles…Click for your fabulous festive LGBTQ+ playlist.
DAY 15: K-Pop – Proof that you can Christmas-ify just about any music with a sprinkling of sleigh bells and chimes – it’s a tried and tested festive formula. Click this link of a K-Pop playlist of seasonal songs.
DAY 14: Funk – Keep the central heating switched off this Christmas. Instead invite James Brown and his Famous Flames around – they’re scientifically proven to keep things toasty. Here’s your Funk Christmas playlist.
DAY 13: Elvis – Aside from the three kings of the Christmas story, for some there will only ever be one true king: Mr Elvis Aaron Presley, the King of Rock and Roll – click to open today’s Graceland-laced Spotify playlist
Day 12: EDM – Who said the festive season has to be a sedate affair? Try some banging beats to add a club vibe to your Christmas festivities – start listening to your Electronic Dance Music playlist here
Day 11: Dubstep – It’s often said that Christmas just isn’t Christmas until PhatCat drops their Trap Remix of Sleigh Bells. Click to hear your Dubstep Christmas playlist
Day 10: Crooner – Clear a space around the Christmas tree and stand well back: it’s time for these cats to start swinging! Enjoy your Crooner Christmas playlist at this link
Day 9: Cosy Jazz – Switch off your mobile as you settle gently down onto a mince pie the size of a beanbag, accompanied by a dollop of the smoothest jazz… click to open your Spotify cosy jazz playlist
Day 8: Country – Swap the Nativity for Nashville and suddenly the holiday season becomes a line-dancing, six-string-strumming extravaganza… here‘s your Country Christmas playlist
Day 7: Chip Tune – A seasonal salute to the original 8-bit generation and anyone that’s ever had to wait an hour for home computer games to load from a tape deck…your chip tune Christmas playlist is here
Day 6: Celtic – Imagine the sedate ‘I Saw Three Ships’ reimagined as a foot-stomping, fiddle-driven jig, and you begin to appreciate the unique character of your Celtic-style Christmas playlist
Day 4: Bossa Nova – Ready for a slice of seasonal samba? Serve hot, followed swiftly by Brazil nuts
Day 3: Blues – If a freak meteorological event results in a Blue rather than White Christmas, you can still console yourself with the perfect soundtrack…
Day 2: Ambient – Bring the words ‘calm’ and ‘Christmas’ closer together with these atmospheric, laid-back seasonal tracks.
Day 1: Acoustic – Get ready to unplug everything (except perhaps the kettle) as you enjoy this electric-free selection of Christmas songs!
August 24th, 2021 by Helen Webber
“A picture is worth a thousand words” is an adage in many languages, a lofty way of saying that complex ideas can be better conveyed by a single still image than a long stretch of words. For a visual person like me, – phew.
While I myself am a champion of this saying, it was first coined back in 1911, when the Syracuse Advertising Men’s Club held a banquet to discuss journalism and publicity. In an article in The Post-Standard covering this event, the author quoted Arthur Brisbane as saying “Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.”
Roll on 110 years and it’s not just me that prefers pictures to words. Turn on any device or social media app and our reliance on using a picture to convey a story or a message has been boiled down to something most of us could never have predicted – the worldwide phenomenon of the emoji.
From hearts to worried faces, and every weather and alcoholic beverage symbol in between, having a chat with your mate (or a colleague) has never been easier.
A joke shared 😂, a presentation delivered 👌, relationships formed ❤️, emojis are on hand to help us react in this fast-paced world with little more than the tap of a key.
Now happy icons are not a new thing. The first smiley face was designed in 1963 by Harvey Ball, an American graphic artist, to raise the morale of employees at an insurance company currently feeling fatigue of the courts 😔.
The smiley face was then hijacked by the American counter-culture of the 70s, before crashing back into the popular consciousness of the acid house scene in the late 80’s. Even a chap called Pac-Man got in on the action.
But SoftBank, known as J-Phone at the time, released the SkyWalker mobile phone in November 1997, with the world’s first known original emoji set designed by Shigetaka Kurita. This set included 90 distinct emoji characters, among them one of the most iconic to date; the humble poo 💩. These emoji designs heavily influenced Apple’s original emoji alphabet and those we all use today.
In 1999 Kurita went on to to create 176 more characters and was challenged to keep these within a 250-max limit of software restrictions at the time. Conveying such an expressive set of emotions in a short way within these limitations was a truly impressive achievement.
Big brands are now using emojis in advertising; we use them to communicate quickly in Teams meetings; and even clients react to work with a thumbs up or a clap mid presentation.
Beyond the ease of showing an emotion, immediate praise and the humour of a cleverly timed eggplant 🍆, this ever-evolving language has also been a rich source of ideas for groups and organisations. It’s becoming part of a more widespread conversation to tackle taboos around gender, discuss race, and raise awareness of endangered species, with the inclusion of skin tones, lgbtq+ representation and even animal welfare icons.
This modern style of semiotics pays close attention to how the icons are used to impart meaning to their intended recipients (be it humorously) effectively, and emotionally. Shigetaka Kurita’s emojis have become powerful manifestations of the capacity of design to alter human behaviour. Another excellent example of making the complex more compelling.
Now with 107 new emojis scheduled for release in 2022 (taking the alphabet to a whopping 3,460) the artform looks unlikely to disappear into the shadows. While some might herald this as a new age in copy, others might argue we’ve done nothing but come full circle – utilising nothing more than very modern (and yellow) hieroglyphics. Whether you ❤️ them or really couldn’t give a 🐀🍑, I think we can all agree, Shigetaka Kurita deserves a 👍👏🎉.
July 5th, 2021 by Helen Webber
At Future Positive, we’re here to make the complex more compelling, and we’re always looking for ways to go about it. One of our favourites is PechaKucha (not to be confused with a certain yellow Pokémon).
Literally translating as ‘Chit Chat’ in Japanese, it was created in 2003 by a Tokyo-based architecture firm. It was initially intended to attract people to an event space aimed at sharing designers’ work and ideas who wanted to ‘show more, tell less’; but that was just the start. Since then, it’s grown across the world, with more than 50,000 people presenting at over 1,100 global PechaKucha Nights every year.
The format is simple; you present 20 slides with 20 seconds of commentary per slide – meaning the entire thing is never longer than 400 seconds – about the time it would take to brew a stovetop espresso (Rich is fancy) or eat 40 biscuits (Craig’s a pro).
It’s used for comedy, for learning and, increasingly, for business. So what can we learn from its success and how do we use its principles in our own work?
- Humans are changing
A study conducted by Microsoft in 2018 found that the average attention span of a human had shrunk from 12 seconds in 2000 to only 8 seconds in 2018*. (To put that in context, the average attention span of a goldfish is 9 seconds). This means that long-format, copy-heavy content is increasingly moving down the priority list. And yes, we get the irony that you’re reading this in a blog. If you’re still with us you’re already beating the fish! The unstoppable rise of tech and media overload means we’re constantly visually over-stimulated: we’re all guilty of a bit of doomscrolling whilst watching TV.
PechaKucha dictates just one image per slide – aiming to really pull focus and communicate a single thing in a memorable way. We often use this technique when presenting creative ideas; having just one point to absorb at a time creates an instant connection. And it allows the recipient to listen to the narrative without being distracted by the need to focus on every detail of your busy slide. Which leads us to…
- 1 picture = 1000 words
According to Nielsen Research**, 38% of brand recall, 23% of brand awareness, and 25% of purchase intent result from video impressions that are less than two seconds long. With a bit of focus, it’s possible to make a huge impact in a short time, and using visual shorthand is key to this success.
We tie our creative thinking into recognised characters and concepts to help our clients instantly understand what we’re trying to get across. Through the use of moodboards and photography, the imagery can evoke emotions that we then back up with the narrative.
In PechaKucha, with just 20 seconds to get your point across, you don’t waste time having to explain something that people already understand. Instead you can use the time available to explain the new concept or information you’re trying to communicate.
- It’s about time
How long do you normally talk about your slide? One minute? Two? Talking for exactly twenty seconds is tricky! Practicing your narrative and timing yourself is essential to a successful PechaKucha, so you can cut any waffle and get to the point. It’s also a great idea to have both a ‘core’ set of content and some additional backup content, so if you’ve gone too fast you have some extra to add in, and if you’ve gone too slowly you have bits that you can easily cut out.
Sometimes when we present ideas we don’t say anything at all – simply letting the audience absorb the content themselves. After all, you’re not always around to talk potential customers through your marketing communications, so making sure it’s strong enough to stand on its own is a great discipline to get into.
For some great examples of PechaKuchas or to find out more, visit www.pechakucha.com (we’re a big fan of Feeling PhiloSLOTHical) and if you want to hear Helen’s PechaKucha on Why Ponies are Awesome, Craig’s Top 20 Biscuit Countdown, or help applying PechaKucha principles to your own campaigns just get in touch.
June 4th, 2021 by Helen Webber
So, the Future Positive team asked me the following about my creative process:
“Craig, how on earth do you go about distilling all of the complex information we give you and ultimately end up turning it into a beautiful new brand?”
Allow me to take you on a journey…
Ok. So, I’ve got the project keys from the client. The team have filled up my fuel tank/charged up my EV battery with briefs and a dozen or so reference links. Now it’s up to me to decide which direction to travel to arrive at the final destination and deliver the goods.
The ‘goods’ in my case are usually the visual components of a new brand. Often appearing deceptively simple from the outside, they accommodate a lot of information such as brand purpose, values, mission and customer requirements.
So where exactly should I start? What’s the best route this time? How do I turn all of this into shapes, colours, fonts? How will it animate? Will it use video? Can it change the world?
Firstly, I don’t panic. It’s a fairly long but by now familiar road. I begin by packing some snacks; making sure I have a ‘map’ and estimating the journey time as I plan out my trip; not forgetting the importance of making time for a few carefully orchestrated breaks on the way.
Thankfully I’m lucky enough to work with a very experienced and strategically minded team. They do a lot of research and, more importantly, hold workshops and group sessions with clients where I end up doing a lot of listening.
And here’s the key, I listen. I listen to the client. I listen to my team. I make it my business to understand as much as I can about their goals, their products and services, and their end users.
While everyone has their own path, here are my next steps:
Imagination: I tend to keep away from screens and get quickfire ideas down on paper. Throughout the meetings, I take notes and sketch freely. Remember: your pad is a safe place where the pages don’t judge you (that comes later). I don’t overthink it at this stage. I usually include these initial sketches in presentation decks: this is the ‘spark’ – even if it does end up evolving into something completely different. At this point I don’t get stressed out about typography, colours or imagery; they can feature further down the road, once the engine is really warmed up. I try not to limit my approaches early on. Instead, I prefer to challenge myself, take multiple paths, and see where they take me. You risk getting lost. Taking a one-way street. Ending up in a cul-de-sac. But it’s all part of the journey. Soon you find an open road, and when you do it’s time to hit the pedal. Roll down the windows and crank up the music…
I then try to immerse myself into the customer’s world as much as possible. When working on a project with Fender in my pre-Future Positive days I took my team along to the studio. There we forgot about the task at hand for a while – trying out guitars instead to experience that feeling the customer gets when first picking up an instrument.
And before developing the brand identity for Yukan Canoes, I headed down to the river to get inspiration from the different craft on the water and the natural surroundings. It gave me a sense of the culture and the customer. With an understanding of the craftsmanship and the products, I was inspired to incorporate the grain of marine ply and the construction techniques in the making of the logo. (www.yukan.co.uk).
Experimentation: Once I have an initial set of ‘sparks’ (or spark plugs, to continue our analogy), I move over to the screen and continue experimenting to see how robust and applicable they are.
It’s a time to play and escape the feeling that you must create the final brand identity at this point. And while none of the initial routes should be dismissed at this stage, it soon becomes clear what’s working and what’s not. You learn how to tell a dead cert from a dead end.
Personally, I create mood boards for everything: colour, typography, illustration, imagery, even animation and motion. This is about more than meeting requirements: it’s a great place to show clients and the team something they haven’t seen before; a new place they can take it. Of course the client can always say no to your idea of a 20ft neon sculpture that wraps around their HQ. But at the same time they might see something in it that inspires a new idea.
Once these ideas start gathering momentum, I let them fly and see where they go, giving myself enough space; knowing that inspiration will flow and the ‘magic’ will materialise. At this point if a creative block does appear I go and do something completely different. Pruning the bonsai. Playing the tuba. Milking the cat. It’s true that ideas often present themselves when you’re not looking for them.
I’ve learned to be confident enough to ask for longer if I need it: you have to be happy with where you’ve got to before you present it back. And just like a journey it can take time to get somewhere great.
Presentation: When presenting work, I like to give the client at least three routes to choose from. As a rule of thumb, the first one should at least meet the brief, whereas the others can be more disruptive and push the boundaries. It’s important to challenge the market as you never know how adventurous or ambitious a client will turn out to be, and often they don’t know until they see it. From a visual standpoint you’re looking for immediacy, clarity and punch, so the simpler the better, but it pays to be bold and to try and be different.
At this stage, we’re still collaborating, working with – not just for – the client. Their feedback is crucial, as well as input from the rest of team, so a big part of the presentation stage is listening again.
Evaluation & Verification: After pitching or presenting any creative work the first thing we do is to re-group as a team. Hopefully we either have a chosen creative route to develop or a clearer direction on where to head next. For me this is where the crafting happens: I close the workshop door, sharpen the tools, flip down the visor on my welding mask and get busy. Of course I step out occasionally to run the work past my colleagues and make sure everyone’s 100% happy before we present the finished brand creative to the client.
Having confidence in the work also plays a part. I remind myself to relax and enjoy presenting, after all, a lot of teamwork has gotten us this far. Good or bad, all feedback is fuel: you may have missed a more scenic route, or it may lead you on to somewhere entirely new. Just make sure you enjoy the journey – from experience it always makes for a better result.
If you’re looking for ways to make your complex more visually compelling take a look at the BEAUTIFY service from Future Positive.
May 14th, 2021 by Helen Webber
The first picture of earth from space was taken by accident. It was captured 65 miles above the planet’s surface on Oct 24th, 1946, from a V-2 rocket as it fell back to earth. When the film was recovered from the desert floor, the grainy black and white image gave humans a brand-new perspective on the place we’ve lived for around 300,000 years.
While the rocket was meant to capture images looking out towards space, the shot became the first in a series of captivating portraits of our planet. Now retired, NASA’s former chief historian Bill Barry remarked, “During almost every mission we turn around and take a picture…there seems to be an irresistible tendency to look back at home.”
Today aerial and satellite images are part-and-parcel of our everyday lives: from keeping an eye on approaching weather fronts to checking out what’s in someone’s garden on Google Maps. The ubiquity of these images means they’re no longer the front-page news they once were.
Matt Manolides, Technical Program Manager at Google Maps explains that the company completes the mammoth task of replacing its photos of the world’s major cities every year. “We aim to update satellite imagery of the places that change the most. Our goal is to keep densely-populated places refreshed on a regular basis to keep up with a changing world”.
Yet while the images may now be commonplace, there’s still something compelling about adopting this top-down perspective. Their beyond-human scale means that the complexities and details vanish, and even the largest surface features are reduced to patterns. And it’s the new ‘visual shorthand’ that these patterns create that allows us – thanks to science – to derive meaning.
For example, satellite mapping based on images from the European Commission’s Copernicus Sentinel-2 11 allowed the British Antarctic Survey team to discover 11 new emperor penguin colonies – 20% more than they’d previously thought. While even the largest colonies are too small to be seen in satellite images, it was the giant stains that their droppings leave behind on the ice that made them easier for scientists to spot.
A few years back we worked on a satellite services-based project focused on the emerging field of precision agriculture. Improving how existing land and resources are used will be vital to help feed the planet’s rapidly growing population. While farmers have used satellite images of fields since the early 1970s, the new emphasis is about integrating high resolution satellite-based information directly into everyday operations.
Again, it’s the patterns that emerge from this birds’ eye view data – both visual and numerical – that allow machine learning systems to instruct automated equipment, accurately calculate yields and monitor crop health down to the level of individual plant.
So given the right perspective a picture can paint a thousand words. And it doesn’t always have to originate from orbit.
If you have something complex you need to communicate, Future Positive can help you capture it in a single hero image using our VISUALIZE service. Just without the penguin poop…
Since its introduction in 1931, London’s diagrammatic underground map – based on an electrical circuit diagram – has since become a true design classic; imitated, parodied and emulated across the globe.
Having spent almost 20 years living in London, the mayhem and madness of commuting became part of my everyday fabric. Be it freewheeling down Kingsland Road on my fixed gear, the bristle of nylon against my elbow having scored a rare seat on the number 38 bus, or the cosseting silence of the Tube – a place of forced contemplation: headphones in, book out, eyes down, do not enter conversation or do so at your peril.
But with my daily commute came a strange affinity and friendship built over time with a reliable and trustworthy friend: the Tube map and its magical knack of transporting you wherever you need to go in the blink of an eye. During years of underground travel in my good-for-meetings/good-for-style trainers, a mere glance at Harry Beck’s inspired Tube map would get me where I needed; avoiding getting lost and visiting the dusty information desk.
Cramming in an incredible 270 stations, those 11 Tube lines have trains traversing an average distance of 76.4 million kilometres a year. Harry Beck’s map is both a fully-functioning and iconic marvel in equal measures.
Harry’s achievement of producing a map for an underground system now used by billions of shuffling Londoners (and tourists) each year was, and is, probably one of the most revolutionary and inspirational pieces of design ever created.
Since its introduction in 1931, London’s diagrammatic underground map – based on an electrical circuit diagram – has since become a true design classic; imitated, parodied and emulated across the globe.
It’s also gone on to shape the capital itself – providing colourful access to one of the greatest, most diverse and exciting cities in the world.
While Harry’s first map may have evolved, with additions from numerous contributors over the years to bring the information up to date, the artist’s signature remains firmly his.
From Epping to Ealing, Edgeware to Morden, Heathrow to Cockfosters and everywhere in between, its famous underground lines now transport tourists, fun lovers and locals to the best (and, no doubt worst) of what London has to offer, all via a well-orchestrated code of curved, coloured lines and strategically-placed stations.
Notoriously, the map is not to scale, but somehow the journey distances feel irrelevant. Harry’s triumph has been to take one of the world’s oldest, most complicated transport networks and transform it into a thing of beauty, making the complex not only compelling but exciting; guiding you through the nation’s vibrant capital with relative ease.
The result is a truly exceptional travel guide. An unflappable, steadfast and reliable friend that I know like the back of my hand.
Craig Brooks is Art Director at Future Positive – helping clients to BEAUTIFY their brands and campaigns.