Envato https://envato.com Design & creative inspiration Wed, 17 Oct 2018 06:22:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.8 https://assets.wordpress.envato-static.com/uploads/2016/08/cropped-favicon-32x32.png Envato https://envato.com 32 32 How Copywriters and Designers Can Work Together Effectively https://envato.com/blog/copywriters-designers-can-work-together-effectively/ https://envato.com/blog/copywriters-designers-can-work-together-effectively/#respond Wed, 29 Mar 2017 06:43:29 +0000 https://envato.com/?p=51887 And recipes for disaster in the copywriter/designer relationship.

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Decades ago, it was commonplace to design cars in one room and then throw the drawings “over the wall” to engineers to build it. The problem with this approach, though, is that what may look great on a sketch board might be very difficult or impossible to manufacture. This methodology has been replaced by concurrent engineering, which is simply the collaboration of designers and engineers working in concert to create a final product that is beautiful inside and out and that can be assembled at a low cost.

But concurrent engineering isn’t just for cars. UX/UI designers and copywriters are also much more effective when they can collaborate and work together—not just pass things off to one another.

So, how can designers and copywriters be better teammates?

1. You have to find the right partner.

In forming any sort of creative partnership, it’s absolutely crucial that heavy emphasis is placed on finding someone you feel comfortable working with—and disagreeing with. You are going to be around your design counterpart a lot throughout the process so you need to work with someone you know you can be honest with, someone that knows your strengths and weaknesses, and someone that knows enough about what you do to know when to ask for input and when to offer advice. For example, a great copywriter that may have valuable insight regarding a menu layout must know at what point to defer to the designer in regard to the overall design. Similarly, designers must recognize when to put design elements second so that the copy and message can shine. It is a two-way street.

The other thing to think about is whether this is someone you would want to go on vacation with, and if you would consider this person a friend. Great things are created by friends, people that trust each other and feel safe sharing ideas—not by just being “coworkers.”

2. Work side-by-side. Not separately.

Often times, designers and writers sit in separate rooms. The designer constructs the outline, and then asks the copywriter to fill in the words based on the space provided; meanwhile the copywriter is off on their own crafting copy on a blank page, completely unaware of the design that is about to be passed their way.

This is a recipe for disaster.

Almost always, the designer leaves too little room for copy, and the copywriter fills entire pages only to be told that all the design has room for is a three-sentence paragraph.

All great copywriter/designer duos know the value of working together, and discuss the best route to go about blending their skills from the get-go.

3. Don’t let your title get in the way.

Sometimes, copywriters have really great design suggestions—even though they are not designers. And similarly, sometimes designers can come up with some clever wordplay, or have a suggestion on the tone of voice. You should welcome these things, not avoid them.

One of the biggest mistakes any creative individual can make is to take their title too seriously. If you approach any collaboration with the mindset that you are the copywriter and so anyone who doesn’t have the title of copywriter doesn’t deserve to be heard, you are going to fail. The same goes for designers who can’t fathom taking layout suggestions from someone who can’t even find the pointer tool in Photoshop.

Now, with that said, this goes both ways, and if you are a copywriter giving design suggestions then you need to also acknowledge that you are not the most qualified person in the room. That doesn’t mean don’t speak up—but it also means to not insist that you’re right, no matter what.

Looking for the right creative partner? We’ve got lots of talented designers, copywriters and more on Envato Studio

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6 Ways to Spark Your Creativity https://envato.com/blog/6-ways-spark-creativity/ https://envato.com/blog/6-ways-spark-creativity/#respond Thu, 09 Mar 2017 09:40:56 +0000 https://envato.com/?p=52120 A method to the madness.

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Creativity is as fleeting as wind. One minute, it’s there. The next, it’s not.

Why is that?

The thing most people forget about creativity is that it takes practice and diligence. Too often, we chalk creativity up to chance, or “the moment,” or even inherent talent. But the truth is, while some people might have a few more creative bones in their body, cultivating your creativity requires good habits. It means making the time to study your craft, having the discipline to go long stretches without getting distracted, and most of all, doing it every day.

For creative people, this is the hardest part: the daily habit. It’s a whole lot easier to sit around and say, “I will work when creativity strikes.” But be careful, because this can quickly become a bad habit of neglecting the hard work that needs to be done.

So, how do you spark that creative fire on a daily basis?

1. Prioritize “Input” Activities

Whenever you find yourself saying, “I haven’t been feeling very creative lately,” the first question you need to ask yourself is, “who am I studying?”

Creatives vastly underestimate the power of input. These are activities that force you to stretch those creative muscles. For example: An author needs to spend as much time, if not more time reading than writing—even though, they would argue, that “writing” is their primary craft. The reason is because writing is an “output,” whereas reading is an “input.”

The same goes for designers. Too often, designers fall into the trap of staring at a screen all day, day after day, only to arrive at the bottom of their creative “well” feeling utterly and completely drained. Why? Because they spend 8+ hours a day designing for other people, but 0 hours per day studying the designs of others, and making time for “input.”

If you’re ever feeling drained, you need to make more time for input.

2. Turn Off All Distractions And Let Your Mind Wander

As a society, we have lost touch with the wild imagination that only occurs in silence.

When you’re staring at your Facebook feed on your phone, it’s hard to be imaginative. Or when you’re constantly refreshing your e-mail. Or browsing your favorite blogs. It’s not that these things are ‘wrong’, they are just distractions.

Instead, turn off everything. Sit in silence. Look around the room. Allow yourself to feel bored, even. Let your mind wander. Think about whatever you want to think about. Five, ten minutes later, you’ll catch an idea, and without even meaning to you’ll begin to entertain it.

This is how imagination works. It needs space to move. To flow.

Give yourself that space.

3. Listen To Classical Music

Music in general can be a fantastic trigger for creativity, however sometimes it can also be a distraction. Especially if the music is modern, or extremely lyrical, it ends up requiring too much attention to be a good supplement to your process.

Classical music, however, is powerful. Meditative, you could say. It is background noise in all the best ways, giving you another sound that can help guide you into focus, without being too distracting that it will take you out of your own flow.

When all else fails, find something inspiring to get the ball rolling, and then if it gets too distracting, just turn it off.

4. Brainstorm With A Friend

A whiteboard and two markers can go a long way, especially if you are brainstorming with someone you feel extremely comfortable with.

The best part about brainstorming with a friend is you have an audience. Even one person is considered an audience, and by saying your ideas out loud you are forced to look at them differently. Having to explain it to someone else is a true test of validity.

The other benefit is that they can often see things you can’t. As you are explaining, they are thinking, and vice versa. You can then fill in each other’s gaps and move twice as fast.

5. Write Down 10 Ideas

If anything, this should be a daily habit. Write down 10 ideas of things you’d like to create or make in your lifetime. They could be anything. Maybe you came up with an idea on the train this morning for a t-shirt design. Maybe you thought of a new kind of sponge for washing dishes. Maybe you’d like to paint a series of canvases, one for each season. Write down things that make your brain twist, and if possible, do this every day.

What you’ll find is that by practicing the habit of “coming up with ideas,” that muscle will strengthen over time. Your ability to generate new ideas will increase dramatically, because you are practicing that skill on a regular basis.

6. Find Inspiration

It’s very difficult to stare at a blank canvas and come up with something fantastic. It’s much better to first get a lay of the land, and see what has been done in this space before you arrived.

Especially when it comes to design, you want to look at what everyone else is doing so that you are aware of what others have done that has worked (or not worked). Looking at your “competition” can save you a lot of time, and give you a sense of what’s working and what’s not.

Start a Pinterest board with things you find that catch your eye or spark ideas. Or create a folder on your Desktop with images and screenshots you save as you browse the Internet. These “inspiration triggers” can be extremely helpful with getting the ball rolling.

 

Related articles:

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15 Books Every Designer Needs to Read https://envato.com/blog/15-books-every-designer-needs-read/ https://envato.com/blog/15-books-every-designer-needs-read/#respond Fri, 10 Feb 2017 09:16:23 +0000 https://envato.com/?p=51744 The best books about design and creativity.

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Every craft has its history, and every artist has their mentors. In order to find your own unique voice, you must go through the arduous process of first understanding and studying the voices that have come before—or are currently happening right beside you. This is why so many artists are as much creators as they are commentators of their own market. They enjoy watching where things are headed, and the technically proficient tend to be well-versed in how things came to be—the history behind their art.

When it comes to design, there is no shortage of inspiration out there. In fact, the term “design” is so broad that it encompasses everything from interior design to UI design, graphic design to architecture, painting, magazine spreads, fashion, and beyond. All great designers borrow, trade, replace, mix and match from different industries and inspirations.

As a designer, one of the best things you could possibly do for yourself and your own craft is to spend as much time studying others in the design space, as you do playing around and trying new things.

That said, here are fifteen books every designer should have on their desk at all times, and re-read on a regular basis:

1. How To by Michael Bierut

One of the world’s most well-known graphic designers, Michael Bierut, details the creative processes behind his most recognized projects. Client examples include: Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Yale School of Architecture, the New York Times, Saks Fifth Avenue, the New York Jets, and more.

This is the kind of book you read when what you really need is to hear, even if in the undertone, “I did it—and so can you.” Michael’s story is a special one, and has been looked at by graphic designers over the years as a case-in-point for what it means to stay true to your own creative vision.

2. Graphic Design Theory by Helen Armstrong

Who better to learn from than those in the field? From the 1900s to modern day, this is your crash course on the progress of design as an art and field.

3. Thinking With Type by Ellen Lupton

A literary anthem for design’s role in visual communication, Thinking With Type is a must-read for those who want to take a deeper dive in understanding how typography choices not only change across various mediums, but can impact the viewer in different ways emotionally.

From style sheets to ornaments and captions, small caps and mixing fonts, this is an all-inclusive guide on design rules—and then how to break them.

4. 100 Ideas That Changed Graphic Design by Steven Heller

From technique to style, object discussion and the evolution of design concepts, these are 100 moments every designer should know about that helped shape the field as a whole.

5. Design Elements, Color Fundamentals by Aaris Sherin

Color theory and beyond, this is the perfect go-to grab whenever you are in need of a quick jolt of inspiration—starting back with the basics.

6. Graphic Design Visionaries by Caroline Roberts

75 influential designers, including M/M Paris, Wim Crouwel, Tom Eckersley, Stefan Sagmeister, Irma Boom, and more, tell their personal stories and how their experiences shaped the work they became best known for.

These personal stories cover the development of design culture, specifically as it relates to typography, magazine layouts, film, iconic poster work, and corporate American branding. Part story, part visual entertainment, this is a glimpse into the humans behind some of the most recognized design work to date.

7. Patternalia by Jude Stewart

Want to get funky with it? Look no further than Patternalia: An Unconventional History of Polka Dots, Stripes, Plaid, Camouflage & Other Graphic Patterns.

8. The Elements of Typographic Style by Robert Bringhurst

Words matter—a lot. But the typeface those words are in arguably says just as much about the words themselves. This is a must-read for every designer that wants to use the perfect typeface.

9. Mastering Type by Denise Bosler

What’s the right type to use on digital? How does the platform change the design? For any UI designer, especially, this book should be on your desk.

10. Logo Design Love by David Airey

A best-seller, and guide to creating an iconic brand identity, this is where you start when you are trying to get to the heart of a logo and everything it needs to stand for.

11. Logo by Michael Evamy

Consider this your bible, but for logo design. With more than 1,300 symbols and enclosed logotypes, this is the ultimate collection of some of the most well-known logos in the world—and the process that manifested their creation.

For logo designers, especially, this is a crucial resource for knowing what’s been done before, if for no other reason than to challenge your own creative process to come up with something truly unique. This book covers categories including: crosses, stars, crowns, animals, people, handwritten, illustrative type, and more, to show the different forms logos can take.

12. Designing Brand Identity by Alina Wheeler

This isn’t just a book for designers. Think of this as a guide for your marketing team as a whole, and something that explains to the strategic marketers what truly creates a longstanding brand.

13. Editorial Design: Digital and Print by Cath Caldwell & Yolanda Zappaterra

From the early days of print to the digital age, this is your a comprehensive look and the fundamentals of editorial design.

14. 100 Things Every Designer Needs To Know About People by Susan Weinschenk

A fun and quick read, this glimpse into the eyes of consumers is written by a PhD in Psychology. Weinschenk has over 30 years of design communication under her belt, and proves it to her readers.

15. Creative Workshop by David Sherwin

What do you do when your creative juices have stopped flowing?

Compressing your process into a hard timeframe is one of the biggest struggles a designer can face. Which is why it’s essential that you keep resources on deck to help re-inspire your best work.

This book provides 80 different creative challenges intended to spark strong thinking and get your wheels spinning again. These exercises include everything from timed design challenges to full project suggestions, all with various accompanying brainstorming exercises.

Think of this as your practice playbook for design.

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How to be productive when you’re surrounded by chaos https://envato.com/blog/productive-youre-surrounded-chaos/ https://envato.com/blog/productive-youre-surrounded-chaos/#respond Mon, 05 Dec 2016 18:12:52 +0000 https://envato.com/?p=50773 How to get things done when no one else wants to.

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how-to-stay-productive-when-youre-surrounded-by-chaos

It’s not easy to find your own creative space.

Whether you are working at a small company, a big company, or freelancing out of a coffee shop, it is a constant challenge to block out distractions and actually be productive.

The hardest part about being productive is figuring out what your triggers are for getting in your flow. That’s the secret. You have to learn what you need, individually, in order to block out distractions and get to work.

Where a lot of people struggle is in separating themselves from “what’s happening.” There is a massive difference between what absolutely needs to get done right now and what could be done now but could also be done later.

Most of the time, chaos isn’t necessarily being surrounded by other people—who may or may not be talkative and distracting. Chaos can also be just work, period.

Take a company environment, for example. Many companies struggle in time and resource management. If you are a service company, then your “inventory” is people. You employ designers, account managers, copywriters, etc., and each one of those people has an hourly cost associated to their name. They are the inventory, and their time needs to be spent efficiently in order for the business to remain profitable.

Chaos, then, is when resources are not managed properly. Either people don’t know what is expected of them, and so they focus on the wrong things, or their time is not budgeted correctly and everything is considered a priority.

When everything is a priority, then nothing ends up getting done. As the old adage goes, “Chase two rabbits, both get away.”

In order to be productive amidst chaos, here is what you need to gain clarity around:

1. What is the expectation?

You cannot get done what you are unsure of in the first place. You need to know what it is that will be expected of you, and in what form.

Solution: write a creative brief. When you work within an agency or company, this tends to be communicated in the form of a creative brief. Even freelancers should use this same process, writing down specific deliverables and verifying them with the client before getting started.

2. When are things “due?”

Whatever it is you’re working on, it needs a “due” date relative to everything else you are working on. Remember, you only have so many hours in a day. So in order to spend them wisely, it’s not enough to know when each thing is “due” individually, but also how all those timelines affect one another.

Solution: hold a stand-up meeting. A very helpful habit to adopt, especially in a team setting, is holding fifteen minute “stand-up” meetings every morning. Just a quick check-in with everyone to make sure things are on track, and any issues that have come up along the way get resolved quickly and efficiently.

3. How do you get the most done?

If you know you are more productive in the mornings, do your hardest work first. If you are better in the afternoons, take care of all your menial tasks in the morning so you can spend the afternoon digging in. You have to know yourself in order to plan accordingly.

Solution: create do-not-disturb hours. People, and companies as a whole, that understand the value of time often operate strictly off the calendar. If you block off three hours to get in your zone and work, no one can (or should) disturb you during that time. It’s yours.

4. What can you control?

Sometimes, especially if you are working in an office setting, you can’t always control where you work, or who you are working near. If the environment itself is unproductive, then you need to find your own solutions. Headphones? Move to another room? Show up to work early? Stay late? Whatever it takes to get things done, within your control, is what you need to do.

Solution: find the right environment. However, too often people fall victim to their environment—and blame their shortcomings on what is happening around them. You cannot. Have a conversation with a key decision maker. Request a different workspace. Find a solution that will allow you to do your best work.

5. What are your “triggers”?

And finally, make use of little triggers that can help put you in the mindset needed to get things done quickly and effectively. For example: A hot cup of coffee is a trigger for a lot of people. Something about the act of sitting down with a cup, the smell, the taste, it can be a way of reminding yourself that it’s time to “get things done.” Or maybe your trigger is to light a candle nearby. Or listen to some music. Whatever it is, make it part of your routine.

Solution: chat with your team. One of the best triggers can sometimes be just having a conversation with someone else. This is one of the greatest benefits of working with a team. Discuss the project, bounce ideas, and you’ll be moving in the right direction before you know it.

 

More on productivity & work:

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Great Design Is About Being Thoughtful https://envato.com/blog/great-design-thoughtful/ https://envato.com/blog/great-design-thoughtful/#respond Tue, 29 Nov 2016 04:37:15 +0000 https://envato.com/?p=50637 An interview with Yazin Akkawi, Founder of MSTQ

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One of the great debates in the world of UI/UX right now is which side of the equation should take priority. Is it the underlying architecture of an app, website, or interface, or is it the paint that goes on top intended to “surprise and delight” the user?

Yazin Akkawi is the founder of MSTQ, an interactive agency specializing in UX/UI design, strategy, and technology, based in Chicago. Yazin’s perspective on the “great debate” is a valuable one: “It’s not one or the other. Great design is about being thoughtful.”

He explained how, in the most simple way, designing an intuitive, beautiful yet functional experience for a user is similar to the process you go through in your head when you’re buying a gift for someone.

“For example, when you buy your girlfriend flowers, you’re being thoughtful. You’re designing an experience for her. You’re questioning how the flowers look, how they feel, how they smell, how she’s going to interact with them. Do you present them in tissue paper? In a vase? It’s an experience, and as you design it, you make decisions based on how you think things will look through her eyes. That same mental process is what designers go through. It’s about being thoughtful,” said Yazin.

Recognizing A Great User Experience

Yazin explained that the best user experiences are the ones that work so seamlessly, you barely notice the complexity of what is going on right in front of you. Whereas the worst user experiences are universally known. Everyone can recognize a really bad user experience.

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Photo credit: Yazin Akkawi

The reason why Yazin has placed such emphasis on the broader importance of being “thoughtful,” opposed to any one particular element of UI/UX design, is because he says, “Technology is becoming ubiquitous. People aren’t just designing for mobile apps or websites anymore. We’re now designing for experiences. Like the Amazon Echo, which is entirely voice operated. That’s still an experience. So the design isn’t visual, but it exists through sound and conversation. Or chat bots, or SMS and text enabled applications. Tech is becoming so fluid that designers are having to change out their tool kits and improve their soft skills. And at the end of the day, it always comes back to whether or not the user feels like the experience was designed for them. Whether or not it feels thoughtful.”

On the flip-side, Yazin raised the consequences of when “surprise and delight” isn’t done well, and how much more dramatically it can impact a consumer.

Earning A User’s Trust Takes Time

If a user ever feels that a system is not thoughtful enough, or they experience frustration using an interface (whether it be visual, text-based, etc.), you’ve lost them as a consumer. If you are shopping online for an item, for example, and you place the item in your cart, check out, but then need to create an account, get taken off-site, go through the process, and return, only to find your cart empty because of an error, you will immediately think less of the platform you’re using. In fact, you may end up abandoning the experience all together, and never returning—even if what you were shopping for was necessary or even cool.

“A user wants to be surprised and delighted, but they also will be to the first to throw your colorful masterpiece out the window if it doesn’t do what they want it to do.”

“Moments where you screw up that seamless process, you lose points with your user,” said Yazin. “And what’s so challenging about this relationship is that it decreases exponentially faster than it increases. It takes a long time to build up trust with users, but you can lose all that trust in an instant.”

This is why design teams with both UI designers and UX architects go to such great lengths to work well together. Being “thoughtful” is judged on both merits. A user wants to be surprised and delighted, but they also will be to the first to throw your colorful masterpiece out the window if it doesn’t do what they want it to do. “UI is about grabbing the eye of the user, and UX is about satisfying the underlying business goals. And you can’t have one or the other. It can’t be pretty but unusable, and it can’t be usable but look like it was made in the 90s,” said Yazin. “You have to have both in order to build something stunning, captivating, and successful.”

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Designing For The User’s Lifestyle, Instead Of For A Device https://envato.com/blog/designing-users-lifestyle-instead-device/ https://envato.com/blog/designing-users-lifestyle-instead-device/#respond Mon, 07 Nov 2016 09:23:30 +0000 https://envato.com/?p=49982 An interview with Jonathan Speh, Art Director at Idea Booth.

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We are in a pivotal era when it comes to design. Never has the barrier for entry been so low. Never have there been so many different platforms to design for, or the realms of possibility been so ripe- and yet the future of design has never been more unclear. Devices and platforms are changing so rapidly that design seems to be as rapidly changing as the landscape itself, leaving designers with a powerful unknown: “What are we truly designing for?”

Jonathan Speh is the art director of Idea Booth, a digital agency downtown Chicago. He has a powerful response to this question: “We aren’t just designing for devices anymore. We’re designing around people’s lifestyles.”

To dive deeper into this idea and approach to design, I sat down with Jonathan to discuss the current state of the industry and, more importantly, where things are headed.

The Idea Booth team. Photo credit: Jonathan Speh
The Idea Booth team. Photo credit: Jonathan Speh

“If you look at how people are approaching design today, it’s very platform focused. You either design for iOS or Android, PC or Mac, desktop or mobile, etc. That’s always the first question, is what we’re designing for. Is it a website app? Is it a landing page? Is it a mobile device? The first question is always around the platform itself, and where the design is going to live,” said Jonathan.

He continued, “if you look at what some of the truly innovative companies are doing out there, they are asking a very different question. The first step isn’t the platform or the channel. The first step is understanding the user and their individual lifestyle. It’s not just, ‘Is this person going to use this app on their phone?’ It’s, ‘is this person using this app on their phone while they’re climbing a mountain, or while swimming underwater? Okay, let’s keep that in mind while we design it.’ You have to understand the lifestyle that you’re designing around, otherwise you’re going to miss subtle opportunities that could be crucial to the final design.”

Image: etama
‘Is this person using this app on their phone while they’re climbing a mountain, or while swimming underwater? Okay, let’s keep that in mind while we design it.’ (Image: etama)

Jonathan went on to explain that groundbreaking companies are already working with this in mind. For example, the concept behind the Amazon Echo was not designed simply for a “product device.” It was designed around the lifestyle of a tech savvy consumer looking to mesh aspects of their “on-the-go” lifestyle with their home base. The Echo works because it integrates into a series of routines and habits, and that’s what needs to take priority.

“It’s not so much that we pull our phones out and arbitrarily use them anymore,” he said. “It’s more about the fact that these devices have become a permanent extension of our lives. So we, as designers, have to keep in mind how the device and the app or the website, etc., integrate with that lifestyle. Instead of designing an app that’s catered toward doctors, for example, how can what we design perfectly compliment the lifestyle, schedule, and habits doctors already live by? Instead of disrupting their natural state, how can we add value in the right ways, at the right times? These are the more important questions when it comes to design.”

It’s apparent that the future of design cannot be rooted within the confines of a device. Creating something for “mobile,” for example, is no longer enough. You have to cater to the lifestyle of the user, and the way they will actually be using the device and app in their life.

“How can we add value in the right ways, at the right times?”

“Another important aspect of this,” Jonathan added, “is the line between UX and UI. At some point, it became popular to talk about UX. Companies would pay more if you had both a UX architect and a UI designer. UX architects have become what developers once were. People don’t really understand how it works, so they assume it’s important (which it is) and are willing to pay more for it.”

Jonathan continued by saying, “But in many cases, UX is now starting to take priority over UI—and that’s leading a lot of people astray. Most of the stuff we use- mobile apps, websites, etc.- are for a business’s promotion, advertising, or even just for fun, or to make a statement, or to get people engaged. And in order to do that effectively, it can’t all be about functionality and usability. If that were the case, let’s go back to the 90s and just rework things function in today’s environment and forget about design completely. And for a lot of UX architects, that’s their mentality. As soon as you apply style and design, they say, ‘Well, is that usable? Does the user need that?’ And in doing so, they eliminate the element of surprise and delight.”

Truly magnificent design resembles art—and that’s difficult to quantify.

“As we begin to move into this new era of designing for people’s lifestyles and habits, the element of surprise and delight is more important than ever,” Jonathan concluded. “The user is supposed to find the experience cool, and unique, and worth telling someone else about. It is supposed to compliment their life so well that they couldn’t imagine their life without it—and you cannot achieve that by solely focusing on functionality. You have to have both. It needs to work without any pauses or hiccups, and it also needs to make the user pause and say to themselves, ‘wow, that was awesome,’ in a way that perfectly compliments whatever it is they’re doing.”

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7 Habits Of Discipline All Freelancers Should Live By https://envato.com/blog/7-habits-discipline-freelancers-live/ https://envato.com/blog/7-habits-discipline-freelancers-live/#respond Thu, 27 Oct 2016 10:53:02 +0000 https://envato.com/?p=49923 Before anyone steps out on their own to take work into their own hands and become a freelancer, they think they are about to “live the dream.” And in many ways, this can be true. As a freelancer, you answer to yourself. You decide when you wake up, when your day is done. If you […]

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Before anyone steps out on their own to take work into their own hands and become a freelancer, they think they are about to “live the dream.” And in many ways, this can be true. As a freelancer, you answer to yourself. You decide when you wake up, when your day is done. If you can work solely from your laptop then you can travel. You can accept and decline work on your own accord. You are, after all, working for yourself.

However, the joy of freelancing is not immediate. Sure, there is that “rush” that comes with stepping out on your own—and then that rush is quickly replaced by a feeling of anxiety, and the very serious realizing that all of those things you were so excited for (freedom, travel, etc.) are all double-edged swords. If you don’t get up and get to work each day, you will fall behind. If you travel too much, you’ll go broke and end up right back at an office job. You have freedom, but in order to be a successful freelancer, you also need to cultivate a certain level of discipline.

Here are 7 habits every freelancer absolutely need to live by:

1. Stay Organized

From the get-go, you want to be as organized as possible. For some people, this is a real challenge, in the beginning it can be extremely easy to assume you’ll “remember” where each and every file is. You won’t. A few months from now, you’ll be wondering, “Where did I put that one logo file? Where did I save that proposal?” And you’ll waste so much time searching for files simply because you didn’t stay organized from the beginning.

2. Document Your Cash Flow

As a freelancer, you are now one-half worker, one-half accountant. And in order to be financially successful, it’s imperative that you document and predict accordingly. In a spreadsheet, keep a note of all your projects, and then create tabs for each month. Every 30 days, you should go back and review what you ended up making that month, and then also predict (based on the projects in your pipeline) what you are anticipating to make the following month(s). This will help you get a better sense of how much work you have on your plate, and if you need to start turning down work (so you don’t overextend yourself) or if you need to start hustling and getting more clients for next month.

3. Create Partnerships

One of the best ways freelancers can get work is by creating mutual partnerships with other freelancers, firms, or agencies that offer similar or complementary products or services to you. For example: If you are a copywriter, it would make sense for you to create partnerships with digital agencies since they are often in need of copywriting. Or if you’re a designer, you can look for copywriters and partner up to offer both services as a joint offering. Collaboration is a fantastic way to get clients you would otherwise be unable to get by yourself.

4. Form A Daily Routine

Going back to the freedom of being a freelancer, freedom can also work against you if you get lazy. It is extremely advantageous of you to create a daily routine. Push yourself to be in front of your laptop working at the same time every day. End your day around the same time as well. Create cadences and rhythm in your work habits so that you can find a consistent schedule. Otherwise, you’ll start to find yourself up until 3:00 a.m. the night before something is due, and that’s not good for you or the client.

5. Create Your Own Community

One of the primary benefits of working within an agency or a company is the fact that you are surrounded by people you can learn from. When you go off on your own to freelance, you no longer have that—which means it’s on you to create it for yourself. Don’t forget the importance of learning from others. Make the effort to find people who will teach you (and who you can teach as well) and spend time around them.

6. Study Your Craft

As a freelancer, it can also be very easy to go into pure “I need to pay my bills” mode and focus 100% on paid projects. In the beginning, this may be inevitable, but don’t forget the importance of studying your craft. After all, if your skills falter then nobody is going to want to work with you anyway. Make time to read and learn and refine your skill sets outside of whatever projects you’re working on.

7. Save, Save, Save

And finally, make sure you always have some runway just incase everything starts to go wrong. If you have a really great month, don’t go spending your nest egg. Save money along the way because not every month is going to be net positive. You’re going to have some great months, and some not-so-great months. And if you get to zero, then the show stops. Make sure you plan for the worst, and always have some ground to stand on.

 

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Should You Add Free Digital Downloads To Your Site? https://envato.com/blog/add-free-digital-downloads-site/ https://envato.com/blog/add-free-digital-downloads-site/#comments Wed, 19 Oct 2016 09:11:57 +0000 https://envato.com/?p=49746   Everyone wants to start a blog. In fact, when someone wants to do something on their own, whether it’s a business, positioning themselves as a freelancer, or even just having an avenue for self-expression, the first question is always, without fail, “how do I start a blog?” Here’s the thing about having a successful […]

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Everyone wants to start a blog. In fact, when someone wants to do something on their own, whether it’s a business, positioning themselves as a freelancer, or even just having an avenue for self-expression, the first question is always, without fail, “how do I start a blog?”

Here’s the thing about having a successful blog: It’s not something very many people can do. And a big reason why is because they think a successful blog is about posting a lot of content—and yes, that’s definitely a foundational pillar. But if you look at the great blogs, the really informative, truly valuable blogs out there, they all share one thing in common.

They have high-quality downloadable content.

Free downloads are one of the easiest and yet most meaningful things you could possibly give your audience. Here are a few benefits of having free downloads on your website or blog:

  1. It builds credibility: Having an information packed free download is a subtle cue to your audience that you take things seriously and are out to provide value.
  2. It allows you to collect email addresses: Most blogs request that you put in your email in exchange for a free download. You get something of value for free, and the owner of the blog now has a direct line of contact to you for future offers.
  3. It can be used as an entry level sales tool: Someone downloads a free PDF, and on the last page is an offer to an upsell with a link embedded inside. Perfect for any sales funnel.
  4. It can rank for SEO: Yup, free PDF downloads can be picked up by Google and can drive people searching relevant keywords back to your site.

But here’s the thing: Having a free download on your site is only half the battle. The other half is making sure that the design and over aesthetic of whatever it is you are offering for free download is up to par.

Now, what kind of brand you have greatly affects your chosen aesthetic, but regardless, the design should always stay true to your overall messaging. A free PDF is still a representation of who you are and what you do. Just because it’s “free” doesn’t mean it should be lacking in quality. In fact, the fact that it’s free should do the opposite—it should blow your audience away so much that they come crawling back to your site looking for more amazing stuff to download!

Free downloads can come in a variety of different forms:

  1. One-pager: A simple one page document explaining something specific in more detail than one might find in say a blog post.
  2. Infographic: Infographics are great offers for free download since they are usually clean, simple, and informative.
  3. Extended blog post: If you have something really amazing to say, or even a list of valuable information more worthwhile than just posting on your blog, make it a free download.
  4. eBook: This could be a guide, tutorial, anything that is packed with helpful info but technically longer than a “one-pager” or an extended blog post.
  5. Starter Kit: Especially in the worlds of digital marketing, design, web development, etc., many successful websites offer Starter Kits for download. These kids usually come with an assortment of worksheets, templates, walkthrough guides, and more. Everything you need to get started.

The thing about eBooks is that most people shy away from them as an offer because they immediately think they have to go “write a book.” In reality, an eBook is not an “electronic novel,” although it certainly could be (if that’s what you want). Really, an eBook could be a 10 page document where you teach your audience how to do something—maybe show them how to start their own blog, for example.

How do you execute these free downloads?

One-pagers:

Here’s a prime example of a successful one-pager being used to generate a big e-mail list. Michael “Cartoonz” Hogman is one of the leading entrepreneurs in the gaming space, and the first thing you see on his site is a free download pertaining to the new World of Warcraft expansion. Well, as a fellow gamer (and gaming author myself), I reached out to Michael to see how well that one-pager was working. In the past 4 months he’s generated over 10,000 e-mails. How’s that for ROI?

A free download is the first thing you see on the cartoonz.tv site.
A free download is the first thing you see on the cartoonz.tv site.

Infographics:

The popular design company Behance does a fantastic job providing free content that lead to higher quality downloadable content. Here’s an example of one freebie they offer: 10 Free Vector Infographic Templates, available for free download.

Extended Blog Posts:

One of the better Extended Blog Posts I’ve seen is from Matt Kohn at Different Hunger. Matt went around and asked 75+ millionaires, Olympians, CEOs, bestselling authors, pro athletes & others one question: “What is the ONE thing you wish you could tell your twenty something self?” Let’s just say he’s built a killer e-mail list off this free download. Why? Because it’s jam-packed with value for readers.

This extended blog post is presented as a 'featured resource' on differenthunger.com.
This extended blog post is presented as a ‘featured resource’ on differenthunger.com.

eBooks:

In 2015, I amassed close to 8,000,000 views on Quora from people who had read my answers. At the end of the year, as a way to start generating e-mails on my own site, I pulled together 20 of my favorite answers that I’d written and put them into an eBook. Then, I wrote a blog and offered the eBook for free download on my site.

Starter Kits:

Hubspot, the CRM that has quickly become a beloved resource for digital marketers, does a fantastic job providing free content that lead to higher quality downloadable content. For example: In this particular Starter Kit, users receive detailed information on:

  • How To Attract Customers with Facebook
  • How To Use Twitter for Business
  • Creating the Perfect LinkedIn Company Page

Having downloadable eBooks on your site as added value offerings is so undervalued—and yet can really set you apart from your competition. Imagine if someone went to your site and clicked on “Resources” and discovered an entire library of free downloadable eBooks on your niche. How psyched would they be? And how many people do you think they would tell?

Having a successful blog is all about positioning yourself as the thought leader in your industry. And in order to do that effectively, you need to have quality, well-designed, informative free downloads.

 

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