Insightful.

Our thinking and opinion on the things that matter to those in the marketing, communications and design industries.

Keep up to date

The future of learning

13 Nov 2018 by Jeremy Sweetman

On a recent visit to Melbourne, I was privileged enough to visit  Wooranna Park Primary  in Dandenong. Privileged!? A visit to a primary school isn’t typically wrapped with the word ‘privileged’ –...

the future of learning jeremy sweetman

on a recent visit to melbourne, i was privileged enough to visit wooranna park primary in dandenong. privileged!? a visit to a primary school isn’t typically wrapped with the word ‘privileged’ – particularly if (as a parent) you make daily trips to your own – so let me explain.

on visiting the primary school, our group was welcomed by the principal (ray trotter) and tech-educator (kieran nolan). our welcome provided the most ‘ordinary’ thing about this school, because as we stepped through the doors it was clear that the school was anything but ordinary.

very quickly i realised this school is unlike most others. firstly, traditional classrooms don’t exist; instead, the learning spaces are rich and engaging in their own right. instead of rows of desks, you’re presented with learning spaces offering a real difference.

most of the spaces have been crafted to provide engaging and immersive environments designed to spark the imagination. in one area, you’re met with a giant spaceship, complete with a flight simulator. walking into another, you’re met by an impressive red dragon boat, designed to provide students with sea-faring adventures using google earth to guide them across (actual) oceans. 

 

the area where we started our journey was fully decked out with a green screen studio and supported a large array of technology and tools to provide students with a seemingly unlimited canvas of possibilities. fun fact: this technological space – officially named the ‘enigma portal’ – was democratically voted upon by students using blockchain voting – that the students set up.

 

to date, the school has been likened to disneyland rather than a typical learning space – a comparison that ray is obviously proud of. from where i sit, i can see three large flat-screen tvs – one of which is connected 24/7 to schools located in both new zealand and korea. in one corner, the school is creating an augmented reality sandbox (of particular interest to me as we’re undertaking a similar project); whilst in another, a cisco network suite allows students to design and build their own computer networks.

 

the technological toys didn’t stop there. we experienced 3d printing, robotics, minecraft virtual reality (vr) which they were programming, google earth experiences; and heard stories surrounding various bitcoin endeavours and the success of their mentoring programme – in which it pairs students with industry experts (recently pairing a student interested in black holes with an expert at nasa). that said, not everything was driven by technology. for the non-technical, we received invitations to stroke a selection of bearded dragons housed within their impressive nature classroom. 

remember, this is a primary school!

interestingly, despite all the technology, ray is a self-proclaimed technophobe and cites his level of technical prowess as (almost) mastering his mobile. however, this mismatch of technical savviness is quickly forgotten when you listen to him speak and hear his passion for teaching, his vision, and ultimately, why he’s expanding his students’ minds.

what about the educational value?

this is where it gets interesting.

firstly, let me start by saying i’m not (at any level) an expert on the australian educational system. in fact, my knowledge has been gained primarily by anecdotal means and in large, through the honesty offered up by ray and kieran and my interpretation of their stories.

educationally, wooranna park primary is duty bound to deliver the same educational curriculum as every other australian primary school – which they do. the primary tenets (as outlined by the government and as i understand them) are numeracy, literacy and student attendance. it’s here where ray believes the system is failing the next generation; in doing so, passionately reminding us that the world is full of learning opportunities beyond this outlined framework.

 

he goes on to reference buckminster fuller’s ‘knowledge doubling curve’ which (currently) suggests that human knowledge is doubling (roughly) every 12-months. but according to ibm the development of the ‘internet of things’ (iot) will lead to a doubling of knowledge every 12-hours. ray suggests that focusing primarily on numeracy and literacy (not forgetting attendance of course) won’t come close to preparing our children for the future.

however, this stance has come at a cost. ray uncomfortably and honestly shares that wooranna park is below-average through assessment by the national assessment program – literacy and numeracy (naplan). although, through this discomfort, his passion and pride surface again when you hear the long-list the other results & accolades the school has achieved. some of which could be argued rival the set curriculum.  

honestly, as his story unfolded, i initially perceived ray as a bit of a ‘bad-boy’, riding down the educational highway, offering up two fingers to an educational system that he felt was failing to prepare the minds of the future. a rebel born through a long career in teaching. however, by the end of our tour, i believe him more a visionary, with both his heart and head in the right place – although still carrying a smattering of bad-boy, but only insofar as to ensure he can continue to colour outside the lines and deliver a learning environment that continues to expand his students’ minds.

don’t get me wrong, numeracy and literacy will (obviously) remain core subjects, but our world continues to evolve. with the exponential momentum of augmented/virtual reality (ar/vr), artificial intelligence (ai), crypto-currencies and robotics (to name just a few), and the unprecedented access to new knowledge through the developing iot – why wouldn’t we want to prepare our children? why shouldn’t we be more prepared?

i wish ray and kieran all the luck in the world. they’ve inspired me. in our industry, technology changes… quickly. the solutions we deliver today won’t be the ones we provide tomorrow, and that’s exciting. it’s also encouraging to know that more digital natives are on their way, thanks to the efforts of schools like wooranna park.

i know this innovative approach to education won’t be for everyone. there may be flaws in the vision, glitches in the plan that are still yet to surface. from my perspective, i can’t see any –  can you? 

ps. i know wooranna park welcomes visitors to their school, so don’t be shy if you’re knocking about melbourne and looking for something different – reach out. 

innovation, technology, innovation

Does glitter work on everything?

28 Aug 2018 by Jeremy Sweetman

Recently, my daughter had a eureka moment when she realised that by copying her project from Google Docs into a website template, it would invoke a completely different response or level of engagement from her...

does glitter work on everything? jeremy sweetman

recently, my daughter had a eureka moment when she realised that by copying her project from google docs into a website template, it would invoke a completely different response or level of engagement from her audience. same copy, different outcome. excited by her breakthrough, she’s now an advocate of delivering her work by all sorts of varied means.

from this initial discovery, she’s also realised that sometimes a straight copy-and-paste just isn’t enough. sometimes additional crafting is needed depending on where her story is being told. now she’s graduated to adding pictures, quotes, videos and (of course) glitter to engage her audience.

this revelation isn’t new, but it is a reminder that we should continually look to craft our content to maintain its effectiveness – regardless of channel. but do we?

too often the focus becomes central to one channel. one output. all the thinking, crafting and love get poured into a single delivery. then, with what’s left, we make it work for the other channels. the risk is that the story can be diluted. lose its shine. or worse, its effectiveness.

as storytellers, this is on us.

so, whether you're a client, a strategist, marketer, creative or copywriter; if you’re planning, creating or delivering a multi-channel story, then (please) pause. think about how you craft your content. think about its effectiveness for every one of the channels you’ve identified. explore and understand all the opportunities; be aware of the challenges and limitations. in short, work towards telling the clearest story you can – for every channel.

multi-channel communication, crafting content

Semi Permanent - Day One

13 Aug 2018 by Jeremy Sweetman

  Semi-Permanent has always been a calendar event, but previously there was never really enough ‘digital’ to justify shelling out any sort of investment. This year, however, the ‘Day One’ agenda looked...

semi permanent - day one jeremy sweetman

 

semi-permanent has always been a calendar event, but previously there was never really enough ‘digital’ to justify shelling out any sort of investment. this year, however, the ‘day one’ agenda looked particularly designed for the technically inclined. speakers from air bnb, google and uber spoke alongside netflix and facebook forming the opening salvo for this year’s event. dad, can i go? pretty please!

the morning was crammed back-to-back with the above speakers, and they were all good (well, mostly). each offered a mix of wisdom and experience, which is still echoing away in my mind. one clear theme from all speakers was a need to craft the solution, prototype, test (and repeat and repeat and repeat), before deploying at scale (and by scale, think 80 million uber users generating over 10 billion rides (to date) or 120 million netflix users over 109 countries). what’s even more mind-blowing is the netflix product design team is only ten-strong and constantly on the move, experiencing the different countries and cultural differences to maintain relevance for each country netflix is in.

another core theme was the notion that ‘there are no sacred cows’, citing many examples where improvements can be found in areas already thought perfect.

whereas the morning talked digital, the afternoon couldn’t have been more different with a series of talks aimed at diversity within the creative industry. really powerful stuff! talks from beth o’brien (colenso) and tea uglow (google) left me particularly inspired (for different reasons) and reminded me of the benefits that pursuing more diversity brings to our own creative pursuits.

for me, ‘day one’ was a success. well done semi-permanent! knowing me, the speakers’ experiences will now slowly be deconstructed and repurposed' eventually touching aspects of my work. thanks for letting me go, dad. 

semi-permanent, insight creative

Websites: the end is just the beginning

16 Oct 2017 by Jeremy Sweetman

When I visit a website, I typically (and quickly) scan the homepage. I might scroll just beyond the fold to see what content morsels lie just out of sight – and if I don’t find anything to sink my teeth into –...

websites: the end is just the beginning jeremy sweetman

when i visit a website, i typically (and quickly) scan the homepage. i might scroll just beyond the fold to see what content morsels lie just out of sight – and if i don’t find anything to sink my teeth into – i check out the menu. if it’s a burger, i open it.

every website has a goal. an intent. whether measurable by dollars & cents, subscription or shares, or likes or engagements. in an ideal situation, users would all view a website in the same way, they would understand the intent and participate – consciously or sub-consciously. the problem is, that even with the clearest of journeys, the user will always do what the user always does. the challenge then becomes one of designing a better user experience. one that marries the user’s needs with the business objectives.

when we develop a website, we factor in that people engage differently. they navigate differently; some consume content, others snack; some anchor themselves to desktops, others view things on the go. the one truism is that people engage differently.

so, given that people engage differently, how do you build the perfect website to cater for all the differences? the answer is, you don’t.

when you start defining an experience, you research, and plan, and interview and develop and trial all of the ideas and possibilities you think will solve the challenge. at some point, you have to put it out there and watch. and learn. and then refine and evolve.

knowledge, creativity, and experience provide a perfect starting point, but ultimately your users define how they will engage with you and your brand.

"at some point, you have to put it out there and watch. and learn.

and then refine and evolve."

through observation of user behaviour, you can refine your service and offer more meaningful choices. you can cater for better engagement. ultimately, you aim to aid your users to achieve your goals by delivering a better experience. to assist in your quest for clarity, a wealth of knowledge, tools and analysis is on offer to help you maximise the online experience of your users.

don’t be afraid to not know all the answers when you go live with a website. be galvanised in the notion that you’ll learn, and refine, and improve with each user interaction. your goals will be more achievable, fuelled by an increase in your understanding. your platform will become more resilient to change the more you know about how your users engage – regardless of browser, device or time of day etc.

to create meaningful online experiences that ebb & flow based on user needs and business objectives – don’t ever see the ‘going live’ of your website as the end of your project – but instead, the beginning. be prepared to learn more about your users, beyond what you thought you knew. and don’t shy away from changing your direction off the back of analysis of your users’ behaviours.

websites, user experience, ux, incremental improvement

The Reign of Content

12 Jun 2017 by Jeremy Sweetman

The continued reign of content online is undisputed. It remains central to any online patronage. It motivates engagement, drives purchases and creates connections between individuals and brands. Think about it. When...

the reign of content jeremy sweetman

the continued reign of content online is undisputed. it remains central to any online patronage. it motivates engagement, drives purchases and creates connections between individuals and brands. think about it. when was the last time you visited a site because they used a certain cms or technical infrastructure? i’m guessing, never! although if you’re more technically inclined <cough>geek</cough> like me, maybe you do on occasion. 

arguably, sites are visited because of an article, or video, an animation, a meme, or a blog… etc. etc. etc. don’t get me wrong, the platform or the container is important. just not important to the people visiting your site.

clearly, content matters! this is not a new concept by any stretch. not even one i can lay claim too. in 1996, bill gates coined the phrase ‘content is king’. he predicted that the internet would eventually make money via content, as it does in broadcasting. fast forward 20+ years, and many notable individuals have gone on to endorse bill’s sentiment. arguably, his predictions not only hold true today but are central to developing rich user engagements and loyalty.

"good content allows us to tell the clearest stories."

good content allows us to tell the clearest stories. we use video to make the complex simple. we deliver interactions that engage and surprise. we contextualise to add meaning. and we wrap it in brand to create a connection and deliver an experience.

the digital landscape continues to change – with new technologies, frameworks, tools and methodologies to enable us to maximise how we engage with our users. through this transformation, the value of content has been a constant, and with new tools & technologies, we’re able to create (and deliver) even better content than ever before.

however, given this transformation, we must now balance a new set of challenges. challenges like understanding how people navigate, search, scan and engage with content. these components must then be reflected against supported devices (i.e. mobile vs desktop), with consideration placed on the content pace & structure - potentially offering things like a tiered content structure to allow users to drill deeper – where relevant/interested.

"users visit sites because content has meaning. but they can also leave, due to lack of it."

by wielding these new tools, we can create more meaningful and engaging online experiences. we can contextualise content based on location, device and/or previous user engagement. we create intimacy by providing relevance and conversation. we use functionality to amplify (the content) – because we understand that people don’t visit our sites because we’re using wordpress or drupal or {insert cms here}. they visit because our content has meaning. and (sometimes) they leave, due to lack of it. content truly is still king.

so, if content is king, how do you encourage engagement, drive purchases and create connections with both your users and brand? how do you deliver a memorable experience?

website, content

The Clash of Data and Design.

30 May 2017 by Jeremy Sweetman

Now, you may already know this, but the digital landscape harbours a polarised community of data-driven practitioners and their design counterparts. This tension is (typically) born from perceptions that data driven...

the clash of data and design. jeremy sweetman

now, you may already know this, but the digital landscape harbours a polarised community of data-driven practitioners and their design counterparts. this tension is (typically) born from perceptions that data driven design diminishes – if not eliminates – creativity. really!?

let’s be clear, what is data-driven design?

(for simplicity) we can define data-driven-design as the use of quantitative data to inform the design deliverable.

data+design=?

without doubt, there are large companies that live & die by their data-centric approach to design – i’m looking at you google & facebook. but this focus is equally balanced by successful counterparts like apple – who are particularly anti-data – and who openly express a heavily design-centric process. so, who’s right? both? neither?

could it be that both are wrong? with the answer lying within a blend of both? now before ‘heresy’ is suggested from the respective camps – let me explain.

data creates opportunity. delivering opportunity to gain user empathy and inspiration. it pulls back the cover on what people say they do and displays what they ‘actually’ do. remember that numbers represent people, behaviours and engagement; then this intelligence allows design to drive innovation and fuels informed improvement.

as a tool, data then allows for better designed experiences, elevating the human-centred design process.

as the world becomes increasingly more digital, we’ll need to continue to embrace the ‘data by-product’ of user engagement to continually craft better outcomes. by leveraging analytics, we enrich our understanding of amazing (or awful) experiences and, therefore, can iterate in more meaningful ways. this, ultimately, will lead to better products. increased user engagement.

bear-hugs all round.

perceptions aside, it's time to hug an analyst and/or high-five a designer, then wield the power of data & design in pursuit of crafting more meaningful digital experiences.

data+design=amazing experiences <3

data, design

Web design trends for 2014

16 Dec 2013 by Jeremy Sweetman

Everyone tends to like having a stab at predicting the future of… well… anything & everything. So here goes… my top three predictions for web design in 2014 are: 1. More flat design: More and more we are...

web design trends for 2014 jeremy sweetman

everyone tends to like having a stab at predicting the future of… well… anything & everything. so here goes… my top three predictions for web design in 2014 are:

1. more flat design: more and more we are seeing big brands moving away from skeumorphism in favour of a flat design. design that represents a 100% purpose when considering the function of the product. the most obvious examples (that i’m almost certain most have experienced) is the new ios7 from apple or (from the other camp) the windows metro ui and its wonderful array of tiles. flat design tends to focus on flat shapes and indicators that help the user have a more accessible experience.

click here for an interesting article around the battle of flat design versus skeumorphism. or check out this infographic.

2. focus on mobile: a bit of a no-brainer really. mobile is here. with 4.55 billion people expected to use a smart phone in 2014 – it’s no surprise the shift in focus (source. emarketers, jan 14, 2014). but what this figure doesn’t account for are all tablet users or steady flow of wearable gadgets starting to hit the market. mobile is going to be big.

this (obviously) means understanding the nuances of our users and how they consume information across all these devices will be key to mastering the mobile space.

3. endless scrolling: as much as the concept of ‘infinite’ or ‘endless’ scrolling as been around for a little while – i think it will definitely become more prominent within new sites & over new platforms.

i think it (definitely) will start to reign supreme on mobile devices; as it allows users to scroll through content faster & easier than having to click through links and wait for pages to catch up. typically, infinite scrolling pages are not content-cluttered which aligns itself with the new online design techniques quite nicely. this is especially true when overall layout and design can change as a user scrolls – which makes it easy for users to forget they are scrolling through quite a bit of information.

one of my current favorites (for lots of reasons) is departementcreatif.com – check it out.

of course, other ‘designery‘ stuff which is gaining momentum in popularity at the moment – whether by design, opportunity or necessity has to include:

  • less text, more video: a wall of text versus a 30 second video – no contest.  videos are a great way to effectively communicate with audiences who want to be entertained & engaged.
  • big background videos: as bandwidth has less impact on design, we are starting to see more big background videos; that (if done right) provide a deeper user experience and greater connection to the brand.
  • hidden/slide-out menus: users are becoming more and more savvy in their use of technology. a button to reveal a plethora of menu options is becoming common place on mobile devices. although, some would argue this is a negative from a ux/usability perspective – what do you think?


so, have i missed something important? have i got something completely wrong? be vocal and let me know.

of course, i’d be keen to hear what your web design predictions for 2014? don’t be shy!

website, trends
Sorry, there are no results for that search.