Caleb Freeman, SVP Experience, Hot Paper Lantern
I love a good educational podcast, and in my opinion, DesignBetter.co is one of the best out there. Put on by the folks at InVision, DesignBetter.co is (by no surprise) all about design, translated through the eyes of leaders in the design field.
Even so, I’ve found that each episode is packed with wisdom I can take back to any of my colleagues – which I do. In addition to design, I often pick up helpful tips and teachings across various disciplines, such as: operations, HR, communications, analytics and content. In fact, after listening to an episode featuring Margaret Gould Stewart, VP of Product Design at Facebook, I felt so inspired that I typed up a long email recap of some insights for my team at Hot Paper Lantern (HPL).
Here’s what I told them.
Always remember the “why” behind numbers.
Data is like a gateway drug. It opens so many opportunities for refined design, personalized content and optimized interactivity, but it’s really only half the equation. Supplementing quantitative measurements with qualitative research and observations is what transforms data into an insight. It’s the qualitative work we do that brings out the “why” behind the “what, how, where, how much, how long, etc.” that is tracked in our data.
Data is also a luxury. Comms and marketing professionals are under a tremendous amount of pressure to provide hard numbers that prove ROI, but guess what? That isn’t always possible. Does this mean that activities without measurement are any less important? No! As Margaret states in the episode, the point to remember is that “not everything important can be measured.”
Create experiences for actual people.
It’s easy to get in “production mode” and lose sight of the audience. Yes, it’s our job as creative professionals to make experiences and messages attractive enough to pay attention to, but we have to remember who they’re for. We aren’t producing experiences for ourselves, we’re creating them for our users, customers, and clients.
With that in mind, we constantly need to remind ourselves of the population, audience segments, and niche targets who engage with the experiences we create. As you perform your daily tasks, a simple yet powerful tip is to think about the end-user and the value each person would find in what you are creating. Performing little mental exercises like this will help you in creating empathetic content and creative concepts that connect with your audience(s).
Build the foundation of success by telling a story.
A story should be at the heart of every dialogue, whether you’re pitching a new idea, designing an interface, or writing an article.
Human beings crave the cognitive and emotional responses that stories provide. Just as books and movies flow through an expected cadence of setting the stage, building character profiles, illustrating the conflict, growing the energy to a climatic pivot and providing a brief but paced resolution – this flow is critical in communicating with intention and conviction. As the communicator, this flow also helps you invoke passion and confidence into your delivery, further solidifying the validity and strength of your ideas.
Adopt a mission and value-based orientation.
Being mission-oriented drives focus, and in turn, success. Our mission is the thread that weaves together everything we do. Leveraging the words of our mission statement in meetings shows a defining strength and understanding of our collective intention and attention toward our future. Margaret suggests asking directly, “how does what we are doing help facilitate (our) mission?”
You should have the same conversation about your values. At HPL, we value being bold, fearless, collaborative, respectful and passionate. To stay true to ourselves and our clients, we constantly check in on how these values are represented in our day-to-day activities.
Look for inspiration and learning everywhere you go.
When we think of developing as professionals, we tend to focus on hard skills – technology, process, best practices, rules, and norms that support our daily outputs. In fact, your professional evolution relies on building soft-skills. Who you are around your technical capabilities – namely, how you interact and communicate with others – will determine if and how you grow as a leader.
You can work on your soft skills all the time, in everything you do. A great way to challenge yourself is to get out of your comfort zone. Margaret talks about how Facebook offers woodworking classes, so that people who only deal with non-physical, digital products can see the effects of creating something “real.” She goes on to describe the power of creating something real with your hands, and how this process not only brings people together, but can also inspire new ideas.
I love this tip in particular because it emphasizes something I have long believed. If you work with a team, it’s important to grow as a team. Success comes to those who not only work together, but genuinely enjoy being around one another and show interest in each other’s lives.
Time to wrap things up.
Again, this is a great episode. I didn’t get into the design intel, but if you’re interested in those tips, you can stream the episode on Spotify, iTunes, Stitcher, or directly from the DesignBetter.co website. My parting words are simple: keep your eyes wide, your ears tuned, and your mind open. Inspiration isn’t always found in the overt words or images used, but rather within the meaning they carry.
About the Author: As senior vice president of experience at Hot Paper Lantern, Caleb is responsible for making sure interactive creative includes: best-in-class design, efficient technology, the voice of the customer, brand continuity, and is driven by insightful user data. In addition to helping lead projects and accounts, Caleb serves the agency by identifying new approaches, processes and methodologies in how HPL produces creative solutions aligned to business outcomes and project goals.
With extensive experience in crafting user-centric solutions, Caleb has lead projects and initiatives for a wide variety of companies, ranging from tech startups to Fortune 500s. Caleb’s experience and past projects span across B2B and B2C brands, including: Facebook, Nestlé, AIG, MINI, EY, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Avon.