LeAnne Eck

We strive to empower our clients and audiences with knowledge and understanding of the work we do, whether it’s graphic design social media, video production or website development. The technical aspects of many of the areas we offer support can seem, frankly, overwhelming to some, which is why we’re breaking down our process. To help you better understand website production, let’s take a look at user experience.

A BRIEF OVERVIEW

The user experience (UX) looks at how people interact with a website in relation to the site’s overall functionality. It is the study of the who, what, why, where and when pertaining to websites, analyzing what the user sees and stands to gain when navigating a website. Focusing on creating a connection between the user and a website, a successful user experience evokes emotion and feeling that, without it, may come across as static and boring. A positive connection will, in-turn, make the user want to return over and over again.

When you think about website design, UX often takes a backseat to the design and development of a site, but the research and planning serve as the most important steps in the process. Without a good foundation, a site will not have a clear path to function and grow. The study of UX pushes site design further and allows for updates to functionality based on the users’ needs. Can you imagine trying to search for something on Amazon using the interface from 15 years ago? Industry experts study how people use the site to improve the UX over time so as users’ needs change, so does the site.

 

THE FIVE W’S OF USER EXPERIENCE

Taking the time to study UX early on in the site design process will make it easier to use and more likely have users remain on the site longer while also returning more often. Most sites can achieve these benefits by taking a closer look at the 5 W’s listed below:


Determine your audience through research

  • Create employee or customer surveys to identify your existing audience
  • Research analytics, if you already have a site, to see who visits the site
  • Based on the survey feedback and analytics, create a user profile listing a fictitious person who would use the site, this allows the team to give a face to the audience


Focus on what is most important and design the site from there

  • Build off of the information architecture and start by creating wireframes, blocking off areas of the site without actually designing it
  • Adjust the hierarchy of the site to ensure the site flow leads users in the right direction


Create an information architecture and describe information placement

  • If you have a current site, start by outlining the current structure so you can work on making it better
  • Use a white board with sticky notes to easily move items around in real-time
  • Add notes for specific page elements and visualize the layout


Build out a realistic timeline for when you want the site to go live

  • Base your site’s launch around a new product release
  • Stick to your deadline


Determine your goal for the site and the needs of the users

  • Create a focus group to meet and brainstorm what you want users to get out of your site
  • Use sticky notes to get ideas out quickly and narrow down a concept

 

Current website design trends create an easy-to-follow, almost templated user experience. But with creativity, research and planning, the possibilities of website design are practically endless. Follow the five W’s when planning your next website to put your site on the track to success.

Corey Warnick

With the Internet, technology, design and a host of other website-related factors constantly changing, so does the answer to, “What can I do to improve my website?” As it stands today, the keys to a successful website can be broken down into four main components — responsiveness, interactive design, architecture and visibility. As you dive into each of these components, take a look at your personal or business website to see where it could use some upgrades.

RESPONSIVENESS

Having a good looking website will attract users initially, but making sure it functions well will keep them coming back. In the world of smartphones and tablets, making sure your website is responsive and mobile friendly, meaning the site is just as easy to use on mobile devices as it is on a desktop computer, is crucial. If your website doesn’t respond or function well on mobile devices, users have little incentive to stay on the site, and with technology continuing to improve and advance, a growing number of people use their mobile devices to browse the web. According to Statista, mobile devices accounted for 49.7 percent of web page views worldwide as of February 2017.

INTERACTIVE DESIGN

Incorporate movement into your website as a technique for catching the user’s eye and encouraging them to take a look around your website. While interactive elements take many forms, adding big, full-width videos, parallax scrolling — where background images are providing the illusion of depth when a user scrolls — and animation are at the top of the trendy website list add another level of interaction with the user. Keeping the user engaged will extend their stay on your website, leading them to learn more about what you have to offer.

ARCHITECTURE

Displaying the right information on your home page, such as call to action buttons and links to other pages, helps guide the user directly to the content they want. At a minimum, the most important information you should feature on your homepage includes details about you or your company, services you provide and contact information. You don’t want to overload the user the moment they visit your site with a lot of unnecessary content that could potentially confuse or mislead them. Smart architecture will give users what they need on the initial visit and more information as they become more familiar with your site.

VISIBILITY

So your website is responsive, has interactive elements and excellent architecture, but can your target audience find it? That’s where Search Engine Optimization comes in. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is key to getting your website to rise to the top of Google, Bing and other search engine results. Proper meta keywords, titles and descriptions relevant to your website content not only help define you or your business, but they help users easily find you.

As technology continues to advance and design trends continue to evolve, staying familiar with website terms and trends will help to ensure your website’s success. Think about your visitors when making or considering updates and how you can enhance their user experience.

For more information about user experience, stay tuned for an upcoming blog with everything you need to know. Are you planning on updating your website? Leave us a comment with your plans!

Alison Tagliaferri

Pantone’s 2018 Color of the Year, Ultra Violet, marks the fourth time Pantone has selected a purple, or a variety of purple, as the Color of the Year: Radiant Orchid, a solid purple, in 2014; Blue Iris, a blue purple, in 2008; and Fuchsia Rose, described by Pantone as a “bright pink and purple” but looks like pink to most of us, in 2001.

When Pantone named Ultra Violet, a deep royal purple, the latest Color of the Year, the news thrilled our Bright Lights because we’re passionate lovers of purple.

It’s not because of our hometown pride in the purple-clad Baltimore Ravens, a team that, like A. Bright Idea, began in 1996. Beyond visually representing A. Bright Idea, purple is our brand.

Pantone sets the standard for colors used by the print and design industry. As a graphic designer, when I sit down to begin a logo or design, I sit down with a Pantone book. Like every designer, I turn to a Pantone book when it comes time to pick a color palette for a project. That helps me find colors that work together well in the Pantone swatch book. I also bring a Pantone color book to every press check to make sure the print color matches.

The Pantone Color Institute staff has selected a Color of the Year since 2000 and bases the selection on their analysis of pop culture, fashion, design and current events. Last year’s pick of Greenery as the 2017 Color of the Year represented a new beginning. Pantone describes Ultra Violet as the color that “lights the way” for what is to come. That phrase also resonates with us as Bright Lights who help light the way for our clients.

“Complex and contemplative, Ultra Violet suggests the mysteries of the cosmos, the intrigue of what lies ahead, and the discoveries beyond where we are now,” Pantone wrote in the announcement. “The vast and limitless night sky is symbolic of what is possible and continues to inspire the desire to pursue a world beyond our own.”

Courtesy of Pantone

Purple inspires creativity. A mindful color that energizes, yet calms, purple can represent sophistication, happiness, brightness and so much more. Purple’s not feminine or masculine. It’s gender neutral, allowing for a wide range of uses.

Pantone’s Color of the Year influences design trends across industries. In addition to A. Bright Idea, the designer handbag company where I started my career always incorporated the Pantone Color of the Year into the new line.

While it’s complementary to yellow, purple works well with a wide range of colors. Its popularity with designers may be one reason Pantone has picked a shade of purple four times for Color of the Year since 2000. Unlike a red or orange that tries to grab your attention, purple conveys tranquility and contemplation. A designer also can use it in larger color blocks.

For those of us at A. Bright Idea, purple always remains in style, providing our graphic designers with versatility. Tell us how you plan to incorporate Ultra Violet in the new year by commenting below.

Lisa Condon

The new year brings with it a rebirth of colors that add to the hope of warmer times ahead. And if the Pantone Color Institute has anything to say about it, four leaf clovers, leprechauns and spring foliage are in luck after its latest announcement.

Every year, Pantone announces a color or colors of the year. For 2017, Pantone selected “greenery” as Color of the Year (or for my fellow graphic designers out there, Pantone 15-0343). The shade of choice is “a fresh and zesty yellow-green.”

Pantone is internationally respected by the print and design industry as the authority for its “products, services and leading technology for the colorful exploration and expression of creativity.” When Pantone speaks, designers and communicators listen.

With over 1,800 colors in its database, color selection and usage of Pantone’s designs can seem overwhelming at times. The selection of appropriate colors for our designs helps us tell client’s stories through our visual expertise.

I recently had a conversation with my colleague Brian Lobsinger, our director of visual communications, West Coast operations, about using greenery to cut through the visual clutter.

Our advice is identifying complementary shades for the color of choice. These can take the most ordinary creations and give them a jolt of vibrancy and character. For greenery, color complements include:

– Neutrals
– Brights
– Deeper shades
– Pastels
– Metallics

Most notably, these are found in red, brown and gray hues.

Green happens to be my favorite color, and I find it a refreshing tone. Using complementary colors is a great way to produce dynamic, inspirational visuals that grab the attention of the audience and produce stunning results.

Tell us how you plan to incorporate Pantone’s Color of the Year – greenery – into your life by commenting below.

Numerous studies demonstrate the effects that various aspects of the environment, including noise, sights and smells, have on the mind and the work that we produce.

CBS Sunday Morning recently ran a segment on how design colors the mind, by exploring the “drunk tank pink” color in a visiting football team’s locker room. The school purposefully selected the color for the locker room to weaken the visiting players before a game. Similarly the color was also noted for use in prisons to calm the violent inmates.

The story featured design psychologist Toby Israel, who placed a tree in her kitchen because of the positive connotations her memories as a child held of trees. She found when she spent much of her time in her kitchen, she felt happier and related that to the tree’s influence. Israel explores the psychology of design in her book, Some Place Like Home: Using Design Psychology to Create Ideal Environments, http://www.designpsychology.net/about.html#book.

Adam Alter, assistant professor of psychology and marketing at NYU, discusses the effects that different colors have on moods and productivity in his book titled Drunk Tank Pink, and Other Unexpected Forces That Shape How We Think. His research includes exploring how blue produces more creativity and red more caution and perhaps attention to detail. The book is an interesting read and offers additional insights about colors and factors that influence us (http://www.us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9781101605783,00.html)

As we all know and can likely see in our own offices, everyone has a different working style. What makes one person productive may drive the next up a wall!

One prime example of this is found in the story behind Coffitivity (coffitivity.com). A small group of people recognized their ability to think more creatively in a setting with a moderate volume of noise, such as a coffee shop. Their research proved that too much noise distracted most people and too little noise, while good for detail-oriented tasks, inhibited creativity.

They searched high and low for the right coffee shop and once they found it they recorded the noise of the every day hustle and bustle and posted it on a website they created for desk workers everywhere. The site has grown in popularity to points around the world, from Japan to Great Britain. Coffitivity offers a soundtrack of coffee shop noises at just the right level to help people to think outside of the box.

Many of us at ABI have different working styles—from sitting in rooms with the lights completely off to playing music over the speaker system or in our own headphones. Some of our walls are colored purple and we have a “chill area” with couches and a basketball hoop for those times when we just need to throw around some ideas with each other.

However unusual or interesting your work setting is, it’s important that it works for you. As new studies show, there are more and more tools to help perfect your work setting to spurn on productivity. Find out what’s right for you and share it – it may work for someone else too!

Ask yourself:

  • Do you work best with music or without?
  • How much lighting do you need to think clearly? Or how little do you need to think differently?
  • What colors do you like to look at while youwork?
  • Do you have images hanging around you that stimulate you in different ways?
  • Do the people around you distract you, or do their anecdotes provide much-needed breaks and stimulate creativity?
  • Are you more productive when people are chatting around you, or do you need total silence to concentrate?

Check out these sources:

http://coffitivity.com/

Drunk Tank Pink, and Other Unexpected Forces That Shape How We Think: http://www.us.penguingroup.com/nf/Book/BookDisplay/0,,9781101605783,00.html

Some Place Like Home: Using Design Psychology to Create Ideal Environments, http://www.designpsychology.net/about.html#book

A. Bright Idea, Archer St. office

As a full-service creative agency we wear many different hats.  We design, write, consult—and that’s just before our morning Starbucks! Keeping our creative minds challenged and inspired requires a motivated focus. Fortunately, we are able to draw inspiration from just about anywhere! Take a look into our creative process with some of our favorite methods of motivation:

 

1.  Get online. With so much content online, we never know when we’ll find something that triggers our creative minds. We love to pin and post!

2.  Collaborate. We make team brainstorming, discussions and creative kickoff meetings a large part of our process. Our staff offers unique perspectives, and since we hold team meetings in relaxed environments, the creative juices can just flow!

3.  Word association. Even if the project elicits a visual element, sometimes beginning with words and working up to their visual counterparts makes for a better end result. Organizing ideas into lists helps us to think more clearly and determine what direction we take.

4.  Back to the books. Thinking about synonyms of a word can really help get an idea going. While one word may not quite have the effect we’re looking for, another word that holds a similar significance may just be the portal to all of those wonderfully bright ideas to come.

5.  Clip and save. We like to save everyday items we come across such as mail pieces, restaurant menus, coasters, magazine ads, labels, and business cards. Whether it’s the organization, type treatment or look of the material that appeals to us, the possibilities of what this little piece could play in a future design seem almost endless. Some call it hoarding; we call it inspiration collecting!

6.  Party hearty. Whether we’re attending a business event, awards ceremony, or personal celebration, we love being inspired by different atmospheres, themes and sceneries.

7.  Explore the outdoors. We often develop color palettes, textures and patterns from what we see in our everyday surroundings. Natural elements, as well as manmade, inspire us to another degree. The line pattern of a leaf or the texture of a tree trunk can play into many different designs.

8.  Photography. A good photo can inspire a concept, a new perspective, a focal point, a color palette, a theme or mood, and much more. Browsing through beautiful imagery like National Geographic can really help.

9.  Channel surf. Sometimes we just need to sit back and observe. Television is a virtual idea wonderland – bringing together a large variety of people, places and scenarios from diverse backgrounds and places.

10.  Go back in time. Looking back at what we’ve created in the past, as well as what creative treasures history holds, brings about new challenges. We always look for ways to carry design to the next level. Sometimes a look back is the best place to start looking forward.

 

We focus on nurturing inspiration and building creativity as part of our daily activities—whether visually or verbally—and we hope these tips help to inspire you!

You may already know, we’re all baseball fans here at A. Bright Idea, so to celebrate the start to the 2011 season, we present our favorite top 10 major league baseball logos of all time, chosen by our creative experts, Facebook fans and Twitter followers. Thank you again for all of your responses!

1. Baltimore Orioles

This classic, cartoon-style logo represents A. Bright Idea’s hometown team and served as the primary logo for the team from 1967-1992. On this one, take note of the bright orange circle surrounding the illustration of the bird and the fun, confident, inviting expression on his face.

2. Milwaukee Brewers

The Brewers retro logo from 1978-1993 makes it to the top of the list with its clever use of typography, representing the M and B, while also creating the image of a baseball glove.

3. Chicago Cubs

Representing the ‘ole red, white and blue, the vintage Cubs logo emotes an Americana past-time of peanuts and cracker jacks on a sunny summer day at the ball park.

4.  Detroit Tigers

The classic Detroit newspaper-like “D” logo represents the solid imagery that stands the test of time. Used throughout the entire city, in a variety of locales, the logo resonates as the quintessential design of Detroit.

5. New York Mets

The classic New York skyline brings a sense of nostalgia to the Mets logo. The silhouette of the city matched with the blue writing and orange accents made everyone want to go and ‘Meet the Mets.’

6. Cincinnati Reds

Emoting the good ole’ days at the ballpark, the old Cincinnati Reds logo, displays a baseball head mascot running in the center of a bold red ‘C’ and was referred to as the ‘Big Red Machine.’ You can’t help but think of this as a cool and fun logo.

7. Minnesota Twins

This strong use of red, white and blue colors shows a clear representation of America’s game. The slanted font used for the ‘Twins’ pops out and represents this team well.

8. San Diego Padres

The old Padres logo (used 1969-1984) represents the Friar theme and colors, including a caricature-type drawing. This classic brings a sense of humor with it, that’s for sure!

9. Los Angeles/Anaheim Angels

While the Angels have changed their logo and color combination multiple times, the use of a classic halo, most of the time over the ‘A’ remains something they have never thrown out. Plus, who doesn’t think of ‘Angles in the Outfield’ when you hear this name or see the logo?

10. Boston Red Sox

The Boston Red Sox has one of the most loyal fan bases. Even in the ‘drought’ when the Sox couldn’t catch a break, Boston fans proudly wore the classic red socks logo anywhere they went. Now that the team is a powerhouse, you’ll find this classically designed logo everywhere with the bold red, white and blue colors.