As a designer inspiration can come from just about anywhere, and lately I’ve been inspired by a baseball player of all people. The player is Mets pitcher R. A. Dickey. Dickey is arguably one of the best pitchers in baseball right now, but that’s not what I find inspiring.

Just a few years ago, Dickey was, by his own admission, a mediocre pitcher. He spent years floundering in the minor leagues only to get called up to the majors and quickly sent right back down again. Finally, at the ripe old baseball age of 37, things started to click. Dickey discovered his knuckleball and started to pitch better than he ever had. At an age when most major league pitchers have retired, Dickey is just starting to shine. In the minors he surely saw players younger than himself give up and move on to plan b. Dickey is an example of someone who has succeeded because of his perseverance. What’s inspiring about Dickey is that he has grit.

In her book, “Nine Things Successful People Do Differently” Heidi Grant Halvorson talks about the importance of having grit (hint: it’s one of the nine things). Halvorson describes grit as a willingness to commit to long-term goals and to persist in the face of difficulty. The key to grit, according to Halvorson, is the belief that you and your work can improve. Jonah Lehrer author of “Imagine: How Creativity Works,” goes so far as to say that grit is the single best predictor of success.

In a field like design, revision and refinement are part of the process, and having grit is crucial. We start most projects with a project brief and a blank screen. Sometimes the ideas come easily, but often not. Either way it’s rare that our ideas comes out fully formed the first time around. We share our work with coworkers and clients. We critique them, we refine and we repeat this process of iteration. Grit could be described as the 99% perspiration that comes after the 1% inspiration. Self doubt and frustration can creep in to the process and it’s grit that makes us endure. It’s through grit that we push to do our best work.

Additional reading and viewing:

Nine Things Successful People Do Differently by Heidi Grant Halvorson

Jonah Lehrer: The Origins of Creative Insight & Why You Need Grit

Wherever I Wind Up: My Quest for Truth, Authenticity and the Perfect Knuckleball by R. A. Dickey

Jason Harvey at 12:06 PM

The Looooooong Scroll

A recent conversation with a co-worker got me thinking about the growing acceptance of the long scroll. Thankfully, gone are the days where almost everything had to be above the fold, and brands are willing to hint at content that appears below this critical barrier.

According to a recent ClickTale stat, “91% of the page views were long enough to contain a scroll-bar. Of those, 76% were scrolled to some extent.” Since the majority of users understand that information can be accessed with a flick of the scroll wheel (or finger), designers and developers are increasingly integrating techniques like parallax scrolling to enhance the experience, and make it more engaging. Read More …

maynard at 10:22 AM
Design, Development, Technology
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GIF it to me (baby, uh-huh uh-huh)

This new (or should I say old) movement in web design has caught my eye more than once lately. As most of us are trending towards more elaborate, innovative, streamlined designs, some are doing the opposite—and it’s oddly refreshing.

Let’s go back for a second. Back to a time when the Internet was just a baby, when you wish you had those noise-canceling headphones that weren’t invented yet, when you had to connect to the Internet using a phone line, only to produce load times that were unbearably slow by today’s standards. Before the creation of Web 2.0 with its sleek designs and code, there was the birth of code and programming, and a heck of a lot of frustration, limitations and workarounds. Yet, some web designers are now going back to these roots and incorporating low-fi uses of HTML and CSS into their projects.

Read More …

kkecki at 2:49 PM
Design, Development, Projects, Technology

Our Sci-fi World – Mobile Augmented Reality

AR hasn’t gotten much attention since Iron Man 2 was in theaters, but the recent launch of mobile apps  – Wikitude and Wallit! – and talk of Google’s Project Glass, is changing all that.

If you are just getting up to speed, augmented reality is when your view of the real physical world (directly or indirectly) is altered by computer-generated sensory input (i.e. sound, graphics, etc).  This is different than virtual reality that actually replaces the real world with a simulated one (think Tron).

Wikitude is pretty cool.  Through your phone you can view your physical surroundings with essentially different lenses such as Wikipedia, Flickr or Yelp. Last night from the comfort of my couch, I was scanning my living room and found a venue about 4 miles away that is showing the film Forks Over Knives next week as part of a Meetup.  Good to know.

Wallit! is a less cool app that allows folks to create virtual graffiti on virtual walls, based on real world locations.  When I am bored of watching the Cubs lose at Wrigley Field I can pull up Wallit! and shoot the breeze with other fans at the game. One drawback is that you can’t just don a wall as yours and tag it; Wallit! has to set it up as an official wall which isn’t very punk at all. Last week I requested 4 wall locations via Twitter for Chicago – I’ll let you know when my first one gets created.

I think there is great potential for AR and smart phone technology to help us navigate the physical world – assist city workers finding a gas line or allow me to window shop (and buy) from the sidewalk.

Have you had a cool augmented reality experience?  Know of other apps I should be checking out? Share it with us on our Facebook page.

colsen at 10:52 AM
Design, Development, Social, Technology
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Man’s Best “Friend”

Social media (Facebook and Twitter in particular) has become the dominant mode of interaction for many people, but it has only been in the last year that a very niche market has embraced it: dogs. By dogs I don’t mean pages dedicated to the family pet, I mean the cut-throat world of SHOW DOGS. A number of the world’s leading show dogs have their own social media outlets that are garnering traffic volume that any consumer brand would be envious of.

Meet London, a black standard poodle with over 60 Best in Shows to his credit. In the show world he is known as Platinum Grand Champion Jaset’s Satisfaction.

London on the move.

Not only top dog in the show ring (London was Number One Dog, All Breeds through January 2012), but with 4,303 fans on Facebook and 701 Twitter followers, he is the top dog of social media. In addition to engaging with fans, London’s Facebook and Twitter pages have always served a tactical purpose; to get the word out that he was ready to compete against the best dogs in the world’s most competitive shows, without spending a fortune on traditional print campaign advertising.

In fact, between Facebook and Twitter, so much excitement was built surrounding London and his Team, that his fan base tripled over a course of a few months leading up to the 2011 AKC/Eukanuba National Championship. When London and his handler ultimately went on to win the coveted title of National Champion, over a whose-who of competitors in every breed, Facebook’s analytic engine (Insights) showed a total audience of over 500,000 people — all reached by social sharing.

Facebook Viral Image

London’s tale is proof that enabling a dedicated community can give even the most “poodle-riffic” brand a strong social media presence that is effective in reaching its goals.


London on Facebook
London on Twitter

sdulski at 4:19 PM
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Plans to Make Plans

“I’d get stuff done if I were more friggin organized…I need to make a to-do list.”  Does this sound like anyone you know?  Have no fear, making to-do list just got a little bit sexier.  This past weekend I came across my new fav app, Clear. Don’t waste your time on all of the other ‘Productivity’ apps out there, even the native Reminders app doesn’t get to the heart of the matter-  for a to-do list to be truly effective you have to be able to edit, prioritize and delete tasks with ease.

The genius of Clear is in the UI – you won’t find static navigational or menu icons here; you add, delete and move tasks using the array of gestures even human babies have come to master- flick, swipe and pinch.  Clear has just the right amount of customization (yes, you too can be a pretty pretty princess) to make it your own and the themed quotes and sound effects support the lighthearted character of this simple app.

So you have made yourself a list – the first step in preparing to get things done.  Second step  is putting priority to the tasks in any way you see fit (by date of completion, level of effort, etc.)  I would also recommend keeping your lists thematic – for example I keep running to-do lists for: home life, shopping/errands, specific projects, and work.

Third step (this is important) is spending calories doing the tasks. To-do lists work for me, but that’s because I make action and get shi*t done. If you still find yourself struggling to get your IKEA bookshelf put together you may benefit more from the TaskRabbit app, but it’s going to cost you.

colsen at 3:28 PM
Design, People, Technology
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A Girl, a Boy and an Alpaca

Have you ever found yourself day dreaming about up and leaving your job to raise alpacas on the top of a mountain in upstate New York? That’s exactly what husband and wife team Cameron and Katherine Sands did last spring. They then approached TRO to help them name and develop an identity system for their new farm.

TRO recognized the opportunity to create something really special in an industry that’s pretty bleak design-wise. Following initial meetings and research we presented brand boards, each communicating a high level concept, look and feel.

Katherine and Cam selected the board that explored a more illustrative direction and focused on telling their story—a young couple running their farm and raising alpacas in their own unique way. They’re self-admittedly a bit goofy, and liked the idea of embracing humanity, quirkiness and perhaps a bit of the unexpected in their new identity.

Our first logo presentation was met with a great deal of excitement. There was a clear front runner when we got off the phone. However, after much contemplation and discussion, Katherine and Cam requested we use a new name and explore the theme from the second brand board instead. They were concerned that the DIY approach they had initially selected might portray them as inexperienced rather than hands-on entrepreneurs.

So from there it was back to the drawing board. TRO’s second board was über sophisticated and elegant, promising an elite, white-glove brand experience to its clients. In approaching the next round of logos, we wanted to maintain some of the whimsy they liked from our first exploration while still capturing the refinement of the second board.

After one more round of design, we finally reached a solution. Here are some of our favorites. Can you guess which one they picked?

Check back to find out which name and mark Katherine and Cam selected, and see how TRO builds out their identity system.

astrauss at 5:42 PM
Design, People, Projects, Uncategorized

Still Kickin’

Photo from Flickr user Beholder

Okay, time to be a little nostalgic here, and maybe even a little geeky. Let’s remember how this field called Graphic Design got started—with print. Nowadays, it’s a whole lot of websites, apps, interfaces and anything digital, but one of the most quintessential examples of Graphic Design is the poster. I’m sure many of the current designers in the world had a strong base of print design in their education, as did I, but at times we forget the humble yet mighty poster. I’ve been to two events revolved around posters in Chicago in the past few weeks that got me thinking of the poster’s current role in society. Read More …

kkecki at 10:25 AM

My Kind of Town

I come from a place they call ‘The Mistake on the Lake’, though some less affectionately call it Cleveland. In my six-plus years as a Chicagoan, I’ve noticed people are never surprised to learn where I’m from. I believe this is part due to the mass pilgrimage of urban-hungry folk from all over the midwest to Chicago. I also believe that everyone who lives here thinks it’s the greatest city ever, so it only seems obvious that I’d leave my depressing life watching barges of steel and coal pass by my window in pursuit of better things.

Recently, RO was chosen to redesign the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau website. The enthusiasm the CCTB team has for this city, and the excitement they have for the potential of their new website is infectious. Chicago is my home now, and I’d sell it to anyone in a heartbeat. But now the challenge is even greater—sell Chicago to the world. In a team meeting someone mentioned many people outside of the U.S. have the impression that Chicago is like ‘a Cleveland’ (gasp—sacrilege!) While I’m not ashamed to say where I come from, I am very proud to say where I live. And why not? Chicago is an amazing city, boasting an unmatched food scene, iconic architecture, culture, sports, shopping, comedy, an incredible beach…the list goes on. There is a palpable energy, happiness and vibrance here. Even in the winter. When it’s cold. And grey. And freezing. We still choose to live here because we love it. And that’s the message we need to communicate. We’re in the business of creating and selling experiences. And I can’t think of anything better to sell than experiencing Chicago.

astrauss at 1:39 PM
Design, People

Honeycomb Project

The ridiculously long winter in Chicago this year has forced my wife and I to seek outdoor activities to get our two small children out of the house and interacting with other human beings whenever possible — for the physical and mental health of us all. Recently, a friend of ours started an organization that taps into this need and directs it toward doing some good in the community. It’s called the Honeycomb Project, and their mission is to create meaningful volunteer experiences for parents to easily enjoy with their children. The events educate and engage children of all ages and demonstrate the value of volunteering by example. They inspire curiosity and empower families to work together to build stronger connections with each other and a variety of local organizations. This weekend for instance, we joined a group of about 15 families and volunteers in cleaning up Gomper’s Park on Chicago’s north side. We picked up trash and layed down mulch on the footpaths, and although the adults did most of the actual ‘work,’ the kids had a lot of fun and are now aware of how they can help take care of and beautify their own community. (That’s my daughter Ivy in the picture getting a lift back to the mulch pile.) Now if we can just get them to clean their rooms…

Check out The Honeycomb Project on Facebook to learn more and see what activities are coming up next.

hogan at 10:44 AM
Community, People