Strategy What is an insight?

Illustrator: Ihar Turtsou
We work in an industry laced with buzzwords [...]

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Design Forgiving a pretty face

In the late spirit of Valentine’s day, I’ve been thinking [...]

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Digital Responsivenessicity

Illustrator: Bailey Bremmers (Design Apprentice)
A few years ago it [...]

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Culture The Transition

Illustrator: Rodrigo Diaz Mercado
After spending countless lonely nights in cold [...]

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Big Orange Slide

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014

One Way Ticket to GRIP

Blog-Illustration-globe Illustrator: Bailey Bremmers (Design Apprentice)

I love to compare my life to chapters in a book. I am a strong believer that we have the power to change, invent, write, and rewrite the stories of our lives as we move precariously through them. Each decision you make, or page you flip, can change the way your story reads.

Last year, I opened and closed a very big chapter of my life. One with many stories, some short and sweet, some drawn out with words scribbled in the margins, and some with sentences left unfinished. I thought of each country I traveled to in my six months of backpacking through Africa and Asia as stories within the chapters, within my life. Once I returned home, I had to start a new chapter.

Chapter 23: Start A Career

I spent a few weeks after returning home trying to adjust to everyday life. I woke up one morning and realized that I had been reluctantly looking for a job without a clear idea of what path I wanted to take. I found that when people asked me those typically daunting questions like “What do you want to do with your life?”, “What’s your passion?”, and the worst: “Where do you see yourself in five years?”, the only word that came to mind was travel. But of course, this was the answer! I had just backpacked through beaches and jungles, seen the Serengeti and Victoria Falls. I jumped out of an airplane over the desert in Namibia and climbed an active volcano in Indonesia. I had accomplished all these terrifying and exhilarating things, but stood among the rest of my generation perplexed by the idea of what was on the horizon.

I was at a loss for defining my ‘dream job’, struggling to translate my enthusiasm for travel and creativity into a respectable career and feeling discouraged by my fashion major, which no longer felt like my passion. I turned to a trusted confidante who has always been able to unscramble the complexities of my mind and the answer was there all along: my minor in marketing could help me jumpstart my career in advertising, an industry laced with creativity and inspiration from the outside world. I was no longer confused, but driven to start the rest of my life. When building my portfolio, I realized that I was able to use my experiences to show my strengths. I am able to pull design concepts from the memories of fresh fruits and handmade crafts spotted along my travels, face a new client with confidence as a result of the array of personalities I have encountered, and react quickly under pressure when things don’t go as planned. My experience and knowledge of photography and film set me apart. Grip was ready for me. With a combination of networking and persistence, I landed a spot as the Social Content Apprentice!

Now I realize that the experiences I had are mine to draw upon for inspiration in work and everyday life. I believe that travel opens your eyes and changes the way you look at every situation. I now dive freely into everything I do. I have fears, but they don’t hold me back. I thrive on adventure and exploring the unknown. I can easily adapt to people and places around me. I paint my experiences in the brightest light I can, no matter how dark they might seem. I have developed an eye for detail, and when everyone is looking right, I am looking left, and photographing it while I’m at it. My experiences are meant to drive my creativity; my story is filled with colourful moments.

It is essential for me to have those experiences being reflected in everything I do. I strongly believe the greatest education comes from travel. So I challenge you to strengthen your skills by treating every day as an adventure. Rediscover the beautiful city we live in, get lost and find yourself in a new adventure, keep your eyes wide and uncover the small beauties in the most unexpected places. You never know where inspiration lives. This is the start of a new chapter for me, and I am thrilled to have Grip be my first destination.

Responsivenessicity

June 10, 2014 by Brad Stapleton

Blog-Illustration-tetris Illustrator: Bailey Bremmers (Design Apprentice)

A few years ago it would have been acceptable to build a desktop-only site or application. However, in today’s landscape of smartphones, tablets and devices, building a desktop-only experience is a poor decision. One that will frustrate users and lead to high bounce rates. If someone was out shopping and saw a discount promotion available when visiting the store’s website, they would likely take out their phone and visit the site. However, if the site wasn’t optimized for mobile, that person would be frustrated and probably never enter the promotion on a desktop once they arrive home. Alternatively, if the site was built for mobile, users at the store or at home would have no problem accessing the site and entering the promotion. Often, clients today will still choose a desktop-only site because of budget concerns. In the event that one can only develop a desktop or mobile site, mobile is by far the best solution.

Responsive is a buzzword. People toss it around too often and without any merit. Building a ‘responsive’ website or application can be as simple or as complicated as you’d like it to be. The idea of building a responsive website isn’t a new concept, there has always been a variety of screen sizes and resolutions for viewing content. The key concept is that you build content that everyone can access. Since the introduction of smartphones and tablets, this has become a larger challenge, but one that can be easily undertaken with the right amount of preparation.

Planning is everything. Without knowing exactly how you want your website to function, it’s difficult to design and develop a fully responsive website. Some people may argue that since their mobile audience is small, there’s little or no point to accommodate for those users. I don’t believe in any scenario where you shouldn’t accommodate for the mobile users. They are often the same people that use desktops or tablets, they just may be using their mobile device to check or confirm some information.

The most basic guidelines to follow while creating a responsive website are the following:

1. Identify and separate the needs of your mobile and desktop users.
2. Create a relatively simple, flexible/scalable design.
3. Use breakpoints and media queries to adjust the content and layout for desktop, tablet and mobile devices.
4. Remove or hide non-essential content on tablet and mobile devices.

There are of course many other things one can – and should – take into consideration when building a responsive website (Performance, optimized images, conditional loading of assets, etc.). However, since most websites are unique these considerations will be case by case.

Building a smooth-working, responsive site takes more time at the beginning stages of UX and design. Users definitely don’t need the same user experience across all devices. In order to build the most user friendly and cost efficient website, it’s necessary to identify the needs of your mobile and desktop users. Ask yourselves: What type of information will they need access to from their tablet or mobile device? They might not need to see a full screen image slider on their mobile device. Although, they’ll definitely want to access the contact page, contact form or hours of operation. Separate the needs of desktop users and focus your mobile strategy to help users find information on your website quickly and easily. Once you’ve determined the most important information, you can begin to design and develop the site.

I would recommend taking a mobile first design approach. Begin the design with the most necessary information and progressively enhance the content as the viewport gets larger. Thus, giving mobile users simple access to the information they require and adding more complexity to the desktop parts of the site. Taking this approach helps distinguish the most important content from the inception and eliminates the difficult task of how to reduce, remove or redesign content for mobile at a later point.

Depending on how fluid your design and development is, using breakpoints may not be completely necessary. However, since the browsers on tablets and smartphones all support them, why not go ahead and use them. This way we can more accurately design and target specific viewport sizes or devices. We can show exactly what content is needed at the top of the page and move less important info down, or hide it altogether. This is where designing with a mobile first approach will save development time. As long as the pages have been thoroughly planned and well thought out, there will be limited changes to the mobile and tablet portions of the site. Alternatively, the mobile and tablet portions become an afterthought and end up causing many development changes. These changes are often time consuming and cause for complete re-coding of sections or the site itself.

In the end, it’s about giving users the best possible experience. The best way to achieve this is to design and develop a responsive website. Developing a responsive website takes additional preparation and planning. It takes a basic approach and progressively enhances the concept for tablets and desktops. It gives the users access to the necessary information, no matter what device they’re using. It gives the user what they want – content that can be accessed by everyone. The question you should ask yourself isn’t ‘if’ we decide to design/develop responsively. The question should be ‘how’ and ‘what’ are we going to design/develop responsively.

What is an insight?

Insight

Illustrator: Ihar Turtsou

We work in an industry laced with buzzwords that are engineered to award their users an air of respect, or resentment, around the office. A term frequently thrown around, though not categorized as a buzzword, is insight. With everyone from client to apprentice weighing in, insights can at times become convoluted. The reason? The interpretation, or definition, of an insight can be very different, depending on whom you talk to. A trusted strategist based in Toronto, Umar Ghumman, has compiled a presentation documenting the definition of an insight from industry leaders across the continent and pond, including one from Grip’s Managing Partner, Bob Shanks. Without further ado, the round-up:

What is an insight? from Umar Ghumman

What’s your definition?

(N)UI Revolution – Part 2

April 30, 2014 by Brian Dinga

illustration by Rodrigo Diaz Mercado (Brian Dinga)2

Illustrator: Rodrigo Diaz Mercado

In Part 1 of our (N)UI Revolution article, we discussed some of the newer tools available, on mobile devices and other gadgets, that are shaping the revolution of user interfaces and experience. 3D sensors are another key component of this change.

Gesture Interfaces are not possible without a 3D sensor. Current 3D sensors (Kinect-like sensor bars and the Leap Motion Controller) are on the way to making gesture interfaces commonplace. While the technology currently is not sci-fi Hollywood-quality, it makes it possible to start experimenting with the concepts. However, combining current peripherals (such as a gesture-enhancing glove) could bridge the gap between the ‘almost there’ and ‘mind bending’.

Recently, there has been a lot of big news around 3D-sensing technology. In Q4 of 2013, Apple acquired PrimeSense (who developed the Kinect 360 Sensor bar and its open source twins) and quickly shut down their open source 3D-sensing libraries. Microsoft created their new sensor bar independently for the Xbox One. At CES 2014, Intel announced that it was releasing a line of 3D sensors (RealSense) that range in size from a small pencil to a common webcam. Intel continued to say that they plan on releasing the new 3D sensor bars to replace your standard laptop webcam as a standard feature. Android announced Nuidroid, which will be the native Gesture Interface library on Android devices. Google is working on a 3D sensing phone currently called ‘Tango’. There are independently-funded projects out there betting on the NUI revolution: Interaxon’s Muse, which is an EEG brain wave sensor that can be used with your iOS device, or Meta’s SpaceGlasses, which ambitiously is trying to bring augmented reality and Gesture Interfaces to one platform. Startups and major research and innovation organizations have already begun to implement NUI in practical and useful ways. Military and Intelligence agencies are early adopters of touch and gesture interfaces, with plans to further explore these emerging technologies. NASA has developed their Robonaut 2 to use an intent-based interface with NUI-type inputs and controls.

Advertising has also taken notice, especially Coca-Cola! They have created emotion-stirring campaigns using 3D-sensing and Gesture Interface. Here at Grip, we are one of a handful Canadian ad agencies taking part in the Kinect for Windows (2.0) preview program. Many other 3D-sensing type installations have been created all over North America. Other startups have begun to exploit this technology for health and fitness. The applications of this technology are limitless!

3D sensing is more than just using your body to instruct software to accomplish a task. With 3D sensing technology, the possibility of bringing real world objects into a virtual world could be trivial. To a small degree you can already buy children’s toys that work with iOS apps; but with a 3D sensor bar, you can bring and use any prop with you on your virtual adventures. Even ‘magic objects’ (objects that are pre-defined within the software to have special properties) will open up our virtual worlds to new experiences. Imagine gamers buying collectable items that can be displayed in their living room. However, to use that item in-game, they will likely need to be detected holding their collectable item.

NUI isn’t just about Gesture Interfaces. It’s about interacting in ways that feel invisible and intuitive. These interfaces should be designed so that it will not require a steep learning curve, so much so that using those interfaces should feel closer to the real world rather than a virtual world. This will create a stronger connection to technology. Ideally, NUI will allow us to make technology feel more like a part of ourselves rather than become another tool to exploit.

Even with all the advantages that NUI presents, there will still be an era of transition in which UI designers will need to experiment to develop new standards. Historically [recent history], it’s been the modus operandi of Interactive Designers to capitalize on existing and established metaphors to shape our users’ experiences. Before the world of the web we have now, we saw clunky navigation metaphors, bad menus and mystery meat navigation. Lots of mistakes were made, noted and later avoided, but at the cost of countless frustrated users.

With the new technological advances we’ll soon see more and more NUI-based sensors. In the coming years, you’ll see Interactive Designers fumble through difficult-to-use and less intuitive-type interfaces until we re-establish a best set of rules for these new inputs. There could be a time when NUI will be received as confusing and hard to use, but as our users get more accustomed to these new input devices and the metaphors that they represent, it will become second nature.

New design issues will emerge and new features will need to be developed. Maybe designers will have to use modern techniques to solve problems such as using responsive design to accommodate the users’ distance from the input device rather than screen size. Standardization issues will be debated; to ‘go back’, should the standard be a left wipe or a left arm push? Until voice recognition is perfected, a new way of inputting text will need to be designed; possibly a temporary replacement for the right click. All these considerations will only be revealed when we start to experiment with building gesture-centric UI.

The emergence of NUI-related technologies will bring revolutionary changes to the world of technology and, by extension, our personal lives. This will change the way everyone thinks and feels about technology. There will be new challenges ahead, but it’s an exciting time for those innovative and creative enough to take on the challenges. I hope you enjoy the NUI revolution!

(N)UI Revolution – Part 1

April 23, 2014 by Brian Dinga

illustration by Rodrigo Diaz Mercado (Brian Dinga) Illustrator: Rodrigo Diaz Mercado

Those of us who work in the User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX) world know we are on the verge of a revolution.

Change can be a scary thing and when it comes to the world of user interface, it can be daunting. This change will happen so very slowly we won’t realize it’s happening and at the same time, it’ll appear almost overnight as if it’s been there all along. This change is NUI (Natural User Interface) and you are already happy it’s here.

Those of us who have been inspired by Minority Reports’ use of gesture interface have been dreaming of a future where our users can interact with our applications with more than just a keyboard and mouse. The umbrella of NUI can encompass touch devices and the extra sensors that (currently) come built into your smartphone. Orientation sensors, touch screens, cameras and voice recognition have certainly improved our UX opportunities; in fact, if the smartphones didn’t take advantage of these additional sensors (compared to a desktop), they’d be no better than a miniaturized laptop (which would make them pretty difficult to use due to their small screen size). With the emerging trend of smartphones and tablets becoming our preferred method of consuming content, it’s quickly becoming apparent that users prefer NUI and that they are adapting quickly. But NUI isn’t just about how the user is using the application environment; it’s also about using the expanding inputs that are available to us as Interactive Designers/Engineers.

Already, invisible inputs are altering the content we consume; now more than ever, our location data improves our search results. For instance, when we use an application on our phone, it is common for our data to be shaped by our current geolocation. With good reason, too! The user does not want to be directed to the gas station near their home, they want the one near their current location. It’s automatically intuitive and natural to use, without the user having to do additional ‘work’ to get the desired information.

Currently, there are many companies that are working hard to bring new sensors and wearable devices to market. These devices could make it possible to reveal the user’s basic emotions. Imagine: the era of MS Word’s Clippy would re-emerge onto the virtual scene once again. Hurrah!  (</sarcasm>) However, the new version of virtual assistants will actually appear when you are experiencing feelings of stress, rather than when the program is guessing that you don’t know what you are doing.

Assuming that mobile technology is going to single-handedly pave the way would be a mistake. While mobile technology has taken the lead in our recent advances in UI technology, it has not yet reached the pinnacle. Gesture Interfaces will emerge as the norm in the coming future. As with all evolutions in UI design (including Command Line Interface and Graphic User Interface), the previous iterations will still have practical applications, as it still will just be plain faster to use a mouse and keyboard to accomplish some tasks.

The evolution of (N)UI is already upon us, and it’s an exciting one. In Part 2, I’ll discuss 3D sensors and what they mean for the next generation of User Interfaces.

The Transition

April 9, 2014 by Jedd Jones

illustration by Rodrigo Diaz Mercado (JEDD JONES).psd

Illustrator: Rodrigo Diaz Mercado

After spending countless lonely nights in cold hockey rinks for the better part of the last four years honing my skills as an amateur hockey scout, the bigger question of what I wanted to do with my life became clear. Don’t get me wrong, being a part of the hockey brotherhood is a great experience, but I knew I needed more.

You might be wondering why someone who has worked in hockey for years wants to abruptly change careers? The simple and best answer is: scouting is not a career, but a passion and hobby. A hobby and a passion which I continue to pursue during my free time. It is my undisputed love for the game that keeps me going back to cold rinks night after night.

I can honestly tell you I didn’t do it for the money as I never saw a penny for my hard work. At the ripe age of 27, it was time for change, and that change came in a big way in the form of an Account Coordinator position at Grip Limited.

It’s hard to believe it has been over a month since an excited, yet nervous kid confidently took the elevator to the 6th floor of 179 John St. to start what previously could only be imagined in dreams.

I was led to the 7th floor, where I sat at my desk wondering if all that was taking place was actually being perceived in the cozy confines of a wonderful dream where I was soon to wake up to a cold, hard reality.  It all happened so quickly: A new desk, a new laptop, new surroundings, and most importantly a new sense of self. My first week flew by. It was over in a blink and I was officially in love with everything Grip.

My mind was being filled with anything and everything advertising. All I wanted was more and more knowledge. I’d like to think of myself as a big dry sponge, whose only purpose in life is to soak up liquids. In my case, I want to become fully saturated with as much information and understanding of the advertising industry as I humanly can.

The hustle and bustle of working in advertising was apparent from the start. I am yet to sit at my desk for more than a couple of consecutive hours. If it’s not a meeting that I’m attending, it’s a trip to see clients, or a conference call. The advertising world does not sleep, ­ well, not from what I have seen thus far.

As if starting my dream job at Grip wasn’t amazing enough, I had the privilege to watch Canada’s athletes compete against the best athletes from around the world during my first two weeks. It was particularly marvelous when nearly all Grippers stopped what they were doing to watch the women’s Canada vs. USA gold medal hockey game. It was a surreal moment that I will not soon forget. How many of you can make that statement?

Being at Grip for just over a month now, I have come to understand that everything has a process. Following the different processes is the only way things get done and get done well.  Every individual working within an advertising agency like Grip has ways they like to work and it is of the upmost importance that everyone respects everyone else’s processes.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have a small sense of what to expect when my first day at Grip came around. Now I can confidently say that after my first four plus weeks, my expectations have been blown clear out of the water. I could not ask for a more warming group of talented and savvy individuals who know that working, as a team to reach a final goal is the only way to get things done.

Although I now have a much better understanding of the inners of working in advertising, I am still a work in progress. If I can leave work each day with a new advertising concept in my back pocket, that’s a successful day. I’ve only had successful days thus far in my advertising career.

A two-year-old’s view of advertising

March 27, 2014 by Jordan Legros

Blog

Illustrator: Ihar Turtsou

When it comes to advertising, I’d like to think of myself as a two-year-old, because I have only been in this industry for two years. Each year of my advertising life has changed my perception of this industry in some way and each year will continue to teach me new aspects. This is good, because I don’t think anyone would want to hire a two-year-old Account Service person.

My perception is that it is very hard to get in, easy to get out, and that students have never worked this hard for anything in their lives. Coming from a well-known advertising program at Seneca College, I have realized how many of my peers have told me that they have never worked so hard in their lives just to have someone reject their ideas. Advertising is not just one skill that a person is born with, and it cannot be fully taught in a two-year program. It is hard to get in and harder to stay in the industry, yet it is so easy to just give up and walk away. It is the brave ones who work insanely hard, even when they see their work with that stamp of rejection, who can make it. Because there are those days when that note of approval shows up and it will make all of the hard work, all of the late nights, and all of the little fights feel like they were worth it. It is those good moments that we all work for, when it all seems worth it, because someone out there approved your idea.

The common person believes advertising is a corporate influence trying to create a consumer-based society. Yet we are all still consumers that will identify ourselves through the brands we choose to interact with. Advertising has become a part of our society and culture. I have come to the understanding that advertising is more of a way for brands to put themselves out there and hope that they appeal to the right audience, but regardless of the advertising, if someone dislikes the product, they won’t buy it. All in all, advertising is storytelling with a splash of creativity, to appeal to the target audience.

Perceptions of advertising will be forever be changing; just like everything else in the world, they won’t stay the same. How these perceptions become better or worse will be up to the advertiser and how they communicate their brands.

With the next batch of advertisers graduating from school, we all seem to have a positive view on our up-coming careers. And hopefully, someone will hire us at the tender age of two.

Career Advice: Improvise

March 21, 2014 by Michael Appleby

Career Advice - Improvise[4]

The whale’s stomach was completely empty except for Elton John, my ex-wife Cheryl and I. The three of us were locked in a sentimental slow dance. You see, Cheryl had just revealed that I was the father of all eight of her numerically named children, and I, the classy pushover I was, had found it in my heart to forgive her almost instantly. Elton was there to soften the news, and his presence was a great comfort. But what was I to do next? Snap out of my woozy delirium and accuse Cheryl of manipulating me? Confess a secret of my own? Make a move on Elton? Thankfully the lights went down before I had to commit, allowing us to gracefully slip off stage. The first scene of our grad show was in the books, and we managed to get some big laughs. Phew.

The moment my friend mentioned that she was taking an improv class at Second City, I knew I was going to do it. As a lifelong comedy nerd and Whose Line Is It Anyway? fan, I almost felt obligated. Plus, as clichéd as it sounds, being an advertising creative it just made sense. Today, I’m on the other side of my 10-month-long journey through the Improvisation Program at Second City, and the career-relevant lessons were richer than I could have ever possibly imagined. The following sums up why anyone in advertising should consider taking improv.

You challenge the order of the universe.
From a young age, we are trained to say no to things – things that are unlikely, unexpected or completely absurd. While this skill helps us navigate the world more efficiently, it’s not so good for creative advertising, which requires limitless thinking. In improv, you learn to say Yes, and then stand back and look in awe at all the doors that open up.

You learn the power of “Yes, and..”
Improv is like traveling through life backwards – you only see the things you’ve already passed. “Yes, and” is the acceptance of these things and the promise to build on them. It’s easy to get annoyed when a scene diverges from your own internal plan, but it’s counter-productive. Similar to group brainstorming, you rely on the open minds of your partners, and they rely on yours. Which brings up the next point.

You learn about teamwork.
In improv you’re all walking a tightrope together. It takes some exploring to find the hook of the scene, and it’s never developed by one player alone. Creative brainstorming is much the same. It starts with a nugget of a thought, which may or may not have a golden idea buried somewhere within it. The only way to find it is to have everyone commit to digging together while setting egos aside.

You learn how to tell a story.
Improv is all about storytelling, and by the end of the program the basics had become instinctual. In advertising, our job is to find the drama in a product and tell its story in an engaging way. No matter what the medium, the idea is only as good as the story you’re telling, which makes this an invaluable skill in any ad person’s repertoire.

You discover the power of emotion.
To humans, emotion is compelling – our empathetic minds are magnets for it. For an emotionally neutral person like myself, all it took was an enraged diatribe about slippers for me to feel its awesome power. In advertising we are always looking for emotional hooks, and I’d argue that exploring the extremes of my own emotional reserves has made me better equipped to elicit emotion in others.

You learn the power of characters.
We open on two people doing laundry. Would you rather watch two ambivalent drones or a down-on-her-luck diva and her subservient handler? A strong character informs where your thoughts go, and in writing, this is a very valuable tool. The next time you need to find a brand voice, create a character and go method with it.

You learn the value of authenticity.
In my experience, the scenes that got the best response weren’t necessarily funny – they simply felt real. Nothing sucks the credibility out of a scene quite like stretching for a punch line or bending the narrative for a joke. I think the same is true in advertising. You could write the smartest headline in the world, but if it doesn’t feel authentic to the brand, it won’t get the response you were hoping for.

We’re always looking to try new things. Have you taken a great course in the past? What do you want to take next? Let us know in the comments.

The Orange Juicer: Presentations

What is the Orange Juicer? An annual student competition in which teams from across North America go head to head to win a campaign pitch in front of a real GRIP client.

Today marks day one of those presentations, and we couldn’t be more excited to watch the following teams impress our judges (including our amazing Expedia clients):

Grip Juicer 2014 from Grip Limited on Vimeo.

Brio – St. Clair College

Team Members: David Nolet, Emily Gignac, Lindsay Renaud, Maria Maggio, Paul Morgan, Sarah Fraser

Smoked Poutine – McGill

Team Members: Charlotte Plamondon, Lydia Park, Michelle Yu, Peter Maccario

Echo – Sheridan

Team Members: Margaret Jakubowski, Ishita Luther, Lindsay Kerr, Nicole Mendonca, Mikhail Panov, Vincent Orsini

Screwdriver – Seneca College

Team Members: Belinda Papa, Jerome Braddy, Joey Alcaro, Patricia Cilcus, Steve Ierullo, Noel Mata

Neo – Seneca York

Team Members: Andrew Schuler, Candice Dehond, Hayley Steinman, Hemal Dhanjee, Meaghan Zabinsky, Melissa Cohen

Velcro Bench – Durham College

Team Members: Abbie Keeler, Jim Wright, Tara Burt, Taylor Hreljac

Little Black Dress – Humber College

Team Members: Adam Mawer, Jenny Lee, Kelvin Mak, Samantha Ramsay

Suitcase – Humber College

Team Members: Alex Davies, Angela Miller, David Greisman, Michelle Brown, Mason Powell, Zachary Radford

The Six – Humber College

Team Members: Carly Ouellette, Don Affleck, Haley Kriksic, Jenni Hallihan, Kael Cruz, Sophia Lucken

Beak – Mohawk College

Team Members: Alisa Sera Garcia, Andrea Pohlmann, Dave Knox, Erik Thorkildsen, Leonardo Gonzalez, Rebecca Hayward

Zest – Centennial College

Team Members: William Peckham, Mukhtar Kamal, Dasha Kassenkova, Nicole Kenny, Guillermo Zinny, Edzenia Olivo

Reach out

February 12, 2014 by Lorrie Zwer

illustration by Rodrigo Diaz Mercado (REACH OUT)

Picture this: You’re in a meeting room with five colleagues, all from different departments. The leader of the meeting reads out the agenda, and at the end squawks like a parrot. The woman across the table speaks and she, too, ends with a squawk. The same with the next person. Finally, you speak. To your surprise, at the end of your thought, you squawk as well.

Crazy, right?

Now picture this: You’re in a meeting room with five colleagues, all from different departments. The leader of the meeting reads out the agenda and uses the phrase, ‘reach out’. The woman across the table speaks and she, too, uses the phrase ‘reach out’. So does the next person. Finally, you speak. To your surprise, at the end of your thought, you say, ‘reach out’ as well.

Crazy, right?

In the ten years I’ve been in this industry, I have noticed an ever-increasing tendency to use words that sound good, but have no real meaning. The term ‘reach out’ is one of the most current examples. When you say you’re going to ‘reach out’ to someone, what does it really mean? Merriam-Webster doesn’t recognize the term in their online dictionary. The ever-popular thefreedictionary.com defines it in part as an ‘attempt to communicate’, but I think urbandictionary.com hits closest to the mark: ‘This has become the new cliché for yuppie types or any pseudo-intellectual types or just idiots that think it sounds special. It is simply just another way of saying: contact, call, speak to, notify, etc.’

Last week, in an effort to combat the Mid-Winter Blues, I decided to entertain myself by counting the number of times ‘reach out’ was used in a single meeting. 60 minutes. Five people. 24 uses of ‘reach out’. All of which could have been replaced with ‘call’ or ‘email’.

Shocking.

Even more shocking, though, was my realization that a new, equally useless word was emerging as a contender for the ‘reach out of 2014’ title.

Now, as an aside, like most people, I don’t always pay a lot of attention during meetings. I get the important bits, but sometimes, I’m hungry and I think about food. Other times, I’m tired and I think about having a nap. You get the idea – I’m not always 100% focused. But this exercise forced me to focus on the meeting and on the group.

Of INDIVIDUALS.

Yes, right alongside ‘reach out’, we had rampant and gratuitous use of ‘individual’. There was talk of groups (of individuals). There was talk of this individual. That individual. The other individual. Person, people, Lana, David, He and Her have all become individuals that need to be reached out to.

And since that meeting, I’ve started to notice it everywhere. Not just in conversation, but in print as well. Pick up a copy of a local paper (doesn’t matter which one, since none of them are properly edited any more) and you will see articles littered with the word. Try it. Bonus points if you can also find ‘myriad’ used incorrectly.

Here is what I propose:

The next time you’re in a meeting, say what you mean in as few words possible. If you need to call the client, don’t say, ‘I’m going to reach out to that individual.’ Say, ‘I’m going to call Shane.’ It’s bold. It’s declarative. It gets to the point and you’ll stand out from the crowd.

We spend so much of our time working on our clients’ brands to make their communications as clear and concise as possible, we should also consider what our communication style says about our personal brands.