The Future of Strategy & The End of the World by Justin Small

The Future of Strategy & The End of the World by Justin Small from The Future Strategy Club on Vimeo.


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The FSC Mag Issue 0 out now

Get it here

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End of the World New Product Team

If the end of the world came, how would agencies react? Here’s a clue!

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Turning the Bullshit into Good Shit

Martin Sorrel DID NOT make the statement below…but I wish he (or someone as influential as him) would.  We need the power and the talents of every agency in the land to help stop our destruction of the earth. And the talent in the wider Creative Industries is immense – it just needs to be aimed away from aiding and abetting behaviours that our destructive to our world and towards helping us all change our habits to begin redressing the balance.

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THE FSC MAG – launching very soon

Issue 0 of the the FSC Mag is nearly here! It’s the self-conscious, nerdy anti-establishment love child of Harvard Business Review and Private Eye – and aims to become the alternative voice of the creative industries.  Available very soon…..

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Unpackit – be a lunchtime hero

My initiative to try change our behaviours around packaging and save the world from a plastic death

Unpackit – be a lunchtime hero from The Future Strategy Club on Vimeo.


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The Employee Experience Imperative


My article in the March issue of the Chief Learning Officer magazine on EX.

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My #TNN Talk

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April 19, 2018 · 2:46 pm

Unpackit Launch

BE A LUNCHTIME HERO – Bring your own food container, and save the world a little everyday

The UK alone produces more than 170m tonnes of waste every year, much of it food packaging. Some of it is poisonous, and some of it never degrades. It can take 450 years for some types of plastic bottle to break down and lot of it isn’t biodegradable at all. Less than a third of plastic packaging is recycled and lots of it finds its way back to our food. It ends up in our salt, our water, and our beer (our beer!).

Unpackit is an initiative to cut down the use of food packaging by bringing our own container when getting a lunchtime takeaway. As simple as that.

It’s time to do something!

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Integrated Placemaking article

My article in Retail Focus on the amalgamation of digital and physical and Integrated Placemaking.

Read it 

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Future Customer Experience Trends in a Transforming World

<p><a href=”″>Customer Experience Trends in a Transforming World by Justin Small, CSO @ The BIO Agency</a> from <a href=””>Justin Small</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

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Strategy is Thinking – a quick intro to systems thinking

My introduction to systems thinking at the FSC event.

“Strategy is Thinking” by Justin Small from The Future Strategy Club on Vimeo.

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Strategy is Winning Open Five Live at the FSC

<p><a href=”″>Strategy is Winning at The FSC</a> from <a href=””>Justin Small</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

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FSC Open Five – Strategy is Winning

<p><a href=”″>Justin Small Open 5</a> from <a href=””>Justin Small</a> on <a href=””>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>


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Econsultancy interview on the Future Of Strategy

Interview on The Future Strategy Club and the future of strategy.

fsc interview

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Digital Transformation – Rebirth of the Org Whitepaper

Download my latest Whitepaper below:

DT Whitepaper

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Intro to The Future Strategy Club

For most people, strategy is a mysterious thing vaguely linked to a world of competing theoretical schools from a distant time, done by very large global management consultancies to other very large global organisations. Through its complexity, this kind of strategy has lost its ability to help organisations prepare for the future. But most disappointing of all, it has lost its ability to inspire change. Strategy as a tool of change is sliding into irrelevance.

However, a new kind of strategy is emerging, brought about by the rapidly evolving needs of organisations due to the massive disruption caused by the digital revolution.  And a new kind of strategist is being born within this new strategic practice – an analytical visionary creative whose knowledge of human behaviour and data allows him or her to help organisations re-orientate their strategic vision towards more agile, customer experience led products & services.

This new emerging strategic practice and strategist currently have no place to call home. They have no codified frameworks or processes (the SWOT and the Boston Box really aren’t fit for purpose in this disrupted age), no forums or meet ups to congregate or co-ordinate in. Most importantly, they have no theoretical basis on which to create new models and frameworks to describe and envision the future for their clients in order to help them protect against disruption and prepare for the future.

The Future Strategy Club (FSC) was created in order to fill this gap.

The FSC wants to create a place strategists and strategic thinkers can call home. But more than that, the FSC wants to harness the strategic brain power of this new emerging strategist to begin to develop a new strategic school and create the procedural support and iterative thinking needed to set the foundations of a new practice.

The FSC is beginning with an Event tour around UK agencies in order to try to reach as much of the current strategic community as possible. Through these quarterly events the FSC aims to kick start the conversation and begin codifying this new strategic practice.  In parallel to this, the FSC is launching its Drink Tanks – these are community based strategic thinking groups that will collaboratively output publications, whitepapers and pro-bono strategy work every three months. The first Drink Tank, which will kick in April,  aims to collaboratively create and publish a guide to this new modern strategy entitled ‘What the F#@k is Strategy?’. The FSC will also run yearly conferences championing the new heroes of strategy and their strategic work.

Ultimately, the aim of the FSC is to formalise and professionalise this new emerging strategic practice in order to then be able to begin training and developing future strategists and launch them on exciting and rewarding career paths. In doing so, the FSC will reclaim strategy from the grey consultant armies of yesteryear and return it to its creative and visionary heritage so it can again be the inspiring tool of change.

If you are a strategist, or a strategic thinker, come join the FSC and be part of this journey towards a new future for strategy.

The next FSC event is in July.

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‘What the F#@k is Strategy?’ keynote

‘What the F#@k is Strategy?’ by Justin Small from Justin Small on Vimeo.

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White paper on The Service Revolution

Download my new white paper below.



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The Service Revolution – keynote

My keynote on CX and Service Flow from the #BIOTrends Service Revolution event.

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From Connected Products to Smart Lives – keynote

My keynote presentation at the launch of the Connected Products Whitepaper.

From Connected Products to Smart Lives: Keynote presentation by Justin Small from Justin Small on Vimeo.

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The Future of the High Street – keynote

My keynote presentation at the launch of the Future of the High Street whitepaper.

The Future of High Street: keynote presentation by Justin Small from Justin Small on Vimeo.

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I authored these 3 whitepapers. Download them here.

The Future of the High Street

Click to access BIO_WP_CONNECTED_RETAIL_012_3.pdf

Connected Products Smart  Lives

The Future of the Retail Bank

Click to access BIO_WHITEPAPER_Banking_2015-spreads.pdf


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The Disruption of the Real Estate Agency

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Customers want an estate agent brand they can believe in and who’s service is comparable to the services they love and use daily – Uber, Netflix, Airbnb, TfL, Amazon etc. But who will take challenge to transform into the estate agent of the future now?

With the population in the UK increasing year on year, and house building not even getting close to keeping up, the shortage of properties is becoming acute. This shortage will push up prices and create a clear challenge for all estate agents. The competition for stock will intensify, and the best placed estate agents in this fiercely competitive landscape of the future will be those that can offer the best service across the entire customer journey for the best price – for the selling, buying and rental of property across all the key customer segments.

The property market has changed. Property Search portals have taken control of property search. The 4 main portals – Rightmove, Zoopla, Primelocation and On The Market – list around 1.1 mil properties with 16,000 estate agents currently using them, and have disintermediated estate agents from the top of the sales funnel.

Online estate agents are beginning to enter the market with new business models based around flat fees. Currently, online estate agents sit across a spectrum of Hybrids to Pure Plays. The Pure Plays offer a more basic online service (such as Tepilo) which is cheaper but more work for the seller. Hybrids like Purplebricks offer full packages which aim to compete with the traditional estate agents. None of the online estate agents have a high street presence currently, but this could change very quickly when and if they build up enough resources to do this. If their cost models allow it, they will do it.

The differences between Traditional and Online estate agents are clear – but may become more blurred as time goes on – with all estate agents becoming hrybrids. The Traditionals have the advantage currently – with their high street presence and local knowledge, their vast experience in getting sales over the line, and in their pricing structure which incentivises them to drive hard for the completion.

But there are large sways of the customer’s journey through the house selling and buying process where Traditionals have no real brand presence. These customer decision journey dead zones are ripe for brand ownership through the creation of brand interaction points to drive sellers and buyers towards down the funnel towards a particular estate agent. For example, who of all the Traditional estate agents will be the first to fix the hole in the bottom of the sales funnel by building advocacy programs that lock in current customer’s loyalty for their next sale or purchase? Will the Onlines with their more nimble business models crack this first? Or will the necessary investment to do this properly be a barrier to them allowing the Traditionals to get there first? Will the Traditionals use technology such a VR in their high street shops to deliver a better customer experience and leverage their high street presence as a competitive advantage much like holiday companies are doing?

What is clear is that the rethinking of the estate agent service and integrating digital as a service across the entire customer journey is an open goal opportunity for whoever wants to take a shot at it. Whoever takes the challenge to own and join up the customer’s experience using digital and physical service elements will be able to extend their service footprint further across the customer decision journey and win a place in the hearts of UK’s buyers and sellers through an always-on more outcome led personalised service offering that delivers not just an increase in sales, but an increase in brand loyalty.

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How to Survive the next Alien Technology S-Curve


Watching in shock as the reigning Premier league champions Man City got thrashed by Leicester, I pondered on how quickly the almighty bedrock of the status quo gets pushed around so easily and so unexpectedly sometimes. It is like a little success and stability precludes us from believing in anything changing ever again. Our brains yearn for a stable knowable world that is unchanging – even in such a changeable thing as football.

It is very similar in business. Market leaders sit back and fall into a lazy belief that current success and profit equals future success and profit. They forget to listen to the market and their customers. Then their customers’ buying behaviour changes in reaction to new technologies and boom! suddenly there is a new incumbent and they are playing catch up.

It seems too much winning breeds too much confidence which then becomes the seed for future failure.

The key to getting ahead and staying ahead is innovative reinvention. But not reinvention for reinvention’s sake – but reinvention squarely based on anticipated future technologies and customer behaviour. Listen, learn, invent, change, listen, learn, invent, change etc. It is a continual process of change.

Mass products and services are always behind the curve – that is their natural place. But the curve now changes with such violent speed that companies can find themselves behind so quickly that unless they have invested in good strategic R&D they will not catch up.

Technological change is now so quick and so unexpected that companies need future vision and strategy to react with speed to this ‘alien technology’ that emerges from nowhere. They must be forever expecting alien entrants to their market and must be prepared through visionary R&D spend.

In short, get ready for an alien invasion!

R&D spend is crucial for every company in every industry in the Digital Age because it is the only way to prepare for future customer behaviour change brought about unexpected technological advances. No company can now solely rely on incremental improvements to current products & services. They need strong strategies in their back pockets ready for new s-curves and the technological and customer behaviour changes that give market disruptors competitive advantage. In digital, strategic vision is everything.

The equation is simple : No visionary R&D equals no answer to market disruptors

If a new technology suddenly appears in your market, how will you react? You can’t suddenly turn into an innovative company – innovation takes vision, strategy and investment over a period of years.

Innovation is not reactive, it is predictive.

Kodak had two very big tech s-curves to deal with in their market – digital photography and the camera phone – both of which they did not take seriously. And both of which radically changed their customers’ behaviours and ultimately bankrupted Kodak. They went from an innovative company to an incumbent trying to protect the status quo. They lost.

How do we prepare for this? How do we create and keep a mental state of siege in the culture of our company so we are ready for an alien s-curve?

S-curve blindness is a common trait of incumbents. This needs to be replaced with a type of s-curve hyper-anxiety – the feeling that any disrupting innovation outside of our industry is an immediate threat to our future and needs to be prepared for.

We need to prepare ourselves for the emergence of alien technologies – and build our companies around this type of thinking.

Ultimately the question is – would you survive an alien technology s-curve in your industry? If the answer is no I suggest you get a skunk works funded and up & running immediately. Your days may be numbered.

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Greyhound transformed!


See the amazing work I led at Greyhound from strategy, ux to design and build through to content and service design. The whole kit and kaboodle.

Such a great brand, and such a great company that is on its way back.



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Ramblings of a Strategist: The Brand Challenge & Opportunity



The Brand Challenge

The next ten years will see the continuing ferocious acceleration of change in how companies attract and build loyal customers.

One of the key drivers of this change is the disruption caused by the digitalisation of our world through technology, and the accompanying changes in customer behaviour and needs.

Digital channels and platforms will soon be the main and only brand touch-points and therefore will become the critical space for brands to engage customers.

Interactive brand experiences will become the new competitive advantage, and the depth of digital engagement delivered by the experiences will become one of the key measures of brand value.

These changes promise to disrupt markets, bankrupt the status quo and reward brand innovation and dynamism.

The Brand Opportunity

Digital has created amazing opportunities for brands to reach customers on a 1 to 1 basis, creating interactive personalised experiences that have the potential to build loyal and valuable long-term relationships with customers.

The humanisation of brands through digital means that all brands must understand how to act and react in interactive spaces. Trust has become the new brand currency – and has led to the opportunity for real, digital, value-led brands that represent their products & services authentically at ground level, to disrupt markets.

The opportunity for brands to stay ahead and innovate using digital platforms to quickly create, test and learn new product & service ideas and enhancements has never been greater and easier.

Digital now affords organisations with the will the potential to quickly and easily build a rapid fire innovation mentality within previously staid and static brands and create innovative digital experiences that deliver deeper and more long-lasting customer engagement.

 The Digital future is brand led  – and companies that can deliver consistent brand experiences across all channels will earn the continued loyalty of their customers over generations to come.

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Global PlayStation – transformed!


See the great work I led at PlayStation in Detica case study below. Doesn’t really do it justice – but was one of the best projects I have had the pleasure to work on. I did the full global experience strategy and ran the ux, design and build of the global sites.


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Digital Strategy – a question of life and death?


So, you’ve got some decent players, you have a team name and colours and a nice crest. Everyone knows what they have to do – go forward and score.
But hang do they go about scoring? What are the tactics? And what are the opposition going to do?

What formation will you play? What players in what positions? Which channels will they play through?

In football, just being on the pitch guarantees nothing. Just being able to kick the ball forward towards the goal does not mean you will score. You need a strategy. Much like Digital.

Like an England team 1-0 up in the World Cup Quarter Finals with 30 minutes to go, many companies have a ‘kick it away and hang on’ attitude to digital strategy too. A kind of ‘siege mentality ’ approach. These companies generally get buffeted by the winds of innovation worst than most and not surprisingly suddenly find themselves at the bottom of their group about to be dumped out of the tournament. Kodak, Blockbuster, HMV have already been through that – and there will be many more to come.

Digital is building up a hurricane of change for a lot of industries. Many mistook the initial calm they experienced as they watched other industries being decimated as meaning the storm had passed them by – but they have since discovered the calm was actually the eye of the storm. Now, as they look around at the carnage, it is too late. They must rebuild from scratch.

The trinity of the digital revolution is – 1. business model innovation, 2. technology upgrade & integration, and 3. customer behaviour change. And like a 3 legged robotic monster, this triad of change is roaming the business world causing havoc and reducing once successful businesses one after another to dust with no respect for reputation or history.

As Bill Shankly might have said had he become a Strategist and not gone in to football,

‘Digital Strategy? It’s not life and death, it is much more important than that!’

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The Old…they wanna buy stuff and be cool too!


The Old – they may be closer to getting their one way tickets to space…but they still want to buy stuff and feel cool. And they have the money…and nothing to lose.

Why do middle-aged middle of the road middle managers in the Advertising industry insist on excluding the old? Is it too hard a job to convince them to stop using the old brands they used when they were young?

If Superdry can convince a whole generation of 40 year old men to dress like their 6 year old sons..then surely we can get those 40 year old’s dads to dress like their 40 year old sons?

Surely advertising, if it wanted to, could make the old cool again?

Wouldn’t that be a challenge worth taking instead of selling them 2 pairs of faux leather shoes for £9.99?

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The Death of Interruption Advertising & The Birth of Opt-in Always-on Partner Advertiser Brand Experience Moments – A Future History

April 2015

Mono-channel interruption advertising dies! (sniff sniff – some mustachioed people cry but most don’t notice)

 Oct 2015

Brand storytelling in a fragmented world becomes the massive challenge

June 2016

Multi-platform brand narrative experiences are the answer and become the norm

Aug 2016

Brand advocates are suddenly worth their weight in gold (average weight of a brand advocate generally around 75 kilos – price of a kilo of gold is £27,372.37….you do the math!)

Dec 2016

Awareness through Amplification of Activation is the bomb! and is found written on many Shoreditch pub toilet walls (sometimes including a mobile number that no one has ever called).

April  2017

Finally, after more than 100 years of using the marketing funnel the wrong way up (because men don’t read instructions) – the funnel is finally inverted meaning marketeers begin to spend more money on creating advocates out of current customers than trying to carpet bomb disinterested consumers with messaging while they look down at their phones!

Sept 2017

‘Moment marketing’ – a phrase coined in Farringdon to describe how advertisers need to use data to only advertise at the right moment in the right time in the right place  –  becomes the new buzz word across the world and Harvard immediately sets up an online YouTube Masters degree in the subject.

Jan 2018

‘Parallel Partners’ (another term coined in Farringdon  – every monkey has his day and writes a Shakespeare play, and this one is Farringdon’s it seems) describing the way advertisers must become their customer’s life partner only nudging them towards products & services in the right place at the right time in the right way  – goes viral and Harvard Town twins with Farringdon in recognition of its awesomeness.

March 2018

Opt-in always-on partner advertiser brand experience moments become the only acceptable form of advertising. All other types of advertising is ignored and sometimes worse, it is ridiculed and the creatives responsible are kidnapped by mobs and paraded in squares across the world and have their mustachios shaved off on live television.

July 2018

Advertising is now a parallel experiential world that brand advocates opt-in to for weeks at a time. All other advertising messages are blocked out through advertiser controlled preference settings on iContact lenses.

Jan 2019

Advertising finally returns to its local  1 to 1 relationship marketing roots – Mom and Pop become the new Creative Heads of the World Advertising Agency (WAA)…

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Advertisers – I am old and I miss me mum


Consumerism and the buying of objects can be said to be an attempt to recapture the lost mother we had as a baby (the perfect mother we created) whatever age we are. And shopping could thus be defined as a non-psychoanalytical way of working through the ‘loss’ of the mother, and this is experienced as an internal ‘lack’ (as Lacan called it).
Therefore buying a new Mac is not just a thirst for new technology, or a need to read your email on a 27 inch screen – it is in fact a satisfaction of a deep internal need to recapture that loving beautiful object (i.e our mother) which was lost when we grew up. Similarly, taking things into the body such as tobacco smoke, alcohol, drugs and food can be seen as a way to fill the hole (however temporarily) left by the ‘loss’ of the original all loving mother.
What this means in relation to advertising is that products and services can be branded in accordance to what parental function they perform and what particular ‘lack’ they fulfil in us. Some brands and their products aim exclusively at the ‘primary mother replacement’ (PMR) market (consumers who are looking for holding, unconditional love and security from their brands – waitrose, volvo). Some aim at the ‘primary father replacement’ (PFR) market (consumers who are looking for logical adventurous all conquering freedom from their brands – nike, google, porsche). Some consumers will mix and match brands but generally there type of ‘lack’ will determine their brand choices.
What is very clear from this psychoanalytical view of advertising is that our upbringings and the unavoidable disappointments inherent in them can be directly related to our shopping behaviour and our alignment with certain brands. We consume creatively, and those creative decisions are influenced by the feelings we search for, and the feelings we search for are created by that ‘lack’ we experienced in our childhoods. And therefore advertising’s ultimate job is to fill and brand that lack with products and services. It is pure manipulation. But a manipulation we all desperate want and look for.
And here comes the money shot – this lack never leaves us, is never filled, is ever present in our buying behaviours. Therefore the old need products and services that alleviate the pain of loss as much as the young. It does not dissipate. The untapped market seems huge – so why sell everyone the elixir of youth when what we actually want is the warm embrace of a primary replacement brand? Let’s get mothering!!!

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The New Social Advertising Funnel (alla Tron)

Tron New Advertising Funnel

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May 17, 2014 · 9:26 am

Inverting the Funnel


Social Advertising – a sketch:  inverting the funnel by activating advocacy 

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Goodbye to advertising from the hip – and hello big data!


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May 17, 2014 · 9:14 am

The End (of interruption advertising) is Beautiful




The grey haired Don Drapers watch the multi-coloured future beautiful end of interruption advertising.

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‘Get me that amazing fcking idea you keep talking about by cop Tuesday.’


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May 17, 2014 · 9:06 am

What can you see John?


‘What can you see John?’

‘I can…I can…I can see the death of … of interruption advertising…’
‘And what does it look like John? John? …What does it look like ?’
‘It…it is…it’s….. beauti………………’
‘John? John? Joooohnnnnn!!!’

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It’s Business Time for Advertising!

It’s Business Time for Advertising!

Digital is Transforming Advertising into a Numbers Game.

Advertising still needs to deliver the emotional jolt to the soul and change behaviours – but it now has to be interactive, personalised, contextual and multi platform. In fact, what we call Digital Marketing will be called Advertising in 5 years time.

There is no escaping the fact that it is Business Time for hit and hope advertising.

Our clients now have real deep data – and want their advertising to deliver real measurable change.
No more short quick blow outs with unprovable claims of ecstasy through coolness. No more throw backs to advertising like its 1999.

The clients are shouting.

And they are shouting –

‘It’s Business Time baby. We want Greatness from our advertising, but we want it multi platform, we want it measurable, we want it 1 to 1 and we want it always on!’

Yeah baby.


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Musings on User Experience

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Because of digital, everything is now human.

Products that existed only on supermarket shelves and in kitchen cupboards are now living and breathing via digital.

Products are now members of our social network.

They have been humanized through digital interfaces.

The brand is now in one to one relationships with thousands of fans.

Brands are alive – and need to be human through interactive interfaces. And to be human, interfaces must be intuitive.

Customers now see every intuitive interaction with a brand through a digital interface as an authentic human interaction.

The most intuitive interface is the most authentic, and the most instinctively human.

Only one interface is born instinctively intuitive: the nipple.

Everything else needs to be uxed to feel instinctively intuitive.

Instinctive intuitive design is hard won through interation and testing.

Innovative and intuitive are sometimes not good bedfellows  – the best way to achieve a task may not be the most innovative.

But great innovation should never make us think.

Because in the end, we don’t want to think.

We just want to experience.

We want to flow through tasks and achieve our goals without having to relearn, rethink, or redo.

We want return to our mother’s nipple – the first most intuitive and beautiful experience.

UX is the design of interactions that feel instinctive and pre-learned and which allow experience to flow.

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Musings on Digital Strategy


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If you don’t know where you are going – how can you get there?

There is a storm upon us  – the Digital Storm. The third industrial revolution.

After steam and electricity comes digital.

Vision is needed to lead us through the storm.

Without vision we have no strategy, and without strategy, there is no measurement.

And without measurement we are just hit and hope meandering wonderers.

Vision is a company’s narrative.

It is its story.

A story in which it is the hero who beats evil and wins the day.

Without narrative there is nothing.

It is imperative we tell stories.

Humans are programmed to see structure in everything – we connect up the dots where there are no dots, we see faces in the clouds, Jesus in burnt toast, the future in tealeaves.

Stories are what we are and what we are remembered as.

Strategy is a story clients can believe in – a narrative that is backed up by research, analysis and emotion.








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I HEART the Enterprise – making large companies human again

When I use to think of the word ‘Enterprise’ I couldn’t help but think of Star Trek and Spock’s pointy ears, and somehow the milky white blood of the android dude in Alien would get in there also. It’s to do with the inhumanity of the large company I think. In the last two decades they have managed, through terrible one-size fits all broadcast communications, to make me feel a complete lack of respect and empathy towards them. And it seemed up until now they didn’t care. But then along comes social, and now boy do they care!


Silos eh! Nothing is connected together!

I have also changed in that time. I have moved from a creative agency to a digital consultancy and now  find myself working more and more with said Enterprise. And I love it.


But what is an Enterprise? Wikipedia defines it as:

A business
A company
Entrepreneurship, the practice of starting new organizations, particularly new businesses

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Why defining your company’s Digital Brand Experience Strategy is key to creating brand advocates online

We are hard wired by evolution to see structure in everything. We look for understanding and empathy everywhere: we see faces in clouds, in burnt toast, in rice pudding, we look for the friendly face in the crowd and we gravitate to empathic people. And thus when we are online we prefer companies whose websites show humanity, forgive our errors and have personality over the more generic ones. In short, we want our digital brand’s interfaces to mimic human to human interactions. Therefore it is key that your customers can see the face of your brand in your website interfaces and can hear its voice in the copy, and that that face and voice is on-brand (i.e. coherent with your offline brand if you have one) and one of meaning and purpose.

From recent work with our clients we know how crucial it is to understand what your current brand experience is (across all touch points) and why it is so important to build a cohesive strategy in order to compete in the digital economy.

Below I detail how and why you need to create a Digital Brand Experience Strategy.

First of all, what is the Digital Brand Experience?

The Digital Brand Experience is the feelings and thoughts generated by an interaction with a brand’s digital interfaces across multiple digital marketing channels and touch-points with the purpose of creating a lasting relationship between the company and the customer across the entire Customer Decision Journey.

Digital interfaces must be on-brand in order for a customer to have the correct experience (feelings and thoughts when interacting with the brand across digital touch-points) and then execute the correct actions. This experience must be unique to the brand and coherent across all channels and platforms.

Before a coherent digital brand experience can be achieved the ‘experience’ must be defined, and once defined then implemented through the design of the interactions which make up the interfaces.

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A Brave New Social World: the social business and humanising the organisation

‘We’re going through a revolution in the way people communicate. I think it’s the most significant revolution in communications since the invention of the printing press.’  David Meerman Scott – The New Rules of Marketing & PR 

What is this revolution and where is it happening? The revolution is the hyper connectivity that surrounds you, your colleagues, your friends and your family – and which is infiltrating your company from the inside out. The revolution is also the humanising pressure social technologies are having on organisations.

The humanisation of the organisation is the key concept in relation to the future of its internal and external social ecosystem. It will be the decade’s key business battle ground – ‘become human and connect at every level with both employees and consumers or die’ will be the rallying cry. In fact, the ability to be human and on brand in B2C, B2B and B2E relationships will be the differentiator as consumer power and employee flux increase – and what is now termed the Social Business (or Enterprise 2.0) is one model of how to meet this brave new social world.

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The Story of Digital Commerce in 8 Parts

So, you are a large enterprise and you have a brand into which you have poured large amounts of resources and effort in order to create a recognisable and memorable and consistent brand experience. And then along comes the Digital Strategists like me talking of interface, on-brand digital interactions brand experience strategies and the like. But to you that is all gobbledygook – the internet is very simple you say– it is no different to out of home, tv, radio etc. It is a broadcast channel and therefore what is good for tv is good for Internet (with a little repurposing of course). Voila! Job done. Knock off early and down the pub for a pie and a pint! That’s the most revolutionary interactive invention in the history of mankind sorted then. Easy this digital stuff – what’s all the fuss about you ask?

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Viva La Revolucion Digital!

A while back I  chaired AdTech London and I got very excited about the great case studies that were presented over the 2 days. We had some very clever people and some very successful brands from the UK and abroad come and share their ideas about the future of digital and show some good old digital best practice. And it was great to see digital in practice. By necessity due to the amazing pace of change there is a lot of theory in Digital I find. What we need more of is practice in my opinion because without it we are fumbling about in a digital darkness. Less concept, more proof of concept, so to speak.

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The Social Media Mushroom Cloud

The Social Media Mushroom Cloud is what it is. A mushroom cloud of chatter, video, and audio caused by a significant event. When recorded and analysed the social media content can be sliced and spliced any which way from every level. It is a 3d model of a historical event.

Once every significant event can be seen from every angle and at every level, then – does history exist?


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Symbolism & Plastic Office Plants – the end of real?

I’m doing some training (NLP) in a meeting room and the cute plastic plant in the corner catches my attention. It looks good – too good, too healthy, too cared for for an office plant. And this gets me thinking – what is this plastic plant’s purpose? It sits there in the corner representing a real plant – but why? What is it symbolising to me? What is the plant experience I am having? And would my experience be different if it was real?

These questions lead me to wonder about experience itself – do we actually need ‘real’ to experience the experience that real represents?

An example – if all the lions and tigers died out today – were extinct all of a sudden – would it matter as long as we can have the experience of lions and tigers being alive via our tvs? Would our reality be any different if we chose not be bothered by the non-realness of the animals in the non-Sunday night tv world?

That is ( to bring it back to the plant), does the fakeness or realness of that plant in the room matter as long as I get my plant experience from it?

In some ways the digital transformation of our lives is similar. We now experience many previously ‘real’ experiences in digital versions. Books have become digital for example, and through the design (skeuomorphism) we are able to attach our previous real experience of books to the non-real digital version.

The question is – will ‘real’ no longer be a concept that is understood in the future? Will it just be different types of experience? A pre-digital and post-digital experience?

Will digital become the new norm for our experiences – and analog the non-real one?


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Alien technology ( the phone from 1923)

I have been given a blackberry at work. I think it is called a storm.

Or maybe it is wet shower. Or trickle ? Not sure. But it is like an alien technology to me. I can’t use it. It is like going back in time. Actually I think it is the phone the woman in the Charlie Chaplin video is using in 1923.

Because if they had brought it out in 1923 it might have just about been ahead of other technologies like the phonograph. For a month or so.

The phone is so bad that executives who are forced to painfully write their emails on this thing add an automatic message on the bottom of their emails that says ‘Excuse brevity. Sent from blackberry’.

Now I wonder if some clever dude could work out what the cost to the economy is of all these high powered execs not expressing themselves fully by email and thus delaying projects and causing confusion?

Please someone buy RIM – or work out how to make iPhones secure. It’s not rocket science surely ? Or is it? Nana nana nana nana ( scarey theme music from alien body snatchers type film).

Excuse irony. Written on my iPhone.


Mobile technology - but not as we know it Jim!

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Social Business…..mmmmm

Talk talk talk…about Social Business

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Restricting access to creative expression

If my theory that the less opportunities one has to express creativity in ones work and play is inversely proportional to ones need to consume ( in the modern sense of the word) is correct – then it seems entirely plausible that established power structures would try to limit the creative educational opportunities available to the young soon to be consumers ( such as art, music, dance etc) which could increase their ability to express themselves creatively and therefore diminish their need to consume and thus threaten the current consumerist led economic structure on which the aforementioned powers rely.

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My post about Unconferences on Huff Tech

Top of the pops!

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How I came to rekindle my love for the conference

I work in Digital. Nothing spectacular in that. In fact, nearly everyone you meet these days works in Digital (I am guessing it was the same in the 19th century with the invention of the internal combustion engine where every second person you met was a mechanic of some sort!).  A side-effect of working in Digital is the number of conferences one has to (or should) attend in order to supposedly ‘keep up’ with what is happening. After all, if Digital does nothing else it does change rather quickly. And a side side-effect of going to all these conferences is conference burn-out – a term used to describe the ashen-faced ones like me who sit in the back and smart-phone their way through the presentations/panels and once in a while tweet a snidey remark about the panel/presenter (I take this opportunity to say sorry to them all – I was just bored!).

But then something happened in the middle of one of these conferences while I was buying a 10mm Red Power Ranger for my son on my Amazon app – a question suddenly popped into my head:

Were conferences always like this – so static, passive and lethargic? Is there not another way?

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Ad-Tech London

I am chairing Ad Tech London this Wednesday and Thursday (19,20 Sept)….mmmm….where’s that Best Man Joke book again?

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Rewire London Unconference…next week!

I am part of the team bringing Rewire London to Google Campus. It is an unconference so bring the most collaborative, talkative and confident you you can.

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My new post on Huffington Tech about defining your digital brand experience strategy

Defining Digital Brand Experience Strategy


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September 16, 2012 · 8:33 pm

Social Business post on the Huff Huff Huffington Post


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‘The Story of Digital Commerce in 8 parts’ on Huffington Post

Here’s the link as you won’t find it if you look for it…hidden somewhere at the bottom of Tech Page..hohum!…I think it is a genre issue…branding and business and digital – where does it go on Huff? I probably need my own section..I will suggest it to them!..


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Brand Juxtaposition

Brand Juxtaposition – a new tool to give tired old brands a new lease of

Head Kandi looking a bit tired and very last decade? Brand Juxtapose it! Place it next to an ad about Holocaust survivors and voila! you have yourself some new energy and dynamism!


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The Lost Art of the Bar Mat

I grew up in an English pub in Torremolinos on the Costa Del Sol in the 80s amid sun and sea, burnt tourists, English hooligans, bad architecture and gay culture. And bar matts. We had towel varieties that sat on the bar but we also had the seemingly now disappearing single beer mat. I saw this collection in my local pub in Peckham and it reminded me of my childhood. It also reminded of the art of the bar mat (which I am sure is celebrated on some Tumblr blog somewhere).

The bar mats now on the wall in the pub instead of on the bar made me think of how beauty sometimes is hidden by context and usage. Like stuffed birds sitting in glass boxes in the Natural History Museum, their previous undead beauty now painfully apparent, some objects of design cannot be seen for their qualities other than functional ones until they are pinned to a wall or placed in a large hard back coffee table book.

It seems that every decade we discover the beauty under our noses from the last decade. But is it beauty or is it the rapacious appetite of our society for more and more objects to celebrate as an example of our continued creativity as a species?

What will be the current common place object that is next in line to be hoisted up as a design classic imbued with the existential anxieties of a generation in order mark the terrifying passage of time?





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Fresh Up

Great little marketing sticker on the electric loo in my Korean Hotel. This is one of those toilets that washes and dries your bum for you.

I love the use of the word Up in ‘Clean Up, Fresh Up’ line. Very pointy and relevant to the part of the body being cleaned (although I am guessing they were trying to get closer to the meaning of ‘Freshen Up’!).


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The Fine

In S.Korea ‘The Fine is Fine’. Which is very reassuring. This leads me to think ‘The Great is Great’ and ‘The Best is Best’ and more importantly ‘The Beautiful is Beautiful’.


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No, not the Ac Dc school uniform wearing guitarist. But the MD of the Aberdeen-Angus Cattle Society. He’s the guy that allowed Burger King to use the word ‘Angus’ on their burgers. I is guessing that in as little as 3 years the word ‘ Angus’ will no longer mean anything to anybody.

Amazing short-term gain for long-term future! That’s what I’m talking about!

Tasty burger though.


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Large flush / small flush


When I look at this design for the two flush option I am unsure of which to push.

Is the large ‘button’ larger because it is the most used flush type or because it indicates the large quantity of water to be used? That is, is the small button for big jobs and the large button for small jobs? Intuitively I would think the opposite but UX design wise I would wonder if ease of use trumps symbolism?

It’s a mystery, it’s all a mystery!

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Impossibly crap Weetabix packaging

We’ve invented the mobile Internet, nanotechnology, Facebook, non-stick frying pans, bicycles with coloured tyres and tincy wincy handle bars – but we’ve been unable to do anything about Weetabix packaging!

Why o why Mister Weetabix Packaging Man do you insist on wrapping the weetabixes in substandard greasy plastic which once opened allows all the little bits of Weetabix to collect at the bottom of the box so that every morning when one picks up the box to serve oneself those same little bits sprinkle themselves laughingly all over the floor. It’s a bad packaging kinda start to the morning I can tell you.

Maybe you don’t have the money, or you’re just a little bit lazy? So you know what I’m going to do Mister Weetabix Packaging Man? I’m gonna start a Kickstarter project right this instant to get some money together to help you redesign the packaging.

Watch this space.



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The stacked chair and the untapped potential of Social Media

Is not the stacked chair a good metaphor for the untapped potential of social media for most organisations?

Might be stretching it a tad far – but I like it!


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The mystery of the multiple guitar pick logos

I’m not sure what it is about guitar picks but I keep seeing logos made up of them. Generally overlapping coloured guitar pick logos. The recently done London Southend airport. And SEL. There are others which I can’t remember. It’s odd to me that with the infinity of our graphical world we still converge on spots of safety.

Be free! London Southend Airport I say, break your guitar pick logo chains and run for the original logo hills!

Obviously that ain’t gonna happen now, but they had a chance and did not grab it! Shame on you London Southend Airport logo designer, shame on you! You had the chance to enrich our lives with your original soul!



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Sell your home for free

I saw this and instantly thought ‘ I don’t want to sell my home for free, I want to sell it for money!’ Typical estate agents, always trying to rip me off!


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Service design and the delicateness of brand experience

I went to a wine bar in London’s Borough Market last night. Not a 1980s style wine bar but a French style wine bar. You know the one, with old wooden tables and rickety mismatched chairs, peeling plaster, candle light – a kind of remake of some 1920s Paris establishment where James Joyce, Henry Miller and F.Scott Fitzgerald hung out.

Well, that’s the brand experience of the service they have designed that I initially got and was relatively happy with. I had a template for this type of place ( from my imagination informed by penguin novels and Hollywood films) and it felt comfortable.

So I ordered a bottle of wine and settled down in the corner for a merry time when crash/ bang/wallop! I spotted something out of the corner of my eye!

And there they were, two tables away from me! A set of 4 chairs which like a short circuit catapulted me out of paris circa 1920 and completely broke my suspension of disbelief with the brand experience. Here were 4 chairs from some Next Home 1990s dining room set much like you might still find in the show house of some newly built Barrat Home Estate. And with them came tumbling down my belief in the bar, the people who ran the bar, the quality of the wine and pricing.

This may sound harsh, and it is, but this change in my experience was not a conscious decision – it was incongruence in the flow of my unconscious acceptance of a story the bar had set up. Like the accidental appearance of a digital watch in a film set in 2000 BC, those chairs had changed everything for me. I believed no more!

I think what this story demonstrates ( other than me being very sensitive to these things) is that the brand experience you set up needs to be consistent and congruent across all touch points. If you allow your customers to see the ‘matrix’ as it were, you risk them popping out of the brand experience and breaking their willing suspension of disbelief. And once that happens you have lost the value and are just commodity service.

[there is a mash-up experience that could work between a 1920s Paris bar and Barrat home – but this would require the creation of an innovative new wine bar experience template. Unfortunately this isn’t it.]





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The A to Z of departures


At London bridge there’s a board which lists an a to z of next departures by destination. This means you search for your destination alphabetically and find the next train.

Quite a few friends when coming to visit me in Peckham let me know how much they love the board. It is something that hasn’t reached the rest of the country yet.

‘that’s destination board innovation’ I say.
‘it’s a beta trial. If people like it every board in the land will be like this. Imagine that!’

They nod. ‘Innovation is everywhere. This is the age of innovation.’

We are the innovation generation.


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News Flash!

People wanting the new iPad face a 3 day delay!

And there I was worrying about pesticides in my kid’s food, the sell off of the NHS, the destruction of the amazon rain forests and the end of man kind etc.

Give god thanks for trivialities!


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Utilisation and the short-termist lobster

There is a word that is used a lot in my neck of the woods. It is utilisation – a combination of the two words ‘used’ and ‘tool’ (not two words anyone wants to see in the same sentence as their name)!

The question ‘What’s your utilisation this month?’ can send grown men running for their mums – and how many days you have been charged to clients is a measure of all things (a modern day consultancy version of T.S.Elliot’s coffee spoons?). Over 60% is good, under not so good.

Running operations around this seems to make sense in a flat stable commoditised world. But how about within digital media – a not so flat value-driven spinning and jumping world? I’m not so sure mainly because of the tendency to short-termism. If value can only be generated on client time – where does company thinking, innovation and change sit? Traditionally that would be in a siloed R&D dept. But these days as we all know innovation is within every employee, customer and partner ( the social business model) not in a few chosen ones in white lab coats. Therefore it could be argued that the pressure utilisation puts on employees to not think but to always do is an innovation killer. And without innovation most companies die in the mid-term, and surprisingly their death always takes them completely by surprise!

This reminds me of the story of two lobsters in a pot of cold water on a stove. One lobster continually checks the current temperature of the water against the previous temperature he took 5 minutes before and concludes that the slight increase is nothing to worry about and stays sitting happily in his lovely warm bath of death. The other lobster does some longer-term thinking and sees that the projected temperature in 50 minutes will boil them to death. He escapes the pan leaving his short-termist friend to his fate.

Moral of the story? Always ask the fishmonger for short-termist lobsters if you don’t want to lose a finger chasing the long-termist lobsters around the kitchen!



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Let’s talk (and talk!) about Social Media

Me at Social Media Leadership Forum talking about social media in corporations.


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Ignorance, Needs and Wants – The psychology of brand choices

Lining up at the supermarket checkout waiting to buy the shopping, I look in my trolley and see around 50 items. I wonder who put them there and how he chose them. I know I physically took the items off the shelves and put them in the trolley, but I have no idea of why these particular items?What ignorance, needs or wants of mine made my brand choices? What unconscious forces were at work and how and who brought these into play on a simple trip to the supermarket? And most importantly, when presented with many different versions of the same product, why did I choose one brand over another?

In this article I attempt to define what branding is in the context of our consumer experienced lives, and how we come to make our on-the-spot choices when under pressure. I posit that buying choices are generally made by a combination of emotional responses to the product or service masked as rational thinking, and our ignorance, needs and wants. Furthermore, that branding agencies know how and do manipulate these in order to ‘nudge’ us towards their products, which is ultimately, if we are honest, what we want and need them to do in order to help us live our lives. Continue reading


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Why you cannot afford not to get into Social Media

It is easy to dismiss the things we don’t understand

It is easy to dismiss the things we don’t understand as irrelevant and of no use to us. Take Twiiter – it’s just a load of pointless chatter about nothing. Or Facebook – just a load of needy people collecting online friends because they have none offline. Or YouTube – a load of silly banal videos. Or blogging – wannabe journalists and writers writing their diaries online for all to see in a pathetic attempt to get someone interested in their little lives. Continue reading

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Review of ‘Design as Art’ by Bruno Munari

Design as Art is Munari’s 1966 book of essays bringing together his thoughts and musings on design and art. Is there a difference between an artist and a designer today he asks? Munari thought the designer was the artist of his day.

‘The designer of today re-establishes the long lost contact between art and the public, between living people and art as a living thing….There should be no such thing as art divorced from life, with beautiful things to look at and hideous things to use. If what we use every day is made with art, and not thrown together by chance or caprice, then we shall have nothing to hide.’ Continue reading

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Why you cannot afford not to get into Social Media on the Huffington Post

They changed the title! humpf! Obviously don’t like the double negative thingy…which I like!

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The Value of an App

The App store – over a billion downloads, more than 200,000 apps and lots of PR and profit for Apple. But is there any profit in it for anyone else?

Certainly there are some high profile cases of apps that have and are making their developers a load of money. But how about the standard developer or company that spends £20k on an app? Are they able to get a slice of the pie? Can they make any money? Or is it just luck and the whim of Apple and their ‘What’s Hot’ choices that do it? I guess the question we are asking is:

Is it possible for a good quality cheap app to make a profit? Continue reading

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Design and Psychoanalysis

This article is about Psychoanalysis and design, empathy, shopping to recapture your lost mum, Google as your mythical dad and Volvo as your mummy’s womb.
Design and Psychoanalysis – like brother and sister.
Psychoanalysis is a very interesting prism through which to view Design. The two seemingly disparate disciplines connect and unite in many different ways. Continue reading

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Review of ‘The Language of Things’ by Deyan Sudjic

The first thing that strikes me about this book is its design. It is a hard back with a faded red mock hessian feel to it, purposely creating an illusion of age and importance. Immediately this provides a feeling of congratulatory ownership. I feel good about owning this book because it feels worthy of me. I immediately recall a memory of browsing through a second hand bookshop in Charing Cross and finding a wonderful second hand penguin edition of The Glass Bead Game by Herman Hesse. Aged perfectly in all the right places, it elicits that warm feeling of a humanity and knowledge read and passed on down through many lives and many hands. And so it seems that before even reading a word I have already been pulled in to The Language of Things by the thing itself; the book as an object.

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The Future of Digital and the evolution of the Digital Agency

In this manic early-decade confusion I propose that a new type of Agency is emerging – the Creative Tech Agency – which is digitally creative, innovative, agile and hungry. I also propose that the traditional Advertising Agency is soon to become a symbol of what we will very quickly look back on as the bloated past of pre-digital communication channels. The future is small, specialized and digital. Continue reading

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Article in this month’s edition of Design Thinkers

My article entitled Design and Psychoanalysis: Siblings in Empathy is in this month’s Design Thinkers at

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The 8 Disciplines of Successful Web Design

‘The words on their own are perfectly respectable words, and understood in their more general sense, but when combined they make an unholy matrimony bringing disrepute to design, and a whole industry of cheap, low quality, badly executed sites to the web.Web Design is design without the user, it is the web without the technology. Never has the word design been so misrepresented than by those that call themselves web designers.’  A.Designer

And thus spoke a designer I met at a recent networking event I attended. I found myself wondering why Web Design, as a branch of design, is so maligned, misused and so misunderstood. Why is this? Why has the web not been capable of implementing a definitive set of heuristics across the board? Why is it that from SMEs to Fortune 500 companies there is still such a ignorance of how to successfully translate offline branding and experiences to the web?

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Low Income Branding

This article is about the heroes of low income design, Netto, LIDL, Waitrose as a surrogate mother, evolution of the urban species, emotional branding,  Argos, communist East Germany and Krispy Kreme.

When one walks the streets of London looking for the unsung heroes of low income design one sees some unexpected things. Who would think you could find  a great example of logo design on Rye Lane, Peckham?

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Working Class Graphic Design

This article is about pebble dash, the Barbican, the Queen, ugly projections and working class graphic design.

Bad design – it’s everywhere it seems. The ugliness of our world stalks us like a malevolent clown, laughing at our grey displeasure as we rush from here to there, stressed by how effectively we manage to project the lack of beauty in our selfs into our urban surroundings.

But, does bad design actually exist or is it just an internal experience? After all, one man’s beauty is another man’s ugly. And what does the term ‘bad design’ actually mean? Ugly? Not fit for function? In fact, is ‘bad design’ the actual opposite of ‘good design’? If beauty is in the eye of the beholder, then so is ugly is it not? Continue reading

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Good and Bad Design

This article is about morality, guns, nuclear bombs, sharks and post-modernism down the pub.

What can survive the present? How can one thing, one object, one design, manage to infiltrate our minds like dirt in an oyster and grow over time to become something timeless, a ‘classic’, an object left alone by the winds of style, not eroded by the rains of progress, not left to rust in a corner by the whims of modernity? That is, what is Good design? And what gives it longevity? Continue reading

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From Beauty to Ugly

This article is a about human beings, babies, having children, the Ugly, the end of the world, and quality.

Human beings, aren’t they lovely. All fingers and thumbs. Nice folk. No harm to anyone. Until..? Until they became ugly, until they fell for the Ugly.

Ugliness, a disgusting habit humans have acquired. A plague of it runs riot in every city and town of the world. The Ugly is now everywhere you turn, cheered at every corner. Like a uninvited weed it spreads through our land and our souls. Politicians and markets push it through, walk with it, talk with it. The Ugly is in. It’s cool. It is the DUDE. Continue reading

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The 5 Rules of Commercial Web Design

So, you have a multimillion pound brand, created over years of creative hard work and advertising expenditure specifically designed to communicate effectively with your target market and to give them the user experience you have tailored. Everything is under control. And then you go on to the web and mess it all up. Doh!

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Lack of Continuity between Offline and Online Branding

This is a particularly bad blunder because the lack of continuity of brand experience between offline and online sets up a customer for a big disappointment – with the accompanying loss of brand credibility. It could be because of laziness that this happens, or  the lack of communication between the offline and online parts of a company. Or it could be due to a lack of understanding of how customers build up an impression of brand from multiple touch points – billboards, tv ads, web banners, magazines, high street shops, website etc. If they experience brand inconsistency across these different touch points they will feel confused and will be unable to identify with the brand in a cohesive manner. This will mean the brand message will dissipate and be lost.
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The Online Ugly in the Top 100 brands

There are some websites out there which, even though they do the job well enough, and haven’t knocked down pedestrians when drunk driving a car, are just so damn ugly they might as well have. More than this, the companies below are top 100 brands in the world. You would think they could buy some one in with a bit of taste, with some knowledge of space, of typography, some one with a bit of feeling for this kind of thing. It’s funny, because companies at this level spend massive amounts of money on making sure their products elicit the correct feeling in their consumers, but when it comes to their website that aim disappears. It seems the main aim of some of these websites is to get as much info in as small a space as possible. They seem to lack direction and a target. The website becomes a box to throw things in with no thought for the person who needs to find something in the box.

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Cookie Cutter Web Design Agencies

There’s a special type of web design which really gets to me. Especially when it wins awards or the companies concerned are making thousands of £s in the process. It is what I would call ‘cookie cutter’ web design.

Instead of fitting a design to a customer, and the customer’s market and products, these agencies use the ‘cookie cutter’ approach – they fit the customer to a design. This type of approach results in the customer experiencing the website as atonal, off-centre, and in some way disconcerting. There is a mismatch between the product/service and the design i.e. the relationship does not work, has not gelled and results in a feeling of incompatibility which in the end effects conversions, sales and brand value. It is a basic rule of design – design follows function, or in this context, design follows products and services. This can be taken one level deeper – design follows brand, and also design follows brand experience. Therefore any web design must be an increment to a product. For example, a doctor’s website is part of the doctor’s surgery and must function as such ( as a holding, containing, secure environment building trust and calm). This kind of design is derived from a much longer discovery and exploration phases  than a lot of the ‘web design’ agencies are willing to do. The conceptualisation of the website design, in relation  to the end user, must be re-engaged with. Less bish, bash, bosh please. Continue reading

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