Survey – Design charge out rates Ireland 2018/2019 – Anonymous


I get asked a lot of questions by designers about how much they should charge and what do other designers charge. So I have created this survey to share learnings with all designers in Ireland.
Please take the survey. There are only 2 questions.

Click here if the survey does not display correctly below.

Results which are continually updated can be viewed here.

Survey – Creative IT 2018


The creative industry has not always been the best at researching and selecting the best production and financial systems. Some agencies are using very old offline and unconnected systems or even none at all. Smart Media is trying to capture some information on IT use in the creative industry so we share the data and can make better decisions. Please help by answering seven quick questions in this anonymous survey.

Click here if the survey does not appear correctly below.


Results will be published here in early 2019.


Designing the best customer experience


Design is a lot more than just chairs, logos, websites and clothes. Design is now rightfully taking its seat at boardroom tables. Design thinking is now core to the success of most modern businesses.

As customers, we do not separate the product/service we bought, and the experience we had buying it. Customer experience comes directly as a result of how we have / have not designed our service. Why we want something is equally as important as what we want.

Most companies have identified user experience on their website as a priority for customers. But less have looked at the overall customer experience. Virgin realised that getting to the airport, although out of their control, affected their customers experience so they introduced a chauffeur service for certain customers.

But who is the customer? The customer is the buyer / user, but also your internal team and partners. The experience for all three needs to be considered. As equally important in the design of a great customer experience (aka service design) is the design of how these changes will be adopted internally. Unfortunately for some organisations, CX starts and ends with metrics like ‘how many were delivered on time’? Operational efficiency is confused with customer experience.
Understanding the customer is the key first step – giving them what they want, but also what they don’t know they want….yet! Ongoing feedback feeds into continuous improvement (Kaizen) but this shouldn’t be limited to customer service data – it also needs to include survey platforms that collect data, analytics and reporting, and qualitative feedback. The speed at which this happens is particularly important in B2B business where revenue is recurring and renewable, and where customers choice of renewing a service is dependent on their level of success, perceived value, and overall experience. Businesses now need to have the right data and processes to deliver alerts to identify any customers at risk, and be able to act immediately to recover customers in this situation.

Measuring the experience
Measurement and continuous improvement loop of product or service are essential. It needs measurement and a business process. Whether measuring Customer Satisfaction (CSat), Loyalty, Net Promoter Score NPS(R), or Customer Effort Scores (CES) – they need a supporting business process to drive improvement and value. One or other on their own will fail. Journey mapping, Process flows / 6 sigma (not everyone’s favourite) and industrial engineering principles fall into this category. Closed loop ongoing monitoring of customer feedback, and feeding back in a continuous improvement / evolution cycle will drive improvement in product and service.

Engaging Employees
One of the first requirements in engaging employees is to communicate and help them understand the goals for the business, and to translate this into local goals and targets at team level. Providing the business and corporate ‘big-picture’ context for the ‘day-job’ and helping teams understand how the duties they perform contribute to company success is key. Employees are often not seen as customers, although we should be selling to them as hard as we are selling to an end buyer, particularly in industries where employee intellectual capital forms the basis of the company’s value proposition – it is imperative to measure and understand employee satisfaction and loyalty, in much the same way as for customers.

Low Effort and Consistency
We don’t always need to design for ‘delight’ or ‘exceed expectations’. Just make it low effort, minimum interruption to customer, do ‘what its says on the tin’ and do that consistently. Consider HP and the mundane task of replacing printer ink. Through HP Instant Ink, the company has executed a subtle shift away from pure transactions – customers simply buying ink when they need it – and toward establishing an ongoing service relationship, wherein HP knows when it’s printers will run out of ink and preemptively ships more, saving customers time and effort. And making their lives easier not only makes customers more productive, but also makes them happy and generates loyalty. Research by CEB Board on Low effort correlates with loyalty over time, which of course correlates with retention. Low effort design points to many initiatives including good on-boarding, CRM management, in-app help and notifications, self service, minimal channel switching (Web> phone> X team transfers etc), good CRM tools to provide agents 360 views and customer history. Solve the issue on the first call, and solve anticipated (adjacent) customer problems.
Customers want to feel special. In reality, this amounts to empathy, good communications skills and emotional intelligence to be able to tune into to customers. Coaching your team to find out about the contact in advance or reading a company report. Segmentation also helps – a customer paying 500k p.a. might have different expectations to a customer paying 20k p.a.

Manage expectations
When things do fall short, and they do from time to time – how businesses respond determines how customers will feel. Proactively manage customer expectations, and have a plan to deal with below par situations when they do arise. (Processes approach, define the problem root cause, put a fix or workaround in place to mitigate customer impact, investigate root cause, corrective action, evaluate). And communicate all through the process. Volkswagen is a case where customers were left for weeks without communication.

Volkswagen have experienced a major backlash which will permanently damage their reputation.

So while the basics are always going to be key foundations of any service design, we are at an interesting point in time where customer expectations have pivoted and will shift more, primarily driven by advances in Technology. So what are these new expectations, and if resources were not an obstacle, what would the customer experience / service design specification include?

Immediacy – We want it now! Nobody wants to wait. If you phone a call centre and there’s a wait, you’ll probably move to live chat or another channel instead, and worst case, write a negative post about your experience on social media.

Omnichannel availability – People want you as a business to be everywhere and connected at all times and to provide a channel to customers, 24x7x365.
Automated Services – We’re already seeing a lot of things like IVR (Interactive Voice Response) and while virtual assistants may not be pervasive just yet they’re going to get a lot better as technologies like text and context analytics enrich that channel experience.
Richer interactions – Customers want to be able to receive videos instead of documents, upload a picture or video clip from their smartphone instead of writing a description, have a conversation at any time instead of text chat. They want to feel that the information is provided in a way that helps not just solve their problem but helps them be successful, and that information is being provided in a way that helps them consume it.
Clarity and openness – Increasingly, customers want to know what are the service levels they are being provided, and how you are delivering. Apps such as TripAdvisor, rate my service etc respond to this need.
From Customer support to Customer success – New Customer Success Management (CSM) solutions can monitor accounts for specific behaviors based on predefined rules, and send notifications to the Customer success team when they detect potential issues like too many support tickets, or a drop-off in application usage. The ability to merge and analyse customer behaviour data from a several databases (e.g support, purchasing, returns, billing, purchasing etc) makes it easier to accurately alert changes in customer behaviour and utilisation, and increase the effectivity of a customer success team. Data analytics, whether it’s big data, small data, or in between data analytics on customer behaviours are developing service capabilities in this way

Customer Co-Creation – All technology companies have Support forums and are cultivating communities of users that help each other, evangelize the technology and provide feedback to the ‘mother ship’ on how to improve products and services.

Education –  Helping your Customers (and teams) to extract better value from the product, and to use it’s full functionality. This has the benefit of making your product or service more sticky’ i.e. If a customer has trained his or her team on your product, or is familiar with your service, they are less likely to move (education becomes a barrier to change, increases stickiness).

Professional Services: e.g in Software, many companies may have a software platform (e.g Salesforce CRM) only to partially use it, use limited features, and not build the appropriate business process to extract multi department benefits –  i.e. don’t experience the full value. This has risks come renewals time. Having a strategy (sometimes via partners) to help customers build out the full business processes, helps maximise the value and secure renewals and ‘customer for life.’

Zappos are rightly observed as best in class for customer experience. Staff believe and deliver the brand promise to partners and end customers. And their success and customer loyalty is second to none.

They make life easy for customers by having no shipping fees on returns, and always delivering within 2 days. They give their staff discretion to make emotional connections with customers even if it takes 10 times as long as a call should take. They spend time knowing their customers – particularly the VIP ones who get priority at busy times. It treats it’s suppliers likes customers by providing free airport shuttles for them when they are visiting. Ultimately, they deliver on all core brand values – they are not just a giant pyramid of values at reception.

Zappos have designed every single part of the experience by looking at one journey and not having multiple siloed interactions managed by separate departments. Design and measure your entire customer experience, don’t leave parts of it to chance.

This article was first published in during November/December 2015 and January 2016. Special thanks to John Kelly of CustomerLink for his help with this article.

Originally published in the Nov/Dec / Jan 2016 issue of Marketing Magazine

Death by PowerPoint

Sometime in the last 20 years, the role of presenting was handed over to Microsoft’s PowerPoint.

Others like Keynote and Prezi have tried to challenge the big P, but the key role of presenting a business to another business (or its staff) seems to always fall back to that old workhorse. Strangely the role of ‘operating’ Powerpoint seems to fall to an agency junior who ‘gets’ all that ‘IT’ and ‘interweb’ stuff. So our most important first impression falls to a visually untrained junior. Amazingly the business community seems to think more is more, not less is more regarding presentation content. A potential client trying to read a series of 10 bullet points and listen to a presenter is like having the tv and radio on at the same time: white noise.

Would you pass legal duties or your company’s audit over to the office junior? Of course not, yet most companies pass their first impression to an untrained junior (or an untrained senior).In ‘The Art of Business Communication (how to use pictures, charts and graphics to make your message stick)’ author Graham Shaw tries to convince us that live drawing (ie using a marker to illustrate ideas) in presentations is the ultimate way to engage. A collaborative, live drawing presentation / brainstorm can also lead to greater engagement and team or relationship building.

Us humans have an 85-95% recall rate on images we have seen.
The more unusual or bizarre the image, the higher the recall with an almost limitless storage limit. The book is full of simple presentation tips if you decide to pursue this live route. But if your Powerpoint is thrown together an hour before a presentation by the junior it might not be for you. Shaw does have a few nuggets though, the use of left and right to storytell, using the direction of your gaze to lead others, and the language of problems and solutions. Shaw touches on identifying key messages from within a large amount of information.

The infographics that we see on a daily basis are all trying to do this same job to varying degrees of success. There is an element of filtering the ‘chart junk’ as with all content. Florence Nightingale (yes, the same lady with the lamp) was the first person to use visual presentations to bring data to life. Her presentations to parliament and Queen Victoria helped bring about policy changes for military hospitals. Perhaps she could look at one for A&E in Ireland. So it’s old, but has it moved on? Infographics, data visualisation, information design or information architecture, whatever you want to call it has been taken to the level of art in David McCandless book ‘Information is Beautiful’. Here the real data story is not always absolutely clear but they do look amazing. Whatever way you bring your presentations or data to life what is most important is actually who does it.

You need a designer. Not someone that is handy at Powerpoint or knows a bit of Photoshop, but a visual designer. Someone who has studied for years to interpret problems and can create engaging, clever, appealing and memorable visuals. ‘Everyone thinks they are a designer’ is a line often bandied about. In fact many designers are not even designers. You might wear a designer suit to your presentation but has your presentation been to a professional designer?Sometime around the switch to digital we lost the ability to decide, then execute. Powerpoint allows us to constantly change our mind, make committee style decisions (everything is included) and reduce costs by taking an expert (designer) out of the loop. Most of us are happy with a ‘ah, that’s grand’ presentation, the bar has been set nice and low. If your website is your shop window your presentation is your point of sale. Design brief’s advice – Go Pro!

This article was first published in Magazine’s Design Brief column in February 2015.


It’s about investment

Design is commonly seen as a cost. It can come from the client from a lack of understanding, or equally from the design agency that concentrates on order taking or the aesthetics and not enough on the return on investment (ROI). Design is one of the most important investments Irish marketers can make in business, either internally or externally.

But don’t just take my word for it. For evidence, look at Apple. Whether you want to drive competitive advantage, engage customers or staff, change behaviours or even save lives, think design. The Design Business Association (DBA) in the UK rewards effective work in a similar way to what IAPI does with ADFX. Interestingly, DBA numbers agencies and clients among its members. Here are some of the stars…

Take Bear, the healthy snack brand. From £0 to £6.4million in sales in only 3 years. It’s the fastest growing brand in healthy snacking and now sits in the unbranded fresh products aisle in supermarkets – something that was supposedly impossible prior to launch. At the heart of their success is great design.

Take British Gas. They reduced their costs by £750,000 per year as a result of a drop in customer calls by 10 per cent. The reason for the call drop was a redesigned utility bill. Giving practical customer information in a well – designed, easily digestible format resulted in a communicating key details and reducing customer service calls.

Take Gas Safe’s Silent Killer campaign. It attracted 30,000 website visitors with the aim to change behaviour relating to unsafe gas work in the North West of England. It resulted in a whopping 300 per cent increase in high risk households having annual safety checks. Silents Killer was later rolled out nationwide in the UK.

There are many other great examples. The British government actively consults with the design industry. The award – winning site combined all government websites into one, It is design thinking using public money to get the best results, It is true to say the UK is leading the way and it’s worth our while checking them out.

Design can increase clicks, deliver services better, reduce calls, get you noticed, get you understood, change mindsets, create markets, improve processes and even reduce costs. Many clients reading use a design agency and some may see them as a cost. Yes there is a cost but there’s also a much bigger cost not to think design.

As an aside, the Creative Industries Federation (CIF) is the new independent voice of Britain’s arts, cultural and creative interests. They realise there is strength in numbers and see the need to define their own future, As a small economy and industry, with a lot of associations and bodies – many poorly supported, there is much we could learn.

This article was first published in Magazine’s Design Brief column in January 2015.

Greater identity

Welcome to the first Design Brief column in magazine. I feel a little bit like the independent TD entering the Dail for the first time, up against the might of the advertising, media and PR parties who have dominated this publication for along time. But things are about to change, so here is the revolutionary design manifesto.

In the coming months, I will do my best to hi-light the good, the bad and the mediocre of the design world, both homegrown and from further afield. I will endeavor to a wide range of design interests: packaging design, UI design, UX design, identity design, service design and in–store design, to name but a few.

I will talk in plain English, so no mention of leading, pixels, ratios or Pantones. I will give you opinions – both my own and, to keep a balance of course, those of others. Good design deserves to have its say and be seen as a viable, interesting, exciting, effective and vital part of marketing communications.

Where are we now?
The traditional design world has become commoditised. There are no barriers to entry, professionally or financially. The call for certification has raised its head in the UK again. Designers are being forced lower and lower on hourly rates with some even offering fixed prices for a piece of string of indeterminable length.

Who’s to blame?
Well, we can start with business reality shows like The Apprentice where a “designer” moves elements around a screen as directed by a team of budding entrepreneurs, more of a machine operator than a designer. The Design Business Association website has some good posts about this. Then there’s colleges, for not equipping designers for commercial realities of the marketing services business.

But fundamentally, the blame lies with us, the designers. We don’t articulate our value well enough. Would Apple have the same bite without his lordship, Jonathan Ive? We form thousands of tiny companies that just can’t say no to a big client’s will. We forget the commercial part of being a commercial artist. Some 85 per cent of design awards at Cannes this year were won by agencies, not design agencies. So not only do we get the commercial bit wrong, but the artist part too. But there is hope.

Measuring effectiveness
How can we measure design effectively? Digital, for one. It allows us to test our design work and measure instantly. Good design delivers ROI for clients and design agencies. The big budget annual reports and identity guideline bibles that were the bread, butter and jam of the industry for years are now no more.

Smart design agencies that link great design and effectiveness will succeed. And digital lets us do this with all its analytics and ability to easily A/B test. And more good news – aside from digital, design is undergoing a renaissance in Ireland at the moment. Events like Offset are placing Dublin and Ireland on the international stage. We have our own Design Week which ran nationwide this month.

Next year is officially the year of Irish design, aka Irish Design 2015, its arrival on the back of Pivot Dublin’s bid for World Design Capital 2014. Organised by the Design and Crafts Council Ireland, Irish Design 2015 aims to sustain and grow employment opportunities, sales and export potential for the Irish design sector, by encouraging investment in design as a key component of competitiveness and innovation. A lofty but commendable ambition. ICAD(Institute of Creative Advertising and Design) is pushing the C in creativity, encouraging agencies to open their doors to the industry. ICAD is spelled with a capital A and small d, but we are hoping that improves with time.

The Institute of Designers in Ireland (IDI) design awards also happen in November. These organisations and events are helping to widen the profile of our industry. They’re putting us on the radar and helping us become accountable, both to others and ourselves.

All in all, it’s time to stand up for design. To show how it really can help achieve business goals and help a campaign or a project become the best, most effective campaign it can be. It’s not just about pretty colours and centered logos. It is deeper and more intricate than that. Do I have your interest now?

This article was first published in Magazine’s Design Brief column in November 2014.