Business to Business B2B Design

Content Designer Wanted – we are hiring


We are looking for an enthusiastic and self-motivated Content Designer to join the marketing team at Smart Media.

This position will give the candidate the opportunity to gain hands-on experience with social media tools and learning about marketing, with a particular focus on B2B marketing.

The role will initially be remote/work from home and hours can be flexible.


● Assist in the development and support of digital content strategies
● Write engaging copy for a variety of content types and target audiences such as blog posts, landing pages and ebooks within a strict time allocation
● Responsible for content ideation, writing and execution of posts across all organic social media marketing platforms to align with clients’ marketing calendars.
● Schedule content across social channels
● Use relevant tools to conduct detailed Content Audits for clients.
● Responsible for CMS updates
● Provide weekly/monthly social engagement, followers, and revenue metrics and any relevant consumer insights and analytics.
● Responsible for continually optimising digital campaigns to meet KPI’s
● Communication to team and management on project development, timelines, and results
● Work closely with fellow team members to meet client goals

Key Skills

● Passion for writing and content marketing
● Experience in Content Marketing or SEO ……especially B2B
● Outstanding ability to think creatively, and identify and resolve problems
● Attention to detail and the ability to effectively multi-task to deadlines
● Ability to clearly and effectively articulate thoughts and ideas on Content Marketing and SEO
● High levels of integrity, autonomy, and self-motivation
● Excellent analytical, organisational, project management and time management skills
● Understanding of social media (paid, earned and owned)
● Understanding of best practices in UX, Linkedin, PPC, Google analytics, SEO, email marketing
● Understanding of visual, animated and video design
● Understanding of website content management systems CMS

Professional Qualifications

● Degree in marketing, journalism, advertising or PR is preferable

Who we are:

Smart Media is a Business to Business (B2B) marketing and business design consultancy. We use design thinking to create and improve brands, products and services. And then to attract, win, retain and grow customers.

If you are interested in applying for this role please email your CV or Linkedin profile and a cover letter to

Due to the expected volume of applications only suitable applicants will be contacted.


Time for a Design Spring Clean

Every year around this time we think about giving our home, our office, and our life a spring clean. Applying some professional wardrobe de-cluttering theory and asking whether the jacket had an outing in the past 12 months, we ruthlessly bin the old and re-organise the new. It’s a positive experience similar to the feeling of packing light for a holiday or moving into a new house or office – although some secret hoarding issues may be unearthed.


To tender or not to tender

Successful public sector tendering offers some solid, recurring income for creative agencies that have cracked the process, but many agencies consider them too time consuming, too price focussed or overly favouring incumbents.

That aside, there are many opportunities available over the €25,000 tender threshold and many more below that procured in a more informal way.

For anyone interested there are many companies that offer training and supports in this area.

Orbidal Software to help you in creating tenders
Intertrade Ireland Helping companies do business cross border
Greenville Procurement Training & Consultancy for Public Sector
Bid Services Bid management and training
Keystone Tender Management and Training
Tender Team Help preparing tenders
ETenders View and respond to live tenders in Ireland
ETenders Northern Ireland  View and respond to live tenders in Northern Ireland
Office of Government Procurement Official Irish government procurement information

Here are some current and recent design and creative tenders as examples.


RFT for NCCA Corporate Website 2021
National Council for Curriculum and Assessment
Response deadline:  14-04-2021 

RFT for the Provision of Digital Marketing Services for Ordnance Survey Ireland
Response deadline: 03-03-2021 12:00

Buyer: Ordnance Survey Ireland

184833 – WA/2021/01 – Killarney Brand Proposition
Response deadline: 05-03-2021 12:00 Irish time
Description: Fáilte Ireland is seeking proposals from suitably qualified suppliers for the provision of the following services: Develop a brand proposition for Killarney creating a unified destination marketing approach supported by a narrative that defines the destination ambition for Killarney, delivered with the resources required to create an impactful world class tourism destination brand recognised domestically and internationally. Create a fully formed brand identity for use across all platforms and marketing collateral that can be used by both the local authority, Failte Ireland, NPWS/OPW and Killarney industry. Killarney is a Gateway to the Wild Atlantic Way and needs to align itself to the overarching Wild Atlantic Way brand but retain its own unique selling point which is Killarney.
Buyer: Fáilte Ireland-National Tourism Development Authority

Managed Service to deliver all aspects of the 2022 Census Publicity Campaign
Central Statistics Office
Response deadline:  23-03-2021

Provision of Services for Design and Development of website and App
Clare County Council
Response deadline: 05-03-2021

Provision of Services to undertake an Economic Appraisal on the development of a cross border Enterprise Space in Letterkenny and Derry.
Donegal County Council
Response deadline: 26-02-2021

Multi Party Framework Agreement for Specialist Services relating to Delivery of Design-Thinking Services
Fáilte Ireland-National Tourism Development Authority
Response deadline: 04-03-2021

Tender for the provision of multi-disciplined consultancy services to complete a Concept, Design and Feasibility study into the development of Athlone Digital Hub and Co-working Centre in Athlone. Co. Westmeath.
Athlone Chamber of Commerce
Response deadline: 10-03-2021

DPC Website Service Contract – Support and maintenance of the DPC Websites
Data Protection Commission
Response deadline:  12-03-2021

Digital Agency for B2C
Fáilte Ireland-National Tourism Development Authority
Term: 3 year +1 +1
Turover req: €3m
Budget: tbc

Design, Development Support and Maintenance of a Website
Response deadline: 11-02-2021

Redevelopment of Kerry ETB schools’ websites: Post-Primary Schools Websites, Primary Schools Websites, and the creation of a Mobile App.
Kerry Education and Training Board
Response deadline: 12-02-2021

Provision of Design and Printing Services
Response deadline: 25-01-2021
The National Treatment Purchase Fund (NTPF)
Budget: €50k
Term: 1+1+1 years

Economic Development – Provision of Communications for Local Enterprise Office Waterford
Waterford City and County Council
Response deadline: 08-01-2021
Budget: €11k
Term: 1 year

Design, Implementation and Maintenance of a B2B and Corporate Website including the Provision of a Content Management System
Tourism Ireland CLG
Response deadline: 25-01-2021
Term: 5 years + 2

LLEO_EVENTS – LEO Events, Network and Student Enterprise Programme Coordination and Marketing
Leitrim Local Enterprise Office
Response deadline: 07-01-2021
Budget: Lot 2: €6,000
No indicative budget will be provided for Lots 1, 3 or 4.

Design Services for SuperBrands for Smaller Businesses Programme
Bord Bia
Response deadline: 11-01-2021 14:00
Budget: tbc

The provision of Customer Communications Services
Department of Social Protection
Response deadline: 15-01-2021
Budget: €2m
Incumbent: Creed

Graphic Design – Creative graphic design services for use across

Provision of Design, Production – Provision of Design, Production and Printing Services Annual Report 2020, 2021 and 202
Personal Injuries Assessment Board
Response deadline: 29-01-2021 14:00

electronic and print media
Office of the Planning Regulator
Response deadline: 18-01-2021
Description: To work with a single graphic design company for the next two (2) years who will carry out all graphic design work for publications and other documents which meet the OPR’s requirement to communicate with a range of audiences.
Term: 1+1+1
Budget: €70k Total

Technical and Design Services for the Generation Apprenticeship Competition and Supporting Events
Response deadline: 18-01-2021

Graphic Design services for University College Dublin
Response deadline:  08-01-2021 
University College Dublin ( UCD )
Term: 2+2years
Est value: €40k over 2 years

Graphic and Digital Design Service to Institute of Technology Sligo

Response deadline: 31-12-2020 18:00

Services associated with the design and printing of promotional materials for The National Care Experience Programme 
Response deadline:  21-01-2021 15:00
Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA)
Est value: €75,000

Graphic Design of Fingal County Council Development Plan 2023-2029
Fingal County Council
Response deadline: 14-12-2020 12:00
Creative work originally required, now not required.
Budget: €50-60k over 3 years.

Awareness and Visibility Campaign for The Arts – 2021
Response deadline: 11-01-2021 12:00
Arts Council

Website Development, Support and Maintenance
CMS: Roxen
EirGrid plc
Response deadline:  12-11-2020 12:00  

Brand Design Services PQQ
Response deadline: 12-01-2021 12:00 Irish time
Electricity Supply Board ( ESB )
Term: 3+2+2 years

Design, production, print and delivery of Annual Reports for the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland (SBCI)
National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA)
Response deadline: 21-12-2020 16:00

Website development and support 2020
Dundalk Institute of Technology
Response deadline:  08-12-2020 12:00  

Framework for Website, Mobile App, and Digital Design & Development Services
University College Cork ( UCC )
Response deadline: 10-11-2020
LOT 1: Strategic Website Design and Development Services The framework agreement will be established as a single party framework agreement with the tenderer selected following the tender stage and the application of the award criteria.
LOT 2: Standalone Website and App Digital Design and Development Services – Over €10k The framework agreement will be established as a multi-party framework agreement with at least two (2) operators and a maximum of five (5) operators, subject to that number meeting the minimum criteria and rules.
LOT 3: Standalone Website and App Digital Design and Development Services – Under €10k framework agreement will be established as a multi-party framework agreement with at least two (2) operators and a maximum of five (5) operators, subject to that number meeting the minimum criteria and rules.

Website Design and Development, Support and Maintenance Services
Commission for Regulation of Utilities
Response deadline: 20-11-2020
Winner: Inventise Business Solutions, Co Wicklow
# Tenders received: 4

brand identity and strapline development
Carlow Tourism
Response deadline: 29-10-2020

Design and print management – RFT design and print management service
National Council for Special Education NCSE
Response deadline: 12-11-2020 12:00

Design Tender
Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI)
Response deadline: 04-11-2020

Multi Supplier Framework Agreement for the provision of B2B Digital Marketing Service for The University of Limerick
Response deadline: 13-11-2020 14:00 Irish time
Description: Lot 1: communications and marketing programme for the 2021 intake of the UL MSc in Project and Programme Management Lot 2: develop and implement a fully integrated, fully managed, precisely targeted communications and marketing programme for the 2021 intake of the UL MBA programme.

Website development and design
Waterford & Wexford Education & Training Board WWETB
Response deadline:  21-08-2020 

Establishment of a Framework Agreement for Design Services
University College Cork (UCC)
Response deadline:  21-08-2020 12:00
Lot 1: Brand and Visual Identity Design Services
Lot 2: Large Scale Operational Design Services (Projects with a value of €10,000 or more)
Lot 3: Small Scale Operational Design Services (Projects up to €10,000 or more)

Graphic Design Services
Local Government Management Agency (LGMA)
Response deadline: 19-10-2020
Term: 1 year + 1
Budget: less than €100,000 in 2021.
Previous Incumbant: Dynamo.
Winner: Southern Marketing and Design

User Experience Design (UXD) Services
University of Limerick
Response deadline: 06-10-2020 14:00
Description: Please see RFT plus Appendices for all information relating to the requirement for this tender competition.
Buyer: Education Procurement Service (EPS)
Term: 2 years +1+1+1

Provision of Network Development Graphic Design and Other Services
National Transport Authority
Response deadline: 26-10-2020 12:00
Incumbent: EyeCue
Term: 2 years+1+1

Digital Strategy
Bord Bia (Irish Food Board)
Response deadline: 25-09-2020 14:00
Value: Not disclosed

Brand Consultancy for Technological University of the South East of Ireland
Institute of Technology Carlow
Response deadline: 30-09-2020 12:00

Web Design and Drupal Web Development
Limerick City and County Council
Response deadline: 09-10-2020 17:00

Marketing & Communication Services for National Gallery of Ireland
National Gallery of Ireland
Response deadline: 12-10-2020 14:00

Graphic Design Services – Graphic Design Services
Office of Public Works (OPW)
Response deadline: 30-09-2020 12:00
Term: 1 year +1+1
Value: €130,000 excl VAT

Design of Higher Education Authority HEA and Irish Research Council Publications IRC publications 
Higher Education Authority (HEA)
Response deadline:  ‪18-09-2020 12:00
Term: 1 year +1
Value: €180,000

Establishment of Multi-Operator Framework Agreement for the Provision of Web Design, Development & Content Management Services
University College Dublin ( UCD )
Response deadline:  15-09-2020 12:00   Irish time
Description: Web Services including but not limited to website design, development, integration with CMS and associated services.

Graphic Design Services
Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin
Response deadline:  28-08-2020 17:00  
Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin, wishes to establish a Framework Agreement (FWA) for the supply of Graphic Design Services for a period of one (1) year. A maximum of seven (7) vendors will be appointed to the FWA.

Management & maintenance of the Free Trade Ireland platform
Environmental Protection Agency
Response deadline:27-07-2020 15:45

RTÉ Commercial and RTÉ Marketing Production Panels Tender
Raidió Teilifís Éireann ( RTÉ )
Response deadline:04-09-2020 13:00

Appointment of a digital partner
Our Lady’s Hospice & Care Services
Response deadline:  28-08-2020 12:00

Donegal Place Brand RFT – Development of place
Donegal County Council
Deadline: 28-08-2020 16:00

Development and maintenance of website for AMBER SFI research centre
Trinity College Dublin, the University of Dublin
Deadline: 21-07-2020 17:00

Webmaster Services
Deadline: 31-07-2020 14:00

Institute of Technology Tralee
Graphic Design/Development Services
Winner: Anchor Studio
Term: 1 year +1 +1 from 2020

New Brand Identity and Logo for the Hugh Lane Gallery
Dublin City Council
Winner: Zero G
Term: From 2020

Residential Tenancies Board
The Provision of Design and Print Services
2 years +1+1
Winner: Power Design (retained)
Total value of the contract/lot:  €260,000
Tenders Received: 4

Houses of the Oireachtas
Graphic Design Services
Initial estimated total value of the contract/lot:  250000.00  EURLowest offer:  18495.00  EUR / Highest offer:  30143.75  EUR   taken into consideration
Number of tenders received:  5
Winner: Clever Cat Jan 2020

Website Design, Development & Support Services
Winner: Inventise Business Solutions, Co Wicklow May 2020

Organisation Services TermTender or PQQEst Value DeadlineWinner
Fáilte Ireland-National Tourism Development Authority XAdvertising Production Consultancy Service
Fáilte Ireland is seeking proposals from a suitably qualified Consultant to advise on creative production costs and processes in the delivery of our domestic marketing strategies.
20-07-2020 12:00
Inland Fisheries Ireland XNew corporate website with managed Hosting, Support & Development services1 year + 1 + 11/5/20
Sustainable Energy Authority of IrelandDesign and Print Management – To establish a framework with a maximum of six members for design and print management services.17-07-2020 12:00
Offaly County Council XWebsite ReDesign and Development, Content Management and Hosting 15-07-2020 16:00
Raidió Teilifís Éireann ( RTÉ )Strategic Marketing Planning, Creative Development and Audio Imaging Frameworks Lot 1 – Strategic Planning Consultancy Framework Lot 2 – Creative Development Framework Lot 3 – Audio Imaging FrameworkLot 1 – €200k, Lot 2 – 210k, Lot 3 – 200k31-07-2020 13:00
Fís Éireann/Screen IrelandMarketing, Communications and Design Agency02-06-2020
IDA IrelandSupply of Website Services Cms Kentico 10-07-2020 12:00  
Transport Infrastructure Ireland (TII)Graphic Design Services8 yearsTender?11/3/20TBC
Dublin Port Company XGraphic Media Design Services in three lotsLot 1 – Design Consultancy and Printing Services
Lot 2 – Website and Social Media
Lot 3 – Video and Media Production
3 years +1+1PQQ€2m for each lot 2/3/20TBC
Enterprise Ireland / Knowledge Transfer Ireland XGraphic Design Services for Knowledge Transfer Ireland

 tender process is still on-going (Dec 20)
2 years +1+1Tender5/3/20TBC

Bord Bia (Irish Food Board)
Brand Development Strategy Consultation and Project Management ServicesTBCTender3/2/20
Central Statistics OfficeManaged Service to deliver all aspects of the Census 2021 Publicity CampaignApprox 1 yearTender€1.5m14/4/20
JigsawInvitation to tender for services of digital agency 9 monthsTender€36K incl of VAT30/3/20
Skillnet IrelandWebsite Design, Development, Maintenance and Support Services Tender13/3/20
University College CorkDesign Services for Student Guide and related materialsBabelfís
Food Safety Authority of IrelandWebsite18/7/19Simply Zesty
Irish Wheelchair AssociationIWA Website Redevelopment and Maintenance 201915/7/19Fusio
Enterprise IrelandDesign and Development of Websites and Online Forms for various Funded Projects20/2/19May Day Corporation
Pobal XGraphic Design Services03-07-2020 15:00
The Heritage CouncilGraphic Design Services12-06-2020
Waterford & Wexford Education & Training Board
Consultancy and Training for the Solas Step Up and Grow your Business 
South Dublin County CouncilPrint & Design services to include Print management divided into two lots
Lot 1: Print only
Lot 2: Print & Design including Print Management
Term: 1 year +1+1+1€600k to €850k (ex. VAT) 31-07-2020 16:00
Macra na Feirme Young Farmer SkillnetDesign and development of new website and smartphone app www.macra.ie22-05-2020

Business to Business B2B Design

Shop Local, Irish, Green

In the rush to get the post-Covid world back to the pre-Covid world there has been a focus on shopping locally and nationally. Environmental and wealth distribution positives aside its a positive news story that many public and private backed organisations are keen to promote. There are many different campaigns, websites and resources out there and the difficulty in competing with Amazon etc does not need to be stated and being divided will not help. Here is a summary of a few I have come across. Maybe Amazon will add a buy Irish / buy local button.

Local Enterprise Office

Just Buy Irish


Guaranteed Irish 

Digital Business Ireland
Click Green (buy nearby)

ShopLocal (not just for Christmas)



Buy Local

Business to Business B2B Design

Business to Business Marketing – 11 Mistakes/Opportunities

The same mistakes seem to be made in Business to Business marketing over and over again. But the good news is they usually translate into opportunities if most competitors are doing them or quick wins for you to tweak what you currently do.

  1. Stop talking about features. Only your team cares about the features. Frame features as benefits.
  2. Write and speak like a human would speak to another human not computer to computer, or techy to techy.
  3. Do not pass potential customers directly to a sales, technical or accounts team member after the first initial contact. This will feel like the dreaded ‘transferring your call’ experience.
  4. Over 40% of B2B marketing spend is on exhibitions. Consider other channels that are less crowded.
  5. Plan your entire potential and existing customers journey, make sure there are no gaps in their experience. It’s not all about sales or service.
  6. Golf and Rugby are not the only two sports in the world.
  7. Practise your pitch/pitch deck with an objective third party. Most companies only do this internally.
  8. Get a professional to mystery shop your own services and learn, learn, learn.
  9. Have your website properly user-tested (75% of people base the credibility of a business on its website)
  10. Ask yourself are you guilty of random acts of marketing?
  11. Using Linkedin to sell does not work, using it to share insights, useful and inspiring content does work.

Sign of the Times

With COVID 19 has come a new language of signage. Ireland has had a largely positive consistent government-led approach to signage and messaging for social distancing, hand washing etc Many brands have now put their own spin on things which can add to visual confusion. For example, a shop window may now have dozens of COVID 19 signs externally and internally, many of them with different variations of the same message and this can lead to being overwhelmed, confusion and eventually wallpaper like apathy.

Signage has some key rules that need to be followed to actually work.
Less is more. Use as few words and images as possible, clarity is key, attention spans are short.
Accessibility / Universal Design. Is the font size, colour, contrast and location suitable for all ages and abilities?
• Sense. Is it obvious where something is / what I need to do?
Consistent Repetition. The same sign should appear multiple times on your journey eg from outside of a shop to checkout.
Use a professional designer, like you would a doctor

Mask wearing and the associated rule adherence, rule confusion, policing and ‘shaming’ is currently a big issue. I’ve designed a number of signs with some crowd feedback from peers on Linkedin to help simplify the communications around mask-wearing. Comments welcome. Subsequently, the HSE/Government of Ireland have issued some ‘softer’ notices.

Design Professional services

Better Call Saul – legal ads in Ireland

Better Call Saul

While flicking through Business Plus Magazine I came across their special on the legal sector in Ireland and views from the Managing Partners of these law firms.

First off it has to be said this sector does not like risk, they prefer others to do that and help them with it. It is an inherently conservative sector where trust and reputation are generally the default USP. And yes Ireland is a lot stricter than the USA and other jurisdictions around ambulance-chasing type ads. So no Better Call Saul ads here. Also, the focus is on business/commercial firms in Ireland not non-commercial work. But successful brands like Apple do not overly differentiate between business and consumer.

A logo or a brand

This special is aimed, I assume, at potential clients, existing clients (a reassuring we are still here ad) and potential employees (we have a shinier office and more people ad).

The first group is what bothers me. I assume there are at least ten different creative/brand/ad agencies involved in creating these ads. And I am sure there was a lot of work put into some of the brands (or are they just a logo) strategies but the cumulative effect is that if I was a potential client I would have trouble distinguishing one blue/grey suit firm from another. If I was a potential employee I would assume the grass is exactly the same shade of green over there.

The imagery is the usual staid cliches of clever thinking, big challenges, success and international reach. I just don’t know how many photos of the Convention Centre I can take when I start browsing the websites.

Convention Centre Dublin Set to Generate Healthy Profits

The wording is none better and reads like a game of business jargon bingo. Instinct for Innovation. Move forward. Fresh Perspectives. Guiding your business. Surpassing expectation.

Who’s who

Here are the main players in Ireland and the only differentiation I can see are the number of solicitors working in each.

A&L Goodbody (313 solicitors), Arthur Cox (299), Matheson (285), McCann Fitzgerald (266), Mason Hayes & Curran (239), William Fry (207), ByrneWallace (132), Eversheds Sutherland (108), Ronan Daly Jermyn (107), Maples Group (105), Beauchamps (92), Dillon Eustace (88), Walkers Ireland (65), Pinsent Masons (64), Eugene F Collins (64), LK Shields (62), Hayes (61), Philip Lee (55), FieldFisher (53) Dac Beachcroft (46) Homs (42), Whitney Moore (35), Leman (20), BHSM (20), Lavelle Partners (18), Gore & Grimes (18), Clark Hill (17), Orpen Franks (14), OBH Partners (10), O’Connor Solicitors (9), OCWM LAW LLP (8), Kenny Solicitors (6), Hughes & Associates (3).

I am familiar with the names of about half of the ‘top’ firms above. This is probably directly related to the amount of advertising and sponsorship they are involved in or perhaps they are in a very specialist area.

Legal firms, it is ok to Practise being different, Different doesn’t have to mean risky. Otherwise, it will feel like a truly Bleak House when companies look to shortlist and select firms.


Latest Linkedin Posts

Flat wine, Buy Irish, WhyPhone?, FAQs, Thinking Time & more
Connect on Linkedin

Business to Business B2B Design Public and semi state

Covid-19 Business Supports, Resources & Initiatives

Depending on who you talk to its #Business AsUsual or #NotBusinessAsUsual but thankfully whatever boat you are in there are multiple supports for cashflow, resources and information.

Local Enterprise Offices in every Irish county have introduced the Business Continuity Voucher (€2500) and upgraded the Trading Online Voucher now available in two parts (€2500 for each voucher with only 10% matching funding required from your business).

The Restart Grant is open for applications. This offers a rebate of up to €10,000, based on last years created for businesses to help them reopen. Apply via Local Enterprise Office dlr, Dublin City Council, or any other LEO

Serious financing is available through the SBCI Covid-19 Working Capital Loan Scheme and Micro Finance Ireland’s Covid-19 Business Loan Scheme. There are also many alternative lenders to the banks including Linked Finance, Grid Finance and Flender.

The COVID-19 Online Retail Scheme by Enterprise Ireland awards funding to support a maximum of 80% of the project eligible costs with a maximum grant of €40,000. Deadline Wed 27th May.

An Post have launched their AdMailer direct mail grant which is worth €1,000. Sky Ireland have launched their AdSmart support worth €10,000 in TV advertising.

All the main business representative groups including  IBEC, SFA, ISME, Restaurants Association of Ireland, Retail Excellence, Chambers Ireland, Family Business Network Ireland, have all put forward their recommendation to the government to get the economy started again. as well as listing supports available to their members. Some of these organisations have come together under the banner SME Recovery.

Mentoring by SFA and Skillnet Ireland is a free business mentoring support for businesses in any sector. This is now fully booked but Local Enterprise Offices deliver a heavily subsidised mentoring program.

Shop & Support Local & Irish

There is also a big push on to support local shops and business around Ireland now and when everything is reopened. Initiatives include Just Buy Irish, Shop Local Online, Shop Limerick, Bounce Back Ireland OneADay and Buying Online.

The American Chamber of Commerce has launched their #SupportYourLocalBusinessCampaign.


Invisible Man – A Linkedin Experiment

Experiment: As an experiment I posted the following on Friday 28th February 2020 at around 5pm.

Linkedin post

Please click ‘like’ if you are one of my 1,973 connections to see this post. This is an experiment to see how well Linkedin can work for you when you don’t pay for promoted posts. #b2bmarketing #design

Results: After one and a half weeks there were 9,976 views of my post, according to Linkedin. Of my 1,973 1st degree connections (coincidentally the year I was born) I received 210 likes and 32 comments. I also received 40 likes from 2nd and 3rd degree connections.

Typo: There was a typo on the spelling of ‘Invisible’  but only 2 connections commmented. Perhaps it was politeness, couldntcarelessness or is spellcheck (including Grammarly) helping us lose the proof/ability to spot typos. There is also a possibility of middle letter blindness as famously highlighted by National Geographic amongst others. 

Thanks to Michael Kelly who sent me this article which highlights some of the key success factors for an organic Linkedin post. These include commenting from connections, ideally as quickly as possible, use of #hashtags, 3 seems the optimum number, not posting too often and adding links is bad, and only tag those that will respond.

Insights: Many Linkedin accounts/users rarely (occasional job hunters) or never log in. Many more are infrequent users and although they may view posts, wouldn’t interact by liking or commenting. I only asked connections (ie 1st degree) to like, so 10% is the approximate success. Its human nature to want to help when asked to ‘like’ a post yet 90%, assuming full visibility didn’t do anything. If its just awareness you are looking for then almost 10,000 views is excellent, interaction at 3% (32 comments), is ok for B2B. So if you follow best practise and create good engaging content it should definitely be part of your B2B mix.

Business to Business B2B Design

Top 10 Agency Value Drivers

I came across this list in recent years, source unknown. It shows what is important to clients, not necessarily creative awards. It’s a few years old now but worth a read. And it came from direct client feedback.

  1. Work in agile and adaptive ways (Be Flexible)
  2. Bring new consumer insights (Be Proactive)
  3. Develop solutions that can live in multiple communication channels (Don’t just think of the Hollywood TV ad)
  4. Collaborate internally to insure that the best ideas emerge (Use all the idea diversity in your agency)
  5. Contribute solutions that transcend advertising
  6. Provide ideas without waiting to be asked. Like 2
  7. Be more focussed on results and take responsibility for effectiveness (It’s not a joke telling or colouring in competition)
  8. Show leadership in digital marketingMake sure your best talent to contributing to the business
  9. Show leadership in digital marketing (Not just duplicating the same media plan)
  10. Identify and explore new channels and approaches.Smart Media works with creative agencies to help them give the best experience to their customers and staff.

Survey – Design charge out rates Ireland 2021 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.

Create your own user feedback survey

2018-2020 survey results

average hourly rate
design agency v freelancers/sole trader

Survey – Creative IT


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 2020.


Creative urges

Everyday I wake up in a badly designed world. Like most designers, I have a strong urge to improve things which I see as badly designed. Most of our complaints during the day revolve around bad design. Just listen to your colleagues and friends talk about printers, or coffee machines, or parking. But it is not just about inconvenience.


Designing health


As the Irish election looms, our health sector is a major issue on the doorsteps. Leo Varadkar has stated that there is no quick fix to the system, and only incremental, strategic changes over time will improve the service. We spend enough (relative to other countries) on health to expect a better service and results. Recently launched was the Health Innovation Hub to encourage private companies to jointly develop products and research with the health services.

Last year, as I lugged my child’s bulky manilla folder of medical files from department to department in hospitals, and spent a half hour explaining her history to each of the multiple medical professionals I met, it definitely didn’t feel like the most efficient service. The waiting time for letters to be transcribed, signed, posted and delivered can seem like an age when we live in a world on whatsappslack and co. Realising the hospital pharmacy shuts at 5pm seemed a bit bizarre – don’t get sick out of office hours is the lesson. I also experienced the trolley crises. Next time you complain about a wobbly wheel on your supermarket trolly, go spend a night in A&E.

Things are moving though. Public consultation on Electronic Health Records (EHR) for all is ongoing with Richard Corbridge of eHealth Ireland (part of HSE) leading the initiative. However, is pushing for patients to maintain their own records, as opposed to a hospital or state owning them. eReferrals from GPs are being successfully piloted. Unfortunately, technology is generally regarded by the HSE/Government as a cost, not an investment. Public sector websites for instances are procured under IT rather than creative/marketing.

Glohealth recently launched their ‘Skype’ GP service, which allows you to video call a doctor 24/7. Surely when this goes mainstream it will reduce waiting times in primary and secondary care centres? There are apps now that give real time surgery updates – to reduce the stress of loved ones in the waiting room. I suppose that depends on the outcome of the surgery. Technology is years ahead of our public system. I recently saw an app demoed that enquired as to why the user hadn’t left their house in days and hadn’t answered any of their  close friends calls? Are they feeling down? Would they like their GP to call them? This is the future.

The goal of all health systems should be prevention not cure. However the obsession to optimise the existing diagnosis/post diagnosis system means we are starting the plan at the wrong place.

Interestingly, when I look through the list of job titles in the HSE and entire public sector, there is not one person with a job title of ‘designer’. I say let the designers at the health system. We are trained to think about the user (patient) and to design a system with them at the heart of it. Not an IT system, but a customer experience. Who can remember the last time they completed a satisfaction/feedback survey from a clinic or hospital? NPS for medical professionals?

Is there anywhere in Ireland I can go and look at a map that shows how we are going to improve (and monitor) the nations health and the medical system when they do need treatment? Does anyone have that plan? I could probably sketch it out on the back of a fag packet if anyone ever asked.

Finally, regarding the huge cost of our health system. How much would one free mandatory health check per person per year cost us? How much would one free mandatory health check per person per year save us? Health has always been, but is now fully recognized as real wealth. If we put as much effort into designing our health system as into complex financial products and spin doctoring, we could create something world class.

The election is over but without a government in place we have no health minister. The HSE however are still in town and for all intensive purposes are the health system. In March’s magazine, I looked at some of the issues in the health service in Ireland but also some of the amazing innovations going on globally. Smart design can sort our health system in Ireland and create an international template for best practice.

The idea of ‘user’ centricity or in this case ‘patient’ centricity is not new. It is however more of a written concept than a practised concept. Really understanding the entire patient journey can improve the interaction and outcome. However most Health Care Professional (HCP’s) have a small task to complete in the overall patient journey and are often unaware of what comes before and after them. Many private companies have intensive on boarding training that requires staff, no matter their level to work in all areas of the business for a period of time e.g McDonalds senior management work behind the restaurants counter. If the HSE / Dept. of health practiced this I am sure there would be a far more holistic view and better outcomes for all involved. Disney, Apple, Amazon, Zappos are some of the leaders in this area. As opposed to looking at healthcare in other countries look at how top brands do it.

To become more patient-centred, the Mayo Clinic in the U.S changed it’s design systems scheduling routines, staffing, and facilities to revolve around patients, rather than physicians or other care providers. It now schedules work based on what will provide the most effective and efficient experience for the patient, instead of what is convenient for the physician. Weekend consultant in Ireland anyone?

Patient centricity is currently a key focus for the pharmaceutical industry. Without the pharma industry of course the Irish economy would be a shambles. Traditionally a sales focussed industry the idea of really understanding a patients life and journey is now seen as key to being a trusted and helpful pharma brand. This of course in turn affects a companies culture and becomes a more attractive place to work. In a sector where talent acquisition is a huge factor this is a win win. Ultimately designing a better experience can improve the outcomes for all parties.

One of the key issues in health is adherence, literally taking your tablets, or administering an injection at home. Patients comply with their medicine schedule somewhere between 50-70%. So up to half of patient issues regarding non adherence could be solved. Companies like Health Beacon which monitors adherence by sending texts as reminders when medicines are not taken and AI Cure which uses artificial intelligence to confirm ingestion in clinical trials and high rick groups are just two applications of smart design to solve problems that were almost seen as impossible to fix.

Well designed technology has made it much easier for HCPs to access the data they require. Many GPs now spend more time looking at their screens than at their patients. Live consults with other HCPs online is an amazing way to speed up diagnosis though and is growing in specialist areas with the use of platforms like DefinitiveDx. HCPs use online resources to find drug information, prescribing guidelines and even view the highlights of a seminar that they couldn’t attend. These technologies need to be maximized in our system which is obsessed with a longer more staged based.

Burning books. Having experienced the health sector intimately in the last few years I have to address my personal pet hate. Paper based healthcare systems to me are something from another era. Without universal digital data the health system is hamstrung with administration and processes. Most tech companies have completely automated this part of their business. HCP’s should be delivering healthcare not health administration. This change needs dictatorial like leadership. I’m not sure who has the strength or vision to do this. Estonia have the world’s first digital led public sector. Flights to Estonia are commonly filled with Irish public sector fact finding missions. Stop finding, start doing. And get some design help while you are at it. Recognise this skill set does not exist in the HSE. The design industry is waiting to help.

This article was originally published in magazine in February and April 2016.


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


As disciplines converge

We have all been in meetings where the client decides that all their agencies need to get round a table and share/contribute to the common good, namely the brand. The media agency looks over at the digital agency and identifies what piece of their pie they would like. The branding agency looks at the ad agency and decides, these guys need templates. The PR agency is wondering “why spend money on advertising and why have a digital agency, when they can handle everything through social?” And the ad agency wonders why the client isn’t only listening to them. So in the Marketing world there are no boundaries anymore. No clear division of tasks. And the big integrated agencies are on the rise.

Design is no different.

There’s a convergence of service, business, industrial, product, UX, customer experience, graphic, packaging, motion, web and brand design. Key to this is the app world. The creation of apps draw on skills from all these disciplines, so convergence is no surprise. Multidisciplinary teams in the app world are the norm.

ICAD recently hosted an evening in the Sugar Club entitled 2X. Umesh Pandya of ustwo spoke about Wayfindr, an amazing open source system they designed which gives audio directions to visually impaired people to help them navigate the London underground on their own. In order to deliver a solution like this, there was a team of a range of skills required, all coming from the design agency. Check out their video on YouTube. Terry Stephens of global design group Moving Brands spoke about how they use motion design (video + animation) to set a brand mood before a designer would even lift a pencil or mouse. Moving Brands is responsible for the new Eir brand. Love, hate, or care less about ‘life on Eir’ the way they have taken the standard mood board to a new level was quite exciting. They considered how a brand lives and feels in the real world, rather than starting with an identity. An in-house multi-skilled highly collaborative team was key to the process.

The Institute of Designers in Ireland (IDI), led my Marc O‘Riain, represents over 800 designers from a cross-sector variety of interests. The convergence in the industry is also reflected by designers seeing themselves as a community, industry and ultimately a lobbying body. Yes, a return to prosperity always helps industry bodies but national initiatives like Year of Design are definitely helping the industry’s PR. IDI have also just introduced The Register of Irish Designers. 
The term Registered Designer will be ‘a mark of quality assurance for the design industry, to its clients and the public as a whole that they adhere to the highest international design professional and ethical standards’. So Registered Designer label, rather than specific graphic designer or product designer, may become the new norm in business in Ireland. The Design Business Association in London hosted an event entitled ‘New horizons: what’s the real impact of design in business?’ The sessions, all of which proved most absorbing, explored the rise of those with design authority in the boardroom, the role of design thinkers and design doers, and the rise of strategic innovation consulting.

Call it what you will but design skills, the thinking bit, has now become valued more than ever. The ability to think like a designer is now highly sought, whatever their specific design discipline. The corporate world does not foster this skill set although badly needs it to solve problems, capitalise on opportunities or communicate complicated ideas. Simplification is the ultimate goal of design. Convergence means simplification – a simplified briefing for clients, a simplified customer journey based on a multidisciplinary approach. Great simple thinking that makes things better.

Finally, some important design dates coming our way should be noted in diaries. Design Week runs from November 2nd-8th, while the IDI Awards night is on November 26th.

This article was first published in in October 2015.


Harder, better, faster, stronger

In 1990, I was still in school and recovering from Féile ’90.

Desktop publishing had started to take hold and was to revolutionise, democratise (some might even say homogenise) and forever change the design industry. Apple, now the biggest company in the world, was struggling to exist with the design industry as it’s only real customer. To make some people feel very old, System 7 was released in 1991. In 1990 the internet was virtually unknown and the closest thing we had in Ireland were imported Argos and Damart catalogues. Design was concerned with the print world. Many designers made their living from managing print rather than design. Repro house, The Type Bureau, threw the biggest industry design party in town. Design agencies were broad in their services offered and the industries they served. Specialised branding, packaging, POS, web (then digital), FMCG and B2B disciplines began to emerge, although Irish agencies were often still one-stop shops.

Much has changed, but a lot has stayed the same and in the opinion of some, regressed. To get an idea of how Irish design has moved on over the last quarter century, I asked a number of leading creatives and agency owners old enough to remember what they think has changed, and what’s been for the good. The rise of digital and the range of channels available remains a challenge for the design world. Many would argue that the web design agencies were more into development than creative. Mary Doherty of Red Dog says the constant, almost weekly, arrival of new digital channels – including mobile – is a challenge.

Gerry Whelan from Brandcentral agrees that although challenging, it means more opportunities and more work for designers looking at all of a client’s channels whereas before, it was about designing for single channels. Go back 25 years and there was no time and yet despite all the developments in technology, there is still no time.

Former Design Business Ireland chairman Alan Howard says there is not even time for the “overnight test” anymore.

Siobhan Griffin of Clickworks believes there’s and over-reliance on stock imagery. A government department recently sourced their logo online for $50. To think, 25 years ago, the job of selecting an image, buying it, scanning it, and getting it print-ready took over a week, now it can take 10 minutes.

It’s not just about the increasing complexity but it is the “speed of change” which seems to be accelerating. But not all change is bad. Andrew Bradley of Bradley Brand & Design feels there is now a better focus on getting the design brief correct from the start and not jumping into the process immediately. As a result, the standard of creativity is higher as both clients and designers strive to differentiate more.

Good clients have an understanding and appreciation of design beyond return on investment (ROI), particularly with websites. Clients are more aware of what is happening internationally than before. It means Irish designers must raise their game, but it is also easier for Irish agencies to do international work – sadly, few do.

A quarter a century ago, a client went to a design agency for design. One in three designers work in – house and Bradley expects it to rise to one in two. Ad agencies, PR firms, media agencies, print management companies and digital agencies all offer design as a core service. So too are management consultants and big tech companies. The likes of IBM, McKinsey, Ericsson, Accenture and Deloitte are recruiting top talent from the industry. They see how design is core to the customer experience and something that is rightfully taking its place at boardroom level. Apple is probably the world’s most famous design – led company and clear proof of its commercial value. Since was first published, design has become more competitive, faster, and more complex. But it is finally starting to become a core part of business – before, it was merely a vanity exercise for some. To continue on the right path, designers must understand a client’s business and that’s not just down to branding.

So the identity guidelines and annual reports may not be the lifeblood of a design agency anymore but the arrival of more design-focused companies and the range of digital channels is good news for the next 25 years. Finally, a somewhat nostalgic mention and farewell to scalpels (and A&E runs), spray mount, ZIP disks, Quark Xpress, fag breaks while files saved and illegible faxed proofs.

Special thanks to Mary Doherty, Red Dog; Gerry Whelan, Brandcentral; Andrew Bradley, Bradley Brand & Design and Siobhan Griffin and Alan Howard from Clickworks, along with countless others whose brains were picked in passing.

This article was published in the 25th anniversary of Magazine – September 2015.


Persuading & Nudging

Design needs to capture the attention and set a tone but increasingly a designer’s thinking is used by organisations in a non-graphic way. Most of us in marketing try and change consumer behaviour. Changing may, of course, involve doing more of the same thing, Advertising may at time be guilty of the sledgehammer approach and design of the too-subtle-for-it’s-own-good approach.

Persuasive design – mainly on websites – and nudge theory are two ways of trying to change behaviour. Persuasive web design aims to change user behaviour and perception through social influence online. It is more subtle than ergonomic design – simplifying the user’s interaction. Ultimately, if done right, persuasive design can result in a user interface or website which is more enjoyable and user friendly.

Most of us will observe the behaviour of other people to judge what is considered normal or socially acceptable, and then mimic such behaviour. When applying this to persuasive design, it is known as “social proof”. When shopping online and looking at a product page, you may see a feature on the page with the title “People who bought this product also bought…” – this is social proofing. Facebook and Twitter use social proof by giving users the option to “like” or “favourite” content shared.

Another persuasive design technique is “Framing”. Imagine a digital service for sale where there are three alternative options to choose from which to choose. Two of these options are merely distractions. The first option is exaggerated and fully featured, while the final option is stripped back so much that it is barely useable. The option you want the user to choose is the middle option, it has more features than the minimal choice but less than the first – it feels “just right”, so such framing is often referred to as the Goldilocks effect.

As noted by UX guru Jakob Neilson and other researchers, the default settings on a user interface can greatly influence a user’s behaviour. You may want to pre-populate fields with default values that persuade the user or hint at what to enter on a form. The default setting is often viewed by users as the recommended option. Another example would be search engine listings. Most people will click the top listing as they see this as the recommended option, but it’s not necessarily the most relevant to the searched topic.

People will feel more comfortable using your website if they believe it comes from a credible and influential source. The “authority” principle is how to influence a user’s behaviour through trustworthiness. Layout, typography, colour schemes and visual appeal help, but it is not enough. To really make a user feel comfy more credible factors need to be added. For example, logos for accreditations and awards. When selling products on a website, the use of trusted security symbols and payment processors works best.

In his inspiring book, InfluenceDr Robert Cialdini says once we have made a choice or taken a stand, they will encounter personal and interpersonal pressures to behave with that commitment. The pressures will cause people to respond in ways that justify earlier decisions. So we like to believe that our behaviour is consistent with our beliefs. In persuasion design, we can apply this by requesting a publicly visible small commitment from the user. Once they commit to following you on social media for example, they are more likely to continue to “like” posts on your newsfeed as they have already committed.

Users can be persuaded with rewards for particular tasks – like following us on social media or signing up to a newsletter. Rewards include premium content. Users can be asked to “like” a brand on Facebook first to get access to content. Sites like Hubspot offer premium marketing content and information which can be downloaded as PDF’s. To access such quality content, you must first sign up to their newsletter.

Users will only give consideration to content which is relevant to their current task and may react adversely if distracted by information which is wasteful. A person will uphold this “tunnel vision” until they have finished the task or reached a milestone. In persuasive design, these “seducible moments” (one for the meeting lingo bingo) – It is when a user is open to distractions outside of current tasks.

From a less commercial angle, nudge theory uses positive reinforcement and indirect suggestion to achieve it’s aims. Obama and Cameron have used nudge in forming policies. Examples of nudge include the image of a fly on urinals to improve the gent’s aim, reducing energy use in US homes by telling the bill payer how their usage compared to a neighbour’s and green footprints leading to bins reducing littering.

Many elements of persuasive design overlap with nudge, but design thinking is core to both. Now, Google “choice architect” and see how much persuasion you can spot in your daily browse.

This article first appeared in Marketing Magazine – Design Brief – July/August 2015


What clients want

John Moore on the art of agreeing on a client-agency prenup.

Whether you are from the design agency side or the client-side (often known as “the dark side”, a moniker in itself which is psychologically most probably a bad start for a relationship), you will probably either have experienced frustration from the other side not listening, not explaining or simply just being plain stupid. Sadly, it’s a common occurrence.

Mark + Paddy’s (Google them) excellent series of posters highlight some great , albeit worryingly common, client comments…”I’ll know what I want when I see it“, or “I really like the colour, but can you change it?” or “I’m the target market” and “I don’t like it“. Another includes “We need more images of groups of people having non – specific fun“.

Or you find them asking “Can you turn it around in Photoshop so we can see more of the front?” and even “we can’t use the national anthem because it’s too IRA”. Pixel Fox Studiosposters highlight some of the common language used by clients who don’t want to pay. Like, “there are more projects lined up so charge extra next time”.

Even “we are a big name to have in your portfolio” and “this is just a five – minute job..” sometimes, “other agencies charge much less..” or “We’re a non – profit organisation”. So yes, there are inexperienced or just plain bad clients, but there are also many experienced clients who have behaved this way but have never been properly challenged.

Agencies are more likely to rant among themselves, or stew and suffer rather than confront. The average size of design agencies being under five people is a problem and sometimes the balance of power in the client/agency relationship can be askew.

Client side

On the flip (dark) side Shan Preddy of Preddy & Co design training and consultancy in her books on the UK Industry writes about what frustrates clients most in dealing with agencies.“Navel gazing purists hanging on to a design to the detriment of commercial viability” is a personal favourite comment of mine. The lack of a true understanding of a client’s business often ranks number one. Design agencies being obsessive about brand guidelines is a common complaint, and being particularly protective and defensive when other agencies are involved. They are guidelines, not a rule book.

The lack of confidence and professionalism in presentations is cited as an issue by clients. As is the ability to deliver from the start to the end of complex projects. In general, clients appreciate and enjoy the creative work but can feel let down by the rest of the package. Up To The Light’s survey reveals nearly three-quarters of clients wish their agencies were more proactive, while 61% wish they were more self – critical.

So nothing particularly new here. Good design comes from good relationships. And a lot of trust. So why not design the relationship from the start. Clearly map out the scope, agree staged sign off procedures, understand subjective likes and dislikes, understand what has and hasn’t worked before, agree how the day the day work will function and how problems which may be encountered en route might be solved.

Understand why previous agency (and client) relationships have failed. Finally, agree what success (from both sides) looks like and how you will be paid. It sounds very boring and practical but often after an exhaustive pitch clients and agencies jump into the honeymoon stage without a real plan of without really knowing each other.

Only fools rush in, as the song goes. The partnership needs to be designed, otherwise it quickly becomes an unreasonable order – taking operation. Treat the relationship as a brief in itself. To use the marriage analogy – it is built on ups, downs, compromise and sharing moments of success. Design needs to be seen by marketers as a true profession, not a trade.

If design is purely seen as tactical and aesthetic, many client comments like the ones above will continue. It seems simple, but the more professional designers become the more it will become a profession – and that would not be a bad thing at all.

This article was originally published in magazine in May / June 2015


Design: Experts in weaving webs

Why creating websites should really be left to designers

Once upon a time there was a powerful ‘being’ called the webmaster. The webmaster was the holy trinity of writer, designer and developer. Often from a network IT background, their role was more security guard than marketeer. The site’s design, accessibility and ability to change for marketing reasons was usually far down their list of priorities.


Death by PowerPoint

old fashioned projector

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.

We 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.