In one of our previous articles, I put together a list of 7 must-see videos related to web design. Since then, I’ve come across a number of other videos from conferences and events, and I thought I would share some of those here.
The list includes a brief description of each video, some notable quotes from the presentations, and related links. So, sit back, take your time and enjoy some great technical insights and design principles from some well-known web designers, developers, and conference speakers.
[Offtopic: by the way, did you know that there is a Smashing eBook Series? Book #1 is Professional Web Design, 242 pages for just $9,90.]
Speaker: Jason Santa Maria
Part of the MFA in Interaction Design program, this is a candid and personal discussion of how print design and the technique of “storytelling” have affected the designs of the speaker in his professional career as a web designer.
“Over time I started looking at the way that publications look, and the way that web designs look, and I didn’t see that same connection, and I wondered why. So I want to go over some of the stuff I’ve discovered, and why web design looks the way that it does.”
Speaker: David Pogue
Although not specifically about web design, this is an enlightening and entertaining TED Talk by New York Times columnist David Pogue. Pogue, who has authored many technology books, takes aim at technology’s worst interface-design offenders, and provides encouraging examples of products that get it right. To keep things interesting, he even occasionally breaks into song.
“I know one guy who spent $4,000 just on Photoshop over the years. Software companies make 35% of their revenue from just these software upgrades. I call it the software upgrade paradox, which is, if you improve a piece of software enough times, you eventually ruin it.”
In: CV - Resume27 Mar 2010
Ah, the dreaded cover letter. Boring to write, difficult to get right, and you’re usually preoccupied by other things (such as the portfolio and resume, which are also really important). Unfortunately, your cover letter is a company’s first exposure to you, and it determines whether your application is trashed or fast-tracked to the company’s to-hire list.
The status of the cover letter is changing in the Web industry. While a well-formed cover letter still has a place, some companies believe that Web folk who rely on this archaic tool never make it to the next round. But what do I know? Let’s hear instead from some great Web and design agencies to get their advice on creating a great cover letter!
You may be interested in the following related posts:
[By the way, did you know we have a brand new free Smashing Email Newsletter? Subscribe now and get fresh short tips and tricks on Tuesdays!]
Anyone who has ever recruited for a job has received “that letter.” And it’s always the same: usually a “Dear Sir/Madam,” followed by some generic schpiel about how the applicant will fit in well with the company, no matter what the role or company. The text is boring, as if copied from a “How to get a job” pamphlet from 1980. The companies I spoke to overwhelmingly hated form letters. So, first and foremost, personalize your email or letter. Secondly, tailor the letter to that company. Here is the advice of some companies on personalizing cover letters.
Addressing an actual person is so important. This was by far the most passionately made point by every company I spoke with. Companies want to know that you have taken the time to personalize your email. If you can’t find a name to address (which happens 10% of the time) or you’re not sure whom to address, at least use something like, “To the creative director at [company name]” (don’t forget to get the title and company right before sending!).
Cover letters are your first contact with employers, so getting the length and content right is important. Most companies agree that you should include some links to your work, and definitely follow any instructions that they put in the job advertisement!
Any Web design agency worth its salt is too busy these days. They have to beat off new clients with a stick. Remember that talented people are busy people, and most Web people have the attention span of a gnat. The Web is all about scanning, so make your cover letter adhere to the standards you apply to Web writing. Every word counts!
We present a selection of 12 commercials that showcase highly creative concepts, executed flawlessly.
Nike Leave Nothing
Directed by Michael Mann
JC Penny Magic
Directed by Nicoli Fuglisg
Directed by Nicoli Fuglisg
Land Rover Freelander
Directed by Chris Cairns
Nissan Rogue Maze
Directed by Thierry Poiraud
HP – Eternal Dreamer
Directed by Oliver Gondry
Guinness Music Machine
Directed by Steve Cope
Directed by Adam Berg
Audi Intelligently Combined
Directed by Carl Erik Rinsch
Directed by Nicolai Fuglsig
Directed by Michael Haussman
Audi Economy Drive
Directed by Ne-O
Office politics can make even a great job go sour. Leadership coach John M. McKee advises a company VP who feels his position is being sabotaged by a colleague.
One of the nasty things about political maneuvering in the workplace is that you may not realize you’re the victim of someone else’s plot until it’s too late. Here’s one story that came to my attention:
I can use your advice. While moving up the ranks from being 1 of many engineers to vice president of the company’s entire IT group, I’ve enjoyed a solid and satisfying career with the same employer for 12 years. Until now, I’ve never thought much at all about the “politics” that take place elsewhere. Until now.
About 8 months ago, a new VP was hired to oversee a new venture at my company. He’s an older guy; I’m 39 and he’s probably in his mid-50s. From the first day he arrived I’ve gone out of my way to let him know that I’d be happy to help him with anything that could help him succeed. Now, it seems, I was naive.
Over the past couple of months he’s made statements during our leadership team meetings that make me and my team look ineffective. In a company project review last week, he seemed to make a point of commenting about every issue or problem my department was encountering with our deliverables. After drawing attention to a few of them - in front of managers and department heads from several departments - he told our boss that he’d be happy to help me out by taking on the additional responsibility of overseeing all company-wide projects. He said that he has a lot more experience with this type of complexity than anyone else (implication being me), that he’s got extra time, and that it just made sense to lend his hand to ensure we don’t miss deadlines.
Well, it does sound like you’ve been out-maneuvered by the new guy. But you may not have to start looking for a new job just yet, Gerald. Before I give you my suggestions about your “next steps”; let’s take a minute to review what happened in your situation.
1. Measure twice — cut once.
2. Check the lay of the land.
3. Consider the Japanese management style.
There are truly some people out there doing some amazing work. Dan Pink used to be Al Gore’s speechwriter, but now he is a career analyst helping companies redefine what motivates their executives and employees. If you haven’t ever checked out TED talks, they’re worth getting into. Not all of them will “roll your socks up and down,” as my wife says, but you may find many of them really illuminating.
In this talk, Dan Pink discusses the secret behind what motivates us. In my past career, I was in sales and management, and the companies always provided heavy financial incentives and trips for doing well. Dan Pink says this is a less effective way of helping you approach your life to get the job done.
Research has found that this approach works for getting easy tasks done that require a narrow focus. Dan says that focusing on external rewards (e.g., money, trips, cars, etc…) actually kills the ability to think out of the box and be creative which is required for more difficult, conceptual and right brain tasks.
He suggests that what we need for motivation is a sense of autonomy, mastery and purpose.
The ability to communicate, and communicate well, is one of the biggest factors in business success. You could be an excellent designer, but if you’re unable to promote your services and communicate effectively with clients and colleagues, your potential is limited. The principal areas where communication is essential include:
When you freelance or own a business, your livelihood depends on your ability to sell your services. You need to be able to convince prospects that you are the best person for the job, and the communication secrets in this article will help you do this successfully.
Image by Mart1n.
Part of selling your services is being able to understand the client’s unique needs. You can do this only by asking questions that get to the heart of the challenges they are facing. Once you have a clear understanding of the problem that the client needs to solve, you can pitch your services as the best possible option for the client, outlining how you will meet their needs.
For example, when I am contacted by a prospective client, I have them fill out a website requirements document that poses various questions to help me better understand what they are looking for in a website. Some of the questions I ask are:
Your professionalism can win you contracts, and your communication skills add to the complete package. Take time to proofread all emails prior to sending; use a business email address with a proper signature; answer the phone professionally; and speak articulately and competently at all times.
While my email signature has evolved over time, below is the general format I follow, which has worked well for me:
Company | Website
Email | Phone number
Client meetings, even those that take place over the telephone, are an integral part of every successful business. Follow these tips to make your meetings as productive as possible.
Image by murielle.
We’re all busy these days, so scheduling your meetings in advance ensures that you and your clients have an adequate amount of uninterrupted time to speak. Once your meeting is scheduled, take time to prepare an agenda that outlines focus points and sets a structure. Sharing the agenda for the meeting gives both you and the client an opportunity to fully prepare.
Because you may not be using the same calendar or scheduling program as your client, confirming the date and time of your meetings in an email and sending a reminder and the agenda the day before is good practice. If you are unsure how to format an agenda, plenty of templates are available for free online.
When you have several topics to tackle, rushing through them to get all of your ideas out may be tempting. But this causes confusion and makes the client feel that their input is not important. Slow down, and remember that communication is a two-way street. Establish a give-and-take that allows both parties to have their say.
One way to become a better listener is to limit or eliminate distractions during your conversations. That may mean closing your email client, turning off the television and closing the door to your office. By doing these small things, you ensure that the client has your full attention, and they will sense that, too.
I was slightly startled when I discovered yesterday that I was sharing a double bill at Monterrey Tech yesterday with Malcolm Gladwell. I have never read Gladwell’s famous books, “The Tipping Point” and “Blink”. And - up until yesterday, I had never seen him speak. But I know he has sold zillions of copies and is a famously good speaker - good enough to fill theatres with paying customers in London.
My first thought was an ignoble one - I wonder how much they are paying Gladwell? But then I decided to try to thrust this troubling thought to the back of my mind and to watch and learn. If Gladwell is indeed paid a fortune for speaking, perhaps I could pick up some tips?
The first lesson came from simply looking at the programme. The photo of me was unexceptional - it said here is a middle-aged man in glasses. Gladwell’s photo was very different. It was taken from a distance and showed off his magnificent Einstein-like Afro - it said, here is a mad genius. Unfortunately - short of buying myself a fright wig - I am never going to be able to compete with Gladwell in the hair stakes. But there are other things he does that might be easier to emulate.
First, he is a master of the “look no hands” style of speaking. He just stands up…
How do some people always seem to know how to take control of a conversation? The answer is so obvious, it may surprise you: by going beyond what people say and paying attention to how they say it.
For instance, below are two common behaviors you might see in a conversation, including an overview of the impact of each, and what you should do that would be better. (For the rest of this series, see the links at the bottom of the page.)
WHAT YOU SEE
After giving critical feedback about a behavioral trend to someone, he responds, “Why won’t you give me an example?” over and over again.
WHAT IT TELLS YOU
The person isn’t listening. He would rather explain away specific examples than take what you’re saying to heart. This is typical after receiving critical feedback; it’s the ego wanting to protect itself.
HOW YOU USE IT
Unless you can point to a specific event that just happened a moment ago, hold your ground and don’t provide an example. It will only lead to a he-said-she-said argument about your interpretation of the event. Instead, end the conversation. Let the person stew for a bit; it’s OK. If things don’t click after a few days, try again by asking, “Have you had a chance to think about what I said the other day?”
HOW YOU CAN AVOID THE TRAP YOURSELF
When you receive feedback and start to feel defensive, say, “This doesn’t feel right, but I trust you’re not making it up, so… would you mind if I sit with this for a few days and follow up with you later this week?” Then do that, after the wave of defensiveness has passed.
WHAT YOU SEE
A direct report sends you formal status updates and meeting requests …
Network & Systems Integration Engineer @ Alcatel-Lucent