We had a good time, didn’t we, WordCamp Miami? There was plenty of information to fit into a small bit of time. With the video and the slides, you go back and take those notes that I told you not to take. 🙂

My slides have links to the sources, so you can find plenty of research and further reading there. (One of the studies’ links is acting up, so you can view Google’s cached version).

Here’re some of my favorite tweets:

I came across a new textbook I wanted to read recently called Introduction to Data Science.

Yes, I’m a nerd in my spare time, as well.

Two things piqued my interest (as I’m not entirely sure I need an introduction to data science):

The latter interested me because I wanted to see if there was any interactivity beyond the common, end-of-chapter quiz—maybe an innovative way of demonstrating a concept that would further my understanding or help someone else.

The only problem is that I don’t have an iPad. But, surely with an iPhone 5 and some Apple computers at my disposal (alongside graduate-level Googling skills), I’d be able to find a way to check it out—or, so I thought.

Download to my iPhone? Nope.
Download to my computer and sync to the iPhone? Nope.
Find an iBooks reader for a desktop? Nope.
Open the download in iBooks Author? Nope.

Why would this ever be a good move by Apple?

I’m not their target audience, that’s why. They don’t want me reading iBooks built for iPads without an iPad.

We can project ill intent or cheapen the term corporate greed to describe Apple’s flagrant disregard for my desire to read a book on whatever platform I wish, but, in doing so, they control the experience. They control the way I consume the content as well as the the way authors create it, because it only has to be designed and built for one size, and tailored for one aspect ratio.

If they didn’t control it, students (presumably a target audience) would likely just learn to use them on laptops, instead. iBooks would become a cloud-based content distribution platform instead of an opportunity for an immersive experience. iBooks Author would have to account for screen sizes, performance issues, and everything else under the sun. There’d probably be little reason left to choose iBooks over PDF’s.

Target your best customers with a niche product. Forget the rest.

Haters Gonna HateKnowing an iBook exists that I can’t access aggravates me, but Apple doesn’t care—neither should you when you’re building a product/service for a niche market. Your target audience isn’t “everyone with money”, so why would it matter what the consensus of “everyone with money” is?

This is a major concept of a talk I’ve been giving for about four months now (and continue to): as a company, be yourself. Be an individual, of sorts. Have a personality, target those who would be most interested in your product or service, create content for them, and (kindly) disregard everyone else.

Your best customers want this from you.

February 23, 2013 — 4 Comments — In Apple, Blog, Opinion, WWIC

Thanks for the warm welcome, WordCamp Phoenix! Apparently, this part of the country has absolutely no trouble showing up at 8am—the room was packed.

Since I had to shorten things up from when I last presented this, we had to skip the ever-enjoyable “Whose Line Is It, Anyway?” video I usually show first.

The slides themselves have links to my sources and are helpful in getting the gist of what we talked about. Here are some of my favorite tweets that took place during the session:

Did you just make a decision that’s documented on the internet?

Bad news: an indiscriminate number of people are quite upset with you.

(If you’re a bit wet behind the ears on the phenomenon known as WWIC (Why Wasn’t I Consulted?), please stop and read Paul Ford’s now classic post.)

A fairly common offshoot of WWIC (though it’s been around longer), is the phenomenon in which non-profit donors, like alumni and church members, wonder why a decision was made without their consent. Never mind the insanity that would result from having a meeting with everyone who’s ever given a dime and giving them a yes-or-no vote—angry mob is angry. Most often, this leads to a debilitating fear in leadership, and these leaders who were trusted with the direction of the organization are actually expected to no longer trust their own instincts and logic.

Want to keep your job? Don’t make any sudden moves.

Yet, as Seth Godin says:

The biggest, best-funded non profits have an obligation to be leaders in innovation, but sometimes they hesitate.

One reason: “We’re doing important work. Our funders count on us to be reasonable and cautious and proven, because the work we’re doing is too important to risk failure.”

One alternative: “We’re doing important work. Our funders count on us to be daring and bold and brave, because the work we’re doing is too important to play it safe.”

Let’s say you are able to be “daring and bold and brave”, through some rare courage or support. It doesn’t mean you’re exempt from WWIC—it means you know how to count the cost.

Let’s take a look at how this plays out in reality, and why it’s important to stay the course.

Change is Good—er, The Worst

This week, the University of California debuted a new identity. According to the Creative Director, “this is less of a rebranding exercise, but instead the creation of a coherent, consistent, and relevant brand identity where before there was none.”

In a completely expected move, current students and alumni alike are up in arms, with nostalgia emotionally trumping any thought-out statements the University has given on the change. For your reference, common symptoms of WWIC reactions to changes include:

Ad Hominem Insults

They need to go back to the drawing board and come up with something that doesn’t look like it was designed for some online college farm, and make their salaries and money invested in this project worth our while.

Comparisons

“Harvard’s not going around changing its seal,” he said.

Generally Ignorant Opinions

You wonder how people can be so clueless, so detached, so ignorant that they think they can just casually toss away a brand that has worked just fine for 140 years.

Our community can come up with better stuff than this stoned surfboard for our logo.

I assure you could put a picture of a bear bench pressing a refrigerator, and it will still be better than the monstrosity that we now have to deal with.

“I feel like when you’re talking about a prestigious school, you don’t change big things,” said senior Correy Johnson.

One described the soft colors and block letters as “childish.” Another said her first take was “health care.”

(I do want to note that using the phrase “stoned surfboard” is laughable, but hilarious.)

But, what’s the real issue with the WWIC phenomenon? Why not listen to the passion of invested individuals and the value of ‘cognitive surplus’?

The angry mob isn’t your target audience, and doesn’t know the problems, motivations, or context.

Focus is Always an Improvement

Personally, I’m not sure about the rebranding. It’s a bit confusing and contrived at first blush. I also think the full-color mark is awkward with what looks to be the tail of a whale in the background and a loading icon in front of it.

But, the fact that this is no Nike ‘swoosh’ doesn’t keep it from being a win for the University of California. What were their goals and what did they accomplish?

Distinctive Visual Identity

UC Unofficial SealUC’s Creative Director noted (emphasis mine):

Previously, the UC system only used its seal as its primary visual identifier, where it was abused with impunity. We feel it is an important component of the university’s visual ecosystem. But it is a non-distinctive symbol which serves an important bureaucratic function. Now we limit its use to formal systemwide communications, diplomas, official regental and presidential communications, and other official documents. Many of our campuses, and other universities across the country have limited use of their official seals in similar ways.

Where there was really nothing, there’s now something. And, that something is, at least, modern and recognizable.

Organizational Clarity

Did you know that this wouldn’t replace, for instance, UCLA’s logo? Did you even realize that the University of California was really a system of individual campuses, making it fairly unique amongst universities? Now you do (or will).

From their well done branding mini-site:

The UC systemwide identity system does not replace individual campus identities or the university’s systemwide seal, but rather, becomes the way in which UC as a whole can begin to identify—and get credit—for all the great systemwide work we do.

So, the fact that “Harvard’s not going around changing its seal” really has nothing to do with this, unless Harvard’s a system of universities like UC is. Also, wouldn’t you assume that the University of California and Ivy League schools are aiming at different targets?

Targeted Creativity, Flexibility, and Execution

There’s a major shift coming in higher education as our economy equalizes and the aims and costs of college inevitably drop (gasp!). So, having a visual identity that attracts anyone above the age of 20 is just about useless—especially as it relates to the overall UC system. Individual campuses are now left to distinguish themselves if they haven’t already.

It is meant to be scalable, flexible, adaptable; something that would let us talk to our diverse audiences while maintaining recognizability.

If that’s the intention, they nailed it. Even the initial adaptations of the mark below are great—and this sort of flexibility is important, if not completely underrated. More than almost anything else, collegiate logos are abused and used out of context, so why not prepare for that by making something intentionally flexible?

Finally, this branding is accompanied by some awesome websites. Namely, the admissions’ mixes the new branding with useful, prioritized design, making it a joy to use. It’s a good day when this xkcd comic no longer mocks you:

University Website XKCD Comic

Calculated Risk

UC’s branding is an improvement by nearly any standard (other than someone’s personal opinion). Non-profits, especially, have the margins to take chances—and, as long as success (or failure) is being measured and considered often, those chances should be taken.

I’ll leave you with a quote from the MacRumors forums the day the first iPod was announced. Remember that there will always be loud, obnoxious people on the internet who believe they should have been consulted:

All that hype for an MP3 player? Break-thru digital device? The Reality Distiortion Fieldâ„¢ is starting to warp Steve’s mind if he thinks for one second that this thing is gonna take off.

December 11, 2012 — Leave a comment — In Blog, Branding, WWIC