Analytics: The New Normal

google_analytics_v2_dashboard copy
Recently, I had a conversation with a client about adopting the habit of regularly tracking their analytics, to see what level of traction their messages have. They’ve begun to do so regularly, but they’ve arrived at a concern about a drop-off in audience engagement from one week to the next. I told them not to be:

Them: “Soooooo are you saying don’t worry about (analytics) and wait until the end of the year when we can see the impact over a period of time?”
Me: “Is there ever a simple answer? … Yes.”

The long answer …

Performance analysis has to have perspective:

Translation: Don’t work out in the mirror!

“(Analysis) is the new normal—everything can be tracked. In the process, though, we can’t ask (ourselves) “Am I improving?” every ten minutes because we’re not giving enough time to let an individual strategy become a part of a strategic process. But after giving something a certain amount of time, we can begin to know the ROI on effort or at least feel comfortable we’re not just shooting in the dark.

I’ve become a bit of a Strava hound: I use a GPS-tracker to track my (cycling) and over the course of about two years, now, I can see the long-term trend of improved cycling. On a week-to-week basis, it’s difficult to see–much less know–when to rest, lose some weight or something or compare historical data of how often I rode this time last year, etc. To bore you enough with all that, it’s intriguing how data can help us, as a society, understand trends in performance and how that can lead to better performance over time by reducing waste and improving outcomes.”

If one is focused on continuously improving methods and messages, the blips on the radar, that need improving become challenges that can be met and trained to overcome, not feared. I just read an article in the New Yorker that discussed the issue of continuous improvement by focusing on relating to one’s data. In it, James Surowiecki mentions the Japanese term, “kaizen” The article continues: “In a kaizen world, skill is not a static, fixed quality but the subject of ceaseless labor.”

While analysis may be the new normal, unprocessed data isn’t very good at helping in the short term. If one works out for ten minutes and then wonder “Am I better than I was twenty minutes ago?” he or she runs the risk of driving him or herself crazy, throwing the prospects of a solid feedback loop into a frenzy of checking your form in the proverbial mirror after each push-up.

In the short term, yes, put out the fire do what needs to get done to get through. But long term: focus on honing and perfecting that message, using data to understand your audience and connect with them.


Discussion of Approach—Ripped From E-Mail

On Jan 9, 2014, at 2:59 PM, (colleague) wrote:


How did this snowball from just a refresh of the jersey to a full on branding strategy? 😀

Great work. I love it. The poster is aces (not shown).

On Thu, Jan 9, 2014 at 6:21 PM, Christopher Jones wrote:

… I happened upon this in my Evernote and it is formidable design philosophy which applied in this case … (not that they necessarily will act on any/all of it): “Burtin feels that his own approach to developing a design for graphic representation is best summed up by an old Japanese proverb which instructs: ‘First know all there is to know . . .then memorize it, then solve the problem intuitively.’ But for Burtin intuition is not so much a ‘magic spark’ as the result of human curiosity and a consistent experiment guided by logical thought.”’


On Jan 9, 2014, at 6:37 PM, (colleague) wrote:

“…solve the problem intuitively”

It’s as simple as that!

That was just a little bit of sarcasm. 🙂

I agree 100% with the emphasis on identifying and understanding the problem one needs to solve. One thing I’ve learned from watching you is how much it pays off to research the culture in which the people you want to talk to operate. You touched on it in an earlier email when you talked about the role the primary sponsor plays in brand identity. Same for the steering committee meeting where you talked about the current trend towards retro themes in cycling and how this shaped your design direction. If I recall correctly, you said you wanted to respect the trend without being derivative or formulaic. Great stuff.

A lot of the same applies to UX, especially with regards to the use of ethnography. In fact every time I come across an article mentioning ethnography as a research tool for experience design I send the link to my parents as a reminder that my major in anthropology wasn’t a complete waste of time. 😀

On Jan 9, 2014, at 7:38 PM, Christopher Jones wrote:

… wow. great comments … conversation …

I think that the research point is spot-on… If I came in with a bunch of stuff I just thought was cool, it might not resonate if it wasn’t grounded in something credible.

I went to a lecture by a guy named Robert Bringhurst and he was a ornithologist (studied birds?) and a type designer. He said that the dialect of a species of birds’ songs can change dramatically (enough so the birds notice) even if you move a quarter mile away. hitting home the point that even in the current world of globalization, localization and specificity is so important. Even after getting there, the feedback is so important.

As for User Experience, IDEO’s practice is just boss … Not sure where to begin with them. I follow Tim Brown, their CEO on Linkedin. I did recently see something recently, where in their labs, they spent a day coming up with a “demo” iPhone game to see if kids would like it. But instead of actually making an app, they filmed a guy dancing behind an oversized iPhone cutout (cut out of a box and pretty high-end looking) and they had the screen area clipping masked out so the guy could dance and respond to supposed changes (called out audibly) that would be programmed (for instance someone shouted: “now the characters moves his hands”, “now he dances to the beat”, etc.) And they did a lot to actually investigate the people’s reaction to the “app” (by filming the kid’s reactions)—so much so that they had an idea how they’d program the thing before starting to make it.

It was so cool and it focused on getting close to the apes—so to speak—in the spirit of Jane Goddall’s work.

Thanks for noticing.

And I went to a liberal arts school, so I love all that. It’s all connected!!

SLVA: Automotive Studio — Logo Designs & Work

Logo design created for SLVA: Automotive Studio.

This project was done in conjunction with Grenadier, an agency based in Boulder, Colorado. The project undertook “making over” a car customizer. The project entailed renaming his shop, developing a brand to go along with the name, as well as strategy with regard to focus on the business direction. Brown Hornet Design assisted by developing a logo that evoked the heritage of the shop owner and connected with the visual language of the market.

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Additional identity work from this project:

And here’s an image of the post-production:


And from the drawing boards:

From First Review Email …

“Not to talk all over them, but a little preamble: general focus is branding that serves as badges as well. Typography in most cases is handcrafted, with exception of F).

E) features an approach with the lion—the crest animal of the Silva Family name (lots of families use the lion, though. Also, technically speaking, the surname meaning is “wood” and was the name of the royal family of Spain, but the name’s relative ubiquity possibly translated into it being the name of a village of the royal family, etc–wikipedia… Bottom line: there’s possibly something to all that, but the fact the client doesn’t have a family history in cars and the family is sort of a regular working family, I didn’t press it much except buying the lion as an emblem like the Ferrari bought the horse (turns out traditionally, Germans were know for putting horses on their cars more until Ferrari did it) … To some extent this was something worth exploring even more… I concepted a few crests/shields and crests (I included one that I whipped up for discussion’s sake that sort of look like a soccer team’s logo or a Ferrari logos).”

Meeting Length Regret Quotient

Meeting Length Regret Quotient

Obviously, not all meetings should be two hours max. I mean someone is trying to solve Middle East Peace, but I was in a meeting where, after a certain time, I just felt there’s no reason this meeting should be THIS long. I think every person has this quotient (at different lengths) ticking in their heads. Keep the info utility front-loaded, you know!

The Design Process …

Ripped from an email to a client:

“That said, I can reflect on something a design mentor, Ed Gold, said (He’s was honored for a AIGA medal some time ago, when I was involved with the local chapter) … Design is the one profession where, when you are doing it well, the goal is to achieve your highest heights by doing something even more different. Most other professions: like doctors, lawyers, etc., are about honing the expertise into doing the same thing very well.”

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Building By Committee

“It is sad that so many creations today are just like the rest. It is why Porsche must remain independent. Without independence, without the freedom to try new ideas, the world will not move ahead, but live in fear of its own potential. … Committees lead to creations that have no soul, no identity. This is why no Porsche will ever be created by a committee, but a handful of people inside these walls who know what a Porsche is.”
— Dr. F. Porsche


I was in a meeting where a CEO lamented that getting things through her board is difficult—can’t remember the exact characterization. Suffice to say, allowing a board to be a board is a tricky thing. Clearly there are times when a board helps vet an organization’s process, but there are other times when in the process of creation a board is best poised to allow the process to happen in the hands of the creators. A book I read called The Visionary’s Handbook suggests that even in the big company, certain divisions should be treated as if they were very small, giving entrepreneurial power to this force of creation. This type of independence is rare, even in the automotive world.

Unless you’re Porsche.

And with that I thought back to one of my most cherished quotations from what has become somewhat of a design hero for me, the patron of Porsche. I don’t know when exactly this was said, but one things for sure, anytime through the end of World War II, the amalgamation of car companies was rampant. This process saw the end of many storied brands. But for some there was the time to double down and work to come up with that next big thing.

The 356 was one such number. A roadster prelude to my favorite car, the 911, this car had the simplicity of design and a sheer level of enjoyment to see. And if driving a Karmann Ghia is half the experience—probably half the engine—then it must have really been something.

On Showing Clients “Work In Progress,” Caution Prevails.

I answered a LinkedIn Group question today regarding showing work-in-progress. My answer was does not apply, not because it’s fully accurate, but becasue the breadth of the issues weren’t explained in the available options:
LinkedIn Screenshot

On showing works in progress, I think many of the answers above show the complexity and problems of showing a client work-in-progress and they take me to a point of summation, in that a client hires you for vision and part of that vision is to be able to sort the wheat from the chaff of decision-making, if you will.

I remember hearing Georgia O’Keefe say something like it’s the artists’ role to choose and I feel like that’s utterly important here in developing client work. Yes, good contracts, yes explaining scratch work, yes showing work as “progress” and progress payments, but the other thing is that, dependent on the relationship (I have a long-standing relationship where WIP is great, for example), it’s often difficult to foresee the degree to which the client can visualize that it truly is a process and the degree to which the process can be proportionally fruitful farther in (i.e. once you really lock in on a concept–inspiration isn’t always a straight-line ascending line graph).

So, I tend not to because if anything goes wrong, wouldn’t you rather be that person who did admirable work, as exhibited through process, that they just didn’t like or the moron who scribbled on napkins and you hated it?

User Interface Is Visual Verbal


These days, it turns out that my son likes to watch tons of YouTube® videos of fire trucks, ambulances and first responders—oh yeah and dump trucks on my wife’s Kindle Fire®. Just peeking at him as I did on the way upstairs just hits home how important the the non-verbal is in user-interface. Knowing where to push, when to push and volume settings, etc. are learned and then understood. And that “pushing” and feedback loop is almost without limit!

And by the way, we have different user modes in computers, browsers, etc. I still don’t understand how that doesn’t exist on an iPad®. My son, like many users with little reservation, learn through just pushing buttons. This might mean they see a video or it might also mean they call 9-1-1. It would stand to reason that use of an iPad® delegated to a lesser experienced user should not have to result in settings changes or deletion of programs.

“Quantity is a Quality All It’s Own”

Whenever I’m concepting logo design, this quote, attributed to Joseph Stalin (likely under different circumstances) is what I think about because it’s key to come at the problem from such a multitude of angles that one can have a good solution and then impeach it with an even better one.

In that initial stage, it’s quantity that rules the day.

Initial Logo Sketches
Initial Logo Sketches

Initial Logo Sketches
Initial Logo Sketches
Initial Logo Sketches
Initial Logo Sketches