How To Communicate Visually With Your Team

Visuals are the most powerful form of communication. Take a look at the fastest growing social media platforms at the end of 2014: Tumblr, Pinterest, and Instagram: all image-focused. Add that to the fact that 65% of people are visual learners, and you have a compelling case for why your business needs to incorporate visuals throughout your office—especially if you’re a technology company.

I write from personal experience. In growing a technology startup, tools like white boards, planning maps, timelines, and even gifs have been instrumental in company planning, brainstorming, and employee recruitment and retainment. Here are a few ways we’ve successfully leveraged visuals to improve business.

PLANNING COMPANY GROWTH

In business, choosing your next steps can be challenging. Not only are there various paths to take, but everyone in the company has a varying perspective—and since different departments have different priorities, all of those insights are invaluable. If you don’t capture all vantage points, you’re missing pieces of the puzzle.

A visual planning map coupled with a straw poll is a great solution. Here’s how it works:

At the start of every quarter, create a map that includes all the paths you and your team could take. In creating the map, you’ll realize that for some paths to be accessed, there’s a connecting road that must be charted first. Drawing these relationships creates a clearer picture of what’s possible and what’s required to achieve each goal.

After your map is finalized, invite each department to join together, discuss the options, and place a department-wide sticker of support next to their chosen priorities. Then, bring all the maps together to see where there’s alignment. While the stickers aren’t the be all and end all (there is veto power), the exercise helps get it all on the table.

Hang the maps after the final decisions are made. You’ll have a visual record of the company’s growth plan that existing and new team members can look to for historic reference and future expectations.

EXPLAINING AND WORKING THROUGH IDEAS

If there’s one office supply we can’t live without, it’s a whiteboard. On the walls that aren’t painted with whiteboard paint, we have hanging whiteboards. We don’t stop there. We have standing whiteboards, too, just in case.

Why? Two primary reasons.

  1. Share concepts
  2. Brainstorm

I’m not ashamed to admit that I would not understand our analytics technology if our chief technology officer didn’t break it down for me with stick figures and arrows. On the flipside, though, our CTO may not understand equity positions, partnerships, or proformas without my corresponding charts and sketches. Drawing is a universal language that helps different departments communicate.

In addition to concept sharing, whiteboard drawings also provide a space to work through half-baked ideas. Sometimes the “artist” needs to draw through his thought process to reach a higher understanding. During this thinking time, he can invite team members to help him. It’s like a game of Pictionary, except you don’t know exactly what you’re supposed to be drawing.

ENFORCING COMPANY CULTURE

When I founded my startup Medalogix, I wanted to catalog the different moments—both good and bad—of the company’s young history, mostly to look back on as the company grew into the next big technology company.

I’d enter something candid like, “Medalogix website launched. My friend Ian did it for free, in exchange for beer,” and then categorize the event as either a high or a low by attaching a red or green color block to it. The document is now a pretty lengthy timeline with equal parts red and green.

Not only can team members see the entry of their hiring in the timeline, but they can also take a peek into my commentary on our company, learn our company history, and revisit the company’s journey.

I’ve since hung the timeline outside my door. It’s become a resource for newer team members who want a casual overview of the company history. This brings all employees up to speed and provides a reference for why the business operates the way it does today.

Also, all team members take a DiSC personality assessment. We display the results by adding each team member to a diagram of the personality spectrum. This way we all have a quick reference point for our coworkers’ work and communication styles. This helps with management and communication.

Visuals don’t have to be stationary. These days gifs are used by all generations to explain ideas. What better way to show off your core values than to find gifs that display them and then present them in a rolling slideshow?

For instance, one of our core values is “Live 360,” which means live a balanced life. A gif of a skateboarder achieving an inverted loop illustrates this, and it’s cool to watch. Gif-ed core values help reinforce company values in a creative, fun way.

Transforming your business into a visual organization can take time, but the reward is worth the effort. With so many different communicator types in a business, visuals can help everyone understand the company’s products and goals while staying on the same page.

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12 Motorcycles That Trace the Evolution of the All-American Chopper

The art critic Robert Hughes called the custom motorcycle a distinctive form of American folk art, but “I would go further,” Paul d’Orléans writes in the introduction to The Chopper: The Real Story.

He calls the Chopper “the ultimate American folk art movement, a culturally explosive mashup of particularly American traits; the cowboy/outlaw,

free of family, property, or history, free to explore endless highways, free to express one’s individuality through dress and choice of transport.”

Distinguished by its extended forks, lack of rear suspension, and tall sissybar, the Chopper was preceded by styles like the bob-job

and cut-down, and grew out of efforts to make Harley-Davidsons and other bikes lighter, faster, and more agile.

But in d’Orléans’ telling, it was more than a question of mechanics. It was the culmination of decades of motorcycle culture, spurred on

by American societal shifts brought on by World War 2, changing race relations, and the explosive counterculture of the 1950s and ’60s.

The Chopper, published by Gestalten, tells the story of that evolution, from the 1904 bike believed to be the first “truly custom motorcycle”

and the bike gangs that terrified America in the 1950s, to Easy Rider and the 21st century takes on the iconic style.

Here’s a selection of bikes and riders, photographed over a stretch of 110 years, that helped lodge the Chopper firmly in the American public consciousness.

Deception Has Been A Part Of Architecture Since Long Before Photoshop

Whatever style you please … Soane’s designs for Holy Trinity Church, Marylebone, in variously Norman, Gothic and neoclassical manners. All images courtesy of the Soane Museum 

Where now architects might use photoshop, Sir John Soane’s elaborate paintings once sold clients on big projects.

Renderings do not always tell the truth. Colors and materials change, trees placed into balconies and plazas disappear, and projects that looked bathed in a heavenly light on the computer screen end up looking more like concrete fortresses in real life.

Joseph Michael Gandy’s painting of Soane’s proposal for a new triumphal entrance to Downing Street, exhibited at the Royal Academy Annual Exhibition, 1825 

Computers have certainly made it easier to create perfect-looking, totally impossible architecture. But architects have been using visual trickery since long before digital software came onto the scene, as a new exhibit at Sir John Soane’s Museum in London underscores.

Building a Dialogue draws on archival drawings and models from John Soane, an English architect, to reveal the 19th-century equivalent of elaborate Photoshopping.

Soane’s scheme for the Privy Council Chamber … ‘magnificent and suited to such an assemblage as the Lords of the richest Treasury probably in the world,’ as one observer put it. 

Beautiful visuals—whether or not they match reality—have helped architects sell their case for years.

For instance, when Soane was hired to clean up and repair the exterior of the Bank of England, he instead drew up a proposal to redesign the entire block-length facade.

Elaborate paintings of his grand scheme by Soane’s draftsman, Joseph Michael Gandy, sold the bank‘s board, and Soane took on the role of the company’s architect for the next 45 years, during which he rebuilt almost every part of the building.

The Bank of England’s Tivoli Corner, built in 1807

In another case, Soane was asked to create alternative designs to his neoclassical proposal for the Holy Trinity Church in London.

He complied—but placed the concepts in styles requested by the client within the same painting, lined up one next to the other. Soane’s preferred neoclassical design shines the brightest, literally. It’s depicted bathed in sunshine, while the others fade into shadows.

Joseph Michael Gandy’s painting of Soane’s proposal for a new triumphal entrance to Downing Street, exhibited at the Royal Academy Annual Exhibition, 1825 

Detailed paintings illustrated future buildings in a flattering light, selling clients on expensive and time-consuming commissions—not that it was always a successful tactic.

Soane’s design for a monumental new entrance to the official residences at Downing Street in 1825 never became reality, despite gorgeous illustrations of its potential.

Engraving of Robert Adam’s Admiralty Screen, sold in the form of prints and postcards, which inspired imitation knock-offs 

Perhaps he could have made it happen if he had been able to Photoshop a celebrity into the foreground?

Building a Dialogue: The Architect and the Client runs until May 9, 2015, at the Soane Museum in London.

[via The Guardian]

Animated Typographic Architecture Is A Design Nerd’s Dream

GERMAN CREATIVE FIRM DEEPBLUE NETWORKS MADE ELABORATE ANIMATED LETTER-BUILDINGS FOR THEIR LATEST PROMOTIONAL CAMPAIGN.

Elaborate typography + fantasy architecture + GIFs + clever logo design = German creative firm Deepblue Networks latest promotional campaign and a design nerd’s complete breakfast.

The firm collaborated with illustrator and graphic designer Florian Schommer of Hamburg-based Kjosk Collective to create this series of animated buildings shaped like the letters of their logo (DEEPBLUE).

Each building-letter is filled with little Sim-like people running around, and represents a department within the firm, including art direction, copywriting, interaction design, and motion graphics.

The animated site is meant to explain to visitors and potential hires how the firm works, in a much more exciting way than most corporations’ “Who We Are” pages do.

But it still feels less like a promotional campaign than it does a digital children’s picture book—you can find weird details on each of the buildings’ stories (a man boxing an alien; a body turning into a skeleton).

Check out the site here.

Google’s Proposal for North Bayshore

Vice President of Real Estate Dave Radcliffe and architects Thomas Heatherwick and Bjarke Ingels discuss our proposed Master Plan for our new campus in Mountain View, California. With our proposal, our focus is on creating space for people, nature and ideas to thrive.

Hungary-Russia nuclear power deal faces Brussels roadblock

Hungary’s deal to award up to €12bn in nuclear power contracts to a Russian state-owned company is facing a growing threat from EU regulators who have the power to block the project.

A veto or prohibitive fine from Brussels would be a bruising setback for Viktor Orban, Hungary’s prime minister, who has made the project the centrepiece of his strategy to forge deeper political and economic ties with Russia, despite the ostracising of Moscow by the west over Ukraine.

Opponents of the deal say it both carries financial risks and deepens Hungary’s energy dependence on Russia.

The country already relies on Russia for 80 per cent of its oil and 60 per cent of its gas imports.

Budapest awarded contracts to design, build and maintain two 1,200 megawatt reactors in the town of Paks, 75 miles south of Budapest, to a subsidiary of the Russian atomic energy company Rosatom in December.

But the decision to conceal some details of the contracts on grounds of national security provoked suspicion among Mr Orban’s critics and in Brussels.

Although the European Commission did not raise objections to an intergovernmental agreement signed by the two countries just over a year ago, the award of contracts for the Paks plant has thrown up thorny competition concerns.

Two EU agencies are now examining the agreements. Euratom, the nuclear watchdog, is withholding approval for the plant’s fuel supply on technical and financial grounds, though talks are ongoing, said one official briefed on the matter.

All nuclear fuel supply deals by EU member states must receive the green light from the agency.

Competition investigators from the European Commission are also looking at state subsidies and the legality of contracts awarded to Rosatom and its affiliates without a tender.

The probe into the how the nuclear contracts were procured — described as a possible case of violation of EU law by officials — is still at an early stage, giving Hungary an opportunity to strike a bargain with Brussels before a possible full formal investigation.

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The battle of wills is part of a broader struggle between EU technocrats and Russia over Europe’s energy security.

Last year, Moscow scrapped its $50bn South Stream gas pipeline into eastern Europe after EU regulators said Gazprom, Russia’s gas export monopoly, would break competition rules by both supplying the gas and owning the pipeline.

For EU diplomats, Mr Orban’s decision not to hold a competitive tender underlined fears that his close links with Moscow could lead Hungary to resist attempts to ramp up sanctions against Russia.

On an official visit to Budapest last week, Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, confirmed that Moscow would finance 80 per cent of the project’s total costs, saying he attached “great importance” to it.

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Politicians from Hungary’s green LMP party, who have launched legal challenges to the project’s secrecy in a Budapest court, warned that Paks would be an expensive mistake.

“We would like to see our country break free from Russian energy dependence, while Mr Orban seems to be seriously addicted to it,” said Bernadett Szél, the party’s co-leader.

Yet in a sign that Budapest was prepared for a confrontation with Brussels on the matter, Mr Orban declared last week that energy policy was a sovereign matter: “We will have a major problem . . . I expect an escalating conflict.”

A Hungarian government spokesman said the commission was trying to interfere in national energy policy “by stealth” and warned that attempts by Brussels to build a single internal energy market threatened EU member states’ sovereignty.