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We're Streamtime, makers of project management software for the creative industry. We love design as much as you do and know that productivity and creativity aren't mutually exclusive.

Streamtime Radio ep 04 – featuring Ross Floate & Josh Kinal

For this episode of Streamtime radio we’re in the studio with the impeccably dressed Ross Floate and Josh Kinal from Floate Design Partners. We discuss their approach to solving problems, working with Clover Moore, meeting Gene Simmons and how Josh loves doing timesheets.

If you’re fans of The Nudge, you’re going to enjoy this podcast. Warning: Parental guidance recommended.

You can find us in iTunes or at streamtimeradio.simplecast.fm

 

The evolution of Streamtime support

Providing exceptional support has been a key value from the early days at Streamtime. Making each individual Streamtime user better at their jobs, and helping them become experts as effortlessly as possible is a vision we try to apply to each client interaction.

We are constantly looking at ways to improve this experience, so we recently spent some time reviewing our current process, where it could improve and what things we wanted to change. After long discussions with our team, review of our support metrics, investigation of the more successful support interactions and a look at how other organisations who provide great support work, we decided to remove the option for inbound phone support – effectively guiding our clients to a brand new support landing page.

From a client perspective, no longer being able to call us seems like step in the wrong direction. We don’t see it that way and here’s why:

Our metrics show that Monday mornings, Wednesdays and Thursdays are the busiest times for support. At these times, it was common for all of us to be on the phones which meant callers getting our voicemail system – not a great experience.

Some of our staff have naturally gravitated towards certain areas of Streamtime and become experts in that area. Having that expert answer your specific question means the question is answered, a clear explanation provided and what steps to avoid in future discussed. Our contact page will get all our client questions to those experts in the quickest way possible.

• This change does not mean you will never speak to us. We recognise that for more in-depth questions, a phone call is best. So the best person will be responding to certain questions via a phone call, on average within minutes of receiving your request.

Things go wrong in every piece of software in the world. Fixing those problems efficiently is vital. Having all questions come through into the one area means that our entire company have eyes on the requests. Everything is automatically logged and, if required, easily passed to development. This means faster resolution, and allows us to see trends which highlight troublesome areas.

 Our metrics also show that the majority of questions asked over the phone were training questions (our support is a mix of technical and ‘how to’). Often, scheduling a session with a trainer provides a better understanding of the area. Being able to differentiate between those two questions means our clients are not being ‘handballed’ to different people in the quest for an answer.

We want our support to continue to separate us from our competitors and help more individual users become experts. We believe that this change will allow us to provide a far more consistent support experience for all our clients, getting the answers they need faster.

How to get the best from your creatives

Every studio has one, a creative diva, that Eyeore type that grumbles and moans about every task, hates whatever they are doing, yet doesn’t really do anything about it.

Why are they like this? Well, they do live in a daily environment of design by committee, where they constantly get told to change, change, change their masterpiece – until it’s diluted down enough to meet the client’s satisfaction.

Everyone has a design opinion and creatives feel this more than most, as theirs usually sits at the bottom of the heap. When looking at the situation this way it’s actually quite easy to understand why they feel stifled and frustrated.

Yet unlike a portion of other designers who ‘drop the baby’ and allow the client to do whatever they like, just to get it out the door and move on – these ones don’t. Their incessant bellyaching drives everyone around them wild but it’s actually a sign that their passion still lies beneath, a sign of suppressed creativity.

So what are the keys to engaging these people and making the environment painless for everyone?

1. Allow them to be unproductive – to do the absurd and fail. Innovation comes from experimentation and exploring outside the parameters. Expect the costs that come along with this but in the long run it will be cheaper than losing clients through not staying ahead of the game.

2. Don’t constrain them – performance will be better if they’re allowed to work autonomously. Don’t force them to follow unnecessary processes or hover over them, asking what they’re doing or how they’re doing it. Creatives are easily distracted so keep them away from emails, IMs and phone calls. In short, don’t interrupt the creative process. Allowing them to work outside normal hours is also beneficial as they will often prefer to be left alone.

3. Don’t criticise the bad ideas – Make them feel important. Creatives are used to criticism but it often cuts deeper than you think; they can often feel crushed. Not noticing that special effort spent on a job will do you no good, as their opinion will be verbalised and bad energy can affect the whole team. Be lavish with the praise but also be sincere about it.

4. Consider carefully before allowing them to manage others – your most talented creatives may be wonderful at their jobs but this certainly does not mean they should be managing others. Actually it’s rare that natural innovators have good leadership skills, (a number of extremely successful business owners have identified their own leadership deficits and brought in others to make up for it, Mark Zuckerberg for one). A study showed that the most talented creatives also exhibit psychological characteristics such as being rebellious, being independently motivated and low in empathy.  All can inhibit them from being effective leaders.

Understanding what really makes your creative divas tick will help you to build an environment where they can flourish and truly allow their brilliance to shine.

Image courtesy of Bryant Arnold.

Streamtime Radio ep 03 – featuring Rhys Gorgol from TCYK

For episode 03 of Streamtime Radio we’re in the studio with the delightful Rhys Gorgol, Creative Director at The Company You Keep. We talk about the importance of collaboration, standing behind the value of design and trusting your instinct.

You can find us in iTunes or at streamtimeradio.simplecast.fm

 

 

 

 

 

Is collaboration good for business? An agency view

According to The Wow Company’s 2015 Benchpress Review of the UK’s independently-owned agencies, 47% have committed to strategic alliances with other agencies in the coming year.

Forming relationships with someone originally thought of as a competitor can feel uncomfortable. Guest blogger, Ruth Kent gives her thoughts and experiences on this tricky but potentially lucrative approach to growing business.

While it’s true that inter-agency partnerships come in a variety of ‘flavours’, the most common set-up is where one ‘leads’ and the other ‘supplies’. It’s this arrangement that we’re going to explore here.

To start here are the possible benefits for each agency and, of course, the client.

 

Possible Lead Agency Benefits

• Access to niche/specialist skills/expertise within the supplier

• The supplier agency is an agency too, so can ‘hit the ground running’ and scale steep learning curves quickly and successfully.

• The supplier agency can be relied upon when time is tight or when internal resources are already fully engaged, thus enabling the lead agency to offer uninterrupted service to their client.

• A supplier agency is a more flexible and less risky ‘turn off and on’ alternative to growing in-house capabilities/teams.

• Partnership with a supplier agency enables the lead agency to offer a fuller range of services.

• There’s often an opportunity for ‘mark up’ on the supplier agency’s rates.

• The supplier agency can become a very useful, knowledgeable ‘trusted advisor’ to the lead agency.

• Partnering with the right supplier agency can enhance the lead agency’s overall reputation.

 

Possible Supplier Agency Benefits

• Access to desirable clients via the lead agency and the chance to ‘grow the portfolio’.

• Possibility of lower project/client acquisition costs (the lead agency can often be less demanding re: new business proposal requirements, for example).

• Lead agencies can make very good ‘repeat customers’.

 

Possible Advantages for Clients

• Ease of management of a variety of skillsets (especially if the lead agency is the primary point of contact, filtering down to the supplier agency).

• Good agency partnerships mean cohesive/consistent work – especially from a brand perspective.

• Agencies can ‘educate’ one another in their respective specialism/offerings, thus generally driving up standards.

• The whole ‘two heads are better than one’ aspect of bringing partner agencies together – leading to better ideation.

• A little ‘healthy competition’ between partner agencies can enhance execution and end results.

• Scope for cost saving opportunities.

 

But what are the issues you might experience and how do you avoid them?

• It’s possible that agencies may be unable to align successfully because of their differences (values, culture, processes, etc). Agency partners can avoid this with one or more mutual ‘credentials and chemistry’ workshops, before the partnership is put into practice. We’d advise socialising with one another too!

• There might be a disconnect in the general quality of each agency’s output. Again, getting to know one another is an invaluable first step here. You’ll soon get the measure of the output of your potential partner agency.

• Clashes of ego! The easy way to inoculate against this is to have clearly defined roles/responsibilities across the inter-agency partnership and also to avoid ‘doubling up’ on roles.

• The possibility of messy communication and confusion. Avoid this by using the right collaboration tools and communication techniques, along with clearly defined roles/responsibilities. This should all be nailed down before the agency partnership becomes a working one.

This post has been a quick jaunt through the likely workings of an inter-agency relationship. There are pros and cons to any relationship you might form but for Contra it has been a success on a number of levels.

Take heed of their sage advice and you’ll hopefully see why 2015 is the year of collaboration.
Ruth Kent is Client Partner at the multi-award winning creative agency Contra.

Image courtesy of The Wow Company.

Agency Management: Five top tips for how to boss it!

My experience in various studio management roles and later operations taught me it doesn’t matter how big or small your agency is; besides running a profitable studio, you will also be expected to be all things to all people and your feet are unlikely to touch the ground for more than two minutes at any given moment.

This is why a solid infrastructure is your best friend and can mean the difference between leaving work with a smile on your face or a massive headache. Here are my five top tips:-

1. Equipment
Ensure your team have the necessary tools to do the job; nothing worse for a designer than a Mac with insufficient memory that keeps crashing ahead of a tight deadline. This leads to frustration, missed deadlines and will impact your profit margin.

2. File storage
Get a pre-defined file structure in place for all projects files; if your team are unable to quickly locate job assets, it will cost your agency money. A good example of this would be  Date > Client name > Job number/name. This also makes your annual archiving  a less daunting task. A shared drive on a rock solid internal server will minimise downtime from service dropout.

3. Organisational Chart
It is important that everyone knows who is responsible for what and who reports to whom. A transparent chain of command makes communication more efficient, which in turn makes your agency more efficient (and profitable). It’s particularly important that your Project/Account Managers are reliably communicating client feedback to your creatives; poor communication makes more work for everyone.

4. Studio workflow
Develop a considered and practical process for managing jobs in-house; it should be simple but structured. Think about what happens once a new project comes into the studio; how does this get communicated to the studio? Don’t forget the number one thing that frustrates creatives; a job without a brief. The brief should clearly define the project expectations and constraints (description, budget, deadline etc).  Consider introducing  job management software; this will help with the structure and management of workflow as well as providing a central go to place for all concerned with that job.

5. The right team
Having the right team in place is the deal breaker for any agency; for example a good digital project manager can mean the difference between a website build running to schedule and within budget (increased profit margins), to it losing you lots of money.

Studio Management is all about the behind the scenes stuff with none of the glamour of pitch winning and client schmoozing; but if you can make the studio the most productive it can be, with the least amount of pain to your team, then that is certainly something.

Ep 02 of Streamtime Radio is now live

In our latest episode of Streamtime Radio we’re in the studio with Simon Hipgrave from The Hungry Workshop. We talk about the challenges of starting a business, the joys of the letterpress and printing with Vegemite.

You can find us in iTunes or at streamtimeradio.simplecast.fm

 

 

 

 

 

 

How much should I be charging my clients?

The rate you charge your clients is the most important calculation you can make for your business, as it plays a key role in your company’s profitability. At the recent Jacky Winter Gives You The Business seminar in Sydney, Linda Jukic, Creative Director at Hulsbosch talked through the key factors to consider when determining your hourly rate.

Step 1 – Calculation
You should start by working out the initial calculation. According to Linda, there are four aspects to take into consideration when working out your hourly rate.

• Labour Costs – salary, super/pension, annual leave, public holidays
• Statutory – payroll taxes, workers compensation, insurance
• Overheads – space, equipment, utilities, materials
• Profit Margins – margin, gain, return

Step 2 – Variation
Once you have worked out the initial calculation, there are a lot of variations to consider. For example, you shouldn’t have one standard rate.

If you have different levels of expertise in your business, don’t charge the same rate for them. Charging out a senior designer at the same rate as a junior, undermines the senior’s experience and talent. Similarly, if you charge a junior out at senior rates, there’s a high probability that the junior will take longer to do the work, therefore potentially taking you over your budgeted hours.

The same principle applies for standard work versus rush jobs. If a client briefs you in the appropriate time frame, then charge them your standard rate. If they expect you to drop everything and turn something around in a near impossible time frame, then you should charge a higher fee or rush rate. This isn’t just compensating you for the potential overtime or the extra staff that may be required to complete the work on short notice, this is also a way to educate your client. Let them know if they want it done fast, then they have to pay a premium. That way they will only ask for rush work in an emergency, and when they do, you will be compensated accordingly.

You should also consider charging different rates for concepts versus corrections. Concepts are your creative ideas and the reason the client has hired you, so you should charge accordingly. So if you charge the same rate for an award winning concept and a small change to some text, the client won’t differentiate between the two. While corrections should definitely be charged for, they should be charged at a lower rate, again educating your clients on the value of the idea.

Other variables to consider when determining your charge out rate:

• Frequency of work
• Length of contract
• Reliability of payments

If a client gives you a lot of work, a lengthy contract or they simply pay their bills on time, that could also be an incentive to reward them with a reduced rate.

Step 3 – Evaluation
Once you have your calculation and you’ve taken into consideration the variations, it’s now time to evaluate. Linda says when evaluating your hourly rate it’s important to think about:

• Who is your audience? – size, scale, standing
• How do you compare? – budget, mid, premium
• What’s your worth? – experience, expertise, effectiveness

When you present a client with your idea and they buy into that idea, that’s where your true value lies. So consider your audience, how you compare and your level of experience and expertise when calculating your rate.

Step 4 – Reconciliation
The final thing to consider is reconciliation. Linda says, “it’s really important to keep timesheets”, and we couldn’t agree more. Timesheets are the foundation to reconciling your hourly rate. You should be tracking your jobs, keeping an eye on estimated time versus actual time and making sure you invoice the time accordingly.

While it’s important that you have value based pricing ($ = Time + Value), Linda’s final bit of advice when working out your charge out rate is, “don’t take advantage, people do talk and it becomes quite apparent that you’re at a higher markup.”

It’s also important to remember, once you have worked out your rates, that you agree to the terms of those rates, especially regarding the number of hours required to do the work.

If you have value based pricing and you manage your client’s expectations, you will have the winning formula for a successful business!

Managing your team in Streamtime

For the final webinar in this series, Streamtime Aces Adam Kensington and Lindsay Schofield show you how to manage your team in Streamtime. They share tips on creating tasks and using Streamtime’s scheduling tools; a must watch for studio managers.

Missed this series of webinars? Don’t worry, you can find our earlier webinars on our website or follow us on vimeo.

We’ll back with a new series of webinars in September.

In the studio: a new Streamtime video series

At Streamtime we’re genuinely interested in our clients and what they do. In this new video series we head into the studios of some truly talented people to discuss design, inspiration and what makes them tick.

First up is Luke Kellett, founder and general nice guy from Headjam. He talks about working in the health and education sectors, and helping their clients push the creative boundaries despite their sometimes limited budgets.

You can hear the full interview with Luke on our podcast Streamtime Radio.

Managing your sales pipeline in Streamtime

In our latest webinar Streamtime Aces Mark Cooper and Lindsay Schofield show you how to manage your sales pipeline in Streamtime. They share CRM tips like managing contacts, creating and managing opportunities and they also share some reports to help you track your progress.

Want more webinars? It’s not too late to register for the last webinar in this series:

Managing your team and their time
In this session we’ll be showing you how to create tasks, use Streamtime’s scheduling tools, track time and report on what your team is spending its time on. A must for studio and account managers.

Wednesday 10 June 3pm GMT. 30 mins

Or you can find some of our earlier webinars on our website.

How to increase your agency’s profitability: step 2 measuring profit

We’ve already shared our tips on pricing and how important that is to your profit. In the second part of our profitability series we are going to share some tips on the tools you need to measure your profit.

The results of The Wow Company’s survey of creative businesses in the UK showed that 18% of companies do not know how much profit they are making. This is alarming. It’s very important that you have steps in place to measure how your business is tracking.

So how do you measure profit? Here are 3 steps to get you started.

1. Work out your billing capacity.
To start, you should work out your billing capacity (your day rate x number of people in your team x days in a month) and then compare it with how much you are actually billing. The results may surprise you.

2. Manage your jobs
If you are a creative business and you want to know how profitable your jobs are, it doesn’t matter if you’re a company of one or 100, project management software is essential. Timesheets, in particular, are one of the most important (and easiest) things you can use to measure profit. By doing timesheets you can ensure you know exactly how much time jobs take, so you can quote and charge your clients accurately and take away the guesswork.

An interesting stat from the survey was the increase in creative companies using project management software from 2013 where it was 53% to 77% in 2015. So don’t be left behind. If your peers are using software to help measure their profit, you should be too.

Below is a selection of the software used by those surveyed to help manage their projects.

If you are in the market for project management software there are plenty of options to choose from, you just need to do some research. Remember: before purchasing software from any company make sure you get a demonstration or give it a test run before purchasing. It’s important you get software that is the right fit for your business.

3. Get the right accounting software
While project management software is there to help you manage your projects, accounting software will show you your true profit and loss. In the past, accounting software has been quite complex and expensive, you may have also needed a degree just to use it. But times have changed, they are now more cost effective and much easier to use.

By far the most popular accounting software for those companies surveyed was Xero. There are other products out there, just do your research and get rid of those spreadsheets.

Having the right tools at hand is important for measuring and increasing your agency’s profitability. For more information check out The Wow Company’s webinar, where Peter Czapp shares some of the results from the 2015 survey.

Slides courtesy of The Wow Company and main image by TaxRebate.org.uk and used under Creative Commons license.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Streamtime Radio hits the airwaves

We’re very excited to announce the arrival of Streamtime Radio, a series of podcasts where we head into the studio with creative agencies to discuss design and inspiration.

For our first episode we’re chatting with Luke Kellett, founder and general nice guy from Headjam. He dishes the dirt on their creative process, their passions and the Newcastle scene.

You can find us in iTunes or at streamtimeradio.simplecast.fm

 

Help! I’m new to Streamtime

Are you new to Streamtime? Then our latest webinar is for you. Streamtime Aces Mark Cooper and Adam Kensington share their tips on what Streamtime does and how.

Want more webinars? It’s not too late to register for the remaining webinars in our series:

Creating and managing your sales pipeline in Streamtime
Our training aces will show you how to get more out of the CRM functions of Streamtime. Managing contacts, creating and exporting contact lists, creating and managing opportunities and some reports to help you track progress.

Wednesday 3 June 3pm GMT. 45 mins

Managing your team and their time
In this session we’ll be showing you how to create tasks, use Streamtime’s scheduling tools, track time and report on what your team is spending its time on. A must for studio and account managers.

Wednesday 10 June 3pm GMT. 30 mins

Or you can find some of our earlier webinars on our website.

Happy viewing.

Top tips for financial reporting in Streamtime

In our latest webinar, Streamtime Aces and all round nice guys Michael O’Riley and Miel De Rycke share their tips on financial reporting in Streamtime.

What you’ll get in this Streamtime webinar is a quick overview of invoicing, an explanation of the financial terms we use, a run through of how figures are calculated in Streamtime and we also look at key reports that will help you analyse your data.

You get all that and the smooth voices of Michael and Miel, so what are you waiting for? Watch the webinar now!

Want more webinars? It’s not too late to register for the remaining webinars in our series:

Creating and managing your sales pipeline in Streamtime
Our training aces will show you how to get more out of the CRM functions of Streamtime. Managing contacts, creating and exporting contact lists, creating and managing opportunities and some reports to help you track progress.

Wednesday 3 June 3pm GMT. 45 mins

Managing your team and their time
In this session we’ll be showing you how to create tasks, use Streamtime’s scheduling tools, track time and report on what your team is spending its time on. A must for studio and account managers.

Wednesday 10 June 3pm GMT. 30 mins

Or you can find some of our earlier webinars on our website.

Happy viewing.

4 tips for managing client expectations

One of the many highlights of the recent Jacky Winter Gives You The Business seminar in Sydney was a session with Bianca Bramham on Managing Client Expectations. Bianca had some great advice on how to create harmonious relationships with clients. Here are our key takeaways.

1. Define the brief
When taking a brief from a client it’s your responsibility to ask questions and clarify it. Where possible take the brief in person or over the phone, never via email. Speaking with a client allows you to build a rapport and Bianca says, “it will help minimise the risk of misunderstandings.” Once you’ve taken the brief make sure you relay it back to the client. This is your chance to work out any misunderstandings, but also it shows the client that you’ve heard what they’ve asked for, you’ve gained their trust.

2. Define the scope
Be clear with what is involved to complete the brief, in particular make sure you cover the specific conditions around your estimate. How may revisions are included? What are your payment and cancellation terms? Most importantly, put it all in writing and get the client to provide written approval. You don’t want to do all the work and be out of pocket.

3. Define the process
There’s a chance the person you are dealing with has no idea how long things take in the creative process. Spell it out for them by guiding them through your process and how long each step will take. Bianca calls it “bringing your client on a journey of your creative process.” By doing this they become part of the process and it will be a much more harmonious relationship going forward.

4. Define the schedule
When defining the schedule it’s important to not only think about how much time you need to complete the job but also how much time the client may need to get you feedback and approval. Discuss this with your client and be clear about what you need from them. Remember your client is just as busy as you are. Once you’ve completed the schedule, go through all the key dates and make sure they are comfortable meeting their deadlines. This gives them accountability.

Other things to help the process run more smoothly:

• Communicate what can and can’t be changed once you move onto the next stage.

• Ask for consolidated feedback, there’s nothing worse than getting feedback in dribs and drabs. If there is more than one stakeholder, tell the client you require all the feedback at once.

Communication is key to managing client expectations. Be clear and upfront and you’ll have a better, more collaborative working relationship with your client. Bianca summed it up best when she said, “by investing in time upfront, you give yourself the space and the freedom to do what you do best.” We couldn’t agree more.

How to increase your agency’s profitability: step 1 pricing

Every year our friends at The Wow Company run a survey so creative businesses in the UK can benchmark themselves against their peers. The results for the 2015 survey have been released and Wow’s Peter Czapp shared some of their findings in a recent webinar. Here we share Peter’s tips on pricing and how it can help your business to be more profitable.

Should I be increasing my prices?
Pricing is a key component to running a profitable business. 51% of companies surveyed plan on increasing their prices in 2015, which is a wise move. Think about it, suppliers are not reducing their rates, utilities and rent aren’t going down either. Peter says, “if you’re not increasing your prices regularly then your margins are getting squeezed.” So if you’re part of the 49% that won’t be increasing your prices this year, that could have serious impact on your profit.

How much should you be charging? 
To increase profit it’s important to look at your charge out rate. The survey showed the average charge out rate in the UK is £86 per hour. If your hourly rate is below the average in your region, then you should consider increasing your prices.

Sure a competitor may have a lower charge out rate, but are they providing the same quality of work and service?  As the saying  goes “you get what you pay for”, so don’t sell yourself short. Do your research, calculate your cost rate and outgoing expenses to work out the correct charge out rate for your business.

How should you be charging?
When surveyed, 45% of companies said they used fixed pricing. While this can be quite a profitable way of charging, you can also lose out if you do not scope your jobs properly.

Scope is very important when it comes to how you charge your clients. Remember to take everything into consideration. What might seem like a lucrative job to begin with might not be so lucrative after you’ve spent many additional hours completing the work. As Benjamin Franklin said “time is money”, if you put in the time, you deserve to be paid for it.

Should you charge for extras?
In a nutshell, hell yes! The survey results showed that 57% often or always charge for extras and the remaining 43% rarely or never.

Again remember what our friend Benjamin Franklin said. If you spend the time making amendments these should be charged for.

If you manage a client’s expectations and communicate clearly with them at the very beginning of the job, then it shouldn’t come as a surprise when you charge them for something outside the original scope.

Peter did some further analysis on this and found that there’s a correlation between charging for extras and profit, with those that charged often for extras making 10% more profit, than those that rarely do.

So if you’re in the 43% that rarely or never charge for extras that’s something to think about.

Pricing plays a massive role when it comes to profit. Our advice, look carefully at your rates and the way you charge your client, that could make all the difference.

Slides courtesy of The Wow Company.

The work around the work

We post about timesheets quite a bit around here, but here’s a slightly different take on timesheets from our friends at Floate. In his article for Dear Design StudentRoss Floate talks about the “work around the work” being the actual work. In other words, the design work that you do is only part of your job.

We have a strange saying at Floate, “The work around the work is the work.” By that we mean that timesheets, meetings, phone calls, conversations in Basecamp or any of a million other things are part of the fabric of what we do. This work around the work comes with the territory and get ready for this one crazy thing they didn’t tell you in design school — if you are bad at this stuff then you are bad at your job. Period.

Have a read of “Q: Do I really have to do all of this paperwork? Can’t I just, you know, design?

We’re back with a new series of Streamtime webinars

Following on from the success of last year’s series, Streamtime’s fantastic webinars are back. These sessions will be focussed on diving deeper into Streamtime’s features, helping you understand how it all works and how to get more out of it.

Presented by our very own Streamtime Aces, this will be the perfect opportunity to sharpen your skills, pick up some handy hints and tips and ask any burning questions of our experts.

Best of all these sessions are free. So what are you waiting for? Register today!

Gaining better financial views in Streamtime
In this webinar we’ll cover a quick overview of invoicing, explain some of the financial terms we use, how figures are calculated and step you through a few key reports to help analyse your data.

Thursday 21st May 2:30pm GMT. 45 mins

New to Streamtime
In this webinar we’ll give a brief overview of what Streamtime does and how. We’ll show you how quotes, tasks, jobs and time entries are related and the reports you can use to get more out of this information.

Wednesday 27 May 3pm GMT. 45 mins

Creating and managing your sales pipeline in Streamtime
Our training aces will show you how to get more out of the CRM functions of Streamtime. Managing contacts, creating and exporting contact lists, creating and managing opportunities and some reports to help you track progress.

Wednesday 3 June 3pm GMT. 45 mins

Managing your team and their time
In this session we’ll be showing you how to create tasks, use Streamtime’s scheduling tools, track time and report on what your team is spending its time on. A must for studio and account managers.

Wednesday 10 June 3pm GMT. 30 mins

Looking forward to seeing you there!

Note: These webinars will be run from our London office (GMT). If you can’t tune in don’t worry, we’ll also be recording these sessions and posting them to our website.

The wonderful world of Wes… in a bar

Here at Streamtime, we’re big fans of Wes Anderson, so imagine our delight when we discovered that he has designed a bar.

Complete with formica tables, a juke box and a Steve Zissou pinball machine, Bar Luce is part of the Fondazione Prada, Prada’s new art and culture complex in Milan.

This isn’t the first time Wes has worked with Prada. If you haven’t seen them already, check out the short films Castello Cavalcanti and Candy, both done for the fashion house.

Agency: a satirical web-series about advertising and stuff

If you’ve ever worked in the creative industry (and if you’re reading this blog then you probably do) get some Agency playing on your iDevice right now! It’s “a satirical web-series about advertising and stuff” made by some awesome folks down in New Zealand. They’ve got 3 episodes out to view now, with a bunch more to come.

Watch the first episode below, or check out the rest here.

3 steps to accurate timesheets

We’re often asked what is the best way to get staff to do their timesheets. The other day, I took a call from a client asking how they could force their staff to enter a minimum of eight hours every day in Streamtime. What they wanted was a way for Streamtime to prevent staff from doing anything in the software until their timesheets for the day were completed.

This question isn’t uncommon and certainly not irrational. Like all feature requests we have given this our consideration, but we have decided against it and here’s one of the reasons why.

Kye, from our Sydney office, used to work at an agency that was really strict on timesheets. By 5pm Monday, all timesheets for the previous week were to be completed. No excuses, three strikes and you’re out! So what happened? Come Monday afternoon 4pm people would start to panic about last week’s timesheets and they would just add time to random jobs – anything to get to the required 40 hours. As a result of this strict policy, they found time was often added to the wrong jobs, totally defeating the purpose of timesheets.

This company scared staff into a panic mode, which resulted in unreliable timesheets. While other companies can be a bit too relaxed in their approach, resulting in incomplete timesheets. We discuss timesheets every day with our clients and we have discovered there’s an art to getting accurate timesheets from your staff. Here we share the three steps we believe will get you results.

• Educate your staff
There is a lot of animosity towards timesheets, people tend to think it’s their boss’s way of keeping tabs on them. There are plenty of reasons to do timesheets, that you can share with your staff. However it’s really important to communicate clearly with them and be totally honest. Be transparent about the finances of individual jobs. You don’t have to share all of the details, hand pick the jobs that best illustrate how much money was (potentially) lost by not completing timesheets. Don’t just point fingers at those who caused the problem, open their eyes to the common goal of your agency and make everyone part of the solution.

• Make it easy for them
Since time entry is such an important part of a designer’s day, give them a simple and flexible way to enter time. Most solutions these days allow staff to time work as they go via a phone, tablet or their desktop. If they don’t have time at the office, they can enter time on the go or at home. If you invest in a system, that has that flexibility, there can be no more excuses.

• Give them an incentive
Arguably paying someone a salary should be enough incentive, but sometimes staff need a little extra push. There’s two roads you can go down with an incentive, reward or shame. JWT Brazil reward their staff with the beer fridge while Razorfish shame timesheet offenders by posting their photos in the building’s lobby. Our advice? Have a little fun with it and make timesheets part of your company culture, you’ll definitely start to see results.

We’d love to hear how you get your staff to do timesheets.

Effortless time entry with Streamtime

Today we released an update to Streamtime on the web that makes time entry even more effortless. In fact we’ve made it so easy to enter time you don’t even need to use your mouse!

Use the up and down arrows to browse through weeks, and use the left and right keys to move back and forward days. Hitting ‘t’ will return you to today’s date. Once you’re on the day you need, selecting ‘n’ on your keyboard will create a brand new time entry where you can tab through the fields, type in what you need and searching as you go, and then finally just hit enter to save your time entry. It really is that simple.

A full run down of these new features can be seen in the video below.

If you’re not already a customer of ours why not try Streamtime on the web for yourself.

If you’re already a Streamtime subscriber and want to use Streamtime on the web, our knowledge base has all the information you need to get this up and running, or you can always give our support team a call for assistance. We’d love to help get this in your hands.

Remember with Streamtime on the web you can enter time from anywhere anytime.

Rainworks: Street Art that only appears when it’s wet

Peregrine Church has created a form of Street Art that will only activate when it is wet, or raining.

Rainworks is the brainchild of Peregrine’s imagination. He uses a super hydrophobic substance which he then stencils onto the sidewalks around Seattle. Once that substance gets wet, the artwork is revealed. Perfect for a place like Seattle, where there is a high chance of rain all year round.

He figured since it is always going to rain, why not do something fun with it? Why not use this as a chance to brighten someone’s day?

What a great sentiment. Let’s hope we start to see Rainworks popping up in other cities around the world soon.

Until then, see Rain.Works for locations of his artwork around Seattle.

Friday Inspiration: Great title sequences

Like most people I’m looking forward to the return of Mad Men to our screens. It’s been part of my life for the last eight years and with every new season I get that buzz of excitement.

But what drew me in in the first place? Being an ex “Ad Gal” I was interested to see Matthew Weiner‘s take on the Madison Avenue advertising executives of the 50′s & 60′s, but it was the opening title sequence that got me hooked.

Never before had I seen anything so simple yet so elaborate for the opening titles of a TV show. The mesmorising spin of the fan, the subtle shift of the trouser leg, and that stomach turning free fall. It was so elegant in its execution, it totally blew me away.

Main title sequence for ‘Mad Men’, produced & created by Imaginary Forces. Editorial by Caleb Woods.

Of course these days we’re used to seeing titles that mirror the quality of the show, True DetectiveHouse of Cards and Breaking Bad come to mind. But this opening title sequence created by Steve Fuller and Mark Gardner and produced by Imaginary Forces was something totally new for the times. Matthew Weiner’s vision of a man trying to find himself was perfectly executed by Fuller, Gardner and their team.

For full details on how this beautiful sequence came to life check out this wonderful interview with Cara McKenny, Steve Fuller and Mark Gardner by Art of the Title.

I’ll be sad to see the end of Mad Men, but like everyone else I can’t wait to see the final chapter in the lives of Don, Peggy, Roger, Joan and Co.

Beeldr develops custom planning tool through Streamtime API

It’s always awesome to see our clients make the most of their Streamtime solution and even better to see them think outside the box with it. Beeldr are a team of nine people that specialise in brand, design and interaction, who operate out of a floating workspace in Amsterdam. Apart from their great work, we’ve always known them to be a fun bunch of people with just the right amount of crazy.

They’ve been happy users of Streamtime for almost 3 years, but something seemed to be missing for them. “We’d been struggling for a while to determine how to manage our tasks in Streamtime” says Martijn Koek, co-owner of Beeldr. “Each morning, we have a short team meeting, where we look at what’s going on in the studio for that day. Our projects get broken down into tasks, but when we make a website, one task in Streamtime could get broken down in 100 tiny little to dos. So we felt we needed to have better insight into the status of each task. It would allow us to get through our morning meeting quicker and more efficiently.”

After investigating a series of possibilities, they decided to build a custom application, using the Streamtime API. Tasks from Streamtime are now synchronised with a separate mysql database, where they get assigned a status: To Do, WIP, Complete, Test. The extra status level makes it easier to keep track of what’s going on with each of the tasks. It also makes it easier to see who’s working on what and what tasks are still in the backlog (not started). Through a custom web interface, they can consult the workload at any given moment.

The main area shows the scrum board, with all the tasks they are currently working on. Tasks can be dragged and dropped in different columns to assign or change the task’s status. Each tasks showing the Streamtime job number, job name, client name, task/material, estimated time, used time and task notes. Buttons at the top of the page allow to quickly filter the scrum board on staff members.

Another area is to check capacity and shows all staff in the studio and their workload (in hours) for the coming weeks. “With the work we’d already done, it was pretty easy to create this overview, so it was like a bonus. However, when I’m meeting with a client, it does allow me to quickly assess our workload and set expectations for delivery dates”, says Martijn.

The third area is the planning board. It shows a classic calendar, listing each person’s tasks per day.

Keen to create your own tools using Streamtime’s API, then check out our documentation online.

Streamtime is No 1 in the UK: we reveal the secrets of our success

We’re well chuffed that Streamtime is officially the leading project management and time tracking solution for UK creative agencies.

The Agency 2015 Benchpress Survey was conducted by The Wow Company in February 2015 and is the UK’s biggest survey of independently-owned agencies.

So what’s put us at the top of the table? Obviously we have a product that people enjoy using, and that’s something we’ve worked really hard to achieve. However having a great product isn’t the only reason for our success. Here we outline a few of the key ingredients that we believe have helped make us the UK’s leading project management and time tracking solution.

Loving our clients and their work - we spend a lot of time with creatives. We talk to them every day. We attend and sponsor the events they go to. We immerse ourselves in design. We share inspiration via our blog.

Understanding agency culture - we understand that adding time to timesheets isn’t high on a creative’s list of things to do. We make it easy to add time so that the experience is as effortless as possible.

We also have a team of aces that have mostly come from an agency background and have our own inhouse design team.

Helpful but not overbearing - We want our clients to be experts in using our system and will help them in whatever way we can. With dedicated support and training teams on both sides of the globe, we make it easy to get the help they need, when they need it.

We listen - we encourage our users to feedback on their experiences with our product and service. We send a simple yearly survey, offer client reviews and collate feedback from support tickets and calls, this gives us an opportunity to see how clients are using Streamtime. We also encourage users to let us know if there are features they’d like to see included in our development road map. Every feature is considered by our CEO and development team.

All clients are equal - whether you’re a start-up with a couple of employees and growing, or a multinational design agency, we aim to give you the same experience and support. We also understand that needs vary and we adapt our advice and suggestions with this in mind.

We love our team - what makes Streamtime a success is our team of aces. We are very lucky to have a great work culture where the team have a lot of fun together. Whether it’s through organised work events like monthly TeamTime activities, Friday afternoon beers, personal training sessions and trips aboard or impromptu activities like a trip to the cinema after work or making a last minute video for the boss’s birthday, we’re a team that really enjoys hanging out together and we believe that is reflected in our work.

If you’d like to find out more about The Agency 2015 Benchpress Survey, you can view the survey results here.

Streamtime top 2015 creative industry survey. Again!

Streamtime is officially the leading project management and time tracking solution for UK creative agencies for the second year running.

The Agency 2015 Benchpress Survey is the UK’s biggest survey of independently-owned agencies. Conducted by The Wow Company in February 2015, the survey looks at all aspects of a creative business from how many members they have in their team to how much they charge per hour.

We’re delighted with this recognition and special thanks must go to our team who have been working really hard to bring our clients a product they can love.

If you’d like to find out more about The Agency 2015 Benchpress Survey, you can view the survey results here.

Friday Inspiration: JR

There are some of us at Streamtime that have a bit of a crush on JR. You see JR is an artist who owns the biggest art gallery in the world. He’s responsible for amazing projects like Face 2 Face in Israel and Palestine, Wrinkles of the City in Cuba and Women are Heroes in Brazil. He’s a photographer, a film maker, and the man has even done a Ballet!

While all of his work could be considered inspiring, what really stands out for me is the Inside Out Project. In 2011 JR won the TED Prize and with it he created the people’s art project. He said, “I wish for you to stand up for what you care about by participating in a global art project, and together we’ll turn the world inside out.” And just like that, the Inside Out Project was born.

Here JR outlines his plans for the Inside Out Project at TED 2011.

The project has been a huge success worldwide, with people taking up the challenge in places like Tunisia, Taiwan, Nepal and the North Pole. HBO have even made a documentary about it.

JR is someone that’s taken what he loves doing and used that to make a difference. He’s not only shared his incredible talent with the world but he’s encouraged the world to join him and that to me is pretty inspirational.

If you want to be inspired daily by this man, I recommend you follow him on instagram, you won’t be disappointed.

 

New Feature: Send and approve quotes online in Streamtime

Get in touch with our team of aces to get quoting online!

Send your clients professional looking quotes right from the web in Streamtime. Clients receive quotes instantly when you send them online, and they simply click a button to accept the quote. Add internal messages for your team, and even allow clients to comment and discuss the quote.

So what are you waiting for? It’s free for Streamtime subscribers, and we’ll help you with the setup. Get in touch with our team of aces to get quoting online!

Dublin based illustrator designs limited edition Jameson bottle

When asked by Irish Distillers, Jameson Irish Whiskey to design their fifth annual limited edition bottle, Dublin based illustrator Steve Simpson jumped at the chance.

Steve has been plying his trade for the last 30 years, so how did he feel when he was asked to pitch for the 2015 limited edition bottle?  ”I remember thinking ‘I really, really want this – if I don’t get it, it won’t be because I didn’t put enough effort into trying’. When I won the pitch I was the happiest man in Ireland. I’ve lived here for 25 years and it feels like I’ve been adopted,” he said.

Steve Simpson enjoying the fruits of his labour

Jameson has been brewed in Dublin since 1780 and Steve drew heavily on the themes of the city, with the new label featuring images of famous Dublin landmarks like Trinity College and O’Connell Bridge.

The label also includes illustrations of some Dublin icons, that Steve holds close to his heart. This video, takes a further look at the inspirations behind the design.

Daniel Lundberg, global brand director for Jameson, says: “Jameson is synonymous with its hometown of Dublin – both are steeped in heritage, have infectious, welcoming personalities and are leaders in contemporary craft, so this limited edition bottle is our way of paying homage to this great city.”

The new limited edition bottle is available now.

For all the behind the scenes work that went into this 21 month project, check out Steve’s Behance page.

Images courtesy of Steve Simpson.


Friday Inspiration: Greenpeace campaigns

Can you remember why you became a designer? That joyous day where you realised you could make an actual living out of being creative, the promise that every new day would be filled with fun and inspirational ways to meet new, stimulating briefs – all stuff that made you excited to get out of bed.

Are you still living that dream? I bet the reality for most of you is that dream has been squeezed into an awkward gap inbetween corporate stuffiness and brand guidelines. Well, last week my inspiration was reawakened, I had that feeling again – the one where you are inspired to make a difference, to contribute to something, to give something back, to change the world.

The reason for my inspiration? I was privileged to be able to listen to an incredibly motivational man, John Sauven, the Executive Director of Greenpeace UK. A well known, international environmental charity, famous for their contentious campaigns, purposefully created for maximum impact. Campaigns to cause reaction and more importantly to drive results, results like reducing deforestation figures from 27000 sq kilometres down to 4000 sq kilometres in the last 15-20 years. These staggering results mean Greenpeace are truly a force to be reckoned with.

How did they do it? Did you know that rainforests don’t have any corporate value until companies like Cargill (an international food conglomerate) destroy it to make room to grow soya beans? It was shocking to hear that they seem to have the monopoly on food production and how Greenpeace were able track the supply of soya beans from Cargill’s farms in Indonesia to Liverpool and then into McDonald’s restaurants. Fascinating, but somewhat frightening!

The vastness of this problem meant they needed the help of some of the greatest creative brains in the industry. After launching a campaign that lasted a mere 24 hours, Greenpeace got a call from McDonald’s who then committed to sign an agreement not to touch chickens that were fed on Amazon soya. They are now in the 8th year into the agreement – all of this off the back of a powerful campaign managed by a creative force for good, which not only inspires but causes action!

Similar stories can also be told for giants such as Procter & Gamble, Colgate Palmolive, Johnson&Johnson, Kelloggs, Shell, and Unilever, but the list certainly does not stop there.

This hard hitting video was asking Nestlé to “give rainforests a break” and again the campaign was a huge success.

When was the last time you had complete freedom to create design without boundaries, to be devil’s advocate and deliver a strong, fundamental message? No I can’t remember either, but your luck might be in. In his closing statement, John mentioned that they are always looking for talented creatives to join their team – so what are you waiting for?

How do you get staff to do their timesheets?

Getting staff to do timesheets is not always easy. JWT Brazil have an awesome way to reward their employees for completing their timesheets, by having an electronic lock on the beer fridge, that won’t open until all timesheets are completed.

We’d love to hear how you get your staff to do their timesheets. If you’ve got any tips simply comment below and we’ll share them in a future post.

Image courtesy of JWT Brazil.

‘The dress’ used for anti abuse campaign

In a powerful campaign for the Salvation Army in South Africa, advertising agency Ireland/Davenport have used the hype surrounding ‘the dress‘ to highlight domestic abuse.

For the full story see BuzzFeed News.

 

We’re sponsoring CreativeMornings London

In 2008, Tina Roth Eisenberg started CreativeMornings, a free breakfast lecture series for the creative community in New York City. Since then the CreativeMorning’s phenomenon has grown to 106 cities worldwide.

We think it’s important to support the creative community, particularly in the cities that we live and work in. Back in November, 2013 when there were only 60 chapters, we teamed up with CreativeMornings Sydney and now we’re proud to announce that we’re also sponsoring CreativeMornings London.

So if you’re lucky enough to have tickets to see environmentalist and executive director of GreenpeaceJohn Sauven speak in London this morning, we’ll see you there. If you missed out this time or would like to know about CreativeMornings in a city near you, then check out the CreativeMornings website for up and coming CreativeMornings.

Vince Vaughn poses for stock photography images

Need a stock image of a business environment, but your client doesn’t want to pay the fees? Well iStock might have just what you’re looking for.

To promote his latest movie, Unfinished Business, Vince Vaughn and his co stars have posed for a series of stock photography images, available for free download from iStock.

So images like “successful applauding executives sitting at the table” (seen above) can be all yours, for free!

Courtesy of Adweek.

Humans in honey

For his latest project Preservation, Blake Little has photographed the human body covered in honey, to produce some truly stunning imagery.

The folks at designboom have more on this fascinating work.

Image © Blake Little.

Friday Inspiration: ImageBrief

Every day when I open a new browser I am greeted with a fantastic, unexpected image from a professional photographer I have never heard of.

Photographer: Allison Achauer

It’s become a little ritual that I look forward to each morning, as the images are varying, quite beautiful and inspire me to view life in a more creative manner.

Photographer: Michelly Rall

The Google Chrome extension I use is called ImageBrief Daily, from ImageBrief.

Photographer: A K Dayton

ImageBrief do not provide your standard stock photography service. Instead those seeking a professional image for a project will submit a brief and budget.

Photographer: Mat Rick

Photographers from around the world in ImageBrief’s network compete for the work. It’s an interesting, fair, simple and sometimes very generous process.

Photographer: Erika Szostak

The by-product of this system is the Google Chrome extension. If you’re looking for a burst of creativity each day, I highly encourage you to look into it.

New in Streamtime Web: Save a quote as a PDF

We’ve just released an update to Streamtime Web, adding more features and improvements to online quoting.

Through Streamtime Web you can now create a PDF of a quote and send that directly to your client.

A full review of this feature can be found in the video below.

If you are not already a customer of ours why not try Streamtime Web for yourself.

If you are already a Streamtime subscriber and don’t have Streamtime Web, our Streamtime knowledge base has all the information you need to set this up, or alternatively give our support team a call for assistance, we’d love to help get this in your hands.

Friday Inspiration: Chie Mihara

Breathtaking – that’s how I would describe a pair of Chie Mihara shoes. Yes shoes are subject to personal taste, but Chie Mihara doesn’t just create shoes, she creates works of art.

Inspired by her Portuguese upbringing and her Japanese culture, Chie has created shoes that are feminine, fun and most importantly comfortable. A combination that can be difficult to get right.

She is also involved in every aspect of the design process. It starts with a sketch, then she hand picks the fabrics and materials making sure everything is the best quality. Every detail is carefully considered.

This video shows Chie and her team in action and gives you a real feel for how much love goes into a pair of Chie’s shoes.

Chie Mihara shows that no matter what you do, as long as you show commitment and passion, the results are bound to be amazing. For me, that is inspiring.

If you want to get your hands on a pair of these beauties, or even just admire them from afar they are available from the Chie Mihara online store. If you’re lucky enough to be in Sydney, check out the spectacular The Cook, His Wife and Her Shoes. Their Chie Mihara range is exclusive to them as they choose the colour combinations and designs personally for their store.

 

Friday Inspiration: Sons & Co.

Sons & Co. produce stunning work, there’s no question about that. In 2014 they picked up one gold, one silver and five bronze at New Zealand’s Best Awards and three out of four distinctions in the AGDA Design Awards Digital Design category.

But it’s not just their designs that inspire, it is also their philosophy. Speaking at AGDA NSW’s Small Talk in Sydney this week, Tim Kelleher and Matt Arnold delighted the audience with their no BS approach to business and web design.

While website design is what they do, Sons & Co. have chosen not to have a company website. They don’t have a logo, they don’t have stationery and they don’t do social media. Instead they’re all about doing great work for their clients. Matt says, “we may appear amateurish and goofy from the outside, but we put it all in behind the scenes.” As a result, they get most of their clients through word of mouth and that is just the way they like it.

When they get a brief they don’t look at it as website designers and developers, they look at it from a graphic design point of view. Tim says when they design a website they “take stuff out of the browser and ask does it work as a poster etc.”

They also have quite an unusual business philosophy. In a nutshell they:

Only work with clients that are interested in what they do.
This makes for a more harmonious relationship.

Want to be approachable and affordable
Tim and Matt believe that they can do fast, cheap and good work for clients by eliminating unnecessary workshops and meetings.

Say yes to everything that doesn’t matter
By doing this, they believe that when they say no to a client, the client knows they are serious.

Try to be social
Despite being out of their comfort zone, they realise the importance of being social. Matt says, “if you want to work with people you need to start hanging out with them.” They also believe that “if you really want to work with someone, you should just ask them.”

Don’t take themselves too seriously
If you meet Tim and Matt in person it is evident that while they take their work and commitment to clients seriously, they are down to earth, relaxed and unpretentious guys.

When they started Sons & Co. back in 2008, Tim and Matt wanted to create the kind of company that they knew they’d still be running when they were old. With this philosophy towards business and design, it looks like they’ll be in business for a long time indeed.

Money & Clients: Jacky Winter Gives You The Business

Last year we wrote a piece on talking money with clients and why it can be a difficult conversation to have.

If this is something you struggle with then get yourself down to Jacky Winter Gives You The Business this weekend in Melbourne. There you’ll get some great advice from the likes of  Katie Wellbelove, Producer from Grey Melbourne and Sharon McNamara, General Manager at SouthSouthWest who will be discussing the topic How and when do I talk about money with a client? Linda Jukic from Hulsbosch talks about How to determine your hourly rate and if that’s not enough incentive to get you there Maria Amato from Results Management will talk about that all important topic How to get paid on time.

It’s all happening this Saturday 14th and Sunday 15th February and tickets can be purchased here. The added bonus is that it runs from 11am to 4pm each day, which leaves you plenty of time to check out Supergraph (located just across the street), while you’re there.

Remember while you’re in the business of being creative, you also need to eat. This event by the team at Jacky Winter will show you how both is possible.

Photo by Michi Dixon and used under Creative Commons license.

Friday Inspiration: Factory Records

When Factory Records opened it’s doors in 1978, the music industry had never seen anything like it. Not only did the label’s artists enjoy creative freedom but so did the graphic designers that produced the album artwork. Album covers were suddenly stimulating, they had vision, they were beautiful.

Factory famously didn’t worry about budgets or deadlines. Artwork created by Peter SavilleCentral Station Design8vo and the other designers at Factory often used expensive stocks, metallic inks and die cuts in their designs. 7 inch and 12 inch formats had different artwork, even Factory’s numbering system became part of the creative process. Other record labels would never dream of doing this because of the cost involved. Working there was a designers dream.

“Why was packaging important to us? Because the job was a sacred one. Music had transformed our young lives, children of the sixties all. And now we were in the privileged position of putting out records ourselves.” – Tony Wilson, Co Founder, Factory Records (taken from Factory Records The Complete Graphic Album).

Blue Monday” (Fac 73) was probably the most famous product of this design first, profitability second policy. Designed by Peter Saville, the packaging for New Order‘s 12 inch single was more expensive than the single itself. Designed to resemble a floppy disk, it included expensive die cutting and a silver inner sleeve. There was no mention of the band’s name or even the name of the song anywhere on the cover. Instead Saville created a code using a series of colour blocks. The key to decipher this code would be found on the back sleeve of New Order’s Power, Corruption & Lies album (Fact 75), a secret code for the initiated. “Blue Monday” became the biggest selling 12 inch single of all time in the UK.

Blue Monday 12" cover

The designers at Factory Records didn’t just create album artwork, they also designed flyers, posters, stationery, Factory Records HQ, a bar, and even a nightclub. If you have the slightest interest in design (which we assume you do if you’re reading our blog) or even just want to see the artwork synonymous with the Manchester music scene of the late 70′s, 80′s and early 90′s then I recommend Matthew Robertson’s book Factory Records The Complete Graphic Album (Fac 461).

Peter Saville would later say that “Factory misled a generation into believing all designers have unlimited freedom” and that may be so. Designers may never enjoy the same creative freedom bestowed upon the Factory Records employees, but that freedom started a legacy of great, cutting edge design in the music industry and beyond.

Success is an ugly word

James Winter in action at CreativeMornings Sydney

I can’t help but feel like I was meant to be at James Winter‘s talk at CreativeMornings Sydney last Friday. James is co-founder of Brand X, a not for profit arts organisation that repurposes under-utilised space for Sydney’s performing, recording, and visual art communities to practice their craft. The topic was “Ugly” and James was gorgeous - but that’s not my point.

A bit of background: before James started I was chatting to my colleague Cam about some of the frustrations I’ve been experiencing with my band lately, especially with our songwriting process. I’ve been feeling a little constrained: we know what works with an audience and within the industry, so that’s what we write. But we haven’t tried anything new or different in ages. I didn’t join a band so I could play it safe – that’s just the antithesis of rock n’ roll! And I didn’t come here to do the same thing over and over again. I’m an artist, man! Where are my guts?

Don’t get me wrong – I know that there is a game, and I know that one’s success depends on how well you play the game. That’s business. So when James proposed at the very beginning of his talk that “success is the ugly word”, I immediately hopped on board. Then the clincher, he said we’re “obsessed with success to the point that the audience dictates what is acceptable and unacceptable.” Cam elbowed me in the arm. That’s what I’m talkin’ about, James Winter!

James argues that success is ugly because it’s the endpoint, and an endpoint is ugly because it’s daunting. First of all you have to try really hard to get there, and then when you arrive, you have to make another endpoint that’s further than where you’ve landed, and try even harder to get to that one.

An endpoint is also controlling and consuming, because you must arrive – failure is not an option. And, you must arrive within a given timeframe, because business opportunities are perishable. The danger of failing gives us a great excuse to turn to the tried and tested, fail-proof, conservative, old, lazy, boring formulas that we know will get the job done.

But where’s the fun in that? Where’s the ‘success’ in doing the same thing over and over again? James proposes that rather than chasing success, we should not just embrace, but commit to the opportunity of failing. (Hands up if you’re a Seth Godin fan).

James Winter’s investor told him that his business idea was bound to fail. But independent artists had no space to practice or perform, and James believed he should rectify that. 10 years later, Brand X is still going strong and making important contributions to the arts community.

23 major record labels refused to give Joan Jett a deal. So she founded Blackheart Records, and “I Love Rock n’ Roll” became the number 1 song on the Billboard charts for two months.

27 publishers rejected Theodor Seuss Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss’s first book. His books have now sold over 600 million copies.

Obsessing over success only solidifies our relationship with the mediocre. “When failure is allowed”, James says, “a real sense of freedom and adventure arises. That’s when great work occurs.”

All I can think of now is how fun it would be if my band walked into the studio with minds open to horrible ideas. No doubt we’d come up with a lot of crap, but who knows what gems we might develop from having journeyed through the pits of failure. Thanks for the encouragement, James Winter. Now to try and convince my people to make some mistakes like real rock n’ rollers.

Shot Composition: The Quadrant System

One for the film fans today: A really nice breakdown of shot composition in the film Drive, put together by Every Frame a Painting’s Tony Zhou.

Watch some of Tony’s other breakdowns too – fascinating and insightful.

Super Bowl XLIX advertising, not so super

I’m going to come right out and say it, I found this year’s Super Bowl ads disappointing.

Companies pay an estimated US $4 million per 30 second TVC to get air time during the Super Bowl, so you’d think they’d go all out to produce the best for their brands. However despite the plethora of celebrities and one very cute puppy, they all left me feeling a bit meh! Even the return of Walter White didn’t do it for me.

With the increasing trend for advertisers to air their wares online prior to Super Bowl Sunday, maybe the Super Bowl has lost some of it’s charm.

OK it wasn’t all doom and gloom. The Snickers “Brady Bunch” ad, gets some points for their excellent use of Steve Buscemi, he can do no wrong in my eyes; and the use of Liam Neeson‘s Taken persona in the Clash of Cans “Revenge” commercial did show some creativity. However for me, the standard of past years just wasn’t there.

But don’t let my opinions sway you. You can make up your own mind by watching all the Super Bowl ads yourselves. For me though, it was a not so Super Bowl.

 

Entering The Fashion World: Jean Paul Gaultier at NGV


Photo: Danielle Wilson

It’s not very often that you can play tourist in your own city, which is just what I got to do when I visited The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk, at the National Gallery of Victoria.

The Jean Paul Gaultier exhibition showcased 140 haute couture pieces, each outlining the materials used, including python skin and wheat, as well as the hours it took to create each beautiful creation, some in excess of 2400 hours. It was utterly amazing to see the dedication, effort and imaginativeness presented by Gaultier over the past 40 years.

The term Haute Couture is protected by French Law, as is the making of the French baguette, which our team learned in Paris last year. Haute Couture garments are handmade and the fashion house itself needs to meet a number of criteria and be approved by the Chambre de commerce et d’industrie de Paris yearly. This highly appealing art form is a splendid and longstanding part of the fashion world and fashion will always be one of the most expressive art forms.


Photo: Danielle Wilson

Alongside the magnificent garments, the exhibition included fashion sketches and stunning photographs of celebrities including Streamtime favourite, Cate Blanchett and my personal favourite, Nicole Kidman.

The exhibition is closing February 8th, so be sure you get down there this week.

New in Streamtime Web

Today we released an update to Streamtime Web, adding more features and improvements to online quoting.

These include:
• Improved load time
• New filter and refine feature for searching
• Responsive design to view quotes on any device
• Improved online access and collaboration for your clients

A full review of new features and improvements can be found in the video below.

If you’re already a Streamtime subscriber and don’t have Streamtime Web, our Streamtime knowledge base has all the information you need to set this up, or alternatively give our support team a call for assistance, we’d love to help get this in your hands.

Jeff Lloyd’s Vinyl Frontiers

Ever since I was a kid I loved music and in particular, vinyl. I remember my first bit of plastic, the smell, the look, the feel and of course the tracks. But who actually listens to an album in it’s purest form from beginning to end anymore? With the arrival of digital, MP3′s, WAVS, AAC etc. everything is so disposable and instant.

I met Jeff Lloyd sometime last year after being dragged along to the Vinyl Frontier’s Singles Challenge by my brother in law and my mate James. What is Vinyl Frontier’s Singles Challenge? Basically it’s an evening where you sit in a room with a 100+, forty-somethings listening to vinyl records on a hi-fi, while watching slides on PowerPoint, all presented by a bloke called Jeff . I thought it sounded rather dull! How wrong I was.

Here was a sold out evening, with normal people getting very excited about records, topped and tailed by probably the coolest, most knowledgeable person I have met, the amazingly patient and wonderful Jeff Lloyd. At last a place for me to chat with like minded folk about my vinyl and music addiction. After my first experience I was totally hooked. It’s a joy to know there are actually people like me who completely love and appreciate the snap, crackle and pop of sticking a needle on a record and getting lost in the whole experience. I thought it was just the DJ in me that loved vinyl, again I was wrong.

But I’m not here to talk about my vinyl obsession or discuss the difference between digital and vinyl. I want to talk about Saturday night as I was invited to be a challenger in the line up for ‘The Vinyl Frontier’s Album Challenge’. My choice was Primal Scream’s 1991 album Screamadelica. It’s the perfect fusion of indie, dance, rock & roll and electronica which oozes the “Summer of Love” vibe which was prevalent in clubs in 1988, 1989 and 1990 which was when I got seriously hooked onto dance music.

Beautifully remixed by Windsor’s Andrew Weatherall, a brilliant DJ and ambassador for the strange and wonderful. Being a Windsor lad myself, I may be somewhat biased. I had to choose a track and then give a bit of background. “Loaded” was my choice, the fabulous remix of “I’m Losing More Than I Ever Have“, an older Primals track, which Weatherall stripped right back and the use of a sample from the film Easy Rider where Henry Fonda says “We want to be free, we want to be free to do what we wanna do, and we wanna get loaded, and we wanna have a good time, and that’s what we are gonna do”. It was the sentiment and the album that defined a generation, my generation.
So the line up on the night was:
1. The Police, Outlandos d’Amour – “Next to you” (selected by Paul Maynard)
2. The Teardrop Explodes, Kilamanjaro – “Reward” (selected by Steve Carman)
3. The Zombies, Odessey & Oracle – “Time of the Season” (selected by Richard Butler)
4. Primal Scream, Screamadelica – “Loaded” (selected by Mark Cooper)
5. The Clash, Sandinista! – “Junco Partner” (selected by Adam Gurr)
6. Stevie Wonder, Songs in the Key of Life – “Love’s in Need of Love Today” (selected by Sir Cumference)
7. Junior Walker and the All-Stars, Greatest Hits – “Road Runner” (selected by Adrian Lloyd)
8. Yes, 90125 – “Owner of a Lonely Heart (selected by Tristan Batory)
9. The Cure, Disintegration – “Pictures of You” (selected by Richard Parsons)
10. U2, Under a Blood Red Sky – “New Year’s Day” (selected by Oz Osbourne)
11. The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses – “Made of Stone” (selected by Maria Ashby-Giles)
12. Aztec Camera, High Land, Hard Rain – “Oblivious” (selected by Jon Rosten)
13. Rainbow, Down to Earth – “Since You Been Gone” (selected by Jo Carman)

Each of us had to vote for three albums, first choice was worth three points, second choice was two points and third was one point. My points went to The Cure, U2 and The Clash. I chose The Cure as my colleague Kye is a huge fan. I kind of missed them in the day as I was into other bands at the time, but I found myself completely transported and wanting more. I chose U2 because they were just so raw back then when Under a Blood Red Sky came out and The Edge’s piano and guitar work on this live album are just sublime. The Clash got my last vote because I dearly love them and respected the fact someone chose a non-commercial record and a slightly obscure track, which is somewhat difficult to do when you could probably chose something else from them like “Should I Stay or Should I Go” which everyone knows. Total respect!

The winner on the night was Oz Osbourne with U2′s New Year’s Day. Although I didn’t win, it was great to be able to chat about my favourite, wonderful Screamadelica and finish with a few votes. I also learnt so much about these wonderful albums and interesting people. I now keen to listen to the rest of the albums from the night.

If you’d like to enjoy some of the tunes, here is the playlist from the night, compiled by one of the challengers.

Thought for the day – “Vinyl will never die and everyone is a DJ”.

The agency is dead. Long live the agency.

Tobias van Schneider, Product Design Lead at Spotify, chips in nicely with this addition to the ‘agency model is dead’ conversation.

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