So yesterday was my day to blog, and I completely forgot because I got wrapped up in a new Old Hat Project that is really, really cool!  I am not going to say too much about it, but will give you a clue.  It involves neat logos like these:

So why to picture of my dog in the snow?! Because nothing is as cool as my dog in the snow!

 

Yesterday at our mid-year Staff Infection, Zac asked us to pick a project from 2014 we worked on or worked with that we really liked. This list could really go on and on as there are hundreds to pick from. A few projects mentioned yesterday are still being finalized and are almost ready for release - stay tuned as more great stuff is always coming out of this place! And like a parent with their children, it's hard to pick a favorite. But here are some of the highlights…

 

Zac, Kevin and Ashley - Fangage quizzes

These were designed for Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas A&M and Baylor plus one for Old Hat

 

Tanner - Varsity O Club website

 

Dustin and Stevie - Cincinnati video shoot 

Kelby - Exposure stories on our video shoots

Hannah - Various video shoots and visiting clients including traveling to some new places this year such as Wyoming or Central Arkansas

Deb and Robert - UNT Derby

A close second for Deb was the Wyoming football intro with time lapse of the Wyoming landscape

Jessica - Duke men's basketball floor projection

and here's a clip of the animation in action.

Huff -Texas Tech Fearless Fan campaign

Geoff - Georgetown men's basketball poster

Jared - Frisco College Baseball Classic logo

Tricia - Old Hat 10th Anniversary posters

Douglas - Utah Gymnastics campaign

Justin (me) - Florida State men's basketball media guide

2014 has been a busy year for me at Old Hat. I have been fortunate to work on close to 300 projects this past year. One of my favorite parts about working for Old Hat is the variety of clients I get to work with. It is always fun and interesting to collaborate with the clients and our designers to bring their vision to life. In 2014 I was able to work with many great people across 29 different organizations. Here's a small sampling of the many great projects I got to work on in 2014.

Bethune-Cookman Football Poster

Charlotte Poster Template

 

Duke Cameron Indoor Stadium Commemorative Logo

ECU Undaunted Campaign Videos

Florida State Men's Basketball Poster

Marist ESPN3 Broadcast Animation

Minor League Baseball Cap Poster

 

Yale Kids Club Logo

I'm already excited about projects planned for 2015 and can't wait for another great year!

Good Monday morning folks! Man, is that not a SWEET title graphic?

Okay, so it's somewhat obvious that I'm NOT a graphic designer. BUT, I do work with a few of them here at the Hat, and I gotta tell ya, they've been bustin' it out this summer.

In my last blog I talked about the amount of work we've done over just the last year, and went on about how we're the experts in our field. Rest assured, none of that has changed, but it's been on my mind for a while to figure out what it is that makes some of our work better than other work. Oh sure, we can't always do the very absolute best project ever created in the history of mankind, but that's at least what we're shooting for. So why isn't everything the best?

Over my 8+ years of working at Old Hat, there have been a couple times that a client has mentioned they didn't feel they were getting the same level of design as other clients; that perhaps, because a client is a big-time university, they might be getting our best possible work while others are getting the run-of-the-mill stuff. Now I know design is very subjective, and unless you have The Design Spectrometer 400TL, it's really hard to gauge the level of design you're getting from a designer. That's why we always scan and document the results for each design using the DS400. By doing so, we can ensure that each poster gets equal amounts of athletic aptitude, branding recallability, design and structural interface integrity, and love. Yeah, you know what, I made that part up about the DS400. I thought we had started doing that but apparently not.

Okay, so seriously... why is it that some work is better? I've gotta say, I think these two graphs tell the story. Before you get upset and send me hate emails, know that I realize clients don't actually perceive things the way that I have them in the first graph. This is a dramatization intended to make a point. Or maybe some clients and others not familiar with the creative process actually DO think this is the best method. In that case, I would ask that you study the second graph.

Here's a quick breakdown of the graph below:

- The level of quality goes from low to high as the client provides input. Simple graph: more input equals better quality, regardless of how much or what type of input a client gives (content or design related). This is what I would call the "perceived" best design practice. And just to be absolutely clear, this is wrong.

 

The graph below is what I'm calling the actual best design practice. And here's a brief explanation:

- Quality goes up as input is received, similar to the first graph, up to a certain point. The point at which the quality starts to take a downturn is generally when clients move across that imaginary border I'd call the design line. In this graph, that's represented by the Ideal Input line. Providing all the pieces to the puzzle is great, but as the experts, we then have to take those pieces and put it together in a way that screams AWESOME!!

- The Quality level is represented by the upside-down U (downward parabola for you math folks), because having little or no info is probably not going to lead to a great result. In the same way, having too much information or design direction (after you get past that design line) is not going to lead to a great result either.

So what's the ideal amount of input? Honestly, it will probably vary from project to project and client to client. As a general rule, when we have as much content and direction necessary to effectively communicate your message, combined with the freedom to creatively enhance that message. That, my friend, is the ideal amount of input.

 

 

I don't want to overstate the difficulty or importance of my job but man, art is hard.

Sure, I'm not slaving away in the hot summer sun working construction. Nor am I tasked with making decisions that will ultimately affect the lives of others. Once, I came home and told my wife what a hard day I'd had and without missing a beat my daughter asked "Why? Did someone try to kill you?". Well, no. Not exactly. It's not "hard" in that sense. I mean, there are varying degrees of difficulty right?

I'm lucky enough to work in an air conditioned office, sit in a comfortable chair and be surrounded by a fun and creatively stimulating environment. However, this job, at times, can be mentally exhausting. 

Everyday I'm asked to created something new. Something that up until I start working on it, has never existed… ever.  Often times, it's something I've never even thought about. And the thing is, these things have to be created out of thin air, on the spot. Every time I sit down to design something, my goal is to come up with something better than whatever it was I did last time.

BUT, art is a purely subjective form of expression...

Even though art is subjective, there are a hand full of rules designers try to stick to. You know that old saying "You need to know the rules before you go and break them"? Yeah, that applies here. But because of its subjectivity, what looks good, what "pops" or what looks cool to one person may not look cut it for another. The problem is, not everyone understands art or design. They don't understand "the rules", the thought and considerations that go into a design. They don't understand why certain decisions were made or why things need look the way they do. This can make things very difficult. Things get compounded when you introduce more people into the equation, each with their own idea about what good art/design is and how to achieve it… and somehow, I have to figure out a way to please everybody all while trying to break as few design rules as possible and that, my friends, is why ART IS HARD...

I'm so thankful to be working in the sports industry. It's fun. It's fast-paced. It's entertaining. It's something different every day. And it's a challenge. Chances are if you're reading this, you're working in the sports industry yourself, and you share these sentiments.

From time to time, I forget what makes us a great company, what it is that sets us apart from other creative agencies and freelancers. I forget how good our people are at what they do. I forget how difficult it must be to produce new materials each and every day, yet give each project its own unique identity. But it's the experience of creating new projects each day that makes us the experts at what we do. If you look at popular theory (Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers and others), expertise comes through repetition. Basically, by the time you put in 10,000 hours doing any one thing, you've become an expert in that field. That equates to roughly five years of doing 40-hour work weeks to become an expert.

Old Hat has experts on staff. We've got print designers, developers, animators and (don't forget) client service reps with that kind of experience. It goes beyond that though. Our designers, developers and animators aren't just simply putting in hours to gain expertise. It starts with talented people that push themselves, which in turn causes those around them to work harder (iron sharpens iron). That's a benefit we have that you won't get from freelancers and in-house designers. That's not to say they can't create great work and aren't experts themselves, but I'd put our team of experts against an individual any day.

If you look at the sheer volume of work Old Hat produced in 2013, you might realize what I've realized: 1) how difficult it must be to constantly push ourselves to greatness and 2) how our experience continues to keep us the best at what we do.

So what is that volume of work? Let's see what we did in 2013, and this is by no means an exhaustive list, just some of the common projects we work on daily.

PRINT

Posters - 353

Schedule cards - 146

Ads- 63

Tickets - 49

Billboards - 25

Magnets - 34

 

LOGOS: 71

WEB projects (some full sites, some updates to existing sites): 64

VIDEO

Intro Videos - 73

Commercials - 54

Animations - 63

 

Photo/Video Shoots: 19 full day shoots, 7 half days

 

I think the evidence speaks for itself. So if you ever wonder if we're truly equipped to handle your next project, just trust us, we know what we're doing.

 

 

Quitters never win.  Winners never quit.  What a load of crap.  Sure, if you're running a race and you quit in the middle of it, you're not going to win.  But some people subscribe to the notion that quitting is a bad thing, in all situations.  "You can't just jump ship when things get tough or don't go the way you want."  Of course you can.  And thankfully, studies are now showing that you SHOULD.

"Learn to appreciate the upside of quitting.  Because you can't solve tomorrow's problem if you're not willing to abandon today's dud." - Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner in Think Like a Freak

Now I'm not advocating that anyone quit on something at the first sign of dissatisfaction.  That would be counterproductive.  But I do believe (and the people at Freakonomics agree) that we should all be more willing to pull the metaphorical plug a little earlier on things when we know we're unhappy.  There's this notion of "sunk cost" that keeps us fighting losing battles which ultimately end up causing even greater dissatisfaction and 6 months down the road, you wish you had just quit 6 months ago.  When we have sunk time, energy, money, etc. into something, we hold onto it hoping things will turn around.  And we SHOULD... to an extent.  But there's a point at which we know that we need to just call it quits but we continue with it because we've already invested so much time in it.

I've always subscribed to the philosophy that when faced with a decision, you should do what you'll regret the least... not necessarily what you want the most.  So before you go off and quit something, the first thing you wanna do is make sure you're not going to regret it later. So I'm definitely not advocating quitting something without giving it a LOT of thought and consideration.  But once you've figured out in your head that your future is not in that job, relationship, situation, etc., end it immediately.  You'll be glad you did.

Disagree?

When was the last time you quit something that didn't end up being a good decision?  If it's happened a lot, then maybe you're one of those people that makes decisions like this without giving it enough thought.  For me, I can't think of a single time that I quit anything where I regretted it for a single second.  Are there things I miss?  Sure.  Would I have loved to stay in that situation if it had been salvageable?  You bet your hiney.

When I was in eighth grade, I hated school.  Absolutely despised it.  And a lot of it had to do with the school I was in.  That school was fine for some people but for me, it was pure hell.  So I quit going there.  I transferred to a different school where I had a great experience, met lifelong friends and met the eventual mother of my children.

When I worked for the OU Athletics Department, I eventually got to the point where I knew I had reached my potential there.  I was not happy.  People told me I was absolutely NUTS for wanting to quit.  I had a good, reliable job working for a university, doing what I loved and getting to go on free Bowl trips every year.  But I quit.  And it was one of the best decisions I've ever made.  I now own the nation's premiere sports creative agency and am infinitely more satisfied with my career.  And when the time comes when I'm not, I'll probably quit this too.

I've quit other things, too.  Personal relationships... Professional relationships... I quit holding on to the idea that I can grow a nice head of hair and just decided to buzz it all off.  Point is, not only do I not regret anything I've ever quit, I'm much happier because of those things.

Think Like A Freak

Still don't believe me?  That's okay.  But you should read the latest book by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubnar, Think Like a Freak.  They spend an entire chapter on this and do it way more justice than I have.  The point they make (and the one I'm trying to make), is that quitting is okay.  And for the most part, it leads to greater satisfaction in life. 

Dear Old Hat Staff: Please don't quit.

I sincerely hope that this blog hasn't inspired anyone on my staff to quit.  That would suck.  But only because my assumption is that if I've inspired them to quit, they have to have been unhappy here for some time.  And THAT is what would bother me.  All I want for any of my staff is that they are as happy as they can possibly be.  And if quitting their job would lead to greater happiness, I would encourage them to rip the band-aid off and move on to the next phase of their lives.  

Sincerely,

Zac

P.S. But seriously, Old Hatters... don't quit your jobs.  This philosophy applies to everyone but you. 

 

It's my final day in the office before we depart (Sunday) for Orlando for what will be our 10th NACMA.  The photo above is from our first ever NACMA when I was the only employee at Old Hat and we only had about 4 clients.  I always get nostalgiac around NACMA time because I think back to where we started and how far we've come.  That first booth was a pop-up that took about 10 minutes to assemble.  It was made of carpet and I velcroed just about every decent project I had ever designed to it. I had to ask a friend of mine to come with me to Orlando to help out as I had no employees.  I didn't even pay him, I don't think.  Just offered him a free trip to Orlando.  Thanks Cory!  Now, we more than 25 employees and every year I have to decide who gets to/has to go.

That first booth and all our materials fit into two plastic cases on rollers.  Cory and I checked them on our flight and rolled them through the airports, onto the car rental shuttle and into the exhibit hall to set them up.  The booth space was 10' by 10' which was more than enough room to showcase our company.  Today, our booth is 20' by 20' and it takes a U-Haul to get it there.  It will take us a few hours to assemble it all and we spent months in preparation for it.

In year one, Old Hat Design Company was a print design shop.  We did posters, brochures, schedule cards... And I designed ever single thing we produced.  Today we have six divisions that will be marketed at NACMA.  Print Design, Interactive, Productions, Consulting, Branding and Capture.  And I don't design anything that any of those divisions produce.

NACMA is always a reminder of what we have accomplished in the past ten years and it's quite humbling to think about.  To say that I couldn't have done it alone is the understatement of the century.  The people, both internally and externally, that got us to where we are are too numerous to count.  But they know who they are and I offer a heartfelt THANK YOU to all of you.  

Please stop by and say hello at the booth next week.  And take a mental picture of what it looks like.  If we do as well the next 10 years as we did in the first 10, we might be occupying the entire exhibit hall.

Do you watch the NFL draft?  I will be honest and say that I never do.  I follow the NFL from a distance and will watch the occasional game, but the draft?  I just cannot get into watching the spectacle.  

This year, several Aggies will most likely be drafted in the first round.  I do care where they end up and will check online to find out, but there is no way I am going to sit down and watch two hours of commercials to see 32 names called.  

What does interest me about the draft is how brands try to maximize their presence.  I know there will be commercials and the NFL will have most ambush marketing on lock down, but when brands know people are watching, how will they try to take advantage?  Will we see a suit designer tweeting out every time one of their suits walks across the stage?  Will Under Armour or Adidas ask an athlete to get a face tattoo?  If that happens, what do you think the going rate is for an athlete to brand themselves?  I would think the face is prime real-estate and probably draws a higher price.  What about a giant swoosh in the side of someone’s hair?

This is what interests me about the draft.  It is an unveiling of the people who different companies will use for the next 3-7 years to try to sell us products.  Are they making the right choice by investing in Johnathon Manziel or should they have investing in Jadeveon Clowney? Only time can really answer that question. 

The one thing I do know is that there will be more than one hug from an NFL executive that resembles this….

My wife's car has been in the shop for the past few days.  A few weeks ago the entire suspension system had to be replaced.  That was awesome.  Problem is, the computer component that regulates said suspension system was bad and that's what was causing the suspension problems to begin with.  So a month later, it had to be replaced again.  Under warranty... no big deal.  BUT, that computer component had to be replaced as well so that was another sum of money I hadn't really planned on forking over.  Anyway, the fella at the auto shop told me that the dealership had to reprogram the thing.  They installed it and were to take it over to the dealership first thing Monday for reprogramming.  I'd have it back by end of day Monday.

So Monday comes and I hear nothing from them.  End of day Monday comes and I finally call to see what's up.  No one answers.  So I literally run to the place from work (as I have no automobile) to try to get there before they close.  I arrive and find the guy leaving the place.  I flag him down and give him some version of, "WTF, mate?"  He says, "Oh, man... I totally forgot to call the dealership."  Too late to get the car by this point, I'm another day without the car.  I've already been without it for 5 days and have made due.  But based on his promise that I'd have it back Monday, I made plans for Tuesday that required me AND my wife to have our own automobiles.  And all those plans were shot because dude "forgot" to call the dealership.  It's not like he just couldn't get the job done or that a new problem came up and the project was delayed.  He forgot.

And that made me mad.

Old Hat has many core principles and a brand promise that I've blogged about.  But man... none of that matters if you don't follow the one rule that should be common sense.  Do what you say you're going to do.  And if for some reason you can't, do anything you can do to make it right.  And that's another area that my auto shop failed.  He didn't do what he promised.  And made no attempt to make it right.

I run into so many businesses that stay afloat despite their inability to follow this rule.  They might not be Fortune 500 companies but they've been in business for many years.  But time and time again, they don't do what they say they're going to do. And it boggles my mind that they are still around.  But what that tells me is that if these people can stay in business, think about how successful they could be if they just did what they said they'd do.  

This blog seems like more than a rant than anything offering any real direction.  But I guess what I'm saying is that if you own a business... if you work in a business... if you want to be succesful in whatever it is you're doing... Do what you say you're going to do and your path to success will be a lot smoother.

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