Nellie Logsdon was my grandmother. She passed away when I was 18. But one of her many philosophies was this one. Now, by no means did she intend to say that you shouldn't apologize when you screw up. What she was really saying was, "Don't screw up." She knew how badly it sucks to have to admit when you've failed someone. Looking them in the eye and admitting that you made a mistake and then apologizing for it is really hard sometimes. And she knew that the only way to avoid it was to not make mistakes.
Well, we all make mistakes. And she knew that too. I think that a subliminal part of her message was to say that when you screw up, you MUST apologize. Some people say, "Failure is not an option." But I think she'd say, "Not admitting failure is not an option." And that's the philosophy we have at Old Hat. I cannot tell you how many times we have dealt with vendors that simply will not admit with they've screwed up. And further, they won't try to fix the mistake. Nothing could be more counterproductive to building a loyal client base in my opinion.
Old Hat turns out an absurd amount of projects in a given month. Hundreds of videos/animations, numerous websites and thousands (yes, thousands) of print projects every year. And the amount of times we just completely screw up is nearly 0%. We have many systems in place to prevent such failure. The problem is, we're human and we mess up. Not often, but we mess up. Sometimes we make the most boneheaded, inexcusable mistakes. So what do we do when that happens?
I'm sure all of you have watched a basketball game at some point and seen a player commit a foul. Most of the time, the player (like most vendors) acts like he did nothing wrong. He/she look at the ref as if to say, "Are you crazy?! That was NOT my fault." But sometimes, you'll see the player just nod his head in agreement, point at himself and take responsibility for the mistake. That's Old Hat.
When you fail, you have two choices. You can either embrace it or act innocent. Either way though, the person looking at you knows you failed. Embracing that mistake shows that you are taking responsibility for it and while you may end up looking like you failed, you certainly don't look like a failure.
How to Apologize
We screwed up recently. A couple of times, actually. First step to take when you realize you've screwed up is to do anything and everything you can do to fix it. If we make a typo on a print piece, WE call the printer to see if it's too late to send a new file. We volunteer to go back to the office at 9p on a Friday to revise the file. And if it can't be fixed, just apologize. If you can't fix the problem, at least take responsibility for it. It won't change anything but it'll sure as heck make your client feel better to know you accept responsibility. And don't be afraid to accept responsibility even when it's NOT your fault. "Yes, we just copied and pasted the information you sent us but we should have caught that." Chances are at this point that tempers are high and you should just be seeking to calm things down. The client will remember that rather than being a tool about it, you admitted fault. And it's likely that 24 hours later they'll realize that it really wasn't your fault and they'll respect you even more.
Finally, and most importantly, after a few days have passed, the person responsible for the mistake (designer, client rep, etc.) will send a handwritten note to the client further apologizing for the mistake. By this time, the client is probably totally over it. Which is the perfect time for you to apologize again. Don't just tell them you're sorry. It's imperative that you also outline the steps you will take to make sure that same mistake never happens again. They care that you're sorry... but they care even more that you're not going to let it happen again. They need to be reassured that this isn't going to be a reoccurring thing.
Nellie was right
Your best bet is to follow Nellie's advice and just never screw up. But when you do, nod your head and point at yourself.
A former supervisor of mine used to say "I don't mean to brag but I'm terrific" when asked how he was doing. That's kinda what I'm doing here. Though I'm coming up on my six-month anniversary here at Old Hat, I'm still the new guy - someone who is still learning things and picking up new skills. Even before I got here, I knew this place turned out an amazing amount of quality projects in a variety of areas. You saw several of the great intro videos in yesterday's blog, so here are a few pieces I grabbed from the print realm. With the recent start of hoops season, I'll limit these to some of our most recent basketball schedule posters.
As a graphic designer I'm always on the look out for creative inspiration and reasons to quit having a bad attitude. Most of the time the inspiration comes visually, like this package design for a box of golfballs or this graphic from Sunday Night Football.
But other times the inspiration comes in the form of music. For me, music is just as important to the design process as the visual inspiration. It's my secret weapon. It's what gets my creative juices flowing. Below is my official "Design Jamz" (with a Z cause that's cool) Spotify Playlist. Chance are, if I designed your poster and it was awesome, I was listening to one of these songs… if it wasn't awesome, I was probably listening to NPR. Sorry about that. I'll be sure to listen to one of these songs next time. I promise.
I don't have a ton of memories from spending time with my father growing up. He was in a car accident when I was 6 that nearly killed him and for a couple of years, he was incapable of doing much in the way of the typical father-son things. And even after he had fully recovered, he was never the type of father to sit down on the floor with me and play a game. He worked hard all week and then on the weekends he worked harder (I grew up on a farm). This is not to say that my father failed in any way. I think he still spent more time with me and my siblings than a lot of fathers do. And he was a great dad. I'm just saying that due there wasn't just a ton of one-on-one time. Therefore, the memories I do have of time with my father are held very precious to me. Three to four times per year, he would drive me the hour-long trek from Guthrie, OK to Norman to see the Sooners play football. It was the Switzer era and there was no bigger fan of Brian Bosworth than I was. I was equally as excited to go to the 2-3 OU men's hoops games each season. Wayman Tisdale, Mookie Blaylock, Tim McAlester... All my heroes. But I don't think anything was better than when he'd take me to Stillwater to see OU play Oklahoma State in basketball. Gallagher-Iba Arena held all of about 37 people back then and there were typically 4 OU fans in the entire crowd. I was one of them for about 8 years in a row. I'll never forget those times and because of those moments, I have passed that along to my own sons. I want them to have those same memories I have.
Years after I started Old Hat, I finally decided to sit down and figure out our mission. What is our purpose? Why do we do what we do? I had pondered that many, many times and for some reason it was never obvious to me. But all at once it became very clear why we are here and why I started Old Hat to begin with. Almost every person I speak to, whether they are sports fans or not, have some memory of a sporting event that they will never forget. Whether it's just driving to track meets with their dad, attending the World Series or simply playing little league, I've never met a person that didn't have a great sports memory that nearly brings tears to their eyes thinking about. And those people ALWAYS remember exactly who they were with.
Sports brings people together. It provides opportunities for fathers to create lifelong memories with their sons. It allows people to share great moments with their brothers, sisters, mothers, friends, etc. And we get so wrapped up in it that the emotion often turns into embraces and tears of joy. And all of the stresses of life are temporarily invisible.
THAT is why we do what we do. At Old Hat we have the opportunity to be a part of that. We can amplify that experience for people. Whether it's helping get people in the seats to begin with or making they experience better once they arrive, we are a part of creating memories for literally millions of people every year. I take great satisfaction in that.
As a guy who designs posters for a living, I can't help but notice them everywhere I go. I see them in restaurants, on the street corner and even my kid's school (comic sans anyone?). Most of the time I hardly pay any attention to them because they all look like this.
But when I go to the movies, I always make a point to stand outside the theater and look at all the posters for the movies showing inside. In the past, movie posters were vibrant, unique pieces of art. Each one had the potential to become as memorable as the movie itself. Posters designed by Saul Bass (Vertigo) and Greg and Tim Hilderbrandt (Star Wars) are now considered classics of cinema.
However, these days the folks that design movie posters have gotten lazy. Instead of creating an imaginative, engaging poster to advertise the movie, these designers re-hash the same old poster over and over again. For every type of movie there is, it gets the standard Hollywood poster design to go along with it.
What's that? You need a poster for a super hero movie? Ok, how about the hero standing on a ledge? Maybe over looking the city he's sworn to protect? Not moody enough for you? Ok, how about rain? Yeah! Lots of rain!
Oh, your movie is a "buddy comedy"? Ok, how about the stars standing back-to-back with goofy looks on their faces? Because nothing screams "We're in this together" like that!
Hmm. You’re making a quirky, independent movie? Ok, that's easy. Those are supposed to be yellow.
I know how hard it can be to design a memorable poster. It's not as easy as it looks. It takes a lot of creativity, talent and work. Movie posters today seem to lack even the slightest bit of creativity. They're boring and unimaginative and rely too heavily on cliché design motifs and templates. However, there is a small movement among artist and graphic designers to re-imagine the movie poster, to give them new life. The folks over atAlternative Movie Posters http://www.alternativemovieposters.com/ are artist in the true sense of the word (not just some dufus playing around in Photoshop, like me and probably most of the movie poster designers). These artists are able to distill the essence of a movie into just a few iconic images. They're fun, creative and interesting to look at. It's a far cry from the same poster you've seen over and over again at your local movie theater.
My life literally revolves around websites, well at least my work life. Everything we do is working towards our next project. The processes we have built are setup to make us better at our job. The funny thing to me is we established the processes based on websites we have built for everyone but Old Hat Creative. Now it is time to build a site for Old Hat…
Project Initiation: To me this was the most interesting aspect of building our new site.The last Old Hat site was completed before I worked for the company, before a lot of the people who now work here were here.Everyone who has any stake in the site, had an opinion about what it needed or did not.Features that were important (Random Animal Noises) and those that were not (I know he is disappointed but we did remove the Date with Geoff from our store).My job going into this is to be able to listen to what everyone wants and turn it into what everyone needs.Each division needs the website for a different reason and all of Old Hat needs it for the same reason.
Information Gathering: At this point we have heard a generalized description of what everyone wants.We know what is most important as a whole but need to drill down to why.Why does our CMO want to be able to send people directly to a page with our entire on site photo shoots?Why does my developer want to change the way we input and organize our client list?Why does Zac love those animal noises?
Within each change there is a goal that someone has in mind. My developer wants to change how clients are organized. Our CMO wants to be able to market easier. She wants to have a list of products we have easily accessible with quality images that explains why YOU might need that product. She wants us to be able to sort everything we do, quickly and easily. Zac really just likes animals… I guess.
As I mentioned before each request has an end goal. We may not always be able to give them exactly what they want but we can give them what they need. Maybe we do not give each product a page but give each page a sorting option. Allow people to pick and choose how they want to sort things so they can easily find the examples of products they need. Change the way we input content and clients so it is easier to build the database to hold all of that information.
Presentation of Concepts: Now that I have listened to everyone, it is time to start building this out.Dustin is incredibly important in all of this.He is THE web designer and had the opportunity to listen to what everyone wanted as well.He now has to turn all of these requests into something pretty.
This is where decisions start to get made and requests start to get culled. Some things are over kill. Why do we need to link to twitter four times and have a feed on the home page? Dustin is great at visualizing the site as we have these conversations and always produces something amazing. Unfortunately, his amazing design is not the end of the road because regardless of what he designs it still has to function. After he completes every design we sit down with our developers and walk them through how we envision the functionality.
This is the part of the process where there is the most give and take. We want it to look this way but it will hurt the functionality. Developers think in terms of programming and functionality, not always design. Development is always a chore and we want to make sure the design we use makes sense to the users, while functioning like everyone needs it to. In the end however, this is a project that we all get excited about. Rarely do we get the opportunity where our developers can do fun things. If you are reading this blog, you know Old Hat and you know that we have fun but a site like this is fun because it challenges our team. It gives them the opportunity to do something they never get to do and if there is a new programming technique that most website budgets cannot afford; they might get the chance to do it. Our developers always want to do something awesome but some times they have to be realistic.
Every website is different. No matter what, there is some different aspect that will change with each site. This is a big reason why we use Drupal. It is an open source CMS and allows our developers to build custom modules or take existing ones to make changes.
After the brainstorming, the planning, and debating it is time to present the first drafts of the site to everyone involved.
Revisions: I have a love/hate relationship with this step in the process.We talked with the stakeholders about what they wanted and planned for their requests.In a perfect world, we nail it, and there are no revisions.Pigs also fly, there are never tornados in Oklahoma, and Robert’s hair looks like that as soon as he wakes up.
Back to reality, there are always revisions, usually, about two rounds of revisions. Everyone has a vision of what their requests will look like and those visions may not match Dustin’s. Sitting down with the stakeholders at this point is good for everyone. We will walk them through the design, explain the functionality, and make sure we have included the important elements. Once we go over it, we take their revisions and go back to Photoshop.
Production of Deliverables: After we have concluded the revisions stage and have received the design approval, it is time to start programming.Before we start programming we usually sit down with the developers to map out how we will program the site.Talk about what aspects are most important and look at the time frame we have.
Programming for most websites is a four-week process. Programming for the new Old Hat site has been a seven-week process. Typically other projects come up in the middle and our developers have to bounce around but big projects always mean someone may be working on the same site for the next two months.
Once we finish the initial build it is time to start testing. There are entirely too many web browsers available. Of course there are the major players; IE, FF, and Chrome but then there are many other obscure browsers out there. We only test the two most recent versions of the major browsers. Fonts render differently in each browser. There are a few standards but you never know what IE is going to present you with. There is a reason you will NEVER catch a developer using IE. We still have to look at the site on different computers, browsers, and devices to make sure it looks good. We also have to go through the entire site on those other browsers to make sure the important content is available no matter how you look at the site.
Once the testing is done and we have checked for other errors we send the link to the client and have them go through the site. This usually causes us to go into another testing phase as we try to recreate any issues the client is seeing on their end.
Delivery (TODAY!!): Old Hat Interactive mostly delivers its products to the web.Launch day can be both exciting and nerve racking.Typically, I wake up at least once in the middle of the night before launch day, worried about some aspect of the site I forgot or we did not build.It is always a challenge to keep myself from calling a developer.That is part of the excitement of launch day.We get to help our clients display a new website to the world.Something we built will be visited by 100’s of people that day and our work will be tested throughout that time.We work with our clients to determine a time for the launch and make sure everything is setup properly.
Today we launch the new Old Hat site. It has definitely been a process. In the end we created something that should help everyone on our staff as well as our clients. Take a look around, see what you can find, and let us know what you think.