27 Apr

Why data is more than just numbers

Quick thought: When I’m delivering a training session, or talking to clients, I try to avoid using the term ‘data’ and instead use the word ‘information’.

 

Many clients and trainees fall into the trap of thinking that data means numbers, whether that’s sales figures, yearly activity data or survey results. However, it’s more useful to think of data as information  – which can cover anything from times and dates, locations, systems, lists of names … anything that can inform.

 

In the same way we can turn statistics into charts, so:

– place names can become maps
– dates and times can become timelines
– systems can become diagrams

 

Adding this non-statistical information to your visuals can help the readers engage with your content. If they’re naturally put off by numbers (as many people are), they may be attracted by a map or diagram alongside them. Adding extra content can also give the reader more rounded information, by adding context to the story. For example, seeing where your offices are located may help the reader understand differences in sales patterns.

 

The benefits of adding non-statistical information to your graphics

 

– more context for the reader
– delivers a more rounded insight into the statistics
– more appealing to readers deterred by statistics

 

If you’re working on an infographic or data visualisation, don’t forget about the other information around this subject. It could make all the difference.

20 Apr

Studio Diary: 20 Apr 2016 – new ideas and girlpunks music

noun_calendar_404 20 April 2016
06:00am
noun_map-pin_394189My desk
Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham
Listening to:
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Quick update today – half day in the office finishing off a project then heading home (for a change of scenery) to work on some admit bits and pieces.

 

screenshotArts research
Final day of work on this mapping project, which has turned into a bit of a report layout job. This has led me to consider offering layout as an additional service. I’ve always turned work like that down, but I really enjoyed tinkering with this clients text, and whilst there wasn’t time (or permission) to do a full rework, even some colours, smart font choices and smarter ways to show data has made all the difference.

 

That’s it for design for today. Going head home and get on with some admin tasks

 

– blog post on Report Beautifying (defiintely needs a new name)
– finances – I tend to throw all my accounts in Tableau and visualise them because I’m a data nerd!
– rework some PDF’s I give to attendees of my training sessions on Tableau, Piktochart and RAW. They’re a bit out of date and could do with redesigning. I’m then going to offer them as incentives to sign up to my mailing list. Which reminds me …
– I need to write my first email for my mailing list  :-S

 

Over + out

 

 

19 Apr

Studio Diary: 19 Apr 2016 – Levellers, text-wrangling and hi-res images

noun_calendar_404 19 April 2016
10:45am
noun_map-pin_394189My desk
Jewellery Quarter, Birmingham

 

noun_teapot_21591noun_teapot_21591noun_coffee-pot_1054noun_teapot_21591noun_coffee-pot_1054noun_teapot_21591

 

I’m working on a couple of fairly straightforward infographic projects today. I prefer to have several projects on the go at a time – it means I always have something to work on, even if some are with clients for review.

 

screenshotArts report
I’m creating 5 A4 graphics to be inserted into a Word report. These 5 pages are made up of stylised maps (of a town, a region and the UK) with points referring to a directory of artists / organisations. Working over several pages has been interesting (most of my work is single page) and wrangling this much text has been fun. I’ve also got to use cute icons and to aid navigation across the page.

 

 screenshotRecruitment one-pager
18 months ago I worked with a Birmingham recruiter to create a series of infographics to share their key statistics and contact details. Now I’ve been asked to modify one of the pages for a different department. My design skills have improved in 18 months and I’m having to fight the urge to redesign the whole thing. I’m also getting to work with a subtle texture on the page, which really adds something special to the image.

 

screenshotPublic health survey
This has been a long running project with some major rethinks along the way. We’re 99% there, and after toying with data visualisations and interactive tools, we’ve now settled on a set of 3 infographics to show the key data from this sexual survey. I’ve wanted to use a hi-res photo background for an infographic for a while, and the image worked perfectly. Bonus that it was one of my 7 free images from Adobe Stock.

 

15 Apr

Is Agile design the answer to ‘free pitching”?

For several years I’ve been testing and trying different pricing structures for my freelance design work. However, one area I’ve been looking to explore is agile pricing.
The problems I’m hoping to solve are:
– new clients asking for ideas as part of a ‘pitch process’
– scope creep kicking in and pushing the project over budget, with no clear grounds for me to increase the price
– addition of new items
– blurring between the various stages so unclear when I can resort to my “I charge more for changes in this stage” caveat

What is Agile?

If a project is agile, it is broken down into “sprints”, each of which has a defined and tangible deliverable, in my case, a wireframe, image or report. With a tangible outcome, we can also attach a pre-agreed price to that ‘chunk’ of work.
Each section is priced up during the sprint before it – to allow for changes in scope.

The Positives

– setting a price for each ‘sprint’ (including initial consultation) will mean I am paid for any work I do, even if the client takes it no further.
– currently my initial suggestions are made with a single pre-defined outcome based on quote price, this allows for more flexibility as we (the client and I) explore the project.
– it is an easy entry point for clients not 100% sure about working with me
– we can easily discuss and price-up changes that arise during each sprint
– if it’s not working for either party and the project does not reach completion, I still get paid for the work done – often not possible to quantify with a flat rate job with one outcome

The Negatives

– it is an unusual approach for design work and might confuse / deter clients
– charging for ‘ideas’ may put some clients off from the outset
– as with hourly – clients may be unwilling to enter into a project with an unknown final price. The solution here may be to offer an estimate or even a Max price.
What are your thoughts? Do you, as a designer, use this method?
13 Apr

Relocating as a freelancer

 

I’m about to relocate 3 hours across the country from Birmingham to Brighton. To my American readers that may not seem very far (I know people who’ve moved from New York to LA), but it’s still a big deal to me. I’ve been talking about moving for about 3 years and I’m not going to lie – the main reason it’s taken me so long to actually do it, is my business.

 

I’ve been extremely lucky to have worked with some great people in and around Birmingham. It’s a big city strong communities in the digital, arts, heritage and local authority fields. I’ve done interesting projects and had great feedback, and so word has spread and I now have clients all over the country.
However, this hasn’t stopped the concerns.

– Will my current clients keep me on, once I’ve moved?
– Will my current cheerleaders (my network in Birmingham) continue to spread the word about me?
– How easy will it be to meet new people, and potential clients, in Brighton?
– Will my freelance business take a hit after I’ve moved?

 

Here’s my advice:

Keep people informed
Current clients – Back in December I emailed my largest clients and let them know I’d be moving. Word was starting to get out and I wanted to assure them that I would continue to be available for future work. Several of them messaged back, wishing me luck and saying they’d continue to book me in the future.

New clients – Since deciding to move I’ve had several new Birmingham-based clients come on board. I’ve been up-front with them about the relocation and assured them that I’ll still be available (apart from on my move day!)

Via my website / social media – I’ve kept more public discussions of my move under wraps until a little closer to me leaving. I was concerned that it may put people off contacting me about new work.

 

Find a co-working space
Joining a co-working space will be a great way to meet new people, both socially and for work purposes. Brighton has several to choose from but I’ve settled with The Skiff, which seems to have a laid back vibe and a digital/tech-heavy membership. It also means I get membership to the Wired Sussex network, which means more people and access to jobs and projects forums.  I’m planning to visit the The Skiff 2.5 days a week, and will work from home for the rest of the time. Hopefully with a cat.

 

Find other communities
I’ve used meetups.com to find relevant groups in Brighton, and joined them. I”m not even there yet and my diary is full of things to get along to, when I land. These are a mix of work-related and personal interest groups.

 

I’ve also volunteered myself to help revive Brighton Hacks and Hackers which should be a lot of fun and great way to meet people.

 

Lurk like crazy
Social media has been great and tapping into the Brighton scene from a distance, although it was been more successful for my social life than my work life, at the moment. I’ve:
– set up a Brighton Instagram account  – no posts yet but following a lot of bars, pubs, cafes, magazines + venues.
– made a Twitter list of creative and digital organisations and people across the city

 

Save up
I’ve had a good couple of years and have managed to save some money in my business account, so I can pay myself and keep my things running for 5/6 months. Hopefully it won’t come to that but it means I won’t have to take any old job that comes along and I can actually spend some time enjoying my new life in Brighton.

 

 

Comments disabled but let me know your thoughts via Twitter

 

08 Apr

This week: waiting waiting waiting

w/c 4 Apr 2016

 

It’s all about waiting this week.

 

 

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MOVE DATE

I’m in the middle of selling my flat in Birmingham and relocating to Brighton, on the south coast. As with any move there is a huge list of things that need to be done – not the least is packing. However, I’m still waiting for my move date so I can’t really start tackling most of that list as it could be a few weeks away.

Also knowing a move is coming I’ve cleared the decks a little work-wise, so I’m now spinning my wheels a little. I know it’s going to be hectic once we get the dates so I’m trying to enjoy the downtime while I can.

 

noun_survey_16392

SURVEY PROJECT

Last week I was approached by a professional organisation to quote for a 4-page infographic report due end April. I sent over a few ideas and some figures and am now keeping my fingers crossed.

I’m due to hear back this week and and keen to get started as soon as possible if I’m successful.

 

noun_car_32335

CAR RETAILER CHAIN

A blast from the past this one! A former work colleague contacted me through Facebook to ask about my infographic services. They’re keen to add this communication format to their portfolio, but had no strong ideas of what they wanted to do.

This is quite an unusual situation for me, as I’m usually working with a clients data or information. In this case, I’m pulling from my journalism background to help develop a series of small infographics to be seeded over social media.

Again, a few ideas were sent over .. let’s hope it comes off as I’m really keen to work on this one.

05 Apr

Freelancers: pricing structure options

noun_help_89606

My role as a freelancer means I work on a wide variety of projects. From one-off infographics, to long-running research projects. I’ve found that there is not a single perfect pricing system – instead I make a decision on a project-by-project basis. I will ask myself:

– is there a defined outcome / product?
– have I done anything like this before?
– how easily can I estimate the hours I will spend on this?
– is there a risk of ‘project creep’?
– could there be ongoing work?
– how long will the project last?
– who is the client? How well do I know them?
– does the client have a set budget?


noun_tag_15204Total Project Cost 

I will quote a total project cost if there is a single, defined outcome that I can easily scope. There must be little risk of ‘project creep’ or clearly set boundaries for stages within the project.
– Pro – set price for the client so they’re more likely to agree
– Pro – beneficial for me if the project is completed within my budget
– Pro – project management made easier due to set hours / budget
– Con – I could lose out financially if the project runs over


Hourly (unlimited) 

I will quote hourly if the project brief is still being defined or has the potential to change in scale. If the project is ongoing work with many elements I will quote hourly.
– Pro – I am paid for the work I do – so I will never lose out financially
– Con – clients get nervous if they don’t know the final amount. An estimate is sometimes needed

noun_alarm-clock_317Hourly (maximum price)
This has been a successful combination of the 2 previous pricing structures. I will invoice based on the hours worked, but the total will never exceed the value stated in the quote. This works if I have some idea on the scope, but there are some uncertainties.
– Pro – client more likely to agree as they know the maximum price
– Pro – In most cases I will be paid for the all work I do
– Con – if the project runs over significantly I could lose out financially

noun_checklist_373700Project BuilderThis structure works if there are multiple ways of presenting the information with sets of images. The client is given a list of potential options with a price-per-item. They can pick and choose items from the list to match their budget.
– Pro – client gets flexibility
– Pro – client has early editorial input
– Pro – flexible if client already has strong ideas
– Pro – pricing per graphic means I am less likely to lose out financially

Retainer

A client may wish to sign you up for an extended period of time, agreeing to pay you a set amount each month, for a set amount of hours based on your hourly rate. This is different to a full time contract as multiple clients may have you on a retainer. Note: I do not currently have any clients using this pay structure.
– Pro – client has an expected invoice each month
– Pro – I have an guaranteed income each month
– Pro – potential to be paid for hours not worked
– Con – difficulty / reluctance to charge for hours over the monthly allowance
– Con – client may not realistic understanding what is achievable in the monthly allowance


 
03 Apr

Top 30 Studios in the UK: interactive

In November 2015 Computer Arts magazine published a list of the top 30 studios in the UK, as chosen by a panel of experts.

I wanted to create a tool to summarise this information, to allow users to check out an individual studio and compare it with the rest of the top 30. This was a personal project and was not commissioned by Computer Arts. Since posting this, however, Computer Arts have been in touch saying how much they like it.

 

 

03 Apr

My Route: interactive touchtable

My Route was a heritage project based in Birmingham. I was commissioned to design a touch table that would show the changing history of the Stratford Road, one of the key routes in the city, from the 1940s to today.

Working with digital agency Substrakt, and touch table developer John Sear, we created an interactive touch table that was placed in a local community centre and a library for several weeks for the public to use.

The touch table shows a selection of the businesses, with audio, image and video content. Users interact with the touch table by moving the coloured “decade” lenses over the road, and icons appear when there is content available. Touching the icon reveals the content.

 

screenshot150611_1323_0001screenshot150707_1245_0001My-Route-touchtable-2-copy  IMG_3171

 

 

03 Apr

Paxlife / Cloud 10 – graphics for explainer video

BRIEF: To concept and create a series of graphics for an animated “explainer” video for airline in-flight entertainment company, Paxlife to promote Cloud 10.

This was a collaboration with filmaker / animator Liz Smith (Entertaining TV). who generated the animations and project-managed. Together we planned out the graphics based on the client script and developed a seamless workflow.

 

All content (c) Caroline Beavon 2020