How to stand out – 13 tips to building an awesome tech brand [updated for 2020]

We’re about to discuss how you can start building an awesome tech brand that stands out in the industry. Let’s start by addressing some common misconceptions about what a brand actually is.

If you’re interested in reading why branding is essential as a tech startup, check out our recent article on that.

  1. Understanding What is “Brand”
  2. Positioning
  3. Your Cause
  4. Your Values
  5. Develop User Personas
  6. Logo
  7. Name
  8. Colour
  9. Typography
  10. Tone-of-voice
  11. Photography
  12. Website
  13. Graphical elements
  14. Next Steps

The Groundwork

Understanding What is “Brand”

The word ‘brand’ was derived from farmers marking their cattle with a logo or trademark so that they would be recognised as their own. From this, you might infer that your logo or trademark is synonymous with your brand but this isn’t really the case these days.

The word brand has evolved into something far more intangible than that. Your brand is what’s described by the great Marty Neumeier as, “a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or organisation.”. This translates as any touchpoint your customer has with your services that convey an idea, feeling or promise to them.

Your brand includes your logo but also your customer service, the way you answer the phone, the design of your website and even where you position yourself in the market! At any point your customer comes into contact with you is an opportunity to convey a consistent and relevant image of who you are and what you stand for. In the same way, your brand should be easily identifiable but as you’ll learn, being identifiable is the sum of many attributes. If you’re interested to learn more, we speak about this in our blog post about what Brand Strategy is.

So given this, how do you start to build your tech brand? Here at Jupiter and the Giraffe we follow a tried and tested process that enables us to understand your unique proposition, even if you don’t quite know what that is yet.

Positioning

If you’re speaking to everyone then, unfortunately, you’re speaking to no one. Understanding your place in the market not only allows you to hone in on your understanding of your brand, but it also makes good business sense as you’re the one person to go to for that specific problem. If they recognise you as the industry leader then you will become the business to approach for that particular problem. There are many types of positioning strategies that you can employ.

Types of Positioning Strategies for your tech brand

  • Product features/benefits
  • Price
  • Quality

Features/Benefits

You may wish to position yourself based on your features or benefits. If you’re a service it may be the services you offer. Although this should play a part in your tech brand positioning, we wouldn’t recommend this as the chances you are offering something completely new are relatively low.

Price

Price is another way you can segment yourself. High price often portrays high quality, notice I say “portrays” – just because you offer a high priced product doesn’t necessarily equate to high quality. There are examples where this tactic works but it’s a risky game to play. It’s not just your product that should deliver but everything around it should warrant that high price. With a high price comes high expectations.

Quality

Similarly to price, there are certain associations that come with positioning yourselves based on quality, but once again this doesn’t necessarily mean high quality, high price. As technology becomes faster and less expensive organisations are able to offer great quality at low prices.

An exercise you might like to run is to map out your competitors on a chart and where they sit on the price/quality spectrum. The chart may look something like this…

If you’re at the beginning of your journey, this is a great place to start but in some cases, this might call for a reposition. There have been cases of very successful reposition by tech brands through developments in the marketplace or an intentional shift into a new market. Repositioning should forever be a consideration for any business looking to lead in the market. This requires listening and being aware of shifts and developments and having a proactive rather than reactive mindset.

Understanding your position in the market

Understanding your position in the market via your offering is one small part to consider. At Jupiter and the Giraffe we’re big advocates of the Onliness Statement (once again developed by Marty Neumeier). The Onliness Statement gets you to not only think about what it is you do but also why you do it. We wrote a blog post about what an Onliness Statment is so we wont repeat ourselves, but essentially it looks like this;

[Company Name] is THE ONLY (category)
THAT (differentiation characteristic)
FOR (customer)
IN (market geography)
WHO (need state)
DURING (underling trend)

For context, Harley Davidsons is as follows…

Harley Davidson The ONLY motorcycle manufacturer
THAT makes big, loud motorcycles
FOR macho guys (and macho “wannabees”)
mostly IN the United States
WHO wants to join a gang of cowboys
DURING an era of decreasing personal freedom

You must fill in the blanks but as you can see there are several areas that drill further and further into your niche. This represents your promise to your customers. Your tech brand should live and breath this promise with every touchpoint going forward and will likely play a key role when we get to actually creating your brand assets. This is a great exercise in further understanding your position in the market. Pay close attention to the “Underlying trend” as this helps you clarify your purpose.

We developed a FREE tool you can use to create your own onliness statement here.

Your Cause

People are much more socially aware nowadays and your brand needs to reflect this. This is why you need to ask why your brand exists and what do you contribute to society. This is bigger than just providing you product or service, it needs to serve a bigger purpose. Luckily, we’ve written a whole article on this. Why Do You Matter? The Cause Branding.

Your Values

Here at Jupiter and the Giraffe we have only 3 values as we want them to remain concise, clear and easy to follow. They are Creative, Inspiring, Impactful. Creative – because we want to be known for not only building practical web apps but also beautiful. Inspiring – because we want the work we do to inspire others to do things even better than before and to push humanity forward and finally impactful. We want the work we do to have an impact on the world, not only in the way we execute but the product itself needs to serve a higher purpose.

Choose 3 – 5 words which you can live by and keep you on track and inspired

Patagonia’s values

Develop User Personas

With all that done, you should have a strong idea about who you are and why you do what you do. Next, you must begin to think about your customers as after all, without your customers your business will fail.

Why user personas?

The reason why you need to think about your customers when it comes to your tech brand is down to relatability. You need to understand your users so that you are able to engage with them in a way that they can understand. Use the same tone-of-voice that they might expect whilst solving any problems they might have.

Having user personas also gives you a person (albeit make-believe) to resolve all conflicts that may arise between you and your colleagues around a decision, design choice or feature of your tech brand. Resolving the conflict by asking what would X want, instead of what do we want. The way we do this is developing user personas. If you’ve never heard of a user persona before then quite simply it’s a make-believe person that represents a customer (or a desired customer). Personas can be based on your real customers if you have them and one persona can contain many attributes of different customers. It’s ok to generalise here but the result should be specific and represent one user.

If you find that you’re not targeting the right customers (another reason for a rebrand) then we believe it’s useful to create a single person based on a customer that you would like to be serving. You may even want to conduct actual market research to generate these user persona’s if you don’t already have a customer base. User Personas are most effective when they’re derived from real data so if you have it, use it.

The most important aspect of these personas should be the problems or pain-points that they are experiencing. This is key to making sure you’re serving that customer for a specific reason.

How many personas should I create?

The number of user personas you create really shouldn’t exceed four. Beyond this, you start to lose clarity and focus and your tech brand will end up appealing to no one. Your user persona should, of course, contain a name. Use a photo of someone you feel best encapsulates the person in your mind so that you can bring this person to life. You can then look at the demographic of your customer – age, sex, where they are from, how much they earn, what they do for a living. You can even find this data out on Google Analytics if you have it installed on your website!

Make a note of their archetype e.g. “Messy creative” or “Neat and tidy musician”. If you’re struggling to be creative then definitely check out the most common archetypes. You can then look at their personalities. This helps us make assumptions about how they might react in different scenarios. Go into as much depth as you feel is necessary.

Brand Assets/Identity

With all that said, that’s just the groundwork to developing your tech brand. It’s important to know who you are, why you are different, who you serve and why you serve them. Understanding your promise and the values you hold is essentially your brand, just make sure you stick to this idea no matter what. We’re now going to talk about what we believe every new business should have. These are known as ‘brand assets’ and are what are typically confused as a brand. Your brand identity is the face of your business and should reinforce the values and emotions that you identified in the previous steps.

Logo

No surprise here, you need a logo and for us, a good logo is one that addresses more than representing what you do. Your logo should be a manifestation as to the why you do what you do. For example, having a cloud computing business called “Cloud9” and your logo being nine clouds may look great (it won’t, nine is way too many clouds) but this shows that not much thought has gone into your logo and is a missed opportunity to connect with the right audience and create a logo with depth. On a piece of paper, start jotting down words that come to mind when you think about your business. Try and think about your values and words that represent these values. It’s ok to think about what you do but the aim is to keep it abstract. We go in-depth about how to design a logo in another post.

Name

Name?! Yes, name! Once again, your name is a touchpoint with your customer. Why not take all that we have learned from discussing your business, your customers and your values and come up with a name that reflects that. It’s always fascinating when you discover the story behind the name and when there’s more than meets the eye. Coming up with a name can be an artform in itself so take that time to really think about it.

Colour

Colours invoke emotion so play on colour psychology. We’ve written a post about colour psychology. It’s not always the same on every continent so be conscious of your market and use colours that represent your values and make sure they mean the right things in the right regions. Have at least two colours. One primary that you’ll use almost everywhere and a secondary that compliments it.

Use a tool like Adobe Colour to help you figure out what colours work well together. Note down the HEX value, RGB and, if possible the Pantone and make sure that these are the only colours used whenever you create anything. There’s nothing worse than seeing 15 different shades of blue. Here’s Jupiter and the Giraffe’s Colour Palette:

Jupiter and the Giraffe’s Colour Palette

Typography

Typography is important too and you’ll want to have at least two typographic families or variants for maximum flexibility. The first is typically used for headers and possibly makes an appearance in the logo (look at Jupiter and the Giraffes “KG Summertime Storm” font) the other main font is for generic body copy. You’ll want something that is easily legible.

There are some examples where the font looks pretty but is impossible to read. Don’t make this same mistake and ask people if they can read your font. Broadly, fonts can invoke meaning.

You might consider serif (fonts with little feet at the ends of the letters) as formal. Legal businesses or banks may choose to use this font. Sans-serif fonts (without ‘feet’) are more modern. If you’re at the stage where you’re putting your own tech brand together, go for a font that you like or check out some recommended font pairings from sites such as Google fonts. Large organisations often design their own fonts and obviously, this is out of reach for most businesses starting out as it’s expensive.

There are situations where you may need more fonts but don’t overcomplicate things at this stage and only use two at one time. Just be warned, there’s no escaping the rabbit hole that is choosing a font!

Tone-of-voice

Finally, one thing very few businesses think about when they first start their company is their tone-of-voice. Think about it, groups of friends often use the same words and speak in a similar way so your business should also speak in a way that your customers find relatable. Your tone should further imply the values of your brand and what you say should be understood by the right people. Make your employees aware so that when they are engaging with potential clients, they are speaking in this same way too.

Tone-of-voice is where your tech brands personality shines. It’s where you’re really engaging with your customers and not just any customers, the right customers. Think of three words that best summarise your business if it was a person and use these to develop your tone.

Next steps

So we’ve breezed over how a company starting out can create it’s brand and start to develop its bare-minimum brand identity. We hope to release many more in-depth articles on the individual assets so look out for those but this should be enough to get you going.

A few more helpful things you could work on as a next step that equally portray your brand are…

Photography

Choose the photos you use wisely. This is an often overlooked aspect of your brand. What should be the subject of your photos? Should there be people in your photo? What are they wearing? Showing images of the people you expect to use your product is a great, easy way for people to feel affiliated with your brand. Also you may think more creatively and think of the style of the photography. The treatment of your photography should be the same in order to create consistency.

Website

Every business needs a website. It’s the shop window to your product or service. Here, your brand assets will exist throughout the design of your site alongside any photography and the tone of voice you’ve established. Your website should encapsulate almost everything about your brand so don’t let this slip. Templates are great to get you started but when your brand evolves its important to move onto something more bespoke. Contact us if you’re in the market for a website.

Graphical elements

Graphic elements can be as small or large as you deem fit. Little flourishes peppered throughout your design is a great way to identify your brand. Think of these like a birth mark that is unmistakably yours and have fun with them! Maybe this is something taken from your logo or something different entirely but make it relevant.

Wrap up

So there we are, you’ve just had a crash course in what a brand actually is and what it isn’t. Understanding your business and how it’s different, identifying the promise it’s making to its customers and having that shine through makes up your brand identity. Invest in the time to think about your brand assets and make them more meaningful than just something that reflects what you do – make it something about why you do what you do. We capture all the necessary elements in our Brand Strategy workshop which enables us to create an amazing brand. You can read more about what brand strategy is in our blog.

What is Brand Strategy?

There are many different types of Strategies when it comes to business. Business Strategy, Corporate Strategy, Marketing Strategy, Content Strategy but what is Brand Strategy?

TL;DR; Brand Strategy is highlighting the long-term goals of a business and understanding how your brand can help achieve them.

Let’s start by defining what ‘Brand’ is. Brand in itself is very intangible. Often mistaken for a logo or the ‘look’ of something be it a website or marketing materials. Brand is actually the feeling someone gets whenever they interact with your business. A great example and one commonly used is Nike. Their brand could be considered the feeling of a get-up-and-go attitude with regard to sport. No thinking. No second guesses. Give it your all. Their slogan “Just Do It” is a perfect encapsulation of this attitude.

This idea of “Just Do It” is probably printed on a document somewhere in the Nike offices along with other intangible feelings and values that they adhere to. From this “document” every single thing that is written, presented, spoken, recorded or broadcasted will revert back to this document and the idea of “Just Do It”. Before anything is sent out to the masses, it is asked the question “Does this resonate with our values and our ethos?”.

Brand cannot end there. It’s all well and good that a company sits round a table and decides “this is our brand, we must always adhere to this”. It’s not until this idea enters the minds of the consumer before it starts to take shape. The great Marty Neumeier said “Your brand isn’t what you say it is. It’s what they say it is”. Meaning it’s only until the prospect “gets it” and feels it that it becomes your brand.

No that we’ve established what brand is, how does strategy fall into this and what different types of brand strategies are there?

As will all aspects of a business, you must have a purpose and goals. You need a reason to exist and these reasons should dictate everything that you do. Brand strategy is no different so highlighting the long-term goals of a business and understanding how your brand can help achieve them is what brand strategy is. This can be a fairly intangible thing, particularly in the eyes of an accountant. Brand Value or “brand equity” cannot be measured in the short-term as it’s a pretty intagible asset. If goals are met, what percentage can be attributed to your brand?

This makes brand strategy all the more important as recognising a goal and assigning a particular tactic executed by a brand action is the only possible way to even come close to start to understand how well your brand is doing. It’s likely though that multiple strategies have been assigned to a particular goal and so there lies the dilema. A truly chicken-egg type of scenario particularly with marketing. I always describe marketing as the megaphone and brand as the voice. The two are intrinsically linked and you often see this as VP’s of marketing are assigned to the management of an organisations brand. To an extent they are appropriately given the task but they are definitely different skillsets. Ultimately, you can’t beat having a single person assigned to one task.

Brand Strategy can be said to drive they why from an emotional standpoint of the business strategy and marketing can be considered how. Knowing why you do things is key to really connect with your market. It’s the only human-like asset they can resonate with so it’s important to make it known. You often see “Vision Statements” on websites to really highlight this. Personally, I like the idea of this resonating from within the behaviours and actions of the brand to help your customers understand your vision statement.

Brand Strategy at Jupiter and the Giraffe is the process of running diagnosis of the current state of the business and what goals it has as well as the market in and around the business to help define a brand. That includes user personas and competitor analysis. Finally, we propose a set of actions to accomplish your brand goals. This is crucial as it gives purpose the tasks at hand and gives us measurable results we hope to achieve at given points in the strategy. We distil this down to a creative brief, outlining actions against a prioritised list of goals created during the session. This session is attended by C-suite members of the organisation because it’s important to know the long-term goals of the company, something only these individuals have sight of. The founder is also a great person to have in the room as they often have sight of the vision as this is key to staying focussed.

Staying consistent with these ideas is important. We run brand audits every 3 months as they can easily get shaken due to changes in the market place and company goals changing. Brand should be an evolving aspect of the company but should always be anchored to the “why” of the organisation. Reverting back to the “Document” is a great way to do this.

It’s amazing what results can come from a brand strategy. Most notably is how to create a good brand name. To create a brand name or company name that has rooted meaning can only be achieved from looking deep within your brand and seeing further than simply what you do. Some of the best brand name examples in my opinion are Spotify, Kindle and Apple. It doesn’t take long to find out what inspired these seemingly arbitrary names. Once brand strategy is in place, you’ll have a hard time choosing a brand name! If you want help naming your brand, I suggest the book Hello, my name is awesome: How to Create Brand Names That Stick.

I hope this clears up any ambiguity. The very process of brand strategy should get the minds of everyone working together and involved while leaving everyone feeling like they are on the same page. Super important if this document stays relevant for as long as the organisation is in existence.

At Jupiter and the Giraffe we offer Brand Strategy but we also offer Brand Experience which aims to fulfil most of the actions identified in Strategy. If you’re interested in having a chat, feel free to contact us for a free consultation. We love talking about everything brand related!

The Death of Branding and the advent of the Personal Brand – by a Tech Company

Yes, it’s true. Branding has been in ill-health for a while and now we have finally seen it’s demise. You probably thought that this was some sort of click-bait title but I truly think we are coming to an end to corporate branding. Here’s why.

With the introduction of Instagram, we’ve seen an influx of “influencers”. The entrepreneurs of the 21st century otherwise known as “solopreneurs“. These individuals have remarkable power to engage, entertain and ultimately influence the behaviours of hundreds of thousands of people with a single post and zero budget. More specifically, they influence the buying behaviours of those hundreds of thousands of people. It’s marketing in its finest form, something we could have only dreamed of 15 years ago but how do they achieve this? Personal branding.

Personal branding is something we’ve only really recognised in the last five years or so although (if that) although, It’s existed for many more. Take for example your favourite band when you were young. Didn’t you find yourself wanting the same clothes as them? The same hairstyle? Didn’t you find yourself wanting the same PERSONALITY as them?! This may have largely had to do with the music they were producing but It was also the narrow view of their personalites that were presented to you on MTV. They are, of course, very complex individuals but the behaviours they were best known for were always captured and this, unbeknown to them, led to their own personal brand being developed and scripted by their observers and people struck a chord with that… Pun not intended.

Fast forward to now and the same idea that a person can convince you to buy the same things they buy, wear the same things they wear and do the same things they do has been stripped away from any sort of talent and laid bare on social media leaving essentially just a personality. The impact of this has naturally made its way to the mainstream who are trying to harness the secrets of the power that it possesses.

I’m not really sure this was intentional though. I think these people did what they loved. They reviewed technology, they travelled the world, they gave an insight into their lives. It was the platforms that glamorised this stuff and made it feel somewhat special or unique. I think this stuff as always happened. It was just never possible to broadcast it so freely and easily. Granted, the first of these sorts of channels were early adopters of the technology and probably didn’t see it coming but after the impact took wind, we couldn’t help but dissect the formula of why it was so powerful.

Branding is the ability to enter the hearts and minds of a consumer. This results in price-insensitivity and a faith that is only seen in religion and cults. It’s only fair to compare this when individuals behave in the same way when it comes to the Instagram accounts of individuals and because this brand-like behaviour is seen to revolve around just a person, personal branding is born.

Interestingly, the techniques are exactly the same to establish and present a personal brand as it is to establish a corporate brand. The first being positioning. You need to occupy a space in the market where no-one else can. There are many ways to do this but you need to your own twist on things. Let’s take tech reviews as an example. There are many many tech reviewers in existence but what do you bring that’s different. Is it the manner in which you present it? Is it the particular things you focus on? The good thing is that whatever you think is different is actually pretty common, it’s just that you need to make sure no-one in the marketplace is doing that same thing in the way you do it. You need to apply that same concept to your ‘personality’. It’s important to remember though, this isn’t your whole personality, it’s just a narrow sub-set that you promote.

Once you’ve positioned yourself, you then need a set of values that you can express. Again, you are a very complex individual but it’s the values that you keep consistent in your output that is going to further position you in a unique field but also and build that brand awareness, that loyalty through consistency. As long as what you produce aligns with these values, you dig deeper into the hearts and minds of those that stumble across your output.

These are the same excercises we run in our brand strategy workshops. You can read about many ways you can build a brand but when it’s when you combine this with your product or service is when this becomes financially rewarding.

I know what you will think, “but I don’t want to be a social influencer!”. Maybe you don’t, but it’s these concepts and ideas we can harness and apply to our selves that will make the difference. We’ve started to realise, people don’t buy what you do, they buy other people so if you can build a personality that is consistent and accessible, then those followers will inevitably buy whatever you are making money from (hopefully your product or service). They also build trust in you and what you do, so as with any brand, it’s the long-term effects that see ROI. When was the last time you made a sale over the telephone? It’s much more effective to make a sale face-to-face and if they already have access to your personality you’re already lowering buyer resistance and they already feel like they know you.

In summary, I think we need to focus on producing content for our business less and produce content on ourselves more. Give people a subset of your personality that’s relevant to your product or service using the platforms available and do it in a way where you are providing value to them. Present it on the platform that your customer is most likely to be on (another aspect of building a brand), but keep it consistent. It doesn’t need to lie. It just needs to be consistent. This will naturally grow a following and will, in time, convert as you will attract people that are into what you do. Their perceived value of your services will grow because social-proof is a thing and you can inevitably end up charging more as you have price-insensitivity on your side.

I honestly can see a future where more emphasis and marketing money is spent on the individuals and employees of a company to promote and do things based on their personal brand rather than traditional methods. As long as what they are doing are in some way linked to the business.


OnlinessStatementGenerator.com and what all the fuss is about

Onliness isn’t even a real word. It was coined by the great Marty Neumeier in his book Zag. Although not the godfather of what the onliness statement tool is used for (that was done by television advertising pioneer Rosser Reeves) he certainly helped it reach the masses. Originally, Rosser described a “Unique Selling Proposition” or USP as a differentiation characteristic of your brand in the marketplace. It’s one of the most important strategic actions one can take when starting a business or building a product and is a key element to building a brand.

Marty takes Rossers idea further in his Onliness Statement by getting us to figure out the “Big Idea” behind our product or service. He also encapsulates the what, how, who, where, why and when of your business cutting through the noise in the market and positioning you well. The Onliness Statement acts as a decision filter for all future encounters and to ultimately remain on brand. Reaching a fork in the road is a simple case of referring to your Onliness Statement to figure out if this aligns with your goal as a business.

So what is the Onliness Statement?

You fill in the blanks…

[Company Name] is THE ONLY (category)
THAT (differentiation characteristic)
FOR (customer)
IN (market geography)
WHO (need state)
DURING (underling trend)

Here are some examples:

Harley Davidson The ONLY motorcycle manufacturer
THAT makes big, loud motorcycles
FOR macho guys (and macho “wannabees”)
mostly IN the United States
WHO wants to join a gang of cowboys
DURING an era of decreasing personal freedom

Jupiter and the Giraffe is THE ONLY branding agency
THAT brings ambitious and interesting global brand thinking
FOR young, creative entrepreneurs
IN and around Planet Earth
WHO want to demonstrate their uniqueness
DURING an era of boring sameness

You can really see that you’re not only challenged to think of HOW your product is different but also WHY it’s different.

So have a go yourself. It only takes a few moments. There may be some tasks you need to undertake to fill it in which may make it longer (such as your target market) but it will ultimately be a very powerful tool.

Luckily, We’ve built a tool to help you over at OnlinessStatementGenerator.com. We hope this helps streamline the process.


Bring strategic thinking to your brand

Jupiter and the Giraffe describe themselves as a brand strategy and design agency, but what does this mean? More specifically the term “agency” and how does it differ to freelancers?

You can find freelancers on websites like Upwork and Fiverr. These sites are a great place to find creatives and technical individuals to help you build what you want. Want a new logo? Someone on Fiverr will create you one for your up and coming business. Need a new website? Upwork’s got you covered. Although you may get exactly what you’re looking for, there’s one huge thing that individuals behind the computer screen lack. Strategic thinking.

I’m not calling these creatives stupid and it’s not that these people can’t think, it’s that they don’t need to in this context. It’s just not what they are getting paid to do. Websites like Upwork and Fiverr are all about getting work done for cheap but what’s the cost? Freelancers thrive as individuals on these platforms because a freelancer can be a cog in a machine. There’s normally someone above them like an analyst or a creative lead that tells them exactly what to create. The huge thing missing here though is “why” they are creating something and some creatives are happy not knowing the why. Just tell them what to do and they’ll do it. This is great if you have an idea for a logo in your head and can picture bits of it but need a whizz at Photoshop to polish it up for you and refine a few creative decisions around your concept.

The problem here though is that there is no purpose or meaning to their ideas. As much as you might think creative assets like this need to look cool, there’s much more below the surface. It all starts with business goals and what you want to achieve as a company. More specifically, what is your brand and your company’s values. It’s great that you have an idea for a logo but to really get the most out of it, it needs to speak to the right people and ultimately convert from prospects to customers.

I won’t knock these websites. It’s so important to get your idea up there and testing assumptions on real people and so paying for a logo or website shouldn’t be at the top of your list, but when you start to make money and your idea becomes more refined and clear, it’s time you start to look at how you can target the right customer and speak to them in the right way.

It is possible for a freelancer to extract this information from you but that’s about it when it comes to a freelancer. It doesn’t end there for an agency. It’s really up to an agency to question your motives behind your design choices (if you have them) and actually create a strategy to execute that all falls in line with your business goals. We build your brand and define your strategy before we even touch design or development. We actually call this service Strategy. After the initial strategy session, we may then conduct a set of discovery workshops to further dig into your challenges and pain-points to develop our “why” when it comes to execution. You can read more about brand strategy in this blog.

When it finally comes to design or development – we’ve thought long and hard about what problems we are trying to solve – who your audience is and what appeals to them; how we speak to them; how do they typically engage with you; what they are looking to get out of you and the many ways they would look to do that. Only then is this likely to actually have a financial and beneficial impact on your business. We think. We measure twice and cut once, as the old saying goes.

I often ask what role is more important to the client – An amazing conductor (strategist) of mediocre creatives or a mediocre conductor and amazing creatives. Often they pick the former.

So if you’re ready for the next step, or you believe you’re just not speaking to the right people or you need to speak to a new set of people, then get in touch with us and lets do something awesome together.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Best Accounting Software 2020 (10% discount Referral Code) – ’48ebvyrs’ 👍

Here at Jupiter and the Giraffe we like to keep things trim. That includes the way we run our business and accountancy tools. It’s important that we understand the ins and outs of things before we hand it off including bookkeeping. Accountancy was a big one for us as, with technology, this skill that was once an anomaly to the every-person can now be achieved with the right tools. We use FreeAgent. FreeAgent integrates perfectly with our business bank account Starling (more on that later) plus, we get given a handy referral code which is free for you to use and get a discount.

Just give me the code? Sign up by following this link to claim

With FreeAgent (and Starling), we can assign transactions coming in and out of our account as expenses, invoices, dividends and many other things.

The regular chores that come with owning a company like Corporation Tax, directors tax are part of something called “Tax Timeline” in which I can monitor the dates all these things are due. It of course also helps put them together for us and makes it super simple. This helps us keep track of when we need to submit a tax return or pay corporation tax. It truly is a godsend.

Payroll is also handled from within the software and is a breeze to set up. It will also set up Employment Allowance for us which removes an extra headache.

DoubleAgent

We invoice businesses from all over the world and sometimes they pay by credit card. To enable this FreeAgent links seamlessly with Stripe. Unfortunately, transactions from Stripe come in as regular transactions which we have to reconcile. Luckily we use a tool called DoubleAgent which can automatically reconcile those transactions to outstanding invoices. It costs a little extra but it’s well worth the money

That’s all we need it for now, but I’m sure there’s plenty more to it. Check out their website for more information and whether it suits their needs and by using our discount referral code it shows that you’re supporting us and FreeAgent but also gives you a bit of money off.

All in all it’s a great piece of software and is really cheap! Using our FreeAgent discount referral code you can get it even cheaper.

The Discount Referral Code

48ebvyrs

Zeplin – A Developers Perspective

In my time helping Talk Talk Group build their CMS and front-end capabilities, I worked closely with their design and UX team. They introduced me to Zeplin. Zeplin is a tool we use heavily at Jupiter and the Giraffe and it’s essential in building pixel-perfect websites by allowing us to see exact HEX codes or pixel dimensions in our designs amongst many other things. Although primarily used by designers, developers can benefit immensely from it and I hope I can shed some light on how I use it.

Cost

Zeplin is a paid-for tool allowing you to host multiple website projects within a team but they do offer a free version in which you can host only one project. For developing businesses that normally have one project on the go at any one time this is fine but when you start to grow, you may need to dig into those wallets and fork out a little per month. As a developer though I don’t need to pay for this tool. I can view many sites and inspect the designs as much as I want. So there’s the first bonus.

Size/Spacing

When first looking at a design my number one need for Zeplin is spacings and dimensions. Whether I’m looking at images, icons, paddings or margins — with Zeplin I can hover over an element and see those dimensions. This is super useful. But what is even more useful is that if I click on an element to highlight it and then move my mouse to another element, I get the distance between the two objects too!

CSS

I love writing CSS/SASS. I take great pride in writing clean, maintainable CSS and I’m part of a few developers who’ve been around the block and understand the many little hacks, tips and tricks when writing CSS. But we all get lazy. Although I wouldn’t say it’s perfect, Zeplin allows me to inspect many different aspects of the CSS markup that makes the design. This can be pretty useful, especially when trying to match border-radius or box-shadow. More on the specifics below…

Colour

Was it #e6e6e6 or #f2f2f2?? Colour can be a tricky one at times especially with true toned displays and night modes. Often optical illusions can skew our perspective on colour. From the CSS panel, I can clearly see what HEX value to use and if you’re keeping track of your variables using SASS (which I highly recommend you do!), store that bad boy and name it sensibly to never have to worry about it again.

Fonts

Fonts are another gotcha in front-end development. Sometimes a design will use regular/bold/light versions of the same font. Zeplin allows you to inspect the actual font in the CSS inspector so no more guessing.

Extensions

Extensions can be added to a project to help you work in the technology that you’re using. SASS is a no-brainer on every project for me and you guessed it, there’s an extension for that. This extension allows for mixins and variables and all that SASS goodness. There’s even an HTML snippet generator from layer styles. The Extensions ecosystem just came out of BETA so great news all-round.

Exporting images

When you have an artboard open, at the top right of your window you’ll see some little tools. Clicking on what looks like a dagger, you are actually able to export individual or entire groupings of assets. If the designer has created these as SVG’s then you can even download the raw vector image (and that means icons!). Super handy rather than waiting for the designer to send them and I’m sure you’ve been in situations where you’ve been sent ‘all’ of the icons and then one is missing. This means you can go grab it yourself!

One extra wee tip is that you can even export them in the convention of your choosing. Click on the slider icon next to ‘Assets’ and there you’ll see an extra menu!

Styleguide

Possibly the most powerful feature of Zeplin can definitely only exist with a well-organised designer but it pays! Pressing CMD + G, you switch to the styleguide. Every website should have a styleguide for many, many reasons (maybe an idea for a future post) but here you can see every colour and font choice made in a design. Simply set all these as variables in your project and away you go. If your designer uses symbols, the styleguide even imports them as components meaning there’s a little context around elements and their relationships to each other. This is so helpful to me.

Communication

Overall, a bi-product of Zeplin is that it drastically speeds up communication. Sometimes it completely removes the need to wait for a designer to get back to me about a colour or font choice. Using the techniques described above I can easily recreate a design in no time at all. Although I don’t think it completely removes the need for a designer to be on hand for some clarification or if a developer needs to challenge something but it’s a great leap forward in workflow speed and accuracy of a design.

That’s about it from me and my usage of Zeplin. I can’t recommend this tool enough so go ahead and get your team using it!

If you’d like to hear more from me, give the article a few claps. You can follow me on most other things @fakesamgregory or if you’d like to check out my company Jupiter and the Giraffe, you can visit our website. If you’re interested in our nomadic business adventures, stay tuned to Tumbling Outwardscoming in 2019.

Cost

Zeplin is a paid-for tool allowing you to host multiple websites within a team but they do offer a free version in which you can host only one project. For developing businesses that normally have one project on at any one time this is fine but when you start to grow, you may need to dig in to those wallets and fork out a little per month. As a developer though I don’t need to pay for this tool. I can view many sites and inspect the designs as much as I want. So there’s the first bonus.

Size/Spacing

When first looking at a design my number one need for Zeplin is spacings and dimensions. Whether I’m looking at images, icons, paddings or margins – with Zeplin I can hover over an element and see those dimensions. This is super useful. But what is even more useful is that if I click on an element to highlight it and then move my mouse to another element, I get the distance between the two objects too!

zeplin dimensions
Highlighting one element and hovering another unleases more capability!

CSS

I love writing CSS/SASS. I take great pride in writing clean, maintainable CSS and being part of a few developers who’ve been around the block and understand the little hacks, tips and tricks when writing CSS that is widely supported in terms of browser support. But we all get lazy. Although I wouldn’t say it’s perfect, Zeplin allows me to inspect many different aspects of the CSS markup that makes the design. This can be pretty useful, especially when trying to match border-radius or box-shadow. More on the specifics below…

Colour

Was it #e6e6e6 or #f2f2f2?? Colour can be a tricky one at times especially with true toned displays and night modes. Often optical illusions can skew our perspective on colour. From the CSS panel I can clearly see what HEX value to use and if you’re keeping track of your variables using SASS (which I highly recommend you do!), store that badboy and name it sensibly to never have to worry about it again.

Fonts

Fonts are another gotcha in front-end development. Sometimes a design will use regular/bold/light versions of the same font. Zeplin allows you inspect the actual font in the CSS inspector so no more guessing.

Extensions

Extensions can be added to a project to help you work in the technology that you’re using. SASS is a no-brainer on every project for me and you guessed it, there’s an extension for that. This extension allows for mixins and variables and all that SASS goodness. There’s even an HTML snippet generator from layer styles. The Extensions ecosystem is in BETA so expect more from this soon!

Zeplin extensions

Exporting images

When you have an artboard open, at the top right of your window you’ll see some little tools. Clicking on what looks like a dagger, you are actually able to export individual or entire groupings of assets. If the designer has created these as SVG’s then you can even download the raw vector image (and that means icons!). Super handy rather than waiting for the designer to send them and I’m sure you’ve been in situations where you’ve been sent ‘all’ of the icons and then one is missing. This means you can go grab it yourself!

Export assets

One extra wee tip is that you can even export them in the convention of your choosing. Click on the slider icon next to ‘Assets’ and there you’ll see an extra menu!

Styleguide

Possibly the most powerful feature of Zeplin can definitely only exist with a well organised designer but it pays! Pressing CMD + G, you switch to the styleguide. Every website should have a styleguide for many, many reasons (maybe an idea for a future post) but here you can see every colour and font choice made in a design. Simply set all these as variables in your project and away you go. If your designer uses symbols, the styleguide even imports them as components meaning there’s a little context around elements and their relationships to each other. This is so helpful to me.

Communication

Overall, a bi-product of Zeplin is that it drastically speeds up communication. Sometimes it completely removes the need to wait for a designer to get back to me about a colour or font choice. Using the techniques described above I can easily recreate a design in no time at all. Although I don’t think it completely removes the need for a designer to be on hand for some clarification or if a developer needs to challenge something but it’s a great leap forward in workflow speed and accuracy of a design.

That’s about it from me and my usage of Zeplin. I can’t recommend this tool enough so go ahead and get your team using it!

If you’d like to hear more from me, give the article a few claps. You can follow me on most other things @fakesamgregory or if you’d like to checkout my company Jupiter and the Giraffe, you can visit our website. If you’re interested in our nomadic business adventures, stay tuned to Tumbling Outwards coming in 2019.

Front-End Development in 2019

Every year brings new trends in front-end development and these trends really shape the landscape of work produced by the industry. Last year we saw a continued explosion of Vue.js, NPM JavaScript library downloads, a re-emergence of PWA’s and Serverless architecture continuing its relevance in the web world.

VueJS in 2018 Github

As we approach 2019, I look forward to seeing if we can get the upper-hand ahead of projects, getting familiar with technologies well before the client knows about them.

Typescript/Flow

Thoughtworks‘ technology radar vol.19 highlighted Typescript as something to ‘trial’ but I’d like to extend that on to Flow as well. As JavaScript applications grow both in size and complexity the need for more stable codebases becomes evermore important. This is where these two technologies come in. Although proven not to reduce bugs, we mustn’t forget, tools aren’t there just to reduce bugs in production. Many are often produced to make working with teams efficient, to make our code more readable and development tools more productive and consistent. Like it or loath it, JavaScript is a loosely typed language which, if you know how, can be harnessed into very powerful applications. Most of the time though, in this fast-paced world with code changing hands many times and ideas or intentions getting lost, unless we write documentation or comment our code applications can easily become unstable. I think the necessity to add static typing with technologies like Flow or Typescript will become evermore important next year so start learning!

Typescript or flow…

GraphQL/Apollo

I’m not going to claim to have used GraphQL extensively but I can already see its power and can see its relevance growing even further in 2019. GraphQL is a middleware between your application and your API’s. It allows you to query your API but specify exactly what data you need in JSON format. This is so powerful given the somewhat slow development of API’s and the format they output often not suiting how the front-end wants to consume them. When requirements change no work is needed on the backend, you just ask GraphQL to return you a different set of data. My advice is that you’ll be left behind if you haven’t picked up the basics of GraphQL. GraphQL will become the new norm. Apollo is a library simplifies and extends the power of GraphQL as a client. There are many others in many different languages but Apollo seems to be leading the charge in the JavaScript world. I think looking into some of these libraries will help enhance your GraphQL application.

Image result for graph ql logo
GraphQL will become the new-norm.

Ramda

Ramba is a very curious library. If you’ve used React, you may have come across the term Higher Order Component (HOC). These components allow you to wrap any other component in a common piece of functionality. The easiest example I can give is a call to a specific API. Ramba introduces the concept of a Higher Order Functions library which can do incredibly powerful things. They are much more lightweight than building a HOC as the overhead of a component is unnecessary. I think this library will become crucial in stripping back those essential kb’s and speeding up your app. I also think it’ll change the way you architect the application.

Communication/Remote

Although not strictly a tool, communication skills amongst development teams will be an important skill to harness in 2019. Efficiency, trust and transparency are three important aspects to great communication but there are many more resources to help learn what makes for great communication. With the inevitable advent of remote working becoming the new norm we need to be aware of how we communicate but also how we appear to others when 90% of what we say is over chat. NLP, self-awareness, how to listen and language are just some areas to consider when starting out to becoming a better communicator and ultimately a better remote worker. I strongly suggest the book ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People‘ by Dale Carnegie. It teaches you the subtlety of communication and how to harness it.

Image result for how to win friends and influence people

And with that slight tangent, I hope you found this useful. Let me know your thoughts. I’m on most things as @fakesamgregory. If you want to hear more from us, follow my company where we discuss development, design and business on Twitter @jupiter_giraffe and if you’re curious about how we cope with being a nomadic agency, check out tumblingoutwards.com where we will be launching in 2019.

🚀🌈✨ Sketch tools and plugins [updated for 2020]

I’ve been using Sketch for a few years now so I thought it’d be a good idea to write about the plugins and tools that I’ve found particularly helpful in speeding up my workflow. Maybe you’re already using some of these tools, or maybe they’re brand new to you. Either way, I’d love to hear from you so feel free to comment and hopefully, you’ll find this helpful ✌

A bit of background from me — I’ve been working as a digital designer and developer (more on that later) for the past few years. I’ve also co-founded a nomadic branding agency called Jupiter and the Giraffe where I’m the creative lead. If you’d like to hear more about our nomadic adventures stay tuned at Tumbling Outwards.

Abstract

I’m fairly new to Abstract but boy oh boy — this has been a real game changer! I can’t imagine life without it. I came from a background in development so the concept of abstract makes perfect sense. It’s essentially versioning control like how developers use git — but for designers. If you’re not so well-versed -source control means that you can have a centralized location of your Sketch files to version, manage and collaborate on. No more saving new files with each iteration, just revert to a previous ‘commit’ and away you go! The paid version ($9 and $15 per collaborator, per month) gives you the ability to collaborate and review each other’s work towards the same file. Being solo, I get by on the free version but the option is there if you’re part of a team. Developers can also benefit in these paid tiers by being able to see CSS snippets for the design but I use another tool for that called…

Zeplin

Zeplin is a tool that I first came across as a developer which really empowered me to build a pixel perfect design without having to second-guess the designer’s intentions. I still use it as a designer but from the other side — to enable developers to be able to confidently build my designs with the accurate specs alongside code snippets. You can also integrate it with Slack so that the team can be notified when there’s a design update or change. As I’m always working between design and development teams this really is a godsend. It’s the ultimate collaboration tool and speaking first-hand with developers they agree with me. You only get one project on the free plan which is great if you’ve only one project on the go but if you have multiple projects – you’ll need to pay for a subscription. Zeplin integrates not only with Sketch but Adobe Photoshop, XD and Figma. If you’re working with websites or apps, start using this now!

Stark

Stark is a plugin I use for every project for checking that my designs are accessible and inclusive to all. It works by checking accessibility and contrast levels in line with AA and AAA WCAG (web content accessibility guidelines). Another cool feature is that you can imitate different types of colour blindness within your document allowing you to imagine your design through another perspective. I even tried this on a colleague of mine who is colourblind and it’s surprisingly accurate! I think it’s every designer’s responsibility to have their work accessible to all so this tool is a must for me.

Angle

Angle is a super cool plugin for showcasing your design work. You can place your screens into various perspective mockups across many different devices. This looks great for presenting your work in your portfolio or for those Behance case studies. The plugin is free alongside fifty free mockups but you get over two hundred devices to add to your global sketch library in the paid version.

Map generator

I’ve used the Map Generator frequently in recent projects. It allows you to design beautiful custom map interfaces with Google Maps & Mapbox simply and easily inside of sketch. It’s very useful and I’d highly recommend. It adds that personal touch to designs if you need to include the client’s location or store location.

Fontily

Fontily has come in useful on many occasions. It allows you to quickly find and replace fonts — as you would a variable in code. It lists all the fonts in the document and allows you to change selected ones. Change a font type and font weight and it will propagate out across your whole file. Magical. Great for experimenting quickly with different font sets across your entire designs and I think we’ve all been there where we’ve had to suddenly change a font stack. If this plugin wasn’t free it would’ve probably paid for itself several times over by now in the time it’s saved me.

Artboard manager

If you want to keep your artboards positioned neatly without having to think about it too much then this is the plugin for you. Artboard managerautomatically arranges the position of all your Artboards in your document, snapping them to rows & columns. Neat huh?

Runner

If you’re a keyboard shortcut fiend like me, Runner is an amazing plugin that allows you to run, install and manage plugins inside Sketch and run other Sketch commands from your keyboard. It’s Spotlight for Sketch if you like and a must have.

Prism

If you find yourself creating pattern libraries or brand guidelines regularly, Prism allows you to instantly generate a professional looking colour palette alongside the relevant hex and RGB codes based on your document colours. One limitation might be the style of the boxes is set and you don’t get control over how the colours are displayed but it does the job in a clean enough way that it’s never bothered me.

Looper

Create beautiful tessellations and geometric patterns from duplicating shapes and groups in endless variations. Looper is so much fun and I could spend hours making these. Think spirograph for adults.

Pixel Perfector

If you’re a bit OCD when it comes to pixel dimensions being consistent and rounded up to integer points then Pixel Perfect is a lifesaver. It helps you find pixel imperfect layers in your document and then select them and round them up to the nearest integer (or whatever you prescribe). It’ll help keep your documents cleaner and keep your design specs uniform.

So that’s all from me for now. I hope you’ve enjoyed this article and look out for my next one on design trends for 2019!