Mural making at Little Man Coffee

Recently, I’ve been helping author Dan Tyte with a project that local coffee heroes Little Man Coffee asked us to do.

The idea is that Little Man have a wall which is used for an installation of some kind every month. Whether that’s bikes from Punk Bikes or potato prints by illustrator Kate Alizadeh.

This month, Little Man asked Dan Tyte to get something up about his short story entitled Onwards. I agreed to give Dan a hand because it sounded like a cool project and I like everyone involved and also there was no brief which is basically the ideal project as far as I am concerned.

Originally, I grabbed a slide projector and was intending to do an installation based on nostalgia which coincides with the story. However, it turns out, it’s actually pretty bright in Little Man and having slides projected onto a wall there during the day would be about as useful as a paper umbrella.

So I went back to the drawing board and produced a bunch of illustrations about the city. The easiest and most effective way to get these and the story itself onto the wall was through an absolutely huge vinyl.

The vinyl itself is 20 foot wide and just short of five foot tall. Absolutely the biggest sticker I have ever seen. Our friends at Oner Signs did an absolutely great job of the printing.

It took four people to get the vinyl onto the wall itself (shout out to our man Dan Spain who often works on Small Joys projects for being an excellent vinyl peeler) and another three people to support this by shouting encouraging comments.

The installation will be on the wall in Little Man Coffee from now until about the 18th of June. Go and see it!

And have a coffee, obvs.

Client spotlight: DevOpsGuys

The people behind DevOpsGuys – one of our clients – are exactly what they sound like: a small (but growing fast) team of DevOps experts.

The question is what does this mean in human speak? Co-Founder James talks us through it.

DevOpsGuys website project by Small Joys
The homepage of the new DevOpsGuys website that we have worked on with the DOGs

Based in South Wales but reaching worldwide with their work, DevOpsGuys provide web application management for clients, which essentially involves building, launching, maintaining & optimising applications.

To the unfamiliar ear, hearing that the company “implements industry-leading principles of continuous delivery and DevOps across clients’ digital service lifecycles”, as co-founder James describes it, may not mean much at all. Jargon aside, their technological tinkering behind the scenes brings their clients increased and improved productivity, less risks within the technical sides of things and a drive in revenue.

“We work with clients who build big online websites,” James explains. “For example, last year, the online clothing giant ASOS tried to deploy over 300 software changes to their website to improve the system and customer usability. This worked okay for them, but there were some real bottlenecks in the process.

“We came in, looked at their processes then helped them to understand how to better plan, build and test their software, and how to push those changes out in a way that wouldn’t disrupt customers.

“Now,” James says, “ASOS make over 1000 seamless software changes a year. That’s at least three software changes on average per day, largely facilitated by the continuous training we gave ASOS staff and the improvements we made to the back-end of their systems.”

That’s a great demonstration of how useful the DevOpsGuys can be to a company’s daily flow of activity, but things are still a little hazy about what they actually do. James?

“We rebuild each company’s software,” (i.e. websites, apps, all the intangible coded furniture), “so that the company’s customers quickly see improvements in online services,” he says. “Along the way and afterwards, we monitor the projects we’ve worked on to keep them running smoothly.”

They aren’t power-crazed hoarders of knowledge, though. When your company’s software goes awry, they’ll fix it and tell you what happened, why it happened and, importantly, what you can do to prevent it from happening again.

“We don’t like our customers to be dependent on us after we finish the build, so we give them the knowledge, confidence and ability to take control of their own Dev Ops, so that they are able to help themselves. It means our clients have the tools to sort the problem directly and independently, which saves them time and money.

“It’s not that we don’t want to help our customers after we finish the work; we are always reachable should they need us to explain something again or to run a problem by us. We just believe that in order for people to truly get to grips with running software and to enjoy Dev Ops tasks, we need to give them the know-how required for maintaining their platforms and programmes.”

You could use a nice analogy here.

Say a driver has a minor accident in their car due to poor car maintenance. Some mechanics would iron out the dent, top up the brake fluid and replace the brake pads.

DevOpsGuys would do something else. They’d bring the car back to working order, but they’d also show the driver how to keep the car roadworthy and prevent problems happening in the future. Plus, they’d put a little sticker with their phone number on it in the corner of the passenger window, just in case the driver ever needs a friendly voice to remind you how to check under the bonnet.

Et voilà! DevOpsGuys!

An Indian in the Pizza Aisle

Native American in a Pizza Aisle
Context is lacking: An Indian in the Pizza Aisle

It’s 11:30pm. I’m in Tesco. More specifically, I’m in the pizza aisle. Because it is Friday night.

And the thing is. There is also a Native American. In the pizza aisle. Buying a pizza. But not in the American Midwest. Not in Colorado where Native Americans are native, but in Cardiff. Where there are no Native Americans.

Context is important. Without context, things don’t make sense because there is no ensemble.

Take for example Charlie Brooker’s most recent episode of Black Mirror, in which Jon Hamm plays a man whose job it is to help under confident white guys pick up ladies in bars.

His big technique for striking up a conversation with a complete stranger is to tell a small group of people:

“I’ve just seen a man riding a horse topless down the high street.”

Which is a pretty remarkable story, right?

And it has the desired effect. It is remarkable (it creates conversation) because it is out of context. It is unusual to see a horse cantering down the high street.

Context is important.

Brands need context too

It’s not only in the art of delectable social discourse that context can be used for better or for worse, it’s applicable across your organisation’s structure, activities, brand and how you convey all of that to me (a consumer).

Want an example?

SSE, the energy company, recently perplexed customers and anyone who was not a customer but saw any billboard or media buy that they made recently.

“I don’t know about you, but nothing says ‘energy company’ to me like a painstakingly rendered, hyper-realistic CGI orangutan,” wrote Joel Golby in the Guardian late last year.

He’s got a point. It doesn’t make sense. There is no possible scenario where an orangutan riding an escalator makes me want to switch my energy supply to your brand.

There is no context. And context is important.

How do you find context in your organisation?

One of the things that we like to do is to ask ‘Why?’ And when an answer is given, we ask ‘Why?’ again. We keep asking this until we find out what the root of the issue is.

Because context is important.

Try it out: ‘Why does social media exist?’ > ‘So that people can share their lives with each other’ > ‘Because community is important’ > ‘Because it helps us to share ideas’ > ‘Because the ability to have an idea is what makes us human’

At the root of the very narrow question, there is usually a bigger trunk and when you go down past the trunk, there’s a good number of strong roots.

This approach will quickly lead you to a great starting place for a discussion of whatever activity it is that you’re looking into.

“Our new brand should be modern” Why? “We’re struggling to engage with the BRIC markets” Why? “We think that we need a new mobile app” Why? “Our staff are leaving our company” Why?

Context is the basis for forming a strategy.

I’m sure you’ll be happy to find out that when you find the context that was previously missing. It all makes a lot more sense. You know that the Indian in the pizza aisle is just hungry after a fancy dress party.

Context is everything: Hunting for food after a Fancy Dress party
Context is everything: Hunting for food after a Fancy Dress party

Fire the Shutter

We’ve got loads of friends who are producing great work. One of our favourite studios to bounce ideas back and forth with is Yoke Creative – a small but fierce studio of creative talent who are mostly working in video and motion graphics.

Recently, they’ve been out and about in the Welsh countryside filming stuff happening and what sounds like a boring pitch turns out to be an intriguing, engaging video called Fire the Shutter.

It’s really great too because they’ve been featured all over the internet for producing something which was, for them, a project that they did for the fun of it.

More of that attitude please. So great. Such good work. FRIENDS!


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Karl Lagerfeld on History and Creativity

You don’t feel the weight of all that history behind you?
There’s no history. I don’t even have archives, myself. I keep nothing. What I like is to do — not the fact that I did. It doesn’t excite me at all. When people start to think that what they did in the past is perhaps even better than what they do now, they should stop. Lots of my colleagues, they have archives, they look at their dresses like they were Rembrandts! Please, forget about it.

From this article in the NYTimes

Marc at Design Stuff Cardiff

Want to see me (Marc) naked in a bidet? Want to hear me do a chimpanzee sound? Want to know why I cry during KFC ads?

We’ve all asked these exact same questions at one point or another, but now we have the answers.

A few weeks back, the people at Design Stuff Cardiff asked me to give a talk at their pretty neat event. I chose to talk about joy and more specifically, how joy relates to design.

As well as all of the above, this video really asks the question: Is it OK to use a person’s emotions to sell them a product/service?

(Side note: Want to know when your Sports Illustrated football phone will come? Ask a weird naked Indian guy)
(Side note 2: Sorry if that reference seems out there. Excellent.)

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