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Cognition

Communication

We’ve written 33 blog posts about Communication. View all topics »

  1. Fighting Stage Fright

    In my younger days I performed quite a bit. I liked rehearsing and being on stage. I was a student teacher for an acting class. I somehow became the host of my high school talent show (footage of that has been burned). Yet despite having zero qualms about putting myself out there once my lines had been memorized, I was completely and utterly terrified of auditions. To this day, I have recurring nightmares about auditioning for a play and bombing so miserably that I feel embarrassed for hours after waking up.

  2. Check Your Design Taste At the Door

    Rococo, sequins, Rupaul: The inner-me has a taste for over-embellishment. But as a designer, it’s important I tame this affinity towards razzle-dazzle in my work, which is rarely the best method of visual communication for the task at hand. However, checking my own taste at the door and adapting my voice can sometimes be surprisingly difficult.

  3. The Truth About Facts

    A significant portion of this country supports a candidate for President that I do not. By now you’ve already formed an idea of whom I’m talking about, though I’ve given no indication about my preference (unless you follow me on Twitter) and the statement is true for anyone who writes it.

  4. Thoughtful Communication

    Comedian/actor Eddie Izzard makes an interesting point in his 2011 stand up Dress To Kill about communication. Through a (famously misunderstood) historic example of JFK’s 1963 address in Berlin, he illustrates how what you say, is often overshadowed by how you say it. The literal translation of what JFK said could have been interpreted in one of two ways. It could have been interpreted to mean he called himself a jelly doughnut. Because of the powerful way he delivered his message however, and the connection he had crafted with the Berlin crowd, they properly understood his meaning and responded enthusiastically when he declared himself a Berliner at heart.

  5. Distributed yet synchronized

    I just returned from a whirlwind trip to Brooklyn with four of my coworkers. An all-day client workshop was the reason for the visit but we also squeezed in my first employee review (over tagliatelle, no less) and a team dinner. I spend most of my days away from the Philly office, working in my studio in Baltimore. So it’s refreshing (and fun) to see my colleagues in person.

  6. Show Your Work

    There is no Angie’s List for creative service companies. No IMDb for project credits. No peer review requirements for blog posts. Our industry is out here on its own, and left to act on our collective best behavior.

  7. Don’t Make Me Turn This Project Around…

    As I sit in my living room, laptop open and a Cognition column awaiting my two cent contribution, I listen to the sound of my three children shrieking upstairs. It’s bath time and they’ve been freed from the prisons of their clothing. They may or may not be careening into one another in a darkened second-floor hallway, laughing like maniacs. Parenting, like client services, is the management of the wackiest of variables, people.

  8. Writing Inkcouragement

    Until recently, I haven’t had much experience writing. In my distant past there were English classes and essays to keep me in practice, but professionally I knew something was lacking. I was supposed to write more often. I was told it would help me establish perspective as a designer, and help organize my thoughts (which to me sounded like a chicken-or-egg situation). I was reluctant because the idea of publishing a full-length piece in my own words seemed impossible. Determined, I approached writing the same way I approach my graphic design, and slowly it has come more naturally. As I began writing more frequently in blogs, emails, and even annotations, I’ve discovered a few tips that have helped me write better.

  9. The Intro Tech Call

    Yesterday at Happy Cog, Mark, Abby, and I had an intro call with a tech team for a client who will be implementing our templates into their CMS, which, in this case, is ExpressionEngine.

  10. Resource Planning - Part of the Greater Guru Good

    The Digital Project Management (DPM) community is experiencing something for the first time that has become old hat for the web design and development communities – open dialogue and the sharing of ideas. In the past couple years we’ve been able to tap into a growing number of open forums and online DPM communities (check out this article by the illustrious Brett Harned).

  11. Turn Signals

    For my first driving lesson my father took me to the empty elementary school parking lot across the street from my house on a Saturday afternoon. He drove over, parked the car, switched seats with me, then instructed me to drive.

  12. Opening My Sketchbook to a Client

    People who sketch well are intimidating. I’m talking about those who confidently visualize an idea with speed and style. Some are just born with this talent—others have to develop it. I fall into the latter category.

    Like many designers, I showed enough drawing ability to have put me on this career path but not enough to be an illustrator. That gap in drawing talent manifested itself as a lack of confidence with sketching, as well. I tend to see the vision as the pencil hits the paper—not before. As a result, throughout much of my career, I’ve kept my sketches to myself in volumes of Moleskins. I’ve rarely shared those doodles with coworkers and never with clients. The thumbnail-sized brainstorming and visual problem-solving made sense to me, but I had no confidence it could communicate clearly to others.

  13. Plan for the Unplanned

    Leading up to the design phase of a project, we devote a lot of thinking to setting the project’s core goals and requirements, as well as establishing a basic plan for how the project will flow. During this time, on my team, we ask as many questions as possible and learn as much as we can before we present a strategy to the client. In the end, everyone agrees on what the goals are, but how those goals will be realized is yet to be determined.

  14. Developers and Communication

    The ability to communicate well with non-technical people is what separates star developers from the rest. Star developers understand that other team members don’t need to know about implementation details. They’ve developed an understanding of the non-technical aspects of project work—things like requirements, risk, scope, client concerns, project timelines. They handle more than just the technical parts of a project with ease.

    It’s no secret that most developers have room to grow in the communication department. Even within the development world, back-end developers and front-end developers’ communication skills can range. We have a hard enough time communicating with each other about things like CMS implementation, template integration, CSS best practices… and we speak each other’s lingo! Forget about trying to explain things to non-technical folks. (By the way, you may know Happy Cog only for exceptional designers and front-end devs, but it’s worth mentioning we have a brilliant back-end development team too.)

  15. Overwriting Less

    I am an overwriter.

    I could stop this post right here, but you wouldn’t believe me.

    There is relief and guilt to overwriting—like you’ve just finished off a large bag of potato chips by yourself. You find comfort in there being no more chips to eat but also discomfort, because, well, you just ate an entire bag of chips.

    Or, you’ve just written countless words to a client team explaining the intricacies of a deliverable. You exhale and cross the to-do off your list, but you secretly doubt whether the post overcomplicated the work or confused your client.

  16. So Why Should I Speak Publicly?

    No matter who you are or how much time you’ve spent in the field, you have unique experiences that have shaped you and helped you to grow. And you may not realize it yet, but you can have a tremendous impact upon others just by sharing your expertise. Its time for you (yes, you) to enter the realm of public speaking. If you can find the right audience, they will eagerly listen and learn.

  17. It’s Tech

    7/12/12

    by Mark Huot

    2 Responses

    If you’ve worked in the theater, you’re probably familiar with the term “tech week.” It’s that magical time when an entire production comes together in a matter of days. It’s a whirlwind week that culminates in a big opening night performance.

  18. Attack of the Horrible Presentation

    When I was an undergrad student, I studied film. One valuable lesson I picked up in school was how to prepare for a presentation. My instructors taught us to run a projector correctly; or, they let us know in no uncertain terms, you were wasting everyone’s time. Here’s what was expected of you: arrive early, clean your film, clean the projector, check the bulb, set the focus, set the sound levels, and cue up your reel. Do anything wrong and you would be on the receiving end of glower, ridicule, and not a word of critique about the film you were presenting.

  19. On Forgotten Alumni and Cold Pleas for Cash

    Like many of you, I’m a busy person, yet it’s important that I find time for the occasional phone call to Mom and Dad. A typical phone conversation with my Mom starts like this:

    Me: “Hi Mom, it’s me. How are you doing?”

  20. Clippers

    I recently went on the hunt for a new barber closer to home. You see, I’ve been fortunate enough to have my hair cut for the last six years from the same barber every time, a friendly man named Joe. Over that time Joe and I have gotten to know each other quite well. We both have dacshunds, we both enjoy the theater, and we both know exactly how I like my hair cut.

  21. Please Put Down the Device & Let’s Just Talk

    Warning, if you are reading this in a meeting STOP! Put down your mobile device or laptop and slowly lift your head and eyes upward until you see (and hear) the person speaking!

  22. Streamlining Internal Communications

    Three and a half years ago, I left the world of traditional print marketing and entered the world of the Interwebs. My old company said “No!” to video chatting or instant messaging in the office and worried more about proper email subject line etiquette than finding the best ways to communicate with each other. Change was in store as I entered the land of Instant Messaging (IM) and Skype, Basecamp and Campfire, but was it a change for the better or do more lines of communication further complicate things? I found myself being asked a similar question by a couple folks at a Dribbble holiday meet up this past December. I was asked how I manage projects, how we communicate as a team, and more specifically, how I manage communications in a virtual environment.

  23. Designing a Presentation

    In my list of career goals, “Public Speaking” was somewhere towards the bottom, under the heading: “Save for Later.” I imagined the audience would fall asleep, the floor would turn to lava, and I’d be left clinging to the lectern while the scathing tweets were projected onto the wall behind me. Terrifying. Despite these fears, I made my speaking debut three weeks ago, along with two of my colleagues, Michael “MJ” Johnson and Allison Wagner, at AIGA Philly’s 3rd Pencil 2 Pixel presentation.

  24. Writing to remember

    Writing to Remember

    10/27/11

    by Ryan Irelan

    7 Responses

    For the last 5 ½ years, I’ve worked from home. So except for the occasional on-site meeting, almost all of my meetings have been done on the phone. If you were a fly on the wall in my office during a phone meeting, you’d see me with my head down scribbling notes while listening, scribbling notes while talking, and even asking for a moment so I can take more notes.

    During in-person meetings, I also try to take as many notes as possible. I often scribble notes while others are talking, and if I’m the one doing the talking—or if the discussion is a fast paced back-and-forth—I try to jot down as much as I can during breaks in the conversation. Sometimes I’m able to pen a few keywords in the middle of conversations that I can go back to later (during a break, perhaps) and elaborate on so as to not forget the most salient information.

  25. Fix Recruiting

    A recruiter emailed me recently. I was selected for a role because I had experience with the software “Adobe”… Recruiters. Such a disaster. AMIRITE?!?!?

    Hold on there, let’s pump the brakes on the generalizations a bit. Recruiters, like designers or developers or content strategists, hail from a variety of backgrounds, have a wide range of capabilities, and deliver varying degrees of value and results. For many people, a relationship with a recruiter is the catalyst for opportunities that reshape a career.

  26. Save Ferris!

    I’m not gonna lie. On a bad day, I can be a bit like Cameron from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.

    Note: If you were born after 1986 or just don’t like movies and don’t get the reference, Cameron is like Eeyore. If you don’t get that reference, there is no helping you.

  27. Bicycle Illustration by Chris Cashdollar

    Not everyone’s a technophile

    6/16/11

    by Mark Huot

    6 Responses

    When you engage Happy Cog in a full scale web redesign, you typically come out of the project with a fully integrated content management system (or CMS). The implementation of a CMS implies that you and your team will have access to a tool that will facilitate updating content across the entire website. The system creates an abstract of the website using simple forms to enable content entry. Completing those forms will generate all the necessary callouts, sidebars, related links, archives, etc. from which your site is built.

  28. Building Community

    I have the very great fortune to review and discuss some amazing client projects in my role with Happy Cog. In my short time here, I’ve seen some truly ambitious community-based initiatives proposed. Across the board, they each seem to identify an interesting need in the market; but the projects that stand out are those that have thought through cultivating the community they hope to build. A community without members is sad.

  29. Contempt and Caring

    “The last thing you need to do is see Jim Avery. He’s two doors down.”

    That was the department chair’s way of saying that our meet-and-greet was finished and that I needed to go. She was polite about it, but my stomach was still churning from nerves and stress. Thirty minutes prior to this meeting, I had decided to abandon my long-ago-decided path of pursuing an art degree in favor of a degree in advertising because 1) Advertising was the only department that offered a few graphic design courses and 2) the Art department had just royally pissed me off.

  30. A Method(ology) to our Madness

    In some circles, the words “waterfall” or “agile” can ignite a spirited discussion about which methodology is better. But is a methodology truly what makes a project successful? I say no. When it comes right down to it, you need to do what works for you, your client, and your project. Learning to adapt the way you work to meet the goals of a project might be tough, but sorting out the details from the start is a formula for success that you and your client can feel good about.

  31. Will you be mine?

    The Beginning of a Relationship

    At Happy Cog, I am responsible for the bulk of our sales efforts along with ensuring that our ongoing client relationships are positive. The early days of the professional relationship are not unlike the very early stages of courtship and dating. If there’s a connection to be made, its foundation is built on listening and sharing, which are sincere efforts for us to understand and help each other.

  32. Internal Memo: #415-09W

    re: Not Red Dawn but Almost

    All: It’s 4:00 AM and I am both wide awake and completely exhausted at the same time.

    First, I want to say that last week’s Halo game was inspiring, informative, and productive.

  33. Bloodhounding Budgets

    10/14/10

    by Greg Hoy

    82 Responses

    Laying the groundwork to earn a respectable wage in any service business can be a cat-and-mouse game. I’d like to share a few tactics I’ve picked up over the years that have helped us root out the answer to the queen mother of all biz dev questions: “What’s your budget?”