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Cognition

Strategy

Some have pronounced it “strategery.” We, on the other hand, are talking about strategy that actually works.

We’ve written 23 blog posts about Strategy. View all topics »

  1. Everything I Know About the Web I Learned on the Job

    When I graduated college with an English and Fine Arts Degree, my school’s career services office didn’t know what to do with me. They handed me a giant book of jobs for English majors. Nothing interested me, but I wasn’t going to let some lady in a university office dash my dreams. I went to Monster.com and found what seemed to be my dream gig at a startup. I applied, selling myself as a creative type eager to learn anything and everything.

    I got that job over 15 years ago, and I’m happy to report that that description of me still hasn’t changed. I’ve always wanted to learn on the job, and I still do. Somehow, I’ve made a career in an industry perfect for learning while working.

  2. Avoiding #RWD Limbo

    Almost four years ago, I wrote a Cognition post about my Rule of Threes. In it, I explained that pushing a design effort far enough often resulted in stronger, better-conceived, and more thoroughly vetted solutions. If you didn’t read the article, let me give you a quick recap:

    At the conclusion of the information architecture phase, multiple designers worked in unison to evolve three unique design concepts. Each effort was aimed at different, but agreed upon goals. By varying art direction, user-interface interpretation, and content prioritization, the Rule stressed designing a “range” of static mock-up solutions to present to a client. Whichever concept garnered the most attention became the “base model” that was iterated on and drove the overall look and feel moving forward.

  3. The Dumbest Man in Congress

    Years ago, when men wore hats and the world was black and white, a small-town newspaper roused the ire of its hometown legislator, one Phineas P. Farnsworth, by labeling him “the dumbest man in Congress.”

    Not one to consider the merits of a criticism or take it lying down, the offended congressman immediately convened a press conference in Washington, DC. Journalists representing all the big American newspapers duly gathered to learn what was on the heretofore-unnoticed representative’s mind.

  4. Better Stakeholder Interviews

    Remember the childhood game of “Telephone”? One person whispers a message into the ear of their friend, and that action is repeated until everyone in attendance has heard and relayed the statement. The last person blurts out to the group what they heard, and, usually, laughter ensues.

    Everyone understands why this happens. Translation and less-than-pristine reinterpretation damage the fidelity of the message. There is no copy-and-paste equivalent for verbal storytelling. A photocopy of a photocopy of a photocopy of an image will always render that image indistinguishable from the original.

  5. Sketching a Story Arc

    Every project at Happy Cog starts with a kickoff meeting where our project team gets together with our client partners to meet, discuss, and collaborate on ideas for their project. We moderate a variety of exercises, surveys, workshops, and discussions. One of our favorites is the “Design Studio”—where we ask the team to sketch solutions to design problems for its redesigned site.

  6. 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.

  7. 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?”

  8. More or LESS?

    I love writing CSS. I really do. I love spinning straw into gold, rescuing HTML elements from browser default styles, curving corners, softening colors, and cushioning containers. I love abstracting complex design systems into powerful classes and efficient declarations while minding the cascade and the rules of inheritance and specificity. I see a site’s visual design as one giant puzzle, patiently waiting to be analyzed, broken down into component parts, and built back up again. I easily spend 70% of my time at Happy Cog developing the presentation layer, so I’ve had my eye on the hot newness that is the Sass / LESS / CSS preprocessor movement for a little while now.

  9. Stepping Out of Line

    Years ago, I was presenting comps on a scheduled call to a key stakeholder of my then-agency’s flagship account. It was my first call with him in months. He was unfortunately on vacation and without his laptop. That should have been the end of it.

    Instead, he asked me to paint him a picture.

  10. Buying Wins

    Investing in business development is like investing in anything else; you have a finite amount of resources to invest in a wide variety of options. In retail, the success of an enterprise often hinges entirely upon managing inventory. The difference between a successful and an unsuccessful venture often rests in the balance of ordering enough merchandise to meet demand, while subsequently avoiding over-ordering, and wasting money on overstock. In professional sports, a team’s success often rests in combining value among contracts, as much as in combining the right line up of athletes. In my role, the resource I invest is time. Money too, but man, it’s the time I miss.

  11. Follow That Requirement

    If you’ve taken part in any sort of web project, you have hopefully defined, referenced, and/or tested a requirement. You’ve also felt the impact of requirements gathering on your work. A good requirement can make your job easier by taking the mystery out of what is needed. A bad requirement can lead to more work, or even wasted effort. I explored how to mine for detailed requirements in Questioning (the) Authority. In the year since I wrote that article, I’ve wrestled with how to manage the natural evolution of business requirements to functional requirements as you progress through a project. How do you create traceable requirements?

  12. Make Sweet Systems Sweeter

    At Happy Cog, process is not sacred. We respect process, but we are constantly looking to improve the way our projects run; especially with regard to transitioning between project phases. Last week, Yesenia Perez-Cruz described how she crafts sweet systems and digital cupcakes. This week, I’m going to show you how we turn those cupcakes into a well-built tower of yummy cupcakery.

  13. Illustration by Yesenia Perez-Cruz

    What’s the ROI on Cool?

    Industry creative folks I’m friends with personally and respect professionally have uttered the following to me on multiple occasions:

    “I want to make cool shit.”

    I’ll be honest, I just don’t get it. To be fair, it’s safe to say I don’t get “cool” in general. I routinely dress like I’m headed to a corporate team-building ropes course, and I’m still waiting for Firefly to be picked up for season 2. So maybe it’s no surprise that the quest for cool escapes me. I don’t get the allure of making something cool for the sake of it being cool. Further, I don’t understand how you sell that to clients, or more importantly, why they would pay for it.

  14. Illustration by Kevin Sharon

    Designers are From Mars

    Prior to my days at Happy Cog, I worked on a team tasked with creating an online promotion for our client’s new high-end candy. The candy was delicious, but each small box sold for approximately $4, so conveying its quality was important. The product’s target market was women in their 20’s and 30’s, so my team decided to take the high-maintenance diva approach to the design. When all was said and done, we launched a microsite full of glamour and glitz, sparkles, stilettos, and lipstick tips. Users could take a quiz to determine just how “fabulous” they were. At the time, I was in my twenties, and I’ve always liked candy, so I considered myself a member of the target audience. But there was a problem: I couldn’t relate to this content at all. I liked to be girly from time to time, but sparkles and stilettos were not my thing and they never will be. I also couldn’t see any of my female friends connecting with this. To be fair, the tone of the site was tongue-in-cheek and it wasn’t taking itself too seriously, but I just didn’t feel right about it. It didn’t feel right to reduce our target audience to stereotypes. Had I known then what I know now, I probably would have spoken up and advocated for a better understanding of our audience. Were these women really into makeup and expensive clothes and nights out in Manhattan? Or were we completely off the mark?

  15. Face the money

    Face the Money

    I think I started holding down jobs when I was in the fifth or sixth grade. It started simple—a newspaper route in glorious Mark, Illinois, population somewhere around 250-300. Believe it or not, there were two paper routes in this little village. Mark had lots of hills, but also lots of great people—and even a couple of first generation Italian immigrants—who made the route worthwhile. It wasn’t just about the cash money to buy Atari 2600 cartridges and fireworks I received from them; it was often about those homemade lemon cookies made from a recipe that probably never existed on paper.

  16. 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.

  17. Hollywood

    Typecasting Ourselves

    In the movie business when an actor plays the same role over and over, he is considered “typecast.” A word that carries negative connotations and general disdain. The typecast label implies actors only play one role well, emoting the same expressions throughout projects, and presenting the same personality no matter the situation. Generally, being typecast is not something an actor strives for.

  18. An Open Letter to 37signals

    Good day to you, Signals!

    Basecamp has greatly enriched our work life. It deftly reduces the incredibly complex noise of a large, busy project with many moving parts into exactly what each of us needs to get our jobs done. It has allowed us to isolate and document critical conversations, and therefore collaborate with our clients and each other more effectively. Smooth integration with e-mail makes it possible to respond at the speed of thought. And the recent integration of accounts makes hopping between the many different Basecamps in the Happy Cog universe a breeze.

  19. You’re always replaceable

    1/20/11

    by Greg Hoy

    40 Responses

    Everywhere I’ve worked, there has always been one employee deemed so valuable that other people say, “If she ever leaves, we’re screwed.” Could be the sales gal. Or the IT guy. Or the fearless leader. Someone whose knowledge runs so deep, whose Rolodex is so bursting, or whose leadership is so charismatic that the thought of moving on without them is incomprehensible.

  20. Happy-Libs: We’re All In It Together

    12/16/10

    by Jenn Lukas

    23 Responses

    No matter what field we specialize in, each of us faces common day-to-day responsibilities, tasks, and expectations of awesomeness at our jobs. Sometimes we might assume that people in different roles don’t face the same challenges; however, when we break it down to the basics, it might surprise us how much we all have in common. See for yourself!

  21. Questioning (the) Authority

    The success of any project hinges upon your ability to extract information from people. I’m not talking about summary-level information, I’m talking about the microscopic stuff. It’s harder than you might think.

    The reason for this may be best identified by a Hungarian–British polymath named Michael Polanyi who wrote a book called “The Tacit Dimension” in 1967. It is an overview of something he called “tacit knowledge,” which is the belief that creative acts (especially acts of discovery) are charged with strong personal feelings and commitments.

  22. 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.

  23. 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?”