Visual Narratives

Modern web design standards aren’t built for the lazy. They just cater to short attention spans. There’s a difference.

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I’ve failed to appreciate and articulate this nuance myself (in writing, no less… sigh). And yes, I appreciate the irony of a verbose blog post to explain why one picture really can be worth a thousand words. But unlike a website’s landing page, blog posts are still a place where you’re expecting to find something to read. Or so I hope!

Increasingly microscopic looks into web browsing habits has proven what we all suspect: site visitors are spending even less time visiting any given page. But this is only the case because these same visitors are visiting even more individual pages daily. Basically, they’re processing more information than ever.

It’s no surprise that we’ve all learned to scan over a page for the info we’re looking for rather than reading each word. Naturally, we appreciate the organizations that present the info we’re looking for as efficiently as possible.

So yes, in this case, there’s a huge difference between being lazy and having a short attention span (even if they aren’t always mutually exclusive traits!).

Design standards evolve quickly. There comes a point at which design principals become ‘expected’ standards. This is when the adoption rate of these same principles hits critical mass. Web design tools like WordPress and SquareSpace have led to explosive growth of visually-oriented websites.

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Yes, our design buzz words for today are: “Visual narratives”

Today’s most popular web design tools make building with visual narratives easier than ever. Any website or design project that sells the product or service in question with a strong emphasis on telling an image-drive story is utilizing visual narratives. The right utilization or combination of pictures, graphic design or any manner of interactive visuals can serve to communicate efficiently.

Companies that produce sleek new products like cars, clothing or phones are no longer trumpeting the charge towards image-driven web design. Nope. The mom and pop accounting firm down the road probably just launched a site with 75% less words than their ancient (2010) website.

But cutting the info dumps out of a site’s landing page doesn’t mean the site can’t teach us what we need to know about their service.

yelp-five-star-companyWhy read a novel about a business’s services when we can just read their yelp score?
If you’re an accounting firm, taut your fantastic Yelp score by integrating it seamlessly.

This is hardly a new practice. Commercials have been selling visual narratives from day one. It’s just taken web design a couple decades to efficiently utilize these same principals. You no longer have to have Apple or Ford level web development or marketing budgets to get into this game. Tools like WordPress have opened the doors for everyone to develop reasonably fluid visual narratives.

Remember what amateur attempts at visually engaging sites used to look like? busy-landing-page-600x324

We’ve all heard the phrase “a picture is worth a thousand words”. The expression is as overused as it is true. Countless built-in associations can be gleamed almost instantly from an image. Just because a site is image-driven doesn’t mean we can’t extrapolate tons of information from it. Quite the contrary, the right choice images organized appropriately can speak volumes about the product or service in question. As a culture weened on imagery, we’re more astute at drawing information out of an image than we realize.

And now we’re all becoming even more astute art critics. Only the very best designed visual narratives will sway us.

 

American Made Disruptive Tech

shutterstock_74394589In 1893, The World’s Columbian Exposition (otherwise known as the ‘Wold’s Fair’) was held in Chicago, IL. At the time, it was the largest assembling of people outside of combat. In other words, it was the largest peaceful gathering of human beings in history. This event was a momentous occasion for many reasons. In retrospect, it was a particularly vivid indicator of the vital role the United States was to play in the century to come.

The U.S. was about to become the world’s headquarters for disruptive technologies. It was home to countless innovations that would define the 20th century and shape civilization indefinitely.

The World’s Fair featured attractions such as Nikolas Tesla’s electrical grid. His display was the fair’s defining feature. It was no less than the world’s first functional example of an artificially lit street. And though it wasn’t built to last, it was absolutely built to scale. Indeed, to say that this display of alternating-current electrical power was awe-inspiring would be underselling the display. It’s hard to imagine a more revolutionary and distinctly visible moment in the history of man-made infrastructure. Tesla (a Serbian born immigrant to the USA) accomplished no less than to give the world a sneak preview at its future.

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Millions flocked to see Tesla’s work and countless other displays of a disruptive technology. The United States was open for innovative new business and we wanted the whole world to know it.

In the decades following the Wold’s Fair, the greatest minds in the world flocked stateside. Home grown innovators, working in hand with the great many who immigrated to this country in pursuit of lucrative intellectual opportunity, accomplished feats that were previously unimaginable. Their affecting influence on the world has been as qualitative as it was quantitive.

10836546_1Here’s one famous example of the nation’s rapid innovation that I still find staggering:

In 1903 the Ohio and Indiana-born Wright Brothers were credited with the first maned flight. Less than a lifetime later, American astronauts landed on the moon.

As a comparison, it was some 10,000+ years between the world’s first canoe and the first steam ship.

In short: American innovations played an incalculable role in shaping the 20th century world. 

But what about the 21st century?

There’s a narrative today that suggests that America’s role as a central innovator in the world is coming to a close. It’s a pervasive message. We’ve all been led to ponder the validity of this claim and its nebulous indications.

To be clear, I believe that there’s no doubt that the world’s geopolitical landscape is evolving. Hegemonic influences are evolving as always, and perhaps at a distinctly accelerated rate. But the only influence that concerns this particular July 4th post is innovation. And it is of my opinion that too many focus on a nation’s role as a world ‘power’ when I considers the position of world ‘innovator’ to be far more interesting.

The question I posit today:

Is the U.S. no longer the leader in world-shaping (and by extension, business-shaping) innovation?

My answer:

If the early 21st century is to be an indication, American-made innovations are to shape the world as much or more than those of the 20th century.

Today, when we hear the word ‘disruptive technology’ we think about web-based technologies, specifically. Companies like Google, Apple, or even Uber, along with countless others have redefined how people and organizations interact with their world.

Web-based infrastructure and new technologies built to scale are two highly-integrated fields in which the U.S. continues to decidedly lead the charge. They’re also two fields that are likely to change the world most notably in the next few decades. In 2015, the world looks to the United States in awe as disruptive web-based technology forms the very infrastructure that the future is being built upon.

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This weekend, as we celebrate this truly-revolutionary nation, we should all take a minute to reflect on not just our past, but the great innovations that will ensure our seat at the table of greatness in the years and decades to come.

Here’s to looking towards the unlimited possibilities ahead.

Gulo is on the Move

Amoving-pictures-of-cartoons-7fter over a decade at our office in the heart of Wicker Park, Gulo’s main office is moving to some new digs.

We’ve outgrown our headquarters atop Reckless Records’s original Wicker Park store. A part of us will always miss the steady thump of music beneath our feet.

There’s a funny thing about moving: you expect it to be a stressful exercise, and yet the stress of the move usually somehow surpasses even your loftiest expectations. So you can imagine our surprise when the transition to our new (far more spacious!) HQ has been remarkably seamless. Vital information for Gulo operations and that of our clients are all hosted outside the office.

Heck, our staff’s only down time is during their drive a mile down the road!

So, as we enter the next phase of Gulo’s growth, it’s hard not to marvel at the mobile agility of the Gulo team and our services. Even if a crisis had occurred in the brief hours between offices, our hardware remained online, and our 8×8 telephony ap directed calls directly to our cell phones. For all intents and purposes, there was zero downtime as our entire office moved.

I guess we’ll just have to find something else to stress out about?

How about you or your firm’s digital needs? The stress of developing tools for the web space is what Gulo is built to handle. Believe it or not, we’re not professional movers! Nope. We’re builders. And just like always, we’re standing by to build out your web presence. Websites, apps, and everything in-between.

Our team is always ready, now more than ever.

On that note, stay tuned. We have some exciting announcements to come!