Digital creative in the ‘Teens’– things we’ve learned in 2016 about 2017.


It’s four days into 2017 and we must have had 20 emails about web development and creative trends to look out for over the next 12 months. However, we would rather tell you what we saw in 2016, because frankly, it just looks like the prevailing user behaviour and tech concepts are likely to simply further embed themselves unless we see a true moment of innovation.

Sure, everyone in digital creative loves to see true innovation but it’s less clear what innovation looks like these days. It’s as if the tools are in the tool box and the tool box is accessible to almost everyone – so real innovation is about finding a unique way to apply existing technology. Perhaps the true nirvana however is ‘sustainable innovation’ – the place in which an idea cements a user base upon which a multi-layered offer can be built. The size of that user base just depends on the value of the user.
Rest assured – if we do see a true trend or moment of innovation we will share it with you!

“For Communicate we are making 2017 about the client journey – web development at the intersection of content delivery, brand marketing, client relationship management and true engagement. We can smell the smoking confluence of mobile, web, software as a service, APIs, paywall automation and relevance engines. Dashboard styles are coming, tiles of content you can define yourself and “insight on demand”…”

Based on our experience of the 37 websites and 9 mobile apps we built in 2016, our geeks and beard wearing designer types have noted the following things prevailing:

Storytelling by film is expensive and involves a number of skills making it difficult to access for B2B clients. Animation however takes a client, a talented storyteller with a pencil and an animator. And you can be different because the quality and approach you take is not being compared subconsciously with the client’s / consumer’s decades of TV and film experience. Find me someone who doesn’t have a frame of reference where film is concerned – I’ve always wanted to be the first person to show a hermit a virtual reality headset.

Sources say over 60 per cent of all internet traffic last year was video – and I can believe that in B2C land. But we made shed loads of cool short films in 2016 for B2B clients who had something special to say. Technology is the great enabler here. Historically, true visual talent had to work their way up a long career corridor to be set free on the public, but now the technology to make world class 4k film is affordable or available to hire – and, in the right hands, it’s epic. B2B folk, don’t be scared by cost or scale… it’s all smoke and mirrors!

“FILM…? B2B folk, don’t be scared by cost or scale… it’s all smoke and mirrors!”

Tiles/Cards and the visually bite-sized:
Intelligent, substantive and credible professional businesses like infographics and we’ve seen how we can tell a story with these creative dreamscapes – but the clever folk ask not what the infographic can do for them rather what they can do for the infographic. Recycling it and chopping it up is the key. In fact, creating bite-sized teasers as access points to richer content has to be a mantra. Even the most sophisticated commissioner of a research exercise will really want you to take away a limited number of points which their quant ratifies. By broadcasting ideas, statements and observations in tiles sized chunks they can be reflowed onto a multiple of channels. We have begun turning our two-minute films into 15-second GIFS, chunking up animations into stills, and even creating micro-powerpoint for social media. We see the teasers as trailers to the main piece – it pre-qualifies the target viewer as someone who might genuinely have an interest.

Stock imagery catching you out:
i-stock, Shutterstock and the other image banks have become so heavily relied upon that people are getting caught out. Who wants to launch a £200k campaign centred around a creative hook only to find your biggest competitor is using the same image set. The importance of original creative has long been understood by the ad men. Originality is now a must-have in B2B, too.

The complex made simple in order to make your point is a la mode. Big data is still un-realisable outside of the very largest institutions but it has artificially accelerated the appetite for data visualisation. Visualising management information, survey results, financial management and more, means account managers have to do more… pull your socks up boys and girls!

Font as art:
Brands stick to their fonts, the GUI. This linear approach works for brand establishment but the truly sticky brands can be trusted to home the odd occurrence of font as art. One of the primary tools in information design (infographics, data visualisation) is the use of font scale, font colour and to a degree augmentation. This makes the font the art, particularly when its next to iconography. Focus less on the icon and more on the words. Set the font free! (within reason… )

Rapid prototyping:
Across creative services we have seen a significant enhancement in the ability to quickly realise an idea. There was 3D printing which was realised via traditional modelling and an SWF file, low level film pilots with a hand-held DSLR at 2k and 50fps, or web designs being tested with object-based tools like Unpin, InVision and Marvel. This will give clients the opportunity to change a brief quicker, get things right through collaborative web specification and reduce the cost of prospecting for both the client and the agency.

We love WordPress, Joomla, Magneto and those CMSs that have made content curation possible without NASA’s direct involvement. But it has to be said that the templates have made the web look quite similar in most places. We made a conscious effort in 2016 to break the mould and change templates where possible. We don’t want to get into the argument about this – we understand that the scale of these CMSs has given us intuitive GUI – we all know where to look for stuff on a webpage now… but it’s also made people creatively lazy… and that just won’t flaming do!!!!!

Mobile first UI and responsive design:
If you accept that people are more likely to interact on a mobile device (at least your analytics show you that) then why have you just built a website starting with the desktop view? I’ll tell you why… it is what we know and it’s easier to sub-edit content down from substantive to mobile friendly than it is the other way. We have learnt the hard way and couldn’t get it all in. As the agency managing the instructing party’s internal stakeholders, it is much more difficult if they have signed off on a website which is big enough to be substantive when you are forced to say “I’m sorry that eight syllable word in German doesn’t fit the box on our mobile version”.

The new channel for experiential marketing – and a significant way to digest content. You’ll know the feeling of having fun is the over-riding desired emotion, you’ve read about gamification and the rest; but strip it back and just ask yourself how valuable getting a client or target to spend dedicated time in sensory isolation really is. No other emails to read while digesting your white paper, no ability to take a mobile phone call, no colleagues interfering and no alternative searches appearing next to your result. It’s the ultimate opportunity to deliver the message (maybe?!) We’ve been playing with it… and trying the frankly mundane… 3D infographics rock!

ENDS (It has to, frankly the coffee has runout)