Editing, Design, and the Details

If you ask people that love the original Star Wars movies, they’ll tell you it’s because they were fun escapism, full of amazing special effects and spaceships.

But the professionals in the movie industry know better. The secret, dear friends, of the original Star Wars movies, is in the EDITING.

Marcia Lucas, George Lucas’ wife during the 70s and 80s, led the editing team for the original trilogy. While the SFX team was winning Oscars for their work, her team was quietly garnering awards for their editing skills.

Why is editing so important? Because it determines whether a scene is boring or exciting, whether a joke stays fresh or overstays its welcome, if the focus lingers too long on the Death Star so that the audience sees the flaws in the model.

A split second of bad editing is all it takes to ruin a scene. A moment that the average person never notices, except subconsciously. If done right, the audience is amazed. If done wrong, the audience is disappointed.

In visual design, that split second is equivalent to a single pixel width. It’s hardly noticeable, EXCEPT when it’s done poorly. The human eye can detect uniformity, or lack of it, and the brain gets subliminally annoyed when things simply “don’t look right”.

A Constant Gardener

This is a picture of our lawn after not being mowed and edged for a little over a week, because the gardener couldn’t come over on Wednesday because it rained. I saw the lawn when I bent over to pick up the community newspaper, and noticed how quickly the grass had grown and become unruly.

If I hadn’t seen it at that moment and instead looked at it next Thursday, I would have assumed that the lawn had never changed, simply because I wasn’t paying attention.

It’s the same for a business. Things that we take for granted as being automatic still need attention, especially during rare moments, like rain in Los Angeles. Tasks that we begin, we don’t continue, in lieu of other, “more important” tasks.

We tend to start blogs and after a few weeks or months, simply stop writing them anymore. We forget to update our portfolio after a project finishes. We develop momentum with Facebook and LinkedIn, but forget that we also have to continue to create content for Instagram, Twitter, Behance and Alignable.

Having said all that, I’m going to offer some quick tips and shortcuts on how you can keep your content fresh, sort of like taking 10 minutes to run the weed wacker on your lawn or pruning some stray branches.

  1. Create a 1080 x 1080 pixel square in Photoshop and fill that square with an image from your latest project, then save it as a jpg file. If you don’t have Photoshop, take a picture of your latest project, then square it up on your phone. Then post that picture to your accounts on Instagram, Facebook, Behance, LinkedIn, and so on.
  2. When you finish a project and if your client is on LinkedIn, ask them to write a quick recommendation for you. If you have a Yelp page, same thing. It’s amazing how many people (including me) should have a lot more testimonials on their website and social accounts if we only remembered to do this.
  3. If your client doesn’t have time to write but can say nice things about you on the phone, write it down and then ask your client permission for you to post it as a quick testimonial on your website, either as a pull quote or added to your testimonials page.
  4. Do a Facebook live session talking about your newly-completed project, then save that as a video file, upload it to YouTube, and embed the YouTube video on your own website, as well as all your social network accounts.
  5. If you have a WordPress site, install social feed plugins on your site. Whenever you update one of your social media accounts, your website gets updated also. https://wordpress.org/plugins/tags/social-media-feed/
  6. Instead of rewriting your bio on different social media accounts, create a MASTER BIOGRAPHY FILE of yourself, and write everything you can think of to describe yourself. From that master file, you can now copy and paste snippets to fill your bio descriptions on your different social accounts, deleting copy to fit within the character limitations of each account.
  7. While you’re at it, compile different photos of yourself, your company’s logo and banner, and keep all of them in one, quickly accessible folder in your computer.

Since I got serious about tending to my social media accounts, I’ve actually created a SOCIAL NETWORK folder, and within it folders for Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, etc., and a folder for miscellaneous memes that I may want to sprinkle in just for fun.

Most of these tasks don’t take that much time, and you’ll be able to repurpose the content multiple times. The trick is to have some kind of plan, have a little bit of time for seeding, a little bit of time for pruning, and a proper tool belt for your gardening gear.

Learning, Absorption, Implementation, Perfection (LAIP)

brain gear

I’ve been thinking about why, at a certain point of learning a new app or software, it actually becomes FUN, and I realize that I’ve learned enough to want to freestyle, just like learning a musical instrument to the point to where you can write your own songs. Same with the piano and drawing and Photoshop, and now I’m starting to feel it with WordPress.

There are other theories on phases of learning, but nothing I’ve seen that deals with this, the span of time during which a person is first introduced to the knowledge, to the time when they are comfortable enough to HONE their skill using that information.

1) The first step is LEARNING–somebody or something shows you how it’s done.

2) The second step is ABSORPTION–where you need time to process the information, and where you SHOULD NOT have any more input or else what you have just learned will just get confusing. It’s also important that you DO NOT jump to step 3 before this step 2 has figuratively “sunk in” your brain.

3) Third step is IMPLEMENTATION–where you create something to show that you’ve actually learned something.

4) Last step is PERFECTION–where you’ve spent x number of hours, and now it’s like second nature to you and you want to either change up the rules or hone it so you become guru level at it.

* Now, in my opinion, this is the IDEAL way to learn–to take the time do go through each of the phases.

But nowadays, I really think very few people have or take the time go even go through the Step 2 ABSORPTION phase. There’s such an immediate need to PRODUCE CONTENT that the modern learner has no time to let all this stuff sink in before they’re pressured into regurgitating the information that they just learned.

How Are You A Great Detective During Client Meetings?

Batman Detective

My story:

After more than two decades of countless client meetings, I often don’t stick to the same checklist of questions that I used to.

Totally true–one of the latest questions I asked my client was “Why do you keep a semi-automatic pistol in your office?”

His answer revealed more to me about how much his business means to him than the majority of questions I had asked, and from that point on I knew HOW to frame my interviews with that specific company, that specific owner.

I listen a lot more now, use more analogies, get to know the PERSON who’s in charge, not just the company’s products.

BUT at the same time, I also ask better questions regarding the company’s products, including their inventory, shipments, sales tracking and profit margins–whatever the client is willing to reveal to me without my going over the line. As I get older, I’m learning how to push that line further and further to get more information that will ultimately benefit my client.

I look at EVERYTHING in the room, whether we’re meeting in a small office or a large warehouse.

I watch the boss’ interaction with the workers.

I check out their technology–are they on the latest Macs or on old Windows 95 computers? Is the person in charge adept at gadgets or would he rather use pen and paper? Should I design the website so it will also look great on the client’s SVGA monitor, as well as on 1920 x 1200 monitors?

What’s the story behind their company’s name?