First & Repeat Impressions

We have a long history of accepting interns at Trampoline. We’ve had high school students come for short stints, college students stay for durations designated by credits they will earn, and we’ve even had people between jobs who want to dip their toes in the agency waters. We try to make sure it’s worth everyone’s time, which means interns get to participate in the design and crit process, they get to experience client meetings, and their voices are genuinely considered.

Last year three of our employees were people who began as interns and, at the end of their internship, were offered a position. Then in the fourth quarter, we brought on two people who had both been interns years ago and then came back to Trampoline with years of design under their belts.

Today’s post is something that they wrote at our request. We talk so much about impressions, whether it’s repeat impressions, first impressions, or lasting impressions, we thought it would be great to hear some different impressions on Trampoline. Here they are, Rob and Leslie, inadvertently twinning as they rock bold glasses, neutral tops, and mild consternation at being pulled off projects for yet another photo opp.

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Trampoline in Leslie’s words:

First, Second, & Third Impressions

The first impression I had of the world of graphic design is when I visited Trampoline when I was a student at Glens Falls High School. Susan Botch, the art teacher, created an initiative where students had a chance to see “art in the real world.” Wide-eyed and excited, we were led up a set of narrow stairs in a downtown Glens Falls building at 196 Glen Street. There we met with the Tramp team, who were enthusiastic and ready to share their work with us. I remember the space well, long and narrow with the conference table up-front by the windows, client work on the walls and desks going all the way to the back. What a fun space to work in. The Tramps were legitimately excited about being there and talking design.

I was thrilled. We can create art for a living?! Graphic design? What is this? I didn’t know, but I was sold.

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Graduate GFHS? Check.

Graduate The College of Saint Rose with a BFA in Graphic Design? Check.

Second Impression.

After graduation, I interviewed and accepted an internship position for the summer at Tramp. This time they were located down the road at 166 Glen Street on the second floor above their retail space, Nine Authentic Goods. To get to their studio space, you walked through the store past an almost entirely local inventory, designed and crafted in the Adirondacks, and up the stairs in the back. I jumped right into working on packaging, signage, t-shirts, logos, map illustration… you name it! It was an invaluable experience to work up designs for merchandise and then to be able to walk through the store to see them on the shelves, let alone see people purchasing them! An internship with Trampoline wasn’t about making coffee, it was about creating and collaborating.

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That summer I won a Nori Award for a personal branding project and the Tramps were there by my side to congratulate me. The feeling that they were genuinely excited about my win made my night. But what was even more touching was that prior to the awards event, Trampoline handed me my own personal “something about being a super awesome intern” Tramp award. While it was an honor that The Albany Ad Club recognized my work, the personal recognition by the Tramp staff, who I worked with every day, felt personal and noteworthy.

Internship ends. Five+ years pass.

Third Impression!

Is there something about being on the second floor that just works? Who knows — but I made my way up, this time via elevator, to the second floor at 11 South Street. For what can be nerve-wracking for a lot of people, my portfolio review and interview felt very comfortable and welcoming. I was excited to share what I had worked on and was eager to learn what future possibilities could be with the team. It felt like coming home.

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Yes, websites upgrade, logos evolve, offices move… but good company sticks around. What has endured over these past 10+ years and has kept me coming back to Tramp is the sincere passion and care for what the people at Tramp do, all the while staying grounded. The love for design is strong within the family that Trampoline has built. Not only does it show in the great work that is produced, but the ability to enjoy the process of creating together as a team.

 

And now, Rob’s perspective on returning to Trampoline:

Jumping on the Trampoline…Again

In spring of 2012 my Pre-Press Production class had a guest speaker come in. The speaker showed examples of work, talked about the day to day office life and gave insights into running a business to a room full of mostly exhausted second year students (The class was 6 pm – 9 pm and primarily file preparation, mind you). Despite the lingering fog of late nights in the studio that hung over the room, the presentation was not lost on us. 16 heads attentively bobbed along to a story about planning a new business and the weight of jumping off on your own. “Ooo”s and “ahhh”s slipped out at slick images of newly designed beer labels.

After the presentation the guest speaker went to each student and critiqued their current projects, a logo suite for a restaurant that would be expanded into packaging and advertising. When my turn came I presented an admittedly half-assed attempt at a hand done logo featuring a far too (and yet not enough) detailed luchador. It was met with the kindness of a pro speaking to a student, but yet again the lesson was not lost. It needed work, if not to be reconsidered over all. The perfect metaphor for my skill level at the time.
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That speaker was Derek Slayton and that logo certainly didn’t make it into my portfolio when I applied for an internship with Trampoline exactly 1 year later. I, to my own disbelief, secured said internship and was excited to be spending my summer a mere bike ride away from home functioning in an office and making the quality work that one might expect only happens in trendy urban environments, not a sleepy mini-metropolis at the base of the Adirondacks.

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The exposed brick walls and a giant piece of sheet metal we hung our critique pieces on were just half of the charm. The team was warm, welcoming, talented and not short on smack talk. Jokes hurled over the office dividing walls as often as music filled the rooms. Critiques were quick and to the point, yet informed and entertaining. Ideas bounced like excited kids on the company’s name sake. The insights provided that summer served as a macro version of that first critique in Pre-press and I felt as though my skill set grew 10 fold in just the three months I was there.
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After relocating post-graduation, I moved home in July and was lucky to reconnect with the tramps at an AIGA event. The event was at a café that I had been using as my base of operation for freelance. After 6 months of borderline badgering on my part, they reached out about the possibility of doing some work together (imagine full on Tiger Woods fist pump levels of excitement). The interview felt more like catching up with old friends or teachers than a business ordeal. At one point a certain logo in my portfolio caught Derek’s eye. It was that same restaurant piece revisited after my summer at Trampoline.

The vibe is the same, the client list is ever-expanding, the team is more than double the size, the office is new and the work flow is a little different. The jokes still fly, just over the top of computer screens instead of divider walls. The giant piece of sheet metal is now a standing table. I felt the same sense of excitement I did as a college junior walking in on my first day, still ready to learn, but this time as a contributor and not just a student. No matter what is changed and what is the same it feels good to be back…bouncing on the trampoline.

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6 Ways to Turn Data Into Content

Last week Derek sent me a link to an AdAge article about consulting companies like Deloitte entering the industry, armed with data, determined to compete with math. Hiring someone to run numbers for you is a great idea, and can provide insight into who cares about your organization. Consultants are a great lens to view a given marketplace through, but that perspective doesn’t matter much without execution.

Accurate research can certainly inform your message, targeting individual segments. The AdAge article seems to take for granted that concepts will simply present themselves when the numbers have been crunched. I think there’s a lot of daylight between agencies on this point.

Rock-solid data doesn’t guarantee that the needle will move, as referenced by this article on Millennial preferences online. Campaigns need to have staying power, based on the research that digital advertising isn’t a transactional experience, it’s often a long-game. We’re all looking for something to share, an affirmation, or a way to define what is important.

When it comes to communication, the best ideas win. Concepts that make people consider a point, 30-second football spots that are so well done that they bring people to tears…these are what we talk about. Comedy, whether it’s slapstick or storytelling, unites a room with a laugh—and builds the rapport that we’re all in search of.

> Audience reaction, applause.

Someone wrote that joke or choreographed a pratfall, and it’s that work that’s easily overlooked or overpowered by big data. Ideas are subjective and therefore their effectiveness isn’t easily quantified. Having said that, everyone seems to recognize a good one.

This is all terribly self-serving, a blog post about the importance of creativity on an agency website. Probably a bunch of graphic design snobs in love with their own ideas.

…True.

There are other ways that we tackle a problem that have little to do with design. Decisions we make, as a group, to determine what the best course of action will be. Ultimately there is a visual component, but there are a lot of decisions (based on data) that inform what the best course of action will be. Here are six different approaches that we stand by.

1. Customized Messaging.
Create something unique and specific to an audience that reinforces a brand, even on a local level. Don’t rely on stock content, which can be terrible to begin with. What makes you different? Does a free typeface or a system font really work to communicate that?

Custom

^ The crew at Hunter Mountain are creating a 70’s skateboard-themed event at Empire Parks. Inspiration came in the form of Steely Dan tracks with a sprinkle of Hall & Oats. We named the event for the locale, and for the competitors—who will be judged on style points.

It’s very specific, it won’t work for another mountain, and that’s the point.

 

2. Consistency.
Keep things familiar at each brand touchpoint with the public.

Consistency

^ Big Slide Brewery & Public House contracted Trampoline to create a logo for the restaurant, some help with an exterior sign design, and a sticker. I wish they’d used us for more, but the reality is that we provided a flexible system of artwork that they’ve been able to use in their own executions from neon to socks. They have stayed true to the artwork, and have built a successful suite of repeat impressions.

 

3. Positioning, relation.
Aligning your brand with similar, successful entities. This falls into the category of Use What You Have.

^ Peak Resorts knows (data) that the strongest brand in their northeast portfolio of properties is Carinthia. The size and features available, content in its own right, puts the terrain park at the top of the list for skiers and riders in the east. Our strategy was to build on that brand equity and extend the imagery and color palette—black on black on black—to other mountains. The decision was a communication response to Peak’s assessment that terrain was the area that represented the most growth from a strategy standpoint. There was no need to reinvent the wheel, and ultimately it was an image pivot that embraced existing success.

 

4. Editing.
Classic less-is-more. Be selective and segment messaging.

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^ How quickly can you make a point? What is necessary and what is just noise? Druthers’ culinary chops are showcased here. Briefly.

 

5. Information Architecture.
Be clear and concise in delivery.Information

^ Design decisions certainly do factor into this category, but figuring out what goes where and how elements can be arranged to make communication easy and effective has to happen before layout. Understanding typography and how a [Western] eye accesses information on a screen or a page makes a difference to the success of a piece. Iconography, groupings, visual breaks, color coding. Decisions. Revisions.

 

6. Timing.
Be nimble with your messaging and you’re already relevant.

Timing

^ Communication built around events, or current events, can be some of the easiest to relate to or participate in. Real-time responses and interaction can convert fans faster than the most strategic media buy, or the wittiest headline. These events for the Lake George area are specific (see #1 above) customized communication that creates a sense of importance and helps to establish immediate demand.

We have a healthy respect for data, and have been actively measuring the effectiveness of our own work, to make our subjective industry a little more certain, particularly for clients new to Trampoline. Research is crucial to getting the creative right.

We’ll dig in ourselves or partner with great organizations like Schireson in New York City or Mt. Auburn Associates in Boston to make sure we understand our challenge. Follow-up, interaction, A/B testing, responsive design all matter and improve the customer experience, but they’re nothing without a concept.

A Look Back

January is always a chaotic time, so many of us puffing up our chests and pledging to do things differently—to be better, thinner, smarter, stronger, kinder, leaner. It’s easy to get swept up in solving the next communication challenge or meeting the next deadline, not to say that they aren’t important, but sometimes all you really need to do is take a minute and honestly evaluate what worked and who mattered. We thought we’d spend a bit of time reflecting on the work we did and the impact we had and if we’re being totally honest, the impact the work had on us.

What we do is a lot like cooking, it isn’t about how the table looks or how perfect the meringue is on the pie, it comes down to knowing we fed someone with things we made and that in that transaction we created a connection. We don’t work with students and come away not having learned something, or help raise money for a cause and not feel changed.

screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-10-20-49-amOver the course of 2016 we donated a portion of our time to organizations near and dear to our hearts, as well as some we’d only just met. These hours were spent cranking designs for Churney Gurney and Brant Lake Bike Park, bringing stories to life for ATF and Breathing Lights, creating a face to match the good accomplished by North Country Ministries, helping to spread the word for Double H Ranch (not to mention lending a hand at camp and the Winter 500), cultivating a new look for Pitney Meadows Community Farm, caring for Hudson Headwaters Health Network, and finding the way with Rensselaer Plateau. The work was challenging and gratifying, allowing the different people on the projects to feel that they were making a difference.

screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-10-21-19-amPublic speaking has done the same thing, it’s a lot like living out an afternoon as a brochure we’ve created or a video we’ve shot—seeing people’s reactions in real time, having our voices crack without the option of recutting, and building off the energy of the crowd informs our understanding of what matters to people. We were lucky enough to speak close to home and on the road,  from Oneonta to Old Forge, and auditoriums to art galleries.

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screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-10-21-07-amHigh Falls Gorge, a classic Adirondack roadside attraction, offers travelers a chance to get up close to a series of thundering water- falls that cascade through a canyon near Lake Placid. Trampoline rebranded the destination with a logo that was both classic and modern, embracing the history and topography of the gorge. Redesigned collateral and an updated property map followed, and a campaign of new advertisements launched in regional publications. The updated look and signal art, combined with photos and video from the property made up a social media campaign that helped to build the new brand and create a sense of place. The strategy and design had an impact on sales, and awareness increased as well, with a 51% increase in Facebook followers and 455% more followers on Instagram.

screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-10-20-41-amTrampoline began handling the social media accounts for Warren County Tourism on June 1st 2015. We took their existing presence on Facebook and Twitter as the Lake George Area and expanded it to Instagram and Pinterest. With a focus on a  consistent identity across all platforms, we were able to gain a significant number of new followers in the first month. Custom content engaged users and invited them to comment, retweet or share. By actively responding to posts and tweets about the area, whether positive or negative, we ensure that Lake George is more than just a place, but a special spot that carries memories, with people who truly care about your experience. Their Instagram presence has increased by 3,794 users since the start of the agency’s involvement.

screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-10-20-31-amWhat city are we in? We’ve crisscrossed the northeast for work in recent months—visiting some of our favorite cities, including Boston and New York, but also retreating into the woods of the Adirondacks, and the areas of intercostal Maine. We worked from the summits of seven different peaks. This graphic needs revision, as it happens. We were also in Westport Connecticut for meetings with SerioüsFun Camps. And IKEA in New Haven, natch.

screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-10-22-02-amA big project for us in 2016 involved the rebrand of Paul Smith’s College. Deliverables included a completely new approach to communication. From the establishment of brand pillars, to a logo redesign and a collateral overhaul, we worked with the administration, faculty and students to represent PSC in the best possible way. Ads, merch, campus signage and social content continued to tell the story of what it means to be a Smitty.

screen-shot-2017-01-09-at-10-21-34-amIt was fun to tell the story of a place in the Adirondacks that belongs on anyone’s destination list—knowing that the end product of all that selling and storytelling, the place itself, could deliver on what we were promising. A big shift in strategy included segmenting the PSC message by major, and creating content tailored to a potential student’s interests. The media buildout, and social strategy was also informed by likes, and worked to forward the focused, major messages to potential students. The results were immediate and significant, Paul Smith’s has measured online interactions and interest in the school continues to grow. Admissions saw a 16% increase in inquiries from zip codes where their new view book had been distributed.

2016 was a year of metrics, not something we have traditionally been focused on, and boy did it change things for us. The work we do in our relationships has been strengthened by the accountability and the value of examining metrics and recalibrating the creative and message to yield the best results.

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