February 19th, 2013 by Dave Alsobrooks
Data Romance is a band I recently came across from Vancouver, BC in Canada. It is not an innovative and headstrong market research and strategy firm based in Durham, NC. That’s OK. If I had to pick a city other than Durham, perhaps Vancouver would be it, if for nothing other than Stanley Park and CinCin. But if I had to work somewhere else, I’d be hard-pressed to choose being in a band. I like my routine. My guess is it might be more fun to join Data Romance for a tour than to sort a spreadsheet. I’m sorry. That wasn’t a guess.
Data Romance, the band, just released an album today. Initially, I was enamored by the concept of “data romance” as a musical entity. What could this mean? Should I be interested? More specifically, their cryptic name is paired with a grayscale Venn diagram on the album cover. Officially interested. As it turns out, I like their music, too. They’re a The XX with a DJ. Or maybe Björk as a consultant. And that’s to say I like them, so there’s no disrespect in this amateurish review. I encourage you to check them out, starting with today’s release.
Where am I going with this? Even though I don’t live out every day sifting and sorting plumes of data, it’s possible that I (and perhaps you) are both able to have more of a romance with it. For me, this is a mindset. Embracing data and the insights found within is a seductive craft for all of us. But too often we just want the insight, and not the data. To be honest, we should probably hold ourselves accountable to decipher data on our own terms. It’s our point of view that people are waiting to hear. A romancing of this process, of this data, can help us overachieve on a regular basis.
It’s clear that data will be how you, I and everyone else knows what to do with ourselves in the future, both near and far term. Yes, we should already be analyzing data to understand our customers and their behaviors. And, of course, most of us are. But we don’t often frame it (data) in terms of being romantic. At least I haven’t yet approached it in such a way. Data is time-consuming and cumbersome. It’s my hope this perception might change.
Maybe, if we (data and you and I) were to strike up a romance, it would all change. Can you imagine a place where data romance is a two-way street? I suppose it could work that way — I love data, and subsequently, data starts to love me back.
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The PARAGRAPH Project is a marketing research and strategy firm based in Durham, NC. We are, at times, a strange brew. But this is what works for us — and inevitably, it works for our clients. The types of people who work at PARAGRAPH are strategists, anthropologists, artists, engineers, entrepreneurs, negotiators, students and builders. Herein lies our value. We are able to look at problems from many different perspectives and apply this diverse point of view to solutions for our clients. After all, if we conduct the same research in the same ways as our competitors, what advantage do we gain? By using old research methodologies in new ways and inventing new methodologies unique to each client’s research objectives, we quickly explore more territory to find insights often overlooked. We believe creativity is the missing link between useful information and actionable inspiration.
March 15th, 2011 by Gwen McCarter
“Orville Wright didn’t have a pilot’s license.” - Richard Tait
I’ve never heard of Richard Tait, but he sure does illustrate the point. With all our talk lately about how to channel an initial pang of hunger into a plan of action, we’d do well to zero in on how the transition from sheer passion to impassioned work realistically happens.
So, that’s where we find ourselves. There are plenty of personal anecdotes out there that would provide ideas for how to get started. But you can talk amongst yourselves about those. If we were to boil it down, taking that first step depends on one fundamental rule.
Don’t waste too much time in the ramp-up phase. It’s a recipe for inaction. This translates into many things, one of which has to do with schoolin’. As Mr. Wright could have told us, making changes to the world doesn’t necessarily require a third party to announce your legitimacy before you’re allowed lift a finger.
Of course this doesn’t apply to everything. Me, I like my doctor to have a shiny diploma hanging where I can see it.
But sometimes, the ready-made framework for doing something can be more stifling than enabling. Don’t let a degree distract you from earning real-world chops. If you feel a sense of injustice about the society that surrounds you, go be the next Che Guevara. If you find you have a knack for entrepreneurship and for a budding technology, go be the next Bill Gates. And who didn’t love Good Will Hunting? Or Ernest Hemingway, for that matter. I, at least, have a soft spot for writers who craft their own voice by working through trial and error — not with excessive formal training.
The point is that if you have the zeal and the skill to do something, there’s a good chance you can make a go of it now. Not after you do this, that, or the other thing.
Try honing your own ability to set the right goals at the right time. Doing that is a question of being able to take calculated risks, and it’s a matter of trusting your instinct. But that’s a subject we’ll take up next time.
December 17th, 2010 by Gwen McCarter
“I’m an idealist. I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m on my way.” – Carl Sandburg, American writer and poet
I like this bard’s style. It sounds trite these days to say that life is about the journey, but we can still appreciate the sentiment.
The same goes for doing good work. Over here, we prefer to let the ideas come together organically into a conclusion that makes total sense. Problem-solving is always flexible, with possible solutions and potential tactics constantly molding each other. You can’t know your destination before you know where you’re coming from.
December 9th, 2010 by Gwen McCarter
November 30th, 2010 by Gwen McCarter
“Less is more.” – Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, German-born American architect
Mies might have said it most succinctly, but we’ve heard it in every context imaginable. This idea seems to operate best when it’s understood not as a call for plainness, but rather thoughtfulness. A piece of work tends to gain a greater effect when you include only those elements that were chosen by wittingly — the ones that really make sense together as a whole.
It’s especially easy to see the brilliance of that adage when it comes to projects involving the visual arts or any sort of design. If your composition is ill-conceived, you’re nowhere. And it’s immediately obvious to onlookers.
The less-is-more dictum applies to writing as well, but there it often gets translated in a slightly different way. With writing, they say deciding which details should be left out is the key to crafting a compelling paragraph. Whether it’s a novel, a journalistic article, or the copy used to describe a brand, the ebbs and flows of good storytelling only work when you don’t force your reader to slog through any clutter.
But if we extrapolate this out a little further to the level of information (full stop), the situation gets murkier. What would Mies say to the maze of potential knowledge on today’s Internet?
On the one hand, the vast amount of information that is becoming available to more people every day can only be seen as empowering. On the other hand, though, it can feel paralyzing if you aren’t sure where to look next. And the awareness that there is always something else to read on a given topic can be frustrating even on the best of days.
The answer to this problem is not, of course, that there should be less information. When it comes to knowledge, more is more. But we can still find wisdom in those words uttered by Mies. After all, what he was really calling for was not destruction, but focus. Simply having a few well devised lines of sight can do wonders when it’s time to stop searching for raw information and start fleshing out those good ideas.
November 11th, 2010 by Gwen McCarter
“If one says ‘Red’ – the name of the color – and there are fifty people listening, it can be expected that there will be fifty reds in their minds. And one can be sure that all these reds will be very different.” – Josef Albers, German-born American artist
This is not a post about diversity, multiculturalism, or any other such words that some of us are sick of hearing. It’s about instincts. Sometimes a good idea only becomes good after being knocked around a little. For me, at least, Josef Albers’ work on the interaction of color from the 1960s conjures up the notion that nothing — a color, an idea, or otherwise — exists in isolation. It’s all about how we bump up against one another and react to what happens next. Instincts are a good thing, but sometimes they need a little help before they crystalize. After all, what good is the idea of red if we don’t have other hues as points of comparison?
November 8th, 2010 by Gwen McCarter
March 29th, 2010 by admin
Over the weekend I was privy to the best work of college students from all over the country.
For starters, I was honored to be a part of AIGA’s annual student portfolio review here in Durham. I saw experimentation. I saw conceptual thinking and good execution. I saw (and heard) passion. It was really refreshing and promising. What I missed were the details. The little things. Some “junk” in the edges of an image. A conspicuous absence of business cards. And <gasp> questionable kerning.
Please don’t get me wrong. As I mentioned, the work was really good. But I got the sense the students weren’t being pushed to address the little things in order to make their work great.
Later on, I was just plain giddy to have the time to take in some of this year’s amazing NCAA men’s basketball tournament (the women’s tournament has been full of drama as well).
With about 1 minute left in an Elite 8 matchup, the gritty Mountaineers of West Virginia led the storied Kentucky Wildcats by 7 points. At this point in the game, Kentucky had already missed 13 free throw attempts. 7 points turned out to be the final margin of victory for the ‘neers.
In another matchup with a trip to the Final Four on the line, Michigan State’s Raymar Morgan hit a single free throw with less than 2 seconds left to hold off a determined Tennessee team.
My take away? Kerning (and any other detail) is like shooting free throws.
+ It’s totally up to you
+ People expect you to be proficient
+ You have to practice in order to be proficient
+ It’s not glamorous
+ It’s often the difference between winning and losing
So whether we’re starting our fifth year of eligibility, our 20th year as a creative director or our first week as newly minted design professional, let’s pay attention to the details, FTW.
December 22nd, 2009 by admin