USGBC Studio: The USGBC experience

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USGBC Studio: The USGBC experience

If you were to develop an experience for your brand, what would it be like? How would customers engage with it? How would it look? Sound? Feel?

These were some of the questions our team grappled with when developing the on-site experience for USGBC at our annual Greenbuild International Conference and Expo.

It was 2014, and we were headed to New Orleans. We’d been given a brand-new swath of space on the expo hall floor, and needed to develop a memorable customer experience within the 100 x 30-foot spread. We had an opportunity to design an experience that could function dually as a place for visitors to get their pressing questions answered and to learn more about our core products—such as LEED, membership and education—and also to serve as a lounge space for networking and exchanging ideas. We knew that we wanted the space to complement our personality and feel distinctly “USGBC.”

The concept we selected was titled “Folded Square,” and literally that’s what it was. The focal point of the booth design was the appropriately named folded square, which served as a convening space to display presentations, showcase the LEED Dynamic Plaque, and share some key stats and figures specific to LEED and green building. The concept was bold, colorful and memorable.

We felt the brunt of our work was completed and did not realize that there would be other challenges ahead. Because of Greenbuild’s Mandatory Exhibition Green Guidelines, or GMEGG, booth fabrication materials needed to be carefully and purposefully selected. The booth structure needed to be fabricated using 100 percent recyclable materials containing a minimum of 25 percent recycled content and using low- or zero-VOC paints, sealants, coatings and adhesives. Luckily, our event partner Freeman was up for the challenge, and the final result was jaw-dropping.

This past year, we reused our Folded Square design, but added a few bells and whistles to make sure the USGBC booth was an experience not to miss. Our team brainstormed ways to further improve the booth experience, and create a playful, inviting environment to not only learn more about our offerings, but to kick back and get creative.

  • Our Greenbuild PHHHOTO™ booth encouraged attendees to make and share a digital memory at the booth.
  • Casually placed Legos in the seating area of the booth weren’t overlooked! Some of our visitors even shared their creations through social media.

Were you able to stop by our booth in Washington, D.C.? Do you think we met all of our goals? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

USGBC Studio: Using images on the web

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USGBC Studio: Using images on the web

Having great images on your website is an excellent way to make it more eye-catching. And once you’ve purchased or selected the right images, and have the proper licensing for them, you’ll need to format them for the web. Formatting will ensure that your webpages load quickly and don’t get bogged down by large file sizes. This is essential, because every additional second that users wait while files are being rendered increases the likelihood they will give up and leave altogether.

File format

Make sure your images fit the best file format for their intended use. It doesn’t make sense to save a logo file that needs to have a transparent background as a JPEG, or an image that needs to have a high resolution with a lot of detail as a GIF. Why not? Well, here’s what you typically use each image format for:

  • JPEGs are best for photographs
  • GIFs work well for line art and images with a limited color palette, and can be used to create animations (animated GIFs)
  • PNGs are commonly used for logos and line art, especially when transparency is needed

File size, image size, and resolution

After selecting a photograph, it’s important that you pay attention to the image’s dimensions. The larger the original dimensions, the larger the file size and resolution. And the larger the file size, the longer it will take for that page to load. An image with dimensions that are 3,500 by 3,500 pixels and a file size of 5 MB is far too large to use as an image in an article that needs to take up a 500 by 500 pixel space. Instead, use photo-editing software to resize the image to smaller dimensions.

Having an image that is much larger than necessary can cause problems with page load time, but it can also cause problems if you’re using an image that is far too small and trying to stretch it out to make it look bigger. Resizing an image with photo-editing software or in the HTML code so that it fits 500 by 500 pixels, when the original image is only 150 by 150 pixels, will leave you with a blurry and grainy image.

Working with responsive design

The subject matter and orientation of a photograph is important, depending on how you’d like to use it on your site. All images must scale well, meaning the user shouldn’t lose out on the experience of seeing the image if it’s been resized to display on a mobile device. If there are important details that get lost from resizing, you should go with a different image.

Images with a landscape orientation are popular to use on the web, because they are easier to scale down and have a tendency to fit well with any given page design. Images that have a portrait orientation are more difficult to scale down, since it’s easy for them to take up too much height on smaller devices such as smartphones.

So there you have it—a few things to keep in mind the next time you go searching for images for your website. Strive to have images with a high resolution that aren’t bigger than they need to be to fill different areas on your website. Great-looking images and a quick page load time are key to enhancing your users’ experience.

USGBC Studio 2016 New Year’s Resolution: Elevate your email game!

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USGBC Studio 2016 New Year’s Resolution: Elevate your email game!

As you kick-start those 2016 plans, here are six things to keep in mind for effectively communicating with your audience.

  1. Don’t forget the subject line! It’s your first contact with your reader. Keep it short, simple and on point. Your goal is to draw the reader in. No matter how good your content is, it doesn’t matter if no one opens the email.
  2. Value your audience. It’s one thing to choose your audience; it’s another to make sure you’re valuing their time. Don’t send emails to folks just because you can. Send them because they bring value to the recipients.
  3. Keep your content relevant and concise. Focus your email on one message with a strong call to action. Convey your message as clearly and concisely as possible. It’s quicker to read and looks cleaner in email format. You don’t want your message to get lost in unnecessary language. Think sentences, not paragraphs. If your content is lengthy, consider posting it as an article, and use email to direct readers to it.
  4. Avoid attachments. Emails with attached files are frequently marked as junk mail or spam. Don’t let your message get filtered out.
  5. Prevent email fatigue. Another email isn’t always the answer. Remember to leverage all of the resources at your disposal. Consider getting your message out via social media or directly on your website. Plus, talk to people! Reach out to colleagues and friends in different departments and organizations to help spread the word. A referral can be much more powerful than an email.
  6. Plan ahead. If you know you have an event or initiative coming up, put it on the calendar, no matter how early it is. Advance preparation will allow you to develop and schedule your email outreach for optimal results. Your digital communications team will thank you!

USGBC Studio: Annual Report 2014

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USGBC Studio: Annual Report 2014

For the past couple of years, we have made diligent efforts to put online a lot of the collateral that had previously been printed in large quantities, such as our LEED in Motion Reports and our LEED collateral suite. Here at USGBC Studio, we have outlined the importance of creating digital content to capture a broader audience and create a smaller carbon footprint. We’ve also explained how we translate our print content online. When it came down to designing our annual report, it was an opportune time to practice what we preach. We wanted something dynamic, friendly, trackable and of course, cute. ????

The 2014 report weaves in quotes and highlights from USGBC+, and reflects on 2014 as a time of historic growth and change. From the stately black-and-white photography to the friendly color palette, we strived to create a theme that was simple, elegant and pleasantly nostalgic.

USGBC Studio cheat sheet: Finding the best stock photos

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USGBC Studio cheat sheet: Finding the best stock photos

A relevant and impactful image can take your blog post or collateral piece to the next level. And although the Internet is full of images, pulling pictures from the web can be tricky. It may seem easy enough to copy and paste whatever image you find, but photo usage rights need to be kept in mind while searching for the perfect fit for your content.

Custom photography would be a great option, and specific to exactly what you need. However, many people or companies don’t have the resources or skills to set up their own photo shoots. Websites such as iStock, Shutterstock and Getty Images, that sell photos, videos, graphics, and so on, are one good place to start. Images on these sites are licensed for specific uses and you’re in the clear as long as your usage falls within the agreement. But stock images, as you might have guessed, can get expensive. So we’re outlining a few resources where you can find quality images for free, along with tips on how you can use some of the more widely used sites to search for available images.

There are some great free stock photo sites out there—they just take a little extra digging to find an image that works for you. And you might have to get a little creative and look beyond the exact specifications of image you were initially looking for. Keep in mind that although most of the images on these sites are free from restrictions, you should always check to make sure that the image you want to use doesn’t require any additional attribution. And when in doubt, it’s probably best to find another image that doesn’t have any copyright restrictions.

Some of our favorite free stock photo sites:

  • Death to Stock—Every month this site emails out a free photo pack, sometimes following a theme or the work of one photographer. While it may take some extra effort to find what works for you, the images are worth the search! The license is available for review on their website.
  •—This site is easy to search, and new high-resolution images are added weekly. None of the images have copyright restrictions, and no attribution is required.
  • Unsplash—Also free from copyright restrictions, this site offers 10 new photos for use every 10 days. There is a search function available, along with collections to browse.
  • AllTheFreeStock—A comprehensive site that has resources not only for images, but videos, music and icons as well. The sites listed that offer free stock images are all available for use under the Creative Commons Zero license, but the other offerings have different types of licenses.

If you’re looking for something much more specific, like a particular city skyline, searching for an image via Creative Commons might be your best bet. Their engine will link you to different sites (Google and Flickr are some examples) that get the search started for you. You can make selections based on whether the image you need is for commercial use, and whether you plan to make modifications to the photo. The Creative Commons site also provides more general information on licenses and the public domain.

This guide just scratches the surface of what’s available with images on the web, but we’re hoping it gives you a good place to start your search!

New Year’s resolutions from design and communications

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New Year’s resolutions from design and communications

Around the holidays, all those mental notes we’ve collected throughout the year remind us of the things we want to do differently in the new year. These notions evolve into resolute commitments that we make to ourselves in order to become more awesome (as if that was even possible, right?). While thinking of my own, I asked several of my USGBC Studio teammates about theirs. Here’s what we’ve pledged to do in 2016: