As a designer, one of my biggest fears is getting tunnel vision. So how do I ensure I am up to date on current design trends? Look. At. Everything. I mean everything! I take time out of every day to read or look over at least one thing that gives me insight into current branding, design, font or logo trends in the world. It helps influence my daily design and keep me on my toes. It’s easy to fall into a rut—especially when you work in-house.
Let me share a few resources that have helped me track trends so far in 2019.
Adweek is an amazing source of news and insight across platforms including print, digital, events, podcasts, social media and so on. I have a BFA in advertising design, and I love reading about how to create meaningful brands. I need this kind of content to help me do my job better. Adweek’s recent article on branding pointed out some really key points we need to remember at USGBC for 2019:
“…brands need to accomplish three things: delivering the products and services they say they’re going to deliver, improving people’s lives and playing a role in society.”
99 Designs is a global creative platform that makes it easy for designers and clients to collaborate and connect. It’s a great resource for quick reads about current design trends. “10 Creative Branding Trends for 2019” talks about how to present yourself as a brand and effectively use branding trends. I pulled out a few main trends to remember as we take USGBC forward this year:
The branding trends for 2019 divert into two definitive and opposing paths, “futuristic” and “nostalgic,” and consumers use these trends as signals to determine which side your company falls into.
Serifs—those little tags at the end of letter strokes—have been a big “no-no” for modern, minimalist branding in the past. But they’re making a comeback in 2019, perhaps because of a return of old-fashioned styles, but mainly due to their unique ability to communicate a brand’s personality.
Minimalism: even less details, even more negative space, combined with flashy colors and bold typography, etc.
Pentagram is the world’s largest independently owned design studio. Their work includes graphics and identity, architecture and interiors, products and packaging, exhibitions and installations, websites and digital experiences, and advertising and communications. Pentagram is a fantastic source of current design, and it comes from all 23 partners. I recently looked at an environmental digital installation in Bangkok that can help influence our presence at conferences and events.
As designers, we have a responsibility to see what else is out there. It’s how we do our job better. Picasso once said that “good artists borrow, great artists steal,” and I think that’s something to remember. Looking at current trends should influence your work. You shouldn’t actually be stealing designs, but it’s important to focus on where design is moving, so you aren’t left behind.
Being a meaningful brand can seem like a daunting task, but by looking at everything around you and reading varying perspectives on trends, you can educate yourself to avoid tunnel vision.
The hardest part is done—you’ve pulled together information and framed it with the right messaging, and now you have an article, blog update or press release. Ready to post? Not quite. Next comes the essential step of proofreading and shaping the text.
When you’re a writer, marketing expert or PR professional, you may not always have access to editors who can fix errors and help polish your work—and for those times, you’ll need to know the basics, so you can be your own editor.
Here’s a quick rundown of ways to keep your writing clean and expressive.
Check the structure.
Is your piece using the right structure? In the process of writing, you may have placed some of the most relevant information further down, rather than at the top. Make sure you don’t “bury the lede,” and always include the main takeaway for the reader in the opening paragraphs.
Imagine that a reader would follow a link to your content, then scan only the first few lines before clicking away—what would you want the person to learn in that time?
At the end of the piece, insert a call to action, or leave the reader with a memorable statement about the subject.
Review the punctuation.
Punctuation is how we break up text to make reading English easy and understandable. If you’re not sure whether to use a comma or semicolon, stick with a sentence structure that you know is correct, or browse the internet for tips.
Depending on whether you use AP, Chicago or another stylebook (or your organization’s house style), certain preferences are worth making a habit, so that all material from your company appears consistent. For example, at USGBC, we use AP style, which means we don’t use the serial comma.
As an editor, I also look up usage questions in the AP style guide almost daily, to make sure I’ve got things right—it only takes a moment, and it’s worth it for the consistency of our content.
Eliminate extra words.
“Omit needless words,” counselled Strunk and White in their classic 1918 guide “The Elements of Style.”
A first draft usually contains redundancies. That’s just how writing works, as you put ideas onto the page. As your own editor, you must go back and examine where you can make your content more succinct. Streamlining your message will enhance its impact on the reader.
This advice also applies to the title itself—is the title short enough to work for a digital format, but still descriptive of exactly what the piece is about?
In an ideal world, you’ll have time to let content sit for a day or two before reviewing it, but attending to another task for even a couple of hours can make it easier to go back to a piece of writing with fresh eyes.
Run spell check—and then do your own spell check.
Always run the own spelling and grammar check provided in your software, or use another plugin. Nobody’s perfect, and chances are, something has slipped past your first review.
It’s easy to rush past common misuse errors, such as putting “principle” where you meant “principal.” These types of mistakes won’t be caught by automated spell check, so look carefully at context to make sure you’re using the right words.
Also, to avoid embarrassment later, double-check any proper nouns like the names of people, organizations and geographic locations.
With a little extra attention, you can ensure much cleaner, more professional-looking copy. It’s not just about correctness—having enough respect for your readers to put in this effort will pay off, as your readers will, in turn, have greater respect for your organization and trust in its message.
Here at USGBC, we serve a wide audience. Architects, policymakers, builders and manufactures come to us for green building content.
While their interests have a common theme, all these people from different industries are looking for specific content that is relevant to them. For example, a teacher looking for educational content wouldn’t be interested in a technical update for LEED Building Design and Construction.
Consumers expect a personalized experience. Email marketing offers that though a method called segmentation. Segmentation is the process of dividing your users into smaller groups based on their information.
A Customer Relationship Manager (CRM) is a database that tracks attributes about your users, such as location, industry and job title. As a marketer, you can use these records to serve highly targeted content to the people who will find it relevant.
Email segmentation is only as good as the CRM, so keeping your data clean is key. The more data points you have on your users, the more customized an experience you can give them.
Here are some tips on how to maximize your data to create the most personalized experience:
- Make it easy for users to provide their information. Allow users to edit their profiles within their accounts.
- Don’t overwhelm them with too many required fields. Realize what data points are important to you, and only ask for those. Too many fields will result in no fields.
- Make it easy to select different email subscriptions. Users should be able to select only the channels they are interested in. Don’t make your digest all or nothing.
- Create a dropdown menu to list choices. There are unlimited job titles, so create a list and allow users to choose the one that matches their title most closely.
- Leverage automation if a user registers for your conference. Make sure that their record is updated to reflect registration. You wouldn’t want to send promotional material about a conference for which someone has already registered. Instead, send them an email about session details and hotel deals.
- Make sure you capture geography. Where a user works is often the most relevant data point. It’s good to capture what state and country they are in but segmenting by zip code is even better.
- Connect your other data. Keep a record of your customers’ past purchases. Make sure that the database updates your CRM. What people buy is a pretty good indicator of what they are interested in.
When it comes to email lists, a good marketer would take a smaller, more targeted list over a larger, unqualified list any day. Good data plus segmentation equals a personalized experience that will appeal to your customers.
As we’ve learned at USGBC, quizzes are a popular way to engage customers. Since content can be placed into any kind of container—article, social post, podcast—marketers have license to get creative with the methods they use to share information. The interactive format invites people to take a moment out of their day to play a little, so a quiz is the ultimate clickbait.
Here are three things quizzes can do for your marketing strategy:
1. Funnel people to the things they need.
Using quizzes to promote your events lets you kill two birds with one stone: bring attention to registration and help attendees narrow their focus to which education sessions will help with their current challenges. We did this for one of our regional conferences with “What’s the right IMPACT session for you?” Asking potential attendees about their current job roles, pain points and goals, we generated session track recommendations for them with links to individual sessions.
Similarly, to promote our professional courses, we published “What’s the right Education @USGBC course for you?” Filtering for job title, experience level, and current green building interests, we gave people customized recommendations for a particular education course.
2. Strike up a friendly conversation.
Your customers are people too, and a quiz is a great place to use a friendly, informal tone to relate to your audience, even—or maybe especially—if your corporate voice is usually more buttoned-up. With “How well do you know your LEED trivia?” we inserted facts about famous LEED buildings and links to further details. The post-question feedback was breezy as well as informative:
3. Allow customers to test their expertise.
Structured around our LEED professional credentials, the “LEED Green Associate Playbook” and “LEED AP Playbook” marketing campaigns were among USGBC’s top-performing in 2017 and 2018. We knew that our customer base was deeply interested in content related to achieving these credentials, so we built an article series for each.
Sample questions from the credential exams went into “Are you ready to take your LEED Green Associate exam?” With more than 13,000 pageviews, the article is among our all-time best on usgbc.org. The quiz itself has been completed over 3,800 times. For our smaller, more expert LEED AP candidate pool, we posted “Are you ready for the BD+C exam?“, which has been completed almost 1,500 times.
By offering real sample questions, we allowed readers to test their knowledge of the rigorous exam content, and we included customized responses for different levels of success. For those who didn’t do as well on the quiz questions, we linked to further exam prep resources.
Keep it short, but put in the work.
For the best quiz completion rate, ask about 5–10 questions. People are busy and won’t always finish a long quiz, so you have the best chance of engaging them with a brief series of questions.
However, for the best user experience, you’ll need to make plenty of time on your end to come up with good questions and add useful responses and links for each answer. The more targeted and specific your responses, the more likely your quiz will result in conversions.
As with our LEED wordmark, USGBC is always looking for ways to help companies promote their LEED-certified and registered projects while still preserving the integrity of the LEED program logo and certification mark.
Although projects are able to use the LEED program logo once they have registered their project, and the LEED certification logo once their project has been certified, there hasn’t been a way to display their achievements on websites and other digital locations. We created these badges with an eye towards addressing that need.
Now, both registered and certified projects have several options for displaying LEED certifications and registrations on their websites, blogs, social channels and any other relevant digital areas, simultaneously allowing us to increase LEED brand recognition.
Our local USGBC communities host events all over the country, but we know that we have three very large events each year. GreenerBuilder, Impact and Rocky Mountain Green are our highest-profile USGBC community events. Our marketing team decided that creating short style guides for these three events could help direct the development of assets such as the website, signage, on-site materials and other collateral. We wanted these events to have some cohesiveness across the board, to give them their own look and feel apart from our other national and international USGBC events.
For example, we included color swatches to direct the look and feel, as well as guidance about which logo lockups are appropriate for web and print use. There is a section that suggests photography—this is meant to be general support, so community staff know what to look for from their photo banks or stock resources.
Another element we like to focus on is social media graphics. Since these events are high-profile for our communities, we want them to be able to promote the events on social media, when appropriate. We usually generate a handful of graphics and guidance about which platforms to share on. We also provide some presentation slide templates and examples. Given that each event will always have presentations, we want to equip the community with all the tools they will need to create a cohesive event.
While each community event has its own style guide, we designed these as a cohesive trio of suggestions to ensure these events felt connected.
For the USGBC office holiday party in 2017, we booked a screen printer to be live on-site printing tote bags for staff. To go along with that, the events team needed the design team to create the designs for printing.
We wanted to keep these playful and fun, and brainstormed some cute phrases related to our green building mission to use in our designs. We went with “totes sustainable” and “we’ve got green building in the bag” on two of our designs. Our entire creative team played a part in this project, and all three of our designers contributed final designs.
We were able to select the ink color used for printing, and then the screen printers took it from there! They were on-site all afternoon and able to print the totes right there for staff at the party. This was a really fun project to see come to life—a different take on branding and a nice way to take our mission in a playful direction.
If you have a party, fundraiser, or team-building event coming up, think about doing a custom project like this to give attendees something cool to take home. Also, the bonus: reusable tote bags for everyone! View the entire project.
Every year, USGBC and GBCI highlight the U.S. states that are leading the way with LEED certification. By looking at regional census data, we determine the top 10 states for LEED green building per capita.
Our marketing team then produces an infographic to illustrate the number of projects certified and the millions of square feet certified the previous year, as well as the LEED-certified gross square feet per capita. This gives us the bigger picture on how different states are performing year by year. Did your state make the top 10 list for 2017? How about in 2016?
We create these infographics to recognize achievements in LEED around the country and to show how the Top 10 States are setting a high bar for excellence in green building. Through social media, presentations and media outreach, the infographic helps to tell their stories and share their success with their communities.
For more details on the Top 10 States for LEED in 2017, read our press release.