How to Build Your Website to be Safe From Cyber Attacks


cyber security

Today, at least 55% of all websites are built on content management systems (CMS). Data from Web Technology Surveys show that only 45.4% of websites are coded from scratch.
While CMS platforms such as WordPress present an easier way to build websites and also come with a lot of SEO tools and advantages, they are not without downsides.
The key one is cybersecurity with studies showing that most come with security vulnerabilities. This explains why websites built on CMS are among the top hacking targets on the internet.
Whether you are using a CMS or coding your website from scratch, it is essential that you take precautionary cybersecurity measures.
Remember that the internet users of today are highly informed and super-conscious about cybersecurity and are therefore likely stigmatise your brand at the first sign security loopholes.
Here are some cybersecurity tips to take into account when building a website using a CMS. Some of these measures are also applicable to hand-coded websites.

Ensure secure hosting
Before everything else, you need to ensure that you subscribe to a reputable and adequately secure web hosting.
The first step to determining the best web hosting provider is by reading other customers’ online reviews. It is important to note that some of these reviews may be faked and therefore only settle for a well-known provider.
Also, ensure that the hosting provider offers the necessary tools to secure your site and its functionality. Some of the things to look for include the SSL certificate and an SFTP option. CMS platforms such as WordPress provide free SSL certificates.
Another thing worth checking is whether the hosting provider offers backup tools. These tools protect your data from loss in the event of a system failure. While the task of backing up your data relies on you, you should ensure that the hosting provider has sound backup procedures and they back up their servers regularly.

You should also check whether their servers are maintained adequately and have a published security protocol.
Have a web-application firewall (WAF) in place

Another must-have tool in the website building process is a web application firewall (WAF). This tool can be software or hardware based, and its main purpose includes filtering unwanted traffic between your website server and data connection.
Common forms of cybersecurity issues addressed by WAF include hacks, DDoS attacks, Brute Force attacks, SQL injection, cross-site scripting, and Zero-day exploits.
Even better, this tool offers virtual patching before CMS platforms release virtual patches. The virtual patching is on a continuous basis meaning that hackers have no room to exploit unseen security loopholes.

On top of that, a WAF increases site speed and performance via top-level caching mechanisms. In the unlikely event that your website gets infected, a WAF greatly enhances the ability to clean your website faster and efficiently.

If you are using WordPress, there are numerous WAF plugins that you can install on your website. Popular plugins include Wordfence, Sucuri, Cloudflare, Stackpath, and NinjaFirewall.

Have Monitoring tools in Place
Website security monitoring tools are meant to help you to scan for vulnerabilities on your website and take the necessary measures.
Without these tools, you are likely to remain in the dark on the potential dangers facing your website until it is too late.
For most CMS platforms, there are multiple free tools that you can install to receive updates on your website security. The most common with WordPress users is SiteLock, a tool that identifies and fixes threats.
Other common monitoring tools that you should look for include Scan My Server, Sucuri, Quttera, Detectify, Web Inspector, and Netsparker Cloud. Each of these tools has unique monitoring functions, and therefore you should explore each and its benefits.
Use a VPN

A VPN is another must-have tool for your website security. With cyber attacks becoming complicated by the day, cybersecurity experts are recommending an extra layer of security on top what is commonly used.
What a VPN does is to encrypt your internet activity hence keeping off snoopers including your ISP, government agencies and cyber attackers.
In most instances, hackers must identify your hosting details to be able to perpetrate attacks on your website. A VPN alongside SSL completely hide your activities and CMS usage behind multiple layers of encryption.

Whether you are building your own site or for a client, a VPN will help you hide your trails and therefore keep attackers at bay. When shopping for a VPN, only settle for reputable brands and do research on where they stand in terms of speed, security, and accessibility.
There are many VPN options out there, but from our own experience, NordVPN is the best for website security.
Final Verdict
Website security should be a top priority for every web developer irrespective of whether they are coding from scratch or using a CMS. The website building process should involve measures such as researching and installing highly reputable security tools.

Read the full post

How to Handle Tough Clients (And Not Want to Punch Everything)


stress

Business can be stressful, especially when you add agitated or angry customers to the mix. Every once in a while, you’ll come across someone who is particularly vile. Maybe they call you names, refuse to treat you with respect, make lofty claims or refuse to pay for goods and services.

It’s not an easy situation to deal with, but we’ve all been there. The most important thing is to keep your cool in the moment so that you don’t lose yourself and damage the brand’s reputation. It’s almost always true that others are watching — including like-minded clientele — and if you explode, it’s not going to be good for anyone.

I’ve had my fair share of dealings with testy customers, and I’ve discovered many ways to make it through to the other side.

Relax, Don’t Do It

Frankie Goes to Hollywood said it the best: “Relax, don’t do it.” Of course, the song has other connotations when you get further in, but the hook sure fits because first, you need to relax. When emotions are running high, it’s not the time to make split decisions or react to others around you, at least not without calming down. That’s when you make mistakes, which can lead to harsh reactions or responses.

I’m not going to spill some mantra about finding your center, going to a happy place or doing yoga right then and there — although yoga and exercise can help. Instead, I’ll share a few tips that help me calm down in just a few minutes, like a spot treatment. If you’re susceptible to panic attacks like I am, you’ll want to remember these.

  1. Sit Down and Close Your Eyes

The eyes are the window to the soul, or so they say. They’re also the main point of sensory stimulation for your body. By sitting down and closing your eyes for a moment or two, you can give your brain a much-needed break, severing an endless stream of sensory input. That's likely why people who are stressed find comfort in sleeping. Besides feeling great, it also gives them a break from the outside world for a small time. And since some people are more sensitive than others, it definitely helps.

It’s rude to close your eyes without saying a word, of course, so just ask for a moment to compose yourself, then retreat to a remote office or isolated area. Sit for a moment, close your eyes, and let your body simmer down. Your client(s) can wait.

  1. Take Deep Breaths

Breathing exercises are phenomenal for reducing stress and anxiety. Close your eyes, inhale deeply for about three to four seconds — letting your diaphragm expand as much as possible — then exhale for the same amount of time. Take it slow and repeat it as many times as you need to calm your nerves.

  1. Relieve Stress Tension

Lots of people squeeze or play with actual stress balls — they feel and work great. But if you don’t always have one lying around, remember that tennis balls are just as effective. Roll it around in your hand to tighten up and stretch your muscles. Doing so will help to release tension.

  1. Use a Fidget Toy

Fidget spinners are a bit ridiculous to some, but others swear by them. I prefer something a little different. It’s still a toy, mind you, but it plays on the idea of euphoric sensory input. It’s a cube with a variety of buttons, toggles, switches and interactive elements on it. When I’m really stressed, I just palm the toy and play around with it a bit. You can use the same toy or find something different, as there are tons of options for adults.

  1. Try a Music Break

You can’t do it right in front of the customer, but when you get a moment to yourself, return to your desk or personal area and put on some of your favorite music. It’s even better if you get up and move, dancing to the beat. It doesn’t matter whether you’re listening to Beethoven, Five Finger Death Punch or Lady Gaga — just get up and move.

  1. Go for a Walk

If you’re agitated or feel uncontrollable rage, it’s probably best to just get away entirely. It's a good time to take a walk, which will increase your circulation, especially if you’ve been sitting most of the day. Walking also releases a lot of built-up static energy.

Relaxed? Good, let’s move on.

Dealing With Your Tough Clients

Since many different situations can play out — all clients are different — it makes sense to specifically look at what’s happening. For example, what you should do when a client doesn’t pay on time or flat out refuses to collaborate is different from handling a micromanager.

While freelance is one of the most frequent places to find these tough clients (and more), they exist everywhere, even in retail. It helps to know how to deal with them and proceed with your work so that you can stay focused on the finish line.

Keep in mind that sometimes it’s not worth dealing with these clients at all. If you have the power, it may be necessary to cut them loose. If that’s the best option, I’ll point it out first. Don't worry, I've sent many a client packing myself — it's something we all need to do every now and then.

Here are some of the most common troublesome clients and how to deal with them.

1. Clients Who Don't Pay on Time

The client approaches you for your help, you discuss the project and finalize a deal. Everything goes swimmingly until it’s time for the client to pay up. They flat out don’t pay, drag their feet or continue making excuses. In the end, you deserve to be paid for your work, and you invested your time, so what can you do?

  • Always draw up a contract at the beginning of the project and be sure to include a statement about late fees. Absolutely collect the fee when a client doesn’t hold up their end of the bargain.
  • For larger projects, get payment up front, or at least collect a portion of the total compensation.
  • Stop working for the client immediately.
  • Don’t stop contacting them. Continue sending emails, reaching out via direct messages, texting or even calling. The more persistent you are, the more difficult it is for the client to forget or brush you aside.
  • Find other contacts at the company or other forms of contact if you’re getting no response. Sometimes a simple callout on social media can light a fire under their butts.
  • Start factoring right away.
  • If all else fails, seek legal action.

It’s a smart idea to cease future projects with the client even if they pay well. Once they start giving you trouble with payments, it’s time to move on. There are exceptions such as emergencies or major personal events, but that’s up to your discretion.

2. Clients Who Micromanage Too Much

Sometimes, the client thinks they know best — better than you — and will lob an endless swarm of suggestions, requests and comments at you. Incorporate what you can, but remember, they came to you for help. At some point, you’ll need to use your own judgment and experience to decide what happens next. What you know absolutely trumps what a client “thinks” they want — but don’t tell them that!

Don’t placate the client every time. Follow the process that you think is best for the project and its outcome. Politely explain to the customer that you have more experience. If they do not understand or continue to fight you, it may be best to set them free.

3. Clients Who Communicate Poorly

Poor communication is never good. Whether the client is not sharing enough about what they want, sharing too much or being incredibly vague, it can certainly grind a project to a halt. Find ways to meet with the client in person and be specific when you're asking questions or trying to collect ideas. Show them visual examples or past work and try to glean their likes and dislikes as early as possible. Doing so will help you avoid major revisions later.

4. Clients Who Disappear

Poor communication is one thing, but when clients disappear altogether, that’s another. It’s even worse when they’re missing and a big decision needs to be made. That situation can result in your entire team waiting around to complete work or continue.

Of course, you won’t know the client is going to disappear beforehand but get as much information about the project as you can upfront. If you come to a crossroads and they’re not around, move to another part of the project that you do have information about.

5. Clients Who Continually Alter the Project Scope

The client seemed a dream, you’re nearly done with the project and you approach them with what’s ready. Suddenly, they decide the work you put in is not good enough and they want something entirely different. If you continue, you’ll need to go back to the drawing board.

If you made a mistake that caused the change, own up to it. If no mistake was made and they’re just being demanding — which happens more often than I’d like — make it clear that you kept to the original plans and you expect to be compensated. Be firm, be persistent, but don't be rude.

Explain to them that the costs will increase for the new approach and that the work will take longer to complete. If the client cannot understand that changing the scope near completion causes too much extra work — and may even ruin the deadline — it’s not someone you want to be working with long-term anyway.

6. Cheap Clients

I get this all the time in freelance. Clients don’t want to pay my rates and often tell me I either charge too much or have an inflated sense of self-worth. They want to pay an incredibly low price for lots and lots of work. If you’re not careful, they’ll continue to increase the workload as time goes on, but they certainly won’t pay what it’s worth.

If you notice the clients are cheap up front, just walk away. Take a moment to explain that the cost is the cost and you won’t budge. If they can't accept that they have to pay for quality work, they don’t need to be seeking help.

“I can do that in X time so much better!” Great, go do it then, bud.

7. Multi-Team Clients That Cannot Make Decisions Effectively

With larger teams — organizations especially — managers aren’t truly managers, at least when it comes to making decisions. Generally, they have to go through a system of checks and balances. This process means consulting others on their team, including alternate executives. Dealing with these kinds of clients is challenging because getting a straight answer is rarely possible.

Make time at the beginning of the project to sit down with everyone involved, get the appropriate input and collect all the necessary contact information. In some cases, it may be necessary to go right to the source, asking outright what they want or what should be done, as opposed to going up the chain of command one by one.

8. The Clueless Client

The client wants something and may even be specific, but they have absolutely no clue what kind of work, value or time is required to get it done. Maybe they want you to complete an incredibly difficult project in half the time you usually do, or perhaps they’re offering a fraction of the overall cost. Again, this is best left to your discretion. Is the compensation they're offering worth all the trouble? If not, walk away.

I have found that the best approach is to educate the client using industry-specific examples as evidence. Show them your past work and explain how long each project took. Point out the value in your efforts and politely explain why the costs are higher than what they want or why it will take longer. Smart clients will recognize right away that you know what you're talking about.

Remember to Protect Yourself and Your Team

You probably can't afford to turn away every difficult client. Sometimes, even I have to accept the undesirable client to make sure I can pay my bills on time, that’s just the nature of the business. That said, it’s not healthy to build an entire portfolio with these types of clients. Avoid working with them on future projects when you can, especially if they don’t pay, change the scope of the work entirely or remain unsatisfied with your work. Some relationships just aren’t meant to be.

When you're choosing what clients are good to work with, assess the impact on you and your team's health. If they're too difficult and it's going to cause stress for everyone, it may not be worth the trouble.

 

 

 

Lexie is a graphic designer and typography enthusiast. She spends most of her time A/B testing websites and creating style guides. Check out her blog, Design Roast, and follow her on Twitter @lexieludesigner.

Read the full post

Lighting Colour And The Effect On Our Sleep


lamp shade

Sleep is one of the most important activities that we engage in and it’s essential to ensuring optimal health. Lack of sleep can compromise your ability to perform even the most basic mental functions like focusing on a task or processing thoughts clearly. That’s why it’s paramount to not only focus on the quantity of sleep but on the quality as well.

According to experts, light exposure can have a tremendous effect your body’s internal clock. This is what makes us feel sleepy when it’s dark and energized when the suns out. New research suggests that it’s not just the presence or absence of light that affects our circadian rhythm, but the color of that light as well.

This might explain why we feel a certain way when we see a beautiful peachy sunset or the blue light emanating from our electronic devices.  Read on to find out how lighting color can affect your sleep.

 

Blue Light

It’s a well-known fact that the blue light coming from our laptops and smart devices can have a detrimental effect on our circadian rhythm. That’s because it suppresses the body’s ability to produce melatonin and this gives rise to problems like insomnia and restlessness. That’s also why we tend to have a harder time falling sitting in front of a laptop or smartphone screen.

The PLOS Biology journal published a 2015 study which was aimed at understanding how mice responded to light color exposure. What makes this study unique is the fact that it focused on the effect of light color on suprachiasmatic nucleus. This is the part of the brain that regulates time through chemical signals. As such, the researchers checked the mice’s mental and physical chemical reactions to light color changes.

During the research, the mice were exposed to different levels of light intensity and darkness while measuring their suprachiasmatic nerve signals. To achieve this, the researchers used a “fake sky” setup, kind of like in the Jim Carrey movie The Truman Show. The researchers also tested the mice’s response to different light colors like the purples and peaches that you get during sunrises and sunsets.

The data showed that the mice reacted normally to regular light exposure. However, the response of their suprachiasmatic nerve signals showed a 30 minute delay whenever they were exposed to conditions that went from light to dark without any changes in color hue. This is like working on your laptop all night and being exposed to its blue light and then suddenly switching it off without any sort of transition light color.

This research also shows us that the mice actually needed changes in light color to help them transition from light to dark. So the intensity and color of light has a strong correlation to our sleep patterns because science has shown us that there is a strong link between humans and mice in terms of suprachiasmatic nerve signals.

It’s also interesting to note that LED light bulbs may affect our ability to fall asleep because they emit more blue light than other light bulbs. But, according to the Elektra lighting design team, light fittings with specially engineered LED light can actually facilitate better sleep by emiting a unique amber glow.

 

Rectifying the Problem

The good news is that there are certain methods that we can apply to correct the problems caused by blue light exposure. The most obvious solution is to work on drastically reducing your exposure. This is understandably difficult for anyone living in the 21st century because we conduct most of our lives through a screen interface.

But, even if you can’t eliminate the use of blue light emitting screens during the day, you may do so at night. Try and read a book instead of looking at your cellphone, resist the urge to check emails or texts before bedtime, and avoid watching TV for at least two hours before you sleep.

If you can’t completely avoid blue light exposure at night, then wear orange tinted sunglasses while looking at the screen to reduce its effects on your biology. Orange tinted glasses help to block the blue light, thus making it easier to fall asleep afterward.

Read the full post

Why Every Business Needs a Style Guide


style guide

Photo by energepic.com from Pexels

Whether you’re a big believer in marketing, or you think that if you build it people will buy it, the fact is that your business is a brand. Your brand is like your business card, and it’s what people will experience long before they actually do business with you. It precedes you, and it’s something that you need to fine-tune constantly if you want to be able to stand out from the crowd.

 

To give you plenty of food for thought, we’ve put together a simple 5 minute read that will tell you everything you need to know about a commonly overlooked creative tool: the style guide. Have a read, sit back and reflect, and then put the hints and tips into action. Your brand will be all the better for it in no time at all.

 

A style guide saves you from wasting time discussing tangential ideas

The first thing to note about a style guide is that it will always save you time in the long run. People will probably think you’re indulging in a drawn out needlessly creative endeavor when you suggest creating a style guide, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

 

It will take some time to get it right, but that’s just the cost of building a brand that actually stands for something. Commit to finishing your guide no matter what, and always remember that it will save you plenty of time later on. It’s there as reference material for the lifetime of your business, and it will prove invaluable when it inevitably comes time to rebrand, or when you’re launching a new product or service. The more you put into it now, the more it will give back when you need it.

 

It will ensure you stay ‘on-brand’ at every creative turn

Staying true to your brand is easier said than done. When you’re in the thick of it and faced with half a dozen mounting deadlines it can be all too easy to churn out a logo that’s okay, and a tagline that you think is ‘good enough’. The problem is that once you launch them into the market they’re now the face of your brand. If they don’t fit with what you’ve done before then they’ll just confuse people.

 

You could always retract them, but then you just look like you’re chopping and changing the offering based on negative feedback. And that’s a surefire to lose your voice of authority and open yourself up to further criticism. Your audience doesn’t want to believe that you’re just telling them what they want to hear. They want to believe that you’re the authority, the thought leader, and the trendsetter that they’ve been waiting to buy into.

 

They connect your brand to your target audience

If you want to know why style guides matter, all you need to do is think about the last bad branding exercise you saw. It could be a website, fashion label, home collection, or anything that left you speechless. With so many different creative threads to play with, you’ll probably have been confused at how they could have got it so wrong.

 

The issue will, more than likely, have been that there was no style guide in place. The style guide is what you use to ensure there is uniformity and a common thread running through every aspect of a marketing campaign. It’s easy to copy and paste the same old tagline, but there’s a lot more to uniformity than that. You need to tailor each offering so that it’s suitable for every new platform and setting, but in a way that’s sensitive to the core of your brand. Which leads us nicely onto the next point on our list.

 

 

You can express your brand’s core ethos in a variety of different mediums

Your brand needs to have something at the center of it if it’s going to connect with the people you want to do business with. It’s an emotion that it evokes in people, and it will be far stronger than their memory of your latest tagline, sale, or discount offer.

 

The problem with tackling different promotional mediums without a style guide is that most of the time a different person will have input into each platform. You may all be working for the same end goal, but unless there is central creative guide you can all refer back to then it’s unlikely you’ll end up pulling in the same direction.

 

Your customers will actually know what you stand for

Businesses like the The Word Point work in a very specialist niche, and so need to target a specific section of the online market. This means that they need to stand for something, and just as importantly, they need to ensure that their customers know they stand for it.

 

By compiling a style guide that focuses on precision, flexibility, and knowledgeable input they can build a creative framework around their brand. If you can do the same, you’ll be able to tell a potential audience of millions what your business stands for.

 

What should your style guide include?

The specifics will depend on the size of your brand, and what industry you work in, but there are a number of core features every style guide must have:

 

  • Your logo, along with alternative forms that are used in specific settings, or on specific platforms
  • Guidelines on the position, sizing, and background colors of all content pages and their contents
  • Base typography that will be used for all of your content
  • Your core color palette that can be referred to when designing new content
  • A list of things to be avoided at all costs as they are not in alignment with your brand’s ethos

 

Static or dynamic style guides?

A style guide has to be a dynamic document, but one that is governed by a certain set of creative rules:

 

  • Guides need to evolve with the times so that they reflect the changes businesses undergo as the years go by
  • They must adapt to the launch of new sections of the business, but do so in a way that brings the new ventures under the same core brand of the business
  • Style guides cannot be chopped and changed purely because a new idea doesn’t fit in with them. Think about whether the new idea has had anything like the degree of thought put into it as the style guide, and then decide which one you’re going to keep

 

Getting the balance right between process and creativity

The final thing to say is that a style guide is a great way to help you find the right balance between process and creativity. If you have a deadline, it can be all too easy to submit something that does the job and be done with it.

 

What the style guide does in these instances is keep your output honest so that you can see whether your new content actually adds anything to your brand. Often you’ll find that referring back to the style guide points you in a subtly different direction that makes all the difference to the finished article. Ideal if you want to enhance your brand every single day.

 

pauline farris

BIO: Pauline speaks Portuguese, English, Spanish and Italian. She travelled the world to immerse herself in the new cultures and learn languages. Today she is proud to be a voting member of the American Translators Association and an active participant of the Leadership Council of its Portuguese Language Division.

Read the full post

Interview With an Artist - Colors & Music


In our previous articles, we've talked about color and psychology, the meaning of colors in different cultures with particular attention to how colors evoke emotions. We know that music holds the same power - we are able to experience a variety of emotions by listening to music, and today we are wondering what is the connection between sounds and colors - can we connect one color with a certain sound and whether these have the same meaning when interpreted by our brains?
To discover more, we are talking to Umut Eldem, a composer, pianist, and art researcher. His main field of research is synesthesia, and he will tell us more about this curious phenomena.

 

Hi Umut! Your field of interest is synesthesia, could you tell us more about what synesthesia is and why is it so interesting for you?

Synesthesia is a neurological condition in which a person experiences multiple senses from only one sensory input. For example, along with hearing a sound, a person with synesthesia can also feel a certain taste; or while reading they can see that some letters are in different colors. What is particularly interesting for me is when people can see colors and shapes when they hear music, also called chromesthesia (sound-to-color synesthesia). Every synaesthetic person usually has their own colors they associate with different notes, letters, and so on.

 

Do we know any famous artists who had/have synesthesia?

It is known that certain composers had synesthesia, such as Olivier Messiaen, Franz Liszt, and Duke Ellington, but we didn't know much about it until recently. Now, we can do MRI scans and see that different parts of the brain are active when people with synesthesia experience an input of sound or other senses, which is different than the reaction of an average brain. Science couldn't prove it before the technology allowed us, but what is more interesting for me is to understand how these composers correlated notes they wrote and instruments they used to create music with their condition and the colors they saw. This could also help us understand their music better - the ideas they expressed and what we actually identify with.

 

Umut Eldem - photo of the artist

 

How can scientific research in this area connect with your artistic research?

There are many scientists researching synesthesia, especially cognitive scientists and neuroscientists, and what they are exploring is a more practical side of synesthesia. They are researching whether is more common to males or females, is it more common with artists, left-handed people, etc. They are trying to answer the question of why is it happening.

As an art researcher, I am looking into the ways that we can have a better understanding of the artistic manifestation of synesthesia, and how to use it to express ourselves as artists in more than one discipline. What I'm exploring is how we can use synesthesia even if we don't have it, and how an average brain connects colors and sounds. Knowing more about it can help musicians experience musical concepts of the composers they listen to better and bring the process of creating and performing music to the interdisciplinary scene.

What are you working on right now?

My current research is pointed at discovering a general theory of how we connect colors and sounds in order to develop software which can convert music into visual ideas, shapes, and colors in an intuitive way, and to use it as a tool for performing musicians. So, for example, as the violin plays, you can project the video performance which directly responds to the music played. This will, of course, be different from the audio visualizers on media players of computers, where it just mathematically connects frequencies to visuals.

I am also conducting artistic experiments where I can see how visual input affects musicians. I am adding ‘synaesthetic’ colors to their sheet music and finding out if it is easier for them to play like that, or more difficult. The practical result of this research will be to enhance music performance.

 

Do you use colors in your performances, when you play music?

Before learning about synesthesia, I didn't. But now, my interest is growing and I am implementing colors in my performances. For example, I did a performance with a narrator, which was reading a piece to the audience, and my soundscape was playing from four speakers set in the room. I used light bulbs which were connected to an app on my phone, so I was able to change the color of the lights based on the tone of the story and also the sound, integrate different colors in different parts of the text.

Performance “Prelude”

 

How did the audience relate to this piece?

The thing is, when you present an audio-visual piece, music, and colors together, the audience will usually find it pleasurable as long as they roughly go along together, so it is difficult to understand these sensations deeply. However, I have received comments from the audience that they did find harmony in the way the lights were responding to the music and the story, and connect to the story on a new level.

Although, what is much more interesting for me, as I said before, is to have a video that responds to live music in an intuitive way to our perception. This might be a new way of experiencing music.

What kind of artistic experiments do you do?

What is interesting for me to work with is improvisation. I like to see how a musician plays a "red triangle" for example. If they see shapes changing on the screen, how will a pianist, a violinist, and a drummer react to these shapes as they change? For me, as an observer, this reaction of music to visual art has an aesthetic value, but for the musicians, it has an insightful significance - by doing this they discover more about themselves and how they correlate visual ideas with the music and which aspect of music they will turn to.

 

Melissa Mccracken Synesthesia examples

 

How is synesthetic art different for musicians and visual artists?

Visual art is usually stationary, comparing to music when we talk about paintings for example. There is a static image that we process in our own time and have an individual experience, while music is a more temporal process and we all have the same time to experience it. When a classic artist responds to music visually, they are putting music into one frame. There are synesthetic painters who draw the music they hear, such as contemporary Melissa McCracken. When you are a visual artist with chromesthesia, it is easier to express it because you already see colors and you are creating a visual output. It is also easier for the audience to relate to the synesthesia of a visual artist, but for music, it often requires an explanation or an additional dimension, like a visual element to realize the synesthetic potential of the music.

Visual artists are very inspired by music. Is it a myth that they spontaneously reflect what they hear?

I would say that it depends on the artist, but we all have the ability to connect what we experience between different senses, with or without synaesthesia. We are all reflecting differently, it is all very idiosyncratic. With synaesthetic people, everyone has their own color for the same source, and you will usually get something different. The interesting thing is that even though we always react to music in our own way, there is still a pattern in the big picture. Our experience is unique, but there is a general tendency of people to connect music and art in the same way. For example, we tend to combine warmer colors with fast, happy, exciting music, while we combine colder colors with the opposite- slow and sad. I immediately think of the ‘Blues’ music genre. I believe that the biggest value of my research is understanding this general tendency in combining visuals and music in creating something unique.

What is next that is coming up?

Next week I am delivering a workshop as a part of my project "Drawn to music", as a part of the project week NextDoors, in Royal Conservatoire of Antwerp, in Belgium. There will be musicians playing in response to visual art, but also the musicians that will draw what they hear. This two-way process will repeat itself and we will see how artists react visually to music and musically to visuals.

 

If you want to contact Umut and give your input to his research or ask him about it, you can reach him by email. You can also find him on soundcloud.

Umut’s lecture on synesthesia you can find on youtube.

 

Author: Nina Petrov

Read the full post

Tips for Strategic Writing for Your Brand


strategic writing

Content marketing is essential for branding. Special marketing content plays an important role to increase the engagement of customers. To get desired results, you have to create engaging web content with a tagline, a catchy message, and call to action. With inspiring stories, you can create the first impression with your customers. Consider the advice of professional writers with the story and essay help to give a different voice to your business. Make sure to engage people with your brand to drive desired behavior.

Every brand needs high-quality, original content to bring your brand to life. Here are some essential components of strategic writing:

  • Tagline (a clear message for your customers)
  • Web content
  • Brand manifestos and brand stories
  • Marketing brochures
  • Important marketing articles

Strategic writing for your brand is necessary to increase the engagement of customers on a deeper level. Feedback and involvement of people are essential to get fresh ideas to make your brand memorable. Original content is authentic and compelling for your customers.

Bring Traffic with Articles

As per Derek Halpern, you have to spend 20% of your time in writing and 80% in its promotion. If you know promotion tactics, you can bring visitors even with mediocre content. Without contagious content, your dream to get tons of traffic can’t become a reality. Communicable means engaging articles. Try to write on interesting topics that force readers to share it with other people. With contagious articles, you can naturally increase your traffic.

Work on a Proven Idea

If you want to increase awareness of your brand through your writing, you have to be shameless to steal ideas of other people. A tool like Buzzsumo may help you to find strong ideas. Type your keywords in the search field and check the most shared blogs and articles based on your anchor texts.

Check community sites to see massively contagious articles and blog posts. If you are blogging in the marketing niche, you can find great ideas from Buzzsumo. It is true that you can steal ideas, but you can’t steal words from other articles. Your readers will ultimately find that you are a copycat. This situation can ruin your credibility.

Keep it in mind that you can improve articles and an original idea so that people can’t recognize it. Here are some ideas to enhance the quality of your article.

  • Write smart articles to impress readers.
  • Articles must contain actual ideas and force people to share it.
  • The article should have practical value so people can get some credit for sharing it.
  • Make sure to create the content that people would like to read.

Before writing on an idea, read maximum articles available on the internet. Keep it in mind that stealing an idea from a person is plagiarism, but stealing from several sources is research.

Use Visual Elements in Articles

People love graphics, so include several images in an article. Make sure to create custom images to illustrate important points. Your article must have these visual assets.

  • Photos of interesting/relevant events, concepts, things, places, and people.
  • Graphs and charts to explain/illustrate the numbers behind a phenomenon or story.
  • Visuals represent concepts, elements or procedures that enable better/faster understanding.
  • Screenshots with explanations/examples/notes of different events
  • Comics, such as storyboards or illustrations that tell narratives visually

Copywriting Techniques

A story can sound completely different depending on the narrator. A few people have extraordinary talent to tell a boring story into an engaging manner. If you are not gifted to write creative stories, you can create viral headlines. A weak headline can kill your article, so create an exciting headline. Clickbait headlines aim to exploit the inquisitiveness gap to provide enough information to make readers curious.

Optimize Articles with Relevant Keywords

Without targeted keywords, you can’t optimize your articles. The Keyword Planner of Google helps you to brainstorm potential keywords. Keyword optimization is essential for link building, content creation, and content strategy.

After choosing focused keywords, you have to mention it in the title tag. Keyword optimization is essential in a link building strategy. Navigational links, breadcrumb links, inbound links, and internal links must have optimized keywords. To get a better ranking, you have to connect with searchers. Target keywords are necessary for your content.

Read the full post

Logo Color: Why It Is Important


logo color

There are several factors that will be influential to the success of your business. The quality of the products and services, location of the physical store, human resources, and timing are just some of the most crucial.

 

In most cases, people tend to focus on the bigger picture when talking about business success and they ignore the small details. Among others, one that you should not miss is the importance of a logo, which should speak about the personality of the business. More than the actual design, there is another factor that will contribute to its success – the color.

 

In the rest of this post, we will discuss some of the reasons why the color of the logo is important. While we’re at it, we will also look at some of the best colors to incorporate in your business logo and their meanings.

 

Before we proceed, if you need help in designing a logo for your website, check this out - https://www.thetop10sites.com/logo-design/. You will find a variety of choices to help you in coming up with the perfect logo that will speak about your business.

 

The Importance of Color in your Logo

 

On top of the list is the obvious – aesthetics. The color is important because of the overall appeal that it provides the logo. Would you choose a color that won’t speak to your target market? Of course, not! Pick a color that will immediately captivate their attention the first time they see the logo. If they do not find the color appealing, they might not even notice that it is a company logo. In line with this, it is said that 93% of purchase decisions are based on visual perceptions, which can rely not only on the color of the packaging but even the color of the logo that is printed on it.

 

To add, the color is also critical because it will allow you to make an instant connection to your target market. Are you trying to target people who are young? Probably, you will benefit from using colors that are vibrant and energetic. On the other hand, if you wish to target professionals, you might want to choose subdued colors. Meanwhile, if the affluent market is the target, choose colors that are elegant, which will make the logo appealing.

 

In one article from Harvard Business Review, it has been noted that trust matters more than ever for brands. It is one of the most important goals of branding. How exactly can this be done? Probably through the use of the right color.

 

Aside from building trust, color also builds brand recognition. Meaning, it will be easier for the people to link the logo to your company.

 

More so, color is important for differentiation. It makes you unique compared to your competitors, and hence, will be easier to recognize. For instance, if there is a row of shops along the street, all of which are offering the same product or service if your logo color is different, you will easily stand out.

 

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, logo appeals to the emotion. It provides the business with the opportunity to develop a connection to its customers. In fact, color is the biggest emotional trigger in logo design, which is why it is critical to give this a careful thought. This brings us to the next part of this post, which will discuss the colors of logos and their meanings. If you are unsure how to design or redesign your logo, take note of the discussions in the next part.

 

Picking the Right Color

 

Now, let us have a look at some of the colors that you might want to consider for your logo, as well as their meanings or the messages that they convey.

 

  • Blue: This is the best choice for a logo color if you want to evoke professionalism. It is also often linked to trust, which explains why it is the color of many bank logos. Safety, loyalty, and power are also linked to this color, which is why governments often pick it.
  • Red: The intensity and warmth of this color make it effective if you are targeting extroverts or males. This will also be a good choice to show passion. It is also effective in boosting appetite, so there is no wonder why a lot of fast food chains use this as their logo color.
  • Green: For businesses in the field of nature and health, this is one of the most popular logo colors. It is also associated with spring and new beginnings. It is often used by businesses that would like to highlight the fact that they are eco-friendly
  • Black: For luxury, authority, superiority, and classiness, black is the perfect logo color. It is for businesses that would like to show off their elegance, making it an excellent color for those targeting the rich market.
  • Orange: You will see a lot of art and sports brands using this as the color of their logo. It is associated with energy and creativity. It is also common in restaurants because it can stimulate hunger, although, not as intense as red.
  • Yellow: Often associated with sunshine, this vibrant color will make people cheerful and friendly. In most cases, however, it is not used as the main logo color because of the lack of emotional appeal, but it is used as an element to highlight some parts of the logo.

 

For a more detailed guide on how colors will be able to manipulate emotions, check out this link - https://www.businessinsider.com/the-importance-of-a-logos-color-2014-4. This article from Business Insider also comes with practical examples that will make it easy for you to realize that the things we tackled above are indeed right.

 

Wrap Up

 

So, do you want to create an effective logo that connects to the emotions of your customers, stands out from the competitors, and captivates attention? As noted above, there is one way to do it – choose the right color for your logo.

 

While color is important, however, it should be emphasized that there are other elements that will affect the perception of the logo, including the shape and the font.

Read the full post

Ideas For Amazon Product Design


ideas

There are two main ways you can boost sales of your products on Amazon: drive more traffic to your listing, or increase conversion rates, that is the percentage of visitors who actually make a purchase.

When it comes to improving conversation rates, one of the essential elements to consider is great product design. Check these tips and ideas for great Amazon Product Design which will help you to improve conversions, boost sales, and grow your business.

Start With More Ideas, Not Less

When designing a product it is best to start with as many ideas as possible: you can narrow them down later, but the more ideas you start with the more likely you are to have that one winning idea. Start by brainstorming as many product ideas as you can. Conduct research – talk to previous customers and your ideal target customers to see what they’re interested in buying. Be as creative as possible to come up with a long list.

Conduct Market Research

Once you have a healthy ideas bank, you can start to narrow down that list to things you think will sell. A good place to start with this is to conduct market research. There are many ways to do this – surveys, trade shows, online trend tools and industry news and blogs, to name a few – and all are important to gauging the market to get a feeling for the kinds of products customers will be looking to buy. Knowing and listening to your existing customer base is also key in this process – they can give you great insights. Of course, you should simply look to designing a product simply because of sales potential, but you also don’t want to design something no one will buy because there is simply no market demand.

Consider Your Brand

As an Amazon seller, your store is your brand. Branding is incredibly important in any kind of business: it tells your customers who you are, helping you build relationships and trust with your customer base. When designing products for Amazon always keep your brand in mind. Will the product be in line with your brand as a seller? Does it appeal to your target customer? Most successful Amazon stores have cohesive ranges of products which reflect their strong brand.

Look To Your Competitors

Competitor analysis is an important tool in product design. Look at what products your competitors are selling, what is successful and, even more importantly, what isn’t. Read the negative reviews which customers have left on similar products to see what features you could add to address these concerns. Better to learn from your competitors’ mistakes rather than make these mistakes all over again yourself!

Don’t Forget Legal Concerns

This will not be necessary in every case, but in some cases it is advisable to patent new product designs. A patent can be advisable if you have created a new manufacturing process as part of your product design, your product relates to a discovery in a new field, or if you are looking for external investment. Patents can be expensive, so if you are unsure a good middle-ground could be to file a provisional patent application.

Read the full post

Top 5 VR Designing Software


As we mentioned in our previous article, the thing with VR software is that everybody has a preference and each company is developing new features every day. Here are top picks from designers around the world, and some of their main features.

 

1. Unity 3D

 

Researching many different tools, Unity still stays our number one for all purposes - gaming, real-time film, architecture. If you are already familiar with C# or JavaScript, scripting with Unity will be easy to adapt to and prototype your virtual reality apps real quick. There is a large community built around Unity technology and your design is easy to export to any platform you want.

 

2. Forge

 

Developed by Autodesk, Forge represents a great platform with team management features. Their great toolkit enables you to merge your design with engineering and enable you tools such as Model Derivative API, Reality Capture API and many more.

 

how to make an amazing VR experience

 

3. SketchUp

 

This modeling application was developed by Google, with excellent tutorials to get everyone to model basics quickly. This is an absolute winner for beginners, to get you used to the language quickly before you move on to modeling on some more professional platforms. There is a free trial for this software, so see for yourself.

 

4. Blender

 

Blender is a perfect example of what you can move on from SketchUp, although you can also dive into it straight away. Blender is open source and free for all, which makes it favorite for many developers. This software uses Python and it is compatible with Linux, Windows, and Mac. Another great advantage is the ability to export your work in many different formats, including a format for JanusVR with a free open source plugin FireVR.

 

5. Unreal Engine UE4

 

UE4 is the main competitor to Unity 3D, also a leading gaming software with many integrations, wide store, and good support. It is comparably good as Unity, although some say the results are much more realistic and with better navigation. Unreal Engine also allows you to export to various formats, although not as much as Unity.

 

which VR software to use

 

These are our current top five picks of software to design an awesome virtual reality. Their abilities range based on their target groups - some are more basic like SketchUp, and some way more advanced like Unity 3D and UE4. What software do you prefer for designing and modeling virtual reality? What are the most important features for you, how important are the learning materials and the community?

 

Tell us more about your experience in the comment section below.

 

Author:

Nina Petrov | @fusion_writer | www.ninapetrov.com

Read the full post

11 Branding Ideas to Keep You Ahead of the Game


brands

Whether you have an existing company or are planning to start your own business, branding strategies are key to surviving a competitive market. Market conditions are constantly fluctuating as every industry continues to get more saturated with more competition. With that growth comes the challenge to make sure your brand and your company stand out and are capable of countering your rivals.

 

Branding initially seems like a simple idea, but it is anything but simple. Branding requires a bit of thought and intention, and more often than not, it can deliver high rewards. Branding is how you create a positive audience perception that establishes trust between you and your customer base. This trust is what keeps people coming back to your brand and that is what you, if not all, businesses desire.

 

Below, we have compiled a list of branding ideas that can keep your brand name ahead of the game.

 

  1. Upgrade Your Logo

 

When you are branding for your company or for a product, you are essentially trying to tell your company’s story, goals, and mission in little to no words and in a very concise and eye-catching design. You do not want people to feel unengaged or take your company as unprofessional because of a dull logo design.

 

Revisit your logo design to see if it is influential and effective at drawing positive attention. How does your logo look on packaging, on merchandise, and on letterheads? Does it look effective on a big billboard? What about on a laptop screen or a small cellphone screen? Could it still be clear if you put it on a moving vehicle? If not, your logo may need a bit of a refresher. Pinterest is a good place to find ways and inspiration on how to spruce up your logo. Play with your design. Maybe your logo is too busy and needs paring back. There is nothing wrong with making good use of white space in your designs. Perhaps, it needs a new color palette. For example, Colourlovers is a great place to find trendy color palettes that fit your brand personality but also draw the consumer’s eye.

 

As the market is always evolving, your logo should tweak and change with it. Whatever you do, your logo should represent the spirit of your brand so strongly that people know immediately who you are at the sight of your logo.

 

  1. Spread Your Logo Everywhere

 

logo

Once you have a logo that is fresh and unique, make sure to use a variety of ways for people to see and interact with it. If you are selling a product, your packaging should be something appealing and memorable. The first thing consumers are drawn to is the packaging and ensuring it matches the tone and personality of your product and company is important in keeping their trust.

 

Get your brand logo printed on business cards, brochures and postcards. First, it is a strong traditional move of professionalism to have business cards and brochures. Also, sometimes the best way to get your brand out there is by putting it right in people’s hands. Having something substantial to hold does bear quite a bit of meaning to people. Websites like MOO and Primoprint are online printing services that can help you get your logo out there.

 

Another great way to get your logo out there is to put your logo on the things you work with every day. Get your logo printed on your office supplies. Seeing your logo on letterheads, coffee mugs, mousepads, pens and pencils, notebooks and more show people that you are in support of your own brand. People are able to trust you when they see how much you back your own name. You should try to be your brand as often as you can because it instills a sense of confidence in yourself and in your brand. Sites like Artik and Avery can make custom office supplies and personalize your letterheads, among other things.

 

  1. Promotional Swag

 

It goes without saying that people really enjoy getting custom swag. As such, promotional products are another great way to spread your brand. T-shirts, keychains, magnets, glasses, water bottles are among some of the things you can get your logo on.

 

An interesting option is lapel pins. Vivipins is a great website where you can order customized lapel pins. Get your logo on these high-quality lapel pins and watch them end up on teenagers backpacks and bags as extra decor. You can also give them to your employees and co-workers as a sign of gratitude as well.

 

Custom swag is an effective way to create a network of people who help create interest in your brand. The people who were your logo will likely share it with other people. Thus, your consumer pool grows. Look at websites like Vistaprint  and Artik to create custom swag for your business.

 

  1. Create a Personalized URL

 

Make your website or brand standout by making a URL that features the name of your brand in the web address. It helps for marketing and search engine optimization so your website or brand name is likely to come up first when searched online rather than getting lost or overlooked.

 

  1. Identify Your Market Archetype

 

In fairytales, fables and parables, archetypes are the character types that we see so often that they become easily recognizable to us. Who knew the same concept would apply in marketing?

 

Now you do not necessarily need to blast this to all of your customers, but even on the marketing playing field, everyone fulfills a type of role. Identifying what role you play in the greater branding narrative, ensures that you create a compelling personality for your brand that users can identify no matter what.

 

  1. Grow Your Social Media Presence

social media

Social media’s importance to how people relate and connect with each other continues to grow each day. In the context of marketing, the very same still applies. You must understand which social media platform is important to your brand. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other sites all have different target audiences. Make sure you are connecting with the right audience for your brand.

 

Instagram is one of the ways brands connect with the younger generations. It can curate the best and most stunning images of your brand more than a paragraph of words can and create a spark of interest in an instant. Images give off moods and suggest a number of things to your audience. As such, you might consider investing in a social media manager or a photographer to capture the best images of your brand. Also, watermark your Instagram pictures with your logo. It will help people associate your high-quality images with your brand name.

 

If having multiple social media accounts is not doing enough for your brand, brand influencers are a good way to go. Brand influencers are social media stars who are connected to your industry. Research who your customers are following. Find the top names on social media, especially those who line up with your mission. An influencer can not only bring more exposure with their large following, but they can also help create a sense of personalization for your brand because if a person’s favorite social media star is using your brand then they gain a sense of trust in you.

 

Custom hashtags are also a great way to grow your social media footprint. Creating a unique hashtag that embraces your company’s mission is a great way to share your brand in an online language that everyone understands and knows how to share.

 

  1. Blogging

 

Blogging is a great way to better engage with an audience about your brand. Blogs usually have a very casual and personal tone, giving them a sense of individuality and personalization that maybe ads or professional articles lack. People flock to blogs because its seems like real people talking to real people. Starting a blog about your brand too will show your audience that you are a professional about your field, and it can unite text and visuals in a great engaging way.

 

  1. Create Brand Videos

 

videos

People have short attention spans so people are more likely to engage more with video content than to read a long post. The world of YouTube has quickly brought video culture to a high where being a youtuber is now a viable career. Not to mention how much of our entertainment consumption is done through videos. Videos on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube, it seems like the internet is just a constant loop of videos. Just think about how quickly and easily people are likely to send funny videos over their phones or share it. Now think of how well your brand might do if its brand video was handed the same exposure.

 

Visual media is an immediate form of connection that people can understand and translate faster than reading. Beautiful graphics, illustrations, and vibrant colors present your brand in an engaging way that is easy to access, understand and share.

 

  1. Stay On Trend

 

trends

One great way to stay on track with trends is to ask your customers questions. Issue surveys and get feedback. This shows that you value what your consumers think, and it keeps you updated on what they want to see from you next.

 

On that note, stay on top of what is trendy in the world. Content Gems is a website where you can research different topics and find relevant content based on your particular field of interest of your company. Similarly, Buzzsumo is also a place to discover what people are “buzzing” about online. You can also conduct research on this website to find what people are currently sharing or talking about. It is also a great place to see where your brand falls among trending topics. In another way GoogleAdWords allow you to see relative search keywords that can help you create ads or content that target particular niche markets.

 

  1. Branding Starts At Home

 

As much as your branding efforts has everything to do with your audience, your branding efforts start from within your company. Just as you want to build a trust with your audience, build a trust with your coworkers and employees. They are your first line of action when it comes to branding, and you want to ensure that they are all on the same page as you, ready to not only support your brand but also share their positive experiences with other people. Again, it looks good when real people who work for a company or brand really get behind it.

 

  1. Get Personal With Your Audience

 

People, consumers especially, like to feel valued and wanted. People can tell when they are being sent the same mass correspondence or when they are not being treated as an individual. Give any email correspondences a sense of individuality by signing off them with your name and your logo. People want to feel like they are talking to real people. Whenever it is possible, be personal, warm and friendly with your customers. Allow the opportunity for your customers to want to connect with you and trust you as a friend.

 

Conclusion

 

These are some unique and effective ways to show off your brand to the world. The methods mentioned above strive to not only empower your logo in a competitive market, but they also bring you closer to a strong, trusting audience. Earning and keeping your audience’s trust takes some time so be patient with yourself. It is important to pick the methods that fit best with what you are offering the world. There is no one right way to do it. However, you should always remember that you have plenty of options that work for whatever stage your brand might be at.

Read the full post