Category: Kate Canada Obregon

05
Sep

Think Like A Tourist: Do You See or Notice?

Photo by opensource.com https://www.flickr.com/photos/opensourceway/4639590640/

Photo by opensource.com
https://www.flickr.com/photos/opensourceway/4639590640/

This summer, we’ve been traveling on our “design pilgrimage” as we call it.

I brought several books on the trip with me to give structure to my thoughts and writing. One was Experiences in Visual Thinking by Robert H. McKim, the classic how-to manual for anyone who wants to sharpen his or her creative visual thinking skills.

These are the methods of approaching any problem or situation using subconscious and conscious types of thinking. Visual thinking is a multifaceted skill and approach to any problem we have to solve on any given day.

We’re all born with the ability to harness our imagination, and we think most of our waking lives, but as McKim sees it, schooling, habits, thinking patterns and work life get in the way. We think broadly and unproductively. We believe the way we think about one situation applies to most other problems or assignments.

When I was a university teaching assistant, we new teachers had several sessions of training to prepare us for working with students and the various ways people think and learn. Most academics are logical and linear thinkers, but that’s merely a slice of the learning personalities in the world.

In one particularly useful session, the trainer was a professor and researcher who used neuroscience in his teaching methods. He said that all of one’s thinking life could be reduced to patterns we used in the grocery store (before Amazon, obviously!). The way we thought and acted on our thoughts in the store was the organizational patterns or thinking blueprint we probably applied to everything else in our lives, including university assignments. Some people are spiral thinkers, he said, they go in the middle and work their way out, with or without a list. Others work from the sides going up and down the aisles.

He gave us this information as a way to help us teach and empathize with students. Everyone uses patterns in their thinking and we apply them to most aspects of our lives. Raising our awareness about the types of thinking, he wanted us to understand that just because someone doesn’t take what we think to be logical notes it doesn’t mean they’re not absorbing and using the lecture content meaningfully.

We approach our design problems in similar ways to our approach to the grocery store and McKim’s tool kit remains valuable for all of us visual solutions people.

The pivot for thinking takes place as we look at our world. Using McKim here, seeing is what most people do; perceiving is what most successful visual thinkers do.

What’s the difference between perceiving and seeing?

Seeing

Seeing is looking at the world and our surroundings as is. We use and apply thinking blueprint and go about our day solving problems or creating solutions. We look at an assignment or problem. We research what others say about it and come up with solutions. It’s practical, efficient and reliable. This is often called deductive thinking. It means you apply general observations about the world to particular problems.

But, seeing as a thinking tools is rarely innovative.

Perceiving

Perceiving, on the other hand, is active with multiple steps and involves all of what McKim calls “operations” in our brains. Here are some key facts about the process of perception:

  • Active and ‘down below.’ Let’s say you are given a creative brief with an assignment. Perceiving would involve looking at the problem, researching and talking to others. Perceiving problem solving means sitting with the assignment and walking away, shifting the process to ‘down below’ into the unconscious layers of brain activity, anfr letting the mind work through the assignment for some time without using the conscious mind.
  • Integrates past ideas. Perceiving blends the past with the new assignment. Let’s say your assignment involves coming up with new ways to drive interest in a company’s new product, say men’s socks. Because you’ve worked on many, many projects with the assignment of driving awareness, you know the tried-and-true steps. But wait, you’ve also seen stellar and creative work done in financial services lately that raised awareness about products, too. While not the same product, they had similar market problems and they tried x, y or z. Integrative thinking brings in other experiments to your problem and sees what works.
  • Connects dissimilar topics. Perceiving is making mental leaps and combining with other areas. Let’s say you have a passion for travel and you read lots about the best surfing in world, which you know is in far-flung places like Taghazout, Morocco, Bundaran, Ireland or Tofino, British Columbia. You know this topic, and you’ve stuffed lots of details in your brain over the years.This “stuff” comes in handy when you are thinking about travel and surf and your sock assignment. You’ve looked at the sales figures, the average consumer and you’ve got a stack in your drawer at home and the office. You realize that connecting the socks that fold easily can be found in the dark easily and are made of breathing micro-fibers with travel and these often unheard-of places could breathe new market life for the socks, and make the client very happy.

That’s perceiving — seeing the world in a new way. Utilizing your brain’s functions and harnessing your creative powers.

So what’s your take on the world around you? Do you see or perceive?

— Kate Canada Obregon

11
Jul

Television and The Modern Family Mash-Up

Image courtesy of Hapticgeneration.com

Image courtesy of Hapticgeneration.com

Audiences gravitate towards stories about families because they capture the quirky, imperfect, and often hilarious dynamics of our own lives, and as a content creator, television is uniquely positioned to mirror our changing families and to help audiences navigate what it all means. Only recently, however, has the story been so colorful, and crowded. Here’s a look at how the changes in American families and their continually complicated stories get played out in entertainment.

In the 1950s, the family was viewed as one cohesive functional unit and the need for conformity was a recurring theme in programming. Demographically speaking, television reflected the fact that American households were primarily white, and on TV, white families stood in for other ethnic groups. After World War II, US consumers had more discretionary income and the population was growing. With more money and bigger families, people began moving to the then-new suburbs. Television telegraphed these demographic changes, turning raw data into stories that fueled shows as The Real McCoys, The Donna Reed Show, Bewitched and Father Knows Best.

By the 1970s, the American family had begun a process of dramatic change. Divorce rates doubled, we saw the development of blended families, and the face of the American public was becoming a true melting pot, a multicultural mixture of ethnicities, races and religions under a single American identity. Again, television reflected these changes, now playing off family tension in such popular shows as the ground-breaking All In The Family and its spinoffs Maude, Good Times and The Jeffersons.

Recent demographic changes have further upended American society and culture. We are more diverse than ever, and in a demographic first, immigrant families accounted for the majority of births in 2010. Census data also indicates that there is no longer a “typical” American family as they are headed by divorced, married, single parents, married couples and a rising number of same-sex married and unmarried couples.

This new data reflects our changing attitudes about families and the ways parents and kids should live and love. It is opening up a new canvas on which we can write stories and create meaningful content that is truly modern and celebrates everyone in the household. I have no doubt that television will continue to play a critical role in shaping and depicting family stories and in doing so, attract more audiences.

This is an edited excerpt of Oishii Partner Kate Canada Obregon’s article “Television and The Modern Family Mash-Up,” which appears on Cynopsis Cynsiders. You can read the full text of the article here: http://www.cynopsis.com/cyncity/television-modern-family-mash/

 

16
May

Why Ad Agency-Created Products Fail

Why Agencies Fail_Mona Lisa

We read a recent Fast Co.Create piece by Leif Abraham, partner at Prehype, a New York-based venture development firm creating new digital products and companies together with startups and bigger corporations. In “Spike and Die: Why Products Created By Ad Agencies Fail,” he argues that the current culture and agency business models just aren’t conducive to real product innovation. Namely, that agencies trying to do product work typically treat the production of an app or product in the same way they treat the production of a TV spot.

Abraham says this has two effects:

1. It’s a torch relay

Just like in a TV production, each person finishes his or her work first, before the next one starts. That means the designer completely designs the app before the developer even starts to code anything. Though this can sometimes work, it also bears some risks, such as the developer finding mistakes in the design at a very late phase in the process.

2. An ad agency is not set up to maintain

In a campaign process, people are used to making some thing, put it out there and then never touch it again. This does not work with products, because they need on-going maintenance and a dedicated team to further develop it and deliver support.

As a result, product-like launches coming out of agencies don’t have long-term plans — or budgets — in place to maintain and sustain them.

Abraham further offers a few suggestions for how an agency could become a real player in the world of product innovation. Agencies should treat product development more like the founding of a new company — acting like a startup — versus treating it like another project. This inevitably marries the creation process with the business side of things. And both agency and client are equally invested in the long-term success of the product. To quote Abraham, “…if, as an agency, you believe in and enforce the rule of ‘my success is your success,’ you will have an interest in things running efficiently as possible.”

His other point is something that we at Oishii Creative are very passionate about, and have written on extensively, which is building company culture. Some of our best ideas come from fostering an open and collaborative environment; what we like to call “generative workspaces.” When your team feels excited about building a company — and not just a product — then ultimately, they’ll also feel incentivized and committed to the other aspects of the business.

As our VP Kate Canada Obregon recently wrote on The Agency Post, people like to work in open office spaces, or ones that promote a collaborative spirit, because they feel connected to the company’s organizational mission and to their fellow office mates. It’s about creating community within the office, and ultimately, the effects of this virtuous cycle translate into your output as a company, whether that’s launching a new product or a new TV campaign.

A vibrant and generative company culture takes the long-view for clients and projects. This isn’t always easy because it’s not a matter of providing short-term fixes or campaigns to fill holes. It’s about coming up with innovations that work seamlessly and consistently across platforms. This kind of generative culture asks more of staff and creative resources than replicating the status quo. It means working harder and longer on projects that hopefully, many are willing to do. Because what it really comes down to is thinking and creating with the future in mind, and always finding ways to partner and deliver for clients.

18
Apr

Generative Spaces: The Effects of an Open Office Floor Plan

Image via The Agency Post

Image via The Agency Post

Our VP, Kate Canada Obregon, recently wrote a guest blog post for The Agency Post sharing Five Tips for Making Your Office A Creative Space, but where did the idea for an open office floor plan come from?

In her latest article for The Agency Post, she discusses The Effects of an Open Office Floor Plan:

Here are some excerpts:

“…one of the office features we often mistakenly attribute to startups is the open office plan. We tend to equate this setup with the startup attitude of free-flowing space, an open atmosphere and equality of space. But for 60 years, the open office floorplan has been both the standard and ideal for office design. Mirroring economic changes since the 1950s and into the 1990s, architects have designed work environments for the booming “knowledge industries,” spaces where people create and produce ideas as part of their company bottom lines.

Symbolically speaking, people like to work in open office spaces, because they report feeling connected to the company’s organizational mission and to their fellow office mates. These spaces do well at creating “communities.” And while the research shows that intangible benefits are apparent, studies conducted by organizational psychologists on large corporations show mixed results on measures of productivity. Workers in open plan offices complain most often about noise, loss of privacy and constant distraction.

We cannot create without other people. We are social animals. Some philosophers and scientists argue that physical and sensorial evocative environments act like our scaffolding into the world, giving us humans opportunities to deepen our brain activity and expand into the world. When building an environment that supports and amplifies creativity, though, it’s important to keep in mind that the best solution usually isn’t an open floor plan.

Creative spaces require different setups for different mindsets: fun areas for unconscious processing; reflexive spaces where minimal thinking can go on, and reflective spaces wherein people must go beyond superficial thinking to find those kernels of creative thinking.

14
Mar

Design, Strategy & Visual Thinking: Your How-To Guide To Thinking Differently

Image via thoughtleaderzone.com. Illustration by hikingartist.com.

Image via thoughtleaderzone.com. Illustration by hikingartist.com.

Design is not “gift wrapping,” but an integral part of any competitive business and strategic branding goal.  Those of us in the entertainment space are fortunate because we do not have to relentlessly “prove” the power of our creative departments nor do we usually have to fight for the right to be a part of the decision-making process.

However, in many industries, design talent is siloed into marketing departments. Here, far downstream from other decision makers, the visual and content creative teams only get meaningfully involved in brand work after management decides to launch or operationalize a particular initiative. This is the “design gift wrapping” approach. Thus, the power of innovative creative thinking isn’t really leveraged pointedly into business decisions, market research or strategic planning.

In this post, I want to talk generally about the competitive advantages of design; what is often referred to as design thinking. Whether you make decisions about marketing budgets in broadcast cable departments, generate content for digital campaigns, or lead initiatives about how to best spend creative resources, thinking about the strategic purpose of design benefits you, your career and the company.

One way to do this is to think of creative as a strategy role. What does this mean? We’re referring to when we look at consulting firms that help corporate clients integrate solutions into their company organization — whether it’s servicing their end clients or streamlining technology developments. It could be many things, but it’s simplest to think about their role as improving performance in targeted areas of the company.

The changing market landscape has meant many companies have been scrambling to make these changes, but without paying high consultant fees. In fact, in a recent Harvard Business Review piece, the consulting industry is going through disruptive times, forcing it to change how it helps companies make change.

Why not help your organization make change from within?

  • Do Your Research. Spend 30 minutes a day doing research about your company’s product, services and reputation. Look for social science research measuring sentiment and observing trends. Read what non-biased sources say about the space your company works in. Ask yourself what your company should be doing in 5 and 10 years.

  • Go To Emerging Markets. You may not be able to go to the outskirts of the globe and open up shop, but you and your team can take on an untested and unfamiliar initiative. You will gain experience and test your skills in ways you can’t imagine. The experience could dramatically shift your perspective about your work, projects, department and company.

  • Model. Design thinking emerges when doing things. Depending on your particular role, use your skillset, be it visual or writing, to push yourselves along. A good way to do this is to schedule short blocks of time with your team or others and begin talking about the newest trends or ideas that are already out there. Talk about what works and what doesn’t. In these conversations, you will find moments that will pique your interest, and take shape into a future project.

— Kate Canada Obregon, VP of Oishii Creative

28
Feb

Five Tips For Making Your Office A Creative Space

oishii-studio-pics-08Our VP, Kate Canada Obregon, wrote a blog post on “Five Tips for Making Your Office a Creative Space,” which appeared in The Agency Post today.

An excerpt:

Here are five elements that can contribute to making your space the type of generative office that supports and amplifies creativity:

1. Familiar People

Researchers have demonstrated that collaborative work environments create happier and more productive employees. J. Richard Hackman, one of the world’s leading researchers on organizational behavior, found group work, particularly a familiar group, to be more productive when compared to individuals who worked alone. When a familiar group is encouraged to share ideas, hear other perspectives and receive constructive feedback, they report greater satisfaction with their job, their peers and culture.

2. Collision Brainstorming

Writing in the New York Times, Greg Lindsay observes that successful tech firms know the benefits of people coming together for an impromptu brainstorm via happy accidents and aggressively seek what Google calls the “casual collisions” or Yahoo’s “serendipity” meetings. This is because research strongly suggests that structured group work has limits. In the new context of an informal chat, the brain has a chance to re-engage and renew a problem, and possibly come up with new approaches or ways of thinking.

3. Solitary Creativity

Most neuroscience studies on creativity and problem-solving demonstrate the powers of intermittent group work coupled with “incubation” or quiet time and solo work. This is where the lounge and reading areas and ping-pong tables that startups are famous for come in. After a group meeting, the brain needs some distraction and ambient activity to reassess a problem or create. Neuroscientists such as Rex Jung and others have studied the brain in “action,” and observed what is called fluid or dynamic activity in the brain during quiet times of relaxation and calm, which could yield high creative output benefits.

4. Tactile Engagement

If you consume lots of data everyday and need to recall information quickly, there’s new research showing that keeping information slows down our ability to remember and process. One powerful method for what is called “embedding” information is getting tactile at work. Embracing the old-school pen and pencil during a meeting, or taking marginalia in a book can code information into our brains in ways that author Clive Thompson suggests are deeper and more meaningful than on touchscreens. That’s why writable walls, movable whiteboards and active work sessions are excellent ways at getting the brain and body physically involved in learning and doing, fostering neuron activity in the brain.

5. Good Reading Materials

A well-stocked library in your office gives people places to relax between projects, but reading has other powerful cognitive benefits. Recently, researchers at Emory University observed changes in the executive functional part of brain in fiction readers. Participants in the study showed heightened neural activity in the part of the verbal and visual sections of the brain when reading. So, not only were subjects able to “imagine” a character, they were able to activate senses in their brains — deepening their awareness and imaginative capabilities.

See more at The Agency Post.

14
Jan

The New York Times Refresh Is About More Than Aesthetics

NYT redesignThis week, one of the world’s most respected newspapers, The New York Times refreshed and re-launched their digital platform to mostly positive reviews. Fast Company characterized the visual refresh as somewhat exciting compared to the previous decade-old design. Others pointed to the back-end changes, re-styled pages and “sections” and navigation adjustments as necessary moves to moor the company in the rough waters of decreasing sales, increased competition and slackening advertising rates for digital newspapers.

We generally like the design and navigational changes. The look and feel of the refreshed home page is less like the “swarm” of ink of the old design and presents a clean, measured and even engaging experience. With the new navigation features, scrolling through an article no longer requires clicking and reloading into new pages, which made for a choppy reading experience. But beyond the aesthetic, and even the functionality improvements of the refresh, what we find most interesting about the new site is what the changes say about the status of The Times in our culture and the newspaper world.

“We are seeing a company retool and experiment in the laboratory of design, media and branding, and in the end, this is about larger strategic issues,” Kate Canada Obregon, Oishii’s Head of Research and Strategy explained. “The New York Times is actively pursuing its once coveted leadership role in our changing world, and is using the discipline of design to get there.”

Oishii’s President and Chief Creative Officer Ish Obregon agreed, pointing out how even small details like the new smooth integration of the comments alongside the articles, which he says creates a “rich and textured” feel to the reading experience, is all part of a bigger news delivery goal. “From a design perspective, this is a very small step toward a blog look, without losing the power and stature of the new,” Ish said. “And great design strengthens the delivery of news.”

The Times has arguably been one of the most important leaders in the distribution of news. As it wields such formidable power, it also creates and shapes expectations about reading, how we get our news and how we recognize what’s important.

The New York Times redesign is a way for it to once again be a leader in reimagining news, reading and information delivery. Its role has always been to report facts, tell stories and inform us about our world, but in this new digital era, it’s also subtly taken on another role – to deliver “all the news that’s fit to print” through a fresh, innovative and powerful design harnessed through the most creative use of technologies.

30
Aug

Kate to Serve As Brand Advisor to LA-Area School

Kate Canada Obregon_2

Oishii’s VP/Partner Kate Canada Obregon was recently asked to serve as a brand advisor for a Los Angeles-area school and its educators. Kate brings unique experience in this space, spending time in university work environments, and earning a doctorate degree at USC, as well as teaching and doing extensive research into culture and education.

“Educational institutions are more than companies trying to garner emotional connection and support,” says Kate. “Schools and learning environments invest in students and in turn, students invest in the values and mission of schools. By implication, the metrics or the value of education lies with individuals and communities. Education brands are very different than consumer brands because their perception and value transcends simple quantification, it’s the sum of many moving parts.”

The first order of business? Kate plans to remind teachers of their critical roles in shaping young minds. “When you think about it, teachers show students how to look at the world, and come up with ways of thinking, drawing or writing about what they see. It’s how creative thinking starts!”

 

11
Oct

Do You Know Your Story?

You have ideas, technology and investors… but do you know your story?

 

Oishii’s own consumer behavior specialist Sterling Hawkins was recently profiled by NewsWire on his work through Maverick Angels, an entity that takes an entrepreneurial approach to angel investing. Last year, the company invested in no fewer than 11 startup businesses, of which the largest group worked in software or the Internet.
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