Category Archives: social-media

Unfinished Business: Design and New Media in the Obama campaign

Last night’s Unfinished Business lecture was about design and new media in the Obama campaign, with insights from Scott Thomas (a designer) and Rahaf Harfoush (a social media strategist). The event was held in the auditorium of the Ontario College of Art and Design, and roughly 300 people attended.

My key take-away from the talk was that a strong and persistent design team, backed by analytics to support decision-making, can make such a difference in the overall experience.

Scott showed us what the campaign webpage looked like before he came on board. It was not a horribly designed webpage (no blinking text, no marquees), but there were numerous typefaces and colors, and every department in the campaign office seemed to want a presence on the first screen of the page.

With some strong-arming, they settled on one palette and focused on the user experience, streamlining it to make it easier for people to get to where they want to go. That meant moving links down or into the site. It wasn’t easy for people to accept the necessary changes. Many groups were worried that if their advertisement or link wasn’t “above the fold”–visible in the first screen without scrolling–then their content might not get viewed. By testing different versions of the site with randomly-selected users (A/B testing), the design team got the hard numbers they needed to make these changes.

The different themes they used in their campaign were also interesting. Scott showed examples of the campaign theme, the “instant vintage” theme, the timeless theme, and the supporters, and each set had a visually distinguishable character. The campaign theme used a blue gradients extensively, and Scott explained the reasoning behind some of the design choices. The “instant vintage” theme drew inspiration from classic photos and posters in order to give people the feeling of being part of something historical, larger than life. The timeless theme drew from classic typesetting and ornamentation (very elegant!), but was dropped because of the backlash about the official-looking campaign seal. The supporters were very creative in coming up with all sorts of designs for campaign posters, too, giving the campaign a vibrant community feel.

Some of the details Scott shared with us were about specific design decisions made during the campaign. For example, the campaign placards used to read “HOPE”. Scott showed this great photo of a bunch of campaign signs that read “HOPE” with a real rainbow in the background. He told us that hope is an emotive word that you can communicate through images, while change is more abstract and more difficult to show visually. That’s one of the reasons why they changed the campaign signs to read “CHANGE” instead.

I was also fascinated by the evolution of the campaign logo through different typefaces, from mixed-case to small-caps, and from a linear layout to a triangular one. Seeing the different logos together, I found it easier to understand the different reactions I had to each of them, and from there, learn a little bit more about design.

Rahaf Harfoush’s talk was on social media. It was similar to the last talk I’d heard her give. I think she felt nervous about fitting it into a shorter timeslot, and it felt a lot more rushed than last time. She did tell a couple of new stories, though.

One story was about a man who had expressed incredible anger on the forums–because the presidential candidate had been televised walking down stairs with his hands in his pockets, and this man was not about to invest all of those hours in calling people and knocking on doors and attending or organizing events just so that his candidate could fall and hurt himself. What a great example of getting people personally invested.

Another story was about a campaign supporter who wanted to show his support through action instead of words. He and a group of other supporters dressed up in lots of Obama gear and went out to quietly perform civic actions, like helping elderly people cross the street. They didn’t talk about politics; they just acted according to what they believed in. I thought that was pretty cool.

The questions from the audience were also insightful and thought-provoking.

One person asked about whether the speakers could see this kind of energy and change happen in Canadian politics. Rahaf answered that one of the energizing things about the Obama campaign was that the candidate was not someone you’d typically see running for office. She found it difficult to imagine any of the prominent Canadian politicians engaging and exciting people like that, but she was open to the possibility of someone new coming along and surprising people.

Another person asked how the speakers convinced the campaign that they were the right people for the job. Scott shared that he’s never really been good at marketing himself, but that his passion for his work helps people decide whether or not he’s the right fit for the job. He said that people can tell by how wide his eyes get when he talks about his work that he’s really passionate about it. He got applause for that one.

Many people were concerned about the potential nefarious use of what we’ve learned about social media. Scott was of the opinion that the genuine enthusiasm expressed by the campaign supporters couldn’t be manipulated or created. Stephen Perelgut (one of my mentors) told me that he still remained skeptical, though, as many horrible things have been perpetrated by equally enthusiastic people. (Nazi Germany comes to mind.)

I learned a lot during the lecture and in the question-and-answer portion. The next Unfinished Business lecture is on February 11 (same day as Techsoup). From their e-mail notice:

… on 11 Feb we will host Larry Keeley, President of Doblin in Chicago, who will talk about open innovation, platform innovation and what it means to work from a disciplined approach to innovation.

Unfinished Business, Torch Partnership

Good stuff. It’ll probably sell out as quickly as this one did. Thanks to Jeff Muzzerall and Stephen Perelgut for making sure I heard about this!

Sketchnotes: SOHO SME Expo 2012

These sketchnotes are from the SOHO SME Expo 2012. Unfortunately, I missed parts of the other sessions!

Feel free to share this! You can credit it as (c) 2012 Sacha Chua under the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Canada licence.

Click on the images for a larger version of my sketchnotes.

Come One, Come All: Proven Tactics to Help Win New Customers – Alex Ciancio

20121030 SME2012 - Come One, Come All - Proven Tactics to Help Win New Customers - Alex Ciancio

Tools, Strategies & Best Practices to Optimize Your Online Presence – Moderator: Dave Forde; Speakers: Jeff Quipp, Paul Tobey, and Mike Agerbo

20121030 SOHO SME - Tools, Strategies, and Best Practices to Optimize Your Online Presence - David Forde, Jeff Quipp, Paul Tobey, Mike Agerbo

Content Strategy – The Foundation of SEO and Social Media – Jeff Quipp

20121030 SME2012 Content Marketing - Jeff Quipp

See what others are saying about #sme2012.

Check out my other sketchnotes and visual book notes!

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Getting ready for my Hardlines Dealer Conference talk: So You Don’t Have an Army of Online Marketers

In a few hours, I’ll be talking about social media with hardware and home improvement dealers at the Hardlines Dealer Conference.

I’m excited! I’ve been looking forward to this presentation conversation for months. It’s a different crowd. Most of my presentations and consulting engagements so far have been with people who are in front of computers all day, and it’s hard enough to address people’s concerns. What about people who are in stores or on the road all the time, particularly small businesses who might not have dedicated online marketers? I expect that some people in the audience will be very savvy when it comes to social media, and lots of people will be more hesitant. Instead of bombarding people with lots of tips or making mainstream people feel left out, I want to use that valuable face-to-face time to address concerns, show people that they’re not alone, and help them find small, concrete steps they can take that fit in well with their business goals. The Internet is changing so much that it makes no sense to give bleeding-edge one-size-fits-all tips; it’s better to make sure people have the confidence to take the next step and an idea of how everything might fit together.

We’re also going to test this idea of an enriched speaking engagement: not just a talk, but also slides, transcript, additional resources, answered questions, and maybe even sketchnotes of the two talks before me. Because I don’t like boring people with bullet points, my slides have very little text on them. I want people to be able to remember and share the key points afterwards, though. I’m going to record the talk, turn it into a mini e-book, and share it with people as a follow-up.

I’ll post the mini-e-book on my site within two weeks. If you want to be notified once I’ve posted it, please leave a comment there or e-mail me at [email protected] with the subject HARDLINES.

Here we go!

Visual book review: The Visual Marketing Revolution (Stephanie Diamond)

Want to make your social media marketing more visual? The Visual Marketing Revolution: 26 Rules to Help Social Media Marketers Connect the Dots by Stephanie Diamond (Que Publishing, 2013) gives you an overview of rules, tools, content, and tactics to help you plan and improve your marketing.

Click on the image to view or download a larger version.

Visual Book Review - The Visual Marketing Revolution - 26 Rules to Help Social Media Marketers Connect the Dots - Stephanie Diamond

Feel free to share this visual book review! (Creative Commons Attribution – I’d love it if you link back to this site and tell me about it. =) )  It should print out fine on letter-sized paper, too.

Intrigued by the ideas? You can check your local library to see if they have a copy, or buy your own copy below.


Disclosure: I received a Kindle copy of this book for review, and I’ll get a small commission if you buy anything from Amazon using the links above.

Other sources of information:,

I’ve been working on making my own sites more visual, so I’m looking forward to applying the ideas from this book. If you do as well, please share your stories!

Check out my other visual book reviews