Project-Scope: Speak Nerdy To Me

About four months back Steve Bowman (yes, relation) from Model Technology Solutions, one of my cornerstone clients, sent me an email. In it, he said that he wanted some media items to advertise some of his company’s new offerings.

Model Technology Solutions offers Windows-based services for mid-to-large-scale companies, services like OS365 and Windows 10 migration, cloud backup and migration, and large-scale data disaster recovery.

Sure, upgrading your operating system is easy-peasy when you have just your own, single Dell laptop at your home. But when you’re talking about a company with ten thousand endpoints all of which are in-use every day of the week, upgrading becomes a lot more costly and a lot more difficult. And that’s where Model steps in.

Model’s ideal clients are 30s to 50s IT directors. And many of these guys and gals are kind of nerdy. They often love comic books, superheroes, and many times play video games in their off time.

Steve had recently converted their services into Microsoft Azure “offerings” packages that he wanted to market. And he wanted to speak directly to them with the form of the advertisements.

So my job was to (in collaboration with Steve) come up with a type of media that could be used to speak nerdy to these guys and get them interested in these new offerings.

Steve also wanted the media to be in the vein of the company’s current “IT Superhero” marketing motif. He also wanted to create media that he could edit the text on so that, in the future, he could update the verbiage on the media himself.

Problem 1: So Many Types of Media!

But before you can produce, you have to decide what exactly you’re going to produce, and this is far more difficult than it might seem! Because there are a million formats for media! Videos, images, eBooks, online classes, cat memes, etc. Which of these formats can best capture the message of what you’re trying to convey?

Solution 1: Just Keep Talking…

In the initial stages, Steve had two ideas: a movie poster and playing cards.

In the end, we ended up deciding to go with playing cards because of their simplicity and also the idea of the client taking an action: something being played. We probably sent a dozen emails going back and forth about this. I even created really basic mock-ups of both for him to think about. Really, we just kept talking until, finally, we decided to create sets of playing cards that could be boosted on social media and used on the website to catch the eye of the prospective nerdy customers.

And in this, we got to have a little bit of creative fun as well! I have a good friend Zaq Mendenhall who is a talented painter and sculptor. When we decided on playing cards, I pitched Steve the idea of having custom ‘card art’ painted for each card. And he loved the idea.

Problem 2: Painting Takes Forever, and Art is Tough To Manage!

Once we finally got started, the project took a long time. Honestly, this project shouldn’t have taken four months. But working with new professional artists sometimes takes extra patience and management. I’d never done work with Zaq before professionally. So I didn’t know how he would handle things like deadlines, critiques, etc.

That being said, sometimes deadlines were not always kept, and we had a few issues with having to re-do parts of paintings.

Solution 2: Patience and Management

But in the end, with some patience and dialogue, even though it took us longer than expected, we got it done! And the final product made it well worth the wait.

Problem 3: Editability

Steve wanted the final cards’ text to be directly-editable using Gimp, an open-source image manipulation tool. Personally I use Adobe Photoshop more than I use Gimp, but I do keep an updated version of Gimp on my computer for certain circumstances, like this one.

Solution 3: A Simple Process…

To solve this problem, I created the card template in Photoshop, exported the image, then added text in Gimp that could be directly editable by Steve. The final deliverable was four Gimp files with each of the cards that could have verbiage added to them by Steve at his leisure.

Learning 1: Make Expectations Clear With Contractors

Often it is very easy to be unclear with expectations, especially when your contractors are your friends. Before starting work with Zaq, my expectations were not set with him, such as things I expected regarding meeting deadlines, communication about progress, and time frame.

And ultimately, this falls on me. As the leader, it is my responsibility to be clear upfront and make sure everyone is on the same page. And this was something that, in this particular project, I did not do.

But I will not make this mistake again! I have, largely as a result of this project, created a set of “agreements” that I will now use with contractors to set the tone and specifics about things I expect of them and they can expect of me. That way, right off the bat, they will know what I expect of them and, if they cannot comply, we will be having a conversation about it.

Conclusion: A Full Deck!

These cards are beautiful. They very much look like they could be printed out and played in an actual, real card game. Steve now has some cool, nerdy media to use in his marketing campaigns for his offerings. And I have some awesome artwork to show off on my site!

Cloud Backup Deck
Disaster Recovery Deck
O365 Migration Deck

Here is all of the original card art painted by Zaq:

Card art for Azure Cloud Backup
Card art for O365 Migration
Card for Disaster Recovery
Card Art for Cloud Backup

Overall this was a wonderful project that gave me an opportunity to combine actual art (e.g. painting) with actual digital art and marketing to come up with a cool, interesting product that few others have probably ever had the opportunity to create!