The helium tank is our mash up of ideas + art + design + events and everything in between. Work that makes us smile, art that’s all around, events that we hope you’ll join us, or words we’re stitching together. The helium tank is a big window into who we are.
Did you know that the typical American averages nearly 5 hours a day online? That number goes even higher if you start thinking of phone games and internet TV as online time. Add all those minutes and seconds up and you’re talking about hundreds of thousands [if not millions] of impressions all fighting to get the attention of customers you want, followers you’d like to add, or business partners you hope to attract. So how do you really break through?
As designers and artists, there are numerous techniques we can use to draw people in from a visual standpoint, but before we ever usually get a chance to do that, people and prospects do something else first. They hit up search engines. It’s not always the flashiest part of a web development effort, but SEO and SEM can generate big-time results. When done right, some business see dramatic increases in web traffic, lead generation, and lead conversion. The trick is, it’s not an exact science, and it is definitely a discipline that requires ongoing maintenance.
When helium does SEO, we tend to focus on what we call the big 3 – original content, earned links, and relevant research. Trying to skip steps on any of these three pillars often ends with less-than-ideal results. When balanced appropriately, however, we dive deep into the keywords, phrases, and questions a given audience has.
We look carefully at the little nuances between the brands who purchase listings versus those who earned an authentic first-page or top-ten ranking – who stayed there longest? What did it likely cost them? Did it really reach people ready to make a transaction or deal? Then, we take a look at the digital neighborhood a website is going to live in. How do the neighbors act? What do we want to say differently? What can we say better? Who can we connect with that shares our perspective and gives us the kind of legitimacy search engine algorithms prefer? After that, we start putting words to page… and we do it in ways that make people and robots both interested in reading them. Our ultimate goal is that you shouldn’t even notice SEO is happening on your site… until you actually do a search and see yourself ahead of your competitors.
We have been very fortunate that amidst various closures and social distancing orders, the helium team has been able to work remotely and stay well connected. In a lot of ways, we were already prepared for these measures since we routinely work in non-traditional settings when we do site visits to real estate and hospitality properties. While some of us are taking photos or meeting with owners and developers, the rest of the team stays in touch with email, chat, phone, and file sharing for things like sketches, mood boards, design comps, and preliminary concepts.
In many ways, collaborating at a distance is a very positive exercise. Often, it reveals new ideas that are completely without influence from someone sitting nearby. As well, it forces us to develop concepts and designs that don’t require a lot of explanation or convincing to resonate well with other people. If they can’t be easily summarized in an email or phone call, then that can be a signal to return to the drawing board and refine, enhance, or think in a new direction. We’re used to this style of working on various projects here and there… but then we took it next level by opening a second office in Baltimore. Now, long-range collaboration is a more integrated part of our everyday process… even before it became required for public safety.
Because we spend a lot of time working with seasonal markets, a few of our clients have asked us for suggestions on how to make the most of social distancing time. This is a great time to pursue internal projects that normally get pushed aside during busier periods. A website refresh can be a smart decision right now, not just because there’s time to finesse details but also because it gives you the tools to hit the ground running when normal business activities resume. Or, it could be that this is the optimal time to finally integrate e-commerce and capture online sales. Many of our clients are focusing on social media, and looking at ways to enrich engagement and foster deeper connections with audiences. Updated logos, revamped corporate branding, breaking into new media… all are great ways to ready your business for the future, and it’s all work that helium can execute remotely. Downtime doesn’t have to be a downturn. It can be the dress rehearsal for your brand version 2.0.
Mood boards are a critical step in our process. They allow us to capture the visual essence of a brand or project in a realm that is somewhere halfway between real and imagined. It allows us to help clients tap into their own creative vision and communicate their intentions and feelings much more clearly than words will sometimes allow.
The mood board process helps us creatively as much as it help the client understand a direction. In our creative process, going through tons of visual inspiration will help shape the intangible concept in our head. Image after image starts to refine and idea and construct a direction that ultimately guides where we go with the brand — from storytelling, statements, and print collateral like brochures, packaging and stationery, to online material such as websites. The mood board helps get all the ideas in front of us.
With everyone picturing the same visual universe, we find projects move forward more efficiently. Instead of spending round after round of revisions to nail down design direction, we can spend more time executing the special details that make a project one of a kind. It might mean having extra time to add 3D renderings [check out helium reality for more on this]. Other times, a streamlined creative development process may allow sales efforts to launch sooner, a quicker transition between temporary and permanent websites, or the addition of special finishes on printed pieces and animations on digital elements.
So, what goes into a mood board? That’s both the fun part and, perhaps, the most challenging. If a picture is worth a thousand words, then it easily takes a thousand [or more] pictures to convey an idea as complex as an experience, an idea, a destination, or a home. We comb through a gross amount of images in magazines, websites, books, and everyone’s favorite: Pinterest. We’ve got our own bank of photographs and items we’ve collected of the years.
We scan what the competition is doing and look for uncharted territory. We sketch on notepads. We take our own photos of things that inspire us. We start arranging things together in a composition. We see what other team members think. We switch things in and out. And then… we walk away for a while and see what still strikes us as powerful and unique. After we’ve done all that about a dozen times [usually more], our clients get a chance to dive into the mood board themselves. It’s at that point that our role shifts from creators to listeners and observers. What was the initial reaction? Positive? Awe-inspired? Energized? Which elements are getting the biggest and best responses? Is it color? Camera angle? Something else? The mood board brings all of this to the forefront and becomes the anchor point for everything that comes next.
Yes, we know the world is getting more digital by the second. Yes, we appreciate paper is a precious resource. And yes, we are aware that the media landscape is so not 1994. We get all of that. You will still never hear us say that print is outdated. Ever.
The truth is, print pieces simply have to work harder and be smarter than they did in the past. A brochure can’t just be pictures and words folded into a booklet – it has to be an interactive journey. The feel of the paper or a gloss varnish or embossed logo is a tactile experience that engages the sense of touch in the way swiping and tapping a screen does not. The anticipation of opening an envelope creates a moment that primes an audience for the message inside. An artfully crafted package stands out on a store shelf and says “take me home” before a salesperson even utters a single word.
That’s the benchmark we aim for when people come to us looking for collateral, business cards, POP displays, direct mail, and other print advertising and marketing materials. A piece that’s “not just another” anything, but rather, a piece that helps redefine what’s possible for print. In fairness, we have a lot of resources at our fingertips for making that happen. Amazing things are possible in the world of inks, coatings, and finishes these days… like glow in the dark, scratch-and-sniff, waterproof things. Paper keeps upping its game too with everything from re-printable paper, to paper that looks and feels like leather or plastic, to paper that can be used as furniture. Seriously. Then there are techniques for taking print pieces from flat to fantastic – 3D, Pop-Ups, unique folding designs – it’s truly fascinating how much print really can do.
So, while we agree that it’s very cool to explore the depths of digital design, the things that happen on screen are all limited by one thing – it always happens on a screen. Only print has the power to take countless shapes, sizes, colors, and textures that people can hold and keep, and that can’t be turned off.
For the third year in a row, the entire helium creative team was incredibly proud to receive the Best in Show Award from the 2020 ADDY Awards from the Ft. Lauderdale-West Palm Beach chapter of the American Advertising Federation (AAF). This year, it was our work on 57 Ocean – an ultra-luxury beachfront residential property located on Miami Beach’s prestigious Millionaire’s Row.
helium created award-winning video and web components for this high-end campaign, but it was the 57 Ocean neighborhood brochure [ahem, print is not dead] that took home the top award of the entire event.
BEST OF SHOW // 57 OCEAN NEIGHBORHOOD BROCHURES
A bold, contemporary new future that is still in touch with the glitter of its storied past – this was the direction we brought to life across this printed piece that highlights the property’s surrounding neighborhood. Commentary from historians, archival photos, modern-day imagery, and drone photography all came together in a comprehensive guide of restaurants, culture, nightlife, and more. Using several sheets of specialty textured paper by Mohawk, we created two companion books for 57 Ocean: The Wellness Guide and The Neighborhood Brochure. Thanks to Bellak for printing these brochures. The end pieces are thoughtful, tactile and sophisticated.
GOLD WINS :
Sanctu – Brand Development