Is 3D Animation the Future? A Q&A with Lucas Zanotto 

If you know anything about 3D animation, then you’ve likely come across the work of Lucas Zanotto. Lucas is a truly multidisciplinary artist; he’s a talented designer, animator and director. From starting a company to winning awards (including the Apple Design Award and a Golden Lion in Cannes), he’s amassed a wide following of intrigued fans, including our team over here at Craft & Root. 

Recently, we partnered with Lucas to work on a major website redesign for our client Dore Partnership, an executive search firm. Together with his technical skills and our art direction, we brought Dore’s website to life with 3D animation. 

During the process, we were excited to learn more about his background, future plans and all the people and places in which he finds his inspiration. 

Here’s what we spoke about. 

DS: How did you get started in design and animation? 

LZ: I studied Industrial Design in Milan and then worked in the field for a few years. In my past, I have designed objects like skis, tennis rackets, toasters and chairs. So, I’ve come from a background of building. Along the way, I picked up filmmaking, animation, graphic design and most recently, 3D animation. It’s always been interesting to me to combine arts. 

DS: You’re very busy in so many different avenues. What’s your biggest challenge balancing it all? 

LZ: Time. Besides being bound by budgets, time is the biggest challenge. Everything has to move so quickly, especially with content creation and social media. 

DS: Would you say pressure comes from within or external factors?

LZ: Definitely within. I have an inner pressure to make things – it’s satisfying to me. 

DS: If we could go back in time to ask young Lucas what he wanted to be when he grew up, what would he say? 

LZ: When I was really little, I wanted to be a graphic designer or draw comics. I was also really into music, so I thought about doing that. I’ve always leaned towards creation. 

DS: Who inspires you?

LZ: Oh, that’s a long list. I really like old school designers.

My absolute favorite is an Italian by the name of Bruno Munari. He has a humorous way of looking at his own work; it’s like he’s laughing at himself, in a way. That’s kind of how I approach my work – not so serious nor super deep, just more fun and playful. It’s more about getting a smile. 

I’m also inspired by:

  • Dieter Rahms 
  • Alvar Allto
  • Enzo Mari 
  • Christofer Niemann 
  • Jean Jullien 
  • Michele Gondry 
  • Spike Jonez 

DS: What can we expect to see from you next? 

LZ: There’s always constant change in these types of crafts. I’m trying to move into live art installations. So, I have a recent project in China where I’ve put kinetic eyes on a building, and something in the works at a theme park over there, too. My goal is to continue evolving. 

DS: What’s your definition of success?

I used to think it was about having a job that makes money. Now, it’s about having a job that makes me happy. So, it means finding what makes you happy and doing that. Luckily, I’m very happy doing what I do!

DS: This is a question I’ve pulled from The Tim Ferriss Podcast  – if you had a billboard, what would you want it to say?

LZ: @lucas_zanotto

*He laughs* 

DS: Nice plug! Let me ask it in a different way – what piece of advice do you have to share with the world?

LZ: Don’t put too much pressure on yourself. Everything is going to be fine. 

To learn more about Lucas Zanotto, check out his website and follow him @lucas_zanotto – in case you missed the billboard! 

Feelings: Can We Have Them in The Workplace?

Originally Published on Forbes

There seems to be a well-perpetuated myth that when you enter the office, you should leave your feelings at the door. Work is not a place where you can have emotions. Instead, it is a place where you are expected to be productive and efficient. Being emotional is seemingly contrary to those end goals.

To me, a work environment should not be a hindrance to mental health. Instead, I view it as an important place to have conversations around emotional well-being. After all, most of us spend the majority of our time working. And according to the CDC, poor mental health and stress can negatively impact:

• Job performance and productivity

• Engagement with work

• Communication with co-workers

• Physical capability and daily functioning

As the founder of a company, I can say that intense emotions are what set me down the path of opening my own studio. So, limiting the ability of my team to have their feelings seems a bit counterintuitive and doesn’t allow for a very fundamental part of the business to shine through.

When emotions, such as passion and even frustration, are wrapped up in the work, the end result is stellar because time, care and attention are paid to either solving problems or embracing and elevating ideas.

Being a founder is a deeply personal experience. We are complex and emotional beings, and that is why we cannot divorce our feelings from the place where we spend most of our waking hours.

So, how do we — as employers and employees — deal with feelings that could arise in a productive and nurturing way?

1. Communicate feelings, and encourage feedback

As an employee, if you are having an issue at work, or in your personal life, don’t hide it, push it down or tell yourself you are wrong. Talk about it with your supervisor. Odds are, the company will create space for you to have your needs met, whether it is in the long term or the short term.

As a business leader, encourage people to give you feedback. This makes people feel that you are open to communication and are there to support them. When an employee has an evaluation, ask them if they have any feedback for you. Approach them with humility and as an equal member of the team.

Let them know that they don’t have to tell you immediately or at all. Give them time and space to think about it, and let them know it is safe to tell you what they feel – there will be no repercussions, only solutions to perceived issues.

2. Pay attention to employee happiness

Your well-being matters to your employer. Remember, you are important! Business leaders want to make sure they are facilitating a positive workplace environment for retention, recruitment and top-notch quality of work. Happy people do their best work.

As a business leader, pay close attention to the work your employees are doing. If their attention to detail is slipping, if it’s taking them longer to execute tasks that once took less time, or if they are less talkative than usual, check in with them, and ask them what is going on in a nonjudgmental, compassionate way. Let them know that the entire team is there for them if they need to talk, and encourage them to share with others so they can get support from their peers as well as their superiors.

3. Create/hold space for others

As an employer, and even a teammate, if someone comes in to work one day with a personal issue, give them space to cry, take a walk or cool off, as well as the opportunity to talk about it. They may need to go home and take the day off.

Personal issues can be very distracting and difficult to work through. If people are encouraged to take space, whether that includes you witnessing their pain or not, they can do the emotional work they need and come back to the office feeling like they are in a positive and caring environment.

In an article published by the Chopra Center, Vedic educator Adam Brady outlines how to hold and create space for others in order to be present and protective of their needs. Creating and holding this space for others is done in a multitude of ways, including:

• Creating a sense of safety.

• Suspending your own self-importance/ego.

• Giving people your full attention when they share with you.

• Being accepting of what people have to say and making them feel that they are allowed to express themselves.

• Being nonjudgmental and only offering advice if you have truly been in their position.

• Witnessing and observing – sometimes just the act of being present for someone is enough to make a huge impact.

I find that when I express my own feelings to my team, whether that feeling is sadness, frustration, excitement to be in the office or gratitude for all of their hard work, it makes them feel more open as well.

Let’s create a movement to destigmatize having emotions in the workplace. If we don’t make room for our feelings, our work will ultimately suffer along with us.

Why Women Matter in Branding

It’s always a good time to talk about the importance of women. So, to celebrate International Women’s Day, we take a look at how women influence marketing and branding worldwide.

You’ve heard it before, the #futureisfemale, and as such, the list of reasons why women should be a priority for all businesses is constantly growing. Here, we bring up three noteworthy truths about why and how women matter when it comes to branding. From building teams, creating products, and devising marketing strategies, women make a massive difference, bottom line.

1. Primary Purchasing Power
By 2028, it is expected that the average American woman will earn more than the average American male. Furthermore, women control more than 60% of the personal wealth in the United States, and when it comes down to it, 75% say they are the primary shoppers in their household.

In the fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) category, female purchasing power increases year-over-year. Even when it comes to gadgets, women spend as much as men on gadgets. No industry is immune from the strong purchasing power of the gender. This is why it’s so important to consider a woman’s decision-making process and preferences when designing, branding and marketing a product or service. For a business to remain successful, considering women is undoubtedly part of the equation.

In order to be successful at incorporating a female-centric strategy, you should know that the way women buy is different from the way that men do. While men typically consider if the product performs the primary role it promises, women go into secondary considerations and tend to conduct more research, such as learning about a product’s additional features, price and benefits. Women also pay more attention to if a company is invested in a social cause.

2. Not Just Pretty in Pink
Many companies have tried to market to women by creating their same line of products in shades of pink. Sometimes, they’ll even take the same product that they market to men and shrink it to create a “female version.” Take a second to think about the message that sends.

When it comes to branding and product design, it should always solve a problem and be created with the user in mind. Women need products that are tailor-made for the intended function, just as men do. That’s why brands should consider several values when positioning their products to women, such as: inclusivity, transparency, relatability, authenticity, commitment, to name a few.

In order to create a successful design strategy, three critical steps exist, which are useful to consider regardless of your target audience, namely:
Understand the problem and solution
– Why does your product or service exist in the first place?
– Who do you wish to serve?
Define your product
– How will it be used?
– What makes it desirable?
– What problem does it solve?
– Visualize your product
Brainstorm ideas
– Prove the concept
– Get user feedback
– Refine and adjust to adapt and improve to better serve your market

The approach of generalizing an entire demographic, as well as slapping on the color pink, is by no means a strategy.

3. Go Straight to the Source
Who knows women better than women?

Workplaces have proven to lack equality when it comes to women, whether that is in equal pay or representation. But, the tides are turning towards a business world that represents the larger society. Diverse workforces have been proven to produce better results. According to McKinsey’s report, Why Diversity Matters, “Companies in the top quartile for gender diversity are 15 percent more likely to have financial returns above their respective national industry medians.”

Within the creative industry, women only made up 11% of creative directors worldwide in 2016. Perhaps more alarming is the fact that 88% young women feel like they are lacking female mentors within the industry. Without having women at the top, the culture of male-domination continues itself. To establish a top-down approach, hiring women in C-suite positions and educating women with the tools to start their own businesses is crucial to sparking change.

A World for Women
Throughout history, businesses have approached women in advertising and marketing with changing dialogues and direction. But, women continue to progress towards equality and are creating their own paths within industries, as well as holding their status as primary purchasers. As such, businesses must ensure that they tailor their approach to keep women at the top of their mind from product design and packaging to marketing and branding.

Female Entrepreneurship: Uncovering CBD with Green Witch’s Founder

In the United States alone, there are over 11 million female-owned companies (yep, Craft & Root is one of them)!

In celebration of International Women’s Day, we connected with one of our very dear clients who is a fellow female-founder. Not too long ago, Leila Mafoud opened her CBD company, Green Witch, in New York and online in an effort to connect people with products that alleviate pain and support overall well-being.

The tumultuous ride of a starting a business comes with many lessons and rewards, so we discussed everything from how and why she got started to her experience as a female founder and her definition of success.

DS: Why did you start Green Witch?
LM: I’ve always loved the world, people and different cultures. Initially, I didn’t seek to start a company within the CBD industry; I just knew I always wanted to do something that directly helped people.

When I was just a few years out of college (at George Washington University where I studied Global Public Health at the Elliott School of International Affairs), CBD kept coming up, whether it was from athletes or even my entrepreneurial father who is also a marathon runner. At the time, I didn’t know so much about CBD, and to be completely honest, I was misinformed about the facts.

So, I began intensive research because I kept hearing about all the natural benefits of CBD. As I learned more about the healing effects of CBD, I knew that this business perfectly marries my need to help others as well as is aligned with my personal philosophy about health. I wholeheartedly believe in health as a human right.

DS: Has being a female founder presented any unique challenges?
LM: You know, I think I might be lucky when it comes to this. Perhaps, if I were in a different industry like finance or something, I may feel otherwise, but the only time I’m really aware that I am a female-founder is when other people mention it. It may also be because I work in lower Manhattan where “weird is cool,” so that everyone sort of “fits in” regardless of who they are.

I think the hardest part isn’t being a female founder; it’s just being a founder.

DS: That’s refreshing to hear! Some would consider your brand to be “female-centric” given the symbol of witches and some of your aesthetic elements. Is that the case?
LM: Not necessarily. You know, when I was starting out, it was really difficult to choose a business name. I compare it to what it must be like to choose a name for your baby.

When I brainstormed Green Witch, I thought about how “green” symbolizes nature and “witch” is representative of power, so it brings together the idea that there’s power in nature. I’m aware that witches have a stigma and can be considered mystical, and in a way, the same could be said about CBD.

Indeed, I wanted the site to look somewhat feminine to play along with the witch concept, but my intention is never to alienate men or anyone for that matter. In fact, our sales are equally distributed between women and men, and all that really matters is that our products help people feel better, regardless of their age, sex, gender, culture, etc.

DS: If you could share one piece of advice, what would it be?
LM: That’s an easy one! I always say: “doing something is better than doing nothing.” If you have an idea, start today.

It won’t be perfect, so don’t expect it to be – you’re not in the business yet. Take your vision and get going, because putting it out into the world (a.k.a. your peers) is your first test. A/B test your idea and then fix it, and fix it fast.

For example, with our first pop up last year, we changed the layout 2-3 times a day. We were highly aware of how people were responding to our products, so we would adapt the space to better serve them as the day progressed.

Green Witch
Also, it’s good to understand that no matter your business, every industry is a people industry. There’s always a way to do everything, and when you focus on the people, from your customers to your team, you can make anything happen!

DS: How do you define success?
LM: There are so many levels of success! I consider a day successful when we’re meeting our targets and moving closer towards our goals. I am reminded Green Witch is successful every time we receive feedback from a customer telling us how much our products have helped them.

For more on Leila’s magical products and story, explore Green Witch.

The Marriage of Design and Technology: How to Keep Up

Science is an art and art is a science, so when it comes to design and technology, the two complement one another and propel each other forward. In particular, graphic design fundamentally merges the two – technology and art – and these fields come together to help build brands, communicate with customers, and offer strategic and innovative measures to shape the world and our place in it.

As the largest realm in the design field, there are nearly 300,000 graphic designers employed in the United States alone. It’s of utmost importance for graphic designers to stay up-to-date with software and trends and plan for what’s coming next.

Since graphic design is all about communicating a message visually and solving problems through typography, illustration and imagery, the methods of design adapt with the changing times as mediums of communication continue to innovate.

Here are some ways that design can stay up-to-date as the technology used to convey messages advances

  • Goal-Driven Design: Goal-driven design (GDD) understands that websites and applications exist to serve two types of users – the end users, as well as the business owners. GDD understands that intention and purpose is at the heart of every design, so it asks both involved parties “why” they want to have or visit a website or application. Then, everything from layout, color, typography, call-to-action buttons and the like are designed around achieving these goals. Since these considerations depend on the “why,” they of course incorporate the “how,” but the methods can be adapted to the time and technology surrounding the product.
  • Usability: Encompassed in the overall user experience, usability refers to the ease of use of a website or product. Usability has three main goals, namely:
    1. The user should understand the interface during their first journey
    2. The user should know how to accomplish what they want
    3. The user should be able to know how to navigate their way around when returning to the website or product. This is accomplished through the design process of wireframes, prototypes and, of course, the final deliverable.
  • Teamwork: Technology, like all products, has an adoption rate. Many early adopters, or those who gravitate towards the new products first, tend to be younger generations. With this in mind, it’s a useful practice to collaborate and hire young designers to learn from them, especially in the forefront of technology. While older designers can imbue many useful practices and share from their years of experiences, young designers can help navigate the ever changing technological landscape.
  • Resources: The world has never been more connected than it is today because of digital technology, the internet, and the open platforms to share online. Not only are books an obvious and important method to always learn new design skills, but blogs, videos, and online courses are widely accessible to serve the purpose of continuous learning.

As technology innovates and graphic design both reflects and is informed by society, the two go together like a horse and carriage. Therefore, in order to remain efficient in the design process, as well as provide clients with the best possible product, it’s of paramount importance to stay up-to-date with design software, hardware, trends and practices. This no doubt means that it’s necessary to invest in the proper hardware and newest software to be able to do this, even if it comes at an upfront cost.

As time progresses, these changes and innovations will fly at designers even faster, so by incorporating these best practices sooner than later, graphic designers can remain ahead of the curve.

Before & After: CPEX Case Study

CPEX Real Estate is a highly specialized and dedicated real estate brokerage firm that focuses their business in the Northeastern United States.

The firm came to Craft & Root with the vision to entirely rebrand their business and redesign their out-of-date website to establish their positioning in the market as being ahead of the curve.

By incorporating their brand’s recognizable red into the website’s facelift, we reconstructed their website with three main objectives:

  1. Prioritize user experience
  2. Provide modern design elements
  3. Produce architecturally-inspired aesthetics to stand out in a saturated industry

Along with their website rehaul, we created a new logo, brand tag and both digital and print marketing collateral to make sure their brand cohesively breathes, ensuring that their story of commercial real estate comes alive and remains inviting.

Here’s how we did it.

Digital Real Estate: It Begins with WWW.

Initially, CPEX’s website contained a lot of information in a little amount of space. The website had two disparate navigation menus and inconsistent styles of typography and photography. It was difficult for a user to know where to look for the information they sought, and the scrolling ticker paired with the slider hero image provided an overwhelming user experience from the get go.

Opening the Door: The User Experience

Like the moniker of real estate goes, it’s all about location, location, location.

We incorporated a clean navigation menu at the top of the page, with adequate white space and a large hero image across the page to welcome a new user and quickly explain CPEX’s main value proposition: portfolio maximization.

By establishing a hierarchy for the content, a user can easily journey through the site or scroll to explore the services, blog, transaction highlights, and team. We included large call-to-action buttons with short action verb copy so that a user knows where each jump will take them upon the click of a button.

Signing the Lines: Color & Typography

With the usage of neutral tones and pops of their signature burnt red coloring, the corporate palette still feels warm and inviting.

By using large serif fonts for the headers, we established CPEX’s depth of experience, which also plays nicely when paired with the photographic style – at times minimalist, and at others, incorporating historic and older buildings.

The overlapping style allows for the copy and the imagery to exist side-by-side without competition as commercial real estate is all about showcasing properties and at the same time, we wanted to showcase CPEX’s thought leadership knowledge as equally important.

Sprucing Things Up: Iconography

Especially in real estate, pictures play a pivotal role in selling or leasing a property, but iconography is also important to maintain user engagement on an information-heavy website.

We created one-of-a-kind icons, inspired by architecture’s sharp lines, to highlight CPEX’s services: Leasing, Acquisitions, Advisory and Investment Sales.

We also included icons for the blog section and within the branded email template so that across devices and platforms, CPEX’s branding is recognizable and consistent.

Building the Foundation: Logo Design

Before, CPEX Real Estate’s logo was flat with little distinction. The logo included many different styles, which made it unlikely for a user to consider as one cohesive branding element. From the oversized “C”, the lines on the bottom of “PEX,” and “Real Estate” in a serif font coming after “CPEX” rather than stacked, the design looked disjointed and hard to read.

We redeveloped the logo, changing its color from white to navy, stacking the name, and incorporating a 3D rendering of a building for the “E” to give context to the business’ purpose to make for a more clear and recognizable design. With the addition of the building, one can assume the company is about real estate without reading the “Real Estate” serif font below its name.

Going a step further, we created an animated brand tag for usage across social media and video interstitials for marketing purposes.

Standing Proud & Tall: The Wrap Up

Working collaboratively with the CPEX team, we understood their goals and guided them through the rebranding process.

From the beginning, it was important to convey that their story is about specialization – although they have big enterprise knowledge, they have a customer-centric, small business approach to customer service.

We displayed this through warm and inviting colors, complementary photography and typography, and easy-to-use navigation tools.

CPEX laid the ground foundation, we brought in our diversely specialized team, and together, we rebuilt the brand to grow its standing in the commercial real estate industry.

Are you interested in a rebranding, too? Get in touch with us today – we’d be happy to bring your vision to life!

Why It’s Time For Women In Creative Industries To Move The Needle

Originally Published on Forbes

I was recently initiated into an invitation-only club for founders of agencies that offer services to startups. The idea is to have one founder from each category (branding, marketing, SEO, etc.) meet monthly and share ideas, insights and general knowledge that would help us all grow together.

Excited, I walked into the building for the first meeting. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but when I walked into the room, I realized I was the only woman there. Although unsurprised, I made note of it and ended up being the most vocal person in the room. I shared my insights and relevant experiences, but I found myself constantly apologizing for being so outspoken. I left the meeting feeling good about the connections I had made, but I had never felt more like a female founder in my life.

The next day, the organizer of the event called me, lamenting that I was the only woman there, and said that he just didn’t know any other female founders. I realized that I didn’t either. According to Fast Company and reported by AdAge, nearly 50% of women dream of opening their own businesses, but only 12% think it’s a realistic goal. An even smaller margin of those women end up starting their own companies.

Since then, I have made a concerted effort to connect with more female founders, but it highlighted an issue in my professional sphere. Why are there so few women in prominent roles within the creative, marketing and advertising industry when women make up to 85% of all purchasing decisions? In 2016, women reportedly made up only 11% of creative directors worldwide.

Women in many cultures, such as Hinduism, for example, are representative of a creative force. Think of Shakti, the great divine mother and the personification of creative power. Think of the way our bodies can create life. Well, that creative power, in some cases, is what constricts us. Many young women, 60% of those polled, believe that creative jobs require long hours and late nights, which translates into a non-conducive environment to start a family — not to mention that there is a gender pay gap that puts women at an even bigger disadvantage when trying to create work-life balance.

An arguably bigger hurdle is that 88% of young women say they lack female role models in the industry. Well, that should come as no surprise when you consider that only 0.1% of ad agencies are founded by women, and only 2% of venture capital investment goes to female founders; this is a shockingly low number.

These women are there for you to find. It’s a matter of extending what you are looking for, and you end up finding it everywhere. One perfect example is LinkedIn. Introducing yourself to female founders on social media platforms, if you connect with their work, is an easy way to extend your professional circle and can have a number of fabulous benefits. Share experiences, learn from one another and recommend one another to clients — show them that female leaders can be a wonderful resource for them as well.

Hiring women is not only a benefit to the woman herself, but to the team overall. Startups with at least one female founder perform better than those with an all-male team. Women hire more diversely — they hire other women, people of different ethnicities, people with different personalities, etc. That’s what makes a rich work environment where your employees benefit, and the work itself is created using a more diverse lens, ultimately becoming more relatable (and more effective) to a broader range of consumers.

We live in a richly diverse culture where those with different backgrounds are rising to the top. This fledgling global movement of women staking their claim must be nurtured. Let’s help each other get there.

Why Branding is Essential to Marketing

What’s the difference between branding and marketing?

While the two go hand in hand and work together to create a memorable and successful business, there are nuances between them that are worth noting.

Branding is like the foundation of a house, and marketing is the real estate agent – the branding has to be in place to have something to sell.

Put simply, branding is the way your customers perceive you. A brand is your promise to your customer that is conveyed through your business’ culture and stories; it is a personality. It is the style that supports the home you’re building, a.k.a your business, and is the reason that consumers will choose you over the other houses on the block.

Branding is a strategic point of view. Brands are made up of elements that can evolve over time, including but not limited to a business name, logo, slogan, symbols, identity, voice, website, messaging and communications.

Branding is an essential aspect of building a business that is able to stand the test of time. While it’s an investment, its return cannot always be numerically measured because it’s a long-term strategy that influences consumers’ behaviors.

Let’s take a look at why branding matters so much.

Brands have several objectives that spark customer reactions by:

  • Conveying your message
  • Proving credibility
  • Emotionally involving customers
  • Creating loyalty
  • Establishing the overall experience

Brands and branding make a business what it is and inform all your marketing efforts.

How Brands Help Marketing
Builds Trust – Brands establish the importance of consistency in messaging and style so that a customer knows what to expect. They show customers and investors that you’re confident in your business and stand by its purpose.
Increases Revenue – Branding makes your business professional and signals that you’ve put time, research and effort into your products and offerings, which, in turn, incentivizes people to buy your product or service.
Boosts Public Relations – Branding helps with public relations, especially in the face of a mishap. Because you’ve been able to establish a promise to your customers, you can always communicate a trusted message that supports your brand’s mission, particularly when the inevitable issue arises.
Establishes an Emotional Connection – Brands set you apart from your competition. People look to brands to be a part of their identity. They adopt or believe the brand message resonates with what they believe in or how they want to be perceived. Look at one of the best in the game, Nike. Nike sells the feeling of victory and the feeling of being an athlete, even for the everyday person who simply slips on a pair of Nike sneakers.
Reduces Turnover – A strong brand and message makes an employee’s job easier because they understand the direction and mission of a company. That means, they’ll be more bought into the business and less likely to leave as they remains satisfied with the work.
Attracts Investors – A brand tells your story, and if you’re successful in the marketplace, your business stands out and people will want to put their money behind your idea.

Make It Stick
Branding doesn’t happen overnight, but rather, it is a process that must be sustained and re-evaluated over time. It requires listening to your customers, researching your competition and remaining true to your purpose.

Whether you’re an established brand or building your brand from the ground up, we can help!