Creative Calling

Here at Distilled, we’ve always been big believers in the power of content. To this end, we’ve spent the last few years assembling a well-rounded team of designers, developers, data journalists and animators, as well as PR and outreach experts. Today the creative team is the largest team in the company. What’s more, it’s still growing.

                                                                           Our creative team

Up until now, we haven’t talked much about creative stuff on this blog. Yet with the industry’s growing interest in content, I thought I’d share some of the most exciting pieces we’ve produced this year.

Interactive Visualisations

From Gospel to Grunge – 100 Years of Rock; Concert Hotels

We started working with Concert Hotels a few months ago with the goal to raise brand awareness and target audience engagement.

Since Concert Hotels has a primary target market of music fans and people who like to travel to gigs, we had the opportunity to generate and execute some really fun concepts.

The most recent piece we launched for them was From Gospel to Grunge – 100 Years of Rock. This piece aims to map out the complete history of rock music – displaying every sub-genre of rock and the sub-genres they, in turn, influenced.

Creating the graphic presented a number of challenges, largely associated with the amount of sub-genres we wanted to include. These needed to be displayed in a way that showed the connections between them, and that worked in conjunction with the genre tags.

Initially we were resistant to the piece dropping below the fold but quickly realised that that would be impossible and, in the end, we felt the solution we came up with made for a novel alternative.”

Mark Johnstone, Lead Creative

ipod Visualised as Vinyl; Concert Hotels

Arguably one of the most successful pieces we’ve ever created (in terms of meeting the client’s expectation versus the cost to make it), was the iPod Visualised as Vinyl in which we visualised the capacity of a 160GB iPod Classic as a stack of vinyl.  This piece was really all about the idea – it was simple, went straight to build and was shipped in a day.  It currently has over 24K ‘likes’ on Facebook and 197 LRD (Majestic Site Explorer).

 Tools

What TV Series Should I Watch Next? Cable TV

This piece for Cable TV allows users to submit three (or more) favourite TV series to a database of programs from the past decade, which then generates suggestions for similar, highly-rated series that they might enjoy.

We wanted to create a tool that was fun to use while being built around a data set that succeeded in providing good TV series suggestions.  A nice feature of the piece is that if the user wants to watch the trailer for a particular show, they can just click the DVD cover and the trailer will play within the TV screen – a function that required some ingenious developing from our Interactive Designer, Richard Westenra:

In order to give the TV a retro-style rounded screen, I had to place an image overlay on top of the video to cover the square corners. This meant that parts of the default YouTube controls were obscured, and also made them unusable in older browsers. To solve this problem, we decided to get rid of the standard controls and build our own custom ones using the YouTube API”.

Find Your Ultimate Festival; The Trainline

Find Your Ultimate UK Festival was created for The Trainline and was targeted at die-hard music fans whose number one priority is going to see the artists they love.  The idea was born from a need that Leonie Wharton (the designer who worked on the piece) herself had:

“I am a massive music fan, so each year when festival season approaches I often find myself trawling from one festival website to the next trying to discover where my favourite artists are playing.”

The tool helps music lovers find a festival that has as many of their favourite artists performing as possible. It was genuinely useful and very timely when it was launched at the beginning of the UK festival season (and this will be the case on an ongoing annual basis).  

The aesthetic of the tool pays homage to music festival poster design, displaying their line ups in a solid text block that uses font size and text position to outline the hierarchy of the performers from headliners to unsigned artists.

We had some great PR placements for this piece, which was featured in Cosmopolitan, Grazia and the Huffington Post, amongst other publications.

Data Vis

What Career Should I Choose? Rasmussen

With this piece we, again, wanted to create something that was genuinely useful for Rasmussen’s target audience (prospective students for the university). We also wanted to exercise good use of data visualisation in order to clearly convey the information contained within the piece, therein making it appeal to the data visualisation audience.

The biggest challenge we had came at the design stage.  We wanted to display multiple dimensions of data on the one screen; in turn, the design had to be refined and simplified through a number of iterations to optimise the use of the pixel width and to juggle the numerous functions until they worked well together.

In the month that we launched, the tool became one of the most visited pages on Rasmussen’s site and was featured on Lifehacker.

Animation

Figshare Conference Video; Digital Science

The venture capitalist wing of the Macmillan group, Digital Science finds and develops new and exciting scientific start-ups.

They are one of the clients for whom we’ve been creating video content.  Video is perhaps the newest form of content Distilled has branched into and it presents a whole new set of challenges and opportunities.

The video below was a piece we created to launch one of Digital Science’s new products, Figshare. It was designed to be displayed at big science conferences to promote the product at the Digital Science stand. We’re currently working on some alternative versions of the animation: one to help engagement and conversions on site, then a third version to help promote Figshare on YouTube.

When producing video content at Distilled, we take care of the whole process in house, which means there is a lot to think about and the challenges vary depending on whether it’s live action or animated.  For live action video, you have to consider the script, storyboards, production, editing, sound and a whole lot more.  For animated video, a number of these elements overlap and are combined with new challenges such as creating a visual style and using visual metaphors to tell a story in a way that is engaging and interesting.

Video Production

The Christmas Collider; Digital Science

The second video we’ve worked with Digital Science on is the piece below – The Christmas Collider. This was a fun, irreverent piece with the goal of engaging the Digital Science community around Christmas. We wanted to do something more imaginative than a traditional corporate Christmas card – something that would really sell the personality of the company. What made it extra special was that Radio 4 presenter and science aficionado Robin Ince made a short cameo in the production.

Quiz

The Minimal Music Quiz; Concert Hotels


The Minimal Music Quiz was inspired by the minimal poster design that’s so prolific and popular on the web. We created a series of illustrations that represented famous songs with a colour in their title.  Using these as clues, the viewer had to identify the names of the songs and, for an extra point, the artist.  The quiz did pretty well socially, gaining over 2600 Facebook ‘likes’, as well as being featured on a number of design sites and blogs including Shortlist.  It currently has 93 LRD (Majestic Site Explorer).

Guides

The Small Business Guides; Simply Business


We have talked in the past, at our conferences and on the blog, about the work we’ve done for Simply Business. The guides have been tremendously successful and as a content strategy they are scalable, repeatable and work very well with Simply Business’ audience.  With the more recent guides (and all those we’ll create going forward), we’ve made them fully responsive so they can be viewed easily on any device or monitor.

Long-Form Content

Brandopolis; Distilled

A benchmark content piece for Distilled, Brandopolis is an in-depth report on the future of brands and the rapidly changing content-marketing landscape. It worked in a number of ways for us:

  • It gained greater brand exposure for Distilled as an agency

  • It tapped into a number of other industries

  • It picked up coverage from sites such as The Drum and Smashing Magazine

  • It shaped a new direction of content for Distilled (with a new ‘Resources’ page being launched in the New Year)

  • It provided a perfect template for future long-form pieces

The project itself was produced over five months by an internal team of front-end developers, designers, copywriters and data analysts. We commissioned freelancer Lydia Laurenson to carry out the research for the project, which delivers hard-won stories from brands including Honda, Coca-Cola and Dell. The long-form process was entirely new to us as Cheri Percy, our Content and Community Manager, explains:

Brandopolis was a huge investment piece for Distilled’s internal resources but it was fascinating to get into the mindset of a publisher.”

You can check out the full report over here.

Press Story

Attitudes in the Workplace; WorldPay Zinc


Attitudes in the Workplace was a PR campaign we launched for WorldPay Zinc, a client who provides transaction tools for independent business people. The focus was a study of sexism and discrimination in Britain for which we created a report and infographic to accompany the press story. These assets genuinely added to the story, giving journalists a reason to link to our content.

The piece was a flying success and the results so far are as follows:

  • An article on the website of one of the UK’s national newspapers, The Telegraph, incorporating two links

  • A write-up on The Guardian, which also included two links

  • Daily Mail coverage

  • 3 pieces of national print coverage

  • 30+ pieces of online regional coverage

  • A BBC Radio 2 appearance

  • A mention on national TV

The main reason the Gender Stereotypes in the Workplace study did so well is because it was well-targeted to journalists. It’s a well-known fact that journalists love data so we set out to find a way we could create some interesting, relevant data that spoke to WorldPay Zinc’s audience, at the same time as giving journalists something newsworthy to write about.”

Jess Champion, Head of PR, Distilled

Full-speed ahead

With the launch of a Resources page in the New Year, we’ll be able to display all of our exciting new content in one place. A wide variety of material will include ‘how to’ guides, feature posts and big thought pieces. If you would like to be kept up-to-date with new pieces, please sign up here.  

In the meantime, we’d love to hear from you via the comments below. What has been the best piece of content you’ve seen online this year? What do you think makes for great content?

Matt Mitchell-Camp

Matt Mitchell-Camp

Matt comes from a fairly eclectic design background, he studied product design before going on to work as a graphic designer, exploring digital, editorial and network visualisation. One thing always essential to Matt in a place of work is the...   read more

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2 Comments

  1. I must admit, I am really impressed with the Trainline festival content.
    I was surprised to see the social traction wasn't anywhere near what I expected from a great piece of content like this!

    Looking at the history of the page, perhaps it was released at the wrong sort of time (e.g. after people had booked their festivals). I believe that this will really kick off in 2014.

    Nice work guys! I think every agency should be matching this level of content.

    reply >
    • Phil Nottingham

      Hey Josh,

      glad you like the Trainline piece! Actually - the social buttons you see at the top of the page are a bit misleading in terms of the actual overall shares, since many users shared their personal output of the tool - which generated on a unique URL.

      In reality, the piece got a lot more shares and traffic than the pure social buttons would suggest.

      Cheers,
      Phil.

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