Can Women Truly Achieve Work-Life Balance?

By: Alexandra Wright
Commercial Bid Manager

8th March 2019

Home » Insights » Design

Finding the right employer who can support an evolving home life as well as providing the right career progression can be a challenge. Yet, getting the right work-life balance is essential to maintaining good health, improved wellbeing, and sustaining a happy home. In today’s society it’s difficult to achieve the correct balance, especially when, for many of us, the line between work and home is so blurred. Increased technology advances means we are always connected and expected to be available 24/7.

For me, having an enjoyable job, which offers career progression, and allows me to spend time with my children is my ultimate aim. Getting this right is tough and inevitably compromises need to be made.

Just over a year ago  I decided I needed something new, the ‘work’ element in my life was stagnant and I was in search of a new challenge. I took the plunge and accepted a job as Commercial Bid Manager at Plextek.

Making it happen

Plextek is an engineering consultancy at the heart of innovation. The work here is interesting and varied, which makes for some exciting yet challenging tenders. Plextek’s main assets are the talent and skills of its employees and this is recognised by the Senior Management team who invest vast amounts of time and money into personal development.

Starting here was daunting to begin with, it wasn’t just me who had to fit into the job, the job had to fit with my family. Changing a job is always risky, especially when you have dependants. Based just south of Cambridge with easy access to major roads, my commute is relatively straight forward as I am able to whiz up and down the A14 between work and home with ease.

Plextek have been extremely accommodating of my family’s needs. Like 14% of employees here, I work part-time. I have also agreed flexible start and finish times depending on whether I’m doing the nursery drop off or pick up (which I share with my partner).

Due to the nature of my job, there are many occasions when I need to spend additional time on my work, to meet demanding deadlines. In these instances, I agree with my partner to do the nursery drop off, so I stay later in the office to get the job done. I’m fortunate to have a supportive family who I can rely on when my job needs me.

When my workload allows, I go running at lunch-time, with a group of other runners – it’s great to have the opportunity to get out. There are regular company-wide social events organised by the Plextek Social Committee, many of which encourage the inclusion of families, for example last year we had a Company Family day out to Go Ape which the kids loved.

Since joining Plextek I have become a member of the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP), which aids the continuation of my professional development. I’m aiming to take my APMP foundation course next month (which is long overdue!). It’s nice to have a supportive employer who encourages me to be my best and develop my talents.

Working here means I can now spend more quality time with my family. It is encouraged to ‘switch off’ after work and I no longer feel guilty when I leave the office on time to collect my children. They’ve recently introduced a new holiday policy which allows employees to buy an additional 5 days holiday per year – which I plan to take full advantage of (Center Parcs here we come!).

What really matters

Getting the right work-life balance is a continued challenge but finding an accommodating employer makes achieving a manageable equilibrium easier. Employees aren’t the only ones to benefit from a healthy work-life balance; research has shown that with improved work-life balance comes improved productivity.

Working for an equal opportunity employer and having a CEO who believes more female engineers are needed makes being a female, in a male-dominated industry, a step closer to being equal.

Thank you to Plextek for recognising the skills I have, supporting me as a working mum and making it possible for me to progress my career whilst maintaining a happy home life.

Marissa Mayer, Google’s first female software engineer in 1999 and a former president and CEO of Yahoo once said “You can’t have everything you want, but you can have the things that really matter to you” and I believe Plextek has allowed me to have what really matters, a work-life balance.

Finding the right employer who can support an evolving home life as well as providing the right career progression can be a challenge. Yet, getting the right work-life balance is essential to maintaining good health, improved wellbeing, and sustaining a happy home. In today’s society it’s difficult to achieve the correct balance, especially when, for many of us, the line between work and home is so blurred. Increased technology advances means we are always connected and expected to be available 24/7.

For me, having an enjoyable job, which offers career progression, and allows me to spend time with my children is my ultimate aim. Getting this right is tough and inevitably compromises need to be made.

Just over a year ago  I decided I needed something new, the ‘work’ element in my life was stagnant and I was in search of a new challenge. I took the plunge and accepted a job as Commercial Bid Manager at a company called Plextek.

Making it happen

Plextek is an engineering consultancy at the heart of innovation. The work here is interesting and varied, which makes for some exciting yet challenging tenders. Plextek’s main assets are the talent and skills of its employees and this is recognised by the Senior Management team who invest vast amounts of time and money into personal development.

Starting here was daunting to begin with, it wasn’t just me who had to fit into the job, the job had to fit with my family. Changing a job is always risky, especially when you have dependants. Based just south of Cambridge with easy access to major roads, my commute is relatively straight forward as I am able to whiz up and down the A14 between work and home with ease.

Plextek have been extremely accommodating of my family’s needs. Like 14% of employees here, I work part-time. I have also agreed flexible start and finish times depending on whether I’m doing the nursery drop off or pick up (which I share with my partner).

Due to the nature of my job, there are many occasions when I need to spend additional time on my work, to meet demanding deadlines. In these instances, I agree with my partner to do the nursery drop off, so I stay later in the office to get the job done. I’m fortunate to have a supportive family who I can rely on when my job needs me.

When my workload allows, I go running at lunch-time, with a group of other runners – it’s great to have the opportunity to get out. There are regular company-wide social events organised by the Plextek Social Committee, many of which encourage the inclusion of families, for example last year we had a Company Family day out to Go Ape which the kids loved.

Since joining Plextek I have become a member of the Association of Proposal Management Professionals (APMP), which aids the continuation of my professional development. I’m aiming to take my APMP foundation course next month (which is long overdue!). It’s nice to have a supportive employer who encourages me to be my best and develop my talents.

Working here means I can now spend more quality time with my family. It is encouraged to ‘switch off’ after work and I no longer feel guilty when I leave the office on time to collect my children. They’ve recently introduced a new holiday policy which allows employees to buy an additional 5 days holiday per year – which I plan to take full advantage of (Center Parcs here we come!).

What really matters

Getting the right work-life balance is a continued challenge but finding an accommodating employer makes achieving a manageable equilibrium easier. Employees aren’t the only ones to benefit from a healthy work-life balance; research has shown that with improved work-life balance comes improved productivity.

Working for an equal opportunity employer and having a CEO who believes more female engineers are needed makes being a female, in a male-dominated industry, a step closer to being equal.

Thank you to Plextek for recognising the skills I have, supporting me as a working mum and making it possible for me to progress my career whilst maintaining a happy home life.

Marissa Mayer, Google’s first female software engineer in 1999 and a former president and CEO of Yahoo once said “You can’t have everything you want, but you can have the things that really matter to you” and I believe Plextek has allowed me to have what really matters, a work-life balance.

 

Further Reading

EW BrightSpark, James Henderson One Year On

James Henderson - Consultant, Antennas & Propagation

By: James Henderson
Consultant, Antennas & Propagation

27th February 2019

Home » Insights » Design

Following the BrightSparks award ceremony in May last year, most of my work has been on developing an electronically-scanned radar unit operating at mm-wave frequencies, applicable to autonomous ground and air vehicle monitoring and control. This has been a particularly interesting and challenging project as the design has been driven by a demanding requirement to create a small, low power, high performance sensor.

The key area of innovative design that I am particularly proud of is combining two 48-element antenna arrays on to the same PCB as the electronic circuitry. To achieve a low cost, the arrays are realised through a combination of 3D printing and PCB techniques.

This development posed many technical challenges owing to the often conflicting PCB-related requirements of antenna and RF circuitry. However, integration and performance benefits make this approach worthwhile.

System calculations

Initial work on this project required comprehensive system calculations to exactly understand the design requirements. System level planning is informative when determining how to distribute the required tasks.

Often, a number of subsystems could potentially solve the same technical challenge but only when looking at the problem as a whole can you assess how the elements of the system can best work together.

Scanning the radar beam

A key aspect of the design was how to scan the radar beam. In a previous project the antennas were mechanically moved to build up a 3D view of the scene. In contrast the new requirement was to scan the antenna beams electronically, which has many advantages over mechanically scanned systems. Electronic beamforming can be implemented digitally, at the analogue front end, or even within the antennas themselves.

In this design, the scanning mechanism was an integral part of the antenna array, which significantly simplifies other aspects of the system leading to a small sensor having low power consumption. However, this approach required lateral thinking when designing and constructing the PCB to achieve the target performance. For the first iteration of the design the electronics worked as intended, but the antenna performance was lower than expected.

Further investigation revealed the reason for the drop in performance and emphasised the many and varied challenges associated with working at mm-wave frequencies.

Special Interest

The second design iteration gave performance closely matched to my system calculations. This confirmed that the design operated as intended, which was extremely satisfying.

This whole process has exposed me to some particularly interesting design work and has consequently encouraged me to initiate a Special Interest Group within Plextek that specialises in the design and development of mm-wave electronic systems.

Following this project I expect to see substantial interest in operating at mm-wave bands, enhancing the capability of mm-wave circuits and I’m excited to be working with these cutting-edge technologies in the future.

The CEO of Plextek, Nicholas Hill, added:

“BrightSparks is a fantastic way to show your employees’ work is valued. It’s so important to get young people enthusiastic about their engineering careers and award recognition is a great motivational boost. The BrightSparks award last year won by James Henderson was well deserved and he has continued to shape his engineering career by contributing to key company projects here at Plextek.”

Following the BrightSparks award ceremony in May last year, most of my work has been on developing an electronically-scanned radar unit operating at mm-wave frequencies, applicable to autonomous ground and air vehicle monitoring and control. This has been a particularly interesting and challenging project as the design has been driven by a demanding requirement to create a small, low power, high performance sensor.

The key area of innovative design that I am particularly proud of is combining two 48-element antenna arrays on to the same PCB as the electronic circuitry. To achieve a low cost, the arrays are realised through a combination of 3D printing and PCB techniques.

This development posed many technical challenges owing to the often conflicting PCB-related requirements of antenna and RF circuitry. However, integration and performance benefits make this approach worthwhile.

System calculations

Initial work on this project required comprehensive system calculations to exactly understand the design requirements. System level planning is informative when determining how to distribute the required tasks.

Often, a number of subsystems could potentially solve the same technical challenge but only when looking at the problem as a whole can you assess how the elements of the system can best work together.

Scanning the radar beam

A key aspect of the design was how to scan the radar beam. In a previous project the antennas were mechanically moved to build up a 3D view of the scene. In contrast the new requirement was to scan the antenna beams electronically, which has many advantages over mechanically scanned systems. Electronic beamforming can be implemented digitally, at the analogue front end, or even within the antennas themselves.

In this design, the scanning mechanism was an integral part of the antenna array, which significantly simplifies other aspects of the system leading to a small sensor having low power consumption. However, this approach required lateral thinking when designing and constructing the PCB to achieve the target performance. For the first iteration of the design the electronics worked as intended, but the antenna performance was lower than expected.

Further investigation revealed the reason for the drop in performance and emphasised the many and varied challenges associated with working at mm-wave frequencies.

Special Interest

The second design iteration gave performance closely matched to my system calculations. This confirmed that the design operated as intended, which was extremely satisfying.

This whole process has exposed me to some particularly interesting design work and has consequently encouraged me to initiate a Special Interest Group within Plextek that specialises in the design and development of mm-wave electronic systems.

Following this project I expect to see substantial interest in operating at mm-wave bands, enhancing the capability of mm-wave circuits and I’m excited to be working with these cutting-edge technologies in the future.

The CEO of Plextek, Nicholas Hill, added:

“BrightSparks is a fantastic way to show your employees’ work is valued. It’s so important to get young people enthusiastic about their engineering careers and award recognition is a great motivational boost. The BrightSparks award last year won by James Henderson was well deserved and he has continued to shape his engineering career by contributing to key company projects here at Plextek.”

 

 

Further Reading

Principles of Industry 4.0 and the 9 Pillars

Dave Burrel - Senior Consultant, Product Design

By: David Burrell
Senior Consultant, Project Design

7th February 2019

Home » Insights » Design

Industry 4.0 (i4.0) refers to the exciting area of automation within manufacturing including IOT, robotics, cloud computing and data management. We can look to the not-very-distant future and see robotics, sensors and integrated systems playing a huge part of a normal manufacturing process. With technologists and engineers regularly discussing topics like the “Smart Factory” and the “4th Industrial Revolution”, David Burrell, Senior Consultant of our Manufacturing Services, discusses what Plextek has been up to in this arena:

“It is interesting to see all the excitement around i4.0 and how we should all be getting involved. But in the end you have to ask yourself, what does it really mean and surely we have been doing this kind of thing for years? In reality, i4.0 is largely the repackaging and combination of capabilities and technologies that already exist; but providing the overall wrapper that enables total interoperability, collecting Big Data, manipulating it and then applying it as positive feedback to improve functionality and efficiency.

“If we look at the 9 pillars of Industry 4.0 below, I have assigned examples to each pillar to show how existing systems, technologies and ideas can be applied to the Industry 4.0 framework:

  1. IOT: IOT gives us the ability to realise Smart Cities: for example, we developed and implemented an intelligent street lighting system and network which can now be enhanced to incorporate collation of environmental data and additional video links.
  2. Big Data: Within the field of vehicle tracking, companies can now manage and interpret Insurance data to enable the interpretation of driver behaviour and accidents.
  3. Cloud Computing: Harvesting large quantities of data involves careful management, and providing a ‘Data warehouse’ facility to organisations is invaluable.
  4. Advanced Simulation: Complex algorithms and testing them allows for projects like inner-city intelligent parking or a ‘Dead reckoning’ capability for GPS denied environments to come to fruition.
  5. Autonomous systems: More systems in business are becoming autonomous and need less human intervention to provide effective results.  We’ve applied this to a transport scenario, with an interesting project recently completed around object and vehicle detection.
  6. Universal Integration: Integrating Factory Test equipment and a bespoke Manufacturing Execution System can enable remote access and feedback into product test yield, improving projections.
  7. Augmented Reality: By creating computer-generated perceptual information it is becoming easier to train your staff, even in unique and difficult conditions. It is very hard for example to provide training scenarios for humanitarian crisis aid or battlefield healthcare without risky in-field training unless you consider AR.
  8. Additive Manufacture: Application of AM techniques to achieve fast market entry and creative solutions is becoming more important in a competitive environment. I have previously written a blog on the 4 steps of Additive Manufacture.
  9. Cyber Security: Security of your infrastructure, both online and offline is a business critical factor. Bespoke systems design will ensure your organisations’ Data Integrity

Having all of these capabilities is all well and good but that is just the beginning, they need to be applied to something in an interconnected way within the manufacturing environment to be counted as Industry 4.0, but that is only an application specific criteria. Industry 4.0 is an exciting area as innovation is combined with sustainable processes.”

For an initial chat about Industry 4.0 and how we can help future-proof your business, then get in touch.

Industry 4.0 (i4.0) refers to the exciting area of automation within manufacturing including IOT, robotics, cloud computing and data management. We can look to the not-very-distant future and see robotics, sensors and integrated systems playing a huge part of a normal manufacturing process. With technologists and engineers regularly discussing topics like the “Smart Factory” and the “4th Industrial Revolution”, David Burrell, Senior Consultant of our Manufacturing Services, discusses what Plextek has been up to in this arena:

“It is interesting to see all the excitement around i4.0 and how we should all be getting involved. But in the end you have to ask yourself, what does it really mean and surely we have been doing this kind of thing for years? In reality, i4.0 is largely the repackaging and combination of capabilities and technologies that already exist; but providing the overall wrapper that enables total interoperability, collecting Big Data, manipulating it and then applying it as positive feedback to improve functionality and efficiency.

“If we look at the 9 pillars of Industry 4.0 below, I have assigned examples to each pillar to show how existing systems, technologies and ideas can be applied to the Industry 4.0 framework:

  1. IOT: IOT gives us the ability to realise Smart Cities: for example, we developed and implemented an intelligent street lighting system and network which can now be enhanced to incorporate collation of environmental data and additional video links.
  2. Big Data: Within the field of vehicle tracking, companies can now manage and interpret Insurance data to enable the interpretation of driver behaviour and accidents.
  3. Cloud Computing: Harvesting large quantities of data involves careful management, and providing a ‘Data warehouse’ facility to organisations is invaluable.
  4. Advanced Simulation: Complex algorithms and testing them allows for projects like inner-city intelligent parking or a ‘Dead reckoning’ capability for GPS denied environments to come to fruition.
  5. Autonomous systems: More systems in business are becoming autonomous and need less human intervention to provide effective results.  We’ve applied this to a transport scenario, with an interesting project recently completed around object and vehicle detection.
  6. Universal Integration: Integrating Factory Test equipment and a bespoke Manufacturing Execution System can enable remote access and feedback into product test yield, improving projections.
  7. Augmented Reality: By creating computer-generated perceptual information it is becoming easier to train your staff, even in unique and difficult conditions. It is very hard for example to provide training scenarios for humanitarian crisis aid or battlefield healthcare without risky in-field training unless you consider AR.
  8. Additive Manufacture: Application of AM techniques to achieve fast market entry and creative solutions is becoming more important in a competitive environment. I have previously written a blog on the 4 steps of Additive Manufacture.
  9. Cyber Security: Security of your infrastructure, both online and offline is a business critical factor. Bespoke systems design will ensure your organisations’ Data Integrity

Having all of these capabilities is all well and good but that is just the beginning, they need to be applied to something in an interconnected way within the manufacturing environment to be counted as being Industry 4.0, but that is only an application specific criteria.

Industry 4.0 is an exciting area as innovation is combined with sustainable processes.  For an initial chat about Industry 4.0 and how we can help future-proof your business, then get in touch.

Further Reading

Work Shadowing

Nicholas Hill - Chief Executive Officer

By: Nicholas Hill
Chief Executive Officer

31st January 2019

Home » Insights » Design

Talking to some sixth formers doing STEM subjects in school recently brought to my attention the issue of work experience or work shadowing for the first time. Work shadowing is a means of helping students understand what the world of work is like, and perhaps also learn something specific about their subject area of interest, through one week spent in the workplace. Schools are apparently pushed by the government to support this, so the practice has become quite commonplace. Our nearest school puts one week aside in the lower sixth form for work shadowing every year, after exams.

It turns out to be surprisingly difficult to find an engineering or technology company that engages in or supports work experience in this area (Cambridge), in spite of the plethora of such companies. It appears that many companies either state explicitly that they don’t offer such placements, don’t respond to requests at all or gave a flat ‘no’. Some say that they do support work shadowing, but only for children of their own employees. I have no idea whether this experience is typical of employers in all sectors, but I rather doubt it, given the numbers of students finding places.

All this made me consider Plextek’s policy on work experience – which has historically been aligned with the experiences I’d heard about, turning down any request for reasons that presumably seemed sensible enough. While supporting work experience undoubtedly generates some additional administrative load, and will put a slight ‘drag’ on the productivity of whichever staff are being shadowed, it seems to me that this is something that engineering and technology companies should be doing.

I’d be the first to complain about the poor numbers of students studying STEM subjects at University, especially in electronics (see my previous blog on the subject). If work experience is a way of showing a few sixth formers what an exciting, interesting career this can be, we should be grasping the opportunity with both hands, and doing a full-on selling job!

I’ve often felt that a problem with electronics is that it is becoming increasingly obscure to those on the outside. Why choose to study something that you have no understanding of or exposure to? Well here’s a way of demystifying it a little.

Last summer we accepted a small number of work shadowing placements for the first time. We gained some good insight into how to engage with sixth formers in an effective way without putting too much drain on internal resources. Next year we’ll be putting more formal arrangements in place with our local sixth form school.

Talking to some sixth formers doing STEM subjects in school recently brought to my attention the issue of work experience or work shadowing for the first time. Work shadowing is a means of helping students understand what the world of work is like, and perhaps also learn something specific about their subject area of interest, through one week spent in the workplace. Schools are apparently pushed by the government to support this, so the practice has become quite commonplace. Our nearest school puts one week aside in the lower sixth form for work shadowing every year, after exams.

It turns out to be surprisingly difficult to find an engineering or technology company that engages in or supports work experience in this area (Cambridge), in spite of the plethora of such companies. It appears that many companies either state explicitly that they don’t offer such placements, don’t respond to requests at all or gave a flat ‘no’. Some say that they do support work shadowing, but only for children of their own employees. I have no idea whether this experience is typical of employers in all sectors, but I rather doubt it, given the numbers of students finding places.

All this made me consider Plextek’s policy on work experience – which has historically been aligned with the experiences I’d heard about, turning down any request for reasons that presumably seemed sensible enough. While supporting work experience undoubtedly generates some additional administrative load, and will put a slight ‘drag’ on the productivity of whichever staff are being shadowed, it seems to me that this is something that engineering and technology companies should be doing.

I’d be the first to complain about the poor numbers of students studying STEM subjects at University, especially in electronics (see my previous blog on the subject). If work experience is a way of showing a few sixth formers what an exciting, interesting career this can be, we should be grasping the opportunity with both hands, and doing a full-on selling job!

I’ve often felt that a problem with electronics is that it is becoming increasingly obscure to those on the outside. Why choose to study something that you have no understanding of or exposure to? Well here’s a way of demystifying it a little.

Last summer we accepted a small number of work shadowing placements for the first time. We gained some good insight into how to engage with sixth formers in an effective way without putting too much drain on internal resources. Next year we’ll be putting more formal arrangements in place with our local sixth form school.

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Further Reading

Visualising Ideas

By: Nick Burman
Graphic Designer

25th July 2018

Home » Insights » Design

Songwriters, architects, chefs and engineers have at least one thing in common.

They all need ideas.

There are as many (if not more) sources of ideas as there are individuals, and the process of developing those ideas can be lengthy and involved, or instantaneous and effortless. But often it is necessary to communicate ideas to others to develop them further, explore them deeper or involve others to bring the ideas to fruition.

Ever since Alex Steinweiss created the first album cover in 1939, musicians have depended on visuals to help sell their music. Architects use illustrative renderings to show how a building will look, and chefs even find the need to pictorialise their recipes. Not only do people eat with their eyes first, we also (arguably) trust and retain visual information more.

From a business perspective, turning ideas into visuals is a vital step in developing ideas and engaging other people such as investors, clients or work colleagues. You could write an entire report with text, but since 65% of people are visual learners, you would be reaching less than half of your audience.

Two effective methods for transmitting ideas are photography and illustration.


Photography

Photography works well at portraying the visible. It might be in situ, in a clean environment like a seemless background or mocked up in an ideal surrounding. Using plain backgrounds and a well lit subject helps to remove distractions from the point – the subject of the photograph.

Visualising ideas, photography, medical application


Illustration

Illustration aids the portrayal of ideas and subjects that may not currently exist (or only exist in part) in the real world. Filling in the gaps photography simply can’t capture in front of a lens, such as computer generated imagery for backgrounds and other elements within an illustrated image.

In the medical field for example, there are lots of cases where illustration is the only way to present an idea or concept working as intended in a real-world environment, due to stringent regulations and other market specific pressures en route to productisation.

illustration, infographic, visualising ideas

In a technical environment, accuracy has to be key. To this end, a workflow that includes a number of rounds of revisions helps to make sure the illustration or photograph communicate to the client what they want to see.

Also important are the aesthetic points, or what could be considered the discretionary aspects. Colour choices, font usage, spacing and style.


Colour

The right colour palette allows the important aspects of an illustration to be prominent while conveying the right mood (and certainly avoiding the wrong one).Colours are an instant way to create mood and evoke an emotional response. Since a vast proportion of buying decisions are emotional, colour has a very important role to play in visualising ideas. It might be tempting to use bright bold colours for anything that is meant to stand out, but if the overall scheme is jarring, you can easily turn people away.


Type

The correct font can be more subliminal. With longer piece of copy (like the one you’re reading) the right line spacing (leading) and letter spacing (tracking and kerning) can make the copy easier to read and guide the eye from line to line and word to word. Sentence structure and even line length can have an effect, and tire the reader quickly causing them to lose interest in what they are reading.

With short copy, and text that accompanies images, the right font also has the power to convey the right mood. The right font can imply power, style, excitement or nostalgia, and the wrong one can make even an international corporation look like a corner shop.

visualising ideas, font choice, graphic design

While we know that images help break up text – especially in lengthy Powerpoint presentations – knowing how to present ideas and communicate them effectively with the audience in mind can be key to a project’s success, even if you’re not Richard Rodgers.

 


1image source: http://www.vulture.com/2011/09/steinweiss/slideshow/

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Songwriters, architects, chefs and engineers have at least one thing in common.

They all need ideas.

There are as many (if not more) sources of ideas as there are individuals, and the process of developing those ideas can be lengthy and involved, or instantaneous and effortless. But often it is necessary to communicate ideas to others to develop them further, explore them deeper or involve others to bring the ideas to fruition.

Ever since Alex Steinweiss created the first album cover in 1939, musicians have depended on visuals to help sell their music. Architects use illustrative renderings to show how a building will look, and chefs even find the need to pictorialise their recipes. Not only do people eat with their eyes first, we also (arguably) trust and retain visual information more.

From a business perspective, turning ideas into visuals is a vital step in developing ideas and engaging other people such as investors, clients or work colleagues. You could write an entire report with text, but since 65% of people are visual learners, you would be reaching less than half of your audience.

Two effective methods for transmitting ideas are photography and illustration.

Photography

Photography works well at portraying the visible. It might be in situ, in a clean environment like a seemless background or mocked up in an ideal surrounding. Using plain backgrounds and a well lit subject helps to remove distractions from the point – the subject of the photograph.

Visualising ideas, photography, medical application

Illustration

Illustration aids the portrayal of ideas and subjects that may not currently exist (or only exist in part) in the real world. Filling in the gaps photography simply can’t capture in front of a lens, such as computer generated imagery for backgrounds and other elements within an illustrated image.

In the medical field for example, there are lots of cases where illustration is the only way to present an idea or concept working as intended in a real-world environment, due to stringent regulations and other market specific pressures en route to productisation.

illustration, infographic, visualising ideas

In a technical environment, accuracy has to be key. To this end, a workflow that includes a number of rounds of revisions helps to make sure the illustration or photograph communicate to the client what they want to see.

Also important are the aesthetic points, or what could be considered the discretionary aspects. Colour choices, font usage, spacing and style.

Colour

The right colour palette allows the important aspects of an illustration to be prominent while conveying the right mood (and certainly avoiding the wrong one).Colours are an instant way to create mood and evoke an emotional response. Since a vast proportion of buying decisions are emotional, colour has a very important role to play in visualising ideas. It might be tempting to use bright bold colours for anything that is meant to stand out, but if the overall scheme is jarring, you can easily turn people away.

Type

The correct font can be more subliminal. With longer piece of copy (like the one you’re reading) the right line spacing (leading) and letter spacing (tracking and kerning) can make the copy easier to read and guide the eye from line to line and word to word. Sentence structure and even line length can have an effect, and tire the reader quickly causing them to lose interest in what they are reading.

With short copy, and text that accompanies images, the right font also has the power to convey the right mood. The right font can imply power, style, excitement or nostalgia, and the wrong one can make even an international corporation look like a corner shop.

visualising ideas, font choice, graphic design

While we know that images help break up text – especially in lengthy Powerpoint presentations – knowing how to present ideas and communicate them effectively with the audience in mind can be key to a project’s success, even if you’re not Richard Rodgers.

 


1image source: http://www.vulture.com/2011/09/steinweiss/slideshow/

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Further Reading