June 23, 2020

How to deal with (love and) failure

If you’ve ever read one of our articles or checked our Social Media accounts, you can tell that we are pretty proud of our work and we are loud enough to make sure people know us. And it’s not only about the work. It’s about the team, the clients, the office, the garden, the plants, the coffee machine — we make a big deal out of everything. And that’s simply because we massively totally, absolutely love what we do.

But this article has nothing to do with us bragging about how awesome we are, it is about how we failed and how we dealt with it.

The Mad Fries and The Zen Tornados

A few weeks ago, Ana, our amazing web and motion graphics designer (I’ll keep doing this, just to make a point), wrote on Slack about the Reply Creative Challenge. We don’t usually do pitches, but since this was a 48 hours weekend challenge and we were craving for a teambuilding kind of activity, we said yes.

We flipped a coin, created two teams and ended up being The Mad Fries (Alexandra, Emilia, Mooky, Rares) and The Zen Tornados (Ana, Bogdan, Delia, Iulia) for the weekend. Because we wanted to play it as fair as possible, we selected different categories and decided to work separately and secretly on our briefs. The Mad Fries signed up for the Service Design powered by OBI and The Zen Tornados went for the Brand Activation powered by Martini. On Friday evening, we got our briefs and started the Skype marathon.

Let’s build something today. Yuhu!

The Mad Fries had to come up with an innovative solution that will create a new business channel for OBI, Europe’s №1 DIY retailer.

We stuck to the creative process we usually follow at work, the only difference was that we had to deliver in 48 hours what we usually deliver in 4 to 8 months. We focused on one main insight: people need guidance when they build stuff, because they don’t know where to start or what tools and materials to use.

We imagined a community based platform that helps people to learn new DIY skills, to build awesome projects and to contribute to the community while making some money in doing so.

The naming was created in five to ten minutes. We started looking for interjections that express the satisfaction when you finish a project. The YEY, the Hoorey, the Hura and, eventually, the YUHU (from the German Juhu). It took Mooky another half an hour to create a balanced logotype for it and that was it with the branding.

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Naming and logo design for YUHU, the app that guides your DIY projects

We spent most of our time working on the mobile app, starting with the wireframes and up to delivering a complete Figma prototype for Yuhu.

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Mooky, our logo designer, made her first mobile app prototype in 8 hours. Not that bad, right?

For the communication campaign, we suggested two main directions: a safe one, based on the We got your back concept, and a bold one, that triggers doers ready to rockWe considered Social Media, CSR, partnerships and influencers, but the only teaser you have to see is this TikTok made by Alexandra, proudly representing the Z generation.

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Social Media and outdoor launching campaigns for YUHU.

Fun, friends and Martini

The Zen Tornados had to develop a brand activation able to position the brand close to millennials by accompanying their unique moments of “proudness”. Actually, they said they know us — The Mad Fries — so well, that they anticipated that we will go for OBI. I’ve even heard bets were made. Hilarious.

As a group of hipsters in their twenties themselves, it was easy for the team to identify one powerful insight and build on it: millennials want to belong and they invest a lot of time in building their friendships.

The concept was to offer them the chance to share a beautiful moment of friendship and make it even stronger by accepting the Fiero Challenge. For the smoothie drinkers, Martini Fiero is a contemporary take on vermouth that combines citrus, bittersweet orange, crisp white wines and wormwood for bold and zesty flavors that pair perfectly with tonic.

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Scan the QR code to unlock a Fiero Challenge.

The challenge can be unlocked by using a code inscribed on the Martini Fiero bottle cap or by scanning a QR code in dedicated pubs. Each code leads to a special challenge so the more codes you have, the more challenges you can share with your friends.

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We bet no landing page has got you so triggered before.

On the campaign landing page you can find teasers about the challenges and once you have the code, you are in! It would sound like this: Say one thing that makes you proud of your friends.

When the campaign gets to Social Media, the focus moves to Instagram and TikTok, where Fiero has its own challenge to make sure it gets viral: Create a dance with your best friends and share it around the world.

They didn’t forget that millennials are the playing cards kind of generations, so they extended the campaign to offline, creating a set of cards to make the ‘Truth or Dare’ game crazier.

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Would you make a TikTok video to tell everybody you love your friends?

Right on time, as usual

We finished our projects and we uploaded the presentations just minutes before the deadline, as every professional would do. We were all sure that our marvellous, stunning, ingenious projects will make it to the final. We just weren’t sure which one would win.

Two weeks later, the finalists were announced. Guess what. Our projects didn’t make it to the final. WE didn’t make it to the final?! Oh, the comments on the Slack channel.

What do you mean we didn’t win?

We were obviously shocked that none of us made it, we said it isn’t fair, that maybe it’s a mistake, we used sad emojis, we refreshed the page but The Zen Tornados or The Mad Fries were still not among the finalists.

Then we chilled a bit and went back to our Fake it till you make it philosophy. Iulia suggested we should write an article about the experience because it makes it easier to deal with disappointments if you write them down. Ana said that maybe they will contact us to buy the ideas because they were sooo good. Delia thought we should start our own competition. All right, we moved on, we are FINE.

It’s not that we don’t know how to fail, because we do. We miss deadlines from time to time, we don’t always deliver the name or the logo from the first shot, we still didn’t get that Site of the Day on Awwwards. We know failure, but we take it every time as a What?!

Failure is not something you want to get used to. That will stop you from getting a bit angry at first, but willing to improve after all. If you are as competitive as we are, the next thing you’ll do after losing a contest will be looking for another contest.

We’ll be watching the final and we’ll take notes from the winners. We’ll compare our projects and we’ll know how to get better next time. We probably put an extra effort while working on client’s projects this week to prove ourselves that we are actually good at this. We are now working harder for those “I love it” emails because we aren’t actually faking it, we are enjoying it.

So, grab the popcorn, we have a final to watch on 1st of July here. Trecento11 and Glamour teams, we have our eyes on you and we are not jealous at all.

Good luck everyone, it was a pleasure!

May 20, 2020

How to pause your inner author while copywriting

There is a slight chance to become a copywriter without having in mind to be an independent writer first (an author, let’s say from now on).

Read more

March 23, 2020

Relationship status: out of office

Working remote — a diary

Friday, 13, 2 pm o’clock

Dear office,

It’s been 4 hours since we decided we can’t go on together because we might be toxic to each other. I miss your desks. Your computers. Your chairs. Even my coworkers. We all did a great job over there, just to keep you safe.

Today I started my working program with no shaking hands (yes, we all shake hands, no matter the gender), without being late and with no exasperating noises from the coffee machine. Today was definitely not a good day. I wonder how it has been for my partners in crime.

But there is no great love story without lovers being apart at least once, right? Why would our agency affair go anyhow else? This will be amazing, after all, I promise you.

With love, always yours, faithfully and so on,

Each and every High Contrast Teammate

Friday, 13, 4 pm o’clock

Dear office,

It’s been 6 hours since we’ve been apart today.

I sincerely regret all those times I’ve cheated on you with home office crap. My neighbors suck. There is a dog barking on the 3rd floor and I’ve finished almost all the tasks for today. I’ve sung out loud half of my playlist and disturbed no one. Why do I even bother? For God’s sake, Andrew, please stop whatever you’re doing that makes Elena yell at you.

Slack is no fun if you can’t announce your colleagues out loud that you’ve sent them a message. I wish they could hear me calling.

I have to leave now, I promise I will come back with updates.

Friday, 13, 6 pm o’clock

Dear office,

We’re staying strong for you. We’re constantly chatting. We even set up a video conference in order to feel more comfortable with the situation. Isn’t it great? We…

Oh, come on, it is not so tragic to work from home. Yes, it is a bit depressing at the beginning because of the morning routine we all have at the office, but at least we can keep our pajamas on. And this is happening for us these days. We don’t want to talk about it and turn this article into a drama. And no, this is not one of those sources you can learn how to prevent anything from. Nor a survival kit. This is our adventure out of office.

What home office actually means

Usually, we would be more than excited to have a day off. I mean to work from home, not like off-off. You know, that pressure of 8 hours/day is not the same. We could handle 9, 10, 12 hours of working, everything is fine, we’re gonna launch those websites, we can handle the deadlines, we took our vitamins, the meeting is set and so on. Everything is under control.

When the Universe is sending you hints.

The funniest thing is that we have no clue about how to interact with each other from home. This is insane. We’re not used to telling jokes on Slack without hearing all the laughs starting all of a sudden. Now we feel like talking to each other more than ever before.

Introverts Paradise? Think twice

Yes, it is that moment when you realize that your introvert thing is pretty much bullshit. We all have trouble with this home office thing. As I said before, it is a pleasure to do it once in a while, it is healthy and you give your colleagues time to miss you and figure out they truly value you (you do, guys, don’t you?).

But what about all the fun sharing Instagram stories with your dream office? What do you mean no rock-paper-scissors? How do we know who’s gonna write on the flip chart at the weekly meeting otherwise? Did anyone take a picture of the previous list of tasks? Where do we order food from today? What? Hummus? We got hummus. Master of design, do you have those wireframes ready for feedback? I miss the cake, hurry up!

The perfect setup

Eat those snacks, design that logo, rock the world!

Nothing of these makes any bit of sense now. You can’t miss the cake, your mom made 4. No one writes on the flip chart, master Trello got us covered from the beginning (we can’t ignore you now, congrats, mission accomplished). Feedback through video calls? Say no more! At least clients are not so willing to solve things through calls anymore (God bless the house noises in the background) and they converted to all-solving and most practical emails. The parallel universe with no ‘’can we have a Skype?’’ happens right now. Isn’t it the happiest scenario for everybody? Now let’s go to our internal setup for the High Contrast team.

Do you all have a desk? Cool. Webcams? No webcams? We’re gonna use the ones we have at the office. Hmm, I might use this chair. Chair, anybody? Come on, it is an ergonomic one, take it, you don’t want to get back pain. What else, what else, oh, right! (and here comes the funniest part: the computer! )— Yes, we took everything we needed in order to avoid excuses not to use our 100% work potential.

First meeting from home

This part would be nothing but a transcript of our first attempt to still work all together via Skype. Enjoy.

E: So, guys, we must be altogether in the same place. We’re gonna do this through a video conference on Skype. Does everybody have Skype?

Several people typing….

B: Yea

M: Yup

A is typing…

I: Yes

D: Here we go!

A is typing…

A: Yes!

E: Cool, we have a test call in 15 minutes.

One eternity later… (of course, we respect timing, we just forgot to sync our watches!)

*Skype ringtone*

E: Pick up the call, everybody! This is what we can do: we see each other each morning around 9, we stay in the call as long as we need and we dress up like we’re going to the office. We have lunch dates on video calls as well. We’re getting through this together! Is everybody cool? Now, who needs the VPN?

A is typing…

B: I think it is a must only for the designers. Diskstation shit. Can I turn off my camera now? I don’t want to see you chewing all day long.

M: Come on, you’re chewing at the office all the time! Partners in crime.

A is typing….

A: Guys?

A is typing….

M: Can we all use Figma now?

B: Yes

A is typing…

A: My computer crashed down! I was using Illustrator as usual and suddenly…

B: Check the USB port.

R: USB port, check connections

Several people typing…

D: Guys, do you have a minute? there is a bug we should fix.

I: Hello, do you hear me?

D: We don’t hear you.

I: And how did you answer my questions?

A is typing…

D: Stop talking, we don’t hear you!

A: yes

R: How did you do that? I want to see myself on the bigger tab, I want a full screen with me, actually

A: Guys, I can’t fix my computer…

E: Is anybody working over there? Focus, please. Thanks.

And basically, this is how our test conference went like. Luckily we did better on the next tries. We have become real masters of it, actually. Is it maybe cause we decided to do it only when it was a must and not all day long for fun? Hmmm…

When everything gets a rhythm

To be honest, we’ve been a little bit concerned about the way this home office period would affect our work schedule and processes, but we truly made it in the end. It took like 2 days, but we figured out how to use the VPN, to sync data, to deal with counting working hours, to make all the programs work like usual (Figma is an exclusivist diva, Illustrator won’t cooperate until your device is a premium rank and Photoshop is already sick of being the backup choice) and so on.

After all the struggles, we settled down. The weekly meeting was quick and clear for everybody, our office-out-of-office is now a work-friendly environment and the internal communication finally got 80% focus on the actual tasks and deadlines (we still show off with our new recipes and debate whether we should do some yoga or fitness after work).

Do you know what else happened? Here’s a hint: have you ever wondered what are your colleagues listening to in their headphones? Neither have we. Until now. And this gave us a nice idea: to start working on our agency playlist on Spotify. We shared our favorite songs, the moody beats and the guilty pleasures of our taste in music. Yes, yes, add this song here, of course, we want to listen to what your friend Jimmy sent you. Wow, how did we survive the work schedule without this artist until now?! That’s so cool, type the article on this beat! Your email is complete, press ‘send’ on the next drum, you’ll feel amazing. Do all these sound crazy? Here you have our inspirational and uplifting tunes. Feel free to suggest us some more:

How do you guys deal with the home office safety measure? Do you have any tips & tricks to share? Drop us a line with the craziest things that happened lately at work!

‘Everything is going to be fine’ collection.

Stay safe, see you online!

November 11, 2019

Teach me design, I’ll teach you French

Where interns truly belong to

Hi! Here’s Aurelien, the french guy from Nantes. I was looking for a two-months internship in a digital agency somewhere in Europe and this is where I got: Brasov. Where exactly? High Contrast. Why? Because it’s been a journey of two years since I started to catch feelings for design, without giving up on my first love, technology. And now I put them together and go on this agency life adventure. Hurray!

Mostly, a story about curiosity

I was looking for an Internship of two months in web design and I also wanted to improve my English. How could I hit them both? Searching for digital agencies all over Europe, up to adopt me. So I searched on Google Maps ”design agencies ready to babysit interns and make them learn some things about the daily struggle of a designer’s life”. High Contrast was one of the first agencies to respond to me positively and have a match with. Moreover, Romania was totally unknown to me so it was a lucky strike to be immersed in a new culture and learn design from a different point of view at the same time.

When tasks keep coming.

All fun and games, now here’s the test

My first contact with High Contrast was by email. Smart move. (A piece of advice here, if you ever want to get in touch with them, always use the email. Don’t you dare to think of a call as the first approach). We had that ‘terms & conditions’ talk and agreed with everything that we had on the table. After that, they sent me a web design test to challenge my abilities in design and my level with the tools they use (Photoshop, Illustrator, Figma, Drive). My portfolio and CV were also important in this step. We had a Skype conversation to confirm some points and see the people who would welcome me. After all, I needed to know who I’m gonna deal with for the next two months.

First day in High Contrast

My first day began early in the morning. 11 o’clock. I met a part of the team and got familiar with their stuff, their projects, their way to work. They gave me time to assimilate their methods (like they had a choice), to explore their work and find questions, if necessary. In the afternoon they gave me my first task to complete. 100 website layouts. It was interesting to see and adapt to the different ways of working. Somehow. ‘Bogdan, do you have a minute?’. I love this phrase, I’m going to use it often. It just sounds lovely. 

Monday talk: `Who's gonna solve all his tasks by the end of the week?`

Everybody, meet the gang

The team welcomed me like you welcome a new colleague in high school: they have an  ’initiation’’ process. This is also a test to pass after your skills are proved. We’ve been hiking Postavaru peak, where I had the chance to sympathize with my new mates. I really loved that they weren't just colleagues at work and it was also possible to hang out with them in the evening. I thank them for that. (gratefulness everywhere)

Hiking with the newbies is a tradition.

Let the game begin

The fun of office life just begun. My duty was to help on some projects by creating, in the first place, visuals for collateral materials such as invitations mock-ups, layouts for the projects and some brand research. 

I’ve learned to use Semplice, Figma and got used to some tips in Photoshop and Illustrator. It was a good thing because at school it's difficult to test new things and take time to learn more about the process, so here they got me covered to learn and improve my skills.

Pros & cons of agency life

I've learned many things during my time spent in the agency. First of all, I got familiar with the way in which things are going on here. For example, I've experienced the branding process by working at some logos I had to do from scratch. The brand manuals taught me how to think over the process of a fancy and usable logo as well. Does it sound fun? Wait until you deal with the client's 'Can we try another version?' (just in case you've got the ok from the creative director). At least I had some sources to get my inspiration from, before asking for feedback. Behance helped me a lot.

This is how a design sprint looks like.
Overall, this life is pretty cool. The team had the enthusiasm of a start-up gang, the situations got always clear somehow and I had guidance from these multitasking guys and the materials they have made during their activity. The only thing that tried to kill our relationship was Slack, a communication tool supposed to make things easier and faster. Good that we had the lunch break and hangouts for truly human interaction, after all.

The goodbye

The one and only possible conclusion: it was a great experience from any point of you, but the best of it was definitely seeing the design process from a different view.

So, thank you, High Contrast! It was a pleasure.

Your devoted intern,
Aurelien

October 31, 2019

Feed us what you have, TikTok!

Come on, it's fun!

For a digital agency, the Social Media world is very important and any attempt to conquer it has to be highly calculated before each and every step.

Kidding. It’s not that harsh. Do your magic. Have some fun, just like we did! 

This time is going to be about our newest concern, TikTok. Just in case you’re still in 2016, TikTok is one of the highest-rated, downloaded, used, loved, worshiped (and so on, you got the point) video app nowadays. Its purpose is to help you create and share personal video content with users from all over the world. There are also some challenges to have fun with, but we’re going to talk about this a bit later. Keep scrolling.

Catching up with online trends be like.

Where to, now?

We’ve been talking in previous articles about the fake importance of having a job title, tips & tricks for newbies in the agencies and also about some helpful tools. Now some other Social Media magic trick got us inspired. As we said, the great TikTok.

Hey there, agency life, could this be helpful to you?

How it all went down

No Social Media channel has its own and exclusive content. Think about the link between the apps and the possibility to share the content from each one to another. All these trends are so spread that it doesn’t matter if you’ve downloaded a certain app or not. You will surely find some related content on any other channel at some point. And this happened to us with TikTok. 

So it all started with a bit of curiosity. A bit more, actually.

Spreading all over Social Media

First of all, we had to get familiar with the TikTok content in his natural habitat, and not from some Instagram feed. Store > TikTok > Get the app. Now let’s get it started.

So, step one: sell your soul to the devil by signing up. Once your account is created, there’s no way back. Trust us.

Step two: keep scrolling. Give a chance to each and every video. Inspiration comes in so strange and unexpected ways…

Step three: don’t check the time, you might get a heart attack noticing that you’ve spent all day ‘searching for inspiration’ and you have to postpone your daily duties. Again.Step four: discover the trending challenges, rate them and accept them. 

Curious to find out what are these about? The answers are here and here.Step five: have you had enough fun? Good. Now go back to work and let people know what a fun life you are having in the agency! That’s the purpose, after all. So let’s take some shots.

Extra tip: if you ever look at your coworkers and wonder... `what is going on inside their head?`, just keep in mind that what you find out might be harmful. 

Step six: got your video done? Post it! Don’t forget about the relevant hashtags that make you popular. Be generous with them. Ok, not that generous, you don’t want to cover your masterpiece. Clean, clear, clever, claim those damn likes & followers!

Double-extra tip: use some feedback before any final decision. In fact, any experiment has to be approved first of all. Attention? Attention! More attention. Attention now, please! Thank you.

Step seven: no more steps, you’re done. Stay tuned and see what happens.

The audience for this kind of post never dies.

Who else is an early adopter?

Even if TikTok is at the beginning as a commercial platform, it caught the attention of marketers and they are falling for it one by one. From Chipotle to NBA and San Diego Zoo, brands started to be involved in this TikTok community more and more. 

Forget about the pixel-perfect and ten-steps-forward thought content! The boost of this movement seems to be the fact that the audience actually enjoys a less organized content, with the sense of `keep it real` and a more natural flow. And this couldn’t be better for expressing the daily struggle in the agency, right?

Surprisingly or not, there is a lot of agency life to offer to TikTok-ers, especially when it comes to challenges. There you had some of our ideas to be shared.

The future is under your nose

Everything is a marketing tool if you are brave enough. Or crazy enough. Or you have plenty of time. Just be bold. Try everything that comes out. The Social Media world is full of resources. So should be the inner you.

Do you need another piece of advice? Don’t be afraid to introduce to your client the big boys, itty bitty boys, Mississippi boys or the city boys by using TikTok when it comes to brand persona. Convince him that people gonna love it even more! 

But that’s enough for now. Go conquer the world! Have fun! And stay tuned for more of our stories and experiments. 

Oh, we almost forgot, what about the relationship between postcards and Social Media stories as a future topic? Here's a picture to motivate your decision.

Mallorca, 2019, and Emilia's sense of humor

August 23, 2019

Who needs a job title anyway?

The strange kid from the block

You just can’t mention your job title without being asked the worldwide series of questions from ‘How to make people feel bad about their job no matter what’ guide. Especially when you work in an agency. 

Yeah, nice meeting, but have you seen the Site of the day?

Your mom still has no clue about what you are doing (this might help), most of your friends went corporate or got their own business and your cousin Laura just become a lawyer. LAW-YER - a normal job title, that anyone can write, read and understand. How can you compete with that?

Think about trying to explain what you do for a living at a family dinner: ‘Yes, mom, Brand Strategist is a real job, and it’s exhausting’. They’ll nod and go talk to Laura about the latest laws that will affect the inflation. 

So since it doesn’t make any sense anyway, we decided to make our own job titles.

We let you choose your own job title

The funniest part of agency life is that you can choose your own job title. Kidding, it’s not a fact, but we turned this into a rule in High Contrast. You may wonder what kind of bloody trick is that: we just want you to have a job title you are proud of! That’s it. Still thinking that something’s fishy?

Let me explain the basics of this fantastic strategy: once you are looking for a job and see the title you are supposed to have, you detach yourself from the most important thing - the work itself. So why would we give you a fancy title and risk to cover only half of your skills instead of presenting what shall be your duty? 

Do we hire people for real? Feels more like we’re enlarging our kindergarten.The Interns

Drop by, say hi!

Building job titles from scratch

We can be whatever we want if we master what we have to do. That’s the secret.
And we got this with 3 simple questions:

What are we, overall?
A bunch of almost grown-ups with a crazy love for branding and digital.

What’s our common goal?
To make impactful projects, be happy at work, feel challenged, have happy clients.

What’s our superpower?
Everything you say can give us an idea. Watch your words.

Your dream team of all time

This is what we got so far. Chosen by the owner itself or nominated by the team, we made a selection of invented and hard-to-take-it-seriously job titles:

The Happiness Manager

Also known as Momma for the habit of helping anybody anytime with each and every task (‘What do you all want from me? I had my earphones for one second already…’) - there is absolutely no resting moment for such an organized person who has to schedule all of our tasks and take care of our well being, while keeping clients happy.

The Trouble Maker

Pretty good at being in charge and definitely the best at ruining your hopes when it comes to the final feedback - no, neither the 20th version of your subject line is not enough. Try 5 more. Saying YES to one more project that seems impossible? Say no more! You thought your freshly launched website is bug-free and pixel perfect? What about this 7 “improvements” that should be done asap? Fun girl, isn’t she?

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_DSC6251
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The Brand Evangelist

Hunter of new business and fresh ally helping to conquer the Social Media world. She’s the one searching for businesses that look like crap on the Internet. Then she makes sure they got the point and ask for help with the online presence. Ding-dong, here’s Brand Police and you’re arrested for not being in trend.

The Prince Charming

This is the old-school gentleman talking to the clients. The guy with the quickest solution for everything. Basically, part of that Bonnie and Clyde couple of the agency life next to the Happiness Manager. More relaxed than his partner in crime. Less serious. But hard-working, just like he’s supposed to be.

The Software Knight

First of this duty, defender of Magento and WordPress and the blamed one for any bug. He has a massive responsibility with all the coding stuff and he is restless until the very last moment of launching. Kidding, he is never done. Restless always and forever.

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High Contrast Feedback Moment

Design Anarchist

Other than the responsibility of creating digital art, he has some little interns to prepare for the adventure on the Internet. Well, everybody in the agency has, at some point, but here things become even more challenging. There’s no rest for him neither as long as the ugliness is freely traveling the digital world.

The Digital Abecedarians

Our kids are better than yours! They are here to complete their internship and have some fun with us as a bonus - we call them Interns for who’s asking, but they are whatever they want to be. As long as they closely follow the masters already here. We’ve been impressed by the smarties reaching to us. They grow up so fast...Agency life

Hard-working people are pretty messy sometimes.

The Wizard of Light Bulb Moments

And some drums here for the one and only Creative Director (dum tsss). He’s like the supreme authority in the agency and supposedly nothing can get out of here without his permission. An idea generator with a genuine ‘not impressed’ attitude. But the guy really minds his business. Feeling this explosive energy yet?

It really is what it looks like. We will always let you choose your job title.High Contrast is hiring

We're hiring. Any recommendation?

Do you think it’s a coincidence that you are reading this right now? Cause it’s not. We happen to be looking for graphic designers, so it’s time to join us and convince yourself of all we’ve been talking above.

Here are some ideas to inspire you for your next job title:

job title

June 4, 2019

How to ‘fake it until you make it’ while being a newbie

How it all goes down…

Networking is priceless. Especially when you are looking for a job. Imagine this situation: ‘Haha, yeah, and I was there talking to X, done that when I was a child and so did Y. No way, do you like french fries too? Omg, haha hired. You are hired.’

Is this how I got hired?

Partially. Long story short, I was hanging out with some friends of some friends when this happened:

- Don’t you happen to know someone who wants to do some sales in High Contrast?

- Um.. well.. me? I guess. I don’t know. Sure, I can do it!

- Ok, see you on Monday for a friendly talk.

- What?

- What?

- I mean yeah, sure, see you soon!

The interview

You know you’re talking to the CEO trying to conquer her heart. The guy next to you is never gonna stop talking and asking you everything in the world. Then you find out he is the founder. That kind of friendly talk. I’ve been talking about the things I like, other than the french fries, about my full past accomplishments and the incredibly bright future I see for myself and High Contrast. Of course, only if they accept me. Fake it until you make it.

Must have been love at first talk. Or at least love at the seventh version of email I had to come up with for the next day.

Welcome to the funhouse, newbie

The first few days compare to nothing. All of your thoughts scream that this is the dream job. You meet your co-workers, you have lunch together and the masters fight for the mentorship. Everything for you in order to feel comfortable with your position.

Agency life is cool, all fun and laughter until one of the not-so-fresh team members asks you a simple question: what is a style guide?

Wait, what?

Now you’re doomed. Start pretending you’re busy and summon all the tasks you’ve never had but that are very important and can’t suffer any delay. Fake it, get some time.

Here’s a life saving piece of advice: do NOT ignore any of your co-workers requests, never ever in this life. You won’t get far with that.

Our lovely cactus assistant.

Now what?

One of the most important lessons I’ve learned since I got here is that nobody forgets any task. Not even yours. They always remember. And they haunt you. If they seem not to, for sure there is something else with the same importance that needs to be done. Or at least it should be.

Nevermind.

There is no escape. Emails. Sticky notes on your desktop. Slack messages. Everything in the office is a powerful weapon against your lack of knowledge. So go find out what’s this hecking style guide. Time’s up for pretending.

What are all these about?

This is it, your saviour

Ladies and gentlemen, aunts and grannies, newbies around the world, let me introduce you FAKEIT.DIGITAL, the easiest way to save your ass from this kind of trouble. Let me explain: this is a funky dictionary with daily used terms in digital agencies. Highly recommended for noobs, dummies, interns, neighbours, lovers, friends and families of people who work and live in agencies around the world. Even your mom will understand what you do. So should you.

But let’s see how this is going to help with the daily struggle in the agency life. These are some of the most important things you have to know:

And then the others. But you will get used to them, don’t worry. Style guide you said? What a pain in the ass…

Time was passing by and so was Robert’s patience. (Forgot to mention, Robert is the one backstabbing me with this question). ‘Try Brand Manual’ he told me. What a merciful man he is!

Go to B, Brand Manual: Don’t get anxious, it’s not an IKEA instruction manual, but a very important document with nice images, rules and instructions for using a brand. Clear now? Go tell Robert, your personal trouble maker co-worker. Would he be pleased? Would you be allowed to leave the office without 50 squats? No one knows. Be brave. Go hard or go home!

Happily ever after

I was about to get an extra task as a punishment for trying to get rid of this blessed question, but a pair of puppy eyes saved me just in time.

Warning! Don’t try this at work. The only escape is to fake it. Fake it until you make it.

Here you can find the easy peasy ABC of a peaceful life in the agency. Thank us later.

October 11, 2018

How not to die of boredom while doing HR

Alternate (boring) title: The thin line between HR and PR

When it comes to promoting the agency, we usually let our portfolio speak for itself, and it does a pretty good job.

But we do promote our job openings. And we don’t just post an announcement. We brainstorm, we do a hackathon, we launch a campaign website, we organize a fancy photo session or we throw a party for the whole city. When it comes to HR, we are bold and loud.

Stay with me to see how we erased the line between HR and PR, how we spent all our marketing money partying and what it brought us back in revenue.

Being bold and loud in HR means exactly this: throwing a party with 300 people in our backyard.

We did recruiting campaigns for creatives in the last 10 years and we found out soon that the classic process doesn’t work for them. You can’t just post a job, share it on Facebook and LinkedIn and wait for it. The best it can happen is to find yourself buried in hundreds of irrelevant CVs and an inbox full of emails waiting for the casual “Sorry, but we don’t think we match at this point”.

So we decided to hack our own HR process, ignoring the rules.

We’re a digital agency, all right, but we took our HR campaigns into an offline guerrilla posters on the walls of Brașov and we surely made an impression.

Graphic Designer recruiting campaign, 2017.

And people notice and follow us, even if they don’t get a job. They often tell us “Oh, I saw that poster of yours downtown and I looked you up”.

“All things digital and an admirer of your work and would love just to meet (not necessarily a job).

I just wanted to throw some love to HC, for all the content you deliver. Good shit & much love!”

When does the HR process actually start?

Part of our branding strategy work, we often tell to our clients something like this (and it’s true, and it’s important):

Your HR process starts with your first marketing effort. It can be the website, the Instagram feed, the LinkedIn page or the sticker on your MacBook. You show yourself out there with every banner or headline. And anyone who sees you, who hears something about you, can be, at some point, your future employee. They start shaping an image about you, as a brand and as an organization, the moment they hear or read your name. That’s when the HR process begins.

HR budget planning. Or was it PR budget planning?

We don’t do interviews and we don’t rely on job posting on recruitment platforms, so how do we budget our seemingly chaotic HR efforts?

Well, we actually don’t. And it makes sense. Keep scrolling.

This summer we decided to spend our HR budget in a different way so we threw an awesome garden party on a Wednesday evening as our main HR campaign... or was it PR? Whatever it was, it worked. We made it an open event, we invited clients and friends, we posted on Facebook and announced a few local influencers.

Yes, bold and loud means inviting local artists and playing live music.

We got some food, some drinks, we invited a live band and our own DJ, but we also created some special stands with jobs and internship announcements for students.

Over 300 people showed up, mostly students or young creatives, and we ended up with probably the best party this city ever had on a Wednesday evening.

It was definitely a success but was it a PR move or an HR event?

Who’s in the spotlight?

You’d expect the main character in a HR campaign to be the candidate, right? Well, guess what, while writing this I just realised, the spotlight in our HR campaigns is us, a common strategy for PR campaigns, right?

Just take a look at our recent campaign Move to Brasov.

We decided we want to generate awareness and to encourage creatives from all across the country (or world) to join us by moving to our city. So we made a website to showcase seven (plus one) reasons to move to Brașov, each one of them saying what we do every day in our lovely Brașov.

It was a great campaign, with awardspress, over 300 CVs in two weeks and lots of social media reach. But when I look back, it really resembles a PR campaign to me. A good one, by the way. Nice job, team!

It worked, so we did it again

Less than a month ago, right after both the summer and the holiday season were gone, we were all eager to start new projects. But we still hadn’t found the perfect web developer, so we launched the Back to work campaign announcing that we are actively seeking a new programmer to join our team.

We did a photo shooting with “deskmates” holding different objects that represented both their professional and personal character.

So we had books, cactuses, laptops, phones, stuffed animals, basketballs and so on. Who do you think we used as models? Yep, that’s right. It was us again. Which, of course, makes a lot of sense. Do you like what you see? Do you think you could fit in or complete the team? Join us!

But, once again, is it HR or PR?

Take them out for a date?

So we don’t always put the candidate in the spotlight, but when we do, we do it with style. Like some years ago, when we organised an HR event called The speed dating party(yes, I also realised that we like to make a party out of everything).

So we posted a Facebook event saying something like this:

We are tired of job announcements, CVs, interviews, tests, tricky questions, boring answers, shirts and ties, staying in a circle and saying our names.

Job interviews are so last century. Let’s bring music, drinks, friends, cookies and games instead.

You will get to speed-date with each High Contrast rock star and you will have to impress us all. We will take you through marketing, PR, design, philosophy, art, technology and you will make us want you. You will have to stand out and make yourself noticed.

Speed Dating Party — Facebook event banner, 2015.

About fifteen people joined the event, some of them from other cities, most of them a bit skeptical and with second thoughts after they saw the hourglasses. Well, nothing far from a first date. It was all fun and games, we met some amazing people and even selected a group for an internship.

Apparently, it was an almost-standard HR move, but the name of the event caught the interest of the press, so we got invited to talk about it at one of the most important news televisions in town. We were not allowed to mention the name of the agency, but all the info needed was a Facebook search away. So some might say that it was definitely a PR move, since it was the first time we got invited to talk on a TV show about one of our campaigns.

Demisol — the creatives’ nest

If you ask me about how we spent our marketing budget in 2017, I’ll say Demisol without thinking too much about it.

Demisol is a co-working space offered by High Contrast to freelancers, students and all those looking for a place to work or willing to get in touch with other people in the creative industry.

After 15 years in the creative industry, we wanted to give something back to the local community, and most importantly, we wanted to encourage it to grow. It was a statement about the passionate and talented people in Brasov and a desire to meet them. All of them. That’s the PR.

But when I sold the Demisol idea to the team, I presented it as a potential nest for recruiting creatives for the agency. It worked.

As we expected, it is most often frequented by designers, developers, illustrators, copywriters, marketing people, architects or photographers. It is, indeed, our own creative networking platform. So I guess we can all agree at this point that there is no PR move without an HR perspective. And it works the other way around, too.

Interviews?

That’s the first thing we abandoned, a long time ago.

We simply don’t do interviews. We do meetings, most of the time collective meetings, where we get to see new creatives and share experiences. We do this at our office or in informal spaces and we call them “Get to know us” events.

If standard recruitment doesn’t work, nor will standard selection. You can’t go wild with the HR campaign and then keep it cool and classy when you actually meet the people you want to hire. They have to experience the different view when they visit your office for the first time.

Most of the candidates leave the office smiling, even if we give them real, uncensored feedback on their portfolio. Some of them even exchange phone numbers or connect on Facebook to keep in touch with each other.

They will definitely mention the meeting to their friends, even if they won’t get the job. And that’s PR.

When does the HR process actually end?

It doesn’t. You might think that once a former employee finds another playground, in a bigger building or in a fancier city, your HR responsibilities end. Not really.

His or her opinion values more than you can imagine. And of course, it’s an opinion that was built in years (hopefully) or months, even before he or she was hired. But if you would have the chance to ask for a reference on a company from an existing employee or from a former one, who would you choose? I, personally, would be very curious about what made the former one quit and how he sees things now, as an outsider.

High Contrast team @ Garden Party, 2018.

What I’ve noticed is that former High Contrast employees usually stay engaged. Most of them come to our events, spread some love in social media, share our content and recommend their friends when we have job openings.

So there must be something that we are doing right. Maybe it’s the HR, maybe it’s the PR or maybe we‘re just damn good at mixing them.

October 2, 2018

How we realised we were using Trello the wrong way

We all know the Sprint trip: Backlog, To do, Doing, Follow-up, Released. But somewhere along the way, by working for clients from different industries and with different needs, our Trello process kept becoming blocked and bumpy. Our team was not using Trello at its full potential and the results were beginning to be seen. So what could we do?

So how were we using Trello?

Each High Contrast project had a different board, with its almighty SCRUM Sprint. Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

Well, it was good, at least in the beginning. However, people started getting distracted by too many cards and lost interest in the process. And there you go, forever alone project boards checked only by project managers or at the end of the day for adding hours. We were even joking around trying to find names for the spider inhabiting them with cobwebs.

Trello was our project managers’ favourite tool that they kept organizing and reorganizing, but somehow our OCD method wasn’t useful for the entire team.

Three Google searches later (one of them about managing to live with our OCD problem, of course) and one determined project manager to change our mistakes, we were almost ready to give up on Trello. Other tools caught our attention, but still didn’t conquer our hearts and needs.

When revelation finally strikes

It is easy to assign a project manager to a project, to let him create boards and cards and endless lists of tasks. But what about the other team members? How are they using Trello, how do they interact with the boards and what would they change? This is exactly what we did. We left our Project Manager sneakers at home and tried to think like a developer or designer. What would work best for them? How would they organize their tasks, prioritize and make sure the deadline is respected?

So what’s up for today?

How do I know what I have to do for today? How many tasks are urgent from the endless Backlog and how many hours do I have for a certain task? It was easy to see how our team got frustrated by the need to navigate within boards to find their tasks, add hours and to keep up with the constant feedback loop.

Meet the Master Board

So how can we keep the entire team happy? Let’s divide and conquer. Each creative process received one single board containing all the tasks coming from the client, attachments, checklists and estimated time.

Labels, colors and humans

But how can we make it easier? Use those vibrant colored labels for each project, set due dates and estimates. Each card should be assigned to one person and he should be responsible for moving the cards to the Doing, Blocked or In review Stage. Don’t worry, they will start enjoying it and even ask you “What task is next?”, “That sounds cool. Can I start with it today?”

6 Lists and you are ready to go

You should adapt the lists to your process and workflow. Not too many, not too few. The lists that we are using are following our creative process. Let’s start with the beginning.

First comes the “Backlog”, where all tasks or ideas are added.

Then comes the “Sprint” or “To Do” list where tasks are organized based on their priority. Do not crowd this list, but try to add only the tasks for the current day.

“Doing” is the playground of our team, the place where tasks are moved as they are being handled, where questions are asked and hours added.

The next logical step is the “Blocked” list where tasks that need additional material from the client or feedback from our creative director are moved and waiting for a solution.

“In Review” is the place where the client and his feedback is required.

Then finally the “Released” section, when the task is finished and ready to archive. Just like a game of Monopoly. Now it’s your move.

Long live Slack

We still had a problem. How to make sure the team sees the newly added checklist or the client’s feedback? How to know that Bogdan has a blocked task and how to help him? Here is where Slack comes in. We were already using dedicated channels where we were exchanging ideas and discussing tasks, or post ocasional memes, but that wasn’t enough. So we connected Trello with Slack and made sure each move from Trello got a notification in Slack. This way no one could say they didn’t see the task, change, request or problem.

How did you know it works?

The good part? The results were almost immediate. Two happy project managers that didn’t have to keep reminding people to do a task and check Trello, followed by a more engaged creative team. People actually started tagging each other in cards, asking for more details, feedback or why a task was in Blocked. And it all happened in a single simple and compact Trello board.

What’s next?

We have already created a similar board for our marketing and design team, testing the same approach on our creative process and igniting a more engaging collaboration. And we are even thinking about implementing this method for all our other processes. Let’s see what happens next!

October 16, 2017

This is how we roll @ High Contrast

Wednesday, 11 October 2017, Brasov, Romania.

High Contrast Office

- Got your hiking heels? Your backpacks?

- Got them. Food supplies?

- The courage potion ready for Bogdan? Ready.

- Are we still waiting for Rares?

This is how our special Wednesday started.

A few weeks ago, we got an invitation from the SELFQUEST team to join them for an adventurous team building program with rock climbing and hiking activities to test ourselves outside the office. And it was all for free since they were eager to get our feedback as a well known team of extraordinary people, an offer we couldn’t refuse.

A trip to climb Cheile Râșnoavei on a Wednesday morning, with some of the coolest and smartest people I know. No amount of Trello solved tasks can beat this.

When we got to the meeting’s place, the SELFQUEST team presented us basic climbing rules and techniques and then we headed towards the activities area.

Climbing the mountain gave us a thrilling experience and amazing view. We were really relieved to see Bogdan, our rockstar designer, come out unhurt from the experience. We took our time gliding over the amazing scenery and could almost fell the branches of the tallest trees reaching our feet. Quite an empowering experience.

We climbed, we slided, we glided. We rolled. And most of all, we enjoyed every moment.

You can see this in the photos, our faces are telling a better story than any words could tell.

I really liked the rock climbing, I always wanted to do this outside the indoor bouldering training and it was awesome. (Costin)

We also got some team challenges and honestly we were too good, too fast, too perfect for them. See the equally shaped square below or the perfectly set tent that we blindfoldedly put together in 133 seconds.

Sport action on this perfect weather and the best scenery.

How can this get better? Just add some ad-hoc BBQ and a Truth and Dare creative game plus some really nice conversations. You got the perfect Wednesday @ HC. See our entire journey here:

We would love to keep you posted with job openings, party announcements or industry insights once in a while.

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Copyright © 2002 - 2021 High Contrast. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2002 - 2021 High Contrast. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2002 - 2021 High Contrast. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2002 - 2020 High Contrast. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2002 - 2020 High Contrast. All rights reserved.

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