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I went to the AMA Conference and …

Categories: Events, Inspiration, Learning things, Useful/interesting

AMA Conference 2013 website header – Game Change

We work with a fair few people in the arts sector and, for several years now, I’ve been a member of the Arts Marketing Association. “Why?”, I hear you cry, “You’re no arts marketer!”

True. But the idea is that we can be more helpful and useful – i.e. better at our jobs – when we have a decent understanding of what it is the folks we work with actually do all day; their aims, wider objectives, challenges etc. to use some businessy-type speak. And, yes, we may even meet potential new clients while we’re at it; bonus.

(Another significant reason for joining is that I don’t believe it ever hurts to learn new things either professionally or personally.)

So, that’s why I’m a member of the AMA. And, while I have rocked-up to a decent number of the local networking sessions (run by our trusty West Midlands reps Amy and Tim), I’ve certainly never been what you could call an active participant in the association.
Until Tuesday.

For it was Tuesday that I trained-it up to Sheffield (along with ooooh, at least half a carriage-load of Brum-based arts marketers) to attend my first AMA Conference; this year spending 2 days focusing on ‘game-change’.

The theme was introduced by Jo Taylor, AMA Chair, whose opening keynote was warm, enthusiastic and motivating, making for a good start and reassuring me that the next couple of days could be a very good use of my time.

Over those days I learnt a great deal; agreed with lots of things; disagreed with others; understood more than I expected to; felt out-of-my depth at times; caught-up with people I know; met loads of new folks … and made plenty of notes which I’m busy turning into blog posts (one of which will explain this post’s title).

One of the main things that stood out to me was that an arts marketer’s role is invariably varied. Mix that with the ever-changing ways in which people are communicating, and the sector's already stretched finances becoming even tighter, and the result is that marketing departments – or those whose role includes marketing – are having to take on more and more responsibility. So, us being better at our jobs (making sure our projects run smoothly – and enjoyably) is becoming more and more important.

All-in-all it was an intense, thought-provoking, tiring and enlightening couple of days. So, that was the easy bit! Now for the tricksy task of helping to put some of these learnin’s into practice …

En fantastisk gave!*

Categories: Nice stuff, Superinterns

We got a very exciting parcel from the postie this morning; all the way from Daneland!

The fantastic Kamilla sent us a very thoughtful – and beautifully packaged – present; orange design letters spelling Supercool. (Plus an extra 'O' for Josh, which could enable him to spell Soup or perhaps it's a halo …?!)

Thanks Kamilla!

*Which (hopefully) means "A great gift!" in Danish.

Souped-up CSS

Categories: Our work, Useful/interesting

Since last writing about CSS we've developed our very own CSS framework – and we call it Soup.

Based upon Inuit.css (version 4.5.5) we've extended, adapted, and generally built-up a library of re-usable objects to form a framework that works well for us. Inuit is very lightweight and makes no design decisions whatsoever, so it made sense to start from there – as well as it coming from Harry Roberts (who gave us the talk on CSS).

So why not just use Inuit as a base for each project? Why make more stuff to sit on top of it?

Well, we found that as good as it is having Inuit not making any design decisions, there are some basics that we start with across many projects.

Forms are a good example here – we'll always want a certain set of base styles for all web forms across a site, and they'll have similar design functions – such as a 'normal' and a 'focussed' state – so it seemed sensible to extend Inuit's form setup; all it takes is colour and/or font changes (and any other specific alterations, if required) to quickly create a nicely designed form.

As we tend to use a similar typographical setup with respect to font sizes and vertical rhythm, we also added this into Soup – along with icons, buttons and a bunch of other helpers.

Another part of our extending Inuit to match our own needs is on the responsive side of things. We tend to use a mobile-first approach, initially including only the styles that a mobile device would need, then adding-in extra styling in a separate file for bigger devices (thanks Jeremy Keith).

Finally the other major aspect of Soup is the JavaScript; we include a few things from Twitter's Bootstrap as well as validation, some polyfills and a few other bits and bobs we use a lot of the time.

This approach of having a simple starting setup has saved us a lot of time over the past 6 months of using it. For example, combining this frontend Soup with our backend ExpressionEngine boilerplate helped us get dropletpay.com designed and built in under 2 weeks.

Here's to moving onwards and upwards with the recent release and stabilisation of Inuit version 5!