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Side profile image of Nikki with prismatic rainbow light down their face
The poet themself, Nikki Burian. IG @nburian via @weare.fine

As National Poetry Month comes to a close, we celebrate some work that really slaps — that’s what the cool kids say right? Whether it slaps or slams or whatever the lingo is, FINE is lucky to have a secret wordsmithing weapon — our very own published poet, Nikki Burian.

Poet first, project manager second, and all-around non-binary badass, Nikki is on a mission to create fun, authentic art that is accessible to everyone. With two published books and appearances at both national and global slam competitions, Nikki makes big happen one kind, inclusive, and empowering word at a time.

From the minds of Brain Traffic, Confab Intensive spans three days of in-depth content strategy workshops led by industry experts. This year held in Denver, Colorado, FINE writer and project director Allyson Marrs participated in six, three-hour workshops, putting principles to the test through speaker-led, small-group activities.

In the interest of today’s digital consumers’ waning commitment to content, here are the 5, easy-to-digest, skim-if-you’d-like, skip-entire-sections, takeaways consolidated from 18-hours-worth of insights.

1. Content Strategy means different things to different audiences.

Beyond the blank stares content strategists might receive upon mentioning what they do (“oh, so you fill in the empty…

Perennial design thought leaders HOW Design Magazine recently asked us what trends we see in branding. We came up with 7, and here they are.

  1. Back to Sensory Basics: When people put down their phone and pick up a an old-fashioned object they can see/hear/touch/smell, the impression can be increasingly indelible.
  2. Branding from the Inside Out: Some of today’s best brand work shapes companies through hiring and training the people most responsible for creating the product and experience.
  3. Quiet is Speaking Louder: When everyone else is shouting, we see tremendous opportunity in a more confident whisper that truly stands out.

We often get asked at FINE whether we design “mobile first.” Many feel that since the majority of users are now mobile, we should design for mobile users first, too. Plus, Google’s got that mobile first update coming out, so mobile is even more important than ever.

Right? Yes, but also no. Mobile is indeed increasingly important. But “mobile first” is an oversimplified reaction. Holistic design integrates the latest and greatest mobile considerations, but also addresses the needs of all users, be they from desktop, a search-engine bot, a braille display, or a Kardashian’s banged-up Blackberry. …

We often say this: “Nothing tests whether you have your brand figured out better than the process of designing your brand’s core website.”

People are rightfully distracted by the craft and magic of designing and coding things on the web. But information is what drives it all; every company and brand is constructed of topics, messages, data, and impressions, all looking for an online destination to connect with an audience.

Deciding what “buckets” of content a sitemap and design affords, and then filling them, will test you across the entire spectrum of your business’s value proposition.

That’s because “content” isn’t…

Behind every viable, modern website is a content management system (“CMS”) — technology that helps administer ongoing updates that extend the useful life of your website.

Your customers will never see your CMS. But it can have profound impact on their experience with your brand. It can significantly influence the workload in creating your website or application, and in making sure your site (and therefore, your brand) doesn’t erode under the pressures of upkeep.

We’ve learned a lot about CMS’s over the years. And what we’ve learned is on display in Fae, the technology we use to create most FINE…

There’s never a time when one business literally speaks to another. It’s not even useful to imagine how silly that would sound. It’s much more useful to imagine what it would sound like if one human spoke to another. Because that’s what should be happening. It’s either humans engaging other humans, or it’s not engaging at all.

It’s always H2H; it’s never B2B.

Using that logic, there’s no such thing as B2C, either. Something about the word consumer at least implies a real human and keeps you from going too far off the rails. …

A few months ago, while following up on a project at a hotel in Portland, I noticed something unusual. A well-dressed man, in his mid-30s, was conducting a series of business meetings in the lobby. He was the consummate host, taking obvious joy in advising each of his guests on the extensive wine list and pointing out the many unique details that made the lobby so inviting: empty wine bottles fashioned into a handmade chandelier; a chalk mural outlining local wine flavor profiles; bouquets of local ferns, flowers, and moss; a classic, step-through bicycle parked against a wall. …

As usual, things are changing. Fast. FINErs have some ideas about how and why the field’s evolving, and what kinds of things to pay attention to in 2017. Here are our “6 FINE predictions” to help forward-thinking brands think forward.

1. The Un-Commodification of Design.

Digital Creative Director Tsilli Pines suggests we consider more closely the commodification of design in the digital space and beyond. It’s happening through the proliferation of tools and platforms — like, Squarespace, Virb, 99 Designs or even Wix — that enable a baseline of visual standards. These companies sell accessibility. And that’s really important. …

Old Perception. New Reality.

A couple of months ago, one of our colleagues overheard a conversation about “smoking weed” while gathered with some friends at a pub in Portland. This may not be surprising: the stoner subculture in Portland is big enough that “Potlandia” is nearly as popular a nickname for it as “Stumptown” or “City of Roses”.

But these folks weren’t stoners. They were a husband and wife in their 40’s — a graphic designer and an academic administrator, dressed in jeans and flannel, sipping a local craft beer and a pinot noir. Their conversation, about favorite varieties, new…


We are FINE. A brand agency for a digital age. SF/Portland/Beyond.

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