Ram Kapoor

Mar 112014
Brand Training

Claire, Ram and Hulda – singing from the brand prayerbook.

If you don’t exercise it, you lose it. This month, we are taking the next step in helping communicators across campus exercise their brand muscle. We are conducting our first ever full-day brand workshop. Unlike other workshops in the past, this one has been developed into a daylong course with alternate sessions of theory and hands-on application. All thanks to Kathleen Valerio (she runs CalPact), Diane Presler (our engaging trainer from Academy X), Hulda Nelson and Laurie Frasier (our kicka** brand design team) and yours truly. With exciting case studies and projects like the launch of a new School, we expect participants to leave at the end of the day with their brand muscle totally exercised.  Who needs endorphins when you have brandorphins!

The first two workshops are planned for March 18 and May 20.  Register at the UC Learning Center on blu.berkeley.edu (Search for “Berkeley Brand Design Guidelines”)

Feb 282014


branded leafletIt’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. As part of the brand patrol (it’s like the neighborhood patrol, only we’re color coordinated!), my beat is to cover neighboring cafés where campus groups put up posters and flyers (no, really). On my visits, I usually come across at least one or two pieces designed with the correct logo, font, graphic elements, sometimes even the right tone of voice. That gives me a feeling of accomplishment, a sense that the labors of the last twelve months are finally bearing fruit (we launched the brand training workshops in Feb 2013), a tentative hope that (holding my breath) the tipping point may well be upon us. People seem to agree. We continue to get email and social media praise from our community (you guys rock!) and have even won accolades nationally. Our branding case study won the Silver award at CASE (national) and the Gold award at CASE (western region). While all this acclaim is welcome, the biggest thrill I get is when I walk into a meeting and see the right branded PowerPoint template on the screen. Of course, those who know me understand that I would take a café over a meeting room any day. A recent visit to the Free Speech Movement cafe unearthed this simple gem pictured alongside. Time to count my blessings!

Jun 122013

Note for those who have been living on Mars the past few years: Pandora is an online streaming radio that creates channels based on the groups or songs you like. It is extremely addictive.

LIKE OR DELETEPandora has us all figured out. What we like, what we once liked, what we will never ever like, even if it was served up hot and steaming in the middle of an ice storm. Here is Pandora’s Like Sleep Delete (LSD) formula:

Like: If you hear a song you really like (and would be happy to hear over and over), click the thumbs up icon.

SLEEPSleep: If you hear a song you used to like but have now grown tired of hearing over and over, click the sleep (I’m tired of this track) option.

Delete: If you hear a song that reminds you of the fat kid who used to bully you in middle school, click the thumbs down icon. (If only you could do that in the real world…)

What a perfect formula for life:

Like something? Keep doing it. (You won’t go blind.)

Like something but have grown tired of it? Take a break for a while. (Tell your partner you have a headache.)

Don’t like something? Just don’t do it. (Unless you could lose your job.)

Seriously though, this LSD formula has found application everywhere because it is rooted in human psychology.

fly-through-shotTake my iPhone mail app of the moment, Mailbox. I know, I know, I keep serving up apps. Guess I just “like” them. Anyway, mailbox lets you answer urgent emails immediately (Like), send emails away to lists or to return tomorrow/next week/in 3 months (Sleep) and of course, get rid of / archive the emails that come from your old high school classmates (Delete).

So what do you think of the LSD philosophy? Do you think you could apply it to aspects of your life? If you did, what would you select for the Sleep category (apart from my blog posts, of course)?

May 222013


I wasn’t always like this. I was a prudent spender—“Ha!” says my wife, peering over my shoulder—until the day I was seduced (now she’s holding her breath) by a new iPhone app. The irony? The app is an expense tracker… but its interface is so drop-dead gorgeous (luckily my wife has returned to her book) that I can’t resist buying something just to have an excuse to interact with it.

Here is what I like about the app, called Next:

  1. It only costs $1.99 (already entered that expense!).
  2. The design is devilishly simple—just an array of icons.
    Click on the one that resembles your expense—a cup of coffee
    (my Achilles’ heel)—and enter the amount spent.
  3. The analytics are also simple. One swipe to the right reveals your total expense by category for the week, month or year. One swipe to the left reveals the details of each expense by day.

next-app3That’s it. Dead simple. And, wow, so effective.

In fact, I have begun to quiz my wife and kids every night about their
day-to-day expenses, just so I can return time and time again to this app.
I think they may be calling me names behind my back:
“Meet my dad, Mr. Scrooge.”

Sigh, the power of good design.

Now to apply the same design thinking to the main university website… ah, now there’s a worthy challenge!

May 012013
Brand Training Workshop

Claire Holmes, Ram Kapoor, Hulda Nelson from the Office of Communications & Public Affairs leading 25 brand training workshops, each one with inspired participants!

A year ago, we began to talk about creating a communications platform for UC Berkeley that would be all encompassing, authentic, relevant, forward thinking, and inspirational.

We talked with hundreds of people across the campus to get their thougths and ideas.  Slightly overwhelmed but with a firm resolve, we preserved and steadily worked to find a way through the myriad of opinions and ideas to uncover a simple concept that encapsulated the essence of Berkeley.

At times it seemed elusive, impossible, overwhelming, and unattainable.  Yet the idea that we could find a way to align our communications in a creative and inspiring way kept calling us.  The challenge of taking something as complex as UC Berkeley and orienting a messaging strategy and platform to something simple was the challenge of our careers.

And then, with the help of a creative team of people who were just as persistent as we were, we thought we found it.  Still, you don’t know if something really works until it rolls out and the community responds….

We have heard from at least 140 of the participants of our brand workshops and come June 13, we hope to hear from the rest of you too. What’s working? What’s not? Where do you feel supported? Let down? No need to spare our feelings. We’ve got titanium-coated skin in all the brand colors. Feel free to add your comments to this post.

“Positioning and platform, you guys nailed it!”

“I’ve been flying by the seat of my pants. I’ve often thought I need tools, or classes, or a degree in journalism – or something. This workshop gave me a lot of the tools that I know I’ve needed. Thanks!”

“A toolkit – a strategic direction to increase synergy across the campus.”

“brand.berkeley.edu is wealth of resources!”

“I may not embrace every element, but I’m excited to get started!”

“The group exercises with the Creative Brief were useful.”

“I liked the interactive and experiential aspects of the session.”

“The story of the process – from perception study to today.”

“As you move forward, possibly have more examples of integration with other departments.”

“Applicable, small session, individual attention”

“Provided practical tools and lots of background for usage in my organization based on strong ideas”

“Liked the visual communication examples of how to apply the guidelines.”

“Practical and useful. Informative. Knowledgeable speakers.”

“Great presentation – variety (video, PowerPoint, exercises)”

“Liked the Q&A, and just talking through ideas.”

“I think that it will be helpful in the future to have more examples open for critique; and to hear about the challenges overcome by departments as they transition.”

“Public Affairs & the University have given me so many resources to use immediately and they are so well thought out. The planning was incredible – so impressive! Thank you! The book and websites are so exciting!”

“I was inspired by the possibilities of refocusing our messaging.”

“Relatively low key. No hard sell or big hype.”

“Concrete tools like the gallery, colors, font family.”

“Best training presentation I have attended in my five years at Cal. Thanks!”

“Nice to have a small group – also nice to know we have a resource in Public Affairs.”

“Liked the interactive way of rolling out the guidelines (as opposed to just sending out the guidelines.)”

“Very welcoming and earnest in desire to help.”

“The platform made sense to me. I understand better how to use reach further.”

“Engagement, exercises, optimistic!”

“I’ve seen this many times but it was still worth it!”

“Applicable to all departments on campus, including those that are non-academic.”

“Compelling, clear, inspiring.”

“Interactive exercises at the end, videos, Cal Day website and other examples of the brand in action.”

“More workshops! How about once a month? Sharing designs, how-to’s for photo shoots and short videos.”

Bouquets? Brickbats? Feel free to comment and continue the conversation.  

Jun 122012


Ram Kapoor

Ram Kapoor

As the Digital Head for the university, I was informed the other day (no tweet, no poke, regular old email) that UC Berkeley has been granted automatic registration to a new social network. One that is solely focused on people with IQ scores of 180 and above. Wow, really? So now they expect me to take my social networking team (person) and spread it (her) even thinner across yet another social network that may or may not take off? No thanks!

We have our hands full managing the social networks we are already committed to – Facebook, Twitter, the water cooler committee, Google Plus (the last one was just to ingratiate myself with Louis Gray from Google, who I hope will show us how to use G+ more effectively.) ‘Pint arrest’? (that was auto correct but it’s kind of cute). I love the interface and the user numbers (Pinterest drives more referral traffic than Google Plus, Linkedin and Youtube combined) but feel it is better suited to fashion, design and entertainment. At least that is what my 11 year old messaged me from an alternate universe.

If some of you are wondering what all this is leading up to, don’t worry. I’ll let you know as soon as I find out. In the meantime, here is my 3-point plan for the web. (The world domination plan was 7 points and I didn’t want to waste your time.)

  1. There’s a lot of chaos on the web. It’s our job to bring order to it. At least our share of it. Or as much as possible given our resources and constraints. Whenever we feel up to it….
  2. I believe there are only two kinds of digital plans. Those that engage and those that bore. I believe the latter should be isolated using fluorescent yellow tapes and flashing red lights. The penalty for crossing over should be 12 years in a Siberian gulag prison hut with no Internet access. Or plumbing.
  3. Our audience is one click away from our competitor’s website. That is true. But what do you do when you have a busload of different competitors? What if you compete with Harvard for daily university news, xkcd for comics, Flickr for photo essays, and StumbleUpon for new discoveries? Wouldn’t people go mad click-clicking their way to our competitors’ sites? Or raise their de Quervain syndromes to catastrophic levels? Isn’t it our moral duty to save humanity from death by multiple clicks? That is why our site has to be so good that nobody ever wants to leave it. Even to go to the bathroom. Or to check if that burning smell is really the toaster. We want them 100%. We want puppy-dog obedience and utter devotion. To our website and social media channels. Is that too much to ask for?

Outraged? Engaged? Feel free to respond below or tweet your feelings to #sharebc2.  It will give us a chance to test some funky twitter visualization apps!