Inciteful Stories. Driven By Design.

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Writing about managing, mentoring and making design with team's remotely. Views are my own.

How GitHub created award-winning creative, together

Rewarding, awards
Hot off the presses! My GitHub creative team just recently won a Gold Telly Award for our 2018 Building the Future Brand Video, entitled "Cleo" along with a few other awards.

Other awards our brand video won

  • Hermes award

  • Communicators Award

  • Muse Creative award

  • AVA Digital award

Partnership leads to better results
What space talk is this? Bear with me while I open up the hood, and share how we partnered with the brand team to drive brand awareness through an integrated campaign that was sparked by our Cleo story using design sprints.

We all know that things are changing at high-speed in a digitally connected world. To keep pace and stay competitive in this global economy businesses need to respond with new ideas and products quickly and at scale.

"Change means that was before wasn't perfect. People want things to be better."
— Esther Dyson

To respond to this rapidly changing world we've seen the large scale adoption of Lean and Agile UX methods in product design.

But what about brands? marketing? and the creative teams that partner with them? Why aren't they taking a page out of product designs playbook and using the same methods?

Well, we think they can, and with great success.

Skeptical? Fair.

Let's see if we can make a believer out of you. I'll show you how we adopted these new methods for our recent GitHub brand campaign which launched ahead of Universe 2018.

But first, let me outline where, when and how we think brand and marketing teams can adopt the best parts of these Lean and Agile methods.

Why change?
Gone are the days of toiling independently in a cave as writer-art director team. A team fueled by JUST one lone creative brief coupled with insights and a big idea handed down to them by Mount Olympus. Record skip time, Creative Briefs still matter, but they’re not the ONLY thing that does.

And here’s the thing, this creative process takes too dang long, especially with this small of a team. And by the time they're done and emerge from their cave of wonders the customer has moved on, making the team wonder why their work is a tad bit irrelevant.

Today, it's more about bringing the entire business, not just the creative and marketing team, along for the ride, from start to finish. If we're all in this together and sharing our understanding of the problem, proposed testable solutions and the subsequent learnings, the faster we can all improve our work.

Where does one start?
I suggest focusing in on the Product Design "Discovery" and "Define" process first, which leverages the Design Studio/Sprint methodology.

In the "Discovery" and "Decide" phase of lean/agile product design, your purpose is to quickly align diverse and even remote teams around a shared understanding of the problem through a customer-centric insight. Then quickly spin up testable brand solutions using the Design Studio and or Design Sprint method.

What is a design sprint?
Design Sprints and or Design Studios are just a week long and fueled by three things.

  1. Problem statement

  2. Broad hypotheses

  3. Design challenge question(s)

This kick starts teams into action over the course of the week.

When done with the week-long sprint your output will be a sketched out hypothesis-driven Minimal Viable Product(s) or MVP(s) for short.

The purpose of an MVP is to ship something quickly, learn how it performs and or could perform better using customer data and then iterate at speed to refine the solution.

A brand creative case study
Now that we've gotten the basics out of the way let's review a case study on how this was put into practice and the results it generated.

The ask
Our high-level goal was to increase GitHub's brand awareness and deepen the positive experience fans have with our brand through an integrated campaign, resolving at GitHub’s tentpole event, Universe.

Our problem statement
We observed that GitHub wasn’t taking full advantage of its position as an industry leader to shape the conversation on how technology can be directed for "good." And thus missing an opportunity to further incite and empower our community to realize that future. All of which was causing a lack of awareness (recognition) around GitHub as a brand and what our platform and community can really do.

Our narrative solve
Every brand campaign needs a hook, a story that’s your north star. Here’s ours...

The Path to the Future;
We refuse to succumb to technological determinism —we determine the future, it's not technology's role to tell that story.

The power of open-thinking, an open-internet and open source is what makes the internet an endless realm of opportunity. A place designed for making things that matter, things that have the power to change the fabric of the world around us and the future that lays ahead. And it's up to us to create that future. We're not waiting for someone else to define it or tell us what it must be.

While winding and twisting, the path to a breakthrough may often seem daunting and distant but is really just made up of 1,000 tiny little breakthroughs. Stepping stones that link us from start to a million different futures. All of which are within reaching distance, just waiting to happen.

What future will you build next?

Our broad hypotheses
We believe that releasing a brand launch video that establishes our campaign theme narrative (see above), for our proto-personas, will result in increased Brand Awareness. We’ll know we’re right when we see increased; web traffic to a landing page, the volume of hashtag’s used, and social media followers.

Our design challenge question
What’s the story we tell in the brand launch video that conveys our campaign theme "Path to the Future?"

Putting our design studio into action
At a high level, our 9+ cross-functional Design Studio participants helped visually articulate how our campaign elements and ideas would look and behave. During the course of the week, the participants built on our broad hypotheses created solutions for it and identified our first target MVP. Alongside which I acted as facilitator.


During the Design Studio week, the team moved through four distinct rounds.

  1. Ideate — Review our hypotheses and other reference materials

  2. Sketch solutions — Bring ideas to life in a picture format (2 rounds)

  3. Critique and converge — Cherry pick concepts and merge them into a single creative solution

  4. Decide — Identify the riskiest solution to test first.

Defining our MVP
We worked through thirty plus ideas (yes, thirty plus!) down to one singular approach within a week.

Design Studio Mural board

Consolidated solution
After we reviewed all of the sketches and highlights we noted aspects that the team felt should be included in a singular solution. This sketch below represents that consolidated solution.


Which turned into more detailed storyboards and animatics

Rough storyboards
Rough beat boards
Storyboards for animatics

From this consolidated we refined our script and storyboards in two weeks, setting us and our video production agency up for success to start production within a very tight timeline.

Learning from our MVP
What did we learn about our solution to the broad hypotheses?

  • Over a QTR million brand video views (All organic traffic)

  • Increase of over 40,000 social media followers.

  • Over 45,000 social post engagements

Iterate our MVP
These learnings spurred us on to refine our broad hypotheses and alter our solution in our quest to increase GitHub’s brand awareness with our community. We can’t wait to show you and the rest of the world what future we’re building next!

That's a wrap, for now
I hope you enjoyed this quick case study on how we've created "How GitHub creative created smarter, better, faster, & award-winning gold creative, together" And I equally hope the process, methods, and learnings here can help inform your work as we all focus in on a more customer-centric approach.

Also, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give innumerable thanks to the entire brand, sales, and marketing team for their countless contributions. And a special thanks to my creative team, whom without them, none of this would be possible.

Click here to see more of our integrated brand campaign work.