The Times They Are A-Changin’

2015 was a big year for gender equality, it saw women across the world break stereotypes and demand equal pay. As Quirk’s HR Director, it certainly got my attention, and had me comparing our own figures to published benchmarks. I wanted to make sure we kept up with these important changes, and continued to challenge stereotypes.

According to the Businesswomen’s Association of South Africa’s Women in Leadership Census of 2015, only 21.9% of directorship positions, and only 29.3% of executive manager positions, are held by women. In line with our value of transparency, I spoke about gender equality at our inter-office QuirkStation Chat in October, and declared some of our own figures: 36% of the positions on our agency exco, and 29% of the positions on our regional excos, were held by women, while roughly 56% of the hires we’d made in 2015, and around 62% of the promotions we’d passed, were women.

But comparing figures isn’t enough. At Quirk we’re big on finding the root causes of problems, rather than just addressing symptoms. So we started digging around to understand why so few women make it to executive manager or directorship roles. There are many reasons for this, but one in which we saw an immediate opportunity to effect change, was the assumption around women and motherhood – that women weren’t considered for leadership roles because it was assumed that they would eventually stop working to start a family, and if they did, that their careers wouldn’t matter anymore, and that they’d likely want to take as much maternity leave as possible. And, while some mothers would happily put work aside completely, and should be allowed to do so without being boxed or judged.

However, we’re noticing a shift towards mothers insisting that they can have both. More and more mothers are looking to return to work quickly, because they love what they do. Problem is, the shift isn’t being met with a change in companies’ maternity and paternity policies, which still largely only allow the statutory four months’s maternity leave for moms, and as little as the standard three days family leave for dads. Quirk’s paternity policy is ten days, and even that isn’t enough when you’re trying to empower dads to take a bigger role in raising their kids.

Jean Du Plessis' (Quirk's Head of Engineering) quadruplets.

Jean Du Plessis’ (Quirk’s Head of Engineering) quadruplets.

So, in that QuirkStation Chat in October, we also proposed the introduction of a “Dual-Care” policy – our moms’ maternity benefits stay unchanged, but our dads can also take up to four months’ leave to step in as primary caregivers if their partners want to go back to work, any time between 6 weeks and 6 months after the birth. For our parents who are adopting, the same principles apply. Unsurprisingly, there was no resistance, and we’re proud to announce that it takes effect this year.

Sadly, it doesn’t make things easier immediately for our expecting mothers, but we’re hoping that will follow in time, as the companies their partners work for take heed of the need for change. And, because we recognise that some also choose not to have children, but take their responsibility towards their domestic pets very seriously, we’re also open to chatting about time off in cases where “furkids” need to be hospitalised or visit the vet.

Worthwhile – Trends, constraints, web vs native, washing machine abuse

Hello and happy 2016! Something tells me it’s going to be a rollercoaster year of ups, downs, upside-downs, twists, turns, and the like. A year of challenges for brands who are fearful of progress and more comfortable with business as usual, and a year of opportunity for those brands brave enough to be curious.

The concept of “Antifragile” keeps coming to mind.

Via wikipedia: “Antifragile: Things That Gain From Disorder” is a book by Nassim Nicholas Taleb. (…) Taleb introduces the book as follows: “Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile. Antifragility is beyond resilience or robustness. The resilient resists shocks and stays the same; the antifragile gets better”.

The Antifragile brand… now there’s an interesting thought experiment..

As they say – time, tide and tech wait for nobody so let’s get on with the first worthwhile of the year..

scott (@thescott)


I’m usually weary of the many “marketing predictions” articles that float around the web at the beginning and end of each year (yes i know, i’ve written one or two myself) but there’s something reassuringly solid about Ashley Friedlein’s “10 digital marketing & ecommerce trends for 2016“. It’s well thought out, researched and written.

Of particular interest to me is:


Venturebeat picks “The top 10 trends of CES* 2016

* CES = Consumer Electronics Show (the world’s biggest and possibly most important pointer to the future of consumer electronics)

In a nutshell:

  1. The Internet of Things has become useful
  2. Virtual reality could transform digital art
  3. Household appliances are getting an overhaul
  4. Smartphone innovation is slowing
  5. Cars are getting smart, but not smart enough
  6. Simulators are getting serious
  7. Retro is cool (scott: Panasonic to relaunch their famed technics turntable!)
  8. Drones are getting more extreme (scott: think people carriers)
  9. 4K TV has a growing ecosystem
  10. Weird stuff still prevails (scott: like a gaming console for pets)

Slate has a great piece on “Who controls your Facebook feed

(the quick answer: “A small team of engineers in Menlo Park. A panel of anonymous power users around the world. And, increasingly, you.”)

How many times have you had this discussion – “Should it be a mobile site or a native app?“?

Well Luke Wroblewski has some great insight on which way to go in his post “Mobile Web vs. Native Apps or Why You Want Both

It broadly comes down to reach versus engagement and deciding which one is more important to you.

This thinking is backed up somewhat by AVC’s Fred Wilson who discussed the topic from a slightly different angle:

Mobile Web Is Top Of Funnel, Mobile App Is Bottom Of Funnel




Starting off the create section is a great piece shared by Neil Perkin “Constraints, Creativity and the Koln Concert” which is a reminder to all creators about the importance of constraints. We’re often quick to moan about things, wishing they were better or easier without recognising the power the constraints have in elevating the solutions/work we create from average to extraordinary.

‘The concert was organized by 17-year-old Vera Brandes, then Germany’s youngest concert promoter. At Jarrett’s request, Brandes had selected a Bösendorfer 290 Imperial concert grand piano for the performance. However, there was some confusion by the opera house staff and instead they found another Bösendorfer piano backstage – a much smaller baby grand – and, assuming it was the one requested, placed it on the stage. Unfortunately, the error was discovered too late for the correct Bösendorfer to be delivered to the venue in time for the evening’s concert. The piano they had was intended for rehearsals only and was in poor condition and required several hours of tuning and adjusting to make it playable. The instrument was tinny and thin in the upper registers and weak in the bass register, and the pedals did not work properly. Consequently, Jarrett often used ostinatos and rolling left-hand rhythmic figures during his Köln performance to give the effect of stronger bass notes, and concentrated his playing in the middle portion of the keyboard.

Jarrett arrived at the opera house late in the afternoon and tired after an exhausting long drive from Zürich, Switzerland, where he had performed a few days earlier. He had not slept well in several nights and was in pain from back problems and had to wear a brace. After trying out the substandard piano and learning a replacement instrument was not available, Jarrett nearly refused to play and Brandes had to convince him to perform as the concert was scheduled to begin in just a few hours.’

“The double-vinyl album was released to critical acclaim, and became the best-selling solo album in jazz history, and the all-time best-selling piano album.”

Constraints rule!

Great Books for Designers to Read in 2016
A list with over 100 books that any designer should have in his personal library, recommended by world’s greatest minds.

From the department of “Winter VR is coming”: Go inside the work of Salvador Dali with surreal new virtual reality experience.

To help celebrate the opening of its new exhibition “Disney and Dalí: Architects of the Imagination” on January 23rd, which looks at the relationship between the artist and Walt Disney, the museum enlisted agency Goodby Silverstein & Partners to create “Dreams of Dalí” to give viewers a new way to experience his work.

Users will be able to move around inside and explore the elements in the painting, and the VR experience also incorporates some of the recurring motifs from his other paintings in the museum’s permanent collection, including Weaning of Furniture Nutrition (1934), Lobster Telephone (1936) and First Cylindric Chromo-Hologram Portrait of Alice Cooper’s Brain (1973).

(aside: nice little piano version of the Pixies’ “Where is my mind” in that video)

A handy design resource from the folks at Facebook: Devices – Images and Sketch files of popular devices.

A fabulous resource for the curious designers and UX’ers: UX Radio from A to Z. The best design podcasts out there.

And to close, I’d like to share with you, a video of a washing machine on a trampoline. If there was a SPCA for home appliances, I’d be calling in right away…


There are a surprising number of washing machine destruction videos on youtube, almost enough to be a Netflix genre.

“Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.”
― Steve Jobs

Thanks Steve, thanks folks, until next time.


The Master’s Collection

A few months back we started work on one of the most exciting (and stressful) projects I’ve ever been a part of… SA’s first real-time online whisky sale.

Three Ships’ online audience had been begging them for a special release whisky throughout 2014. In response, the brand created the perfect rare whisky, just for them – A single barrel of the Three Ships 10 Year Old Single Malt Single Cask PX Finish. Next up, how to sell it? Online of course. Online stores have revolutionised how easily we can buy stuff, but the accessibility they have created also means that the romance of browsing through shelves and talking to a store clerk and fellow whisky connoisseur, is missing. We were challenged to sell a rare whisky to connoisseurs who literally want to hand pick a bottle, while asking questions about it, but online?

We decided to take the store offline. Or offline-online. The Master’s Collection would be a one-day-only live and interactive store where we’d recreate the romance of walking into a store and handpicking a highly sought after, numbered bottle. We’d also put the Whisky Master at the heart of the experience by having him there to sign their personalised certificate of authenticity – a nod to the prestige that buying only one of only 400 bottles bestows. To achieve this, each of the bottles and other areas that could be interacted with needed to be mapped by means of a hot layer integrated over the live stream on the microsite. The consumer could then select their bottle and fly through the purchase-process in under a minute, using SnapScan and get back to the cool stuff that they were more interested in like exploring video content we’d produced to tell the story of this unique whisky.

We launched the news that 400 of only 800 bottles of the whisky would be sold exclusively on our online store using social media, display media and by sending emails and SMSs to our database. We’d planned to keep the store open for 10 hours, but when the site launched, the whisky sold out in just over 5 hours. That’s a bottle every 45 seconds, proving that sometimes the best solution in the modern age isn’t more technical. It’s using better tech to make the experience more human.

Projects like this are made possible by brave clients who have an appetite for the extraordinary. So, thank you to the Three Ships Whisky team for the opportunity! Here’s to the next special release!

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