How to Enhance Your Content by Building Infographics with These 12 Tools

Those of you who have been reading my blogs for a while know I’m a huge advocate of using visual elements to enhance my blog posts.

In addition to being visually appealing, images can actually improve the performance of your articles. That’s because blogs with pictures receive 94% more views than posts without them.

According to a recent study from the Content Marketing Institute, 73% of marketers say their top priority is to create more engaging content.

And 55% of these content creators are prioritizing visual content.

If you haven’t been using images to enhance your content, you should consider starting with some infographics. Even if you have included pictures in some of your old content, you can take this strategy to the next level by building custom infographics.

That’s because infographics are a combination of text and images. Research shows people follow directions 323% better if the directions include both text and illustrations.

On social media platforms, infographics get liked and shared at three times the rate of all other content.

Once you start building infographics, you will drive more traffic to your website. That’s because other people will use your custom images to enhance their own content.

As a result, you will consistently build backlinks, which will improve your SEO.

Now that you understand why you need to create infographics, it’s time for me to show you how. There are tons of tools available, but not all of them are created equal.

I’ve narrowed down the top 12 tools for building infographics.

1. Easel.ly

If you want to create an infographic fast and efficiently, Easel.ly is a great place to start.

image5 6

Above is a sampling of some of their top infographic templates. All you need to do is select the template you want and plug in your information.

They’ve got a template for everything. Some are designed to fit more text on the page, while others prioritize numbers from any research you may have conducted.

It’s free to use Easel.ly, but if you want premium templates, you can access over 500 of them for a fee. I recommend starting off with the free ones to see whether you’re happy with the platform before upgrading your membership.

Another cool feature of this platform is that they have community infographics built by others. You can plug your information into those as well.

The Easel.ly website features an easy to follow guide on how to create content on their platform. They also offer a live customer service chat option in case you have questions or run into any problems with the platform.

2. Pitkochart

Pitkochart is another top option for beginners. The platform makes it easy to create custom infographics without any design experience.

image1 6

In addition to infographics, they have other design templates as well. You can build things such as:

  • flyers
  • posters
  • presentations
  • reports

Some of my favorite types of infographics on Pitkochart are the graphs. It’s a great way for you to display your numbers in a custom chart.

Pitkochart also has a map feature. You can customize the color options on these maps to show how different states, regions, or countries have varying results for your discussion.

Speaking of color options, Pitkochart has many. You can select colors for each portion of your infographic, or you can choose preset color schemes.

It’s an important feature because different color schemes can impact sales on your website.

They have a library of more than 1,000 icons. You can use these without having to pay licensing fees or give an attribution to the creator.

This definitely makes things less complicated, which allows you to spend your time and effort on building the infographics.

Once you build your infographic on Pitkochart, they help you name your image so that it’s optimized for SEO. Then, you can share it directly from the platform.

They have sharing options for email, ebooks, and social media. You can get an embedd link for your website, share it with your team, or download a high-resolution version of your infographic.

3. Venngage

Are you a student? If so, Venngage will let you use their software free. But everyone else will have to pay for the platform.

image10 1

Their monthly rate is $19 for individuals and $49 for businesses. It may seem pricey, but the business membership comes with premium features such as:

  • custom templates
  • unlimited infographics
  • 100 image uploads
  • branding help
  • charts
  • icons
  • team collaboration
  • high-resolution downloads

If you know you want to take advantage of these features for the entire year, you can pay upfront annually and receive a 20% discount off your membership.

Venngage is great because their infographic templates are seemingly endless. With so many options, it’s less likely you’ll have similar to other infographics templates already published on the Internet.

This can make your brand stand out from the crowd.

They also group their infographics based on several categories. You can build the right image for whatever you’re trying to illustrate. Some of the top categories include:

  • statistical
  • lists
  • timelines
  • geographic
  • real estate
  • nonprofit
  • human resources

They even have “fun data” templates to help you display your unique research in a way that’s easy to comprehend.

4. Visme.co

A list of visual design tools wouldn’t be complete without Visme.co. The platform specializes in all kinds of visual content, including infographics.

image6 6

If you need to make an infographic that compares multiple variables, Visme.co has more than 20 charts and tables to choose from.

There are a couple of different ways you can input data into these visuals. Your first option is to type the numbers in manually. But if you have lots of information, you may prefer to import your data.

Another cool feature of these charts is the ability to connect with live data.

All of the templates have customizable fonts. You can change the color, size, and style of your text. Don’t see a font you like? No problem. Visme.co lets you upload your own fonts as well.

This software can help you take your infographics to the next level by making them more engaging. You can add video and audio files.

They also give you the option to embed polls, surveys, and maps. You can even add motion features, like popups, to your infographic.

Once your infographic is published, you can track how well it’s performing. The analytics tools tell you how many people saw your infographic, what type of device they used, their location, and level of engagement.

5. Infogram

Infogram is another one of my favorites. The platform allows you to fully customize every element of each infographic you create.

image8 5

In addition to infographics, you can also use this software to create:

  • reports
  • charts
  • maps
  • dashboards

Infogram also helps you build images specially designed for your social media channels.

Their platform has more than one million icons and images, all royalty-free.

What I like most about Infogram is their editing tool. You can drag, drop, and move every element on the screen to fully customize your design.

If you have data that needs to be imported, it’s easy for you to upload spreadsheets from Excel, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc. You can even use a cloud service or their API to set up live data integration.

They have interactive charts and maps at your disposal as well.

Ultimately, if you need a one-stop shop for all your infographic needs, you can’t go wrong with Infogram.

6. Canva

Even if you don’t plan on making a ton of infographics, Canva has plenty of other design tools for you to take advantage of. Those of you who are a little bit more advanced will enjoy the graphic design features offered on this platform.

image12

One of my favorite elements of the Canva platform is the versatility it offers. You can use it on the Internet as well as your iPhone or iPad.

They specialize in photo editor, color palette, and font combinations. But their infographic building tools are just as good, if not better. You don’t need to have a design background to figure it out.

Unlike some of the other Canva tools, the infographic builder is free to use. All you have to do is create a Canva account before you get to work.

Their library has more than one million photos, illustrations, and graphics for you to choose from. If you’re not happy with their selection, you can also upload your own images.

Once your image is uploaded, you can select a font from over 130 options. They make it easy for you to change the background and color scheme too.

After you’re satisfied with your custom layout, you can save these unique templates to your account. This makes it easy for you to repurpose the same layouts for your future infographics. It’s one of my favorite time-saving marketing tools.

If you’re not satisfied with all the elements in the free Canva library, they have premium elements available for purchase.

But unlike some of the more expensive infographic tools we’ve seen, the Canva premium purchases cost only $1 at most. It’s an extremely cost-effective way to enhance your infographics.

7. iCharts

If you want something a little bit different from the tools on our list so far, iCharts definitely fits the description.

image11

This platform is cloud-based. It’s a visual analytics tool allowing you to organize complicated business information.

You can use iCharts to simplify data from extensive research studies. Since it’s a cloud-based platform, you can access it from wherever you are. Nothing needs to be installed on a device.

They have a feature letting you implement real-time data integration.

This option isn’t a typical infographic builder. But you can still export the charts and graphs to enhance your content with custom images.

8. Skitch

Similar to our last tool, Skitch doesn’t necessarily build custom infographics either. But I use Skitch every day to help enhance my visual content.

image2 6

Some of you may not be interested in building all your infographics from scratch. That’s OK.

If you’ve got a Mac, you can use Skitch to help you customize infographics from other sources. Here’s how you do it.

Once you download Skitch on your Apple device, which is free by the way, you can use it to take screenshots of infographics. Then you can markup specific sections with arrows, boxes, and text to make it your own.

Regular readers of my blog posts might recognize the pink arrows and annotations from Skitch. That’s what I use to mark up the images on my blog.

If you use this tool to help you build infographics, make sure you give proper credit to your image sources.

9. Creately

Creately is a platform specializing in creating unique diagrams for your business.

image7 6

Although they aren’t exactly the same, diagrams and infographics are very similar, which is why I thought it was worth adding this tool to my list.

I recommend Creately for businesses that have multiple designers producing content at the same time.

With this software, you can collaborate with up to 20 team members on the same project with real-time updates, edits, and changes to your design.

They have over 1,000 diagrams for you to choose from. Even if you don’t want to publish your diagrams, you can use the tool for in-house projects such as building a customer journey map.

10. Google Charts

When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to use tools you’re familiar with. As a business owner, you’ve likely used Google Analytics to help you with your marketing solutions.

Well, Google Charts is another great option offered with your Google account.

image3 6

Once you determine which types of data sets you want to include, you can customize your design fully. You get to select which type of chart you want to use from Google’s extensive gallery.

It’s easy to add these infographics to your website, email messages, and social media channels.

Their dynamic data feature allows you to connect your data source so the charts updated with real-time information.

Google really stands apart from the crowd when it comes to customer service. There are thorough guides to help you with the tool. Every section has step-by-step, easy-to-follow instructions.

11. Gliffy

If you’re looking for another tool for creating custom diagrams, Gliffy is a great choice to consider.

image9 1

The software is extremely easy to use. You won’t need any type of design skills to build your infographics.

Everything is done with an HTML5 editor, so you don’t need to download anything to your devices in order to use this tool.

If you want to get your project done as fast as possible without building your own template, it’s no problem. Gliffy has ready-made templates. All you need to do is plug in your information.

Share your infographic with an embed link, or upload it directly to your social media profiles.

You can also use Gliffy to collaborate with your team members. Grant access to people whom you trust making edits to your design.

12. Wordle

Not every infographic needs to be a complicated set of data.

Sometimes, it’s effective to have only one statistic or sentence displayed to stand out from the rest of your content. If that’s the case, Wordle is one of your best options.

image4 6

This platform is made for creating word clouds. You can use customized fonts and templates to create these unique images.

You can even use Wordle to reinforce a point you made within the text of one of your blog posts.

Conclusion

Images and visual elements are more powerful than words alone.

That’s why you need to be using infographics to enhance your content. But if you don’t want to search for infographics online, the tools I’ve outlined above allow you to create your own.

Don’t get me wrong: there are dozens of other infographic building tools available on the Internet. But from my experience, these ones are the best places for you to get started.

There’s something on this list for everyone—it just depends on what you’re looking for.

Some of these tools are free, while others charge a fee. Certain tools are better for charts and datasets, while others specialize in custom images and animations.

Refer to this guide for all your infographic creation needs.

What tools does your company use to enhance your visual content strategy with infographics?

Those of you who have been reading my blogs for a while know I’m a huge advocate of using visual elements to enhance my blog posts.

In addition to being visually appealing, images can actually improve the performance of your articles. That’s because blogs with pictures receive 94% more views than posts without them.

According to a recent study from the Content Marketing Institute, 73% of marketers say their top priority is to create more engaging content.

And 55% of these content creators are prioritizing visual content.

If you haven’t been using images to enhance your content, you should consider starting with some infographics. Even if you have included pictures in some of your old content, you can take this strategy to the next level by building custom infographics.

That’s because infographics are a combination of text and images. Research shows people follow directions 323% better if the directions include both text and illustrations.

On social media platforms, infographics get liked and shared at three times the rate of all other content.

Once you start building infographics, you will drive more traffic to your website. That’s because other people will use your custom images to enhance their own content.

As a result, you will consistently build backlinks, which will improve your SEO.

Now that you understand why you need to create infographics, it’s time for me to show you how. There are tons of tools available, but not all of them are created equal.

I’ve narrowed down the top 12 tools for building infographics.

1. Easel.ly

If you want to create an infographic fast and efficiently, Easel.ly is a great place to start.

image5 6

Above is a sampling of some of their top infographic templates. All you need to do is select the template you want and plug in your information.

They’ve got a template for everything. Some are designed to fit more text on the page, while others prioritize numbers from any research you may have conducted.

It’s free to use Easel.ly, but if you want premium templates, you can access over 500 of them for a fee. I recommend starting off with the free ones to see whether you’re happy with the platform before upgrading your membership.

Another cool feature of this platform is that they have community infographics built by others. You can plug your information into those as well.

The Easel.ly website features an easy to follow guide on how to create content on their platform. They also offer a live customer service chat option in case you have questions or run into any problems with the platform.

2. Pitkochart

Pitkochart is another top option for beginners. The platform makes it easy to create custom infographics without any design experience.

image1 6

In addition to infographics, they have other design templates as well. You can build things such as:

  • flyers
  • posters
  • presentations
  • reports

Some of my favorite types of infographics on Pitkochart are the graphs. It’s a great way for you to display your numbers in a custom chart.

Pitkochart also has a map feature. You can customize the color options on these maps to show how different states, regions, or countries have varying results for your discussion.

Speaking of color options, Pitkochart has many. You can select colors for each portion of your infographic, or you can choose preset color schemes.

It’s an important feature because different color schemes can impact sales on your website.

They have a library of more than 1,000 icons. You can use these without having to pay licensing fees or give an attribution to the creator.

This definitely makes things less complicated, which allows you to spend your time and effort on building the infographics.

Once you build your infographic on Pitkochart, they help you name your image so that it’s optimized for SEO. Then, you can share it directly from the platform.

They have sharing options for email, ebooks, and social media. You can get an embedd link for your website, share it with your team, or download a high-resolution version of your infographic.

3. Venngage

Are you a student? If so, Venngage will let you use their software free. But everyone else will have to pay for the platform.

image10 1

Their monthly rate is $19 for individuals and $49 for businesses. It may seem pricey, but the business membership comes with premium features such as:

  • custom templates
  • unlimited infographics
  • 100 image uploads
  • branding help
  • charts
  • icons
  • team collaboration
  • high-resolution downloads

If you know you want to take advantage of these features for the entire year, you can pay upfront annually and receive a 20% discount off your membership.

Venngage is great because their infographic templates are seemingly endless. With so many options, it’s less likely you’ll have similar to other infographics templates already published on the Internet.

This can make your brand stand out from the crowd.

They also group their infographics based on several categories. You can build the right image for whatever you’re trying to illustrate. Some of the top categories include:

  • statistical
  • lists
  • timelines
  • geographic
  • real estate
  • nonprofit
  • human resources

They even have “fun data” templates to help you display your unique research in a way that’s easy to comprehend.

4. Visme.co

A list of visual design tools wouldn’t be complete without Visme.co. The platform specializes in all kinds of visual content, including infographics.

image6 6

If you need to make an infographic that compares multiple variables, Visme.co has more than 20 charts and tables to choose from.

There are a couple of different ways you can input data into these visuals. Your first option is to type the numbers in manually. But if you have lots of information, you may prefer to import your data.

Another cool feature of these charts is the ability to connect with live data.

All of the templates have customizable fonts. You can change the color, size, and style of your text. Don’t see a font you like? No problem. Visme.co lets you upload your own fonts as well.

This software can help you take your infographics to the next level by making them more engaging. You can add video and audio files.

They also give you the option to embed polls, surveys, and maps. You can even add motion features, like popups, to your infographic.

Once your infographic is published, you can track how well it’s performing. The analytics tools tell you how many people saw your infographic, what type of device they used, their location, and level of engagement.

5. Infogram

Infogram is another one of my favorites. The platform allows you to fully customize every element of each infographic you create.

image8 5

In addition to infographics, you can also use this software to create:

  • reports
  • charts
  • maps
  • dashboards

Infogram also helps you build images specially designed for your social media channels.

Their platform has more than one million icons and images, all royalty-free.

What I like most about Infogram is their editing tool. You can drag, drop, and move every element on the screen to fully customize your design.

If you have data that needs to be imported, it’s easy for you to upload spreadsheets from Excel, Google Drive, Dropbox, etc. You can even use a cloud service or their API to set up live data integration.

They have interactive charts and maps at your disposal as well.

Ultimately, if you need a one-stop shop for all your infographic needs, you can’t go wrong with Infogram.

6. Canva

Even if you don’t plan on making a ton of infographics, Canva has plenty of other design tools for you to take advantage of. Those of you who are a little bit more advanced will enjoy the graphic design features offered on this platform.

image12

One of my favorite elements of the Canva platform is the versatility it offers. You can use it on the Internet as well as your iPhone or iPad.

They specialize in photo editor, color palette, and font combinations. But their infographic building tools are just as good, if not better. You don’t need to have a design background to figure it out.

Unlike some of the other Canva tools, the infographic builder is free to use. All you have to do is create a Canva account before you get to work.

Their library has more than one million photos, illustrations, and graphics for you to choose from. If you’re not happy with their selection, you can also upload your own images.

Once your image is uploaded, you can select a font from over 130 options. They make it easy for you to change the background and color scheme too.

After you’re satisfied with your custom layout, you can save these unique templates to your account. This makes it easy for you to repurpose the same layouts for your future infographics. It’s one of my favorite time-saving marketing tools.

If you’re not satisfied with all the elements in the free Canva library, they have premium elements available for purchase.

But unlike some of the more expensive infographic tools we’ve seen, the Canva premium purchases cost only $1 at most. It’s an extremely cost-effective way to enhance your infographics.

7. iCharts

If you want something a little bit different from the tools on our list so far, iCharts definitely fits the description.

image11

This platform is cloud-based. It’s a visual analytics tool allowing you to organize complicated business information.

You can use iCharts to simplify data from extensive research studies. Since it’s a cloud-based platform, you can access it from wherever you are. Nothing needs to be installed on a device.

They have a feature letting you implement real-time data integration.

This option isn’t a typical infographic builder. But you can still export the charts and graphs to enhance your content with custom images.

8. Skitch

Similar to our last tool, Skitch doesn’t necessarily build custom infographics either. But I use Skitch every day to help enhance my visual content.

image2 6

Some of you may not be interested in building all your infographics from scratch. That’s OK.

If you’ve got a Mac, you can use Skitch to help you customize infographics from other sources. Here’s how you do it.

Once you download Skitch on your Apple device, which is free by the way, you can use it to take screenshots of infographics. Then you can markup specific sections with arrows, boxes, and text to make it your own.

Regular readers of my blog posts might recognize the pink arrows and annotations from Skitch. That’s what I use to mark up the images on my blog.

If you use this tool to help you build infographics, make sure you give proper credit to your image sources.

9. Creately

Creately is a platform specializing in creating unique diagrams for your business.

image7 6

Although they aren’t exactly the same, diagrams and infographics are very similar, which is why I thought it was worth adding this tool to my list.

I recommend Creately for businesses that have multiple designers producing content at the same time.

With this software, you can collaborate with up to 20 team members on the same project with real-time updates, edits, and changes to your design.

They have over 1,000 diagrams for you to choose from. Even if you don’t want to publish your diagrams, you can use the tool for in-house projects such as building a customer journey map.

10. Google Charts

When in doubt, it’s always a good idea to use tools you’re familiar with. As a business owner, you’ve likely used Google Analytics to help you with your marketing solutions.

Well, Google Charts is another great option offered with your Google account.

image3 6

Once you determine which types of data sets you want to include, you can customize your design fully. You get to select which type of chart you want to use from Google’s extensive gallery.

It’s easy to add these infographics to your website, email messages, and social media channels.

Their dynamic data feature allows you to connect your data source so the charts updated with real-time information.

Google really stands apart from the crowd when it comes to customer service. There are thorough guides to help you with the tool. Every section has step-by-step, easy-to-follow instructions.

11. Gliffy

If you’re looking for another tool for creating custom diagrams, Gliffy is a great choice to consider.

image9 1

The software is extremely easy to use. You won’t need any type of design skills to build your infographics.

Everything is done with an HTML5 editor, so you don’t need to download anything to your devices in order to use this tool.

If you want to get your project done as fast as possible without building your own template, it’s no problem. Gliffy has ready-made templates. All you need to do is plug in your information.

Share your infographic with an embed link, or upload it directly to your social media profiles.

You can also use Gliffy to collaborate with your team members. Grant access to people whom you trust making edits to your design.

12. Wordle

Not every infographic needs to be a complicated set of data.

Sometimes, it’s effective to have only one statistic or sentence displayed to stand out from the rest of your content. If that’s the case, Wordle is one of your best options.

image4 6

This platform is made for creating word clouds. You can use customized fonts and templates to create these unique images.

You can even use Wordle to reinforce a point you made within the text of one of your blog posts.

Conclusion

Images and visual elements are more powerful than words alone.

That’s why you need to be using infographics to enhance your content. But if you don’t want to search for infographics online, the tools I’ve outlined above allow you to create your own.

Don’t get me wrong: there are dozens of other infographic building tools available on the Internet. But from my experience, these ones are the best places for you to get started.

There’s something on this list for everyone—it just depends on what you’re looking for.

Some of these tools are free, while others charge a fee. Certain tools are better for charts and datasets, while others specialize in custom images and animations.

Refer to this guide for all your infographic creation needs.

What tools does your company use to enhance your visual content strategy with infographics?

Every Business Has an Origin Story: A Lesson in Branding

“We’ve lost our way.”

I’ve heard this from clients countless times. And it’s no wonder people are saying this: today’s businesses have to evolve very quickly because employees rarely stay in one job for their whole careers and technology is growing so fast that it’s a constant battle to keep up with the next new thing. The stress can be overwhelming. I went through it myself at a time before Sub Rosa was what it is today.

Often the best way we inspire our clients for the future is when we connect them to the most indigenous part of themselves, to understanding why they were founded and why they are still here.

We help them reconnect by exploring their:

Origin story: How it all began.

Language: Your shared lexicon.

Traditions: How you engage your community and acknowledge milestones.

Purpose: Your reason for being.

Think about it: these are the building blocks of every thriving community. Whether in a tribe, a religion, or a corporation, these four building blocks are what provide meaning and create the connective tissue that forms a lasting foundation from which to grow.

A Tradition In Denim

At a meeting with a Levi’s executive, he told us that the company had missed a major opportunity by not participating in the “premium denim boom,” and it was now suffering both reputational and financial challenges. The “premium denim boom” had occurred when a number of high-fashion brands entered the market and began selling $200-plus pairs of jeans. During that time, Levi’s had maintained its traditional price point of around $39, and as a result, its jeans had acquired a low-end reputation and were considered less chic and no longer fashionable. The company was experiencing a significant sales slump.

We had been involved in a similar conversation not too long before with Absolut Vodka, whose management felt the company had missed out on the “premium vodka boom.” Apparently this premium boom was a phenomenon in a number of sectors. In the 1980s, Absolut was a top-shelf vodka. But in the 1990s, competitive vodka brands such as Grey Goose and Ketel One came onto the market with a more premium-priced product.

Absolut, like Levi’s, had stuck to its price point and dropped to a midtier status, losing market share to the new entrants. Ultimately Absolut found a way out of this by creating its own specialty, limited-edition lines, such as Absolut Brooklyn, created in partnership with Spike Lee, and premium-crafted versions such as Absolut Elyx, which was sourced and distilled in a manner designed to compete with other premium vodkas.

Levi’s needed a strategy to help it overcome a similar challenge. They had hired Wieden + Kennedy, a wellknown and successful advertising agency, to help rejuvenate the brand. Their campaign, which would later be known as “Go forth,” was being shot by a famous fashion photographer, and it would draw on inspirational imagery and language from well-known American authors such as Walt Whitman and Jack Kerouac. It would depict a new era of American nostalgia, and it was sure to capture attention. Levi’s wanted our help in turning that attention into action.

Our job was to make sure that once they had people’s attention, there would be have something to act upon and a real reason to care about the brand. This is the sort of integrated, complex challenge we love to solve, and we first began by focusing on the brand as we knew it. The company made denim and sold jeans (primarily) at a modest price point. They had once been the jeans of Marlon Brando and Steve McQueen and later the jeans of rock stars from the Rolling Stones to the Ramones. But somehow the company had lost its grip. We asked what had come before Brando and Jagger? Levi’s had begun making jeans in 1853. What had the company stood for then, and what was its origin story?

It’s fairly common knowledge that Levi Strauss & Company started out as a brand of pioneers. The men who had set out for the gold hiding in the uncharted lands of California during the famous Gold Rush of 1849 were known as the 49ers, and they had taken a big gamble, often risking life or death, to try to strike it rich. Those tough men needed tough jeans, and that’s what Levi Strauss produced. They had reinforced stitches and held up during hard work.

Over the coming decades, Levi’s rugged jeans continued to be a staple of the hardscrabble masses. Factory workers, laborers, farmers, and all manner of builders and fixers wore Levi’s as they headed out to work. They were the jeans that helped build America. We had to tell the story in a way that would ignite a newfound interest in the hearts and minds of new consumers and (hopefully) would bring back some customers the brand had lost along the way.

Panning for Gold

We asked ourselves, “Who are our modern-day pioneers?” After all, we’re not settling the West anymore, and many hard-labor jobs have since been shipped overseas. We wanted to find people who were embodying that spirit of progress and hard work and pull them into a new conversation, one that celebrated their sense of craft, of making things, of the integrity that comes from doing that kind of work well.

After a few weeks of development, we had created a program we called Levi’s Workshops and sent it off to Erik and his team. We admitted that what we were giving them was “only 75 percent of the plan.” The rest would have to be left open to serendipity. We knew we were going into the unknown, like the gold panners of the nineteenth century, and similarly we knew something about what we’d find but not everything. Like any good prospector, we knew to leave room for the unexpected. After all, you never know where you might strike it rich.

Together, our two teams became one unit. It didn’t take long for us to develop a working and speaking lingo, a kind of shorthand. When we said “pioneer,” we weren’t thinking of a grizzled old prospector chewing tobacco and swilling whiskey, we were imagining today’s artists, craftspeople, designers, teachers, and builders. When we said, “Go forth,” we knew we were looking for the spirit of adventure and discovery we wanted people to feel when they interacted with the brand. This shared language was built upon the origins of the brand, yet it was contemporized and translated for today. It drew our own teams closer together and became contagious throughout Levi’s organization.

Within months we were ready to open our first Levi’s Workshop in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District, which was chosen because the neighborhood was thriving with diversity and craft. It felt like a pioneer town for new ideas.

The programming was built on collaborations with “pioneers” from the Bay Area. Right down the street from us, the writer Dave Eggers had opened his first whimsical tutoring location (themed as a pirate shop), where volunteers taught kids the value of creative writing. We partnered with them and paired the kids’ writing with artists who created original artwork for their stories. The kids got to watch the books being printed in the shop, and they were dazzled as they flipped through a book that had come to life from their story.

We brought in Alice Waters, a pioneer of California cuisine, and designed a beautiful letterpress harvest calendar that supported the work of her charity, the Edible Schoolyard Project. She hosted a small dinner in the space and signed copies for us to sell at auction, with the proceeds benefiting her cause as well as the Levi Strauss Foundation, the company’s charitable organization.

Not only did each project bring into the workshop a compelling pioneer to help create programming, but every piece of programming was designed to reach different subcultures and niche audiences in the Bay Area with authenticity.

These new traditions we were creating for the brand were building on Levi’s legacy of engaging with powerful subcultures. From gold-panning pioneers to punks on the Bowery, Levi’s has always been the uniform of the brave and status quo challenging. We built programming for the literary community, musicians, foodies, inner-city youths, and more. If you were willing to “Go forth” and try something different, we wanted you to know that Levi’s was with you.

Our work with Levi’s showed us the value of looking back to a brand’s indigenous roots and bringing thoughtful inspiration and wisdom into the present. Admittedly not every company has a brand that is more than a hundred years old, but every business does have an origin story.

Excerpted from Applied Empathy by Michael Ventura. Copyright © 2018 by Seed Communications, LLC d/b/a Sub Rosa. Excerpted with permission by Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

You can purchase Applied Empathy on Amazon.

“We’ve lost our way.”

I’ve heard this from clients countless times. And it’s no wonder people are saying this: today’s businesses have to evolve very quickly because employees rarely stay in one job for their whole careers and technology is growing so fast that it’s a constant battle to keep up with the next new thing. The stress can be overwhelming. I went through it myself at a time before Sub Rosa was what it is today.

Often the best way we inspire our clients for the future is when we connect them to the most indigenous part of themselves, to understanding why they were founded and why they are still here.

We help them reconnect by exploring their:

Origin story: How it all began.

Language: Your shared lexicon.

Traditions: How you engage your community and acknowledge milestones.

Purpose: Your reason for being.

Think about it: these are the building blocks of every thriving community. Whether in a tribe, a religion, or a corporation, these four building blocks are what provide meaning and create the connective tissue that forms a lasting foundation from which to grow.

A Tradition In Denim

At a meeting with a Levi’s executive, he told us that the company had missed a major opportunity by not participating in the “premium denim boom,” and it was now suffering both reputational and financial challenges. The “premium denim boom” had occurred when a number of high-fashion brands entered the market and began selling $200-plus pairs of jeans. During that time, Levi’s had maintained its traditional price point of around $39, and as a result, its jeans had acquired a low-end reputation and were considered less chic and no longer fashionable. The company was experiencing a significant sales slump.

We had been involved in a similar conversation not too long before with Absolut Vodka, whose management felt the company had missed out on the “premium vodka boom.” Apparently this premium boom was a phenomenon in a number of sectors. In the 1980s, Absolut was a top-shelf vodka. But in the 1990s, competitive vodka brands such as Grey Goose and Ketel One came onto the market with a more premium-priced product.

Absolut, like Levi’s, had stuck to its price point and dropped to a midtier status, losing market share to the new entrants. Ultimately Absolut found a way out of this by creating its own specialty, limited-edition lines, such as Absolut Brooklyn, created in partnership with Spike Lee, and premium-crafted versions such as Absolut Elyx, which was sourced and distilled in a manner designed to compete with other premium vodkas.

Levi’s needed a strategy to help it overcome a similar challenge. They had hired Wieden + Kennedy, a wellknown and successful advertising agency, to help rejuvenate the brand. Their campaign, which would later be known as “Go forth,” was being shot by a famous fashion photographer, and it would draw on inspirational imagery and language from well-known American authors such as Walt Whitman and Jack Kerouac. It would depict a new era of American nostalgia, and it was sure to capture attention. Levi’s wanted our help in turning that attention into action.

Our job was to make sure that once they had people’s attention, there would be have something to act upon and a real reason to care about the brand. This is the sort of integrated, complex challenge we love to solve, and we first began by focusing on the brand as we knew it. The company made denim and sold jeans (primarily) at a modest price point. They had once been the jeans of Marlon Brando and Steve McQueen and later the jeans of rock stars from the Rolling Stones to the Ramones. But somehow the company had lost its grip. We asked what had come before Brando and Jagger? Levi’s had begun making jeans in 1853. What had the company stood for then, and what was its origin story?

It’s fairly common knowledge that Levi Strauss & Company started out as a brand of pioneers. The men who had set out for the gold hiding in the uncharted lands of California during the famous Gold Rush of 1849 were known as the 49ers, and they had taken a big gamble, often risking life or death, to try to strike it rich. Those tough men needed tough jeans, and that’s what Levi Strauss produced. They had reinforced stitches and held up during hard work.

Over the coming decades, Levi’s rugged jeans continued to be a staple of the hardscrabble masses. Factory workers, laborers, farmers, and all manner of builders and fixers wore Levi’s as they headed out to work. They were the jeans that helped build America. We had to tell the story in a way that would ignite a newfound interest in the hearts and minds of new consumers and (hopefully) would bring back some customers the brand had lost along the way.

Panning for Gold

We asked ourselves, “Who are our modern-day pioneers?” After all, we’re not settling the West anymore, and many hard-labor jobs have since been shipped overseas. We wanted to find people who were embodying that spirit of progress and hard work and pull them into a new conversation, one that celebrated their sense of craft, of making things, of the integrity that comes from doing that kind of work well.

After a few weeks of development, we had created a program we called Levi’s Workshops and sent it off to Erik and his team. We admitted that what we were giving them was “only 75 percent of the plan.” The rest would have to be left open to serendipity. We knew we were going into the unknown, like the gold panners of the nineteenth century, and similarly we knew something about what we’d find but not everything. Like any good prospector, we knew to leave room for the unexpected. After all, you never know where you might strike it rich.

Together, our two teams became one unit. It didn’t take long for us to develop a working and speaking lingo, a kind of shorthand. When we said “pioneer,” we weren’t thinking of a grizzled old prospector chewing tobacco and swilling whiskey, we were imagining today’s artists, craftspeople, designers, teachers, and builders. When we said, “Go forth,” we knew we were looking for the spirit of adventure and discovery we wanted people to feel when they interacted with the brand. This shared language was built upon the origins of the brand, yet it was contemporized and translated for today. It drew our own teams closer together and became contagious throughout Levi’s organization.

Within months we were ready to open our first Levi’s Workshop in the heart of San Francisco’s Mission District, which was chosen because the neighborhood was thriving with diversity and craft. It felt like a pioneer town for new ideas.

The programming was built on collaborations with “pioneers” from the Bay Area. Right down the street from us, the writer Dave Eggers had opened his first whimsical tutoring location (themed as a pirate shop), where volunteers taught kids the value of creative writing. We partnered with them and paired the kids’ writing with artists who created original artwork for their stories. The kids got to watch the books being printed in the shop, and they were dazzled as they flipped through a book that had come to life from their story.

We brought in Alice Waters, a pioneer of California cuisine, and designed a beautiful letterpress harvest calendar that supported the work of her charity, the Edible Schoolyard Project. She hosted a small dinner in the space and signed copies for us to sell at auction, with the proceeds benefiting her cause as well as the Levi Strauss Foundation, the company’s charitable organization.

Not only did each project bring into the workshop a compelling pioneer to help create programming, but every piece of programming was designed to reach different subcultures and niche audiences in the Bay Area with authenticity.

These new traditions we were creating for the brand were building on Levi’s legacy of engaging with powerful subcultures. From gold-panning pioneers to punks on the Bowery, Levi’s has always been the uniform of the brave and status quo challenging. We built programming for the literary community, musicians, foodies, inner-city youths, and more. If you were willing to “Go forth” and try something different, we wanted you to know that Levi’s was with you.

Our work with Levi’s showed us the value of looking back to a brand’s indigenous roots and bringing thoughtful inspiration and wisdom into the present. Admittedly not every company has a brand that is more than a hundred years old, but every business does have an origin story.

Excerpted from Applied Empathy by Michael Ventura. Copyright © 2018 by Seed Communications, LLC d/b/a Sub Rosa. Excerpted with permission by Touchstone, an imprint of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

You can purchase Applied Empathy on Amazon.

The Future Will be Tokenized: How Blockchain Will Free You to Control Your Financial Destiny

I believe in freedom.

I believe we should be able to make our own choices and shape our lives however we wish.

I long for a world without borders, racism, sexism, and barriers of any kind.

These are big dreams, but they can gain momentum with small cultural shifts. I believe blockchain is one of those shifts.

I’m passionate about emerging technologies like AI, machine learning and bots not just in a nerdy, code-centric way, but because of what they represent.

Blockchain, specifically, promotes decentralization. As someone who came of age during the 2008 global financial crisis, I watched how wealth and power can breed corruption — even if people start out with good intentions.

Ever since society began, humans have put their faith in powerful figures, like popes and kings. Eventually we realized that individuals tend to make decisions that create optimal outcomes for a small, select group of people. Revolutions occurred and democratic governments began to rise.

The shift from a single cult of personality to a group of elected decision-makers marked our desire for more inclusive societies, where different groups of people can thrive.

The invention of blockchain takes that push for inclusion to another level by decentralizing decision-making — allowing token holders to have a say in how they want society to be structured.

null

Whether you’re deep in the waters of cryptocurrency or you’re still confused about what these new technologies could mean for your life, I want to cover a small slice of the blockchain revolution.

Tokenization is a great way to understand the philosophy behind cryptocurrency; how it works, but also what it stands for.

This is the future that many blockchain pioneers and enthusiasts envision. Get ready for the Tokenization of Everything (TOE) — and a lot more freedom.

What is Tokenization?

In today’s financial world, everything you own is tied to your name. Maybe you have a house, a car, stocks, or cash in the bank.

In the process of tokenization, all those assets can be broken into pieces. That means you can create a stock or a single proof of ownership tied to any asset.

For example, let’s start with a long-range vision for tokenization. This is the future that I might not even see in my lifetime.

null

Image credit: distributedlab.com

Imagine all my personal assets add up to a million dollars. Kind of a stretch, but it makes for easy math. Those combined assets could be broken into “Justin” coins that represent everything I own. If I created 100 coins or tokens, each would be worth $10,000.

The blockchain technology would allow anyone to trade their token(s) for a Justin coin. That means no banks, no financial managers, no complicated paperwork or red tape. It would be two people making a direct transaction.

The tokenization of everything imagines a world where anything can be traded. Your liquidity isn’t restricted by cash or concrete assets. Instead, it can include anything you own, and maybe even your time.

null

TOE removes all aspects of the middleman institution. It enables online transactions through a trusted, de-centralized system. It breaks down power and access barriers. We still have to contend with inequality in terms of assets and wealth, but no one can control how or what you trade.

The blockchain technology that powers these transactions also makes investing faster, cheaper and more secure. It liquefies assets and makes investing possible for people who have been restricted by means or geography.

Third-generation blockchain technologies like Cardano are trying to solve the big problem of operability, which means that everything is programmable, with an automated market-maker as the intermediary.

For example, imagine paying for your Starbucks order with airline miles, while the barista is paid in US dollars. That’s interoperability in action.

We’ve already watched the internet tear down gatekeeper layers in entertainment, publishing, communication, sales, and many other industries.

As we dismantle hierarchical financial systems, transaction costs go down, volumes go up, and people are more willing to trade with each other. It creates a more connected, global system.

This long-term vision also (perhaps ironically) takes us back to barter trading, which is where the concept of money first originated.

A Collection of Diverse, Personal Tokens

In the near future, blockchain could give us the ability to create multiple coins for several different assets.

Imagine you own a home worth $1 million (stay with me … this is all about that simple math).

You could again break the ownership of that home into 100 tokens worth $10,000 each. This scenario is much like creating a real estate index or trust fund to manage multiple properties. But now, you could sell partial ownership of your home with individual tokens that you create, trade and control. There’s no intermediary.

So, why would I want to sell partial ownership?

Great question. I would tokenize my home for two main reasons:

null
  1. I want to make my assets more liquid. Maybe I’m traveling, starting a business, going back to school, or investing in something I think has great value. A home token would allow me to leverage some of the value in my house without selling it outright.
  2. I believe my home won’t appreciate as fast as what you’re giving me in return. Maybe I’m trading my home token for your business token — and I think your business will gain value at a much faster rate than my home.

On the other side of the trade, you might want a share in my home if you believe it has better appreciation potential than your company. Our different perspectives on the asset valuation would allow us to reach a trade consensus.

If we can do all these different trades, it doesn’t matter where we live. Artificial geographic borders could break down when we don’t rely on a single entity or regime to prove our value.

For example, the global currency system determines how much our assets are worth, depending on the stability (or volatility) of our native currency and how our home country’s institutions reach consensus with other markets.

When assets are tokenized, that value is stored in a single profile with fully decentralized transaction paths.

Technology can streamline this brave new financial world.

If these scenarios feel complicated and time-consuming, I hear you. The idea of valuing your assets, making the trades, and ensuring you’re not getting duped in the process can sound more than a little overwhelming.

Again, I’m bullish about emerging tech because it has the power to help. I see a future where humans, aided by artificial intelligence, can make more efficient and effective financial decisions.

null

We might trust the people who currently control and manage our money — and in many cases this trust is well founded — but even “experts” don’t have all the answers.
Investment requires educated decisions. No one has a crystal ball (unless they’re conducting insider trading).

Technology won’t provide foolproof investing, but it does remove industry greed from the equation.

Running your own trades eliminates high bank and investment fees. It ensures that you’re buying a stock because you think it’s smart, not because it pays kickbacks to the broker.

You won’t question the intentions of a financial institution, because they don’t have a hand in your assets.

Let the bots do the busywork.

Chatbots are arguably today’s most relatable AI application. Most people have used Facebook Messenger or interacted with a chatbot while shopping online or asking their telecom provider about those weird mobile charges.

Currently, chatbots are built to solve a specific set of problems. We’ve builtGrowthBot, for example, to deliver marketing and sales information without leaving your task or productivity platform (such as Slack).

You can ask questions about top posts, organic site traffic, or get company overviews. And instead of switching to a web browser and getting lost in a Google spiral, you can stay focused while GrowthBot digs up the details.

Now, apply this kind of “assistant” technology to your financial life. The bot could do everything from researching investments to calculating an asset value, in real time.
Remember, the bot is not taking over. This isn’t a dystopian sci-fi plot. Instead, it’s providing the information you need to make a smart and highly personalized decision.

null

Then, the chatbot could actually conduct the transaction as you instruct. That means no more calls to your bro-ish financial advisor or trying to recover a lost login password.

We Still Have a Long Way to Go

I do realize that the utopian future of my dreams is a long way off — if it’s ever going to be possible.

We will still face complex, ongoing issues about who holds wealth in our society and how to level the field. I’m not naïve about these challenges, nor do I believe that technology is a magic solution.

Even cryptocurrencies are promising, but they’re still rife with problems. These are totally unregulated assets, for better and worse.

At this moment, the “worse” is an approximately 90% rate of fraud among Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), according to the People’s Bank of China.

Yet, I’m still motivated by the possibilities. Tokenization is just a tiny example of what a more decentralized, egalitarian, and direct financial system could enable.
Technologies are ultimately just tools that we can harness to lead cultural change — and whether we’re talking AI, bots or blockchain, the code is inconsequential. What really matters is our intention.

It’s time to decide how we’ll organize our society, for hundreds of years to come.

 

 

I believe in freedom.

I believe we should be able to make our own choices and shape our lives however we wish.

I long for a world without borders, racism, sexism, and barriers of any kind.

These are big dreams, but they can gain momentum with small cultural shifts. I believe blockchain is one of those shifts.

I’m passionate about emerging technologies like AI, machine learning and bots not just in a nerdy, code-centric way, but because of what they represent.

Blockchain, specifically, promotes decentralization. As someone who came of age during the 2008 global financial crisis, I watched how wealth and power can breed corruption — even if people start out with good intentions.

Ever since society began, humans have put their faith in powerful figures, like popes and kings. Eventually we realized that individuals tend to make decisions that create optimal outcomes for a small, select group of people. Revolutions occurred and democratic governments began to rise.

The shift from a single cult of personality to a group of elected decision-makers marked our desire for more inclusive societies, where different groups of people can thrive.

The invention of blockchain takes that push for inclusion to another level by decentralizing decision-making — allowing token holders to have a say in how they want society to be structured.

null

Whether you’re deep in the waters of cryptocurrency or you’re still confused about what these new technologies could mean for your life, I want to cover a small slice of the blockchain revolution.

Tokenization is a great way to understand the philosophy behind cryptocurrency; how it works, but also what it stands for.

This is the future that many blockchain pioneers and enthusiasts envision. Get ready for the Tokenization of Everything (TOE) — and a lot more freedom.

What is Tokenization?

In today’s financial world, everything you own is tied to your name. Maybe you have a house, a car, stocks, or cash in the bank.

In the process of tokenization, all those assets can be broken into pieces. That means you can create a stock or a single proof of ownership tied to any asset.

For example, let’s start with a long-range vision for tokenization. This is the future that I might not even see in my lifetime.

null

Image credit: distributedlab.com

Imagine all my personal assets add up to a million dollars. Kind of a stretch, but it makes for easy math. Those combined assets could be broken into “Justin” coins that represent everything I own. If I created 100 coins or tokens, each would be worth $10,000.

The blockchain technology would allow anyone to trade their token(s) for a Justin coin. That means no banks, no financial managers, no complicated paperwork or red tape. It would be two people making a direct transaction.

The tokenization of everything imagines a world where anything can be traded. Your liquidity isn’t restricted by cash or concrete assets. Instead, it can include anything you own, and maybe even your time.

null

TOE removes all aspects of the middleman institution. It enables online transactions through a trusted, de-centralized system. It breaks down power and access barriers. We still have to contend with inequality in terms of assets and wealth, but no one can control how or what you trade.

The blockchain technology that powers these transactions also makes investing faster, cheaper and more secure. It liquefies assets and makes investing possible for people who have been restricted by means or geography.

Third-generation blockchain technologies like Cardano are trying to solve the big problem of operability, which means that everything is programmable, with an automated market-maker as the intermediary.

For example, imagine paying for your Starbucks order with airline miles, while the barista is paid in US dollars. That’s interoperability in action.

We’ve already watched the internet tear down gatekeeper layers in entertainment, publishing, communication, sales, and many other industries.

As we dismantle hierarchical financial systems, transaction costs go down, volumes go up, and people are more willing to trade with each other. It creates a more connected, global system.

This long-term vision also (perhaps ironically) takes us back to barter trading, which is where the concept of money first originated.

A Collection of Diverse, Personal Tokens

In the near future, blockchain could give us the ability to create multiple coins for several different assets.

Imagine you own a home worth $1 million (stay with me … this is all about that simple math).

You could again break the ownership of that home into 100 tokens worth $10,000 each. This scenario is much like creating a real estate index or trust fund to manage multiple properties. But now, you could sell partial ownership of your home with individual tokens that you create, trade and control. There’s no intermediary.

So, why would I want to sell partial ownership?

Great question. I would tokenize my home for two main reasons:

null
  1. I want to make my assets more liquid. Maybe I’m traveling, starting a business, going back to school, or investing in something I think has great value. A home token would allow me to leverage some of the value in my house without selling it outright.
  2. I believe my home won’t appreciate as fast as what you’re giving me in return. Maybe I’m trading my home token for your business token — and I think your business will gain value at a much faster rate than my home.

On the other side of the trade, you might want a share in my home if you believe it has better appreciation potential than your company. Our different perspectives on the asset valuation would allow us to reach a trade consensus.

If we can do all these different trades, it doesn’t matter where we live. Artificial geographic borders could break down when we don’t rely on a single entity or regime to prove our value.

For example, the global currency system determines how much our assets are worth, depending on the stability (or volatility) of our native currency and how our home country’s institutions reach consensus with other markets.

When assets are tokenized, that value is stored in a single profile with fully decentralized transaction paths.

Technology can streamline this brave new financial world.

If these scenarios feel complicated and time-consuming, I hear you. The idea of valuing your assets, making the trades, and ensuring you’re not getting duped in the process can sound more than a little overwhelming.

Again, I’m bullish about emerging tech because it has the power to help. I see a future where humans, aided by artificial intelligence, can make more efficient and effective financial decisions.

null

We might trust the people who currently control and manage our money — and in many cases this trust is well founded — but even “experts” don’t have all the answers.
Investment requires educated decisions. No one has a crystal ball (unless they’re conducting insider trading).

Technology won’t provide foolproof investing, but it does remove industry greed from the equation.

Running your own trades eliminates high bank and investment fees. It ensures that you’re buying a stock because you think it’s smart, not because it pays kickbacks to the broker.

You won’t question the intentions of a financial institution, because they don’t have a hand in your assets.

Let the bots do the busywork.

Chatbots are arguably today’s most relatable AI application. Most people have used Facebook Messenger or interacted with a chatbot while shopping online or asking their telecom provider about those weird mobile charges.

Currently, chatbots are built to solve a specific set of problems. We’ve builtGrowthBot, for example, to deliver marketing and sales information without leaving your task or productivity platform (such as Slack).

You can ask questions about top posts, organic site traffic, or get company overviews. And instead of switching to a web browser and getting lost in a Google spiral, you can stay focused while GrowthBot digs up the details.

Now, apply this kind of “assistant” technology to your financial life. The bot could do everything from researching investments to calculating an asset value, in real time.
Remember, the bot is not taking over. This isn’t a dystopian sci-fi plot. Instead, it’s providing the information you need to make a smart and highly personalized decision.

null

Then, the chatbot could actually conduct the transaction as you instruct. That means no more calls to your bro-ish financial advisor or trying to recover a lost login password.

We Still Have a Long Way to Go

I do realize that the utopian future of my dreams is a long way off — if it’s ever going to be possible.

We will still face complex, ongoing issues about who holds wealth in our society and how to level the field. I’m not naïve about these challenges, nor do I believe that technology is a magic solution.

Even cryptocurrencies are promising, but they’re still rife with problems. These are totally unregulated assets, for better and worse.

At this moment, the “worse” is an approximately 90% rate of fraud among Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs), according to the People’s Bank of China.

Yet, I’m still motivated by the possibilities. Tokenization is just a tiny example of what a more decentralized, egalitarian, and direct financial system could enable.
Technologies are ultimately just tools that we can harness to lead cultural change — and whether we’re talking AI, bots or blockchain, the code is inconsequential. What really matters is our intention.

It’s time to decide how we’ll organize our society, for hundreds of years to come.

 

 

The 7 Most Common Leadership Styles & How to Find Your Own

“A good leader should always … “

How you finish that sentence could reveal a lot about your leadership style.

Leadership is a fluid practice. We’re always changing and improving the way in which we help our direct reports and the company grow. And the longer we lead, the more likely we’ll change the way we choose to complete the sentence above.

Click here to download leadership lessons from HubSpot founder, Dharmesh Shah.

But in order to become better leaders tomorrow, we need to know where we stand today. To help you understand the impact each type of leader has on a company, I’ll explain seven of the most common types of leadership styles in play today and how effective they are.

Then, I’ll show you a leadership style assessment based on this post’s opening sentence to help you figure out which leader you are.

7 Types of Leadership Styles

1. Democratic Leadership

Commonly Effective

Democratic leadership is exactly what it sounds like — the leader makes decisions based on the input of each team member. Although he or she makes the final call, each employee has an equal say on a project’s direction.

Democratic leadership is one of the most effective leadership styles because it allows lower-level employees to exercise authority they’ll need to use wisely in future positions they might hold. It also resembles how decisions can be made in company board meetings.

2. Autocratic Leadership

Rarely Effective

Autocratic leadership is the inverse of democratic leadership. In this leadership style, the leader makes decisions without taking input from anyone who reports to them. Employees are neither considered nor consulted prior to a direction, and are expected to adhere to the decision at a time and pace stipulated by the leader.

Frankly, this leadership style stinks. Most organizations today can’t sustain such a hegemonic culture without losing employees. It’s best to keep leadership more open to the intellect and perspective of the rest of the team.

3. Laissez-Faire Leadership

Sometimes Effective

If you remember your high-school French, you’ll accurately assume that laissez-faire leadership is the least intrusive form of leadership. The French term “laissez faire” literally translates to “let them do,” and leaders who embrace it afford nearly all authority to their employees.

Although laissez-faire leadership can empower employees by trusting them to work however they’d like, it can limit their development and overlook critical company growth opportunities. Therefore, it’s important that this leadership style is kept in check.

4. Strategic Leadership

Commonly Effective

Strategic leaders sit at the intersection between a company’s main operations and its growth opportunities. He or she accepts the burden of executive interests while ensuring that current working conditions remain stable for everyone else.

This is a desirable leadership style in many companies because strategic thinking supports multiple types of employees at once. However, leaders who operate this way can set a dangerous precedent with respect to how many people they can support at once, and what the best direction for the company really is if everyone is getting their way at all times.

5. Transformational Leadership

Sometimes Effective

Transformational leadership is always “transforming” and improving upon the company’s conventions. Employees might have a basic set of tasks and goals that they complete every week or month, but the leader is constantly pushing them outside of their comfort zone.

This is a highly encouraged form of leadership among growth-minded companies because it motivates employees to see what they’re capable of. But transformational leaders can risk losing sight of everyone’s individual learning curves if direct reports don’t receive the right coaching to guide them through new responsibilities.

6. Transactional Leadership

Sometimes Effective

Transactional leaders are fairly common today. These managers reward their employees for precisely the work they do. A marketing team that receives a scheduled bonus for helping generate a certain number of leads by the end of the quarter is a common example of transactional leadership.

Transactional leadership helps establish roles and responsibilities for each employee, but it can also encourage bare-minimum work if employees know how much their effort is worth all the time. This leadership style can use incentive programs to motivate employees, but they should be consistent with the company’s goals and used in addition to unscheduled gestures of appreciation.

7. Bureaucratic Leadership

Rarely Effective

Bureaucratic leaders go by the books. This style of leadership might listen and consider the input of employees — unlike autocratic leadership — but the leader tends to reject an employee’s input if it conflicts with company policy or past practices.

Employees under this leadership style might not feel as controlled as they would under autocratic leadership, but there is still a lack of freedom in how much people are able to do in their roles. This can quickly shut down innovation, and is definitely not encouraged for companies who are chasing ambitious goals and quick growth.

Leadership Style Assessment

Leaders can carry a mix of the above leadership styles depending on their industry and the obstacles they face. At the root of these styles, according to leadership experts Bill Torbert and David Rooke, are what are called “action logics.”

These action logics assess “how [leaders] interpret their surroundings and react when their power or safety is challenged.”

That’s the idea behind a popular management survey tool called the Leadership Development Profile. Created by professor Torbert and psychologist Susanne Cook-Greuter — and featured in the book, Personal and Organizational Transformations — the survey relies on a set of 36 open-ended sentence completion tasks to help researchers better understand how leaders develop and grow.

Below, we’ve outlined six action logics using open-ended sentences that help describe each one. See how much you agree with each sentence and, at the bottom, find out which leadership style you uphold based on the action logics you most agreed with.

1. Individualist

The individualist, according to Rooke and Tolbert, is self-aware, creative, and primarily focused on their own actions and development as opposed to overall organizational performance. This action logic is exceptionally driven by the desire to exceed personal goals and constantly improve their skills.

Here are some things an individualist might say:

I1. “A good leader should always trust their own intuition over established organizational processes.”

I2. “It’s important to be able to relate to others so I can easily communicate complex ideas to them.”

I3. “I’m more comfortable with progress than sustained success.”

2. Strategist

Strategists are acutely aware of the environments in which they operate. They have a deep understanding of the structures and processes that make their businesses tick, but they’re also able to consider these frameworks critically and evaluate what could be improved.

Here are some things a strategist might say:

S1. “A good leader should always be able to build a consensus in divided groups.”

S2. “It’s important to help develop the organization as a whole, as well as the growth and individual achievements of my direct reports.”

S3. “Conflict is inevitable, but I’m knowledgeable enough about my team’s personal and professional relationships to handle the friction.”

3. Alchemist

Rooke and Tolbert describe this charismatic action logic as the most highly evolved and effective at managing organizational change. What distinguishes alchemists from other action logics is their unique ability to see the big picture in everything, but also fully understand the need to take details seriously. Under an alchemist leader, no department or employee is overlooked.

Here are some things an alchemist might say:

A1. “A good leader helps their employees reach their highest potential, and possesses the necessary empathy and moral awareness to get there.”

A2. “It’s important to make a profound and positive impact on whatever I’m working on.”

A3. “I have a unique ability to balance short-term needs and long-term goals.”

4. Opportunist

Opportunist are guided by a certain level of mistrust of others, relying on a facade of control to keep their employees in line. “Opportunists tend to regard their bad behavior as legitimate in the cut and thrust of an eye-for-an-eye world,” Rooke and Tolbert write.

Here are some things an opportunist might say:

O1. “A good leader should always view others as potential competition to be bested, even if it’s at the expense of their professional development.”

O2. “I reserve the right to reject the input of those who question or criticize my ideas.”

5. Diplomat

Unlike the opportunist, the diplomat isn’t concerned with competition or assuming control over situations. Instead, this action logic seeks to cause minimal impact on their organization by conforming to existing norms and completing their daily tasks with as little friction as possible.

Here are some things a diplomat might say:

D1. “A good leader should always resist change since it risks causing instability among their direct reports.”

D2. “It’s important to provide the ‘social glue’ in team situations, safely away from conflict.”

D3. “I tend to thrive in more team-oriented or supporting leadership roles.”

6. Expert

The expert is a pro in their given field, constantly striving to perfect their knowledge of a subject and perform to meet their own high expectations. Rooke and Tolbert describe the expert as a talented individual contributor and a source of knowledge for the team. But this action logic does lack something central to many good leaders: emotional intelligence.

Here are some things a diplomat might say:

E1. “A good leader should prioritize their own pursuit of knowledge over the needs of the organization and their direct reports.”

E2. “When problem solving with others in the company, my opinion tends to be the correct one.”

Which Leader Are You?

So, which action logics above felt like you? Think about each sentence for a moment … now, check out which of the seven leadership styles you embrace on the right based on the sentences you resonated with on the left.

Action Logic Sentence Leadership Style
S3 Democratic
O1, O2, E1, E2 Autocratic
D2, D3, E1 Laissez-Faire
S1, S2, A3 Strategic
I1, I2, I3, A1, A2 Transformative
D3 Transactional
D1 Bureaucratic

The more action logics you agreed with, the more likely you practice a mix of leadership styles.

For example, if you agreed with everything the strategist said — denoted S1, S2, and S3 — this would make you a 66% strategic leader and 33% democratic leader. If you agreed with just S3, but also everything the alchemist said, this would make you a 50% transformative, 25% strategic, and 25% democratic leader.

Keep in mind that these action logics are considered developmental stages, not fixed attributes — most leaders will progress through multiple types of leadership throughout their careers.

New Call-to-action

 
New Call-to-action

“A good leader should always … “

How you finish that sentence could reveal a lot about your leadership style.

Leadership is a fluid practice. We’re always changing and improving the way in which we help our direct reports and the company grow. And the longer we lead, the more likely we’ll change the way we choose to complete the sentence above.

Click here to download leadership lessons from HubSpot founder, Dharmesh Shah.

But in order to become better leaders tomorrow, we need to know where we stand today. To help you understand the impact each type of leader has on a company, I’ll explain seven of the most common types of leadership styles in play today and how effective they are.

Then, I’ll show you a leadership style assessment based on this post’s opening sentence to help you figure out which leader you are.

7 Types of Leadership Styles

1. Democratic Leadership

Commonly Effective

Democratic leadership is exactly what it sounds like — the leader makes decisions based on the input of each team member. Although he or she makes the final call, each employee has an equal say on a project’s direction.

Democratic leadership is one of the most effective leadership styles because it allows lower-level employees to exercise authority they’ll need to use wisely in future positions they might hold. It also resembles how decisions can be made in company board meetings.

2. Autocratic Leadership

Rarely Effective

Autocratic leadership is the inverse of democratic leadership. In this leadership style, the leader makes decisions without taking input from anyone who reports to them. Employees are neither considered nor consulted prior to a direction, and are expected to adhere to the decision at a time and pace stipulated by the leader.

Frankly, this leadership style stinks. Most organizations today can’t sustain such a hegemonic culture without losing employees. It’s best to keep leadership more open to the intellect and perspective of the rest of the team.

3. Laissez-Faire Leadership

Sometimes Effective

If you remember your high-school French, you’ll accurately assume that laissez-faire leadership is the least intrusive form of leadership. The French term “laissez faire” literally translates to “let them do,” and leaders who embrace it afford nearly all authority to their employees.

Although laissez-faire leadership can empower employees by trusting them to work however they’d like, it can limit their development and overlook critical company growth opportunities. Therefore, it’s important that this leadership style is kept in check.

4. Strategic Leadership

Commonly Effective

Strategic leaders sit at the intersection between a company’s main operations and its growth opportunities. He or she accepts the burden of executive interests while ensuring that current working conditions remain stable for everyone else.

This is a desirable leadership style in many companies because strategic thinking supports multiple types of employees at once. However, leaders who operate this way can set a dangerous precedent with respect to how many people they can support at once, and what the best direction for the company really is if everyone is getting their way at all times.

5. Transformational Leadership

Sometimes Effective

Transformational leadership is always “transforming” and improving upon the company’s conventions. Employees might have a basic set of tasks and goals that they complete every week or month, but the leader is constantly pushing them outside of their comfort zone.

This is a highly encouraged form of leadership among growth-minded companies because it motivates employees to see what they’re capable of. But transformational leaders can risk losing sight of everyone’s individual learning curves if direct reports don’t receive the right coaching to guide them through new responsibilities.

6. Transactional Leadership

Sometimes Effective

Transactional leaders are fairly common today. These managers reward their employees for precisely the work they do. A marketing team that receives a scheduled bonus for helping generate a certain number of leads by the end of the quarter is a common example of transactional leadership.

Transactional leadership helps establish roles and responsibilities for each employee, but it can also encourage bare-minimum work if employees know how much their effort is worth all the time. This leadership style can use incentive programs to motivate employees, but they should be consistent with the company’s goals and used in addition to unscheduled gestures of appreciation.

7. Bureaucratic Leadership

Rarely Effective

Bureaucratic leaders go by the books. This style of leadership might listen and consider the input of employees — unlike autocratic leadership — but the leader tends to reject an employee’s input if it conflicts with company policy or past practices.

Employees under this leadership style might not feel as controlled as they would under autocratic leadership, but there is still a lack of freedom in how much people are able to do in their roles. This can quickly shut down innovation, and is definitely not encouraged for companies who are chasing ambitious goals and quick growth.

Leadership Style Assessment

Leaders can carry a mix of the above leadership styles depending on their industry and the obstacles they face. At the root of these styles, according to leadership experts Bill Torbert and David Rooke, are what are called “action logics.”

These action logics assess “how [leaders] interpret their surroundings and react when their power or safety is challenged.”

That’s the idea behind a popular management survey tool called the Leadership Development Profile. Created by professor Torbert and psychologist Susanne Cook-Greuter — and featured in the book, Personal and Organizational Transformations — the survey relies on a set of 36 open-ended sentence completion tasks to help researchers better understand how leaders develop and grow.

Below, we’ve outlined six action logics using open-ended sentences that help describe each one. See how much you agree with each sentence and, at the bottom, find out which leadership style you uphold based on the action logics you most agreed with.

1. Individualist

The individualist, according to Rooke and Tolbert, is self-aware, creative, and primarily focused on their own actions and development as opposed to overall organizational performance. This action logic is exceptionally driven by the desire to exceed personal goals and constantly improve their skills.

Here are some things an individualist might say:

I1. “A good leader should always trust their own intuition over established organizational processes.”

I2. “It’s important to be able to relate to others so I can easily communicate complex ideas to them.”

I3. “I’m more comfortable with progress than sustained success.”

2. Strategist

Strategists are acutely aware of the environments in which they operate. They have a deep understanding of the structures and processes that make their businesses tick, but they’re also able to consider these frameworks critically and evaluate what could be improved.

Here are some things a strategist might say:

S1. “A good leader should always be able to build a consensus in divided groups.”

S2. “It’s important to help develop the organization as a whole, as well as the growth and individual achievements of my direct reports.”

S3. “Conflict is inevitable, but I’m knowledgeable enough about my team’s personal and professional relationships to handle the friction.”

3. Alchemist

Rooke and Tolbert describe this charismatic action logic as the most highly evolved and effective at managing organizational change. What distinguishes alchemists from other action logics is their unique ability to see the big picture in everything, but also fully understand the need to take details seriously. Under an alchemist leader, no department or employee is overlooked.

Here are some things an alchemist might say:

A1. “A good leader helps their employees reach their highest potential, and possesses the necessary empathy and moral awareness to get there.”

A2. “It’s important to make a profound and positive impact on whatever I’m working on.”

A3. “I have a unique ability to balance short-term needs and long-term goals.”

4. Opportunist

Opportunist are guided by a certain level of mistrust of others, relying on a facade of control to keep their employees in line. “Opportunists tend to regard their bad behavior as legitimate in the cut and thrust of an eye-for-an-eye world,” Rooke and Tolbert write.

Here are some things an opportunist might say:

O1. “A good leader should always view others as potential competition to be bested, even if it’s at the expense of their professional development.”

O2. “I reserve the right to reject the input of those who question or criticize my ideas.”

5. Diplomat

Unlike the opportunist, the diplomat isn’t concerned with competition or assuming control over situations. Instead, this action logic seeks to cause minimal impact on their organization by conforming to existing norms and completing their daily tasks with as little friction as possible.

Here are some things a diplomat might say:

D1. “A good leader should always resist change since it risks causing instability among their direct reports.”

D2. “It’s important to provide the ‘social glue’ in team situations, safely away from conflict.”

D3. “I tend to thrive in more team-oriented or supporting leadership roles.”

6. Expert

The expert is a pro in their given field, constantly striving to perfect their knowledge of a subject and perform to meet their own high expectations. Rooke and Tolbert describe the expert as a talented individual contributor and a source of knowledge for the team. But this action logic does lack something central to many good leaders: emotional intelligence.

Here are some things a diplomat might say:

E1. “A good leader should prioritize their own pursuit of knowledge over the needs of the organization and their direct reports.”

E2. “When problem solving with others in the company, my opinion tends to be the correct one.”

Which Leader Are You?

So, which action logics above felt like you? Think about each sentence for a moment … now, check out which of the seven leadership styles you embrace on the right based on the sentences you resonated with on the left.

Action Logic Sentence Leadership Style
S3 Democratic
O1, O2, E1, E2 Autocratic
D2, D3, E1 Laissez-Faire
S1, S2, A3 Strategic
I1, I2, I3, A1, A2 Transformative
D3 Transactional
D1 Bureaucratic

The more action logics you agreed with, the more likely you practice a mix of leadership styles.

For example, if you agreed with everything the strategist said — denoted S1, S2, and S3 — this would make you a 66% strategic leader and 33% democratic leader. If you agreed with just S3, but also everything the alchemist said, this would make you a 50% transformative, 25% strategic, and 25% democratic leader.

Keep in mind that these action logics are considered developmental stages, not fixed attributes — most leaders will progress through multiple types of leadership throughout their careers.

New Call-to-action

 
New Call-to-action

A Comprehensive Guide to Kerning in Typography

I’m willing to bet you already know what kerning is — you just don’t realize it.

While you might not recognize when kerning is done well, you certainly see it when it’s done poorly.

Here’s an example of bad kerning: M a rk e t i ng .Download 195+ visual marketing design templates to use for social media posts,  infographics, and more. 

Kerning is adjusting the space between letters, and either increasing or decreasing the distance to ensure better readability or appearance.

Interestingly, it’s not always best to have equal spacing between each letter. Each letter has different shapes and curves, so sometimes kerning actually helps the letters look less conspicuous. For instance, a “cl” can sometimes appear to be a “d”, so you might use kerning to space them further apart.

No matter what your job title, it’s important to understand the power of kerning. Kerning can help you create better designs, produce more visually appealing copy, or construct better presentations. Kerning is one of those actions that can push your deliverables from ordinary to exceptional.

If you don’t know how kerning works, don’t worry. Here, we’ll show you how to use kerning in Photoshop, Word, and Illustrator. Plus, we’ll provide examples of bad kerning, so you know what to avoid when using kerning for your own text.

Kerning in Photoshop

Kerning in Photoshop is incredibly easy, once you figure out where the “Kerning” tool is. If you’re designing a presentation or email template in Photoshop, and your words look a little sloppy, this is an easy way to clean up your text to improve the appearance.

1. First, ensure your cursor is in between two letters. Next, select the “Character” panel, as highlighted by the red arrow below (If you can’t find it, try searching “Character” within the Photoshop search tool).

3. Within the “Character” panel, you’ll see a V/A (with a little arrow below the A). That’s the “Kerning” tool. It’s automatically set to “Optical”. Click the down arrow to see your options for kerning.

4. For instance, I chose the number “75”. If you’re unsure how much space you want between your letters, test out a few different options. The negative numbers make your letters closer together, and the positive numbers create more space between the letters.

5. Now, there’s a nice “75” point space between my “K” and “E” (of course, this is probably an example of bad kerning … ).

Important note: There’s a quicker option to use the “Kerning” tool in Photoshop. If you click in between two letters, you can hit “Option” and then hit the “Right” arrow. This will create more distance between letters.

Kerning in Word

If your writing copy in Microsoft Word, or using Word to design a poster, you might want to use kerning, especially if your font is bigger and the letters look awkward.

Fortunately, it’s easy to do.

  1. Within a Word document, go to “Format” and then click “Font”. FYI, I left my cursor in between the “K” and the “e” in the document, because that’s the space to which I wanted to apply kerning.

2. Next, click “Advanced” within the Font panel.

3. Under the “Advanced” section, you’ll see “Kerning for fonts” with an empty box to the left of it. Check that box. Then, input a number (I put “20”, which you’ll see circled). The number you choose will depend on how much space you want between the letters.

4. There’s now “20” points of kerning in between the “K” and the “e”.

Kerning in Illustrator

Finally, let’s take a look at kerning in Illustrator. Since many designers and marketers use Illustrator for clients or for personal projects, it’s important to know how to apply kerning to your letters.

Kerning in Illustrator is an almost identical process to how you’d do it in Photoshop (which makes sense, since they’re both Adobe products). Nonetheless, here’s how you do it.

  1. First, click the “Text” tool and put your cursor in between two letters — I put mine in between the “K” and the “E”. Then, find your “Characters” panel.

2. Similar to Photoshop, there will be a “V/A” tool, with a little arrow underneath the “A”. That’s the kerning tool. With your cursor placed between two letters, increase or decrease the number beside the kerning tool — as you can see, I set mine to “200”.

3. Now, I have a (admittedly, very ugly) space between my “K” and my “E”.

Examples of bad kerning

I’ve probably already shown you plenty of bad kerning examples throughout this piece, with my own attempts at kerning on various software.

But if you’d like to see more, don’t worry — we’ve got some hilarious real world examples, to show you just how important (good) kerning is.

Here are a couple examples of bad kerning:

1. Bus sign gone wrong.

2. What’s up with this spacing? 

Screen Shot 2018-05-17 at 1.53.18 PM

3. I think fixing this sign would be worth the investment.

4. Watch out for bad kerning, too. 

Screen Shot 2018-05-21 at 1.56.18 PM

5. This gives me a headache.

Try the HubSpot Website Add-on
 
195 free visual design templates

I’m willing to bet you already know what kerning is — you just don’t realize it.

While you might not recognize when kerning is done well, you certainly see it when it’s done poorly.

Here’s an example of bad kerning: M a rk e t i ng .Download 195+ visual marketing design templates to use for social media posts,  infographics, and more. 

Kerning is adjusting the space between letters, and either increasing or decreasing the distance to ensure better readability or appearance.

Interestingly, it’s not always best to have equal spacing between each letter. Each letter has different shapes and curves, so sometimes kerning actually helps the letters look less conspicuous. For instance, a “cl” can sometimes appear to be a “d”, so you might use kerning to space them further apart.

No matter what your job title, it’s important to understand the power of kerning. Kerning can help you create better designs, produce more visually appealing copy, or construct better presentations. Kerning is one of those actions that can push your deliverables from ordinary to exceptional.

If you don’t know how kerning works, don’t worry. Here, we’ll show you how to use kerning in Photoshop, Word, and Illustrator. Plus, we’ll provide examples of bad kerning, so you know what to avoid when using kerning for your own text.

Kerning in Photoshop

Kerning in Photoshop is incredibly easy, once you figure out where the “Kerning” tool is. If you’re designing a presentation or email template in Photoshop, and your words look a little sloppy, this is an easy way to clean up your text to improve the appearance.

1. First, ensure your cursor is in between two letters. Next, select the “Character” panel, as highlighted by the red arrow below (If you can’t find it, try searching “Character” within the Photoshop search tool).

3. Within the “Character” panel, you’ll see a V/A (with a little arrow below the A). That’s the “Kerning” tool. It’s automatically set to “Optical”. Click the down arrow to see your options for kerning.

4. For instance, I chose the number “75”. If you’re unsure how much space you want between your letters, test out a few different options. The negative numbers make your letters closer together, and the positive numbers create more space between the letters.

5. Now, there’s a nice “75” point space between my “K” and “E” (of course, this is probably an example of bad kerning … ).

Important note: There’s a quicker option to use the “Kerning” tool in Photoshop. If you click in between two letters, you can hit “Option” and then hit the “Right” arrow. This will create more distance between letters.

Kerning in Word

If your writing copy in Microsoft Word, or using Word to design a poster, you might want to use kerning, especially if your font is bigger and the letters look awkward.

Fortunately, it’s easy to do.

  1. Within a Word document, go to “Format” and then click “Font”. FYI, I left my cursor in between the “K” and the “e” in the document, because that’s the space to which I wanted to apply kerning.

2. Next, click “Advanced” within the Font panel.

3. Under the “Advanced” section, you’ll see “Kerning for fonts” with an empty box to the left of it. Check that box. Then, input a number (I put “20”, which you’ll see circled). The number you choose will depend on how much space you want between the letters.

4. There’s now “20” points of kerning in between the “K” and the “e”.

Kerning in Illustrator

Finally, let’s take a look at kerning in Illustrator. Since many designers and marketers use Illustrator for clients or for personal projects, it’s important to know how to apply kerning to your letters.

Kerning in Illustrator is an almost identical process to how you’d do it in Photoshop (which makes sense, since they’re both Adobe products). Nonetheless, here’s how you do it.

  1. First, click the “Text” tool and put your cursor in between two letters — I put mine in between the “K” and the “E”. Then, find your “Characters” panel.

2. Similar to Photoshop, there will be a “V/A” tool, with a little arrow underneath the “A”. That’s the kerning tool. With your cursor placed between two letters, increase or decrease the number beside the kerning tool — as you can see, I set mine to “200”.

3. Now, I have a (admittedly, very ugly) space between my “K” and my “E”.

Examples of bad kerning

I’ve probably already shown you plenty of bad kerning examples throughout this piece, with my own attempts at kerning on various software.

But if you’d like to see more, don’t worry — we’ve got some hilarious real world examples, to show you just how important (good) kerning is.

Here are a couple examples of bad kerning:

1. Bus sign gone wrong.

2. What’s up with this spacing? 

Screen Shot 2018-05-17 at 1.53.18 PM

3. I think fixing this sign would be worth the investment.

4. Watch out for bad kerning, too. 

Screen Shot 2018-05-21 at 1.56.18 PM

5. This gives me a headache.

Try the HubSpot Website Add-on
 
195 free visual design templates