Punchcut Intern Project
Fostering human connection in a remote work environment
On top of client work, I also worked on an intern project at Punchcut. The ask was to create a set of GIFs for client communication, which addresses the underwhelming nature of remote milestone completion during projects.
Before COVID-19, Punchcut would have in-person project handovers with clients. People would shake hands, high-five, and clink their champagne glass together. Now, everything is remote. When a project hits a completion milestone, interactions with clients can be pretty underwhelming, often involving only an email. So how can we bring back some human connection moments with clients to celebrate our partnership?
Through talking with coworkers, I discovered that the primary touch points between Punchcut and clients are these three different roles:
I interviewed several Account Managers, Project Managers, and Solution Leads, to find out how they currently interact with clients, how they envision using GIFs on top of their current communications, and what feelings and messages they want to convey.
I synthesized these findings into a few key considerations as I dive into the next stage of the project.
One of the key takeaways from the interviews is that the GIFs need to not only reflect Punchcut’s brand, but also solidify it. Branding the GIFs appropriately makes them more personal and professional, and provides a nice opportunity to let Punchcut’s values and culture shine through.
From the interviews and my experience, Punchcut’s culture is professional yet personable, fun-loving, and values people and their unique personalities. When it comes to clients, Punchcut strives to be long-term partners that can be relied upon. But how does this translate visually?
On top of studying the general branding guidelines, I also gathered existing brand materials, which have a variety of styles. The GIFs I’m making should also act as a variant of the main brand, having a voice of its own while still belonging to the same family.
So I conducted an Image Sort exercise. I collected a variety of potential visual directions, and asked Punchcut designers to pick one that represent the Punchcut brand and one that doesn’t, supporting their choices with explanations. I synthesized the results into a moodboard.
Before moving forward, I also did a Motion Benchmarking exercise with motion designers at Punchcut. We had a conversation about how things should move in these GIFs, and together set a cohesive tone of voice for them.
Based on several ideas I gathered from research, I started sketching quick and dirty, primarily focusing on human interactions missed out in a remote environment, and using metaphors to convey certain feelings. Eventually landing on a set of phrases and sketches that are flexible to use in a variety of contexts.
I had a lot of fun reinterpreting and pushing Punchcut’s branding to make it more playful and celebratory yet still maintaining a professional look. I pushed hard on the delight factor: the sparks after a high-five, a rocket gathering momentum, and colorful shapes reminiscent of confetti.
A taste of creative direction
Due to time constraint, two motion designers helped me animate two of the GIFs. It was my first time art directing a project. I created storyboards with detailed annotations, and also found motion examples for the effects I wanted to achieve.
It was really fun! It didn’t involve just giving instructions, but also having a conversations around how I wanted these GIFs to turn out. I learned how to have a firm vision yet be open to better ideas, especially acknowledging the expertise of others.
The result is a set of three GIFs that can be used in a variety of situations and across many different platforms: in casual conversations on Google chat or Slack, in email exchanges, or embedded in delivery slide decks.
Scoping and time-management
On top of client work, I had 6 weeks to complete my intern project. So I had to really scope out the project and set milestones for myself. Meeting with stakeholders within Punchcut and presenting my progress regularly helped keep me on track and heading the right direction.
More so than anything, I learned from this experience how to manage a project from beginning to end, how to synthesize my findings and justify my design decisions every step of the way for presentations, and how to balance the needs of stakeholders and my own vision.
Special thanks to my mentor Emily Finley, who showed me the ropes. And to my director Nick Munro, for giving me such a fun intern project to work on XD