Ahh the QR code. Love it or love to hate it? Despite having a lukewarm response when it first launched, you’re bound to see and interact with one everywhere. The pandemic has shifted people’s mindset in that they are now more accustomed to this technology. Gone are the days where people ignore this ubiquitous black and white box. From contactless payments to contact tracing, QR codes have seen a renaissance and is here to stay in the post pandemic world. Brands should take this as an opportunity and leverage on this technology.

QR codes enable “phygital” (no I didn’t just make this up) experiences by bridging the physical world and a digital one. The inherent interactivity when engaging with a QR code allows us to tell layers of stories. First, you read a prompt telling you why you need to scan the code, and then you whip out your phone to scan it. This leads you to the second level of engagement wether it’s reading a menu or making a payment. But this could just be the beginning.

Data Tracking

Invented more than 20 years ago, the QR code was originally used to track car parts. And as an advanced form of barcode, it holds significantly more data than a normal barcode. It’s like the green and black lines of binary that makes up The Matrix, but without Keanu Reeves. What this means for brands and marketers is that utilising these in campaigns allow for performance data to be collated. With dynamic QR codes, data such as the location, number and time of the scans can tracked, as well as the operating system of the device used. It can help gauge interests, and through analysis, determine preferences and patterns. Much like embedding a pixel or a cookie in digital mediums. This can then be used to shape integrated digital marketing strategies downstream.

Environmental Impact

Restaurants were the first few adopters of the QR code during the pandemic. CDCs worldwide advised in avoiding the handling of reusable items such as menus. Physical printed menus replaced digital ones which saw the upside of alleviating not only financial costs but environmental ones as well. A digital menu also empowers brands to update menus on the fly without the wastes of reprinting.

QR codes are also utilised in contactless payments. And with the advent of cashless P2P services, paper based receipts and bills have started giving way to digital ones as well.


The use of QR codes as a supporting role in communication should inspire both creatives and marketers into new uses for this old tech. Brand stories too lengthy on a space constrained medium like packaging can still be told thru QR codes. In a society where people are more socially conscious than ever, brand values are critical for brand affinity.  Where an ingredient is sourced is as equally important to ingredient information or how manufacturer’s support its workers. Telling people the story of how the product they hold ended up in the palm of their hands ensures a better engaged consumer. And I’m sure we all know how important brand storytelling is.

QR codes also provide an instant link between the consumers and the brand’s social media, blog or even look book. This gives consumers a peek into the lifestyle a brand represents or a community it supports.

The key in leveraging on QR codes lie in the consumer journey. Now that the point and scan behaviour has been conditioned in all of us, we need to make sure how we use QR codes, support an overall experience. Not just adding for the sake of it. For an old dog, the QR code still has a lot more tricks up left up its sleeve. The fun part is in how we can tease out new ways of playing with it.

Social Impact

We live in an age where increasingly “woke” consumers are tuning in more and more to brands that resonate with their social beliefs. With the rise of social activism, be it BLM, LGBTQIA+, Gender and/or Race Equality or Climate Change, brands can no longer remain silent. As brand custodians, marketers and creatives, we should realise the power we have over consumer choices. And with great power comes great (social) responsibility. Marketing for social impact means that we not only strengthen customer relationships but also perpetuate positive social change.

As the realities of global issues are becoming more apparent, we need to build up brands and ourselves to weather and grow through shifts in global perspectives. Brands can provide an additional outlet for consumers to express their voice in these issues. Aligning the brands’ social purpose or mission with their consumers social beliefs makes for a win-win situation. More importantly, it improves the charities’ beneficiaries lives and makes better social impact.

This realignment is not as simple as donating funds to a charity. For a more meaningful and lasting social impact in your marketing strategies, brands need to sync what the brand stands for, with what it stands UP for. We need to consider many aspects of the social cause, business and brand, in order to align them successfully. While at the same time, avoiding potential long term negative effects. Here are 4 tips to consider in order to create marketing strategies that integrate social impact.


Fit your brand’s persona with a social cause for maximum impact

Fit your brand for greater impact

Looking into your brand’s archetype, persona, and heritage may be a good starting point in determining social cause. Ask yourself, if your brand is a person, what are its values? A deep dive into this helps you identify the social needs your brand is well positioned to address. Take Dove for example. A natural extension to its core line of products was to champion all kinds of beauty. Their marketing and messaging strategies effectively increased its social impact and resonance with its persona and main audience.

Maybe you’re an outdoor sporting brand, manufacturing hiking gear and equipment. Then perhaps aligning your marketing with environmental causes might fit with your brand’s persona and core buyer personas. This effectively elevates the customer-brand connection from a transactional one into one that helps consumers become part of a larger movement. And it’s also because consumers want to make a social impact as well.


Transform me into we

Transform me into We

The cause your brand champions should permeate all levels of your organisation. Make it a team effort. By embracing a social cause, your brand also provides your team with a purpose. This energizes work and adds meaning to everything that you do. As ambassadors to your brand, your team is an additional medium your brand can tap to champion both business goals and social purpose.

This also extends to business partners that the brand associates itself with. Other companies adopting a similar cause may provide an excellent opportunity when considering co-branding to jointly advance marketing and social cause objectives. If nothing else, be the brand that inspires other brands to adopt a cause, create a domino effect and make an even bigger social impact.


Put the social in social impact

Hearts for impact

Social media can be another great vehicle to reflect the social cause your brand has chosen to embrace. Start incorporating your social cause message into your social media strategy and content marketing for greater impact. It provides a creative way to express your brand’s views outside of product or tactical messages. Social media also helps expose your cause to a large audience making an impact that can be seen globally. Showcasing your cause on social media also helps build up your brand’s persona as one whose goals are not necessarily only sales oriented. This helps consumers see your brand as a “person”, with its own sets of personality and beliefs that they can relate to. Which leads us to the next most important point.


Go all the way

Traffic light

It should go without saying that a social cause should be embraced holistically and authentically. Practice what you preach. If racial equality is your brand’s social cause then not only should you align yourself with and support charitable organisations, but also practice equitable HR policies. Marketers and creatives alike should strive to overcome psychological biases. This enables them to then push out marketing materials and all types of advertising free from discrimination. Especially in this day and age where information is readily available at our fingertips, consumers can more easily suss out if your support for a social cause is faked. Being accused of greenwashing by your audience is damaging to your brand’s reputation.

Brand custodians, marketers and creatives all want for high engagement with their brands and advertising campaigns. What better way to do it than appealing to consumers’ social beliefs and then following it through with tangible results that benefit real people in need.

We now are living in pivotal times of social and economic upheaval. How well brands react to these changes will prove their resilience, relevance and even, creativity. But this has never been a better time to seize this as what it is – an opportunity for brands to have a social purpose alongside a business one. People are craving for change and we as marketers need to recognise the power consumers wield with their purchasing habits and our influence over them.

Empathy in Customer Experience

Design thinking, user experience, customer experience, what do all these buzzwords have in common? If you say, human centricity, you’re actually only half right. While it’s true that human / user centric thinking influences these things, the skill we’d need to hone in order to practise, say for example design thinking, is empathy.


What exactly is empathy?

“Empathy is about finding echoes of another person in yourself.” – Mohsin Hamid

In a nutshell, it is our ability to feel and experience the world through other people’s lenses. It is a skill that requires us to really dig deep into our own personal experiences and find a connection with the issues people face. This empowers creatives and marketers alike to develop integrated marketing strategies and solutions which evoke emotions and resonance with their intended audience.


How empathy helps

Empathy helps when developing UX writing, web design and even ideating what vlogs to produce. It will also come in handy when you’re determining the motivations of Gen Zs or what exactly makes a Millennial tick. Knowing these things are critical to get them to interact with the brand. Is it a gut wrenching video that pulls at the heartstrings? An ad that light heartedly pokes at relatable everyday life?

Phygital? No problem, empathy also comes into play when strategising media, omnichannel marketing solutions and customer experience. Ask yourself, if I was in my target audience’s shoes, how would I behave in terms of consuming content? 

Whatever the output, empathy remains a key component in driving emotions because brands knowing the right thing to say at the right moment, generates more impact. And in a world where authenticity is lauded and engagement – marketing gold, you can already guess how important this skill is. In fact, this is one of the key things hiring managers look out for in potential hires. 

While it may sound like putting this into practise is a daunting task (and it is!) don’t worry, I feel you. But the good news is that empathy is innate in all of us. We may just be out of shape. There are many frameworks out there that use this to great effect but before you dive into design thinking, you need to limber up. Here are 3 tips to warm up those empathic muscles.


Let go your ego


Tip 1: Leave your ego at the door

We need to understand deeply. In most of our formative years and professional lives, being firm in our opinions is seen as a valued trait. But in order to truly understand and empathise, we need to tame our egos because when we don’t, we tend to discount the feelings of others. And in terms of marketing and brand communications, this may come across as out of touch at best, and insensitive at its worst. This also involves letting go of preconceived notions and our assumptions. Being neutral, non-judgemental and checking our biases. It is a tall order I know, but with practice, this will become second nature.


Eyes See Ears Hear


Tip 2: Listen & observe

Listen actively. As a kid with a short attention span, my dad always told me, “You’re hearing me but are you listening?” Actively listening means being present and listening with all of your senses. Sometimes paying attention to what people don’t say is as important as what they do say. When observing your intended audience during mystery shopping, focus groups and interviews, look out for body language, and learn to interpret these signs to enrich your insights.  Using these insights when writing briefs, developing your marketing mix and even brand building makes all other efforts that much more effective and relevant.


Fist Bump

Tip 3: Care & be sincere

“No one cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.” – Theodore Roosevelt.

Sympathy is the first step. It is easy to feel the plight of consumers and users but empathy requires us to go deeper. It means offering something authentic and tangible. And when insights are built on these, marketing efforts will be richly rewarded. And while this requires effort, it builds long term relationships with consumers who could potentially become brand ambassadors. 

Take for example, Dove’s Real Beauty campaigns. Based on their gathered insights, they found out that only 4% of women globally find themselves beautiful and 54% agree that they are their own worst critic. How did they take these findings and craft it into a compelling narrative homed into the heart of the problem while championing a transformative outlook on true beauty?

The Dove Real Beauty Sketches elicited an emotional response in women all across the world, who realised that the biggest pressure to be beautiful is the one they put on themselves. The video launched in key markets in U.S, Canada, Brazil and Australia quickly grew to become the one of the most watched video on YouTube. 

The takeaway

At the end of the day, empathy is all about immersing yourself. It is true that the whats and the hows are important, but ultimately it is the whys that shape those two. First, we need to understand the background of our intended audience. Then comes understanding their behaviour and how they do things. Dig deeper into these and you’ll get to the root of the problem, their motivations. The whys. Another example of the importance of empathy is in user experience design. It is the first crucial phase in Design Thinking, Empathise. 

While empathy helps with creating more effective and creative marketers by building better connections, it also helps us in all aspects of our career development. In briefings, discussions and professional relationships, it helps foster collaboration and rapport. And more importantly, especially living in a world reeling from the effects of a pandemic, a little empathy helps us rebuild a better society as well as make us better members of it. We all need it now more than ever. As brand custodians, marketers and creatives, we’ve got skin in the game.

3D mock-up of antics branded beer can against a purple ombre background

One of the hottest design trends predicted for 2019 is 3D design. As 3D design software becomes more accessible and acceptance and demand for augmented reality increases, 3D design looks to be more than yet another trend.


What 3D design means for your marketing efforts

Adobe Dimension gives creative agencies, marketers and businesses, another toy to play with. To dream bigger and visualise ideas once too costly to mockup to get stakeholders excited. Whether adding life to designs or developing new ways brands communicate. In the grand scheme of things, it opens fresh and exciting ways for brand storytelling.

Mockup in 3D to visualise prototypes



3D design and typography

The strength of 3D design in storytelling is all the more apparent when developing ad campaigns. 3D typography isn’t the newest kid on the block. But take a moment to imagine: The headlines of your next big campaign, composed of abstract 3D-rendered shapes and objects.

Seamless design and copy with 3d typography

Give new meaning to your visuals as it works seamlessly with copy. This, combined with another 2019 trend of bold and loud colours, has the potential to make designs not only pop off the page or screen but adds a level of depth that you’ll want to reach out and touch.


Make your customers’ experience 3D

3D design opens up new avenues to explore when it comes to expressing your brand’s identity and development. Fancy your very own cinematic splash screen? Combine 3D with animation, and you have an animated logo. Specifically, a 3D one that lets your brand express its unique personality. Need another reason to hop on the 3D bandwagon? The hottest social media platforms are exploring 3D formats. Remember that 3D post that had you staring at your phone, spinning around on the spot?


Bridge experiences through multiple touch points

Take it a step further and throw augmented reality into the mix. With tech giants Facebook, Google and Apple developing their own AR Kits, you can now integrate 3D design, both static and animated, across channels. Give customers a seamless journey from digital to print and even on-ground. Want to see it in action? Download Artivive and check out our logo through the app. See first-hand how the many tools at your disposal can be combined to create differentiated experiences.

Compose scenes dreamed up entirely in 3D

With powerful new tools in our toolkit, creatives can dream up compositions rendered entirely in 3D. The tools give us more control during the design process, allowing us to manipulate angles, lighting and placement. Now we can get the perfect shot without having a photoshoot. For startups and small businesses, this could be what you need to produce your next product shot of a prototype to get stakeholders onboard with a new idea. No physical product or prototype yet? Don’t fret. 3D design is the solution you need.

Render 3D kiosks to see them before production

It’s easy to get carried away with all these shiny new toys at our disposal. While they give us new ways to bring your story to life, your story is what engages your consumers. Whatever story your brand wants to tell, add a new dimension to it.

Zoning out. Flights of fancy. Admit it, you’re guilty of daydreaming at work at one point or another. With tight deadlines always looming, daydreaming implies procrastination, and procrastination means inefficiency. Hence the guilt because inefficiency = bad. But what if I tell you that not all daydreaming is bad? What if you can hack into your staring-blankly-into-space sessions, and daydreaming PRODUCTIVELY to leverage on the freedom and creativity of a wandering mind?

Sounds good? Here are 5 steps to help you take your mind for a walk to daydream creatively and productively. Because after all, creativity isn’t always available on tap, it’s more like rain.


Setting a schedule to plan your daydreaming session seems counter-intuitive. But even the craziest, most creative of ad campaigns have had tons of planning behind it. A method to the madness if you will. You can also think of this as preparation for your brain into flipping that conscious switch to tune out the noise. Which in turn allows you to more effectively turn your attention inward.


Feed your mind

This should come after setting aside time and planning to daydream. You need to take in a project brief, inspiration and other stimulus beforehand, then clear your mind and allow it to settle and ferment. And the richer the sources of inspiration, the better the brew. It can be that really cool animated digital campaign you’ve seen recently, a truly immersive brand experience you enjoyed or even something as random as an R&B playlist that particularly inspired you. Let them all sit and age within your mind first, like aging whiskey. Then when it’s time to daydream, crack the cask and take a swig of that heady brew to let inspiration flow.


Sit on the ceramic throne

It doesn’t have to be an actual physical space, though it might help for some. Find a place where you wouldn’t be disturbed in your office building. Take a walk. I’ve heard of some who swear their best ideas come to them while they’re sitting on the ceramic throne. Go ahead, take a crap at it, the point is to take yourself out of your usual physical space for you to mentally space out and daydream productively.


Hands busy, mind free

Engage in activity like free writing, doodling or even colouring. Designers generally go through reams and reams of sketching pads just to arrive to a handful of workable logo designs! You’ll also find inspiration always strikes (most of the time anyway) when you’re doing something completely unrelated. Which then makes that pen or colouring pencil you have on hand extremely, well, handy. Perfect to jot down or sketch out that creative idea. If nothing else, studies like this one published by University of California, Santa Barbara’s Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences – suggest that engaging in such activities while daydreaming improves creative ability.



It is interesting to note that while modern society places a premium on creativity, we are actually hard wired to hate our own creativity. So to make our daydreaming session more creative and productive, we must turn off our inner critic. Or at the very least acknowledge it. This way when we find ourselves cringing at a crazy idea we might’ve had and shutting it down, we can go past it and truly let our minds wander.

There are many other ways to take advantage of productive daydreaming, so let these serve as a launchpad. At antics@play, we have brown bag sessions and creativity days to shake things up and to expand on our stock of brain fertiliser. Build on this with personal hacks that work for you to propel yourself into a creative and freer mindspace. And, to borrow from Captain Kirk, boldly go where no mind has gone before!

Apple vs Braun

Ask anyone and chances are they have not heard of Dieter Rams. But as one of the most influential designers of the modern age, everyone at some point has owned or, at the very least, used a product he had inspired or designed. In fact, it is quite likely that the device you’re using right now to read this article was designed with Dieter Rams’ principles of good design in mind.

As the chief design officer for Braun for almost 34 years, Dieter Rams’s austere and honest approach to design and his ethos “less but better” birthed a timeless line of products. Characterised by its functional form and user friendliness, his creations continue to inspire designers well into the digital age. A notable example of Rams’s legacy is no less than Apple’s own creative genius, Jony Ive.

Apple vs Braun


So what? I’m neither an architect nor an industrial designer

Well, Rams’s design process had led him to formulate his 10 principles of good design; and even though it is heavily based on his background as an architect and product designer, it is the thinking behind the process that transcends design disciplines. Be it web design, branding or advertising, these principles only stand to enrich and inspire the whole design process. And in Dieter Rams’s own words, “Design is in the first instance a thinking process”.

In the dynamic and ever-changing landscape of marketing and design agencies in Singapore today, creativity is in high demand and design thinking, a prized skill. Knowing these principles and applying them to logo design, UI/UX design or even a marketing campaign, can give it that extra “oomph” and make it stand out.


10 Principles of good design:


1. Good design is innovative

Innovative design typically develops in tandem with technology. But while technological advances provide new avenues for creative expression, it should also serve to enrich the brand meaning and customer experience. And this applies not just to software or prototyping tools; innovations can happen outside the realm of digital marketing too. So in practice you should always be aware of advancements in your own fields, for who knows: Perhaps that new printing method could very well make the difference between a good experience and a great one.

Edible Ink


2.  Good design makes a product useful

A product’s design should not distract from its intended use. How you can apply this principle is by asking yourself, “Does adding extra elements to the design add to its usefulness or distract from it?” or “Is my core message being overwhelmed and drowned by useless fluff?”. So cut out the noise, and focus on what’s really important: Its utility.

Clean Layout


3. Good design is aesthetic

Yes, I know, I know, this is pretty self-explanatory. But let’s take this further, shall we? The aesthetic of a product or design ensures its use because people by nature want to surround themselves with beauty as it gives them a sense of well being. So not only should your design look good, more importantly, it should make the user feel good.

Flatlay Pretty Stuff


4. Good design makes a product understandable

Good design does not speak for itself. Rather, it employs the user’s intuition to clearly express its function. This is especially critical in designing UX. For example, if a common gesture is used for navigation like “swipe left” or “pinch to zoom”, incorporating these human-to-interface behaviours in your design will make the user’s navigation not only smoother but intuitive as well.

No Power Button


5. Good design is unobtrusive

Products exist to fulfill a purpose. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. How you can apply this outside the realm of product design is to make sure you keep the end user or target audience’s needs in mind. Do your research. Whatever you design or communicate should fulfill that need and should always relate to them.



6. Good design is honest

Good design does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. In the age of clickbait, fake news and responsibility in advertising, this is more timely than ever. When you design or create content, you must make sure to carry through with what the brand or campaign promises. In other words, build it on authenticity, and be ready to back it up. Authenticity always wins.

Life Changing Banner


7. Good design is long lasting

Good design avoids being fashionable, and as a result never appears antiquated. This is especially true when a branding agency develops brands. It is definitely better to create something that lasts rather than something trendy but will look outdated in a year.

Trendy vs Timeless


8. Good design is thorough to the last detail

Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. In branding and even in communications in general, each touchpoint or element within a strategy should be backed by meaning and contribute to enriching the whole brand experience. Test each touchpoint by asking the Who, What, When, Where, Why and How questions.

Devil in the details


9. Good design is environmentally friendly

Climate change makes this more important than ever. But aside from asking the obvious questions such as, “Is my packaging design environmentally conscious?”, you could also keep this in mind when strategising and determining how a brand, campaign or product is perceived by a target audience that is growing more and more environmentally conscious and demanding more from brands.

Less is Better


10. Good design is as little design as possible

Focus on the essential aspects – less, but better. In a world where design is a buzzword and everything is “design”, one way you can ensure your work stands out from other creative agencies is by coming back to the purity and simplicity of form and function. And in the words of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “Perfection is achieved not when there’s nothing more to add, but when there’s nothing left to take away”.

Let's Play


So there you have it, 10 principles of good design according to one of the most influential designers of our era. And though it may seem counter-productive in this fast-paced consumer society, let’s try to remember, a little less designing, a little more thinking.