Ngrane’s Work From Home Hacks

Even Zoom CEO Eric Yuan has Zoom fatigue.
Here are zome (see what I did there) tricks and tips.

Zooming is the new calling. The app has become an inherent part of our work from home lives.

Although it is the greatest invention of | indispensable in COVID-times, we all get tired of staring at our own faces, seeing our colleagues only in 2D and constantly staring at our blue-light blasting screens. There’s even a word for this phenomenon: Zoom fatigue.

Two weeks ago Zoom CEO Eric Yuan announced that even he has Zoom fatigue every now and then. He posted a video with some essential tips on how to use Zoom. Here’s his list:

  • Take scheduled breaks away from the computer.
  • Book meetings for 25 minutes or 55 minutes (or even try going down to 20 or 45 minutes), or end meetings early to give everyone a buffer to recover mentally between meetings.
  • Use chat or email in lieu of a meeting.
  • Try turning off self-view so you can see your colleagues’ faces, and so they can see yours, without having to see yourself.
  • Implement a “no internal meetings day” to give yourself and your employees a break. We’ve been doing this since late last year at Zoom and our employees love it.
  • Encourage employees to set boundaries around their personal time. While exceptions must be made for a global workforce, leaders should discourage night and weekend meetings.

Great tips, thanks Eric! But we have a couple to add to the list.

Welcome to NGRANE WFH Tips&Tricks. I think we all know the Zoom basics by now: mute/unmute with alt/space, gallery view/speaker view/thumbnail view, screen sharing and the lot [ no? Check this list here. ]

Our tips apply to working from home rather than the technology. Working from home can be fantastic: you can work in your most comfortable pants, shower at any time, enjoy your own delicious coffee and tea, enjoy the company of your pets & partner and blast your own music loudly at any time. 

However, working from home has its dark side. We intend to work longer, feel more guilty about taking breaks and usually spend a lot more time behind our screens. There are days we even forget to leave the house. Let’s change that. 

Don’t schedule back to back meetings.

Make sure you have time to take a break from your computer screen and grab some fresh coffee. As Eric said, make meetings as short as possible, 20 to 55 minutes max. If you do that, in combination with some space in between meetings, you have time to take care of yourself, but you will also have time to process the meetings.

Set alarms for breaks.

11 coffee break, 13 lunch, 15 another coffee / walk break. You would do the same at the office, so why not at home? Remind yourself to take those breaks to rest your eyes.

Make sure you don’t eat behind your computer.

You. need. breaks. Make sure lunch is one of those breaks! Of course, there are those days where time is scarce, but don’t make a habit out of it.

  • Also, about eating: don’t eat during Zoom calls. It may offend colleagues, you might forget to mute yourself and chew in everyone’s ears. Just don’t do it.
  • We all know the story of the lawyer who accidentally turned himself into a cat on Zoom (if not, here ya go:, but from time to time it’s refreshing to change your background or appearance on Zoom. It works when you turn your surroundings into a relaxing beach, an underwater world or the decor of The Lord of the Rings. You just believe you’re there for a split second and can at least enjoy your self-view. 

We noticed that some co-workers had notifications on during a Zoom call. This is of course fine, if you’re muted. However, if you’re an active participant, it might be audible for the rest of your colleagues and could get quite annoying. Make sure to turn off notifications. Here’s how:

Apple “Do not disturb”

  • On an Apple computer, click the settings icon and click “don’t disturb”.
  • You can select a period of time that the notifications are numbed.
  • Do you really want to hack this for a longer period of time? Select “preferences”.

Slack “Do not disturb”

Using Slack at work? It also has a neat don’t disturb function.

  • Select your profile at the top right corner.
  • Click ‘pause notifications’. You can choose a period of time.
  • Again, do you really want to hack? Go to settings > preferences > notifications to shut them up for good.

Windows Sleep mode

Is muting apps not enough for you? Mute your entire system!

  • Windows has a Sleep Mode, called Focus Assist.
  • Right-click on the notification icon the the taskbar.
  • Select Focus Assist and set it to ‘alarms only’.

Apple also allows you to turn the “Do not disturb” mode on indefinitely.

Last but not least, we advise you to take walks. The walk from your workstation to the coffee machine or water boiler is hardly enough for your daily workout. I know, I know, it’s not easy to drag your tired head out into the rain (we unfortunately still live in the Netherlands), but I promise: you will feel better.

How to follow your intuition as a freelancer

You probably hear it often: always trust your intuition. But what is intuition exactly, and how do you know to trust it?

Even though Stress Awareness Month is over, it doesn’t mean we should all forget about stress now. Let’s always be aware of stress. This blog might help you to stress less by following your intuition.

That’s right, intuition is something that we’re all supposed to feel naturally. Yet our head often takes over, making us doubt our intuition and making sure to make the ‘right decision’. But how can this decision be right, if you know deep down, in your gut, that something’s off?

Can we train ourselves to trust our intuition? How do we distinguish intuition from instinct?

Jos Pauwels, a Dutch writer, recently wrote a book about intuition. He states that you can train your intuition:

“Instinct is actually the basis. You can only speak of intuition when the intellect, instinct and heart start to work together. The first gut feeling is often a bit softer than the first instinct, you should see that more as a reflex. For example with fear.”

The connection between your gut feeling and the intellect is the key to strong intuition. Always listen to your gut feeling and then start to bring your brain in.

Always trust your gut. But how?

Jos makes a distinction between ‘dumb’ and ‘smart’ intuition. Dumb intuition is basically following your gut feeling without thinking. An example he uses is “love makes blind”; where we usually follow emotion and are incapable of thinking about it. To really follow intuition, you need to be conscious about it. You need a bit of inner peace: we need to train to let go of the unnecessary stimuli and focus on what’s truly important.

Easier said than done. How to put this into practice in your life as a freelancer? How would you decide when you need more time off, or how do you know if a client is a right fit for you?

Listen to that inner voice, rationalize it and take action.

Especially as a freelancer, you’ll find yourself in situations where you need to make lasting decisions. The only one you can build on, is you. Here are 5 tips on how to listen to your intuition.

  1. Trust your brain. If you feel something is inherently wrong, it might very well be the case. Try to listen to that feeling. Intuition is not random, but you might not see the pattern in the first place. Yet, your subconscious has taken in all the details, has been processing all your life and has sorted all the information you’ve ever had access to. Hence, your brain is able to distinguish a situation that’s off. Trust your brain.
  2. Try to strengthen your sense of intuition through journaling. I know, journaling takes time, it’s effort. But it can help you by writing down what you saw. When journaling you often see things you didn’t realize before.
  3. The next tip: take distance from your situation. Try to put distance between you and the problem. Journaling helps with this too, but if you’re really not into journaling, try to take a step back and view the situation with different eyes. What would you advise a friend in the same situation?
  4. Be open and honest with yourself. Easier said than done, but it will help tremendously. Don’t forget, we are our own biggest enemies. We can easily put our feelings aside, we can easily not listen to our gut. Try to ask yourself why you would not listen to your intuition, what are your main reasons to ignore your instincts. Try to meditate, to de-stress and to take a deep breath every now and then.
    Last but not least, have a little faith in yourself. You’re the only one who can make or break you, but have faith that you will find your way! If you do, it’s also easier to trust your intuition.

Of course, in most cases you will never know whether your intuition was right. Yet, if in the end you’re still happy, don’t feel stressed but very blessed: you did the right thing.

My onboarding in times of Corona

Even in times of Corona, aka during the quarantine/lockdown, people start with new jobs every day. But how exactly does that work, without an office to go to, without seeing colleagues face-to-face?

Here’s my experience of onboarding, and some essential tips to survive this period.

My first day at NGRANE in the COVID-19 lockdown

Exciting. I started my new job as content creative at NGRANE last month.
The entire interview process was through ZOOM, contract negotiations took place over the phone and the final “you’ve got the job”- conversation happened through ZOOM.

Before even having ‘met’ anyone from the company, I accepted the job.

For my first day, my new colleagues arranged a real life meeting at ZOKU with my two new bosses and their PA. After months of not going to an office, it was strange to get back into that rhythm of getting ready in the morning, having to bike to a place and meeting new people again.

I was welcomed wonderfully with a welcome basket and a hot cup of coffee. David and Stephen (the two NGRANE endbosses) explained a lot about the company, told me what I needed to know and gave a sneak peek into their passions and aspirations. We had cool talks about religion, sexuality, diversity and the future of the internet. It was really nice to see them in real life. However, we still live in COVID-19 times, so after lunch we all went home again to continue our day working remotely.

Although it was a bit silent after suddenly seeing so many people in one room (only three, but hey, it’s Corona, things are wildly out of perspective). Thankfully, I had an afternoon session with Daniëlle, the copywriter. She told me all about the projects, the clients and her ideas for future copy projects.

After this meeting, I found myself staring at an empty screen, not particularly sure what to do. How on earth would I become a master at my new job, without having a tactile experience?

How to excel in COVID times (6 tips how to master remote working)

The good thing about NGRANE, and this is also my first tip: they host daily standups. Everyone shares what they’re planning on doing that day. This is not only valuable for more efficient working, but it’s also a great way to welcome new people and to get involved with the team. So if your company isn’t doing this, propose it!

In this fast-paced world, we sometimes forget to be human. We forget the importance of human connection.

My second tip would be to plan carefully. Nothing is more annoying than sitting in front of your computer, not really knowing where to start. Perhaps a project manager can help you with that, or you can use planning tools such as Asana or Forecast. Make a clear to-do list, and make sure you feel the responsibility to finish your to-dos!

The third tip of the day is expectation management. Although I’m not a great player in this field, it’s wise to set some expectations with your manager. Make sure you’re on the same page to avoid any conflicts.

Tip four is again a trait that NGRANE has that I really appreciate: access to HubSpot. Because NGRANE walks the path of inbound marketing, HubSpot is a tool they use daily. HubSpot also has an academy, where you can learn everything about inbound marketing, but also about your own area of expertise.

My fifth tip: chatting. This might sound like a ‘duhhh’ tip, but in times of communication through screens, it’s not too natural to chat. If your company uses Slack, or any other chatting tool: USE IT. Don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues anything, that’s how it would happen in an office. It might feel strange and a step too far, but it actually really isn’t that strange and it will help you a long way in getting to know your teammates!

Last but not least: make sure you don’t put too much pressure on yourself. As the philosophy of NGRANE states that we work better when we’re feeling good and able:

In this fast-paced world, we sometimes forget to be human. We forget the importance of human connection. No matter what the pace, no matter how big or small the screen, no matter the actual physical distance, we keep things human.

To elevate team productivity, start doing this

Whether at the office or in these times of working remote, we could all do with a boost in team productivity. It helps to reach your goals quicker, waste less time getting the job done and solve problems efficiently. But team productivity is about more than cooperating well together. It’s about communication, taking care of each other and developing your unique fortes. We asked Muriel Sival, colleague and founder of SupergroverPA, to bring together our tried-and-proven tips and tricks that will help you improve your personal productivity and boost the productivity of your team.

Schedule creative meetings in the morning

In the morning your creative brain is still fresh and you have more focus. It works like Brian Tracey’s “Eat that Frog” principle: start your day with what costs the most energy. Although Tracey focuses on starting your day with the least enjoyable tasks, it just as much works for tasks and meetings that call on your creativity. Of course there are people who are more creative at night, but most people tend to have the most energy in the morning to think or be creative.

Make lists

As David Allen, author of Getting Things Done says, “Your head is for getting ideas, not holding them.” Therefore, write down all your tasks and ideas so that they do not get stuck in your head. By doing this you ensure more control and focus in your work. As a team, take the time to write down all actions and matters after a long meeting and to link them to clear follow-up actions. This way everyone knows what to do afterwards.

Make agreements and express expectations

If you need input from one of your team members, provide a clear briefing. Agree upon a date and time when you need that design, wireframe, storyboard or blog by checking what is feasible for the other person. By coordinating and recording this together, you will not be faced with surprises.

Schedule routine tasks when you have lower energy

Work out tasks with clear goals and processes, answer your emails and do other work that requires little thought. This also applies to team efforts. When you are high in your energy, you can make a nice overview of the tasks you can do during low-energy times. This way you can get started right away when your energy drops.

Don't make assumptions

A successful team communicates with each other. Now that we work more remotely, clear communication is more important than ever. Ask each other what you are doing and check whether your colleague has understood that one briefing correctly. If you don’t, you will keep guessing.

Give each other open and honest feedback

By being open to honest feedback, you build trust between your team members. It creates a safe environment that benefits not only your team, but also projects. It is important that you give each other specific feedback with concrete examples. Agree on rules for this, such as sharing three tops and three tips after a meeting.

Does it take a maximum of 5 minutes? Deal with it right away!

Leaving a comment on an email? Requesting an explanation of a task you have been given? If it takes a maximum of 5 minutes, it is better to deal with it immediately, even if it concerns a team effort. In David Allen’s ‘Getting Things Done’ method, it becomes clear that it is better for your productivity to handle tasks that take a few minutes immediately, because it takes more time when you have to come back to them later (together). It makes you and your team a lot more effective and saves adding new actions on your to-do list.

Coach each other

If one of your team members gets handed a task after a meeting, offer as a team that he or she can always ask for help from you or someone else if needed. Whether you have the expertise or not, it is all about helping each other where necessary and that team members feel that there’s room for asking questions. The idea is: we got each other’s back.

Focus on development

Make sure your team has the opportunity to develop (individual) talents and skills. Think of training for certain tools, attending a webinar or workshop or reading a book about effective communication. By sharpening the knowledge and skills of your team members, the team as a whole benefits.

Do fun things together that aren’t work related

Team productivity largely depends on the connection between your team members. Do you share a certain passion as a team? Make use of it! Do something fun together outside of work, such as an (online) drink, games or visit a (work-related) event when conditions allow us to come together again.

Take care of each other and yourself

Show interest, gauge someone’s need, and offer help. Tune into how someone is doing on a personal level every now and then. Think about a pre- or after weekend talk: a great way to start and end the week together. The most important part is that you’re there for each other and take the time to understand what makes everyone happy. That way, everyone can get the best out of themselves at work.

Need more hours in a day? Book a meeting with Muriel for productivity tips and her PA services.

SupergroverPA is a super-mulitasker, experienced in international working environments in jobs related to customer focus & service, marketing and communications. She is engaged in supporting her customers in practical, mental and administrative areas, so that they become more effective.

    Meet the Community: Rieven Martis

    Rieven Martis is a Dutch Caribbean Full-Stack Developer with a passion for Bioinformatics. Python is his native language, following Java, R and Bash. Music inspires him, just as much as good conversations about science, spirituality, literature, history, art and culture.

    Where has your career taken you?

    I don’t completely understand the question. Do you mean a place? or where I am right now in my career? I am now a better developer and in my personal life I can communicate better with people. Because of my career I also learned how to handle feedback much better.

    What’s the coolest thing about your project/work?

    Seeing the result after the build. Looking back and be proud of myself of what I’ve build.

    What is your relationship with Ngrane, have you ever collaborated with us before and if so, what were/are your thoughts on your experience with us?

    I work at Ngrane 😊 I think Ngrane’s people are what makes it so special, everybody has a unique personality which fits Ngrane’s company culture and philosophy. We all aim for excellence and are eager to learn new things. We want to become better and sometimes even the best.

    What’s a book/film/podcast you think everyone should know about and why?

    Check the video below! It’s about how you can forgive someone by having a crucial conversation. It is healing! One of the most value books we read as team was actually called Crucial Conversations and we still implement knowledge from the book each day.



    What’s your ultimate tip for leading a better and more productive remote-working life?

    Take responsibility. Know that when you work from home, if you procrastinate, you have to finish it. What also helps is to decorate you environment in a manner you can work more efficient and have a clear mind. The same type of environment like you would have at the office for example. Finally, planning your day in advance makes a big difference.

    What service or app could you never do without and would recommend everyone?

    Google Drive. I think the flexibility you have to collaborate on documents and also the search functionality is amazing. Everything is there and you can find it quickly.

    What’s the best gift you’ve ever received, and why?

    An electric guitar. I had helped this man with his computer while working at a computer repair company. I exceeded his expectation by going above and beyond. So he gifted me an electric guitar!

    If you could give one piece of advice (in your field of work) to a big group of people, what would it be?

    I would say, find something outside of work where you can reset your mind, a hobby, something which sets your mind to zero. This helps your mind to be clear during working hours. It gives you more energy to think. You can memorize things better. This can help with your overall performance.

    How do you take care of your mental health while working from home during these times?

    I go to the gym. I specifically do cardio when I start. This helps the blood pump through my veins and relieves stress and thoughts. It makes my mind wander for a bit to just let go. This gets my endorphins flowing and makes me very happy.

    Imagine you could step in a teleport for a day and go to any place and time in history. Where and when would you travel to?

    I would travel to Egypt in times of 20th Dynasty and find out how they’ve built the Pyramid. I also want that type of knowledge!

    What is the nerdiest thing you do in your free time?

    I play Mario Kart Tour on my phone.

    What’s the most useless talent you have?

    I can put my whole pinky in my nose.

    What does community and inclusion mean to you and why are they important?

    It is a sense of belonging, that people look after you, people are worry about you, they care. When you are included you feel love and understanding. You feel that you are part of something and are treated with respect. People want you to feel that your difference is normal, your difference is respected, don’t you worry you can be what you want to be and we respect that. It is normal to feel or be different.

    What does success mean to you?

    Success means that I have control over my life and that I have the good health to accomplish this. I am happy and able to do what I want in this lifetime.

    What are you looking forward to?

    Forward to become a better version of myself. Improve myself personally and at work.

    How to create a great website: 19 things you need to review

    Whether you’re creating a brand-new website or want to  improve your existing one, there’s a lot that goes into a great website. Think design, telling your brand story, optimizing your website for multiple devices and much more. To help you out, we put together a list of 19 things you need to review if you want your website to be a succes.

    1. It starts with branding

    Having brand guidelines with a brand story, typography, logo-set, use of color – and more – is the best arsenal for a web designer. It provides the right tools to shape your brand online and ensure a cohesive product design and user experience.

    2. Know your audience

    To connect with your audience, you need to know their pain. Your website should clearly offer them your solution with the right tone of voice and visuals.

    3. Define the goals

    Your website needs at least one goal to get results. Its design needs to be developed around those goals. Take the time to write down the goals you want to achieve with your brand. That way, you make it easier to set up your website in a way that helps achieve those goals.

    4. Your homepage should sum up everything you do

    The homepage is the most important page of your entire website. It receives the most page visits and visitors decide in seconds whether your company offers the solution to their problem. Make it clear to your visitor what you do for whom and what results a collaboration yields the customer.

    5. Guide people with Calls To Action

    To let your customer take the desired action, you need to guide them through your website with compelling Calls To Action (CTA). Buttons such as “read more”, “register”, “book a free session now” and more ensure that your customer knows what action to take on each page.

    6. Choose professional photos

    Whether you choose to hire a professional photographer or use stock images, make sure they are professional and fit with your brand’s image and values. Some web design agencies have a professional photographer in-house or know how to select stock photos that fit your company culture like a glove.

    7. Choose the right words

    Your website’s impact relies on great storytelling. The right words can grab your audience’s attention, showcase your expertise and give the information they need to make a well-considered decision. Invest time and energy in putting your story into words, so you can convey your mission, vision and solution to your audience.

    8. Make your website responsive on all devices

    With visitors landing on your website through desktop, mobile and tablet, make sure your website is fully optimized and responsive on all devices. 

    9. Site speed

    You want your website to load in less than 3 seconds. This prevents visitors from becoming impatient and dropping out. Make sure images are optimized for web use, so that they don’t take up too much space and don’t affect the loading time and speed of your website.

    10. The power of video

    A homepage video of 30 seconds can convey your message instantly and create conversion. Videos trigger all senses and are the quickest and most efficient way to digest information. A great video is almost indispensable for your website, because it helps people in getting to know your brand and making important buying decisions.

    11. Optimize your findability in search engines

    Make sure your domain name and site content contains the correct keywords. These are the words or phrases you want to rank high with in search engines. If you do not have a clear picture of this, you can get advice from an SEO expert to increase your online findability.

    12. Create space

    Make use of empty space on your pages. Design needs to breathe, just like when you need to take a breather while speaking. This creates a sense of peace for the reader, helps them focus and conveys your message better.

    13. Provide visitors with an easy way to contact you

    Whether via email, phone, form, chatbot (or all), don’t let your website visitors spend too long looking for ways to connect with your business.

    14. Connect your social media

    Ensure a good connection from your website to your social media channels and vice versa. Research from which social media channels you get the most visitors to your website to optimize traffic.

    15. Make navigating your site easy

    Map the structure of your website with a sitemap, so you can see exactly how your pages are linked together. With a clear menu or search bar, you ensure that visitors can navigate easily and quickly. Good design plays a major role in this.

    16. Keep your site secure

    When your site is secured, it gives your visitor confidence. You can recognize a secure website by a URL that starts with “https: //” (the “s” stands for “secure”) and the lock in the address bar.

    17. Customer references provide credibility

    Testimonials and reviews are great for brand experience and credibility. Make sure to not only leave the five-star responses, but also the ones that are less enthusiastic. Honesty is key when it comes to helping people make the decision to choose your product or work with you.

    18. Make your website GDPR proof

    Become GDPR compliant and inform your visitors about how you handle information and what kind of information you are storing. Tools like Cookiebot can help you scan which cookies your site is using and what to ask consent for with your website visitors.

    19. Select the right CMS for your team

    There’re a lot of different Content Management Systems out there, all with a different set-up. Choose the CMS that fits your team’s needs and expertise. Some systems are very technical, so if your team consists mostly of creatives, it would be wise to select a system in which you can easily make adjustments for your website, without hassle.

    What an internship at Ngrane is really like

    I spent the whole summer doing an internship at Ngrane and… you guessed it! I had the time of my life! Some of you may think of an internship as routine work and making coffee. However, at Ngrane that was never the case. Even though sometimes Jeffrey (our Graphic Designer) made me make toast for him. That vegan toast turned out to be more addicting than caffeine, because of that everyone was getting more and more hooked on eating vegan food for lunch. This also resulted in me making more vegan toasts for Jeffrey. I didn’t mind it though; I would do it all over again!

    I got creative enlightenment

    Before I started my internship, I was supposed to finish up my UX certification course. It was so difficult that I couldn’t finish it in time. Little did I know that after only a few months everything I was struggling with would start to make so much sense! This was all because of the projects I got to work on at Ngrane and the way my colleagues contributed with their knowledge in brainstorm sessions and their feedback. They were basically my lab rats! All the help and insight I got helped me refine my skills and get more confident in myself and my abilities.

    I worked in the most inspiring environment

    First of all, I never thought I could love a city THIS much! Second of all, I have a new ‘all-time favorite’ workplace: The war room on the fifth floor! This was a very creative environment because I could create endless wireframes on every wall while me and David’s (our Creative Director) ideas were flowing. Besides Amsterdam and WeWork’s cool office spaces, Ngrane itself is an awesome place to work. I met so many amazing people; from the Ngrane community to the office neighbors, everybody has amazing energy and they stand out in whatever expertise they have. Because of this, I managed to set up an office helper on Alexa with Alexa Blueprint. It’s meant to answer all possible questions people that are new to the office may have such as what’s the Wi-Fi password, how they can print, etc. It was a nice way to get a first taste of VUI (voice user interface design). It was challenging as I had to figure out how to implement communicational design to make Alexa sound as human as possible. I added some jokes here and there to make it seem like Alexa was part of the team.

    I also created wireframes for the knowledge base based on the interviews I did with my colleagues. It’s meant to be something that makes their daily jobs easier, wherever they may be working from. It’s a place where they can find everything they need about the company, such as activity planning, brand guidelines, factsheets, repository files and much more.

    My bosses were cooler than yours

    Yep, you read that correctly; my bosses were really cool! Ngrane’s management team really sets the right values for its mission: to create the best workplace in the world. The first time I realized this was that one time we started the Friday Expo with power shots! I’m joking, it takes a little bit more than fancy drinks to convince me. Things that really made Ngrane special were the personal attention the management team had for each individual, the fact that they see creative expression as high job performance, the marble jar that serves as a symbol of how trust is growing within the company, the fact that they encourage a lot of professional and (even higher on their list) personal development and the list goes on. I could honestly write a three-page essay on this subject, but all I’ll say is that it takes a lot of love and dedication to create an environment where your employees and or team members can feel comfortable enough to be themselves and can achieve personal growth.

    I gained a whole new family

    Besides all the amazing things I already mentioned above, one of the most valuable things I gained was a new family. A family of extremely creative, kind-hearted and outstandingly intelligent people. At Ngrane, they will always make you feel at home.

    As you now know, I had a great time! My internship at Ngrane was a kick start to my career as a UX/UI designer, and I got to do this among amazing people while laughing every day. Naturally, my time there gained a very special place in my heart. No, I’m not crying, you’re crying! But there’s no reason to be sad as I’ll always be part of the Ngrane Community!

    OnBrand ’19: Uncover the future of branding

    OnBrand positions itself as the leading branding conference for marketing and creative professionals in Europe. As a group of digital creatives based in Amsterdam, we definitely couldn’t miss out on meeting like-minded professionals who also want to learn about the latest in branding.

    Every company wants to be unique. They want to stand out, make a change, be the lead competitor in their market and give their clients a brand that they can identify with. That’s why each year a lot of companies and individuals attend OnBrand. This way they can stay up to date with all the relevant topics and trends revolved around branding and be inspired by other creatives who are also passionate about their work.

    After a long day filled with inspiring talks, delicious food and lots of socialization, we got to think about our biggest takeaways from the event. Some of them were mind opening and helped us put our branding into perspective. We hope they can do the same for you.


    “Volatility breeds short-term reaction and not long-term brand building.”

    Mike Flynn, Strategy Director Design Bridge

    With this quote, Design Bridge wanted to make clear that we’re living in the fast pace age. Our ecosystems are rising and categories are blurring. Knowledge is at the edge of our fingertips, everything we want to know is just one simple search away. Because of this, markets are becoming more competitive, making it harder for companies to create sustainable success in this environment. The reason for this is that we’re all so busy being focused on trends (that oftentimes only give us a few clicks and nothing more) that we lose sight of what is important, our brand. It’s a hard thing to do, especially when you want a quick return on your investment, but we have to focus on creating valuable and distinctive content that will still having meaning and relevance for our company and consumers for years to come. In our team, we make sure that all the content we create reflects our brand’s story and purpose; this way we know that we’re not just following trends (that may not even suit our brand) but creating valuable content.

    At the end of the day, interaction trumps. Consumers want an experience, not just a logo. So, create an idea that has higher meaning and never stop evolving your brand. This is what’s going to build your brand.


    “We need to identify types of personalities and not personas.”

    Kristopher Smith, Managing Director AnalogFolk

    We’ve heard it all before. When selling a service or product it is recommended to make a persona out of the data you have acquired about your (potential) consumers. We admit it, we’re also guilty of doing this. The truth is that a persona has no actual understanding of an individual’s behavioral needs and problems. These are the needs and problems that can be solved with our products and/or services. These are the customer frictions that we can turn into opportunities for magic. That’s why we must find who needs us and not just who we are supposed to serve. What AnalogFolk means with this is that we need to analyze data and behavior to see who we actually need to focus on and what they want from us. We have to connect the dots between data signals and our business problem, and we have to understand our audience’s motivations and behaviors. We must use mindsets to position our creatives for success and we need to create ideas that serve our audience. In short, we have to connect, humanize and create. Personally, we couldn’t agree more. This talk opened up our perspective on traditional marketing, teaching us that we need to use data to challenge the status quo.


    "You must confront the truth in order to affect the change."

    Amanda Fève, Chief Strategy Officer Anomaly

    While discussing lies brands (still) tell us alongside an all-female panel, Amanda Fève said that we must confront the truth in order to affect the change. These women intensely talked about how brands nowadays often still use a lot of stereotyping in advertisements because it’s what they have always done, and they are not fond of change. Change is way too much effort. Stereotypes are easy, people instantly get them, especially if it’s something they have seen multiple times before. But the world isn’t binary. We must always offer proper representation for everyone; this is especially important in the world we’re living in now. Working with a multicultural team with different backgrounds, Ngrane completely understands that each person is unique and doesn’t want to be categorized into a box. It’s important for each person to feel like they are being heard and properly represented. Oftentimes, in both advertisements and on the work floor, this still isn’t the case. It isn’t because we as companies are not aware of these stereotypical behaviors in our daily life, it’s because even when we are confronted with them, we don’t do anything. We must confront the truth, accept it and take actions to change things where change is overdue. Brands must stop being conventional and stop focusing on what used to be. Our world is continuously changing, and our brands need to be part of the change if we want to stay relevant. We must stop looking back, left and right and focus on going forward. We do want to point out that not all stereotypes are necessarily negative, the negativity often lies in how they are implemented. When using a certain stereotype in advertising we must always ask ourselves first if this is coming at somebody’s expense or perpetuating harmful stereotypes.


    "To be part of culture, you need to be in conversation."

    Tim van der Wiel, Founder and Creative Director GoSpooky

    The life of a marketer has become a lot harder in the last few years. This is because there is an excessive amount of ways to advertise something nowadays. Marketers always strive to get as much exposure and actions from one advertisement as possible. The problem here is that sometimes we have little to no progress on the channels we’re already using. That’s why it’s important for companies to continuously analyze the market so that they can be the first to find the best upcoming place to get exposure and eventually their return on investment. Possibilities here are to try out different channels, switching up your content or simply just focusing on a different target group. As companies we must try to walk other avenues, we got to try something different and new. Who knows? This new path might just give us the publicity we need. All publicity is good publicity, it is exposure, a way for people to get to know us and talk about our brand. Any bit of exposure can have an impact on how people know and perceive your brand. Just like Tim van der Wiel stated: it starts with a conversation and before you know it, it becomes a brand that people identify with, it becomes part of their culture.


     “We need to invest in cultural and emotional innovation like we invest in product and brand innovation.”

    Stephen Gates, Head Design Evangelist InVision

    Let’s start by saying that no team in the world is perfect. The same goes for companies. In fact, according to Stephen Gates, every company in the world is dysfunctional. Whoever you think is doing it right, whoever you want to work for that seems like they got it figured out, they don’t. The thing is either they hide it better than you do or they’re more transparent about their problems. Every company has problems. It’s how they deal with it, how transparent they are with it, that makes the difference. This means that even though no team is perfect, we still have to strive to get the best teamwork. This is because the experience you’re putting out reflects the way your internal teams are working together. Your work is your truth. Sometimes this is hard because every creative, every leader, feels like they’re doing/getting it wrong. The reality is that whenever you’re a creative you have things like your education, your childhood, your career and insecurities that make you different and unique. Society teaches us that we are not good enough when we are not like everybody else. This is ridiculous because the people who we admire and think are the best, they took that insecurity and made that difference their unique strength. As individuals in a team, we must bring these unique strengths together to create sustainable work that is up to standards and that will have value for years to come.

    What I learnt from remote working abroad for a week

    Remote working abroad… waking up with the beach stretched out in front of you, meeting and mingling with other creatives and blending work with a love for travel. Yep, that’s pretty much the crowning glory of freelance life. Because, what is more flexible thanto pack up your bags and say “Later peeps, I’m working in Bali for a month.

    After travelling around Sri Lanka, I spent one week of remote working to test the tropical waters for myself. Here’s my experience and a few tips on how to make it the best experience for yourself.

    What is remote working?

    First things first, what is remote work? Remote working basically means a “new” type of work that goes beyond the traditional walls of office space. It means working from anywhere and still keeping that hustle going. This way of working is not necessarily reserved for only freelancers or entrepreneurs. Nowadays, employees often get a day to work at home or elsewhere. It can be a day or a month or it can be your entire year but it can also be a workcation, aka. where holiday meets work. 

    Vacation Mode vs. Work Mode

    It sounds pretty dreamy, working from a topical place or a new city but don’t forget that it’s also a challenge. Staying disciplined and actually getting work done won’t just magically happen without a lot of effort and self-discipline. We’re wired in a way that being in a tropical setting or even just a brand new city means one thing and one thing only: Vacaaaay. So when all of a sudden you realise “wait a sec I was supposed to be doing work,” it just goes against every fibre of your body to start working.

    Look, I love the beach. So working behind my laptop with an ocean view feels like the holy grail of office goals. But turns out, the waves calling my name wasn’t great for concentration. Luckily as a freelancer, I go through all the ups and downs of self-discipline. It’s something I know how to overcome. If didn’t have this experience, I probably would have been floating in the sea all day. By challenging yourself abroad you’re also practising for back home. This will be useful to create more discipline in your day-to-day work schedule.

    I’d say to give yourself some time to get into the rhythm – don’t go straight into an intense work mode immediately – give it time, get used to the place. After just two days of working I figured out I don’t function at all with the heat around noon, so I worked in the early morning hours, went to yoga, chilled at the beach and worked after lunch time when it cooled down. If you have a short time like me, it’s a little trickier to find out what works best for you, but the important thing is to keep trying different things or different spots to work at even in a co-working space. After 3 days I knew exactly what time I was most productive, where my favourite spot to work was at what time of the day and when.

    Digital Nomad Office Goals

    An ideal workspace or homespun office really depends on the person. You have the freedom to design your own remote working holiday. Whatever it is you need to stay motivated and inspired, it’s up to you to make that happen. The internet is overflowing with information so it’s easy to do lots of research before you leave. 

    If you’re up for a remote working abroad, you don’t have to fly halfway across the world. For the Europeans reading this, there are places like Porto or Barcelona with great co-working/living places to check out. Or if you want to travel a bit further and prefer the hustle of a big city rather than relaxed beach vibes, head out to New York or Medellin. The point is to get out of your comfort zone, discover a new place, find new inspiration and just enjoy the freedom you have to work from anywhere you want. If you can escape the 9 to 5 office routine, why not?

    When you’ve chosen the country or countries you’d like to go to, the next choice to make is where you’d like to work and live from. The options for a digital nomad abroad are endless. You can find co-working spaces that are also co-living spaces like Verse or Hubud. At these places, your holiday becomes a home, which becomes an office – and that is an experience in itself. You can also choose to book yourself into an Airbnb, hotel or guest house near a good co-working space. This way, you can enjoy the benefits of a co-working space and take a step back from the hustle somewhere else. 

    Co-working spaces take away all the hassle of a remote working trip. Here you’re guaranteed good wifi,  desks or comfy chairs to work from, other digital nomads and good coffee. But these millennial hubs aren’t your only option. A charming Airbnb or hotel room with good wifi, a desk and anything else you’ll need to get work done will also do. Having a place catered to your needs as a remote worker is great and meeting new like-minded people even better. But a little peace and quiet at your own home-away-from-home can do wonders for your work as well.

    Remember, it's still a holiday (sort of)

    The point is not to drench yourself in guilt every time you relax a little. Don’t forget the vacation part of workcation. Free time is not only beneficial for your work progress, but it’s also necessary. Both your wellbeing and work will be better off. I did heaps of reading, journaling, yoga and just lying on the beach doing absolutely nothing. I’d suggest to really find something else you can do when you’re there. You could learn how to surf, go to cooking classes or just schedule in some time to explore the city and local food.

    Moments like having dinner at a local place or just relaxing, often make room for great ideas. As a copywriter, sentences or phrases for clients will come up when the pressure dials down. Just make sure you have notebook handy and go out and chill. We don’t get enough chances to really be by ourselves and relax back home. So grab the chance when you can. 

    If you’re a freelancer, entrepreneur or if your employer gives you the opportunity to work elsewhere, I don’t see any reason why not to try out some remote working. Have a little googling around, ask your community and figure out what you need to get lots of work done abroad. Remember, you decide the terms of your remote working trip. That’s the best part.

    I’ve added a few of the best co-working and co-living spaces for you to check out yourself:

    You can also check out Pieter Levels, an Amsterdam Entrepreneur, has set up a list of the best cities to live and work remotely in. It scores cities on things like internet, safety and fun.

    For freelancing pros and cons check out Toptal’s ultimate freelancing guide
    Read more: Ultimate Freelancing Guide

    Ngrane, Radicand Economics & e-Conomics partner to offer full-service digital platform solutions

    Ngrane is partnering up! We’re happy to announce a team of creators and thinkers who will provide you with full-service digital platform solutions.

    We’re always looking for new opportunities to grow as a business and community. So when we got together with Paul de Bijl (Radicand Economics) and Nicolai van Gorp (e-Conomics) to discuss a new partnership, we were more than just a little excited.

    Meet our new partners

    Paul de Bijl and Nicolai van Gorp are seasoned consultants with an expertise in the economics of competition and strategy. They have advised governments and businesses on how to respond to the changing competitive landscape resulting from digitalisation. They also provide executive training at Nyenrode Business University on digital business models and strategy. For a number of clients, Paul and Nicolai organised Digital Business Model workshops. These are one-day workshops to guide businesses in translating a first idea for a digital platform to a concrete and strategically sound business and revenue model. Recent clients include Heijmans, PharmAccess and Nyenrode Business University.

    The option to go full-service

    Our skills in the realisation of digital platforms now meet those of Paul and Nicolai in designing business models and strategies to fully utilize network effects and other unique features of digital platforms that determine success. This way, we are able to offer an integrated, full-service approach to platform design and realisation. We support the customer’s digital transformation by converting ideas into finding actionable insights to creating a business model and accompanying prototypes, digital products and solutions.

    Platforms, revolutionizing industries

    Today, every industry is or will be shaken up by digital platforms.

    The core function of a platform is to facilitate interactions among and between groups of users by means of an infrastructure and a set of rules. This principle can be applied in every industry to address a wide variety of market frictions. Once the number of users has passed a critical mass, network effects will drive the platform’s growth exponentially and completely change existing bargaining positions along the value chain. Many companies already have become dependent on platforms as a way to reach their customers, other companies have become entirely obsolete as platforms facilitate their suppliers to bypass them and interact directly with end-users. Labour markets are overturned, as well as finance, logistics, real estate, tourism, et cetera, and more will follow.

    It is not helpful to ask whether your company could be replaced by a platform or if it becomes too dependent on it. Think in terms of possibilities. Think especially about frictions in the market in which you are active that can be reduced. Can you come up with a platform to address a friction? Can this save costs for you? Can this save costs for others? If so, be the first to set up this platform so that you not only realise those cost savings for yourself but also benefit from the cost savings by others. A nice extra is that if your current business becomes obsolete in the future, it is probably because of your own platform and not that of another.

    How will it work

    Our alliance provides our customers with the possibility to go from idea to a business model, to a working prototype in a 1-2 week design sprint. After this, ideas can be tested to create a validated digital platform. The partnership will offer customers the ability to innovate fast and answer critical business questions early that result in saving time and costs and reducing risk.

    In addition to the Ngrane partnering and branding, Radicand Economics and e-Conomics will remain active in economic consulting under their own brand names.