Author: telegraph

Trend Forecast vs. Reality: Evaluating Our 2023 Predictions

At the start of the year, Telegraph presented a robust Trend Forecast for 2023. We recently checked in to see where we were on target and where we missed the mark. In addition, we took a shot at predicting what’s next. Here’s a snapshot of our cross-departmental conversation and predictions.


Our Strategy team, led by Emma Spear, nailed it at the start of the year. Consumer focus on value, romanticizing one’s life, and hair care as the new skin care are all trends we see in effect every day.

The predictions from ACDs Nolen Strals and Kyle DeMarco were on point when we said 2023 would be defined by a “fugue” for brands (and consumers). There’s still too much of everything, everywhere, all at once. Microtrends are the only trends—and they have the lifecycle and cultural impact of a fruit fly.

While we have seen a few aesthetics gain a foothold for a month or two at most, there are no new big ideas or looks. The reigning concepts, color palettes, type styles, visual motifs, photography styles, and brand voices we are seeing and hearing this year are part of the long tail of the previous two years.

We’re in a trend holding pattern. But the plane has to land at some point, and so we started thinking about what the landscape will look like when we finally put our feet down somewhere new.

What we see cresting the horizon is a quieter, slower approach to everything. There may even be a new take on naturalism. Below is a grab bag of what we’re seeing and feeling that led to these predictions:

  • A quieter and slower approach is a natural reaction to the current constant bombardment. It will be seen as an antidote or escape.
  • Many creatives who used to post on social media several times a week now have weeks or even months between posts (and not due to lack of work).
  • Every big brand has done an ironic and unexpected pop culture collaboration at this point. The tactic is pretty much out of steam or novelty now.
  • De-influencing is the new influencing, wherein reviews of products are honest about their quality or lack thereof.
  • Natural hair looks and styles are on the rise.
  • At the same time, more women are going to work in little or no makeup.
  • As “value” continues to trend, a focus on quality follows. True quality can’t be faked.
  • Many in the craft beer industry are finding success not from novel products, but from events and community building in their taprooms.
  • A lot of the predictions that sleek, “retro-cyber,” or “Y2K” stylized trends would blow up have mostly fizzled.
  • As “wellness” continues to trend, many will seek authentic wellbeing more and more.
  • Face value or shallow “connection” with brands is falling out of favor and being called out.
  • We’re seeing some clients lean away from louder colors towards softer or more natural tones.

Will this calming of the culture and brands come to pass? As the rest of the year unfolds, we’re excited to continue evaluating our predictions, analyzing which trends stick, and exploring the reasons why.

Three Tips for Sparking Inspiration and Innovation

Innovation—the trendy word that everyone loves but doesn’t love to define. Google can generate 2,820,000,000 results in .52 seconds on “What is innovation?”, but we think it takes longer to explain. It’s common knowledge that agency life revolves around growth and innovation and that it is an essential part of day-to-day operations. But what does it truly mean for each individual? How can one person innovate?

Innovation is the introduction of something new, which is nonexistent without change. Whether big or small, internal or external, change occurs when people begin to push against what they know toward what is new. Going the extra mile, going above and beyond—whatever you may call it. This form of growth is what pushes a team, and therefore a business, forward. As methods, solutions, and algorithms are ever-changing, agency team members in every department continuously encourage each other to push boundaries to innovate for their clients and career development.

Innovation is not a part of Telegraph—it’s who we are. Telegraph is full of ideators, inventors, and creators with different unique talents and skills that mesh together to create the final product of what you see on your screen. Sure, the final creative product may leave you admiring the work, but who coordinated the project? Who made sure the creative brief aligned with the client’s goals? Who implemented the website changes?

We know this blog wouldn’t be complete without collaboration from the Telegraph team itself, so we put the ball back in their court. Whether it’s watching the latest Adweek webinar, scrolling through LinkedIn, or collaborating with teammates—here are three of our team’s tips on sparking inspiration and innovation:

  1. Seek out inspiring work and research your favorite brands.
    NOLEN: Associate Creative Director I seek out designers and brands that aren’t necessarily the most popular or most well-known, but who are doing the most interesting work. “Interesting” usually trickles from the bottom up, not from the big guys on down. When I come across an interesting brand I dig around to find out who crafted it, and if the rest of their work is interesting I explore it as much as I can. I try to figure out how they think because you’ll never be innovative by simply copying. But if you can decipher how other people think, learn how they create signals and messages in response to the zeitgeist mix and match all this thinking and then cross-pollinate it to the brands you’re working with, that’s when innovation can happen.

    WHITNEY: Account Executive “I follow local and out-of-state agencies on social media to keep up-to-date with what cool ideas and projects people are working on- always helpful to see how others respond to clients’ needs. I also follow general marketing accounts that push global content and updates that help me prepare for what’s to come next. I think internally pushing to show each other our completed work and also collaborating ideas amongst the AEs always helps get different perspectives and pushes us to do better.”

  2. Use your industry resources.
    EMMA AND SOPHIA: Brand Strategy “One way that we stay innovative in the brand strategy field is by listening to relevant podcasts that discuss topics we are either familiar with and want to explore new methods in that space, or that we don’t have as much experience with and are eager to learn more about. We collaborate and challenge one another to think differently and outside of standard expectations. We brainstorm and push ourselves creatively to come up with unique solutions and brand positionings for our clients. We ask each other, “Why?” to help us dig deeper into different topics and ensure we have a strong rationale and strategic thinking behind everything we do. We also leverage research platforms to keep us informed on the latest trends, insights, and statistics about our clients’ audiences, industries, and consumers in general.”Recommended brand resources:

    • Podcast: The Brand Master Podcast
    • Articles/blogs/newsletters: Medium, Forrester, Marketing Brew
    • Books: The Brand Gap, Building a Storybrand, Zag
    • Webinars: ADWEEK, Gartner, Resonate
    • Platforms: Numerator, Sparktoro, Statista

    ABBY: Account Executive “As an Account Executive, I stay innovative by continuing to learn whether that comes from my peers and colleagues or client research. I use Google Alerts to stay up to date with news in the industries my clients fall in. As a Samford graduate, one thing that I want to be better at is reconnecting with my Alma Mater through the Young Alumni Association and the events they host throughout the year.”

  3. Lean on your community for support and inspiration.
    MICHELE: Project Manager “How I stay innovative in my field is by being part of other project management communities whether that’s on LinkedIn or online. Listening, conversing & learning from each other in the industry pushes me to not only evaluate how I project manage at the moment but also provides new and more efficient perspectives for future projects as well. The Telegraph PMO team is truly a spectacular group of talented individuals that I feel lucky to be a part of.”

    LOREN: Project Coordinator “The biggest tool for me to stay innovative is by collaborating with others around me, especially when I’m working with others in different departments. I try to create a supportive and encouraging environment so everyone feels confident bringing their own creative freedom to the team while staying in line with the overall project.” 

This collaboration between teams is the story we TEL. It includes hours of naming labs, storyboard brainstorms, and endless research—but it only takes one spark to ignite a flame. While tasks can be checked off a to-do list, innovation and learning are never done. So keep reaching, pushing, moving and shaking—because innovation is a lifelong skill.

2023 Trend Forecast


Our 2023 Trend Forecast is robust—so, we’re presenting it in two sections. Every detail presented by our Brand Strategist and Creative Team is crucial to helping us dive deep into trends, rather than only spotting them.


Part 1: Brand Strategy and Consumer Trends

by Emma Spear, Brand Strategist


Prediction: Value, value, value

Many consumers are heading into 2023 with uncertainty surrounding their finances and purchasing. Inflation and an impending recession have people budgeting more and decreasing their nonessential spending. But what exactly makes a purchase nonessential? In the past, some would say their gym membership, their clothing, shoes or streaming services would be the first to go. This year, we think that list may change, depending on one thing: VALUE.

Emotional value, financial value, sentimental value…all things to be considered when deciding what is most important to us as  individuals. In 2023, value will be driving the purchasing decisions of consumers. Since people are hypersensitive to spending and highly selective with their purchases, they are only buying what they consider to be worth it to them. And that’s different for everyone.

So while in the past, people may have immediately dropped their gym membership, or eliminated all but one of their many streaming service subscriptions, that may not be the case this year. Exercising increases confidence and your favorite show delivers comfort. These emotions are valuable, making the purchase worth it to the consumer.

Brands need to be prepared for value-driven purchases. Brand loyalty is important now more than ever, with consumers choosing products and services that deliver them high value and are quick to abandon the ones that don’t. Brands need to find ways to reward their loyal customers and fans, so that when it comes time to make a decision between one brand or the other, the choice is in their favor.


Prediction: Romanticize your life. All of it.

It’s 2023 and it’s time to ✨romanticize your life.✨ No, seriously, this is the year to romanticize every single moment of your life. People are looking for joy in the little things and striving to live life to the fullest.

No more living for the weekend—we’re enjoying our Monday morning commute, drinking our sparkling water out of fancy glasses and finding ways to elevate the everyday with things that feel energizing and new.

In a world where scrolling on your phone can make you lose an hour before you even realize it, we’re all just trying to slow down and take notice of the everyday things that can truly bring us joy. So, it’s time to romanticize your life—because even doing the laundry or emptying the dishwasher can be exciting and fulfilling with the right mindset.


Prediction: Having a hair care routine is as important as a skin care routine.

Every year, Pinterest releases their trend predictions for the upcoming year, and for the past couple years we’ve been discussing which trends we agree will come to fruition. This year, one of those trends is Crown Care.

You’ve heard of the regimented skin care routine—we raise you to: the hair care routine. People are investing in a product line-up for their hair, from scalp oils to hair masks and more. “Hair wash day” is a dedicated day (or two) of the week for many and heatless legging curls have taken the world by storm. There’s an “everything shower” dedicated to all the things: shaving, exfoliating, scalp scrubs, shampoo, conditioner, hair masks…rinse and repeat.

So this year, we agree with our friends at Pinterest—having a hair care routine is as important as a skin care routine.


Part 2: Into the Fugue

by Nolen Strals and Kyle DeMarco, Associate Creative Directors

fugue adjective
\ fyüg \
1. (psychiatry) a state or period of loss of awareness of one’s identity

Welcome to The Fugue, everyone and every brand. How did we get here and what caused this state of confusion about …everything? Put simply: there’s too much of everything right now. Too many options, too many trends, too many micro-definitions and micro-divisions, too many contradictions (see each trend below), too many conflicts, too many emotions, too many reasons, too many of anything you can name. And all of these too many’s are being streamed to us constantly through a device that’s always close at hand.

Within this reality, it’s easy to understand why everywhere you look, people and brands seem to be overwhelmed, confused, and in a fugue. So if you’re wondering how a universal fugue comes to life in trends, read our Forecast below.


  1. No Trends
    After times of great social upheaval, cultures often enter low periods of recovery and reassessment. Much like in the years immediately after World War II, we’re collectively coming down from a global upheaval. The adrenaline is crashing, and we need to recover, to regain our confidence, and to figure out what’s next. While we get our bearings, the last thing on many people’s minds will be keeping up with the latest trend—we’re too exhausted.It seemed to take America 4-5 years post-war until we got Beatniks, rock’n’roll, car culture, and the rise of teen culture. Things happen much faster now, so we won’t have to wait several years to see a resurgence of major trends, but we might see 12–18 months of trendless culture.
    Fugue Counter-Trend: TikTok seems to be making, breaking, and forsaking new trends at a breakneck speed with no signs of stopping or giving us time to catch up.
  2. All Cut Up and Everywhere to Go
    Collage has been gaining steam as a popular look for a while now and we can expect it to pop up everywhere this year. Brands are making it their official style and young adults are using it in a way akin to teenaged “vision boards” made from magazine clippings. Our office manager had the astute observation that the popular Instagram “photo dump” is itself a collage of sorts: a group of unrelated images that tell some sort of story when arranged together.A little over a century ago, the Dadaists utilized collage to capture the chaos and noise of a changing Europe. It makes sense then that in our own tumultuous time, where we’re constantly bombarded by so much that we only seem to catch bits and pieces of any of it, the medium is resonating again. Perhaps more than any other trend we’ll see this year, collage most embodies the fugue as it attempts to create beauty from broken fragments.
    Fugue Counter-Trend: This might just be a mini-trend to kick off the year, but extreme close-ups on single faces are being used to convey extreme emotions right now. See: James Jean’s poster for The Whale and the count-every-hair-in-the-beard portrait of Bryan Cranston in promo images for Your Honor.
  3. Puff It Out
    We predicted this coming with our mid-2021 Tele Forecast and it is now a full-blown trend that shows no signs of stopping. Thanks in large part to Adobe Illustrator’s “Inflate” function arriving last year, text, characters, and objects are all bursting at the seams these days. When trend-defining studio Young Jerks recently revealed their Camp X Nike collab, it cemented this super soft look as a permanent fixture for the foreseeable future. In this campaign, even the famous Swoosh got bloated (and creased!) and the puffy stuff came off the screen and into real activations of over-stuffed figures and fixtures in Camp stores.
    Fugue Counter-Trend: Stencil type is quietly sneaking back into the spotlight, and with its requisite sharp corners at the cuts, the style is the opposite of bouncy buoyancy. Maybe we need to embrace the conflict and design a puffed-out stencil logo?
  4. Proof: Zero. Feel: 100.
    The dawn has come after many long nights of alcoholic drinks. With a rise in the “sober curious” and the quest for a night out without a hangover, Gen X has been driving a trend that’s alcohol-free. Consumers are increasingly approaching alcohol on their own terms which is leading to brands striving to deliver better non-alcoholic products. With this, we’ve also seen multiple “mocktail menus,” Sober bars, and even a Non-Alcoholic Cocktail Competition here in Birmingham. Whether the reason is avoiding a hangover, being the designated driver, or simply being mindful of the effects of alcohol, people are offering a refreshing perspective on drinking.
    Fugue Counter Trend: Weed culture remains strong, and the deeper psychedelic boom we predicted last year continues to bloom in new ways and new markets.
  5. The Harder the Flash, the Harder the Fad.
    Since last year, the light has been getting harsher. In photography, especially consumer products, we are now being shown every little detail. Every crumb on the burger, every pore of skin, every shimmery drop, and every crinkle of paper is presented in crispy high contrast. The hi-def details are imparting a hyperreal effect to products and people that, when accompanied by hard-edged shadows, can at times make in-situ compositions look like post-production collages. See Collage trend above for more on that.
    Fugue Counter Trend: We should also point out that airy, romantic, soft-focused photography is also trending. Confused? So are we.
  6. All Aboard Alternatives
    Air travel? That’s so 2022. This year we are going to see consumers increasingly hopping aboard alternative methods of travel, particularly trains. Recently there’s been a quantifiable uptick in searches for train travel (mostly in Europe—the US is still trying to catch up in this area). Lower prices, quicker boarding, and scenic views are offering travelers a renewed appreciation for this mode of transportation. Could it be that languorously lingering vistas are just the ticket for recovering from doomscrolling? And of course for some there’s the peace of mind in knowing there’s a lower carbon footprint on rails. New Buzzword: Train Bragging
    Fugue Counter Trend: While some are all in on nostalgic pleasures, others aggressively look to the future, wrapping themselves in sci-fi fashions and embracing the revival no one saw coming: the return of techno.

Brand New Takeaways

2022 Brand New Conference in Austin by the Numbers: 

2 days

1 stage

20+ speakers from across the spectrum of the branding world (including 1 entrepreneur)

14+ hours of presentations and conversations 

2 Telegraph ACDs (Kyle DeMarco and Nolen Strals) in the audience

Countless insights and inspiring moments 

2 trips to Ramen Tatsu-Ya (with 3 orders of Karaage)

3 Top Takeaways from Kyle & Nolen (below)


Since 2006, Brand New has been the source for news and insightful reviews of the latest and greatest in branding. They highlight tiny studios and globe-spanning agencies doing work for clients whose audiences number from a few hundred to a few billion. The Brand New Conference began a few years later, gathering the people whose work they spotlight into one room as both presenters and audience. 

We were thrilled to attend this year’s conference to hear industry stars and up-and-comers speak not only about their work, but also about the foundational ideas that drive them, their visions of the future, and their ideas about how the industry is and needs to be evolving.

From the jump, Alex Center charged the air with a special energy as he shared his eponymous studio’s quietly-iconic work and heavily-photographed manifesto. We each filled large chunks of our sketchbooks, jotting down some of our favorite ideas from Center and all others who presented at the conference. We distilled our notes here to share each of our top three takeaways.



  1. People First. People Second. Work Third.This idea was a common note several speakers hit during their presentations. It’s the people we work with both inside and outside of the office that have a profound impact on our work and are often more important than our work itself and how we make money. The first speaker of the conference, Alex Center of CENTER in Brooklyn, New York, stressed this idea throughout his presentation as he talked about who he worked with during each of the projects, the client relationships that formed out of them, and how they contributed to the success of the project. Today, it’s not about being the best, working the hardest, or getting to be a part of the most exciting projects.  It’s about finding the right people to work with, grow with, and learn from. The best talent puts other people first, doesn’t compare themselves to others, and knows branding is a team sport. Because brands live in people, not guidelines.
  2. Starting at the EndWhat if brands had a life? If a brand had a life, would it matter? What would it leave behind? These are questions asked by Nermin Moufti of Field of Practice. Moufti took time during her presentation to show how a series of life-changing events helped her move forward, work with grief, and examine the design process. Moufti embraced the idea of knowing all things must come to an end and created what she referred to as “Design Obituaries.” These “obituaries” served as a creative brief for her projects so that everything creative ladders up to that idea. By starting at the end and thinking about the legacy we want brands to leave behind, designers are able to be more thoughtful about the life they bring to the brand and cultivate the impact they have on the world. 
  3. Don’t Just “Be Yourself”In an agency setting, it’s no secret that designers wear many hats. We are designers, strategists, coders, etc. But more than that, we are hairdressers, questionable friends, and TV show hosts, to name a few. This is an idea that Flora Chan of RedScout explored during her presentation. In order to really understand and build trust with a client, there is an element of roleplaying to design. There are times when you have to be a hairdresser and sit down with a client, get intimate, have tough conversations, and learn what truly moves them. Other times, you have to be a TV show host to get people outside of the field of design to be excited about design. And then, there are times when you have to be a janitor and clean up a mess. Whatever role we find ourselves playing, we must be prepared to fully embrace and adapt to it to be successful for ourselves and our clients.



  1. Design for the audience, not for the client. This one seems obvious, but designing for a client’s tastes rather than their audience’s needs is an all-too-common pitfall in branding. Both emerging and well-established speakers spoke to their own strategies for how to avoid falling into this trap. The success of their audience-centered efforts shone in projects from global food giants to regional advocacy publications. The rightness of this approach was also clear because, well, the people designing this way were the ones invited to speak to over 1,000 of their industry peers.
  2. Tear down the silos!
    No one said that exactly. But the work they showed revealed that the teams responsible are constantly blurring the lines between their internal departments and even in their relationships with vendors. FӦDA’s Shruthi Manjula Balakrishna described talking on site with the general contractor of a restaurant project. Rather than saying, “We want to do this here,” her team asked, “What is plausible here?” This type of thoughtful, realigned approach led to a James Beard Award as one of the three best designed restaurants in the country
  3. How you run your company shows up in the work.In-House International spoke about how every small decision they make impacts their client’s experience of working with them. Jesse Reed showed us how Order’s values became their work process. Abdul Wahid Ovaice and Erwin Hines spoke to the necessity of opening doors to and truly supporting and valuing employees who don’t fit the expected mold. And Paul Worthington reminded us that to get clients to do something brave they first have to trust us—which dovetailed nicely with Alex Center saying that the best work results from a feeling of partnership from inside and outside the agency.


This is just the tip of the iceberg of ideas that we carried with us from Austin back home to Birmingham. Big ideas and in-depth work were the rule of the day, and we look forward to bringing the energy and inspiration from the conference into Telegraph’s work and relationships with our team and our clients.

Engagement is at the heart of social media. It’s what makes it “social”.

In today’s world, people go online to feel connected with individuals and brands. In most industries, a strong social media presence can heavily impact a brand’s customer loyalty, awareness, and sentiment. Brands often have to get past the initial barrier to social media engagement: intimidation. Although it may seem scary to interact with consumers in the public eye, it’s a crucial step that your consumers not only love—but often expect.


Did you know that 68% of consumers expect to interact with their brands on social media? With authenticity becoming the forefront of what individuals want from their social media sites, it makes sense that those wants are encompassing what they expect to see from their brands on social media. Consumers expect to feel as if they are in a relationship with their favorite brand, and they aren’t wanting a one-sided one. Whether it is a tag, comment, retweet, share, or even something as simple as a like, these types of interactions are extremely meaningful throughout your brand’s relationship with a consumer. 


What does that mean for businesses? Engagement is key for every social media strategy. Don’t fall into the trap of customer engagement becoming an afterthought while working toward building, maintaining, and growing your brand on social media. Organic content and engagement is basically free advertising, after all. With 78% of consumers saying they are more willing to buy from a brand based on a positive interaction on social media, you know what you’ve got to do. Get engaging and keep it positive.


How should you be engaging with your audience? Engagement strategy isn’t one-size-fits-all, but a good rule of thumb is to be responsive and hold your brand’s tone of voice. If your consumers are sending you messages, your brand should be responding to those messages. An efficient response creates an environment where the consumer feels seen which opens up the door for them to engage more frequently because they feel like they won’t be “ghosted”. If consumers are commenting on your content, be sure to comment back or like their comments. If people are tweeting about your brand and your product(s), like it or retweet it. Meet your consumers halfway. If they are taking the time to engage with your brand, you should be doing the same. You won’t regret it. 


How often should you be engaging with your audience? How often you should be engaging with your audience depends on how often you are engaged with as well as how often you are posting content. The more engaged your audience is, the more time you will need to spend engaging back. Usually, an increase or decrease in content shared will affect your audience’s engagement. Be sure to continually update your engagement strategy regularly based on what you are seeing take place on your social channels weekly, monthly, and quarterly. This will help you to adjust accordingly to certain trends, insights, events, or virality of posts. 


What shouldn’t I be doing when engaging with my audience? One major “no” when it comes to engaging with your audience is handling negative complaints or comments publicly. You should always be responsive, but steer the conversation to a private conversation whether that is through a DM or an email. This will allow you to de-escalate the situation in the public eye and show your audience that you care about the individuals that are reaching out to your brand. The situation can be handled more in-depth in the private conversation. However, treat every private conversation as public. A consumer with a social media presence has more power than you may think. Give them something positive to talk about. 


To learn more about our social media strategies and capabilities, contact us

Stolen Focus: On Attention and Creativity

Does this sound familiar? You look at your Google Calendar and only see 2 pixels between every meeting you’re attending today. Or you’re trying to finesse a design, or conduct research on a concept, or write this blog post, but—ping! ping! ping!–there’s a relentless flood of alerts coming from email, Slack, and elsewhere. 


Yet, in this modern work environment of no downtime and endless interruptions, you’re expected to excel. In thinly-sliced moments you must somehow guide yourself and your clients with intelligence, deep insights, and create award-winning strategies and designs. 


According to research by UC Irvine’s Professor Gloria Mark, the average office worker is interrupted every 3 minutes. Pair that with this finding from Professor Michael Posner at the University of Oregon: when we are interrupted during a task, it takes our brains 23 minutes to return to the level of concentration we had before the interruption. It’s a wonder the working world hasn’t imploded under such untenable circumstances. And while we might be inclined to simply blame it all on digital technology, the root causes are manifold. 


Johann Hari spent three years conducting hundreds of interviews with experts who have studied what Hari calls the global attention crisis. The resulting book, Stolen Focus: Why You Can’t Pay Attention and How To Think Deeply Again, paints a holistic picture of the problem. In it, he delves into research across a wide range of topics including how we work, sleep, eat, educate, and interact with technology and society. It’s a compelling book that balances truly jarring data with some hopeful insights from real world examples of people who won their attention back.


Why does the attention crisis matter to the creative industries? 


According to Professor Earl Miller, a cognitive neuroscientist at MIT, our brains require downtime to be creative. Creativity comes from our brain having extended undistracted time to—at the subconscious level—connect various inputs we’ve received to generate something novel. This means we cannot realize our full potential, our creative brains cannot earn that title, if we’re constantly interrupted or switching between multiple tasks. On that last point, according to the research, multi-tasking is a myth. Our brains only focus on one function at a time, and the more we switch back and forth, not only are we less able to be creative, we’re far more prone to error. 


What this means for creative businesses is when team members can’t devote their full attention to a task then they can’t think deeply about that task. If they aren’t able to think deeply, they risk generating shallow solutions for their clients. And if this continues for too long, those clients will go looking elsewhere for strategy, guidance, and creative work.


So, what are some things we can do that might help improve our attention in the workplace so that we can be our creative best? Here are a 7 ideas from the book and from around our office:


1: Better Sleep 

Sleep allows the brain to clear itself out and make sense of everything we put into it from the day before. New ideas and memories form while we sleep. To get better sleep, lower the amount of artificial light in your home as the evening progresses. Try putting your phone away two hours before you intend to fall asleep. You may need to build up to that one over time, so start with not looking at it while in bed and progress from there. These steps allow your brain to return to a more natural rhythm and you’ll fall asleep more easily and more deeply. Better sleep = better waking function. 


2: Limit App Alerts

I’ve started doing this one recently and it’s made a huge difference: don’t allow alerts from any apps that aren’t absolutely necessary. Yes, that means turning off Slack alerts after business hours. You can do it, I believe in you! Turn off all the other alerts, too, especially social media. All of the content and heart reacts will be there for you to see later. 


3: Limit Outside Contact While Working

We all love hearing from our partner and our friends during the day. It helps us feel connected, but it’s also a major distraction. I recently asked my girlfriend and others who usually text me during the day to limit texts during work hours to time-sensitive messages. My focus has improved dramatically, and now when I see these people face to face after work, we have more to talk about. Win-win!


4: Schedule Email Time

Set aside 2 or 3 times per day that you will read and respond to emails. Knock this task out in chunks, not as each message comes in. Most messages are not as pressing as the sender thinks they are, and if something is truly urgent, they have your phone number.


5: Daily Deep Work

At Telegraph, we have Deep Work Wednesdays, when external meetings are verboten and coworker interruptions are discouraged. The goal is to allow everyone to focus on a handful of tasks that need their full attention. Some staff here, like CCO Seth Griffin, have taken the extra step of setting aside 2-hour blocks of Deep Work time almost every day. It’s okay to tell your coworkers, “Give me space so I can do my best work.”


6: Zoning Out Is Valuable (And Can Be Billable)

As research reveals, our brains need to pause to be creative. Allow your staff (or yourself) time during the day to not be grinding since downtime is often when ideas come to us. Pick up a book. Go for a stroll. Just stare across the room. Lightning may strike. Or maybe your brain will simply be refreshed enough to generate that lightning itself. Telegraph Designer Savvy Meek has begun turning to a doodle pad throughout the day to clear her head and reports that it helps her feel creatively recharged. 


7: Advocate for Longer Deadlines

This one’s radical, I know, but hear me out (and then convince your clients to follow along). Clients want the best from us, and we want to give them our best. Creating great work often requires long stretches of attention. Giving a project a longer lead time begets more attention devoted to the work begets better creative results begets fewer revisions or less pushback from the client. Conversely, an arbitrarily short deadline begets rushed work begets more rounds of revisions than anyone budgeted for. The former makes everyone happy. The latter frustrates all involved.


Mr. Hari states that Stolen Focus is not a self-help book, that there are no easy answers, and that he still struggles with the attention problem himself. I believe, though, that the research data it presents and the real world examples of how individuals and companies have won their attention and productivity back are a valuable resource and can inspire solutions of our own. In the creative field, we have no tool more valuable than our minds, and the better we can understand how to protect and optimize the abilities of this most precious resource, the better our work and our lives will be. 

Mushrooms, Mascots, & Monograms

Mushrooms, Mascots, & Monograms 

Should you ditch coffee and start drinking mushrooms? Is a mascot really a mascot if it has no name? How much should you spend on a custom monogram for your wedding? 

We can’t answer these questions, but we can fill you in on why we’re asking. Mushrooms, mascots, and monograms were among the trends predicted earlier this year by our Associate Creative Director, Nolen Strals. We’re circling back to the predicted trend trio and elaborating below.   



We’re seeing more mushrooms—mushroom-based dishes on restaurant menus, people growing mushrooms, and clothes featuring mushroom designs. Why the mushroom mania? Let’s get into it.  

Growing plants and food at home is part of a broad trend of wanting to be (or at least portray yourself as being) self-sufficient. Growing your own mushrooms aligns perfectly with this aspiration. It speaks to those who are health-conscious, money-conscious, and image-conscious. \

Mushroom imagery thrives in the space of psychedelic design, another current trend. This type of design and the imagery of mushrooms reminds us of an era idealized by people young and old: the ‘70s. Embracing this era, even by simply wearing a t-shirt with a mushroom on it, is a way to borrow some of the optimistic energy from the past. 

You can find examples of mushroom-adorned clothing all over the industry, from high-end brands like Paul Smith to fast fashion brands like Forever 21. For other trend examples, check out Shroomboom, Shrooly, and MUD\WTR. If you start noticing mushrooms more than you did before, don’t be surprised. 



Mascots are largely used in the realm of food and beverage, and that’s how it’s been for decades. More recently, we’ve seen mascots used outside this genre. Cue trend alert. 

Take NEXT Insurance, for example. There’s no name or specific purpose designated to their mascots. The characters simply make a dry topic more engaging. This goes for Adobe, too. The results of their Creative Types Test are paired with an animated character, aka a mascot for each category. 

In recent years, it’s increasingly become more acceptable for adults to embrace cartoons and childish things from their past. People appreciate the fun and lighthearted parts of youth. We see this acceptance and appreciation as a connection to the rise in brand mascots, and we’re staying tuned for more in 2022.  



Monograms are popping up everywhere. So much so that we pondered an important question: what exactly counts as a monogram? 

To us, a design is considered a monogram if the letters serve their alphabetic purpose—but transcend to become art. It’s more than just letters. It’s an artistic symbol.   

Around the new year, Nolen noticed monograms increasingly popping up in other designers’ work being shared on social media from all over the country. They seem to be a new addition or evolution in the ongoing “badges” trend of logo design.

Outside of the professional design world, the monogram trend is also seen at weddings. Primarily in the South, monograms combining the couples’ initials are used at weddings on cups, napkins and more. Weddings are aspirational events, and in a way, couples “rebrand” when they get married. A monogram in this context is a symbol used to signify the elevated event and moment in the couple’s life. 

Historically, monograms have been associated with the upper class and exclusive organizations. This is part of why many people subconsciously view monograms as trusted, dependable symbols of pride. Monograms signal that something, be it a brand or marriage, plans to be around for a while. We could say the same for the monogram trend as a whole—we plan on it being around for a while. 

Trends don’t happen randomly. They’re an echo of cultural occurrences and circumstances. We experience and recognize trends at different levels based on our proximity to their source. As one example, Nolen never saw a wedding monogram when he lived in the Mid-Atlantic, though it’s common in the South. Trends are constantly evolving, and they grow more complex as these cultural echoes overlap.  

You can see some of our trend predictions overlapping in the branding for the Austin, Texas music venue Parish. Their logo is both a P and an abstract head in profile. Inside it is a figure that appears to dance or morph into different poses in different applications. This one small mark combines the trends of monograms, psychedelia, and mascots to create something truly unique and memorable. We’re excited to continue watching these trends and others unfold and evolve in 2022. 

Letter Rip

Letter Rip is a monthly gathering for people in Birmingham who like to draw letters. The event is free, and we’re spelling out all of the details below. 

Nolen Strals, Associate Creative Director at Telegraph, is an organizer of Letter Rip, along with Jacob Schwartz, Senior Art Director at Industrial Strength Marketing, and Brandon Watkins, Co-Founder at Yellowhammer Creative. Nolen quickly befriended Jacob and Brandon after moving to Birmingham, and they bonded over a shared love of hand lettering. 

While living in Baltimore, Nolen participated in a lettering group called Baltimore Letters. The casual social gathering consisted mostly of people with lettering as part of their profession. Nolen, Jacob and Brandon wanted to organize a similar event in Birmingham, and a text conversation led them to naming the event “Letter Rip”. They slapped the energetic pun on a poster to spread the word, and the first meet-up commenced at Yellowhammer quickly after. 

A post meet-up survey following the first Letter Rip gathering showed that most attendees wanted to learn more about lettering. Since then, meet-ups have covered basic foundational elements of lettering and psychedelic lettering. 

Though they’ve covered the basics, beginners are always invited. Letter Rip welcomes all skill levels of fellow designers, non-designers, friends, strangers, co-workers, and anyone else interested. 

“So often the creative world gets stratified or hyper competitive,” said Nolen. “We want Letter Rip to be a space where your job, your employer, and even how much skill you have with lettering, doesn’t matter.” 

One of the main goals of Letter Rip is to build a sense of community among creative people in Birmingham. In the marketing world, the word “community” is commonly thrown around as an empty buzzword. Through events like Letter Rip, the word “community” becomes a real thing, benefitting more than just the lettering skills of those who show up.  

“We don’t just have to help people who we work with at our day jobs,” said Nolen. “We should be helping the entire creative community because that makes Birmingham a better place for all of us.” 


What are the deets for Letter Rip’s next meet-up? 

Details for the next Letter Rip meet-up are still in the works. They will post on Instagram when plans are finalized.  (Instagram:  @letter_rip_bham )

Do I need to bring my own supplies to Letter Rip? 

Drawing tools and paper are provided, but you can bring your own supplies if you want. The only thing you must bring on your own is an open mind, as this (sadly) can’t be provided for you.

What’s the agenda for a typical Letter Rip meet-up? 

Most meet-ups start with a short slide presentation. After that, there’s doodling, socializing and learning. It’s a casual event, and the agenda is evolving. In the future, they hope to have more inspirational presentations in addition to the current workshop-ish setup. 

How can I support Letter Rip from afar? 

Merch doesn’t exist yet, but they plan to sell shirts soon to raise funds to improve the event. They’ll advertise the shirts on Instagram ( @letter_rip_bham ). Also, you can see if your city has an event like Letter Rip. Getting involved with creative people where you live is a great way to build and support a sense of community.  

Tele’s Toolbox

What’s one tool you use at work that you can’t imagine working without? We asked our team this question, and we’re sharing some of the responses below:

  1. Shift – Irma Sierra, VP Project Management Office
    • This app holds all of your work-related programs, platforms and notifications in one place. You can check an email, reply to Slacks, search Dropbox, read over a document, and so much more in just one window. If you frequently get lost in your open tabs, this app was made to help you.
  2. Matter- McClain McKinney, Director of Production
    • We’re constantly consuming content, and this reading app can help us consume content more intentionally. It gathers media, saves it, and makes it accessible in one distraction-free space. It allows you to stay up-to-date with content, listen to articles read in a natural voice, and highlight important takeaways.
  3. Wacom Intuos Pro Tablet Nolen Strals, Associate Creative Director
    • This tablet makes drawing or editing in any Adobe Creative Suite product easier and faster. It’s also easy to use for non-creative tasks as it allows for more intuitive navigation compared to using a mouse. In fact, Nolen shared that he’s barely touched a mouse since being introduced to this item.

  4. FigmaDavid Hildebrand, Creative Director
    • Graphic designers, UI/UX people, and web designers—this one’s for you. The lightweight tool makes collaboration and presentation seamless. Dave shared that Figma has replaced Photoshop and Illustrator for him because of its efficiency.

  5. F.luxMcClain McKinney, Director of Production
    • This program automatically adjusts brightness on a screen to match its surroundings and reduce eye strain. Though it doesn’t take long to adjust brightness on your own, automating it can save you time. McClain pointed out that a five second task done six times each day for a year, takes over two hours each year. As a general rule of thumb, he said if you do a task more than three times, you should try and automate it.

  6. ProcreateSavvy Meek, Designer
    • This is Savvy’s go-to app for digital illustration. It’s loaded with a plethora of brushes and tools to make crafting and editing any project efficient. She recommends it for anyone interested in taking up digital illustration or streamlining their design process.

  7. Airpods ProMargaret Griffin, Associate Copywriter
    • These wireless and noise canceling headphones are perfect for focusing in an open workspace—or generally any space. They aren’t bulky like other noise canceling headphones, and the compact case is small enough to fit in your pocket. They’re comfortable enough to wear for hours, and they’re worth considering when investing in new headphones.

  8. TextExpanderMcClain McKinney, Director of Production
    • Words, sentences, pictures—whatever you find yourself constantly typing or attaching can be streamlined with this app. With assigned abbreviations, repetitive outgoing comms become efficient.

This list captures a small portion of tools we use daily, but common themes of organization and efficiency are consistent with the rest of the tools in our toolbox. It’s a good reminder of why we use tools in the first place: to work smarter, not harder.