Second Life: The Environmental Design Tool of the 21st Century

A Second Life view of the Dow Chemical Company's customer hospitality and business center at the '09 NPE tradeshow created by The Scott & Miller Group.

Recently, the Dow Chemical Company worked with The Scott & Miller Group, a business to business marketing communications firm with an award-winning reputation and a 45 year history of work to help the company both plan and design a customer hospitality and business center at the ’09 International Plastics Exposition Tradeshow, held in Chicago last June.

To address the needs of their client, the Scott & Miller Group implemented Second Life, the internet’s largest online 3D virtual world, to help design the center. Working within the software, the agency built a virtual replica of the 36,000 square foot Skyline Ballroom at McCormick Place, complete with furnishings, meeting rooms, workstations, kiosks, dining areas, a lounge and bar. They then invited Dow Chemical Company clients to login to Second Life and explore the customer center themselves using avatars (icons representing people) to evaluate the center’s layout and design on their own.

According to Greg Baldwin, communications manager of Dow Basic Plastics, the virtual 3D ballroom was an invaluable tool used for evaluating the effectiveness of the proposed layout and design of the customer center, which ended up drawing over 1,100 customers during the week the event took place.

“When you’re working in such a large space, it’s difficult to predict every nuance that will impact the look, feel and functionality of the room – color choices, deciding where graphics are needed and where they aren’t, or even arrangement of dining tables. I was able to login to the virtual customer center any time and feel confident about the final decision.”

Working within the Second Life universe to accomplish such tasks has its advantages. For starters, the ability to bring multiple parties and locations together in one identifiable virtual space not only saves time, money and resources, but the sustainability of a virtual space as a means of both presenting and communicating an idea is immeasurable. According to Tom Leinberger, owner and president of The Scott & Miller Group, this idea of implementing virtual worlds into event and program planning is growing increasingly in popularity.

“When you have access to a dynamic medium like Second Life which combines social and visual components and can help achieve resource and cost efficiencies, it’s reasonable to assume many more companies will be incorporating virtual world activities into their integrated marketing communications strategies.”

Become Your Own Client: a Primer for Website Redesign

When it comes to working with our clients and prospects advice, we’ve probably all been guilty of not following the mantra “practice what you preach”. We get so caught up in the daily functions of our business and the needs of our clients that our own image begins to show a few cracks of its own. In such cases, it’s time we start taking a dose of our own medicine.

Take The Langton Cherubino Group for instance.  A New York firm specializing in marketing strategies and communications programs, the Langton Cerubino Group recently redesigned their website to adhere to the standards they hold so high for their clients.

“It’s hard to turn the equation around and become your own client.” (David Langton, Principal, Langton Cherubino Group)

As a design communications firm which specializes in branding and identity, the firm asks their clients a number of initial questions before developing a working solution for them. During the redesign, they turned these questions inward, essentially making themselves their client.

  • Who is your target audience?
  • What impressions do you want to make?
  • What information do you want to convey?
  • What does this project have to do in order for you to consider it a success?

By making this effort to address their own needs and target new prospects and visitors, it seems the firm has developed a great formula for a successful website design: one that is easily accessible, has a structure designed for the visitor rather than the firm, includes engaging links and content, is optimization for search engines and gives the firm the ability to add new content quickly.

After answering these questions, it was time for co-founders David Langton and Norman Cerubino to begin developing a website redesign that made the best impression of their work. To gauge the success of the project, new requirements of the website were outlined, including:

  • An easily accessible design.
  • A structure based on what their visitors are interested in seeing rather than just what the firm wants to show.
  • Various links and content that engage visitors to learn more about individual projects.
  • A search function to increase traffic to the site.
  • The ability to add new projects and content quickly.

While working towards achieving the goal they outlined, the Langton Cherubino Group treated the assignment as if it was one they took on for a paying client, conducting weekly meetings exploring the underlying details of the site redesign, conducting market studies of competitor sites, designing drafts of potential solutions and holding critiques to assess their viability. The result of all of this work culminated in a systematic solution with a form follows function approach.

Another requirement of the redesign was making the new website searchable and accessible by well-known search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo. The old website, which was built in flash and not easily recognized by key search engines, hurt their online visibility to a degree. The new website, based in HTML and includes both key words and descriptive text, has increased its recognizability with key search engines and has made the site easier to find for their visitors.

“We now have a more robust web solution.”