hi. we love your brand

Introducing Harbinger Innovation

Harbinger is anything but your run-of-the-mill sign manufacturer. Much of the credit for that belongs to CEO Steve Williams.

hi-logomark-quarter-inchSteve inherited a company that already had a reputation for innovation, having pioneered LED systems to replace inefficient and expensive fluorescent bulbs in signage systems, and he intends to maintain that reputation. One of his first actions was instilling lean manufacturing innovations to their manufacturing facility to speed up delivery time and improve efficiency. After that, Williams rebranded the national sign company from Quality Signs, an overused nomenclature among sign shops all over the country, to Harbinger Sign of the Future.

After a few years with the new brand, the company was faced with the challenge of living up to the brand promise.

“I was trying to figure out how we could live up to our slogan, ‘Sign of the Future.’ What does the Sign of the Future look like?”

The Future Is Digital

This line of thinking led him down an obvious path and he started exploring digital signage. It was the next horizon for a national sign provider, to be sure.

I think digital signs and digital display walls are exciting. There is so much possibility. However it is so rare to see them out in the world being used to convey good design. It’s like the designers of most digital sign systems are still making Motley Crue music videos or car commercials.

“In web design, modern user interface design is so clean and smart. I want to bring the modern design and smart strategies of the tech world to digital sign programs and customer experiences in the physical world.”

So Steve decided he needed to build a team that understood user experience and designing for the Internet.

Content Strategy

Anyone that knows Steve Williams knows he is rarely far from his trusty iPhone (and is likely to Tweet any random statement you might say to him). As he researched content strategy on his iPhone, he had an epiphany. He was holding the sign of the future in his hands. Digital signs are with us all the time. We engage with them more than any other medium. With so many screens around us and so much content pouring through them all, how could brands ensure their message reaches their audience? They needed content strategy. So Steve brought on Jon Bosworth, a content strategist from a national digital agency.

One of the components of contemporary user interface design is user experience and content strategy. Harbinger digital programs needed to utilize research and data to make content more effective.

“With digital signs, it’s about so much more than just the screens, the players, and the software. It’s about designing the right message to reach the right person at the right time to influence behavior while building a bond with the brand by delighting the user, who in this case is the customer. And we can observe data to improve it,” said Jon.

Design

Harbinger’s art department employs technicians that make the client-provided art work on various types of signs. They don’t create or strategize; they facilitate getting digital artwork into physical sign systems. The exception to this standard is Harbinger’s Creative Director, Ed Busey. Before the creation of the innovation group, it was Ed alone who shouldered the lion’s share of identity work, creative design, and helped clients look at a bigger picture than just getting a logo onto a building. When it came to innovating design and content for clients in the past, it was often up to Ed to take the helm, so he was central to building this new team.

Ed and Steve started the hunt for the right designer with a great aesthetic, an understanding of good design principles and typography, and a specialist in basic HTML and CSS. Jon insisted that the right designer have a deep knowledge of UX (user experience design). They found their “pixel pusher” in Corey Kolb.

Solving Brand Challenges

The need Steve observed among Harbinger clients was a sophisticated approach to developing more dimensional brands while meeting the client’s revenue needs. Brand challenges come with a different set of solutions each time. For every client problem, they had to innovate an entirely new custom solution. The team’s quick adaptation to this constantly changing challenge became one of their strongest qualities as a team.

hi.

WorkingHarbinger Innovation Group was born. They immediately truncated their name to “hi.” to underscore their intention to bring brands and consumers into friendly dialogue.

“A brand mark and a slogan is like a monologue. That sort of branding is on its way out. The brands of tomorrow don’t just project a monologue from a sign post, they engage their consumers in a dialogue. The brand of the future needs to be able to come off of the signpost and talk to you. It has a tonality, a typography, a personality,” said Jon.

“And it should be device-agnostic so the message is just as strong on a mobile device, a tablet, or when displayed on a screen in a retail environment,” added Corey.

Having assembled the team, Steve realized Harbinger couldn’t keep this talent to itself. Harbinger Innovation Group has unique capabilities as a design company that manufactures both digital and physical content. And hi. now provides these services to agencies, designers and marketing departments. Adding another dimension to the innovative service offerings of Harbinger.

This is Harbinger Innovation Group:

Steve Williams – Commander

The Harbinger CEO has a background as a professional artist and gallerist and an education in graphic design alongside his decades of experience with Harbinger. Steve is the engine that drives hi.

Ed Busey – Creative Chief

Ed’s education was in graphic design and his professional background is in architecture. This makes him uniquely equipped to understand where innovative design concepts can be fabricated in the sign shop. From technical drawings to identity design, Ed is a brilliant designer and visual linguist.

Jon Bosworth – Chief Strategist

Jon is a writer of everything from web content to journalism to screenwriting and fiction. With more than 20 years of marketing and content experience, the last 6 of those focused heavily on strategy, Jon is a passionate advocate for the user. He believes the new “customer is always right” is “there are no dumb users, only dumb tools.”

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Corey Kolb – Visual Engineer

Corey is a visual artist that uses his education and experience in graphic and web design to fuel his passion for public art that makes a statement. From full color, 2-story murals downtown to award-winning posters for AIGA, Corey is deeply concerned with typography and effective communication that relies less on words than impression.

Jayson Earl – Graphic Specialist

Jayson is the graphic designer responsible for screenprinting the incredible posters at St. Augustine Amphitheatre. In addition to his passion for screen printing, he is an accomplished designer with years of experience working with agencies and doing freelance design for print and web.

Hannah Russell – Mission Coordinator

The hi. project manager has her education and background in internet marketing and is a self-professed “marketing junky.” She brings order to the chaos of this creative team and wrangles them through actually completing work even when Internet videos are more fun.

Michael Schmidt – Business Development

Michael has worked in just about every field. From politics to real estate, from product design to architecture. He even owned a barbecue restaurant. In Boston. We didn’t even know they had barbecue restaurants in Boston. But this unique array of eclectic experiences makes him unusually qualified to understand how hi. innovates. He thinks like a designer and a business owner. (He also claims to make great ribs and pulled pork.)

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