DESIGN

Is your website mobile-friendly?  

Can you read it? Do you have to rotate and expand to see even a tiny part of the page? As annoying as it is to enlarge a tiny page on your phone, what’s much worse is that your site may not show up in a Google Search. Oh, eventually, maybe page 5 or later, but Google’s search process will prioritize it behind websites that are optimized for mobile.

Why? one reason is that up to 60% of site views are made from a mobile device.

This is an older (non-responsive) website That website on mobile
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Here’s an example of a ‘responsive’ design, optimized for multiple devices.

This is my website My website on mobile
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It might help to think of it this way:

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This is quite a feat of skillful programming. But fortunately, well designed WordPress themes can handle the job. It’s another reason I love WordPress: it gives you the building blocks for a fabulous site, even if you’re not a techie!

I specialize in helping creatives, small biz, non-profits and others make a spectacular site that serves their cause. I provide education and support so that you can actively use your site to build connections, build sales, build a business. And contribute to the Conversation!

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Advertising an Issue, Then & Now

While we can laugh at the 70’s style , the ‘crying Indian’ ad is still legendary in environmental circles. It rallied a nation to care about their environment, and to support creation of clean air and water regulations.

What strikes me today is how light the pollution and litter look.

The Issue has Changed & So Has Marketing

Compared to what washes up along the Potomac River today, the video’s litter looks cute. At this year’s annual river cleanup, volunteers removed over 300,000 pounds of plastic bags and bottles, foam cups (all light weight materials) in three hours. Walk the shore a week after and it’s covered again; the tide of trash is relentless.

The Ferguson Foundation has been working on river cleanup for 28 years. When I first took part in 2003 they called their effort “Trash-Free Potomac 2013.” They’ve since dropped the date. But the work goes on, and it really engages people to care about the river.

But there’s worse things fouling the waters. Excess ‘nutrients’ from farms, sewage, run-off and lawn fertilizers are choking our streams, rivers and bays with aquatic plant overgrowth and algal blooms. This disturbs and eventually ruins habitats, and can even create dangerously toxic conditions. 

Few people take time to consider how lawn chemicals, street run-off or farm waste are affecting their natural environment. There are campaigns to educate the public, but they aren’t as widely seen as the public service campaigns of the 70’s.

This video by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation is probably only viewed by people on their mailing lists or or those who seek them out. Too long for TV, it’s not likely to reach as broad an audience as our Indian, above.

According to the World Wildlife Foundation, The number of wild animals on Earth has halved in the past 40 years. Habitat destruction, poaching and pollution have eliminated half of the living creatures on the planet.

“If half the animals died in London zoo next week it would be front page news,” said Professor Ken Norris, ZSL’s director of science. “But that is happening in the great outdoors. This damage is a consequence of the way we choose to live. Nature, which provides food and clean water and air, is essential for human wellbeing.”

That we need marketing to convince us the the natural world is essential strikes me as absurd, but in our busy-busy world it’s somehow become the norm to take the natural world for granted.

One of the biggest challenges today is the multitude of media channels, unimaginable in the 70s. Network TV no longer reaches families – people from multiple generations -watching the evening news together at the dinner table.

Messages must be targeted not only in content but especially by delivery. I recently marketed a musical event relying heavily on Twitter and Facebook, and missed a swath of an older audience. Not a mistake I will make again!

If you had to mount a campaign to protect your favorite cause, where would you start?

How would you prioritize the audience? What channels would you choose to reach them, and why?

Fonts These Days!

This Chart gave me some laughs…

click for larger image

But seriously, fonts these days!! For us old-timers, we’ve lived through pixelated, then Postscript fonts. Then came utilities to help us manage the technical and artistic confusion: Suitcase and Adobe Type Manager.   TrueType and OpenType came along trying to simplify how software and printers processed font data.

Today we have Google fonts and all their digital cousins, and an open-source bonanza of new fonts, free and for hire.

How do you manage your fonts?

Here’s an article that reviews a number of options from Spoon Graphics. I’m looking forward to exploring some of these in more detail.

I have been relying on Font Book for a while now, and longing for something that would let me use a limited set for every day but ‘go shopping’ for styles and font faces by category when I needed them. I plan to try the free version of Font Explorer to see if it might help, and I’ll report in.

But I really want to hear from you. Let me know what font managing solutions have worked for you, or if you try any of these recommendations, how they work out.

 

Christmas Time Blessing to All

Advertising can indeed be a thing of beauty.

Enjoy this beautifully told tale of friendship, gifts and shared holidays:

This animated holiday ad was created for John Lewis,the UK retailer by Laurent Simon and Aidan McClure of DDB Worldwide. I highly recommend watching the Behind the Scenes video. It’s a combination of stop-motion and hand drawn animation that’s quite extraordinarily detailed.

The Gift of Typography

jensong-giftWe lately herald our digital culture with much pride; well deserved, it is a  significant achievement. I recently saw The Imitation Game, a film which will give you a great appreciation for the dawn of our data-driven age. But there is another powerful and under-appreciated media, and it’s right under your nose every day.

That marvel of human ingenuity would be roman typography: a standardized letterform for written European language. A mere 550 years ago, all of your books and papers were hand-scribed in precise blackletter calligraphy by highly skilled scribes. The first printed books including Gutenburg’s bible were printed with blackletter fonts that mimicked the blackletter style.

Biblia latina, with handwritten Lombardic capitals in red & blue. Rome: Sweynheym & Pannartz, 1471. Image courtesy of Austrian National Library

The first known Bible printed in roman type is at left, from 1471. Not until early in the 16th century when the Reformation took hold were roman-print Bibles produced in any quantity.

‘Roman’ type is the first font family designed specifically for printing technology. It was derived from the inscriptions on Roman architecture, and, with the development of lowercase letterforms and refinements for readability, became the alphabet we consume today, and take for granted as written language.

So this holiday season, if you read the Holy Bible (or anything for that matter!) take a moment to appreciate the futurists of the 1400s who brought us the printed book. They laid the groundwork for your Kindle and this very blog.

Creativity as Dialog

According to the New York Times, we are watching the end of the lone genius. I’ll be the first to agree that the isolated creative is a myth that has outlived its usefulness. Too many depictions of a tormented Vincent Van Gogh, a drunken and depressed Hemingway, even Newton as the singular discoverer, who was building on the work of others.

An article by Joshua Wolf Shenk in today’s NYT, The End of Genius, deftly unwraps the modern construct of our mythical loner. (Shenk writes more about the brilliance of creative pairs in the Atlantic, HERE.) The word originally meant “a tutelary god or spirit given to every person at birth” – a Muse as it were. In our modernity we have apparently absorbed this creative god and ascribed its qualities to our individual selves.

 

Now the creative network is emerging as a more useful model of the process.  Certainly  the internet and virtual communication has enhanced our ability to collaborate in teams and groups. We have crowd-sourced encyclopedias, music written and produced by partners who have never met, and ease of collaboration via the media that gives us instant contact.

Of course, this is nothing new.  All creative work builds on what came before. But we are  thinking about this differently. We’re evolving the way we inhabit our creative identity.

So let’s talk about it:

  • Do you work with a creative partner?
  • Do you use technology to collaborate?
  • Does the media influence your creative product?

 

Great Advice from an 60’s Adman

George Lois “Great ideas can't be tested. Only mediocre ideas can be tested.”

“Great ideas can’t be tested. Only mediocre ideas can be tested.”

George Lois  is the guy who created the “I want my MTV” slogan and invented the concept of Lean Cuisine. Now  81, the  graphic designer/art director/copywriter may be best known for his 92 cover designs for Esquire magazine from 1962 to 1972, which have been exhibited by the Museum of Modern Art.

When asked about the hit TV series Mad Men, Lois dismisses it as a soap opera, and also notes that it missed the real story:

…ignoring the dynamics of the Creative Revolution that changed the world of communications forever…That dynamic period of counterculture in the 1960s found expression on Madison Avenue through a new creative generation—a rebellious coterie of art directors and copywriters who understood that visual and verbal expression were indivisible.

Lois is responsible for quite a few books over the years including The Art of Advertising and Sellebritythe most recent of which is  Damn Good Advice, which is nicely profiled in this article at Fast Company:

7 Pieces of “Damn Good” Creative Advice from ’60s Ad Man George Lois:

BREVITY ROCKS

“I want my MTV” became a generational battle cry after Lois, a pioneer in exploiting celebrity cachet, persuaded Mick Jagger to appear in a TV commercial delivering the line.

LISTEN

Lois says, “When people talk to you about their business and you listen hard, there’s a good chance they’ll say something and you go ‘Son of a bitch, that’s it!’ Then when you show your idea to the guy, he doesn’t even know he gave it to you.”

GO TO THE MUSEUM

“Museums are custodians of epiphanies, and these epiphanies enter the central nervous system and deep recesses of the mind.”

FIGHT ADVERSITY WITH CREATIVITY

Lois shot a TV commercial showing a toddler making photocopies. When the FCC objected that the ad misrepresented the machine’s ease of use, Lois shot a new commercial showing a chimpanzee making photocopies. He invited FCC staffers to attend the shoot.

PAY ATTENTION TO THE ZEITGEIST

When it comes to pulling concepts out of thin air, “It’s about understanding what the hell’s going on around you,” says Lois, who spends an hour each morning poring through the New York Times.

TRUST YOUR GUT

“Ad agencies do all kinds of market research that ask people what they think they want, and instead you should be creating things that you want.  Trust your own instincts, your own intellect, and your own sense of humor.”

WORD FIRST, VISUAL LATER

Lois believes in “writing the idea” rather than trawling randomly for visual inspiration.  “A big campaign can only be expressed in words that lend themselves to visual excitement.”

read entire article

Depicting THE GLOBAL FLOW OF PEOPLE

Having worked with demographic data for years (as a writer and artist) I have acquired some ability to manipulate and read spreadsheets in order to derive meaning from them. Full time demographers and other researchers have honed the same skills, but for most of us, nothing can compare to the near-instantaneous glance that visual display can provide.

To provide a beautiful example check out The Global Flow of People,  an intereactive infographic that depicts the migration of humans to and from world regions,developed at the Wittgenstein Centre for Demography and Global Human Capital.   Researchers Nikola SanderGuy J. Abel & Ramon Bauer  working with designer Elvira Stein used color and shape to create a powerful display of complex data.

Origins and destinations are represented by the circle’s segments. Each region/country is assigned a colour. Flows have the same colour as their origin and the width indicates their size.

So many stories can be told from this one elegant piece of work, representing volumes of data presented it for our minds to readily digest. Here’s just one: the changing patterns in emigration in South Asia by 5-year increments.

SouthAsia

This timeframe spans the ‘War on Terror’ as well as the rise of India as a competitive economy. There are dozens of insightful relationships to inquire about, just from this one slice of the data. Why is there an uptick in emmigration to Iran from Europe in 1995-2000 and from the US in 2000-2005?  Who are the South-east Asians who are moving into Bangladesh?

Visit the interactive master post to experiment with  the original interactive graphic where you can which will examine a single region, break out by country, and show data from four different 5-year time frames.

 

What is the Value of Design?

What is the value of design? There are many levels where design impacts our productivity. Beyond the obvious appealing marketing or packaging, consider how a well-designed office chair spares one a bad back. What is the value of better attention? And how about happy customers? Have you ever found yourself irritated at a company after a bad online experience? But it’s difficult to put a dollar amount to the matter.

One UK animation studio, working with the Design Council,  attempts to quantify the answer:

We found that when businesses implemented design thinking, it boosted product creation, exports, and the word everyone likes to hear – profits.”

Illy Woolfson, Content & Communities Manager, The Design Council