aimexpo 2015 on flickr

AIMExpo 2015

AIMExpo 2015 On Flickr

Now in its third year, the American International Motorcycle Expo has grown in size and in 2015 nearly 600 exhibitors made the trip to Orlando for the four-day event.

Included were motorcycle OEMs, off-road vehicles, personal watercraft, aftermarket manufacturers, apparel retailers, and electric vehicles.

the forgotten paper cabinet

Paper cabinet

Paper Cabinets A Relic Of Times Past

As a freelancer for most of my career and an agency and publications creative director on several occasions, having a paper cabinet wasn’t just an item of convenience. It was a necessity.

Cabinet wasn’t a euphemism either. More carpentry than not, they were close to one-offs assembled out of board stock and covered in turn with a premium stock, intended to house that company’s product line. My favorite for functional storage was from Zellerbach, then a Mead company, that served as home to a wide variety of samples from various manufacturers.

When it was time to present, the swatchbook (and a couple of alternates) was pulled from the cabinet and joined the comps at the conference table, along with PMS swatches in a separate pile. All in all a formidable display of design competence.

Paper reps called on a regular basis, loaded down with their employer’s latest sample swatchbooks that needed a home in your paper cabinet. They plied you with gorgeous printed spec, and swayed you with stacks of examples that were often graded by sheer weight and mass.

Coated, uncoated, text, cover, specialty, premium – these were just part of the extended lexicon of labels that described the various functions of unique products produced by a number of paper manufacturers both domestic and imported.

Pick Paper First, Then Design For Effect

From basic newsprint to duplex card stock, creative directors, art directors, and designers would often reach for their samples box first, then design a project to match the latest product.

Champion Colorcast and Kromekote were two such unique surfaces that in turn dictated a design that could best address the visual properties of the paper. It wasn’t quite cart before the horse, but close enough.

One metallic coated paper I wanted to use wound up being printed as a spot color using a silver metallic ink to good effect.

A side benefit of the competition between what were then independent paper manufacturers was the deluge of design aids in the form of spec books filled with examples of an endless variety of techniques to enhance the paper used for demonstration.

It’s Time To Pitch

When it was time to present, the swatchbook (and a couple of alternates) was pulled from the cabinet and joined the comps at the conference table, along with PMS swatches in a separate pile. All in all a formidable display of design competence.

And then came digital, and web ordering, and overnight shipping, and print-on-demand. Today’s paper cabinet like this version from Neenah is a nifty app – technically superior, but lacking the warmth of tactile feedback.

Ideas and progs are these days mostly presented digitally (PDFs) – faster, cleaner, and ready to finalize. Physical comps are themselves more a vestige of bygone days, having given way to the export from a close to final design document of a ready for approval two-dimensional screen display.

Most of what’s printed today – defined by ink on paper – is arrived at without the messy necessity of one-time, handmade comps created by pros.

Desktop publishing’s local democratization of the process has dumbed down the workflow to a couple of barely considered steps: crappy, template driven layouts, cheap looking overused fonts with applied effects, and a couple of paper choices. Presto! Everyone’s an expert!

Truthfully, I wouldn’t want to go back to the way things were. And truthfully, I’m glad I was around for the experience.

the power of graphic design

How Visuals Convey Meaning

Jean Jullien is a French graphic designer and illustrator. Following the murderous November 13th attacks on Paris civilians, he did what he does best – illustrate.

The simple graphic that emerged from his brush and ink rendering was instantly adopted by social media as the world’s rallying symbol against the horror unleashed by lunatics intent on carnage. Recognizable, emotional, symbolic, evocative. Follow your heart.

how logo design affects brand

Aligning Your Look With Your Mission

When it com133es to promoting a business, nothing is more critical than the brand logotype. Getting it right goes a long, long way towards making an impression on a distracted public that sees thousands of visuals on a daily basis.

To be successful, a corporate mark requires design integrity, repetition in the marketplace, and a connection to the goods or services it represents. Whether abstract or literal, the Nikes, Apples, and Coca-Colas of the business world rely on a recognizable visual that connotes quality and trust.

Emoticon, Meet Emoji

Looking at the before and after (above left) of IHOP’s haircut and a shave, it’s difficult to imagine how the approval process resulted in what struck one reviewer as a “sinister” smile beneath the word mark.

It’s arguably more legible, but only slightly, and that’s about where it starts and ends.

The IHOP acronym, in case some may have forgotten, stands for International House of Pancakes. But that’s not what I see when I try to decipher the new and improved visual. Emoticon, meet emoji.

HOW Design recently interviewed Siegel+Gale, a New York based branding agency known for their standout work, on the recent spate of chain restaurant logo overhauls. For anyone who follows corporate design, the candid remarks by the agency’s designers are for the most part an indictment of the perils of lackluster graphics.

A couple of things stand out in this collection of shareholder dependent corporate eateries. First, it’s more than okay to overhaul the corporate brand on an as needed basis. Nothing says stay away like an aged, dated, and most importantly irrelevant logotype. Second, once having decided on a freshening, make sure you’re just not slipping sideways.

Design updates should – probably – include references to historical looks that over time successfully represented a company to its public. But don’t let fear of letting go put up unnecessary barriers to a truly fresh, inspired interpretation that acknowledges the past while extending the future. Bon appétit!

what’s flickr done lately? plenty!

Flickr Fills Social Media Marketing’s Bill

Flickr’s had an on-again, off-again relationship with photographers over the years. What started as a stand-alone cloud service that debuted in 2004 and catered to the professional market with a paid option, was pushed to the background after being acquired by Yahoo in 2005 right before the dot-com bubble popped.

When Yahoo hired Marissa Mayer as CEO to shake up the troubled social-news-entertainment-search URL, she moved quickly to revamp the languishing asset, turning it into what it is today – a fully functional resource for all photographers that offers 1TB of free storage to every Flickr member.

no shortage of online storage options

While there’s no shortage of free storage silos – from Apple to Google to Dropbox and more – Flickr’s got a lot more going for it than just online access.

The latest round of upgrades features a fresh textual filter that allows selective image recognition filtering even if the image isn’t tagged with matching text. Your search term “red tomato” is recognized even if the red tomato isn’t tagged. Green wheelbarrow? Covered. And the returns are quick, no waiting in line.

Earlier this year they debuted Camera Roll, a feature that automatically displays a user’s images chronologically that also packs a powerful search punch, while automatic grouping of images on upload is another tweak aimed at promoting greater utilization and engagement.

Fresh mobile apps are also coming out, making the continued transformation from what began as a storage solution into a fully implemented social channel a reality that while it doesn’t pose a threat to Facebook operates perfectly within its own sphere of devotees.

social media marketing metadata options

When a user takes the time and has the insight to implement the powerful metadata opportunities offered by the service, Flickr becomes a social media marketing superhero. By taking advantage of albums for event grouping, headline, location, description, and various other available tags, users turn visual content into easily searchable content that can stand alone as unique content or be cross-referenced to bolster online content elsewhere.

Power users like Josh Hallett’s hyku stream, with over 25,000 images online, illustrate how adept Flickr is at dealing with quantity.

The Commons project is Flickr’s collection of free public domain imagery from the Library of Congress and other sources. Flickr can also filter Creative Commons licenses, including free to use with various restrictions.

For me, Flickr is the perfect still companion to YouTube’s emphasis on video, and a solid addition to a well-rounded social media marketing strategy.

advertising meets recall, wins

Still Selling – Just Unsafe to Ride

When Dealernews published Polaris’ “DO NOT SELL – DO NOT RIDE” bulletin concerning the Slingshot’s steering mechanism (defective ball bearings) and roll bar assembly to dealers in late January, you’d be correct in thinking dealer print and online promos and ads would be pulled until the situation was resolved.

The first public inkling that something was amiss came when the company’s letter to dealers popped up on the brand’s product online forum. That was January 16, less than a year out from the 2014 official public launch and just a few months into production of the reverse sit-in trike designed to take on BRP’s sit-on Spyder.

slingshot parked for safety repairs

Considering the daily barrage at the time of global and constant publicity concerning GM’s failure to clearly and promptly address their otherwise miniscule ignition switch fatal defect, or the ongoing problems of Japan’s Takata Corporation, supplier of proven lethal airbags to the automotive industry, the approach taken by at least two powersport dealer website management firms to allow Polaris’ fledgling Slingshot to remain in their dealer client’s main banner rotator is puzzling to say the least.

Those dealership content management contractors are well paid on the their promise of providing vigilant oversight, facilitating manufacturer communications, and lightning quick content updates to franchisees usually ill-equipped to oversee the day-to-day front end needs of online marketing. Or not.

crisis management – crucial for credibility

Taken together with the lack of transparency by the manufacturer, Polaris, and it’s a perfect example of a communications misfire from the top down that’s disappointing at the very least, lending further credence to the industry’s ongoing need for professional communication managers with the knowledge, skill, and authority to manage the occasional crisis. Consumers deserve better for a three-wheeled product that tops out at nearly $30,000.

There’s been no further word on the progress of this remarkable dealer notification that affected nearly 2,000 already shipped units, so consumers might assume that repairs to the steering rack and rollbar that began in late January have apparently been completed.

when it snows it pours


Selfie Marketing Pitch Popular

Florida’s Pinellas County is the most densely populated county in the state. It’s also the smallest, but that has never affected its ability to draw tourists from around the globe, intent on visiting world-class beaches from Caladisi Island State Park on the northern end to Fort Desoto County Park guarding the entrance to Tampa Bay.

With gas prices at their lowest level in years, an economy that’s on the rebound for the first time in years, and a brutal winter that continues to lash the northeast, convincing northerners to turn their wanderlust into momentum and head south isn’t a heavy lift.

Will Winter Ever End?

Nonetheless, Pinellas County’s marketing arm, Visit St. Pete-Clearwater, came up with a rock solid bit of creative when they launched a campaign centered around a family of nomadic snowmen who began showing up in slush and dirty snow blanketed New York and Chicago.

The edgy “WinterBlows” campaign plants irresistible (and guaranteed to have lines forming for selfies) faux snowmen on the sidewalks displaying sandwich boards headlined “Sunshine or bust!” and the URL.

Is it working? I’d have to say yes, considering how congested the main two-lane north-south beach artery, Gulf Boulevard, has become in recent days. There’s nothing that can match a smart, well executed, marketing solution.

b-to-b needs softer approach

Improve B-to-B With Creative Storytelling

b-to-b gets a creative makeover

The January issue of Advertising Age takes a look at B-to-B marketing as brands continue to sort out what works and what doesn’t for industrial communications in the digitized age.

The conclusion is that brands can’t rely any longer on a business marketing process that doesn’t address the issue of  “wonderful storytelling,” according to GE global creative director Andy Goldberg. In other words, the old way of sexing up a page from a parts catalog and hoping it flies are long gone.

Like every other area of corporate communications, from PR to advertising, the social in social media is the leading influencer effecting the creative upgrade.

finding new media outlets

For GE, that means taking advantage of previously untapped platforms like late night talk, boosting “Fallonventions” on the Jimmy Fallon Show to demonstrate the brand’s human side.

Others describe the new approach as moving from data to gut, and doing what connects emotionally. United States Gypsum (USG), hardly a warm and fuzzy candidate for storytelling, did just that in their “It’s Your World” ad series.

With user experience driving this new approach, the goal is to connect potential buyers using content that explains a brand’s product in an engaging and educational manner. How well that will work with traditional buyers used to making dollars and cents decisions based on bottom line performance will determine B-to-B creative in a way that could be hugely transformative.

And if its proven effective in the long run over traditional methods, the need for involving creative direction that’s familiar with social media will be paramount.

orlando (really) likes powersports

Ducati joins growing list of OEMs to display

photo ©2014 john siebenthaler

Powersports Market On Road To Recovery

It’s been nearly a decade since the economic meltdown of the mid-’00s dealt a way harsh wakeup call to a party the powersports community thought would never stop.

The Everest-like growth curve many believed/hoped/wished would go on forever collapsed like a 3-pack a day smoker on an Ironman swim-bike-run.

It’s against that backdrop that last week’s second annual AIMExpo powersports trade and consumer show in Orlando, in just its second year, seems to have planted their flag firmly atop the carcass of the once invincible Dealernews Dealer Expo, whose looming Chicago in December winter wonderland reincarnation of the event brand they once owned outright, seems now officially and forever dead in the court of public opinion. Continue reading ‘orlando (really) likes powersports’

converting ms word to dreamweaver

in Dreamweaver, edit>paste special

How-To: Word Docs Into Dreamweaver HTML

Dreamweaver isn’t the worst environment for composing long copy, but it’s far from being the most comfortable. Text editing programs, including BBEdit, Text Wrangler, any plain vanilla text  or word processing application, OpenOffice, and the most user installed editing app, Microsoft Word, are usually better suited to the task.

While Word is my least favorite creative application, it’s the one I usually turn to when composing long copy for my web sites. I’m not interested in Word’s clunky “styling” gimmicks or to-be-avoided-at-all costs so-called HTML coding. I’m just looking for a comfortable writing environment and for that Word works out okay.

On the other hand, Word’s formating and styling quirks render it a major pain if you try the most direct route of copy and paste to transfer the content into Dreamweaver. One reason is all the overhead metric garbage that comes along for the ride in a typical copy and paste scenario. Here’s how Dreamweaver solves that problem. (Word to InDesign uses an entirely different workflow: copy/paste, drag/drop, place. has a good intro tutorial here.) Continue reading ‘converting ms word to dreamweaver’

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