Author Archives: John Siebenthaler

WYSIWYG cloud app makes CSS simple

Gridlover CSS Type Styling App

Gridlover CSS type

File this one under the header of why I love the web. Gridlover’s simple, powerful, and free app lets you style your site CSS for type directly in your browser, and the WYSIWYG user interface make the experience pleasant, fast, and easy.

Typically, CSS type coding for your web site or individual page requires imagining what the results will look like, and that’s not always easy. Switching views back and forth in Dreamweaver can be tiresome, and introducing variables like line height, scale (between tags), and font size tend to get bogged down, if not impossible when you’re dealing with thousandths of whatever metric you prefer – pixels, ems, or SCSS.

What About Web Fonts

Web fonts? Previewing the results typically requires updating the code and previewing online, which isn’t exactly elegant. Seeing the end result in Gridlover simply requires pasting in the HREF link and you’re there.

Try it yourself and see why using Gridlover to set up your type style sheet is a no-brainer. It puts the fun back in designing your site’s typography, instead of a chore that has to be dealt with.

saul bass, america’s designer

Saul Bass — Contemporary Graphic Design

In the latter half of the 20th century, when it came to movies, TV, print, and corporate branding, nobody was busier – or better – than graphic designer Saul Bass.

His title design work for the movie blockbusters of the day — films like North By Northwest, Anatomy of A Murder, The Man With The Golden Arm, Vertigo, and many others — is still revered for its attention demanding content and arresting concepts.

Saul Bass was the graphic force that single-handedly changed the look and feel of American popular and corporate culture. His signature style was applied to virtually everything that had to do with print, film, or television, long before branding became a thing.

Before Adobe, It Was All Done By Hand

Students today should be reminded that his complex and complicated movie title sequences were concepted and produced before digital could even be imagined, let alone implemented. Then, accuracy was measured with a wooden ruler, a stopwatch, a film cutter, and some tape. A minor note, he did all this without Google and YouTube for reference.

His unique approach to title sequences was a spectacular break from the cookie-cutter template marketing methods cranked out by studios that had evolved little from the early days of film. His dramatic style used static design elements to convey mood, feeling, and focus to what had been traditional for the sake of tradition — and it worked.

Today, two-plus decades since his death, his work from a half-century ago remains vital, and is itself a continuing source of inspiration across a variety of media.

logos to trademarks

Chermayeff Geismar & Haviv Set The Bar

60 Years of Logos: Chermayeff & Geismar from Dress Code on Vimeo.

Two Legendary Designers On Memorable Careers

In one short (~3′) video, design legends Ivan Chermayeff* and Tom Geismar discuss their founding, the early days, what makes a mark memorable, and how they’ve planned for their iconic firm’s future.

If you watch television, use the post office, have a checking account, buy gasoline, or enjoy modern art, you’ve seen their work. Driven by research and pure instinct, the duo is responsible for a library’s worth of abstract marks and recognizable logotypes that continue to withstand the test of time.

In this video the unassuming pair go on record about the formative years, their staying power, and what they bring to the highly competitive table of corporate communications and graphic design.

Born in London in 1932, *Ivan Chermayeff died in December, 2017, at age 85.

History’s First Press Release Defines Role of PR

Pennsylvania railroad

After a Penn Railroad train ran off the rails, PR pioneer Ivy Lee gained the upper hand over reporters covering the story with a subtle account of the accident that minimized the reputational damage to his client.

Public Relations Born When A Train Derails

The modern era of managed information began with a succinct press release written by a former newsman on behalf of his industrial client, a northeastern railroad that had just suffered a derailment resulting in multiple deaths. To be sure, ten eyewitnesses if asked to describe the accident would have ten different accounts of the exact same facts. But the one that made it into the New York Times that day is the only one that counts.

The first press release of the modern era was crafted in 1906 by Ivy Lee, one of public relation’s original founders, for his client the Pennsylvania Railroad. Following a derailment that resulted in multiple deaths, Lee arranged for reporters to be transported to the accident scene – under his watchful eye – and at the same time released an account of what happened, complete with asides, misinformation, and human interest.

The Power of The Press Release Is Established

What ran in the paper that day wasn’t Fake News, but it wasn’t a totally objective, unbiased account of what actually happened either. It was a subjective report presented as an objective story on behalf of a client in exchange for income.

#FakeNews isn’t a new concept. Public relations is, among other things, an extension of the psychology of people, and towards that end is best known as a communications tool that can shift public opinion from Point A to Point B while operating beneath the radar.

How You Interpret News Isn’t Always Transparent

Like any profession its goals aren’t always in everyone’s best interest. Lowlights include the extensive campaigns, often presented as news, that promoted smoking, especially when the marketing goal was to convert women’s attitudes towards the habit.

All news is not created equally, and the modern concept of so-called Fake News is somewhat of an oxymoron. News that’s fake by definition isn’t news at all — it’s propaganda.

In a consumer culture we seldom come to a conclusion strictly on merit, as opposed to being nudged in ways subtle enough as to escape detection as a motivating factor for any particular decision that is made. Ford? Or Chevy? What’s your choice?

Ace Cafe Opens Orlando Outpost

ace cafe CEO

(left) George Tsuchnikas, Operations Director, Ace Cafe London; (right) Mark Wilsmore, Managing Director, Ace Cafe London

A swelteringly typical Orlando, Florida evening greeted several hundred guests and VIPs as Ace Cafe London opened their first North American outpost just a few blocks up from Church Street Station. Ace Cafe Orlando’s new home is a pair of century-old historic supply warehouses, the perfect environment for the fabled biker mecca that was born of industrial roots at the dawn of rock ‘n roll but couldn’t survive drowning in the soft rock and disco wave that followed.

The original Ace was shuttered in 1969, a victim of changing times and tastes, before being resurrected in 2001 by Believer-In-Chief Mark Wilsmore and friends in the image of the golden era of British Twin dominance. From that rebirth the Ace has spread out internationally, now finally crossed the Atlantic to what some might think an improbable landing in Disney World’s back yard.

Although Orlando is already home to virtually every kind of entertainment concept and half-baked attraction imaginable, including Holy Land a few miles down I-4, Ace Cafe Orlando offers a distinctly different environment to a targeted community, beckoning bikers and hot rodders to get together and swap ideas over traditional British fare served in several restaurants and bars that surround the main stage and flank the museum and retail stores.

Anchoring the north edge of Orlando’s downtown redevelopment district and light years away from the homogenized banality of International Drive a few miles to the west, the Ace is a comfortable fit for this multi-ethnic Florida town that’s pulsing with energy.

Read more here. See more here.

Press Releases Still Necessary

Press Releases Perform Many Functions

Agility PR recently offered a quick summary of the continuing role press releases play even as social media dominates the slot occupied by traditional marketing and advertising.

While listing the usual suspects – controlled messaging, precise targeting, detailed facts and contact information – the article also makes the very good point that press releases are first and foremost an announcement, not to be confused with the offhanded SEO role far too many assign them.

SEO – Yes and No

Stuffing a press release with nothing but keywords – a practice Google has for some time now disavowed as effective, and in some cases of overuse even destructive when it comes to rank – is attractive only if you’re a bot, as opposed to a real person looking for relevant info.

While many make the case for text only press releases, utilizing the same information as part of a properly prepared PDF can pay lasting dividends well into the future.

A Picture’s Worth A Click Or Three

A PDF’s structure allows for significant metadata to be included in the document, with the added benefit of layout, formatting, and content based visual appeal that’s otherwise impossible to achieve with the typical press release.

The article concludes with the observation that traditional press releases should work with, and not be excluded from, a client’s social media marketing plan. I agree with this approach, as well as the opportunity it presents for a well-designed release to be launched strategically for years of lasting benefit.

Trade Pub Dealernews Brand Revived

Dealernews Back On Stands?

Dealernews

In what can only be described as a Christmas miracle, perhaps the single most momentous event since Lazarus emerged intact, comes news of the acquisition of defunct trade pub label Dealernews by a midwest consortium, DN 2.0, headed up by Columbus, OH Harley-Davidson franchisee Bob Althoff.

“What we are doing is unprecedented in the powersports industry.”

“What we are doing is unprecedented in the powersports industry,” says the owner of three OEM dealerships. The plan for DN 2.0 is apparently to restore what was lost during the mid-2000’s heyday by recalling editorial staff and management from the brand inherited by UBM in 2015 when they purchased Advanstar and which was then abruptly shuttered.

Relaunch Has New Focus, Reach

The revived brand will ostensibly be guided by an advisory board made up from a number of well-known powersports single and multi-line dealer heads, industry consultants, and communications veterans. Will it make a difference? The field of national powersports trade publications has shrunk from five to two over the last decade as social media channels have proliferated and advertising options have multiplied. For many, that constitutes a trend.

The B2B pub’s successes, and ultimately failure(s), tracked the once dominant trade show giant DealerExpo, which went down for the last time in 2014, leaving the field open for the American International Motorcycle Exposition, itself now headed ironically to Columbus for one lap in 2017 before finally dropping anchor in Las Vegas.

Assets include the Dealernews trademark, brand, website, email and registration lists, and newsletters.

no sweat! wrangler cool tech jeans

Wrangler Performance Jeans For Comfort

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Rugged Construction, Technical Stay Dri Material

They sure look like jeans. They sure fit like jeans. They sure wear like jeans. But they really perform like a cool breeze across a simmering swamp.

When Wrangler threw their hat in the powersports market, they took on a longstanding de facto preference for an iconic brand leader in the denim and leather category. Going up against Levi might seem a tall challenge, but not so much when you introduce some serious technology into the game. And decades of idling a Harley at a red light in the middle of a sweltering Florida summer meant I had a basis for comparison and the motivation to try something different.

In hot weather you’ll notice the difference immediately, and not by increments.

Florida’s climate can readily test that claim, but the real challenge lay about 700 miles west, where I’d spend a few days clearing timber and brush under an 85-degree Louisiana sun. I prepped my Cool Vantage Wranglers with Sawyer’s Permethrin to ward off mosquitoes and ticks, and to hopefully confuse any yellow jackets I might stumble into, before heading into the woods to see if their claim of cool comfort would hold up.

Cool Vantage Transforms Into Athletic Sportswear

I’m familiar with the performance of athletic sportswear, as well as the misery of conventional jeans, especially after they’re soaked with sweat that dams up underneath the waistband before spilling over to slowly trickle down my legs.

Along with a relaxed fit stretch model, Wrangler’s Cool Vantage dry fit material delivers the same level of advanced sports technology usually associated with brands like Under Armour and Nike, while maintaining the style and appearance of traditional denim.

At least they’d be no worse than my drawer full of regular denim. At best? That was what I was anxious to find out.

Wrangler Jeans perform

Wrangler did their homework when they figured out how to combine the dri-fit characteristics of athletic sportswear with the ruggedness of traditional denim jeans.

After strapping on my chainsaw chaps (further increasing the insulation factor), I picked up my Stihl and lumbered off into the woods. There, after a few hours of tromping up and down the ravines while maneuvering over and around the felled logs, I realized that what would have had sweat pouring into my boots was instead, apparently, wicking to the surface and evaporating. Not only was I noticeably cooler, I was measurably more comfortable as well.

I had one more test, wherein I donned a 4-gallon backpack sprayer filled with herbicide. Being able to shed my chaps meant a lot more freedom of movement, offset by the weight of the contents on my back. Adding another 40 pounds or so to a weigh-in north of 235 when clothing and footwear are included gave my legs a workout, and the jeans another challenge. The legs quit long before my Wranglers.

Here’s the verdict. They work just fine as everyday wear, and in cool weather nothing’s lost. But in hot weather you’ll notice the difference immediately, and not by increments. It’s night and day, while still retaining the sturdy work characteristics and working style of traditional denim wear. Cool Vantage is just that — cooler to work in, with the look and feel of what you’re accustomed to wearing.

weego is portable power

Emergency Starting Power Packs

WeeGo 22 powerpack

WeeGo CEO Gerard Toscani thinks everyone should have emergency power handy. Don’t wish you had.

My first question to WeeGo CEO Gerard Toscani, left, was about the name. His answer, simply enough, was that the product, one of any number of lithium battery emergency power sources, was small, and it would get you going a lot faster than rubbing two sticks together and praying for fire.

Their feature-laden lineup of ergonomically pleasing hi-vis orange charging and emergency starting power begins with a candy bar sized phone/watch/fitness tracker charger and tops out with their top-of-the-line WeeGo 66.

The latter packs a huge amount of amperage in a very compact package, capable of starting a 747 that’s stalled on the runway or lighting a stadium in case of a blackout.

Well, maybe not so much. But the new for 2017 portable power pack delivers up to 600 cranking amps, enough for gas engines up to 10L, and diesels up to 5L. Remember, this is something you can hold in one hand.

Advanced Technology Prevents Screwups

But without the right technology, cranking power alone only gets you so far. Just ask Samsung.

WeeGo’s model 22, 44, and 66 all feature their patented Smarty Clamps, which eliminate any chance of hooking up the wrong terminal by making sure contacts are sure, secure, and safe. (I never thought of it, but both sides of the jaw are powered. Who knew?)

What else? USB charging for all your portable power hogs, plus 12V and 19V outputs to power accessories and laptops. And even though you say you’ll never need one, they claim their 600 lumen dual LED flashlight will operate in strobe mode for 18 hours, and can signal an SOS for up to 36 hours.

Capable of starting a 747 that’s stalled on the runway or lighting a stadium in case of a blackout.

Pack recharge is fast, and claimed standby power is up to 3-years. Built-in protection against power surge, overheating, polarity screwups, and even an anti-spark feature in case you’re operating in an inflammable environment.

WeeGo portable power

WeeGo power packs come in a range of sizes and capacities. The 22, shown, is well suited for powersports, including offroad and on the water.

There’s not a lot of price spread between the emergency starter models. The middle of the road 44 retails for $149, the 22 (recommended for powersports, can start a V-8 if needed) a little less. All come packed in a signature orange housing that packs easily and is impervious to most of the environmental challenges of riding, boating, and off-roading.

Note: the optional Powersports Tether accessory is a nifty solution for hooking up hidden batteries that are hard to access in the garage, and impossible when stuck by the side of the road in the middle of the night. This modest add-on works for both charging and starting, and would have saved my back on more than one occasion in the days of having to kick-start a dead-as-a-doornail Shovelhead. Today, when kick starters on street bikes are only found in museums, emergency battery power should be considered an essential.

All WeeGo products are warranteed for 18 months. These are good products from a talented, progressive American company.

amazon’s split personality

For Brands, Cure May Be Worse Than Disease

Cycle-World-Amazon-2016-11-30-at-11.31.28-AM.png

Read It Free Helps Subscription Rates How?

As I grow increasingly comfortable with online shopping as an alternative to chasing hard to find items in brick and mortar storefronts, rationalizing clik to add to shopping cart becomes easier and easier as the cost of shipping tumbles. Then came Amazon Prime.

Amazon Prime is by all indications a very effective loss leader in the effort to tether consumers to mega-site Amazon for all their internet purchases. Patterned after the big box membership warehouse experience, Prime, for a modest annual fee, delivers not only free 2-day shipping on most items, but includes a bunch of other perks as well.

The price is right – for as long as it can last.

The included music feed is perfectly acceptable, eliminating having to subscribe to Pandora, Spotify, or Radio for a premium listening experience. Ditto access to online t.v. content, books, and a number of other features that save time and/or money.

I just discovered that a number of familiar, favorite, and free periodicals are available as well, viewable online or as downloaded Kindle content. Which is how I came across Cycle World, Bonnier’s flagship pub in their motorcycle group stable of powersports publications, as a free read on Amazon.

I’m not sure how the business model for offering up your vanguard bike magazine for free reading moves the bottom line needle. It’s not an option you’d expect to find in a typical subscription pitch; “12 Whole Issues For One Year’s Worth of Reading Only Zero Dollars and Zero Cents!”

Since consolidating the spectrum of motorcycle pubs several years ago by purchasing those niche assets from Hearst first, then Source Interlink, the overall health of print continues to circle the drain, excepting a few standouts like Garden & Gun. The price is right – for as long as it can last.