Author Archives: John

Make Sure Your Email Marketing is Showing Up

what email newsletters look like when there's no text and the images can't be loadedEmail Newsletters Aren’t Displaying Images

Have you ever clicked open a subscribed email – I use Apple Mail, but other email clients like Outlook are also affected – and found those email newsletters aren’t displaying images? That the images that form the heart and soul of structured email content aren’t loading?

This isn’t a problem if you’re using a browser to retrieve email; Gmail, Yahoo, etc. It may show up, though, for anyone using a desktop client to retrieve and read their messages.

Of the many avenues open to digital marketing and customer communications, newsletters are the bedrock of forging and maintaining a solid relationship. A staple of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) long before digital marketing came along, newsletters are the bread and butter of consumer B-to-C, and are essential for B-to-B outreach.

As soon as the internet broke onto the scene, text only emails quickly became a mainstay of digital content. Text emails saw brief improvement when the ability to include file attachments — a format that persists today, and the most likely path of malware infection — was enabled. But it wasn’t until the web spread its wings that newsletter formats escaped constraint to printed flyers, 11×17 brochure sheets, and one color grainy reproductions.

As web site ownership grew, HTML formatting enabled communicators to offer vastly upscaled documents containing crisp graphics and multi-page copy content. Broadband, remote hosting of graphics, and HTML styling were the game changers that combined to transform how we communicate. Continue reading

Here’s How: Save A Web Page Screenshot in Firefox

Firefox browser bar

Look for the ellipsis menu icon to the right of the URL search display field.

Saving A Web Page As A Screen Shot

Saving a screen shot of a web page usually means being able to capture only the visible portion of the page, including all the unwanted browser tabs that might be open, along with any toolbar bookmarks, neither of which have anything to do with the web page itself and can even prove embarrassing if left in place.

Saving a web page screenshot is not the same as “save web page as”, which downloads the HTML code and can include the resources. Firefox now has the screenshot widget in the toolbar, and it’s a simple, three-step process of selecting the action, choosing the content desired, and downloading the file format. Continue reading

Using SEO to Successfully Grow Local Business

jack the shop dog

Jack, the Jack Russel terrier that owned the shop, quickly became the face of the brand and was successfully incorporated across all social channels.

Local SEO Grows This Austin Plumbing Contractor’s Business

Locally focused social media marketing and local SEO is the great equalizer that enables independent retailers and service providers to compete against major national brands and regional franchises. The reality, though, is that for many, using Google to gain advantage all too often ends up being occasional posts to a personal Facebook page.

Projects included the design and implementation of an original brand identity, a website, a self-hosted blog, several social channels that were maintained with both created and curated content, publicity and promotion, and one-off design projects.

Last spring a 10-year relationship with Austin, TX plumbing contractor Wilson Plumbing came to an end. During that time, a company with no prior social footprint, no internet presence, and no paid marketing or advertising, grew to over $2M in sales, all derived from a narrowly defined by zip code local market of a relatively few square miles.

web banner updated by season

Animated GIF featured a seasonal banner to promote services, upgrades, and remodels.

The initial goal was to become locally visible to Google in every way possible, so that whenever any Austinite—we weren’t concerned with hits from Chicago—Googled “plumber” Wilson Plumbing would turn up early on SERP, ideally page one. Continue reading

“Workplace” – A Look at Office Design Before Covid

R/GA founder Bob Greenberg

R/GA founder Bob Greenberg had no idea then that just four years later COVID would become the pandemic few foresaw coming and that no one had a plan for.

R/GA Documentary Ambushed by COVID

Documentary filmmaker Gary Hustwit’s examination of global agency R/GA’s decision to consolidate their New York City headquarters in Workplace couldn’t have been more prescient. Released in 2016, the movie explores the creative push that resulted in the open concept, two-floored new home to hundreds, in the world before Covid.

Hustwit’s reputation for delivering award-winning quality insight into the intersections of design and type with culture and society is unique. Workplace joins Objectified, Rams, Urbanized, and Helvetica in shedding considerable light on how our immediate environment influences our shared experiences.

Until there’s a real social or political revolution, the office will be a feature of global capitalism for a long time to come.

Is #WFH a Permanent Address?

In Workplace, Hustwit examines the thinking behind R/GA founder Bob Greenberg’s ideas for a unified office atmosphere that can physically drive creative inspiration, the agency’s lifeblood. The architectural firm Foster + Partners is tasked with delivering a functional concept that solves both the physical and psychological needs of one of the world’s top digital agencies that showcases technology and fosters collaboration.

Along the way, you’re introduced to euphemisms like huddle rooms and floor plate, as Hustwit covers the journey from existing quarters to imagined outcome through move-in day. Continue reading

ADV Riding Atop Sierra National Forest’s Bald Mountain

photo ©John Siebenthaler

My Best Two-Wheel Ride Ever

Dirt Rider magazine offered up perspective on what it’s like to ride offroad in the Sierra National Forest just outside Yosemite for the first time. My first dual sport adventure remains a vivid memory, an awesome moment in time that rivals the perspective from another newbie to the granite slabs that are the foundation for Bald Mountain’s abandoned forest tower just east of Shaver Lake, California.

In 2004, digital photography was still chiseling away at film, and smartphones with cameras their equal weren’t yet on the horizon, which means my visual record of a one-time-only first time ride is a little sparse.

Atop Bald Mountain in the Sierra Nevada

One thing that hasn’t changed since my inaugural off-road dual sport experience in the dirt, at high altitude, with breathtaking scenary around every turn, was the time-tested, steady-as-she-goes Honda XR650L. Sturdy, dependable, predictable, and perfect for the task at hand, which was hauling a Big Twin and Sportster mostly Florida riding profile throughout the fir and spruce forests of the West.

With a nod towards a simpler time, when digital distractions were non-existent and Saturdays meant itching to get out of the house and on the road, this piece does a little off-roading into the unique geography that makes up the Oakhurst-Yosemite-Huntington Lake triangle in the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

I.M. Pei — Design That Endures

National Gallery of Art atrium

photo ©John Siebenthaler

The National Gallery of Art East Wing

News of architect I.M. Pei’s passing this week at the age of 102 touched off memories of my early years spent as a commercial photographer shooting everything from rock bands to cookie-cutter real estate housing developments to a nightmarish oxy-acetylene catalytic torch that could melt concrete. One of those adventures included two days in Washington, D.C., for an assignment at the then still new National Gallery of Art East Wing.

Though usually associated with his unconventional Egyptian pyramid inspired design solution at the Louvre, my path crossed his for a very brief moment the time I photographed his landmark atrium, with its signature Calder mobile floating lazily overhead while my client’s grove of ficus trees softened the sharp angularity of the structure’s beautifully polished marble surfaces, in the nation’s capitol.

If It’s Thursday It Must Be Washington

National Gallery of Art East WingThe gallery shoot was part of an extended romp around the heartland, with previous stops on the road that week in Wichita, Milwaukee, and the still under construction Minneapolis Zoo. It was the last leg of an exhausting schedule, which perhaps explains why I failed to take advantage of the unique access I was granted to this memorable national landmark. Continue reading

WYSIWYG Cloud App Makes CSS Simple

Gridlover CSS type

Gridlover CSS Type Styling App

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 Apple, 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 PR’s Spin Role

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 Spinning A Train Derailment

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. Continue reading