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Archive for the ‘Creative’ Category

Rock Wall At Clif BarIn a Job Satisfaction Survey released recently by the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) workers revealed benefits, compensation, and work/life balance are the most important factors to their overall job satisfaction.

Job benefits and compensation don’t look like they did in your Dad’s day. This generation of workers values a variety of things that can be provided with a small effort from the employer or strain on the company’s budget. Aside from employee retention, think of what these perks can do for your brand and corporate culture!

Check out this infographic to see what Google, Twitter and LinkedIn have done for their employees.

Here are a few simple ideas for you to consider…

Flexible hours & comp time.
Allowing employees to begin their 8-hour workday early or a little later is a small thing on the part of the employer, but can be very helpful an employee. Giving an employee the freedom to put in extra hours this week to get a few hours off next week is another way employers can help their employees have a good work/life balance. Job sharing isn’t a new concept, but it still has great application in this economy. Two part-time workers with flexible hours can do a full-time job for less than one employee.

A dog friendly atmosphere is more common than ever, especially in the high tech and creative industries. Allowing Fido to come to work is free and brings a whole new vibe to the office. Visiting canines should be well-behaved but, with a few guidelines, they are a great way to lighten the mood of any office.

Once or twice a month the entire team should eat together. While the whole crew brown-bags their lunch, you’ll be surprised what you will learn about each other. This is also a chance for the boss to be accessible to visit with employees, which is rare in some companies. At Holy Cow, we call it “grazing in the bull pen.”

Flexible space. Do decor guidelines stifle your employee’s creativeness? Asana, the company owned by Facebook Co-creator Dustin gives a $10,000 allowance for office setup/decor. While we don’t all have that kind of budget, encouraging employees to take ownership of their space helps them connect to work in a new way.

Do you have the ability to barter with your vendors or customers? Perhaps some of them can provide your employees with goods or services in exchange for something you do. This is a better deal than a cash benefit since there are no taxes with this kind of perk.

Competition. No, not the sales kind, but the creative kind.  A chili-cook off or a birthday cake throw down might be a great way to spend a Friday afternoon, or Monday if you want to kick off the week right.  A Raleigh hotel hosts an employee pumpkin carving contest. The team carves their pumpkins, then sets them out around the hotel for guests to enjoy.

Bike Racks. If employees live close enough to bike to work, encourage their commute by giving them a place to park. The Clif Bar Company in Emeryville, CA has loaner bikes for their employees to use for errands close to the office. What an easy perk!

Gaming. A foosball table takes up a minimal space but is a fun lunch time distraction. Besides, you’ll be in good company. Facebook, Twitter & Linked In all have foosball tables at their corporate offices.

What do your employees value? Finding the perks that speak to the needs of your employees then providing them is what will keep them off Monster.com.

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For years, advertisers have operated under the fundamental assumption that consumers are stupid. It sounds bad, I know, but consider the practice of traditional advertising: you flash evocative images in front of viewers in an attempt to subliminally influence their purchasing habits by informing them that they are currently inadequate, and the only means of overcoming their inadequacy is to obtain a very specific product or service – the product or service you happen to be selling. It’s not exactly giving them the benefit of the doubt, is it?

Ah, the sixties

Self-made sixties ad executive Don Draper, protagonist of the popular show Mad Men, and all around not very moral guy, once explained the practice of advertising to a client like this: “It’s based on one thing: happiness. And do you know what happiness is? Happiness is the smell of a new car. It’s freedom from fear. It’s a billboard on the side of a road that screams with reassurance that whatever you’re doing is OK. You are OK.” This definition, though uttered by a fictional quasi-caricature of callous corporate decision-makers, speaks volumes about the way advertisers have traditionally seen consumers; namely, that they just aren’t smart enough to overcome their basest emotions – their fears and desires – and realize that they’re being totally sold; that consumers are somehow incapable of transcending the commercial experience and recognizing that, above it all, there’s a puppet master somewhere, pulling the strings, trying to influence them for less than altruistic reasons. In the sixties, consumers were considered tabula rasa; lesser entities ad men could uninhibitedly impose their will upon through the power of visual and verbal suggestion. But this is 2010. Why does any of that matter? Advertisers don’t think like that anymore, right? Wrong.

Watch TV without a DVR for an hour or so (a daunting task, I know) and you’re sure to see any number of those tired, unentertaining, run-of-the-mill, market-to-the-gut, disingenuous, old-style ads paraded innocently on screen as if you didn’t know that what you were seeing was a paid promotional piece – as if you aren’t able to discern that the people behind the curtain are trying to make you give them your money, and not just offering you unbiased reassurance or friendly advice on how to better yourself. I don’t know about you, but I find it downright insulting. I also find it exasperating – that experience of being forced into viewing a commercial as something genuine. The only time I want to engage in willing suspension of disbelief nowadays is during things I enjoy – things that actually offer some reward for my strenuous self-delusion… like sci-fi TV shows.

Turmoil

Now, before you write me off as a total cynic, let me say that I realize there are many companies out there that believe wholeheartedly in the product and/or service they’re advertising, and even some that advertise truthfully. Unfortunately, that no longer matters like it used to. Why? Because most Americans are no longer willing to believe that this is the case with any company. All it takes is a few corporate bad apples to ruin the whole bunch, and America has seen more than a few in the last several decades. Whether it’s companies that advertise environmental friendliness and then dump millions of gallons of oil into the sea (I won’t mention any names), or companies that brag about outstanding customer service to cable customers and then force them to spend seven hours on the phone, never fix their ESPNHD channel, and still bill them twice the amount they owe (again, no names, though that last one may or may not have happened to me last month… just sayin’), American consumers have all had their share of bad experiences, and have every right to their trust issues. With this in mind, doesn’t it seem like kind of a bad idea to continue advertising as though consumers are still as easily influenced as they were when skinny ties and lunchtime martinis were the norm? I’ll answer that for you: yes. Yes it does seem like a bad idea, because it is.

But don’t worry, not all contemporary ads are informed by the colossal misconception that every American consumer is a complete ninny. Somewhere along the line, (some) ad firms realized that maybe a few people were smart enough to see behind the facade a bit, and decided that instead of trying to advertise on the paper-thin pretense that the companies they represent actually have the best interest of consumers in mind, they’d just try to entertain. This enlightening idea gave birth to what we all know now as the popular “funny advertisement.” And some funny ads, regardless of their effectiveness, actually make ten-minute commercial breaks a bit more bearable. But, apparently, effectiveness is kind of important to most companies, and, seriously, no matter how many times I laugh at a Geico commercial (or used to – they’ve been pretty blah lately), I still can’t make myself believe they’re as legit as say, State Farm.

So where does that leave us? I’ll tell you where: in a giant whirlpooling mire of outdated, ineffective, confused, and overused advertising clichés, where the only prevailing philosophy is “bludgeon them over the head with your name enough times and they’ll eventually become so delirious that they break down and buy things from you.”

And then there’s Old Spice™.

To be fair, there are several other companies that advertise well, but Old Spice is a shining paragon of what I’m going to call the New Advertising, because I’m tired of thinking up clever names for things. Seriously, I do it every day. It gets old. Anyway, watch this commercial and tell me it isn’t awesome. I dare you.

This ad, featuring actor Isaiah Mustafa and his chiseled abs, is absolutely great. It’s funny, but it isn’t its absurdist comedy in and of itself that makes it so effective. It’s effective because at its root, beyond all the ridiculousness and faux-machismo, it’s a ruthless parody of old-school advertisements for similar products – advertisements like this:

Or like this:

Yikes. These are funny, but mostly because they’re so corny. Believe it or not, some still adhere to the basic concepts behind this style of advertising.

Consider that Old Spice used to advertise in a similar fashion, and, as a result, was regarded as deodorant for your grandpa. It might be hard to imagine now, but seven years ago, I wouldn’t have used Old Spice if you paid me. It was just… too old. Now, by spoofing exactly what they themselves used to be and how they used to market, the company has totally repositioned their brand, moving it right to the head of the 20-30 year-old male market, without, I’d be willing to bet, alienating older consumers, who, let’s face it, are too set in their ways deodorant-wise to make a switch now.

But there’s another, far more important reason that spoofs in the style of the Old Spice Isaiah Mustafa commercials are better than current run-of-the-mill funny ads. See, ads that successfully parody old advertising clichés actually acknowledge that viewers aren’t blind to the fact that they’re being marketed to. By pointing out how ridiculous and transparent old advertising practices were, ad firms are essentially deferring to the intellect of viewing consumers. In so many words, what Old Spice is saying here is this: “We know you’re savvy, and we know there’s relatively no difference between our product and someone else’s. We also know that you, in all likelihood, are aware of that fact. That’s why we don’t bother to try and beat you over the head with questionable data that you probably won’t believe about why our product is supposedly superior to someone else’s. We treat you like an equal with our ads, and we interact with you under the assumption that you are just as wise to advertising tricks as we are. So if you support our company, you show the world that you are a savvy consumer and an intelligent member of society that scoffs at outdated advertisements and can’t be hoodwinked by their ilk.”

Parodic ads boost consumers one step up on the evolutionary chain of advertising by crediting them with the awareness level of the advertisers themselves, and consumers, if not always consciously, appreciate that, as well as the collateral entertainment. Everyone likes to be in on a joke.

Which is why Old Spice didn’t stop at static TV ads. After the initial success of the commercials, in which a half-naked Mustafa progresses through a rapidly changing series of constructed film sets (another nod toward the artifice of TV advertising) depicting impossibly manly scenarios, Old Spice decided to get interactive. A team of marketers and videographers crammed into a studio for a solid day and filmed Mustafa in real-time, garbed in his signature bath-towel, responding to comments from high profile twitter users, like Ashton Kutcher and Perez Hilton, in typical ridiculous macho man fashion. The videos were immediately posted to Old Spice’s Youtube channel, which allows for user comments and interactions, where they quickly received hundreds of thousands of hits. It was beautiful.

On every level, Old Spice included their viewers in the advertising experience. They invited consumers to laugh with them at the silliness of old-school advertising. They encouraged their feedback. They even let them shape the course of ads by responding directly to their tweets. And by doing so, they completely sold them.

Yep, when I said ads that successfully spoof old-school advertising move consumers up a notch, I was telling the truth. I just neglected to mention that they also move advertisers further up – right to where they’re always striving to be: one step ahead. That’s why I think The New Advertising is an appropriate – albeit kind of uninspired – name for what Old Spice and similar companies are doing now. It’s the next step on the evolutionary chain, progressing the whole paradigm, putting advertisers back where they need to be in order to effectively drive sales. It’s like the 60’s all over again… except less hallucinogens and free love. Though I hear skinny ties are making a comeback.

The Man

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Why Won't This FIle Open!!?!Imagine that you are a designer.

It’s 4:45 on a Friday. The phone rings. It’s your latest client.

Just last night you finished a slew of design projects for him: logos, letterheads, envelopes, business cards, brochures – the works…. Said files were emailed to the client at 2:14 AM and were scheduled to arrive at the printer before the weekend. But apparently, there’s some kind of problem, and your client decided the last minute would be a good time to let you know….

The conversation that ensues is a lengthy one regarding the accessibility and appearance of the files on your client’s PC. The discussion is full of miscommunication and frustration, and fueled by the virtually lingual disconnect between computer-savvy designers and their clients, who, for the most part, are understandably lacking in knowledge of the field.

Now picture yourself on the other end of the discussion.

You’re a hard-working business executive. It’s almost the weekend, you’ve had a ridiculously busy day, and you finally get a chance to sit down and parse through this new branding material your design firm sent you. After 30 minutes of attempting to wade through an indecipherable sea of JPEGs, PDFs, EPS’s, and whatever other strangely named files you got in that late night email, you wind up with a grand total of five images you can actually see on your PC, and only two that look remotely correct. What do you do? You pick up the phone and call, of course.

What will you learn from the ensuing conversation? Probably not much, considering the vast amount of learning and memorization required to fully understand all the different file types that designers use, and what programs they work with.

Fortunately, you’ve got us. We’ve created a concise list of the most commonly used file extensions in design today, including what they’re used for and what programs they work with. We’ve also included some basic terminology and other helpful info. Hopefully, this brief guide will save you a few hours of screaming at your computer and banging your head against your desk…. Enjoy!

The Basics

Let’s start with the basics. Almost any graphic file used in design will fall under two categories: raster images and vector images.

Raster images, also known as a bitmaps, are composed of rows of small dots called pixels (“picture elements”). Pictures you take with your phone and digital camera are raster images.

Because a raster format uses a fixed method of specifying an image’s pixel amount, raster images cannot always be immediately rescaled without losing definition. Enlarging a raster image may cause the picture to look grainy.

The more pixels an image contains, the sharper it will be. This is called resolution, and is measured in dpi, which stands for “dots per inch.”

BMP, GIF, JPEG, PNG, and TIFF are all raster image file extensions.

Vector images, unlike raster images, are made of lines and shapes instead of dots. What this means for you is that vector files will scale much better than raster images.

Logo files should always be in vector format so that they can be scaled to whatever size you need without compromising how they appear.

Common examples of vector file types are AI, SVG, EPS, and PDF.

Most web browsers only support raster images. So while a vector might look a bit sharper than its bitmap incarnation in your PDF viewer, it often won’t show up on a web page.

File Types

Now that we’ve got that covered, let’s move on to file types. There are literally hundreds of different graphic file types, but we’re going to stick to the most current and popular ones in design.

Some of these files can only be viewed and edited with certain kinds of specialized software applications that don’t come standard on your run-of-the-mill computer. Often, these files can be converted into other file types by saving them with different extensions (i.e. making a JPEG into a GIF by tacking “.gif” onto the end of the filename under “Save As”). Sometimes, however, specific applications and/or conversion software are required to change file types.

AI: “Adobe Illustrator” – AI files are vector art made in Adobe Illustrator. Referred to as working files, they typically contain editable text, which means that text within them can be altered in point size and typeface. AI files may be opened in a standard “viewer” program on computers without vector editing software, without which they cannot be altered.

PDF: “Portable Document Format” – PDF files can be opened by PDF reader software, as well as by Illustrator. PDF files are somewhat editable in Illustrator. These files are a preferred format for professional electronic documents.

SVG: “Scalable Vector Graphics” – SVG is a vector file format that enables images to be displayed in web pages using XML. In contrast to basic web raster formats like JPEG and GIF, which always remain a specified size, SVG images are scalable to the size of a browser’s viewing window and will adjust in size and resolution according to the window in which it is displayed.

GIF: “Graphic Interchange Format” – GIF files are bitmap image formats created in 1987 for web usage. They are supported by almost every web browser, but are currently being replaced by PNG files, which offer much higher resolution. If you’re still using these, it may be time for an upgrade… or a new design team. As an interesting side note, GIFs are the only non-video image based file that allows for “animation,” which simply means they can display multiple images in a sequence, giving the appearance of a brief video. Even in the wonderfully wacky world of the Internet, though, this practice is considered a bit passé.

PNG: “Portable Network Graphics” – The PNG format is a web bitmap image created to improve on the GIF. They are not restricted to the 256 color limitation of GIF files, support better transparency options and have better compression. They do not, however, support the multiple frames and simple animation of GIF files.

JPEG: “Joint Photographic Experts Group” – JPEG (also JPG) is the standard file format used for photos. Being a raster image, JPEGs can display high-resolution pictures with a vast array of colors, but are susceptible to scaling problems. Adjusting the degree of compression directly impacts the quality of the image. Saving JPEGs as “interlaced” or “progressive” helps portray the image online in progressively higher detail.

TIFF: “Tagged Image File Format” – The TIFF is a bitmap graphics file supported by many image-manipulation applications, design applications, and word processing applications. TIFFs were originally used as the common file for digital scanners. They maintain their quality better than JPEGs after scaling and saving. However, TIFFs typically result in larger image files than the GIF or JPEG formats.

PSD: “Photoshop Document” – PSD files are the layered, editable raster files used in Adobe Photoshop. Often, this is a photograph that is being edited (read: “enhanced” if you tend toward euphemisms, or “doctored” if you’re a cynic). PSDs are considered working files, and should be converted to another comparable format (typically EPS) before insertion into another program or printing.

EPS: “Encapsulated Post Script” – EPS files are vector art with text converted to outlines, which means that the text is no longer editable, but is a vector shape like any other graphic in the file. EPS files are considered final files, which means that, unlike working files, they are not ideal for being altered, but are completed and ready to be sent to a printer. EPS’s are the preferred files for printing and placement into publishing software such as Quark and Abode InDesign. Typically, AI, JPEG, and PSD files that have been finalized are saved in the EPS format. However, rasterized files saved as EPS’s will be flattened, which means that, unlike typical vectors, they will have no editable layers.

Links

Well folks, that’s about it for our little learning session. For extra credit, and some more useful information, visit the following links.

Glossary of Common Publishing Terms:

List of All Graphic File Formats Supported by Microsoft Office:

Wiki Article on Graphic File Extensions:

Super Huge Graphic Design Glossary

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That’s right. I’m up on my soap box again. One of the few things that aggravates me when I’m doing editing is cleaning up double spaces after periods.

TypewriterI know that back in the day, when we used typewriters (remember them?), we were all taught to put two spaces after the end of a sentence. Do you know why? Think about the type bars (the arms that reach up and smack the paper). Each is the exact same size. Because of this, each letter was designed with equal spacing, using what is known as monospaced typefaces. This is why you had to add two spaces at the end of a sentence. Your eye needed that extra space to see that a thought was completed and to easily read the next.

With the advent of the computer and widespread use of proportional fonts, double sentence spacing became obsolete. There are millions of fonts and font styles, and monotype is no longer the standard. Combine that with the fact that software has gotten smarter. Your computer knows when you use a period, and automatically accounts for the space that goes after it.

So why is this an issue other than simply annoying me? This may sound silly, but how the text appears in a document is a major component of what your overall design looks like. When you have huge gaps after your sentences, it affects the look and feel of your piece. Monospaced fonts and improper spacing leads to rivers in your typography. These unattractive gaps make design work look unprofessional.

So please. I beg you. No more double spaces.

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Art is an idea that has found its perfect visual expression. And design is the vehicle by which this expression is made possible. Art is a noun, and design is a noun and also a verb. Art is a product and design is a process. Design is the foundation of all the arts.

— Paul Rand

As a full-service marketing firm, we here at Holy Cow have a hand in every step of the marketing process, and design happens to be one of our favorites.

We’re always seeking fresh ideas for design concepts, and we figure there’s no better (and more convenient) way to gather inspiration than from the unique scenery and people surrounding us. So, on a bright and sunny Thursday morning, we packed up the van, gathered the team together and took a little field trip to some of Raleigh’s more scenic locations.

Here’s a taste of what “developed” from our little excursion:

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Did you know that learning disability accounts for 45% of all student disabilities in the USA? With over 2.6 million students suffering from learning disabilities nationwide, our education system has been working hard to implement programs that will assist children and young adults who struggle with the simple tasks of reading, writing, and assimilating new information in a class setting. Now, the UK non-profit organization Mencap is making these tasks easier for the English-speaking learning disabled and their educators with a new meticulously researched and designed font style known as FS Me.

FS Me is the world’s first font designed especially for the learning disabled. Designed to aid legibility for those whose learning disabilities make it difficult for them to read, FS Me features include larger and rounder letters, which research suggests are easier to identify. Also, the font made changes to several letters, giving the letter “v” a curved arm to differentiate it from “w,” and opening the letter “r” more to make it more legible. FS Me became available for public use in April of 2008, and was predicted to rival Arial and Helvetica as the standard accessible font. This would make reading much easier for not only the millions affected by learning disabilities, but for unaffected people as well.

The brains behind the new font include Mencap, leading font designer Jason Smith, and surprisingly, a core group of learning disabled individuals who reviewed every modification for efficacy and legibility. The result is that FS Me is truly a font designed by the learning disabled, for the learning disabled. “We took a long time deciding which [letters] were the easiest to read and the clearest to see. The results are great and will have an impact on Mencap’s future work,” stated Mencap rep Ismail Kaji. This is no mere platitude, either — true to their praise for the font, Mencap is converting all of their organization’s written and online copy to MS Me.

Mencap, as the UK’s leading charity and voice for the learning disabled strives for equal rights and government consideration for those with learning disabilities in the area of health, housing, education, and the job market, as well as social consideration and cuts for the UK’s learning disabled population. FS Me is also helping the learning disabled in another way — for every font license purchased, Mencap receives a donation.

In the communications world, we are often so caught up in what we are saying and how we are saying it that we forget there are people out there who struggle to express themselves on the most basic levels of writing, and fight to understand the simplest expressions of others through reading. Kudos to organizations like Mencap, who remember these people and are doing everything they can to bring those with learning disabilities more fully into the world of written communication that we know and love.

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A business card is so much more than a 3.5 x 2 inch piece of paper. It is often the first marketing piece a prospect will receive from you. You use it to introduce yourself, as well as to leave behind so people will remember you – and hopefully call you.

So, what does your business card say about you or your company? Does it communicate that you are unique or superior in any way? Is it interesting or fun, or is it just a tool to help people get in touch with you? Personally, I think it should do all of the above.

Let’s talk about function.
Your business card is meant to perform a specific marketing role for you: to share your contact information with others. It’s important that your card clearly identify the following:

  • Your company name
  • Your name & position
  • Your email address
  • A phone number where you can be reached

(Other information, like your address and (maybe) fax number are important, too, but the list above has the critical information someone needs to get in touch with you. In this day and age, no one is going to show up on your doorstep without having called or emailed you first and expect positive results. And, when was the last time someone sent you a fax to get in touch with you? Point taken.)

Here are some other functional things to keep in mind:

  1. 1. If your company name does not clearly say what your company does, add your tagline or some bullets (no matter how much we all want to think we are unforgettable, there is a good chance that we might give our card to someone who can’t recall what it is we do… so don’t make him or her guess!)
  2. 2. If your email address and your web address are the same (____companyname.url), then you don’t have to list both. It’s redundant. Use the space you save to make other pertinent information easier to read.
  3. 3. The paper you pick is important. People sometimes write notes about their meeting with you on your card. Make sure they can write on yours. I prefer uncoated papers. They tend to look more professional and don’t smudge.

Have a sense of style.
Your business card should provide insight into the corporate culture of your business. If you are supposed to be creative, then your card should reflect that. If you are trying to convey that you are solid and professional, then your card might be a little more refined. But, remember, refined doesn’t mean boring. Your card is going to have to stand out against however many other cards are on file. Invest the time, and money, to have your card professionally designed. It will make a difference in the long run.

For some inspiration, check out this post from Bittbox. There are a lot of great ideas there.

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