Monthly Archives: August 2012

A Governors Island Graphic Design Exhibit Worth Seeing

In early June I wrote a post about the graphic design show on Governors Island called Graphic Design—Now in Production. As I mentioned, the show set out to demonstrate the power and influence graphic design has on culture.

A few weeks ago, I finally had the opportunity to make the ferry ride out there to experience the exhibit for myself. (An aside: Governors Island was great; I highly recommend you go and see for yourself!) Upon entering, you’re presented with a definition of graphic design that prepares you for the work you’re about to see. It states: “Graphic Design gives shape to thousands of artifacts we encounter each day—from posters, magazines, and books to film titles, Web sites, and digital interfaces. Graphic designers employ words, images, and a vast array of materials and processes to produce the visual messages that surround us.”

The text continues by suggesting that over the past fifteen years graphic design has expanded drastically and has empowered designers to be producers with the ability to author, publish, and instigate.

One of the first things you see inside the exhibit is a wall with a long line of corporate logos, with the original logo for each company next to its current version. Then, equipped with a handful of tokens, you go down the line and vote, one by one, for the logo you prefer. It felt like the 108 bronze bowls at Wat Pho, the Buddhist temple in Thailand (also worth seeing, but not as easy to get to by ferry).

There’s a lot of talk about branding, and not just for corporations, but for other members of society as well. A brand is more than just a logo––it “consists of a larger visual and verbal identity as well as the perceived values that both define and set apart an organization, a community, or even an individual,” the wall text states.

Designers Jonathan Puckey and Roel Wouters created an interactive video that really blew me away. Viewers had the ability to insert themselves into specific frames of the film. More than 34,000 people contributed to the collective whole. The effect was really cool, and the designers said that they were influenced by Andy Warhol and Jean-Luc Godard. Take a look at a clip:

A section on books caught my attention as well. There was a great exhibit on how, in an era of extreme content competition, publishers—often the authors themselves—are coming up with new ways to break from the pack. From bindings and paper stock to the jackets themselves, book designers have to be both creative and cost-effective.

You still have a chance to see the exhibit this weekend (the last day is Labor Day). Check out the images below, and head on out before it’s too late!

Auhtor: Eric Swenson


Reddit: How President Obama Communicated with the Masses

We live in a day and age where the Internet has become so important that the technology is quickly becoming a platform for politicians to stand on. Both the Democratic and Republican parties have pledged to support Internet freedom, developed mobile campaign applications, and utilized as many social media channels as possible, meeting with both success and disappointment.

Yet the biggest event to grace the Internet at 4:30pm on August 29 was President Obama doing an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on online news aggregator Reddit. Gaining tremendous popularity this year, Reddit has launched itself into the public eye, backing events like the SOPA Internet blackout and Washington, D.C.’s Reason Rally. A place to voice your opinion anonymously, Reddit hosts conversations that range from crude and inane to incredibly constructive and thought-provoking.

So what? The President talked to some people on another social platform. The “what” is the sheer amount of people participating in this online event. At a time when getting people to the voting booths or a rally is a tiring and seemingly hopeless process, the opportunity to reach out to over 1,800,000 people is tremendous, and something that couldn’t even be dreamed of just a few short years ago. Where did the number 1,800,000 come from? That is the amount of people who have visited and read the content that was written as part of this single conversation. That number does not represent users or bots, but people who, at the very least, came to the thread and read the content. From those 1,800,000 people, over 22,000 comments were generated, mostly questions that users wanted answered.

Ten lucky users got their questions addressed, on topics including corruption, Internet freedom, college debt, the space program, and the most difficult decision Obama has had to make. The answers given were typical, middle-ground answers, peppered with humor and campaigning, but that doesn’t diminish the amount of people reached and interacted with. Over the course of about two hours, Obama reached more people than he could have at twenty of his best-attended rallies.

The best part? Reddit was there to listen. This is not a community of people who take things at face value, and it is certainly one composed of countless backgrounds, ideals, and political affiliations. They were there to understand and to challenge, and whether it was to their satisfaction or not, they at least received a response. This is the value of a conversation held in this medium. This is utilizing the tools that are at everyone’s disposal. There is no telling what the implications of this are and for how long this will be a new and impressive campaigning method. For now, this is just another testament to the growing power of the Internet, social media, and the vast network at every person’s fingertips.

Author: Zack Smith

Forget Printing Money––Make Me a Steak and a Liver!

With great advancements in technology, we have seen our share of shock-and-awe products. While many of these are undoubtedly cool, few possess the power to change the world. 3-D printing was one of those “cool” technological developments that hit the market a few years ago and had us scratching our heads as to where this would fit in the communications and graphics industry. Well, this is where Modern Meadow steps in.

Modern Meadow is a start-up that has secured a large amount of money for researching and developing a way to print organic cells in the hopes of making edible meat. At first glance, it just seems novel, but it actually could have some amazing economic and environmental impact. That is, of course, if it doesn’t end up giving you cancer. The cold truth is that modern farming and agriculture is very harsh on the environment both in terms of what it takes to keep a farm up and running as well as in the processing of the product to get it ready for the dinner table.

There have been similar advancements in 3-D printing with the goal of printing organs for people in need of transplants (featured in a recent TED talk). If successful, this could radically alter medicine.

So, as good old MJ sang, “Heal the world, make it a better place.” Yes, we have print to thank for that!

Author: John Mehl

Internet Technology: Time to Face the Music

It usually takes a while for an industry to utilize technology in a way that capitalizes on the new tools available to it. The music industry has been especially resistant to converting from physical and broadcast distribution to making use of Internet-based technology. But over the last two years, artists have been releasing videos and collaborations that are starting to test what the Internet can do for them. It’s a breath of fresh air when artists from different genres tap into some of the available technology to create compelling music videos, release interactive environments, or crowd-source content through social media.

The first time I knew the tide was turning was after viewing the short film “The Wilderness Downtown.” Directed by Chris Milk, the Google Chrome Experiment featured Arcade Fire’s song “We Used to Wait” in a video highlighting the new possibilities offered from HTML5. The video introduces three impressive features. The first is the incorporation of a predetermined GPS coordinate and its surrounding area right into the video using Google Maps and Street View. The second is a content-aware design created by the user during the video. Finally, the whole video is separated into numerous screens, removing the notion that a video is restricted to one screen. None of these things would have been feasible before HTML5, and “The Wilderness Downtown” shows the level of personalization and interaction a music video could have.

To view “The Wilderness Downtown,” visit

(The video can only be viewed correctly in Safari or Google Chrome.)

Miranda Lambert’s new music video for “Fastest Girl in Town” offers another take at interaction. Released on July 30, the video allows you to choose your viewing perspective by placing two buttons at the bottom of the screen. Powered by Interlude (, the buttons let you switch the camera’s perspective, theoretically creating a new video experience with every viewing. Additionally, four “Extra Footage” buttons appear throughout the video, offering behind-the-scenes footage if clicked. This gives the viewer some insight into the making of the video and presents Miranda Lambert with additional opportunities to distribute information.

To view ”The Fastest Girl in Town”, visit

In addition to new technology, Internet communities can also be used to create compelling music videos. A recent trend among pop stars has been to release an “official lyric video” before the live-action/animated video. Ellie Goulding gave her fans a chance to incorporate themselves into the lyric video for her new single “Anything Could Happen.” Released on August 9, the video is composed entirely of fan photos uploaded onto popular photo-sharing channel Instagram (

Goulding posted the lyrics to “Anything Could Happen” a week earlier and then requested her fans to send photos that they thought best represented her words. The result was a complete crowd-sourcing project that resulted in over 1,200 photographs, forming a video in a short amount of time and with almost no time or expense on the part of the recording artist (or music label) and, while also allowing fans to be a part of the experience. It’s the perfect concept for the social generation.

In short, artists and record companies are starting to take advantage of what is available to them. Music videos no longer have to be constrained to one screen, showing the same video with every viewing. Videos can be diverse, creating different experiences for each viewer, with plenty of chances for fans to be involved from start to finish. Exciting times for music lie ahead, with the bar being set higher for video quality. It should prove interesting to watch, to say the least.

Author: Zack Smith

Beauty Retouching: An Easy Photoshop “How To” for Skin Enhancement

From beauty magazines to portraits, from advertisements to LinkedIn profile pictures, the process of beauty retouching has become an art. Too little retouching shows the realities of our lives––late nights, early mornings, and all the in-betweens that have caused wrinkles, dark circles, and imperfections. Overdoing the retouching process creates Barbie and Ken replicas––unrealistic figures and unnatural features that create a disconnect between consumers and the product or message.

When it comes to retouching, the key is to utilize the filters and effects to harmoniously land in between realism and idealism. Many think that only professionals can master the art of beauty retouching, but with Adobe Photoshop (the program of choice for most retouching gurus)––along with a foolproof, step-by-step guide and a little experimentation––designers, avid photographers, and/or profile-picture aficionados can enhance photos realistically, too.

So if you’ve been searching for that simple, straightforward guide to Photoshop skin retouching, look no further. Open up a portrait (we won’t tell if you pick one of yourself!) and follow these steps to retouching with ease.

Important: Make sure that you have an original file stored away in a safe place. This way, whatever editing you do, you always have a backup file tucked away somewhere in the event that you need it. This is also a great way to compare your original and your retouched masterpiece, so make this a habit!

1. Once you have your photo open in Photoshop, start by duplicating the image layer, making a new layer to begin the retouching process. This is important because once you’ve begun to alter the image, your original will serve as a base layer that you use later on.

2. Now add a Surface Blur filter to the layer. Choose Filter > Blur > Surface Blur. When adjusting the Radius and Threshold settings, find a happy medium where the skin is smooth but the facial features haven’t been affected. (A good starting point is to set your Radius and Threshold between 10 and 20.)

3. Next, create a layer mask to hide the blur (you’ll know you’ve done it correctly when you see the original file instead of the surface blur) by holding the Option/Alt key and clicking the Layer Mask icon at the bottom of the Layers palette.

4. Using the brush tool (the eighth icon down on the toolbar) and selecting white for your paint color, paint over the bad skin and around (not over) all facial features (eyes, eyebrows, nostrils, mouth, etc.). Toggle your background image on and off to see if you’ve covered the areas you want to retouch thoroughly. Using the eye icon on the Layers panel, turn off your original layer. Your image should look similar to this:

5. Now you’ll need to adjust the colors and tones so that the skin isn’t looking blotchy. Hold down the Alt/Option key and select New Layer in the Layers panel, opening the New Layer options. Name your layer so that you can tell it apart from your other layer and check the box below “Name” that says “Use Previous Layer to Create Clipping Mask.”

6. To ensure that you give your portrait a natural complexion, use the eyedropper tool (Alt/Option to turn the arrow into an eyedropper) to grab a color from the smoothed skin that you think would look natural. Once you’ve found a swatch you like, use your paint brush at a low opacity (below 50%, but experiment around until you’ve found a level that works) to paint the areas of the skin you wish to cover up.

7. Now you’re ready to bring the original skin back to really enhance the realism of your retouching. Start with your “Paint smoothing” layer and bring down the opacity until you think it’s at a good level. Next, move down to your “Blur” layer and bring down the opacity until you find a spot where the original skin is apparent without adding in all the problem areas you wanted to cover up in the first place.
8. You should now be looking at a retouched portrait that has rejuvenated the subject, hidden imperfections, but all the while has remained natural.

Now that you’ve managed to master skin retouching, explore other ways that Photoshop pros alter images to create portraits that enhance the subject––and showcase the retoucher’s skill.

Author: Elizabeth Zouzal

Olympic Sponsors – Worth Their Weight in Golden Arches?

There’s been a lot of talk this year about the sponsors of the London Summer Olympics. As is always the case with gossip, that conversation has been primarily negative. From Ralph Lauren’s Chinese-made uniforms to obesity-promoting sponsor McDonald’s, large corporations are accused of corrupting the purity of the Games.

It’s easy for us to point the finger at corporate giants and highlight the obvious hypocrisies. I’m certainly guilty of it myself. I think it’s important we remember, however, that things aren’t always so black and white.

First of all, let me point out that the US Olympic Team is one of the very few teams in the world that doesn’t receive public funding. All the training, travel, and other expenses that help our (very large) team to be one of the primary dominating forces at the Games are paid for by private donations and sponsorships.

One of those sponsors is Visa. Visa, along with its associated banks, could be considered evil incarnate for its high interest rates, hidden fees, and enabling a country that is addicted to debt. Let’s ignore for the moment that Visa has little to do with setting credit card interest rates, etc., and instead focus on what Visa has actually done. First, Visa has joined the other ten Olympic sponsors in donating a total of nearly $1 billion dollars to the Games. Second, Visa, along with McDonald’s and GE, has publically announced it would be waiving any charitable tax break. And finally, Visa––a 25-year sponsor, by the way––gives additional funds to athletes and athletes-in-training (both Olympians and Paralympians) to help them gain access to our best resources, ensuring Americans spots on the medal podium.

McDonald’s, the “cause” of America’s obesity epidemic, has always been a sponsor that makes people turn their heads and say, “Really?” Sure, a diet of Big Macs and Shamrock Shakes is probably not going to turn little Janie or young Friedrick into the next superstar Olympian. However, the global reach and international impact of McDonald’s is hard to deny.

A sponsor since 1976, McDonald’s has contributed billions of dollars, employed thousands of workers, supported volunteers, and even airlifted food to US athletes in Grenoble, France, during the 1968 Olympic Winter Games. The company just signed a contract to extend its sponsorship through 2020. While it’s hard to make a case that McDonald’s is the food of all athletes, I don’t really think that’s the point (although the fastest man in the world, Usain Bolt, ate chicken McNuggets every day before the Beijing Olympics). Corporate sponsors like McDonald’s have been incredibly successful and, whether it’s mutually beneficial or not, are doing a lot to help people around the world.

Sure, a mistake was made when Ralph Lauren, the company chosen to produce the US team’s clothing, wasn’t thoroughly vetted. But, in the Committee’s defense, Ralph Lauren is an American-based company. It’s just unfortunate that it––like every other American clothing brand, it seems––outsources production.

Like I said, it’s easy to go through each company and find discrepancies. It’s our job as marketers to show both sides of the coin to the world. Does it kill me that many of these large companies hurt small businesses? Sure, of course. Do I want to support BP after one of the worst oil spills ever? Probably not. But that doesn’t mean these companies aren’t trying to help the world, too.

Companies are built by people. And people are both selfish and altruistic. They can have integrity, and they can make mistakes. If you have the fortune (or misfortune, depending on your take) of being an agency representing these behemoths, make your own assessment, distinguish gossip from fact, and share the story with the world as truthfully as possible.

Propaganda or not, it’s hard not to get caught up in some of it:

Author: Eric Swenson

Turning the Tech Tide: New York’s Ten-Year Plan

The Bay Area has long been known for its stunning ocean views and its dominance as the home of tech start-ups and worldwide technological leaders such as Apple, Google, and Facebook. The area’s leadership role, innovations, and share of the market surpass any other geographical area of its size. With hundreds of tech companies based in coastal California, to suggest that there could be a coup d’état would be preposterous to some, but you need only the facts and forward thinking to see the change in the tide.

A recent article on the Huffington Post notes that tech start-ups have been popping up on a different coast. Whether it’s because of the already heavily populated Bay Area and a lack of vacancy along the Pacific Coast Highway or a preference for the Big Apple, California has some serious competition. New York City, historically known for its “this is where dreams come true” atmosphere, is welcoming savvy developers and engineers by the baker’s dozen. In the past four years, nearly 500 start-ups have planted roots in Manhattan, making this multi-industry city that much more diverse.

With 500 new companies and a surge in members for NY Tech Meetup (an organization that supports the growing NY tech community) from 7,500 in 2008 to the current 25,000, one can only imagine the momentum and power that the East Coast “concrete jungle” is acquiring. Taking those numbers into consideration, we can see that location means everything.

What do the city and surrounding boroughs have that the Bay Area doesn’t? Hundreds of blocks of companies, grasping to attain a digital presence, all located next to the developers and engineers pitching tents. How can the Bay Area compete with “For Rent” signs that are next door to Fortune 500 Companies?

Companies like Vanguard Direct not only have the creative gusto to plan, create, and execute entire marketing strategies, but also boast the personnel to develop digital solutions. The merger of developers and tech start-ups with the creative talent that flocks to New York to be a part of the advertising scene is the final stroke. Thanks to New York’s newest residents, companies in many industries will now have direct accessibility to creative and marketing strategies that have been conceptualized for a digital platform.

This acquisition is part of a bigger picture for New York City––Mayor Bloomberg himself has tweeted on several occasions that tech start-ups are welcome here. His commitment to increasing the city’s industrial dominance shows that the thousands who flock to New York aren’t alone in their pursuit of their dreams. The city has dreams of its own, and has just added overthrowing the Bay Area’s long reign as Tech King to its ten-year plan.

Author: Elizabeth Zouzal