Dear Art Students

This week I had the opportunity to represent Avant8 as a judge for the student art showcase at SLCC. I’ve never judged an art show before, but I was excited for the experience, as I figured it would bring back a lot of great memories from my own time as a design student.

Also, I really love judging others.

The plan was this... Me, sitting behind a table with a large glass of Coca-Cola, tearful students surrounding me as I channeled my inner Simon Cowell. tears, smiles, the weight of judgement in the air. But... Alas. My dream was not quite a reality. I had a lot of fun nonetheless, but the day went more like this...

It was just myself and three other judges meandering around the gallery, and discussing which pieces were the best. We reviewed work from all sectors of the Visual Arts & Design Department, from painting, to photography, to web design. Because of this diverse array of work, we had a diverse array of judges. There was an older gentleman with many years of graphic design experience woven into his silver goatee; a middle-aged, full-time painter; a young photographer with her own hip photography studio; and me, with my Visual Communication degree and Beatle boots (that I would soon regret wearing that day).

Looking at the student work brought back memories of my own days as a student. I recognized similarities to projects that I had to do, even though I went to a different school. The bittersweet feeling of nostalgia swept over me. I was looking at student work through the eyes of a professional, and you know what really stood out to me? That student work is truly, genuinely, creative.

Though execution, and possibly understanding, of design principles may not be quite top notch, students have huge amounts of creative freedom. As a professional designer, I have parameters to work within, audiences to pander to and clients to please. My creativity is definitively channeled in a specific direction, based on the focus of a campaign or the preference of a customer.

These students were certainly working on pieces based on the request of their professor, but it was still free and lovely, ideas turning into pieces based on the flow of thought into the hands. I was a little bit jealous.

One piece that stood out to me was a lovely painting of a mason jar, with a Pikachu stuffed inside. It made my day. It was so honest, so fun, so vibrant, and the artist could put something they loved on paper, without anyone telling them, “No, you can’t do that". It was refreshing and reminded me of some of my favourite portfolio work. It prompted a lot of personal reflection in the days after the show, and that led me to this message...

Art students, Listen To Me. Don’t try to scrape by with a passing grade and giving your Professors exactly what they want or expect. This is a time when you are honing your craft and you’re free to experiment as you like, with few parameters or penalties. School is a time when you work for yourself, so make things that you want to make. Enjoy collaborating with other students and checking out what others are creating. Incorporate your interests and passions. Do it for the love of the process, not just the outcome. Reach to the outermost limits of your imagination and creativity. Make things that you enjoy.

I’m not saying that working in the professional world sucks, but you certainly won’t be allowed to be as self-serving with your creativity. So take the few years you have as an art student and be a little selfish with your work. Enjoy the time you have as a student.

The plus side to being a creative professional, is that you get to create things that have a clear purpose. You get to pull an idea from the air, and create a tangible from it. You get to help small business turn into big ones. You get to participate in the creation of a strategy, and see the outcomes. You get to see your work on boxes and billboards, on store fronts and websites. It's gratifying to drive down I-15 and seeing something I've designed, 30ft in the air. Knowing that your designs help facilitate the success of businesses and organizations can be a truly satisfying thing. And you do sometimes still get to let loose, it's just left frequent.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am glad I’m no longer a student. I still smile to myself whenever I hear someone complain about going back to school and I don’t have to. But I do sometimes miss the freedom of the college years. My time was well spent, and I enjoyed it, so make sure you take full advantage while you can.

The SLCC student art showcase runs from April 6–19 at the SLCC South City Campus.


WE'RE OPEN: History of Neon Light Advertising

WE’RE OPEN. Everywhere you go, this neon sign shines brightly from the windows of both local and chain businesses in every city in America. It’s reminiscent of the 20th Century’s obsession with decking every roadside attraction with neon signs. Las Vegas took the trend to a whole new level. Everywhere you look in Sin City you’ll see hotel signs blink and flicker, bright arrows point to different shows, and casinos beckon with a whirlwind of colors. Neon signs were the most popular way to advertise and the bigger and brighter your sign, supposedly the better your business. But how did this American love of neon signs start? It all began not with a Yank, but with a French engineer.

Georges Claude invented the neon sign back in 1902 and started patenting his work 8 years later. He first sold commercial neon signs in France to his colleague’s barbershop business. When neon signs finally made their way to the States, America was thriving in the Roaring 20’s, making it the perfect time to sell extravagant signs. Packard Car Dealership was the first American company to jump on the trend. The dealership paid $24,000 for two massive signs from Claude; signs that still stand to this day.

Neon signs spread like wildfire (so it’s no wonder they were coined by excited audiences as “liquid fire”). Advertisers loved how these signs could be seen well in the daylight and also shine brightly at night to drive in foot traffic. Neon signs in a design sense were (and are) very visually appealing. They really emphasized a brand’s personality. Neon signs became a national symbol of America’s inventiveness and creativity.

The 50s saw the biggest influx of neon signs dotting across towns nationwide. Every diner and movie theater was decked with neon. It was a pop culture phenomenon. Artists began to get creative in neon light designs. Examples included outlines around various shapes, lights added to the architecture, and fonts that varied per storefront. But over time, the trend of neon faded out for cheaper alternatives.

By the 60s, neon signs weren’t requested by new companies, but the old signs from earlier decades remained. Lucky for us, because these retro signs stand as an inspiration for the design and advertising world. They still stand as a testament to an older America. They make us wonder, what’s next in the world of advertising? If brick and mortar stores become a thing of the past, how would everything be marketed only online? Would WE’RE OPEN signs ever transfer to another medium? Maybe even via Google Glasses? Only time will tell.

Neon signs teach us a lesson or two. They’re proof of simple eye-catching design working as a strong marketing tool. They give us a look into the past and inspire our future. Nostalgia is a powerful hook for audiences and neon signs use that to their advantage. Next time you drive down the street, drink in those old signs you pass. Maybe stop by that small cafe with a blinking red coffee cup you used to go to as a child. You should also consider staying until the sign starts to blink WE’RE CLOSED.


Extra, Extra...Social, Tech, Creative, Insight, Success FYI!.... Click for links that stick.

We at Avant8 value your time. In this light we’ve scoured the net for 3 of the best Articles & Lists & Links you may have missed this week. Staying updated & in the know is essential to success. Don’t be left behind.

We do the searching while you do the enjoying. Get caught up with us!

A Beginner’s Guide to Facebook Insights

READ HERE

10 Laws of Social Media Marketing

READ HERE

3 Critical Metrics in Measuring Community Engagement

READ HERE

Virgin Airlines Goes Back To The Future

October 21st 2015.

The iconic date that Marty McFly travels forward through time to, in the second installment of the legendary Back To The Future Trilogy. For years fans have been fascinated by the 1989 version of modern day life and now we get the opportunity to compare the 80’s interpretation with the facts of 2015. But how does it measure up? We have drones, communicate by video conference and definitely have too many films in movie franchises (no Jaws 19 but we’re get close with The Fast & The Furious). However, we’re still deprived of hover boards, flying cars and self lacing sneakers. Actually, we’re close getting pretty close on the self lacing sneaks – keep up the good work Nike!

Tragically, 2015 is not how it was presented to us by Doc Brown and the gang (unless you’re a Cubs fan), but we do get the chance to celebrate that greatest of days, October 21st, which is a perfect excuse to re-watch movies that the world will not doubt love until 3015.

As a marketing agency, we had all kinds of creative ideas as to how to celebrate the occasion (check out our bottle of Pepsi perfect here), but we decided to stick with what we know best and put together a campaign. We chose to feature Virgin Airlines because they embody many things that we respect – constantly pushing boundaries, providing a new outlook on an otherwise stale industry, outstanding customer service and almost unrivaled success that came from humble beginnings. Virgin, we salute you!

To the man that made Virgin Airlines happen, Sir Richard Branson, we love your hustle, your self belief and your work ethic, so we figured we’d save you some time and take care of your next campaign for you. Take Wednesday off and get some BTTF going on Necker Island…

Enjoy. We certainly enjoyed putting it together.

 


5 Ways to Make Design Look Dated

Just as we all hung our shoulder pads on the shelf as Dallas ended, we must also apply the same concept to trends in graphic design. We’ll save the trends that never should have existed (from The Rachel haircut to Comic Sans) for another topic. For now, let’s go over a short list of design trends that will quickly date your website and branding.

Hipsteria | First things first, the mustache icon is over. Phew, that felt good to say! Arbitrary triangles, cross hairs, and bows and arrows have been quite exhausted in the design world. There are plenty of pretentious coffee shops and craft “fill-in-the-blank” storefronts to house the trends of this millennial style. If you really want to set your business apart, break away from this concept and develop a look and feel that reflects your business principles and ideals.

Photos on Business Cards | Presenting your self or your business as a breathing entity is crucial in this era of internet marketing. A clear voice, an approachable façade, targeted demographics, all these things help your business appear within reach to potential customers. Putting your photo on a business card is not on this list. Not only does this make your branding look dated, it distracts the consumer from what you’re really trying to tell them. If a realtor wants to convey that they get the most money for their clients and sell faster than anyone in town, a headshot will only communicate their personal taste in hair styling and tie selection. Let your brand tell your story!

File Folders as Navigation Tabs | And now for your quick and dirty history lesson in user interface design: Icons and navigation tools on websites were originally made to look like every day items in order to help users recognize where to look or click on a page. A great example of this is making tabs look like file folders in a drawer. While there are many conventions in design that might not ever get old, this concept is one that has long since evolved. We’ve been looking at websites for over 20 years now, and the average user is quite familiar with where the navigation tabs are and how to use them. The file folder look is a great way to take your site visitors on a trip to the 90s – but not to convert them into customers.

Drop Shadow or Gradient on Type | You have a message, and you want to get it out there! So to add a little depth or contrast, you slap a nice drop shadow on the text, maybe a little gradient on some letters, and bam! Done. But is it legible? Yes, there are many great uses of gradients and shadows. When attached to text, these design elements make the message appear smudgy and often times totally illegible.

Beveled Letters | Ahh, the shoulder pads of design. This text effect uses shadows to create a 3D look, giving letters depth and tangible edges. Beveled lettering acts more like a time machine than a value-add. This one is easy: just don’t. Don’t try super hard to make stuff look modern and futuristic, because the harder you try the worse it gets. Keep text clean and legible to ensure your message reaches customers.


Is WordPress right for my site?

WordPress is undoubtedly popular.  Twenty percent of the internet uses WordPress but is it the magic bullet for all website needs? For many the answer is yes, but to understand if WordPress is the solution for you consider the following:

Pros:

1) Cost - WordPress is free, with thousands of free themes and plugins to make your website look spectacular. Premium content is also available (for a price) if you want to give your site that extra edge. Cheap templates are also available to make your website responsive, modernizing your site and boosting your search results.

2) Convenience and Flexibility - Designed to be used by professional web designers and the masses, WordPress is simple enough for beginners but has enough depth to be used by even the biggest of sites. Many small personal blogs use WordPress, but major names such as Fortune, BestBuy, and the worlds  use WordPress sites as well.

3) Easy Installation - One of the most remarkable advantages of WordPress is how fast it installs on a hosting server. Webmasters need to wait only a short while before they can start adding content to their site.

4) Large and Friendly Community - WordPress has developed a robust and helpful community. The vast majority of the time you can know that someone has asked a question you have and you will be able to find an answer online.

Cons:

1) Open Source - WordPress's greatest strength is also it's greatest weakness. All of WordPress's content is available to be manipulated, changed, and republished, allowing hackers to find loopholes in security to attack sites. There are ways to prevent this, but this can substantially increase the cost of your site.

2) Update Issues - While themes and plugins you buy will be updated along with the rest of WordPress, free content may or may not break with updates. Free content creators have no obligation to updating their code, causing problems with sites using their creations.

WordPress is what a CMS should be: Flexible. Many of the problems associated with WordPress can be solved with the aid of a professional, and depending on the size of your site you may not have problems at all. WordPress dominates the internet for a good reason, and you can be certain that isn't going to change anytime soon.


The Next Google Algorithm Update: Bad News For Non-Mobile Sites!

It finally happened.

After much speculation, Google is rolling out an algorithm update that will flatten the rankings of sites that aren’t responsive on mobile devices. Google appreciates it’s users and that shows in their decision to give less precedence to websites that haven’t made their site friendly for mobile.

Fun Fact: 80% of Americans keep a mobile device within arms reach at all times, a statistic that has fundamentally changed how we search the Internet. Gone are the days of stunted search terms, sparingly typed into a browser window. Now people are using voice capabilities on their cell phones, taking search queries from one or two words to full, grammatically correct sentences and questions. Prioritizing sites that cater mobile device and cell phone users is a logical next step.

Despite how frustrating Google algorithm updates can be for businesses and web masters, they do mean that every day consumers are getting consistently refined, and thus qualified, answers to their queries. Not having a responsive or mobile friendly website tell Google that you don’t care about user experience, and thus, don’t deserve prime ranking positions.

One plus side for those that may be feeling some panic at this news, is that Google reported ‘no change’ on searches from non-mobile devices. So if you currently rank well on a desktop computer, you should continue to do so.

Not sure if your website is mobile friendly or not? Check out Webmaster tools, where Google has created a system to let you know if you’re compliant or not.

mobilefriendlyavant8

Sites are either friendly or not. There is no middle-ground, so be sure to take the time to plug in your url if you aren’t sure. Adapting to a changing market can be the difference between thriving and having to close up shop, so if you get revenue, brand recognition or leads from your website, making it responsive is should be high on your priority list.

Not sure how to go about it? Watch out for our next blog post: How To Make Your Website Mobile Friendly or give us a call….