What goes around comes around

What goes around comes around. 

The launch of Nike’s Better World website in 2011 marked a turning point in the way we see and use the web. The site used parallax scrolling, single page navigation, and eye-catching visuals in a fresh and exciting way. The single page layout engaged the viewer with rich, interactive storytelling and encouraged deeper exploration. Soon, a number of look-alike websites appeared on the scene, all trying to cash in on this cool, new online experience.

You may not be familiar with the term parallax, as it’s fairly new to the web, but it’s actually a technique that has been around since the early days of cartoon animation. Simply put, the illusion of depth is created by having one layer move faster or slower than another layer above it. Walt Disney’s Steamboat Willie is an early example. Later, side scrolling video games, like Nintendo’s Megaman, used the technique. 

Like all things web 2.0, there are some pitfalls to look out for, such as cross-browser compatibility issues and in some cases slower load times. Before using any technique, consider your audience and the purpose of your site. For example, single page navigation would be a nightmare on an entire college website, but an admissions page or fundraising microsite could use the technique amazingly well. This Bay State College online admission’s viewbook is one good example.

The parallax trend shows no sign of fading away. With the rise of tablets and other touch screens, it’s no wonder these techniques have been embraced by so many designers.

Here are a few more examples of some stunning and effective single page websites:

A New Way

 “We aspire not just to be different from other schools, not even just to lead, but to show a new way.” This quote by Bernard T. Ferrari, dean of Johns Hopkins Carey Business School, introduces a new positioning concept we developed for the school’s Global MBA program. Lean copy and sumptuous photography emphasize Carey Business School’s commitment to educating business leaders who are prepared to tackle the most pressing issues of our time.


It’s not about the cards you are dealt…

The Netflix show House of Cards has received high praise for being the first successful online-only drama series. Now, they’re turning heads again. The show made Emmy history for being the first online program to be nominated for Best Drama Series, a prestigious Emmy Award category.

Television networks battle to attract the most viewers. For decades, that race was limited to four major studios—ABC, CBS, NBC, and FOX. The arrival of Netflix’s “House of Cards” is upsetting the status quo in spite of its comparatively limited production budgets. Netflix understands that it’s not the size of the budget but the quality of the creative concept that attracts viewers. The best way to deliver your message is simply to develop great ideas.

This fact applies not only to television. Businesses, organizations, and institutions should also take note. Instead of wasting precious dollars developing the glossiest brochure, the loudest commercial, or the flashiest website, pay more attention to finding creative solutions. You may think your luck could be better, but as Netflix shows, it’s all in how you play your hand.
David Thompson, GCF intern

the scary truth about monsters university

The creators of the movie, Monsters University, have done their homework. To help promote the film, they built a Monsters University website with links to admission, academics, campus life, and faculty and student profiles. The site delivers familiar college marketing language with an amusing twist. Phrases such as “a history of excellence in shrieking,” “developing the whole monster,” and “a relentless pursuit of monster potential” abound. Here’s the introduction to the academic program:

As a renowned institution of multidisciplinary scholarship, Monsters University holds its faculty, staff, and students to high standard and ongoing commitment to discovery and learning. Students of every shape, size, color, and texture arrive from every corner of the world to take their places among the best and brightest students in the world. Whether your talent is causing screams or designing the canisters that capture them, MU is a place to find your truest calling and reach your highest potential.

How much does your college marketing resemble MU’s? I’m sure we will all see a similarity or two. The beauty of satire is that it makes us laugh at ourselves while pointing out the things we need to change to improve.

Cutting edge, not class

Millennials love being at the cutting edge and, for the most part, they are the ones pushing the technological envelope. However, when it comes to education, they have not abandoned the traditional classroom.  

Even though online classroom enrollment has increased by 25% in the past four years, a recent survey found that 78% of college students still value the in-class environment. Although 80% of students use technology while in class, only half of them felt that technology is essential to their education.

What does this all mean? As a millennial college student, I suspect it means that we love our technology, but even more, we value the up-close and personal interaction that you can only find in the traditional classroom.

David Thompson, GCF intern

Access Granted

Tommy Edison was born blind, but he hasn’t let that interfere with his ability to socialize with the world online, or for that matter, review movies. The following video demonstrates how Tommy uses Instagram to shoot and post photos for his followers. 

It’s amazing to see how the web has become more accessible to visually impaired users. Special browsers and screen readers have enabled blind people to navigate the web via audio cues that explain what the webpage or app is displaying. But not all screen readers are user-friendly. Watching this video it’s painfully obvious that not all web developers have caught on.

Semantic coding is one way to ensure that content is accessible to everyone because it allows screen readers to correctly dictate the contents of a web page. In this type of coding, HTML mark up is used not for styling, but only for its intended purpose. For example, an <h1> header tag is only used for the most important page headline, and an <em> emphasis tag is only used to provide needed emphasis. In addition to semantic coding, alt properties that describe an image enable users to have a richer, more interactive experience. The American Foundation for the Blind also provides a set of guidelines for the designer/developer concerned with accessibility. 

Stream of Thought

This art installation at Dulles International Airport displays messages related to peace from Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, and Sikhism. LED lights within the seven-foot-tall block form the words in a ticker-tape-like stream. It’s a thought-provoking island of tranquility within one of the nation’s busiest international airports.

A Child’s Perspective

The Mexican studio Y&R was tasked with developing a series of public service announcements about child abuse for the Spanish organization ANAR. The problem they faced: how do you reach out to abused children without alerting the adult abuser as well? Their solution seamlessly integrates two messages into one poster, each tailored to the intended viewer.

Lenticular printing is not a new technology; it’s been used in an array of products to simulate motion, depth, or animation. What is striking about this campaign piece is the conceptual use of the technology. From the adult’s perspective the child in the ad appears unharmed, juxtaposted with a simple message, “A veces el maltrato infantile solo es visible para el niño que lo sufre” (At times child abuse is only visible to the child receiving the abuse.) This double entendre reinforces one concept and serves as a subtle warning for aggressors. From the child’s point of view an altered photo and message are revealed; the same child is depicted showing signs of abuse with the message “Si alguien te hace daño llámanos y te ayudanermos” (If someone is hurting you call us and we’ll help). Watch the following video for an explanation of how this is done.

Timely templates

Powerful imagery and a highly flexible template provide a framework for a wide range of materials we designed for Johns Hopkins’ new capital campaign, “Rising to the Challenge.” Shown are a foil embossed pocket folder, the overall case statement, case statements that are specific to each school and division, and one-page insert sheets. Many of these items are designed for print-on-demand so that gift officers can order the right number of brochures with their own contact information printed on them.

Seeing Beneath the Surface

Photographer Charlie Crane’s book, Welcome to Pyongyang, contains a series of stunning large format photos of one of the world’s most secretive countries. Visitors to North Korea are accompanied at all times by state-assigned guides who escort you on carefully planned tours. How can you create under such tight restrictions? Crane’s solution is straightforward: “If there is no possibility of getting underneath the surface then the answer is to photograph the surface itself.” Even though the state has carefully controlled what outsiders can see, these remarkable images speak for themselves about life in the Hermit Kingdom.