A Ground-breaking Moment

Late in 2012, the New York Times published a multi-media story called Snow Fall, The Avalanche at Tunnel Creek. If you have not yet seen/read the story, we are happy to introduce it to you here. Snow Fall is a ground-breaking moment in multimedia journalism, one of the first articles to illustrate the dynamic possibilities that occur when new media are thoughtfully integrated with the written word. As you scroll through the story, stunning animated graphics, slideshows, and video interviews add clarity to the unfolding drama. My favorite graphic is the vertigo-inducing flyover of the Cascade Mountains with ranges and ridges graphically delineated. What is particularly exciting is that the visuals enhance the story rather than overwhelm it. In fact, the story runs for a whopping 10,000 words, which is well over the copy count of most magazine articles.

I predict that Snow Fall will mark a change in the way we do multimedia storytelling. The possibilities are as vast as the northwestern mountains.

Creative block

Who among us has not stared with despair at a blank page or screen as the Very Important Deadline approaches? That dreaded feeling is the price you’ll pay for working in the world of ideas. This telegram sent by Dorothy Parker—famed writer, critic and satirist—to her editor displays her characteristic wit as she describes her bout with writer’s block.

After we’re comforted to know that we are not alone, what can we do to get the creative juices flowing again? What works for me is taking a breather and getting away from the problem for awhile. In fact, I’ve noticed that my best ideas come early in the morning after a night’s rest. The solution will hit me and I can’t wait to get to the office to explore the solution. What works for you?

Suite Idea

The great minds at Pantone are at it again. Now you can eat, sleep, and breathe color at the Pantone Hotel in Brussels, Belgium. Created to appeal to itinerant designers and other creative professionals, this hotel takes picking your room to colorful new heights. Each floor displays a distinct color palette and walls are adorned with photos and oversize PMS chips. Contributed by GCF intern, Rebecca Madariaga

QR Codes: Dead or Alive?

Are QR codes dead?

Seen any QR codes lately on higher ed materials? They seemed all the rage for the last few years, but now technology folks are saying the trend is fading. Research shows, however, that people all around the world are actively creating and scanning QR codes.

According to an August 2012 report by Nellymoser Inc., a mobile marketing company in Arlington, Massachusetts, the number of mobile action codes printed in the top 100 U.S. magazines more than doubled from 2011 to 2012. The study was limited to national titles readily available on newsstands that did not require membership, such as AARP. Nellymoser analyzed every page in each issue of the top 100 magazines. The result was a 61% increase in code use from Q1 2012 to Q2 2012. Seventeen’s September 2012 issue contained more than 250 activated images. GQ’s September issue activated every advertising page. Check out the research details here

What if you’re not a magazine editor? How else are QR tags being used in higher ed? At Washington and Lee University, IT Services members donned t-shirts imprinted with QR codes that when scanned led to web pages with helpful information like passwords and how to contact the help desk. Hamilton College in New York used a giant QR tag with the single word “Hamilton” underneath for a recruitment poster. Lebanon Valley College put up banners with QR tags to update students about campus construction progress.

Yes, QR codes have been overused, misused, and abused, and unhappy user experience has tarnished the brand. The technology is a bit clunky since you need to download a code reader to your phone, and not all are reliable. In spite of these negatives, I think QR tags are set for a comeback. The research shows the trends—and smart phone use is on the rise, big time. Perhaps with a new name, better technology, and new branding, we’ll see an increase in use. After all, QR codes are still the best link we have from print to web.

How not to use QR Codes

1. On a website. You wouldn’t think I’d have to mention this, but I’ve actually seen QR tags on college web pages. I won’t embarrass the schools by listing them here.

2. On banners. Ok, so this was mentioned above as a cool idea, but tags are difficult to scan if they are blowing around in the wind. 

3. To lead to complex forms. Think about this one. If you’re on a smart phone, how difficult is it going to be to fill out that college application form with your thumbs? 

4. In places where there is poor reception. Like subway platform ads. In the basement of Old Main. No reception, no link.

5. To lead to useless information. You’ll lose audience trust if you take them to something they already know, or don’t care about knowing. Give them something they can only get from the scan. And, give them an explanation of where the code will take them.

6. To lead to a miniature version of your college homepage. If you’re going to use a tag, also use responsive design. Once again, those big thumbs can’t aim that small. 

7. Tags created in rich black. Designers like to use black made from CMYK. It makes black and white photography look great. But this confuses most tag readers. When printing codes, specify black plate only.

 

 

Accidental tourist 2.0

Panoramic views of the pyramids

Have you ever longed to see the Great Pyramids, St. Petersburg, Angor Wat, or the Vatican but just didn’t have the opportunity? Now there is a way to sit back, relax, and start traveling virtually. Airpano.com offers incredibly detailed aerial panoramic views of some of the most fascinating places on earth. The clarity is stunning, and the 360º angles show you details that you could not see even in person. Take a peek, but be forewarned, this website is addictive!

 

The quaint beginnings of the high-tech brand

Early Apple, Microsoft, and Google cards.

Before they were household names, these high-tech titans introduced themselves with the curiously homey business cards above. As their brands evolved, so did their marketing. Apple changed the entire look and feel of high-tech products. In 2012, Microsoft launched a sleek rebrand, its first overhaul in 25 years. Google dropped the exclamation point and has grown its wordmark into countless whimsical iterations. Perceptions change, especially in the technological realm. What was edgy in 1975 may look corny today. How does your brand hold up in today’s high-tech world?

 

A Fond Farewell

Dean Miller book cover

GCF created a highly personalized, fabric-bound book with hand-stitched pages to honor Dean Edward D. Miller, M.D., upon his retirement after 40 years of leadership and service at Johns Hopkins. Dean Miller’s indelible legacy of both physical and cultural changes will impact the future of the institution, its students, and its patients for decades to come. The book’s first several spreads showcase photos and quotes about Dean Miller’s career. The remaining pages display personal messages from the dean’s close friends and colleagues, along with their signatures. Additional perfect-bound copies of the book were prepared for distribution.

Dean Miller book inside spread

Dean Miller book inside spread

3D touch screens make typing easier

Anyone who owns a touch screen device knows the difficulty of re-learning to type on a flat surface. We’ve resigned ourselves to the belief that tapping tiny buttons you can’t feel is the price we pay for the cool new technology parked in our pockets. The first week with my new phone had me convinced that my fingers were abnormally wide and would never be able to type a text message in less than five minutes.

I am happy to say that help is on the way. Earlier this month at CES 2013 , the Consumer Electronic Association’s international trade show, the folks at Tactus Technology offered a solution to the touch screen problem: a tactile user interface. In the demonstration video above, keys magically pop from the touch screen when the keyboard is needed and again become flat when the keyboard is hidden. The company’s website also offers a number of examples in which this technology can be used such as remote controls, gaming devices, medical displays, automobile interfaces, and more. Expect to see this technology on the market by the end of the year or early 2014. 

Brick and mortar that inspires

The Waterhead School of Management, Case Western Reserve

Courtyard, the Salk Institute

Courtyard, the Basilica of Saint Francis, Assisi

Several years ago a friend and I visited the Case Western Reserve campus in Cleveland. We wanted an up-close look at the impossibly curvy Frank Gehry-designed building that houses the Weatherhead School of Management. We walked inside, outside, and all around the building taking photos and pointing out radical shapes and crazy angles to each other. The innovative structure thoroughly impressed us, and as it turns out, we are in good company. Recently the Cleveland Plain Dealer ran an article on the building and its connection to the Weatherhead School’s brand of unconventional creativity. One student observed, “When you think business, you think uptight, corporate suits. This building is not uptight. This is where the business world is heading.” Fred Collopy, a professor at the school, notes, “This building says it’s all right to be unique, different, and special. It says to students, ‘You don’t have to be like the manager in the next cubicle.’”

In the 1950s, biologist and doctor Jonas Salk took a much-needed break from his lab in Pittsburgh and spent a few months in Italy. He was deeply inspired by the peace and serenity of the 13th-century monastery that overlooks the town of Assisi. Refreshed, he returned to the US to continue his work and soon after developed a successful polio vaccine. He later built the Salk Institute so that it reflected the architectural rhythm of the monastery in Assisi.

A physical space effects how we think, feel, and create. What do your buildings say about you? Is your campus “on brand?”