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Monthly Archives: February 2012

Mark Lindsay

February 27, 2012

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Categories: Business, Graphic Design

Who is to say if a piece of graphic art is good or not. It’s difficult to evaluate on so many levels.

Consider a scenario where an ad agency comes up with a magazine ad that promotes Smith Cola all season long in baseball games program booklets. The result is an increase of 18% in the sale of Smith Cola during the season. Of the 18% increase, only 1% was necessary to produce and place the ads. The net gain in sales is 17%. And Smith Cola company is very pleased with the results.

It would seem to prove that the ad did its job and was very good. However, Smith Cola’s competitor, Fresh Cola, had a similar marketing campaign in baseball programs and their ads delivered a 29% increase in sales!

So in retrospect, maybe Smith’s Cola’s ad wasn’t so great after all. But wait a minute. What if the overall increase in sales for both companies was the result of the weather. The baseball season may have been the driest and hottest in over 100 years. It’s possible that the ads weren’t really all that effective. It was the heat that made the fans really thirsty.

There are so many variables to be considered before you are able to definitely state how "good" an ad is.

Another criteria for trying to evaluate the quality of an ad might be the client themselves. This source of evaluation, however, can also be ineffective. Let’s say that an employee at Smith Cola has to approve the ad. This person is not a baseball player or fan and even dislikes sports in general! Of course their opinion will be tainted. They are not part of the target market and may not get any conceptual subtleties of the ad. Because most ads have to go through multiple levels of approval it is more than likely there will be someone judging the ad that does not appreciate or recognize its concept or creativity. The ad is usually adjusted at this point to meet a perceived understanding and not an intended comprehension.

It’s possible that this "outside" adjustment may have helped the effectiveness of the ad. But there’s a greater chance that it diminished the end result.

We do know that advertising and marketing can be effective. And we work diligently to always try to improve effectiveness for both ourselves and our clients. And that is never easy.

But in closing, there just might be one sure way you can tell how good an ad is. If your sales staff is really excited about selling it, it must be great!

Brendon Gonzalez

February 22, 2012

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Categories: Development

Coding with Purpose: Semantics and HTML5

HTML: The structure of the Internet. Backbone of the Web. Without it, websites don’t exist. Over the years the Web has evolved to become highly refined and more rigid. With the advent of HTML5, we have the most clearly defined set of rules to date. Until recently, it was hard to give HTML meaning. But now, semantics – using code to give meaning to information (rather than just a tool for display/appearance) – has changed how Web developers work.

HTML is a fluid language, and in combination with cascading style sheets (CSS), we can make websites look incredible. But poor semantics makes for lackluster SEO performance and bad screen reading. Take this code for example, used as a headline for a news article on a website.

<div class="headline">
The Hello World Article
</div>

This block of code is absolutely worthless. A div tag has no semantic meaning. In other words, if a screen reader/Googlebot crawled this, it would read it simply as another word on a Web page. So let’s give this headline more meaning:

<h1>
The Hello World Article
</h1>

This is much more semantic. This will tell a screen reader/bot that the information is important: a header. H1 tags have prominence; they have meaning. This is the essence of semantic html, and HTML5 expands greatly on this. While having h1 tags is certainly nice, for the purposes of writing an article on a news page, we are still required to use a bunch of <div> tags that mean very little. With HTML5 we can make a news article that actually means something. See below:

<article>
<header>
<h1>The Hello World Article</h1>
</header>
<section>
<h2>A subheader</h2>
Some text about our article.
<aside>A side note about this article</aside>
</section>
</article>

Whew. That was a lot of code for a small little bit of text. But thanks to HTML5, we now have a block of code with semantic meaning. Before HTML5, this would have been a <div> tag in a <div> inside another <div> tag. So when a screen reader/bot sees this, it can decipher that this is an article with a clearly defined header, some additional information inside it, and is defined by sections and asides. This is just scratching the surface of what HTML5 can do for us. Let’s look at 2 of HTML5’s most powerful tags, <video> and <canvas>:

The HTML5 video tag is singlehandedly changing the way we view video on the Web. Adoption has been slow, but in time, HTML5 will phase out the archaic use of Flash for video. The use of HTML5 won’t require plugins or downloads; it’s a simple tag that only requires a link to the video. That’s it. No <object>, no <iframe>. Just <video>. And the best part about it is that even while its being adopted, it can still contain back-up measures for browsers that can’t understand it yet.

The canvas tag is a whole different beast. With the use of JavaScript and CSS, we can use the canvas to draw vector images and 3D imagery. It gives the Web something it normally couldn’t. It now has the ability to handle complex animation and applications without Flash/Flex or a java applet.

There is one drawback to HTML5, and that is the level of support across browsers. Internet Explorer 8 (and below) still lacks support, and not all HTML5 tags are recognized by SafarI, Chrome, IE9 or Firefox. Luckily we have access to JavaScript libraries, such as Modernizr, that allow browsers access to some of these powerful features of HTML5.

Rob Spagiare

February 9, 2012

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Categories: Graphic Design

Have you ever gone out to take a picture of the greatest sunset the likes that no one has ever seen or even thought possible to capture with a camera? The perfect vantage point is picked, everything is set up, the sun is finally beginning to set, you start clicking away until your finger is cramping, and all your memory cards are full. While heading home all you can think about is how big you are going to print this masterpiece and where should it be displayed for all to see. But once the process has begun of retrieving the pictures, an inconceivable trend starts to form. Not one single picture is a beautiful or stunning as you remember. The hills in the foreground are too dark, the sunset is washed out, there is not enough detail in the foreground when there is a perfect sunset in the background. Anger sets in, you start a fire and slowly throw each memory card in, followed by your tripod and camera. As the flames melt and burn everything, you think to yourself, what else could I have done?

High Dynamic Range Photography is a post-processing technique that uses multiple images of the same scene shot at different shutter speeds to combine the all into single photograph. I’m going to focus primarily on the photography portion of the process.

What you need:

  • Digital Camera
    • Must have manual setting that allow exposure adjustment
  • Tripod
    • The sturdier, the better
  • Image Editing Software
    • Adobe Photoshop is probably the most popular
  • Specific HDR Software is Optional
    • Photoshop has an HDR import, but there are other HDR specific applications that have far more capabilities than Photoshop alone.

How to shoot:

  • Aperture Must Stay the Same
    • Lock in a setting that has the greatest depth of field
  • Start with an Exposure Setting that is Good for the Entire Photograph
    • Balanced brightness and darkness
    • Even contrast throughout the picture
  • Shoot Photo in a Bracket (The tricky part)
    • Some cameras you can set up to do this automatically
    • The idea is to start with the settings you picked for the good photo. This is your 0.
  • The most common practice is to do 5 brackets: -2, -1, 0, +1, +2

High Dynamic Range Photography

The toughest task is doing this without moving the camera, while taking the shots in a quick burst to prevent anything in the scene from moving.

There are a bunch of different editing techniques depending on what type of software you decide to use. So get out there, take the greatest sunset photo ever with HDR, and don’t light your expensive photography equipment on fire.

HDR photo by Anto-XII

photo by Anto-XII

HDR photo by Kevin Crafts

photo by Kevin Crafts

Matthew Sullivan HDR photography

photo by Matthew Sullivan