April, 2010

Apr 10


Following on from Russell’s post, our Toshiba campaign has included another first for MZ – stadium advertising. Some people got excited about Liverpool’s 3-0 victory over West Ham, but personally I had more fun watching our perimeter boards.

Every design job has its own challenges and quirks but when you get specs like 1280×40 pixels it can really limit what you can do. We were pretty happy with the results though.

Anfield never looked so good.

England expects...

... these guys to try a bit harder. Come on lads, get into it!

Apr 10

Just scratching the surface

With the release date of Apple’s iPad fast approaching (Friday April 30th), it got me wondering whether it could spark a rejuvenation or re-imagination of other ‘larger’ touch screen devices.

Trapped in a glass box?

No, I am not saying that Tom Cruise and his Minority Report glove thingy is the next step in the evolution of ‘buttonless‘ devices… however it maybe closer than you think!

Cast your minds all the way back to 2008 when it was announced that Microsoft Surface units would be in plce in hospitality businesses, such as restaurants, hotels, retail, public entertainment venues and used by the military for tactical overviews.

“Microsoft Surface is a multi-touch product from Microsoft which is developed as a software and hardware combination technology that allows a user, or multiple users, to manipulate digital content by the use of gesture recognition. This could involve the motion of hands or physical objects.” - Wikipedia

Now, I for one have never seen a Microsoft Surface unit in the public domain. In fact it’s only visibility to Joe Public is being used by MSNBC during its coverage of the 2008 US presidential election and also being featured in the CBS series CSI: Miami. So from a public usage point of view… it’s a flop so far but the potential is massive.

On the surface however, this looks awesome and I would love to see it being used in the public domain. I am wondering whether the popularity of the larger touch screen Apple iPad will have any affect on similar devices to Microsoft Surface.

Apr 10

Is it live or is it Memorex? Knock-off iPads already in the wild

Can you tell the difference?

Can you tell the difference?

Upset that your iPad has been delayed? More of a Windows guy anyway? Wish that your shiny new tablet had USB ports when it did arrive?

China has the answer. Reuters are reporting that only 3 weeks after the much anticipated launch of Apple’s shiniest new iSomething, pirates have already reverse-engineered, rebuilt and released a knock-off that sports 3 USB ports, squarer design (possibly more like the iPhone 4G) and Windows support.

Sure it’s not the real-deal – and for only $100 in the difference I personally would be holding out for the original, were I in the market for an iPhone I couldn’t fit in my pocket or make calls on – but it does highlight how fast technology moves today. The iPad has been lauded as the game-changer in portable computing but even that can be challenged within weeks of coming to market.

I do find it amusing that even pirate technologists can’t bring themselves to release a tablet without USB ports. Maybe we’ll have the 3D-printer replaced by a 3D-photocopier sooner than we expect.

Introducing... the jPad?

Introducing... the jPad?

Apr 10

CSS3 – What can we use now?

I recently found a nice little tutorial and demo on Web Designer Wall about gradient buttons created using CSS3. Why am I posting about this rather than all of the other cool stuff that CSS3 has to offer I hear you ask? Well I am choosing to bring this to your attention mainly because this is something we can start using NOW without worrying about how it looks in IE6!

These buttons are created without the use of any images. The buttons are scalable based on the font-size. The button size can be easily adjusted by changing the padding and font-size values. The best part about this method is it can be applied to any HTML element such as div, span, p, a, button, input, etc. See a demo here.

Although CSS3 gradient buttons are not supported by all browsers (Firefox 3.6, Chrome, and Safari are all compatable). This technique does degrade gracefully:

Gradient Images

The discussion point for the increased use of CSS3 is that it is not compatible with older browsers. However, I am a firm believer that as a young aspiring web developer / designer you should be utilising the best and most up-to-date techniques available to you! The argument should not be that: ‘my site doesn’t look correct in IE6 whereas it does in Chrome’, it should be that it looks ‘amazing’ in Chrome and ‘degrades gracefully’ in IE6.

We can utilise the latest CSS3 techniques as well as ensuring the site looks good in older browsers. Here is a quick look at the CSS used for that specific to the Gradient buttons:

To view the full ‘how-to’ article on on to achieve CSS3 gradient buttons click here: http://www.webdesignerwall.com/tutorials/css3-gradient-buttons/

Apr 10

War is hell… Adobe retreat to lick their wounds

Evil Steve Jobs

"No Mr Adobe, I expect you to die"

An eloquent stand-down in the ongoing Flash-on-the-iPhone war was posted by Mike Chambers, Adobe’s Principal Product Manager for the Flash, today. Read it here

Finally, Adobe have conceded the battle and accepted Flash will not be playing in Apple’s walled garden anytime soon. So much so that they are actively discontinuing development in what was once the key selling-point for Flash CS5.

“We will still be shipping the ability to target the iPhone and iPad in Flash CS5. However, we are not currently planning any additional investments in that feature.”

In my opinion, Apple’s actions in this whole battle have been embarassingly cynical, protectionist and self-serving.

  1. Jobs: Flash just doesn’t run well enough on the iPhone – Adobe have pretty comprehensively proven isn’t true. Check out some of the Flash-based iPhone games already built.
  2. Apple claims that Flash apps will be unstable and crash lots – This is arguably the most transparent attempt to rationalise their actions. I’ve lost count of the amount of times Objective C based apps have crashed on me. People right crappy code, the App store approval process doesn’t prevent that. Language is irrelevant.
  3. It’s in the customers’ interest – Users don’t care what technology has been used. They want rich, engaging content. The kind that the Flash community have pioneered online for 11 years now and continue to do so. Locking out a huge creative online community is short-sighted in the extreme.
  4. iAds – Apple continue their “it’s my ball, it’s my game” mentality with their latest announcement about ads served via their platform. Their terms now state that 3rd party ads can be served – but only if there’s no analytics taking place. This means anything other than their own iAds platform can only blindly broadcast ads. Ads with no analytics or targeting is like a time-machine back to Don Draper’s world of advertising.
  5. Objective C is the best language – Game Haxe’s post “Bravo, Apple” drips with sarcasm and eviscerates this argument in a way I couldn’t hope to match.

From what I can see, Apple are intent on ruling their platform with an iron fist. I don’t begrudge them their success, (let’s be clear – I love my iPhone), I just wish they didn’t feel they had to crush any other innovators in the field.

Adobe may have conceded this battle for the mobile space but the resistance is strong. And just to be clear, this isn’t just me backing Flash, I love Flash true, but these developments kill Haxe, Unity, Titanium, Java and so many other advances that really could enrich the iPhone environment. Apple would do well to remember it was their creativity that rocketed the iPhone into it’s dominant position – stifling innovation is only helping Android, Windows 7 mobile, and co. to draw the disaffected developers to their platform. And make no mistake, the users will follow when the best experience is elsewhere.

“The true soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.”

- GK Chesterton

Apr 10

Gearing up for the global soccer challenge

We’re lucky to have clients such as Toshiba.

While we do a lot of straight down-the-line marketing for them, the UK division is always prepared to push their brand in the name of a good campaign.

And this campaign’s a winner in my mind – get a free laptop or high def TV if England win the World Cup in SA this year. Heckins, if I was in the market I’d consider this offer very strongly.

Anyways, the brief for the UK website was to be a little bit out there, so we came up with the concept of a dressing room team talk, to complement the England Expects promotional messaging.

This went down well with the client, who, having visited personally before, wanted the site to look like the inside of the Wembley dressing room (the initial designs looked like an amateur dressing room, with lots of mud and half-time oranges).

The campaign went live last week, and looks like this:

The England Expects website for Toshiba UK

Wow - Fabio could walk in at any minute!

The miracle of inheritance

To complement the campaign, a large number of banners were commissioned to be completed in a short amount of time.

Having had a few campaigns lately using the Eyeblaster system, we now have a simple, robust and reusable set of AS3 classes geared for rapid turnaround and flexibility when creating standard and rich banners within Eyeblaster.

These were invaluable for delivering to the brief, and confirm the team’s philosophy here – invest in a reusable, flexible code base, and reap the rewards later in speed and stability.

Come on England!

Apr 10

Social Media Toolkit

As Social Media becomes more prevalent within our personal, everyday life, so companies are realizing the potential to utilize this data / information to their advantage.

Businesses are using numerous techniques and programs in order to harness the power of Social Media to help them understand their user base better and how their users interact with their website / service / products.

From collating comments from individual Tweets to data-mining Tweet traffic & usage ( helpful in identifying power users and determining how they use the website / service ) companies are now able to use what was previously seen as “something cool” and “I don’t know what it does but seeing as everyone is using Twitter & Facebook we should too” in order to make serious strategic decisions that can help them to unlock new business potential.

OneForty have compiled a nice list of Social Media Toolkits that may be of use to companies looking to turn that “i’m gonna Poke your FaceWall” into serious strategic advantage and more importantly cold-hard cash!

Take a look at OneForty’s Social Media Toolkit


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