Author: Author

I'm a designer living and working in the Kansas City area. I'm into art, design, music, food, adult beverages, auto racing, architecture and more.

Say, Man, Let’s Get Really Toasted for a Change.

Does anyone really need a $400.00 toaster? I’m not sure. I mean I make my toast in the oven using the broiler because I don’t want a toaster sitting on my counters and my cabinets are filled with other stuff. Even if they weren’t I’m not sure I’d buy a $400.00 toaster. Never the less, if I were in the market for a toaster and money was no object, this is the toaster I would probably pick.

This is the BALMUDA toaster from Japan. Why is it worth $400.00? Let’s take a look and see. This toaster until recently was a Japan-only product designed to create the best toast in the world by adding water into the toasting process. That’s right water, and if you think it will make your toast soggy, you’d be quite wrong.

The water serves a special purpose, it uses steam technology and precise temperature control to bring out the best in every kind of bread. By pouring a small bit of water into the toaster at the beginning you allow the air to heat more rapidly while creating a layer of steam that envelops the bread as it toasts the surface. This traps inner moister in the bread and keeps the flavor from escaping. The end result is the best toast in the world according to BALMUDA. At 400 bucks it better take Wonder Bread and make it taste like something crafted by Italian bakers with centuries of history behind them.

The BALMUDA gives you four choices for toasting, one for each one hundred dollars you spend on the toaster. Sandwich Bread, Artisan Bread, Pizza, and Pastry modes. There is also an oven feature for cooking things like au gratin potatoes. Oven mode doesn’t use steam.

From a design perspective, the BALMUDA toaster looks great. A clean minimal design with easy to read controls. A small footprint of 8 by 14 inches. 3 color choices, black, dark gray, and white. There is a set of instructions across the top at the back of the toaster and that’s about it.

From a toast perspective I’m going to have to take BALMUDA’s word for it because I don’t own this toaster, won’t be buying this toaster, and haven’t had any toast made with this toaster.

There is a guy on YouTube that swears this is the greatest invention of all time. He has one, and he makes some serious toast with some serious Japanese bread in his video. I have to admit, the toasted bread looks pretty amazing, and I’m sure it smells great too. I’m still not convinced anyone needs a $400.00 toaster, although during the stay at home order during the Covid 19 pandemic, it might actually make life feel better.

Where Businesses are Advertising is Changing

The advertising and marketing industry has been stood on its head in the last month thanks to the Covid 19 pandemic. The economic situation is unpredictable, and the timeline for normalcy seems to be weeks if not months away. The changes that advertising and marketing are experiencing now are manifesting themselves in some very specific ways. 

Because so many cities and states are sheltering in place or have limited exposure rules, there is very little incentive to advertise at all. What is the point of doing a media buy if your target audience is missing during the local commute drive time? Why buy outdoor if the volume of traffic on freeways and local roads has been reduced by two thirds? If the audience isn’t there, the reason to advertise vaporizes.

Yes, people are watching TV, either trying to escape the nonstop news about the pandemic or get more information about it. The problem is, a large portion of popular content is gone. Every major sporting event in the United States has been canceled or delayed. The Olympics are on hold. Live event shows have been postponed, and all of these will remain in limbo until things have settled down and returned to normal.

Typically when a crisis forces people to stay home media consumption skyrockets. The Nelson group has found that it doesn’t matter what the source is consumption goes up, whether it’s live TV, streaming, internet, mobile gaming other channels. And while the news is attracting a larger audience base these days, most advertisers don’t want to position their product or service in relationship to the news on the Cover 19 pandemic.

So, Who is Advertising Changing?

The hospitality and entertainment industries for sure. Retail as well. These venues in many cases simply can not open their doors to the public. And those that continue to advertise are now being extremely sensitive with their messaging. You don’t want to come off as though you don’t care or understand the nature of this crisis. Pitching a product or service against the backdrop of a global pandemic could have long-lasting ramifications for your brand.

And What is Being Advertised?

Covid 19 has disrupted more than our socializing and work habits. It has made it more difficult to ship and receive goods. The global supply chain for many products has been ground to a halt or slowed significantly. Look at what Amazon is doing. They have refocused on high demand items, and restructure shipping priorities to hone in on medical supplies and household staples while slowing the shipment of nonessential goods. If an economic downturn settles in over the next few months, we might begin to see a shift in consumer demand and what brands decide to promote as well.

With he world in such an unsettled state at the moment, how can marketers and advertisers make effective marketing strategies and move forward?

What Does the Data Tell Us?

With the ground shifting on a day to day basis it’s easy to look past the data and simply react to the need at hand. “How quickly can we get this?” “We need X right now.” Being reactionary at this point in time is going to yield fewer gains than looking at your data and building a strategy based on it. Especially data that is updated daily and analyzed. Looking at end-of-week or end-of-month analytics will be too little to late. That historical information might mean very little in rapidly changing circumstances.

Update Your Approach

So much of what we do and know has changed in the last month or so. Your team’s focus has probably changed, as well as how they are producing and executing. Content and messaging have shifted as well. Media buy is probably focusing on different channels in an attempt to have the greatest impact from your spend. This is where your data becomes mission-critical. Why? because it can show you if you are being effective or if you are failing. Even the best creative will fall short if it isn’t delivered in a channel that reaches the right audience with the best impact. Using tools like Twitter Enterprise can help you understand how your brand is being perceived, how your product or service is being angered with during all of this. 

During periods of uncertainty, it’s imperative that your team pays attention, asks questions, and listens closely to what your target audience is saying in order to be responsive, and present relevant and engaging content.

Keep Your Eye on the Ball.

In times of crisis, it’s easy to get distracted and become more reactionary to the situation. Remember the phrase “Cooler heads will prevail”? There is so much truth in that statement. It’s easy to get caught up on everything that is happening in the world these days. Keeping a level head and your eye on the ball is a really good approach to the situation. Concentrate on the things you can control. Be that reassuring.

It all comes down to this, if you are in the business of advertising or marketing, pay attention to your data and analytics and use that information to provide relevant contentment and messaging to your target audiences. You should be doing that anyway, but now more than ever. The Covid 19 pandemic is altering the way we do business and will continue to do so long after we get the “all clear” message. This has the potential to reshape the marketing and advertising industry for an extended period of time if not permanently. 

Think about this. Most of us are working from home. How many businesses are going to see this as a chance to reduce overhead and allow people to continue to work from home after the pandemic ends? (refer to paragraph two and think about the impact over a longer period of time)

6 Minutes of Meditation to Help Ease Your Pandemic Woes. “As Above”

Everyone is just a bit stressed right now, and understandably so. We are for the most part all working from home. In some cases like mine, unable to see loved ones in person do to their location at an assisted living facility. There is the stress of not being able to socialize in person, which goes against the very nature of being human. Some of us are worried about finances, whether or not we will catch the Covid-19 virus, will I have enough toilet paper to last me, or will I have to go to the store and risk infection just to maintain my hygiene…

Let the video below help reduce your stress level by taking you to a place of tranquility and peace for 6 and a half minutes. If you have a large smart TV I suggest firing up the Vimeo app on it and watching this with the sound cranked up. If you don’t, make sure to watch this full screen on your computer or device for the best visual impact.

Oh, and by the way this was done in almost one single shot filmed on the 8mm2 (0.3 square inch) surface of a chemical reaction – making it a one of even more impressive.

“As Above” is a short film exploring the tight link between the microscopic world and immensity of the universe. Illustrating our universe’s never ending dance of destruction and creation, in which life can emerge…

As Above was made of one single shot filmed on the 8mm2 (0.3 square inch) surface of a chemical reaction.

The environment in which we live, is at the constant mercy of the ever changing flow of planets, stars and galaxies… As well as the composition of the microscopic world.
“As Above” is an invitation to contemplate the beauty of this perpetual movement of which we are part of… And perhaps invite the viewer to reflect on his position in the universe and the preciosity of life.

In the same ways, recent events have shown us that a microscopic virus could have a destructive
impact on humanity… A destructive impact counter weighted by a positive impact on our planets
global ecosystem.

Credits

Created by Roman Hill
Music by Thomas Vanz
Co-produced by Nano-Lab

Thanks to “Google Arts and Culture”, You Can Virtually Tour Your Favorite Art Museums.

I would rank the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art as one of the top 10 in the United States, and I’m not just saying that because I work there. I’m saying it because it has such an amazing collection that is on par with other art museums like the Art Institute of Chicago, LACMA, Cleveland Museum of Art, San Fransisco Museum of Modern Art, and so many others.

With the Covid-19 pandemic in full swing right now, no one is going to any of the museums mentioned above. That doesn’t mean you can’t get your art on though. Thanks to Google Arts and Culture you can visit hundreds of art museums and in many cases take a virtual tour. I just did a walkthrough of the Uffizi in Florence Italy. And you dear reader can take that tour as well or visit the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art to see why I say its one of the top ten in the country.

Take the Virtual Tour of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art

We might be staying home, and keeping our distance from others for the next few weeks, but that doesn’t mean you have to feel cooped up. While it’s not the same as actually being at your museum of choice, it’s a pretty good alternative.

Lose Your Corona Virus Cabin Fever With the Drummer

It’s Friday. We’re all working from home and starting to get Covid-19 cabin fever. The stress level is building because we aren’t supposed to leave the house. You can’t touch your face or other people. Everyone is paranoid society is going to break down and the world will end.

Well, I’m here to help you take your mind off of all of that with a tasty little animated short by PODENCO.

This has such a great look and the animation is so solid. It’s a nice blend of illustration and classic photos of Art Blakey. Take a minute out of your day, turn up the volume, and enjoy the show.

Working From Home During The Covid 19 Pandemic

Up until about a month ago I spent the last 4 and a half years working remotely for a company based out of the Chicago area. For me telecommuting from home is nothing new. For many people right now, it’s a brand new experience that can be a little hard to get used to.

Getting a routine down, knowing how to connect with coworkers, understanding online meeting etiquette, accessing files can all be a challenge. Navigating all of these things can seem a bit daunting but it can actually be quite efficient and rewarding.

Here are some of the things I learned over the last four years. A set of tips for those of you that aren’t used to or have never worked remote before. A lot of this is common sense, but also easy to forget or ignore.

You need to treat the home office just like going into the main office.

Get a routine.

I am at my desk at a set time every morning.

I launch Skype and Zoom to let everyone know that I’m available as soon as I get in. These apps stay on all day so that I can be reached as needed. Think of it as having the virtual ability to have a hallway meeting or bump into a coworker somewhere in your virtual space.

Check your email on a regular basis.

There are some people that use it as their primary form of communication. Set email up with notifications on so you get a friendly reminder when someone pings you. You don’t have to check every email that comes in when it comes in, but checking regularly helps keep you in the loop.

Take breaks.

I’m the worst about this. I’ll start working and never leave my workstation if I don’t get prompted to. I have set up my phone to tell me to take a break 3 times a day. 2 for 15 minutes, and an hour for lunch. If you can, get out of your house and stretch your legs. Usually I a few times a week I try to meet someone for lunch. Socializing helps things feel normal. I know it’s not much of an option with the Covid-19 Pandemic in full swing, but if you find yourself working from home in the future…

File Sharing

You will probably need to share files with your team. Both my current and previous employer use Office 365 so my team has access to OneDrive, but there are a ton of options available. Designate someone to set up a shared cloud drive with an organized folder and file structure in it. And believe me, organization is key. It’s hard enough locating files on a server in the office, but at least you can pop over and ask someone where they saved a file. Working remote not so much. Everyone on the team needs to be able to locate files quickly to keep things moving along.

Space matters.

If you have roommates, family, or anyone else that is home with you, you’ll want to be able to separate from them for meetings and needed quiet time. The other thing is, if you have a separate office or a designated space you can leave it behind at the end of the workday.

Speaking of that. Know when to leave work. Just like getting into the office, I have a set time I try to leave the office every night. It helps keep work and personal life separated.

Tools of the trade.

My team uses Adobe Creative Cloud. The full suite of applications. Trello, Slack, Zoho, Paylocity, Office 365, Dropbox, Zoom, and Skype. There are hundreds of tools for working in a remote situation. Decide on what your team is going to use, and have everyone use the same set of tools for consistency.

How You Communicate.

Not all in-office habits and systems are going to translate directly to a remote equivalent. A video chat may not always be convenient, so ask yourself, “Can this meeting be a document/email/Slack message?” Learn to move more of your communication to asynchronous channels. 

Put on your pants.

When I first started working in a remote environment people would joke with me about working in my pajamas or sweats. Taking the time to get dressed and perform your usual self-care routine can prove a big psychological booster.  Plus you never know when your boss is going to request a video conference call with you. Don’t get caught with your pants down. Treat it like you are going into the physical office space.

Plan ahead.

It’s easy to fall into short term thinking, but just like you would at your physical office you’ll want to plot out your next week, month, and possibly quarter. Nobody knows just how long this COVID-19 situation will last, doing as much long-term planning as you can only benefit you. 

Bandwidth.

I’m talking about the internet. Do you have enough bandwidth to video conference? Upload and download large files in a timely manner? Run software upgrades without taking up hours of time? Nothing is more frustrating than trying to work and being hampered by a slow or glitchy internet connection. If you can plug into your router. If you are on WiFi make sure you have a solid connection. I’m fortunate, Google Fiber is blazing fast and always on. Another thing to think about is kids. You might need to set up ground rules for internet use during the day if your kids are home. Why? Because games and streaming videos eat bandwidth for lunch. If you are all on at the same time, your network could slow to a crawl.

Manage expectations.

If you aren’t used to working from home you will need some ramp up time. Talk to your supervisor about what the priorities are, and discuss how tasks will get done. How is the team going to track projects we’re working on? How will we meet to discuss this? Will you all be connecting on Zoom or email? Will there be standing meetings at a certain time to get everyone coordinated? (I used to have a standing check-in meeting 3 times a week. 15 to 20 minutes to discuss work being done, what’s coming, up and who needs help with projects)

This should be an ongoing conversation. Remember, going fully remote is a new experience for many companies and their workers. Be honest about what isn’t working or can’t get done in these circumstances. More overall communication is going to be necessary.

The Webcam is Your Friend

You might not think so but it is. I know a ton of people that hate to video chat but it helps. When you are on a Zoom call and no one has their camera on, people get accidentally interrupted, you sometimes can’t tell who’s speaking, and it helps combat that feeling of isolation working from home alone can bring. Make sure you have good lighting and if you can position your camera so other viewers aren’t looking up the inside of your nose.

Speaking of webcams, the team should decide what the protocol is going to be. If the majority says no we don’t want to video chat, then no one should video chat. If there are 15 people on a call and only one or two have their camera on, its annoying and distracting.

I hope some of these help. Remember to take in stride. You aren’t defusing a nuclear bomb or curing cancer. You’re simply trying to work from home and do the best job possible. Go with the flow, be open to suggestions and recommendations and things will work out. By the end of April you’ll be a telecommuting pro.

The Creative Journey – Wacom

It’s Monday March 16, 2020 and the world is in shutdown mode over the Coronavirus outbreak/pandemic. The stock market is losing ground again, people are hoarding supplies like the world is ending, schools are closed, businesses are having employees telecommute rather than come in to work and a slight sense of general pandemonium has settled over my part of the midwest.

Here is a way to hopefully help you forget all about what is going on in between washing your hands, coughing into your elbow, keeping your distance and doing all the other things the WHO wants you to do to stop the spread of COVID 19.

“Not To Scale” and “Iris” have collaborated to produce a beautiful series of eye-catching short animations for the Wacom Cintiq 16. The films imaginatively illustrate the typical journey and endeavors that an Artist takes through their career to realize their creative ambitions.

There are 6 in all and I have the behind the scenes/making-of video at the end. So, do yourself a favor and take a bit of time to escape the pandemic news and watch this series of short animations. You’ll be glad you did.