Closet culture goes virtual with Pinterest

Pinterest takes our desire to collect things, make lists, and share what we love, and lets us express that in a sleek and intensely visual experience.
Launched in March 2010 and still in beta, Pinterest is an online community where members can post things to a virtual wall that they find interesting, and connect with people who share tastes and interests.

Putting up photos and posters of your interests has been going on in teenagers’ bedrooms and locker doors for decades. Pinterest extends this concept into the digital age.

The visual appeal is key to understanding Pinterest. Twitter is extremely text heavy, and, while Facebook certainly has visual appeal, it’s not as clean and sleek. Tumblr can be configured as a photo sharing site, and, indeed, some of the most successful Tumblrs do this.

I’m not entirely sold on the concept of Pinterest, but I do think its nascent success speaks volumes about the power of images.

The logos of many social media sites

Social media isn’t just window dressing

The logos of many social media sites
When the New York Times decided to can their social media position, they explained: “Social media can’t belong to one person; it needs to be part of everyone’s job…It has to be integrated into the existing editorial process and production process”

I have to agree with the Times. If you’re responsible for social media at your company, find out what to Tweet out by actually talking with your colleagues, and encouraging them to send you messages they want posted. Engage them in a debate and publish the outcome.

A lot of people think of social media as being an outward facing marketing effort, but the way I see it is that it should be something that permeates the organization, and that everyone’s involved in. Social media should be used to make a more social organization, and marketers cannot fake this.

Creative Portfolio Communities: Do designers need to be on them?

Four creative portfolio communities

A discussion on the social network Quora had me thinking about whether or not having a standalone website is that best way to promote yourself as a graphic or Web designer. Having a portfolio website used to be and still is a common way to promote your design skills online. But now there are more options available, and they’re gradually being taken more seriously. 

It’s within the realm of possibility that a business would promote themselves using only a Facebook page. While it would have been unheard of years ago, networks like Facebook are now legitimate options for those who want an online presence without necessarily having a webpage.

Designers now have “creative portfolio communities”, which are sites that provide them personal profiles and portfolio pages. The top CPC sites are Coroflot, Behance, Cargo, and Dribble.

These sites take care of all the technical aspects of your portfolio such as hosting, as well as much of the design. While you give up some creative control and having your own domain, these sites offer a uniform place to display your services to potential clients.

Also, because CPCs offer a community, they have a social layer that most websites lack. The social layer involves letting users interact with your page often with comments, questions, and reviews. Because these sites socialize your brand, they help people get to know you and your business better, and people like to do business with people they know.

And because CPCs are designed to be communities, someone can go to these sites to find an individual who meets their particular needs, and it won’t necessarily be the first designer they stumble upon. Rather than browse dozens of individual vendor websites, you have access to the portfolios of hundreds of individuals in similar wrapping. It’s sort of like the difference between authors sending their books to bookstores and selling them on street corners.

It’s important to go where your audience expects you to be. So, right away, CPCs have an advantage because lots of people go to a site like Behance with the goal of seeking out great design and/or finding a great designer for their project.

But with creative portfolio communities, you want to make sure that it’s not only other graphic designers who are visiting your profile. Also, there isn’t one network to rule them all. For bands, Myspace is a site that people recognize as a place to find new music. If there’s a band worth listening to, chances are they have a Myspace page. There currently isn’t a Myspace for design.

While the Justin Biebers don’t necessarily compete with little-known indie bands for different fan segments, there is a tendency for CPCs to create competition between various creatives. Because of ranking systems, star designers will be over represented, giving them more prestige and burying middle-of-the-pack designers and those new to the site.

Is it worth competing? In my opinion, you should have a standalone website and use CPCs to promote yourself, and lead people back to your site. Just like Facebook fan pages, CPCs are yet another tool you can use to help people find you online. At least for now, CPCs aren’t mainstream enough for the typical non-designer to rely upon them solely. People often find their designers through their friends, work colleagues, and Google searches.

Give people lots of ways to find you online that point back to your website. I recommend getting on these networks because they’ll increase your visibility, let you see how you stack up against competitors, and you’ll be part of a design-centric, online community. CPCs are something that have come a long way in a few years, and, as they grow in prominence, they’ll surely be another venue for finding new jobs, and even some inspiration.

The Curator (video)

Spotlight is a short film series I created for Toronto’s 24-hour blogging festival that features the interesting and notable people responsible for Toronto’s many blogs. In this video I talked to Toronto historian Jamie Bradburn, who writes JB’s Warehouse and Curio Emporium, and contributes to The Torontoist as one of the blog’s “Historicists”.

I’ve always had an active interest in history, which I also sensed in Jamie. One of the especially interesting things about Jamie is that he finds interesting stories from seemingly banal things. For instance, old newspaper and magazine ads can form the basis for a long piece chronicling an industry, or changing social norms. Even something as obscure as heated competition between rival Jamaica patty joints can become a compelling story. And since all these stories have an effect on the present, they’re given even greater weight.

The Locals (video)

Another in the Spotlight series of short films I created for Word11, Toronto’s 24-hour blogging festival, The Locals highlights two of the people responsible for the community website, which covers the Toronto community near Jane Street and Finch Avenue.

What really struck me about is that it challenges traditional notions perpetuated by Toronto media which make it seem that accentuate the neighbourhood’s crime. This community site tries to represent all aspects of the community, and give hope to those living near Jane and Finch.

Adobe apps help bring Photoshop to the streets

I’ve been using Adobe’s Creative Suite 5.5 software over the past few weeks, and what I’ve noticed most is that it’s given me the tools to create richer mobile experiences. Indeed, Adobe’s Web design application Dreamweaver has included incredible tools for creating mobile websites, and its publishing application InDesign has included eBook and digital layout tools that help create EPUB docs across multiple platforms. But what is also intriguing is that Adobe is including mobile devices into the actual creation of content.

If you have Photoshop, and an iPad, which seems to be becoming an increasingly common accessory for Web designers, you can use three new Adobe iPad apps that extend Photoshop’s functionality beyond the desktop. Nav, Eazel, and Color Lava help you control and send images to Photoshop via Wi-Fi.

Adobe Nav lets you use your iPad as a custom toolbar for easily accessing the Photoshop tools you use most. While Nav may not appeal to hardcore Photoshop users who have keyboard shortcuts hardwired into their muscle memory, casual may find it a useful interface that makes their favourite tools easier to access.

Adobe Eazel enables you to paint by gliding using your fingertips over your iPad’s screen. I have to admit that my finger painting skills peaked somewhere between kindergarten and grade one, and I found Eazel to take the most time to get used to among all the new Adobe apps, but there are great online walkthroughs that show how to access menus using all five fingers.

With its excellent integration with Photoshop, I can see this appealing to many people who find the interface more intuitive than the mouse. One of the nice touches with Eazel is that the brushstrokes are still “wet” for a few seconds after you paint them, so colours will bleed until they “dry”. I actually found this very difficult to get used to, but I’m sure it would be intuitive for people who are used to actual painting.

If you can’t get used to Eazel’s wet brushstrokes, I’d recommend using Autodesk’s SketchBook Pro for an on-the-go drawing app, which contains a bevy of settings for brushes including brush type, size, and pressure sensitivity.

Among Adobe’s new apps, I’m most excited about Adobe Color Lava, which lets you mix colors using your fingertips to create custom swatches and five-swatch themes. You can think of it as the digital equivalent of an artist’s palette.

The dimension of the tablet that I find most intriguing is that it enables greater interaction with the real world because of its portability, wealth of applications, and the fact that it’s always within reach. This means that you can use an app like Lava wherever inspiration strikes. Lava lets you import your colors from the real world into Photoshop CS5 when you’re connected or via email.

Just as a writer would be wise to keep a notebook at all times to jot down a note or an idea, a designer may want to record a colour. While it’s tempting to, say, just bring along a camera to record colours, it’s not exactly the same thing.

There are technical limitations to reproducing exact colours using a digital camera. The quality of the light in your photos affects the colour reproduction; differences in exposure time can affect how bright or dark your colours are; camera settings such as “vibrant” or “soft” can affect the colours recorded; and light settings such as “tungsten” and “fluorescent” can affect the colours in your photos.

Lava lets you record colours as you see them, and, furthermore, it lets you make changes to the colours, adding a shade of another colour, or changing the brightness at will.

To test out Lava, I went around Toronto to create a custom swatch theme inspired by this city.

The colours I found included the green of a Steam Whistle delivery truck, the weathered blue of the Blue Jays’ logo at the Rogers Centre, the orange of Dupont subway station, the red of the CBC building on Front Street, and the off-white of the McLaughlin Planetarium at dusk.

Adobe’s new apps help make Photoshop a more tactile experience, but I can also envision many designers finding that these tools help their creative process. The three apps from Adobe just scratch the surface of what can be done using the Photoshop Touch SDK, which is available to developers, who now have the power to create iPad apps that interact with Photoshop. I encourage designers to use apps to bring more excitement to their work, and unleash more of their creativity onto the Web.

New Adobe platform addresses need to manage multi-channel customer experiences

Adobe's new platform lets businesses profile visitors, and manage their Web experience.

The rise of the Internet has disrupted the notion that an organization can ever have complete control over their brand.

A customer’s experiences are shaped by an intricate web of interactions. Positive experiences can create loyalty, while negative ones can breed resentment and mistrust.

Gartner Research’s Ed Thompson and Esteban Kolsky have defined customer experience loosely and elegantly as “the sum total of conscious events.” Under this model, consumers will gain their experience of a brand through interactions across multiple-channels, some controlled by the firm, others controlled by taste makers, other customers, and competitors.

It is little wonder that Adobe, whose software tools are used to create and measure online experiences, should want to pursue customer experience management (or CEM) as its latest venture.

“We see [CEM] becoming an enterprise-class problem that traditional enterprise systems, which are based on a system of records, not a system of customer engagement, are unable to answer in this increasingly complex and digital domain,” says Rob Pinkerton, senior director of product marketing for customer experience management at Adobe.

Adobe’s new Adobe Digital Enterprise Platform, announced Monday, is designed to enable enterprises to build and manage multi-channel digital interactions for social and mobile customers.

The new offering helps enterprises bring together marketing and IT to deliver engaging, authentic solutions that increase brand loyalty and bolster competitive differentiation. It is made up of tools such as Integrated Content Review, Web Experience Management, and Customer Communications, designed to provide more consistent and engaging customer experiences.

Integrated Content Review improves the workflow and processes required to create, review, store and rapidly adapt digital content through different target segments, reducing time-to-market for new marketing campaigns and customer experiences. Web Experience Management helps business and marketing professionals create, manage and publish rich content across Web, social, mobile and email. And Customer Communications is designed to improve customer loyalty by centralizing and managing the creation, assembly and multi-channel delivery of personalized, interactive correspondence and statements.

Also part of its CEM lineup are Social Brand Engagement, Selection and Enrollment and Unified Workspace, which are immediately in beta and will be generally released in Fall 2011

The common thread, Pinkerton says, is putting structures in place that enable a company to adapt to new market conditions and opportunities, while ensuring that changes do not undercut IT best practices or make the company otherwise vulnerable. Incorporated in this idea is making the best use of different members of a company.

“The big demand on companies right now is to get faster access and use of all the different rich digital assets that are produced – and scale them,” he says. “That is not what creatives are designed to do. They’re designed to be creative: they are rockstars; they are thinkers. You do not want your creatives spending time trying to figure out how to meta tag something, when to do version control, what to work on next… Also, marketers, and campaign managers of digital assets want to have a better understanding of when things get done, and how things can move more quickly, and not burden the rockstars, but at the same time deliver quickly the digital assets required to be in the marketplace.”

The Adobe Digital Enterprise Platform, Integrated Content Review solution, Web Experience Management solution and Customer Communications solution will be available August 2011.

Three thoughts: Social networks propagate banality; we create ourselves as commodities; and the tight control of an Apple unveiling

  • Chris Anderson wrote about the exceedingly narrow niches that were to populate networked society in the 2006 book, “the Long Tail”. It turns out, however, that the squabble on social networks is generally dictated by common shared experiences. New York Magazine reminds us that the most discussed topics on networks like Twitter revolve around the news cycle.  While there are no doubt in-depth discussions about Dutch painters (see image), we mustn’t forget that the majority of what people talk about online, as in the real world, retreads already worn ground.
  • The hegemonic effects of globalism, says Rob Horning in an n+1 article, have given rise to forms of individualized self-expression like Twitter and Facebook. These forms give us the ability to express ourselves, but only in terms of what can be shared on the site, and what can be harvested by advertisers. “[M]ore and more of our social energy is invested in self-presentation—selling ourselves like we are consumer goods.”
  • And finally, in an affair that brings to mind Guy Debord’s spectacle, Apple unveiled the latest improvements to its i-devices at its developer conference. I think what’s most interesting about every Apple announcement is that they’re already deemed revolutionary before anything is announced. The announcement justifies its coverage and peoples’ interest. The company has control over the means of its publicity, and, therefore, a great ability to control our perceptions of it.

Atlantic launches Twitter book club; debate rages over the oral impact of social media; and journalists say technology has changed how they report news