Fantasy Football Just Got a Little More Real 10/22/2015

CBS-blog-1Our redesign of the CBS Fantasy Sports site launched right in time for football season ensuring fans won’t miss a single stat!  With the intuitive interface, fantasy football fans can easily access information on hundreds of teams and thousands of players to always make the right call this season.

At FOUR32C we love to solve complex problems and figuring out how to make the stats accessible was a snap. Flexible modules make the site easy to update for the client and quick to digest for the fans. Go check out the site here.

You can also see our case study here.

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Six Reasons to Drop Photoshop for Sketch 09/16/2015

Sketch vs. Photoshop

FOUR32C designers were using Photoshop before some of our younger employees were born. While it wasn’t built for designing interfaces, it came with plenty of tools to adapt it for what we needed it to do. In Fall 2014, we collaborated with CBS Interactive in a redesign of the CBS Sports sites (the first site, Fantasy News site is scheduled to launch next week). They were in the process of moving over to Sketch, and we decided to give it a live test. But before making the leap, we did our homework and a little bit of tinkering. We ended up loving Sketch so much it’s become our go-to tool. Since then, we’ve used it in designing projects for New York Daily News, Weight Watchers, Men’s Journal, Bobbi Brown, and even our own website. Here’s why you should switch too.

  1. It’s easy. Learning Sketch is progressively rewarding. The UI is very intuitive. Sketch combines aspects of InDesign—like styles and patterns—with the pixel perfection of Photoshop. And as you become proficient, you unlock its power.
  2. Working with developers is a breeze. You can import and export CSS. In the past, we couldn’t rely on things like letter spacing to be accurate when giving developers designs in PSDs. All of Sketch’s effects, like shadows and gradients, can be converted to CSS. Even if a developer doesn’t like the code it produces, it’s a baseline they can understand and work with.
  3. It’s cheap. Sketch is available for a one time payment of $99, compared to CS6’s $1,900 or Creative Cloud’s yearly $600.
  4. It’s fast. More precision in the design phase means fewer mistakes in development, which means a higher quality product in shorter timelines. Sketch makes it easy to revise work with the client as you build a design system with the style sheets.
  5. Three words: Interactive. Style. Guides. They’re already embedded in Sketch. We didn’t need to create one to share with our clients and developers. And if we, or the client, makes changes they appear throughout.
  6. And the biggest reason: Sketch is made for building user interfaces. Photoshop is a powerful tool, but its audience is broad (photographers, interactive designers, motion graphic designers, etc.). Using an application for the purpose it was created means you’re going to have a better experience. Here are four specific very cool examples:
    • Sketch doesn’t support actions a website wouldn’t—anything we do in sketch can be replicated in code.
    • The designer can work with the actual pixels on the screen—and export to all device pixel ratios. Take working in retina. In the past, we would need to double the webpage’s size to account for appearance once it was scaled down. Sketch has an export function that renders a graphic any size (double, triple, fixed width/height, etc.)
    • Speaking of devices, Sketch makes managing designs and styles across devices effortless. It combines artboards and pages so you can design the whole website in one file, or see the design in all of its responsive iterations (everything from desktop to mobile).
    • Web typography is rendered more accurately in Sketch. What you see is what you get… well at least closer than any other design tool.

Always Improving

Sketch has some downsides too (we don’t love autosaving, no revision history, and it’s pretty processor intensive) but any new app will have minor issues to be sorted out in coming updates.

Sketch is the first Photoshop alternative that’s ever made us consider tossing out our “I heart Adobe” t-shirts.

We did it, and we’re glad we did.

Dear Apple: It’s Time to Add More Humanity to Your Human Interface Guidelines 09/10/2015 apple_four32c

apple_four32cAt Apple’s hilariously overproduced Apple Special Event yesterday, the company announced its long-awaited update to Apple TV, alongside the most advanced iPhone and iPad yet—because for some reason Apple is choosing not to launch new products that are less advanced than its existing lineup figure. Apple TV, that surprisingly simple, near-ubiquitous home media appliance, now has Siri integration. But is this enhancement too little too late or do we simply expect more?

The company that arguably created our modern understanding (and appreciation) of user experience and product design is now in the position of having to play catch up. Companies like Amazon, Google and even FitBit are taking Apple’s pioneering approach to iOS Human User Interface and are expanding those principles beyond the visual.

Until now, Apple has rested on pretty—pretty interfaces, pretty design (iTunes excluded, what was Apple thinking?). Back in the day when the decidedly unpretty IBM was lurking around, we really wanted pretty. But good visual design has become commoditized. Companies that once relied solely or primarily on superior technology, like Google, have become design innovators. So Apple needs to step up its game. To continue its domination, it’s time Apple started creating user experiences that advance its legacy of innovation beyond the visual and deliver products and experiences in context of our bodies and our environments.

The Smarter Home

It appears the latest Apple TV is trying to be the new Amazon Fire TV with voice activation and gaming features. OK, we suppose those are features worth striving for, but maybe just like Amazon Echo strategy, this is Apple’s first step toward the realization of the Smart Home. Amazon has done an excellent job in creating an interactive home appliance with a simple and beautifully executed voice-activated interface. There is no attached screen on Amazon Echo, yet, but it’s not needed. As you walk through your home, you simply ask Alexa (that’s Amazon for Siri) for news, weather, and traffic updates as you make coffee and get ready for work. This type of audio interface makes complete sense for the home. It’s perhaps not quite as personal, you’re not looking at and tapping on your wrist (more about that later). But the interface is still open to the entire family (save for maybe your pets, yet) and is perfectly aligned with a home environment. Well done, Amazon.

At this point, Amazon and Apple have not really codified a new Verbal or Audio User Experience taxonomy. They’re relying on natural language processing to hopefully get users the results they want, which may only go so far with their current technologies. Echo seems to do a better job at this than Siri. If Apple took a page from its own playbook and updated the Human User Interface Guidelines with a Verbal chapter, that might just bridge its current technology gap.

Wanted: Less Watch, More Apple

For generations, the entertainment industry has been priming us for wrist communicators with the likes of Dick Tracy and Star Trek. Pop culture has even inspired cell phones, and the market is virtually untapped—a free range for tech giants like Apple to stake its billion dollar claim. So why is it, after nearly 70 years of being prepped for this Next Big Thing, when we are presented with a smartwatch created by a historically revolutionary company, the overwhelming response is a resounding “Meh??

Apple’s last great innovation was the iPhone. They leapt over their competition by adding a high resolution touchscreen, which did not require a stylus or keyboard, and introduced multiple dimensional navigation, which has become a standard for smartphones. But the same tactics don’t resonate for the Apple Watch. For Apple’s most intimate product, the screen takes you away from your actual environment and into the near-field world of dials, spins, and taps. Just tweaking the successful iPhone interface principles for a smaller screen doesn’t take into account the difference in user perspective. In creating Apple Watch, Apple was in the position to create something entirely unique: a non-graphic user interface based on gestures, sounds, or vibrations that intimately connected us to each other by not forcing us look at a screen.

A fully fleshed out haptics interface could’ve made the difference. In the Apple Watch there are some minimal tactile sensations on the wrist. But it doesn’t go nearly far enough to create a new modality that makes sense on a person’s body. If Apple wearables are really going to take off, they must take a cue from Fitbit and minimize the visual interface while expanding the tactile responses.

To the Future

The personal computing revolution started by taking a room full of computing power, scaling it down and putting it on a person-sized device for a human to use with a keyboard and mouse (thanks again, Apple). But as our information infrastructure expands to every aspect of our lives, interfaces should respond accordingly and, most importantly, in context. An interaction on a user’s wrist is different from an interaction in her car. An experience in her home is different from one in the office. Apple has the brainpower and resources to define how these appropriate and specific user experiences will work in context to over everyday environments, where we are and who we are with. We’re looking forward to iOS Human User Interface Guidelines from Apple that bring in more humanity and moves beyond just pretty visual interfaces.

 

Photo: Terry Johnston

Style.com: In Memoriam 09/02/2015 Style.com

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When New York Fashion Week kicks off on Sept. 10, some  familiar faces will be missing from the front rows, namely the writers and editors from Style.com, which was shuttered on Aug. 31, and will be retooled as an e-commerce site. Style.com—and the people who built and grew it—revolutionized the fashion industry by bringing full photographic coverage of fashion shows to the masses, showcases that were once reserved only for industry elite. By providing a unique, behind-the-scenes look into NYFW (among other showcases), Style.com effectively democratized fashion, making it accessible, fun and attainable for many. But over the past several years, Style.com fell victim to decreased investment in new technology and languished under corporate disinterest. Condé Nast, Style.com’s parent, pulled the plug on the floundering site in its fifteenth year, and as of today, Vogue Runway steps in to fill Style’s place.

Style originally entered the then-burgeoning Internet fray as an industry gossip column in 2000. Soon after its launch, Style expanded to cover fashion shows and grew more popular with a revolutionary innovation: While other fashion journals might publish one or two photos from the shows in their magazines (after all, print space is limited and expensive to produce), Style.com sent photographers to snap photos at all of the shows, and then upload every single image to the site. Style effectively tapped into the kind of total access that the Internet creates and consumers demand, and with that, Style.com offered the first comprehensive and genuine view into fashion show coverage available without actually being there.

From that point, Style.com owned fashion shows in ways that no other publication—print or online—ever did. The site posted photos of every look that came down the runways, including details and accessories. Consumers visited the site in droves. Style.com quickly became an online lookbook for the next season’s trends. Shoppers would go into stores and request “Ralph Lauren’s look number 16 from Style.” It wasn’t an official “look number,” per se, it was Style.com’s number. Through August 2015, it was still the most visited online-only women’s fashion resource.

Condé Nast realized there was e-commerce gold to be mined.

In 2001, Style.com partnered with Neiman Marcus to launch an online store that featured real editorial and merchandising, teams behind it. Instead of simply reporting on fashion shows, this early mover e-commerce site would use Style.com’s authority as a runway lookbook to connect consumers with the products they coveted, and Condé Nast would profit from the retail desire the online store was fueling. The team was small and the first collections they sold were decidedly elite (and considered way expensive for e-commerce at the time), but the venture would undoubtedly be worth it in the end.

But after the WTC attacks less than a week after the shop opened in the fall of 2001, the initial exuberance for high-end fashion e-tail suddenly seemed frivolous, and shoppers stopped shopping and the investment didn’t pay out as it was supposed to. Shuttered less than five months later, the online shop was written off as a failure, and the e-commerce bug disappeared from Style.com. Any future efforts to leverage fashion authority into direct commerce revenue, at both Style.com and Condé Nast, were small and unimaginitive. Style.com returned to its roots, bringing the runway to the masses. By now, however, Style.com had competition.

FirstView, online since 1995, had been studiously learning from Style.com, investing in photographers and videographers to improve the quality of content on its own site. And in 2005, Refinery29 was founded, opening its own online store shortly after, and expanding its editorial work outside of fashion.

Style.com also faced internal competition from Vogue. With one hundred years of history as a trusted fashion magazine, Vogue was much better funded than the upstart Style.com, and had access to fashion’s inner circle. When vying for resources, print dollars won out over digital pennies.

So, Condé Nast International Group has taken over the URL Style.com. They’ll run it in cooperation with the U.S. team as an entirely new British e-commerce website—completely separate from the original “Style.com.” Some of the old editorial team will move over to Vogue.com, some will go on to other things.

What could Condé Nast have done differently?

First, Condé Nast should have invested more aggressively in new tech. Style.com was an early adopting revolutionary, a true rarity in the fashion industry. When Style.com realized other sites were copycatting them, it could have been more effective at staying ahead of the pack with technology solutions and new ways to engage with users.

Second, Style.com should have found ways to avoid competing with Vogue, and new tech would have opened up new opportunities. Style.com couldn’t compete with Vogue to be the preeminent fashion authority, the site simply didn’t have the level of income to justify the kind of content creation required to be competitive (content that Vogue already mastered), or the 100-year brand history. But it did have unprecedented behind the scenes access and a hungry market that was more mass than Vogue’s. Exploring an e-commerce and runway review might have once offered a unique solution, but Refinery29 jumped on the idea that Style.com abandoned after its initial failure.

Third, Style.com could have worked as a startup within a larger media company. In fact, that’s how Style began. But the startup mentality that brought initial success quickly sputtered out; had it been sustained, Style.com might have been able to pivot on the initial e-commerce attempt. Startups are willing to lose now to win tomorrow.

But, hindsight is always 20/20, right?

What has FOUR32C learned?

Mark Jarecke started out at Condé  Nast Digital, where he helped turn it into the revolutionary fashion icon that it was. Here’s some of what he learned from the experience.

“Anna Wintour was the best teacher I had. I’ve tried to bring some of what I learned from my time at Condé Nast Digital to FOUR32C.

“I think the first thing is that internal meetings are useless if there isn’t a clear purpose and action following the meeting. Don’t waste yours or anyone else’s time. I learned more one-on-one with Anna than I did in big group discussions.

“Surround yourself with amazing peers. I was so lucky to work with incredible editors, designers, engineers, and business folk at Condé Nast that have gone on to be leaders and influencers in the interactive space. Collaboration is key and a great team makes all the difference.

“Don’t overwork your staff. You have to be aware of what people can reasonably handle. That being said, you have to invest in the right people. If you have the right people doing the right jobs, you’ll have a smaller team creating better work.

“Invest in technology. It opens up new avenues for creativity. And you need to understand your users. I think those go hand-in-hand. Fashion magazine content is dictated by the editors. They’re the tastemakers. Digital is more of a platform for the masses, both because more people can access it and because the interface combined with data makes that content available to a wider audience. Vogue can’t rely on big stories like ‘I am Cait’, as Vanity Fair did,  to stay relevant anymore, Condé Nast needs to think of their brands as more than a magazine if they want to compete.

“Good User Experience is Good Design. At Condé we worked on very complex tools and content hierarchies for both Style and Epicurious. The systems we created helped define their categories. This was an amazing opportunity to really understand the importance of good User Experience Design—how to simply express interactivity. We bring this discipline to every project.

“At FOUR32C, we bring an attitude of experimentation and curiosity to our engagements coupled with experience at building products that engage users. And we work fast and flexibly. We don’t do too many meetings. We rely on smart people. We get out there in the world and understand what’s interesting and new—regardless of category.

“Condé Nast has really struggled with digital products. I predict that if they don’t start adapting, their online properties are going to be outsmarted by leaner, hungrier, and more ambitious ones. And that’s not good. Condé Nast has historically brought the worlds or fashion, food, entertainment, and art to the masses. Ironically this is what the internet does really well.

 

Style.com Timeline of Events and Leadership

Advance Publications creates CondéNet & Epicurious Launches 1995
Style.com Launches 2000 Goli Sheikholeslami
Sr. VP & Managing Dir.
Mark Jarecke
Art Director
Elizabeth Stafford
VP Marketing
Style.com partners with Neiman Marcus to launch The Shop 2001 Candy Pratts Price
Fashion Director
Jamie Pallot
Editor-in-Chief
Janet Ozzard
Executive Editor
2002 Sarah Chubb
President, CondéNet
Amina Aktar
Associate Editor
2003 Mark Jarecke
promted to Creative Director
2004 Dirk Standen
Editor-in-Chief
Nicole Phelps
Executive Editor
Sarah Cristobal
Associate Editor
Spin-off Men.style.com Launches
Refinery 29 Launches
2005
2006 Mike Lee
Design Director
Fashionista Launches 2007
Style.com iOS App Launches 2008 Mark Jarecke
leaves to form FOUR32C
CondéNet moves under Condé Nast & Men.style.com closes 2009 Candy Pratts Prices
leaves Style.com
Style.com reports to
Fairchild Fashion Media
2010 Gina Sanders
President & CEO, FFM
Dan Shar
VP & General Manager, Digital
Style.com Print Magazine Launches 2011
Fairchild buys blog network NowManifest 2012 Sean Brown
Digital Creative Director
2013
Penske Media acquires Fairchild
Style goes back to Condé Nast
2014 Dirk Standen
moves to W Magazine
Style.com content moves to Vogue.com 2015 Nicole Phelps
moves to Vogue.com
Dirk Standen
moves to 23 Stories
How ‘Jurassic World’ Cost Advertisers Millions 06/22/2015

Advertisers tried to engage with consumers by being part of the story, but they probably wasted their money.

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Jurassic World is storming through box office records and the companies who were featured in the film—brands ranging from Starbucks to Brookstone to Margaritaville—have gotten enough exposure to make any advertiser drool. Whether the product placements were part of a corporate money-grab, a meta-commentary on it, or some combination of the two is up for debate. The question marketers should be asking is if those companies will see any return on their investment in the film.

Product placement in movies and television is everywhere you look. In 2010 alone, advertisers funneled $7.5 billion into consumer screens in the form of paid product placements. This is partly due to the rise of time shifting. Since most DVR users breeze past commercials (90% according to the International Journal of Business and Management), product placements come at a time when the viewer’s advertising-blinders are down—during the program.

 However, the successes and failures of product placements are dependent on how they’re used. In Buyology: Truth and Lies About Why We Buy, Martin Lindstrom put it to the neuroscientific test:

 [F]or product placement to work, it has to be a lot slyer and more sophisticated than plunking a series of random products on a screen and expecting us to respond. [In E.T.] Elliott didn’t just pop those Reese’s Pieces into his mouth during a thoughtless bike ride with his buddies … Unless the brand in question plays a fundamental part of the storyline, we won’t remember it, period.

Mark Jarecke

Films like Jurassic World, with its brand-saturated plot, just produce a lot of white noise. Even if the product placements contribute to the theme of corporate greed, those brands aren’t being used to advance the plot themselves—they’re just there. The Coca-Cola that Chris Pratt’s character cooled off with didn’t contribute anymore towards the plot than the specially made SUVs Mercedes Benz unveiled in the film. Mercedes won’t disclose how much they put into having their cars featured in the movie, but however much it was, according to Lindstrom, most of it was a waste.

Jurassic Park Barbasol Shaving Cream Product Placement

So, what sort of product placements do work? Lindstrom pointed out that Reeses Pieces sales tripled a week after E.T.’s release, and the original Jurassic Park had a textbook example of effective product placement as well. Remember the Barbasol can Nedry uses to smuggle the dinosaur embryos out of the park? In the bottom of the can was a cold-storage container capable of holding dino DNA for up to 36 hours. It also had real shaving cream, in case security grew suspicious. Barbasol benefited so much from this cameo that they’ve continued their partnership with the Jurassic franchise some twenty years later by creating Jurassic World themed cans.

It worked because Barbasol’s presence in the film not only made sense, it contributed to the plot in a major way. Despite Jurassic World’s enormous box office success, when it comes to product placement, marketers would do better to look back about twenty years—to a small can of shaving cream.

The Folks Who Brew Our Coffee (And So Much More) 06/08/2015 four32c-summer-interns-20151-737x737

Summer means iced coffee, running on the Highline, and eager interns. Summer interns get to work closely with the FOUR32C team on projects big and small—sharpening their skills in design, photography, business development, and social media. Past years have also seen interns in user experience and project management. Meet some of our current interns below:

Majoring in Communication Design and Psychology at Washington University, Monika Pawar is thrilled to be this summer’s Design Intern. The rising senior assists the talented Mike Lee and Amanda Brandl with design tasks and gets to witness the company’s process firsthand. A native New Jerseyan, she is enjoying her taste of the big city life. She loves good books on rainy days and trying out new foods—and eating in general.

You’ll find Avi Brenman running around NYC, trying to capture the perfect moment. Our Social Media/Photography Intern is a rising junior studying Design at the University of Washington. After college, Avi hopes to work on the creative side of marketing or as a photography editor. He’s populated our Instagram page with street art, nature shots, and portraits. Outside of the office, Avi enjoys watching Wes Anderson and B rate movies.

Alex Simon, Elizabeth’s Business and Development Intern, studies Ethics, Politics, and Economics at Yale and originally hails from Los Angeles, California. Alex likes creative Halloween costumes, cooking, and thinking outside of the box. Alex does not like green eggs, ham, or writing about herself in the third person.

Alec Hill, Communications and Social Media Intern, is a rising junior at the University of Pennsylvania studying English/Creative Writing. Alec prefers using the oxford comma, thinks a preposition is a perfectly fine thing to end a sentence with, and believes writing in the third person keeps blog posts coherent—although you are free to disagree.

Want to join our team? Check out our openings here.

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Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Grills! 05/26/2015

Our collaboration with Bon Appétit Magazine continues with the launch of their best app yet, Grilling: A Bon Appétit Manual! Just in time for summer, this app is the ultimate grilling companion. It features more than 100 recipes, how-to guides, and helpful tips to ensure BBQ success. Menus and recipes range from meat and seafood, to veggies and sides, to drinks and desserts. It has everything you need to make your outdoor cooking experience simple and delicious.

Available for iPhone and iPad, our design features an ultra-clean interface that puts nothing between you and Bon Appétit’s mouthwatering photography and videos. Download the app here and stay tuned to our Instagram to check out our favorite recipes.

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Collaborator Kenneth Jarecke Featured in the Atlantic 05/14/2015

Congratulations to our close friend and collaborator Kenneth Jarecke on his recent recognition in the Atlantic! Known for his work in TIME magazine as well as U.S. News and World Report, this article focuses on Kenneth’s work during the Gulf War. His graphic images in the Middle East reveal an important truth about conflict and combat, resonating just as much today as they did in 1991.
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What We’re Listening To (Part II) 11/25/2014

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Fall is in full swing and the holidays are just around the corner. We’re in that in-between-phase where the leaves are beautifully colored, but are more abundant on sidewalks than tree branches. Though we dug up our scarves and boots, it hasn’t snowed just yet. So before we hang up our lights and get crackin’ on our FOUR32C Holiday Playlist (coming soon), we present our Fall 2014 Tambien (that’s Spanish) playlist. It ranges from 70’s classic rock jams to 90’s hip hop throwbacks, alternative indie hits to mellow reggae tunes. We think it’s a good one and hope you will too. Check it out!

 

The FOUR32C Thanksgiving Test Kitchen (we took the bullet for you) 11/14/2014

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This week the FOUR32C team joined together to enjoy our second annual pre-Thanksgiving feast, featuring recipes from the newly updated Bon Appétit App. Our tradition began last year when we cooked up creative T-day recipes straight from the app, but we made one serious miscalculation… we planned our event the Tuesday before Thanksgiving, so just as we were emerging from our food coma, it was time to cook and celebrate again!

This year we did it bigger and even better, but smarter too. We strategically planned our Worksgiving event with plenty of time to recover for the real thing, and lucky for you, this preview comes in time to plan your own feast. Our menu included: sweet potatoes with bourbon and maple, sautéed brussel sprouts, sour cream mashed potatoes, cream biscuits with jam, stuffing, slow-cooked Tuscan kale, kabocha puree with ginger and citrus & endive with walnut gremolata. Every recipe exceeded our expectations, and we had plenty of options to cater to our vegetarians and gluten-free eaters. But the standout this year was the kabocha puree with ginger and citrus—try it, we promise it will blow you away.

After a brief but essential break in the action, we gathered again for a fresh pot of coffee and our delicious dessert, a new recipe for 2014: salted-butter apple galette with maple whipped cream.

In the more good news department, the app is now available for both iOS and Android devices. Download it now on the iTunes App Store or Google Play to get all the best recipes, planning tools, tips, and wisdom of Bon Appétit in plenty of time for Thanksgiving.

To see more yummy dishes, visit our Facebook Page and Instagram Account.

Best wishes for a hearty and happy holiday from our team to all of you!

Jewish Museum Shop Launch

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Luna Park’s New Look

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FOUR32C Jams

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