September 11, 2015 - No Comments!

Friday Link Bait: Star Wars’ BB-8, AirBnB Logo Thievery, Burger War and Peace

Welcome to Friday Link Bait - September 11, 2015.

Link Bait week 37

  • http://thenextweb.com/dd/2015/09/07/30-year-belo/ Way back in 1975, a cool designer named Akisato Ueda created a logo for a Japanese drive-in called Azuma. Roughly a year ago, Airbnb switched it's logo to something very similar. Now there's a vicious debate going on, and heaven knows that arm-chair designers are always on the lookout a thief. We'll let you be the judge and jury, but in the history of graphic design we can all agree that this has happened before - and will again. One can only assume that designers in general are a good-natured folk, much like Hobbits or pretty much anyone from Denmark - so we'll give the Airbnb designer a pass. It's probably just a coincidence, right?
  • http://www.howbb8works.com People have gotten crazier than a sarlacc with a mouthful of bantha poodoo over the cute little droid from the new Star Wars film - named BB-8. And now that the Star Wars franchise is owned by the trademark holders of the largest mouse in the galaxy, we can expect a deluge of products, toys and clothing to be forced upon both our kids and on those who want to relive their youth. However, BB-8 has captured our attention here at The Mechanism, and the mechanics behind that cute little fella are quite fascinating. So much so - that Carlos Sánchez and Emilio Gelardo (aka "EGPJET3D") have put up a website all about it, with theories on how it actually works. Bonus footage: If you want to see where Star Wars really could have headed, go ahead and watch this video
  • http://www.businessinsider.com/mcdonalds-responds-to-burger-kings-truce-proposal-2015-8 Nobody likes a corporate knucklehead. Especially one with a mouthful of presumed snark. Former Chief Brand Officer and now CEO at McDonalds, Steve Easterbook responded to Burger King's rather cheeky suggestion to co-brand a product in honor of Peace One Day with his backside. Boo!

September 4, 2015 - No Comments!

Friday Link Bait: Ikea Nakedness, Bootstrap Alternatives and Some Seriously Hot Books

Welcome to Friday Link Bait - September 4, 2015.

Every week, we are inundated at the office with links to technology, programming and design. We decided to put some links together for you every Friday to give you something to actually do on your weekends besides live a life. Enjoy and see you next week.

  • Ikea Bizarro Ad Campaign - The manufacturer of fantastically complex and brittle hipster furniture clearly had a conversation with their agency (in this case, Paris-based Buzzman that went something like this: "Viral is important! Viral is how you reach people and sell stuff! Show us something so perplexing and wildly preposterous that the kids will blindly share it...Bring the weirdness, you hipster design donkeys!" Said agency responds with nudity, creeps and the terror of summer camp. Viral gold, baby! Gold!!
  • Frameworks That Can (Potentially) Take over Bootstrap - We passed this along to our development department and they are investigating between afternoon shots of pop-rocks and Pepsi. Notably Foundation uses Reams to measure instead of pixels, and has UI elements baked right in – to ensure that the web will continue to look like one great big universally similar mess.
  • Founded by Victor Cheung in 2001 (same year we were founded, you rascal!), viction:ary books specializes in visual arts and design books, and boy are these books sweet. We'd like to visit them in Hong Kong and buy everything, but sadly that would mean that we would have to sell everything we own and eventually build a shelter right on Shell Street in North Point, Hong Kong – from the books we purchased. Check out the work though. Breathtaking.
  • Speaking of China...China, China, China. Donald Trump is either behind this or enjoying this 15 minutes of political viral fame. Either way, it digs into your brain like a Ceti eel from Start Trek, The Wrath of Khan.

August 28, 2015 - No Comments!

How to Build a Smart Company by Hiring Client-Facing Teams

Building a smart company requires all the traits they teach you in school: personal persistence, vision, acumen and inner confidence - but subscribing solely to that rationale, is too myopic. Your company is never about you - it's about your clients.

Please. Never forget that.

It's only after you've started the company and had the time to recognize your personal points of failure, that you ultimately come to the conclusion that you must surround yourself with people much smarter than you are. Some people go out of business before they get out of their own way. But when you surround yourself with sharp people, you develop a consistent source of inspiration, expand your company potential, and build a team that actually enjoys each other's company.

In the past 14 years, one crucial thing that I've learned is to be on the lookout for people that can be brought in front of clients and will add something useful to the conversation when they are there. Every person you hire will not be instantly ready for that step, but you must learn to identify the people that can eventually reach that goal.

Here are some criteria that I look for when interviewing people at The Mechanism. These questions help me to make the decision about whether or not they will be able to meet directly with clients:

  • Does the candidate have clear and focused communication skills? (e.g. how quickly does any nervousness dissipate during the interview)
  • Do they have the ability to teach me something that I don't know? This speaks directly to communication skills and teaching ability. Good teachers deliver knowledge with empathy. (I also may have stolen this one from @ElonMusk )
  • What do the other team members think about the candidate? Typically, the first interview is conducted without me even in the room. I want to get a gauge from my staff what they think first. If my team has reservations - 10 times out of 10 - I take a pass. Trust your team or don't hire them in the first place.
  • What was the last book the candidate read? It's a personal question, but speaks volumes more than asking their favorite outdoor activity (If it's One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss, you may actually have to give them a shot...)
  • What is the candidate's process to complete a project? The journey is more important than the final destination.
  • What was the most difficult conversation they had with a previous employer or client, and...Who was at fault? Useful responses and stories come out of this one, especially with regard to how they will work in the future with clients and team members.
  • When was the last time they experienced failure? A candidate willing to discuss their shortcomings openly - are surprisingly strong spirits.

Learning how to lead is a tug-of-war between our inner selves. It's the leaders who learn to let go of their ego – and hire true genius – that will build solid, loyal, creative teams and stand the test of time.

As part of our 14-year celebration, we sat down with our Founder, Dave Fletcher -- to talk candidly about The Mechanism, how it started and where it's headed. We've put together a series of short video clips from the lengthy interview that we'll be sharing over the next several weeks.

August 18, 2015 - No Comments!

How to Bring Big Design Ideas to Big Pharma

In this short, Dave talks about how to bring big design ideas to Big Pharma. The Mechanism has recently been introducing innovative interface and identity solutions to several large pharmaceutical companies.

The Pharmaceutical industry is evolving - digitally. By trusting modern creative agencies to innovate within the eLearning and branding space, and by cultivating micro-branded communities and unique gamification-centric learning techniques (typically reserved for modern university-level education), to transcend their internal curricula, they are educating their teams, physicians and caregivers in profound ways. Granted, there are always going to be government-controlled conditions to prevent certain online communication from being immediately accessible, but it's the agencies that are able to think outside of the regulatory box that will usher forth a new paradigm in pharmaceutical learning and sharing.

As part of our 14-year celebration, we sat down with our Founder, Dave Fletcher -- to talk candidly about The Mechanism, how it started and where it's headed. We've put together a series of short video clips from the lengthy interview that we'll be sharing over the next several weeks.

August 10, 2015 - No Comments!

Being Fearless in Business

In this short, Dave talks about why The Mechanism has been fearless with approaching different industries for work. As part of our 14-year celebration, we sat down with our Founder, Dave Fletcher -- to talk candidly about The Mechanism, how it started and where it's headed. We've put together a series of short video clips from the lengthy interview that we'll be sharing over the next several weeks.

August 7, 2015 - No Comments!

Starting a Business in New York with Dave Fletcher

As part of our 14-year celebration, we sat down with our Founder, Dave Fletcher, to talk candidly about The Mechanism and starting a business in New York. We've put together a series of short video clips from the lengthy interview that we'll be sharing over the next several weeks. In this video, Dave talks about starting the company one month before 9/11 - in August 2001.

December 12, 2014 - Comments Off on Intern Chronicles – with Christian Houmoller

Intern Chronicles – with Christian Houmoller

Our #ProjectManagement #WebDesign and #MultiMedia Dev intern Christian Houmoller fills us in on his favorite aspects of working for The Mechanism, what he has learned/experienced so far, and how he has adapted to the city that never sleeps.

Intern Chronicles

Intern Chronicles

Halfway into my internship at The Mechanism, I look back and reflect on the experience, so far. Even though I consider myself a city boy, I found it daunting coming to New York. The shear amount of people seems overwhelming when my little country of Denmark only has 5 million, and they are always in a hurry to get somewhere. The uptown/downtown subway ride, the insane taxi drivers, the east and west streets and the SoHo’s or NoHo’s, it all didn’t really make sense to me at first. But after a while it all just clicked and New York City became an exploration adventure. You always hear about the diversity of people, the melting pot of cultures, but diversity in NYC is found everywhere. Every neighborhood is different, like little towns within a city and the glorious food is worth the trip alone, I’m sure I’ve packed on a few pounds.

As for The Mechanism, It has been a wonderful experience so far. The firm is comprised of some talented developers and designers, with founder Dave Fletcher at the helm. During his 20-something years in the business, he has acquired a solid network of clients, including big pharma, big realty and government and it has been a joy for me, to soak up some of his knowledge. As an intern, with aspirations of starting my own company one day, working in a professional work environment has given me insight into how the web development industry works and broadened my understanding of how to run a business, from managing projects and employees to designing websites and working with clients. I have enjoyed seeing the process The Mechanism goes through, from the early conceptual phases to implementation and deployment of a product. Its impressive how embedded this process is in their work methods, it’s almost automated and along with good commutation makes productivity run smooth and fast. This is reminiscent of what I’ve learned in school and it makes me think that my education has not been a complete waste of time. It gives me the confidence to feel that my aspirations of starting my own company, may someday be possible.

On a personal note. The guys at The Mechanism, has been really welcoming, showing me around the city and inviting me to their homes. This has meant a lot to me. And I could not have imagined that my internship in New York City would be going so well.

October 17, 2014 - No Comments!

Highlights of: Mobile Web Design Trends: Q&A with Dave Fletcher

Hightlights of an interview with Dave Fletcher from The Creative Group. Read the entire interview right here: https://www.roberthalf.com/creativegroup/blog/mobile-web-design-trends-qa-with-dave-fletcher


Our first interviewee is Dave Fletcher, founder and DEO (design executive officer) of The Mechanism, a digital agency based in New York City. For more than two decades, this noted design expert has explored a wide range of media, including interactive design, print, video and photography for clients around the globe.

What's a mobile trend that's working well?

You've probably heard a great deal about the "Internet of Things." Apple has announced HomeKit, which will turn your iPhone into a remote control for your interconnected home. To expand on this, eventually, we will live with systems that plug into an artificial or ambient intelligence to manage your life, curate your interests, drive a vehicle and keep track of your day-to-day travels. It will never force you to remove yourself from an existing experience to use a website to research what the network will already know you're looking for.

What's a mobile trend you wish would just go away?

Selfies.

How do you determine whether a client needs an app, mobile-specific site or responsive site to reach their customers via mobile devices?

dave_fletcher
Dave Fletcher

Typically, the answer emerges from an honest and collaborative conversation with our client partner about their audience, their ambitions and their budget. The audience is key here, and in most cases, the client has an idea from either Google Analytics or other research as to what type of device or devices their end users have.

Mobile plans, available carriers and speed of connectivity based on geolocation of the target audience are important yet often overlooked factors when it comes to a mobile initiative. They should be researched as well so we have an understanding of these factors during the planning phase.

If the client requires deep integration with a smartphone operating system that simply cannot be replicated within the smartphone browser's capabilities or there are very serious security concerns, a discussion about appropriate mobile operating systems and native app development can take place.

To address the "mobile-specific site" or "responsive site" question: A digital experience should always be designed and built to render and function appropriately on all devices.


Read the entire interview right here: https://www.roberthalf.com/creativegroup/blog/mobile-web-design-trends-qa-with-dave-fletcher

Published by: Sharon Terry in The Thinking Mechanism
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October 17, 2014 - Comments Off on A Brief Description of the SPF record

A Brief Description of the SPF record

A client recently came to us with problems receiving emailed form submissions from their website. We did a little testing and realized that indeed the emails were being sent by the server but something was stopping them during transit. In our research, we had to dig deeper into SPF records.

An SPF (Sender Policy Framework) record, validates an IP address as permitted to send emails from that Domain. Once propagated, the DNS record serves as a list of verified senders, which the recipient of an email can use to check against.

The SPF record was introduced because the ubiquitous SMTP (Simple Mail Transfer Protocol) allows a computer to send email claiming to be from any domain. Spam and phishing emailers use this to send email purporting to be from a trusted source.

With an SPF record, a receivers spam filter is more likely to accept the message as it is coming from a validated source. It also discourages potential spammers from using your domain as a sending address, knowing that domains with SPF records are more likely to be rejected by recipient spam filters, if the senders IP does not match one associated with the record.

Once an SPF record is created, it is important to ensure that all computers that will be sending emails are included, as the presence of the record indicates that any email not declared is dubious. This is the problem we ran into, where an SPF record was added to the DNS zone, but did not include the server hosting the website in it’s list of IP addresses.

Here is an example SPF TXT record:

example.com TXT “v=spf1 ip4:192.0.2.0/24 ip4:198.51.100.123 a ~all”

Published by: georgebrassey in The Programming Mechanism
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October 3, 2014 - Comments Off on Avoiding a Mobile House of Cards

Avoiding a Mobile House of Cards

netflix-kevin-spacey

"There’s no better way to overpower a trickle of doubt than with a flood of naked truth." -Francis Underwood

In 2010, Morgan Stanley Research extended their financial necks and predicted that the "mobile internet would overtake the desktop PC by 2014." I talked about the importance of that research the first time I spoke at the PRSA International conference about mobile in 2011. So, how accurate were they (and [arguably] even more importantly, how foolish might I look this year, if they were wrong)?

In January 2014, according to data from comScore, cited by research firm, Enders Analysis, mobile devices accounted for 55% of Internet usage in the United States. Traffic from PC's clocked in at 45%. A mobile strategy is no longer a "nice to have" luxury - it's the present and future of communications with regard to B2C and B2B communications. Companies and corporations that have yet to allocate resources for a mobile strategy, or have taken shortcuts with their mobile approach are building a house of cards – and it's about to take a tumble. Mobile has won.

The dictionary defines a "House of Cards" as a flimsy structure, arrangement, or situation that is in danger of collapsing or failing.

Your first consideration for expanding or enhancing any brand within the digital space begins with how the information will be received on a mobile device. While the near future will likely include universally acceptable, massive flatscreen entertainment portals with easy-to-use internet access, for the moment we’re talking about the now instead of the future now – while planning both responsively and reactively for the eventual.

Three Questions

There are three high-level questions to ask when building a strategy to avoid a house of cards. While these bullets may appear simple, the details are important. Building upon a structure of understanding carefully will elevate further insights and ultimately determine how well received your digital experience will be on all devices.

  • Who is the audience?
  • What do they want?
  • Where are they accessing content?

"After all, we are nothing more or less than what we choose to reveal." -Francis Underwood

Who is the audience?

Speak openly and honestly with your client about their audience. Conduct interviews with key stakeholders. Learn about your clients competitors and review the digital experiences they are likely to visit in tandem with your clients brand. Build exhaustive and clear user case studies to better understand gender, age and other criteria, to consider who will be accessing brand from a digital perspective. If the client has been online for some time, request access to a potentially vast treasure trove of information available from Google analytics to expose further details about the audience: specific times they are most likely accessing the site; what devices they are using. All of this information will allow you to prepare surmountable goals and clear the path for the measurable and appropriate design/UI decisions you will soon be making.

What do they want?

From a mile up, the client or a copywriting research team should be able to articulate what content best suits the audience. Aside from the standard questions that will help design a high-level content inventory plan, the importance of how vastly different mobile content is from the desktop is crucial and must be articulated to the client. To start with the obvious, the real estate you have to work with is different. Consider quantity and the breadth of content you should show to someone on a mobile device vs. a larger tablet or desktop device. Keep in mind, mobile users are on the go, and have a shortened attention span. Content should should always be readable, usable and most importantly – appropriate for the device.

To take a page from Apple’s iOS guidelines, "Text is legible, icons are precise and lucid, adornments are subtle and appropriate and a sharpened focus on functionality should motivate the design." For smartphones in particular, a single column layout is the easiest to absorb for mobile, and calls to action should should be represented by areas no smaller than 44px x 44px (here's a case where a "rule of thumb" is about your actual thumbs). Place important content above the "fold", or immediately viewable area on mobile – like contact info and important calls to action.

Where are they accessing content?

Business Intelligence gained through data collection is imperative. According to IBM, Five petabytes of data are generated every day by mobile phone subscribers. This is roughly the equivalent of 100 million four-drawer filing cabinets filled with paper. The means the data you need to best serve mobile content to your audience is out there.

Google Analytics (GA) data will help, as will statistical data, reports about your client's industry and the general mobile landscape, and interviews with key stakeholders and investors. Google Analytics reports will aid in understanding the devices and mobile operating systems currently accessing a digital experience, as well as the location that they are accessing the experience from. If your client is international, pay close attention to their specific carriers and regions. This is also important if your client is predominantly reaching a North America or United States-only market as well. There are still areas in this hyper-connected country where connectivity is spotty or slower than you might expect.

Your plan should be to create the fastest loading experience for your mobile audience as possible, regardless of the device. This can be accomplished in several ways, one of which is limiting or eliminating images that are unnecessary for the overall user experience. When using icons as calls to action, utilize a single image (usually referred to in the HTML development world as a "sprite") for multiple icons to create a single call to the server, cutting down on latency issues that slow down user experience. 60% of visitors on a mobile device wait 3 seconds or less for your page to load on mobile.

We no longer access the majority of our internet content from the desktop. According to a survey run by Google/Nielsen in Q4 of 2012, 77% of mobile searches were from a location (work or home) likely to have a desktop PC available. Stationary, plugged-in devices are not suitable for today's attention deficit disorder audience. We're easily distracted multi-taskers – always on the move – and as such – we want our content to join us on our journey. We desire access to data at our beck and call. Always consider how to deliver content to smartphones, phablets, tablets, wearables, and even ultra books - all devices that are in the mobile ecosystem and the inevitable future of the post desktop landscape.

"There are two kinds of pain. The sort of pain that makes you strong and useless pain, the sort of pain that’s only suffering. I have no patience for useless things." -Francis Underwood

Building a mobile strategy isn't easy. Mobile involves many moving parts, working with right digital partners, and the willingness to take risks based on the inevitable future. 40% of mobile users turn to a competitor’s site after a bad mobile experience, and this number is growing. It's especially difficult for large corporations to jump in full throttle – but they must. If not, they will likely perish under the waves of progress and watch helplessly as the mobile house of cards inevitably collapses around their valuable brand.

Published by: davefletcher in Entertainment, The Thinking Mechanism
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