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Camera Lens Mug

Camera Lens Mug

You may not know this, but I am an avid photographer. I may not make a career of it, but I find tremendous joy in all things photographic–from the gear, to the process, to the final image.


iphone lens

iphone lens

I received an e-newsletter this morning from a company called photojojo. I love the stuff they sell and their light hearted approach. Like this camera lens mug:

Or perhaps you been looking for a fisheye lens for your iPhone?

Well, if you’re not ready to spend your cash on such frivolous items, and you have been wanting to experiment with photography – may I suggest you visit: DIYPhotography. If you are a do-it-yourselfer and want to save some money on studio lighting and such, you can find all sorts of great low cost ideas. Be warned though these projects require some resourcefulness. It isn’t all building stuff however, they also have some great instruction on a variety of techniques too.

Check it out…

Hire a Blind Person

I’ve recently come across what may be some of the most controversial television advertisements I’ve seen in a while. They are from the Norwegian Association of the Blind, and while I can appreciate humour in advertising, I find this brand of self-deprecating humour to be in poor taste. Sure, they accomplish their goal of making the viewer consider the advantages of hiring a blind person, but it almost feels like they’re encouraging the exploiting of handicapped people.

What are your thoughts; are these ads in good taste – or do you think the only reason they get away with showing these ads on the television is because the blind people they are talking about can’t see them? Comment below…

How to Design Your Website for 2011 and Beyond

The web is an ever-changing symphony of technologies and trends, that when blended together in harmony, produce great experiences in the form of those websites that populate our bookmarks list and the links we share with our friends. This past year (2010) brought us the promise of a paradigm shift and laid the foundation for some major changes to the way we think about web design. For the first time in the history of the web, we have to assume that any content must be accessible from devices other than computers and intentionally plan for mobile devices.

Shifting our thought from designing a separate website for mobile devices to designing mobile devices for the web, has allowed us to create new technologies like geolocation to tailor web content to your geographic location automatically (Foursquare and Facebook Places use this). There has also been a sharp decline in the use of Adobe’s proprietary Flash plugin to display essential content or navigation because it has been handicapped by a severe lack of support in the mobile marketplace.

So what lies ahead on this continuing evolution of web design, and how can we plan to design our sites with 2011 (and 2015) in mind? Here are a few trends I see in the near future that are mostly simple design choices within the reach of any new website, that will make your site a trendsetter.

Design With Mobile Devices in Mind

We’ve experienced an almost unbelievable explosion in the use of mobile devices for browsing the web with smartphones, but with the introduction of tablet computing into the mainstream last year with the iPad and many competitors soon to be on the market. We know this is only the tip of the iceberg, so how can we design with mobile touchscreen devices in mind?

Don’t rely on mouseovers for essential content, like navigation
Touchscreen devices have two states: touching, or not touching. There’s no ‘hovering’ with a touchscreen, so interactive elements that rely on a mouse hovering over a link (a rollover) simply won’t work on a touchscreen. The good news is that almost any rollover can be converted to a click toggle instead just by making a few minor alterations to code.

You should steer away from relying on rollovers for navigation or displaying your information, but having rollovers for animations or effects is still okay as long as you assume no touchscreen users will be able to see these effects and they don’t alter their ability to navigate the site.

Make your design narrow
Many sites suffer from being too wide to be comfortably readable. The line-length of text that works best for legibility is somewhere between thirty-five and one hundred letters long. Anything longer is simply a chore to read, and anything under thirty-five letters wide causes eye strain. Try building your site to fit within 960 pixels wide, think of the width of a sheet of Letter-sized paper. Remember you can scroll up and down a website all you want, but the wider the design is the hard it will become to navigate. Both mobile and desktop users can also see a narrow website equally well.

Dont rely on Flash so long as it can be avoided
Flash is a proprietary plugin made by Adobe, and because of this there is support only on the operating systems which Adobe chooses to plugins for, and with varying levels of support at that. There is no Flash plugin for most mobile platforms and even when Adobe has created a plugin, there have been many issues with running Flash on mobile touchscreen devices because most Flash designs cannot capture the multiple pointers simultaneously which breaks the multitouch gestures used on touchscreen devices.

Keep in mind that a phone or tablet has only a fraction of the computing power of your computer and can’t handle the complex animations that your computer can even if it happens to have Flash. With this in mind, most uses of Flash aimed at mobile markets should be lightweight, and almost everything that can be done in Flash that is lightweight can also easily be achieved without using Flash and simply using standard web technologies like HTML5, CSS3, and Javascript that almost all mobile devices (as well as computers) already have. Designing interactive elements in standard web technologies lets you display your content without plugins and without breaking the multitouch gestures you use to navigate touchscreen devices.

Use Minimalist Design to Communicate Better

Use bold photography
A coming trend for web design is featuring bold photography, even as large as a site background. If a picture is worth a thousand words then why not make those pictures speak the best of you and your brand? A poor photo takes the same amount of resources to view on your site as a great photo, but a poor photo can hurt your brand. A wise idea if you haven’t done it already, is to have professional-quality photos taken of your product/location/people. These will come in handy for any current or future web and print design project you might want.

Use a limited colour palette
We have the ability to use millions of colours on the web, but more isn’t always better. Picking two or three well-chosen colours that coincide with your branding will really help set you apart from other websites, and make a memorable impression on your readers. A simple layout and limited colour palette will clearly define your brand and help unify the tone of your content.

Use typography artistically
Until recently websites were limited to displaying content in the fonts installed on each readers own computer. Since OS X, Linux, and Windows all come with different fonts pre-installed, there were only a handful of fonts in common between all computers that you could use with the confidence that it would show up the same universally.

Lately, new technologies have allowed designers to use any font they wish on their website, whether the readers have it installed on their own computers or not. Starting today, we will see an explosion of the use of creative typography on the web, and a much more mature feel to web design in general.

Use Playful Design to Connect With Your Reader

Memorable domain names are better than shorter domains
Having a domain that is easy to remember and say over the phone to a friend is far better than a brief domain that is easily forgotten or hard to communicate to others. Saying is easier than

Don’t be afraid to be whimsical with your content
The web is different than print or radio, and the attitude is much more personal and playful. Try writing your web content like a conversation instead of a loan application. A little playfulness and whimsy goes a long way to making reader feel connected to you and your brand.

Try saying “Thanks for sending us a message” instead of “Form submitted successfully”, or “Nothing makes us happier than hearing from you, if you want to get in touch with us please fill out the form below” instead of “Contact form below, fields containing an ‘*’ are required”

Final Thought

The number one business trend according to a number of successful web entrepreneurs, is hand-written thank-you notes sent by mail. Don’t forget that the best advocate for your brand is you, and the time you take to connect with your readers. If mailing personal thank-you’s is out of reach for you, a heartfelt and grateful email can help build friendship and loyalty between you and your readers too.

Best of luck to you this coming year from Engine Communications!

Merry Christmas

We will be closed December 23rd, 2010 at 5:00pm – January 4th, 2011 at 9:00am. Enjoy the Holiday!

Creative Office Interiors

Does creativity inspire creative interiors or do creative interiors inspire creativity?

Have you ever noticed that often the most creative companies have the most interesting corporate interiors? I have often wondered if the inspiring interior space is reflective of the innovative, artistic people who work there or if that type of interior design fosters creativity.

Perhaps it is a little bit of both! Think about offices like Pixar, Google and facebook, there has got to be a reason why these companies spend so much on the look and feel of their offices, besides the fact that they are billion dollar companies. When I need creative inspiration I often spend some time looking through a books of corporate interiors. It seems to help spark my creativity. I think by creating an environment that employees feel relaxed and comfortable it does foster creativity. The more you go outside of the box to create a pleasant work environment the more employees will develop outside of the box ideas for your company.

It has been suggested that the more appealing an office is, the more likely employees are to live at the office, and volunteer overtime. Some companies strategically plan their offices in this way, offering services to staff so that they do not need to do as much running around and can maintain focus on projects, and creative brainstorming. Happy, relaxed people love their jobs!

What are your thoughts? What does your workspace look like? Does it inspire you?

– Sandra

GAP Logo Controversy

This holiday weekend while online I saw an article about the new GAP logo that was revealed on October 4th and the criticism the popular retailer is receiving for it. Now that I’ve had a chance to compare the two logos, I think that I am partial to the old one, only because it is what I grew up with. It gives me a warm fuzzy feeling of happy days and buying cool clothes… brings me back to my University days. I guess I’m not the only one feeling this way. According to the Yahoo article this morning, this comment from a Facebook user is typical of the online response: “By changing it, you’ve completely destroyed what it took 20-plus years to build.” I wonder what is the average age of those who dislike the new logo. I’m curious…which one do you prefer?

Check out the article!

– Kathy

The 3D TV Phenomenon

By now just about everyone has seen a 3D movie in the theatre, it’s pretty hard to avoid seeing one anymore. We’ve been hearing about 3D television for over a decade now, but finally it is available in nearly every store you walk into. I was recently out looking at televisions and was amazed at how well these TVs, with the flick of a switch, create a 3D cinema-like effect. As I was looking I began to wonder what it would be like to watch a 3D television every day — would my eyes adjust to them? Perhaps I am just not used to it yet, I feel a little off balance after watching a 3D movie. I got to wondering what kind of strain it would put on my eyes long-term. I considered all of these things, even though a 3D TV is far from being in my budget.

I decided to head to trusty Google and see what people were saying about it. I was shocked to find quite a lot of controversy over the issue. Apparently there have even been warnings issued by the manufacturers to avoid use if you are in poor health, tired, or drinking alcohol, under the age of 6 or over the age of 65. I’m sorry but that is just not cool, the only time I watch TV is when I am tired or not feeling well.

Customers are also cautioned to immediately stop watching 3D pictures and consult a medical specialist if they experience any of the following symptoms: (1) altered vision; (2) light-headedness; (3) dizziness; (4) involuntary movements such as eye or muscle twitching; (5) confusion; (6) nausea; (7) loss of awareness; (8) convulsions; (9) cramps; and/or (10) disorientation. Parents should monitor and ask their children about the above symptoms as children and teenagers may be more likely to experience these symptoms than adults.

Groups considered to be at high-risk for these side effects are; pregnant women, young children, teens, the elderly, people prone to seizures or stroke, people prone to dizziness or motion sickness, people with eye problems, people who are out of shape, and people who have been drinking. It has also been attributed to damaging people’s depth perception.

At this point I got to thinking, am I talking about television or the side effects of medication?! Cool as 3D is, and as much as I enjoy it in the theatre every now and then, maybe its best to wait a little while longer with my HDTV and let this technology develop. In the mean time, perhaps we should pass a law about driving under the influence of TV.

– Sandra

Pop Life: Art in a Material World

This summer, if you are fortunate enough to visit Ottawa, I highly recommend visiting the National Gallery of Canada to see the Pop Life exhibition. It runs from June 11- September 19th.

As it states on the National Gallery website, Pop Life: Art in a Material World explores the complex relationship between contemporary art, marketing, and the mass media that has evolved since the 1980s when Andy Warhol’s uttered his provocative maxim that “being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art.” The exhibition includes over 250 various mediums from paintings, drawings, prints, sculptures, videos, and installations created over the past 30 years. Very cool!

I am most interested in the Damien Hirst performance exhibition featuring twins. The gallery is recreating the 1992 performance where Damien commissioned a set of identical twins to spend time sitting in front of his trademark spot paintings. Dressed in identical clothing, the twins could do various things, as long as their actions were mirroring each other. The original performance was about “surface appearances, individuality, and making a scene”.

Being a twin myself, of course I wanted my sister and myself to apply! How awesome would it be to be a part of the artwork at the National Gallery of Canada! My sister is going next week to see the exhibition.

Other featured artists include Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, Peter Nagy, to name a few. Visit the gallery website for more information.

Damien Hirst
Daniel Oliver & Christopher Oliver (detail), 2009, household gloss paint on wall, chairs and twins, dimensions variable. Installation view: Tate Modern, London, 2009–2010.
© Damien Hirst,
courtesy Science Ltd., London.
Photo: © Tate Photography

If you are not able to go to the Gallery before the exhibition closes, you should go to the online store to order your memorabilia. I think I’d like to get one of the Pantone mugs, or the Keith Haring Radiant Baby watch.


Summer Holidays

It’s summertime and you know what that means – summer holidays! I had the best vacation last week. I went to Minden (near Haliburton) and spent my days relaxing by the water on South Lake while spending time with close friends. I noticed that on long drives I like to read the signs that are dotted along the side of the highway – they are good reading material! While driving back through Bancroft, I decided to try find the Tim Horton’s, which was harder than it sounds. While I was sitting in the drive-through I saw the Be Realistic Not A Statistic sign we designed for the Hastings and Prince Edward Counties Health Unit. What a nice surprise! That’s not it, though. I also saw another sign we designed while driving South on 62 towards Belleville – Speeding Costs You Deerly (another Health Unit initiative). Very cool. It’s nice to see the work we do actually put to use out in the public. It made me feel good. Needless to say I took pictures of both for you to view. I hope enjoy the rest of your summer!


Fabric Printing

One of my favourite resources, Colourlovers is offering something very cool. Have you ever wanted your custom designs printed onto high quality fabric? Well, now you can! They have partnered with Spoonflower, an on-demand fabric printer that allows people to design, print and sell their own fabric designs. This is perfect for all you artsy types – you know who you are. Why not have your favorite designs printed onto fabric instead of paper! I’m thinking … I need new wall art…and curtains…and pillows….the possibilities are endless! I like how print design is overlapping with interior design today.

Browse any pattern on ColourLovers to purchase it in fabric form, or visit the Spoonflower site to check out all they have to offer.

As their website states, Spoonflower digitally prints using eco-friendly, water-based pigment inks on natural fiber textiles. No additional chemicals are used in the printing or preparation process. I love it!

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