Don’t Have to Invest a Million for a Commercial

 

Adweek.com
Photo credit: Adweek.com

When it comes to getting your brands message across to a lot of people, most jump to the first thought: “we need a lot of money.” Why do you need a lot of money? “To do something really cool.”

Today, not the case. Brands are moving and moving fast. Your content is being seen on Youtube, Instagram, Facebook, and wherever else Google can find in a simple search. Most of it, your brand isn’t even producing. So your message is now being retold by your customers, and remember it’s not what you say your brand is, but what they say your brand is.


LA Just Wants Their Coffee

 

http://www.columbian.com/news/2014/feb/10/dumb-starbucks-brings-lines-social-media-buzz/

You’ve heard of it and you have your opinions: Dumb Starbucks.

The close by Los Feliz parody shop, that is using the Starbucks name and logo but adding the word dumb in front of it, gained national buzz over the weekend. This was all before its doors were shut by the Los Angeles Department of Public Health on Monday.


Our Newly Renovated Hollywood Offices Featured on OfficeSnaphots.com

 

Our Newly Renovated Hollywood Offices Featured on OfficeSnaphots

Check out our newly remodeled offices featured on OfficeSnapshots.com, a popular blog that reaches more than 300,000 readers each month from around the globe. Office Snapshots showcases architecture and design firms who have recently completed office projects.

Enjoy!

Photography by our friend Vince Robbins

Re/VISION: A Night Of Celebrating New Ideas

 

Re/VISION: A Night Of Celebrating New Ideas

Since our office is located in Hollywood, we're aware that you don't always need an excuse to party. But sometimes you have a solid reason to celebrate, and here at STARMEN, we certainly do.

After scoring over 12 design awards this year, we wanted to pause and thank the people who made it all possible- our clients and creative team. Their support allows us to do what we love and take risks. To show our appreciation, we hosted a private event for a night of Re/VISION - a chance to celebrate the past and preview our future with the people who matter most.

Keep reading to see our remodeled office.


Marketing Isn't A Science?

 

Marketing Isn't A Science?

Or is it?

The way you learn it in marketing school, marketing is a science. How could it not be, with all that jargon that puts everything into neat compartments? Unique Selling Proposition. Positioning. Niches. The four Ps. The Marketing Mix. All those rules of advertising and copywriting. Close fast and early.

So if marketing is a science, how come some people do it better than others?

Scientific method says, in essence, that if two researchers do the same experiment in the same way, they should get the same result. When that happens a couple of times, then the first person who did it is said to be scientifically correct. Does that happen in marketing?

Of course not.

But we all have the same tools. Market research. Public relations. Publications, such as brochures and newsletters. Seminars and speeches. Advertising. Direct mail and telemarketing. Even networking.

We all know the same things to do. Publicity. Newsletters and brochures. Niche marketing. Client surveys. And so on.

Yet, all results are not equal. Some firms emerge as giants, and others, including those that started in business at the same time as the giants, either go out of business or are still two-professional firms.

Why? What are the variables that make a difference in the same thing?

Or then, too, maybe marketing isn't a science. Maybe it's an art.


Armen David speaks as panelist at AIGA's Professional Series

 

The sold-out Professional Series talk, ‘The Importance of Studio Culture & Identity,’ was held at Continuum’s work-space in Venice Beach. Bringing together Armen David, Braven Greenelsh, Candice Brokeshire, and Michael Stinson, and moderated by Eduardo Braniff, CEO of Imagination the Americas.

Continue below to see photos from the event!


29 Ways To Stay Creative

 

We can think of a lot more ways to keep the right side of our brain active, but these 29 ways seem to be just enough! What are some other ways you stay creative?

Thanks to Anna @Dalziel+Pow for sharing.


Milton Glaser on Failure: Embrace It!

 

"The consequence of specialization and success is that it hurts you. It hurts you because it basically doesn't aid in your development. The truth of the matter is that understanding development comes from failure." -Milton Glaser

via Swiss Miss

Enjoy this video of Milton Glaser, one of the founders of Graphic Design, on success and failure and the dynamic relationship between professionalism and personal development. Watch the video below, his words are truly an inspiration to us all...

Happy Success!!



The Power of Influence & Creativity

 

As design professionals, we spend considerable time each and every day thinking about influence.

Of course, we’re continuously developing new strategies for how we can help our clients generate influence. Yet, we also devote much thought into how consumers influence others in an increasingly connected world.

In the short film, Influencers, written and directed by Paul Rojanathara and Davis Johnson, we get a snapshot of New York’s most influential and creative individuals who are defining today's pop culture. Influencers seeks to identify and explain not only who the influencers are, but also what makes them so compelling. Youthful, confident, fearless early-adopters are those who are now shaping our buying decisions, the music we listen to, the food we eat, the clothes we wear, and even how we communicate with each other. These people can swiftly embrace something not mainstream (a drink, a brand, music) and make it wildly popular – all through the power of viral communications.

Unlike the celebrity-endorsed 1990’s, today’s influencers are not bought or paid by a brand to wear/drink/talk about their product.  Rather, influencers embrace a product that they believe in, and then the buzz begins. This profound change has dramatically shifted power back into the hands of consumers. Being able to express likes and dislikes to a global audience is transforming the very essence of marketing and brand strategy.

Who are the influencers in your industry?

Have you identified who is talking about your product, sharing details about their customer experience, or tweeting about your service? If not, you could be missing out on valuable opportunities to reach out to your market. Are you ready to learn more about leveraging the power of influencers? Creativity is contagious...


UPDATE: Starbucks New Identity Revealed

 

It's been over a week, and if you haven't had a chance to stop by your nearest neighborhood coffee shop, then you haven't noticed the new Starbucks logo in action. In our previous post, we focused on the iconic "Siren" logo itself and wondered how this would evolve into a refreshed identity. Needless to say, we are impressed! From the bold typography, vibrant use of green, and dramatic packaging this makes for a modern, fresh identity.

To promote the new identity and positioning, Starbucks introduced a great video seen here, that communicates how its brand relates to the consumer to encompass a total brand experience that "goes beyond coffee" and solidifies the statement, "You & Starbucks".

Share your thoughts with us?

Read more on the new Starbucks identity.


Why Designers Should Watch 'America's Next Great Restaurant'

 

"The logo is the point of entry for the brand." -Milton Glaser

I've always been a fan of reality television and NBC's latest show America's Next Great Restaurant is extra special. Not because one of my favorite CEO's Steve Ells contributes his great ideas on how to start a business, but because the show places an emphasis on 'graphic design' and 'branding'. If you're a designer or small business owner last night's episode was the one to watch.
 
The dynamic between designers and business owners is something that has always been misunderstood and it became more apparent to me after watching this show. I completely understand those who have a vested interest in developing their own business, but when it comes time for collaboration with creatives, business owners need to learn delegation is the key to management and trust is the key to leadership. It's the 'magic' behind a successful relationship that ultimately brings their vision to life.

During last night's episode there were two highlights I noticed that verified what I tell my clients all the time, have trust in your designer (or agency) and know who you are and what you stand for (before doing any creative marketing). I will try to overlook the fact the contestants in this episode were only given a short time to come up with a logo for their restaurant idea and I will also note that the creation process should never happen with the client looking over the designer's shoulder as they meticulously click away their ideas.

I'm all for embracing participation, but there's a difference between collaboration and instruction. That is exactly what happened here: Episode 102. Design is an iterative process and creativity is best in a group that focuses on the potential of an idea, rather than its weakness. Remember the goal is to generate as many ideas as possible before arriving at the final solution, regardless of any pre-determined ideas or creations. Please, please, please, don't begin your process by opening up Adobe Illustrator.

An identity is actually brand strategy or positioning in disguise.

On the other hand, the real business challenge in this episode, like most ambitious small business owners, was not focusing on the 'look' but rather, establishing clear definition of its brand, i.e. "Who We Are and What We Stand For" which was obvious for most of the contestants, who had difficulty explaining to the judges "Why Their Brand Is Special".

What failed many of these contestants was they were unable to communicate what it is about their logos that inspires people to understand it and feel the same way. Listen to many of the judges' reactions and comments, of the importance of their logos and listen to the "what" and "why" of justifying how a logo reflects the brand and supports the business. Personally I found Steve Ells' (genius behind the Chipotle brand) comments to be the most accurate in terms of how a business owner should think like a consumer.

So remember, before you rush into designing a logo or identity, it's important to capture the essence of the brand's personality/culture such as, a company's vision, values and their audience. Your logo is not your brand, rather a cover to a great story.


Starbucks Evolves Logo Into Lovemark

 

Starbucks New Logo Coffee Cup

The world's largest coffee company, and one of the world's most beloved brands, just stirred up a bold new roast of its identity.  Starbucks unveiled an updated version of their iconic logo, which had been unchanged since 1992. The simplified logo focuses on its mermaid symbol and removes the company name from around the border of the "Siren." That's right, Starbucks no longer feels the need to reinforce its name.

Starbucks Logo Evolution


The new wordless logo features nothing more than its real star, the Siren, transcending her from logo to Lovemark. A term coined by Kevin Roberts brand genius and CEO of advertising giant Saatchi & Saatchi who writes, “Lovemarks transcend brands, they deliver beyond your expectations of great performance and they inspire 'Loyalty Beyond Reason'.” Transcending the Starbucks brand seems to be the new focus for Chief Executive Howard Schultz who plans to evolve Starbucks into the future and to “think beyond coffee.” The world is changing, and Starbucks is changing with it.  It is not changing the ‘essence of the experience,' but rather, enhancing the connection with their customers.  In her simplest form, the Siren connects with each and every coffee drinker. 

Overall, the visual simplicity makes a meaningful impact and the new focus on brand extension makes perfect sense. However, for those of you who think dropping the name, "Starbucks" wasn't such a good idea you should read this. Only time will tell, but Starbucks believes its best days are ahead of them -- regardless, it's going to be exciting to see how the new identity system evolves into Starbucks future plans.

Take a peak into the ‘Future of Starbucks’
Learn more about the power of Lovemarks


10 Blog Topics to Write... Fast and Easy!

 

A blog should be part of everyone's marketing plan today, here are some ideas to get your started on the right track.

ten blogs to write about

Want to get started right now!! Why not? Tumblr offers FREE blog themes, no hosting or domain needed. It's really simple.


Web Pick of the Month: Skittles.com

 

Skittle Website Adventure

The new Skittles.com is so fresh we just had to show you!

We know it's been a while since we shared a really sweet web site with you all, forgive us... we've been very busy, so it's a good thing. Those of you familiar with our blog know that we surf the web A LOT and discover some really cool web sites. We love highlighting the best of those sites with you. We also encourage you to send in some awesome sites you find while browsing too!

Enjoy an interactive experience driven by a never-ending stream of content, courtesy of Flickr, YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and more. Skittles.com rewards fans with the ability to scroll infinitely, like an adventurous journey through Skittles digital landscape.

So 'Experience the Rainbow'... Love it or Hate it? www.skittles.com


Gap can change its logo, but not its brand!

 

gap new logo before and after comparison

Let it be known, I'm not one to jump on 'bandwagons', whether it's politics, celebrity gossip, sports, or even in business. But I'm all aboard the latest bandwagon traveling along Gap's crossroads to logo disaster. It's widely been referred to as the 'Gapgate' controversy,  a questionable attempt by the company at designing a new logo and an even more tasteless approach at trying to market it. There has been way too much recent attention around the new Gap logo that I actually feel comfortable speaking my mind about it because unlike Gap's story, there's a happy ending here. Yes, keep reading and you'll see I offer a solution to this visual problem.

To much of my shocking surprise, I first came across the new logo while reading my favorite design blog 'FastCoDesign.com' where one designer so aptly recreated the Laird + Partners version of the logo in all of 3 minutes and retitled it, "Crap".

Before I critique the logo, I want to point out that one of my first jobs was working at the Gap and working in such a corporate environment with such good control over its brand propelled me into marketing and design. While working as an Old Navy and Gap associate I particularly became a fan of how Gap was able to engage and sustain a 'loyal audience' by constantly staying fresh in all aspects of their brand (fashion, marketing, advertising, etc.) Unfortunately this hasn't been the case over the past few years, revenue at Gap stores (including Old Navy and Banana Republic) have been declining (-8% in 2009). Pinpointing the problem by blaming 'The Economy' would be foolish. The Gap has a bigger problem, and it's not their logo... it's their brand.

A Brand Panic Move

One of my motto's is, "Your logo is not your brand!" This is a message we at STARMEN communicate to our clients all the time. But it seems Gap didn't listen, they officially rolled out their new logo last week, that came off more as a panic move, than it did with any real design thinking. Some credit this sudden change as a response to their declining sales, but as Abe Sauer from Brandchannel explained, "the brand decide[d] to change the one valuable element it has going for it." Changing the logo makes this obvious because it's the most recognizable thing the customers sees, but doesn't feel. A typical mistake most high-profile brands make in an effort to make a valuable 'change'. Just ask Pepsi how they feel about the whole Tropicana mess. With very notable brands, a complete brand identity redesign or even just a change to the logo can be the hardest task for any design firm, if not done right. Laird + Partners has done some great work for Gap in years past, and if the result improved the former, this probably wouldn't have been an issue.

Louise Callagy, a Gap spokeswoman, explained the new logo was intended to be the latest "evolution" for the brand and added that this was in the works for the last two years. Callagy explains "[the new logo] is more contemporary and current and honors the heritage of the Gap brand, but takes the blue box forward." Ehh... I don't think so... I'm sorry maybe back in 1965 but not today, there's absolutely nothing new about using the typeface Helvetica, just ask Eric Spiekermann. Simply typing Helvetica font over the former iconic blue box with a default gradient to offset the contrast of the black and blue is not the way to "take the brand forward" nor "honor the heritage".

We have a solution...

new gap logo identity concept

We at STARMEN came up with a relatively realistic solution for Gap. In honor of this 'heritage' Gap so greatly expresses, we found it easy to reflect on the first Gap logo and store back in 1969 and found a new way of embracing Gap's original essence with a more contemporary approach, something with similar mainstream flexibility as seen in MTV's new logo redesign. Rather than just an 'add-on' approach, this logo becomes more 'integrated' with the brand campaign, allowing the Gap to align its brand initiatives with its loyal customers. Rather than simply placing the retro typeface proportionally in the center of the iconic square shape, we more dramatically enlarged it to bleed over the edges. The clean, bold and organic lowercase font gives Gap a fresh new energy that's friendly and inviting. Our approach gives the logo opportunity to fuse the distinctive Gap imagery and the square shape, showing the flexibility of the new branding. So, what do you think of our alternative? More importantly, what do you think of Gap's perspective? We want to hear your thoughts... and we'd love to hear from you Gap!

Also stayed tuned to our blog later in the week, to hear what I think about another Helvetica logo redesign nightmare another popular company is trying...

UPDATE: By no means, are we saying that the above solution, is 'the solution'... we all understand that there is a deeper problem with Gap, and it's not just their logo, but rather their brand. However being neurotic creatives we couldn't help but offer our version of what we think their identity could be. Thanks for all the feedback, we hope you this will be a case study for brands to come!

As most of you know by now, Gap pulled the logo just as quickly as it put it up (overnight). There probably won't be much long-term damage to the brand, but we all hope that Gap will know how to approach the whole brand identity redesign, more hollistically, focusing on the brand itself and not just the logo.


Touchscreens That Changed the World

 

history of touchscreens

Before there was the iPhone or the BlackBerry Storm there was Plato, Simon and Newton. Touchscreens are everywhere we look these days, but they’ve actually been around for a lot longer than you might think. Let’s take a look at some of the most important touchscreen devices that changed the world. Once upon a time nearly four decades ago...

1972 PLATO IV
One of the first ways touchscreens were deployed was for the PLATO project, originally built by the University of Illinois as a computer-based education system. In 1972, the $12,000 PLATO IV system was put into operation. The system had an orange plasma display and a 16 x 16 infrared touchscreen. For the first time ever, students were able to answer questions by touching a screen.

1983 HP-150
Released in 1983, the HP-150 was the world’s earliest commercial touchscreen computer. Its 9-inch Sony CRT was surrounded by infrared transmitters and receivers that detected the position of any non-transparent object on the screen. The small holes that housed these parts collected dust and had to be vacuumed periodically to maintain touchscreen functionality.

1992 Simon (IBM)
The IBM Simon was the world’s first smartphone. Though launched in 1993, the Simon was first shown as a product concept in 1992. It included a calendar, address book, world clock, calculator, note pad, e-mail, and games. The Simon used a touchscreen and optional stylus to dial phone numbers, send faxes and write memos. Text could be entered with either an on-screen “predictive” keyboard or QWERTY keyboard.

1993 Newton (Apple)
Manufactured by Sharp, the Apple Newton MessagePad was one of the first-ever Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) — a term coined by Apple’s then-CEO John Sculley. Its built-in handwriting recognition was the Newton’s most unique and interesting ability. The handwriting-recognition technology was ultimately ported to Mac OS X, where it’s known as “Inkwell.” It hasn’t really taken off there, either. Two ex-Newton developers founded Pixo, the company that created the operating system for the original iPod.

1999 Edge
Introduced to the market in 1999, the Sequoia Voting Systems’ AVC Edge touchscreen voting machine is a freestanding unit that allow voters to select their choices electronically. It was first used in the 2000 presidential election. It can be placed on a tabletop or assembled as a stand with its integrated legs. The AVC Edge eliminates hanging chads, thereby reducing the number of unintentionally spoiled ballots. After the polls close, the system prints polling place totals. These are stored as a permanent record –- further assuring the security and integrity of the election.

2010 iPad (Apple)
Apple’s iPad promises to bridge the gap between laptops and smartphones. A machine designed to handle browsing, email, photos, video, music, games, and eBooks better than any laptop or smartphone on their own. And with an available keyboard dock and plenty of apps just a touch away, the iPad will also serve a market of non-technical and new computer users. The iPad may prove to do for touchscreen tablets what Apple did for smartphones with the release of the iPhone.

See what else made the list at GUIFX.

 


Apple design explained in "Objectified" film

 


WATCH: Jonathan Ive talks about Mac design

In this clip from Gary Hustwit's docufilm "Objectified" we want to share with you one of our favorite clips, which features Apple's creative genius Jonathan Ive discussing the industrial design approach to creating the MacBookPro and iMac products. This is a great look inside the world of Apple's design 'process' and how that translates into the ideas which make up the Apple philosophy. Learn from this short clip just what makes Apple such a beloved brand and a great product

Check out Gary Hustwit's other docufilm "Helvetica" which I'm sure all you graphic designers have seen. We're looking forward  to the 3rd installment of the design trilogy, "Urbanized".


Designers: Looking for the right typeface?

 

typface infographic chart

A designers most difficult task and least fun, seems to be choosing the right typeface. Let alone a good one. A typeface must, make sense with your design, be true to brand standards and most of all... must be legible enough to communicate your messaging.

Worry no more, now with this helpful flowchart (infographic) designed by the clever Julian Hansen you will never go wrong. And if you do, your client will ask you to change it anyway. [Thanks to Ben in NYC and Gizmodo for this lead.]

Download the full chart here.


Our Executive Director's New TV Spot!

 

Watch STARMEN's Executive Director in a new TV commercial promoting Woodbury University's MBA Program.

Woodbury MBA Alumni and STARMEN's Executive Director Armen David, was recently asked to star in an Alumni testimonial to air on local networks in the Los Angeles region, promoting Woodbury University's MBA program.

Woodbury has a great MBA program, it prepared me for the leadership skills needed to run a successful business" says David, who has been heading the talented and growing design firm for the past 5 years.

About Armen David

A Los Angeles native and MBA graduate, Armen has a strong desire to create meaningful connections between businesses and consumers. He launched nearly five years ago STARMEN. He cultivates a seamless dialogue among his clients while working closely with his multidisciplinary teams of designers and technologists to set strategy and create forward-thinking campaigns. Prior to STARMEN, Armen was Vice President of Business and Marketing for a global industrial design firm. There, he built business relationships in thirteen countries, which gave him perspective on the international business market. As a result, he is a frequent speaker at industry events and local universities. Armen holds a B.S. in Business Marketing and an M.B.A. in Business Management.


New Penny Doesn't Make Cents?

 

Lincoln Penny Design

Not so fast...look before you throw that penny away!

Have you noticed? Check that shiny little bronze coin next you get it, look closely... notice something different? Rather generic? Yes well unfortunately the US Mint has decided to redesign the Lincoln one cent coin. Let's be honest: American money isn't pretty. Our bills and coins are jumbles of incomprehensible symbols--every spot of ink has meaning, down to the number of spikes around the treasury seal, but it'd be a stretch to say they all cohere into a worthy whole. Well-respected graphic designer, Michael Bierut calls our currency "a cake that has been decorated to within an inch of its life." What it lacks in aesthetics, though, U.S. currency makes up for in quirk. It feels old, authentic, a little mysterious, and therefore valuable. It's money, after all.

Abe falls victim to a series of bizarre redesigns.

Penny Series

In honor of Lincoln's 200th birthday, the penny fell victim to an image series of four cartoony tableaus of Lincoln's life: his famously non-descript log cabin; a hilariously buff, superhero Lincoln reading on a log; a disproportionately statuesque Lincoln standing in front of the Illinois Capitol Building (which everyone will mistake as the U.S. Capitol); and finally the U.S. Capitol Building itself, bizarrely under construction. As a set, the coins look nothing like each other--"United States of America" appears in different type sizes; "One Cent" in different sizes and arrangements--and individually, they make no sense as a timeline of Lincoln's life.

It gets worse. Last week, the mint unveiled 2010's penny--Lincoln on the front, as usual, and a simple shield on the back. Gone is the Lincoln Memorial, maybe the most emotionally and socially charged building in the country. Gone is the wonderful level of detail (remember when you first discovered the tiny Lincoln statue in between the columns?). Compare it to 27-year-old Matthew Dent's redesign of Britain's coins--the best use of a shield on currency I've seen. Dent's redesign is contemporary but still complex; the coins work alone and as a set. Ours is simplistic and fake-looking. The penny is valueless enough as it is, and a one-dimensional design like this only makes matters worse.


Nike's World Cup 2010 Commercial

 

'Write the Future' Has Arrived

The new 3-minute Nike advert was released earlier this week with much anticipation. To sum it up... it's an adventure that will take you on the field and into the lives of the world's most popular football stars and how their play has a global effect. The spot even has cameo's from some of Nike's other global stars like Kobe Bryant and Roger Federer.

Nike's VP-Brand and Category Management Trevor Edwards went so far to declare this ad "among the best we've ever done," no small statement from a company renowned as a master of the form.

This is just the beginning to the battle of the creative campaigns ignited by the enthusiasm building up to the World Cup in South Africa. From the looks of it, it's going to a wild ride... Enjoy!


London Unveils Mascots for 2012 Olympics

 

london2012-creepy-mascots

When the official logo of the 2012 London Olympics was released three years ago, the odd puzzle-piece design was the object of so much scorn that organizers were desperate to avoid similar criticism when they unveiled the mascots for the Games on Wednesday. With the introduction of Wenlock and Mandeville (above), London 2012 organizers realized their goal. The criticism of the mascots won't be similar to the complaints about the logo. No, they'll be much, much worse. London went for a complicated design that seems a bit uninspired and fails to identify itself to the global community with its host city, culture, history and people. See if makes sense to you...

Check out the short film which details the weird origins of Wenlock and Mandeville:

Wenlock is named after Much Wenlock, a village in Shropshire which held an event in the 19th century which inspired the modern Games. Mandeville is named after the hospital at which the Paralympic Games were founded. Though both sound like Tolkein characters, the names are quite good and are the only thing that makes the mascots distinctly British.


CONFIRMED: Apple 4G iPhone Unveiled

 

UPDATE: Gizmodo Editor Jason Chen Arrested, Home Searched And Computers Seized. The lost iPhone investigation begins...

UPDATE: Yes, it has been confirmed by numerous sources in news and media including online that Apple lost the next iPhone, in a bar.

Is this real? Could it be, that one of Steve Jobs secret service agents was sleeping in Cupertino? How did this slip through the cracks? Easy. Disguise it with a Belkin 3GS case. Though it's unofficially unconfirmed, there's a strong chance this is the next iPhone. Gizmodo, a high-reputable online source and popular blog for all things technology, recently posted this discovery.

You have to see to believe! www.gizmodo.com


Reviewing the New Look for Microsoft MSN

 

Microsoft debuts MSN's new logo and site design

During the late 90s internet boom MSN rose to the top, to become a popular and admired resource for finding information and news online. They seemed to have it all right, a brand identity that was familiar with its parent company, (Microsoft) an appealing television ad campaign and a whole lot of money to support their place in the online community. Fast forward 10 years lately, and the site, logo, marketing, consumer connection, virtually everything about the brand had evaporated. MSN quickly fell behind the emerging internet giants Google and Yahoo! and never seemed to catch up. It wasn't money or colors, the MSN brand simply lost its connection with its audience, which seemed to be outgrowing the company. The explosion of social media is where MSN failed to connect its audience with their new favorite networking tools. So with a new logo, added features, being too little too late for MSN remains to be seen. If it's similar to what AOL did last year, it might just be. AOL if you haven't noticed (recently gave themselves a much needed and highly criticized brand identity refresh.)

Will the new MSN re-energize today's online users back to its brand?

Microsoft lags behind Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. in search share despite efforts to turn the money-losing online business around. The software maker is saying goodbye to MSN.com's blue background and its blocks of text links. Instead, giving the site more white space, fewer categories and more organized navigation. Hoping to bring back MSN.com to what it once was (way back in 1997), a leading online search engine and news source. Microsoft Corp. hopes to get more Web surfers using its Bing search engine. Microsoft says Bing searches from MSN jumped during tests of the new design.

One highlight we can point out is the new MSN has a top news section that features photos more prominently. The addition of the Bing 'branded' search box stands out more, and people can scan lists of hot discussion topics and local posts on Twitter. What we did not like was that this facelift seemed to be just a new facade for its homepage. We discovered some of the interior pages still look cluttered and resemble too closely to the old version, leading us to believe this was done fairly quickly. We also noticed the MSN logo takes a backseat on the 'sports' page where, "FOX SPORTS" seems to dominate the page. This seems to be the case with most of its pages beign external link, making it confusing for some users who may think they've left the site.

Final Thoughts...

MSN is definitely taking a step in the right direction, unfortunately we think it's too late in this rapidly evolving technology market. They just seem to be pressing the emergency button on their re-branding efforts rather than taking a strategic approach, especially coming off the heels of competitors AOL's new launch and Yahoo's new "My Yahoo" updates. Still MSN has a lot of work to do before they can successfully recapture their audience. They need to assess what the brand stands for and how they are different and how to they can effectively communicate it.

Overall we think the site has been greatly simplified but still needs work, and we wish they would have been more creative with the logo! The site doesn't seem finished or complete and lacks in areas where others are stronger. The logo looks as if it has taken taken a step back, with the butterfly closely resembling a more generic icon which doesn't have the right balance or proportions of colors and shape it predecessor so recognizeably had. Regarding the type treatment, underconsideration.com said it best...

The new one suffers from Bing syndrome: It wants to be cool and modern but it suffers from complete lack of typographic decency. In this case, the whole is not so bad, but the parts are."

Tell us what you think? About the web site? The logo?


Helvetireader 2: A Google Reader Theme

 

"Helvetica Always Works" is a theme in a book I've been reading called, "Never Use White Type on a Black Background" (great read) and Gary Hustwit's recent film Helvetica offered a look into the typography, graphic design and global visual culture surrounding the famous typeface.

UK's Hicksdesign latest creation called Helvetireader, is a stylesheet userscript theme for all you Google Reader users out there that adds a clean and minimal look to your visual interface. I highly reccomend checking this out especially if you're bored with Google's default UI that is crowded with colors, lines and buttons, much like I am with gmail. So why Helvetica you ask, well probably because it is just that, simple, clean and effective.

Helvetica is all around us. You've probably seen it several times today." - Gary Hustwit (1964)

If you don't have Google Reader, get it here! You can visit all your favorite web sites, blogs and social networks all in one place.

 


Web Pick of the Week: VisitPhilly.com

 

This week we are so excited to share with you this excellent example of a successful web site re-design for the city of Philadelphia. Philly's very own Happy Cog Studios were commissioned by the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation about refreshing the outdated site, located at gophila.com (now available as an archive). The original site launched back in 1997, and over a decade it had become one of the organization’s most important marketing vehicles.

VisitPhilly.com

With the newly designed UI, the creatives at Happy Cog have really set the bar for how a city looking to establish a web prescense for itself with the online community, especially among users in this social media and technology influenced generation. What once was a large, confusing, outdated site, turned into a beautiful, accessible, functional and inviting user experience that conveys the enjoyment behind visiting the great city of Philadelphia. We won't go into lenghty breakdown of this site, since our buddy Walter over at webdesignerdepot.com already posted a great detailed critique on his site. But we will go ahead and single out a few good points, in what makes this an exlempary model of cutting-edge web design.

  • Great expression of design
  • Using identity elements that define the city of Philadelphia (history)
  • Simplification of navigation and eye direction (compared to gophila.com)
  • High-resolution scenic images, capturing the audience
  • Excellent use of white space, not crowding the page
  • Content organization, and page structure
  • Eloquent and effective typography
  • Fresh color choices
  • Improved use of technology such as Java, Ajax, truly compatible cross platform site (non-flash)
  • Adding Social Meida tools, that initiate social networking
  • Overall, the site successfully generates excitement and buzz towards the benefits of travelling to Philadelphia.

What do you think? We want to hear your comments...


Web Pick of the Week: Hawaiian Airlines

 

Everyweek, STARMEN will share with our readers, our favorite website picks from around the web. We look for first and foremost, overall design visibility, technology, navigation, and how they all apply to effective web design. These picks are meant to inform, excite and inspire you to see how we as internet users are affected by web design everyday. Feel free to submit your favorite sites to us, we'll consider adding it!

Hawaiianair.com

Forgive us, we've been on the topic of Travel & Tourism lately, because the STARMEN team has been recently working on a huge identity and design project for a very popular airline carrier (Shhh... details coming soon!). Through our findings and research, one of our delights with approach to online identity and web design is www.hawaiianair.com We don't know too much about the brand itself, but what we found from visiting their site is a refreshing and appealing treatment of simplistic navigation (making the user experience very easy and organized). Using a stimulating background image of Hawaii's rich landscape provides powerful design layout that differs from most travel sites. See our post on the new Southwest.com. The result is a colorful, memorable and simple site which features easy navigation for its users, supporting the ideas of the brand itself. Much like one of our other favorites: Virgin America.

What do you think? We want to hear your comments...


Southwest.com Gets Another Facelift

 

One of our favorite airline companies and admired travel brands is Southwest Airlines. We also have been fans of their web site and apparently you are too (in 2009, Nielsen/Netratings reported that southwest.com was the largest airline site in terms of unique visitors). Not only do they run an efficient, affordable business, but their online destination is friendly, and very easy to use.

We recently booked a business trip to Las Vegas, and while visiting southwest.com, we immediately recognized they had done another upgrade to their user interface. We weren't sure how we felt about it at first, but then after comparing it to the old site we realized that Southwest just made a good thing, even better! Allow us to point out some of the new features, in case your're wondering what's so great about it.

  1. Most popular booking features are right there on the home page.
  2. Use of more elegant black, shying from the corporate "orange" (We liked the orange?)
  3. "What's New" page, for latest Southwest news and info.
  4. Revamped the menus at the top of the home page (We prefer this easy-to-find).

Unlike most redesigns, Southwest was smart about their updates. They didn't do a 360! Causing unfamiliarity with a dramatic design overhaul or cause chaos to their loyal followers by adding on too many features, instead they did a moderate "improvement." Keeping the same popular features, just making them better by improving the user experience.

Take a look for yourselves, we'd love to hear what you think?


Brand Marketing Is Not a Science

 

During our daily industry readings, we came across this encouraging article by brand consultant Tom Hinkes, a contributor to adage.com. It was refreshing to hear from a well-respected and experienced brand marketer that great marketing requires a balance of strategy and creative. Currently, companies have been scaling back on creatively-led brand solutions and focusing more on "the numbers" approach.

More Data Is Not Better Data

Marketing departments used to be the creative engines powering successful corporations. Now they're overrun by number-crunching nerds. As a direct consequence, despite all the conspicuous focus on "change management," the way brands respond to change in the marketplace has deteriorated. A McKinsey Quarterly article several years ago argued that the key to "better branding" is to build brands "more scientifically." If managers would combine "forward-looking market segmentation" with structural-equation modeling, they could "build a better brand more efficiently." In short: more data, more regressions and more conjoint analysis mean the "brand crisis" is solved. But fluency with buzz words and expertise with spreadsheets do not guarantee brand-marketing competence.

We agree that there is a need for consumer research, but brand marketing is not a science, it's not driven solely by metrics or statistics. It requires analysis, discipline and detail. Even more, it requires emotion, vision and ideas. STARMEN shares this perspective. We manage and balance both successfully and have the marketing abilities and creative talents to do so.

Enjoy the full article here.


Happy St. Patty's Day!

 

You may have caught it already as today’s CREATIVITY Pick of the Day, but here’s another stellar outdoor idea for McDonald’s out the ad agency Leo Burnett, Chicago.

This installation was placed on the banks of the Chicago River, which is dyed green each year in celebration of  St. Patrick’s Day.  A perfect way to promote McDonald’s seasonal Shamrock Shake! See more pics of this annual tradition here.

Happy St. Patty’s Day! Be Safe! Now, time to get ourselves a Shamrock Shake!


Our New Site Launches Today!

 

As an award-winning creative agency specializing brand design, we are proud to announce the redesign of the STARMEN web site. But "redesign" doesn't really cover it. This more than a aesthetic adjustment or surface-level change. This is more of a "refresh" both internally and externally. The new starmenusa.com reflects our new ideas, new thinking, and new outlook for our clients, and their brands. For those of you familiar with us, you'll find a lot of new and exciting information, about us, the services we offer and see new design work!

Our LA headquarters is buzzing with excitement! This site has been a labor of love, created with synchronized hard work, absolute enthusiasm, and meticulous attention to how effective design can be. The new STARMEN believes happy users means happy business. One goal of ours that hasn't changed is this: We are here to produce solid, valuable results for you! Now, we just look even better!

Visit our new virtual home and experience the new STARMEN!


Microsite. Macrohelp.

 

In response to the devastating January 12th earthquake in Haiti, the team at STARMEN Design Group rallied to spread the word to support the American Red Cross’s relief efforts. Creating this support-site is our way of communicating to the web community that urgency is needed to assist those affected by this disaster; especially the thousands of abandoned children who are now without homes. The best way to provide immediate aid is through financial donations. Join us and show your support by donating to the Haitians during these tragic times. Be a part of the solution and provide help for the relief effort through the American Red Cross today!

View the microsite & donate at www.WeSupportHaiti.org