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Ever see those “how’d they do that” or “how stuff works” shows- giving you the inside skinny on everything from shipbuilding to making cheese puffs? (btw- they extrude a corn slurry through a sieve at high velocity- no joke!) I once watched a segment on how the infamous Twinkie is made. I don’t even like Twinkies. But I am compelled to know how they are made.

motor cross constructionWell, here’s one for you.

How do you turn a major league baseball stadium into a motor cross course? Apparently it takes about 5 days, 1400 truckloads of dirt- totaling 14,000 cubic yards. All this for a 2-day event. That’s dedication.

So where on earth am I going? Most things in this world have more put in than you might know. Take software. The primary materials used are knowledge and time. Hard to believe thousands of work hours can be packed in to one installer. And yet, it can.

How’d they do that?

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If you haven’t heard the phrase “going green” somewhere in your day to day life, you’ve probably been living in an underground bunker for the last five years.  It’s a trend that has pervaded most areas of society including food production, the automobile industry, waste management and yes, even the world of design.  

More and more, I am finding entire conference tracks, associations and websites dedicated to informing designers about reducing waste, saving resources and utilizing environmentally-friendly materials.  Two design associations that are especially saavy about this movement are AIGA and UCDA. 

AIGA San Diego recently hosted the Y confernce: an entire event dedicated to teaching designers how to integrate enivornmentally-healthy practices into their organization.  The association’s main website also has a section dedicated to society and environment. 

UCDA also dedicates a page on their website to education and discussion about the environment and design.  Both of these sites provide great information and resources for how to adopt and promote sustainable business practices.I’m happy to say that our design department here at Extensis has already begun to embrace a green approach to printing our event graphics (both literally and figuratively). 

This is a picture of our new tradeshow backwall which was just unveiled at the HOW Design Conference in Boston. 

Extensis Green Tradeshow Booth 

Not only does it feature the lime green color from our new branding palette, but it also includes all the text on one portion of the overall wall.  What this means is that whenever we need to update the text, we just have to print one panel rather than re-printing the entire wall.  This allows us to cut down drastically on printing resources, time and money whenever we attend a new event. 

I’m also proud to say that Extensis offers an office-wide recycling program for paper products, cans and yes, even the beer bottles from our in-house Lounge 2.0.  🙂

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Extensis EULA image - not an actual document, just a picture of the EULA in the Portfolio Help systemI’ve been talking recently about the importance of End User License Agreements (EULAs) when working with fonts and typography. I’ve heard back from a number of users who wish that these documents were more easily understood and readily available for reference.

Well, here’s the good news. While at a recent conference at Microsoft called The Business of Type, there was a definite consensus that making EULAs clear, explicit and readable was desirable. We’re not all there yet, but we’re definitely moving down the path toward transparency and a decent process.

Take for example, John Collins of MyFonts gave an interesting presentation at type conference. His company takes an open approach to license agreements.

  • All licenses are publicly accessible from the website.
  • You are given a chance to review the EULA as you purchase fonts as well as any time after from your order history on the site.
  • The installer presents the license during the install process.
  • Updated licenses only apply to future purchases.

The model doesn’t make you jump through hoops to understand what you’re purchasing, and is fairly straightforward. This is the way that licensing should work. Yet, from what I’ve seen there are still some foundries and software companies out there need to update their licensing processes.

For example, when you install software from Extensis, you will always be presented with a copy of the EULA in the installer. And, if you can’t easily read the license in the installer window, we always install a copy of the EULA for you to print, review and keep. We will always present a copy of the EULA in our Help systems for Extensis Portfolio as well as in the forthcoming Universal Type Server product.

Since not all companies are being so open with their licenses, I would like to make a public call for all companies who make software (fonts are software after all) to handle EULA in the following manner:

  1. Write EULAs in plain language, not legalese. Users want to understand these agreements – no one likes to go to court.
  2. Display license agreements in as many locations as possible – on the web, in the installer, installed with the product, etc.
  3. Clearly delineate EULA variations available. For example, if for an extra cost users will be allowed to transfer fonts to a printer, make the options clearly understood, even if pricing is not immediately disclosed.
  4. Be reasonable. Most users want to do the right thing. If you find out about a license violation, approach the situation politely, without an immediate legal threat. Even with digital piracy rampant these days, some polite conversation goes a long way, and will more likely earn you a friend than a foe.

Is there something else that you think companies should do to make licensing easier? Let me know in the comments and I’ll send you some stuff from my pile of Extensis swag.

As always, if you ever have a question about the Extensis EULA, please don’t hesitate to contact one of our corporate sales representatives. They are happy to discuss all of your concerns.

How to fire an agency

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I fear this may get me tarred and feathered… But I’m a realist. I’ve worked with agencies of all sizes and this is simply a necessary evil of my job. You know in your gut that I’m right: Agency relationships go stale. Even the best teams fizzle out after some time. Even the ubiquitous Business Week did an article on this topic last Summer. My crystal ball says: The bigger the delta between agency mass and client size, the faster the fizzle. It goes something like this:

little + little: you part friends over a beer and stay ‘LinkedIn’

little + big: that gig was a long-shot. cherish the memories.

big + little: everyone knew it wouldn’t last. (well, everyone but you.)

This is not limited to creative agencies: PR is notorious for this. I’ve ‘released’ more PR agencies than I’ve hired (figure that one out). So imagine how happy I was to uncover Yes, it is a ‘Dear John’ service for clients who wish to fire their agency. Very funny. Simply answer a few questions and it will generate a ‘dear agency’ letter that you can forward on. It offers pithy choices like:

What animal has been suggested to “take your brand to the next level?”

  1. monkey
  2. lizard
  3. meerkat

Seriously, remember that just because an agency isn’t cutting it now does not mean they were a genuinely bad choice at the start. Like all relationships, these things come in waves. At the moment you’re in a very deep trough.

(That line is from a movie. Name it and I’ll send you an uber Extensis tchotchke bag with some funny creatures from the land of the rising sun…) break-up letter is courtesy of ‘Citrus Marketing‘. (Of course.)

The color of history

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MOMA Color Chart Exhibit

This month MOMA opened a rather unique exhibit- it is all about the history of color. But not those standard color charts that declare the ‘representative palette’ for the decade and such. Instead, they took a closer look at artists who bucked the trend, and in doing so defined the use of color for the next generation.

Described by the curator: “This exhibit features the work of forty four artists who take a position in which art and life mingle rather than remain separate, and where beauty is found in the everyday rather than in the ideal.”

The best part, is that you do not need to live in or near New York to take advantage. MOMA also launched a wonderfully fun interactive site that showcases each of the pieces in the exhibit. Look at a very interesting timeline of color (below) or view the works by artist or medium.

You could spend a lot of time looking through these. Anyone who uses color to communicate, sell, market, or entertain- should take a look.

MOMA Color Chart Exhibit- timeline

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Unfortunately, this post would have been much more timely if I’d gotten around to it last month but better late than never, right? For those of you who are a bit behind the times like I am, last month marked the 50th anniversary of the creation of the peace symbol. In honor of this milestone, posted an article about the origins of the symbol. It’s a great article that discusses the creative inspirations behind the symbol and how it has been used since its inception.

The part I found most interesting was that the organization that it was created for never copyrighted the image (despite the fact that they continue to use it as their official logo). Instead, they allow it to be used by anyone. For those of you who work in a corporate environment, I’m sure you realize just how rare this is and yet how incredibly appropriate.

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Jim’s spam mailbox fills up quicklySince I’m posting to forums, blogs, usenet and other public areas all the time for work, I have a tendency to get a ton of spam. These aren’t newsletters or items that I’ve requested from a company, these are honest to goodness bad, nasty, often offensive spam email messages.

I typically get about 100 spam email every 8-10 hours. This is such a high percentage of the mail that I get, many days 80-90% of all email that I get are spam. Take for example my little screen shot in this post. Since Saturday at 4:00 p.m, about 40 hours ago, I’ve gotten 432 spam email. If it were a contest, I might be in the lead!

As Fortunately, most of the spam messages are automatically zapped into my spam mailbox. Yet occasionally, one or two “real” email messages get caught by the filter inadvertently. This means that it becomes necessary for me to sift through the filth to separate the wheat from the chaff. I’ve actually developed a fairly quick method that allows me to scan through a large number of messages quickly. So without further ado, here is my method:

  1. If you don’t have a spam mailbox, get one. This is either a spam filter that always places suspected spam files into an out of the way location. If you’ve got a Gmail or Yahoo account, you’ve already got one.
  2. Start off by sorting your spam mailbox by subject. Spammers are typically lazy and will use the same subject line from multiple sources. When I get 20 messages with the subject line “What time is okay for you” I know that it’s spam. Also by calling attention to just the subject line, you’ll be able to more quickly scan through many messages without getting caught by sender names that look like they might be real.
  3. Scroll down to the bottom of your list of messages and then start scanning just the subject lines from bottom to top. I’m not sure why, but when I force myself to look at the messages in a different way (bottom to top) it makes anything different stand out more. Something different in a spam mailbox is typically a “real” message.
  4. Go through this process at a predetermined time each day. This way you’ll keep the messages from stacking up. I’ve had over a thousand stack up in a week, and as the mountain of spam got bigger, I was less and less happy about climbing it. You’ll also be able to catch and respond to any inadvertently filtered messages in a timely fashion.

Well, I hope that your spam mailbox isn’t nearly as full as mine. Best of luck keeping the spammers at bay.

As always, Extensis will only send you email if you have purchased a product from us, or have specifically requested notifications from us. If you are subscribed to blog notifications, you may edit your blog subscription settings from the Subscribe tab of this blog. All other email notifications can be managed using the My Account tab of the Extensis website.

As always, we highly value your privacy. Our Privacy Policy can be read here.

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The replacement wallet. Brand spannking new. Yet, I still long for my old one. It wasn’t so much of a George Castanza wallet.I had my wallet stolen a week ago. Needless to say, it immediately turned my life upside down.

The first step is to cut off all of the ways in which the thief could steal my hard-earned money. This includes making a list of what was in my wallet, then frantically locating the contact information for each and every company. The bank, credit union, American Express, and a few Visa cards – I had to call them all immediately.

It’s in my benefit, as well as the banks, for me to cancel everything as quickly as possible. As I understand it, in the U.S. I’m responsible for the first $50 of any fraudulent charges on each card, and the bank/credit union/charge card company is responsible for the rest. With so many cards, I can’t really afford 50 bucks of bad charges for each of the 5 cards. And, believe it or not, this is where the majority of my frustration kicks in.

Immediately I jump on my computer and locate contact information for each card – this is the easy part. The phone calls are completely another matter though. I can tell you from calling multiple institutions, the software that is used to route callers is mostly configured to mire users in the virtual muck – to keep them from talking to a real human. If there were ever a time where I needed to talk to someone immediately, now was the time.

Yes, I was lost in the digital wilderness, all the while worrying that the beady-eyed middle-aged woman with a bad perm who stole my wallet was cackling as she racked up charge after charge.

So, here are my suggestions for making the phone software interface better.

  • If you must have an electronic phone interface (yeah, I suppose you must), build in a root level method of talking to someone immediately for the purpose of canceling a card. “Push one to get your account balance. Push two speak to me in Spanish. Push three to cancel your card right about now.”
  • Better yet, have an entirely separate phone number that can only be used to cancel or put a hold on a card. It would be like calling 911 instead of the police non-emergency number. A card holder would only call that number when it’s absolutely positively necessary to cancel the card immediately. Heck, you could even immediately transfer the people who are trying to get other services without offending me. “I’m sorry sir, I’m only allowed to cancel cards due to loss or theft. I’m now transferring you to our caller avoidance system, please hold.”
  • Never, ever require the caller to enter an account number before talking to a person to cancel a card. Obviously in these situations, the caller won’t have the card in front of them – it was stolen. I didn’t have time to sift through my files (aka the pile of paper in the corner) to find the appropriate digits. I can tell you all of the necessary info faster than I can locate any of the other numbers. For one bank I even punched in random numbers just to get through to a live human being (you know who you are, ___ington __tual). This should never, ever be necessary.
  • Don’t make me call multiple numbers to ask for a new card. Obviously, I’ve had a bad day. Please try to make it easier and just put in an order for a new card, m’k?

Tell me your story and you might get this 1 Gb sushi diskSo, what does all of this mean for software design. Well, here at Extensis we do our homework to find out how you interface with our products. We don’t want to have you mired in the digital muck like I was this past weekend. For example, with our font management product line, we include auto-activation plug-ins that activate the right font when you open a document. If we’ve done our job right, we hope that you’ll never really need to manually activate fonts when opening a document. And, if you do have problems, we have real live humans to talk to in our Technical Support department – free of charge, no less. We want you to succeed and we design our products to help you do so.

Do you have a story about your credit cards being stolen? Perhaps a better experience with the typical phone maze than mine? Share it with me in the comments and if I like your story I’ll send you some fun Extensis swag. Heck, I do have a 1Gb sushi flash disk (it’s a futomaki one) that I’m just itchin’ to give away. Let me hear your story!

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xerox new logo

As you may have seen- or subliminally noticed in the last few weeks- Xerox has changed its image. Or so they say.

After interviewing 5,000 people about their impressions of the Xerox brand, they came around to this logo redesign.

I will admit, I do think the logotype is less stodgy, more approachable. Before I read about their approach for the redesign, I thought the typeface was progressive, somewhat entertaining. The ‘X’- which is the key to the whole operation- is a really entertaining character- fun and maybe even a bit irreverent (the ‘r’ is not nearly as groovy). So, yeah. I think I like it.

But a brand is more than a typeface. I know they are more than copiers- and they want us to know that- but what ARE they, then? I really have no idea. A few years back they transitioned to a tagline “The document company”. OK. Isn’t that just another way to say ‘copies’?

So if you already know your brand associations are not positive, maybe you should focus on what you want your brand to say- not what you DON’T want it to say. I don’t think you can simply change your logo, randomly sponsor the Ducati Superbike team, and expect me to feel differently about your brand. A face lift does not take away the wear and tear of your image- it only masks it.TIffany sterling X earrings

And don’t even get me started on the ‘orb’… (they are unoriginal, they say ‘telecom’ (or AT&T), and I swear that X on the orb says Tiffany&Co. to me. I could go on, but why bother…)

Typography T’s

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A year ago (or more) while working on some print ads with our friends at ZIG (who also have a nice blog), we discussed the possibility of using a well-known typographer for some of the artwork. And while that didn’t pan out for that project, in the back of my mind I knew we would want to call on Carlos Segura at some point.

Bingo! An opportunity presented itself as we were leading up the Macworld show. We needed to design a t-shirt that would be part of a campaign to the press and corporate customers around the unveiling of Universal Type Server. So I picked up the phone and called Carlos.

Carlos is more than just a designer. He and his team are typographers, type designers, and also the owners of T 26 type foundry. In short- these guys really know type.Typography Tshirt by Carlos Segura Inc.After some discussion they produced this T for us, which we delivered to the press in that safe we wrote about a while back. We also used this design on our booth shirts (seen in this post). And we gave some out as prizes in the theater.

I’ve said this before, but I don’t know what it is about T-shirts. People gotta have ’em. This is a well-documented phenomenon. Suffice it to say we received a lot of comments on them. People wanted to know where to get them. Finally, I have an answer for that question. Stay tuned- we’ll be running a promotion through which you can get your hands on a limited supply.

Many thanks to Carlos and his team. They are a great bunch to work with. Put them on your short list. (and if you don’t have a list–never too late to start one).

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