Top 10 Posts of 2012

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It’s been a great 2012 here at Extensis. We launched new versions of our font management, web font and digital asset management products.

To keep you in the loop, we try to communicate regularly here, on the Extensis blog. Whether it’s about new font auto-activation plug-ins, the newest web fonts, or support for new digital camera raw formats, we want you to feel well informed. That being said, some bits of info prove to be more compelling than the others.

The most popular blog posts centered around font auto-activation plug-ins and font licensing issues. The most popular posts of 2012 were:

  1. Adobe CS6 plug-ins for Suitcase Fusion 4 now available – Clearly you guys rely upon the plug-ins, and were eagerly awaiting the release of updated plug-ins to support InDesign, Illustrator, Photoshop and InCopy.
  2. NBC Universal sued for $3.5 million for font license infringement – Misuse of the House Industries font Chalet definitely drew popular interest.
  3. Suitcase Fusion compatibility with OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion – Apple updated OS X to 10.8 (Mountain Lion) and it’s smart to know your product’s compatibility. For full compatibility information with the various versions of Suitcase Fusion, see the Product Compatibility Guide.
  4. Universal Type Client version 3.3 adds Mountain Lion & Photoshop CS6 support – The client-server font manager gets an upgrade to support new OS X and Photoshop CS6 products.
  5. Who reads font licenses anyway? – You do! The results of our font licensing survey.
  6. Brand Refresh: Designing a new Extensis Logo – 2012 was the year that we rebranded. New logo, new website, new new new! Here we tell you the process that we went through to get to where we landed.
  7. Abbreviations in Font Names Explained! – Ever wondered what those little letters in your font names mean? Find out now!
  8. Suitcase Fusion 4 font auto-activation plug-in for Adobe Photoshop CS6 now available – It took a little longer to work out support with Photoshop CS6.
  9. Looking for a Final Cut Server Alternative? – Apple decided to end the development of Final Cut Server, so many are looking to Portfolio Server as a replacement.
  10. Universal Type Client update includes Adobe CS6 plug-ins – The Type Server plug-ins for CS6 came out in two waves, like they did for Suitcase Fusion. This is the initial release of InDesign, Illustrator and InCopy support.

Have other topics that are important to you that we aren’t covering? Feel free to shoot us a message in the comments of this page, or email us directly using the Contact form.

Thanks for reading and we look forward to a great 2013!

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SXSW is about a month away – do you have your badge yet? If not, no problem!

After hosting our official Graffiti Lounge party last year, we learned several effective techniques to crash SXSW parties for the free food, music, and drink.

If you want to get down without throwing down the cash for a badge, head over to the WebINK Blog to learn 10 tried and true ways to sneak into parties at SXSW 2012.

Top 10 ways to sneak into a SXSW party

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Finally, 2012 is the year of CHANGE!

Of course, we know we are guilty of some of these (I’ll let you be the judge) so, we’ve decided that it’s time to embark on a makeover. Truth is, we’ve been working on the research piece of this in the background for a while. So why not learn from our trial and error? Swallowing our pride, we are going to share throughout the process to help those of you who may also be considering taking the plunge.

And now, a reality check.

A Pep Talk

There is never a good time for a brand refresh. It’s a universal truth you just have to suck up. Sorry.

For us, we are always on the cusp of some new product launch or initiative that will hamper the process. That’s how it works. I suppose if you don’t have competing priorities that complicate it, then you’re likely missing something.

But, don’t let timing deter you from the big decision. There are obvious and compelling catalysts for a company rebrand: acquisition, technology shift, etc. And then there are less obvious, organic catalysts. (See list above)

The bottom line is this: Companies Evolve. You find yourself introducing products or services in response to market opportunities and one day you wake up and realize that the overarching brand in your head is not the one the outside world is experiencing.  At least that’s our situation. Lets face it, if you are moving your business forward, you create the opportunity to ‘outgrow’ your current brand—and a refresh is in order.

What’s the desired outcome?

Smarty-pants marketers (and academics) will cite things like “increase shareholder value”, “capitalize on market trends”, “create buzz”, yada. I can’t subscribe to this. You increase shareholder value by fostering happy customers. If your effort doesn’t, in some direct way, touch your customers, then what value is it?

In my mind, brand is about connecting with your audience. It’s about how you, as an organization (of people), interact with the audience (people) and how they (people) feel about it. That’s it. Granted, there may be a hundred ways to impact this, but it really is that simple. And when you bring in new audiences, or narrow in on one market, you may need to noodle on how your company communicates.  If you keep it simple, probability of success skyrockets.

Why agencies LOVE brand redesigns and marketing teams LOATHE them:

As an agency, a rebrand is a huge challenge that gets the juices flowing (it is also a large task which is good for your bottom line). It is quite exciting. No matter how invested you are however, you are never going to forever ’live’ within the brand you help define.* It doesn’t work that way. Some may regret this disconnect, others may relish it.

This is why marketing teams hate rebrands (no, you are not alone). They are thrilling, in a ‘stick-your-neck-out-and-subject-yourself-to-endless-lashings’ sort of way.  Have a vision—on any given day you will need to defend your decisions. You have to commit (because you DO need to live within this brand). And above all, you have to be fiercely brave. Easy, right?

Well, I’ll let you know. We won’t be rolling out new materials for a while yet. They are coming soon, so until then, you can go through the process with us.

Next up: Why Extensis dove into the icy cold waters of a brand refresh

* If you do bring in a partner to assist in the process, choose wisely. Make sure they are as invested as is humanly possible. Fortunately, we’ve done just that. Shout-out to Blue Collar Agency and Owen Jones Partners.

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Anybody who works in a font-intensive workflow knows how time-consuming font problems can be.  Whether you’re in a design, print or publishing environment, you may face many challenges with managing fonts in your workgroups. These challenges are unique to a workgroup environment and cannot be addressed by stand-alone, desktop font management solutions.   Here are the ten most important items that server-based font management solution should provide:

Live Collaborative System – A true client/server font manager allows users to benefit from working in a shared environment.  It maintains a “central base” from which to store, organize, control and share fonts for a virtually unlimited number of users.  For example, if a user applies metadata to a font (such as classification or foundry), the changes are made directly on the server data, which allows other users to automatically benefit from the changes.  If users are allowed to make changes, but those changes are not shared with others and rather kept on client machines independent of the server, then it’s pretty much acting as a stand-alone system “glued” to a server software.

Font License Compliance Mechanism – Surprise, surprise!  Fonts are intellectual property and protected by copyright laws.  A good font management system offers organizations complete control over who has access to fonts. Choose a solution that allows you to control how fonts are delivered to (and removed from) user machines.  The more fonts that exist on client machines, the more font licenses your organization needs to buy – these difficult economic times call for better budgetary planning and limiting our liability.

Flexibility and Control When Managing Users – A good server-based font management system gives you the flexibility to adapt to your organizational needs.  You must be able to choose who gets what, when and how based on each user’s individual needs.  A good font management solution allows you to:

  • Allow you to manage your users and integrate with other systems
  • Organize your users in groups
  • Create roles for the most common types of job functions
  • Choose how often client synchronizes with each user
  • Provide granular permissions for maximum flexibility.
  • Allow administrators to have the flexibility to perform their duties from anywhere with a web-based interface for managing users, fonts and server maintenance.

Productive and Uninterrupted Work Environment – A good font manager not only is a power house for the IT administrator, but also provides an intuitive interface so that users use it with ease.  Users see the right fonts for their projects, and have them when they need them.  Users are not interrupted with server-related messages and errors – updates occur in the background, silently, so as not to disturb the user in any way.

Ability to Back Up Your Data – A good system allows you to automatically create back-ups of your fonts and font metadata.  Administrators must be able to schedule how often data is backed up, in order to minimize downtime and in case of disaster recovery, get back up and running quickly.

Efficiency – A good font management system updates fonts in an incremental way, replicating only what has changed.  There is no need to re-distribute all fonts to all users when only one new font has been added.  Work smarter and faster!

Real Mobility – Server data must follow the user from machine to machine.  If users log in from another machine, their same environment (fonts, sets, groups, metadata) should be available to them.  This is how a true client-server solution behaves, avoiding the need to recreate and redistribute your fonts just because you’re using a different machine than your own.

Easy Deployment and Serialization – A good font manager provides client and server software that is easy to install. Integrated installers with all components (including plug-ins) must be part of the package installer.  It does not require you to serialize the clients separately – who would want to visit each client machine?  Administrators must be able to enter a single serialization number that controls the server functionality plus the number of user seats in one single location.

Protection for Adding and Collecting Fonts – Organizations are liable for fonts that exist on users machines.  A good font management system provides administrators the ability to choose who is allowed to introduce fonts into a workflow, and when.  It also has some safeguards in place to prevent users from “borrowing” fonts.  Although some users need the ability to collect fonts for output for production reasons, other users do not need this ability.  It also has a mechanism that prevents corrupt or rogue fonts from entering your workflow.  A good system checks fonts before adding them to the workgroup, and helps repair fonts if necessary.

Professional Font Auto-Activation – Users need to be equipped with professional auto-activation plug-ins for the most current and popular creative applications.  These plug-ins must correctly identify and activate the right font when it is needed for a document, and keep users from spending valuable time searching for missing fonts.

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design observerMichael Beirut– a Partner at Pentagram, and a protege of type minimalist Massimo Vignelli– wrote a great piece on titled “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Typeface“. I found myself thinking about this list- or more like the hierarchy of it- and I have noodled with it a bit…to offer my own view (forgive me Michael, it is flattery, I assure you).

In the vein of a Letterman Top 10…The top ten reasons you choose a typeface:

#10- Because it was there

#9- Because it reminds you of something

#8- Because of who designed it

#7- Because you like its name

#6- Because it is beautiful

#5- Because it is ugly

#4- Because you like its history

#3- Because it works

#2- Because you believe in it

#1- Because you can’t not

People will always question design. Art is subjective. Believe in your decisions, and questions be damned.

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You’ve probably seen a number of “Top 10” lists around the web. We’re definitely no stranger to the concept. For example:

Top 10I find Top 10 lists an incredibly useful way to quickly distill a potentially large and complicated issue down to the bare essentials. And heck, everyone loves to make lists to rank things, otherwise end of the year predictions, top albums, most embarrassing moments and so forth wouldn’t exist (VH1 and the E Channel live for this kind of stuff). You’ll find Top 10 lists ranked highly on DIGG, reddit and other social bookmarking sites (not to mention, nightly on fellow Hoosier-export David Letterman’s show).

Here are a few of my current favorite Top 10 lists:

Do you have a current fave?

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We have some talented creatives on our marketing team at Extensis. That said, we still have the need to use outside agencies on occasion. Sometimes we want some fresh ideas, or we need a skill set that we don’t have in-house, or maybe we just need some overflow capacity. Regardless, as the director of the marketing team, its my job to find a fit.

Dr. Martens AdChoosing an agency is never an easy assignment. Somehow, no matter how much homework you do, this is one of those projects that feels like a gamble. Here’s my 2 cents on how to pick the right one for your next gig.

10- Do your homework. If the act of choosing an agency is your job, then be sure to make an investment in it. Keep a running list of agencies, photographers, illustrators, etc. whose work impresses you. I don’t just mean local companies, or those who win awards. We all know that a lot of agencies do certain projects every year specifically to win awards- and spare no expense at it. I’m talking about campaigns- big and small- that are somehow inspired. You’ll know them when you see them.

9- Be honest. A new agency relationship requires a lot of commitment from your internal team. How much bandwidth can you commit? If you’re looking for an agency to drive YOU, not the other way around, you need to be very upfront about this in the selection process. Even consider going with a known entity (e.g. your last agency) if your team is really stretched on other projects.

8- Expertise. I start here to whittle down the list. There are a lot of great agencies out there, but not every one is right for every job. Do you want a full re-branding? Or a simple print ad? Do you need a firm that has direct marketing expertise? Do you want a traditional design firm, or a web-capable agency?

7- Size. Make sure that the agency size matches your expectations and needs. Personally, I’m never comfortable working with a BIG agency. You know the ones. I’ve done it before, and successfully, but I’m always uneasy. This is because I don’t like to be the smallest fish in the pond. Never be their smallest client. It is too easy to be ignored, or be relegated to the ‘B-Team’.

6- Relevant (industry) experience. I love consumer marketing. Its great fun to dissect. That said, I work at a b2b software company. If an agency that I’m considering has not done b2b work in the tech space, then there is likely too much ramp time to make the relationship worthwhile. Make sure the agency you choose has some related experience in your field. This matters more than many people think.

5- Seek the ‘A-Team’. An agency might woo you with the big wigs, but who will really be managing your account? Who will be the strategic mind on the project, and do all of the creative work? You need to meet with all of the stakeholders upfront. I’m always impressed when the owner of an agency does the pitch AND drives the strategic work themselves.

4- Capacity. This is a corollary to ‘Size’ above. Does the agency have one big client that keeps them afloat? (HP, Oracle, Target, etc.?) If so, your project could very well be at the mercy of someone else’s schedule. Ask upfront who their big clients are, what % of their business they represent, and how much demand they are currently putting on the agency.

3- Finances. Let’s face it, money is a major decision factor. Keep in mind that most agencies are eager to get a new client and to prove themselves, so negotiation is perfectly fine. But you have to do it in good faith. If they are cutting you a break for the promise of future business, you need to be prepared to budget more for the next one- and to call them back.

2 & 1- Chemistry & Chemistry. This is 1 part philosophy, 2 parts gut. Do you ‘click’? Do they have that sparkle in their eye that makes you think “these chaps are switched on!”

Even when you follow a methodical process, your final decision could come down to a leap of faith. So take a deep breath and jump on in! You’re in for an exciting ride.

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Top 10Hopefully you found our list of the Top 10 successful ways to sell asset management to your boss helpful. Talking to your boss about items that can directly affect his budget can always be a bit challenging (aren’t discussions about money always a bundle of laughs?) So, we try to help out when we can.

Well, channeling the spirit of Dilbert, our very funny Sales Engineer Chris Stevens came up with his own alternate list of ways to sell asset management to your boss. Chris works out of our UK office, so be sure to read the following with a nice, friendly British accent.

  1. “I’ll install it on my own time, free of charge.”
  2. “It’ll look after itself so you don’t need me anymore!”
  3. “It’ll pay for itself in less than 3 months, or you could just take it out of my salary.”
  4. “It comes with this really big User Guide for hitting me round the head with.”
  5. “It’s so simple to setup that your teenage son can do it during the summer holidays, keeps him out of mischief if nothing else.”
  6. “You can appear to your management colleagues to be the most organised person here, never losing a single file.”
  7. “You can tell people to stop bugging you for the reports/presentations and go find it themselves.”
  8. “Your clients will save time and money, meaning they can pay for the next business lunch. Cigars and brandy anyone?!”
  9. “You can put off that extra terabyte purchase till next year, and spend the department’s budget on free ipods instead, making you the most popular boss here!”
  10. “We’re fine as we are boss, don’t need this…” (whilst plotting to present it as your own idea in the hopes of a promotion).

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Top 10So, you’ve decided that you need to keep better track of files. Trying to manage everything through the Macintosh Finder or the Windows Explorer just isn’t cutting it any more. You’ve done your research and found out there’s this thing called digital asset management software that can help you get over your file tracking nightmares.

When you’ve chosen your solution (we happen to like Portfolio) the next step in the process is to convince the powers-that-be that the investment will amount to more than just giving you a new tool in your arsenal.

To help you talk to your boss, we’ve developed the following Top 10 list of reasons that your boss will come to love asset management, and be willing to invest in it.

  1. Self Service.
    The creative team is no longer interrupted by image and document requests from other departments. Now the other departments can locate the file by themselves, and the creative team can concentrate on getting their work done.
  2. Asset reuse.
    With an asset management system, reusing files becomes effortless. Assets no longer need to be recreated when the original can’t be located.
  3. Time.
    When users spend less time looking for source files, the creative team can spend more time doing what they do best, creating new materials.
  4. Branding consistency.
    By implementing a NetPublish site, users can make sure that only the most current assets are distributed to all end users. This can help eliminate the misuse of out-of-date assets, and quickly propagate updated collateral.
  5. It saves money.
    The old adage of “time is money” still holds true today. A streamlined workflow cuts downtime and creates more billable hours. Portfolio has a high, proven return on investment (ROI).
  6. It strengthens client relationships.
    Professional-looking, password-protected web portals for clients can be created with Portfolio NetPublish. This way, delivering files for review becomes almost automatic.
  7. Enhanced communication
    Clients and teams around the world can access files in real-time on the web and across platforms.
  8. Saves space.
    There’s no need to copy the same files over and over – creative users won’t bog-down the email and the network by emailing large files anymore. Plus, files that don’t need to be on our server can be easily archived to CD/DVD, while previews of the archived files are still available in the system.
  9. It’s a dashboard.
    An asset management system allows users to easily search and view patterns and relationships between all cataloged files, without having to dig into folder-after-folder in the operating system.
  10. It’s automatic.
    When files are cataloged, they are added to a sophisticated database that tracks all kinds of metadata about the files, and allows users to search for files across multiple servers and drives, even if they are stored offline.

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Top 10You probably have a slew of fonts on your system right now. You might not know what to do with all of them, and just where to start organizing and using your fonts. We talked it through and have whittled our list of suggestions down to the top 10 things that you can do to better manage your fonts.

  1. Use a font manager.
    It seems like a no-brainer, but if you’re not using a font manager, font management is most likely a cumbersome process that gets in the way of your workflow. Installing a font manager, such as Suitcase Fusion, Font Reserve, Suitcase for Windows or any other will significantly help streamline your workflow. In addition, be sure that you update your font management and design applications to the most current version. This ensures that you’re able to take advantage of the continuing improvements and bug fixes that the product engineers have made.
  2. Remove unnecessary system fonts.
    Too many fonts in your system fonts folders not only crowds up the font menus in your applications, but can potentially cause other system problems. A complete list of required fonts for the Mac OS X operating system can be found in our Font Management in Mac OS X Best Practices Guide.
  3. Store all of your fonts in a single location.
    All of the single-user font managers from Extensis include a Font Vault that enables you to store all of your fonts in a single, secure location. If you’re using a server solution, store as many of your fonts remotely on the server as possible, and only subscribe to fonts as required by project. Keeping all of your fonts in a single location allows you to take care of the next recommendation much more easily.
  4. Backup, backup, backup.
    Don’t rely upon that hard disk to live forever. Make backups of your font library and store them in a secure location. Remember to store a copy of your data offsite. Fires do happen, and you don’t want to get caught with your guard down.
  5. Check for font corruption.
    Power failures, system crashes and other unforeseen incidents can cause fonts to lose integrity. If you are seeing unpredictable application behavior or font substitution issues, use a tool such as Font Doctor to check for font corruption. This tool will help you find, and even repair some font corruption issues. In the event that you do locate a corrupt font file, it is always best to replace the corrupt font with a fresh new original copy of the font.
  6. Re-visit your font collection, and be selective.
    Fonts are tiny bits of software, and just like any other application, a font that you’ve had around for the past 20 years might not be as up-to-date as you would like. Enormous changes have occurred in the font world. Newer OpenType fonts contain much larger collections of characters, glyphs and such, and have been designed to work in cross-platform environments. Maybe that very old version of Garamond can be retired in favor of a fresh new version. In addition, be careful which fonts that you choose. Since fonts are code, and code is written by humans, it can therefore be buggy and create problems. Choose fonts from reputable font foundries that are able to provide support and respond to any issues that you may have with the font.
  7. Activate only what you need.
    Work efficiently by activating only the fonts you need. This reduces the demand on your applications and keeps your font menus “manageable” by preventing excessive scrolling. Using a font manager to selectively activate, and through plug-ins activate only the fonts used in a document, can speed up the time it takes to find the fonts you need when you need them.
  8. Get legal.
    Fonts are software, licensed by the foundry that created them. Using fonts you don’t own can get you in more trouble than it’s worth. If you are working in a server environment, using a product such as Suitcase Server, be sure to check your license compliancy so that you have enough licenses to cover all of your users.
  9. Use metadata.
    Use your font manager to “tag” your fonts with useful info, such as the projects you used them on and which ones your clients liked. Having this searchable information, at your fingertips can be a great reference.
  10. Learn about type.
    Knowing about not just the technology, but also the history of fonts can help you significantly. The more knowledge that you have, the more easily you will be able to identify characteristics of font types that like. Read the Adobe Typography Primer (PDF) to get started by learning common type terminology. Simply being comfortable with the basics will allow you to explore type in new ways.

To learn more about managing your fonts, we’ve created a Font Management In Mac OS X Best Practices Guide. This document is available free of charge.