Archive for the 'Bryan Keplesky' Category

The Imago Effect: Avatar Psychology

I am becoming more and more interested in avatars, the online, graphical representations users create as their identity. The avatar can be as simple as finding a photo of your favorite movie character or, in massive online games that implements a character creation system, a fully fleshed out character. No matter which end of the spectrum a user is on, one thing holds true: people love self-expression.

Game designer and panelist Harvey Smith of Midway put together a thoughtful presentation. He said that the avatar phenomenon is part of the larger modern trend of participatory culture. There is a greater desire (and, thanks to the web, outlet) for self-expression and asserting one’s will, views and identity.

Despite this, an avatar is still a mask and only so much information can be gleaned from them. The reasons people choose their particular avatar is a combination of an individual’s self perception and state of mood. Images across the web are appropriated with personal meaning. The state of mood is important, because it always changes, and so can the avatar. The avatar is the pulse-check into a person’s state of mind, and as more and more people sign on to instant messengers, social networking sites, forums, blogs and massive online games, the use of the avatar will only continue to increase.

posted by Bryan Keplesky 


Why Web Typography Sucks

Typographers get a bad rap. No one (except other typographers) understand them. Typography in the print world has precedent and history to back it up, with everything from the Chicago Manual of Style and Robert Bringhurst’s formative treatise The Elements of Typographic Style. But the established typographic rules can get muddled up with html coding and browser defaults on the web and end up looking less sophisticated.

Granted, most people don’t know the difference between a dash, en dash, and em dash. But a designer should, and should not let browser defaults take care of the details of type design.

The panelists provided a few websites that are a good resource for designers who work with type on the web:

A List Apart


posted by Bryan Keplesky

Namedropped at Interactive (part 3)

A site that collects the most topical content on the web, based on user-controlled voting

The ad generating service from Google, for web publishers

Similar to Digg, a site that collects to-the-minute content based on users tags, links and hits

posted by Bryan Keplesky 

Why Marketers Need to Work with People Media

Advertisers are people, too. They read blogs, instant message, go to social networking sites. They see that there are a vast number of people involved in online communities and want to be a part of it, too. And maybe get a marketing message out there as well.

Right now online conversation like blogs, MySpace, IM, are creating media messages. The trick, for sure, is how ad people navigate this new media space. Panelist John Battelle, Chairman & Founder of Federated Media Publishing, stated that there are 3 pillars of a great media product: author, audience, advertiser…ideally they are in a conversation where all are being fed. Online social media does not work with the traditional methods of advertising. The web encourages audience participation and dialog. Social media users do not want to be dictated to.

Brands, to some degree, are wary of all this new media. Once their product is put out onto the web, it’s fair game. Anyone can say anything about it at any point. The users, rather than being passive receivers of advertising messages, now have the ability to determine if they want to hear the message or not. According to panelist Toni Schneider of Automattic Inc., brands can’t have thin skin in this environment.

But it’s somewhat logical for brands to feel this way. This is new territory. It’s important new territory, and will only grow and expand and become more ingrained in people’s lives. But from a marketing perspective, there are still some kinks to work out. The current ways of measuring the success of an online advertising campaign using social media are somewhat vague. The big reason is because there’s no real way to measure engagement, which Battelle proclaimed is “now part of the lexicon of marketing.” Advertisers can get data on how many web hits their product’s blog (for example) is receiving, but are people staying, reading the content, and becoming engaged in a conversation through online social media about the product? There’s no format for determining that (yet).

posted by Bryan Keplesky

Film Review: What Would Jesus Buy?

Sunday night at the Paramount Theatre was the world premiere of What Would Jesus Buy, a documentary from Morgan Spurlock (“star” of Supersize Me) and directed by Rob VanAlkemade. It follows the cross-country road trip of The Church of Stop Shopping and their leader, The Reverend Billy. Now, Billy isn’t a reverend. And The Church isn’t really a church. It’s more like a theater group, performing in the vein of a gospel choir, crusading against overconsumption during the month of December, leading up to Christmas.

The group travels from city to city (and small towns as well) staging performances on street corners, inside shopping malls and even in local churches. Reverend Billy particularly dislikes Wal-Mart, Starbucks and Disneyland (he refers to Mickey Mouse as the Antichrist, and the film’s credits are typeset in a Walt-Disneyish font.) At different points in the film, through a voice-over, various data is given on the amount Americans consume during the holiday season. Some of the clips in the documentary show people stampeding through Best Buys to get a Playstation 3 or Nintendo Wii. There are people-on-the-street interviews, some who have gone into massive debt because of holiday purchases.

But the driving force of the film is the Reverend Billy. Of course he’s charismatic, funny (the kind of funny where he probably doesn’t realize he’s being funny). He’s very driven in his belief, although I would have liked to have seen something to explain why he hates the over-consumption at Christmas so much. It’s funny, because from what I can tell the Reverend doesn’t appear to be particularly religious. That was a bit of a conundrum that I couldn’t wrap my head around. Of course over-consumption is a bad thing. No one wants people getting hurt in a stampede, or going into massive debt. I just was never able to resolve in my head why the motley group was that motivated to embark on the journey.

Regardless, the film basically sticks to its strengths, because Billy is a great character and the film does a good job of equally showing his passions and his follies. People who see this movie may think about spending less when the red and green starts appearing in every store in America, but I get the suspicion that wasn’t the real point of the film in the first place.

posted by Bryan Keplesky 

SXSW Film Trade Show

Ah, the trade show… how do you compete for visual space, and win? I’m guessing there were some restrictions for the floor here, because I was expecting some pretty out-there booths. But there were a few that still stood out to me.


This one from Acutrack is a standard floor display, but the graphics are cool and make sense, brand-wise. They provide flexible production options for indie bands, and every indie scene in the country has a stretch of street with a wooden fence with black and white flyers stapled all over. It makes me wish I was at Emo’s right now with a Lone Star tall.


Tucked away in a corner was the Google booth. It’s deceptively simple. But Google can get away with that. Just a nice bright logo, a few inviting chairs and some wood flooring. It felt like hanging out in a nice kitchen, just being at home and leisurely checking the gmail.


And then there was this one, from a group called Couriers of Ruin. This booth looked like it fell out of another dimension, and I’m sure the guys running this would be cool with that. The booth is equal parts trippy outer space, old west carnival and fantasy heavy metal. As for what they do? From what I can tell they are creating a massive, multi-sensory, high-concept, chapter-based narrative available on CD or download. Uh, huh. Also, putting together their entire trade booth cost only 500 bucks. Now that’s pretty smart, and definitely down-to-earth.

posted by Bryan Keplesky

Static Ads for the Web

“Online Advertising: Is it Worth It?” was a brief, and pretty straight-forward half hour panel. But it got me thinking about designing static ads for the web. By static ads, I mean the “standard” click-through banner ads, usually situated along the top and down the sides of a website. Of course, being the standard has its inherent advantages, but the disadvantages are starting to pile up. This seems to indicate that the traditional click-throughs are slowly losing favor for other alternatives.

Despite being convenient (banner ads are essentially templates), there’s little room for design customization. There’s also the potential for banner blindness… users are so accustomed to “seeing” web banners in their standard locations that they can be completely ignored or forgotten immediately. With the web becoming more and more niche, it’s a greater challenge for advertisers to really target their audience, meaning there’s a better chance of placing ads on a site with the wrong demographic. Web sites that offer ad space should be able to provide very specific details, down to age, gender and location, of the people who access their site.

So where is online advertising going? A next generation version of the traditional web banner ads actually emulates the same idea behind “top shelf” placement at grocery stores. Take a look at It’s much more aesthetically pleasing then a traditional web page, in fact you almost can’t even see the ads. That’s because in this case the music labels are paying for top-shelf exposure. The danger, of course, is that the line between original content and the ads is starting to blur. A sophisticated web user can probably tell the difference, but that implies that there are others who won’t.

posted by Bryan Keplesky

What’s Behind the Door?

SXSW is an Austin event. And Door Number 3 is an Austin advertising agency. We're interested in how new ideas in advertising, media and branding will be presented during these 9 quick days. From inside the lecture halls where top specialists present their thoughts, to out on the streets where advertising is put to the test on tens of thousands of festival-goers. We'll be there with the complete coverage, reports, photos, editorials, and perhaps some tricks on how to sneak into a few sweet afterparties.

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