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02

Dec
2013

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By admin404

The Ryanair of Design

December 2, 2013 - News Articles

For frugal latitudinarians, Ryanair is a blessing. You can find tickets for as little as €1 to whisk you off to a growing set of your favorite European cities. They truly are the GoDaddy of airlines, with an inexpensive base price, a million options for billable add-ons, and even their CEO, Michael O’Leary, projects a similar public persona to GoDaddy’s Bob Parsons.

The convenience of Ryanair is part of a growing trend to provide consumers with a competitive base price, tacking on inexpensive à la carte options for anything they need. With Amazon’s Longtail model and online service providers—think VistaPrint—offering LQLC (lower quality, lower cost) merchandise for pennies on the dollar, consumers have a broader and more diverse array of choices than ever before.. If cost is more important than quality, comfort, or customization, penny-savers, this new model of service is for you!

So what if ERA404 changed our business model to match Ryanair? Imagine you’re seeking a new identity for your business and have submitted an RFP to ten design firms, including ERA404.  When all proposals come in, you have a ballpark of $50,000 from nine studios and $15,000 from us. Your first thought was that ERA404 either provides offshore labor or maybe we missed a few pages in your RFP. But no, we reply, this is the price. One identity system: $15,000 (a total of $35,000 in savings over our competition).

It’s then that you take a look at the fine print. One (1) logo costs $15,000, but we’re happy to offer you some options. You can receive additional thumbnail sketches at $50/sketch, additional rough sketches for $100/rough, and additional refined logo concepts for $250/concept. Interested in seeing samples in different palettes or typefaces, that’ll only cost you $100/ea. Want variations of how the logo can be applied with and without a tagline? Stacked versus vertical? Simplified for clothing hangtags and favicons? Each modification will cost you, but you should still come out ahead since the base offering was massively discounted. Right?

And don’t forget about artwork provision by courier or digital transmission, we’ll need to get the files to you somehow and that won’t come cheap. Similar to Ryanair’s model, jokingly referred to as the Pay-Per-Pee airline, a $40 ticket actually costs something closer to $65, with a mandatory “convenient” online check-in fee imposed on every ticket. This is similar to a design firm telling you there is a fee each time they type up an invoice to bill you for the work they have have yet to perform.

So by the time the project is completed and all the add-on costs are tabulated, your $15,000 may be closer to $45,000 and CFOs will rejoice at the overall savings of $5,000 over the competing quotes. However the enjoyment of the experience, the satisfaction with the outcome, and the quality of the work performed would diminish greatly. Here’s why:

In the world of design, continuing with Identity Design as an example, the process grows organically. Pentagram partner and identity design extraordinaire, Paula Scher, may doodle an arch over the word Citi on a napkin in an introductory meeting with Traveler’s Bank. HermanMiller may spend a solid year and hundreds of millions of dollars churning out concepts for an updated brand that results in simply encapsulating the previous in a circle. Either way, the process can be planned, but organic design should never go according to plan. It can be organized and directed, but creative development isn’t something that follows a strictly controlled organization or direction. Restricting the number of sketches based on dollar amounts (or Pay-Per-Tweak) not only desiccates the fluidity of the process, but decimates the possibility of creativity. Read: you’ll arrive at your destination, but you won’t enjoy the voyage.

Services like air travel and digital printers and crowd-sourced identity design can survive because they cater to our frugal nature and provide services that don’t require innovation or artistry. They’re assembly line. They strip the experience of quality and luxury and fall back on banal consistency of their basic offering: a service, no more, no less.  Design, by nature, is the antithesis of this sort of factory labor, and could never survive if it were to adopt the Ryanair mentality. And for these customers, the luster of shaving a few dollars off their contracts will quickly fade when they’re left with a dismal outcome and a bag of peanuts.

 

Tags | artistry, assembly line, consistency, creativity, crowdsourced, factory, godaddy, industry, innovation, ryanair, vistaprint

23

Jul
2013

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By admin404

StaffList WordPress Plugin

July 23, 2013 - News Articles

If you’re unfamiliar with WordPress, it’s a powerful, extensible blogging architecture that’s quickly spawned a massive contributor base for plugins. ERA404 developed ImageMeta, in 2012, a comprehensive tool for refining and grooming all linked and embedded imagery in your WordPress blog or website, for improved SEO and ultimately more precise/favored search engine ranking.Read More

Tags | blog, ceo, directory, faculty, listing, plugin, staff, website, wordpress

28

Jan
2013

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By admin404

The Creative Process

January 28, 2013 - News Articles

Oftentimes when approached by clients and agencies, we’re asked about our creative process at ERA404. While people can easily see a step-by-step diagram of our development process, broken down by time, cost and client interaction, we have never really outlined how the creative process works here. This is partially because development, which is creative in its own right, is considerably more objective, pragmatic, and analytical. The process is linear, relying on previous checkpoints to proceed to latter ones.

Design, on the other hand, grows organically and chaotically. It pushes forward and outward in untraceable trajectories. If one thinks of development as a relay race with the baton being passed at regular relay points, design is more like a quixotic multi-player game of capture the flag. It’s undoubtedly the most challenging, gratifying (and possibly frustrating) part of our job here, riddled with stops, starts, reorientation, redirection, hidden doors, trap floors, exploration, and trial and error, relying purely on experience and gut instinct to reach the goal. And while the description above sounds daunting, it’s the primary reason we love our jobs so much.

So, depicting our creative process in a linear diagram like our development process is impossible. But each design roughly follows the same objectives along the uncharted path, which, coupled with client feedback and critiques, act as polestars in guiding us to their completion. Below are those objectives, distilled and organized as they would be in a perfect world, free of the organic and beautiful growth of real-world scenarios:

 

Defining the Problem

  1. Defining the Problem
    To maximize success we first define the problem we are trying to solve—we articulate it and give it boundaries (what’s part of the problem? what’s outside our control?). We call upon our designers to help cull, visualize, express that problem in human terms—looking at it from many different views.
  2. Envisioning the Desired End State (Knowing what victory looks like)
    (If you’ve ever been part of a team that seemed lost, it’s likely this step was skipped.) Knowing how to both characterize and recognize a victory will be vital when embarking on the journey of solving the problem. As designers, we can help prototype the end state (through scenarios, models, journey maps, etc.).
  3. Defining the Approach by Which Victory can be Achieved
    Once we know where we want to go, we need to create a map to get there. That map must be imprinted in the minds of every participant along the way, including clients and team members. We find it helps to draw an actual map with our clients, to assist them in visualizing the distance and milestones to the destination.
  4. Inciting Support—And Then Action
    In some cases, not everyone will want to make the journey. They’ll need to be inspired. Convinced. Reinforced. Educated. As designers, we call on our skills as communicators to help them see why they should come along.

Innovating

  1. Seeking Insight to Inform the Prototyping of the Solution
    After the team is assembled, in which the client plays an integral—if not central—role, the next task is to look at the work ahead and be smart about it. Often it pays to take pause and seek insight that will enable the team to prototype a solution. That means research. Our designers help structure that research, especially in reporting its findings.
  2. Prototyping Potential Solutions
    The prototype might might literally mean physically prototyping the solution: building it in miniature, or as a one-off, to see if it will work. Or, it might mean prototyping a new customer experience—a collection of moments that make up an experience. In either case, we play a critical role in communicating the vision to clients.
  3. Delineating the Tough Choices
    A good prototype (or prototypes) unearths all sorts of unexpected data and insight. And from that, tough choices emerge. Should we include this feature, or that? What if the solution costs more than clients have budgeted? Can the prototype be broken down into stages to make the objective more affordable and digestible? What if there are downsides? Together, with regular and consistent communication  we try to make the choices evident.
  4. Enabling the Team to Work as a Team
    And, when crucial to the project, we help the team work as a team: helping make choices, envisioning different outcomes, seeing the “whitespace” that connects divergent views and approaches.

Generating Value

  1. Choosing the Best Solution, Then Activating It
    This is the culmination of many steps of hard work. If we do our jobs right, we can often be the pivotal voice in this step, helping argue for the best overall solution—we can visualize the case, see different sides of the problem and lay out a path for making a commitment to the chosen solution.
  2. Making Sure People Know about our Solution
    Once a solution is chosen, the task becomes to ensure that people—customers, constituents, employees—know about it. In a traditional sense, this is about marketing the idea. In a deeper sense, it’s about empowering people to support/own/celebrate the solution.
  3. Selling the Solution
    In most cases, an exchange of money or time will be involved—between seller and buyer, creator and participant, sponsor and beneficiary. That process is generally helped by design, so that people know what they’re buying and what it’s worth.
  4. Rapidly Learning and Reorienting Based on your Successes and Failures
    The most effective projects are those in which we constantly learn, strive, and improve. Our job is to help take the team back through the journey, recounting the steps where good decisions were made and where the team could act differently next time.

Tags | checklist, creative process, creativity, design, development, diagram, flow chart, innovation, milestones, problem, prototyping, stepping stones

03

Nov
2008

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By admin404

John Hodgman Mentions ERA404 on Twit.TV Podcast

November 3, 2008 - News Articles

The author attributes his new site to ERA404 Creative Director, Don Citarella

Upon completion and launch of John Hodgman‘s new web site, Areas of My Expertise, the author recently mentioned ERA404 on a Twit.tv interview and pays tribute to the colors and theme-switching functionality.Read More

Tags | areas of my expertise, citarella, don citarella, era404, john hodgman, more information than you require, twit.tv

20

Feb
2008

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By admin404

Food Stuff

February 20, 2008 - News Articles

ERA404 Packaging Design in the New York Times

Florence Fabricant, journalist for The New York Times Dining & Wine section, recently ran the below story and photo, “Food Stuff.” The article prominently displays the Brookyn Wine Co.Wine Labels—Feliz Red, Feliz White—designed by ERA404 Creative Group (see this portfolio item). Don Citarella, Creative Director of ERA404, posted an article about the design decisions and strategy for the packaging on his blog: http://don.citarella.netRead More

Tags | adam goldstein, brooklyn, brooklyn bridge, brooklyn wine, brooklynites, citarella, design, don, era404, feliz red, feliz white, florence fabricant, nyt, packaging design, the new york times, wine labels

12

Nov
2007

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By admin404

PC Maker ASUS Teams With N.Y.’s RCS

November 12, 2007 - News Articles

ERA404 Environmental Design featured on TWICE.com

By Doug Olenick — TWICE, 11/12/2007

New York — ASUS Computer International opened its first retail showcase in partnership with RCS Computer Experience in Manhattan today.

The 600-square-foot area is located on the main floor of RCS’ Madison Avenue shop and, in a nod toward the company’s environmental efforts, is constructed primarily out of bamboo, said Cher Chronis, ASUS’ marketing director. The area will be used to display the company’s current product line up and as a platform to launch new products into retail.

“We wanted to be able to offer an insight into ASUS and we are focusing now on building our U.S. retail image,” Chronis said.

While ASUS has no immediate plan to open selling areas in other retailers, it does want to expand its U.S. retail presence. The company has sold through RCS for the past year and has a limited presence in other retailers, including Best Buy and Datavision, but can mainly be found online at Costco.com, Target.com and Buy.com, she said.

The ASUS store is to be manned by two RCS staffers, and the company’s area sales representative will also pitch in, Chronis said.

The ASUS area features about eight notebook computers, plus the company’s latest 22-inch LCD computer monitor. In its center was a tubular, glass enclosure where the company was showing its latest concept notebook, the eco-book. Like the ASUS store, it too is made partially of bamboo with the notebook’s outer covering and wrist rest made of the hardy grass.

Chronis said the eco-book is still undergoing testing to see if using bamboo as a construction material is viable, and, if so, it could become available next year. The notebook is based on an ASUS S6 model laptop.

The company does have several other more concrete product launch plans that will include a new cellphone, Internet radio and GPS, said a company spokeswoman.

For more photos and information about this project, visit ERA404‘s portfolio here:
http://www.era404.com/loves/asus/

Download a PDF of this article

Tags | 3d, asus, cad, cher chronis, citarella, computers, design, drafting, environmental design, era404, rcs, showroom, store