December 27, 2010
Oh, the power of easy-to-understand copy.
Reading an important document should not feel like navigating the DMV: frustrating and confusing. Whether it’s instructional text, a technical document, or medical information, clear and simple wins. Any industry—business, legal, healthcare, education—should consider plain writing guidelines for all of their documents and marketing.
Plain writing just means straightforward, audience-specific communication.
Plain writing has existed as an initiative for government agencies since the 1940’s. Hoping to filter legal and political jargon and produce straightforward, succinct papers, the movement gained further acknowledgement after the formation of the Plain Language Action Network (PLAN) in 1998, directed by then-Vice President Al Gore.
In October, President Obama declared plain writing as law, signing The Plain Writing Act of 2010 into effect. The Act defines plain writing as “writing that is clear, concise, well-organized, and follows other best practices appropriate to the subject or field and intended audience.”
Hurray! Plain writing! Let’s take a look at some best practices for writing plainly:
1. Identify your audience.
- Who are you writing for?
- What do they know?
- What do they need to know?
2. Organize the content.
- State the purpose of the document. (“This document provides care guidelines for wombats.”)
- Use descriptive headings (“How to wash a wombat,” “Feeding wombats”) and short sections for your content.
- Charts, lists, and tables visually break up the document, making it easy to read.
3. Write actively.
- The document should drive action and highlight benefits. (“Feed your wombat tomato soup to ensure that he will sleep well at night.”)
- Use active voice.
Want to learn more about plain writing? Visit the Center for Plain Language and plainlanguage.gov. To learn more about wombats, visit National Geographic’s wombat page.
September 1, 2010
In any business, inspiration can be daunting, infuriating, and elusive. Ernest Hemingway used to say that just getting started was the most difficult part of great writing. Often enough, the challenges of filling a blank page, or “the great white bull,” as he described it, makes creativity indispensable in modern business.
The most aggravating aspect of creativity—especially in the business world—is that there is no formula or deep, dark secret to coming up with great ideas. Nobody ever really finds a foolproof way to come up with consistently brilliant ideas, either. But it’s the people who invite the challenge of that great white bull into their lives who get to ride it. That’s the beauty of advertising. Accepting the challenge and enjoying the process of building something great is why many of us do what we do.
But, even after you come up with a solution, the bull is still always going to mess with you. So what do you do? You put yourself inside your problem, learn everything you can about possible solutions and strategies, and then you stay there for a while. A majority of the ideas you come up with will end up in the garbage, but one idea frequently leads to another and like a steady rain, the ideas will pour onto the page and wash the bull away. When that perfect idea finally trumps the blank page, it is one of the best feelings in the world.
The truly great business people don’t always stop there. They are almost never satisfied, and when teamwork factors into the creative process, it becomes even more difficult to recognize when to stop. Since advertising is such a team-oriented sport, it can be difficult to find a consensus. There are times when not everybody will be satisfied with the project, but taking several different points of view and pooling them into one focused idea almost always results in a more thoughtful and complete end product. We just have to learn how to recognize when we’ve reached that stopping point.
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April 27, 2010
Last Thursday I attended the “A Gentlemen’s Night Out” event sponsored by Jack Daniels. Ever since envisionit got involved with the promotional materials for the event, I’d been developing a thirst for a Jack & Diet….mmmm….but I digress. On hand for the event was Master Distiller, Jeff Arnett, who led us through a series of private tastings of Jack Daniels signature whiskies. Along with the tasting, the night was filled with magic (literally, there were magicians there) and casino games (luckily I was gambling with fake money). After scoring some Jack Daniel’s swag, I made sure to get autographs from several firefighters, on hand to promote their great cause, Ignite the Spirit.
Here’s me enjoying my VIP seat (on the left, with a friend of envisionit)….
And here’s Master Distiller, Jeff Arnett….
And wonderful account supervisor, Lisa, who attended the event with me….
All in all, it was a great evening spent with my friend Jack!
April 8, 2010
Ever wish that you could actually be on Wrigley Field prior to a Chicago Cubs home game? Vote for this month’s Captain Clutch and you could win a chance to present the winning player with the award on the field!
Harry Caray’s, the Captain Morgan Club and envisionit media have teamed up to develop an exciting new Facebook application that will surely be creating some serious buzz this season. Facebook fans of the Captain Morgan Club will have the opportunity to vote for their favorite “clutch” player of the month. Each month the promotion will feature a different aspect of the game, such as pitching, hitting, and performance in the field.
So to kick off the 2010 season, fans will have a chance to vote for their “Captain Clutch: On the Mound”, and enter to win a chance to present the winning player with the award on the field before a home game.
Visit the fan page to become a fan and vote today! If you win, say hi to Big Z for us.
March 3, 2010
Often the topic of heated debate, the Olympic logo and identity system is an important component of the way we perceive The Games. This year the Vancouver 2010 arena & spatial design is all about vivid, saturated blues and greens, graphic textures, and wavy, tentacle-like forms that intertwine and surround a figure performing the sport at hand. On the other hand, the Vancouver 2010 logo is done in bright, primary hues and speaks to the Inuit culture of the Canadian Arctic.
Named Ilanaaq, the symbol is a graphic, modern representation of the inukshuk – stacked rock forms that native tribes built to provide landmarks and direction throughout the Canadian landscape. Ilanaaq means “friend,” so the logo is meant to be “a friend that warmly welcomes the people of the world with open arms every day,” according to the official website of the Vancouver Games.
Um, what? OK, so I can absolutely see the resemblance between this Ilanaaq character and the inukshuk sculptures, and the rationale for this logo is totally valid. The host city should absolutely celebrate the culture of its country – that’s what The Olympics are all about! – pride in your country and the fact that you are going to kick your competitor’s ass in the name of [insert country here].
That being said, there is a very poor connection between this culture-rich mark and the rest of the Olympic identity system. What’s with the complete switch in style and the void-of-meaning free-flowing blue & green shapes that overshadow the logo? Sure, the friend-focus of the logo is a little cheesy (but who doesn’t love cheese!?), and it’s head kind of looks like a green Pac-Man (I wish I could take credit for that, but I read it here: http://www.topnews.in/usa/vancouver-2010-olympic-logo-under-eye-storm-23564) but at least there’s some relevant meaning behind it!
Don’t get me wrong; the blue and green designs are beautiful to look at, and there is obviously a nice big maple leaf reference in the poster artwork, but that’s it. Boo. I have to agree with Art museum curator David Ross, who pointed out on The Colbert Report that the 2010 Olympics graphic identity contains no strong reference to sports, history, or the spirit of competition. It is completely irrelevant to what it is meant to represent.
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February 3, 2010
AspireUp, a local marketing consultancy dedicated to helping companies and their brands grow exponentially, launched a refreshed website with envisionit media last week. The new site features a new design look and updated content, positioning AspireUp as a marketing leader for both local and global clients. Client testimonials have also been added for further credibility and content texture.
AspireUp’s typical client projects include marketing planning, branding, new product launches, corporate training and many others. To learn more about AspireUp and their services, visit them at www.aspireup.com!
January 15, 2010
We recently launched a new website for Wrigley View Rooftop, a premier Wrigley Field rooftop experience. Along with a complete renovation of the entire rooftop and interior space, this new website design was meant to shatter fans’ expectations of what an afternoon at the ballgame can mean.
Wrigley View’s approach towards fan friendliness is apparent from the moment you step through their door on historic Waveland Avenue. From the newly remodeled lounge, to the extensive buffet on the rooftop, Wrigley View Rooftop truly is your all-inclusive rooftop experience. The new website allows this all to shine through like never before, and truly communicates the Wrigley View rooftop experience to web visitors long before they ever book a game.
While the verdict may still be out regarding whether or not this will be the year the Cubs finally win the World Series, for Wrigley View Rooftop it is clear that this is their year!
Show your Cubs pride by visiting Wrigley View’s new site at www.wrigleyview.com!
January 12, 2010
Parties & Special Events by Lettuce Entertain You, Chicago’s well known hospitality group, has just launched a fabulous new website for booking your next party or special event. The new site features a branded redesign, streamlined navigation, easy event booking as well as a collection of details and photos of Lettuce’s beautiful restaurant venues.
So for your next social occasion, be sure to check out the many options and time-saving services of Parties & Special Events by Lettuce Entertain You! We know they will take good care of you.
Boogie on over to Lettuce Parties & Special Events at http://lettuceparties.com/
January 8, 2010
Homewerks Worldwide has just launched its latest product, the TOSCA 5 Minute Faucet supported by a new microsite. The microsite explains the product features and how you can have a beautiful, high end kitchen faucet without the high-end installation price. The 5-Minute Faucet™ installs in just 4 easy steps and features a patented base that enables the faucet to be installed from above the sink. Who knew faucets could be so easy? Now if they could only show us how to do a 5 course dinner in just 5 minutes…
Twist on over to Homewerks’ microsite at www.5minutefaucet.com.
December 30, 2009
We recently redesigned and launched a Builder Recruitment website for Wausau Homes, America’s trusted builder for over 50 years. The redesign aimed to create a more user-friendly experience and further emphasize the benefits of becoming a Wausau Homes builder.
Benefits of being a Wausau Homes builder include:
- Increased profitability
- No franchise fees
- Less time building and more time selling
- Name brand credibility
- Increased home buyer trust
There’s nothing typical about becoming a Wausau Homes builder, and they have thousands of success stories to prove it.
Check some of them out at: http://www.wausauhomes.com/builders/