Monday, September 07, 2015

The real mapped against the unreal

I was in my favourite copy shop the other day, makin’ copies, and just as I finished, a man walked towards the exit singing (with confidence and melody): “My curiosity arose / I telephoned the service lady.”

For a moment we made eye contact. Then he pushed open the door and disappeared. And right at that instant, all I could think was, “If this was a video game, then that was a major clue. In fact, maybe I should follow him.”

Immediately after that, as I reflected on why I transposed a weird, random, meaningless moment into something of value in a different medium, I thought that if the same moment occurred in a film, singing guy would reappear, because while incidental, he was still somehow important to the overall narrative. Or, to be more accurate, he appeared for a reason, but the audience would only be allowed to discover why at a later point in the film.

When I got home, I did some Google work, even trying “My curiosity aroused / I telephoned the circus lady.” But I couldn’t find anything. Nice work, mystery melody man.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

SubPox is now part of the information superhighway

Designing a GeoCities CyberPage for my 90s cover band SubPox was a lot of fun. I was incredibly fortunate to have a great developer offer to build the site in his spare time. It's responsive and short and to the point.

Are there animated gifs? Yes, there are many of them. Those took a moderate amount of work. Creating an ASCII version of our Mudhoney cover was a real pain in the ass. But it's done. I urge you to check out the magic at

SubPox rehearsal footage shot in ASCII-VISION

Saturday, August 22, 2015

The Flesh of The World Needs a Tagline

I went to see The Flesh of the World, an amazing collection of contemporary art last Saturday at the University of Toronto Art Centre. I could pontificate about the art, but it boils down to this: it's free and incredible and a must-see.

That said, I'm a bit sad about the lack of promotion. Part of the challenge is that it's split across three galleries (two locations at U of T downtown and the remainder at U of T Scarborough). The other challenge is that their website lacks a tagline or any other form of simple description to help people understand what the exhibit is all about.

And so, since I love the show so much, I tried to fix the problem. I settled on trying to convey two things:

- the show provokes a wide range of strong emotions
- the show includes diverse, inclusive artwork

There are a bunch of other small improvements the current website could integrate, starting with more images of the art itself. But a tagline, or equivalent entry point for potential viewers, seems like the right first step. Because they can then use the tagline to better promote the show through social media and other channels.

Why did I do this? Not because I'm a marketing genius, a copywriting wizard, or a crackerjack designer looking for a reason to show off. I did this because I was genuinely moved by the artwork I saw. I did this because I'm proud of our city for supporting a collection of art related to the Pan Am & Parapan games that avoided being a room filled with watered down, up-with-people, mush. And I did this because I saw a constructive way of solving a small part of their promotional challenge, instead of just complaining.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Words if necessary, but not necessarily a wordy manifesto

Last week I had a pretty decent idea for a personal creative project. I’m not going to give much away, but when I shifted from light bulb to capturing the project on paper, I found myself doing something unusual: I didn’t just puke a bunch of words onto the page. I love using words as a cheap way to prototype an idea, but taglines and paragraphs aren’t always the best approach.

This time out, what felt most natural and appropriate for my web-based creative project was a script for a 60-second video. Understand, however, that I’m not doing a Kickstarter or a MegaGogo campaign. Having an explanatory video for my creative project certainly isn’t a bad idea, but it wasn’t an obvious first choice either.

The reason I mention my script-first approach is that I tend to overlook video due to my print journalism background. Despite all the digital copywriting and content strategy work I’ve done over the past five years, my default definition of content is still words, with the occasional nod to icons and infographics. In my defence, video can be expensive and time-consuming if you don’t want it to look like garbage.

I really enjoyed writing the script, especially because it quickly turned into something playful and fun, rather than yet another mini-manifesto. The script also helped me visually define the tone and style of the project – something that might inform the look and feel of the site design down the road. There’s also an energy and pace to the video that would be very difficult to convey through any other format.

Although it’s far from exhaustive, the script offers a concise project definition: here’s what I decided to do, and why. And, finally, I can take the key messages from the video and use them to develop headlines and body copy. That’s a lot of heavy lifting for a 130 word script.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Sexist Chumbox

Good news everyone! Conclusive proof that chumboxes are devoid of meaningful content and sexist to boot!

Hot court reporter? That's your file name? Really?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

My Junction Triangle t-shirt featuring the serpentine streets of Symington and Sterling

I woke up this morning and discovered a tweet of mine was getting some attention.
I have no interest in getting into the hyper-local, non-lucrative, t-shirt business, so here is the jpeg I used to make my shirt. I bought my shirt at H&M and went to Toronto Tees to get it printed.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Baby Favela

At first we barely noticed the baby hobos. Their encampment on the edges of our suburb was unruly, yes, but small. Tins of Enfalac heated over small fire pits, the occasional odour of amateur s’mores wafting into our cul-de-sac.

But strength in numbers should never be underestimated, and the babies eventually reached critical mass. They migrated south, from Markham down to North York and then still further, until the toddler tribe alighted upon the Danforth. By then they were hungry for all that they had been previously denied. They squatted on patios, in dive bars. The moment they saw weakness, they would bully or intimidate.

(Inspired by a photo from Rob Elliott).

Thursday, February 05, 2015

The Gearyfication of Geary Ave has begun

Stuart Berman wrote a funny and smart Toronto Star article about the gritty pluck and changing fortunes of Geary Ave: 
Though located just steps north of heavily trafficked Dupont St., the unremarkable, one-kilometre-long Geary Ave. — beginning at Ossington Ave. in the east and terminating just past Dufferin St. in the west — exists in the no man’s land between downtown and midtown, an area so unconcerned with keeping up appearances that its modern-furniture knock-off stores actually have names like Modern-Furniture Knock Off.
However, as someone who uses and enjoys the Rehearsal Factory, I'm concerned that this article signals the start of rapid Gearyfication.

Or, to put it in language that everyone understands, "Stuart you ho this is all your fault."