With our eldest daughter in the last few months of her third year of high school, our household mailbox has become the target of college recruiters from around the country. Filled each week with numerous brochures, postcards and flyers from colleges around the country, the mailer we received from Vassar College got the desired result: “Hey Dad, how come we didn’t visit this school when we toured the East coast schools last summer?”
A well designed, large format brochure filled with compelling images supported by smartly crafted copy certainly caught the attention of the future co-ed in our household.
Julia Vandevelder, Editorial Director at Vassar shared with me some of the inspiration behind the creation of the campaign. Referring to the “inspired design” Vandevelder openly admitted to “struggling with the role of print” in marketing campaigns targeted at post-Millennials. She informed me that many colleges have abandoned print mailing pieces in favor of greater investment in digital and social campaigns. However, hoping to “have an emotional impact especially with those students not familiar with our campus and the overall beauty of the Hudson River Valley” Vandevelder elected to push forward with a printed piece.
For inspiration, rather than look at collateral from competitor campuses, Vandevelder took her cues from retail catalogs hoping to “leverage the powerful branding devices so prevalent among retailers and apply those same principles” to communicating the strong values of Vassar.
To help execute the strategy, Vassar commissioned legendary New York City design firm Chermayeff & Geismar known for its signature use of bold typography to communicate memorable brand messages. While founders Tom Geismar and Ivan Chermayeff consulted on the project, partner Sagi Haviv provided creative direction and collaborated with Vandevelder on the photographer selection.
Knowing it was critical to create high-impact imagery to complement Haviv’s strong design, photographer Holly Wilmeth was commissioned for the project. Wilmeth was selected for “her ability to capture both the unique campus environments at Vassar as well as intimate interactions between Vassar students and faculty.” And she delivered the goods.
Copywriting duties also fell to Vandevelder. After opening the large format brochure and double page gatefold, the reader is invited to take a closer look with the headline: “We don’t know you yet. But we do know some things about you. You’re smart.” The plucky style and confident tone deliver both emotional and intellectual punch that hits the mark with aspiring co-eds whose sometime fragile self-confidence gets a much needed boost from this writer.
Given the visceral and immediate reaction of at least one recipient of the final design, clearly Vassar hit the mark. As I sit here writing this post with the catalog on my desk, the future college student in our household leans over to me and asks “Hey, can I have that back?” fulfilling every direct marketer’s dream.
Client: Vassar College
Editorial Director and Copywriter: Julia Vandevelder
Creative Director, Sagi Haviv, Chermayeff & Geismar
Photographer: Holly Wilmeth
The art of the great street photographer is at the heart of what many of us aspire to achieve.
We don’t know it, but we do.
In the age of Instagram and its followers, the image is the sharpest tool of social media. And often the most telling picture is the caught moment, even a stolen moment, the document of a remarkable event or environment where the photographer is a keen-eyed and uninvited bystander.
So the street snapper in all of us should yearn to get to Paris and view the exhibition at La Maison Europeenne de la Photographie. It’s a wonderful retrospective on Joel Meyerowitz, one of the defining figures of street photography. Closes 7 April.
Whether or not you can go, fans can view a good film here, where JM talks about his work and some of the more remarkable images.
If you’re not a fan, that’s perhaps because you don’t know much about him so you might still want to view that link.
One comment that struck me was where he refers to the ‘river energy’ of New York street life, and how he quickly realised the need to be invisible. ‘You need to work without being seen or avoided.’
It reminded me of a long discussion I had with Joel for my book Photowisdom. He is a great one for following instinct, believing compelling photography often comes out of a physical more than intellectual engagement with the world. He sifts the pictures afterwards to interpret the experience. ‘I am not really looking for something but looking at it,’ he told me, ‘watching like waves on the shore as it throws more stuff up’.
And what stuff is there for the beachcomber. A baby in a box by a shooting range; a dead horse with rigor mortis in a Spanish street; class and race conflict played out while watching a parade; magic light by slightly surreal swimming pools; pedestrians made beautiful by the steam rising from a street vent. Worth six minutes 40 seconds of your time to watch the film.
- blog post by Lewis Blackwell, Chief Creative Officer, Evolve Images
The past weekend’s blizzard buried the East Coast in as much as 40″ of snow. Falling in a span of just 24 hours, photographer Jake Wyman took the opportunity to capture these images in his hometown of Guilford, CT. Jake reports: “Almost all roads were impassable. As I live near the Guilford Green, I was able to walk to the center of town to photograph.”
Over the last year, we’ve been privileged to work with Jay Carskadden, of Jay Carskadden Graphic Design. Upon selecting this image to appear in the February/March edition of Virtuoso Traveler Magazine we asked Jay to reflect on her experience working with Evolve when choosing images for this magazine targeted at affluent travelers. Jay offers the following insights:
“Finding great photography for the travel magazine (Virtuoso Traveler) I design is a real challenge. It can be the best part of my job, and the worst. There are a lot of great photos out there, and also a lot of bad ones. It’s sifting through the bad ones that is frustrating. I look for photos that best illustrate the stories we are trying to tell.
Evolveimages.com is a great site because their photos are so well edited. I haven’t seen a bad photo yet. Evolve is especially helpful when it comes to finding good “people” photography.
I think that Evolve’s site design is nice too and that makes searching for photography all the better for designers. I prefer a darker gray background to a white background when looking for photos. I usually need very specific travel location photos and have to scour many photo sites to find the right one. I wish that all photography sites were as well edited and as well designed as evolves is.”
Here at Evolve Images we believe in the incredible power of photography like we believe that the sun rise will rise tomorrow. But there’s no guarantee that pictures get used in a way that releases that power.
Indeed, flip through a magazine or across a few websites and you will get a fly past of images that fail to move you, unless to irritate. All too often, great pictures can be enfeebled by poor design.
So here is a quick ready reckoner on five image-use crimes to avoid. Give yourself a mark for each that seems obvious. If you get four or five you are entitled to feel smug. But take away ten points if you ever slip into the bad practices!
#1 Don’t use the same picture as everybody else. Of course, you would never do this. But so many buyers of images do just that. It gives the whole industry a bad name and encourages derivative images to be created rather than exciting new ones. You know the kind of thing – the smiling woman with the headset for the call centre contact point, or the handshake to seal the deal and signal success, or the… but we mustn’t give you ideas. Nobody sets out to do it but pressure of work can lead to unthinking actions. Just check where the ‘inspiration’ comes from and what it looks like, every time. Distract your client’s thinking when it strays into the overly familiar. The end customer is not going to be impressed if the big picture message is a big yawn.
#2 Don’t crop and kill the picture. We love smart cropping – it can release a whole new dyamic in the picture. But there are a host of examples (often on awkwardly shaped ads) where an image has been cropped to death. One effect is to baffle the viewer into wondering what the heck is being said by the image when the side of somebody’s head, or a quirky building half out of the shot, catches the attention more than anything else. Study an image for what can work, think of how the viewer’s eye might move across it, make sure the picture tells a story in the right order. Try to make it as intuitive and emotive as possible, not some strange puzzle.
#3 Don’t forget the context. We expect our images to be put with things – type, other images, design elements, interactive tools, etc. When an image sits as part of a journey through information, it needs to work in four dimensions – both as a visual composition, and also doing the right piece of work in a narrative. Is the image the first thing to be ‘read’, or is it supposed to back up the message, or add a reveal to the message? Plan it out and make sure it works that way.
#4 Don’t think you are the person who best understands how the image works. Of course no designer would think they are the only person who really understands how the image and its layout is supposed to work! Would they? Many is the designer who rates their opinion above the innocent feedback of the confused viewer. Open up to feedback or risk getting it too late. It’s the reality. Take it in, tune the work, and the result can ensure success rather than failure.
#5 Do try options. It’s free and it’s fun. Ok, so time is short and you have an execution in mind and want to get it done. But remember that old statement about ‘marry in haste, repent at leisure’? It can apply to pictures too. Rush into marrying your layout to the first image that comes into mind and later on you will see a lot more attractive matches. Play the field a little while you can!
With the recent disclosure of Getty Images’ controversial license agreement with Google, there are many debates going on around stock photography at present – and Evolve Images finds its brand values well and truly on the mark for much that gets discussed.
Our focus on only having high quality images, of setting fair pricing and controlled rights, along with offering market-leading royalties for photographers, nails several of the hot issues.
Evolve Images’ Chief Creative Officer, Lewis Blackwell, will be heading up a live Q&A on the industry trends over at the esteemed World Photography Organisation site. You can read his views and check out the q&a location here. Tune in Tuesday, 29 January, at 2pm EST.
By the way, hats off to the WPO for a fantastic response to its latest annual Sony World Photography Award. A record-breaking 120,000 images were entered. That’s not just an eye-opener, it’s an eye-watering judging session!
Before the glow of the holiday season is but a fading memory, I thought I would take a moment to share a gift that a friend was kind enough to share with me (Thank you Jim!).
Published by Taschen in 2012 and edited by Jean Claude Gautrand, Paris, Portrait of a City, is a photographic tour d’force. Weighing in at 9 pounds and 542 pages, the 450 published photographs document not only the last 150 years of seminal events in the City of Light, but also provide a survey of technical and artistic invention in photography spanning from the silver plated images of Daguerre to Cartier-Bresson’s “decisive moment.”
The sheer heft of this book requires you to slow down and consider each of the beautifully reproduced images. The thorough, yet concise captions (translated in German, French and English) provide quick insight to the significance of each photograph. Sequenced by date, the images are organized into five historical periods each of which begins with a 3-5 page historical summary of the events taking place in Paris during the timeline being documented. The short narratives provide deeper context for the conditions– social, cultural, economic– under which these images were created and certainly enhanced my appreciation for the works included.
Working with an expanded format allowed the editor to include more than 100 photographers (and many Anon.) while also going deep into the catalog of several individual photographers most notably Robert Doisneau, Willy Ronis, George Brassai and the wartime occupation propaganda images of Andre Zucca.
The inclusion of relatively few images created after 1960 makes me pause and consider whether the editor is making a commentary on the quality of images created over the last 50+ years or whether Paris’ influence has waned as a cultural or economic touchstone that perhaps it once enjoyed. That said the images and scope of work are deeply satisfying. Whether you have an affinity for all things Parisian, are a lover of photography or history, there’s a lot to like in this wonderful book.
Give yourself a gift that keeps on giving and bring Paris home this year.
Here’s our take on the Instagram debacle of recent days.
If we have learned anything from this egregious rights-grab on users’ assets [link to original story], followed by the quick back-track in the face of widespread outrage, it is this: social media is great, but do it with your eyes wide open. Be very careful who you share with and understand their motives.
We would all tell children to be wary of who they trust to go for a walk with. And yet a billion of us have gaily uploaded our lives to Facebook – and anything it cares to buy, such as Instagram – with rarely a glance at the small print.
At Evolve, we are 100 per cent behind the sentiments expressed in PACA’s letter to Instagram. [See below.] But we know that the evolution of digital media will continue to stretch the boundaries of the personal and the public, bringing culture and commerce into conflict. We are going to have more stories like this.
So if there is one guide point it is READ THE SMALL PRINT. Small print is rarely small to help the reader.
If there is a second guide point, it is ACT FAST AND STRONG when anybody does an Instagram. There are other good platforms out there that take images and offer effects, and there are services to help you strip that content out of Instagram and put it elsewhere.
Vote with your IP!
Letter from PACA to Instagram:
DECEMBER 20, 2012
Via Email and First Class Mail
Instagram 181 South Park Street, Suite 2
San Francisco, CA 94107
Re: Instagram’s Terms of Service
Dear Mr. Systrom:
Nancy E. Wolff, on behalf of
Picture Archive Council of America, Inc (PACA), The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP), Professional Photographers of America (PPA), National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), American Photographic Artists (APA) Graphic Artists Guild (GAG)