Friday, April 5, 2013

Downtown Nightlife: The Elbow

About six months ago, a promoter that I'm close with, named Trey Hebron, came up with a brilliant strategy to get people to come to our burgeoning downtown nightlife: Brand the area as "The Elbow". Pretty quickly, I recognized the potential for this idea and offered Black Key's support for the project. One thing led to another and I ended up a partner in the initiative and have been gearing up for our April 20th launch, during Jacksonville's version of the World's Fair: One Spark.

Local website, wrote a really nice piece on the movement and I'm feeling more invigorated than ever about this idea. You can read the article below, or at it's original location, HERE.

Downtown Jacksonville’s The Elbow 
The leg bone’s connected to the knee bone, the knee bone’s connected to your thigh bone, and the elbow’s connected to…Ocean and Bay Street?
Now, The Elbow is more than a body part, it’s a series of nightlife venues located in the entertainment district Downtown which has developed around the Florida Theatre.
Trey Hebron, talent buyer for 1904 Music Hall, thought of the concept after realizing a fresh, new branding was needed for the entertainment district, similar to what Tallahassee has with “The Strip.” After tossing the name around between friends, Grant Nielsen of Black Key Designs jumped on board to help take the initiative to the next level.
Also launched by 1904 Music Hall is The Connection, an inexpensive, round-trip bus service from the Beaches “over-the-ditch” to Downtown. Started in February, it is now in its experimental stage, running on select nights and will expand further into the Elbow. Fares are $5 a tripRecently, The Connection has partnered with Bus To Show, which works to reduce intoxicated driving while  building a community among event-goers and fundraising. It’s definitely a great pre-party for the evening.
Downtown Throwdown, presented by Folio Weekly, kicked off last month and takes place every third Thursday, featuring free live music in nine of The Elbow venues from 6 p.m.-2 a.m. This month, don’t miss the Launch Party during One Spark on April 20th, where the brand new website featuring The Elbow initiatives, an events calendar, event previews, concert reviews, album reviews, venue profiles and much more will be unveiled. The Launch Party starts at noon and lasts until 2 a.m. with a huge FREE show at 1904 Music Hall.
Who doesn’t want to be Downtown? There are local brews and specialty cocktails to drink, DJs and live music to dance the night away each night of the week in The Elbow. If you’re not down here any night of the week, you’re definitely missing out.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Ninja Marketing Through QR Codes

Everyone knows that finding innovative ways to market your brand or product is crucial. One of the more promising areas of this movement is to find creative ways to bridge the digital and physical realms as seamlessly as possible. In the future, we should expect to be able to merely wave our hand or phone within the proximity of a sensor and be granted information, sales and access to infinite kinds of digital products and services.

Many of these strategies are available today through the use of Text Message Short Codes ("text 'AID' to 19304"), or point of sale purchasing using credit card 'fast passes'. But most of these technologies, however convenient, come at an incredible cost to the purveyor.

Enter the QR Barcode. A seemingly elegant, albeit unattractive, solution to the problem of how to engage smartphone users. All one has to do is open the barcode reader on his or her phone, scan the code and receive all manner of content provided by the code's creator. Easy, right? Well, perhaps not so much...

The problem is that the codes are SO easy to produce that these abstract little squares have turned up everywhere in society, and have flooded the landscape before the technology was even adopted by the general population. Even I, as QR enthusiast, only scan a handful in a year. The reason being, is that simply slapping one of these on the bottom of a print ad, or painting one on the side of a building isn't a sufficient motivator for a smartphone user to dig into one's pocket, load the app, allow it to focus, all to be brought to boring or irrelevant content. If you're not inspiring your audience, how can you expect to engage their curiosity long enough to go through the aforementioned steps? It would be like a newspaper with a front page headline that simply said "READ THIS".

The answer is find ways to entice the user to buy into the process. This could be done as simply as throwing a giant barcode on the side of your food truck and linking it to your online menu. You could also feature your barcode in a print ad that specifically states "Scan this code and receive 20% off!"

But my favorite method, that designers have recently taken to, is to create a piece of art out of the code. A free-standing image that is not only functional, but aesthetic as well. Here are a number of creative examples that prove affordable marketing can still be effective.

Here's a concept utilizing the unaltered barcode in a larger graphic. The scene is creative, but the barcode itself is not very eye-catching. This would work well inside a full layout, but doesn't stand very well alone.

In this example, the Santa Claus and Rudolph characters are fun, but don't inspire a sense of inquiry. I'm not compelled to find out what vapid consumerism lies behind these icons.

The following barcodes better represent a healthy balance between form and function. These artists all developed an interesting graphic with full color and style; that not only entices, but is aesthetically pleasing at the same time. 

Completely wild, crazy and totally eye catching. If you didn't know any better you wouldn't even realize this even is a barcode.

Can't you just picture this code being displayed in the bakery of your local grocer? No visible text is required to motivate the viewer to action. A brilliant use of chocolate and white chocolate chips on a cookie culminates in some very 'mouth-watering marketing'.

This design almost reminds me of a piece of East Asian spiritual folk art. Not only beautiful, but commanding of one's attention.

This design seems to hearken back to the cultish following of brands like Sanrio's "Hello Kitty". If you were an eleven year old Japanese girl, this might be a very effective ad.

If the previous examples seem too esoteric for your business' purposes, consider what these artists have done with their barcodes. An interesting component of the codes is that you can alter them anywhere from 7-30% and they will still function. I don't know how or why this works, but it lends itself to some VERY creative design work.

In this example, the designer figured out a way to weave the likeness of a rapper into a code that any of his fans would be helpless but to scan immediately, leading them directly to the artist's streaming music.

This company created an interesting woodcut aesthetic and even found a way to include their logo twice. This is a home run from a branding perspective.

This band dressed up their barcode with the group's existing artwork. Imagine if you could motivate your customers or fans to display your barcode as a window decal on the back of your car?!

While the background image of this design isn't decipherable, look how extensive the manipulation to the original barcode is. All that, and the artist still found a way to include the brand's logo, large and in the center.

This one has Slimer on it, so it's automatically getting scanned... Licensing be damned!

As we move deeper into the digital age, we need to be constantly questioning our methods efficacy and progressiveness. Whether you are a purveyor of goods, services or ideas, reaching your audience in a way that engages them will be a perennial concern. Why not challenge your brand to be a force of the future and a creative leader in your field?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Grandpa's Cough Medicine "The Murder Chord"

A number of months ago, my friends in the band "Grandpa's Cough Medicine" approached BKD about creating a new look for a bluegrass band. While originally we had been leaning towards a depression-era 'Grapes of Wrath' feeling, the group decided we needed to go metal with it. And not just skulls-and-guitar-necks metal either... I mean DEATH-FUCKING-METAL!

So we drove the band, photographer Jenny Balsamo and a friend to play a living prop, out to the country where the band knew a family that owned some land. We quickly got to digging a shallow grave, wrapped their friend Matt in a sheet and put him in the ground; photographing the entire sequence as it happened. Here are some photos from the session.

After we had completed that shoot, we brought GCM's guitarist, Brett Bass, over to the house and shot the image that would become the album cover. Brett made the blood himself in our kitchen out of corn syrup and food coloring and that's my machete sticking out of that stump.

I was even interviewed by a reporter about the art direction of "The Murder Chord", which you can read here:

I'm also really pleased to affirm that the genius of the band outshines the artwork 10 fold... You would do well by going over to iTunes and picking up your copy today!


Friday, February 10, 2012

I Wear Your Shirt

Friday, February 10th, Black Key Designs was the featured spot on the IWYS calendar. If you're not familiar with, then you should probably check out their "About Page" on their website; but sufficed to say, they are pioneers in progressive marketing.

BKD was proud to have the VIP slot in the day's festivities and they even made a cool little video spot about the company, which you can see here:

Jason and Sean also put on another one of their awesome daily webcasts, where they entertained a loyal online-audience, all the while wearing a Black Key Designs shirt, and intermittently mentioning the strengths and services of BKD! You can watch their webcast here:

Many thanks to Jason Sadler and IWYS!