I’ve never really been good at pumpkins. Enter YesWeCarve.com I actually did OK with this one. I used a stencil available on their website. I also submitted the photo to their blog… I hope to see it up there soon!

I’ve sent my résumé to twenty places. Five have told me they aren’t hiring. Two have told me I don’t have enough experience. The rest haven’t responded to any correspondences I’ve initiated.

You might be wondering why I’ve titled this post ‘Great Opportunities’. Here’s why:

This week I was contacted by a place I didn’t even apply to (because I didn’t know there was an opening). They would like to interview me for a web developer position. I had a phone interview Friday and will soon have a video conference interview.

Also this week, I was called by Jeff at StandPoint Communication. He heard about me from Todd, a guy I used to work for at Web Services. He would like to partner with my new company (more on that very soon!) to offer graphic/web design services to his clients. But the real kicker, his clients are people like previous Miss USA’s or celebrities who are now motivational speakers. He mentioned, “If say Miss America 1975 calls me and wants a website, I will say ‘hey, call stephen’.” And so there I am talking to Miss America 1975… and that’s where my new company comes in. I won’t say any more about it at this point.

and… my birthday is coming up. These are great birthday presents. ha!

Exciting times.

In part four, I take a look at the recent website redesign by John McCain and compare it to his previously all black website.

Beautiful Design
I believe I’ve said this on my blog before. This presidential campaign has largely been about change. Most significantly, a change from really horrible design in political campaigns to truly beautiful design and focused branding, most on the part of Obama’s campaign, but most recently with McCain as well.

Finally, candidates are seeing the value of a great brand and beautiful design. By ‘great brand’ I’m talking about the cohesive theme and logo. For Obama it has been ‘Change’ and ‘Hope’. For McCain it has been ‘maverick’ (or is it ‘a couple of mavericks’?) and ‘Country First’. What I think is even more effective is a theme that gets placed on a campaign by the public. In this case it was in the form of Internet viral advertising, especially the ‘Yes We Can’ music video. I can’t think of a viral advertising ‘brand’ that has been placed on the McCain campaign. There have also been some negative viral advertising affecting Obama such as Internet rumors that, ‘He’s a Muslim.’ As Campbell Brown on CNN pointed out a few days ago “So what if he is a Muslim? Since when was that a disqualifer for president?”

Website (re)Design
The website design for both candidates can make or break them in terms of young vote. Young people are all about hip and cool. That’s what first draws them to a candidate in some cases, then they look at the issues. This isn’t the case with all young voters but for some it is. So how does a young voter remain on a website that is black, gray and a little blue with pictures of people their grandparents age? The answer is: ‘they don’t.’ So as I first visited McCain and Obama’s website you can guess which one I was drawn to more, especially as a designer. A young voter’s life is always ‘changing’ and they usually have much ‘hope’ for their future. And what is it that Obama has focused his campaign on? Hope and Change. What do people want after Bush’s presidency? Hope and Change. What do I want a little more of in my pocket? Change. (haha, get it?)

Before McCain’s website redesign at the end of the summer, it wasn’t successfully keeping young voters there and giving them something to grab hold of. His website color scheme was a depressing black and blue and there were about thirteen pictures of him on his biography page (mostly black and white). That is thirteen reminders of how old he is. The constant replaying of McCain’s POW video on his website didn’t connect with young voters since it is from a war so far removed from our generation. Also, McCain’s stance on the Iraq war is not striking a chord with young people as a whole. For example, the statement about being in Iraq for one hundred years. Overall, I concluded last spring that McCain was not reaching young voters and needed to utilize his website in better ways.

Finally a Redesign for the Maverick
What do you get when you have just one maverick? A black and gray website. Add a younger, less-experienced maverick to the team to make ‘a couple of mavericks’ and what do you get? A website very similar to the competition. I say this because McCain’s website changed for the better about 2 months before adding Sarah Palin to his mavericky campaign. Check out my screenshots of the McCain website next to the Obama website. If I were to just glance at these, I would guess they were from the same campaign. Almost identical blue, glowing white shadows/lights, addition of ‘people group’ mentioned in a previous post. Why would anyone want to go from the deathly black and gray to hopeful blue and glowing lights? It might be that they noticed Obama’s website was well designed, structured and communicated their theme of change and hope. I guess communicating the theme of ‘country first’ is visually depicted identical to that of ‘change’ and ‘hope’.

That, or the McCain campaign generously borrowed design ideas from a better looking website. How blatant can you be? I believe my side-by-side image says it all.

In part five I take a look how Obama and McCain are getting out the vote and recent online buzz (Keating Economics, Fight the Smears, Yes We Carve, etc)

In part three, I continue my discussion of McCain and his ineffective use of the web. This is part three of six.

Excluding 50% of Americans
John McCain’s website does not have a ‘Students for McCain’ webpage. In fact, last Spring he had only three people group webpages: Lawyers, Women and Veterans for McCain. But still today, there’s no “Students for McCain” webpage. What gives? This would lead one to believe that McCain doesn’t value every voter, and only values his three favorite type of voters: Women voters, Veteran voters and Lawyer voters. Sure, these three groups are probably the most likely of any group to actually go to the polls and vote… but why exclude 50% Americans?

A Logical Approach with a Community-Driven Approach
Barack Obama didn’t exclude all non-women, non-veterans, and non-lawyers. He has webpages for many ethnicity’s, sexual orientations, and political parties. He also includes: People of Faith, Kids, Seniors, Small Business, Labor etc. Most important to my discussion is that he has a ‘Students for Obama’ webpage. This, combined with Facebook, MySpace, Twitter social networks is giving Obama a huge edge with getting young people’s attention. Within each page there are blog posts particularly relevant to that category. That is brilliant because now someone in that category can ‘comment’ and discuss issues with people like them. Building a community is central to Obama’s website; from his various blogs on people webpages to ‘MyBO’ where voters can get involved locally through events and more.

Shaping Up (kind of)
Sometime in the past few months (late Summer), McCain decided that he should have pages for more people than just women, lawyers and veterans. Maybe he finally realized that not everyone in American fit into those groups. I’m theorizing that he took a gander at Obama’s set of people groups and trimmed it down a little, leaving out many important people groups. Ironically some of the them being: LGBT and ‘Students for McCain’. He might not agree with LGBT voters or even Student voters but you got to at least try and reach out to them. He strangely added ‘Bikers for McCain’ (probably because Cindy McCain is a biker girl). He also has ‘Americans of Faith’ and thought it necessary to add ‘Catholics for McCain’ as if Catholics aren’t American with faith. He’s even got a news article on that page titled “Obama’s Catholic Problem.” Maybe Obama should put a news article up titled “McCain’s Young Vote Problem.”

He’s got people group pages, but their iss no community aspect.
These people group page on McCain’s website don’t offer community opportunities. For example, Catholics can’t interact with other Catholics for McCain while on the ‘Catholics for McCain’ webpage. So the result is saying: “See, I can write articles pay people to write articles about Obama’s Catholic problem and get pictures taken with Catholics”; instead of saying, “Here are some important issues to Catholics and a blog/comment section so you can discuss it with other Catholics.” The side columns to any people group webpage on McCain’s website offer non-related items, while Obama’s side columns offer some people group specific steps that can be taken along with non-related items.

In part four, I take a look at the recent website redesign by John McCain and compare it to his previously all black website.

In part two, I continue my discussion of McCain and his ineffective use of the web. This is part two of six.

As I said in part one, I spent last Spring studying the presidential candidates and how I could create some ‘advertising’ to help one of the candidates. This was when the democrats were narrowed down to Obama and Clinton and the republicans were narrowed to Huckabee, McCain and Romney.

A side-by-side comparison of McCain and Obama's website through time

The Facts
I began looking at web statistics for these remaining candidates, especially the number of Myspace and Facebook friends. We all know that if you want to reach young people, you need to go to where they are most of the time: Facebook and Myspace. There’s a phrase in the Church that says, “God will meet people where they are.” The candidates need to meet young voters where they are: the web (specifically Facebook and Myspace). What I found is that Obama had 800,000 Facebook supporters while McCain had 117,000. Today, Obama has over 2 million supporters and McCain has 575,000 – this has to worry McCain when it comes to young people not being excited for a McCain presidency. Last Spring they were presumed to be the nominees, and yet were getting very different numbers in terms of young support – today is no different. If that wasn’t enough evidence, I looked at website stats from Quantcast.com and 88% of McCain’s website visitors were over 24. Today, Quantcast reports that 63% of his website viewership come from people over 34 years old. Today, McCain’s website draws 4.3 million visitors a month. That’s a lot, right? Well, double that number – 7.9 million – and that’s the number of visitors a month who visit Obama’s website.

I know, I know – McCain’s support lies in the senior citizens of America and they don’t use the web as much as younger people do. But the question will be: Will young people who support Obama via Facebook actually go and vote. Similarly, will seniors who support McCain actually go and vote. We shall see on November 4.

So, as you can tell, McCain has a problem with young voters. Not only because of the web statistics, but also because he’s not speaking to issues directly relating to them. He doesn’t mention much at all about technology, or college tuition. He wants to keep the Internet free (wow-who doesn’t) and for college, he doesn’t offer anything as substantial as Obama’s $4,000 tax credit for students. But I set out to find those issues that would connect to young voters, even if in a very indirect way.

My Small Contribution to McCain
I decided to pretend I worked for McCain and wanted to get young people to vote for him, because I could tell that Obama had the young crowd in the bag… and still does. The reason I decided on this was because I searched and searched and couldn’t find a “Students for McCain” website. No place for students to call their ‘online home’ if they were checking out McCain or were already Republicans. I set out to make McCain seem ‘exciting’ to more young voters.

My work in Advertising last semester resulted in this website: a blog style website that allowed students to interact with the campaign and each other on issues that were important to them. It also highlighted the lighter side of McCain via photos and video (videos no longer work since they were deleted from youtube). This website would theoretically allow students to take action and network with McCain via social networking websites, which was hidden or not there at all on his real website last Spring.

In part three, I will talk about what McCain has done with his website to reach a different audience.

In part one, I introduce the dilemma McCain has in effectively reaching young people on the web. This is part one of six.

As a designer I’ve constantly looked at the candidate websites and tried to imagine how people of different age groups would react and interact with them. These next six blog posts will be a culmination of this research and thought process.

John McCain’s age is not helping him reach young voters. An ineffective (or not as effective) use of his campaign website is hurting him in this area. Simple things such as branding, color scheme and number of times photographs of him are used on a single web page all drastically effect a person’s impression of him as a candidate. McCain’s brand: a militaristic star (seen on the right), is not a good choice in a time when more than half Americans aren’t happy about the wars we are in. McCain’s color scheme last Spring was black, and a little bit of blue. This just enhanced the idea that McCain would be the oldest person to be president if elected. Black, to me, symbolizes death, not ‘Country First’. His biography once had over 10 photos of him. 10 reminders of his age – all were in black and white. He also hasn’t embraced social networking. This could be done easily by making his campaign website a central hub for connecting with him through various social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Myspace etc. Although, I believe he has recently adopted this concept. Good for him.

On the flip side, Barack Obama’s age and central theme is helping him. An effective use of his website is helping him in this area. Obama’s not even THAT young, so it can’t be solely because he is younger. Ron Paul was the second oldest candidate during the primaries and was generating more online buzz than Obama or McCain (for a small period of time). The creative typography, effective circle logo (seen on the right), colors, and key concepts of hope and change have really catapulted Obama. The design of everything involved with his campaign is great. The circle logo is reminiscent of the Midwest. It might be that the first time I saw his logo was on a sign placed in a corn field in Iowa, so I always think that the logo represents a corn field and sunset. The strong themes of hope and change have done well for him, especially with McCain’s lack of theme.

I spent the Spring of 2008 studying campaign websites of all 20 or so candidates from both sides for my Advertising course. I started the project simply researching and finding something I could zone in on. What became apparent was that many of the candidates weren’t attracting the same buzz online as Barack Obama and Ron Paul were. Ron Paul has sense fallen off the face of the earth while spewing the same phrase, “It’s all about the value of the dollar declining.” Obama’s success online and overall has continued throughout the whole campaign. This is apparent in the over 1 million facebook friends Obama had versus his next highest opponent who was Ron Paul at the time, with half as many friends. I forsaw McCain being the Republican candidate, so I wanted my class project to focus on generating online buzz for McCain – I know, it was a tall task. McCain never did and still doesn’t have a ‘Students for McCain’ website, while Obama does.

In part two I will look at exactly what is hurting McCain and his online presence.

I’m in a ‘Motion Graphics’ course here at Truman. Our first project was to use Wonder Bread as part of stop motion animation.

I chose to play on the fact that Wonder bread was the ‘first’ to sell sliced bread and is an american icon. So I focused on another series of American “firsts” – An African American getting the nomination of a major political party. My ad made the 87 year old company, Wonder Bread, a character throughout civil rights movement history and show that “wonder was there all along.”

The music is from the 2003 MO-IL Bi-State Band Concert. It’s titled “After the Thunderer” It was commissioned by our director, and I got to perform in the band under his direction on this recording. Also, this was first time to use Adobe Premiere.

I’ve been working with a high school friend to develop a brand and website for his newest endeavor – to offer free online financial planning to lower-middle class people. He currently lives in Chicago as a financial planner. He had a good idea of what he was looking for. Colors, imagery and wording were some of things he had a good idea about. So I took his ideas along with new ideas I had come up with and created a few versions.

Sketching and ideating: I also wrote some keywords that I thought fit his service. ‘moving forward’ and transform finances were some of the more important ones and what I guided me to abstract the globe to two swooshes. Notice I used his some of his ideas at the top to build from.

Although I knew a globe would probably not be best, I created variations with it so he could see what the result would be. I feel it was important to not throw out his ideas because they are great building blocks for the final idea.

I then created an abstraction of the globe and wrapped it around the wording. Typefaces were switched also. The tagline was way too small here, and also the wrong wording.

I changed the typeface for ‘financial plan’ and nested ‘my free’. Tagline is still too small

Blue and orange have been adjusted and changed typefaces and the tagline is working much better here.

The final version! I’ve capitalized “My Free” and made the tagline larger and black.

My last semester has started and I’m taking Advanced Motion Graphics, Advanced Digital Graphics, Chemistry and Internet Programming. For Adavanced Digital Graphics we had to photograph each letter/number in any category we chose. I decided to photograph architectural things, mostly in alleys and outside. The gallery below shows my results. Please note that the thumbnails are cropped wrong, so to get a better feel for them view them at full size.

Bloggers often talk about news stories/write their own opinions on a certain national story/issue. I have even heard news anchors mention the blogosphere and the shear number of bloggers who will write about big news stories. Well, recently I’ve experienced this same phenomenon at a very personal/local level. But unlike some bloggers who rant and rant about their narrow-minded opinions, this splash in the local blogosphere was made for all the right reasons.

Blogging is a way to tell your side of the story in a situation that would be difficult to confront otherwise. It also is a way to tell what you know to be true, even if others are saying otherwise. I experienced this in the past when I expressed my thoughts about pledging/depledging a certain fraternity. Although my situation did have some backlash, it was a way to let people know what I thought.

So when a community of believers experience something that they don’t believe is right or warranted, blogging is an outlet for them to tell friends, via their blog, their feelings and what they see as the truth in the matter. I find it especially interesting that this small community of bloggers has embraced Michael/Melissa and express to the world what they know in their heart is the truth. So to summarize this recent phenomenon in my local blogosphere here are the thoughts on the situation at hand:

To summarize my thoughts on the matter. I haven’t been living in Fredericktown for the past three years to experience things to the fullest, but I have been friends/student of Michael since 7th grade, and I know he is the hardest worker, best musician, funniest person I’ve ever met. That’s what makes this situation so difficult because there has been silence from one side over the whole matter. I really want to understand the MH side of the situation, but with a lack of openness on their end it makes me question things. Michael has been up-front with me and open, and so I have to rely on reason and logic and know that he did nothing worth what was dealt to him.

And so, there you have it… my thoughts from 500 miles away from the situation. I hope I’ve positively added to the conversation that others have written about.