Design Fashion: Flat design for flat screens

November 3rd, 2013 by Collin Canright

The fall fashion weeks showed highly textured fabrics with geometric patterns and shapes. The year’s graphic design fashion, however, is decidedly flat. Flat does not mean uninteresting and boring. It means direct, clean, minimal, and readable with a high-tech edge.

Apple’s new iOS7 is flat. You can clearly see what “flat design” means in these snips from the iPhone running under iOS6 and iOS7. Before the Apple release, Google launched a new version of its logo. It’s flat.




The Gizmodo blog, in speculating on the flat factor for iOS7, gives a good summary of the design trend in “What Is Flat Design?” It was the third thing I read on flat design, and as a journalism school grad, I knew I had a trend.

What’s even more interesting is that these technology leaders are following a trend created by a technology company not lately known as a design powerhouse: Microsoft. Windows 8 is flat.


Windows 8 grew out of the Windows Phone 7 OS, the first major appearance of the flat Metro design language. Metro, as Gizmodo says, “values typography—or the delivery of information—over graphics, that help the user understand what type of content they’re reading.”

In Microsoft’s words, it’s “fast and fluid, immersive, beautiful, and app-centric.”

Flat design is not new, Microsoft notes, but grew from a story of 20th century design history. In creating the flat Metro design style, the company’s design team took as influences modern design (as in Bauhaus), international typographic style (as in Helvetica and Univers) and cinematic motion design (as in credits by Saul Bass), writes Steve Clayton, editor of Microsoft/next, in “Modern design at Microsoft: Going beyond flat design.”

Microsoft sees flat design as one point in an evolution toward “authentically digital” design. Software interface design (OK, “user interface” design) works best when it goes beyond the physical, as when calendars scroll beyond the month into a flowing time stream, with the months indicated but not set as they were on paper. To quote from the Microsoft article:

In software, traditional visuals such as beveled buttons, reflections, drop shadows and the use of faux materials such as simulated wood grain, brushed metal and glass are attempting to mimic real-world materials and objects. Microsoft is pushing those notions aside — our designers are celebrating the fact that software is digital and made of pixels and elements such as typography, color and motion-enabled experiences that aren’t possible in the real world. As content comes to life, the user interface gets out of the way.

Scroll through Clayton’s article, an interesting online reading experience because it moves horizontally, rather than the traditional digital vertical scroll. It’s also a living digital piece. In the months since it first appeared, it’s been updated to mention Widows 8.1 and last summer’s xbox release.

Need more evidence that our our visual world is trending to flat? Flat design has been moving beyond technology. From the packaging world, this beer display in a Jewel supermarket back in September shows flat design in print:



Several years ago, the Goose Island goose logo looked nicely 3D. Now for the 25th anniversary it’s not only flat but black and white. The other two brands (all local Chicago, by the way) are all flat as well.

The world is indeed getting flatter. Check  back in a few days for more examples of flat design online and in print.

Additional Sources

“When design turned flat,” a post in the New York Times BITS blog.

“Designing for Metro style and the desktop,” a blog post in the development of Windows 8

“Designing Metro style: principles and personality,” a 2011 talk at Microsoft’s BUILD conference.


Google Gets Personal

October 25th, 2013 by Collin Canright

Engineering-oriented Google gets more attention for the way it uses personal data to generate ad revenue—the face-on-the-ad story I read the other day kind of creeped me out—but I was pleasantly surprised at today’s Google Doodle.

Wow, that’s great! How did I get Google to do this on my birthday? I wondered.


I hovered over it. “Happy Birthday, Collin!” says the message.

It even clicks through to my Google+ page (reminding me that I hate the photo and had a difficult time changing it last time I tried, many months ago).

Of course Google would know it’s my birthday. They have my data.

With all the discussions about privacy these days, best to remember that most of what’s discussed is from an outdated framework, like it or not. Personal birthday greetings from impersonal machines , even if from impersonal machines, still make me smile.

Thanks for the birthday wish, Google!

The Canright Guide to the Pitchfork Music Festival 2013

July 3rd, 2013 by Katy Myers


Canright Guide to Pitchfork 2013 – PDF download

Canright Guide to Pitchfork 2013 – PDF download

You may remember that last year we at Canright created an easy-to-read schedule for Pitchfork Music Festival. Well, we’ve done it again! We created a very basic schedule that you are free to download, print, mark up, and take with you to this year’s Pitchfork Music Festival. It has times, stages, a handy map, and even some aftershows clearly laid out to help you make the best of the fest.

Read about what music (and Pitchfork) means to us here at Canright and enjoy the fest!

Canright Guide to Pitchfork 2013 – PDF download

Once Again, Email Rises from the Presumed Dead

May 12th, 2013 by Collin Canright

Today’s cool new social technologies are once again discovering that nothing gets attention like plain-old email. As social and media aggregation technologies evolve into powerful tools of personal news delivery, email remains one of the most effective means of personal delivery.

PandoDaily did an article on retiring RSS feeds as Google retires Reader, the RSS reader that Google will discontinue on July 1. The author, Mike Tatum, quit using RSS readers and decided to look at alternatives. His article lists several, one of which is Pulse, which currently is my favorite way of reading news. Tatum complains, rightly in my view, that Pulse does not feel comprehensive, with its push methodology. You can add almost anything to Pulse; I find it awkward—but not so awkward that I’m currently looking for an alternative.

Tatum realized that the best alternative he’s found to RSS is plain old email: he’s reading more more email newsletters.

Tatum is not the only one. This week, Wired writer Ryan Tate published, “Why Email Newsletter Won’t Die,” which features the social media aggregation tool RebelMouse. RebelMouse provides a service that aggregates all of your social media activity, especially the links you share, into a single page.

I’ve been experimenting with the service on and off since it launched nearly a year ago, and it’s sweet. My tweets are automatically posted, including a picture. The idea behind the service is to provide “a social media front page,” a term they use that I like. Here’s my page:


I use RebelMouse’s Embed function to feature my RebelMouse feed at the top part of my personal blog. This screenshot from my blog shows how it looks on the post, in contrast to the native RebelMouse page above. Contrast the posts from RebelMouse on the left to my complete native Twitter feed on the left to see its appeal.


Now the company has launched “RebelAlerts,” which works over plain-old email. The service allows people to sign up for a daily newsletter feed. As of this week, you can integrate with MailChimp. And I’ll bet that future email-list integration options are in the works.

I am very likely to use this version, though I don’t use MailChimp, because, as Tate quoted Jake Levine, general manager at Digg, the news aggregation service that recently launched a daily email service: “If something is important to you, e-mail products are the one reliable way to make sure you’ll see it.”

Finally, Matthew Ingram, media writer at GigaOm, reported last week about LinkedIn’s evolution as a media entity. In the last few months, LinkedIn launched LinkedIn Today, which posts news updates on profiles. Last week, LinkedIn refreshed LinkedIn Today by launching “content channels” that individuals can subscribe to, sending an aggregated feed from multiple publications.

Along with LinkedIn’s purchase of Pulse, it’s part of the company’s strategy to become a media company. LinkedIn’s new magazine-style custom news channels, as Ingram writes, “has the potential to become a real competitor to other news aggregators and providers.”

And, yes, LinkedIn sends LinkedIn Today updates using plain-old email.

Every now and then, a piece will appear on the death of email, a more than 40-year-old technology. It hasn’t happened yet and is not likely to disappear anytime soon. Email remains the best way to put content in front of a potential reader, whether that content originates from an individual, a brand, or a media outlet—and whether it’s distributed through a website, social media channel, or individual.

Read our past posts on email delivery and marketing:

Email Powers Wires the Social Media Buzz (ebook)

Email: Content Marketing’s Workhorse


Capturing the ‘Wired’ Consumer: Leading-Edge Banking Technology

April 18th, 2013 by Collin Canright

As every business becomes a digital business, to borrow from Accenture’s technology vision for 2013, the leading edge of bank technology seeks to serve customers whose velocity of need increases with the speed and power of their personal digital technology. The digital revolution is shaping banking and providing opportunities for competitive differentiation.

In three recent articles for Independent Banker magazine, I detail three digital business technologies that are, in Accenture’s words, “well past the point where they should be areas of exploration and experimentation and are quickly becoming practical, available tools. . . ”











Payments Proliferation. Is person-to-person (P2P) a valuable canary in the payments mine? Consumers have more ways to make purchases than ever and will have even more choices over the next few years. This is creating a highly fragmented marketplace in which it’s difficult for any single payment option to gain traction. “My biggest issue is nonbank competition. If we lose customers to another payments solution, we will not get them back,” says Bob Steen, chairman and CEO at Bridge Community Bank, Mechanicsville, Iowa.

The Next Step in Mobile. Prepare for the impending shift to mobile, from basic banking to payments on the go. “Increased balance sheet and income pressure, mass consolidation, and heavy regulation mean we need to move fast to correct some glaring holes in bank strategy,” says Bradley G. Leimer, vice president of online and mobile strategy at Mechanics Bank, Richmond, Calif.

Self-Service Technologies. To complement brick-and-mortar storefronts, kiosk stations offer cost-trimming retail growth and customer-driven service. “Everyone is so busy, and people want to bank just like they shop. They want to do anything at any hour,” says Patricia Koczera, senior vice president, Lowell Bank, Lowell, Mass.

API = Freedom

April 5th, 2013 by Collin Canright

The Obama for America Campaign took the technology used to run an election campaign a step or two forward—at least for now—by building an API-based platform to manage the campaign. Harper Reed, CTO of the Obama campaign, boiled the reason down to a two-word formula: API = Freedom.

“We needed to build a platform,” Reed said the January 29 Technori Pitch, a start-up presentation event held each month in Chicago. Called Narwhal, the platform formed the basis of dozens of software tools and systems used to run the campaign, everything from a call scheduler to advanced data analytics tools. The GigaOM blog proved more details on “How Obama’s tech team helped deliver the 2012 election.”

“We built an API to have freedom,” Reed told the audience of start-up aficionados and fans. Technori Pitch is monthly showcase of Chicago start ups, which present their companies to the audience and take questions.

The concept the Obama engineering team followed was that a platform with an API would allow the flexible development of integrated products and tools that would help campaign staff and volunteers reelect the president. Reed hacked the first API of Chicago Transit Authority data, which became the data engine powering CTA’s innovative Bus Tracker app.

Reed gave the Obama technology effort a start-up feel by using a suite of systems and tools familiar to most start-up engineers, including Github, Macs, Linux, and Amazon Web Services. In the end, however, it was not the technology that made the difference. As in most businesses and organizations, it was the team, the entire team, from campaign staff to phone volunteers.,

“Technology doesn’t last,” Reed said, “but we had the right people.”


Blog of Dreams: If You Build it, Will They Come?

March 28th, 2013 by James Richter

Released in 1989 and starring Kevin Costner as an Iowa corn farmer, Field of Dreams was nominated for Best Picture and is now regarded as a classic American film.

The baseball field that Costner’s character, Ray Kinsella, builds could stand for a number of ambitious, seemingly irrational undertakings. Perhaps that’s why the movie struck a chord with audiences: Everyone has dreams that break the mold of convention. Pursuing those dreams is inspirational.

After watching the film again, we couldn’t help but see Ray as a business owner, and his baseball field as a blog. When observed from that perspective, the skyward voice that communicates with Ray seems to offer some terrific advice for not only building, but also nurturing a blog and growing its audience.

“If you build it, they will come.”

A lot of business owners think that if they create a blog, readers will magically appear like the ghosts of the 1919 Chicago White Sox. Sadly, this is not the case.

What Ray actually heard from above was, “If you build it, he will come.” This scenario is more likely, with the he being a spam-bot promoting a miracle-drug website. The hard truth is that nobody cares that you started a blog. But as long as you care that you started a blog, you might be able to get past the lack of a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

We suggest that you embrace the initial anonymity. Before you begin writing, remember that nobody is reading your stuff. No one will receive an email alert that you just posted. Nobody is going to comment, and nobody is going to tweet it or share it with friends. It’s a position that many popular writers probably envy, because it means that you can write with freedom. You can experiment. You can edit after it’s posted, and nobody will notice. This is the time to try out the feeling of typing your thoughts onto the Internet. It feels awkward at first, like throwing a baseball with the other hand. But if you stay diligent and have some fun, it will eventually feel natural.

“Ease his pain.”

Once you’re getting the hang of posting at least once a week, it’s time to get the word out. The trick to promoting your blog is to not seem like you’re promoting your blog—at least not at first.

Consider the other 7 billion people in the world. Some of them probably have an interest in what you have to say. Now find them. Search keywords on Twitter. Search tags on WordPress. Search news on Google. Chances are people are talking about the same things you are. Now participate. If someone has a question, answer it if you can. If someone tweeted something you find interesting, reply, retweet, and follow.

If you addressed an issue on your blog that is relevant to someone’s question, then by all means link to the specific post, but don’t worry about linking to your blog in every interaction. Put the domain on all of your social media profiles, and let people find it themselves.

It’s about easing his (or her) pain. Trust that the favor will be returned.

“Go the distance.”

Progress will be slow. Your brother-in-law will be telling you to plow the field and replant the crops. If you decide he’s right, then he is. If you decide he’s wrong, he still might be right. If you go the distance anyway, it means you’re enjoying yourself and seeing some positive results in the form of higher search results, more buzz on social media, and deeper engagement with customers and leads.

Keep at it one post at a time, and you might one day find a lot of traffic leading to your site.

For more posts about blogging:

“My, How Blogs Have Grown!
Five Ideas for Writing Blog Posts

Digital and Interpersonal Themes: A View from SXSW Interactive

March 26th, 2013 by Collin Canright

A packed room of largely first-time attendees came to the Social Media Club of Chicago’s March meeting to hear about this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) Interactive conference—”SouthBy,” in the lingo of the regulars.

The event was held at DraftFCB’s offices in Chicago, notable to me for the impeccably done brown terrazzo up on the 14th floor. You don’t see much terrazzo in office buildings outside lobbies. (I notice because we have an association of terrazzo contractors as a client.)

Panelists agreed that this year’s interactive conference did feature an Earth-shaking digital trend as in years past, such as Twitter in 2007. The 25% increase in attendance, to more than 27,000, stood out. It sounded like a lot of little things came together: an integration of people, brands, and disciplines into a conversational and interactive whole. Several themes stood out to me as I listened:

International emerges. Chris Miller (@scubachris) mentioned that there were more international attendees and presenters than in any of the more than a dozen SXSW conferences he’s attended, with a notable emphasis on the developing world. The internet in the developing world does not look like a monitor; it shows up on a mobile phone, and not a smart phone at that. They are doing wonderful things with plain-old cell phones and SMS in Africa, including epayments.

Things are becoming connected. One of the year’s trends is “the internet of things,” as Melissa Pierce (@melissapierce) noted. Look for apps to become increasingly interconnected with each other and to increasingly diverse types of devices throughout every aspect of our daily lives.

We will be producers. We started to become publishers with blogging in 2004, the beginning of a movement within IBM to show the  behemoth corporation’s human faces and personal opinions, Ed Brill (@edbrill) mentioned. With 3D printing, we will all become producers, Lizz Kannenberg (@lizzkannenberg) said.

Service and thoughtfulness rule. Brands that served participant needs got noticed most, Lizz Kannenberg (@lizzkannenberg) said. Everyone has t-shirts. Snacks are good if they are done right. But anything that serves a need of 27,000 people at a fast-paced conference can stand out. Uber, the mobile-based towncar and taxi service, got high marks for providing much-need transportation on several levels, from free basic service to ultra-luxury vehicles.

Collaborate and converse. Panelists remarked on increased collaboration among the digital, film, and music disciplines. Brands sought to collaborate with technology vendors, and the whole event (I have never been) sounds like one big conversation among nerds morphing into another among hipsters, with the two types blending as life becomes digital while retaining the human yearning to connect face to face.

For more on SXSW:

Watch CNN’s special SXSW coverage to get an introduction to the event.

Read takeaways for marketers on the MarketingProfs blog.


  • Chris Miller (@scubachris), Chief Digital Officer at DraftFCB
  • Melissa Pierce (@melissapierce), COO Everpurse, fledgling programmer, filmmaker and #RVSX producer
  • Lizz Kannenberg (@lizzkannenberg), Social Media Director at Walton-Isaacson
  • Ed Brill (@edbrill), Director Market Management IBM Mobile Enterprise at IBM


1,000 Tweets!

March 21st, 2013 by Collin Canright

I noticed yesterday that I had done 999 tweets, right on the precipice of my third major Twitter milestone. Coincidentally, I read that today is Twitter’s seventh birthday, and I think it’s awesomely appropriate for me to send my 1,000 tweet on this day.

I’m sure it was my friend and social media expert extraordinaire Barbara Rozgonyi, who once told me that any 1,000 milestone is significant: 1,000 followed (pretty easy), 1,000 followers (harder especially if you’re seeking quality and fit), and 1,000 tweets.

That one should be the easiest, though in my case I would not be surprised if I took longer to reach that milestone than most others. People who do not tweet at all and who monitor and read tweets may never make it, nor will the people who simply lose interest in the medium, as I have on more than one occasion since I started my account on () 2007.

I joined when I gave a presentation in August 2007 on the wonders of Web 2.0. I had been reading about the next version of the web with high interest and put together an online survey of our email list during June 2007. Most respondents found web 2.0 relevant to their business but felt they lacked knowledge while nearly 80% were (extremely or very) interested in learning more about web 2.0 technologies.

In looking at the results now, it’s interesting to see that the term “social media” did not appear, though we wrote and asked about “social networks.” Twitter was not mentioned; I demonstrated the service when I presented the results in August 2007.

Some results were prescient as well. This respondent comment in some way predicted the rise of content marketing: “Being constantly user-focused and developing new ways to deliver content to users will have a big impact on our strategy; we will most likely continue to shy away from user contributed content.”

I called myself a “Twitter skeptic” in a November 2008 blog post on Twitter and social media best practices. But I kept at it on and off, and by August of 2009 I had developed a Twitter list of B2B payments companies that led to a client and the development of, a directory of payments companies and content that we maintained until last year. Visit the site to view the Twitter news feeds and read how it grew out of a Twitter list.

As a final note, I listened intently last Tuesday evening to WBEZ as it broadcast an interview with Twitter CEO Dick Costolo, on The Commonwealth Club of California. It’s well worth the time to learn about his management style, as well as the past, present, and future one Twitter.

Skeptic no more. I remain more of a content curator and sharer in by tweets than conversationalist, yet I do, and on this day of tweet 1,000, look forward to 10,000.


Tech Meets Tradition: Burberry and Attention to Digital and Material Detail

March 12th, 2013 by Christina Canright

We work a lot on paying attention to details in our company. Is what we’ve written accurate? Has the final copy been proofed? Do the message and design reflect the brand? Every detail matters in the business of communications—every detail reflects on us and our customer.

I got a good lesson in attention to digital and material details at a reception for members of the Executives’ Club of Chicago (Canright client) this past week. In this case, the material part also meant “fabric,” as the event was held at the new Burberry flagship store in Chicago.

At the store, tradition meets high-tech and social media. It was so exciting to see a brand that had previously been perceived as stuffy, now anything but. A fashion innovator. And in the space of just a few short years. Associates were friendly and more down-to-earth than I expected, proudly describing details of the clothing—down to the stitching—the store, and the way associates communicate with associates at the other stores around the globe.

I’ve been interested in textiles and their history for a long time and noticed the contemporary cut, color, and feel of the fabric is very different than the company’s traditional fashion look and feel but in keeping with its innovative past. Thomas Burberry was, after all, the inventor of gabardine fabric—and designer of the company’s signature product, the trench coat, first submitted as a design for an army officer’s raincoat to the United Kingdom War Office in 1901. In 1914, Burberry was commissioned by the War Office to adapt its officer’s coat to suit the conditions of contemporary warfare, resulting in the “trench coat”. Its adoption by the fashion world and the cinema is, as they say, history.

Walking into the Burberry store that night, I was struck with the variety of products—purses, shoes, perfumes, jackets, men’s suits, children’s clothes, and of course, the “trenches,” as they call them. Colors and fabrics that show how CEO Angela Ahrendts and her creative director, Christopher Bailey, have reinvented and reinvigorated the brand over the past several years.

The reinvention of the brand is apparent when you see the new Chicago store, on Michigan Avenue at Ontario, with its plaid-embossed chrome-plated exterior and ceiling-to-floor banners in the front windows. Inside, the exterior banners are reinforced by a ceiling-to-floor “digital content display” on the third floor.

“It’s that balance between the physical and virtual worlds that Burberry—and every other retailer—is working overtime to figure out. The pundits keep telling us we’ve entered a brave new Amazon world where on-line retailing is king and bricks-and-mortar a lingering anachronism. The unceasing crowds on Michigan Avenue would suggest otherwise,” wrote architecture critic and blogger Lynn Becker in “Tartan check-mate: Burberry’s Reinvigorates the Mag Mile,” a thoughtful piece on the new store’s design and its relationship to Chicago and Michigan Ave. retail architecture past and present.

The tech blog Mashable covered the store’s digital details, in a piece on the December 2012 grand opening, including a link to the “Art of the Trench” campaign video, which features Chicagoans wearing Burberry. “How we use technology was going to be our greatest differentiator,” Ahrendts told Crain’s Chicago Business.

Growth numbers from back in 2006 provided the digital impetus. As other luxury brands turned in 12-13% growth, Burberry lagged at 1-2%, as detailed in “Burberry’s Digital Transformation,” a Capgemini Consulting interview with Ahrendts. Judging by the most recent results, the effort has been a success, with Burberry generating strong third-quarter 2012 revenue increases of 9% in total revenue and 13% in retail revenue.

The Chicago store is Burberry’s second largest in North America, and will be the first to host Burberry Bespoke trench coats. Shoppers can collaborate with store associates to design their own trench coat via iPads, which many of the store’s sales associates carry.

The Burberry partnership and in-store event added excitement to an evening of informal business and social conversations among Executives’ Club members. As my partner and I walked out into the rainy Chicago night (really), I could only imagine the dialog between Burberry and The Executives’ Club as they did the same in their classic trenches. Yes, the beginning of a beautiful friendship. —Christina Canright