Bonus Day Project: War Paint

The popular commercial artist Thomas Kinkade billed himself as “Painter of Light.” Not one to back down from a challenge, a few members of our creative team figured out a way to one-up him.

“War Paint” is a Bonus Day project dreamed up by Jr. Designer of Graphic & Motion Sam W. A photographer, Sam had recently developed a desire to paint with light on a macro scale. Macro photography is a technique of extreme close-up photography that enlarges things far beyond their normal size — think of a raindrop on a grass blade or a fly’s hundred eyes.

They cut open a fiber optic cable to free the tiny, insulated glass strands that act as conduits for light. When pointed directly at the camera and moved quickly through various exposure-lengths, the strand produced dramatic squiggles and trace-around effects. However, the single strand proved difficult to manage, so the team rigged it to a wire nut and an LED powered by a 3-volt CR2032 lithium watch battery. This reconfigured light brush gave them greater control and thicker trails of light.

Now it was time to tell a war story. The team bought a bunch of tiny green plastic army men, a toy helicopter, a mini-footbridge and other play-battleground necessities. They set up various scenes and took sample shots to figure out what color of fill lighting they wanted to try. (Fill lighting is a type of diffuse light that helps illuminate unwanted shadows.) They experimented with various colors, eventually settling on red, which gave their photos an eerie glow.

Next, they used the squiggle technique to approximate the environmental elements of battle — explosions, machine gun spray, bullets whizzing by. The result? A dramatic photographic narrative brought to life with spectacular light effects.

This is part five of our featured Bonus Day projects from the first quarter of 2013 — check out Art Thieves, Best of Three, No Ellipses and MASH now. Bonus Day is an internal, agency-wide flash-exercise in innovation, where ad hoc teams of strategists, designers and engineers carry a passion project from conception to completion in a day.

Rewind: Italo Disco to the McDonald’s Theory

Rewind is our weekly More post where someone from our brand experience agency curates his or her favorite news from the week before. This week’s post is brought to you by our Phenomblue LA design director Erin S.

Erin got into graphic design after realizing three more years of industrial design school would involve inhaling way too many toxic foam particles and marker fumes. The coolest place she’s ever visited is Gili Meno, a teeny tiny island in Indonesia where the main things to do are drinking mango slushies and hoping there isn’t an earthquake (it was only ten feet at its highest elevation).

Get yer smart phone party organized and play Racer, Google’s latest Chrome experiment. It’s pretty awesome, plus, the soundtrack is composed by Giorgio Moroder, which caters to my not-so-secret love of Italo Disco.

While thinking about animation in design, here’s a little primer on designing transitional interfaces. Enjoy!

Maps! Stephen LaPorte and Mahmoud Hashemi put together this live map of where changes to Wikipedia articles are coming from; it. is. mesmerizing.

Give them something they don’t want in order to find out why they do want. Jon Bell’s article about his “McDonald’s Theory” is a good reminder that starting with a bad idea will often ultimately lead to a good idea.

We’ve Got You Covered: 2013 Internet Week New York


Internet Week New York has officially kicked off! And although this event may not receive quite the amount of buzz as the SXSW Interactive Festival, we’ll be highlighting relevant content and media coverage from the four-day festival on Coverage, our tool created for staying up to the minute on today’s leading technology and marketing events.

Coupled with our own strategic insights written for the modern business leader, this is your destination for discovering what’s happening (whether you’re there or not) and for sifting through tweets and news stories for what’s meaningful at Internet Week.

For more on the event, and as reported by am New York:

“The annual weeklong conference, launched in 2008, turns the city into a mecca for the digitally connected, with panels, speeches, demonstrations and more in online business and culture.”

“…Headquartered at the Metropolitan Pavilion at 25 W. 18th St., this year’s week is expected to bring some 45,000 Internet professionals and 10,000 attendees, and will feature events ranging from keynote addresses from the likes of New York Times business savant Andrew Ross Sorkin and Facebook chief Randi Zuckerberg, to fireside chats with BuzzFeed founder Jonah Peretti.”

Visit Coverage now, or check out the official website first for a full schedule, sponsor information and more.

Phenomblue maintains Coverage as part of our Strategic Insight Series, which provides business leaders with the tools and strategies they need to succeed in today’s digital marketing environment.

From Diamonds to Drugs: the Power of a Great Brand Experience – Our Free Report

Lately, we’ve been thinking about the differences between powerful brand experiences and mediocre ones. How do they differ? What do brands do right, and what could they do better?

We believe insight, desire and utility distinguish the great brand experience from the second-rate. But how do you achieve marketing’s age-old hat trick? Through research, design and technology. Research discovers insight, design cultivates desire, technology provides utility.

From Diamonds to Drugs: the Power of a Great Brand Experience” explores the elements of a great brand experience, analyzing three successful experiences and distilling the insight, desire and utility that make them great. The report also breaks down a failed experience to see why it falls short. Download our latest report to gain insights that will help you improve your marketing immediately, including:

  • How to think beyond your marketing campaign to the real-world context where people engage with your product.
  • How insight, desire and utility create a powerful brand experience.
  • Why it’s better to facilitate current behaviors than try to create new ones.

Our new report gives you a useful framework to investigate brand experiences and help you apply the best elements of successful campaigns to your own marketing. The more deeply you study any subject, the quicker you will become an expert.

A great brand experience can change the world. Literally. It happened with diamonds. (Read this article in The Atlantic for the whole scoop.) Until the late 1930s, diamond engagement rings weren’t that common. Americans viewed them as aristocratic, unattainable, “too British”—useless, basically. Plus, diamonds sold in America were often flawed, and the discovery of huge mines in South America made them plentiful, less valuable wholesale.

De Beers, the global consolidation of diamond miners organized under one brand, needed a way to increase the emotional value and social utility of their flagship product. So they crafted an experience that would last forever.

Flash-forward: in our culture, diamonds are viewed as nearly essential to the marriage proposal. How did De Beers do it? Download “From Diamonds to Drugs: the Power of a Great Brand Experience” to find out. Like what you read and want to work with us? Drop us a line at

[button url=”/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/The_Power_of_a_Great_Brand_Experience.pdf” color=”purple”]Download[/button]


Rewind: These Are a Few of Her Favorite Things

Rewind is our weekly More post where someone from our brand experience agency curates his or her favorite news from the week before. This week’s post is brought to you by Project Manager Kaylin B.

Kaylin’s favorite dance move is anything performed by Chandler Bing. And while we’re on the subject of the early 2000s, Kaylin has had a knack for advertising since high school … after discovering her raw creative talent by creating locker signs.

Not to brag, but last week I had an opportunity to sit down and chat with Levo League Co-founder and CEO Caroline Ghosn … and it was awesome. Two co-workers and I were able to talk with Ghosn about her experience starting Levo League, as well as tips on starting a Local Levo chapter here in Omaha. It was inspiring and exciting to meet with someone I consider a dream mentor and I’m anxious to get her back here! Check out her interview with Warren Buffett.

If you know me, then you know there are two things I really love in life: my mom and baking. To honor both, I stumbled across this awesome post where well-known chefs share their mom’s favorite desserts in honor of Mother’s Day. I’ll take one of each, please!

Oh, and of course my other love in life (besides my nephew, coffee or my puppy Stella) is WINE! One thing I don’t love, though? Hitting up the gym. However, if wine can be worked into a workout, then

Living in Nebraska, I am totally fascinated by storms and especially tornadoes. The Weather Channel kicked off tornado week Monday, April 29th, and to help raise awareness, they created a Twitter-powered tornado in their office and live streamed it. Every public mention of #Tornado raised the scale and boosted the winds.

How often do you find yourself watching a show after it has aired and a spoiler comes on for the next episode?! This 17-year-old found a way (through coding) to fix that problem. There’s not much to say here other than this girl is totally awesome.

Bonus Day Project: MASH

Bonus Day MASH blog image
Do you spend as much time lacing up your running shoes as you spend admiring the lacing in a pint glass? Do you finish an intense run with something other than Gatorade? Like a healthy natural liquid packed with B-vitamins, selenium, magnesium and fermented sugar? Would you like a six-pack with your six-pack?

Then it’s time to get MASHed.

MASH is a drinking app for runners with a beer problem. The app uses your weight, height, mileage and pace to calculate your calorie expenditure during a run and then determine how many beers you’ve burned. You tell MASH what style you want — IPA, brown ale, stout, etc.—and the app pulls caloric information from a database to tell you how many you burned and how many you earned.

Here comes the cheeky part. Users can apply a number of “multipliers” to their exercise data. The app assigns a number between 0 and 1 to each multiplier. Multipliers signify a more intense workout than your typical flat pavement run. If you do something requiring more effort — such as a hill workout, beach run, beer mile, running while hungover, in miserable weather or further than you planned — you automatically earn more beers. The sum of the multipliers times the number of beers burned equal the number of beers earned. We figure if you put more effort into your workout, you should be rewarded, no?

But what if you cheat? What if you say you completed a beach run in the snow while hungover on a 103 degree day when you really just watched “The Simpsons?”

Well, right now, MASH operates on the honor system. So if you can live with that on your conscience, by all means, go ahead and lie. We don’t condone that kind of behavior.

Developed by Phenomblue Assistant Creative Director Andrew O. and Senior Engineer of Software Design and Development Evan J. — two of our agency’s most avid runners and beer connoisseurs — MASH is yet another great digital experience to emerge from Bonus Day, our quarterly flash-exercise in innovation and utility.

This is part four of our featured Bonus Day projects from the first quarter of 2013 — check out Art Thieves, Best of Three and No Ellipses now. Bonus Day is an internal, agency-wide flash-exercise in innovation, where ad hoc teams of strategists, designers and engineers carry a passion project from conception to completion in a day.

Happy Birthday, WIRED!

This article was also posted on iMedia Connection by our content strategist/copywriter Tom M. We liked it so much, we decided to repost it on More.

WIRED’s impact on the tech industry is incalculable, but undeniable. This year, the magazine celebrates its 20th birthday with an anniversary issue. Be sure to get it online or at Barnes & Noble or wherever.

Bringing Digital to the Masses
Twenty years ago, WIRED made it cool to be a nerd. Although the archetype of the sexless, greasy-haired, high-pantsed, pocket-protected poindexter still lives on in our cultural mythology, nowadays “tech geek” is more likely to conjure ideas of a skateboarding smartmouth who falls asleep in class after staying up all night coding something that could change the world.

In the Beginning
According to this awesome Adweek interview with co-founders Jane Metcalfe and Louis Rossetto, WIRED debuted at the 1993 MacWorld conference. After months of grueling work, staff members were ready to deliver their first “letter from the future” to the public.

There was a problem. Labor union laws prevented outsiders from carrying boxes into the building. With no money to hire movers, staff members stuffed issues into their clothes and swapped outfits to avoid detection. Any copies they couldn’t sneak in, they gave to people passing by on the sidewalk. The ploy worked. WIRED hosted a rave that night, and staff members had to wait in line to enter their own party.

WIRED for the Future
WIRED 1.01 set in motion the mainstream media component of the digital revolution — a culture shift that in only two decades changed the connotation of the word hacker from “someone who infiltrates your life and steals your children while operating from the shadows of an abandoned warehouse at the edge of the wasteland,” to “someone who rapidly builds a digital solution to a complex problem in a college dorm or office that resembles such.”

Do yourself a favor and read some of the inaugural articles. Once you get past the swagger and bravado of a genre-spawning magazine trying to grab the attention of a world that had no idea what they were talking about, you’ll marvel at how visionary WIRED really was (and is). We all know what they mean now.

Techspeak Across the Ages
Another reason to check out the first issue? Words like “telecosm” and “modern electronic-card account technology.” You can almost smell the refreshingly outdated plastic beige aroma of 90’s fax-machines and dot-matrix printers therein. Here are some of the stranger terms translated.

1993 –> 2013
Knowledge Sector –> Knowledge Economy

Telecosm –> Internet

Groupware –> Network Share

Hyperlearning –> MOOC

Modern electronic-card account technology –> Square

Marshall McLuhan –> Google

“Let’s do lunch.” –> “Text me.”

My Wild Kingdom Wins FWA’s Mobile of the Day


Today, Favourite Website Awards chose Mutual of Omaha’s My Wild Kingdom app as Mobile of the Day! We’re proud to receive this prestigious honor for the work we partnered with Mutual of Omaha to complete.

This is our second FWA Mobile of the Day. We won our first in November 2011 for the I Smell Brains zombie app. Every award we get validates our hard work, talent and culture of innovation. Plus, they look good hanging in our offices.

What’s the FWA?

The FWA series is the oldest and most respected industry-recognized award programs, with a mission to showcase cutting edge creativity regardless of the medium or technology used. The site also serves as one of the most popular inspirational portals for web designers and developers, having received over 170 million site visits since November 2012.

The FWA series is an unfunded project sustained by the help of sponsors and volunteers. Debuting in May 2000, FWA remains an unbiased champion of Internet excellence. The Chicago Tribune compared the FWA to the Oscar and praised for being a “a fun, fascinating place to visit, with the emphasis not on blather about awards but on sending visitors off to what they really want to see, cool new sites.”

My Wild Kingdom

My Wild Kingdom is a wild animal adventure app that lets users turn any photo or video into a fun virtual habitat and share it with their friends. Users can go on adventures, earn badges and unlock re-sizeable virtual animals to add to photos and videos. Camera filters can be engaged to customize each adventure and even capture the look of classic nature footage.

Users can unlock and choose between ten different animals to populate their photos and videos: giraffe, zebra, lion, meerkat, gorilla, alligator, kangaroo, penguin, hippopotamus and elephant. And the whole thing is narrated by Jim Fowler, the show’s original co-host and field correspondent.

We also designed the app to get kids out of the house and interacting with actual animals. You could have the neighbor’s dog giving a piggyback ride to a tiny virtual alligator, or anything else you can think of. Go wild.

Download My Wild Kingdom from iTunes.

Rewind: Nebraska Stylee

Rewind is our weekly More post where someone from our brand experience agency curates his or her favorite news from the week before. This week’s post is brought to you by Junior Engineer of Software Design and Development Nabile C.

Nabile is originally from the Ivory Coast in West Africa. The strangest place he’s ever been, however, is Nebraska … because we can enjoy all the seasons here in one week. Nabile has been intrigued by computers from a very young age. After writing his first HTML page, he got hooked by the feeling of making things happen on his 15-inch computer screen. His favorite app is NBA Game Time, where he can stay up-to-date with the NBA world.

Anyone traveling to Omaha over this past weekend via airplane may have been surprised to find they’d be set back $800 or more for a round-trip flight. Upon further investigation, you’d find that Warren Buffett held his annual Berkshire Hathaway Meeting in Omaha. Many flights were sold out and the ones that weren’t were four to six times more expensive for the ticket. Most of the event took place on Saturday (although many attendees flew in early). A few celebrities were also in town, including a Bono-spotting at Omaha’s Pitch restaurant. Here’s more coverage on what happened. And in case you didn’t hear, Warren Buffett got Twitter.

Berkshire Hathaway was also among the 2013 Fortune 500 Top 10, which was revealed this morning. Facebook also made the list for the first time at 482nd place, making Mark Zuckerberg the youngest person on the list. On this morning’s “CBS This Morning,” Fortune’s managing editor Leigh Gallagher explained how Facebook “rocketed onto this list . . . as fast as Google did. In the tech world, innovation happens a lot quicker. Years ago it would have taken decades.”

Appropriately the 26.2 mile marathon that took place in Lincoln, Neb., over the past weekend had extra security due to the recent tragedies experienced in Boston. Participants were advised ahead of time that bags would be limited and would need to be checked in before the race. The race wrapped around Lincoln landmarks such as the Children’s Zoo and Antelope Park. The top male runner finished in 2:21:17 and the top female runner finished in 2:4:06. Nice work, all!

Even though the calendar shows we have reached spring here in Omaha, apparently Mother Nature had a few tricks up her sleeve. Thursday broke records for snow in May in the Omaha metro. The last time Omaha experienced snow in May was May 9th, 1945, which dumped 2 inches. Though we can’t be too surprised by this Nebraska weather, I’m still left wondering when will spring really arrive?

And on a quick development-related news note: the Big Nerd Ranch recently smote the NDA. BNR CEO Aaron Hillegass devised an insane, brilliant and counter-intuitive solution by hiring his own students in order to comply to the terms and conditions of Apples’ registered developers.

New York Times on the Rise of Digital Content in Libraries

President of the New York Public Library Anthony W. Marx published a New York Times op-ed today focused on the rise of e-books. The article explores how libraries are struggling with the increasing demand for digital content and negotiating with major publishing houses to make e-books more widely available to the American public.

According to the article, e-book readership is rising much faster than readership of print books, with sales of digital books poised to eclipse print book sales in coming years.

Marx wrote that readership of New York Public Library-licensed e-books “soared 168 percent from 2011 to 2012” while print circulation, although much larger, remained constant.

Libraries are facing a tough battle. Patrons who can’t afford to download e-books deserve access to digital content just like any other book available to rent. But authors and publishers still need to get paid for their work.

“We have every interest in seeing that publishers remain sustainable enterprises and that authors are paid fairly for their work,” Marx wrote.

Several of the Big Six publishing companies — Hachette, HarperCollins, MacMillan, Penguin Group, Random House and Simon & Schuster — are limiting the amount of e-book rentals or raising their price of annual licenses to public libraries. In some cases, only one copy of an e-book may be checked out at a time.

But in a time of declining funding for libraries — the State of America’s Libraries annual report found that 42 percent of states reported a probable decline in funding for local libraries in 2011-2012 — how can libraries make digital content widely available while keeping costs low and ensuring publishers get paid?

Here at Phenomblue, we believe we might be on to something with PAGE, our immersive, multiscreen tool developed to increase focused study in public spaces — particularly libraries.

As a proof-of-concept/case study, PAGE explores what the future of reading could look like. Using a tablet, readers simply scan a book from their local library or bookstore to access a virtual world of augmented reality and supplementary content. A projector displays the relevant content on a surface in an immersive environment, allowing readers to enter a book’s atmosphere more deeply than with a physical text or mobile device alone.

In addition to a unique, focused, multiscreen experience, by housing a digital solution in a physical space, PAGE could allow libraries to not have to pay for extra licenses. It would also cut down on potential piracy issues.

We’re not claiming PAGE is the magic bullet to the complex issues facing libraries and the publishing industry today. But we do believe the right solution can be found using the right technology. All it takes is the political will and innovation to develop it, and conversations like this, of course, to get us there.

Check out our video on PAGE and case study here.