“If you just build it, They might not come: promoting events in Second Life” (4)

4-poster-1
One of many poster walls at Whole Brain Health’s Cultural Hub. So many images!

by Caledonia Skytower

Part 4. Creating Visual Collateral

“Visual Collateral?  What the heck is that?”  The word “collateral” is used here as an adjective, such as “accompanying; auxiliary.” Another possible interpretation would be “additional; confirming.”

Visual collateral refers to anything visual or graphics related, that you need to promote your event or venue.  It may seem like a real fancy way to say “make a poster”, and perhaps it is.  But as your promotional strategy gains sophistication, and your reach extends beyond the immediacy of your friends list, you will find that you need more than just a single image to get the news of your event out effectively.  You need different versions of your image to fit different uses and promotional formats.  You create a core image, and then collateral!

I couldn’t be more grateful that there was a pause between Part 3 and this post. I was struggling with how to share these ideas without pointing fingers at people’s posters and saying “that sucks!”  The break enabled me to go through an exercise in humility that effectively brought me back to what is really important when you are creating this kind of work: what is the purpose of an image? How and where is it being used?

I have been peripherally involved with a long-standing event in SL that has an established visual brand – an easily recognizable style in their promotional graphics that they use over and over again.  I have been critical of their poster work.  Openly critical.  The graphic design work is beautiful, but to me they failed as functional collateral on several levels.

This year I was more directly involved, and I got to experience the event from an inside perspective. It changed my view entirely. I realized that I had completely misread the application of the images – how they are used.  The event itself is immense even by virtual terms. Individual components of it have to be promoted within the extended event area.  THAT is the primary use of these images.  They are not really for outside use, or social media.  They work effectively on the website because the other basics are taken care of by the page text (see post #2 – The Basics – Who? What? Where? When? How?).   The festival event itself is so large that other brand images (really simple ones) get people into the greater event, and these images help them make decisions on sub-sets of activity. How and where you use your images is important.

So everyone’s first sure-fire reaction to planning an event is “we need a poster” and that’s not a bad reaction.  Next time you find yourself thinking that, try adjusting your thinking to “core image” and grab a notepad and pencil. Start writing down all the possible uses for that visual image and ask yourself if one version of your core image will satisfy all those needs.  Be brutal.

A poster that works well in your in-world venue or at information centres may not look so great on a facebook post, in Google+, or on a website.  If you are sending out images with press releases, not all bloggers or media outlets use the same AR (aspect ratio) for their pages and if you don’t provide images that they can use (both portrait and landscape), they are not going to clog up their posts with what you did send.

There are some missteps that happen when you use a single image for everything. I have been guilty of some of these myself, and some become unpleasant habits.  Be conscious that not every poster/image “fits all”:

  • Don’t use an image that says “click for info/information” in an application where it is not linked to anything.
  • Try not to use a background image so complicated that your basic information is lost against it (Quick test: throw your eyes out of focus – do you still see “what/when/where” easily? effortlessly?)
  • Avoid using a 1:1 image aspect ratio in social media or other applications not designed for that. You end up with a BIG, dominating square image and your accompanying text is diminished and ineffective

Why would size matter? On an in-world poster, residents can move their cameras in close to look at your image.  For your average 19″ monitor screen, that can be quite a large image. I did a quick survey of various SL related blog sites and websites, and the largest images averaged 4″ x 6″ on-screen.  Popular social media such as Facebook and Google+ run to comparable limits of 5″.  Those dimensions are based on my smallest screen (19″) and many people’s screens are even smaller. You should consider that when planning your visual campaign – some people may be seeing your image on a notepad or even a phone.   Keep it strong and simple enough that people want to zoom in to it because it looks interesting, not because they can barely read it.

In all these cases, you can usually click on an image to see an enlargement, but that too can be of limited help. Your objective is to make it easy for people to get to your information.  Adding clicking steps is counter to that intent.  Every click you add, loses the interest of more people.  Social media marketing guru Guy Kawasaki suggests that you keep you images at a max 500 pixels for any kind of post. So, consider those relative sizes when deciding what version of a poster you need based on how and where you intend to use it. Do you intend to promote on social media?  You may need a version of your core image specifically for that.

Lest we forget, the basics! Every choice that you make in promotion has to communicate one of these basic informational objectives.
Lest we forget, the basics! Every choice that you make in promotion has to communicate one of these basic informational objectives.

I have recently seen several posters for prominent events (an awards event and an artistic performance) that had a slew of sponsors, presenters, artists and participants on them. It is great to see that many people pulled together for an event, but you have to be able to actually distinguish their names to appreciate it.  Save such details for a Lobby Card at your event, where you can make it as large as you have room for, or on your website.  In both cases I ran into these images on Facebook and was immediately overwhelmed by their visual clutter.  I couldn’t get them large enough to read all the text. A simplification of the image would have been much more effective. Size does matter! I refer you to the very first post in this series:

“Forget the catchy subtitles, or the extensive explanations.  Distil the essential details into quick bites, simple phrases, and make them prominent.  The other information is just that: “other.”  Once someone’s attention is caught, THEN you can dazzle them with your witty descriptive prose and all the cool people who are making things happen.”

It is easier than ever to create attractive poster images, even for those with layman’s graphic skills.  I myself am a good poster artist, though no one will ever mistake my work for those highly accomplished in the graphics industry. If you don’t have that skill set, make friends with someone who does and treat them well.  You have to start with an image for your background that reflects the activity in some way: it’s theme, or some vision of what it will be like participating (i.e. is it a fun dance party? a lyric poetry event? is it wild? is it serious? are there crowds or is this an intimate experience?).

Choose your image carefully.  Images with people active in them are always the best, but if they are low quality snapshots that scream “SL 2010!” you are better off to go for an image that reinforces your theme even if no avatars appear in them. If you are promoting a musician or DJ, have several different high quality core images of the artist to work from so you can adjust them to fit the venue and the set.  If people see the same image over and over, used for multiple gigs at multiple venues, it can become visual white noise.

One of the most effective posters for a musical event that I have seen is a poster which the musician (who happens also to be a graphic designer) uses for one of the venues he performs at weekly.  He is not pictured in this poster, nor is the venue.  The image base is a silhouette over the heads of a crowd of dancing people.  It’s says “dance” and “fun” without those words ever appearing.  He uses different images for different gigs, all of them good, but that is the most successful one I have seen: a simple message, clearly depicted.

So let’s quickly review:

  1. Choose a strong image for the core
  2. Evaluate where the image will be used and how many different versions you will need to accommodate different uses and formats
  3. Cover your basics: Who? What? When? Where?, and as appropriate How?
Three examples of promotional images I have created that I know they are imperfect by my own stated criteria. Can you identify their individual strengths and weaknesses? Which image do you think is the most successful?
Three examples of promotional images I have created that I know they are imperfect by my own stated criteria. Can you identify their individual strengths and weaknesses? Which image do you think is the most successful?

What’s left?  One final consideration relates to distribution, and I cannot give you clear-cut guidance on this one.  It is something you need to consider as it impacts how and where you intend to distribute your images: are promotional graphics “art” or “marketing”?  It seems like a silly question, yet time and again I receive No Transfer  posters from people (so I cannot push them out to groups I promote to) and No Mod (so if they did not make them the size I have space for, they don’t go up) or otherwise treated as precious.

If you choose to lock down your collateral to No Mod / No Trans, there are some very good reasons why you might.  My personal opinion is that proprietary artwork is counter to the objective of promotion. Yet, while it has been a long time since I heard of anyone abusing someone’s poster or poster art, I can conceive that people have had those experiences and have taken steps to be cautious.  So, I’ll be fair and say the amount of proprietary control you exercise over your collateral pieces is a choice.

If you make the choice to lock-down the work, you need to accept that you will be handing your collateral to one person at a time, and it will go no further than that one person’s immediate sphere of influence.  Sending it out to groups, or getting people to help you promote by enabling them to pass you poster on to other interested persons who might also display it or share its information cannot work locked-down collateral.

The best marketing is always positive word of mouth, or “buzz.”  If you can create buzz without barrier-free distribution, then you can afford to be more proprietary.  Most of venues and events don’t have that luxury. If you have issues around this, especially when working with a volunteer staff, I suggest you include on your list of collateral the need for a “non-precious” version that you can target for wider distribution. Then pass it out like candy.

Sending out images or posters with permission change instructions is not effective either. Once it is out of your hands, you no longer have control over it.  Accept that.  Your time is much better spent focusing on making your event or performance the very best that it can be, not acting as the poster police over use enforcement.

NEXT POST: Building a network.

Catch the Entire Series

If You Just Build It… is a multi-part series. To catch up with everything, follow the links below.

  1. Blasting the Myths
  2. The Basics: Who? What? Where? When? How?
  3. Words matter. So does how you use and share them
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Imagine in Second Life

DaphneArts: Imagine
DaphneArts: Imagine

Open now at the DaphneArts Gallery curated by Angelika Corral and SheldonBR, is an ensemble exhibition entitled Imagine, and “focused on promoting a peaceful communication, bringing together some great SL photographers from around the world”.

It features individual pieces by Angelika Corral, Anouk A, Bay Addens, Burk Bode, Good Cross, Hills, Io Bechir, Isa Messioptra, Jammie Hill, Joslyn Benson, Maloe Vansant, miu miu miu, MM (mysterr), Paola Mills, Senna Coronet, Tutsy Navarathna, and Zib Scaggs.

DaphneArts: Imagine
DaphneArts: Imagine

“The metaverse Second Life is a community that, in its own unique way, resembles the dream which was eloquently presented by the English songwriter and performer  John Lennon  in his song Imagine,  (1971).” the curators explain in the notes accompanying the exhibition. “By this, Lennon, shared his dream of  a world without borderlines, where people could live in a brotherhood of man,  with noting to live or to die for…”

Using the song as a point of inspiration, the artists were asked to share their visions as dreamers. The result is a series of images which are incredibly diverse in approach and content – but at the same time, incredibly emotive and powerful. Some of them take the title “Imagine” itself as a starting point, while others use lines or phrases from the song’s lyrics, while others present titles unique to themselves, all of which again reflect the rich diversity of thought and feelings expressed.

DaphneArts: Imagine
DaphneArts: Imagine

Given all of the images in the exhibit do demonstrate some amazing talent, it is perhaps unfair to single out one our two for specific mention.  Nevertheless, I have to admit to finding myself utterly captivated by Isa Messioptra’s Above Us Only Sky, seen on the left of the topmost image in this article, and also to Burk Bode’s Imagine John Comes Around The Corner in SL, seen directly above, left.

Also accessible via teleport in the foyer area of the gallery, is the Atelier studio featuring Angelika’s and SheldonB’s own art, which again I cannot recommend highly enough.

Congratulations to Angelika and SheldonBR on yet another stunning exhibition.

SLurl Details

2016 viewer release summaries: week 18

Updates for the week ending Sunday, May 8th

This summary is published every Monday, and is a list of SL viewer / client releases (official and TPV) made during the previous week. When reading it, please note:

  • It is based on my Current Viewer Releases Page, a list of all Second Life viewers and clients that are in popular use (and of which I am aware), and which are recognised as adhering to the TPV Policy. This page includes comprehensive links to download pages, blog notes, release notes, etc., as well as links to any / all reviews of specific viewers / clients made within this blog
  • By its nature, this summary presented here will always be in arrears, please refer to the Current Viewer Release Page for more up-to-date information.

Official LL Viewers

  • Current Release version: 4.0.4.314579 (dated April 28) – formerly the Maintenance RC viewer download, release notes
  • Release channel cohorts (See my notes on manually installing RC viewer versions if you wish to install any release candidate(s) yourself):
    • No updates.
  • Project viewers:
    • Project Bento (avatar skeleton extensions) updated to version 5.0.0.314884 on May 5th – several updates related to joint offsets and meshes and slider changes  (download and release notes)

LL Viewer Resources

Third-party Viewers

V4-style

  • No updates.

V1-style

  • Cool VL viewer Stable branch updated to version 1.26.18.4 and the Experimental branch updated to version 1.26.19.6, both on May 7th (release notes).

Mobile / Other Clients

  • No updates.

Additional TPV Resources

Related Links

Space Sunday: rockets, water, wind and transits

For the second time in less than a month, SpaceX has landed the first stage of a Falcon 9 rocket on a platform at sea, bringing the total of successful landings the company has so far achieved to three.

The landing came at 05:30 GMT on the morning of Friday, May 6th, just nine minutes after the rocket had lifted-off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on a successful mission to carry the Japanese communications satellite JCSAT-14 to orbit.

Following separation, the first stage of the Falcon 9 1a rocket performed a series of flight manoeuvres referred to as “boost back”, which culminated in the first stage making a successful touch-down on the deck of the drone ship Of Course I Still Love You, the same craft used to recover the first stage of the Falcon 9 rocket to lift the CRS-8 resupply mission to a safe rendezvous with the International Space Station in April.

The recovery of the booster stage was actually an unexpected event – SpaceX had believed that the nature of the mission would more than likely result in a failure to achieve a successful landing.

“Given this mission’s GTO [Geostationary Transfer Orbit) destination, the first stage will be subject to extreme velocities and re-entry heating, making a successful landing unlikely,” SpaceX representatives stated ahead of the launch.

The Falcon 9 1a first stage secured on the deck of Of Course I Still Love You, following the successful May 6th landing
The Falcon 9 1a first stage secured on the deck of Of Course I Still Love You, following the successful May 6th landing. Credit: SpaceX

Ideally, the company would like to bring all of its boosters back to a touch-down on land, as was the case with their first successful landing in December 2015. However, some mission profiles mean that the Falcon 9 cannot carry sufficient fuel reserves to complete a set of “boost back” manoeuvres that would be enough for it to make landfall, so some landings at sea are inevitable if SpaceX is to get anywhere close to recovering the majority of its launchers.

Nevertheless, with three successful landings under its belt, and three first stage rockets requiring refurbishment in order to be able to fly again, SPaceX boss Elon Musk jokingly conceded, in a Tweet made after the landing, “May need to increase size of rocket storage hangar!”

The “Boiling” Waters of Mars

An international team from  France, the UK and the USA have produced the strongest evidence yet that the distinctive recurring slope lineae (RSL) features seen on the slopes of Martian craters are produced by liquid water. And not just any water; the study suggests the water is “boiling”.

RSLs have been the subject of intense debate and discussion since 2011; in essence, they are ridges and rills which appear on the slopes of hills and craters, notably in the equatorial regions of Mars during the summertime. The significance here being that on Earth, identical features are always the result of free-flowing water. As the “recurring” in the title suggests, the Martian RSLs appear to be active – frequently renewing themselves on a seasonal basis, with new RSLs sometimes also appearing at the same time.

Two images showing the flank of the same crater, revealing what appear to be active RSL, periodically renewed during the Martian summer
Two images showing the flank of the same crater, revealing what appear to be active RSL, periodically renewed during the Martian summer. Credit: NASA/JPL

However, the low pressure of Mars’ atmosphere means that water cannot survive long on the surface unprotected: it will either freeze or sublimate. So the idea of it surviving long enough to create trails in the sides of craters had many scientists scratching their heads. Then, in 2015, a NASA study put forward evidence RSLs might actually be the result of water containing a strong suspension of mineral salts – magnesium perchlorate, magnesium chlorate and sodium perchlorate. Such minerals could be sufficient enough to prevent water exposed to the surface environment on Mars either immediately freezing or sublimating.

Building on this idea, the French-led international team used blocks of water ice containing the same minerals and placed them on the slope of a simulated Martian crater housed inside a special Mars Chamber at the Open University in the UK. When the pressure in the chamber was reduced to the ambient surface pressure on Mars and the temperature adjusted to a typical Martian summer’s day, the team found the ice would melt, producing a liquid mix which effectively “boiled” filtering into the sand and moving down-slope. As it did so. the resultant vapour “blasted” sand grains upwards, creating ridges which would collapse onto themselves when they became too steep, forming channels almost identical in form to Martian RSLs.

Continue reading “Space Sunday: rockets, water, wind and transits”