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Why you should use animated GIFS in your email campaign

Nov 6, 2013   //   by Justinpiontek   //   Blog  //  No Comments

You might think that GIFs are only used to show twerking fails or of a cat falling off a ledge, but there are actually some very useful instances for GIFs. Check your inbox, I bet that you have a few waiting for you right now. I constantly see animated GIFs that are classy, appealing, and eye catching that compliment the email’s message. Here are a few reasons why I think you should use them in your next email campaign.

Show multiple products or multiple product views.
Online retailers are a major player in the GIF world. With so many different products to show, this gives them an option to get multiple images in without cluttering up the actual message. In these emails for Adeline we  showed multiple products while grabbing your attention and keeping it very clean at the same time.

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Call attention to the most important thing.
Your eye naturally follows a certain path and that path is influenced by things that stand out. You can use a GIF to call attention to those very important things that you want your viewer to see first whether it be a call to action or to a product. In this email we wanted to showcase the new arrivals available.

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Stand out from other static emails.
Lets admit it; we all have very short attention spans, especially when we are filtering dozens of emails every day. By using a GIF, you increase that chance of a viewer staying on your email and clicking through to your site instead of deleting it before visiting your site. Once you capture your audience’s attention, they will be more loyal to your emails, site, and possibly even product or service.

Some people say that GIFs are to distracting and is an old trend, I can agree that they are distracting. You might even have a hard time reading this post without being distracted by the stuff moving around above. But I think that distracting, in certain situations, can be a good thing when you are the one doing the distracting.

Three Tips for an Efficient, Successful Design Experience

Oct 29, 2013   //   by Justinpiontek   //   Blog  //  No Comments

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For someone who has not ever worked with a graphic designer you may wonder, “Where do I start?”

When You’re Ready to Contact One

Generally, you’re ready to contact one once your general concepts are locked in and you have a general idea of the direction in which you would like to go. It is very important to understand your branding and target audience before starting the design process. From there, they can mock up different options but they do not generally work with you on marketing aspects of design like brand differentiation and positioning.

How To Execute Your Vision

  1. Send examples: One of the fastest ways for designers to create what you’re looking for is to send examples of what you like and examples of what you don’t like, with explanations about why and in regard to what. For example, do you like the font in an image you send the designer because it is in line with the modern design you’re looking for? Do you like the color scheme of a website you want to model after because it looks very business-like?
  2. Send related images: You can also send images that relate to what you have in mind. If you’re designing a website for a coffee shop and send a picture of a leather chair, autumn leaves, a mug of coffee, and a chocolate bar the designer could infer you’re going for a sort of rustic feel.
  3. Send your copy: Lastly, don’t forget about copy. The text you include on your design is very important to the overall impact so be sure to give that some thought, as well, while keeping spacing in mind so it’s not too cluttered or bare. This part should be sent after a general design is created so you can keep spacing and layout in mind.

All of these aspects can have a major effect on who the final design is catered to. That is why it is important to have an understanding of this before hand. Once all of this is sorted out I generally get three mock-ups together and then tweak the preferred mock-up from there. After all of this collaboration, you will have something that stands out from the rest and is in line with your vision.

@Justin Piontek

Adobe Creative Cloud

Oct 23, 2013   //   by Justinpiontek   //   Blog  //  No Comments

One of the most common questions that I get from non-designers is “What programs do you use? Are there any free options that are just as good?” I use Adobe and they are the industry standard in the design world. I honestly don’t know if there are any free options out there because I never cared to check, once you use Adobe’s applications you will never use anything else.

A few months ago I kicked Adobe CS6 out and upgraded to the new Adobe CC (Creative Cloud). Adobe CC eliminates the standard yearly company upgrade to a service that allows you to pay monthly. These programs will be automatically updated as bugs or new feature are released. Some people like paying monthly some don’t. Another benefit to this service that it includes every adobe program that they offer, everything from website design to illustration.

The three major ones in my arsenal are Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign.

Adobe Photoshop
Photoshop is a digital image editing software program.  I do most of my work in Photoshop. Some of the most common things that you can create in photoshop are web ads, print material, website layouts… the list goes on and on. The capabilities of this program are endless.

Adobe Illustrator
Photoshop is a pixel based program while Illustrator is a vector based program. Illustrator is most often used to create illustrations (as the name impies), banners, posters and logos. It is best to create these type of graphics in Illustrator because it is vector and is scalable to any size without loosing any resolution. You can also import your logo that you create in Illustrator into Photoshop to place it onto a photo or any other pixel based graphic. One of the biggest assets of Adobe is that all programs work flawlessly between each other and have common tools/look/and feel.

Adobe InDesign
Indesign is probably the most neglected application in the Adobe Suite. InDesign is the go to when creating multi-page layouts with lots of written content such as books, magazines, and PDF documents. It is best to create high resolution prints in Indesign to make sure that the text is really crisp. Keep in mind that you can import graphics for Photoshop or Illustrator into Indesign and lay the copy out on top of those graphics. Another good use for InDesign that I use is for is for variable date, I create separate layers for each tier with different info on each. This way the printer can use those layers to create a specific design for each person, male/female, in market/out market, ext.

So to answer the question, I don’t know of any programs that will ever compare to these, although they do have some kinks to work out on their in with the Creative Cloud. I just received a letter in the mail saying that personal information stored on their end may have been compromised! Here’s to hoping that nobody wants to steal my identity…

Mountain Bike Nationals and Subaru Cup

Jul 24, 2013   //   by Justinpiontek   //   Blog  //  No Comments

Once again, I have been slacking on my blog. Part of the reason has been that my racing has been sub-par, two DNFs from mechanicals in back to back races, a broken chain at Camrock and a cut tire in Eau Claire. Two bad races in a row left me hungry for the Subaru Cup.

Subaru Cup

For those of you who don’t know, the Subaru Cup is part of the PRO XCT series and brings all the big hitters to Wisconsin to battle it out on Nordic Mountain. The course is great for spectators and even brings out some super fans. The course is pretty challenging with a lot of climbing and some nice rock drops. Photos below by Extreme Photography. 
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The race started out with a prologue lap to help spread out the field a bit. This worked out great because the leaders started going the wrong way! I was near the back and figured out that they went the wrong way and was able to move up a little bit while others were turning around. I settled into my pace and found a few people that I thought I could stick with. Everything was going great and I new the course pretty well because I pre rode it 3 times that week.

Its always a little hard to pick a pace that you are comfortable with because normally in a WORS race you are racing with people that you see every other week, but in these types of situations you have to figure others out pretty quick. I was going into lap 3 of 6 in a pretty decent place and started choking on something, not sure what it was but it lasted almost the whole race. It slowed me down a little bit but managed to finish it out on the lead lap, which was my first goal of the race. 31st place for the day.

Mountain Bike Nationals

Nationals was the following week. Casey Hildenbrandt and I headed back to my place, spent the night, then the next day we strolled around madison on our bikes, then woke up bright and early to start our venture to Pennsylvania. A 13ish hour drive and we arrived at our hotel around 9pm, we were bunched up in the car for so long that we had to go out and do some night riding to stretch out the legs.

The next day we found out just how technical it was going to be. Its not like our trails here in the Midwest, these had huge rocks and wet roots everywhere. After a few laps, I was getting to know them pretty good, Casey was taking a beating on his fully ridged Specialized! The next day was Cat 1 Short Track, where Casey grabbed a second place after just getting beat out on the last lap. I enjoyed my time watching the racing the next few days and was getting anxious for my chance. After a lot of hunting for tires (every store in town was sold out) I managed to find some Ground Controls from Specialized with thick sidewalls for extra protection. I heard in the Cat 1  XC race there were 60 DNFs mainly from cut tires.

Saturday arrived and the rain was holding off but it was almost 100 degrees and humid. I stayed in the hotel as long as I could to stay cool until our 4pm start. I got a decent call up (mid pack) but came to a stand still in the first tight section. I decided to stay calm and make sure not to go out to hard and either blow up or ride out of control and cut a tire. This turned out to maybe not be the best decision because the leaders were going so fast that only the top 20 people out of 60 finished the race on the lead lap. Nothing to major in the race happened to write about, besides the crazy fans, gnarly rocks, extreme heat, and awesome trails. I witnessed a few good crashes but I kept it upright and enjoyed my first Pro National Championship. I finished out the day in 33rd.

Looking back I wish I would have ridden harder to make sure not to get pulled, but this trip for me was all about getting experience. It’s so cool to line up against the guys you read about in magazines or see interviews from on major websites. I’m very grateful to be able to have these opportunities and am looking forward to continuing to race at this level.

The next day was Short Track and it went about the same as XC with the clustered start. I decided that I was going to ride hard and aggressive to fight for position. I watched other short track races that day and people were getting pulled early, so I didn’t think I would last to long if I didn’t ride hard. This plan was great, Moved up after getting the 46th or out 50ish starters and was riding in the low 30s. Each lap I was expecting to see the official flagging us over but no one was there, longer and longer the race when on and I was starting to pop, eventually 17 mins in I got pulled. I was happy with lasting that long in a 20 min race so I cant complain, finished 34th place.

Until next time….

WORS #2

May 28, 2013   //   by Justinpiontek   //   Blog  //  No Comments

The second race in the WORS series in Rhinelander was a perfect way to celebrate my birthday. Although leading up to the weekend didn’t go so hot. My girlfriend and I made the trek from Madison to Wabeno Friday night. There were alot of deer out so I was scanning the ditches very closely the whole way. We were about a mile from their house and BAM! a bear ran out of nowhere and we collided. In a split second we go from cruising along to being stopped in a smoke filled car with the horn locked on and the air bags slowly deflating. It was a wild moment and luckly it was so close to my parents and we were able to drive it home. Not the best way to start out my birthday weekend, but it gets better.

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Photo by Niki Krayer Frazier

Now to the race… Rhinelander is one of my favorite courses. It has a little of everything and the trail workers always do a great job. The start has a long gravel lead out that can be really fast if someone is willing to take the lead. This time it didn’t seem like it was super fast but going into the first single track there were only 7 of us and very quickly dropped down to 5. I rode with the leaders for all of lap one and 3/4 of lap two after being spit of the 4th wheel. I collected myself for awhile then started bringing up the speed in hopes of bridging back up to the lead group. I thought my hopes were high thinking that I would be able to do that, but in the long lead out I had them in sight and it looked like no one was willing to pull so I was able to lock back on and once again rode with them for 3/4 of the 3rd lap until Corey (who was having stomach issues) and I dropped off.

Corey and I rounded out the 3rd lap together, but Chris P comes out of nowhere and is moving at a good clip. I new that he had more in his tank than I did so I jumped in the single track before him so I could buy more time to recover, but it wasn’t enough. He slowly faded out of my sight and I was sitting in 5th and Corey had dropped off. I finished up the race solo but knew that Kevin M was back there somewhere so I kept moving as fast as I could.

Taking the last step on the podium is something that I was trying so hard to do after my 5th place finish in Rhinelander last year. Lets hope that I have more top fives in me throughout the year.

WORS #1

May 21, 2013   //   by Justinpiontek   //   Blog  //  No Comments

The first WORS race of 2013 is in the wraps. With the delay of the season due to snow covered trails the course surprisingly was in great shape. It was one of the hottest days of the year at humid 85 degrees…

The nerves where a little high leading up to the start. The first race of the year is always one of high anticipation. Everyone is ready to go, they put in the hard work over the long Wisconsin winter and are ready to put their body to the test. As soon as we lined up my mind became clear and the nerves were gone, I was ready to go. I was just hoping my legs were as ready as my mind. Then I hear the famous words over the loud speaker 10…9…8…7…6…5…gooooooooo

The first few miles made the course fast. Cole was way off the front and I positioned myself at the back of the lead group and was dangling. Not really a good place to be. Still in contact going into the first few sections of single track, but the leaders were getting further and further away and I was getting yo-yoed dangling in a bad position. I decided that I needed to race my own race and eased up the pace, man I forgot how much this hurts!

Rounding out the first lap I was all alone, with a little recovery after the spilt I started to come back around and started ramping up the speed and was feeling pretty good. Lapped traffic was already pretty heavy, people kept coming into sight but only to find out that they were Comp men. I knew that I wasn’t going to be the only one to pop off that lead group so I kept my pace high and soon see Nathan G, he looked like he was struggling and waved me by. A little more solo riding and got Issac N in my sights, we rode together for a while but he was still recovering from the high pace of that lead group. Then in the 3rd lap I find Tyler G. Tyler and I battled it out at the Rasta Rally the weekend before and I knew that he was a strong finisher. He  was riding well, but I kept the pace high and slowing formed a gap and again was riding solo.

I finished out the race in 8th place overall. Pretty happy with the result and know where I can improve. It was a pretty uneventful race to write about, but very eventful in terms of seeing where my fitness is at. Finishing 8th overall is a good way to start out the season and look forward to the next few weeks of racing.

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