I know, two posts in a row with the word “pastime” in the title. It sorta bugs me, but not enough to change it. Just enough to comment about it in a lengthy non sequitur at the start of the post. Anyway.

I was walking along the other day, when I passed an ad that caused me to do a double take:

A toyota ad that suggests that there are 386 thousand bird watchers in Nebraska

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Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 298 user reviews.

If you’ve been following the next-gen console sales, you’re probably aware that the PS3 isn’t doing so well. Desperate times call for desperate measures, but this ad that made it to Digg today doesn’t seem to be helping Sony’s cause much.

PS3 ad that sells the PS3 as a BluRay Disc player.  Oh yeah,  it also plays games.

But what do I know about marketing. I guess if the game ads aren’t working, something different is in order.

Average Rating: 4.9 out of 5 based on 180 user reviews.

I heard through the grapevine about the announcement of the Adobe CS3 icons, and it’s getting quite a bit of criticism.

The icons for Adobe CS3.  Think color wheel meets periodic table of elements.

Now, I’m not really an icon designer, but I can definitely understand the criticism offered up from those who are. Especially the skepticism at choosing the Periodic Table of Elements to emulate. Seriously, of all the visualizations and symbols in our world to copy, they come up with the Periodic Table of Elements? Quick – what’s Fe? How about K? And Na? They are three commonly-known elements (Iron, Potassium and Sodium) with random abbreviations. Turning to Adobe, can you tell me what Di, Jr, and Sb might be? Personally, I have no idea.

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Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 172 user reviews.

While I enjoyed all of the typography exercises back in Communication Design Fundamentals, lately I seem to be drawn to simply varying the grayscale of text to communicate. It’s a simple thing to do (and seems pretty basic), but I’m only recently starting to see more instances of it.

If you’ve seen Honda CR-V billboards lately, you’ll know what I’m talking about. I couldn’t find any images online, so I had to stop and take my own on the way home from work. Luckily I didn’t hit any cars while I was driving and taking pictures!

The Honda CR-V Crave billboard

… I’m only kidding, I don’t take pictures and drive, do you think I have a death wish? Well maybe sometimes but not in Seattle traffic. I’m not that dumb.

Anyway, I’m a fan of all the new CR-V ads, but the billboard stood out to me most. Simple. Yet deep and meaningful. And hopefully you haven’t crashed your car while you’re trying to figure out what’s up with that A… but once you do… it’s kinda cool.

I’ve been using this simple technique for communication as a subtle way to show rather than tell (rather than “Here’s a list, I’ve done A, B, and C, but need to do D, E, and F” – just gray out the ones in progress. Or gray out text that you don’t want to be the focus on in an omnipresent spec review at Microsoft – things tend to keep focused more often). Have you seen anything like this around? Point me to it, cuz it’s what I’m craving. (… right after the CR-V, of course).

Average Rating: 4.8 out of 5 based on 205 user reviews.

One of the themes at the Microsoft company meeting was the push to use Microsoft products. “Get rid of that Google search bar, and make Live search your homepage!”

That’s all well and good, but I think people are missing an opportunity when they correct people who say “Just Google it.” Sure it’s recommending a particular brand, but you’re missing the bigger opportunity! While “Google” being added to the dictionary as a term for searching shows Google’s popularity, it also bodes negatively for their brand – exactly why they’re discouraging the use of their name as a synonym for web searching.

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Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5 based on 280 user reviews.

Man oh man, so many interesting stories from the conference, I feel bad leaving the geography post up front and center for so long. Big big study at work next week, but I should get back to some stories soon. In the meantime, waxing poetic on features.

What matters to the software consumer today? Pine and Gilmore published a book on the Experience Economy, which was scripture for Dr. Wagner’s students back at UNO. Applying the notion of an experience economy to software is a big part of the reason why job titles in usability are changing from “Usability Engineer” and “Interaction Designer” to “User Experience Researcher” and “User Experience Designer.” OK, so that’s the case at Microsoft, but I see it happening elsewhere too.

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Average Rating: 4.6 out of 5 based on 253 user reviews.

When I got my Washington license plates, the guy at the counter gave me a warning as he handed me the new plates:

Now, be sure you check on the return policy for Pennsylvania plates. They’re pretty strict. I think they put a warrant out for your arrest if you don’t return them promptly.

I called to verify – indeed, you are supposed to return them. (I didn’t verify the warrant part… I didn’t want to sound shady). They’re picky about having all plates returned to them. Any refund for the unused part of the year of PA registration? No.

It turns out that I also still had my Nebraska plates (because the Nebraska DMV isn’t psychotic about their plates), so I took it to a local licensing branch to recycle the plate. As I sat and waited for a free attendant to give my plate to, the young child next to me was eyeing my license plate.

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Average Rating: 4.7 out of 5 based on 255 user reviews.

In case you aren’t an avid comment reader, I wanted to call out Laura’s special link that she left on my earlier post.

screen shot from the frosties commercial

It left a smile on my face. Why can’t we get more marketing like that in the US? Seriously!

But what I find interesting is the tone in the ad… “They’re gonna taste great??” That wouldn’t work in America at all! We don’t want random future predictions, we need isntant gratification! It’s a minor point, but I find it interesting that the rhetoric has to be “It works, ” “It’s the best, ” “It tastes great.” Very declarative. Does that say something about our society?

Average Rating: 4.4 out of 5 based on 233 user reviews.

This awful Head On commercial is driving me crazy. Do low budgets mandate crappy commercials like that? The commercial fails to even mention what the product is for – just what you do (a growing trend among medicine advertisements lately, I suppose). Couldn’t they at least ensure that the lady put the damn tube on her forehead? Seriously!

head on screen shot

Average Rating: 5 out of 5 based on 261 user reviews.

Alltel’s been pushing their “My Circle” plan a lot lately. Man, I wish I would have stuck with them! Why did I drop them again… let’s see… oh, I remember! Back when I was with Alltel, this was MY circle:

my crap coverage area with alltel

The shaded area around my store is pretty much the only place my phone got service. Note that UNO, where I went to school, a mere MILE away, dropped calls pretty much consistently (or just didn’t pick them up in the first place). Five “software updates” later, I was told that I needed to buy a new phone – less than a year after I bought my first one. That doesn’t work for me.

But not that it matters… the people I call the most have Verizon anyway, just like me. That’s good enough for my circle!

Average Rating: 4.5 out of 5 based on 228 user reviews.