CAMPAIGN MONITOR AND THE EMAIL MARKETER: 10 Email Marketing Do’s and Don’ts

VIJAY SHAH

Today’s special feature is brought to you in collaboration with Campaign Monitor, a global niche agency offering email marketing services to over 250,000 businesses including big names like HuffPost, UNICEF and Zumba. They specialise in building memorable and fun email campaigns to promote company products and engage and retain customer bases. This year alone, Campaign Monitor’s customers have sent over four million emails with the help of the company’s customisable services.

As email marketing becomes more nuanced and creative, marketers looking to build their organisation’s revenue know that they have to master the science behind successful campaigns. It takes just seconds for a potential customer to read an email in an inbox heaving with missives, and milliseconds to press delete. So an email that makes that customer stop and click the link has to make an impact. While you can now generate emails with all kinds of eye-catching headlines, banners and cool graphics, including embedded videos and GIFs, for a superlative visual and technological experience, behind the ‘bells and whistles’ you have got to take care of the basics. Today’s customer wants to be valued and understood by the companies they interface with, with dedicated and personalised experiences, and email marketing is the perfect opportunity to show them they matter.

As any marketer worth their salt can tell you, email market campaigns have long been a proven method of driving forward results and increasing company revenues. Sending out emails themselves is easy-peasy, but the groundwork to set up the foundations of a successful campaign is where the real hustle begins.

Alongside Campaign Monitor, we bring you a handy infographic covering the top 10 dos and don’ts of putting together a great email campaign, with that all-important need for customer engagement and retention. Print it out, frame it and mount it on your office wall, because it has all the secrets you need to know to make your campaign deliver after you hit the Send key.

 

10 Email Marketing Do’s and Don’ts - Infographic by Campaign Monitor

Source: 10 Email Marketing Do’s and Don’ts by Campaign Monitor

DISCLAIMER: This was a paid piece written as a commission on behalf of Campaign Monitor.

campaignmonitor.com

 

SOURCES/IMAGE CREDIT:

Helen Chuchak/Anagram Interactive.

“Infographics – 10 Email Marketing Do’s and Don’ts” – Campaign Monitor https://www.campaignmonitor.com/resources/infographics/10-email-marketing-dos-and-donts/

“Three products. One family.” – Campaign Monitor https://www.campaignmonitor.com/company/

 

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CUBIC CROSS CODE: Iceland’s 3D zebra crossing

Ísafjörður – VIJAY SHAH via Bored Panda

The first zebra crossings appeared on the streets of the United Kingdom in 1949, where they were introduced on a trial basis at 1,000 different locations. Originally, they were anything but zebra-like, being kitted out in blue and yellow alternating stripes, before the current standard was adopted a couple of years later.

 

These days, in much of the world, zebra crossings are an important feature in both road safety and pedestrian locomotion, but have always stuck out as rather mundane. A line of black and white stripes is not much of a crowd pleaser when you look at it. The only time zebra crossings became famous was the Abbey Lane crossing in London, which was immortalised on the front cover of the ‘Abbey Road’ album released by The Beatles in 1969. That humble north London road feature was catapulted to fame, much like the band themselves, and is still a tourist attraction.

That is until today. In 2017 a small Icelandic town decided to install a zebra crossing, mainly to keep the brakes on speeding drivers passing through the area. Ísafjörður, a fishing community in the north-west of the island, however was not interested in the bog-standard black-and-white flat road markings zebras normally use. Being Scandinavians and talented at combining function and design, the town council instead opted to create a roadside optical illusion, as beautiful as it is functional.

They painted a line of 3D stripes across the road, and using shadows, the painted stripes resemble solid rectangular white blocks that look like they are floating above the ground. This exciting development in road safety is not just aesthetically pleasing. It also gives pedestrians the feeling of floating on air as they cross the street and drivers are so entranced by the floating stripes they have to slow down to take the peculiar sight in. It is a win-win for everyone.

The 3D crossing was designed as an art installation by street painting company Vegmálun GÍH, who were requested for assistance by Icelandic environmental commissioner Ralf Trylla. Trylla drew inspiration from similar road crossings in New Delhi, India, produced by the city’s New Delhi Municipal Council, albeit with yellow ‘blocks’. The Delhiite crossings proved so successful that the council there plans to paint forty more of them. Similar crossings have also been installed in China and the Republic of Ireland.

You can see specially commissioned photographs of the Iceland 3D zebra crossing by Ágúst G. Atlason of Gústi Productions in the article by Bored Panda, which originally covered this feature, in the Sources section below. You can also see the crossing in action with the mini-documentary featured with this article.

SOURCES:

Mihaela Croitoru/Facebook

“Town in Iceland Paints 3D Zebra Crosswalk To Slow Down Speeding Cars” – Stella, boredpanda (Bored Panda) https://www.boredpanda.com/3d-pedestrian-crossing-island/?utm_source=&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=organic

VIDEO CREDIT:

“Town in Iceland Paints 3D Zebra Crosswalk To Slow Down Speeding Cars” –
Odomihoc Irepo/What’s Up?, YouTube GB (27 October 2017) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M6st0j_gl-o

SULLEE J: Inception II

Globally acclaimed artist Sullee J, from the U.S. city of Baltimore, has released a new single and music video this past week. Titled ‘Inception II’, the artist’s latest release takes listeners back to Sullee’s characteristic flow and signature lyricism. There is a strong message about doing good in life and fighting against the bad, about the struggle and making it through.

The video and music were produced by Jurrivh x Syndrome, with direction by Get Fresh Studios and visuals by Get Fresh Visuals. Mixing and mastering was done by Michael Seger and the single and video was released by Global Faction on YouTube on the 14th September.

” Step into the spotlight with Sullee J’s reflective video. Destined for greatness, the Pakistani rapper walks us through from the booth to outdoor settings before walking into the light. Final stop. “

 

 

officialsulleej.com

 

SOURCES:

Sullee J Management & GlobalFaction/YouTube

WINGLIGHTS360 ON KICKSTARTER: Funding a new revolution in cycling safety

London – VIJAY SHAH

If you are a cyclist, or just happen to know someone who lives and breathes hi-viz, Lycra, and the wind through their hair while getting about on pedals and two wheels, you will know that cycling is a fun, adventurous and healthy sport. But like any sport, cycling comes with risks, and especially for urban cyclists, the roads of our cities are hazardous places where dangers can be unexpected.

 

On any road network, junctions pose the most danger for cyclists. According to the UK’s Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), 75% of the 19,000 bicycle accidents a year in the country happen at junctions, where cyclists are forced to contend with often heavy traffic flows, large vehicles and blind spots. Many of these accidents are caused by drivers not spotting cyclists or being unaware of a cyclist making a turn at a crossroads. Today, a quarter of accidents involving cars and cycles are caused by drivers’ failure to judge cyclists’ paths, especially at night, where hand signals by cyclists may not be noticed by drivers. It is this type of statistic that has also discouraged many from taking up daily cycling. Whilst the number of commuters has increased by 144% over the last decade, 68% of non-cyclists still believe it is too dangerous to cycle on the roads, making cycle safety a key issue now more than ever.

Unlike cars, bikes have no way of indicating changes in direction, but a freshly minted technology startup dedicated to producing innovative cycling safety equipment has a solution to help reduce the large numbers of cycling injuries and deaths on Britain’s roads.

CYCL, a London-based cycling technology startup managed by co-founder and chief technology officer, Agostino Stilli, launched a revolutionary new product, WingLights, in 2015, with help from public donations raised via Kickstarter crowdfunding. This simple, yet ingenious, technology involves LED devices attached to the cyclist’s bicycle handlebars, which behave like the turn signals on motor vehicles. Designed to be lightweight, waterproof, shockproof and robust for outdoors use, the product was featured on the BBC programme ‘Dragons’ Den’ in 2017, where it was backed by dragon Nick Jenkins. The gadget was publicised on WIRED, Business Insider and Forbes, and was adopted as the ‘Future of Transport’ by the UK Government.

WingLights began to light the way for cycling safety innovation and in the three years since they were launched, CYCL has fitted 50,000 devices to bikes, including the entire delivery fleet at the British arm of  the takeaway restaurant chain Domino’s Pizza.

Three years after its launch, CYCL has returned to Kickstarter to raise money for the latest iteration of WingLights, inspired by the feedback left by the gadget’s users and the original project’s supporters from Kickstarter. One story in particular stuck out. A cyclist going for a coastal ride in Dorset lost both her front and back lights and retained visibility on her route only by tapping WingLights repeatedly for hours before getting home safely (the original WingLights switch off automatically after 45 seconds). There was a clear need for a steady light mode to provide constant visibility.

 

CYCL’s design team went back to the drawing board, developing an enhanced version of the WingLights with permanent white/red side light functions. They also added an improved utility function where all the cyclist needs to do is snap the gadget on the ends of the bike’s handlebars and switch on: one tap for flashing indicators, and a continuous hold for steady side lights.
The new version, WingLights360, also comes packed with a helpful selection of new key features to help keep cyclists safe. Constructed from CNC aluminium for strength and lack of bulk, the devices are attached to the handlebars using magnets, and when not in use, can be tucked away on the person as a handy keyring. Perfect for the commute, they are now USB rechargeable, with a 3 hours battery operation interval and can be charged in under 30 minutes. The product has already become hot property before its impending launch with Forbes magazine naming WingLights360 their Forbes’ Top Cycling Gadget for 2018.

CYCL is one of a breed of startups catering to previously unexplored and poorly catered-for technological markets and is highly passionate about improving cyclists’ safety on the roads. The firm’s co-founder, Luca, said: “We have created a product based on the concept that motor vehicles have white and red side lights. We wanted to recreate this for the bicycle market, to ensure cyclists’ positioning and intentions are clear to other road users”.

CYCL officially launched the WingLights360 fundraiser to the general public this past Tuesday (11 September 2018). You can donate to the fund at this Kickstarter page. Send enquiries to info@cycl.bike .

cycl.bike

 

SOURCES:

Agostino Stilli/CYCL.

“Compatibility” – CYCL/Indive ltd https://cycl.bike/compatibility/

IMAGE CREDITS:

CYCL

 

MEGALODON: An ancient shark of mega proportions

VIJAY SHAH and SUNNY ATWAL

Every year around six people are killed by sharks and dozens more injured, often seriously. Feared for their aggression, speed, size and taste for human flesh, the shark has been the stuff of legends for thousands of years and more recently, have been the subject of Hollywood blockbusters. Forty years ago, cinemagoers queued up for popcorn, ready to be terrified by the protagonist of the Jaws films, a bloodthirsty great white who snacked on sunseekers visiting the beach of sleepy little Amity Island. 

On the 10th of August, 2018, a new movie resurrecting the familiar ‘shark-meets-human, shark-eats-human’ narrative and starring action hero Jason Statham and Chinese actor Bingbing Li, introduced us to a shark that very much made the dreaded great white immortalised in Steven Spielberg’s Jaws series, look like a piddling fairground goldfish in comparison. Swim forward the Megalodon, full name Carcharocles megalodon, but you can call it ‘Meg’.

 

Megalodon was the streamlined bone-crunching stuff of water-borne nightmares. From around 23 to two million years ago, these colossal fish were the apex predators of their day, dominating the world’s temperate and tropical seas, and were capable of literally biting whales and dolphins in half. Flipper’s arch nemesis on steroids.

Scientists believed that the Meg could reach a maximum of 18 metres (59 feet) in length from heavily-armed snout to the tip of its tail. The largest great white shark observed in our time was 6.1 metres (20 feet), half the size of the largest estimated Megalodon adults. Meg’s huge proportions meant it was at the top of the food chain millions of years ago, and it proved its role as ruler of the seas by chomping its way through other large underwater creatures such as prehistoric whales, giant sea turtles and seals. It may have also dined on other sharks as well. A human would have been a service station sandwich in comparison. It has been estimated that an adult Meg would have needed to eat a tonne of flesh a day just to stay alive.

No-one was around back then to have met Meg (and survived to tell the tale), but many believe the shark was a more robust and muscular version of today’s great whites, but with teeth five or six times bigger. Thousands of the Meg’s fossil teeth have been found nowadays measuring up to 180 mm (7.1 inches) diagonally. Meg, just like modern-day cousins, would have had hundreds of these saw-like teeth in its jaws, lined up in rows, which combined with the brute force of its mouth, meant the shark always won every fight it got into. Meg must have been a treat at the dentist’s too when it was asked to say ‘Aaah!’ for its checkup. Its jaw dimensions were 2.7 by 3.4 metres wide, meaning Meg could swallow two adult humans side by side, and still have room for dessert. In fact, Meg has been said to have been the most powerful predator that has ever existed, and had the dinosaurs got around at the same time,  the shark would have owned T-Rex and company like a bunch of soggy dinosaur-shaped breaded turkey pieces.

 

Megalodon’s modus operandi for getting dinner on the table involved attacking prey side on, using its strong jaws to literally sink its teeth into the prey’s heart and lungs, inflicting maximum fatal damage to vital organs. Medium-sized prey would usually rammed with great force, causing severe trauma, with the Meg then chomping through bone and flesh, as evidenced from bite marks etched into the bones of whales found by marine archaeologists. Larger whales were a particular target for when Meg decided to go full hangry meets sadistic. The shark was said to have immobilised such whales by severing their fins from their bodies or by simply ripping them apart. Once the whale was suitably disabled, the Meg would then sit down for supper.

Environmental changes, mainly in prey availability and sea temperatures, as well as increased competition from newer species of sharks, contributed to the eventual demise of the Meg. Some people have claimed that the super shark still persists to this day, hanging out in deep seas and trenches, with several YouTube videos claiming to show sightings of the prehistoric monster. However most scientists are in agreement that the Megalodon is definitely history, pointing out that due its preference for warmer seas, a surviving Meg would have been a very obvious one. That said though, other species of fish, such as its cousin the megamouth shark and also the coelacanth fish, were long considered to be extinct, but have managed to survive undetected for millions of years until recently. In 1918, an Australian naturalist, David Stead, wrote of an incident where a group of experienced and fearless fishermen in his country were terrorised by a white-coloured shark of between 35-90 metres in length which attacked their boats, trashed their fishing equipment and stole their catches. Despite spending many years on the high seas, the fishermen’s encounter with this mystery shark left them scared to continue working. While extremely unlikely, perhaps there could well be an undiscovered group of bloodthirsty Megs out there, far from human eyes, eating whale sushi undisturbed.

SOURCES:

“Megalodon” – Wikipedia/Wikimedia Foundation, Inc. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Megalodon

“Megalodon: the truth about the largest shark that ever lived” – Josh Davis, Natural History Museum (6 August 2018) http://www.nhm.ac.uk/discover/megalodon–the-truth-about-the-largest-shark-that-ever-lived.html

“10 Killer Megalodon Shark Facts” – FossilEra https://www.fossilera.com/pages/megalodon

“Megalodon Sightings: Is the Megalodon Shark Still Alive?” – cryptid, Exemplore (19 August 2018) https://exemplore.com/cryptids/Is-the-Megalodon-Shark-Still-Alive

IMAGE CREDITS:

“File:VMNH megalodon.jpg” – Karen Carr via LeGenD, Wikimedia Commons (12 May 2010) https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:VMNH_megalodon.jpg

“File:Carcharodon megalodon SI.jpg” – Mary Parrish, Smithsonian, National Museum of Natural History via Materialscientist, Wikipedia (8 March 2017) https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Carcharodon_megalodon_SI.jpg

SULLEE J: Steady ft. Chino XL, Tabesh and Sayras

If you are a keen listener of authentic, straight-from-the-source Baltimore rap, then you have probably heard of Sullee J, a.k.a. Sullee Justice. Here at HEM News Agency, I have covered many of this rising music star’s releases, and now he has come out with a brand-new collaboration to tantalise your eardrums.

Released this past Saturday (21st July 2018), the latest single, “Steady”, is the product of a jam with New York’s Chino XL (Derek Keith Barbosa), who has been well-received in hip-hop circles for his technically accomplished style consisting of self-consciously over-the-top punchlines, which has led some to dub him the ‘Lyrical Messiah’.

Featuring alongside Sullee and Chino is Tabesh and Sayras, two underground Persian rappers, bringing the conscious Farsi lyricism to a worldwide audience. The track was produced by Sayrus productions with artwork by Reza Aghaei.

Steady is hip-hop at its rawest with powerful and intense Farsi and English lyrics, true East meets West unified on a style from the projects of America’s cities. Dark and steady, this one takes the genre back to its roots.

You can listen to the new single on YouTube and Spotify and download it at iTunes.

 

 

officialsulleej.com

SOURCE:

Sullee Justice.

BELGRADE: The Fortress

Belgrade – VIJAY SHAH via TARA GOLDSMITH and ReadyClickAndGo

While the capital of Serbia is not the first place that comes to mind for many when they think of a holiday destination with culture, history and impressive sights, Belgrade is in some ways an undiscovered treasure for those looking for something a bit different, but still ticking all the boxes.

Belgrade, known to its residents as ‘Beograd’, has an ancient history of settlement dating back to the Roman Empire. It was ravaged by the hordes of the Huns, and became an outpost of the Turkish Ottoman empire. In latter years, it was the capital of the Communist union of Yugoslavia, and saw much fighting, bloodshed and bombing during the collapse of that country in the early 1990s. By the end of the decade, Belgrade was bombed by NATO forces during the independence war of Kosovo. After all that mayhem, Belgrade has reinvented itself as a hip city of fashion, art and music that attracts young European things like wasps to honey.

Even with the modernisation and revamping characteristic of Belgrade now, the city has not let go of its history. Of particular importance is what is called by English-speaking tourists the Fortress. Located on the right bank of the Sava river which cuts through the city, the Fortress is chunky, stony and covers a great area of land, an inspiring monolith of masonry. The complex is said to be the final resting place of the great marauder and general Attila the Hun and was once the greatest military fortification in all of Europe.

The Fortress predates the Hun though. It was built in fact by the Romans who needed a strong fortification on the eastern fringes of their expansive empire to protect against tribes looking to overrun the territory. It was at first a Roman military camp and the largest structure in Belgrade’s ancestor, known in Latin as ‘Singidunum’.

 

After repeated incursions, the Ottoman forces overran Belgrade in 1521. Impressed by the magnitude of Belgrade’s Fortress, the Turks rechristened it Kalemegdan (or in modern Turkish “Kalemeydan”, (kale – city and megdan – field) and added two structures, the first being the fountain of Mehmed Pasha Sokolovic, the other the tomb of Damad Ali Pasha.

Over the years, the fortress became a hot potato, constantly passing between the rule of the Turks and the Austrians. The Austrians also added some cosmetic changes to the Fortress, mainly to its outer wall. The Turks were said to have preferred the local white rock (that is said to have given Belgrade its name) for their renovations, while the Austrians opted for traditional red brick. 

From being a military showpiece contested by regional powers, the Fortress wound up with a less dignified role centuries later. As Yugoslavia dwindled in size in the 1990s, local entrepreneurs turned the Fortress into a nightclub, playing probably house music inside a castle, you could say. Eventually the city government renegotiated the terms of use, and the Fortress was reborn as a local tourist icon and a museum.

The Fortress is split into four parts linked together via eighteen gates in total. The Fortress is large enough that it is considered as two phases, the Upper and Lower Towns, which are home to Orthodox churches, a planetarium, an apparently claustrophobic World War II bunker, and various monuments and museums.

Highlights available to visit today at the Fortress of Belgrade include a collection of Roman sarcophagi, gravestones and Christian church alters brought in from all of Serbia, the National Museum’s Collection of Stone Monuments. The Roman Well (which was actually built by the Austrians with their usual red bricks) was built for water supplies for troops, can be visited for a fee. There is also a clock tower and the 500-year-old Nebojsa Tower, built for the unsuccessful defence strategy against the Ottomans. Indeed the Fortress is essentially a combination of monuments of historical importance, museums, places of interest, religious buildings and parks, mostly with free entry and reasonable opening times. The fortress is also an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

SOURCES:

Listed@DrStephanieLang, Dr. Stephanie Lang, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/DrStephanieLang/lists/listed-drstephanielang

First Night Design, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/FirstNightArt

TaraGoldsmith, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/Best_of_Tara

“BELGRADE FORTRESS” – Tara Goldsmith, ReadyClickAndGo Private Day Trips/ReadyClickAndGo (26 June 2015) https://www.readyclickandgo.com/blog/belgrade-fortress/

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Belgrade Fortress, once one of the most powerful military strongholds of Europe” – Jorge Láscar, Flickr (20 August 2012) https://www.flickr.com/photos/jlascar/13810353553

PAPERLESS POST: Experiencing a new breed of e-card

 

They say that life is full of surprises and great things. And, indeed, you’ve just run into a whole bunch of them. Your sister has just had a baby boy, your friend has got his wedding date finally confirmed and the tinpot dictator of a manager at the office you have had to force yourself to be rictus grin nice to is leaving for a new position. Card buying season is making its presence felt but that same life of surprises usually consists of working all the hours thrown your way while juggling gym, hobbies, family time and all that jazz. You haven’t bought a greeting card since Take That split and running from pillar (box) to post (office) to buy stamps and envelopes just seems, well, tedious.

Even if you manage to get time to go out and actually do some shopping around, you will inevitably find yourself either stuck at the supermarket looking for an off-the-shelf card with a generic printed message and a pen that hopefully will not run out of ink halfway through writing in the blasted thing, or you’re at a stuffy printer’s shop trying to haggle a discount on a thousand wedding invites to be delivered ASAP. Because you procrastinated. And procrastination is a thing. You really need something more instant and fuss-free.

 

So send an E-card they said, it’ll be novel, cute and quick as a flash they said. But aren’t e-cards a bit tacky and cheap-looking? Surely good old card and paper seems like, well, you are actually even slightly bothered about this momentous and life-changing special occasion. Not forgetting that actual invitations and cards you can hold in your hand, keep and read at your leisure has a great permanency and intimacy that a few hundred pixels on a screen just cannot achieve. Well think again.

While in days gone by, e-cards were the height of gawdy electro-kitsch with their eye-bruising colours, goofy Clipart images and cat memes galore, a company based in the design capital of New York made the very smart decision a few years back to drag the much-maligned e-greetings industry kicking and screaming to the drawing board for a makeover fit for the 2010s.

Paperless Post is an online company that offers a wide selection of online invitations, ‘save-the-dates’, greetings e-cards and flyers to suit every occasion. Their stated ambition is to produce customisable online stationery that enables customers to create well-designed and personal items for that extra-special touch.

With their contemporary and inspiring creations worthy of a design gallery, not to mention their cute pigeon logo harking back to the days of carrier pigeon post and Yankee Doodle cartoons on a  Saturday morning, Paperless Post have become well-established enough to have scored collaborations with leading designers and lifestyle brands in the U.S., including Kate Spade New York, Oscar de la Renta, Jonathan Adler, and Rifle Paper Co. The company has generated more than 85 million cards to date, both in virtual and printed format, so even traditionalists and people who simply don’t have a computer or an internet connection that ever moved past dial-up can still receive an invite or card via Paperless.

I was invited by Paperless Post to try out their services for myself and had a go making a greetings card for the Hindu festival of Diwali – one of my favourite occasions, which you can see at the beginning of this review. The first thing that struck me about their website was just how amazingly appealing it was to my ‘inner designer’ ‘s eyes. With heaps of prominent imagery framed in soft pastels on just the home page, the site alone could win a design award or two.

While many websites that invest heavily in aesthetics end up neglecting the basics of good navigation, Paperless Post strikes a happy balance between the two. All of the company’s categories of offerings, such as graduation, birthday and festivals, are in a clear, minimalist and straightforward menu up top, so no need to go on an Livingstonian expedition around the site to find what you are looking for.

Like pretty much every e-tailer, you first need to sign up and create an account. You can go for the usual option of registering via an email address, but for the social-media-savvy, you can also sign up via Facebook or Google accounts too. Once done, it’s just the small matter of choosing a design and stationery item. Paperless offers both pre-designed customisable templates and an ‘upload your own’ option that enables you to upload photos and create something truly personal.

I chose to create a Diwali card. I was pleasantly surprised to find lots of designs which were culturally appropriate as well as gorgeous. I selected the ‘Under the Toran’ design with its array of flowers in a garland suspended on a luxurious white heavy paper background.

 

Once you have chosen your preferred style, it’s time to customise. There is a lot of flexibility in the choices, and you can adapt nearly everything from the typeface, colour and size of the card text, to the background behind the card when it’s opened and the colour and feel of the cyber-envelope to put your card in. The attention to detail offered by Paperless Post is such that you can add a vintage letterpress effect to your text and add the finishing touches of a cute little stamp and postmark to the front of the envelope upon completion. There’s the possibility too of choosing the pattern you prefer for the inside of the envelope, which Paperless Post dubs the ‘liner’ – very posh!

I found the user interface intuitive and offering a lot of wiggle room, although manipulating the text for the inside of the card was quite fiddly at first, but I soon got the hang of it, aided by the fact I had some experience designing graphics online using third-party websites. Although you don’t have to be a design expert, some technological prowess is helpful, although those who really struggle can get guidance from the ‘Help’ page.

 

To move between different stages you can click the ‘next’ and ‘back’ arrows (as seen in the image above) or on the menu to the left. The menu is also where you can find the patterns you need and you can play around with different combinations of design to see what fits and what looks great before you finalise everything.

Once the card or invite is complete, you can type in the recipients’ names and emails, and save them into a handy ‘address book’ for future use. The site also offers the option of reviewing the finished product by sending a test copy to yourself, as well as an RSVP facility for your loved ones to respond with messages or other details. You can also track the progress of your item once it’s sent, and even see if it has been opened yet, so no more barely believable claims about ‘the invitation must have got lost in the post’.

Paperless Post uses its own in-house virtual currency, simply called coins, which you will need to purchase before using the site. Coins can be spent on design elements and mailing out to recipients and it’s said to cost less to send an e-card en masse to, say, a hundred people, than if you went out to the local printers and ordered a bulk lot. You also save a bundle on postage and stationery costs too. Prices are not immediately clear when you choose designs, but you can see how many coins you have in your account via your dashboard.

The website was quite clear and helpful in leading me on my journey from template to sent email, with a varied range of different contemporary designs and styles to choose from. I really liked the concept of a card without the paper (and paper cuts). It is a cool and personal touch, and ideal for the environmentally conscious and those who like the instant nature and realistic feel of sending a Paperless Post e-card. It’s also money-saving (as in not having to go out and buy a card, envelope, stamps and all that malarkey) so making Paperless Post ideal for much convenience and less headaches. The sort of inner peace that you just can’t obtain from running around trying to get cards printed and posted before the party plans go up in ink and smoke.

The card I designed was so realistic and detailed, right down to the texture of the ‘paper’, that I had to honestly remind myself not to try and peel it off my laptop screen. The animation of the envelope appearing onscreen and opening to reveal the card emerging is a nice little gesture too, another sign of the attention to detail Paperless Post is famous for.

I guess the supermarket card display won’t miss me too much now I can get my cards straight from a cute website and its little pigeon.

Paperless Post

paperlesspost.com

 

DISCLOSURE: The author was sponsored by the company mentioned in this review and received an incentive in order to fully utilise the product, but opinions and experiences mentioned in the post are the author’s own.

SOURCES:

Helen Chuchak, Anagram Interactive

Paperless Post.

 

 

 

AMBIGUOUS OBJECT ILLUSION: An incredible new design by Kokichi Sugihara

For centuries, optical illusions have fascinated people with their visual tricks, appearing as something and then something else, only to be something else entirely. From the ‘rabbit duck’ illusion that appeared in the US magazine Harper’s Weekly in 1892 (said to be the world’s oldest) to the Magic Eye three-dimensional cacophonies of colour that were the rage twenty years ago, optical illusions have mesmerised and shocked.

Now the deception has really gone 3D. The advent of 3D printing technology for plastics has opened up a new stream of possibilities for artists of groundbreaking optical illusions. One artist who has embraced this is Japanese academic, Kokichi Sugihara, who has released an incredible new design, titled ‘Ambiguous Object Illusion’.

 

The artwork consists simply of a blue plastic toy with holes. When turned around ninety degrees, the objects holes change from diamonds to circles without any alteration to the fabric of the design. Turn it around again and the holes suddenly increase in size as well as changing shape to triangles and a diamond with curved sides. Introduce a mirror into the mix and things get more surreal, with the object’s reflection completely different to how the real deal appears to our eyes. A closer inspection of the little plastic thingie reveals it has wavy edges, which affect how the object is perceived depending on the angle.

Sugihara’s ambiguous art projects have been a hit online and in 2016 they helped him become a finalist at the Best Illusion of the Year Contest, as well as taking first place in the same competition in earlier years. A mathematician on the faculty of Japan’s renowned Meiji University, his mathematical engineering skills, combined with a love of art, has already produced novelties such as an artwork where a marble appears to be rolling uphill, and another where a circular pipe appears rectangular. Of particular note is his artwork ‘Ambiguous Garage Roof’. His interest in illusions stems from his research in the 1980s on automating the analysis of perspective drawings, including computer programmes that examined the objects featured in the designs of famous optical illusionist M.C. Escher.

The optical illusion works because the holes or cylinders are based on a shape which is halfway between a circle and a square, with the side edges formed as waves. Two sides dip up, and two sides dip down. When combined, the shape is ‘corrected’ depending on which shape is projected into the mirror. Your eyes and brain’s visual cortex do the rest. It is complicated physics and not something this poor author can adequately explain. Nevertheless this mind-frying trick is very confounding.

SOURCES:

PhysicsFun.

Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984

RΛMIN NΛSIBOV, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/RaminNasibov

“Kokichi Sugihara” – Wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kokichi_Sugihara

“How Does The Ambiguous Cylinder Illusion Work? This Mystery Has The Internet Stumped — VIDEO” – Maddy Foley, Bustle (5 July 2016) https://www.bustle.com/articles/170704-how-does-the-ambiguous-cylinder-illusion-work-this-mystery-has-the-internet-stumped-video

 

 

URUGUAY AND ITS CAPITAL: A South American success story

The small South American nation of Uruguay, tucked away on the continent’s east coast between Brazil and Argentina, may be not as as well known as its bigger neighbours when it comes to the world stage and the everyday person, but the country is being lauded as a success story that has been financially and politically sound beyond many people’s expectations… and is on the rise.

In the past fifteen years, Uruguay has spearheaded economic growth on the continent with an interannual growth rate of 2 per cent under three successive governments of the country’s centre-left Frente Amplio coalition, bringing new wealth and the attentions of the moneyed and savvy to it and its cities.

 

The biggest beneficiary of Uruguay’s success has been its capital, Montevideo. A microcosm of old Spanish America with its vintage buildings, alongside the recognisable signs of modern city environments, Montevideo has been voted the Latin American city with the highest quality of life, as well as joining the club of the world’s thirty safest cities. On top of that, Uruguay’s capital is also at ninth place in terms of purchasing power per inhabitant in all of Latin America.

Montevideo not only offers great culture, but also great investment opportunities for those who want a part of the success story. Many of its neighbourhoods, including Punta Carretas, Pocitos Nuevo, Parque Rodo, Buceo and Villa Dolores, are highly sought after by both property investors and people searching for a better standard of life. They have attracted a lot of attention from investors owing to their decent selection of amenities, such as nightlife, transport links, and a high rate of urban development. The city is experiencing massive demand especially for new family sized homes as well as properties for singles and couples, as more people from outside Montevideo and Uruguay are drawn to the city’s prospects.

Montevideo, with its population of only 1.5 million inhabitants, is also a magnet for tourists, who flock to see old colonial architecture as well as the beaches of the Atlantic and the Rio de la Plata region. This massive river forms part of Montevideo’s allure, fringed with nature reserves and protected areas displaying the biological diversity of natural Uruguay. The city is experiencing a quiet boom in tourism, as more people discover its charms and magic.

Perhaps it will take a lot less than fifteen years for little Montevideo to become maybe the new Rio de Janeiro of Uruguay, or even the Barcelona of South America.

SOURCES:

Vijay Shah { विजय }, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/VShah1984

Alexander Ochoa, Twitter, Twitter Inc. https://twitter.com/AlexanderOchoaQ

“De Hispano América Uruguay, de Uruguay Montevideo, de Montevideo Pocitos” – Grandes Medios (30 March 2017) https://www.grandesmedios.com/uruguay-montevideo-pocitos/

IMAGE CREDIT:

“Streets of Montevideo” – Héctor de Pereda, Flickr (26 January 2008) https://www.flickr.com/photos/hdepereda/3093337942