Sound United is on a mission to bring joy to the world through sound. To help deliver their message, they needed an interactive sales enablement app that their sales team could use to guide visitors through a diverse array of unique audio brands, including the likes of Denon, Polk, Marantz and Definitive Technology. They turned to Hudson Projects, a top-notch design and marketing firm, to produce the high-quality tablet app, which the sales team used last month at the Consumer Technology Association Conference in Las Vegas.
Hudson Projects relied on the app experts at MEI, along with the Twixl Publisher app platform, to handle the technical execution, so that they could remain focused on designing an engaging brand experience for their client, Sound United.
“MEI and Twixl were key ingredients that enabled us to deliver the art and branding experience we wanted to achieve without having to sweat the technical. It was a great collaboration that allowed us to focus on doing what we do best – the design – and leave the technical challenge to our partners.”
In the end, Sound United was able to turn to Hudson Projects to deliver a stellar app within a short timeline, while holding up to the high-quality standards of the brand. And during the process, Hudson Projects was able to remain focused on the creative work they do so well, by leaving the technical challenges to MEI and Twixl Publisher.
For over 25 years, Marcolina Designs has provided innovative design for print, digital, mobile and web. The agency works with regional and national companies to share their brand and story, by delivering unexpected, memorable design solutions that are cohesive across media. Owner, Dan Marcolina, sat down with Nervous Pixel, a division of MEI, Creative Director Will Steuber to discuss how Marcolina Design brings content to life.
Can you tell us a bit about your design philosophy? As a firm, we have a more conceptual approach, striking a balance between look and feel. Whereas a more traditional design firm will just focus on the look.
For me, good design creates an a-ha moment. It’s something we always strive for in our work; some unexpected twist that visually or verbally brings home the client’s message. It makes the subject more memorable. I was a magician as a kid, and have carried that love of magic over to my design work. I want to provide an element of surprise. My goal is to surprise and engage viewers.
How do you leverage content to shape the user experience? When a project comes in- either digital video or print- we anticipate and promote to the client how we might translate the content to other channels. It’s more than replicating the look. It is translating the essence and utilizing the medium to its fullest potential to extend the relationship and dimension of the brand.
The experience is guided by the platform. In print, you can try to guide the viewer through layout and visual pacing, but they could easily start reading from the middle or end; completely missing all your “choreography” work. With web, you are never sure how the viewer will access the content. The speed and size of the screen all vary so you have to design for the lowest common denominator. This can be very limiting and complicated from a code stand point. But with tablet, I can design with confidence and really shape the viewer’s experience. I can anticipate most of the variables, like speed and size of screen, and can add unlimited types of visual enhancements like video, sound, and interactive. That’s where you can build in those surprises. The little moments to create an experience through the look and feel. For me, designing for tablet is the most satisfying and where you can come closest to delivering the design vision.
So you are designing the story for the vehicle, right? Exactly. Replica apps are just delivering the same content across platforms. It falls flat. There isn’t a chance to offer those little magic moments, because you don’t know how the viewer will access the content. Content should coexist across platforms, not mirror each other.
Do you see what you are doing as immersive storytelling? Absolutely. It comes back to my early desire to bring print graphics to life. It is what I am most interested in: creating engaging and immersive experiences for audiences. It is bringing the content and message to life in surprising ways, and making the experience interactive.
What are working on now? Over the course of your career, what medium have you worked in most? Over the course of my career, I have probably done the most work for print, but right now, a lot of my work is focused on motion graphics and augmented work. I am hoping to do more for tablet.
One of the reasons I enjoy designing for tablet so much is that it combines everything I have learned over the course of my career. It is where motion graphics, print design, and video converge.
Adobe Senior Art Director, Russell Brown said you cross mediums from print to interactive to motion very well, and therefore represent a good example of the New Designer.Do you have any advice for young designers? What knowledge do you think designers today need to have? My advice would be: learn 3D and After Effects. Designers today have to speak the language of print, digital, mobile and web. So you need a lot of tools in your toolbox to be able to successfully deliver your message across those platforms. The more skills you can develop the more flexibility you have to be creative.
I’d also recommend Twixl Publisher for tablet and app design. It’s an affordable option and does not require coding knowledge, so it’s more accessible. You can convert DPS content and create the same type of overlays; it’s a great tool for designers. We actually create our promotional pieces using Twixl.
Marcolina Design Inc. founded and operating since in 1990 by Dan and Denise Marcolina. Marcolina Design is a digital experience agency, with a portfolio that includes print, interactive, video, and augmented work. Clients include: Adobe, Johnson & Johnson, Discovery, and Fox Sports. Marcolina Design is based in Ambler, Pennsylvania.
Network Media Partners, LLC is a business services firm for associations, specializing in: customized media sales, design, event planning and management, and marketing services. For more than 30 years, Network Media Partners has provided award winning design services. We sat down with Vice President of Creative Strategy, Jen Smith, to discuss their process for efficiently producing digital and print magazines.
Can you provide an overview of Network Media Partners (Network), and your publication design work? Certainly. Network works exclusively with associations. Our services include: advertising and integrated media sales, publication design, and marketing and event management services. We work with local, regional, national, and global clients. Most recently, we partnered with global organization MCI to become part of MCI USA. This partnership increased our capacity to meet clients’ growing sales, event, and publishing needs. Our design services are almost exclusively publication design. We do a lot of re-designs and new publication launches.
Right now we regularly produce nine magazines, in addition to the clients we provide initial set-up support and design for. We work in partnership with our association clients, from the early stages of content planning. Network is part of the content strategy discussions for the magazine, and helps develop the right content strategy for the magazine, be it an app or print media. The challenge for associations is how to produce content for all platforms, within a restricted budget. Our work is focused on multi-channel delivery, so we are thinking about visual communications for print and digital simultaneously. We are looking for opportunities to maximize all assets across platforms.
Are your clients focused on print or digital? There has been a big evolution for digital over the last four years. As an industry the idea that everything could be digital seemed really enticing, especially to our client base of associations. Now you are seeing a boomerang. The reality is that you need to be able to provide print and digital components. The questions are: where does your audience expect to find you, and how often do you need to be in front of them? We have one client that launched a magazine as digital-only, then moved to print. They discovered the print magazine was more successful in readership and revenue (i.e. ad sales). For many, the right strategy now is a strong print component with a strong digital component.
What is your workflow strategy? Each client has a different workflow, but from the beginning we are thinking about print and digital, and are involved in early content planning meetings. By being involved early in the process, we are able to identify opportunities to expanded on content from print to digital. For example, if we learn a photographer is being sent out to cover a story, we may ask for video, which we can use in the digital version. This gives digital consumers a little something extra, which is the expectation.
Templates are very important to efficiently produce content. There are certain rules to build consistency for a magazine, but there is also room for creativity. We use style sheets, grids, and grid options based on the components of the articles, any standing content or page elements.
Our process is to work through all the milestones of the print schedule, then while the issue is at the printer, the digital version is produced. TruEdit’s TruAuthor HTML content authoring component has been very instrumental in quickly producing responsively designed HTML content that can be plugged into the app. This allows us to easily have print and digital go live at the same time.
Explain the major difference in managing content for print and digital? This is something we consider a lot. It’s really about using the same content asset, but applying a different approach to suit the medium. The designer will use the same art and give it the same feel, but the presentation will be different. We are designing content for the way it is consumed. With a mobile layout, it’s much more templated so the text is easy to read. The smaller the screen, the more focus is placed on text.
Network’s publication design in both print and digital formats have won numerous awards, including Folio: Eddie and Ozzie Awards, The Apex Awards, and Association Media & Publishing Excel Awards. They are based in Hunt Valley, Maryland. For more information on Network Media Partners, please visit their website. www.networkmediapartners.com
A global media and direct marketing company known for brands like Reader’s Digest and Taste of Home, Trusted Media Brands, Inc. (TMBI) has 40 million readers and 60 million social media followers. In 2017, the company adopted Twixl Publisher to create and publish their digital magazine issues with a more efficient and cost-effective mobile app platform. MEI is the primary North American distributor of Twixl Publisher and for installation, training and entitlement services.
When digital magazines first made a splash on the early versions of the iPad, TMBI immediately began working to deliver their titles in digital formats.
“We dove in and spent a lot of time producing digital editions of our magazines,” says Kerri Balliet, TMBI’s Vice President of Content Operations. “They were robust and interactive, however scaling that business was challenging and not cost efficient.”
TMBI needed to find a more cost-effective mobile app platform that would enable them to create high-quality digital experiences across tablets and smartphones.
Balliet and team began evaluating other tools in the marketplace and discovered Twixl Publisher. “In reviewing other digital publishing tools, we discovered that Twixl had very comparable functionality to the other digital publishing platforms on the market. It certainly had everything we needed to publish our titles at TMBI.”
The cost was a big draw. “Twixl was a fraction of the cost of our legacy digital publishing solution,” she says, “so not only could we create the right customer experience, but we could realize significant savings as well.”
TMBI implemented Twixl Publisher, which has allowed them to deliver a consistent, immersive reading experience that includes interactive versions of their popular Word Power and Around the World with One Question features in Reader’s Digest.
So far, TMBI’s development team has transitioned 9 of their 12 titles to Twixl. “By moving to Twixl, we could standardize our digital titles across the board,” says Kate Unger, Business Analyst for TMBI. “We believe this standardization will allow us to scale more easily in the future.”
TMBI has found MEI to be a valuable partner as well. “Our team was new to Twixl Publisher and MEI was instrumental in bringing us up to speed and helping us navigate some complicated waters,” says Kerri Balliet. “They’ve provided us with expert support throughout the process, so we’ve been able to resolve issues quickly and stay on track with development. We look forward to continuing to work closely with them as we bring more of our titles to Twixl, and we’ll count on them to help us expand the features of our digital magazines so we can keep engaging and inspiring our loyal readers.”
TruEdit’s mobile publishing capabilities are on display in DuPont’s Evalio FieldPartner US app, available today from Apple iTunes, by providing timely information on proven, local crop protection products for weed, disease, and insect control. Product recommendations are sorted by use with application timing, guidelines and best practices, as well as crop rotation intervals. Crop phenology charts provide information on application timing by crop phase and timing in relation to other crop protection products. For those working in the farming industry, the real-time processing of critical crop protection information in the Evalio Fieldpartner US app is revolutionizing the way crop-protection methods can be effectively managed and employed. And, it works online and offline for when farmers are in the field.
Founded in 1802, DuPont is a science and engineering company dedicated to solving the world’s most challenging problems. DuPont Crop Protection produces insect, weed and disease control solutions designed to improve crop yield and quality. It has more than 10,000 internal and external sales professionals focused on working with millions of large- and small-scale farmers in more than 130 countries.
The Crop Protection digital marketing team launched a complete redesign of the division’s websites and mobile applications using the Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) web content management system, along with the MEI TruEdit Content Platform. It was the start of a much-needed digital transformation, but it was not without challenges. The complex project involved creating websites for 37 countries. These sites needed to support content for a dizzying array of product lines. And they needed to house globally mandated brand content while also accommodating locally created content, since farmers in each country grow different crops and each country has different regulatory environments. Given that DuPont Crop Protection sales are literally out in the fields, the DuPont digital marketing team set out to create an efficient and productive mobile experience for the sales force and customers.
We’re glad we turned to MEI to help us navigate the challenges. It’s hard to find that combination of great creative and brilliant technical skills, but MEI has so much mobile publishing experience. ~ Joanne Hewitson, Global Digital Marketing Lead, Crop Protection
The DuPont digital marketing team decided to use AEM Mobile to build and distribute these mobile apps. But they also knew they’d need guidance to make the content creation and app distribution process smooth and efficient, so they engaged MEI to help.
MEI TruEdit enables Crop Protection marketers to easily create responsive HTML for publishing to all mobile platforms and screen sizes. “Our marketing people don’t have to be programmers to put together these apps,” says Hewitson. “It’s a really cost-effective, efficient way for our teams to manage their content, so any time they need to change a picture or headline or adjust copy slightly, they can do it wherever they are in seconds.”
TruEdit also helps Crop Protection teams create content once and publish it many times in multiple languages, saving time and money and ensuring brand consistency. “Our teams are stretched to do so many things,” says Hewitson. “TruEdit makes it easy for them to access high-performing content right when they need it, and that’s a huge win. Ultimately,” she says, “we want to make it so that our customers won’t want to do business with anyone else since it’s so easy to use DuPont.”
DuPont Crop Protection is already experiencing great results with the MEI TruEdit and AEM Mobile solutions. The company estimates more than $500K in efficiency gains from using a single, shared platform worldwide. Online delivery of information through the mobile apps could save $1M in printing costs. And the company calculates a 50% improvement in time-to-market for its content.
Hewitson says that MEI has helped DuPont Crop Protection fulfill their mobile strategy. “We’ve empowered customer conversations, particularly those between our field reps and farmers. We’ve enhanced the customer journey by making interactions more convenient and enjoyable. We’ve provided training and support for our partners so they can make the most of the apps for their needs. We’ve improved collaboration between marketing and sales. And we’ve been able to capture data and performance analytics in a disciplined way that helps us provide optimal content at all times.”
How did Human Rights Campaign (HRC) first start working with MEI? Three years ago, the HRC was looking to get a digital version and app for their Equality Magazine which is published quarterly for their members. They reached out to MEI because they were referred to us by the Humane Society and they knew our reputation for innovative publishing technology. We had just done some Adobe DPS training and template creation for the Humane Society creative team. HRC print production for the Equality Magazine was well established using an InDesign PDF workflow, but they needed a digital version. When the HRC first started using Nervous Pixel, the MEI in-house agency, to create the digital Equality Magazine, we used the InDesign print files as the basis for content and output for a tablet. The first digital issue went out for Winter 2013. With this latest Fall 2016 issue available on iOS, Nervous Pixel and the HRC have done 14 Equality Magazines for devices to date.
Do many of Equality Magazine’s subscribers access the website from a mobile device? It turns out the majority of their website visits are from mobile devices and especially phones, so we built phone-ready HTML templates and published their first version for the phone. Meanwhile, we were still producing the tablet version with InDesign, so, all together there were three different versions – print from InDesign, tablet from InDesign and phone from HTML.
Why did the HRC decide to go with Twixl and TruEdit? By switching to Twixl Publisher for their mobile application platform and using TruEdit with TruAuthor for content creation and management, the HRC was able to save a substantial amount of money on their digital publishing cost and add HTML content authoring for a fully integrated mobile content platform. I have used both on many projects for our clients and Twixl and TruEdit are so easy-to-use, we can turn around apps sooner, for less.
What’s it like working with the HRC Equality Magazine team? They are very professional and detail oriented. At first they were very hands-on, wanting to be sure every headline, image, pixel, gets the right positioning and style treatment. We were able to get everything looking very consistent quite quickly once we put everything into the same creation process using TruAuthor. In the past, the print, tablet, phone and web versions were all edited and updated separately. With responsive design, all the creative is in a single file, so we can literally just review the lay-out once and see how it adjusts for different sizes of devices. Since the copy is the same everywhere, any correction we make works for all output types. Quality is way higher, making updates and edits much faster and more efficient, and we are able to turn everything around very quickly. For their members and readers, the digital experience is much more robust across print, web, and mobile.
How did you educate the HRC team on how to use TruEdit and Twixl? Our usual model at MEI is that we train up the client’s team and get them ready to go, passing on our best practices. Other times, our in-house agency, Nervous Pixel, are hired as their interactive creative team and they use us to get their digital apps published. For the HRC, we explained that by adopting Twixl and TruEdit and moving to responsive design with a single file for all creative, we won’t have the control over pixel-by-pixel minutiae and lay-outs as we did in the past on the tablet version, but now the benefit is one review and approval cycle that is light years faster. They were really open to that and wanted to move forward. Now, we send them the first draft and are usually done after one revision.
Do you plan any updates for the Equality Magazine app? There are two settings the publisher can select when they publish a collection or issue: readers can download the whole issue upfront or can do it per article. The HRC wanted to make sure that no matter how old the phone, that people could download article by article and not get hung waiting for the full magazine to download. Once the article or issue is in your cache, it is there forever and doesn’t need to be downloaded again. In the future, we may decide to have the reader download the entire issue at once but, for now, the quick gratification of downloading only the article you want to read seems to be working.
What’s the next step for Equality Magazine now that they have a phone app? Their content is very current affairs based. Equality Magazine now has the TruEdit and Twixl platform that enables them to evolve the frequency, timing, and number of output channels into weekly, daily, hourly, anywhere they want it. They can easily keep up with a static quarterly magazine, and have the option of evolving their process into writing, editing, producing and pushing out one article at a time, as quickly as they like.
We recently had the opportunity to interview Anastasia Khoo, CMO of Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and learn how they are using TruEdit with Twixl Publisher to publish the Equality Magazine mobile app and her digital marketing plans for the future.
How have things changed since you first got involved with HRC? I’ve always worked on progressive issues. When I made the move from Greenpeace to the Human Rights Campaign 11 years ago to help fight for full LGBTQ equality, I knew I was standing on the right side of history. We have seen sweeping change – it’s been a very exciting opportunity for me to help make history with HRC.
How has your perspective changed on the use of digital media and technology? My tenure here coincided with the rise of digital and social media. One of the ways we have been the most successful is by putting digital communications at the forefront of our communications strategy. We’ve seen that we are able to connect with people and meet them where they are and, increasingly that is on digital. How you get your news, connect with friends, support your social cause and finding information is all digital. Over the last ten years, so much has changed to make that possible. What we strive to do here at HRC and part of my work is to change hearts and minds, and you can’t do that without connecting with people where they are. We have been incredibly successful using digital channels to help advance our mission.
Remember your Facebook campaign in March 2013 when everyone adopted the red-tinted HRC logo as their personal profile to show support for marriage equality? That resulted in exponential shares and likes. In 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that marriage equality is a fundamental right. That is probably our best viral campaign example that captured people’s imaginations. It demonstrates the widespread support for marriage equality and it was one of my proudest moments both professionally and as an American.
What are the main goals of Equality Magazine and how does your use of digital publishing and workflow automation impact that? Our editorial is very strong and I wanted to take the next step to bring that online. Although the magazine is a benefit to members, so much time and work goes into creating it, we wanted it to be an an extension of our social media experience and to increase our footprint. With the rise of digital, everything changed from the way we write a report to the way we publish. We started with an iPad app, then we extended into the Apple Newsstand. Now we have an iPhone app, and we are continuing to look for opportunities and ways to use our great content, have additional presence across channels, and get our message out there. Historically, since it has been a print piece, the magazine has been a little slower to transition to an online property. We are excited about the possibilities to continue to push this forward.
Your members and readers read the quarterly Equality Magazine cover-to-cover. Do you have plans to change the way the print and digital interact? I am not really a print mail person myself, so I am always surprised to review our surveys and see how much our members love and look forward to receiving Equality Magazine. With our focus on digital first and saving resources, we have a lot of support to offer a paperless, environmentally-friendly approach to publishing the magazine that is more cost-effective and accessible. Our community is highly digitally savvy and embraces change.
How did you first hear about MEI and Twixl Publisher? We looked at other organizations that are similar size but different missions. The Humane Society spent some time with us discussing how they approached publishing their magazine, and they were really generous and forthcoming. One of the outcomes of that conversation was and introduction to MEI. I think MEI has done a great job helping us to refine our process, become more efficient, and expand our reach by introducing a phone app, while continuing to be mindful of cost. That is why we moved to TruEdit for content creation and Twixl Publisher for the mobile app.
What are the benefits you see in terms of automation and efficiency and how your creatives and editors spend their time on Equality Magazine? I think one of the most exciting things is that because the printing and mailing process can take such a long time between when we put the magazine to bed and when it gets into the hands of our members, readers get a sneak peak and see our work. That we are so much faster and more efficient for the online piece is really important from an ROI perspective because of all the time, energy, staff, and internal resources that go into producing the magazine. I love getting two bites from the same apple and our members get the benefit of their tablet and their phone, providing two more opportunities to connect and interact.
How many people that come to your website are mobile? We have over 1.5 million members and Equality Magazine is the largest LGBTQ publication in the country. More than half our website visits are mobile these days and that number is increasing. This was a big factor when we redid our website and developed a responsive design.
Is the content in the magazine exclusive? There are times when we cross-publish like a celebrity interview but mostly the content is expressly created and written for the magazine.
Do you see there being a role at HRC for interactive mobile apps beyond digital publishing? That is definitely possible. Mobile has forced us to think about things differently. We have taken a mobile first approach to how we design and communicate. It is really reframing communications for us. I think video and mobile are the focus to help us push our mission forward. We do have other apps including a Buyer’s Guide to LGBTQ equality. As a not for profit, it always comes down to budget and the best way to package content that is accessible to people.
What do you think about the digital first idea many brands are embracing of having a central content hub where you create content one time for output to any channel? We are very nimble and have managed the acceleration of communications brought on by digital. The nature of our work is that we operate in real time due to the need and urgency to be part of real time conversations. Our work impacts live of our community so we often don’t have the luxury of an extensive review process. We are always thinking about how do we make it better, tweak it and test. I think we are best in class when it comes to content and brand marketing. We do things in a way that is both efficient and effective.
Do other organizations come to you to get advice on how to reach more people? Yes. HRC is very open and transparent about how we do things and we like to share our success with other organizations to help them with their own communications and marketing endeavors. I am very proud of the way we are great partners with the progressive community.
If someone comes to me and says ‘how do I make it go viral?’, I know they have already failed. They’re missing that it’s more than just going viral, it’s about creating an emotional connection with members and supporters. Marketers need to be thinking about how to build its brand and audience, day-in and day-out. HRC’s success with the magazine, social media, mobile, and apps is endemic to how we approach communications which is a constant process of refining.
How do you hope this app changes your relationship with your readers? We want to expand our audience with this additional point of contact by making it freely available. For the LGBTQ kid may not have a supportive community, we want to show them via digital that there is a big world out there, that they can be loved and accepted exactly the way they are. Digital allows us to reach the people most in need, right where they are.
Billboard Magazine needed a mobile app platform that provided readers with a digital experience across its mobile device and online magazine audiences. Billboard Magazine and its publishing group, Prometheus Global Media, are now live with the app built on Twixl Publisher. Twixl is easy-to-use, migration-ready from other legacy digital publishing platforms, and provides Billboard with exceptional mobile app functionality today with the capability to enrich the digital experience into the future.
Experience Billboard Magazine on the Twixl Publisher platform today.
This mobile app is a free download but requires a single issue purchase or subscription to access the issues.
When The Hollywood Reporter approached MEI about Twixl Publisher, THR’s goal was to find a cost-effective mobile app solution that would continue to provide value to their subscribers and to meet its aggressive deadline to migrate from their previous digital publishing solution. Twixl and MEI met the challenge. Experience The Hollywood Reporter on the Twixl Publisher platform today.
This mobile app is a free download but requires a single issue purchase or subscription to access the issues.