Joe Zeff Design

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On the Tablet, Everything Old is New Again

We created this illustration for The New York Times to use as a branding element for its Super Bowl coverage. Would have been much more satisfying if it were a Steelers helmet, or even a Jets helmet . . . but it serves to demonstrate a point.

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It looks like a photograph but is actually computer-generated, giving us the flexibility to quickly change the helmet color and logos, and even the lighting, reflections and positions, from year to year. We've created these for The Times for the past six years, all leveraging the same wireframe model. As a result, we're able to provide this work to The Times at a reasonable cost.

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I'm guessing that we'll make something similar next year using these very same wireframes. That's going to be a key part of any publication's Tablet strategy, extending the utility of existing assets as opposed to creating everything from scratch. Otherwise, publications will find themselves with two very costly workflows — one for print and one for the Tablet — and will be eventually forced to choose between them. At Joe Zeff Design, we'll extend our workflow to accommodate dynamic content rather than create an entirely new workflow — a model that will serve us well in the Tablet Era, and an example to publishing companies now strategizing about how to fund the brave new world.

Already this year we've received eight magazine cover assignments. (Who says print is dead?) No doubt we'll be creating animated covers for these publications a year from now — extending the pages-to-pixels experience so that the print version comes to life on the Tablet. That was one of the mistakes of the dot-com boom: Publications staffed their websites with whiz kids and code junkies who knew little — and cared less — about the publications they were putting online. It was all about coding Flash and making cash, with little regard for what sets one magazine apart from another.

The result: a homogenous internet newsstand where everything looks alike. Look on any magazine's website and try to find its cover, for decades its most valuable branding element. Prepare to scroll and squint. The cover usually get buried deep in a corner, with no way to make it bigger than your thumbnail. With the Tablet, the magazine cover makes a comeback, returning to its original role of selling a publication's unique point of view through humor, surprise, shock, emotion, curiosity, sex, sophistication and everything else that makes magazines great. Now that the newsstand is portable and personalized, it's more important than ever to stand out from the crowd.

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