Recent Posts
RSS Feed

Last night’s long maintenance period

Yesterday we performed some important maintenance work, which required temporarily shutting off Hightail’s services. Our initial expectation was that this would take between one and three hours and would affect a limited number of users.

Unfortunately, the maintenance took a lot longer than expected meaning many more users than anticipated were unable to access and share files. We are truly sorry for any inconvenience caused.

The scheduled maintenance was part of a project that is making Hightail a faster and more reliable place to share and store your files. We needed to take down the site in order to migrate data to new servers. The reason for the delay was that certain data took longer than expected to transfer. Our choice was to continue with the outage or lose the problematic data. We chose to prolong the outage instead of irretrievably losing any of our customer’s files.

Understandably, some people were upset that we hadn’t sent a notification email about the outage. As we hadn’t intended the outage to affect many customers, we decided to use social media to inform users as we could better target those most likely to be affected.

Again, we are truly sorry if you needed to use Hightail during this maintenance. Our goal is to help you get things done, not be a blocker. But we also need to think about the long term and the changes we’re currently making will make Hightail a better and more reliable service.

If you have any questions or concerns about any of this, please email us at support@hightail.com.

Tool tips with Justin Fiedler

Tool tips is a regular series where Hightail employees share their life’s most essential apps, online services and resources. Next up is Staff Software Engineer, Justin Fiedler.

Justin Fielders' tool tips


Working tool
As a software engineer I can’t imagine a day in the office without IntelliJ – my IDE (integrated development environment) of choice. IntelliJ provides a wide range of built-in productivity tools, such as autocomplete and real-time error checking, that make development faster and easier. This allows me to focus on creating an amazing application rather than crossing t’s and dotting my lower case j’s. For anything that IntelliJ doesn’t support out of the box there is also a vast library of plugins for everything from web development to task management. A big thank you to JetBrains for creating such a great product!

Playtime
I recently purchased a smart watch and I have been using Music Boss for Wear ever since. It’s a wrist-based remote control for all my media. I use it while driving to skip to the next song on Spotify. At home I can control Netflix without having to find the remote. On weekends, paired with some bluetooth headphones, I can go mountain biking with my favorite songs, no phone required. The best part is since all the controls are simple gestures I don’t need to look at or even see my watch to use it.

General resource
I love technology and cannot get enough of it. I think it is incredible to see what people, both individuals and society, are capable of achieving. For this reason I love Reddit’s Futurology sub. Whether it’s force fields keeping the dust off solar panels, NASA sending a nuclear submarine to explore one of Saturn’s moons or new cell phone batteries that can fully charge in 10 mins, I am constantly astounded by what is possible and what is yet to come.

Three Post-it productivity tricks

Post-it note

 

New products or services that fail to find an audience are often described as “a solution without a problem”. But this is exactly how one of the most successful inventions of all time started out.

In 1968, Dr. Silver Spencer, a chemist at multinational conglomerate 3M, was attempting to create a super-strong adhesive, but instead made a weak, reusable, pressure-sensitive glue. With no immediate idea of what to do with his new invention, Spencer continually hosted internal seminars about it until, a few years later, his colleague Art Fry, used the adhesive to create a sticky bookmark. One day Fry tore a piece from a bookmark to attach a note to the front of a report he was sending to a colleague and the Post-it note was born.

Though conceived by accident, the simply Post-it note has gone on to solve a myriad of different problems for millions of people around the world. The applications are endless: in the Oscar-nominated 2014 movie Gone Girl, a detective uses Post-its to highlight blood splatters at a crime scene, while the criminal plots out evil plan to-dos in sticky notes.

Still from Gone Girl

 

In an age of efficiency-inducing digital apps, the physical Post-it note remains a powerful productivity tool. Here are three ways that Post-it notes help people communicate and create more effectively every day.

1. Give each project a Post-it
Matt Stewart is the marketplace growth manager for BandPage, an app that connects music fans with the bands they love. Life at a startup is busy and requires a lot of multitasking so Matt needs to ensure he’s using his time effectively.

“My previous organizational method was procrastination then needing to pull an all-nighter to get the project done on time,” he recalls. “About seven years ago, I adopted a method from David Allen’s Getting Things Done to maximize my productivity and, crucially, do it stress-free.”

When a new project comes in, Matt divides it into the smallest divisible tasks each led by an action verb, like ‘Research’, ‘Write’ or ‘Email’.

“I have a large Post-it for each project,” he continues, “and I list the tasks on it in sequential order. Every morning I rewrite tasks from my various project lists on a daily Post-it. Mixing up tasks from different projects helps keep my day interesting and spreads out mentally taxing and easy tasks. But if I hit a groove on one project, I might go back to the main project Post-it and keep knocking off tasks.”

For Matt, the physical nature of Post-its not only makes it easy to reassess and adapt his task list, it also gives him a unique satisfaction when the job’s done. “When I complete a task, I cross it out as a haptic reward”, he says, “and once a day’s tasks or project are complete, I tear the Post-it in half.”

2. Put your Post-its on display
Designer at Pittsburgh firm ocreations, Nina Zivkovic has a unique system that helps her stay on top of her current projects and impending deadlines.

Nina Zivkovic's desk and Post-it notes at ocreations

 

“I’m big on visuals and seem to remember things much better that way,” she explains, “so I’ve always been a huge fan of using Post-its for organization, especially with color coding. I had a system where they were laid out on my desk but I’m a neat freak and the clutter was becoming more of a distraction. Last fall I started sticking the notes to the borders of my Mac screen. The left side is for upcoming meetings and events, arranged by date from top to bottom. On the bottom of my screen I have urgent deadlines, usually for that day. And on the right, I have all my current projects and little notes to myself about them.”

Like Matt, Nina enjoys physically removing a completed task: “It’s such a great feeling to grab one of those bright orange notes off the screen. My goal is always to complete all the Post-its at the end of the day and put a bunch more up the next morning.”

And unlike a digital app, the visual impact of Nina’s system is not easily ignored. “Always seeing bright colors on the side of my screen has made me more aware of what projects, events and meetings I have, which helps me stay on top of all my deadlines. Plus you can’t go wrong with orange Post-it notes in an orange office.”

3. Make Post-its part of the team
Post-it productivity methods are not just useful for individuals. Sticking notes to a white board or wall makes an effective project management tool to ensure teams always know which tasks have been completed and what’s coming up next.

New Tech City white board with Post-it notes

 

In this excellent three-minute video, Jamie Bonini, head of Toyota’s Production Systems Support Center, teaches radio host Manoush Zomorodi how to use Post-it notes to help her team prepare for their weekly show. After just a few weeks of sticking multi-colored notes to white boards, Manoush noticed that her team’s creative process was running smoother because people could just glance at a white boards to know how a project was progressing.

Those are just three ways of using sticky notes to be more effective, but the simplicity and adaptability of the humble Post-it means that there are many more ways to use it. What’s your Post-it productivity tip? Let us know in the comments below.

Customer spotlight: Victoria Sound Design

Victoria Sound Design logoVictoria Deiorio is a composer and sound designer for theatre and film based in Chicago. Her company Victoria Sound Design works with production companies across the US, including Oregon Shakespeare Festival, The Goodman Theatre and Cleveland Playhouse. She talked to us about the magic of theater, the evolution of sound technology and why silence is inspiring.

My work is both artistic and technical in nature
I am the person on the artistic team of a theater production that determines everything you hear and how it fills the space. My role is to support the emotional impression upon the audience as well as build sound cues, compose music and reinforce how all of it is heard in each space where the work is presented.

I began as a ballet dancer
At 14, I was on scholarship at Joffrey Ballet School in New York then received a BFA in Musical Theatre from Syracuse University. I studied classical acting at RADA and LAMDA in London before moving to Chicago to be a classical actress and director. After nine years of this, I transitioned into the music industry by joining a rock and roll band. I toured with that band for five years and later formed ToyBand, showcasing my original music and producing two CDs.

Victoria DeiorioMy first sound design work remains one of my favorites
A theatre company, of which I was a founding member, asked if I would compose and sound design Holy Days by Sally Nemeth. It is a beautiful play set in the dustbowl era during the depression. I wrote acoustic music and paired it with wind for the transitions from scene to scene. I love its sheer simplicity, which is why it is still one of my favorite designs. After that, I never stopped working in theater as my name was handed from one company to the next.

When I first started we used reel-to-reel tape and cassettes
How you play back sound designs in the theater has completely evolved. Equipment kept being invented and we used anything we could get our hands on to create dynamic rich designs. After tapes came early samplers and CDs. Minidisc made a big splash in theatre because it could auto-stop after every cue meaning you didn’t need the choreography of pausing a piece of equipment to change levels and speaker placement.

Technology has transformed my profession
Teaching your design to an engineer used to be like a dance performed in real-time in a near-silent dark booth. Now computer controls allow for continuity and ease of repetition from night to night, automating how the sound is played back during the production and ensuring the design stays intact. Though nothing compares to recording a live musician, composing music on a computer means I can work with smaller budgets and change the music whenever and however I needed.

DePaul Sound Studio - Victoria Sound DesignThe last 10 days before opening create the magic of theater
Typically my initial sound design work begins with research for inspirational pieces that suit the production’s artistic style, genre and time period. Once rehearsals with actors begin, I become more involved and if music or sound is needed to rehearse choreography or singing, I’ll create that. But it’s only at the full run-throughs that I get the best picture of what the end product can become.

The best way to create theatre is in person
However, I often work with production companies in different cities and budgetary constraints mean that traveling for every meeting isn’t always possible. So these meetings often happen via phone and video conferencing. Email is the main mode of communication as most notes and ideas are communicated in writing.

I don’t compress sound files
Sound files take up a lot of space but I never want to lose data by compressing to MP3 because you need to hear the fullness of the music as you would in a live environment. I wanted to be able to send really large audio files by email but most servers can’t handle more than 15MB attachments.

Hightail is the sound designer’s choice
I needed a service where I could upload sound files for others to download and began using Hightail because of its easiness. It was a godsend for me. I could finally send multiple sound files with one link to showcase my ideas for feedback. When I would amend the sound files, I would send another link for feedback. It was a brilliant addition to my work and made me look very professional. And now, honestly, I don’t know what I’d do without it.

Victoria Sound Design office 2Every experience brings artistry, efficiency and wisdom
It’s always interesting to track the journey of your career. I began with big, epic, ensemble-driven, gigantic, loud, scary shows. But over the past year I have developed my subtle side in two shows where you don’t hear but ‘feel’ the sound.

There is nothing more perfect than the planet we live on
It is essential to find moments that remind me I am a human being on a gorgeous, living, breathing planet spinning around in space. When I get a break, you’ll usually find me hiking in the mountains, bicycling through the woods, snorkeling in the ocean or experiencing new cultures. Because I live my life in a sound-filled digital world, I truly value the silence and solitude of exploring on my own.

My studio contains only the essentials
My space is light and airy, extremely comfortable, and easy. I have a fast Mac with lots of space, dynamic stereo headphones, great studio monitors, a collection of microphones that I am in love with and the software that makes my work sound better than I ever thought possible. Other than that, I have objects around me that remind of the special people in my life for inspiration.

Victoria Sound Design office 1I still act and direct when my schedule permits
Every now and then I return to the stage to sing, act, or direct and have just completed the sound and music for my fourth short film. When I’m not working for clients, you can find me teaching at DePaul University as the Head of Sound Design for The Theatre School…or on vacation.

You can listen to Victoria’s compositions at her SoundCloud page. Find out more about her work at her website and Like her Facebook page.

Tools tips with Brad Wrage

Tool tips is a new series where Hightail employees share their life’s most essential apps, online services and resources. First up is our dexterous Senior Product Designer, Brad Wrage.

Hightail product designer, Brad WrageWorking tool
As of late I’ve become a huge fan of Bohemian Coding’s Sketch, a vector-based design tool for UI designers. It’s still early in its life, but has changed my workflow tremendously. The combination of art boards, layer settings panels and symbols allows me to work quickly at a bird’s eye view while still giving me the ability to reach pixel perfection.

Oh, and at Hightail we’re currently working on a product called Hightail Spaces that is a really smart way to get feedback and iterate on designs. It has made my life as a designer much easier and I can’t wait to share it with the world.

Playtime
Outside of work I couldn’t live without Rdio and Instagram. Rdio is always playing in the background. Whether it’s jazz by Dave Brubeck for early morning reading or something to get me focused like M83, there isn’t anything quite so key for all areas of my life.

Dave Brubeck Take Five album cover

Then there’s Instagram. My wife says I’m addicted and I can’t disagree. I follow friends and family all over the world, as well as amazing photographers that showcase some of my favorite things: music, surfing and coffee. Instagram allows me to escape for a quick moment or two and find some rest in an incredible ocean view, which can be therapeutic!

General resource
These days there are so many resources out there to learn and grow in design it’s difficult not to become overwhelmed. Lately I can’t even keep track of the good stuff being shared on Twitter because there is so much flying around. My morning reading is Layervault’s Designer News, which curates all the top stories along with recent links and conversations around design. There’s plenty of gold in there each day so that I don’t feel left out on the key happenings.

Ever wonder what a day of the life of a product designer is like? Brad’s post on Medium is a great blow-by-blow account. For more Brad, check out his website and follow him on Twitter.

Customer spotlight: Ben Sanders

Ben Sanders company logoBen Sanders worked as a designer and art director in advertising before returning to his first love, illustration, in 2006. As well as creating images for clients like Saatchi & Saatchi and Wall Street Journal, Ben has written and illustrated two children’s books, both published by Thames & Hudson. He talks to us about living in Bolivia, starting with words and taking drawing seriously.

I got my first illustration job when I was 12
My dad was in the printing trade and an excellent artist in his own right. One of his clients needed illustrations for a sheet of kids’ stickers and, because child labor laws were easier to ignore in the late 1980’s, my dad encouraged me to submit a few drawings. During that summer I illustrated 32 stickers – things like elephants riding bicycles, walruses smoking pipes, apples with bites out of their bottoms – the usual stuff. Each summer holidays throughout secondary school I illustrated a new set of stickers. They were quite popular and the publisher found overseas markets for them. Not only was my work getting out to the world, I didn’t need one of those summer jobs as a spotty-faced supermarket trolley-boy.

Ben Sanders illustration for SBS Food

Nothing compares to drawing for a living
In the early 90’s I left illustration because I didn’t take it seriously enough. Actually nobody took anything seriously back then — remember MC Hammer? I didn’t think illustration could provide a stable career so I went into design and art direction. But as much as I enjoy advertising and design, an outright fondness for illustration brought me back to it as a fulltime job.

Simplify, simplify, simplify
Like me, my work is uncomplicated. I learned very early in ad school to create simple concepts and I strive for that with my illustration work. My philosophy is to deliver an idea as simply as possible, whether it’s an editorial spot for Wall Street Journal, a TV commercial for Vodacom or packaging for the Natural Confectionery Company.

Ben Sanders illustration for Australian GeographicMy process is different for children’s books
I also write and illustrate books for kids where you need to add a little more detail. With my first book, I’ve an Uncle Ivan, the words are simple but the illustrations are designed to engage the attention of children for longer periods of time.

Ben Sanders reading I've an Uncle Ivan

I start with words rather than pictures
I’ve witnessed many a surprised look when I tell other illustrators that. I try to break down a creative brief into two or three key words. This reductionism helps to clear my brain of unnecessarily complex thoughts. Next come the sketches, which usually start out as messy as an Oscar Pistorius alibi. But just a few sketches in, I’ll erase the clutter and be left with a nice succinct composition. The rest is just a bit of back-and-forth with the client and hours of mind-numbing fun on my Mac.

I provide an overnight service
My clients are mostly in Australia but I live in South America, so while they are sleeping, I’m working. It’s perfect for the client who has a brief to send out at 5PM but still wants a sketch on his desk at 9AM. I prefer to communicate by email and, when necessary, Skype.

Hightail is like the Little Red Caboose
Remember the classic Little Golden Book story? The Little Red Caboose appears at the end of the train and finishes the job after all the huffing and chuffing up the mountain. In the story the caboose saves the day. Hightail feels a lot like that when you see the little red line move across the screen and you get that message, “We have successfully sent your file.”

I started illustrating with ink pens and watercolor brushes
Decades later, I primarily work digitally. I’ve had a fascination with mid-century illustration styles since my awkward university days, so there is a strong element of the 1950’s in my work now. I moved from Australia to South America in 2014 so I suspect that a dramatic change in scenery and culture will have some sort of strange Andean influence on my style sometime soon.

Ben Sanders print illustration

It’s difficult for illustrators to make a living in Bolivia
After being in Australia throughout my career, I’m now based in Bolivia. Being a developing country means that there isn’t much of a structure to support creatives and many illustrators have to look beyond their borders to make it work. I have had the pleasure of meeting two of Bolivia’s finest illustrators, Ada Esquirol Ríos and Marianna Dotzauer at their funky studio, Cocina Gráfica. They provide a benchmark for other Bolivian artists to follow.

I owe a lot to fellow illustrators
I spent a lot of time working alongside two illustrators from my hometown, Travis Price and Sam Harmer. I learned so much from this one-on-one contact. It’s so good to see first hand how other people approach their work and produce such clever results. For shape and color, one of my favorite illustrators is Jim Flora, especially his editorial work and album covers. I have a classic Hervé Morvan poster on my wall at home with one of his usual clever visual twists.

My studio in Australia was a converted 1950’s garage
My workspace is very different now that I’m in Bolivia. I have a completely portable studio with just my notebook, laptop and me. It’s a quasi pop-up shop. I can move about, change location at anytime. It’s great to be light on my feet and not feel like I’m stuck in one place. I find a room with a view of the mountains and start creating.

Ben Sanders illustration for I Could Wear That HatI split my day between clients and volunteer work
When I’m not fulfilling client briefs I’m writing children’s picture books and volunteering my time on a Bolivian children’s curriculum (that’s why I’m here). I have to be flexible because every day is different, but the main ingredients are usually:
• Two mugs of coffee.
• Three briefs (two on the desk, one under my jeans).
• 15 sketches.
• 1/2 hour of design.
• One lunch.
• 30 emails.
• One bucket of mouse clicks.
• Two Redbubble sales.
• One or two Hightail uploads.
Stir well and season to taste.

You can see more of Ben’s work at his website or by visiting his blog.

Nine tips for organizing your desk

2014 Hightail email illustration: back to schoolIt’s a new year and you’ve begun with the best of intentions to be more effective at work. One way to ensure you keep your resolution is to make your desk a more productive place.

Whether you work from home, in a small studio or a large office, the place where you sit or stand every day is very important. If your desk is too cluttered or disorganized, it’s easy to get distracted or frustrated. These nine simple tips will help organize your workspace and make 2015 your most productive year yet.

1. Understand why you’re doing this
In a recent Washington Post article, Andrea Hancock, owner of professional productivity firm Dexterous Organizing, recommends being clear about why you want a more organized desk. Whether clutter makes you anxious or you struggle to find things, write down the reason so you have a reminder that keeping your workspace in order is worthwhile.

2. Start with a clear-out
Give yourself a clean slate by getting everything off your desk and onto the floor. You can leave large permanent items like a computer monitor or printer. Now go through everything on the floor and throw out anything that you don’t need. Get a wastebasket and keep it around — trash should never sit on your desk.

3. Prioritize what stays
Productivity consultant Matt Perman believes a desk is like a cockpit: the things you need most should be accessible instantly and easily. So look at that pile on the floor and really think about the items you use every day. How often do you actually need a stapler? If it’s daily, return it to the desk. Otherwise put it in a nearby drawer or shelf.

4. Make a scribbling space
Though most of us work using computers, it’s still important to have a physical scribbling space. This is especially true if you’re a designer or illustrator and like to sketch your ideas. But whatever your job, making a permanent place for a pad and pen on your desk will save you a scramble when you next need to take a quick note.

ocreations-thumbnails5. Get a tray for your paperwork
Even digital diehards can still end up with a pile of paper messing up an analogue space. A simple two-tier paper tray with one layer for active documents and another for completed work will help. Always add an action for each active document to a separate to-do list. This will save you shuffling through the pile when deciding which task to deal with next.

6. File early and often
Nobody enjoys filing but the documents in the completed work tier of your paper tray must be archived. Set aside a regular time on your calendar and treat it as a mindless break from your regular duties. Do it often — motivation comes much easier when it’s 15 minutes tackling a small pile and not an hour climbing Mount Archive.

7. Forget paper, start scanning
Why bother with hole punchers, binders and filing cabinets? With a scanner, you can turn your physical documents into 1s and 0s and throw away the paper. Store all your scans on Hightail and you can even access the files from anywhere on your mobile. Oh, and if you’re buying a new machine, a wireless printer/scanner combo can free up more desk space.

Hightail mobile apps8. Don’t stack business cards
Unless you’re still rocking a Rolodex, it’s time to throw away all those business cards stacked on your desk. There are lots of smart mobile apps that will use photos of cards to add the details to your phone’s contacts book. Or better yet, send the person a quick email saying “nice to have met you”. If they reply, they’ll always be a simple mailbox search away.

9. Update your decorations
A completely minimal space only works for some people. Most of us like to have photos of loved ones or fun toys adorning our desks. But instead of returning the same objects after your clear-out, refresh your workspace by changing the photo of your kids for a more recent one or give a different toy a chance to stare at you every day for eight hours.

These tips should help you transform your desk into an ordered space so you can get stuff done more effectively. If you maintain this order with regular upkeep, you won’t need to start 2016 with another clear-out. As for 2015, once your desk is ready, stop procrastinating and get to work.

Five secrets to making your startup go viral

An amended version of this post was originally published on Entrepreneur.com.

Screen Shot 2014-12-22 at 12.04.41 PMWhen Facebook paid around US$16 billion for mobile messaging service WhatsApp, people were stunned by the sky-high valuation. But what’s even more remarkable about WhatsApp is that it reached 450 million monthly users “without investing a penny in marketing”.

It’s a great example of a truly viral product, one that spreads by providing a valuable service not only to the initial user but also to their friends, family and colleagues. In the digital world, virality is a science expressed in mathematical formulas. Hightail has benefitted from natural viral growth as a result of users sharing files through our service. But what if your product isn’t a social network or messaging service with an obvious viral hook? How can you create a viral effect that will help your product spread via your customers’ networks?

Rather than relying on the barefaced bribery of a referral program or desperate begging for Likes and positive reviews, try these five tips for adding a smart viral twist to your product.

1. Let sharing benefit everyone
In 1991, telco firm MCI (for whom I once worked) was vying for new customers in the recently deregulated long-distance calling market. While rivals AT&T and Sprint relied on cold calls and direct mail, MCI invented the “Friends & Family plan”. Suddenly, every MCI customer had a compelling incentive to promote its service: discounted calls to their relatives and friends. Though this concept is now ubiquitous, at the time it was truly innovative.

MCI’s telemarketers could now begin sales calls by saying “I’m calling on behalf of your friends and family”, giving them three times the close rate as cold calls. By the end of the year, the company’s revenues, customer numbers and call traffic had increased significantly. An official AT&T response stated, “We would be uncomfortable using our customers as salespeople for our products.” If that represents the prevailing attitude of the early 90s, then MCI’s thinking was really ahead of its time.

2. Give sharing an emotional value
Coca-Cola Santa Claus adCoca-Cola is famous for its emotional marketing campaigns, from popularizing the modern image of Santa Claus to teaching the world to sing. The company recently gave this emotional appeal a viral twist by replacing the famous Coke logo on cans and bottles with thousands of names. The idea is to find one with the name of a friend or family member and buy it for them. The Share a Coke campaign first ran in the UK in 2013 and was so successful that Coke brought it to the US this year.

The forthcoming Apple Watch will also aim to create emotional connections with its “digital touch” features. Some tech observers are convinced that the ability to share heartbeats, sketches and other ephemera will make Apple Watch the most viral of all of the company’s products.

3. Make sharing the purpose of your product
GoPro makes lightweight video cameras designed for sports enthusiasts to record their activities. The technology is impressive, but GoPro’s transformation into a viral product is more a result of its action-packed online videos and in-store displays. The firm’s marketing doesn’t boast about product specs or features, they just show you someone boarding down a snow-covered mountain or swimming with dolphins.

GoPro’s “be a hero” tagline emphasizes that its cameras aren’t for just recording your latest extreme outing, they’re for sharing your adventures (often via Hightail) and impressing your friends. Customers are the company’s best marketing tool because they constantly share footage that highlights why anyone who loves action-based activity should have a GoPro product. “GoPro” has practically become a verb for filming personal action videos so don’t be surprised to hear supersonic skydivers or mugging victims say “I GoPro-ed it”.

4. Align your product with a powerful idea
Dove Campaign for Real Beauty adThe spread of ideas assuming a viral pattern is a theory propagated by the likes of evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins and the 2010 movie Inception. Associating a product with an idea is something beauty brand Dove has done extremely well. Positioned as the natural alternative to traditional beauty products, Dove’s marketing campaigns usually feature “natural women” and not stick-thin supermodels.

Dove’s “campaign for real beauty” goes beyond product promotion. This YouTube video depicting an ordinary girl being transformed into a billboard model with some hair, makeup and Photoshop tweaking, is a persuasive message about the modern beauty industry. It’s something anyone can get behind even if they don’t buy Dove products. Having been watched by more than 18 million people, the video has built brand advocacy for Dove as a different way of thinking about beauty.

5. Use social proof if your product has a perceived risk
Having said earlier that referral programs are barefaced bribery, there is a place for using cash or other incentives to help build your audience. Ride sharing app Uber offered users free rides for referring friends in order to overcome any uneasiness people may have felt about using unlicensed taxis. For new users, knowing that a friend had previously used the service established Uber as reliable and trustworthy. And of course, they too got a free ride.

So don’t be discouraged if your product isn’t naturally viral. Offline brands like Dove, Coca-Cola, and GoPro have shown that all it takes is a little creative thinking. Which of your favorite viral promotions did we miss? Let us know in the comments.

2014 in Hightail illustrations

It is December, a time to look back on the year that was. Everywhere you look will be lists of the 50 favorite songs, top 10 movies and 47 best Buzzfeed listicles. So we decided to do our own review and revisit our fab Hightail illustrations.

Every week, we email our regular users and the message often features a custom-created image illustrating the feature we’re explaining or offer we’re promoting. Thanks to the creativity of our 2014 illustrators, Austin Petito and Dominic Flask, we can look back at vintage year of funny, stylish and smart images. Enjoy.

2014 Hightail email illustration: tracking

Explaining file tracking

2014 Hightail email illustration: Chinese New Year of the horse

This stylishly geometric horse helped us celebrate Chinese New Year.

2014 Hightail email illustration: return to sender

Explaining return receipts (but what’s the relevance of that West Hollywood address?)

2014 Hightail email illustration: Valentine's Day

On Valentine’s Day, love has no limits (and nor should storage).

2014 Hightail email illustration Death Star

We announced that Professional plan users can share files up to 10GB, which equates to 140 3D architectural models of the Death Star.

2014 Hightail email illustration: animated password

Our first ever animated gif helps explain password protection. Click the image to see the animation.

2014 Hightail email illustration: St Patrick's Day

Celebrating St. Patrick’s Day as if Hightail was an Irish bar.

2014 Hightail email illustration: Guess Who

Use Verify Recipient Identity and don’t just Guess Who has access to your important files.

2014 Hightail email illustration: summer

In summer, use Hightail to work more effectively and get more beach time.

2014 Hightail email illustration: World Cup

During the World Cup our discount offer helped you SAVE.

2014 Hightail email illustration: Final word cloud

Our word cloud highlighted the most-used word used in filenames shared on Hightail.

2014 Hightail email illustration: return receipts

Here are all the things you used to need in order to get a return receipt.

2014 Hightail email illustration: back to school

It’s back to school time with an apple for the teacher and a Hightail discount offer.

2014 Hightail email illustration: Shinkansen express

Promoting Hightail Express: our bullet-train fast app, aka Shinkansen-d.

2014 Hightail email illustration: password cryptex

Know the code with our cryptic password protection illustration.

2014 Hightail email illustration: Swap Ideas Day

Celebrating Swap Ideas Day 2014.

2014 Hightail email illustration: fall leaves

An autumnal scene to celebrate the arrival of fall.

Hightail Halloween illustration

Did you spot the references to classic horror stories in our Halloween image?

2014 Hightail email illustration: passport

Verify Recipient Identity is your passport to control.

2014 Hightail email illustration: Movember

Soup strainer savings with our special Movember discount offer.

2014 Hightail email illustration: Thanksgiving dinner

Celebrating Thanksgiving with all our favorite foods.

2014 Hightail email illustration: Black Friday shopping cart

You’ve finished Black Friday shopping but your cart is still missing Hightail.

That’s it so far in 2014. We have a lot of fun creating these images and hope you enjoy receiving them every week.  Keep an eye on your inbox, or our Facebook and Twitter pages for more great illustrations to come.

Check out our recent interview with one of our illustrators: Meet DangerDom.

Make reporting the news easier

A recent fire at UK power station gave us a great example of the benefit of Uplink. If you don’t know what Uplink is, it’s a great way to help others share large files using the power of your Hightail account. Send your personalized link for a unique Hightail page to anyone and they can easily share files as large as 10GB with you.

Our story took place on Twitter, when a woman filmed a raging blaze near her home contacted local TV station BBC Oxford to see if they wanted to use the footage for their news coverage:

Hightail Uplink Twitter case study 1

The network replied, asking asked her to email the video:

Hightail Uplink Twitter case study 2

The news spread on Twitter like — ahem — wildfire and soon other media organizations were getting in touch:

Hightail Uplink Twitter case study 3 Hightail Uplink Twitter case study 4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But each group expected the woman to email them her video, which proved problematic because it was a large file:

Hightail Uplink Twitter case study 5 Hightail Uplink Twitter case study 6

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Only one organization had a simple solution at hand:

Hightail Uplink Twitter case study 8

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rather than expect the woman — who was doing them a big favor by providing free footage — to do all the hard work to get the file to them, news agency Reuters sent her a link to its Hightail Uplink page:

Hightail Uplink Twitter case study 10

Now all the woman had to do was simply upload the file to this web page without worrying about file size limits, storage space on Google Drive or clogging up her inbox.

It’s a great example of how Uplink can help you solve a problem for other people, from clients and colleagues to content providers and competition entrants. If you’re interested in using Uplink to receive files as large as 10GB, check out our Hightail Professional plans.

How has Uplink helped you solve a problem for someone else? We’d love to hear your story in the comments below.

Meet DangerDom

image1-cropIf you’ve received an email from Hightail in 2014 then Dominic Flask’s brilliant illustrations may have caught your eye. The Wichita-based designer and illustrator finishes his stint as Hightail’s unofficial artist-in-residence shortly, so we thought it was time to learn more about the fantastic world of DangerDom.

I enjoy designing for the screen
My work lies somewhere between the worlds of design and illustration and I do a little bit of both. That means I do illustrative work for things like websites and marketing materials but also some design work for things like logos and icons. I work with a range of clients from large to small, local to international and a lot of times my work is around the tech industry.

HIT_WorldCupMost of my inspiration comes from mid-century pop culture
Though I draw a ton of inspiration from mid-century modern design, I love things like cookbooks, brochures, advertisements and other printed materials from the 1950s and 60s. I also have a nice collection of vintage children’s literature that I dive into when I’m feeling stuck on something.

Clean, flat shapes with a colorful palette are all I need
In my early days as an illustrator, I usually ended up applying a lot of textural work, color overlays and other things. I began to feel like I was suffocating the work. As I’ve spent more and more time illustrating, my style has become something that is a lot more thought out and planned using a simple and clear aesthetic.

KeenConBadgesI ask a lot of questions up front
It’s the best way to really understand the problems of the client, the goal of the project and who the customers, consumers or users are. Though each project is different, I generally produce sketches early on in the process before doing anything polished. The majority of my work is with people from other parts of the world so there are more phone calls and emails than face-to-face meetings.

People assume Kansas doesn’t have a creative scene
I’m currently based in Wichita, which has a small town vibe and everyone knows everyone else. There is a nice little community here with a ton of talented people living and working in the area, including my illustrator friend Luke Bott.

A lot of my favorite contemporary illustrators are friends
Besides Luke, there’s Ben Schlitter, Ty Wilkins and Dan and Nathan from DKNG. Besides people I know, I admire mid-century illustrators like Mary Blair, the Provensens and Charley Harper, as well as lesser-known artists like Robert Barry, Jan Harber and Cliff Roberts.

GTAIcons
I sit at a vintage drafting table all day

My setup is pretty simple: a scanner, a Cintiq 13″ tablet, my 27″ iMac and a wireless mouse are the tools I use every day. My wife and I have a child, so I try to keep a regular schedule. I usually start with emails first thing in the morning and then kick into any projects that are in the development stages (sketches, research, exploration, etc.) while my brain is still fresh. Afternoons are usually for the button pushing type of work: drawing shapes and applying texture in Illustrator and Photoshop.

You can see more of Dom’s work at his website, his Dribbble page and on most of our weekly Hightail emails. (Or just spend the next hour taking in all the detail on his wonderful map of the world.)

IllustratedWorldMapFull

Nine reasons why your designs should start with a sketch

An amended version of this post was originally published on the ocreations blog.

Founder and president of Pittsburgh-based design firm ocreations and Hightail user, Shawn O’Mara tells us why the pencil thumbnail sketch still has a place in the fast-paced world of digital design.

ocreations-thumbnailsI have been in the field of graphic design for what seems like ages. Since 1990, I have been a design student then a graphic design instructor at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh and now I’m a designer, art director and senior partner of ocreations design studio in the south side of Pittsburgh.

I have always been a firm believer that designers need to be able to draw or bring their concepts to life on paper in order to sell their ideas to clients, art directors, designers, photographers and other people in the industry. In the field of graphic design, the most important thing we are paid for are our original concepts. I feel that pencil thumbnails are the best and fastest way to take these concepts from inside your head to a format that others can view.

I wish I had $1 for every quick sketch on napkins, post-it notes, notebooks, notepads and desk calendars I did throughout the years. All of these super rough sketches are unleashed ideas. I honestly believe that if I waited until I developed them on a computer, they would either have been forgotten or become watered down.

If you are considered an artist or painter you are expected to be able to draw. If you are a graphic artist you are also expected to be able to draw. When you are labeled a Graphic Designer does that title make you exempt from the drawing portion of it? In my mind it does not. I understand that the level of illustration and hand skills varies and that is ok. I personally do not believe that I am a fantastic illustrator but I know that I can still get my ideas across to people through my sketches.

The Art Institute of Pittsburgh’s graphic design department hosts a meeting with industry professionals to hear what they would like to see more of in our graduate portfolios. The answer now, more than ever, from these professionals is: “We need to see more pencil thumbnails and original concepts.” I personally was thrilled to hear this because it gave me support for my beliefs.

So for the non-believers who think the idea of pencil sketches is a thing of the past, here are nine reasons why I feel they are a big help:

1. Getting the idea out fast.
2. For a designer to sell his ideas to an art director or team member.
3. For an art director to give fast direction to a designer or copywriter.
4. For a designer or art director to provide direction to a photographer or illustrator.
5. For a designer to get on the same page fast with a client.
6. To get the real idea on paper without the computer dictating your direction.
7. To illustrate different concepts prior to computer variations on an approved concept.
8. To keep the ART in Graphic Artist (sorry had to do it).
9. To keep the client focused on the general concept and not allow them to get hung up on exact fonts, colors or images in the early stages.

ocreations-second-room-windows-neon-sign

If you are going to start doing pencil sketches or if you are already using them, here are eight simple things to consider:

1. Keep your thumbnails in proportion to the actual size of the job.
2. Use good contrast to allow things to “pop”.
3. Do a good indication of type (serif vs. sans-serif, leading, justification etc.).
4. If you do not provide a contact sheet for images, then do a tighter indication of the images on your thumbnails.
5. Try different concepts to reach the client’s objectives and target market, not just variations of the same idea.
6. Use a grid. This really helps on multiple page publications.
7. For thumbnails of multi-page publications, show a cover and two spreads for each thumbnail set.
8. Be original, be creative and have fun.

As the Senior Partner for ocreations I always practice what I preach and provide my designers, photographers and clients pencil sketches when needed. I hope that this post helps get the pencils back out in the field and keeps the ideas flowing.

You can learn more about ocreations at their website or read our recent interview with the firm’s illustrator, Nina Zivkovic.

Customer spotlight: ocreations

ocreations brand logoNina Zivkovic is a graphic designer and illustrator at Pittsburgh design studio, ocreations. With a range of capabilities from branding and advertising to print and web design, ocreations provides local startups and multinational corporations with a fresh and creative look. She talked to us about Process Orange, pool table meetings and the power of Post-its.

We have a unique team of creative experts
Everyone at ocreations brings an individual style and creative edge. It has helped us expand our client base to nearly every market and not just business brands—we’ve worked for special events, festivals and musicians as well. I am lucky to work with such a great group of creative individuals. We constantly bounce ideas off of one another.

Packaging for Pittsburgh Coffee Company

We have our own special creative process
It’s called “Process Orange”:
Open up our eyes and ears to get to know our clients
Research, Plan and Brainstorm
Abstract Thinking, Come up with original concepts
Next Level Design Solutions
Generate production and programming solutions
Evaluate the project’s success.

We have a giant drawer full of conceptual sketches
Logo design for pet charity, Wear WoofWe can adapt Process Orange to meet the needs of each client. Some come to us with a specific vision that we bring to life, while others use our process to create the perfect solution for them. But no matter how big or small the company, we always start out with a creative meeting and sketches. Even in this heavily digital age, conceptual sketches are one of the most important things we do.

We have a pool table that doubles as a conference room
Whenever possible our first meeting with a new client is face-to-face in the ocreations office, which is a truly creative environment. When you first walk in, you see our vibrant orange walls, nearly floor-to-ceiling-high windows, our artwork proudly displayed along with our awards and a couple of puppies sprawled out on the sun-soaked floor. We like to discuss project ideas over our pool table, with music playing the background.

ocreations-pool-table-doorway-between-both-roomsYou can’t always meet face-to-face
We have clients based around the country, while some of our Pittsburgh-based clients prefer to communicate over the phone or by email. Hightail allows us to send over the high-resolution proofs and designs that help us guarantee the quality of the final design. It also lets us keep track of sending and delivery to make sure deadlines are met.

We couldn’t do large publication work without Uplink
Brochure design for AethonSome of my favorite work is annual promotional catalogs, which call for hundreds of high-resolution images to be sent to us. Hightail’s Uplink feature allows our clients to send these files straight to me using ocreations’ Hightail account and cuts out couriering jump drives or CDs and DVDs. It’s an extremely valuable asset and, along with the new Download All button, helps speed up the design process.

I use Post-it notes to stay organized
Every morning I arrive at the office and get greeted by our two incredibly adorable office dogs, Ozzi and Ellie. After I grab a cup of coffee, I start organizing my day to ensure I’m meeting all deadlines. You’ll find Post-it notes strategically covering my desk and I take down notes as I complete a project and put up more as new projects come in.

I love to create a hidden story with my illustrations
When I first started illustrating, I was obsessed with creating realistically shaded portraits. But I wanted to expand my illustrations with a particular style and had always found doodling with a pen to be relaxing and inspiring. So I combined my love for realistic portraits with the simplicity, yet tediousness, of ink. About halfway through, I began experimenting with color palettes and I have not looked back since. My illustrations are much more conceptual based now and I enjoy testing how far creativity and simplicity can go together.

Poster illustration for Art Institute of Pittsburgh Alumni ShowThere’s always something creative going on in Pittsburgh
Transit shelter poster for Word Play! campaignI moved to Pittsburgh from Cleveland five years ago. Both cities have great creative environments but the best part of Pittsburgh is how unique each of its neighborhoods are. You walk one block and it feels like you’re in a brand new place. Southside and Downtown Pittsburgh both have tons of creativity about them. There are so many unique individuals that I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and working with. I’ve illustrated concert posters for the entertainment venue Stage AE and had the honor of working with Fred Rogers Company to design the mainframe and posters for a transit shelter project called Word Play!. It was a fantastic experience and project!

Learn more about Nina at www.ninazivkovic.com and follow her on Twitter and Instagram. Learn more about ocreations at www.ocreations.com or follow them on Twitter.

Go guerrilla! Five unorthodox ways to market your brand

An amended version of this post was originally published by Entrepreneur.

Before a million pails of cold water brought the disease to global attention, many people had never heard of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS. But after a summer of ice bucket challenges, the devastating motor neuron disorder now has an astonishing level of awareness. Though the campaign didn’t originate as a deliberate marketing strategy, it’s a great case study of the power of guerrilla marketing in the social media age.

Inexpensive, small scale and non-traditional marketing tactics can be extremely effective ways of promoting your brand if the idea catches the public imagination and goes viral. But so-called “guerrilla marketing” covers a huge variety of activities, from PR stunts to viral videos. To determine if there’s a tactic that will work for your business, consider these five tips for crafting an effective guerrilla marketing campaign that will resonate with your target audience.
dollar_shave_club_storytelling
1. Have a hook
If your product or service is something people don’t ordinarily care about, you need to give it an attention-grabbing hook, like the ALS ice bucket challenge.

Dollar Shave Club made the hardly earth-shattering idea of mail-order razor blades really engaging with a hilariously offbeat and low-budget YouTube video. Within two days of launch the commercial went viral, generating 12,000 new orders.

Or try connecting with people in unexpected ways, like this fitness company ad that appeared on German subway trains:handle03

 

 

 

 

 

 


2. Be provocative

Controversy sells so if you’re willing to break taboos and speak truths that people usually prefer to ignore, you can turn heads. This is a common tactic for charities and non-profits, like these visually arresting ketchup packs created by Campaign Against Landmines:

ketchup

Hightail-cronut-resizeHightail has indulged in the occasional provocative, but fun stunt. We once handed out free cronuts to attendees at a competitor’s annual conference. The pastry packaging came with step-by-step instructions, including “Discard Box”. It was a playful and controversial (we were kicked out of the venue) way of targeting a very specific audience.

3. Sell an idea, not a product
As a start-up, your passion for what you do and vision for changing the world is incredibly powerful. Stating that vision boldly and selling your product based on emotional appeal, not rational argument can give you an advantage.

Salesforce did this brilliantly with its “No Software” logo that evangelized the company’s underlying vision of simple, inexpensive, cloud-based services rather than focusing on what its product actually does. I still remember Marc Benioff’s ad in which a fighter jet shoots down a biplane. Though it was a little cheesy, the image represented a powerful idea that ultimately lived up to the analogy.

You don’t have to be starting out to harness the power of ideas. IKEA celebrated the 30th anniversary of its popular Billy bookcase by filling 30 of them with books and placing them on Bondi Beach in Australia. Beachgoers could swap a book for one of their own or donate to a literacy charity. By focusing on the popular beach pastime of reading, the furniture company got people’s attention while still promoting its product.

IKEA-2-small

4. Make it tangible
Physical manifestations make for great guerrilla marketing. Translating your idea into an object or event can help explain a product, especially digital services.

A Westfield shopping mall in California installed a real-life Pinterest board to act as an interactive store directory. Though Pinterest didn’t initiate the idea, by approving the use of its logo, the company got a great real-life demonstration of its online service.

Pinterest

Even better, if you capture your physical-world tactic and share it online, you can get a viral multiplier. Adobe cleverly achieved this with a bus stop prank in which they Photoshopped waiting passengers into an adjacent digital billboard in real-time. The “Candid Camera” appeal of this stunt has garnered it 22 million views on YouTube.

5. Take a risk
Some of the best ideas sound unbelievably dumb on paper (and may still, in fact, be dumb when you actually do them). They may flop but you won’t know until you try. Many guerrilla campaigns get attention precisely because they are unusual, outrageous or unconventional. So don’t worry about people laughing at you.

Ride sharing service Uber has promoted its service by delivering ice cream to customers. In December 2013, Canadian airline WestJet asked passengers boarding a flight to Calgary what they wanted for Christmas then delivered these gifts when they landed.

uber_icecream_graphics_700x300

Whichever style of guerrilla marketing campaign you devise, remember to document and publish everything. Most guerrilla marketing is by its nature small in scale but it’s the shared links, laughs and likes that will make your campaign a big success.

Which is the best guerrilla marketing campaign? Share your favorites or ideas your company has tried in the comments and let’s inspire others to go guerrilla!

Privacy policy update

We recently updated our Privacy Policy and want to ensure you are aware of what’s changed. You can find the full policy here, while this post highlights what’s new and different.

Certifications

  • Hightail is now certified by Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation Cross Border Privacy Rules System, but now that we’re buddies we can call them APEC CBPR.
  • Our global privacy certifications now cover all our apps as well as our website.

Info collected by Hightail 

  • Our apps may send you push notifications on occasion, which involves collecting information about your operating system and other details. You can turn off these notifications if you wish (though we’ll ensure that they’re always useful so hopefully you won’t want to.)
  • If you log in to Hightail or import contacts using OpenID providers like Facebook Connect or Gmail, a new subsection Social connectors outlines our policy on this.
  • Previously, our policies around Information collected by third parties were scattered across various sections. They’re now gathered in one appropriately titled subsection with some minor tweaks for extra clarity.

How we use and share information

  • Here we just added “email delivery” to the types of service providers we use and made a minor language edit about Retention and deletion of your information. Both of these changes are intended to give you extra clarity.

That’s it. Legal talk over. We can all relax now.