Snowcial Recap

Tahoe Snowcial 2012 is in the books. This crazy conference is for web marketing and social media professionals in the ski industry. Which basically makes it a junk show of rippin’ skiers who like to party and talk shop. That’s the only way to describe it.

It’s been a tough snow year coast-to-coast so people were pretty hungry to shred and share war stories. But there were great presentations by Klout, Foursquare, Webtrends, PaymentOne, Ebay, and Microsoft. Co-sponsors Freeskier also brought the party with their all-start team of all-around good guys. One big surprise was the panel including Bryan Crowley, the CMO of Pabst. He admitted he may not have a lot of tech insight, so he delivered free beer to the entire crowd of active tweeters. Job well done.

I was given the opportunity to participate in the ignite-style lightning round where presenters are given 5 minutes to present 20 slides, that auto-advance every 15 seconds. The crowd is well on their way to inebriation and is encouraged to heckle. That added challenge makes it incredibly entertaining. My presentation on “Shit The Designer Says (and doesn’t say)” is an attempt to demystify the professional responses you may receive from your designer. Although it’s slightly late to the party in terms of capitalizing on the “Shit my ___ says” meme, it went over pretty well. I presented it with just the first part of each slide, but for your personal enjoyment, here it is with the set up and the punchline on each slide.

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  • Filed under: general design, public speaking
  • Happy Holidays, 2011

    One of the best years of my career thanks to all of you folks. Happy Holidays from my family to yours.

    Happy Holidays

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  • Filed under: general design
  • Recent Launch: Stowe Mountain Resort

    My recent redesign of was a collaborative effort with Propellor Media Works in Burlington, VT. I provided concept designs for the home page, landing pages, content pages, daily report, trails, event calendar, and mobile site.

    It was an honor to work on such a highly regarded brand as Stowe. And working with an established agency like Propellor was a pleasure. Their production work is just about flawless, and was turned around in one month. Very excited about this one.

    Stowe Home Page

    Stowe Landing Page Stowe Calendar Stowe Trails and Lifts Report Stowe Mobile Site

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  • Filed under: general design
  • Recent Launch: Waterville Valley Resort

    The recent launch of Waterville Valley’s new website represents the culmination of 5 months of work. Developed with a very customized php-based backend by Max Kloeppel, this site is robust and scaleable. The rich Winter home page theme is just one of 5 different themes along with Summer, FALL (an industry first to our knowledge), Terrain Parks, and Conference Sales.

    It was an honor to work with Waterville Valley and we look forward to a long and enjoyable relationship.

    Waterville Valley Home Page

    Waterville Valley Home Page

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  • Filed under: clients, my stuff
  • Some recent mentions of Infobytes on Twitter

    Well yesterday’s post about the plagiarizing of my design for the Squaw Valley website caused quite a stir. The evidence against Infobytes completely damning. And the ski industry has responded loudly and clearly that this kind of behavior is immoral and will not be tolerated.

    Initially, I decided not to go public until I heard Brighton’s side of the story. As I suspected, they had offered Infobytes several examples of sites they liked, just for direction and inspiration. Infobytes, their digital agency then decided to poorly copy, rather than borrow and improve upon the original. I mean, why bother doing all that work?

    Facebook comments on a re-post by Dave Amirault

    Facebook comments on a re-post by Dave Amirault

    Once I decided to share this experience, the outpouring of support from ski industry and design colleagues was swift and unanimous. I’ve received hundreds of @replies in support of the integrity of design and condemning plagiarism on the web. Meanwhile, the full social media wrath of sympathetic marketers and designers has been brought upon Infobytes. Their website traffic has most likely had a record spike, their inboxes are full of critical emails, and the owners LinkedIn profile was even published via Twitter. I almost feel bad about it. Almost. I  actually had to persuade some savvy users NOT to share and abuse her personal Twitter account. One follower even said he was submitting the story to major news outlets, which may be a bit of a stretch but it’s cool anyway.

    The moral indignation designers and ski industry marketers feel comes from the understanding that we all work very hard with limited resources. People who choose to work in the ski industry live in remote corners of the world, work seven days a week and get paid a fraction of their worth. Why? Because they believe in a lifestyle that offers freedom, self-expression, and accessible rapture.

    The Squaw site was actually turned around in about 2 months, beginning to end. This would not have been possible without the hard work of Nathan Kendall at Squaw Valley, Chris Petty in Park City and myself. Lots of long days and nights went into that site, as with any project. We even offered 4 original concepts initially, each one offering different functionality and inspired by the work of other designers, without copying. So for another designer to sell pass that work off upon an unsuspecting client (a direct competitor no less!) is appalling.

    People who choose to work in the ski industry live in remote corners of the world, work seven days a week and get paid a fraction of their worth. Why? Because they believe in a lifestyle that offers freedom, self-expression, and accessible rapture.

    I think the lesson here is pretty clear. Don’t steal design. Don’t pass off other people’s hard work as your own. And don’t fuck with people who choose to race down frozen mountains and jump of cliffs. Your weaknesses will be exposed.

    Thanks to all my colleagues and friends for their support.

    A tweet by Jeffrey Zeldman

    Affirmation from my web design idol, Jeffrey Zeldman

    Great comment from my accountant!

    Great comment from my accountant!

    Hackjob: My Work Gets Plagiarized!

    My work was recently poached by the good folks at Infobytes in Salt Lake City. That’s the nicest way to say it. Their recent “design” for Brighton Resort is more than inspired by my 2010 design for Squaw Valley USA. It’s a blatant ripoff. If imitation is the highest form of flattery, then consider me highly flattered.

    My 2010 design for Squaw Valley's website, next to the recently launched Brighton website.

    My 2010 design for Squaw Valley's website, next to the recently launched Brighton website.

    I’ve spoken to Brighton, and I believe them when they say they were completely unaware of any copying or wrong-doing. It seems they listed along with several other sites they liked to give Infobytes an idea of their tastes and functionality they liked. I ask for the same thing when starting a project, but I try to come back with something unique, and hopefully better. Instead, Infobytes downloaded the site, the CSS, the markup, the graphics and proceded to make small hackish adjustments accordingly. So I think the real victim here is Brighton, who spent their entire summer and lots of money on something that’s plagiarized.

    Before I get into the particulars, let me admit that there are only so many ideas out there, and some overlap is bound to happen. As one friend pointed out to me, my Squaw design looks a lot like so maybe I’m to blame as well. But the ski industry is a small, interconnected place where everyone knows each other and takes great pride in competition as well as camaraderie. So it was no surprise when many of my colleagues jumped all over this blatant forgery before I even had seen it. Slopefillers did a great job of documenting the similarities within hours of its launch, in their post Ski Resort Websites: 7 Before & Afters from 2011′s New Designs.

    As Slopefillers showed you, the dimensions and graphic effects are completely derivative.

    As Slopefillers showed you, the dimensions and graphic effects are completely derivative.

    But to say that they’re similar is an understatement. With the exception of Infobytes’ hackish rendering, they’re cut from the same mould altogether.

    • The hero images are completely the same dimensions, although Infobytes hasn’t cropped them to center the subject within the allotted space. They’re also embedded as background images using the same class names as
    • The hero images are also served using the same php script which was developed by Chris Petty specifically for Squaw.
    • The ghosted scenic images in the background are treated using the same layer blending modes, the same opacity, and the same gradient masks as mine.
    • The dimensional shadows in the footer are blurred and warped to the exact same specification, creating a lifted corner effect. That’s no accident!
    • The navigation bar has the same height, width, gradient, beveling treatment, dividers and type treatment. IN FACT, if you were to examine the code (at the time of this blog post) you’d even see that the navigation and headers all call for Futura Bold, which we embedded on using @font-face. Brighton doesn’t use Futura, but my code is still there.
    • The navigation menus use the same columnar structure, the same unordered list styling, the same background images dividing navigation from promotional content.
    • The content level pages use the same background image technique with the same fade-out heights and same opacity, the same content overlay design, and the same sidebar design although in reverse.

    I could go on and on, but you get the idea.

    I spoke to the designer responsible for this hack job at Infobytes and she had no idea what to say. I asked if she thought no one would notice. She said, well the client sent me a list of sites they liked and I just “took it from there”. I said I usually get a list of preferred sites from my clients too but I don’t copy them. It’s just to get a sense of their personal taste. By the end of the call, she said she’d change everything right away. I reminded her that that’s not her call and that she should consult with her client and own up to what she’d done. So THAT was a fun conversation.

    Squaw is aware of the situation and they had the same reaction I did. IE: “WOW, that’s blatant!” But with their recent changes, they may have bigger fish to fry at the moment. The bottom line is that Brighton and Squaw will work this out amicably, without a doubt.

    Recent Launch: Sugarloaf USA

    Repeat business is always great. But when it’s a classic, highly regarded brand like Sugarloaf, it’s an honor. After designing their former site in 2006, it was about time to bring Sugarloaf’s site into modern times. I got the call in late June and by August 1 delivered the home page, general content templates, and an overhauled snow report and trails & lifts report along with custom icons and support assets. The production, development and elaborate API wrangling credit goes to Sugarloaf’s Derek Wheeldon, who was a pleasure to work with.

    Sugarloaf USA

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  • Recent Launch: Stöckli Skis

    I recently had the opportunity to redesign the US website for the Swiss-made ski company, Stöckli through a partnership with JV2. The catch was that the creative needed to delivered and be finalized within two weeks, while I was busy working on several other major projects. So about 6-8 all-nighters later, the project was delivered. The final package included .psds for the home page, product category, product detail, general content template, and athlete profile pages. Working with an international consumer brand like Stöckli was a great opportunity and I hope for more projects like it in the future.

    Stöckli Skis

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  • Filed under: clients, my stuff
  • A Thank You To My Understanding Clients

    I recently announced to friends and family that my son, Charlie has been diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. The diagnosis was not a surprise to our family, as Charlie has been dealing with its effects since birth. He’s seen a number of physical, occupational, and speech therapists as well as countless doctors and specialists. His dense schedule obviously requires a great deal of time away from my desk.

    Since he was born prematurely in October of 2009, I’ve maintained a sporadic work schedule of 3 days a week or less. As you can imagine, this takes a bit of a tole on my availability for clients. I’d like to think I’ve managed that balance relatively well, taking only projects I know I can complete. But I owe my clients a great thank you for their understanding and flexibility. In the past two years, not one client has asked me to choose work over family. Even when I’ve gotten behind on projects, or been unavailable for short periods, my clients have been respectful of my priorities and encouraged me to keep them straight.

    As a stay-at-home father trying to raise a son; as a husband trying to pay the bills and support a wonderful wife; and as a guy who just wants to do good work; I am humbled and deeply appreciative. I hope to serve you all better in the future as I start to increase my work hours this summer. I’m very lucky to work for such great people across this country. Thank you.

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  • Filed under: clients, general design
  • Recent Launches…Daddy’s Been Busy

    Lately I’ve been too busy to even think straight. That’s a good thing. Here are just a few new sites that have recently gone live. Every one of these sites has gone live since this fall. And each has been completed despite working only 3 days a week, as I enjoy staying home with my son Charlie the rest of the time. I’m quite proud of that.

    Fly Aspen/Snowmass

    Fly Aspen

    A jQuery-based interactive map for Aspen/Snowmass showing domestic flight routes from over 60 airports.

    Aspen/Snowmass Catering

    Aspen/Snowmass Catering

    This standalone site for ASC Catering is rich with progressive CSS3 techniques and uses freeCMS for client control.

    The Greenbrier in West Virginia

    The Greenbrier

    These email templates for The Greenbrier in West Virginia are a small sample of the extensive collection I created for this historic, 5-star brand.


    My second iteration of the Ogio site design comes with a full ecommerce component. Big and bold. Love it.

    Cannon Mountain, NH

    Cannon Mountain, NH

    Another repeat customer, Cannon’s 2011 site is larger, sleeker, and more banger than evern before.

    Utah Dairy Council

    Dairy Council of Utah/Nevada

    This design was a fun collaboration with the client and Agency Fusion in SLC.

    Basin Recreation

    Basin Recreation

    Basin Recreation manages a number of facilities, trails, and fields in the Park City area. It was an honor to do this small project.

    Canyons Group Sales

    Canyons Group Sales Newsletter

    Canyons Resort is now sending updates to meeting planners around the globe using this nifty new WordPress design, and a matching email template.

    P3 Pro Swing Golf Simulator

    P3 Pro Swing Golf Simulator

    This high-tech golf simulator has increased sales dramatically since launching this redesign. Guess design can translate into sales. Who knew?

    Graff PR

    Graff PR

    Park City PR superstar, Christa Graff has a spanking new website, showcasing her remarkable list of satisfied clients and luxury brands.

    Resmark Systems Reservation Back Office UI

    Resmark Systems Back Office Reservation System UI

    Resmark provides reservation systems for vacation and adventure companies, and was very excited to hammer out a new web-based application UI for their flagship desktop product.

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  • Filed under: general design