A blog by the Brick Factory The Brick Factory

Five Best Pro Sports Logos

A few weeks ago the New Orleans Hornets underwent a rebranding, unveiling a new name (the Pelicans) and logo.   Given the catty nature of the Internet, it comes as no surprise that the logo had its share of critics.   I , for one, love the Pelicans logo as does our CCO Tom McCormick.  Tom wrote a post explaining why he thinks the design works.

The conversation about the Pelicans rebranding got Tom and I thinking about which of the major U.S. pro teams had the best and worst logos.   Following is our list of the five best logos from the NBA, MLB (AL and NL), NFL and NHL, along with witty and insightful comments from Tom and I. The list of the worst will follow later in the week (Update: our post featuring the worst logos is up.

5. Detroit Pistons

detroit_pistons

Todd

If you look through all the NBA logos, you’ll see the Cleveland Cavaliers, Detroit PistonsLos Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers, New York Knicks and Philadelphia 76ers all have similar ball-centric logo layouts.  They are all good, but the Pistons logo is the best of the genre.  I love the colors, typography and relative simplicity.  This updated version of the classic Pistons logo is a huge improvement over the weird horse thing they had going on from 1996 to 2005

Tom

I don’t really know what a piston is. If the mechanic tells me I need some type of piston replacement or maintenance or something, I will nod my head and say, “yeah, I assumed that was the issue, but I don’t have a lift so I need you boys to take it from here”. The mocking, as usual, would begin as I was just out of earshot.

awkward transition

What I like most about this logo is the clear nod back to the ABA. Big, bright and fun without having to play tough guy with some goofy, menacing mark. It’s not like this is the Paris Pistons. It’s Detroit. We know you’re tough.

4. Texans

 

houston_texans

Todd

When I started out reviewing the logos I never would have though the Houston Texans would make my top five.  The logo just wasn’t on my radar.  But the more I looked at this mark the more I appreciated it.  In addition to just sort of looking cool, as a Texas native I like how it evokes the horns from the University of Texas logo and the star from the Dallas Cowboys logo.  It nicely creates a new brand while tipping the hat to the long history of football in the state of Texas.

Tom

I’m sure Todd’s heart is fluttering at the horns here, and would love them in orange, but for me, it’s just a flat out perfect logo. Red, white and blue with a star is easy to screw up. I’ve done a ton of campaign logos to prove that, but here the colors are not traditional 4th of July, they’re a bit cooler. If I were some hillbilly from Texas and 25 years younger I could see this as a tattoo. Not on me of course. I was thinking Todd.

3. Nets

brooklyn_nets

Todd

I love the shield concept for the logo and the use of black and white.  That is also a great font they are using.

Tom

The black and white is instantly cool and the font is right on the money. I was surprised when it came out, and even more surprised at the backlash it received. Weird, but expected these days.

2. Yankees

ny_yankees

Todd

The Yankees are a bit confusing, as officially their logo is the ball/bat/hat thing that I don’t love.  This brilliant mark is  still used on their uniforms and caps so we’re counting it.  There is something really confident (arrogant?) about this logo, which is pretty much what the Yankee brand is about.

Tom

The weird N Y design was created in 1877 for a medal to be given by the New York City Police Department to Officer John McDowell, the first NYC policeman shot in the line of duty. That’s a pretty decent back story. The mark itself is the most iconic in sports. Simple. Immediate. Perfect.

1. Raiders

 

oakland_raiders

Todd

The branding here is so good that Oakland fans have devoted themselves to looking as depraved and frightening as the raider in their iconic logo.

As an aside, you think the Nets design team might have been a bit inspired by the Raiders?

Tom

Somehow this incredibly old school, macho, insanely cool logo hasn’t been upgraded ever, as far as I can tell. One of the few things Al Davis didn’t get his hands on.

Update: Check out our list of the worst logos.

8 Web Design and Development Training Sites

In a world where twelve-year-olds are able to create an intricate social networking framework, many businesses have transitioned to nearly full digital marketplace capabilities, and where individuals become undoubtedly incapacitated by the loss of a wireless signal, it is safe to say that knowing the ins-and-outs of the web is not just for the techies anymore, it is a necessity for all.

If updating Facebook and posting witty, 140 character anecdotes to Twitter is the full extent of your digital know-how, this might help you make some online friends, but might not do as much in the realm of say, landing a job. If you are eager to get your hands on some HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and much more, the following sites can provide you with the tools needed to not only understand these under-workings, but accurately comprehend how to implement them. Some of these applications even go as far as providing job postings and assistance in landing a position that suits your capabilities.

So whether you are eager to learn these practices to assist you in finding the perfect career, or if you simply want to create a personal blog to write insightful messages and tidbits, the following nine, carefully selected sites can provide you with the tools necessary to accomplish your goals. The digital world is always changing, the only way to keep up is to adapt, grow and always keep learning.

1. Lynda.com

Co founders Bruce Heavin and Lynda Weinman began Lynda.com to offer a space for individuals to learn and appreciate the digital space we all interact with today. Like many of the other websites discussed in this post, Lynda.com allows users to download a range of videos, books and documentaries covering over 100 subjects from 3D + Animation to Wireframing. Lynda.com focuses on what they call the three C’s: Conviction, Choreography, and Compassion. These three C’s provide a user-friendly experience that is not only educational, but also interactive; this allows users to easily navigate the content without becoming overwhelmed.  Lynda.com stems from a network of talented professionals working with highly dedicated producers to provide much more than a learning video and more of an overall experience.

2. Codecademy.com

This self-called “team of hackers” has developed an educational tool which creates a community of teachers and learners alike, with a central focus of learning to code across various platforms, including, JavaScript, HTML/CSS, Ruby, and Python.  Codecademy.com has has quickly made a name for itself with mentions in The Wall Street Journal, TechCrunch, Forbes, and The New York Times following the launch of Code Year last January; even Mayor Michael Bloomberg decided to hop on board with learning how to code. Another distinctive aspect of Codecademy.com is the additional interactive element which allows peer-to-peer tutorial videos to further the accessibility of information and assistance.  So whether you just learning how to code, or if you can share your knowledge with others, Codecademy guides you through the process to code across multiple languages while also providing a strong community to interact with and learn from.

3. Udacity.com

Udacity views higher education as a basic human right, and with this principle, the site focuses on higher education at a more affordable cost. This premise has taken the site to reach over 160,000 users in nearly two hundred countries. The beginner classes can be classified as introductory classes for the eager student, whereas the advanced courses prepare students to tackle subjects such as program design and applied cryptography. Udacity does not exclusively offer web development and computer science courses, but provides courses in Business, Mathematics, and Physics as well. Udacity is dedicated to making the learning process a life-long experience, and through the Stanford University originated course program, Udacity gives all students the opportunity to grow and create a more intelligent world.

4. Team Tree House

Treehouse focuses their unique style of learning through gamification in order to help the user not only get the education they need to be a successful developer or designer, but to assist the user in finding the right job. CO-founder Ryan Carlson states, “We plan on getting millions of un-employed or ‘under-employed’ people out of low-paying and unsatisfying jobs and in to higher-paying and exciting design and development jobs.” Through their interactive video and quiz based platforms, users focus on one of three areas, Web development, web design, or iOS. Upon the completion of each course, the user receives a badge to be displayed on their public profile.  Companies such as Virgin and Disney have even signed up their employees for training programs. As Carson likes to put it, “A Computer Science degree might cost you $50,000 and take you four years to complete…Treehouse can give you the skills you need and a potential job at the end, all for $150 in six months.”

5. TutorialsPoint.com

Another absolutely free website with an impressive amount of material is TutorialsPoint. TutorialsPoint provides users with an education in both technical and non-technical fields ranging from C/C++, Six Sigma, PHP, Ruby on Rails, JavaScript, HTML/XHTML, Python, and much more. Users can enjoy free tutorials and web references on these subjects, and more, along with the other 148 thousand users that visit the site every day. In addition, their online editor feature, similar to ones used by W3schools.com, allows users to input code while they learn and see what it produces. If you are a beginner looking for a good site, that is not too overwhelming, then TutorialsPoint is a good place to start.

6. Google Code University

It is hard to mention web development these days without mentioning Google. Recently, Google launched the Google Code University Consortium, which delivers training videos to their users from Google’s very own web developers. Lessons include HTMl, CSS, and JavaScript, from the basics to the advanced lessons. The courses are open-licensed and are classified as either a lesson or a set of lessons classified as a “class”. Lessons range in time and can run up to over an hour. Coming from Google you can only expect great things, and it definitely lives up to their reputation.

7. CodeSchool.com

We know what you’re thinking, similar name to CodeAcademy.com, but actually CodeSchool is the “brainchild” of the Envy labs team. CodeSchool began as an interactive coding platform featuring Rails for Zombies, a web app cleverly named for its purpose to assist programmers in learning Ruby on Rails. For $25 a month you are granted access to all of the school’s resources and materials; in addition, there is even an option for businesses to enroll teams for training courses that several blue chip companies have also decided to do. Through gamification similar to that of TreeHouse, users will learn through tutorials, web references, online editor coding, and receive awards to mark their achievements. CodeSchool’s learn-by-doing mentality is difficult to disagree with, especially with a system that is designed to be both educational and fun.

8. Mozilla Developer Network

Mozilla Developer Network (MDN) is a wiki where any user can feel free to create and edit content in order to keep information as honest and up to date as possible. Users can create videos, learn about many web development subjects, such as HTML, CSS, and JavaScript, and discover thousands of other documents traversing a number of different mediums. Perhaps the best part about the Mozilla Developer Network is that it is free to use and there is no certification for anyone that wishes to make corrections. MDN understands that sometimes people make mistakes, but they are there to help. While learning pages are available for the general public, in 2011 MDN added the Demo Studio where users can interact with one another and developers can show one another their code. If you are new to coding, or a current developer looking for a good resource, MDN may be a good community to join.

The Noble Pelicans

Pelicans are the inglorious flying garbage-trucks of the water-bird kingdom and as such are despised by man, fish and God. Violent, hateful missteps of nature, they fly with the grace of downed aircraft before zeroing in on their prey and skewering it with their beak/spears before stowing it to die slowly in their giant, obscene gullets. It’s a sight you don’t want your children to see. A quick search on YouTube reveals pelicans attacking or eating the following menu items:

  • dog
  • a baby
  • a tv weatherman
  • every fisherman it sees
  • a truck tire
  • the side of a building

So, when I read that the New Orleans Hornets changed their name to the Pelicans, I (rubbed my eyes with my fists, mouth open, then) assumed the branding would be a challenge. Of all the mascots in sports, this could be the toughest to transfer successfully into a logo. I remember that the Mighty Ducks’ logo was a goofy hybrid of Disney and those Friday the 13th movies.

clip_image001
That was somewhat close to what I expected here. A composite of a friendly (please), silly bird and a saxophone over a Mardi Gras theme. I’ve seen a number of talented designers submit their Pelican logo designs to various publications and although most are very professional and pretty well thought out, none are as successful as what was introduced yesterday as the official logo.

clip_image002

Tada! Finally, the real face of a pelican. Red eyes. Wings in full attack posture. Surely on his way to spearing a wayward puppy or slow-moving reporter (please go to YouTube).

The NBA seems to demand  that a basketball be in the main logo of every team and while that’s clearly insane, the design here incorporates it with little trouble. The font is right on the money, the fleur-de-lis is a cool touch up top and the palette seems close enough (I might have adjusted that red to a weirder Mardi Gras color). Graphic Designer Rodney Richardson took a graceless fiend of a mascot, an animal New Orleans is unlucky enough to saddled with and made a superior logo. With typical and unnecessary first impression comments like “Color me a little disappointed… Basically, the designers didn’t need to make the pelican look angry” from sports blogger Kelly Dwyer floating around, I thought I’d weigh in just as quickly with an opposing take while also educating you on the perils of pelicans in the wild.

You’re welcome.

Custom PHP Programming to Drupal

I got started PHP programming before PHP frameworks were in widespread use. The first article that got me started with PHP programming was from SitePoint. Since then they have made the article into a book series. From there I worked on a few personal projects and ended up landing a few jobs at local web development firms who specialized in using PHP for building websites.

PHP was very new at this point and there wasn’t a lot of talent out there that knew how to best put things together. In other words, I was on my own. When you find yourself in a situation like this, the best thing you can do is learn as you go. If something doesn’t work, try again until you get it figured out. Learn from your mistakes and always look for ways in improving what you do.

Working in a fast paced environment and learning as I went had the advantage of teaching me the work ethic to thrive in a high stress and high turnaround environment. But it also provided a lot of hard lessons in regards to creating everything by hand. Lessons that I will benefit from throughout my career, but also lessons that taught me there is a better way.

That better way is open source. More specifically…Drupal.

Drupal has changed my life. What I wrote custom PHP code to handle a decade ago, Drupal handles about 95% of that work, out of the box. I no longer have to debug issues because I’m using custom code that I didn’t have time to fully test before releasing to the client, because of a tight deadline. Instead I have much more time in focussing on very custom programming work and refining the functionality that I work on, such as creating a custom AJAX interface for the Institute of 21st Century Energy.

And this is awesome! Don’t get me wrong, there is still the normal stress in regards to meeting deadlines and ironing out bugs, but the amount of features that come with Drupal saves a lot of time. But you may ask how is this practical in real world examples? Lets go through a list of functionality that is very common when you need a content management system.

  • User login system.
  • Ability for the client to update basic page content on a site (such as an about us page).
  • Ability for the client to update text content in blocks throughout the site (such as contact info).
  • Being able to handle content that is more customized than basic page content (such as a list of locations).
  • Being able to define and customize fine grain permissions in the admin.
  • Having full control over how url’s look for each page on the site.

This list of features takes a significant amount of time to develop with custom code. In Drupal, you have all of this functionality available out of the box without any programming required. And that is just the tip of the iceberg! You can also easily aggregate lists of different types of data entered into the admin and create customized forms for visitors to fill out….all of which do not require any programming to accomplish. With about 20,000 contributed modules available for Drupal, there are few things you can’t accomplish without finding a module that can handle whatever functionality you need.

With that said, there is a learning curve to becoming comfortable with Drupal. But once you get over this hump, the bright light of Drupal will warm your soul and ease your heart and you will enter the promise land. And it is worth the journey!

Why We Shut Down Slurp 140

Slurp 140

Back in 2009 when we were still The Bivings Group we built a tool called Twitterslurp that tracked Twitter conversations at conferences and events.  Twitterslurp ingested tweets based on hashtag and/or keyword, and included features such as a live stream of all relevant tweets, a permanent archive of the Twitter conversation, a leaderboard showing the most active Twitter users at the conference and a stats page analyzing the discussion.

We built the tool for a couple of conferences we attended and it was popular, so we released the Twitterslurp code to the open source community and launched Slurp 140,  an on demand version of Twitterslurp that allowed conference organizers to launch their own branded version of the tool for free.

After working on the project off and on for over three years, we decided late in 2012 to shut down Slurp 140 as of January 1, 2013.

Why We Shut It Down

From the beginning, we saw Slurp 140 as a marketing tool for our company as opposed to a commercial product.  Slurp 140 included Brick Factory branding, so attendees at conferences would inevitably learn about our company through their use of the tool.  As a marketing tool it was pretty successful initially.  We got countless compliments and Slurp 140 helped us build brand awareness.

Over the years we thought about monetizing Slurp 140, but never pulled the trigger.  The math didn’t work.  The revenue we would generate from a paid version didn’t justify the development time required to create it.

Once we decided not to launch a paid version, we didn’t invest much in the way of development resources in Slurp 140.  We made improvements here and there, but the product as it existed in December 2012  was more or less the same product we launched originally in 2009.

We didn’t expand tracking options to ingest data from other services such as Instagram and Flickr.  We didn’t create a mobile-friendly version of the tool.  We didn’t build widgets that would allow the tool to be easily embedded on client sites.  We didn’t modernize the user interface.

While Slurp 140 sort of stayed stuck in time, innovative new tracking products came to market that included most of the features we had planned.  Slurp 140 was no longer unique.

By 2012, Slurp 140 had become something of a white elephant for us. We were spending time and money hosting and maintaining the product, and getting little in return. It just wasn’t worth it any more.  So we shut Slurp 140 down.

Our Plan for 2013

The digital consulting services we provide to clients are our bread and butter.  We spend the majority of our time on client work.

However,  the Brick Factory will always have an incubator culture.  We will always launch our own tools and products.   In addition to the financial reward a successful product offers, product development encourages experimentation and pushes us to improve our skills.  Building our own products makes us better.

Since our product development resources are scarce, it was important that we cut our losses on Slurp 140 so we can focus our energies on the development of a new product we are really excited about.  I look forward to sharing more details in the coming months.