Quinceañera404

ERA404 Turns 15

Originally published in the ERA404 Newsletter on April 4, 2016:

Dear friends, family, and clients,

Happy 4/04! It’s a momentous one, too. Fifteen years ago, I began moonlighting as a freelance graphic designer in New York City, while working a day-job at a now-defunct dot-com. My first gig was designing the CD packaging for a DJ that was a friend of a friend. My payment was a 12-pack of Heineken. I had purchased the domain for ERA404 back in college, after a geeky but whimsical conversation with a group of designers at my summer internship in Grand Rapids. The name is somewhat esoteric these days, but kudos to those who still chuckle at its etymology.

I was strictly a print and identity designer back then, but expanded to environmental design and strategy when the DJ referred me to his colleague who produced events around the five boroughs. The event producer was patient and helped me as I struggled to learn the ropes of the industry and the city. Luckily, New York often rewards the hard-working and passionate. My first big event design, the USS Target, was featured in The Wall Street Journal and afforded me emancipation from the precarious dot-com. Living on COBRA health insurance out of a tiny studio apartment in Harlem, I began amassing clients and pulling more all-nighters than I had during my four years studying Visual Communication at Ferris State University.

Oftentimes, I would hear these clients express disappointment when I told them I didn’t do web design or development. ERA404 was, after all, a programming joke. While FSU offered a New Media program, my love of the halftone dot helped me ignore the seduction of the pixel. My fledgling company suffered because of this shortsightedness and I shared my frustrations with my brother, Mike Citarella, who was then working as a 3D artist for a post-production facility in midtown. Do you remember that kid in your high school that secretly programmed the formulas for calculus equations behind a secret back-door link of a game of hangman on a TI-82 graphing calculator? That was Mike.

Mike offered a simple, elegant solution: Learn how to design interfaces and let me handle the rest. In 2006, Mike joined ERA404 and consequently allowed us to offer our remaining two disciplines: digital and motion. For the last decade, as our Technical Director, Mike has managed our freelance network of programmers, leaving me to the designers.

In celebrating ERA404’s quinceañera, I’m helpless to think about her growth over the last decade and a half. I’m sharing this with you because everyone we’ve worked with or worked for in the past fifteen years has a similar story. Our stories are what make us unique. When we begin a new relationship with a client, it’s their stories that help us create pieces that are both original and personal. In these stories lie the beauty of the design and the ingenuity of the code.

Thank you for sharing the last fifteen years with us and I hope you continue to be part of our story.

Don Citarella
Creative Director
ERA404

Free, Online, Too

Every once in a while, I receive an email like the above, which reminds me that there are honorable companies out there that strive for their positive initiatives and ethical practices to help sell their products (Notice that Dropbox doubled our storage capacity ‘as a thank you for being a Dropbox Pro customer’ and uses ‘an extra thanks’ to help promote their paid services to our friends, colleagues and/or family members.)

In light of my post about online companies promoting free products and gradually stripping them away (Free, Online), as well as the recent rant, Don’t Upgrade Quickbooks, I decided to compile two lists of  online businesses:

1. Bad Practices: Those that have been guilty of luring customers in and paring down their offerings (or steepening their prices)
2. Good Practices: Those that have withstood the trend by doing the complete opposite, providing additional free services.

I’d love your help with these lists, citing company names and examples of how they’ve fallen into one of these two categories. Send me an email or comment on this post to be added to the list.

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era404.com Reboot

era404 screenshot

I always say that the cobbler’s kids have the oldest shoes. The last relaunch of era404.com had been in 2005, before the widespread use of iOS devices (which don’t support Adobe Flash) and the release of browsers capable of supporting HTML5, CSS3 and JQuery.

For the last few years, as all designers seem to do, I kept saying “God, I really need to update our site.” As my brother Chris always says, “the second worst problem in the world is having too much work, but it’s far better than the alternative.” era404 has been fortunate in that we’ve never found ourselves with too much idle time on our hands. That said, we’ve been seriously lacking in the capacity to explore new business development and professional upkeep and maintenance on our public image. Until now. Read more

MyColor Inspired by Pantone

With 49 fashionable paint colors to choose from, MyColor inspired by Pantone offers designers and do-it-yourselfers an affordable, easy-to-use solution for adding a splash of color to any paint project including furniture and accent walls. Offered in a 35 oz. size, this ready-to-go, ultra low VOC paint is odor free and provides an elegant, eggshell finish that is both durable and washable. Premixed, factory-precision color ensures an exact match every time while unique stain-blocking and self-priming qualities save time and reduce workload.

Pantone Paint
Pantone Paint

10 Shades of Love — An Experiment in Viral Trend-setting

When I was in middle school, one of my classmates bought a braided leather belt about 10 inches too long. The guy was always meticulously dressed so, naturally, I wondered what he was doing. The pendulous accessory hung down his khakis below the pockets and swung as he walked down the hall in a phallic, eye-drawing manner. In retrospect, it was probably a little risqué for tween fashion in the hallowed halls of my midwest alma mater, Portage North Middle School. I’ve never been too fashion-forward, nor interested in following the trends of the day, so I diverted attention from the guy and passed it off as a fashion faux-pas.

Within a week, however, I noticed a few others had adopted the strange, over-sized accouterments. Within a month, there were dozens of other braided belts accessorized over the in-crowd’s fashionable attire.  Then, it caught like wildfire an even teachers and staff were seen following the trend. I found it a little perplexing to watch the style grow in my little microcosm and attributed it to flukish nature of a town secluded from fashion. What I hadn’t realized, however, was that that, in itself, WAS fashion. This is how the world worked. Fluorescent macramé necklaces, rat tails, sillybands, metal-snapping bracelets, waterfall bangs, pegged jeans and  acid-washed jeans ruled the day. And at some point, with each of these trends, someone undoubtedly shared my befuddlement: what was going through their minds when they decided to wear that to school?

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era404 2011 Creative Reel

My design studio, ERA404 Creative Group, was pleased to launch our 2011 Creative Reel this week. Information about the reel can be found in the supplementary ERA404 newsletter (Season X, Issue II), the Press Release (ERA404: Commemorating10 Years) as well as the [d]online blog post about the rebranding effort.

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