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

[d]online turns 5!

This January marks the quinquennial anniversary of [d]online. That means that for the past five years, I’ve been boring you with news, product reviews, sketches, design critiques, photologs, prose, poetry and whatever mental drivel I could conjure at 2am when I should be sleeping.

It’s a milestone year for me. My studio turned 10 (and the recipient of a shiny new identity), I’ve lived in NYC for over a decade and looking back at the early posts of [d]online certainly illustrates how much I’ve changed in the past five years. Thanks to my subscribers and commenters for keeping this blog relevant and for sharing your viewpoints by email and in person. I’d love to hear what you’d like to see in the next five years of the site. Also, five years is the “Wood Anniversary,” so send me something wooden.

Book Trailer: ROOM, by Emma Donoghue

My company, era//404 Creative Group,  just finished editing this book trailer for the new novel by Emma Donoghue, “ROOM.” The book has already been shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize and has received a ton of wonderful publicity. This video was shot in the client’s audio lab at Little, Brown and Company. The actor is the son of publisher Michael Pietsch and is actually a very good artist. Coaching a little kid to draw poorly is more difficult than it sounds, but he did a wonderful job anyway.

While I selected the script, edited the audio and directed the shoot, the editing and cinematography was done by Mike Citarella and the video was shot under the guidance and creative assistance of LBC Marketing Maven (and Craft Services for the shoot), Amanda Tobier. The official site for ROOM (www.roomthebook.com) is expected to launch next week.

This is the third video we’ve concepted for a book. The first was the viral video (NSFW) for Charles Bock’s “Beautiful Children,” which rocketed through the web with the help of Adrants and Gawker articles. The second was for Joshua Ferris’s “The Unnamed” web site, which showcases surveillance video from Grand Central Terminal.