Emotion and Context: Websites That Connect

When it comes to designing websites and other marketing materials, great presentation can really improve your company’s reputation, and its sales.

One of my favorite examples is Letterhead Fonts. These people create some of the most beautiful typefaces you’ll find anywhere. Lots of vintage-style signage faces especially, from Victorian-era through the 1950s, from hand-cut “wood” faces to hand-brushed sign painter fonts. They’re delicious.

But the thing that really sells these fonts is the design of the website, and the drool-worthy design of the samples they create.

Take a look at the front page of their site. Right way, you’re transported to a rich and unique world — one that could only belong to this company. Click on some of the sample images as you scroll down that gorgeous page, and gaze upon the energetic or conservative or intricate sample designs. The colors and textures and motifs are appropriate to the style of the typeface — right down to a gold-leaf signage effect for some of the vintage styles.


All of the samples show the typeface for what it can be — not just what the face itself looks like. For designers, that’s “aspirational imagery” — something to shoot for. And, as is true for everyone, beautiful design — like a photo of a beautiful human being — gets our endorphins simmering.

This particular site’s style might not appeal to you, but I can guarantee that most designers find it compelling.

That’s what you want to do with your website, no matter what your product or service. You want your visitors to have an emotional reaction, whether it’s one of excitement or comfort or comradery or radicalism or safety or assurance. Because even if you have the greatest product or service in the world, your sales will suffer if you don’t connect with your audience on an emotional level.

Even without a pulling hard-sell, the site has managed to get me to but a couple of typefaces that I rarely use. Don’t get me wrong — the fonts were worth the price, because they were perfect for the application. But it’s possible that I might have used something else or rolled my own custom solution if I hadn’t seen the fonts presented in the mouth-watering context the folks at Letterhead Fonts build.

While the websites I design might not have that same style (and a site of that intricacy is affordable to LHF partly because their products sell so well, and partly because one of the font designers does the web design), I always try to give each website a unique feel, and a richness of design that provides a sensory experience for the visitor that’s satisfying, soothing, challenging — all depending on the client’s audience. Even if the product or service might generally be considered a bore by some, and even if the site is low-budget or minimalist, there’s always a way to design a website that connects with your visitors — without being cheesy or insulting.

Make your website work for you. Be sure it’s not only reliable and functional and easy to navigate, but that it also invokes an emotional reaction in your visitors — even if it’s a mild one.

If you do, your sales just might turn drool-worthy, too.

The Mars Curiosity Rover team says I think like NASA!

Ooh! The Mars Curiosity Rover team says I think like NASA! Now I feel all smart and stuff!


You may have seen my Facebook post on July 10th about an email to NASA/JPL and the Curiosity Rover team about the damage to Curiosity’s wheels. Here’s that email again, followed by their (amazingly fast!) reply, and mine back to them:

Please forward to the Curiosity Rover team.

Here’s another of the countless suggestions you receive — this one regarding the damage to the wheels.

Would it be possible to use the science laser to do any of these?

1) Melt (weld) the ends of cracks to stop their progress, or even spot-weld together portions of cracks that have not separated widely
2) Punch a hole at the end of a crack to serve as a “rip-stop”
3) Warm portions of deformations to bend them using temperature differential, then spot-weld points that have been brought closer together

I Googled a bit and haven’t seen any discussion on this, though I’m guessing it might have been discussed. I have no idea if the laser has the right power output, or is power-variable or can be reconfigured through a software upload.

But I figured it couldn’t hurt to ask.

Congratulations on a spectacular mission, and thanks for all you do!

— Bob

Their reply:

On Jul 14, 2014, at 1:33 PM, Mars Outreach wrote:

We checked with one of the Curiosity science team members, and here is his response:
Those are really great questions and just how NASA thinks–how can we creatively solve the problems we encounter. Unfortunately ChemCam isn’t really a good tool for welding. It uses only a tiny amount of energy, but focuses it over a very small area and over a very short time (microseconds), so the effect is still large (for that tiny area). It vaporizes just a few micrometers of material.

To do any welding, you’d really want a blowtorch, which can impart a lot of energy over a big area, for a long time, until the whole thickness of material gets warm enough to melt.
Thanks again for your message and your interest in Mars exploration!

And I just sent them this:

Ah! Well, darn.

But I’m sure the team will do what it takes to get the job done — whether it’s steering around caprock or something more MacGyveresque!

Thanks again!


…and now I’m giggling like a schoolboy.

Chef: A savory little movie you’ll want to see

Just saw ‪the movie “Chef” with fabulous Production designer Denise Pizzini. Sure, I might be a little biased. But when a movie I work on ain’t so great, I’m not going to say it’s fab.

In this case, it’s not necessary for me to keep my mouth shut. Because Chef is fantastic. Even better than I expected.


This is one of those “little” movies that is genuine and hilarious and touching, and even more uncommonly, every aspect of the filmmaking craft is done with care and energy and heart, and everything clicks. Jon Favreau’s great script — with many scenes augmented by ad-libs — is delivered with tons of strong performances from a great cast. Including Jon himself, who went to cooking school and worked for months in Chef Roy Choi’s restaurant to bring scary-good reality to his physical work in the kitchen.

With players like John Leguizamo, Bobby Cannavale, Sofia Vergara, Robert Downey Jr., Oliver Platt, Dustin Hoffman, and superb 10-year-old newcomer Emjay Anthony, all creating chemistry out the wazoo, this movie just sings.

This is a film about losing your position in life, learning to find your way in a new world of technology, and reconnecting with family. It’s a father-son buddy picture, and a road picture. It’s a floor wax and a dessert topping!

It’s been a long time since I saw a movie about realistic characters doing realistic things that was this great. We used to have more movies like this, but as Jon said in the Q&A, with the demise of the DVD market, the studios don’t want to make them anymore. And what a loss. To think that we’ve missed out on countless engaging, rewarding movies like this is a real shame. But, as he also said, with digital/new media rising, smaller, more “personal” movies like these may get a new life.

Oh, and by the way— Let me brag about the production design work of my boss and friend Denise Pizzini. I think this is her best work ever. She actually has experience designing restaurants, and I think that really shows in this movie. The look has that perfect “heightened reality” feel to it, from richly-decorated high-end restaurants to fabulous mansions to funky apartments, to rusty, grimy, beat-up old food trucks. And the photography is great, too, which supports and adds to the look. There’s a very inviting visual texture to this film; with Denise’s sets and all the literally hands-on food porn, you just want to reach into the screen and grab stuff. Okay, so Scarlett Johansson and Sofia Vergara are in it, too, but I’m not talking about them. Seriously. Because Denise didn’t design them.

Go see Chef, and enjoy it. But please — eat first. The total payload of delicious food porn in this picture is probably in violation of the Geneva Conventions.

Jeff Bridges: Rich, Chewy, Behind-the-Scenes Goodness

So, am I pretty much the last person on Earth to hear about Jeff Bridges’ excellent website? On which, among other features, he displays some of his excellent photography? Of behind-the-scenes happenings on some of the excellent movies he’s been in?

No? Oh, good. I don’t feel so bad now.

Jeff’s got great cast-and-crew shots from Iron Man, Tron: Legacy, True Grit, and more, some of which he shoots with an old-school Russian pano camera that actually turns as it’s exposing the film. (You have heard of “film” I take it?)

Here, Jeff acts as his own camera crane, and catches Robert Downey, Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow in an early production meeting for Iron Man, Directed by Jon Favreau.

There’s a lot more in addition to the photography, including info on the End Hunger Network, a non-profit Jeff helped found in 1983, and the film “A Place at the Table.”

Check it out at JeffBridges.com .

The entire site abides.