/ ON BOARD WITH Keila Taveras-Rodriguez

Keila Taveras-RodriguezDuring the past seven years, our intrepid Keila has worked at three different STC offices on Fifth Avenue, in addition to traveling 9,500 miles to our office in Singapore. As a talented and versatile Senior Graphic Designer — she has worked on or supervised — a wide variety of accounts. “I’ve pretty much touched on every client that we’ve had since I’ve been here — in one way or another,” says Keila.

Do you miss living in the sunny Dominion Republic?

Yes, I’m actually happiest when it’s really warm. Now that we’re heading into summer I’m in much better spirits.

Why did you name your cat “Lucky”?

When we visited the North Shore Animal League to adopt a cat he was the only one that didn’t come up to us to be cuddled. He just sat in a corner by himself so we decided that he was the “Lucky” one.

What’s your favorite routine when you’re at the gym?

I like going to classes that have an instructor and you just follow along. But my real exercise is with my family on the weekend when we go biking in the park.

Does your two-year-old son look like you or your husband?

He’s a clone of my husband. But we have a matching beauty mark on our back and the same birthmark on our right thigh — which is really cool.

How was your four-week stay in STC’s Singapore office?

It was a lot of fun. It was an exchange program in the summer of 2008. A designer and an account manager from Singapore came to New York when I was there. I saw how things really work on a day-to-day basis. It’s very laid-back.

What’s your all-time favorite movie? Why?

I’m into animated films so I really like Frozen and Finding Nemo. I think they are visually stunning and I know that creating all those textures is not easy — it’s very time-consuming.

Favorite Latino dishes to eat? To prepare?

Making and serving Pasteles en Hoja (spicy ground meat wrapped in banana tree leaves) at Christmas time is a tradition in the Dominion Republic. It’s a lot of work but my family makes it fun. We set up an assembly line and make close to 500 beef pockets that are divided up among each household. Then we freeze them and bring them out whenever we want.

Are people friendlier in the Dominion Republic?

Yes, definitely. Everyone here is in their own little world. I think New York needs to warm up a bit.

If you won a Mega jackpot what would you do?

I’d buy tickets on the first commercial flight into outer space for me and my Dad because we both love everything about this subject.

As a graphic designer, what do you enjoy doing the most?

I think I enjoy the creative process best of all. Once you crack it and have what you want — and the client wants — that’s the best thing, bringing it to life.

Do you have a travel bucket list?

Oh, sure. Top of the list is Brazil, followed by Africa, Iceland, Japan, the Galapagos Islands and Australia.

Posted in design, New York, On Board With Series, singapore | Leave a comment

/ I’m Sorry— Wait… No I’m Not. Thanks Pantene For Making Me Realize It.

…A person on a quiet-commute train car is gabbing on the phone. I’m sorry. Can you please keep it down?

…I want to suggest an idea or tell a story but someone keeps talking over me. No, I’m sorry.

…Someone bumps into me? I’m so sorry.

As a woman, I always notice other women (including myself) over-apologizing. We seem to replace “excuse me” with “sorry” as a qualifier, which makes us look weaker. No matter how small, we should stop apologizing for things that don’t deserve apologies.  This is not a “feminist way” of thinking… It’s a positive, confident way of thinking for women (and perhaps some men) that needs to be recognized.

Pantene (P&G) brought this shift of perspective to the forefront in just one minute. Their thought-provoking #ShineStrong video campaign is shifting how we talk to others and feel about ourselves— an internal “aha” moment if anything. With a live feed on the campaign microsite, visitors can become inspired by the video and social media engagement. Fans are thanking Pantene for inviting them to “Shine Strong” and expressing how they are “Sorry, Not Sorry.”

Though this campaign isn’t a way to advertise hair products or drive sales conversions (though there are countless links to product pages); it is a way to invite women to be, perhaps, “stronger than their hair.” Pantene is strengthening their digital brand image as more and more women are engaged though this campaign online and in the media.

Tell us in the comments: What is the silliest thing you can remember apologizing for? 

Posted in New York, social media, technology, viral | Leave a comment

/ Nixon Watches: Visually Stimulating Web Experience

Nixon Inc. has a beautiful way to organize their website. Nixon uses a clean grid system to show their product images, collections and social media in an interesting way. The website uses tight serif typography with pops of color in their photography.
Nixon Watches Website
Some things that may be able to be improved are the videos for mobile. Sometimes, the play button appears twice when selected. Also, the buttons in the slider can be a little smaller.
Nixon Watches
Overall, Nixon’s sleek and modern approach to digital is on-point.
Posted in design, interactive, New York | Leave a comment

/ THINGS WE LOVE: Oodles of Doodles

We are not going to conduct a Rorschach or “inkblot” test (a method of psychological evaluation) of the doodles we’re showing here because I’m not a fan of psychoanalysis. Case in point: the famous line in the movie, The Departed, where Matt Damon’s character says, “Freud believed that the Irish are one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever.” The publicity and controversy that resulted from this line when the movie was released stunned William Monahan, the author of this Oscar-winning screenplay. Personally, I loved all of it.

We asked three talented STC graphic designers to give us a doodle specifically for this blog and then we quizzed each of them in order to obtain an insight into the World of Doodles at STC.

Marco Velazquez

“Doodling helps me relax. It clears my mind. I doodle when I have a blank piece of paper. At times I do it with white ink on black paper. I also use red for contrast. Periodically I use lines and squares, but I find squiggly lines much more interesting.”

Marco Velazquez Doodle, June 2014

Ji Seo

“I only doodle at work, not at home. More specifically, I like to doodle at meetings because it helps me focus on what is being said. My doodling here is done with a red marker. Generally, I use whatever is handy. I think the interpretation of a doodle is up to the person looking at it.”

Ji Seo Doodle, June 2014

Austin Lee

“A doodle is a safe way to explore because there’s no expectation for it to be amazing. It’s a beginning phase where I’m trying to figure something out. I think my doodle here looks like music. I used to look at books of calligraphy by Old Masters so that’s a major influence. When I use a sheet of looseleaf paper I always doodle on the edge.”

Austin Lee Doodle, June 2014


Focus on a problem you want to solve. Hold this in your mind and suspend judgment. As ideas come, doodle onto a piece of clean, white paper. Disengage your conscious mind and allow your hand to do the work. Set your doodled paper aside. Later, look at what you’ve drawn. You may have solved your problem. If not, keep doodling.


Doodle by yourself or invite coworkers to do a 10-minute brainstorm at a whiteboard. This creates a no-pressure environment that’s open to anyone who wants to participate. Some very successful companies promote whiteboard cultures, e.g., Zappo, Facebook, Google and Disney.


  • Doodling is an art form used by graphic designers, architects, mathematicians, artists and cartoonists
  • Doodles can be traced back to early cave paintings — currently 37% of the population are visual learners.
  • The most popular doodles are: stars, flowers, boxes, arrows, hearts, initials and stick figures.
  • The dictionary defines “doodle” as a verb (scribbling) and as a noun (a rough drawing).
  • American presidents who have been known to doodle in meetings include: Jefferson, Kennedy, Reagan and Clinton.

Want to learn more about doodlers? I bought the book, The Back of the Napkin by Dan Roam on Amazon. It’s chock-full of useful information presented in a fun way.

Posted in art, design, New York, Things We Love | Leave a comment

/ I’m a designer, I don’t write.

“Oh, they’re design students, they don’t write”.  It wasn’t unusual for students from different majors to say something like this when working on a cross major group project in school. Actually, it was quite common. For some reason, it is assumed that design students never write. What’s worse, it’s accepted to be okay by most. This only made writing less important for us designers.

People assume that because the majority of the work as a visual designer is done through sketching an idea or mocking up a wireframe, that writing is of little importance. It seems to be more beneficial and important to learn another technique in Photoshop rather than taking the time and effort to practice writing. This is where most people have it wrong­­–designing is not only about creating something beautiful: it is a form of communication.

Unlike fine arts where it can solely be a self-expression, design must have an audience and a purpose. It is something to be sold, liked and accepted by the community. We must be able to articulate and express our ideas and concepts through both verbal and oral communication–not only to explain our design, but to gain the audience’s trust “clear writing is a sign of clear thinking”. Being able to write clearly about something denotes a kind of professionalism and expertise about the subject. Language is another tool that enhances the concept and experience of an idea.

If designers were more interested and involved in writing and reading, the design outcome would be more powerful and natural. When assigned a project, the designer is usually handed copy from the copywriter or the client. Many times, the designer does not take time to even read the material. Even before having a clear understanding of the subject, the designer tackles the visual aesthetic first. This often results in an awkward design that does not make sense to the theme, mood and logic of the copy.

Design becomes extraordinary and memorable not only with the visual aspect, but more important, with the personal story that follows. An empty visual is just a shell. People will remember a design if the design tells a story.  It is the job of a designer to understand the story and interpret it. Great work doesn’t happen with just the craft of the work.  According to my creative director, creativity and genius is only about 10%. Preparation is 40% and the remaining 50% is giving the visual meaning and life. It is about selling the item, having a purpose for the beauty. One of the most important parts of being a designer is being able explain your design, taking a stance and creating style, a voice. If a designer is not able to do this, the beautifully crafted visual is worthless.

For designers to grow and take on a more complex challenge, they must learn to work with all the forms of language, not just visual language. Those who choose to limit their creativity with only a visual will never learn the beauty of being a true communicator and will remain a desktop artist.

Yes, I am a designer, and my creative director has just assigned me to write for this blog. I am in panic mode, but here I go opening Microsoft Word.



- Ji

Posted in Branding, design | 3 Comments

/ Lessons Learned from Facebook Fit

Facebook Fit New York

On Tuesday, June 3 STC’s digital marketing team attended Facebook Fit New York, the first of a national series aimed at small businesses (SMBs).

Despite feeling like I was placed into HBO’s show Silicon Valley for five hours, I acquired an incredible amount of information about Facebook’s newer features such as: Lookalike, Custom Audiences and Offer ads. From an agency perspective, we are inundated by statistics, trials, tools and free dollars that Facebook offers to SMBs to engage with fans, prospective and existing.

Dan Levy, Facebook’s Director of Small Business, described how over 30 million small businesses use Facebook to reach and engage their customers. Not only do the big brands such as Accenture and Johnson & Johnson use Facebook for awareness and engagement, but small shops, companies and organizations also benefit big time. Building brand equity and credibility can be done on Facebook with reviews, offers and more.

Facebook FitFacebook users check their News Feeds from their PCs, mobile phones and tablets up to 14 times a day. With that, how many opportunities do small brands have to be seen in 24 hours? Facebook confirmed that those targeted by ads will only encounter a brand’s Sponsored Story once per day. For a small brand, it’s an opportunity to be featured among The Big Guys, a significant value-add in credibility and perception.

Facebook’s advertising platform has become increasingly sophisticated since its beginning. With 90.8% of Facebook’s revenue from ads alone in Q1, the network makes it possible for all types of businesses to advertise, whether their daily budgets are $5 or $5,000. There are new ways to generate brand awareness and build a following while driving sales and app downloads. Sales conversions are now trackable, online (with pixels) and in-store (with Offers).

Facebook’s “Custom Audiences” tool enables brands to retarget existing customers with pre-captured information such as emails, phone numbers, app user IDs and more. These ads are tailored to those who are already familiar or qualified for the brands, making them more likely to engage. Facebook claims that advertisers see ROI as much as six times their ad spend with Custom Audiences.

Facebook has forged partnerships with market data firms, namely Datalogix and Epsilon, to generate more follower possibilities. With Lookalike Audiences, which ZDnet touts as Facebook’s “secret sauce,” brands can unlock characteristically similar users to target with ads. A relatively new tool (rolled out in March), Lookalike links the Custom Audience base with the behavioral data.

It was valuable to see Facebook’s advertising capabilities for SMBs in such an intimate setting. Facebook’s grassroots workshops and overall experience made the larger-than-life social network seem more personal. Their advertising platform, initially aimed at agencies and larger brands, has transformed into an easy-to-use tool for small businesses to navigate and fully leverage.

Now how small businesses will effectively use their networks, and maybe exceed the ROI big brands invest millions in, is the question…

Posted in events, Facebook, marketing, New York, social media | Leave a comment

/ How Social Media Can Enhance the World of Luxury

One of the strongest arguments against the use of social media for the luxury market has been that it will dilute the exclusivity of a product or service. Luxury is, by definition elitist, social media platforms are democratic, everyone is free to interact. Ergo: upscale brands that do not embrace social media are wrong. At the very least, they miss out on an opportunity to learn more about their customers.

How STC heightened Zoya’s image

India is the world’s largest market for gold jewelry, so the creation of Tata-owned Zoya luxury diamond boutiques for the style-conscious woman was a given. In order to reach a global audience STC created an image-driven website that showcases the beauty of the jewelry. An ongoing presence on Facebook and Twitter has increased visibility of the brand and seen an upsurge in store traffic. Moreover, Vogue India has recently featured a Zoya choker that’s “Straight out of the Game of Thrones.”

Zoya -  A Tata Product

Ten ways your brand can benefit

Redefine your marketing strategy: Think of social media as an aspect of your company’s branding. The digital world allows you to create a “voice” that ultimately reaches a global audience.

Create a lifestyle: Sell your brand by crafting an aspirational message or story that appeals to your customer’s emotional side — make it special and elegant. Take a look at Ralph Lauren: no one does it better.

Recall your history: Tell the world how long you’ve been around. Burberry uses Facebook’s timeline feature to tell its story — all the way back to its first store opening in Basingstoke in 1856.

Manage your status online: Luxury brands are status symbols. An exclusive presence can be attained by creating invitation-only community platforms, e.g., Mercedes Benz. Venture outside your comfort zone.

Observe online shopping: Trends should be incorporated into marketing plans, e.g., in India the tradition of grand-scale weddings, the growth of call centers or Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) and the interest in online shopping by women using smartphones.

Credit: http://www.makeupstudio.in/

Bring back memories: Deepen relationships. The Ritz-Carlton, a widely respected luxury brand, uses social media to create engagement with its guests. It uses various platforms to recollect special visits.

Connect with visual images: A remarkable 80% of brand posts on Facebook include a photo. Companies such as Gucci offer stunning visuals on Instagram to entice and captivate, while Tiffany uses Pinterest for images of its engagement rings.

Explore the tech world: Retailers can provide an app that customers use in-store to get more information or one can utilize virtual reality so viewers can see how they look in an outfit. Tip: A sales staff with iPads can provide exceptional customer service.

Localize customer service: The Four Seasons has created individual Twitter accounts  for each of its local hotels worldwide — and shares fun info on places to visit in their respective cities.

Monitor economic trends: In 2013, India’s luxury market bucked a financial slowdown and swelled to $8.5 billion as savvy consumers opened their purses for high-end products and services.


Luxury products and services are uniquely suited to social media. It’s all about allowing customers to feel they’re ahead of the game. That’s everything that social media is.

Posted in marketing, social media, technology | Leave a comment

/ WOW! STC was there. Here’s the latest on the rock scene in East Asia.

In March, we wrote about the famous 2014 Spring Scream Festival on the island of Taiwan, which is now in its 20th year. Jackie Jack, one of our graphic artists, who is a member of the rock band, Torpid May, was invited to participate in this event, which was held in Kenting National Park. Upon his return, we sat with Jackie to hear and record all the exciting details of this challenging venture.

Jet lag + bullet train = no sleep

Bullet Train - TaiwanAfter flying from New York to Hong Kong and taking a two-hour flight to Taipei, in northern Taiwan, the band jumped on a bus for a 15-minute ride to the Taiwan High Speed Rail station where they boarded the ultramodern, lightning-fast bullet train. “The first day was really intense,” says Jackie. “It was endless travel.”

Barreling along at over 100 miles per hour, the bullet train raced down the entire length of the 215-mile island in two hours and arrived at Kaohsiung, where the band had a one-hour rehearsal. Afterwards, they hired a car service for a two-hour drive to their hotel, which was located near the festival. “After the first day, we didn’t really sleep more than four hours a night for an entire week,” reports Jackie.

Nonstop music + super food = fun times

Torpid May in Taiwan

Photo courtesy of Mondo Wang

The park where the festival was held is 70 square miles. This meant that even with 200 indie bands performing on eight stages — and a huge number of spectators — it never felt crowded. “It was very organized,” says Jackie. “The stages were well-spaced and schedules were posted so every band member knew exactly where they had to be and when.” The 50-minute per band performances started at 12 noon and went on until 11 pm at night. After Torpid May performed to an enthusiastic crowd, Frank Chen, the vocalist exclaimed to the audience. “We never imagined we’d play overseas — we always thought we’d be a local New York band!”

At the festival there was a designated area for those who wished to set up a camping spot for three days. It was also where one could find a number of food stalls that featured delectable dishes. “Taiwanese food is really good,” comments Jackie. “It’s not as commercial as Hong Kong. Families pass down their recipes from one generation to the next so there’s lots of variety.”

Four gigs + eight wings = a hot finish

At the conclusion of the festival, the band performed at two gigs in Taiwan and two in Hong Kong. One in Taipei had the improbable name of “Revolver” while the second in Kaohsiung, known as the “Mercury Bar” had an even more improbable competition. “They have a tradition,” explains Jackie, “if a person finishes eight super-spicy chicken wings (like buffalo wings) in 15 minutes — he gets a free drink. I did okay — got the beer, but it was painful. Afterwards, I put my tongue in a glass of ice water for 20 minutes!”

Like we said, a fiery finish.

Posted in events, New York, pictures, Things We Love | Leave a comment

/ ON BOARD WITH Marco Velazquez

Our very own Marco is a cool character with a fascinating mix of talents. He is both a highly creative designer who started drawing at six-years-old and an aspiring boxer who trains assiduously. Both fields of endeavor allow this affable individual the opportunity to learn and grow. Or, as Marco says, “I really like a challenge.”

What other sports are you involved in?

I was a defensive end on my high school football team until I fractured my shin in two places. I couldn’t play at all in my senior year.

Did this affect your scholarship eligibility?

I was out for good. But a couple of my friends got football scholarships. One went on to play for the National Football League (NFL) — the Jacksonville Jaguars in Florida.

What’s your favorite Mexican dish?

My grandmother, who lives in the village of Juchitepec near Mexico City, makes a delicious dish called “pozole” which is a stew made with chicken or pork. It’s served with tortillas, sour cream and shredded cheese. When I visit, she makes it just for me.

Do you have a travel bucket list?

Yes, I’d like to see much more of Mexico. I want to visit Tulum on the Yucatan Peninsula and revisit picturesque Oaxaco.

How often does an amateur boxer go to the gym?

I go to the gym, and work with a trainer, seven days a week for a two-hour session. I split this between two gyms: one in Manhattan, the other in Astoria.

Do you have a definite routine that you follow?

I start with a three-mile warmup. Then I do 300 situps, followed by shadow boxing and hitting the heavy bag. I end with a 15-minute jump rope, three rounds of speed bag, weight lifts, pushups and a cold shower for muscle recovery.

Are you training for the Golden Gloves?

You don’t train for an event — you train to become a boxer. The first thing I had to do was get my weight down. I lost 55 lbs.

What’s your favorite movie?

I really like Clint Eastwood’s spaghetti westerns or The Dollar Trilogy which includes A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

I see myself doing what I’m doing now. I want to sharpen my skills as a graphic designer. Right now, boxing is secondary.

Do you enjoy visiting your family in Mexico?

Yes, because every time I go back, I learn something new. In June of 2013, we visited the Town Hall in the village of San Juan Tezompa and I saw my great-great grandfather’s name in a historical document. He fought in the Mexican Revolution of 1910.

You went to Chicago for Vodafone/STC — any thoughts?

It really helped me because I got to see the end product of the design I created on the computer. It made me look at the work I did from a different point of view.

Posted in design, New York, On Board With Series | Leave a comment

/ NEWS FLASH! STC Rocks in East Asia

Photo: Vincent Chih-Chieh Chin

One of our incredibly talented graphic artists, Jackie Jack, is leaving shortly with his band to play at the famous 2014 Spring Scream Festival held on the island of Taiwan. This event, which is in its 20th year, is held at Kenting National Park at the southern tip of the island, which is best described as having “lush vegetation and beautiful white sand beaches”.

The three-member band includes Jackie on drums and two guitarists: Frank Chen and David Jiang, who are architects and — like Jackie — work full-time. This means that practice sessions take place on Sunday nights. “We share a rehearsal space in Long Island City with three other bands,” says Jackie. “We all keep to a schedule so it works out very well.”

The group has played extensively throughout greater New York. Recently, they appeared at the Keep Taiwan Free Festival in Times Square and at the Passport to Taiwan (P2TW) Festival in Union Square. “We try to keep our gigs to the weekend, rather than after work,” notes Jackie.

How did they do it?

The group, which is called Torpid May, heard about the Spring Scream Festival and decided they wanted to be part of it. As Jackie explains, “This is a big deal in Taiwan. In fact it can be compared to the Burning Man Festival that is held every year in the Nevada desert here in the U.S. Going in, we knew this was an event that was open to musicians in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Europe and the United States. It’s very competitive.”

In order to be considered they had to complete a detailed application and submit a portfolio that showcased the band’s experience. The entire package was submitted in 2013, but they did not receive an acceptance until the end of February 2014. “That’s when we really started rushing around,” says Jackie.

Photo: Vincent Chih-Chieh Chin

The scope of this venture

This three-day festival features — unbelievably — 200 bands from all over the world, on eight stages. Each group is allotted a 50-minute set. This translates into nonstop music, food and fun for thousands of participants. According to Jackie, “We will be at the festival for two days and then we’ll move on to two separate gigs in Taiwan — followed by a flight to Hong Kong and two more gigs before returning home.”

Going forward in style

So far, the band has produced one CD called Weather Balloon — a single that references the controversial UFO crash in Roswell, New Mexico in 1947. This CD is sold at the band’s performances. When asked about their musical style, Jackie admits that, “We’ve borrowed a lot from post-rock — which is rock music that mixes with things like jazz, grunge, pop. It’s a repetitive melody that builds slowly and changes subtlety from very quiet to quite heavy. I’d say we play contemporary rock.”

Posted in art, New York, Things We Love | 1 Comment