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Voting 101: a Grafik Tribute to Election Day

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Throughout the 2012 campaign, we’ve seen a lot of things—from the good, to the bad, to the downright strange. In the spirit of Election Day, we decided to take a look at some of the politically-infused advertising and media efforts that caught our eye along the way. Here are a few that our office is buzzing about this week: Read More

Advertising Week DC: Behind the AWE

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The theme for this year’s Advertising Week DC (ADWKDC), AWE, was conceived by Grafik as much more than just a concept for the annual event. Inspired in equal parts by Droga5’s award-winning campaign for Jay-Z and an encyclopedia of yoga, the AWE campaign became a mantra that lifted the creative team and organizing committees beyond the limits of what they once thought was possible. At every opportunity, those involved found they had the chance to not only experience AWE for themselves, but also to create it for others. It became a guiding philosophy.

The journey to AWE began when the DC AD Club invited Grafik to take the lead as the creative agency for ADWKDC. This put Gregg Glaviano, Principal and Creative Director, in partnership with ADKWDC Chairperson and Grafik’s VP Marketing and Business Development Teddi Alyce Segal.

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Celebrating DC Design: 2012 AIGA 50

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Last night, I attended the 2012 AIGA 50 Exhibit & Reception where I had the pleasure of conversing with some of DC’s top designers while honoring the best work to come out of the local design community from the past two years. Fifty winners out of the 480 entries were on display while attendees enjoyed the beautiful back drop of the Corcoran Gallery of Art.

During the last AIGA 50 two years ago, Grafik had the opportunity to design it’s first online showcase as well as supporting collateral.

“We have fond memories of working with the AIGA. Holding a competition such as this is important for DC design as it encourages us to continuously  churn out top-notch work,” said Gregg Glaviano, Principal and Creative Director at Grafik. “Congratulations to nclud and Polygraph for this year’s AIGA 50 campaign, and to all of the winners.”

If you weren’t able to attend last night, don’t worry. You can catch up on the past updates and follow the future updates through AIGA DC’s Facebook page and Twitter feed#AIGA50.


The scene at the AIGA 50 awards ceremony

The Scene: 2012 AIGA 50 Exhibit & Reception


Day Five @ SXSW 2012

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Native and Mobile Web: The Right Tool for the Job

The last day of panel sessions kicked off with a heated, albeit nerdy, discussion. With representatives from Tumblr and Facebook present, two platforms that have clearly mastered the mobile platform, I was anxious to hear about how one should evaluate the appropriate mobile execution for their client. Instead, the session got off to a pretty technical debate about native/web hybrid vs. 100% mobile web, with representatives on the panel sitting firmly in one camp or the other. But before I dig into the specifics, it’s important to outline the four different solutions that were discussed:

  • Native Application – An application written specifically for the device operating system (OS). It is not cross-platform and it requires you to install and upgrade. Example: iPhone app
  • Native/Web Hybrid – An application written specifically for the device OS that relies on native elements like navigation, settings, etc., but employs web services to provide dynamic content experiences. Example: Facebook, Tumblr
  • Locally Rendered HTML – An application that requires installation, but locally renders HTML and stylesheets to provide a dynamic, web-like experience. Example: Flipboard, New York Times
  • Mobile Web – More specifically, HTML5. Site requires you to access through the browser application or shortcut icon, but uses HTML5 to create a custom for mobile experience, all using the browser’s built-in display functionality.

And while the panel did not land firmly on one side or the other, they did offer pros and cons to each which I thought I’d share, rather than taking a position (since honestly, I’m still not 100% sure which way I’d lean).

Native / Web Hybrid

  • Pro: Allows you to take advantage of the best of both worlds. You can access the native widgets for each OS, but also provide dynamic content.
  • Pro: You can easily monetize your app by listing it in the Apple app store.
  • Con: Given the native application shell, creating a native/web hybrid has a slightly higher barrier to entry since it requires a programmer familiar with the iOS code.
  • Con: Requires a specific content strategy.

Mobile Web

  • Pro: Programming a mobile site can be achieved by most developers. A much lower barrier to entry compared to the note above for hybrids.
  • Pro: Mobile web allows for the use of HTML5 and responsive layouts and can take advantage of the same content applied for tablets and web, even if just a portion of it.
  • Pro: Gets around some of the restrictions imposed by the Apple app store.
  • Con: On the flip side, a mobile website is much harder to monetize… at the moment.

So, I think the key takeaway is that there are many ways to take your content to the mobile device, but understanding what your business strategy is, what content you want to share, and who your audience is will greatly influence which way you go. I think the one point everyone agrees on is that brands can no longer sit on the sidelines; a mobile presence is required for all brands.

Pinterest Explained: Q&A with Co-Founder Ben Silbermann
Practically a full house, we attended a great Q&A session with Ben Silbermann, the man behind Pinterest led by entrepreneur/investor/blogger Chris Dixon.  It was an hour conversation where Ben talked freely about his aspirations and inspirations and his goals for the future development of his fasted-growing social media service.

What I really enjoyed listening to was how he walked us through his personal journey from when he started at Google up to the his company’s success today. He always reinforced how important it was to stay focus even through rough times and keep yourself surrounded with the people who are passionate for the right reasons.

Some other interesting points he made:

  • His core inspiration for starting Pinterest came from simply how he saw life—as a world of collections.
  • His team worked through the usability of his site all on paper.
  • He strongly believes that you show that you have put as much time into the product as you expect out of your user.
  • His goal is to never try and out perform his clone competitors. His focus is always on creating the best product.
  • And at the end of the day in addition to developing Pinterest, his team is the most exciting thing he’s building these days.

The Facebook Customer Service Challenge for Brands

The last session of the day and of our entire SXSW excursion discussed the usual obstacles faced when using a Facebook brand page as a customer service tool. This panel was certainly a popular one as it was a packed house and it had every right to be with equally (if not more) popular panelists Mark Williams of LiveWorld, Bryan Person of Social Dynamx, Eric Ludwig of Rosetta Stone, and Molly DeMaagd of AT&T. From tips on how to handle difficult customer inquiries or how to deal with the new Facebook Timeline format, the well-spoken speakers shared some of their insights on the best use this social channel in handling customer inquiries.

Here are some of their best points:

  • Constantly look at efficiency tools & staffing capacity and needs on a daily basis. Time is of the essence so make sure you are as efficient and well-staffed as possible
  • When taking the conversation off-line, do it in a matter that doesn’t stifle the conversation. Stay human & transparent.
  • Investigate how your fans engage before dedicating attention to a certain channel on your strategy. You don’t want to misdirect resources.
  • When staffing customer service social teams, writing skills and passion for what the company is about are crucial.
  • When you personify your brand page, make sure you follow the “feelings not facts” philosophy.

Day Four @ SXSW 2012

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The iPad: The Second Coming of the CD-ROM

The morning got off to an early, but energetic start with a great discussion about the future of the tablet, led by Brian Burke from Smashing Ideas Inc. The topics of discussion ranged from a consumers unwillingness to purchase apps to the advantages offered to the web experience by the more intimate tablet interface. The key question on everyone’s mind, and quite honestly, one that our clients ask when considering taking their brand to the tablet, is what makes the tablet experience different than that from the web? Why should they consider a unique tablet experience when their website displays “just fine” on the tablet? And if you spend any time on the tablet, the answer is quite simple: the tablet plays a much more intimate role in your user’s life than their computer does. The tablet encourages the user to use gestural actions. Consuming content requires you to use your whole arm, which activates more neurons than clicking a mouse. The tablet encourages you to invite the content you are consuming into your personal space. And the panel theorizes that as we get more and more used to engaging with brands on a tablet device, we will begin to reject controls that separate us from the content we are trying to consume. But if there is one key takeaway from this session, it happens to be a philosophy that I believe in very passionately: when designing an experience for the tablet, don’t get sidetracked by stats. Instead, think about the role the device is playing in your audience’s life when they are consuming your content. Are they at their local Starbucks? Are they on their couch late at night? Or, while we may not want to think about it, are they in the bathroom? Regardless of what the answer to that question is, create a tablet experience that complements the “how” and “where,” not just the “why.”

Alternative Channels of Distribution

The purpose of this session was supposedly to discuss “alternative” channels of content distribution, and given the savvy level of many attending SXSW, I believe we all assumed that channels other than Facebook and Twitter would be discussed (sad that many of us consider Facebook and Twitter “mainstream”). However, the panelists themselves represented major brands (AmEx, Warner Bros and Smirnoff Diageo) who actually still DO consider Facebook and Twitter alternative to the web and traditional forms of media. And given the relative success American Express Go Social and the fact that movies can be made or broken through social media, Amex and WB had a few nuggets that I thought were worth passing along to you:

  • The loyalty marketing world is not shifting to digital rewards. Instead, it’s using the digital platform to extend their offering.
  • The beauty of the digital reward is that for the first time, brands can actually engage their audience and quickly enable that audience to influence others.
  • When developing your social loyalty program, you cannot forget that it’s a journey, and you may make a mistake along the way. That’s OK.
  • Don’t ask for ROI to justify that journey. It’s a crutch for the fearful. What is the ROI that marketers are getting from bus backs or mass transit campaigns? And did your client ask you for an ROI then?

As a digital marketer, the last bullet hit home more than any other statement made during the discussion. Why? Because as a digital marketer, you are accustomed to tracking every touch point and sometimes, the data can be scary. It’s that fear that may stifle innovation, when in reality, if that same data had been available for offline tactics, some of the more brilliant marketing campaigns may have never come to be.

Social Role-Playing: Brands and Publishers

This session discussed how brands have evolved into taking on the role of publishers as they embrace the broadcasting capacity of social media channels. This panel was of particular interest of mine because I specifically wanted to hear the insights of panelist Sarah Smith who is the Director of Online Operations at Facebook. Other panelists included EB Boyd a reporter at Fast Company, Kevin Barenblat CEO of Context Optional, Justin Merickle VP of Marketing at Efficient Frontier, and Halle Hutchinson Senior Director of Brand Marketing at The point that resonated most with me is how they all agreed that the definition of a good ad has greatly changed. Before, the more distracting and attention grabbing an ad is, the better. Now, the more an ad seamlessly integrates itself within customers stories and overall social “talk” or chatter, the better. Smith stressed this notion while giving Facebook’s Sponsored Stories as an example of branded messaging assimilating itself with friend’s stories. With this shift in marketing and advertising, the skills of the staff has to appropriately shift as well. More and more are marketing professionals being required to possess reporting skills in order to meet the demands of daily content generation.

Shut Up & Draw

This panel discussion consisted of three panel speakers: Dan Roam from Digital Roam, Inc., Jessica Hagy from Creative Mercenary, and Sunni Brown from The topic of the panel  dealt with how more and more companies are reinforcing the whiteboard culture because of the benefits that visual language can bring into a presentation or sales’s pitch.

As a designer it’s important to be able to sketch out our ideas, but what I learned from this discussion was a how important a simple sketch can be in expressing any idea regardless if you can draw or not. It has been proven that drawing or using simple visuals to articulate even the most complex concepts such as mathematical equations can improve your thinking. Surprisingly, you’ll also even remember it longer that if someone said it.  In addition to the talk, they walked us through a few quick tutorials that taught us to take a simple statements and rapidly transform it into a visual displays .

Overall, here are few tips to remember:

  • Visual language is not meant to be beautiful. If you’re stuck, start by drawing a circle.
  • Do not judge your drawing skills. The point is not to be perfect.
  • Create as sense of confidence. To be smart is to “see.” There’s nothing more to it.

Humanizing B2B brands with Video & Comedy

I chose this session because more and more of our clients are asking for video.  Presented by Tim Washer, senior marketing manager of Cisco, this talk was one of the more entertaining presentations so far.  His work has appeared in Advertising Age and AdWeek and The New York Times and he has also a comedy writer/actor, and credits include Late Show with David Letterman, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, SNL and the The Onion Sports Network.

Along with sharing some of his favorite videos that he wrote and produced, Washer mentions some great advice and rules on how to go about bringing humor into our own videos. Here were a few examples:

  • Humor can be a wonderful way to simplify your message. Start simple and sometimes you have to fight to be simple.
  • Bringing humor in B2B videos can be successful because it’s unexpected.
  • Identify your natural employee storytellers and arm them with the ability to create shareable content.
  • Don’t talk about the product.
  • Always try and evoke a positive emotion.
  • Humanize your brand.
  • Humor is like giving a gift to your audience.
  • Look into nearby film schools to resource out video if your budget is tight.
  • One of the strongest connection we can make with another human is to make them laugh.
  • Finding a key editor is important but finding an editor that can edit humor is essential.



Day Three @ SXSW 2012

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The glorious Austin sun decided to grace us with its presence on Sunday which made running around the city from panel to talk to session a lot more enjoyable. The Grafik team continued their live-tweet and live-blogging coverage, but in case you missed it, here is a rundown of what we attended and our key takeaways:

Digital Sport: Know More, Do More

By far one of the best panels Brad has attended in his two years at SXSW, Jimmy Fallon hosted a panel consisting of Stefan Olander, VP of Digital Sport at Nike, Andrew Wilson, Executive VP of EA Sports, and even an Olympic gold medalist! The purpose of pulling together such an interesting group of people was to discuss how technology is evolving how consumers engage with sports, using real life examples ranging from the use of Nike+ while you workout or the incorporation of live stats into video game play. Some of the key takeaways included:

  • Technology has broken down barriers, making information that was only available to elite athletes available to the every day athlete.
  • Technology is influencing real life. Manchester City youth soccer players are required to play FIFA on the EA console to learn team strategy and tactics.
  • For Nike to grow, they must evolve from being just a product company to becoming a service company, and Nike+ is leading the way.

Between the foot race contested between Jimmy Fallon and an audience member, and several questions from black level Nike+ members, it’s safe to say that this panel go-er felt slightly out of shape and in desperate need of the new Nike Fuel Band!

Stand with Planned Parenthood: A Crisis Response

Based on just reading the title, you may ask why I would attend this panel? Planned Parenthood Federation of America is known to have it’s own share of controversy and they’ve utilized social tools for crisis management. All the five panelists were involved with the “Stand Up for Planned Parenthood” campaign which targeted the negative reproductive healthcare conversation that erupted in the House of Representatives last year. There’s an balancing act between the right information/message and timeliness when tweeting on behalf of an organization or brand, especially during a high-pressure situation. Here are some of the top tips/insightful quotes the panelists gave:

  • Inform and educate as much as you can. When it’s your issue or cause, it’s easy to believe that others know and care as much you do. That isn’t always true
  • Get control of your message early. Old instinct is to wait to respond, but new media doesn’t wait.
  • Because a crisis may require an all hands on deck responding, EVERYBODY in an organization should know social media social media.
  • Have a plan. Everyone in the organization should be on the same page. It’s very difficult to do constant checks in during a crisis so make sure the entire team know the messaging and stick to it.

Voices Carry: Why Authentic Brand Voices Matter

This session was a packed house as it attracted people from branding, social media, video production, marketing, journalism as well as both online and offline strategists. In the advent of social media, any one person has numerous channels and platforms to consume content, whatever that type of content may be. This session focused on the importance of maintaining authentic voice across the different venues of content. Coming into this talk I defined an authentic social voice as a transparent one that stays true to the brand it represents. I still believe in that definition, but panelist Sean Amos, Founder/Managing Partner of Amos Content Group also expressed different angle to the definition. He said “a beer company and it’s beer-drinking customers share beer as a common interest. However, it’s likely that there are other common interests. Identifying those interests and speaking to them in line with your brand  is what authenticity is.” I agree with Amos. Social media is a two-way channel and finding a way to actively listen to your audience and learning what they need and want, before engaging is an “authentic” way of communicating on behalf of a brand.

Is Our Photo-Madness Creating Mediocrity or Magic?

This panel discussion dealt with how the rise of mobile photography was effecting our creativity and what it now meant in this post photography era.  The panel was composed of four diverse individuals—an associate professor of New Media from Berkeley, a curator of photography for the Library of Congress, and the founder and CEO of Instagram.

Overall, the panel was in agreement that mass of photography may at times appear mundane and thoughtless, but we are indeed in a golden age of storytelling. As Vernas Curtis (curator from the Library of Congress) puts it, “the mundane helps capture our world today. This mass collection of photography will serve as a form of documentation when we look back in history on things such as what we buy, eat and drink. This very act of personal expression is important in knowing who we are as people now more than being artsy. Applications such as Instagram will not only helps us see more of the world, it allows us to share it with the rest of the world.” Kevin Systrom (founder of Instagram) also adds that his company is constantly looking at ways to apply value to this documentation with building off new technology. Richard Koci Hernandez (the associate professor from Berkely and journalist photographer) is also a big fan of Instagram and encouraged us to use it, but also quickly advices and points out to the crowd, “it’s not about what we keep, but what we throw away.” And Mila interpreted this as, even if the world has gone camera-mad and we can photograph everything we want at anytime,  it’s also good to filter through our photos and keep what we really feel is worth keeping. This editing process is still a very important aspect in your creative process.

When it came to question and answer time, an interesting question was directed to Kevin Systrom from Instagram, “which brands are using instagram successfully?” He quickly listed the brands below. We’re looking forward to see how some of their best practices could apply to some our clients.

And finally to top it off, Koci Hernandez ended the session where he hooked up his iPhone to the screen and walked us through a quick tutorial of how he creates some of his photos and showed us some of the cool apps he was using.

Day Two @ SXSW 2012

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Saturday, day two of SXSW Interactive (technically our first day: see post on day one) was a day of running around in the rain, but also a day of very informative panels.

Here is a rundown of the sessions the Grafik team was able to attend and our key takeaways:

Big Social Media Results at Small Organizations

Speaker Aimee Roundtree is an associate professor at the University of Houston who teaches social media among many other courses as well as devises social campaigns for a number of organizations. She focused a lot on what some of the social media best practices are for large, top corporations are and how it may not necessarily be best suited for smaller organizations. An interesting point she made was that for smaller organizations, sometimes you don’t need a a formal “strategy” in the beginning. With limited resources, sometimes you just have to be free to experiment with choosing platforms and tools to see what works, and then zero in on what makes sense and what the organization can handle. Sounds logical, but not always followed.

Rude Awakening: Content Strategy Is Super Hard

This was a very informative yet entertaining session. Amongst the oohs, ahhs, and laughs, the very reputable and very humorous panelists made some simple but profound points on content strategy. The one that struck me the most was the conversation about metadata and how it’s almost as important as the content itself. Panelist Joe Gollner, Director of Gnostyx that specializes in integrated content solutions for companies, made a Matrix movie reference and said that we are the intelligent creatures and that we have to be the ones to feed the machines information in order to effectively work, and that information is metadata. There is a wealth of content out there that is no longer limited to just words (video, photos, etc.) and if it doesn’t have the appropriate metadata, it won’t reach it’s exposure potential on the web.

Enterprise Social Media: Five Emerging Trends

There was a resounding theme throughout the entire session and that is corporate culture should always be top of mind when delving in social technologies. Panelists Luis Benitez and Heidi Ambler of the IBM social software team say that each social platform or tool highlights a different behavior and not all companies want to or can highlight those behaviors so it is important to pick and choose which to take on. More and more CEOs now know the benefits of embracing social media and how crucial it is to growing business, but social strategies should always embrace the existing culture of the organization despite what the newest trend in the market is.

Building Blocks for Indoor Navigation

An experienced panel, anchored by a heavy-weight representative from Google Maps, Chris Broadfoot, discussed how indoor maps are being used to create contextual awareness for the end consumer. The panel viewed indoor maps as the next frontier of opportunity since 80% of our time is spent indoors, yet, at the moment there is no way to accurately and reliably provide indoor location data. The challenge of indoor positioning companies is to fill the large gap between the CADD drawings that exist for every building in the U.S. and outdoor maps that are aware of the building footprint. And while many companies are creatively using different forms of technology to isolate an indoor position ranging from WiFi to sound signals, no one company has completely met the challenge. However, the panel promised that in the next few years, the indoor positioning problem would be solved since all manufactured phones will be capable of transmitting the needed information by 2013.

Discover the New Frontier of the Glocal Internet

While the focus of the session was supposed to be around the Glocalisation of the Internet (think globally, act locally) the panel comprised of representatives from Spotify, Foursquare, Zendesk, and Smartling meandered their way through topics ranging from cloud security to presidential playlists. As a cloud fanatic myself, I was particularly intrigued when an audience member asked whether or not they felt the Cloud was reducing the need of the operating system, but all panelists felt that while the role of the OS is definitely evolving, most applications, whether their data lives in the cloud or not, still need the processing power of the OS to serve up the data in the complex application interfaces. Also discussed was the concept of “frictionless sharing” and whether or not it’s a good thing (think Facebook newsfeed automatically sharing your music with your friends via Spotify). In the end, it’s a balance of user choice (having the ability to turn the feed on and off) and the benefits of random discovery (your friends learn of a new band or new track). As long as everyone involved is aware of their user rights, whether or not they own their data, and have the ability to opt out, the beneficial opportunities will only increase down the road.

Erasing Lines Between Physical and Digital Worlds

A more intimate panel, consisting of founder of Ogmento, Brian Selzer, and Peter Gould from PDP Mobile promised to be an interesting discussion since Ogmento overlays a digital experience in the real world via augmented reality while PDP focuses on creating devices that enable us to experience this new reality. However, after a brief discussion around how we should view life as a game, we experienced our first “panel bomb” (where someone in the audience unexpectedly takes over the presentation) of the trip where the entire discussion was quickly taken over by an audience member hawking their new augmented reality application. And while the panel members did their best to get the talk back on track, I think most momentum was gone, given that it was the last talk of the day. However, the topic of the Google Glasses came up, and it led Mila and Brad to talk about what life will be like if people start walking around with glasses where content is constantly being placed in front of their eyes. Will we have an “eyes-free” law, similar to the hands-free initiative where police are now responsible for ensuring that drivers are not driving with these glasses on? Will it make us more disconnected in this always-on, connected world? Time will tell.

Y Rappers Are Better Marketers than U

Despite the craziness of the rain the first few days, I was finally able to attend my first session which asked how come rappers have turned their personal brands into successful marketing platforms and how can we learn from it? Led by two creative directors from SapientNitro, Bill Pauls and John McHale, they kept the discussion  informative, interactive, and not to mention fun.

I don’t listen to a lot of rap, but I chose this panel because the topic  sounded entertaining and the room was completely booked. I also appreciated that the guys from Sapient were creative in coming up with a unique topic which also was pretty smart since they knew that their target audience were rap enthusiasts. I mean, who doesn’t like Jay-Z?

So my quick takeaways  for how brands can better learn from rappers:

  • Stay legit/project a consistent brand image
  • Always be on the lookout/market to new audiences (rappers have been doing this well since RunDMC met Aerosmith)
  • Master the social/innovate in a digital world (T-Pain’s popular Autotune App, for example)
  • Name check/cross promote with advertisers
  • Leverage product placement (mmm, Cristal, bling bling)
  • And drive culture

Overall, Rappers truly understand their audience better than their audience understands them.

Random Sights and Sounds from SXSW

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Last year, I discovered that one of the charms of SXSW is that you never knew what kind of random scene you would stumble upon as you made your way from one campus to the next. This year has been no different. Below are a few random photos and videos collected from the past few days: provides free power, sugar and caffeine on a daily basis to keep the festival goers charged and moving forward. While recharging their phones, Lahaina and Mila made a new friend.

On Sunday, Jimmy Fallon hosted one of the top panels for the interactive festival, focusing on the digital sport. In typical Jimmy Fallon fashion, his introduction of the panel was clever AND entertaining.

One thing I’ve been impressed with this year is how accessible they have made the festival to attendees of all ages…

Then, on your average walk between sessions you might stumble across one of the most famous competitive eaters in history

And if you’re lucky, they will pose with you for a picture.

Then, just as you think you’ve seen it all, you stumble across Wonder Woman changing a flat tire on her invisible… pedicab?

Needless to say, when you mix this many unique personalities from all over the world in one location, you are bound to experience some entertaining memories that will remain with you for a very long time. I can’t wait to see what next year holds!

Welcome to Grafik’s SXSW Base Camp

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Grafik at SXSW 2012

This year at SXSW, we rented out a small three-bedroom house through instead of a hotel suite. Although it has its quirks (blog post to follow), we have settled in quite well and definitely made it our new home here at Austin. Located in an up and coming, residential neighborhood, we’ve discovered hip restaurants in the vicinity, scenic running paths, and really hospitable neighbors. Oh and the best part is it’s only a five-minute drive to and from the Austin Convention Center.

So maybe we’re not right downtown in the thick of things, but there’s something to be said about living amongst the locals, and being able to escape the city at the end of each crazy SXSW day.