mStoner’s Second Annual Top Picks


mStoner’s Second Annual Top Picks

Dec 27, 2012By Mallory Willsea

For the second year, I’d like to round out the year with an mStoner crowd‐sourced post featuring our team’s top picks for 2012. In this post you will find the books, sites, and online tools that we fell in love with this year. Take your time reading this post — I promise you’ll find something new and interesting.

What is your top pick for 2012? Why not share it in the comments section below?

Without further ado…

Higher Education Websites, Videos, and more!

boston university

Boston University
The site is beautiful, elegant, intuitive, and extensive. The Boston University 2012 Annual Report is HOT, HOT, HOT. Hey, Boston web design team, may I hire you all?
Voltaire Santos Miran, CEO and Co‐Founder

AUP just imagine

Just Imagine from The American University of Paris
Who doesn’t want to go to school in Paris? Still, you might not be able to take a campus tour before you decide. No worries. In “Just Imagine,” film student Luke Shepard takes the viewer through the AUP experience, also known as the city of Paris. The video, produced in collaboration with the Office of University Outreach and Advancement, features current student talent and promotes AUP. C’est magnifique.
— Susan T. Evans, Senior Strategist

university at buffalo

University at Buffalo
Rebecca Bernstein and her team have done a marvelous job rolling out their CMS and website tools across the institutions. They offer an impressive suite of tools and support resources for the community.
— Voltaire Santos Miran, CEO and Co‐Founder


Columbia College Chicago’s Columblr
Columbia’s busy social media team uses this property to offer practical guidance to prospective students. Importantly, they’re careful to balance their content and maintain Tumblr’s unspoken text‐to‐animated gif ratio.
— Sarah Eva Monroe, Senior Creative Director



a game of thrones

A Game of Thrones: The novels in A Song of Fire and Ice by George R. R. Martin and the HBO series

I’ve gotten really bored with “fantasy” novels and find myself yawning at announcements of yet another “epic” series — which could stand some good editing to bring the number of books down to 3 novels of about 300 pages each, rather than a bloated, never‐ending series designed to sell books rather than having any enduring characters, much less a plot. George R. R. Martin’s epic series is very different. Vivid, complex characters — all of whom seem very much alive, with real strengths and real weaknesses — set in a complicated world of ever‐changing alliances. Some of the people I like best die. Others change in ways that I don’t like in response to changes in external realities. But you know what? That’s very much like real life. And Martin is a storyteller with few equals, ever.
Bonus: Before I watched an episode of the HBO series, or read a word of A Game of Thrones, I was fascinated by this New Yorker article, which chronicled the community around this epic series — and the downsides for Martin of such an engaged fan community: “Just Write It” by Laura Miller.
Michael Stoner, President and Co‐Founder

the signal and the noise

The Signal and the Noise by Nate Silver
This book reads more like Freakonomics than your college stats book. Silver compels readers to think about data in a completely different way. Plus, it’s a book about numbers that doesn’t feel like a book about numbers — Nate Silver does a great job of illustrating his points.
Kylie Stanley Larson, Project Manager


Design is a Job by Mike Monteiro
Mike Monteiro (who you may know from his F*ck You. Pay Me presentation) wrote a book called Design is a Job. The book focuses on all of the things designers have to learn to be good at — from communication skills to client management. For me, this book was an articulate reminder of the hats designers need to be better at wearing. Being great isn’t just about the work you do behind the desk, it’s about selling ideas, managing relationships, and protecting your interests.
Doug Gapinski, Strategist

Rebooting the Academy by The Chronicle of Education
This is an incredibly affordable eBook which uses case studies from across the spectrum in higher education to make you think about how much the industry has changed in recent years.
— Kylie Stanley Larson, Project Manager

brand gap

The Brand Gap
I fell head over heels for Marty Neumeier’s book, The Brand Gap. Within the first pages, Neumeier addresses the definition of this often misunderstood concept: brand. A brand is not a logo or an identity systems or a product. Instead, “A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or organization.” Give yourself a gift this holiday season: read The Brand Gap. I did. Twice.
- Susan T. Evans, Senior Strategist
reality is broken

Reality is Broken: Why Games  Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal
This book is a groundbreaking exploration of the power and future of gaming. McGonigal reveals how we can use the lessons of game design to fix what is wrong with the real world. I’m a gamer as it is but this showed me why I get so much enjoyment out of games and how all of us can be happier, more productive and more fulfilled by applying game design theory and techniques to our jobs. Gamification was a big topic in higher education this year; this book is the definitive source on the topic.
— Fran Zablocki, Strategist


People on Twitter You Should Follow

Nick Johnson and his web team at Notre Dame — a bunch of awesome, highly talented, and personable people. We had the chance to host them at mStoner earlier this year (y’all are welcome back, anytime!). Oh, and they launched earlier this year, a heartbreaking work of staggering collective genius.
— Voltaire Santos Miran, CEO and Co‐Founder

Ryan Catherwood, Assistant Director for Digital Communications & Social Media at Washington and Lee University, emerged in 2012 as a leader in developing content strategies for engaging alumni. His EDUniverse profile has eight thoughtful and useful articles — my favorite is Why Development Should Ask Young Alumni for Content Before Money.
Mallory Wood, Director of Marketing

Edward Tufte, the father of data visualization, has upped his Tweet frequency in the last half of 2012. Come for the practical advice: “Reducing confirmation bias: scan information with the idea of how to solve a problem doing whatever it takes, not reinforcing prior views.” and stay for the profound: “The best work is about the useful and important, about life and death, about the universe. Beautiful work does not traffic with the trivial.
Sarah Eva Monroe, Senior Creative Director


Blogs and Websites

college blog

The College Puzzle
While this is potentially the greatest general higher education blog, it’s a total time suck because the blogs usually offer interesting links to other sites. (Horrible, I know!) I find myself weaving through smart, thoughtful research for hours.
— Kylie Stanley Larson, Project Manager

walker art center

Walker Art Center
This was launched in December 2011, but it’s been a go‐to of mine for inspiration on how to display featured content this year. Love the type, the interactivity and minimal element on the far left of the page.
Kevin Rieg, Interactive Designer


Smashing Magazine
For a designer, Smashing Magazine is just one of those websites that is equal to a daily rag — it has all kinds of interesting articles on what’s trending, what’s brewing, and loads of great inspiration. Aaaaand, if you’re not a designer, they have a monthly article that has free unique and elegant desktops for all types of personalities.
Chris Decatur, Designer


Design and Online Tools

Typography is the chariot of good design: it carries the content. Typecast emerged in 2012 as a useful and intuitive resource for setting up typography previews as a reference point for clients, designers, and developers. This browser‐based editor allows you to quickly set up and edit side‐by‐side comparisons of different web fonts from Fontdeck, Google fonts, Typekit, and more. If you happen to like the previews you build, you can export your typographic previews as a working CSS file.
— Doug Gapinski, Strategist

this is responsive

This is Responsive
Brad Frost’s This is Responsive is a pattern library and resource collection that is one of my favorites for the year. Responsive design includes covering foundational elements like flexible grids and conditional media, but a lot of the work done on complex pages is handled at the page component level. Mr. Frost’s collection gives designers some points of reference for solving responsive problems beyond just the basics —from carousels to forms to accordion structures.
— Doug Gapinski, Strategist

Foundation Mobile Framework
I use the Foundation on many responsive sites in order to get a jump start with a well‐tested, robust framework that covers HTML structure, JavaScript libraries, and CSS fall‐backs.
Kevin Zink, Senior Consultant

This site is so great, I had to list it as a top pick for the second year in a row. Visitor contributed comments had been a challenge for many of our recommended CMS. Disqus provides an elegant solution for those systems (and over a million websites) that can be styled to match our designs. And it’s integrated with social media. This may be soooo 2011, but I feel like it really took off in 2012.
Bill McLaughlin, COO

Our project management team started using Smartsheet this year and we love how easy this tool is to use. Our project plans are managed in one place and accessible to everyone in the company.
Beth Lee, Project Manager


Grab Bag!

MStoner office

mStoner’s St. Louis Office
In July, our team members in St. Louis moved to a new office space located in the Delmar Loop area of St. Louis. The Loop is a very eclectic part of St. Louis featuring cafes, restaurants, shopping and entertainment. It is home to many infamous STL attractions such as Blueberry Hill (frequented by Chuck Berry), Fitz’s Rootbeer, and the Pageant.
Kate Smith, Controller


Evernote Smart Notebook by Moleskine

I’m a pen and paper person, as much as I wish I wasn’t. I’ve tried bringing a laptop with me to meetings to take notes, but I always feel like the device gets in the way of a real conversation. Like the person I’m talking to doesn’t think I’m really listening because I’m typing. Somehow, pen and paper doesn’t interfere in the same way. Also, I just think better with a pen in my hand. I’m sure my colleagues who grew up with technology everywhere don’t experience that as much, but its true for me. The consequence of that is that I always wind up with a bunch of notebooks filled with notes that I need to “do something” with. File them? Type them up? What usually happens is they stack up and I wind up throwing them away in 3 years, never having accessed them again.
But now, enter the Evernote Smart Notebook by Moleskine. I take notes with my pen and paper, then snap a photo with my iPhone in the Evernote App. The file is uploaded to Evernote, and I don’t need to worry about the notebook when I’m done. But here’s the amazing part. I have probably the world’s worst handwriting. And Evernote can still recognize my handwriting and make all my notes searchable. This is a huge time‐saver, which make my notes accessible and useful. Simply amazing!
Rob Cima, CFO and Co‐Founder