This site showcases the (mostly) digital work of Andrew DiFiore from both Virtual Arts Studios and answerYES Interactive as well as random thoughts and experimental projects too volatile to be contained anywhere else.

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    I was recently interview for the Profits & Passions section of the Fairfield County Business Journal about my passion for puzzle making. Below is the article and you can download some free mazes here.

    Profits & Passions : Andrew DiFiore Jr.
    A Puzzling Phenomenon

    By David Toth

    Engaging the right and left side of his brain has been Andrew DiFiore Jr.’s focus for much of his work and leisure life. As a Web designer, he uses a visually creative approach to express his clients’ businesses on the Internet. As a creator of mazes and puzzles, he uses his analytical mind to keep people guessing at every turn of the pencil.

    Owner and creative head of Stamford-based answerYES Consulting, DiFiore works with freelance talent to provide clients with the photos, copy and designs necessary to create and implement an online marketing campaign.

    “We help define what a market might be for a customer and we build a marketing strategy and we have the collaterals necessary to build it.

    The collaterals might be viral marketing, e-mail campaigns or e-mail newsletters.

    After working for Internet provider Prodigy for seven years in the 1990s, followed by Thomson Media, where he created a system for taking classified ads online, DiFiore felt he was ready to strike out on his own. Partnering with Peter Johnson, another Thomson alumnus whose background is in marketing, the new company focused on combining solid marketing skills with the Internet medium.

    In his spare time, DiFiore designs photorealistic mazes that use a commonplace setting, such as a diner for the backdrop of a game. The goal of photorealistic design is to use software, such as Adobe Photoshop, to make an illustration look like a photo. In one of his drawings, a bowl of soup looks close to what you would see in the diner. Upon closer inspection, the gaps in the hardwood floor act as the conduits through which the maze can be navigated. “Anything with a pattern can be used for a maze,” said DiFiore, referring to a picture where the bathroom’s tiles contained the maze.

    Another maze, a pile of playing cards combines the maze with the challenge of finishing with the highest poker hand.

    The fascination with puzzles began as a kid, when he would wade through The New York Times magazine, to complete the mazes.

    “They would incorporate current events and cultural icons, like Star Wars and Battlestar Galactica. I like mazes because of the escapism. You’re sort of focused on getting out.”

    But far from relegating mazes to a rainy day, DiFiore uses them in his business as well. Keeping visitors hooked on a Web site is an online marketer’s goal and entertaining visitors with games, many of which get passed on from user to user, is one way to generate a captive audience. The official name given to marketing techniques that exploit pre-existing social networks is “viral marketing,” and DiFiore’s work capitalizes on the concept.

    Boston-based Dusty Brand, a clothing line, hired DiFiore to create a game that asks viewers to find the differences in two illustrations in an allotted time.

    “The goal is to create games that users could e-mail to one another and which would reinforce the company’s image.”

    The key is to provide consumers with a brand experience, one that is active and therefore more likely to stick.

    “With more passive strategies, like online video, people have fun, but they don’t remember the brand afterwards.”

    DiFiore created a game for a photographer’s business that challenges viewers to memorize an image and compare that image with a photo that differs from the original only in the slightest of details.

    The many years of creating games and puzzles have resulted in enough material for a book and DiFiore is in talks with game-book publisher Sterling. Though not in contract yet, he plans on publishing a book of mazes next year.

    “In that case, I will create my own viral campaign.”

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    Prison Communities International (PCI) is a non-profit organization dedicated to criminal justice issues. Founded by Katherine Vockins and Hans B. Hallundbaek as a bridge the gap between the public and the criminal justice system, addressing issues from capital punishment to rehabilitation through the arts. Please check out their new website to learn more.

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    International Center for Integrative Studies (ICIS) is a global community of thought leaders from all walks of life dedicated to developing solutions to the most pressing problems facing our world today. ICIS was founded in 1962 by Erling A. Thunberg to help address the humanitarian concerns many scholars and scientists had at the end of the 1950s regarding the future.

    In 2003 I had created a basic HTML website for a subsidiary of ICIS called RiverTides, an organization providing educational support to local nonprofits representing a wide variety of social causes. Three years later (after answerYES Consulting was established) I was asked to create a new website and private forum for ICIS, folding RiverTides into this new site architecture. It was decided the site would be built under the open-source content management system Drupal, designing a custom theme that reflected a more contemporary image of the organization.

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    My first XML driven Flash photography site showcasing the beautiful work of Una Petrino of Photography by Una. She has a great eye for portraits. Her studio is located in Yorktown Heights, NY.

    answerYES Interactive featured in Business section of The Advocate for its redesign of the Prison Communities International website. I had a very cordial conversation with Richard Lee, the Business Editor for The Advocate, in which we delve into Web 2.0 design, viral marketing, and how nonprofits can benefit from emerging technologies like social media. You can read the entire interview here.

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