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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    The story of Easter is the story of God’s wonderful window of divine surprise. One of my favorite quotes of the holiday season.

    Yes, it is a maze. A while back, I created a series of holiday “maze” cards like this one and this one. They were sent only to family and friends along with a personalized greeting (removed). I’ve been asked by some readers not to share the solution of my mazes until after they have had a go at it. Apparently, even catching a glimpse can reveal too much so if you really need help, post a comment and I’ll send you the solution.

    Dreidel! Dreidel! Dreidel!

    I made this maze originally as a holiday card back in 2002. Many of my puzzles are based on some bit of tradition, history, or trivia, so for Hanukkah I picked one of the most recognizable symbols of the holiday: the dreidel!

    Every year I forget the exact rules of the dreidel game so I’m recording them here for the sake of my failing memory as well as for my gentile readers.

    A dreidel (sevivon in Hebrew which means “to turn”) is a four-sided top with a Hebrew letter on each side. The letters are: נ (Nun), ג (Gimmel), ה (Hay) and ש (Shin), which stand for the phrase Nes Gadol Haya Sham which means “A great miracle happened there” (there being Israel).

    Any number of people can play. At the beginning of the game each player is given an equal number of Hanukkah gelt (usually chocolate coins wrapped in gold tin foil but anything can be used).

    At the beginning of each round, every player puts one piece into the center pot. They then take turns spinning the dreidel, with the following meanings assigned to each of the Hebrew letters:

    • Nun or “nichts” which means “nothing” in Yiddish. If the dreidel lands with a nun facing up the spinner does nothing.
    • Gimmel or “ganz” which is means “everything.” If the dreidel lands with the gimmel facing up the spinner gets everything in the pot.
    • Hey or “halb” which means “half”. If the dreidel lands with a hey facing up the spinner gets half of the pot.
    • Shin or “shtel” which means “put in.” If the dreidel lands with a shin facing up the player adds a game piece to the pot.

    If a player runs out of gelt they are out.

    Happy Hanukkah!

    St. Patrick’s Day is an enchanted time — a day to begin transforming winter’s dreams into summer’s magic. And to help celebrate the day, a maze of shamrocks. Enjoy!

    The Pieces of My Heart

    Digging through my old collection of mazes that I’ve created over the years (see Daedalus My Muse), decided to make a few “special occasion” ones available here on Virtual Arts for non-commercial use and distribution. So Happy Velentine’s Day and enjoy the pieces of my heart.

    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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