Many, many, many months ago, I decided my website needed a little sprucing up. My then site was a good a website — a stones throw from the very first website I designed, and it suited my purposes: it was easy to update, it had decent content and it wasn’t completely awful to look at. But, in this Web 2.0 world, it was looking more tired and more dated by the day. And while the website’s cute little table structure worked (even in IE 6!) it wasn’t exactly search-friendly. It was very 2005. Coincidentally, I think the site was designed in 2005. But, as the saying goes, “We’ve come a long way, baby!”
I really could not be more excited about the new site, and while there are a few areas I still want to flush out and a million work samples that need to get added in, it’s time to send it off into the interwebs.
But, before you go marvel at the beauty that is my new site, there is one final piece of business to attend to:
A Eulogy to My Website
I remember when you first came into my life. You made my dream — my business — seem real. Suddenly, anyone in the world could find me, see my work, and hire me. When the phone would ring, the magic words “I saw your website” were often the first words out of the caller’s mouth. You helped me grow, but more than that, you helped me believe in what Think Tank Creative could one day be. And you, you my little website, helped me get there.
Just this year, I was sitting in front of you, updating you, adding a news post here and a work sample there and enjoying the little bit of time I got to spend with you. What had been a pleasant experience for so many years was becoming harder and harder on both of us. You were getting old and technology was getting younger. I didn’t have the time to constantly update you. I’d try to add in a new fancy accessory and you would rebel by sending something else out of whack. We’d play a technology version of tug-of-war before one of us gave in. In the end, I think we both knew it was time.
Letting go wasn’t easy and it was hard to look at you in your final days. Websites don’t get a last meal or a special tribute. They just go away. Not you my little site. Your pieces are all stored so one day, you can be put back together just the way you always were. One day when we’re both ready.
But, it’s time. It’s time to let go, say goodbye and hope that my new site helps me grow as much over the next five years as you have over the past five. We’ve come a long way, baby.
TED Take 3. Today, we’re at the Sydney Harmon Hall in downtown Washington DC for TEDxMidAtlantic. As I’ve experienced in the past, I’m filled with anticipation to hear the inspiration and success of so many distinguished speakers. The TEDx crowd is mixed, I’m surrounded by young and old, government workers and accupuncturists — if there is one thing I love about TED it’s that there is never a shortage of diversity in the crowd. The speakers today are just as diverse. Everyone from Steve Case, AOL co-founder, to Sam Shelton, local DC design icon from KINETIK will be presenting. Needless to say, I’m ready.
The first session is actually already over and I know I’ve been remiss is blogging throughout, but third row center is not the ideal place to blog from. For act two, Ive secured a balcony seat so, stay tuned. In the meantime let’s use this break to get caught up. Due to a last minute cancellation Steve Case (@stevecase) was actually our first speaker of the day and started off by taking a picture of the audience — check his Twitter feed- it may be there. Steve talked to about the change he’s seen over the past 25 years in the Internet, DC as an innovative city, and politics. Most interesting of Steve’s points was the second wave of the Internet revolution which ne sees coming — a revolution where we transform the Internet into a useful tool in our everyday lifemand use it in areas such as healthcare.
Next up, Matt Mountain, a telescope scientist. Matt spoke to us about science outer space and the possibilities of other Earths, and other life. Much like Galileo did when he first turned his telescope to the sky, if we innovate, we can find new things.
UVA professor Saras Sarasvathy was up next. Saris spoke about the entrepreneurship that has revolutionized brands. BFI, the waste management giant, was started by an individual as a way to solve his HOAs trash problem. he saw a need, found a solution, and eventually made it his livelihood. In Saras’ research, she has found that entrepreneurs resist the idea of predicting the future, and instead finds that entrepreneurs succeed when they co-create. Changing “what I know” and “what can I do” into “what we know” and “what we can do” is when new things are created.
Our fourth presenter was Otis Rolley, a Baltimore city planner. He spoke of the relationships that exist in neighborhoods, and how humans and relationships build neighborhoods, not city planners.
Our final presenter before our artistic performance was Esther Dyson. Esther spoke about genes and predicting death and how based on our current situation, our predictions of death changes. Esther works with a company called 23andMe.com which takes you genes and predicts your likelihood of contracting certain illnesses.
Break one is almost over, so I’m going to secure my blog-friendly seat and will be back in a few.
Susan Shaw is kicking off our second session. Susan was a speaker at TEDxOilSpill, and is showing the lessons learned since the Gulf Oil – corporate negligence and lying. So what are we doing about the oil and the oil spill? We’ve formed a DOI Working Group. That working group has pointed out the impacts on a number of areas – including health impacts. The health impacts are many, and range from skin reactions to internal bleeding and liver and kidney problems. Susan asks, what if corporate culture integrated public health into accountability?
Francis Beland, another TEDxOilspill speaker, points out that we have had the same oil spill cleanup technology that we had when the Exxon Valdez spill. To motivate advancements in this area, a competition has been formed to challenge teams to create this new technology: www.iprizecleanoceans.org.
Cesar Harada, developer of Protei, is developing a boat which can pick up more of the oil then the typical surface collection will (3%). By creating a fleet of ocean blimps and allowing crowd sourced control over the skimmers, we can pick up more of the oil. Adam Pruden, is also developing oil skimming technology — SeaSwarm. Using a self-controlled robot with an oil absorbent cloth, a swarm of robots can skim more of oil off the water surface.
Christoph Gielen is a photographer who takes shots from above to show land use and infrastructure to show the sameness of development. Christoph chooses his locations based on foreclosure rates to identify patterned communities — something he defines as proof that developments are not just visually unappealing, but also financially unsustainable. Additional environmental issues can be spotted from above near planned developments; something that has caused Florida to reversed some of its planned land use from development zones to development-free zones.
Jackie Savitz from Oceana, is dedicated to saving oceans and ocean life. As a result, she works with Oceana to move from drilling to find fossil fuels to ocean wind power. From their findings, wind creates more energy and jobs, and powers more homes. She wants to change our national chant from “drill baby drill” to “turn baby turn.”
Microbiologist Dickson Despommier asks what if cities behaved like ecosystems? Currently, cities are an unsustainable entity. Can we change that? Yes, if create an ecosystem for our cities using urban farming – no runoff, no crop seasonality, no weather related crop loss, minimal controlled chemicals, fresh foods, creates jobs. One indoor acre is equivalent to ten outdoor acres. Dickson wants to see a federal interest in vertical urban farming.
If we can move a ton of goods at 423 miles per gallon why do we move a person at 18? Bill James wants to know the answer to that. He has developed the JPods, which look like a ski lift pod on a monorail, but is powered by a small motor and solar connectors. By switching to this technology the average family will increase their disposable income by more than $5000/family.
Yash Gupta shows how through lessons from business, we can learn the skills of resilience, rhythm and renewal; all things that our society — and our children — need to achieve.
Back from lunch, Iyeoka, who actually performed earlier in the day, is now on stage. Iyeoka is a poet, performer and pharmacist. Her poetry is stories of her life, her experiences and her memories.
Paula Kerger of PBS, a visionary in arts and media, believes that artists are the keys to the future. We must transform our classroom into places where creativity in the classroom. Why are students starting businesses outside of the classroom in their garages in their spare time and not in the classroom? Our classrooms are designed for the industrial age, not the modern innovative culture we are in.
Diana Laufenberg, a Philadelphia teacher, leads with the title “Embrace Failure.” When you give kids the tools to learn, you have to give them the opportunity to fail. Learning has to include a certain amount of failure, because without failure you can’t learn. If we continue to look at school as a place to get information we will miss the mark — we need to make it an experiential place that moves beyond the right or wrong of the standardized test.
Full disclosure, I’ve skipped blogging about the last two speakers and am skipping ahead to Sam Shelton, who I mentioned previously. In addition to being a partner at Kinetik, Sam is an adjunct professor at the Corcoran and asked students to come up with a real problem within the community that the students could solve. The first problem students identified was the commuter problem in DC and created breakthejam.com. Pedestrian safety was the second problem identified. They researched intersections with the highest fatality rates. They drew chalk outlines and handed out information about pedestrian safety. The students took the skills they learned and encouraged change.
With that, our tired fingers are signing off. The event is still going on for a few more speakers, so catch all of the action here:
I stumbled upon a great presentation from DC-based interactive agency Jess3 today. The presentation makes some great points about working with a designer and using your designer as a strategic partner for your organization.
Photography has always been a hobby of mine (so much so that in college, it was my secondary concentration, right behind graphic design). It probably started when my now 90-year-old grandfather gave me his old Nikon SLR camera and I needed an art elective. I learned to actually use the camera (no automatic exposure for me) and actually develop the film (granted it was black and white, so the process was easier, but still a time consuming — and a creative — process).
About two years ago, I decided to bite the bullet and buy myself a real digital camera. While I love it, I admittedly miss being in the dark room and waiting for shots to develop. I do not miss manually dodging and burning negatives. Hello, Photoshop.
Anyway, almost weekly I would take myself on walks — sometimes as far as the Arboretum or Eastern Market or as close as Georgetown. I’d have my camera with me for company, and when the mood struck, I’d shoot. Two themes began to develop: flowers (I hope to eventually continue my bugs life series) and food (I love cooking, food, wine, and everything related). On one walk in March of 2009 (probably one of the first warm days that year) I found myself in Georgetown, and in my favorite gourmet store, Dean and Deluca. I remember walking through the aisles being captivated by the displays of cheese, coffee, fruit, and meats and shooting all of it. And, of all the shots I took that day, I chose just one to post on Flickr — a shot of the coffee beans. There was something about the composition and the texture and the little hand written signs that captivated me.
Several months later, I was contacted by a publisher who liked my image and wondered if I’d be willing to provide a high-resolution version for inclusion in a book they were publishing. “Sure,” I said. They asked for a byline and an address and I sent the photo off on its way.
Fast forward several (many) months, and this arrives at my door:
This week, Gap quietly began rolling out a new logo: an odd blend of Helvetica typeface and a blue gradient box. Almost as quickly as the logo appeared on Gap.com, critics began slamming the new logo. The Consumerist comments, “the marketing geniuses at The Gap seem to have fiddled around with Photoshop for a few minutes and designed a new company logo that’s as bland and uninteresting as jeans and a black t-shirt. It’s not ugly, but it’s not memorable or creative, either. What were they thinking?” A fan on Gap’s Facebook page comments: “New logo lacks imagination-it’s as if I designed it!”
Gap surely realized there would be a backlash amongst brand loyalists. Let’s face it — getting rid of a 20 year old logo isn’t an easy thing to do. But is the logo ugly on purpose? Was it that Gap knew the new logo was so boring and run-of-the-mill that critics would immediately start talking about it and spur a renewed interest in the suffering brand?
Let’s face it, Gap has been doing some interesting promotions lately. On Groupon.com, Gap was the first retailer to launch a national promotion — one that resulted in the sale of 441,000 groupons and $11 million dollars in revenue. Then, last November, Gap turned a Vancouver store upside down — literally — overnight to promote its new loyalty program.
Most of the criticism of the new Gap logo has taken place on Twitter and Facebook — neither of which have been updated with the new logo. On Facebook, Gap responded to its more than 690,000 fans with a post stating: “Thanks for everyone’s input on the new logo! We’ve had the same logo for 20+ years, and this is just one of the things we’re changing. We know this logo created a lot of buzz and we’re thrilled to see passionate debates unfolding! So much so we’re asking you to share your designs. We love our version, but we’d like to see other ideas. Stay tuned for details in the next few days on this crowd sourcing project.”
Despite the countless articles, Tweets and Facebook posts about the logo, my gut says this isn’t Gap’s the final resting place.
Fall is officially here, and with that, the start of the Fall programming season. Tonight the event circuit kicks off at the Corcoran. Personally, I love attending lectures at the Corcorcan since the small space puts me just feet from design legends. Swoon. In the Spring, I enjoyed a lecture by Stefan Sagmeister in this very same venue. Tonight, Seymour Chwast, designer, illustrator and typographer.
A little background on Seymour: Born in 1931, Seymour attended the prestigious Cooper Union in New York City, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in 1951. In 1954, Seymour, along with design idol, Milton Glaser, Edward Sorel, and Reynold Ruffins, formed Pushpin Studios. Their distinctive style later became known as “The Push Pin Style” for its bulgy line style. The work has appeared in publications, posters, food packaging, and publicity art.
What am I supposed to be doing? I’m supposed to be working on the content for my new website. My new fabulous website. My new fabulous website that is so fabulous I actually have no desire to update my comparatively old, ugly, outdated website. The new one is really great — it’s modern, it’s clean, it’s bright, and it has lots of fun tools that I love and my developers hated. (Thanks, Related Media!) So why isn’t it live so you can all sing your praises? Procrastination. (That and my fabulous clients have kept me super busy — which is a super good thing that I’m really grateful for.) But tonight is a slow night, there is decent TV to keep me company and I really should be doing laundry so that I’m forced to take breaks every once in a while, and it really is an ideal time to knock out some web copy.
But oh! Is that a new issue of Fast Company? And I really would like to take a bath! And read my new magazine! Ok, I will! So I did. And now, I’m writing a blog post, because writing anything other than my web content sounds really fun right now. Sigh.
The Fast Company article explains how TED actually started: Richard Saul Wurman, renowned graphic designer and information architect, realized conference participants wanted a single track of programming — a shared experience that they could discuss in depth on breaks. Despite having participated in two different TEDx events in two different cities, I really hadn’t ever realized that the talks permeate the entire event. I knew I met lots of people at the events, I knew I discussed the talks, but I never realized that the shared experience of watching these talks was what I enjoyed most.
A few days ago @davidmcgraw posted a link to his favorite TEDxPotomac talk. The @joshsundquist TED talk was one of my favorites too, and one I had mentioned previously in my blog post on the event. So, we exchanged a tweet and continued the experience. I’ve been to a number of conferences and TED is the only one where I remember specific emotions, reactions, and topics. Perhaps it’s magic of the event, and perhaps it’s the shared experience. Or perhaps the format of TED is a format more conferences should emulate.
Below, my two favorite TED Talks from TEDxPotomac. Enjoy!
(These aren’t the official TEDxPotomac videos, in fact Luke Spring’s video isn’t from TED at all, but work with me!)
With the growing popularity of personal websites, and the fact that nearly all businesses have some form of a Website, trying to purchase a new .com name has become increasingly difficult. This week, .co domains were released for purchase on sites such as NetworkSolutions.com, GoDaddy.com and Register.com.
What’s a .co name? Essentially it is the same as a .com name — anyone can buy any available domain. In contrast to .net, .biz, and .us extensions, the .co is widely used in a number of countries including the UK (.co.uk) and Japan (.co.jp). This international use will help build credibility of this extension much faster than the .net and .biz extensions.
Who should buy a .co name? First, if you missed out on a great .com name for your business, you should buy a .co right away. We picked up ThinkTankCreative.co this morning. If you want to host a URL shortener on your site, you should pick one up also. Mashable.com has reported that Twitter purchased t.co for use as a link service.
There is one other group who should immediately purchase available .co names: associations. So often, associations go by their acronym equivalent to their full name. The National Association of Security Companies (NASCO), for example, should immediately snatch up nas.co. American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), you might want to consider grabbing as.co.
Domain names are cheap — just $29-39/year for these new extensions. Even if you hold on to the URL for three years and never use it, you’ve at least guaranteed that your competition doesn’t grab your name and use it to pull members and clients away from your business.
Welcome to Digital Capital Week (#dcweek for those of you on Twitter). DCWeek is a 10-day festival (full schedule here) focusing on technology, innovation and all things digital in our nation’s capital. As part of DC Week, about 30 participants gathered in a GW lecture hall to hear Zappos.com CEO Tony Hsieh. Hsieh’s book, Delivering Happiness debuted at number one on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com’s best seller lists.
Hsieh got his start in business back in college with, what else but, a pizza business. He bought a couple pizza ovens and started selling pizza to kids in the dorms. One customer, Alfred, would come in a buy a full pie. A few hours later, he would return for another one. Hsieh later figured out that Alfred was buying the pies and reselling the individual slices to other kids in the dorm. Alfred is now CFO of Zappos.com
From his pizza business, Hsieh went on to co-found LinkExchange. He hired his friends to work for him until the company got so big ran out of friends. Hsieh realized he had lost control of the business and it was no longer fun. He sold it to Microsoft.com.
Through his venture capital firm, Venture Frogs, Hsieh became involved in Zappos.com. Hsieh asked, “do we want to just sell shoes or, do we want to do something more meaningful?”
Customer service became the #1 priority for the company. When this shift occurred, Hsieh discovered that all levels of the company embraced customer service — the employees, the delivery people, the customers — it became a fundamental part of the corporate culture. Hsieh developed ten commit-able core values. Core values include “create fun and a little weirdness” which is intended to celebrate unique characteristics of each individual. These values are not only apart of the day-to-day work of the company, but also help drive the hiring process. Hsieh gave an example of how one core value — be humble — is “tested” during the interview process: All interview candidates are picked up on the Zappos.com shuttle bus. They are taken to the offices, where they are given a tour and then spend the day interviewing. They are then taken back via the shuttle. At the conclusion of the day, the shuttle bus driver is asked how the candidate treated them — poor treatment, no hire. Zapposinsights.com details all of these core values.
Zappos.com has found its success through developing a PEC or personal emotional connection: get the interaction right and they remember that for a very long time. For example, if Zappos.com doesn’t carry a product you are looking for, they will recommend another website that does. Do they lose that business? Sure. Do they build an emotional connection by searching the Web for the product you need? You bet. This attitude toward customer service naturally helped Zappos.com expand from shoes to other product lines.
In 2009, Zappos.com further expanded its brand to “delivering happiness,” the topic of Hsieh’s book. As a company, Zappos.com made the conscience decision to move towards a culture which no longer had to choose between making profits and customer service.
A number of articles exist as to how Hsieh empowers his employees to make customers happy whether it is including a personal note with a purchase, or just chatting with a lonely customer. Hsieh asks “what’s the ROI of a hug?”
Managers are also empowered to help build a corporate culture and are encouraged to spend 20-30% of their time outside of the office with their team. “Party with a purpose,” says Hsieh. Allowing his 500+ employees to do this has helped teams build levels of trust, improve communication and encourage a “lend a hand” attitude. Hsieh defines a good manager as someone who can fire an employee and then go have a beer together afterward.
For Hsieh, it’s not about paying huge salaries or having a checklist of benefits; it’s about hiring people who want to grow personally and professionally and within 5-7 years become senior leaders. That’s not to say he’s never made a bad hire. Hsieh says as businesses grow, there is the temptation to just put a warm body in the seat as quickly as possible rather than taking time to find the right person to fill the role. Hsieh estimates that bad hires have cost Zappos.com over $100 million.
In November of 2009, Amazon.com formally acquired Zappos.com in an all stock transaction valued at $1.2B. After the acquisition rather than top level executives taking the retention bonus, Zappos.com split it amongst all employees — equating to a 40% bonus to each employee. Hsieh certainly delivered happiness that day.
Hsieh asks, what if airlines followed this idea of “delivering happiness”? If one followed it, other airlines could probably survive. But, if a handful, or better yet, half, followed embraced a corporate culture of delivering happiness? The other half would not survive. Let’s hope Hsieh starts his airline soon!