This post has been long overdue. Last November, we were crazy lucky to be a part of something pretty special. We were approached by a friend and the founder of Fancy Boys, Martin Gomez. Gomez and I (Dom) first had met in design school more than a decade ago. He wanted to throw an event. So, we wanted to bring some things that we loved—good things—together and see what would happen. It became a beautiful creative collaboration that culminated into a great finale.
This is what went down.
We approached Beau's All Natural Brewing Company located nearby in Vankleek Hill. We asked if we could make a special batch of brew to coincide with our event. We pitched an idea making a Tacolot-inspired brew...and we bring the Antique Skate Crew up for visit...and can we do this in the next couple of months?
Steve, TIna and Jordan from Beau's said, "Yes, yes and yes."
The name 'Road Rash' came within a 5-minute chat with Jordan (Beau's amazing Creative Director) that same day. Beers, tacos and skateboards.
It was perfect.
This is the video our buddy, Guillaume Lebel shot when we transformed the Beau's brewery into a skatepark for a day.
This is the photo shoot by Andrew Szeto.
Fuck e-vites. We designed and made beautifully-etched personal invitations.
This is the party invite.
Fuck email. Gomez and I picked a diverse group of people (some friends, some strangers, all talented hard-working people) that we admired and inspired us by doing great things in Ottawa. One afternoon, we picked a route from East to West then we showed up at their door and invited them.
We just gave them a time and a place, no more info than that. Our guess was that if we picked the right people, that would be all they needed to be curious enough to show up.
This is how we invited people.
This is the setup.
This is 150+ people having some fun.
Good Things was ambitious and we far surpassed our goals. But we wouldn't have achieved anything without the following people.
Jon Reilly-Roe (Tacolot)
Aaron Cayer & Team (Antique Skate)
Steve Beauchesne, Jordan Bamforth, Christina Stuewe, Matthew O'Hara & the entire team (Beau's All-Natural Brewery Company)
Briana Kim (Café My House)
Michael Farber (Farbs Kitchen)
Adrian Salamunovic & Nazim Ahmed (CanvasPop)
Martin Gomez, Neil Madagzia, Darcy Aubin, Robyn Bascombe (Fancy Boys)
Chrystale Ladouceur (N-Product)
And finally, thank you to everyone who came out that night. Thank you for the constant support and inspiration.
We have been using Shopify as our e-comm platform since day 1. At the end of last year, we were lucky enough to be selected as their spokespeople in a promo video for their big website relaunch. Pretty huge for little guys like us.
A few things happened.
New web store. New designs. New(ish) brand.
It was always part of the master plan, we would always roll back under the N-Product roof once after we launched Deckster. We took a risk when we first launched by putting the Deckster name out in front of our company name. We needed something catchy and sticky and it stuck. We received great exposure and press and deckster.ca was getting good traffic from day 1.
The Deckster Timepiece was a huge endeavour for us, we designed, manufactured and marketed a product in a very new segment. In an attempt to be sticky, we lead with the product name. And that name stuck, we received great press for our design, but we knew that the day where Deckster will have to take a step back.
But in the last 8 months, we have been busy little beavers. We brainstormed, designed, prototyped tons of products. 99% of them were scrapped. Check out what we had baking in the oven. The dream of 'products without limitations' is slowly taking shape. The baby is walking now.
Thirty-nine. That's the number of bits and pieces that make up one Deckster, packaging, inserts and all. In our tiny workshop, each one is hand-assembled. Once packaged, after a hug and a kiss (we wipe it afterwards), it's sent into the world ready to love and to be loved.
Our one year anniversary came and went, and in keeping with the current pattern we were too busy to really notice. September 12 the day was, if anyone is keeping score. There may have been a quick note on Facebook or Twitter and a quick high-five, before we buried our heads back into the grind. We celebrated by assembling and packaging Decksters and writing mailing labels!
To know us, you must understand that we are obsessed about the little details. Whenever we can, we try to add certain subtle design elements that may have been missed on first or even second view; but they are there, sitting and waiting to be discovered.
The same is true for the Deckster logo. Here's some insight behind the logo and how it found its way in becoming what you see today. From the beginning, we knew that the cassette tape would be a strong design influence, from the name, the Pop + Lock System to logo itself.
As for the name, we never ever considered using the “i” preface to the name such iDeckster or iDeck. We both thought that any variation of that would iSuck. So we thought of a couple others. Nanodeck. Didn’t like it. Timedeck. Lame. Nanotimedeck. Super lame. Decktime. You get the drift.
Deckster was our first thought, the only issue we had was that if someone heard their name, they immediately thought of a certain sexy and aloof serial killer on HBO.
Here's some early sketches with the other (crap) name options.
Once, we settled on the name. We wanted the typography to mimic that shiny ribbon that 'holds' the music inside a cassette tape. The typography needs to feel like the tape ribbons while maintaining legibility, single colour reproduction and scaling, etc. All those silly classic logo design rules.
The base typeface was Steiner Light, similar to Bauhaus and few others. Steiner Light is a simple sans serif font with no odd counters and other weird type anatomy. We decided on all lower cases, softer in view while the name is quick and bold to say out loud. The lower casing made for easier work kerning and other modifications.
We identified certain parts of the letterform that we wanted to modify.
A close-up of the positioning and interplay between 2 characters in particular.
After mods to shoulders, finials, descenders and ascenders. Here's a before and after.
Once we were happy with the custom mods, we kerned them real tight. Then we needed to do a bit of clean-up.
In this view, you can see that each character is made of multiple points on the curves. Makes for a less than perfect radius. Sure, no one would notice except us, but no matter. We couldn't sleep at night if those errant points stayed.
The mess zoomed in! The horror.
We wanted the logo to be made up strictly concentric circles and straight lines. So, we needed to be overhauled. Fresh start anyone?
You get a concentric circle. Everyone gets a concentric circle.
Look how clean this is. I mean, it only has enough points to create the shape. No more, no less.
Finally done! Now, we knew that we would roll out various styles for the Deckster. We needed an unique modifier to our identity. We are using the ________:CLASS structure. The FIRST:CLASS speaks to the high quality of the design and materials, and because....it's the first style out of the oven. Genius right? To balance and unify the identity with its imodifier, we used a 'slash' that if you measure from the baseline, it's the same angle as the radius of the Deckster when opened. Neato!
So there you have it. A simple design, that took a bit of time, elbow grease and a heathy dose of typographic obsession.
Watch the clip and skip all the wordy/paragraphy parts.
The board game Snakes and Ladders is a great metaphor for the life of an entrepreneur. A simple roll of the dice and your path can dramatically change in an instant. The following is a little tale that involves a (fortuitous) ladder.
May 11th was a Wednesday, ordinary in almost every way. I had just finished a late shift working on our 8 month old startup the evening before and back at my day job with a little 4 hour nap in between. Throughout the day, I had noticed some mention of a little Shopify (our platform) contest on Twitter. Didn’t register at all.
Day swapped places with night and I found myself back in front of my laptop punching in for another shift at the mom & pop shop that is our company. In between emails to suppliers, corp blog posts and refining our product packaging, I glanced over to my Twitter stream to notice a reminder tweet from @accordianguy (né Joey Devilla) that the Shopify contest was closing at midnight.
The time was 11:15 pm.
This time I clicked. Win a 45 min Skype session with Gary Vaynerchuk, add your best lesson learnt as an entrepreneur in the comments and best one wins. Gary is a busy man. He does this, this and all of these. Did is kind of a big deal.
‘Sure, why not’ is sometimes one of the most compelling reasons for action. So I added the following comment:
<< Discipline, it applies to every facet of entrepreneurship (and life really). Selecting a set of values and staying true to it. Crafting, nurturing and sharing your brand narrative. Knowing your comfort zone and making a call to jump out of it. Making promises to customers/employees/supply partners and following through. Perfecting a product/service and knowing when to release and iterate. Assembling the right people who share a culture of discipline.
Being completely exhausted and replying to the last few customer emails. Being utterly consumed and realizing that it’s time for family and friends. Having discipline is the common thread. Hard to do but always rewarding. >>
I clicked ‘submit’. The page refreshed, but my comment didn’t display. Hmmm. Moderation maybe? Server congestion? Just to be safe, let’s try this again. So I repeated my actions and clicked ‘submit’ again. This time the comment displayed. The time was 11:43 pm.
By the next morning, I had forgotten about the contest until a fateful email from Team Shopify dropped in my inbox a couple of mornings later. ‘Good news, we selected your comment as the best in the Win a Power Session with Gary Vaynerchuk Contest!
Shut. The. Front. Door.
I didn’t even have the chance to tell my wife and business partner that I had entered the contest. Suffice it to say that we were pretty ecstatic about the turn of events. This opportunity cannot be measured in any typical fashion. Huge.
The Skype chat was to take place the following week. How can we possibly organize our thoughts into a coherent structure so we can maximize this 45 min session without just peppering him with questions? Opportunities like this just aren't common—Gary was a person in high demand, his typical audience fills auditoriums. We decided that the best route was a casual conversation; just enjoy the experience for what it was. When the meeting time was finalized, my wife couldn’t make it since we still worked full time. 1 on 1, just me and Gary V. Breathe, be cool, and don’t talk too much, repeat.
Then came the familiar Skype ring.
Our conversation lasted longer than the scheduled 45 min. It was a very relaxed and enjoyable conversation. It was authentic. And it was game changing experience for me and our company. Five minutes into the chat, you quickly see firsthand Gary’s passion for business, and more importantly his passion to help build other businesses. Instead of a Q & A, it became a brainstorm session. He listened, and then he sprang into action. First, he cracked the window open for us, then he left us a key under the doormat and finally he left the key in the ignition with the motor running.
He introduced us to some really key contacts, along with sharing some very direct and applicable advice, all of which are invaluable; but after the chat he emailed me with a simple tip that really resonated with me.
‘Try to offer your services to these new contacts also, don’t make it just about you.’
This struck a cord with me. When you’re a startup, you are so hungry for a break of any manner (a review, an article, a purchase order, etc.), you forget that it’s still about relationships. What can you do for them also? Building a business and building a relationship are similes.
Having someone like Gary like our product and company philosophy is mind-blowing. He is exposed to dozens of ideas, startups and brands every day. It has definitely given us fuel to keep plugging away. Long nights and long roads are still ahead, but this experience has giving us a big lift. In keeping with the Snakes & Ladders analogy, on that eventful day Gary Vaynerchuk was our escalator.