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A Face Made For Web Radio

October 10, 2011

The Firestone Clarke Report is an Ottawa-based web radio show hosted by Dr. Bruce Firestone and Jennifer Clarke. Bruce is pillar in the local community, his involvement spans real estate, business, mentorship, consulting, charity and by the way, he was just one of the architects that brought the NHL to this fair city. Jennifer is a personal life/business mentor, who has a steep background in radio. In between her speaking engagements and monthly columns, she's also the host of Carleton University's CKCU The Namaste Show: Good News For A Change for over 11 years. 

The two have a great on-air dynamic, the show deals primarily with entrepreneurship from the entrepreneurs point of view. Dom (the guy part of N-Product) was invited on along with Janak Alford of Prototype D (Urban Workshop) to talk about startups, making things and trying to build a community of creatives, hackers and tinkerers in Ottawa. 

Hope you enjoy it! It was good fun.

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Listen to internet radio with FirestoneClarkReport on Blog Talk Radio

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.

 

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.

Just Pop+Lock+Go.

Deckster Video

Here is the video: https://vimeo.com/24153420

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 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 and 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.

 

Le Nouveau User Guide

May 05, 2011

From the get-go, we always wanted to divert from the norm. If they went right, we'd go left. If they zigged, we'd moonwalked. 
 
You get the drift. 
 
So, when it was time to complete our product packaging, we really didn't want to go the traditional route and have some bland printed materials. We figured that both the Deckster and our customers were too smart to require extensive instructions. The Deckster is fun to use, so why can't the instructions be a little more fun too? Who's with us?
 
 
We went with a single small card, scrapped all the small text mumbo-jumbo, added a link to product care page and threw in a little wee QR code to play our user guide video that we affectionately call, 'Love Your Deckster: A Brief Visual Aid to Joy & Happiness'.
 
https://vimeo.com/nproduct/loveyourdeckster
Now, wasn't that better than some quad-fold piece of paper that you'd chuck in the trash anyway?

A Compelling Tweet

March 01, 2011

Sometimes putting yourself out there compels you to act. This tweet changed the course for our entire family for the next few months. While both of us were working full-time, raising our son, trying to remember to walk our dog and making sure our relationship wasn't the last thing on our lists of priorities, something special happened. Together, propelled by our desire to create, we made something. 

Something pretty cool. 

And to think, I even had 36 characters to spare.

 

Hey, just wanted to post a quick video of a run through of some early prototypes along with the final model. I talk about the visual influences and decision process we had for the overall design. At the end of video, I give a better sense of the custom Pop+Lock™ mechanism that we are so excited about. 

It was shot late at night while the rest of house was snoozing, so you may need to turn up the volume to hear my smooth and silky radio voice.