The first year is important in any startup business. It’s a time where you are constantly clarifying your values, purpose, and direction. Our first year was no exception. We’ve re-written our business plan and crafted new value statements more times than I can remember, and I’m sure we aren’t finished. There is one thing that has stuck with us over the past year:

People First.

It’s our mantra.

To us, “people first” stands as a reminder to keep each and every interaction focused on what matters: the human beings we interact with. There are at least two ways this influences our daily decisions:

  1. We challenge irresponsible storytelling. Our industry is known for using poverty porn or misogyny to manipulate their audience to buy or donate. That’s not how we do things. We don’t exploit the people whose stories we’re telling and we don’t maliciously manipulate our audience. We believe that a better society needs better stories: stories that empower our subjects and inspire our audience.
  2. We’re the non-agency agency. You won’t hear industry jargon from us, and we don’t push client project off onto junior designers. We’re a small shop that takes a personal approach to each and every client we have. Our clients are more than a dollar sign to us; they’re a unique story that needs to be told with a personal and responsible approach.

Agree with us? Have a wallpaper! Free download of the above People First design is available for common screen sizes:

We’d love to lie to you and say that everything we do is the best thing ever. Truth is - getting to that perfect logo is quite the iterative process. And in that process we always lose a few good logos. Logos that are very close to us. Logos with a wife and kids that will now need to fend for themselves in the local coal mine; Breaking their backs with grueling work until one day, they find that golden ticket, inherit a chocolate factory and become the first child president of the United States. But I digress…

We will never forget you old logo friends. Rest in Pixel Peace.

This year has been extremely fun for us. We’ve had some incredible clients, met inspiring partners, and worked on challenging projects. We’ve partnered with clients from across 5 states (Colorado, California, Tennessee, Wash D.C., Louisiana) and two countries (Viva la’ Mexico!), all from an extremely diverse set of industries: food, creative, education, activism, marketing, and health. Along the way, we’ve better learned how to communicate great stories that move people and how to find the perfect balance of coffee and beer to keep you inspired as well as productive. Sorry, can’t share that one yet. Proprietary information.

Special shout-out to the following clients. It’s been a pleasure partnering with you all and we can’t wait to see where you trailblaze next:

We’re geeks and proud of it. Not to suggest that our work day isn’t productive, but we do spend an inordinate amount of time discussing video games, ogling new technology, and completing complicated algebraic manipulation on our pocket calculators (2 truths and a lie).

So it’s easy to see why we were thrilled to work on a logo re-design for Pixel Space, a self-proclaimed Geek Haven located right in the center of the Boulder startup scene. Pixel Space exists as an alternative to local area hotels, offering tech recruits a personalized rental space to call their own as they get to know Boulder and the startup companies headquartered there. We’ve been in touch with Matt Sisson, the co-founder at Pixel Space for a while now, and have had the privilege of seeing his new space as he revamps it into the geekiest (and therefore, best) private rental space we’ve ever seen. Since we’ve had personal experience with the space and an inside look at his evolving vision, he asked us to take a second look at the logo and see if we could make it fit a bit better.

First, we should mention, we’re standing on the shoulders of giants here. Pixel Space’s first logo, was brilliantly designed by Gerren Lamson, who never saw the space and put something together while the founder’s idea was still in its infancy. We couldn’t have made the progress we did without his original work. Hashtag - Shout Out.

For this project, as with all of our branding projects, we followed a 4-step process, Discovery, Concept, Creative, and Review.

Discovery

The way we see it, the discovery phase is the most important part of our process. Digging into the values and purpose of our client’s businesses and organizations is the only way we’re able to deliver creative work that effectively communicates our client’s messages. In this case we focused on a couple of key messages we picked up from the founders of Pixel Space:

Pixel Space has been built as two things:

  1. A home away from home, a private place to relax and feel comfortable (geek or not).
  2. A community hub - at the center of the startup scene in Boulder; connecting recruits to the resources they might need like coffee shops, working spaces, pubs, transportation and career connections.

Concept

Our concept ended up being pretty simple. We focused in on the idea of the Pixel itself - that smallest of spaces that we fill up with big ideas; the building blocks of the past three decades and the foundation of the future.

Technically, pixels are tiny intersections where data is turned into a visual reality. A similar thing could be said about Pixel Space - it’s a small space where ideas, people, and dreams intersect and become reality. We decided to focus in on that idea - the intersection, and what better way to do that, then to highlight the most prominent (in our opinion) feature of the word pixel: the “X”. In this case, X marks the space - Pixel Space, the center of all things “startup” in Boulder.

 

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Creative

One of the critiques we had about the previous design was that Pixel Space seemed like an intimate, personal brand, and the previous logo felt larger, more intimidating than it should - a bit corporate. We attempted to simplify the logo to something more simple, approachable, and flexible for use at any of the future Pixel Space sites, no matter what the interior or exterior design might look like. Staying true to our pixel concept, we chose our fonts for its “square” features.

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Our “X” icon emphasized the center pixel as a representation of where Pixel Space sits in the Boulder ecosystem. Our original concepts had a softened icon and font to keep things feeling approachable and “home-y”.

 Review

At one of the loveliest lunch meetings we’ve had at The Kitchen [Next Door] in Boulder, we presented our initial concepts to Matt. He provided us with feedback (Sharper! UPPERCASE FONTS! Ramming Speed!) and we honed in some of our original ideas to the final option below:imageimage

 

We’re extremely excited for Matt and Tommy’s idea to take off - if you’re in the Boulder / Denver area, make sure to stop by Pixel Space’s Open House event on Friday. If you’re a techie looking for a job, or a company looking to recruit in Boulder, get in contact with Pixel Space through their site.

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We officially launched Land & Sea Co. in September of 2012. For the past 9 months, my partner (Ben) and I (Ryan) have been working across the country from one another. Ben in Denver, me in San Diego. Land and Sea. (Get it?) Needless to say Google Hangouts and weekend mobile minutes have made long-distance business relationship much easier than they once were. But, for us, the situation has never been ideal. We’re people people. We prefer face-to-face interactions with our clients and with each other. We believe that close collaboration and community lead to better work, better relationships, and happier people.

So it is with great joy that I announce the following news: This summer, both halves of Land & Sea Co. will be working from Denver, Colorado. My wife and I ( and our cat Huxley ) just quit our jobs and made the reverse pioneer trip across the Rockies ( Go East Young Man! ) to join Ben and his wife. Ben and I will be working together these next two months on connecting with trailblazers in the Denver / Boulder metro area who need help telling their story and communicating to their customers. A couple of things:

  1. We like you guys. We’ve met some phenomenal clients and fellow friends without benefits (freelance creatives) over these past 9 months and we’re excited to continue working with you, no matter where you live and work. 
  2. Now that we are “differently employed” and have some more time on our hands, we are planning to update our Facebook page and Twitter account with a bit more frequency. If you haven’t connected with us yet, please do - we want to hear where all the best Denver/Boulder after-parties are. We are also interested in before-parties and during-parties.
  3. We’d like to limit these blog updates to creative work only. If you’re interested in getting some of our more personal updates, please sign up for our email newsletter. We’ll start sending out monthly updates in July. 
  4. And finally - the obligatory ask: If you are in the Denver / Boulder area and looking for a couple of dapper young gentlemen to help you brand or rebrand your business, non-profit, or non-categorizable project of awesome, please don’t hesitate to reach out. We thoroughly enjoy talking about projects over a cold beer or a waffle breakfast.  Also, we are pretty good at jumping for photos ( if you are looking for that kind of thing ):

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Onward!

I grew up during the era of cereal box mascots, burger-chain jingles, and talking animals that sold beer. As a kid, I wanted a set of Creepy Crawlers to scare off girls (like I needed help) - And I knew that the Super Soaker CPS 4100 would solidify my dominance of the elementary school playground (Johnny Depp approves this message).

It was the rise of cable television, the beginning of Super Bowl Commercials. An era when the marketing industry was buying up commercial advertising by the millions of dollars to, seemingly, yell at kids to buy their products. Think I’m exaggerating? Remember this commercial?


How about this one?


It’s a miracle we can focus on anything at all, growing up on that headache-inducing crap.

Simply put, my generation grew up on stuff. From Chia pets to Koosh balls, stuff was king - and we were kings if we had stuff. Or at least, that’s what they told us. And we literally bought into it. And now we’re all grown up and we want more.

No, not more stuff, we’ve got plenty. All that empty “consuming” has left a bad taste in our mouth. We’re interested in something deeper. We’re looking more meaning, more significance, more connection. We now know that “stuff” only matters to us now if it holds significance, if it adds meaning and value to our lives. So we seek out craft products, socially-oriented businesses, authentic relationships. Don’t confuse it as a fad - we’re seeking something deeper. We’re looking for connection, conversation, and meaning.

Let me pull out another piece of nostalgia from my childhood. Remember this scene from Disney’s Aladdin?


What’s so great about this scene (besides Robin William’s phenomenal improv) is that the marketer (in every original sense of the word) moves from selling stuff to telling a story. A story about love and friendship, about not judging someone by their outward appearance and about changing your fate. A distinctly human story. And at the end of that story, our lives are enriched. Whether we buy the lamp or not, we’re better for the interaction.

The scene is inspired from the history of the ancient marketplace. The original marketplace was not just a place to purchase stuff. It was the central storytelling hub of any city. A pound of spice came with tales of the place the spice originated from, the people who lived there and the journey it took to travel from there to here. Adventure and exploration and myth and legend all combined with products to turn stuff into something more. These markets defined people’s place in the world and infused their stuff with meaning about what it meant to live - to be a part of a community.

Today it’s a rare exception for our stuff to mean something. For every commercial advertisement that enriches our lives, 10 others waste our time. They yell at us. They tell us to buy, because it’ll make us happier - more enviable. But we know better. We know that stuff won’t make us happy. Only stories can do that. Meaningful stories. The kind that inspire us to become better people, the ones that build community and make the world a more meaningful, valuable place.

We want to bring back the ancient art of trading stories with our stuff. We want to craft stories that engage and inspire, and build enterprises that add value and human connection to our lives. We want people to be better after their interactions with businesses and nonprofits, whether they buy or not.

For those of you who are still reading (I’m not offended, our generation’s ADD is one persistent son-of-a-bitch), we want you to do something tonight. Turn on the tv or scour the internet and see if you can spot the diamonds in the rough. Which advertisements, if any, move you? When you find one, let us know by tweeting with the hashtag #BetterBrand and telling us about it on Twitter, @LandSeaco. Make sure to follow the tag to keep up on the conversation as we move forward. If you can’t find any, tweet us anyway and tell us about the commercials that wasted your time and added nothing to your day. The world deserves better stories - It’s time we demand them from our culture’s storytellers.

It is said that in 1914, Ernest Shackleton placed the preceding recruitment ad in a London newspaper. He was building a team for his expedition to Antarctica, with the intention of crossing the southern continent. His ad is extremely honest, and for good reason. You see, Shackleton wasn’t looking for just anybody to join his team. He was recruiting team members that valued significance over profits, adventure over stability - a team that could literally weather the elements for the chance to leave a lasting legacy.  

We’re looking for something similar.

Six months ago my partner Ben and I officially launched our business, Land & Sea Co. I’ll admit, it was a leap of faith, and our original goals were pretty vague. Mostly we just wanted to design logos. But then something changed. We began meeting with amazing clients who had big dreams, and we started wanting more for ourselves and for our business. The purposes that motivated our clients made us realize that there was so much more to what we had started than just logos or business plans. In discovering what made our clients tick, we stumbled onto what makes us tick as well.

Here’s what we learned:

We Want More ——————————————————————————————

Our generation wants meaning. Significance. We want to hear stories that matter. Stories that make us better than we were before we heard it. Skip the lip service, we want real connections, with real people. We’re drawn to people that care. About each other, about our cities and our planet, about the work we do and the value we can add to our communities.

We are sick of being sold to. We’re bored with social media campaigns that treat us as just another number, and we’re tired of collecting YouTube celebrities and placing them on the same pedestal we place real heroes. We either fast forward through commercials or we mute them because I swear, if I see that damned Gecko one more time … We are so much more than a “like” or a retweet. We are more than consumers. We are creators and collaborators and storytellers and neighbors and we’re ready to be treated like it.

As a branding firm, we’re now a part of an industry that has been maligned and mistrusted for decades, and perhaps rightly so, because as storytellers we have held the power to add significance and meaning and beauty to our daily lives and instead we’ve chosen to manipulate those around us in pursuit of the bottom line. Ben and I are not interested in manipulation. We don’t want to sell crap to people who don’t need it. We want to do something more.

And maybe it’s impossible to succeed as a business without having the end goal of profits in mind, but we want to try. Because we’re no longer satisfied with being just another logo design agency. We want to leave a mark. We want to lead a movement of storytellers who believe that humanity deserves better stories. Stories that make us better friends, neighbors, and citizens. We want to craft heartfelt tales of people living out their passions, not to manipulate and make a sale - just to inspire and engage. To make the world a more beautiful, worthwhile place.

Go Further With Us ——————————————————————————————

TentOver the next few months, we’re going to focus on figuring out the best way to do that. We’ll start by listening to those exceptional few who are doing it right. We’re going to read and write and discuss and take time to discover how we can disrupt this industry and infuse it with meaning and significance. We’ll be posting our thoughts as we go.

But we can’t do it alone, which is why we’re writing this today. Consider it our own recruitment ad (not as succinct as Shackleton’s, but hey, I’m not paying by the letter here). We’re looking for motivated trailblazers, business owners, storytellers, and creatives to take part in the discovery and discussion with us through blog posts, chats, group events, and whatever else we imagine. If you’re interested in taking part in that conversation, leave us a comment below or send us a quick hello at contact@landandseaco.com. If you’d rather just follow along, feel free to sign up for our email updates or follow us on Twitter.

More to come…

The Peach Truck re-brand. Brand development and design by Land & Sea Co. Case study notes on Behance. 
The Peach Truck re-brand. Brand development and design by Land & Sea Co. Case study notes on Behance. 
The Peach Truck re-brand. Brand development and design by Land & Sea Co. Case study notes on Behance. 
The Peach Truck re-brand. Brand development and design by Land & Sea Co. Case study notes on Behance. 
The Peach Truck re-brand. Brand development and design by Land & Sea Co. Case study notes on Behance. 
The Peach Truck re-brand. Brand development and design by Land & Sea Co. Case study notes on Behance. 
The Peach Truck re-brand. Brand development and design by Land & Sea Co. Case study notes on Behance. 

The Peach Truck re-brand. Brand development and design by Land & Sea Co. Case study notes on Behance