We’ve been dogleganing it up this morning in the studio… unfortunately, there’s no “Humanganger” for Noodles.
Take a look!
Day two in the Cream City was long and very interesting. After a productive day yesterday, we are still alive, but find ourselves in a new room. A boy named sue showed up unexpectedly and Roman rode a train like a hobo.
We holed up in the Sandbox (we were led to believe there would be a Wii) for the better part of 12 hours. Designing, mapping, thinking, arguing, presenting and ultimately figuring out the best way to present ourselves on our little corner of the Internet.
We will return to Chicago today. This city of beer barons, Harley’s and your Milwaukee Brewers has treated us well. It allowed us to focus almost entirely on the new nelsoncash.com and further strengthen our bond.
We ate well, we laughed… but most importantly, we learned that Link & seafood is no bueno.
The Nelson Cash team has left Chicago for the Brew City. We are here to execute a super secret mission. This mission in front of us has nothing to do with redesigning our website. And by nothing, we mean everything.
Last night, we left the confines of the horse hotel on a food gathering mission at the (maybe) famed Milwaukee Ale House. We feasted on beer, root beer, cheese and other foodstuffs. Link ate a large rack of ribs.
Once we found our way back to the hotel and after a few drinks to grease up the creative wheels, we got into the meat of planning. Finally, the “ah-ha” moment hit Gage, “Look. I’ve got our wireframes right here.”
Many of us had mesh shorts on by the end of the night. This was not before playing a friendly game of “pass the talking helmet ” while planning the task ahead.
As of 10:27am on Thursday, our supplies are holding up and morale remains in check. More to come as it develops… AMERICA!!!
Check out more photos over on our Facebook page.
We’ve been working for 2 months solid on a campaign for one of our clients. So when you’re working for a worldwide, innovative brand and you need to come up with a campaign that trumps anything they’ve done in the past, where do you go to find inspiration for that next big thing?
You got it, the Yellow Pages.
Today Strobe released the beta version of its flagship Strobe Platform. This tool will enable developers to build and manage HTML5 applications in a single place for distribution across a wide spectrum of devices.
We would like to extend hefty congratulations and praise to the team at Strobe. We know how hard they have toiled to make this happen and are thankful for the opportunity to help make the experience, from a design and user perspective, seamless and clean.
Naming is important. Whether it’s naming a kid, a puppy, a business, a car… it doesn’t matter. A portion of what those things become, and/or how they are viewed, is derived from their name. It becomes their brand. Their identifier.
My favorite part of any initial client meeting, is the part where they ask where the name, “Nelson Cash” came from. It almost always frames the rest of the meeting in a favorable tone.
For us, Nelson Cash was born out of a personification of the agency we wanted to become. We loved the naming convention of [name] & [name] though Titus & Ratner seemed too presumptuous, but there’s something about that convention.
We started looking at what type of agency we wanted to become. As a team, we began by looking at our past experiences. What were the flaws of agencies past? What made them flail? What made them lose (clients and employees)? We also looked at what we liked. What made sense. What worked. A proverbial list was made as to what we were going to do differently and what we were going to emulate in order to succeed.
First and foremost, the very heart and soul of this agency, we decided to implement a straight-forward honest approach, even when it was uncomfortable. Amongst ourselves we adopted the tagline, “Eliminate the bullshit.” Throughout the agency world, we saw firsthand the plight of not being honest with oneself, with each other and with your clients. We chose to posture less and be experts more… and it’s paying off.
Going along with that, we wanted to do amazing work for our clients that wasn’t sacrificed by our own egos or sheer ignorance of what we were doing. It’s easy to read a blog and regurgitate information, but it’s a much larger challenge to actually become an expert within an industry. Being the smartest person in the room is often easy, but we’re striving to become the smartest people in the field. In light of that, we’ve chosen to continue educating ourselves to constantly be building a deeper understanding of the field, the market and our clients’ markets.
Based on those two primary factors, we sought out names that exemplified who our agency was. Were we to point out two people who personified our ideal studio, who would they be? Over drinks 96 stories above Chicago, a multitude of names hit the table, and finally we nailed it down to none other than Willie Nelson and Johnny Cash. Uncomfortably honest and at the top of their game without sacrificing themselves to do it… everything we strive to be and are becoming. Both of these guys marched to the beat of their own drums; they found out how to succeed on their own terms, completely different from the status quo.
Oh!… and a final word before wrapping this up: don’t read too much into the illustration… we’re not tax evaders and pill-poppers… just individuals with big ambitions and killer work ethics to get us there.
We’ve recently added to the ranks here at Nelson Cash and with a big win of a great new client and increasing load from existing clients, it’s becoming more and more inevitable that we’ll need to hire a couple more in the coming weeks.
Now, I could naively wax poetic about how easy it is to hire someone and have faith that it’ll work out, but it never does. The reality is that growth of a company, and the subsequent hiring of employees, is typically an awkward uphill climb. It’s too many bodies in the studio twiddling thumbs or stressed, overworked (and ultimately unhappy) employees.
I’ve found that the saying, “Culture breeds creativity*” seems to ring true for a boutique creative studio such as ours. We’re too small to jump into quick hires and there’s too much on the line to make rash decisions. So it’s quite the process for us. We vet new members primarily on character and talent comes in at a close second… after all, we’re creating a culture above all else. If I can’t create an atmosphere where my creatives feel comfortable and respected, how can they create to their full potential?
I was in San Francisco last week with a client whom I’ve come to respect in our time working together and meeting. In the shadow of the Giants stadium, sipping coffee, he asked me what I wanted Nelson Cash to become. “To be quite honest,” I told him, “we’re not sure yet. What I do know is that I want to create an atmosphere where my creatives can come to work and feel free to create the best work they possibly can and be pushed by each other to create even better work. I want to create products and work that everyone in the studio is proud to put their name on and feels good about what they’ve done when they look back on it.” If we can’t do that, then what the hell are we doing?
So how do we build this culture? How do we sift out those who merely want to exist in a studio and those that want to grab the oars and help row our ship to shimmery shores?… (sorry, I’m a product of The Once and Future King and The Chronicles of Narnia)
Cognitively choosing culture
Well, I doubt I have any incredible insight on this one, though in my experience, it happens one decision at a time. In our case, we determined to focus, first and foremost, on building the type of environment where we ourselves would want to work. This seems like a very obvious point, but the reality is that you need to make a conscious effort to do this, daily. It’s really easy to start taking more and more from your employees and giving more and more to yourself and over time, your company rots from the inside out.
For our space, we focused on building a hybrid between work and home. A place where you felt equally comfortable working or sleeping, because frankly, sometimes you get burned out. We’ve had work nights that run until 5am, you occasionally need a nap. We chose a loft with a pimp kitchen, a casual atmosphere, a neurotic greyhound and the world’s greatest-slash-weirdest collection of vinyl.
For our team, we’ve laid an even groundwork. We gave solid paychecks, copious amounts of vacation, bonuses based on profits, the resources for continuing education to become experts in their field and, last but not least, a fully stocked bar.
And for how we interact, everyone’s voice is heard. We decided (again back to my King Arthur past) to work from a proverbial round table. No head. No foot. Every voice is vital in determining the next steps of our studio… we’re a team. Are we focusing on innovating our own products, incubating startups or branding and marketing work? Team meeting. Do we want to work with this or that client? Team meeting. What’s for lunch? Team meeting.
Ultimately, we found that, especially in the beginning, you have to be willing to look past the initial bottom line and focus on building the best team you can build who can put out the best product possible. The profits will follow. We’ve now been focusing all our efforts and dedicating profits back into the studio for four months… and now there are monster clients knocking at our door. We’ve raised our prices twice since starting and we still turn away more work than we take on. We’re on the cusp of innovating things that could change the way the world interacts with the internet as we know it. All of this, I attribute to building a great culture where people can take ownership of the studio, enjoy coming to work and are pushed to put out better work than the last time.
So how do you know if you’re building a great culture? Well, what I have learned from my experiences, the experiences of those I trust around me, my life and business mentors and movies… you know it in your heart, you can feel it… and for those of you who are less sentimental, it’s instinct.
*Quote: Roman Titus, July 5th, 2011
Just finished Jame Victore’s memoir “Victore or, Who Died and Made You Boss?”. Heres is an excerpt on teaching:
Students want the truth. I completely understand this desire. We’ve been raised on Cheez Whiz and Count Chocula, standardized testing and fake boobs, fake wrestling and fake presidents. I’ve only got one truth. Fart jokes are funny–but only for a little while–and love always wins. If we can, through our work, cut through the clutter and make some statement another human being can recognize and about which they can say, ‘Yes, this is how it’s supposed to be–this is how we really are,’ then all the fart jokes in the world, are, well, just fart jokes.
A great read for anyone interested in the visual arts or just giving a damn about this little society of ours.
CHICAGO, Ill., June 8, 2011 – Strobe Inc., a San Francisco-based startup that provides software and cloud services, recently launched StrobeCorp.com to serve as the company’s primary public-facing portal. The clean and informative site was designed and implemented over the course of several weeks through a collaboration with Nelson Cash, a digital creative agency in Chicago.
View the case study here: www.nelsoncash.com/strobe
“As a designer, it’s refreshing to work with brilliant clients that remain open to your creative vision and direction from start to finish,” says Gage Salzano, Nelson Cash Creative Director. Nelson Cash and Strobe engaged in an intensive collaboration and in one month planned, designed and built StrobeCorp.com on time and on budget. “We are extremely proud of our work and the process that went into creating this site,” says Roman Titus, CEO of Nelson Cash. “Exceeding client expectations through close, iterative interaction and a clean process focused on creative execution is what we strive for as an agency.”
About Strobe Inc.:
Strobe provides software and cloud services that leverage HTML5 and SproutCore to revolutionize the way content is published, navigated and experienced on the iPad and other touch devices, providing ‘as good as native’ app experience on mobile web. CEO and Founder Charles Jolley was previously responsible for Mobile Me application development at Apple, leaving in June 2010 to start Strobe. He is also the founder/creator of the SproutCore opensource software project.
About Nelson Cash:
Nelson Cash is a digital creative agency based in Chicago focusing on clever visual branding, intuitive ux/ui design, and efficient web and mobile development. They create and implement innovative brand initiatives which go beyond noise and become engaging digital experiences.