The Geek Files on this blog are a tribute to the individuals that have significantly helped shape my perspective - a catalog of sorts of inspiring folks that I've been blessed to have access to.
I've been meaning to sit and speak my piece on Jeff for awhile.
But everybody's written about him.
And interviewed him.
And blogged about him in all sorts of creative ways.
But the word "geek" does not find its way into my blog without validation.
I will go so far as to say that what this post contains holds tremendous value for the generations to come. It is a blueprint of how to speak the language of relevance, but perhaps more importantly, a glimpse at the thought and creative process of an artist that taught the streets how to speak corporate, and corporate how to speak slang.
So here it is. In his own words and "messy on purpose so people next to me on the plane can't decipher what I'm writing" penmanship - I present to you:
Geek Files: The Process - Jeff Staple's Sketchbook
These are notes from my initial meetings with Starter. At the time, Starter was owned by a subsidiary of Nike, Inc. called Exeter Group. My concept was to start a division of Starter called Starter Black Label. Basically, Starter was acquired by Nike Inc. to be a value chain proposition. (Think sweatpants, socks and workout gear.) At the same time, there was this resurgence happening with vintage Starter stuff that cool kids and ebay junkies were fiending for. I saw this as an opportunity for the brand. But convincing a brand to do something like this is no easy task.
These were notes from that first meeting and how I was explaining to them that this could be a real business proposition for them. The pyramid sketch diagrams how in the beginning, most of the collection would consist of energy-driving collaboration items, with a little bit of "core" items. And then as time goes on, the pyramid would flip-flop...allowing Starter to make more profit, while still creating some excitement in the marketplace. (Some notes are censored to protect the NDA.)
Staple Design has worked with the good people at Atmos before and it's always proved fruitful.
But some projects don't always see the light of the day. When you run a business, you'll quickly find that you have many meetings that never amount to anything. It can be disheartening if you let it get to you. But you have to realize that business opportunities are like playing a roulette table. You throw chips around, yes it costs you time, money and effort; yes you miss; but you have to do it. Because when you hit one, you win—big. So these notes are a colab project that hasn't happened—yet. I've censored the name in the event this project ever does happen! I sure hope it does. So anyway, you can see from a typical brainstorm session, it's really a clusterfuck of ideas. Some product concepts, some financials, some timelines, some promotional initiatives... Collaboration projects should always be seen holistically—360°. If you leave one step out, the whole project falls apart.
We've been doing a lot more of this kind of working lately—some call it Experiential Design. We're not making a product, or a brand. We're creating an experience—usually for an existing item. Nike was releasing a new set of ACG boots and they asked us to come up with a way to release them. They were slightly shocked when we suggested to NOT use Reed Space as the venue. We suggested a store uptown called The Vault. I think one of the reasons why people like working with Staple is because we honestly treat the brand first. I could care less about how a project makes us look cooler or better. When we're working for a client, our first priority is them.
We thought the space and the neighborhood would be more conducive to the product and also it's close proximity to the Nike House of Hoops. Much of these notes were taken while the client was briefing me on their needs. I studied "Communication Design" in Parsons which taught me how to communicate not just thru graphic design, or fashion design, but through whatever the situation throws at me. A boutique? A barbershop? A bus stop? We can handle it.
Sometimes, we're called in just to give ideas. We call it Ideation. The client might already have a set plan and they just want to run it by us; and have us offer our two cents. Sometimes, we're asked to create ideas on the spot. One technique I use is to just throw words out on a page...whether they make any sense or not—it doesn't matter. I call it a "Brain Vomit". Then I go back and inspect the pieces and see what can be picked out and used. You can see here how that happens with Sobe, a beverage brand owned by Pepsi. Then you can see how some words really stand out and some will eventually lead to physical concepts and executions.
This is pure product design and creation. Surprised? Maybe you thought there would be much more rendering and technical detail. Well, there is, but it doesn't happen at this stage. Here's the truth about "design". There are many people who can execute an idea. But the ability to come up with the raw seed of an idea and then transform those into sellable ideas, is much, much harder. We were doing every season of iDiom so a lot of the research is based off of improvements we wanted made to the previous collections. (Snowboard trips are tax write offs! Woo-hoo!) Then we add in what new technologies became available in the past year—i.e., welding, lighter insulation, improved packability, etc. Look in the far left margin..during the meetings, I did a mini Brain Vomit session: "Go Wild In The Country", Snow In The Grass", "Absolutely Free"...eventually getting to "Truth Loves To Go Naked". This eventually became the theme for the entire collection.
Also look at the right page...another mini Brain Vomit, but this time, playing with the identity of the iDiom logo and adding a vintage mountain element to it. You can see in the final identity how the logo was tweaked, cleaned and improved and also how the tag line was implemented into the final product.
When people think of User Interface design, they think of cool icons, buttons and what sound the keyclicks should be. But the operative word here is USER. We want to know about the user first. There are some really interesting findings here. Everyone uses Microsoft but no one INTERACTS with it. There's very little brand love, right? We tried to fix that. And in all honesty, we couldn't. The infrastructure of the machine did not allow for change. It was very challenging but a great learning experience at the same time. These findings eventually led us to help them develop Courier.
It's funny that even internal Microsoft people call MS-Office "The Dark Side". Ironically, "The Dark Side" generates over $1 BILLION dollars every month—pure profit.
Wejetset is an online travel and leisure site. WJS was one of my favorite projects ever. We managed all creative identity aspects as well as their online viewing and shopping experience.
Another interesting sketch here. No, pretty pictures, fonts or reference images as you might expect. The first thing I want to know is how the business will run. I break down the site into chucks. Forget making things look pretty. Let's make things WORK and MAKE SENSE. That is the essence of great design. I even want to know how their fulfillment from the warehouse will work. Why you ask? What will this have to do with the final logo and color scheme? It might. It might not. Call me a sadomasochist—I just want to understand our clients better. We developed this identity and website in 2007. Four years later, they are still using it—unchanged. Another satisfied customer. :)