I'm almost famous

Hi fellow design geeks. I’m very pleased to let you know that the article I wrote about brain science and branding called “The B Word”:http://www.peterflaschner.com/index.php?id=110 has been included at “Creative Latitude”:http://www.creativelatitude.com/articles/article_0505_flaschner.html This is a huge honour, and I’d like to thank everyone who’s read this site for giving me an outlet for my writing.

I hope to make another announcement in the coming week, one that may have a very positive impact on me and this site. Stay tuned for more…

The Blog Studio Statement of Intent

I’ve written a v0.1 statement of intent for “The Blog Studio”:http://www.theblogstudio.com. If you’re interested, you can read it “here”:http://www.theblogstudio.com/index.php?s=about

I was motivated to write this after the discussion in the comments after my “last”:http://www.peterflaschner.com/index.php?id=115 post. Seems just because I have good intent, my writing doesn’t quite describe it. I think my talk of money and revenue also gave some people the wrong idea. I’m not trying to fleece anybody. But I do believe in being paid a fair wage for good work, and I have no problem being up front about that. I used to be totally squeamish talking about money. But then I had kids, and now I’m not; I do it for them.

As for the good intent, I’m hoping that I can afford to be selective in the clients I pursue. With a bunch of hard work, I’m hoping “these”:http://www.dadlog.com “sites”:http://www.bicilog.com will help supplement my income. If I suck, and no ones read them, then I don’t deserve a penny. On the other hand…

I have the luxury of having a full time job that allows me the flexibility to plan all this. Looking forward, I have no idea what the future holds. To be honest, I gave up worrying about the future a while ago. I have my goals, but *how* I reach them is unimportant. I don’t want to think about the destination; I want to think about the voyage.

Blog design vs web design

As you may know, I’m building a company called “The Blog Studio”:http://www.theblogstudio.com. The company has a number of different facets, all of which fit together into a purposeful whole. It’s one of those *the sum is greater than the parts* things. The sum is a company that builds, designs, maintains, manages, hosts, and writes blogs.

I’m slowly getting to the business plan stage, and have started to do some research to determine who the competition is, and how they’re positioning themselves. What I found was web design firms offering template design, or sites like blogger with pre-existing templates.

There are *very* few blog design _companies_. There is a big difference between a blog design company and a web design company. While both types of design live on the internet, there is both a different mindset and a different skillset required to specialize in blogs.

Blogs are more marketing and PR tools than they are websites. A blog company needs to recognize the technical limitations of its users, and offer ongoing support. It needs to work as much on guiding the author as it does on designing the template. I guess what I’m getting at is that a blogging company offers an ongoing service, vs a one time web build. And this is what has got me so excited.

This ongoing relationship equates to ongoing revenue. It also equates to ongoing opportunities to earn traditional design business from our clients.

I anticipate developing a pay-per-month formula, with different levels of service. I’d like to minimize the up front investment as much as possible, but I’ll have to see how the numbers pan out.

The small business owners I’ve been talking to are really supportive of this concept. They’ve all hear of blogs, and they know they’re going to need one soon. But like the initial web boom, they have no idea where to turn. My aunt, a very successful entreprenur and a perfect example of my target market sums it up perfectly: she doesn’t *get* it. She knows she has to, but she’s already extermely busy. I have a couple of tricks up my sleeve to help the millions like her make an easy transition to a blog. I’ll share them with you as I flesh them out.

What do you think about web design vs blog design?

Cross posting has started!

If you’re thinking about buying a new bike this year, you may be interested in an article I just posted over at “bicilog”:http://www.bicilog.com/index.php?id=5 Before coming to my senses and joining the design world, I spent a number of years in the bike business. Despite my tender age, I managed to own a couple of large high end bike shops, and belive me, I learned a thing or two about how bikes are built, marketed, and sold.

Since we’re going into spring, and bike sales are starting to heat up, I thought I’d share some of my bike wisdom with you. I’ll be writing quite a bit about what to look and look out for when you’re shopping over the next couple of days. If you’re in the market, “check it out”:http://www.bicilog.com/index.php?id=5

My damn brain keeps coming up with good ideas!

This is going to sound like a very lame thing to complain about, and believe me, I’m not looking for sympathy. What I am looking for is help.

All of this writing I’ve been doing has positively uncorked my creativity, and I have a couple of very viable business ideas trying to kick their way out of my cranium. I’m right at the limit of what a body can accomplish in 24 hours as it is…

*What I need is a partner*. Someone who’s really strong on the tech side and who has a vision of how blogging is going to affect business. Someone who’s not risk averse. Someone who is passionate. Someone who can write. Someone willing to work bloody hard. I can dream, can’t I?

The Blog Studio

The latest site in my empire (ha ha HA ha ha [evil laugh]) has just launched. It’s my meta site, and it’s called “The Blog Studio”:http://www.theblogstudio.com.

The site serves two purposes. First, its a business. “The Blog Studio”:http://www.theblogstudio.com’s tagline is *Design for the blog age.* The aim is to build a company that helps small and micro businesses set up and operate a blog. I’m *super* keen on this for a couple of reasons. I believe very strongly in the ability of blogs to connect businesses with their customers on a more intimate level. I think blogs are a tool that will help businesses bring their clients in more frequently, will increase average sales, and will build a base of customer advocates.

I also think many businesses can earn revenue from their blog, especially if they are in a niche. And isn’t everyone in a niche these days? An example is my mom, Judy. My mom, who just turned 60 yesterday (she’s *so* going to kill me for this), is a physiotherapist and osteopath. She does a lot of cutting edge work and teaches a fair bit. She could use her blog to stay in touch with her patients, describe new techniques, let people know when she’ll be away, or even if a cancellation has come up. Her audience would include current patients, other physios intersted in reading her articles, and a whole world of potential clients. By using google’s adsense, and carefully targeting the site, I am confident she’d cover all her up front investments and operating costs in a reasonable period.

My other main reason for being so hyped about The Blog Studio as a business is its potential to earn ongoing revenue. My business plan is not complete, but the concept involves complete hosting and management plans. I am well aware that there are about a thousand free services available, but I am not concerned about them. My target audience is very busy running their own business and trying to have a life. My goal is to make their lives a bit easier. My services will go beyond just designing an site template and hosting. I am going to include SEO and other online marketing stuff as part of the package.

The other grand purpose for TBS is to act as a central depository of any blog-related stuff I write here. I’ll try to minimize cross posting, but it may occasionally happen if I think something is of particular interest. This is an ever evolving concept, so I’ll keep you posted as it develops.

The B word.

_This is the first in a series of articles that looks at how recent discoveries in brain science may forever change the way we think about branding and design’s role in the branding process._

What a time to be alive! Did you know, that just the other day two scientists published separate articles where they described how they used fMRI machines to read the brains of volunteers? Its true. They showed each volunteer a series of images, and by looking at which areas of their brains fired, the scientists could determine what they’d been looking at. A further study showed that even when images were flashed up on a screen faster than the volunteer could see them, their brains recognized the images without their becoming consciously aware of it. Too cool.

Right now you’re thinking “and this has to do with branding how…?” In fact it has everything to do with branding, but you’re going to have to bear with me for a moment while I lay some groundwork.

On his blog A Clear Eye, author, speaker, and marketing guru Tom Asacker defines brand as

bq. …the expectation of someone or something delivering a certain feeling by way of an experience.

We could debate the ultimate definition of brand until we all grow old and cranky, but would be unlikely to settle on a single defintion. Nonetheless, I think we can agree that Asacker hits the nail on the head when he says that a brand is an *expectation*.

An expectation is the projection of emotions and thought into the future. This emotion and thought comes from our experiences in the past. I can’t have an expectation of something if I have no knowledge of it, right? Where is this knowledge stored? In my memory. This is important.

In their book On Intelligence, Jeff Hawkins and Sandra Blakeslee argue we are smart because we build models of events and experiences in our memory. Hawkins should know a thing or two about being smart. Besides inventing the Palm Pilot, he’s a trained neuro-biologist. After selling Palm, then founding and selling Handspring (back to Palm!), he set out to discover how we are smart, a topic that until recently had not been scientficaly researched as a whole.

Interested in boning up on neuroscience? It’s not nearly as dumbfounding as it sounds. There are a number of very approachable (even funny) books on the subject available. No math or science background is required. I guarantee you’ll learn something that will have an impact on you and the work you do. My suggestions to get you started are: Mind Wide Open, by Steven Johnson and On Intelligence by Jeff Hawkins and Sandra Blakeslee.

What he discovered is that memory models affect all our conscious actions. These models contain everything we know about an event or experience, including the steps we took to get there, the feeling we had once there, and the actions that came after it. We compare incoming stimuli from all our senses against the models. When we get a match, we follow or adapt the model’s instructions to suit the present situation. Next, the model is reinforced or updated with the new instructions. There’s a lot of hard science behind this, but we must note that this is a brand new theory. Even the authors admit that much of it may ultimately prove to be incorrect, but the parts that are relevant to our purposes are not in question.

My A Ha! moment came when I realized that a brand is a memory model for a thing. A brand then, is an internal construct. It exists in my head. It is subject to all the wet messy non rational goop that makes me, well, me. Certainly large parts of the model are taken up by the thing: its characteristics, its purpose, its perceived value – all the standard branding stuff. But a huge part of the model, maybe even the larger part, is made up of feelings and associations with other things.

This is huge. It’s especially huge if you happen to be a designer. After all, we’re good at the non-rational. That’s kind of what we do, isn’t it? We take cold hard fact and give it colour and meaning. We talk to the goop, if you will.

This brand-as-mental-model concept has a number of practical applications in our daily workflow. The first is as a means of communicating with your clients and your team. When we’re talking about a brand, we’re no longer talking about a concept. Instead we’re talking about a physical, concrete thing. These mental models are real. They’re made up of millions and millions of physical connections in your neo-cortex. These neo-cortical connections in turn connect down to the emotional areas of our brain, giving emotion a very real role in the branding model. In an upcoming article, I’ll describe how you can map out a brand’s model, so as to determine where you are, and where you’re going.

It also puts concepts like a brand’s Unique Selling Position into a new context. Sure, USP is important, but its only a component of a larger, messier whole. I giggle with glee whenever I think about this, because messy is what we do. This new concept thrusts emotion and intuition to the fore, and may allow us a way to quantify design’s role.

The ultimate benefit for us is that it makes a brand a completely designed experience. This concept is so easy to grasp. Teach it to your clients, and they’ll have a better understanding of how you can help shape their entire brand, not just parts of it. If you treat a brand as you would any other design project, and subject it to your regular process, you’ll find many ways of opening the doors to new business. For example, Bob has a new product: the Super Widget 9000. If we identify all the interactions Bob’s customers will have with the SW9k, we can design the general shape of the brand’s model. I’ll expand on this in detail in an upcoming article.

To summarize then, a brand is a memory model of a thing. We think by comparing incoming stimuli to our memory models, and following or adapting a model’s instructions for the current situation. In turn the model is reinforced or updated with a new set of instructions. These models are made up of all the experiences we’ve had with the thing. Thinking about branding this way shows just how important memory and emotion are to a brand. And that’s good news for designers.


What a whirlwind!

It’s been quite the 2 days here in Peterland. My head is in a bit of a tizzy to be honest. The fun all started a couple of days ago when “Merlin Mann”:http://43folders.com picked up an article I’d written about the “hipster pda”:http://www.dadlog.com/index.php?id=9. I posted the article on almost cool, and also posted it with a few changes at “dadlog”:http://www.dadlog.com. From there, the article was picked up by “lifehacker”:http://www.lifehacker.com/software/productivity/index-card-conversion-100870.php and the traffic went wild.

“Dadlog”:http://www.dadlog.com, which has only been up for a little over a week, went from 30 visitors to 3500 overnight. I quickly added a “if you like what you see, come check out my other sites” link, and have been thrilled to see the traffic on almost cool jump through the roof as well. Even bicilog, which isn’t 24 hours old at this point has benefitted.

I know that particular visitor spike is a one time thing – today’s numbers, while still outrageously high, are about a third of yesterdays. What’s really making me glow with glee though, is the fact that I’ve had some really great feedback, and the number on the feedburner chicklet has crept up. Thank you very much to everyone who’s taken the time to read my stuff. I’m humbled.

I had some more great news in my inbox this morning. This is probably a bigger deal in the long run, but I’m not sure I can talk about it yet. Suffice it to say that I received news today that almost cool has been accepted into a group of blogs that are banding together to generate some more serious revenue. Once again, I am extremely honored to have been accepted.

I’m not entirely sure what this means just yet, but my hope is that it will be a step in the direction of letting me work a bit more on my writing and site analysis. I have something like a billion really interesting thoughts flying around my cranium, some of which may very well have an impact on how we in the design world work.

I know that sounds particularly mysterious and possibly egotistical. I assure you there is no ego involved; more like blind luck. The mystery will hopefully be cleared up soon, just as soon as I figure it out!

Finally, a note about the ads. One thing that became clear after yesterday’s increased traffic is that I’ll have to pony up for more bandwidth if my overall numbers continue to grow. I’m a designer, and as you know, we aren’t known for our extravagant salaries. I’m going to do some experimenting with the ad positioning, and possibly try out a few new things. I’ll let you know what I learn, so please bear with me if things get a bit messy.

One last thing: what do you think about the new layout? Any feelings about the right hand column changing places when you resize the browser?

Do you ride a bike?

Know how to ride a bike? Know how to write a blog? I’m looking for a few good people to join me at the soon to be launched “bicilog”:http://www.bicilog.com

As the “design”:http://www.bicilog.com hopefully indicates, this is going to be a site about the love of riding a bike. It’s not just about fitness, or racing. Nor is it specifically about road or mountain biking. Rather is a blog about the _feeling_ of riding.

There are a couple of people contributing to the writing at “dadlog”:http://www.dadlog.com, and I’m really pleased with the different stories. I’d like to have the same thing going with bicilog.

If you’re interested, drop me a “note”:mailto:peter@flashlightdesign.com

*Update* “Bicilog”:http://www.bicilog.com is rolling. Check it out.