I’m not sure exactly what day of the month in April 2008 that we started serving clients as Anti Laboratories, and I like it that way. I feel it exemplifies our commitment to the big picture.
Details are important, of course. But the recurring theme in our work is that we parse our clients complex notes about how their products, services, contribution to the community or artistic works came about, into a story that lets people know what they can expect when interacting with their brand.
This April, we have had the privilege of reflecting on 5 years spent serving hundreds of remarkable companies, nonprofits and artists. Most were from our own local community, many others from around the United States, and a handful from different parts of the world. With each client we’ve sought to put the creative philosophies we so strongly believe in to work to help their audiences understand what makes their brand different.
Often we’re tasked with distilling these stories into a singular symbol, however so much of our approach is predicated on elaborating. We’re proud to have collaborated with a diverse cast of artists in various commercial disciplines. Thank you Conlan, Punit, Ryan, Zero, Josh and Chance for sharing your tools and passion for telling the stories of others. We’ve created some remarkable stuff together.
We’ve never been a very self-aware, or promotionally minded firm. We reserve that attention for our clients. Today’s the last day of April, and I didn’t want to let this opportunity pass by to thank our clients and collaborators for working with us through this rough economy and helping us reach age five.
When it comes to writing anything substantial, they say that starting is the hardest part. Now that I’ve got that out of the way, let me introduce myself (shhhh, this is my process).
My name is Hans Steele, but most people around these parts call me ‘H’. Ive been asked to write a little about myself, which is a surprisingly hard thing to do. When I want to learn about someone whom I’ve never met before, my instinct these days is to glance over their various social media profiles and make some assumptions (and I like to think I’m not the only one that does this). While this isn’t always the case, it’s a tactic that people in our culture often resort to. So let me save you the trouble. My LinkedIn labels me as a “Strategic Creative”, Twitter describes me as “fierce and beautiful (and bears)”, my Facebook is filled with occasionally-relevant links and images, and all three of those platforms might lead you to the realization that I just started working for a company called Anti Laboratories.
My deep interest in the Downtown area began just over a year ago when some classmates and I began a remodel project on an old home in the area. After learning a lot about construction, networking with some great people, and ultimately completing the project, I wasn’t sure what the next step was. I dabbled in some more construction related projects through the summer heat, but as an impatient youngster I wanted a bigger hand in making a difference downtown.
While working part time for a contractor in the Fall, I had some classes at Fresno City and spent free time looking to get involved downtown. After a couple months of failed attempts in finding a position downtown, I finally got connected with a downtown nonprofit called Creative Fresno and simultaneously found an apartment in the area. CF offered me a volunteer position doing some legwork on this new project called “CartHop”, which was supposed to keep me busy a few hours a week. Soon after, through my desire to see the project expand and grow, a few hours a week turned into 25 hours a week and I found myself with a real job. All of the sudden, I was living, working, and playing in downtown Fresno, and I loved it.
H STEELE, PROJECT MANAGER
So where does AntiLabs fit in? Well, quite perfectly. I met Floyd through Creative Fresno, and learned about his branding and design company through his work for CF and the CartHop project. Right away I noticed his unique focus on improving the downtown area through the creative outlets of his business. Like me, Floyd lives and works here, but he’s been doing it for years. My coordination work for CartHop caught his eye, and his passion for downtown caught mine, so he approached me with the opportunity to obtain and manage projects for his company (in a nutshell, I’ll be communicating with small business, nonprofits, and independent artists to ensure that they can get the most out of their image).
Of course, I jumped at the chance to be involved with AntiLabs, especially since it would allow for me to maintain my work at CartHop. I’ve admired frequent AntiLab collaborators Punit Dhesi and Conlan Spangler for some time, and working with them was an exciting opportunity. The work coming out of this studio is striking, fresh, vocal, and ultimately screams innovation (it’s called Anti Laboratories, after all). Recent revitalization efforts have championed these very attributes, and I knew that it’s prudent for a small business like Floyd’s to be connected with the movement. Downtown has had a valuable asset not at its doorstep, but sitting right there in its living room, tweeting from the couch (but getting a lot of quality work done too).
DOING THINGS DIFFERENTLY
Anti Laboratories is a company downtown needs. I met with a business owner just last week who asked me why AntiLabs doesn’t move up north where the money is. Our answer is simple: Its always tempting to take the easy way out and head to greener pastures, but that approach never brings change. Progress doesn’t happen on its own, committed people need to be involved. We want to make a difference. We want to breath life into a city-center. We innovate, we do, and at the end of the day we remember that downtown Fresno needs a little Anti in its quest for a new life. It needs to do things differently, and we’re the perfect guys for the job.
It’s true. Conjuring content that people will find worth following is a serious challenge, and the ability to do it on an ongoing basis is a rare talent. Many startup bloggers fizzle out gradually, going from one 0 comment post to the next — maybe with an occasional 8 comment conversation with a friend. It’s difficult going from reader to writer and finding your voice — and it’s nearly impossible if you don’t have at least a passing familiarity with online writing conventions by following a couple favorite blogs. This experience can be more difficult in a business or non-profit context — in which you’re not only trying to pinpoint your own tone, but also to be true to your firm or organization’s brand and culture.
FAILURE IS AN OPTION
Of course failure’s an option. Actually, in most cases it’s predestined. I’ve been logging my thoughts online, in some form, for 13 years — and look where it’s got me. I’m intimately familiar with blogging failures, enough to write my first blog post in over a year about sucking at blogging. I’ve gone through different platforms (Hi, Tumblr), different top-level domains, and even a few hairstyles since I first started trying to say something worth reading online.
For me the difficulty is (and will always be) confidence. You blog so people will see it. When people see it, they think about what you’re saying and how you’ve said it. When people think of what you’re saying, especially if you have a bit of ideologue in you (and use a lot of commas and parenthetical data), they can challenge your viewpoint — often quite effectively. When I’m wrong, I try to cop to it, but that doesn’t take away the sting That’s why I’ve tried to avoid circumstances in which someone could question what I’ve said and how I’ve said it.
Whatever your reason for failure has been, or might be, or won’t be, consider your challenges earnestly. In most cases it’s worse to have a blog collecting dust than no blog at all. It’s no defeat to decide it’s not for you before investing time and money into developing one.
WHO DOES IT WELL?
Mike Osegueda of the Fresno Beehive has been able to keep people engaged and informed, and has established himself as an authority on using social media purposefully. Another person I admire for his consistency in putting together content his readers look forward to is Conlan Spangler of This Is Conlan. From what I’ve been able to piece together from knowing him very intimately and spending a lot of time with him talking about these types of things, he uses it to track and share the flashes of humor that plague him constantly.
Here’s some people I don’t know in real life that do this blog thing, and do it quite well: Eric Karjaluoto, Willy Staley, Tina Roth Eisenberg.
WTF IS YOUR POINT?
I’m going to really go for it this time. I’m not trying to say you should too. You probably shouldn’t, as it requires a commitment of time and thought that quite honestly could be better spent focusing on other aspects of your professional or personal life. I guess that’s my point — nobody should feel obligated to blog, or go out of their way to sell themselves on the illusion that it’s easy or that anyone will care that they took the time to write and share their thoughts. Most blogs have no one to read them. Let’s make sure our blogs aren’t those blogs.