How To Second-Guess Everything, For A Living
I don’t want to settle.
Can I admit that? Maybe it’s for the benefit of my design; that I don’t like sitting on one ‘look’ for too long. Maybe it’s been because I’ve not been happy with my own branding for awhile. I’ll make a tweak or a fix and still feel like it’s not quite there. First, some backstory:
I’ve had the Flames Logo (proper-noun capitalization for pretentiousness) since I started this business with my then-bromance Jace McPartland, back in 2013. Just made sense. Firehouse. Fire. Flames. Duh. Heavy-handed word association, man. We then shifted from The Firehouse Media Group (because, mouthful), into The Firehouse Collective. Technically, ‘collective’ was our version of ‘Inc.’ or ‘LLC’ at the time: a business model of multiple people pooling their talents and resources under a common umbrella. Thing is, ‘collective’ is also a common tag for dispensaries. I kept getting calls asking what kinds of kush we had in stock and if we ‘were real legit’. So, when it came time to pony up for Uncle Sam and put ourselves on the grid with the State of California, I went with something simpler and more indicative of our service: Firehouse Creative LLC.
The Flames stuck around; Jace did not.
We remain good friends, but life has a way of pulling us in all sorts of directions. He was in Los Angeles, I wasn’t. He has other endeavors now (his band Midnight Divide is killer), including a wonderful girlfriend and the gig at Apple; where we met in 2011. (Side note: Jace is one of the best photographers I’ve ever worked with, and superhuman class act on top of that. Him working with Firehouse Creative on projects that justify the travel etc. are not out of the question, and you as potential/existing clients should hope to be so lucky to have the chance to work with him. Top-notch dude.)
So in the gray area between 2015 and 2016 I became a one-man-show of 10 years experience, some business cards, and a MacBook Pro. I’ve had some great clients, some I’ve since parted ways with, and after a crazy few years, nothing holding me back for the first time since I started this thing from my bedroom.
And yet, there they were; printed on every business card, the polo in my closet, the images across my website and print collateral. The Flames. I took inventory of where I had been with this business in it’s very short life, and where I wanted it to go (successful people call this The Five Year Plan), and I realized that I was failing one of the classic axioms of business: dress for the position you want, not the one you’re in. I was dressing like a homespun startup by someone learning as the went. But that’s not the position I want. I want the position of stability, expertise, and versatility. I want the positions of Ogilvy & Mather, of Wieden + Kennedy, or BBDO, of Landor, of Pentagram. So, time to start dressing the part. This meant a rebrand.
“A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”
- Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
“Simplicity is not the goal. It is the byproduct of a good idea and modest expectations.”
- Paul Rand
I scrapped everything. I looked for hours at a blank screen, and visualized what I love about a good brand. How do you convey that visually? By letting go of everything that isn’t purposeful. By stripping away the fluff, the non-essentials, the make-up and perfume of it all, I could get to those core ideas.
And thus, The Flames were doused.
I wanted to express inclusion, solidarity, fearlessness, and energy, backed by rationale and deliberate moves. So, I needed geometry. Simple geometry. I used heavy type, sans-serif, with perfectly-kerned letters. I wanted timeless. I wanted loud and also refined. I used the most peculiar Faded Firetruck Red I could come up with… just a tinge of pink to be unsettling, and altogether punch-you-in-the-face vibrant when seen on-screen. I wanted something color-agnostic. I was hugely inspired by the recent Airbnb rebrand… You could place that thing over a million colors and textures and patterns without losing the brand. Many great logos bear this versatility. What If I want to take a photo of paint splatter art, and use my logo as a knockout mask for it? Now I can. The current charcoal/teal color scheme you’re seeing on this site was meant to be an alternate to the main red/white scheme, and I just loved it. I’ll eventually swap out the CSS on here to reflect the Faded Firetruck look, but I’m happy with this for now.
It was weird saying bye to The Flames. I just got… burnt out on them. Then again, maybe it was for personal reasons entirely.
Maybe it’s because I don’t want to settle.