Dec 21, 2011

Jotly

Jotly has been unleashed on the world. What started as a joke, has now become real. There is no longer any reason for anyone to make another app. Social media culminates here. 

Aug 5, 2011

Nosh Launch

So much has happened since our last post! July 14th saw the successful release of our first app: Nosh. Of course by now you've downloaded it, told all of your friends how much fun you're having, and maybe even Nosh'd with a celebrity at an exclusive restaurant opening. Yes? If you haven't, we suggest you quickly grab it for your iPhone or Android and start Noshing away. You may even win one of these fancy prizes

If you are unfamiliar with Nosh, basically it's a fun and social way to share what you eat with your friends, and see what's good everywhere. The quickest way to get acclimated might be to watch our promo film above which we created for this very purpose! 

It was a crazy couple of months leading up to the launch, but it felt amazing to get it out there. It's a great feeling to spend so much time working on something and then have people all over the world enjoying it. 

We've been very excited by the coverage so far. If you're interested, you can find some fun articles on Techcrunch, Mashable, Lifehacker, Gigaom, and All Things Digital. Keep an eye out over the next couple weeks as we have a bunch of new features planned for release! We've also just moved into a new space -- more details to come soon! Once we have someplace to sit :)

May 11, 2011

The Firespotter Logo Design Process

While it's fresh I thought I'd write up the process behind the Firespotter Labs logo I designed. This was an incredibly fun logo to design and probably one of the quickest, at least when contrast to some of the luxurious multiple month (!) design explorations I've done in the past for school or other companies. That said, it was exceptionally challenging; it's hard to take a step back and think objectively about the company you're a part of.

Before this, I had already designed a couple logos for some of the products we're working on now. I had to break out of the "consumer application" design mindset I had been entrenched in for a few months. For the mothership, we needed something that conveyed that we were a lab full of crazy people brewing up cool things, while simultaneously appearing to be trustworthy gentlefolk worthy of venture support.

Color Explorations

When I started working on the logo I went back to some of the color explorations I had been experimenting with during an earlier branding exercise for one of our products. I thought I might be able to get some inspiration since I had remembered liking some of what I had been playing around with. I do these every once in a while: square designs, really quick just to get a vibe. Usually looking for a color palette, but sometimes the implications can be farther reaching. In this case, I was attracted to the orange/red/black palette. Not a surprising choice given the fiery nature of our company's name. 

Initial Concepts

Given that the name is Firespotter, I knew it would be difficult to avoid using flames or some kind of spark-like imagery. Of course I never want to do anything that's "expected", but I felt like this was a case where it was OK to leverage the implied visuals of the name. Fire, after all, is pretty damn cool looking on its own. I started thinking about the various ways I might be able to depict fire in a cool way. 

The first thing that came to mind was an oven. People were always (rightly or wrongly) describing us as an incubator, and the idea of us baking some tasty idea-treats sounded pretty fun to me. I thought it would be a somewhat clever way to use fire without being too overt. Above you see my first pass with the oven idea. Conceptually I liked it, but as a logo it really fell short. It felt clumsy and really lost its power at small sizes. The fire was lost inside an oddly colored box, was the way I eventually perceived it. 

Ugh yeah, just looking at it I have the uncontrollable urge to re-render the oven. 

A Fun Deviation

Before moving onto more serious seeming logos, I deviated a bit and drew the logo above. This one was a favorite of mine just because it makes me laugh every time I see it. RAWR! Fire in my mouth! I don't know, it gets me every time. What I liked about it was it felt very irreverent. Imagine if this was the logo for a venture-funded startup...this guy doesn't look like he would know what to do with millions of dollars, but he certainly looks like he would have a good time with it. As fun as he was, needed to rein in the crazy a little bit. 

I added the little ember bubbles in the meantime, which I really liked. I felt like they gave it a scientific feel, kind of the way lab beakers are often depicted. I was really into making it feel like the fire was the result of some scientific experimentation. Additionally, they provided a nice visual counterweight to the really heavy flames. I spent more hours than necessary positioning them above the flames just right and moved on.

Fire in the Hole


I started thinking about a phrase Craig had reminded me of one day: "Fire in the hole". A prefect phrase for our startup actually, defined as, "an expression used to indicate that an explosive detonation in a confined space is imminent". I suppose we like to think of our disruptive apps as said "explosions", and the slow moving and antiquated markets we move on are the "confined spaces". This was an evocative concept to me and I drew up some sketches involving fire in an actual hole. I drew three and these are shown above, on a fancy piece of Jury Duty paper of course. 

I drew those three sketches and then moved to Illustrator again. I've never really been into the infinite sketching phase thing. When I lock onto a concept I like, I jump on the computer. When I started with this idea, I wasn't happy with any of my attempts to render a "hole", so I put the fire on a disc. The idea was that it would float around and light exciting idea-fires every which way. Unfortunately, it looked a lot like a floating island with mountains on it. Perhaps a good logo for a summertime ski lodge, but it wasn't quite right for the concept I was after. 

You'll notice that the flames themselves haven't really changed from the very first logo I concepted. I was happy with the color and shape, it was just a matter of where they were going to live -- whether inside of a characters mouth, on a disc, or in a hole. 

FInal Logo


The final logo finds the fire coming out of a hole, the final and rather literal execution of the "fire in the hole" concept. The flames as mentioned remained largely the same at this point. Really, the final isn't all that different from the disc version, but it's a crucial difference in my opinion. Putting the fire in the hole made the whole thing a lot more interesting. I start to wonder odd conceptual wonders like "what is this hole?", "who started this fire?", and "what's actually burning?" It's exciting for me to think about. 

Overall too I felt like the mark was the right fit for our company. It felt fresh, cool, and was able to use fire imagery without seeming lame. I think this has to do with how simply the fire is drawn. A really glossy, shiny and curvy-wurvy flame set would feel way wrong to me. This one looks vibrant to me and indicates that exciting things might be happening around the people that started this little triangle fire. 

It has its limitations of course: for example it's actually quite difficult to use against dark backgrounds. The hole gets lost and then the curve of the flames looks off. You can change the color of the hole, but that is a strange necessity. Similarly, the logo is made up of three different colors, which for me is unusual considering I almost always start a logo in black and white to ensure its potency in any paper situation. But overall these are small problems and the fire logo endures onward. 

Eventually I have some ideas about animating it with stop-motion. I could cut out this logo from construction paper in minutes and I can visualize a pretty cool diorama animation. Just need to find a free weekend somewhere in the next 10 years...

- Alex

May 5, 2011

Day 2

Wow, it was great to read all great coverage yesterday (NY Times, Techcrunch, All Things Digital, etc.) and we've been getting a ton of well wishes and emails from folks out there, so first and foremost we wanted to say thanks to everybody.  I also wanted to apologize in advance if we don't get back to you quickly as we're getting crushed with inbound email, notes, calls, etc.

Usually after a launch release there are lots of misconceptions that get started about what the company does, why they do it, etc.  Thankfully our coverage was pretty spot on, so not a lot of clarifications needed here...but I will give a few:)

First, Firespotter Labs is a place where we're going to build a bunch of products that we come up with and hope they take off and have enough interest to become their own successful companies.  We're already working on too many ideas to effectively develop today (more engineers please!).  As such, we're not an incubator in the sense that we would develop, fund or build other people's ideas or projects.  We've received tons of emails about this already and just wanted to clarify.

Second, we're not only aiming at "world changing" ideas.  We may actually work on some very small, but interesting, ideas...and some really oddball ones just for fun.  It keeps us sharp to crank on things that we find interesting, even if we're the only ones who find them interesting.  Also, we're interested in all sorts of things, so we're not limiting ourselves to any industry or particular need...ever.  Opportunities are everywhere and having the freedom to explore them is what Firespotter is all about.

Thanks for reading...we'll try to keep this blog somewhat current and hope to keep you all informed as to how things are progressing over here.

- Craig

May 4, 2011

Firespotter Labs

Today we announced the creation of Firespotter Labs. I am beyond excited to get this going and to start building companies with this great group of people. So what is Firespotter Labs?

Do you ever ask yourself “wouldn’t it be great if…”, or “I hate it when…”, or “I wish there was…”?  We ask ourselves these questions all the time.  My mission as an EIR at Google Ventures was to ask these questions and find answers to them. There isn't always a good solution or a business to be made, but with our team of nimble, talented and scrappy developers and designer, we can quickly build a first version and test if it has any merit in the real world. When ideas gain traction, we can allocate even more resources and eventually launch them as their own companies. If they don’t, we’ll quickly scrap them, take what we've learned from the process, and apply it to our next effort in answering “why do I have to…”

Firespotter isn’t an incubator.  We aren’t looking for ideas or teams to back. We will instead be building products that we want to use ourselves and quickly get them out into the world.  The greatest thing about developing products these days is that you no longer need to invest a ton of money or resources to find out if your product has a chance.  

We feel we’re only in the first inning of a huge opportunity to leverage the social, cloud, and mobile experience (John Doerr's SoLoMo)...and that every business and service that is not changing the way it's working because of that, soon will or will be left behind.  We’re already working on a few ideas that we’re really excited about, stay tuned to see what comes next.

- Craig