It was Monday morning. Our team, comprising five graphic designers, was tired. Our tank of creative fuel was low. We had been grinding our way through deadline after deadline and I knew it was time to get out of the office.
I scheduled an offsite meeting for Friday and began planning an agenda. With the help of google maps I peered into the streets of downtown Charleston and plotted a path that I hoped would lead us to creativity and inspiration.
We met in the heart of the Upper King Street. A part of town that is undergoing such a transformation it feels like it’s changing right before your eyes.
‘Don’t lose inspiration’
They have successfully funded six Kickstarter campaigns to date, including the Wally line of wallets and phone accessories, as well as the Stanley, a stand for your phone.
“We wanted to make products that solve problems that we encounter in our lives, that make just a little bit of a difference in your life, to make it easier,” Windham explained to us.
Their office which was filled with demos of products scattered across work benches, a white board full of sketches and ideas, even a fan that you can wear on your back, strap on a parachute and take flight. They laughed that had only been used once and may be the only flight they’ll ever take with it.
Product development takes time.
It can take six months to a year from initial concept to the first run of production. Keeping the same excitement from conception to reality can be challenging.
Windham urged, “Don’t lose inspiration, push through those road blocks.” Justiss followed by saying, “Throw yourself into it.”
They described that the process of figuring out how to solve a problem brings discovery and continues to keep them engaged and passionate from beginning to end.
The challenge of having the passion and persistence to successfully execute an idea is something many teams are faced with. Discussing these challenges with Distil Union was a refreshing reminder that we’re not alone.
We thanked them for their candid discussion and continued to our next important stop, lunch.
Lunch with a side of design
If you find yourselves on Upper King Street with a group of graphic designers a perfect place to stop for lunch is The Rarebit. Local graphic designer Jay Fletcher designed the logo. His designs have gained him international recognition and a large fan base among designers.
We read that he had designed a custom deck of cards for the restaurant, and we wanted to get our hands on them. Unfortunately, our server informed us that the deck was a gift for bills that were over $100, an amount we knew we weren’t going to hit.
She must have sensed the disappointment, and a few minutes later she inconspicuously left the cards for us on the table as she walked by. Just another example of the generosity you can find on the streets of Charleston.
Don’t build a house on sand
Our next stop was to the offices of HOOK, an advertising agency. They have a wide range of clients from restaurants and distilleries to resorts and apartment complexes. Partners and creative directors Tom Jeffrey and Brady Waggoner led us through their rustic office right on King Street. We passed by the staff, known as Hookers, gathered in various corners having lunch. And carefully stepped over their husky, Larry, who looked eager to return to his nap.
We settled into the conference room that overlooks the busy street below and began our discussion.
“We knew from the gate that we’d be great at making great creative but the differentiator for us is Phil (Phil Waggoner, partner/strategy) and the process, and having his proven strategy building process. So, what’s cool about it is we’re not building our house on sand every time we start doing creative. We know that it’s strategically sound,” Waggoner said.
Sometimes a client is in a panic and in search for a quick fix. Waggoner said he will accept those jobs at times. “If someone needs surgery and they’re just begging you for a Band-Aid, you’re like 'OK, so I’ll agree to stop the bleeding, in the need to keep you alive. If you agree not to blame me for the scarring while we take the time to find out what’s really wrong with you.’”
This was an important lesson that can be applied to many businesses. Many times we find ourselves attempting to do something fast, instead of taking the time to create a solid foundation. By taking the time to think, you might just find the solutions that have been eluding you.
With the clock ticking, we thanked them for their time, gave Larry a pat on the head, and headed down the street for one last stop.
Rolling rocks and reaffirmation
We made our way down to The Alley. Bowling will beat trust falls in team building every time. You could tell by the crowd there that the early departure from work that tends to happen in Charleston on a Friday afternoon was in full swing.
As we bowled, I thought about all of the people we met and businesses we visited. All were within two blocks around King Street, incredible. All the inspiration that we were looking for was right there waiting for us as long as we were willing to go find it.