Say Hello to Analog
That pretty much sums up my feelings about the response to the announcement of Analog, a web design and development co-operative that I started with a few of my friends. I am stunned and humbled by the many kind words of congratulations, praise, and encouragement that we received about our launch via Twitter, Facebook, and personal communication. Thank you. Many have been wondering what I’ve been up to since leaving Digg in early September, and organizing and setting up Analog has been a big part of it.
The first time I discussed the idea for such a company was when Chris Shiflett and I went to Iceland in June. During that time of renewal, reset, and inspiration, we talked about our desire to work on interesting projects with a great team of peers. People like Jon and Jon, who Chris had worked with on a few occasions. From the start, we wanted to be a bona fide co-operative: an organization owned and operated by a group of individuals for their mutual benefit and adhering to the principles of equality and equitability.
Co-operatives, especially tech ones, aren’t very common — though they are much more prevalent across the pond in the UK — so it took us a while to work out the legal and tax issues of having an equitable company comprised of people from multiple countries. This time was also spent refining our brand identity and brand promise, both of which we believe strongly in. We also needed a short statement to explain who we are and what we do, and in the end it became this (the last part of which harkens back to our original motivation):
Analog is a company of friends who make web sites. It’s a co-operative where imagination, design, and engineering thrive; good people doing good work.
The part about “making web sites” may sound simplistic, but we believe in taking back simple, honest phrases like web site and web developer. They are precise and descriptive despite having been shunned or dismissed by people in favor of things like web application, front-end/back-end engineer, and other seemingly sexier nomenclature meant to sound more important. It’s time to call things what they are. Say it with me, “I am proud to be a web developer.”
Of course, the most difficult thing to decide on was the name. We had a lot more latitude within the .coop top-level domain (TLD), but even then, we must have gone through a hundred or more names looking for one that would somehow reflect our philosophy while being memorable. The flash of inspiration struck while imbibing the potent Bee Sting cider at the inimitable Duke of York in Bristol. The name had an instant appeal, and I imagine we all thought, “Yes, Analog is it.” Jon Tan even left a mark on the table, since he couldn’t wait to see what Analog would look like in type.
Analog appealed to us because of its association with handmade things, craftsmanship, and a “warmer” feeling in general. Somehow it felt good to think that we were going to do digital things the analog way, where a personal touch of each of us would be evident in our work and communication.
The team at Analog is one of the best that I’ve had the honor to be a part of. Alan Colville is an accomplished UX designer and customer experience and usability researcher. He has helped a number of clients in the past, including Vodafone, Virgin Media, BlackBerry, and Visa. Chris Shiflett has extensive background in web development, specializing in web security, and has worked on projects for Ning, National Geographic, Digg, and many other clients during his time as principal of Brain Bulb and OmniTI. Jon Gibbins is an ace developer and web accessibility expert who most recently lent his skills to OmniTI as well. And Jon Tan is simply the best designer and typography maven that I have a pleasure to know, with an extensive body of published work. Between us, we have many years of experience and a bountiful font of creative knowledge.
The type of work that we want to do is twofold. Firstly, we want to take on client projects that are built on an inventive concept, where we have as much creative freedom as possible. By this I mean that, as a group, we want to be part of the initial discussions and brainstorming, so that we can inject our own ideas into the process. We want the projects to utilize both our design and development expertise, involving aspects of the programmable web in a way that supports and enriches the original concept. Secondly, we want to incubate some of the ideas we’ve been knocking around into products that can be spun-off later, if necessary. We’re especially interested in possibilities presented by geo-location, geo-tagging, and other geo-things. We also want to share what we learn and produce as a team. The first thing we’re releasing is the JS grid overlay used on the Analog site; look for it shortly.