Three Lessons We Learned in the First Month
Today, FLOODZONE has been live for one month. We’ve learned a lot, but here are the three biggest lessons we’re taking away from this challenging, inspiring first month:
1. The name is the hardest part.
What’s in a name? Everything. One of our greatest challenges in starting FLOODZONE was determining how we wanted to represent the name in text. We went back and forth over different spellings and ways of capitalizing, considering everything from our studio’s history to search engine optimization and mobile responsiveness.
When Charles founded FZ Media Design in 1999, he called it “Floodzone,” which eventually gave way to the acronym “FZ.” When we launched our apparel division, we broke it out into two words, “Flood Zone,” mainly because “Floodzone” is technically not a word and would be routinely auto-corrected when typed on mobile devices. But the week after the launch, we waffled. It had always been “Floodzone,” and to Charles, the new name just didn’t feel authentic.
So we settled on “FLOODZONE,” one word, all caps. It’s bold, it stands out in a block of text, and it best resembles the type in our logo. It also won’t constantly be auto-corrected, as most mobile text editors accept words in all capitals as acronyms and usually leave them as is.
2. There’s always more to learn.
While we’ve got 15 years of web design and branding under our belt, we weren’t totally familiar with the ins-and-outs of running an apparel company. We simply started putting the pieces together. We were lucky to find our printer, Real Thread, one big piece that fell in place easily.
Even with our branding and photography chops, we had a lot to learn. We researched pricing, inventory management, product photography, lighting, packing, and shipping. We read a lot of useless "How to Start a T-Shirt Company" articles. Most hilariously, we researched how to model the shirts. We let our designers model their own shirts, so we had to look up everything from camera settings to modeling poses. We waited for cloudy days and then we just went for it. It felt silly at the time, but we’re so happy with the results and now we’re less afraid to try something new and seek out new knowledge.
3. Not all collaboration is created equal.
Our studio prides itself on its collaborative culture. We start every project with a free-roaming group brainstorm, and we don’t hesitate to ask each other for help or advice. But FLOODZONE is different than our client work.
Collaborating on a client project comes naturally to us, but we really had to work at collaborating on such a personal project. It was nerve-wracking and painful to present shirt designs to the rest of the team, only to hear, “I don’t think that will sell.” It was equally painful to utter that phrase to our coworkers, who we knew had worked so hard and poured so much of themselves into their shirt design.
We wanted to nurture our studio’s creative visions, but we also wanted our apparel division to have smart, sharp branding and marketing. It’s a balance of sensitivity and savvy, between creativity and capability. We learned how to respectfully disagree with each other's visions, and how to support each other in thinking up ideas for new designs. The lessons we have learned while collaborating on this personal project have already made our collaboration stronger on client projects.
Here's to many more months of FLOODZONE!