The helium tank is our mash up of ideas + art + design + events and everything in between. Work that makes us smile, art that’s all around, events that we hope you’ll join us, or words we’re stitching together. The helium tank is a big window into who we are.
In order to pinpoint exactly what I love about my role as an artist + creative, I have to shut my mind up and actually think about it. A feat in itself. But for the sake of this shout out, I sat at my desk and closed my eyes. Almost immediately the word ‘experience’ drifted to shore. Since I was a kid, I’ve always loved creating an environment rich in atmosphere. With perfect lighting, the right music playing, textures and tones, a scented candle that compliments the surroundings almost as if ripped from a movie screen. And that’s where art + design began to shape everything I did. Creating the perfect moment, an ideal experience, is something that sets a brand apart from another. It’s what makes us innately gravitate toward one restaurant over the other. Why we trust one company over their competition.
An experience is something that can’t be imposed, it has to be suggested. It has to exist then be discovered. I have found that, first and foremost, clearly defining what I want to feel – what I want another person to feel – is the most important step to creating an experience. When developing a brand, I focus on the emotion – the essence of who the company is and what their consumer needs to feel. Then it’s all about grabbing inspiration to paint that picture. Mood images, objects, textures, words that when put together embody the emotion, the brand, the experience.
It becomes the same process as making ‘little atmospheres’ for myself as a kid. Pulling together elements to make something that just feels right. That tells a story.
The foundation of any company, of any individual even, is brand. Once we have found that tap root, it is seamless process to bleed into all other materials. A website, stationery, language, interior space, style. A well established brand subtly communicates that experience in every extension of its being. It is in the details. The thought. The story behind the curtain.
And I get to be the storyteller.
We began preparation for our Guatemala mission trip months ago. Fundraising. Planning. Promoting. You’ve probably seen the graphics, heard our pitch, maybe even donated to the cause. But the actual five-day adventure seemed like more of a distant concept than a reality. Until it was. Like all amazing life moments, I blinked an eye and departure day had come. I blinked the other eye and here I am writing this entry about the journey. Attempting to sew words together, stitch by stitch, that could offer a just picture into the experience.
But it is one of those instances where mere words serve to paint a vague picture of a masterpiece that can only be understood first hand.
My initial fears of Guatemala City, of the warnings I received, the dangers advised by family and friends, dissipated the moment we walked into the first orphanage where a small sea of deep brown eyes stared back at us. They were timid, nervous, some excited and eager. Children from infant age to about ten years old, each from a broken past, each with a story that deserves to be told.
I had heard of mission work and known several people who went on these trips. Our friends at C&I Studios have done this adventure many times before, so we wanted to join forces and partake in the experience. Admittedly, I have never been a cheerleader for world healing. For kumbaya, let’s hold hands, selfless missionary service. I lend a hand of convenience to my fellow man. You know, like holding open a door or donating a couple dollars at Walgreens or Publix when I’m prompted in the checkout line. But the buck stopped there.
As we prepped for this Guatemalan adventure, C&I told us something that, in hindsight, was spot on. This trip is not about what you bring, it’s about how you make them feel. It’s about interacting with these kids and families who have very little monetarily. For a group of Americans to gather in their home, to take time and be with them. Share with them. Pray with them. To hug a child who has been abandoned. Hold a four-year-old girl who has no mother or father, and tell her she is loved.
That is what this trip was about.
And that is where true inspiration is born.
On the third day, our group of fourteen went to Hope of Life. This incredibly developed organization located in the mountains of Zacapa, Guatemala rescues and houses families and children who would otherwise be dying, starving, homeless or abused. We toured their facility, which included an orphanage for young children who had been abandoned or rescued.
I walked into the first unit. A white room lined with cribs for the infants, lit by an afternoon sun that filtered in from beyond the mountains. Several windows led out to the vast landscape of green forest that spanned for miles around us. It was a breathtaking view that wrapped these children in constant beauty.
Immediately as we entered I saw a boy no more than three years old sitting quietly on a chest by himself. He looked alone and withdrawn, dark brown eyes that stared pensively beyond us. I sat on the chest next to him and spoke quietly, “Hola”.
The other kids were playing around with our group, but this boy sat quietly next to me. I picked him up and dropped his little body in my lap. He stared off, leaned his head against my chest. His eyes were the most telling and heartbreaking. There was a weight resting on him that no kid should have to bear.
I grabbed a pack of four crayons from my bag and placed them in his palm. His grip tightened as he looked up at me for the first time. There was a shift in his demeanor, like that small exchange resonated with him. He waved the crayons around as I tossed him in the air. A smile formed on his face and he began to giggle. From that point forward, that little guy was glued to me. I had found a friend and made an amazing connection.
I realized then that our interaction was a universal language. The laughter, the shared experience. It transcended verbal dialogue into something greater. We didn’t need to speak the same language to feel the connection and positive energy that was created. That little guy kicked ass and touched my heart in a way that I did not expect from this trip.
When we came back to The States, I quickly realized that this country of freedom has limited me in many ways. I’ve grown up in a world of expectations. Of high-class problems. In turn, I lost appreciation for the little things, for the luxury of clean water, of a floor in my home. Of a meal on the table and appliances to make it with. A home with four solid walls that offers warmth and security. The convenience of medicine when I am sick so I don’t die from a cold. The comfort of knowing that my family is safe and healthy. Instead I focused on the dent in my iPhone or when I was going to go blow a few hundred bucks at H&M.
Our trip to Guatemala is one that I could not have understood prior to experiencing it. I had never before seen extreme poverty, let alone been to an orphanage. Never held a child who was abandoned or neglected. Never been inside a home that had no structural walls, that was held together by sticks and old clothes.
I write this entry from my desk at helium creative. On my 27” iMac. Checking my cellphone periodically for social media updates. My little unnamed beta fish next to me. I am surrounded by awesome people with whom I get to work with on a daily basis, at a job that makes me pretty darn happy. A job that allows me the opportunity to not only do what I love, but also experience these moments of personal and spiritual growth.
I am grateful for new perspective.
There is always that awkward moment at an event or meeting when someone asks what we specialize in. In a split second, our faces go blank as we never quite know just how to answer that seemingly simple question. We do so much, have a hand in just about everything because we love what we do.
But what do we specialize in…?
On the spot answers have been a surprise to all of us at one time or another.
Out of the box thinking.
Luxury real estate.
Anything and everything that allows us to do our thing.
Impromptu Katy Perry karaoke jam sessions [Ryan…]
But we decided to actually give that question a little attention and figure out what helium creative specializes in. As a creative agency, we do just that – we create – and that is our muscle, it’s the core of what we do and who we are both independently and collectively. But specializing in creative is still a vague answer and not a sturdy platform from which to impress the ladies.
A friend of helium gave us a diagram that outlined the structure of brand marketing. A simple and straightforward [not-so-pretty] illustration that shows a brand at the epicenter of a strategy or marketing initiative. Then there are services that surround the brand to help promote and develop it’s presence. On the outer sphere are the objective specific, strategic services that are implemented to help meet a goal or achieve results.
Seeing a visual depiction of marketing hierarchy showed us just where our passion lies. helium creative truly is a brand-centric agency who specializes in the development of a brand. This simple statement encompasses our love of logo design, the research behind what we do, the strategic planning, connecting, web design, print design, social media, campaign development, photography, art… I’m sure you get the idea.
Building a solid foundation for any brand is crucial when developing it. A company may want to dive right into marketing their service or product, but if the language or very focus of the brand is not in line with long-term success, our overly eager + doe-eyed team will want to jump in a have a little play date to evaluate the strategy, target, design and overall voice of the brand. What works, what doesn’t — and why? Is your core really targeted toward the right demographic? Is the logo effectively communicating who you are? Does the verbiage paint an accurate picture of the company, expressing your goals and objectives?
The idea here is that no one can jump from A to Z without making sure all bases are covered and your best brand-foot is being put forward. We love to find the right shoe that will put a killer pep in your company’s step. The, of course, pair it with some awesome polka dot socks. It’s all about building up, step by step, until your brand has a snazzy outfit.
It’s what we specialize in : )
We are almost three full months into 2014 and my head won’t stop spinning. This year has already brought an unbelievable amount of change and new opportunity. Don’t get me wrong – absolutely no complaints from this little Art Director. Constant, consistent evolution is a blessing that we are embracing with open arms.
It’s easy to get stuck in tunnel vision oblivion, losing sight of the big picture. And that big picture could very well be something worth checking out. When we are lost in the day-to-day routine of wake up + go to work + check emails + eat lunch + go home + pass out, the focus on seizing the day and making new opportunities somehow dissipates. It’s a pretty natural funk that often warrants a good kick-in-the-ass to wake up out of it. I may be guilty of requiring a bit more than a kick. A sledgehammer may be necessary. Because [if I’m being perfectly honest] as amazing as change and growth are, they can also be uncomfortable. Routine may be mundane, but it is also familiar. Sometimes living in a safe haven of familiarity is more appealing than the great unknown. But like anything, once you start moving with the ebb and flow of life and let go of fear, the uncomfortable becomes comfortable.
And that’s when the good stuff really starts to happen.
In these few months, I have said farewell to an employee + welcomed two new employees + bid adieu to an intern + said hello to three new interns + flew to LA for a celebrity saturated awards show + got engaged on stage at said awards show [thanks Chris] + started a blog that will be launching next week + started house hunting + began the process of having kids + launched helium’s 10 year anniversary shindig + been investigating larger studio space for our growing team + fancying a slew of new business ventures that are making us all googly eyed.
All since January 1.
So where my head may be trying to catch up, my heart is extremely grateful. Change equals growth and this year has been filled with the kind of progress that makes me proud. That said, I may want to lock myself in a room and hide at times, but it’s nothing that a cookie and nap can’t fix.
helium creative has proven to be a catalyst for movement, for the kind of days that make me stop and think, “Is this really my life?” We all go through it. Our team is a strong family that is fortunate to experience this constant evolution together.
People tend to dwell in their own little bubble, getting caught up in routine + ritual + comfort. I say “people”, but really I mean me. If my self-projection applies to you, please continue to read. If not, please continue to read anyway. So we’ve got our little life bubble that contains the usual day-to-day blah: work, work relationships, home, family. We generally talk to the same sphere of people, go to the same places, eat at similar restaurants. Routine breeds stability breeds comfort breeds happy. That’s the norm. I like to be comfortable. Happy. Stable. When it actually happens, I tend to tread those waters and not rock the boat too much. I went through years of unconsciously dreading change because change was putting one foot in dark, unknown territory. The unknown can be uncomfortable. Scary. Unpredictable. All the things that make me wanna hide in a closet somewhere and long for the familiar. Whether it’s fear, laziness or just a complete lack of awareness, it is easy to go months – years, even – following the same trail of breadcrumbs.
So here’s an embarrassingly superficial example, but effective all the same. I’ll end up wearing the same outfit week after week because at one point I know it looked really good or made me feel like I’m the coolest guy this side of the tracks [and, no, I’m not necessarily referring to a certain pair of tan suede boots casually coordinated with black skinny jeans and simple navy pocket T from J. Crew]. Truth be told that outfit starts getting worn, old and loses its luster. It becomes a uniform of laziness. I’m no longer putting thought into what I wear, I’m just doing the same thing over and over because it was great 6 months ago and requires absolutely no thought whatsoever. That hypothetical, once kick-ass outfit is just as faded as my creativity.
Have I lost you? Wardrobe analogy got you down?
It is so important to not only change your clothes, but change your routine. Just as my outfit starts to stink, so does my daily life 🙂
Do the unfamiliar. If it were up to me, I’d probably sit in my house watching Netflix for days. Literally I would be butt ass naked on the couch, gut deep in a few pints of Ben & Jerry’s strewn out on the coffee table within spoons reach, all while watching consecutive episodes of Breaking Bad back to back to back to back. But it’s not up to me. I was built with a nagging desire to keep learning. Keep growing. Out of the melted Ben & Jerry’s abyss will emerge a fearless new Ryan who can conquer the world.
So I have to put myself in situations that are not necessarily comfortable. We have been doing Inspirational Friday’s at the helium studio once a week, which has allowed me to meet new folks regularly. Something I otherwise would not be doing. Whether I’m meeting people, taking a different route to work in the morning, spontaneously driving to the Keys for a weekend or eating at a new restaurant, I’ve found it so important to break through my bubble. I’ve lived in Fort Lauderdale my whole life and my scope of What To Do has been less than narrow. Apps like Yelp, Foursquare or Groupon are awesome for suggesting new places to eat and things to do. I’m a Yelp nerd. Community activities, galleries, events, parks, classes, workshops – there is life beyond the bubble. Who knew?
I had an English teacher in High School who told me something very similar that just now clicked. I was probably depressed or complaining about the oh-so harrowing sorrows of life – some teen angst melodrama – and she told me that I needed to do something different. Nothing changes if nothing changes. She said to go take a walk around the block. Go to Barnes and Nobles to read a book. Write something. Whatever it is, break the routine and keep putting myself in a new situation or circumstance. At the time I remember thinking that she just didn’t understand me or my very serious 16 year-old life crises. But as I write this blog I realize she may have been on to something. And I hate to admit that because she once said I looked like a prairie dog and I still harbor some deep seeded resentment for it. Although upon further examination, prairie dogs are kind of cute [please see the photo below].
Ms. Rivard, proud member of MENSA by way of the great land of Canada, was basically telling me to change my outfit. Or at the very least, to mix it up. Wear the t-shirt with a different pair of pants. You gotta start somewhere.
Baby steps, right? 🙂