Call us: (001) 415-339-9318
For inquiries email: hello at centralstory dot com

Week 205

Posted by linda on December 21, 2011

So we’re done with the year, Keela’s off to fly all around the world.  Tom, our crazy contractor has left the building for colder weather.  Damien is hush hush about his plans. Maria, the intern, is off to warmer weather and sandy beaches.  And me, I’m going to bounce around locally and reflect on all the great events that made 2011 spectacular. As a relative newcomer to Central I don’t have a lot of Central history to reflect on.  Instead here are my predictions for 2012.

  1. First and foremost I’m declaring the Cute Kitten Project Management system un-Central-tutional and therefore a project tool that we can no longer utilize.
  2. The Toolkit will be completed and ready for public consumption.
  3. Damien will announce he is quitting espresso once every quarter.
  4. 67% of the office will be getting married in 2012.
  5. Central will have projects that result in solving problems in the areas of…well… everything.
  6. The Squiggle T’s next color combo will be a teal shirt with a lime green squiggle.
  7. My new commute vehicle will be a 1974 Vespa Rally.
  8. Germany will win every match in the 2012 Euro Cup Tournament and lose the only one that matters. Random but true.
  9. The HVAC unit will work whenever I want it to.
  10. We’ll have an office cat named Squiggle. I love him already.


Happy Holidays and a safe, happy, joyful start to 2012!


Week 203

Posted by Keela on December 08, 2011


5:10pm. Standing guard.

This week…

Well, we got a new coffee maker. I broke the old one. It had it coming anyway, always dripping coffee everywhere when I try to pour a cup. The new one is shiny and brews a mean cup. I’m the only one who uses it…so happy early Christmas to me.

I’ve switched to the drip coffee maker from our regular nespresso machine. I attribute this to the volume of work. Large projects, big tasks and up-hill climbs call for a big pot of coffee, refilled every 40 minutes or so. It’s especially needed when editing. A proper cup of drip coffee is a must when editing a long paper, or Re:Vision Toolkit for that matter. Read a sentence, take a sip, read a paragraph…hold the cup and ponder. Coffee in one hand, pen in the other,  can’t edit a paper drinking espresso … you’d be wired with ink everywhere .… not red of course. I’ve learned that writers don’t really like red pen all over their work. It makes sense, I just never really thought about it being offensive. I use a green fine-tip sharpie…sometimes blue, although they do go through the page which is a drag.

Did you hear about the word of the year…it’s occupy, well so says Geoff Nunberg.

“The occupiers were romantics, holy fools, anarchists. Or they were an incoherent mob of dirty hippies — and with iPads, moreover. I make “dirty hippie” a strong candidate for comeback word of the year. It would have vanished from the language years ago if it hadn’t been kept on life support on South Park.” I’m right there with you Geoff, Dirty Hippie…comeback word.

Because it’s my last weeknote of 2011, I’d like to switch it up a bit. The end of the year is about reflection of the past 350 days or so, big events, milestones hit, new additions. So, I’d like to end with my Central highlights for 2011…

Best of List for Central 2011

1. Studio arrangement-We finally cracked how to arrange the studio, and it only took 5 NORDEN dining room tables and 7 EXPEDIT shelves.

2. Interns-We had two outstanding interns, Emma and Kathleen for our incubating client Re:Vision and now we have one of our very own, Maria, stellar researcher and all around smart cookie.

3. Squiggle T’s-flying off the shelves like hot cakes…well really given away like hotcakes in our attempt to establish some sort of Squiggle army. You all know who you are.

4. Linda the studio ninja-always 3 steps ahead of you, always smiling, always has cookies…sometimes the German ginger ones.

5. Our obsession with Tinkering Monkey and the new foam core rails that were installed yesterday. Now our 4’x8’ foam cores are 100% usable space, up from a measly 66%.

6. Cute Kitten Project Management-(compliments of Damien) in development. Let’s just say you better be pretty accurate with your projections or someone…or thing might get hurt.*

7. Alabamboo-2500 miles on a hand-made bamboo bike…we were just glad to be a part of their journey.

8. The Central Chicken compliments of Tom, our hot-blooded contractor.

9. Weightshift…and the “how fast can you launch a website project” see current website, or Central V1 or V2 for their past work.

10. Damien announcing he was giving up espresso…both times.

11. The Re:Vision Toolkit, always talked about never revealed…until now. It’s still in development, but things are coming along…thanks to the Cute Kitten Project Management tool. Coming soon to a Central shop near you.

Happy holidays to you all. See you in 2012.

*No animals were hurt in the writing of this post.


week 202

Posted by linda on December 01, 2011

Really? We have only 2 weeks left before the holiday break?  Crazy doesn’t even begin to explain what our to-do lists look like.  The Toolkit took a holiday break but now it’s back and in need of attention, year end accounting wants some love as well, early next week we have Tinkering Monkey coming in to install what should be an awesome railing system for our foam core boards, I need quotes for a mini remodel project, we’re all researching for different projects, I’m grant searching on another, working on the operations manual and I still have to make my holiday cards!  I know my mind is racing and looking over at Keela she’s so busy her eyes remind me of a Kit Cat clock. But we’re getting things done, checking them off our lists slowly one by one.  But this week is different, this week we are plus one!

Monday we welcomed Maria to the team as our new Central Intern.  We are so excited to have her with us. She’s settling in nicely by buying Oreos and drinking espresso, but she’s also a mad researcher. I mean it, she’s currently glued to the monitor not noticing anything around her.  Oh and another great quality of hers is that she’s a great tree scout.

Look at this perfection.  Marvel at the great lines.  Envy the fine craftswomanship of the ornaments.  On a randome note: Maria and I learned how to maximize the holiday smell that comes from a tree.  Since the smell originates from the sap one can score or break open the sap bumps.  The tree will “weep”(now this sounds sad) and emit a strong tree smell. Instant holiday warm and fuzzy feeling.

Since my to-do list is getting longer I need to get back to it.  But after last weeks introduction to the new (morbid) project management tool I want to leave you with another warm and fuzzy feeling. Warning you might need to have tissues nearby. It’s the story of Lab Pups getting their first taste of freedom .  I hope this some how counteracts our new Central Project Management Tool.

Have a great holiday.  2012 is going to be amazing.


Week 199

Posted by linda on November 10, 2011

I love this time of year, for me it’s birthday, anniversary and holiday season neatly wrapped up into three months.  It also means wearing layers to go anywhere.  We live in such a unique place, the mornings are cold enough to wear gloves but by 2pm you’re down to short sleeves and the fans are turned on.  I really love the colder moments of the day – it’s a good excuse to make hot cocoa.  Once I find the base to our Nespresso milk frother I can get a little fancier with my chocolate hazelnut cocoa concoctions.

I’m a year older this week and feeling quite disconnected with this new number assigned to me.  In celebration there was a weekend long Vespa repair session.  Media blasting, sanding, bondo and welding, almost 30 hours of work.  Next year I want a party. Next year I want a pony.

At work it’s been 24/7 toolkit.  It’s more heads down and less outwardly frantic then it was with the design challenge however the blinders are on and everyone is focused.  I’ve been doing a considerable amount of grant research for our client.  It’s amazing how many foundations there are; the work is in making sure the non-profit aligns with the foundations mission or issue areas.  The Foundation Center is an amazing resource for finding applicable grants and for the novice a great starting point.  If you are starting to search for grants I highly recommend starting with the Foundation Center.

We’re also working on a few internal processes to kick off in 2012.  One of them is a Studio Manager’s Guide.  You might be asking yourself why is there a need for a guide if I’m here?  Well if for some reason I disappeared, or if I’m hit by a MAC truck, I would want someone able to jump in, find things, understand what I do, umm did, and do all of that quickly.  There are a lot of moving pieces and it’s beneficial when explaining this role to a new comer to offer a visual supplement.

Before I go back to sketching I want to say Happy Veterans Day and thank you to all that have served and continue to do so.  Morning Golden Gate Bridge commuters should keep an eye out for a parade of veterans, give them a supportive honk, thumbs up, or join them.

Week 197

Posted by Keela on October 27, 2011

The beginning of the week started off as a continuation of the week before. We were in relay mode, pit crew mode if you will. We had a quick and fast deadline arise last week Friday that left us with a lot to do in a little time. We saw an opportunity for our incubating client to enter a challenge that might award them a grant. We presented them with the idea, they said yes…it was then game time. We sat down on Friday morning to sketch out who was going to do what. 9 questions total. Doesn’t seem like a lot, but believe me when I say these questions were meaty. Application due Monday. Clock is ticking. Everyone worked on their assigned questions over the weekend and came in prepared early Monday morning to collaborate, compare and complete. Normally, we stick to instant-gratification nespresso in the office, but this called for a full pot of drip coffee. With the sound and smell of coffee brewing and 4 people simultaneously banging away at their keyboards, it was like the floor of a newspaper room, 4 hours before you go to the presses. We had a drafting station, editing station, review station and submission station. Thank goodness for Google docs, especially the chat function. This allow the client to give real-time feedback for everyone to see, that is most importantly in written form.

Everyone was 100% focused with their eye on the ball. Christy, our temporary on-staff writer, proved her skills at rapid generation of content…really good content. We’ve been very fortunate to have her. She’s been helping us out with the toolkit lately but has been eager and willing to jump on any project that we have come up. It’s an asset to have someone that can not only switch gears to a completely different project, but doesn’t seem to lose momentum or focus. After the application, was submitted, meaning after Linda pushed the “submit” button, which by the way was right next to the delete button on the screen (really?), there was a overwhelming sense of relief and accomplishment.

I think that a rapid deadline, fueled by a common goal is a great exercise in team building. It wasn’t just that we had to get it done, but we all took stock in what we were doing, which made us work that much harder. Does mutual buy-in + hard deadline=success? Normally, our projects tend to be very long in duration due to their complexity and scale. They can go on for 1-2 years, and you don’t get to experience the feeling of elation after something has been completed as often as say a traditional design firm that launches a website or an iPhone app for a client every couple of months.

All this thinking about quick deadlines reminded me of an post I read about the Rapid Results Institute, which uses the Rapid Results Approach-an approach that mobilizes teams to achieve results in 100 days or less. They take this approach into developing countries to do things like accelerated HIV testing. The idea is that the tight deadline “forces a degree of prioritization and focus which leads to results, avoiding white elephant projects which tend to be grandiose but not implementable.”

Can accelerated timing lead to creativity? The most recent project by Damon Albarn, of which I am a huge fan, proves yes. If you are unfamiliar, Albarn is the frontman for such bands as Blur and the Gorillaz, but has his hands in dozens of other musical projects, like The Good, the Bad & the Queen, Monkey: Journey to the West and Massive Attack. Albarn is always trying out new things, always experimenting and is essentially always in the concept and prototype phase of the design process. It seems he just does his ultra-rapidly and ends up with something like a Grammy-winning song. His newest project took him, along with 11 other producers, to the Congo to record an album in just 5 days to benefit Oxfam. I’m no record producer, but I do know that that is lightning fast and what they ended up with sounds pretty amazing. It does beg the question: Can we work faster to get something better?



Week 196

Posted by linda on October 20, 2011

As I get my weeknotes ready the espresso machine hums in the background. The printer is churning out toolkit proofs for Keela to review and Christy’s fingers are feverishly typing away on her laptop.  The weather is thankfully cooler now.  I welcome the fog since the A/C is confused and against my wishes (and relentless button pushing) pumps out heat.  As a result our contractor melted.  Sorry Tom.  I’m sure I’ll soon hear the hum of space heaters and the clicks of resetting circuit breakers.  Maybe we should have a Squiggle hoodie?  Which brings me to some cool news!

New Squiggle T’s are here!!  Check them out, orange squiggle on a navy background, looks really good.  Sizes are limited to women’s medium and x-large.  For the men we have large, x-large and a few xx-larges available. We haven’t updated the store to show the orange squiggle T or that we have the XL sizes available so please make sure to leave me a comment on your order that you want the orange squiggle and size if it’s one of the XL or XXL.

In other news, if you follow us you know we’ve been helping out with the Alan Turing documentary.  There’s been a lot of interesting events since our last mention of Turing.  Recently Warner Bros. outbid others for the rights to the script and Leonardo DiCaprio is most likely to play Alan Turing.  I’m really excited to hear this because it reminds me of another film DiCaprio acted in that increased the popularity of other documentaries *cough* Titanic *cough*.  I remember weeks after I watched the movie I sought real stories, real footage and pictures from that time. I was glued to the History channel, Discovery and even got a sneak peak at one of the largest complete hull pieces of the ship when it came through San Francisco.  Hopefully the movie will do the same for the Turing documentary.

Okay that’s it for now…time to go back to work.

Week 187

Posted by Damien on August 23, 2011

Yes, its true, Keela and Jonathan are working about a hundred and sixty weeks behind me. Hopefully I can bring them up to speed in time for week 188.

Week 188 is likely to be written by a new member of Central: Linda Hoecker. I’m really pleased to be able to welcome Linda to the team. We were previously colleagues at IDEO, which is where for the first time, as Daniel Kushner recently put it, under Linda’s reign the San Francisco office actually ran smoothly. So now Linda is here. At first, to help sort out our studios, and then help prepare us for growth and see where that takes things. We’re lucky to have her, and even within a couple weeks, things have been running better and overall there’s been a lighter step to how we work.

We’re in one of those unenviable situations where there’s only two weeks left to a several year long project. There’s so much to do. 336 photos have to be selected, uploaded and then written about online. All the text and details have to be written. An entire 350 page (and growing) toolkit is being shaped and drafted as we speak. Plans, strategy, business models and launch projects are being hatched. All for our incubated client. Which, now in a couple of weeks, we get to pull the wrappers off of and start speaking publicly about our work with them.

What is exciting about the work with our client is how it will shift into a new kind of relationship where we’re no longer being hired as consultants to help achieve the goals of the client’s organization, but now we’re helping to define the goals as well as develop the opportunities for the client. For us, we get to build an organization of people, infrastructure and parts in order to creatively tackle their goals. It’s really quite a luxury.


As I write this, the BERG fellas are staring at me. From the cover of the latest ICON magazine. On the cover it says, BERG invents the near future. If you don’t already stalk them online, it’s a great piece on them and the three principals (Matts, and Jack). In the article there’s a line I like:

The trouble with the modern world, the guys agree, is that designers are used by business to achieve the goals of business– not the other way around.

Firms like BERG, of which there are but a few, fall into this category of being incredibly smart not just about the process of design, but also business and the system that built stuff falls into. It’s great to see. Inspiring too.

In the near future, which we’ve not yet invented for ourselves, we’re to be dipping our toes into conservation and the complex systems existing there. In the mean time, I must get back to the moving parts of one machine, and contribute to our own, now smoothly running machine.