We failed the hell out of this one

Sometimes you're on top of the world. And sometimes it's just a squirrel.

Have you ever sat down for a meal, and then realized that your eyes were larger than your stomach? That food looked so good, you just loaded up that plate, only to realize about half way through, there is no way you can finish it. Yeah, design projects can go the same way. Especially internal projects. With no defined budget or timeline, things can go off the rails pretty quickly.

An absolutely spectacular example of this is something we tried to do a few years ago, on an earlier iteration of our website. We try to do for ourselves, what we do for our clients: find a way to tell a story, and create separation from the competition. This led us to develop a concept to share our story and unique capabilities through a hidden animated adventure of a little squirrel. What started as a joke — TILT is powered by a cute little rodent on a wheel, motivated purely by the lure of beer and steak — quickly turned into a multi-level, fully hand-animated short story.

Squirrel storyboard
Squirrel storyboard
Squirrel storyboard3
Squirrel storyboard4

The idea was fun and different — exactly like we want to be seen ourselves. So, we started creating storyboards and test animations. We put this poor squirrel on a path that took him on a roller coaster, falling through drains, falling off cliffs (we made him fall a lot, now that I think about it), cruising on rivers of glowing goo in Chinese food takeout containers, past dinosaurs and a few inside jokes. But why? We got a kick out of seeing it. It made us all laugh. And unfortunately, it was looking great. Had it looked terrible, or showed no promise, we would have stopped right then and there and moved on with our lives. But no. We saw potential, and kept going. Even when it was clear that we had taken on too much, we kept going.

Squirrel storyboards

It’s become a cliché at this point, but it makes it no less true. Failures are great. Failures are needed to grow. There are tons of quotes that riff on this theme…

“Failures, repeated failures, are finger posts on the road to achievement. One fails forward toward success.”- C. S. Lewis

“I can accept failure, everyone fails at something. But I cannot accept not trying.”- Michael Jordan

Yeah, be like Mike. We had an idea, and gave it a shot. Was it looking the way we wanted? I think it was going to get there. Was it too ambitious? Yes, absolutely. We didn’t have nearly enough bandwidth or time to take on an internal effort like this. Was it going to be effective? I have no clue. What I do know is that we learned a lot in the process. It opened our eyes to just how good our team can be at this sort of thing. It revealed some deficiencies in our collaborative processes that we were able to work through and fix. It gave us the confidence to take on projects that we would have never pursued — we’ve got a few of those that we’ll be sharing in the near future.

So maybe, just maybe, if the realities of the world hadn’t come crashing down, we would have finished it. But they did, and we didn’t. So, our little Squirreldom has been relegated to a blog post about a fun, but ultimately failed effort. Enjoy.