The Mindsense fifth birthday brand reboot
Today is Mindsense’s 5th birthday. First, I want to share the new Mindsense rebrand and why we’re doing it. Then, I’ll share how after designing this new brand, I discovered it isn’t new at all — it is a reboot of Mindsense’s very first, short-lived and forgotten brand identity. Finally, I’ll divulge some sneak peaks at what we’re doing new this year, with this new brand.
Five years. My little startup, which I co-own with my wife, is now five years old. How is that possible? It’s been a crazy five years: beginning with a record-breaking Kickstarter, to topping the Mac App Store and Product Hunt charts, flirting with the potential of an acquisition from one of the largest companies in the world, getting to work with a dozen or so of the best people I’ve ever met, and so much more. It has been an awesome five years.
Yet Mindsense today looks more like it did when it first started than it has at any point in between: after moving to Chattanooga, Tennessee late last year, going fully remote, and downsizing the team (after some classic startup premature overgrowth), Mindsense is once again in a home office (read: spare bedroom) that my wife and I work out of. In the past few months, we’ve discussed Mindsense’s future, and a lot of what we’ve talked about looks very different than Mindsense has in the past. There are reasons why, but we haven’t communicated them publicly.
This makes now a great time to re-clarify who we are, what we do, who we do it for, why we do it, and how we do it better than anyone else. We have the opportunity to take the lessons from the first five years, but to forget everything else; with a blank canvas, we can be open to fresh opportunities, hopes, ideas, and values. It has been needed for a while; the company we made was designed for 2012, not 2017.
The keystone of our rebrand — or as I later discovered, our brand reboot — is the audience. Everything is centered around who our audience is, and what they’re about.
We call them, “The New Industrialists.” These are the makers of today’s industries. The craftsmen of today’s consumables. We’re here for them, and we’re going to cater to them like never before.
They’re the makers, the doers, the bootstrappers, and the producers. Those unwilling to let a Saturday get in the way of making something awesome. The artisans creating something new. You’ll find them striking it out on their own, or growing a small band of craftsmen just like them. They’re in the cities and in the countryside. They’re busy forging tomorrow’s world. Tomorrow’s products, books, businesses, music, and software. They’re writing, building, filming, designing, publishing, drawing, and inspiring.
They are the small percentage of the population that is primarily creators, rather than primarily consumers. They’re inspired by their moonshots. Obsessed with their craft. Driven by a higher purpose.
We call these people “the new industrialists”. And just like yesteryear’s industrial class, they need hand-crafted tools just for them; tools that understand them. Tools that are tough, and can last longer than what’s out there. Truly better, more dependable stuff. Made just for them, by people just like them.
Think “built tough” — our software is the pickup truck of the digital world. The perfect tools for the perfect job. Our identity is centered around our audience:
The new industrial class is mentally tough. They are creators first, and as such, they enjoy inspiration but understand their work will only make it with a whole lot more perspiration. They don’t need to wait around for motivation, their sheer force of will allows them to produce day after day. They are persistent and relentless. Give them a day with their craft and the right tools, and they are forces of nature.
The new industrialists are bold and creative. Creativity runs in their veins; it is what makes everything they create unique.
The result of their work constantly looks different than everyone else’s, because they aren’t trying their hand at making something they’ve seen before; they’re obsessed with some spark, some idea, some purpose, some motivation, and it’s that at the core that dictates every decision they make. What comes out of their work often looks radical and unique but eventually disproves critics with bewildering success because what they make is intentional, purpose-driven, and context-aware. The new industrialists are uniquely thoughtful and fundamentally innovative.
The new industrialists are big but humble. They might get caught changing the world, but they do not celebrate themselves. They live with an eternal frustration born out of the gap between what they see in their work and what they know it can be. It is this mismatch between taste and ability, this eternal frustration that perpetually drives them in their craft, perfecting their technique and always iterating on their work.
Their lives are hand-crafted. Their tools are hand-crafted. Among other things, we here at Mindsense build the best tools for the new industrialist class so they can be seriously productive, and so they can focus harder in on the things that motivate and excite them.
Seriously productive software. Longer form: seriously productive software for seriously productive people.
The new Mindsense logo is a bold mark that can evoke the character, creativity, and mental toughness of the new industrial class. It is also reminiscent of an 8-bit, large-pixel logo, alluding to the new industrialists’ digitally-centered work, but breaking on the bitmap for letterforms reminiscent of a collegiate font, alluding to Mindsense’s beginnings while we were still in college.
The primary color palette evokes the feel of the new industrial class: a burnt orange and slate are bold colors that pair well, and that communicate creativity and toughness.
Fonts & Text Styles
The fonts and text styles appear bold and hand-crafted. You can see them in action on the new Mindsense website.
Our New Website
Finally, don’t miss our new website to go along with the brand redesign. It isn’t quite complete, but it’ll get there over the coming weeks.
After creating the entire brand, I stumbled across some old materials from our very first days as a company. Looking at them, I realized that this rebranding is not a rebranding; it is a brand reboot.
During our Kickstarter campaign in 2012, I wrote and published a piece called “Jobs and Artisans.” It was meant to be a call-to-action to our intended audience, who at the time I simply called ‘artisans’.
In the article, I outline the etymology and history of the word ‘job.’ It turns out you can track the rise and fall of jobs as we know them today solely through the word’s etymology.
The word “job” showed up in the 16th century as a way to describe a piece of petty work. People did not have “jobs.” People had a craft; they were artisans. They made things with their craft. They sold their crafted things to each other.
It wasn’t until the industrial revolution that “jobs” would reference big companies with large numbers of people working for them. In 1882, the phrase “on the job” originated, meaning “hard at work.” “Job description” showed up in 1920. Thirty years later, things began to change, when “job security” originated, and in 1972, “job sharing” entered common use. The etymology of the word “job” alone shows a lot about the rapid birth, growth, and recent decline of jobs.
Still today, jobs are on the decline. Many people are settling for jobs they dislike, or jobs that pay less than what they deserve.
There’s never been a better time to once again embrace being an artisan. It’s time to find your craft. Who knows? Maybe your craft will catch like wildfire, and “jobs” will be a thing of the past to you.
What is your craft? What is it you want to make, do, or see actualized in the world? Is it developing software, starting a children’s camp, publishing your own magazine, making your own line of clothing, writing a book, growing your photography business, or something completely different?
So it turns out, our audience focus is simply a reboot. We’ve dusted off our initial guiding principles, and reimagined their execution for 2017.
It turns out the implementation of our brand around that audience focus is a reboot, too.
I also recently re-discovered some of our earliest Mail Pilot websites, in which you can see a barely-used initial version of the Mindsense logo. The original logo is orange, bold, and creative.
Even the slogan, “do more,” spoke to the same goals that our new slogan “Seriously productive software” is meant to capture.
We had quickly replaced this logo with a blue, corporate logo that was meant to make us feel and look like a classic, professional software company. But things have changed in the last five years.
People are open to more authentic, approachable brands. We don’t have to be serious and straightforward like Apple. We can be us. People are interested in the craft, interested in buying from a person rather than a faceless, professional company. In fact, these days, tiny professional faceless companies seem less trustworthy.
This was our original target audience. These were our original brand intentions. Without realizing it, I had redesigned our brand as a reimplementation of our original audience focus and brand intentions, set in today’s new world. We’ve effectively reimagined our roots for 2017 and beyond.
So that brings us to this year: What will you see from Mindsense in 2017? How will we execute on this new brand identity and audience focus?
I can’t share everything yet, but here’s a taste of some of the new stuff you’ll see from us (in addition to our existing products like Throttle):
We’re experimental, and our core audience — the new industrialists — love experiments; they don’t shy away from them the way most others might.
You’ll see a few other experiments over time, and the big one is yet to come. We’ve been working on answering the question: what comes after programming languages? If we had a 10x improvement in software development speed, what would it be? We haven’t had such an improvement in 2 decades, and we sorely need one. This is something I’ve been prototyping around for years, and we’ve been developing some really compelling ideas in-house.
Finally, we’ll also experiment with business models. TaskCal might be the first candidate to play with an entirely new business model for B2C SaaS.
I’m writing a book on leveraging the psychology of optimal experience to design software. It perfectly embodies how when leveraged thoughtfully, form is function. If you think software design is a fresh coat of paint at the end of a process, I’ll send you a free pdf copy of the book, because I want you to know — this is what we’re about. Intentionality behind every decision we make to design the best damn tools out there for the best damn makers out there.
You can pre-order the book on Gumroad today in a limited edition “Final Draft” release of 100 copies before it goes public.
Don’t miss our video web mini-series and podcast, Founder Thunder Round, a unique new series that features 10 founders in each episode all answering one question. To walk away from a topic with 10 diverse answers is really helpful for you to synthesize your own thoughts (instead of repeating one person’s steps they took to success). Some have bootstrapped, some have raised hundreds of thousands, some have stayed small, some have grown to over 100 employees, some have been through YC, and some are headquartered from their home office. But all of them have seen great success, tough failures, and have lots of experiences to share.
Also don’t miss “The New Industrialist” a publication we’re putting together to share lots of articles on Medium. Hit subscribe on there now, you’ll start to see more content populate in it soon.
We’re uniquely good at product design. That’s our craft. As such, we’ve had a number of startups turn to us to help them with making sure their product design is several leagues above the rest. You’ll start to see some of our collaborations go online this year.
If you want to hire us to design your next big idea, get in touch.
Our first B2B tool
It turns out the new industrial class has a very different workplace setup with big productivity needs that are underserved. We’ve been working hard on something new for modern companies to level-up specific pieces of their work. Stay tuned on this one, and if you have a team of 20+ that you’re growing this year, get in touch.
The new industrialists do love some merch, so don’t miss ours: we’re kicking it off with The New Industrialist Poster Series. Most of these posters have decorated our own walls at some point in time. These things were all designed in-house. Get one on your wall!
Happy fifth birthday, Mindsense. You’ve been damn good to us. I hope we’ve been good to you too.
Here’s to the next five years, with a refocused audience, purpose, and identity.