Building a Computer

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This week’s interesting Kickstarter campaign is for Kano: A computer anyone can make. Kano is based on a Raspberry Pi, which is a single-board computer running Linux.

The Raspberry Pi is important because the primary purpose of it is to get kids interested in computing again. Too many kids today are using tablets, and smart phones, and iPods where consuming is taking a precedent over creating.

Without sounding too old, when I first used a computer back in 1980, you turned it on, and it looked something like this:

Apple ProDOS

When you turn on a Raspberry Pi, it looks like this:


30 years ago just seeing a computer in your own home was a pretty exciting thing… and getting it to actually do something was even more of a thrill! The Raspberry Pi is not the easiest computer to get up and running, but this is where the Kano fills in the gaps.

While a Raspberry Pi is cheap, at about $35, you’ll still need a power supply, a USB cable, a keyboard, mouse, an SD card (with an operating system on it) and either an Ethernet cable or a WiFi adapter. All those things add up and bring the cost up a bit, but for a beginner, they also make things more difficult, as you’re either scrounging up all the parts you need, or ordering items from multiple sources.

Kano solves many of the problems of having a fully functional computer using a Raspberry Pi. I really like this line from the Kano folks: “Kano is for anyone who wants to start creating with technology – not just consuming it.” And they’re going with a well-tested method: making things easier.

Oh, and since launching they’ve already raised over six times their original goal of $100,000. This could be a big one!

November 25, 2013 · Posted by in design, marketing, misc  

For the next 10 weeks we’ll be doing a countdown to the celebration of z2′s 10th year. Each week we’ll look back and examine milestones for ourselves, and the industry, and there might just be a few surprises along the way, as well.

2004 Logos

z2 started in at the tail end of 2003 when Cory Zimmermann and Deb Zindler teamed up to create a new agency. They knew they didn’t want z2 to just be a clone of every agency they’d both worked at through the years, so by design z2 was meant to be a “no bullshit” agency. They were going to be real and genuine with their clients, and actually go beyond thinking of clients as just ‘clients’ and treat them as ‘partners’ in the management of their brand.

2004 Business Cards

Above you’ll see some of the early identity concepts for z2, including logos and business cards.

2004 Floor Plan

And here’s the floor plan of the original office located in a basement in Delafield. 725 square feet seemed like a lot back then!

While z2 started in late 2003 with just Cory and Deb, by 2004 we’d grown to four employees. You’ll see this growth as a theme throughout the next 10 years… Check back next week for a look at 2005.

September 6, 2013 · Posted by in design, marketing  

Alarm clocks have changed over time. No, really, check out the Wikipedia page!) Are you still using a tired old clock radio with big red LEDs on the front?

Old Clock

This is probably what most people think of when they picture an alarm clock…

…not a big chunk of wood.

New Clock

The Alarming Clock takes a (somewhat) new approach by presenting a nice looking object which also just happens to be an alarm clock. It has a digital display, but it’s hidden on the bottom. It doesn’t have a speaker that emits some digital beep, instead it takes a lesson from the old-school alarm clocks with bells and physically hits an object to create sound.

Sure, you might not be ready to shell out approximately $470 USD for this alarm clock, but it’s always nice to see what designers can come up with when faced with re-imagining something that’s been around for so many year and hasn’t changed much over time.

I’m still not convinced you need 8 hours of sleep every night though. ;)

August 27, 2013 · Posted by in art, design  


A recent post about the San Francisco flag at Burrito Justice reminded me that Milwaukee has a flag that is much less than awesome… how much less than awesome? Well, it was designed by a Milwaukee Alderman in the 1950s, and back in 2001 it was deemed so bad that a competition was created to redesign it. With over 100 designs submitted, none were chosen and the old (ugly) flag remained.

To further add insult to injury, in 2004 a poll conducted by the North American Vexillological Association, the flag of Milwaukee was rated the fourth worst of all major cities in the United States. Embarrassing!

With a vibrant creative arts community in the Milwaukee Area (including branding firms like ourselves) perhaps the time is right to give it another shot and see if we can improve upon our flag. Having a well-designed flag we can be proud of might do wonders for the city.

August 15, 2013 · Posted by in art, branding, design  

Most brands’ logos have changed, at least a little, over their history. Many times it’s for a rebranding effort and sometimes it’s because the logo is outdated. The reasons vary, but one thing is consistent between these 10 brands, simplicity wins. Here are 10 brands that have logos that have stood the test of time.

1. General Electric

Not only is GE one of the oldest brands around, it is also one of the most innovative and digitally savvy. While it continues to grow, the logo has remained the same for more than 100 years. GE may be the most timeless brand in the world.

GE Logo

2. Ford

From the Ford Model T through 2013, Ford’s logo has stood the test of time. The brand has been thought of as American as baseball or apple pie, and with such strong roots and brand equity, why change what isn’t broken?

Ford logo

3. BMW

BMW has shown why you shouldn’t fix what isn’t broken. They continue to innovate, yet keep things simple. The logo is among the most recognizable in the auto industry.

BMW logo

4. Macy’s

One of the most well known retailers in American history has kept its logo simple since the beginning. While Macy’s had used its name as the logo the entire time, the company was actually more known for the “star” within the logo—something that was reintroduced during the mid-2000s in the current logo.

Macy's logo

5. IBM

For a tech company, where change is constant, to keep the logo the same over a long period of time is impressive, which means the brand has strong value and presence. How many long-standing tech companies can say that?

IBM logo

6. Shell

What’s in a name? In this case, it’s the logo. Not all brands’ logo and name are so intertwined, but because Shell’s are, there likely won’t be much change in the logo going forward. This is why it’s remained the same since the early 1900s.

Shell logo

7. NFL

America’s most popular sport also has one of the most popular logos. There have been a few changes since the beginning, but much like the game, the logo hasn’t changed much.

NFL logo

8. Nike

The “swoosh” is among the most recognizable brand logos in the world. The only change has been the removal of the word Nike.

Nike logo

9. Little Debbie

The logo for Little Debbie, who is actually a real person and current employee, works because they used a member of the founder’s family to be the face of the brand. Much like Wendy’s, Little Debbie stuck to its roots. A real person as the face of your logo and brand can be more powerful than a simple shape or object.

Little Debbie logo

10. z2 Marketing

This year, Z2 is celebrating 10 years in business! Although much has changed for us, we remain true to our roots and prove that with our logo.

z2 Marketing logo

What other logos do you know of that have withstood the test of time without much change?

Check out our other “Top Ten Friday” posts and check again next Friday for more fun Top 10s!

August 2, 2013 · Posted by in branding, design  

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