Monthly Archives: December 2010


While Flash Developers have many ways out getting trace output from Flash, I find myself often trying to debug a system I don’t have access to. It may be behind a VPN, or the client may be trying to describe a symptom that I just can’t recreate on my machine. When this happens, I opt for an easy-to-implement, low weight debugger than runs inside the swf, and finally made one after seeing Big Spaceship’s recently released lovely utils package. If you haven’t already done so, you should definitely check it out. As an aside, I have to give credit not just to Big Spaceship for inspiring many of these classes, but also to Bit-101‘s minimal components as well as Mr Doob‘s wonderful Stats class that the debugger leverages. Thanks guys!

Owen Jones and Partners Flash Debugger


The main thing I wanted to accomplish was ease of use. I wanted the equivalent of trace() – specifically – I didn’t want to have to import any custom classes in order to push something to the output. As a result, the Debug class now resides at the base package level, which isn’t ideal, but I think it’s a good trade-off to be able to simply say Debug.trace() from any class without needing to import com.owenjonesandpartners.debug.Debug. Yikes, that’s a mouthful. Anyways, now you can say Debug.trace from anywhere (as well as, Debug.status, Debug.debug, Debug.warning, Debug.error, or Debug.fatal). The different methods are also color coded, and are properly identified in Console.


The second objective was to enable multiple outputs. Currently two outputs are supported – the in-flash debugger as well as Firefox’s console output, which are simply enabled with

var debugView:DebugView = new DebugView();
Debug.registerDebugger( debugView );


Debug.registerDebugger( FirebugAdapter.getInstance() );

respectively. You can check out the DebugFactory class in the source files to see it all come together. Also please note that the FirebugAdapter is very similar to Big Spaceship’s… I can take no credit for writing that, all I did was wrap up some very basic functionality to make it slightly more usable.

Owen Jones and Partners Debugger Closeup

Look! Color coded feedback!


The final objective was to enable the debugger to be rapidly removed for any live deployment. We certainly don’t want the debugger appearing on top of any client logos. That would be terrible. I choose to use a compile time flash var (Thanks to Dru Kepple at Summit Projects for pointing this out to me), which means that the entire debug code can be excluded from the compiler. This is different than code that simply not called – it fully does not exist in your swf. Changing the CONFIG::DEBUG flag back to true puts it back in, and now we have a very simply manageable way to ensure that the debugger bytecode can be removed.


I’ve posted the source files and a simple illustrative example here. Enjoy, and let me know if you find it useful.

Download the Owen Jones and Partners Flash Debugger.



At our first meeting with Ba Luvmour – one of the founders of the Summa Institute and Academy – we asked about his goals. Ba’s simple response: “Changing the world”. Inspired, Owen was more than willing to try and help make that happen.

Our work for Summa (previously “Encompass”) began with reading their books, interviewing the leadership, board of directors and people that have worked with the Luvmour family. When we were done, we were pretty sure that they had combined all of the best child development theories into something new, profound, and way different. The 2×4 between our eyes: As Goethe said: “You only learn from those you love.” Summa understands that we only learn and develop in relationship. What does that mean? Well, consider that a child is born with the ability to speak. They learn to speak only if they are in a relationship with their mother, parent or caregiver.

And that means relationships are the key to learning and developing. In short, we grow together – never apart or alone. With this core belief and a unique (and well-researched) understanding of the stages of childhood development, the Summa Academy and Summa Institute will be launching in their own space in Fall 2011.

A big part of our work was translating these great theories from their academic voice in to something that connected more quickly and easily with the people of Portland. Owen wrote a brand narrative, developed various communication pieces like posters, postcards, ads developed a social media strategy, and designed a website.

The Summa Institute brand narrative book. It will also double as a leave-behind for fundraising meetings.

Most of the photography in the brand narrative was shot by the creative team of Aaron James and Rusty Grim

This is Rusty's youngest son, Jack. "Put a helmet on" he yelled at him.

Aaron's son. What is going on in his head right now?

The site is built with an Expression Engine CMS. And a limited version is already up.


For those of you out in the web-o-sphere who didn’t get a printed version of our holiday card this year, here are a few photos we snapped today. They were printed locally by an amazing letterpress studio, KeeganMeegan & Co.  If you’re looking for a letterpress printer, they are a new friend of Owen, and he can’t stop yacking about how nice they are.



For seven years now Owen has been doing an annual holiday card for our friends at ACME Business Consulting. The very first year we sold them on the idea of relating some holiday tradition directly to business consulting. That year, we did a photo shoot where we had some of the consultants pitching a new supply chain management system to Santa in a conference room. The first card was a huge hit, and every year we try and out-do the previous. This year Mark Rawlins and Rusty came up with this idea: What if Kringle Company had a completely new distribution system to replace the single sleigh + reindeer operation he’s been using for years? We thought that sounded like a project that ACME could handle with ease.

Getting the card done, however? Not so easy.

With the help of Sage Corson, we self-produced two photo shoots: One out on the tarmac at PDX where we ran around, waiting and hoping to get a shot of a plane we could use – and another at Owen Portland HQ where we shot all of the composite components. The photos below show some of that process. It was pretty dang fun. Mark then worked for a few weeks with PSD wizard Brian York to get it altogether and make it look just right.

The message on the inside of the card.

Mark shoots ACME partner David Kelleher does his duty as the "Elf".

Sage, testing the lights and the beard we rented.

Mark triples up as: 1. Mr Kringle 2. Photographer 3. Art Director





Owen has been much remiss in not getting to this sooner – and the fact that Sage has been kicking so much b-o-o-t-y around here makes it seem a bigger oversight each day. We are ever so lucky to have Sage. Sage joins us from Straub Collaborative where she was a producer + project manager and the main liaison between the clients and creative staff. In a very short time Sage has won the heart of many, many people at both the SF and SJ offices of Adobe Systems Inc. She’s been managing all sorts of projects on that business AND she’s become the de facto producer here at Owen when something out of the ordinary needs to happen. Check out the Owen (nay, Sage) produced ACME Christmas shoot and you’ll see what we mean. Sage hails from Montana, and has a degree in photography from the California College of Arts and Crafts. Yes, she’s doing a ton of producer / project manager work here at Owen – but she is also a shooter with a fascinating eye. Her portfolio is diverse in subject matter – but her eye and shot choices make it really cohesive.

Welcome Sage, we’re glad to have you with us.


It’s your organization, and ultimately, your risk – how you make brand choices is always up to you. But when it comes to testing brand concepts, Owen offers the following perspective:


Why? well, in the testing construct (particularly when testing something as subjective as creative concepts) most of what you get back is what is wrong with an idea. This is because people really want to add value to the process – and saying, “wow, that’s great, you nailed it” does not allow people to feel like they’ve helped improved anything. Helping people fix something is a way to add value. And this is where people (bless their hearts, really) spend the bulk of their time and represents a disproportionate amount of the data you get back.


What are the ramifications of asking opinions and potentially disregarding them? The potential political ramifications of the inclusion of others in the decision-making process can easily cloud the decision-making process.


I’ve never loved testing creative concepts that have a very, very broad communicative purpose. Logos and brand lines are intended to embody as much of “everything” about an organization as possible. As such it is very hard for a test group to specifically respond beyond the actual aesthetic of feeling that the logo or line conveys. And in testing (see above) that never feels like enough. Logos and brand lines can not be expected to be solving a super specific communication purpose other than to remind us who is being represented. As such, they are aways filled with meaning by the surrounding context (an, ad, sign, banner, website, etc) – and only take on broader meaning with the actions of an organization over time. The Coca Cola logo was designed by the bookkeeper for the pharmacist that invented the drink. He chose Spencer Script as the typeface because it was the dominate form of formal handwriting at the time and he thought it would “look good”. Of course, now the the Coca Cola logo is worth (literally) billions and has taken on much more meaning than that bookkeeper could have ever intended. So, again, beyond a basic reaction to aesthetic and emotional quality, there is not much more we can take from testing. Discussions and data from testing tends to narrow focus. When it comes to something that has to convey so much, narrowing goes towards the literal, and you end up with suggestions that skim the potential meaning for the sake of a literal understanding.

Additionally: There is no practical way in testing to simulate the real-wold experience of experiencing, seeing, reading a logo or brand/tag line repeatedly over time.


A big part of brand development is figuring out (and expressing) who you are, what makes you different, and why you do what you do. Having done that hard work, we should have an excellent decision-making framework for specific tactical executions. It might take some significant time reflecting on that criteria and measuring the work against it – but the answers – and best decisions are in there somewhere if take that time. Yes, it might inspire more questions and discussion – but that discussion will likely be more focused on making sure the criteria/framework is clear enough to make the right call.


When you get into aesthetics things can really begin to feel loose. Aren’t we just talking about people’s preferences? And, if so, doesn’t that mean everyone’s opinion is valid or equally worthy? Hell no. If it is impossible for a logo or brand line to come completely filled with meaning upon creation and that what we need is something that is aesthetically and emotionally appropriate to begin to convey what is true about the meaning that you bring. If the creative team has done their homework and the design has solid aesthetic references, is clearly different than that of your competition, and has demonstrated that it will function (in context) then you already have a good part of the team of experts to help you make your choice. These people spend their entire professional day doing nothing but aesthetic research and decisions – considering trends, considering if something has aesthetic / emotional longevity and scalability, learning what is beautiful and what is not.

There are, of course, some caveats and/or mitigating factors to all of the above. They include:


You need to feel good about your core branding components. If it doesn’t feel good and right internally, it will never be expressed with the vigor, honesty and love that it needs to be externally. When referring to “we” it must include enough internal people/constituents to make sure that it feels good. This, of course, must be balanced by the basic truth that communication is not like pizza – you can’t just add stuff to it and it gets tastier/better. Too many opinions, too many cooks – we all know what that means.


It is entirely possible for the creators, co-creators and collaborators to become myopic in the process. We do need to accommodate for this tendency with some form of outside validation.

In the end – it is the CEO’s decision to make. Owen will always have some favorites that we present that are worthy of the organization, and satisfies what we see are the decision-making criteria for the assignment. We will surely offer up our informed, though subjective opinion in that regard.

But we do so fully knowing that it is your choice to make.