Asheville North CarolinaAsheville, North Carolina.

Here’s where you’ll find blog posts about our hometown – Asheville, North Carolina. We love this place. There’s an amazing spirit in Asheville, and it’s one that can really get the creative juices flowing.

We like to think that Blue Dozen Design is very Asheville. We’re natives (most of us, anyway) and we’ve grown and changed and gotten weirder right along with Asheville. We’ve seen the good and the bad – and we’ve loved this town through every damned bit of it. There’s something, though, about this town that hasn’t changed – and we hope it never does.

Goodbye, 2013. It’s Been Real…

Goodbye, 2013
2013 is coming to an end in just a little less than 12 hours. Thanks to the great clients, great friends and great family that has made 2013 a year to remember. But, really – aren’t ALL years “years to remember?” I hope so. I’m proud to say that I’ve never had a year that I wanted to forget. Every year has great moments and moments that suck.

2013 was a year of changing, stretching and growing. In the words of Jake Bugg, “some things to be proud of, some stuff to regret.” Mostly, stuff to be proud of. Our beautiful son was born. I did a LOT of work. I laughed a lot. I worried too much. Mostly, I learned a lot in 2013.

What did I learn?

  • SEO is important – but not equally important for all sites. We’ve got a bunch of blog posts concerning SEO in the can – and we’ll be putting some of the voodoo and misconceptions to the test. SEO is good and important, but it’s not the be-all end-all for your site.
  • I still don’t like parallax scrolling. And it’s EVERYWHERE. Just stop. Please.
  • The Asheville Mall sucks. Bad.
  • I need to work out more and eat less.
  • I need to worry less and laugh more.
  • I have amazing children, an amazing wife and a life that most folks would envy. I have always been aware of this – but this year has really, really brought it home. I’m a blessed man. Well and TRULY blessed.
  • I miss drawing. I get to do a bit of it, but I need more.
  • My main competitor is myself.
  • Blue Dozen Design is a better name than Independent Studios. was a weird domain name that had very, very little to do with the actual business name.
  • I still really suck at playing guitar, but I’m getting better.

2013 was good – but also a little bittersweet. After 14 years, Independent Studios was shuttered. A lot of great memories, a lot of great clients – but also a need for change. 2013 brought immense change – and change for the better. In my personal life and in my professional life – everything has shifted. Exciting, anxious and ultimately terrific changes. I want to carry that excitement forward, and really enjoy 2014. It’s setting up to be a brilliant year.

What’s on my 2014 list?

  • More fun clients, fewer not-so-fun clients.
  • Play guitar more, and better. Maybe lessons. Probably not.
  • No more Cook Out cheeseburgers. Except when I really, really need to have one.
  • Push my design – personally and professionally. This means more drawing, more printing, more weird stuff.
  • Blog more. I enjoy writing.
  • Get a better hair cut. Really – this one is just embarrassing.
  • Be a better service provider – personally and professionally. I want to develop my servant heart. I promise to serve my family more and with more love. Same for my clients – but with less hugging.
  • Travel. Somewhere. Anywhere. Asheville is great – but I want to see more

2014 will bring change – and I’m very, very excited to see that change. Some will be great, some will be good, some will probably be bad or uncomfortable. Good and bad is all in how you handle it and how you perceive it. In 2014 – I will embrace change, and I will perceive it as good. And it will be.

So – goodbye 2013. Don’t let the door hit you where the good Lord split you.

Hello, 2014. You look marvelous.

*Jake Bugg is playing a Patrick Eggle custom guitar. My dad designed the logo for Patrick Eggle, and it adorns the headstock of Bugg’s drool-worthy guitar.
Asheville Website Development for Wahl TempPlates

Asheville Web Design for Wahl TempPlates

Palmer Wahl, in Asheville, manufactures all sorts of temperature-sensing devices and instrumentation. They’ve been around since 1836 (not in Asheville the whole time, but – still) and their products are unsurpassed in quality and variety.

TempPlates are temperature-sensitive labels that have an enormous variety of applications. Put ’em on a package of Omaha Steaks, and you know if the temperature of the steaks got too low and that the steaks might be compromised. Put ’em on a package of donated kidneys on their way to a transplant patient, and you know if they were strained while in transit. Put ’em on your forehead, and you know if you’re running a fever. The possibilities are endless.

Palmer Wahl contacted us to develop an easy-to-use and easy-to-update site for direct sales of TempPlates. WordPress, WooThemes and WooCommerce to the rescue. We delivered a site that looks great, functions smoothly and makes it easy for customers to order any number of TempPlates, see news and get ideas on their use. Fully integrated with PayPal and with Palmer Wahl’s merchant account, book-keeping is simple; and with a variety of shipping and tracking options, that end is pretty slick, too. Responsive, mobile-ready design rounds the site into a very usable and (if we do say so ourselves) great looking site.

Check ’em out! Click HERE to visit the TempPlates site. Click HERE to see our portfolio.

Asheville Website Development for Wahl TempPlates

Shutting Down 2 Successful Businesses at the Same Time. Yes, We’re Nuts.

On December 1, there were 2 deaths in our family. And we couldn’t be happier. The deaths were 2 successful businesses – Independent Studios and Lily Giggle. Were they mercy killings? Were there troubles? Eh – sort of. Read on, intrepid design fan…

Mister Terwilliger

One of 5 Reasons to Shutter LilyGiggle

First – Lily Giggle. Beth (my wife and one of the principles here at Blue Dozen,) shut down her very successful PDF sewing pattern business. Why would she close doors something that was working? Why leave money on the table? The answer here is very simple: family. Beth decided that it was time to refocus. Lily Giggle had grown far beyond her (or anyone’s for that matter) expectations and had started taking too much time to maintain properly. She faced a decision: Keep the business rolling the way it was and be forced to spend too much time with admin, upkeep and all the trappings of success, or go on hiatus and risk being unable to fire the boiler back up. The first choice was the easy path. “It’s business. My family needs the money, and it’s my job…” It’s what the world tells you is the right. It’s what most folks would do. It was successful. It was rolling. It was good. But, it was hard – and it kept her from what she really wanted to focus on: her family. Our family. The second choice was hard: stop, breathe, refocus. Beth decided to take the path that requires a lot of explanation and sacrifice. She pressed pause, not knowing if the tape would resume. It might, it might not. We don’t know right now – but what we do know is that she made the right choice. She put her money where her heart is – family. She had a sale and shut it all down Saturday night. It was hard. It will be hard. But now, she has the time to stop, breathe and refocus.

Second – Independent Studios. I started Independent Studios waaaaaaaaaay back in 1999. It grew and shrank and changed and suffered through good choices and bad choices, great clients and clients that could politely be described as nosebleeds. But, it was good, and it was heading in the direction of big success. Why would I shut down a successful business? Easy: passion.

Our Passion for DesignMy passion got lost along the way. It wasn’t my passion for design and marketing and advertising and websites and all that. That’s NEVER changed, and I don’t see it changing in my lifetime. The thing that changed was passion for the business itself. I made some bad choices. I made some people mad. At the same time, I also made great choices and I made a lot of people very, very happy. Success wasn’t the issue. The trajectory of Independent Studios never really pointed downward – that wasn’t the problem. The problem was that I had grown ambivalent towards the business itself. I found myself daydreaming too much. I found myself looking at what I was doing as more of a job and less of my passion. I didn’t really have that burning need to come to the office and design something. It was kind of old hat. That was bad, and the business was suffering because of it. There were also some (very boring) reasons to restart – SEO, forming an LLC with a licensable name, domain names, etc., – but the real reason is that I needed a way to jumpstart my passion for the business. The reason for the new name is in another post – but the reason for the business change was very deep and personal. I (we) needed to stop, breathe and refocus. Focus on what made this company good (excellent.) Cut out some of the stuff that made this business suck. The new name was a demarcation. The date was a cut-off point, mentally and functionally. It had to be done. It feels as if an elephant has gotten up off my chest and wandered back into the woods, a la the tiger in Life of Pi. (You didn’t think you’d get out of a blog post without a movie reference, did you?)

I know that through the years, Independent Studios pissed some people off. I’m sorry for that. I also know that I can’t please everyone, and that there are jobs that just don’t fit. I took on a lot of jobs and clients that I shouldn’t have, jobs and clients that just didn’t fit, and that’s when my passion would really slip. That’s my fault, and I take the blame. No excuses. No finger-pointing. Those jobs and the way we handled those hurt me, hurt the business, and hurt the people who rely on this business. From the bottom, top and sides of my heart, I apologize. My solemn oath is that I will do everything in my power to avoid those mistakes in the future.

We also had (and have) a lot of great clients that fit well and feel like family. To them, I say: “Nice to meet you again.”

It really is a new day. I look forward to working with the folks who really understand who and what we are and how we do stuff. We’ve cut a lot of low-hanging fruit away. Cut out clients that were draining our time and passion. It hurt (we’ve been in the process of weeding for a few months now,) and it will probably continue to sting a little. Leaving money on the table is hard – even if it’s for a good reason. I (We – Beth and I) have 5 kids to feed and clothe and hug and cuddle, and having money helps. But – money is the least of our worries. We need passion more than money.

Things are being rebuilt differently. We’re rebuilding Lily Giggle and will relaunch bigger, badder and better than ever. And, it will be done in such a way that it’s easier for Beth to maintain and grow. Blue Dozen Design is launched, and with it a new ethos. We’re actively more selective and we’re only taking on jobs and clients that fit. No more low hanging fruit. We’re still rebuilding the site and some of the branding and what-not. In a lot of ways, it’s not a massive departure from Independent Studios – but the mindset has changed and the passion is back. Look out. It’s gonna git all krazee up in here…

So – what does this all mean for you? Functionally, not a whole lot. We’re still in the business of delivering great design and killer websites and terrific marketing ideas. Beth will reopen and continue to make unbelievably adorable clothes. That much has NOT changed, and it never will.

What we hope you take away from this (excessively long blog post) is simple: Find your true passion. Find what moves you and motivates you. Then, stop, breathe and refocus on that. Rebuild if you need to. Relaunch if you need to. But find your passion and stoke the boilers. Full steam ahead…

It’s amazing what happens when you take honest stock of where you are. When you stop. When you relax and refocus. We have decided to do that every day, several times a day. Not just December 1. EVERY DAMNED DAY.

Love Asheville – Go Local

Go Local AshevilleWe are Asheville through and through. We serve a lot of clients in Asheville, but even more than that, it’s “home.” There’s a comfort here that we’ve been hard-pressed to find elsewhere. Not sure if it’s the mountains (said to be some of the oldest on the planet,) the people, the climate or all the memories we have. Asheville and this area have become so much a part of us that we have a hard time even considering being elsewhere. Who knows.

One thing we DO know – we LOVE Asheville. We also have a lot of kids. Kids need education. While we home-school our brood, we know that public education need everyone’s support. It’s not a matter of throwing money at it – it’s about making education a priority. Children (as cliché as this sounds) really are our future – and we need to take education seriously, and we need to put our money where our collective mouths are.

So – we support a great local cause – the Go Local card. With this card, you not only get great discounts at Asheville businesses, you help support and fund schools in the area. For $15, you support the Asheville Grown Business Alliance, Asheville City Schools Foundation and you get to choose which school your dough goes to. PLUS – you get some sweet discounts. We’ve been a supporter of the Go Local card since it’s inception, and this year is no different. We’re offering a 15% discount on our services – so, for $15, you can get a good chunk off your web or design services. SWEET!

Since December 1 is our “official” launch the timing couldn’t be better. It’s also “Small Business Saturday,” and the start of the new Go Local card cycle. Go get your card (you can buy them online or in person at various places,) and help support local Asheville businesses, Asheville schools and get a good discount on the bestest of the bestest web and design services. Everyone wins!

Now, I sincerely must get back to my coffee. It’s the only thing that keeps me going on Black Friday. That and pie. And napping. And more coffee. And more pie. And more coffee.

Neigh Savers Logo Design

Logo Design for Neigh Savers Foundation

We had the privilege to develop a logo for the Neigh Savers Foundation, a remarkable group of folks that provide retired racehorses with new homes and a better, more humane retirement. They had an established logo (you can still see it on their site – this one’s hot off the presses) and we were tasked to improve and update their look. (We’re pressing for a site redesign, too – stay tuned!)

Flaring nostrils, flowing manes and a streamlined look pairs well with a classic, solid typeface to create a great-looking logo that will reproduce well across web and print applications. Check it out below, and see it and a whole bunch more logo design goodness in our portfolio. Also, be sure to check out the Neigh Savers Foundation. Good folks, good cause. Good stuff.

Independent Studios is Dead! Long Live Blue Dozen Design!

Blue Dozen DesignAs you’ve probably gathered – we’ve rebranded, relaunched and recajiggered our site and our selves. We had several reasons. But, really, the main one is that this identity will better match what we’re doing here. didn’t really match the name of our company, and Independent Studios had gotten a little stale. We’re not independent. We’re very much dependent – on several things. You, each other, our families. We might have separate offices, we might lead separate lives – but, we depend on each other. We wanted to ditch the Independent part – which would leave us with just Studios – and who wants to see that?

So – welcome to Blue Dozen Design.

What is Blue Dozen? According to James, our intrepid leader:

Blue Dozen was spawned from really considering what this business is, and why I do what I do with it and through it. I’m a married man with 5 children. They are why I work the way I do. They’re my “raison d’etre,” the reason I get up in the morning and do the work. They’re six beautiful, amazing, brilliant individuals. They all have blue eyes. Do the math. They’re dependent upon me to bring home the bacon, and I’m dependent upon them to keep me breathing and growing and stretching and striving. When I started Independent Studios waaaaaaaay back in 1999, I chose the name “Independent” as a way of thumbing my nose at the rest of the world that (at that time,) thought that it would be impossible to go it alone as a designer in Asheville. That was wrong, really. It’s never good to start something with a negative mindset. Blue Dozen is a fresh start, a new ethos, and an impetus to kickstart the business and design culture that I really want to see out of this business and this group. Blue Dozen is about my love, my dedication – and, just as importantly, my support system. I love my family. They come first – without excuses. I love design, I love the team here, I love our clients, and I love this business. But – without those 12 blue eyes, those 6 stars, I would really just be an independent weirdo, fiddling my way through life.

We’re still the same group of designers, artists, programmers, social media freaks and geeks that you have come to expect out of DesignAVL/Independent Studios. But – we’re reinventing the design wheel. Still too much caffeine, still plenty of joking around – just a fresh, new focus.

Plus – heck – it’s a catchy name and one that we can market a lot easier. Domain names are important (we’ve got a blog post about that coming soon…) and we dig the color blue.

Nice to meet you. Again.

Web Design – Barley’s Taproom

Oh, man – web design, Asheville, beer AND pizza? Yes, please – may we have another?

Barley’s is a downtown Asheville institution, and we got to do a little responsive web design for them. Using WordPress, Google Docs and a few other tricks, we gave Barley’s a great-looking website to go with their awesome everything else. It’s easy to update, easy to use and also totally responsive. Works great on all platforms from desktops to tablets to phones. The site integrates with Google Docs to keep calendars updated and menus refreshed. Beer. Pizza. Web design. Oh, yes.

We’ve got a few more things in the works with Barley’s – so stay tuned. In the meantime, check out their site by clicking here.



Web Design for Asheville’s Own BattleCat Coffee Bar

Web design for Asheville’s most kick-ass coffee shop? Yes, please.

We’re honored to work with Amber and all the awesome folks down at the BattleCat. Stop by and have a cup of coffee. Stop by their site and plan out what you’ll have. Good food, good coffee, good site, good grief – isn’t it time to have a cup of coffee?

Web Design and Logo Development for The Honey Bee Steward


We’re privileged to work with some pretty special people – and the Honey Bee Steward is certainly tone of those. This fellow has dedicated a huge portion of his life to the preservation of honey bees, educating folks about honey bees – and just about everything else you can do concerning the little buggers.

Independent Studios developed a lovely, subtle logo for him, and a bold, bright website. The logo captures the honey cell and some good, earthy tones – and comes out warm and subtle. The site, built with WordPress and WooThemes, is as bold as the logo is subtle. The site is easy to update, and the design really makes it all pop.

Check out the Honey Bee Stewardgive us a call – we’ll help you be the bee’s knees too!