Then Something Like This Happens

by Todd

Our beanbag ampersand didn not survive

If you know us then you likely heard the news: this past Thursday a fire destroyed the studio space that we share with our friends at Echo Memoirs, Boxcar Marketing, Mol and Barley and Nimble Creative.

We learned about the fire while it happened. In the middle of a user testing session, a call from the alarm company was missed. Then texts came in asking if we were alright, and pointing us to Twitter. Shane Moore’s picture, while grainy, was unmistakable.

Photo by Shane Moore

We don’t know how to put out fires so we just kept the session going, which proved a good way to keep our minds away from worrying about what we can’t control. An email confirmed our worst fears the studio have been destroyed. Luckily, we have the best kind of clients, so after testing wrapped up they got the wine pouring and we spent the rest of the evening having a good time.


Walking into a burned out space is surreal. From down the street the next morning you could pick up the scent of charred wood. The stairwell was dark, water still pouring down from higher floors. On the third floor, ours, the floor was bubbled and warped, and in passing one studio we could see through holes in the walls to our own.

Our desks are more messy than ever!

Glass and flakes of burned paint and wood were everywhere. All the windows were broken and rain fell through a hole in the ceiling. It really looked like a write-off but we quickly uncovered surprising acts of random preservation.

Damaged books Our beloved Edward Tufte books were undamaged except for the smoke damage to the covers, outlined by books around them. As books about information design, they now hold unique inscriptions of their own history. Tufte would be pleased at the elemental level of representation.

Kinetic Sculpture Survivor

A small kinetic sculpture still works, a bit rough and without its paint. A hard drive just might still be alive in its scorched casing. Our origami flowers did not survive, their wire stems sticking out of their tiny vase. Like I say, it’s surreal.

Our financial documents were luckily untouched though a little bit soggy. The very early prototype of a physical product that we’ve slowly been working on is also safe, if a little bit scorched. Even our Mental Notes cards survived, and though their sturdy case took a hit it’s a keeper.

And Then

As word spread we got a lot of tweets and email of support, many with offers of places to work at attached or general help. We bank with Vancity and the assistant manager of our branch got in touch to talk a bit. When you look back at three screens full of tweets telling you they’re glad you’re ok, that they want to help, that you’re welcome to work in their space you can’t help but feel good on a bad day.

We sometimes talk about the tech community in Vancouver, how it needs this or that and how it could be better. Then something like this happens, and you realize that to find the best in people you just need the right circumstances and then watch them step up.

The word is that the building is still solid and that the studio will have to be gutted and rebuilt. There is a lot of history lost there, but we’re looking forward to moving back in after a few months. We just about have temporary studio space lined up and will be taking up some of those offers of spare desks until we can move in there.

Thanks everyone for your support and offers of help. After you read this, take a second look at your data backups, your insurance, and everything else. You might never need it, but if you do you’ll be glad you did.