There are hundreds of ideas out there about, how to have ideas. I believe that the question is not, “how to generate ideas”, but how really, “how not to lose ideas.” The answer is you have to be curious and active. The history of Scan.me (LINK) starts with a simple curiosity.
(For the TL:DR crowd, stay curious and stay active in order to not lose a great idea. Now on to the story!)
New Cell Phones. New Technologies
It was 2009. I was spending two years in Russia serving for my Church. Before my stay in the frozen north, my cell phone of choice was the Motorola Razor. One of my roommates there was a great guy named Peter Clayson. I would listen to Clayson speak of some new “iPhone” made by Apple that he was going to have his father pre-order for him. I didn’t really know what it was and soon forgot about it. Upon returning from Russia, I went to the T-Mobile store to pick out my new cell phone. I decided on a gold blackberry pearl. It was small, connected to the internet, had my email, and enabled me to type lightning quick and keep a journal. What else could there be?
Days later, I was hanging out with another one of my roommates, Kyle Zurcher, when he began to show me all his new toys since being back from the mission. A new car, a new place, and a new phone. It was the mythical iPhone I had heard about in Russia. Amazing, I was watching the Fergalicious music video from a phone! It was a crushing blow when I found out that it was not available on T-Mobile?!
Christmas 2009 came around, and although my gold colored Blackberry Pearl had served me well, it was time for an upgrade. Being on my parents cell phone plan (think hard before you say no to something that is free :), I was limited to T-Mobile’s current choices. My pick, the new My Touch. I brought it home and instantly began to use it for all it was worth. Which was not much. I returned it the same day. Next choice, the Motorola Clique.
It came with a mini-magazine pamphlet full of apps from the Android Store. Each one had some sort of weird code next to them. Supposedly, I was supposed to hover the camera/scanner of my new phone over the app and it would connect and download it for me. Uh, that makes no sense. I gave it a try…
Magic in a Code
Woilaa! Holy uh… That just worked. I was immediately amazed. I continued scanning these codes, caring less about the apps I was downloading and more about the experience of connecting digitally with something print.
The rest of the evening my mind was racing with different possibilities and uses for this technology. As my wife Jessica and I were going to bed, I couldn’t get it off my mind. I usually fall asleep within 20 seconds of my head hitting the pillow. But after an hour of tossing and turning, mind racing about this new technology, I sat up, popped open my laptop, and began to Google. If found them. They are called QR codes. I felt like I had discovered an amazing secret.
Hours later I found my self still wide awake, bowl of cereal on my lap, researching this QR code technology. I was surprised to find out QR codes were not new. I thought to myself, “If it was invented in 1994 in Japan, then why was I only now finding out about it?! Why is this technology not more widely open and used?”. I immediately wanted to create my own QR codes. I wanted to put them in creative places and most of all, I wanted to customize the experience behind them.
The sun was rising and I still hadn’t found a website that would enable me to do what I wanted to do in a way that I wanted to do it. Nothing was even close. I had recently started taking free graphics design classes (another story for another post :) at my school library. Even my rookie graphic/web design skills were enough to tell me that I needed a website that was well designed, intuitive, user-friendly, and powerful. My mind started to work on the problem. If I want to place these QR codes on T-shirt or large signs than I surely needed them in a vector format.
I began downloading anything and everything on QR codes that sites would give me and customize them manually in Photoshop and Illustrator. I printed my new blank Urban Outfitter T-shirts with my first QR code design, a large QR code with a line of text over it which read, “Become a Fan” (Facebook). I was immediately excited to see where I could take this.
Stay Curious, Stay Active
The idea for customizable QR codes with full backend control came gradually to me. But the seed was planted because of my curiosity. Every day we encounter new things. We can rush past these opportunities or we can stay curious. How does it work? Why does it work? Can I make it better?
However just being curious is not enough. You have to poke around, you have to make a little dust, stay active. As you will see in my next post I only discovered what needed to be fixed by trying it out.
Stay curious, and stay active, and you won’t let your million dollar idea pass you by.