Adobe Books is not a bookshop. It is not an art gallery. It is not a living room. It is not a retail store. It is not a community center. It is not a place to meet new friends. It does not have comfy chairs. It does not have a community table. It does not have art and music events. It is not possibly one of the world's best bookstores. It is not a co-operative run business.
After 25 years, San Francisco's Adobe Books is threatened with closure due to rapidly changing 16th street and the second dot.com wave. Rather than shutter their doors, a small group of people decide to create a cooperatively owned business.
The analog nature of the bookstore reveals itself quickly and makes a capital raising campaign tricky. Beyond word-of-mouth, there is no way to communicate to the artists, musicians and book lovers that call Adobe home; there is no email list.
This is a story about transformation: an iconic local bookstore, being run mostly as a community space, evolves to incorporate a cooperatively owned business structure. In doing so, it becomes necessary to embrace some of the same business strategies that threaten its very existence.
So then, what?
Create social media. Move into different corners within the city. Function within the cultural space in a new manner. Have a business card.
This mini-site is created for the launch of a membership drive. Called Friends with Benefits, the campaign asks people to become members for certain rights in the store. This tongue-in-cheek endeavor is part of a larger capital campaign to support the gallery's work within the arts.
ROLE: UX, UI, visual design, marketing concept, copy writing
CHALLENGE: Adobe Books has no social media presence; it doesn't even have an email address. Transition from analog business, and create a communication platform.
SOLUTION: Create templates that are flexible enough to be used by non-designers, and applicable to different projects. Give several authors editing permissions, with specific people in charge of specific channels. Create timelines with deadlines around events and promotions, so everyone is clear about what is expected. Discuss with stakeholders the on-line tone of the store, based on shared values.
ROLE: Visual design, marketing strategy, copy writing
CHALLENGE: As part of the 25th anniversary of Adobe Books, launch a series of events and projects to celebrate the past, and to support the future, both fiscally and culturally.
SOLUTION: A series of after-hours events at the bookstore that partner with existing arts institutions. Recruit from their audience; bring new people in to the shop. The event is word-of-mouth\invite only, and advertised via a simple printed card. Create old-time cocktails, menus, and table cards. Black out the front windows; inside a live band plays old jazz. Lights are dim, cocktails are available, people dress up. It is a packed house. The store closes down after 2am.
As a part of our quest for authenticity, we pass on social media - before, during, and after. The focus is on the people who are there, and the moment. The event lives in one's memory, not in one's social feed. The aim is to elevate one's expectations of being in a bookstore and what can happen there.
This limited edition bookmark is made with the artist Chris Johanson, and receives a matching grant from Rainbow Grocery to support other cooperatively run businesses.
Swag and capitalism are not exactly what people think of when they think of Adobe Books.
CHALLENGE: Create something useful, that resonates as authentic. Expand the business model, but in a way that doesn't kill the vibe.
SOLUTION: Something the cool kids can use, as well as the book nerds (and all those that fit in-between).
CHALLENGE: When Adobe Books switches to a co-cooperatively owned model, much of the labor is completed on a volunteer basis. It is a business that exists solely because people want it to, and because they see that it has value. How is volunteer time valued, and how is appreciation for effort shown in ways other than monetary?
SOLUTION: Annual co-op cards are created. They are given out in an official ceremony, with a verbal thank you and a handshake.