New Lines

The new product line is coming to life and it feels like sending your project every year.  

Completion of a product line does not end at the receipt of a solid sample. It’s only the beginning of the countless little steps that must be taken to work towards the final hefty goal – gathering the team to give our best effort in bringing the products to life through media.  After a year or more of work on new products (from hold sets, to training systems, and the new sublimated clothing) once a production ready prototype is finished, we begin the task of photo shoots, video shoots, and web work to really show you the details.  Our desire is to creatively and accurately showcase the look and functionality of our new products, and, most importantly, how these products will enhance your experience indoors and out. 

It’s difficult for me, personally, to portray online what I see in person. At times, the shape and design of a product in process comes easily. Other times, we labor for several years on a single prototype – prime example: the new clothing line. No matter how long it takes to produce a final prototype, if we are putting it to market, we believe in the product and love it. We want you to do the same.

Our face time with many of you is often limited to a few times a year at tradeshows or events where we can show and discuss the details and explain production processes for our new lines. However, there are several more of you with whom we won’t have that chance. For this reason, we are charged with the task of providing you with highlights and details via media. This process can be a struggle but has become easier over the years. Our medium from even a few lines ago is rough at best. However, with the help of a talented crew, working on dozens of new products each season, we are beginning to believe that our efforts are helping to inform and educate the community.

The challenge with product photos, lifestyle images, and product videos is making the products come to life. We want you to experience what we experience from initial concepts, to design, to multiple prototypes, and then the feeling of seeing a finished product that we are in love with. It’s like finally sending your project. Sometimes creating this media is easier said than done.  Sometimes we have great ideas, and big plans, but during execution we fail miserably.  This year was no different.  We failed and failed and then finally saw the light.

We spent three days shooting with Tennyson Tanner and Ryan and Jess White at multiple locations stretching from Southern Illinois to Saint Louis, Missouri.  There are very few days that I get away from my computer and outside to enjoy the products we have created. Usually others enjoy them first and let us know what needs to be changed, updated, or scrapped.  These days in the outdoors were a good reminder for me to take a break, get outside and enjoy it. 

The first day we shot at the Beach in Southern Illinois.  It was beautiful.  We had 50-degree temps, with the sand stuck between my toes, and the wind blowing through what's left of my hair.  Barges were floating by on the Mississippi river and we all felt on point and motivated.  Day two we shot at Elephant Rocks in Southern Missouri.  I have spent nearly 15 years of my life visiting and climbing at this park.  Every time I return I am constantly reminded of learning to climb as a teenager; learning a process and how to start something and then how to finish it.  The place taught me to stick with a task even when it is difficult.  I’ve been able to use these same principles creating and developing products and gyms. It’s not easy. Someone said that it takes 10,000 hours to develop your craft and be a professional. It has taken me double and I’m still continuously learning and trying to improve.

Our shoots also landed us at Elephant Rocks in Missouri, where we developed several problems in years past. Many of those projects took years of work to achieve.  Sounds familiar. The shoot went well and, best of all, the rangers didn't run us off after flying the drone around to get aerial shots.  Over all, it was a good day with many flashbacks from my childhood. 

Our final day of shooting was at Climb So iLL in Saint Louis, Missouri.  It was nice to finally be back in a cool building with electricity, getting the intricate shots we needed for the new season’s products.  I'll never get tired of the views inside this masterpiece of a climbing gym.  

It sounds like everything went smoothly right?  Wrong.  This season is one of the first that we are launching many new products for use outdoors.  In the past, our main arsenal of training equipment was created for use inside the climbing gym.  Now we are trying something different. We have great products that are fashionable indoors, outdoors, and while traveling.  It is hard to explain, but it has been an adjustment to shoot products outside instead of just inside.  Towards the start of the shoot, on the first few days, we thought we had it in the bag.  We took shots like every other outdoor industry brand takes: sitting on the beach, walking under the boulders, pointing out into a field, and walking on a trail.  The shots were amazing.  They were some of the best I have seen of this style, making us on point, side by side, with some of the larger brands in our industry that I both study and look up to. However, after shooting a few days, and reviewing even some of the best photos of this style one evening, I laid in bed and just couldn't sleep.  

What was the problem? I realized that it just wasn't us, and the style just wasn't right, period.  So iLL has become something larger than we originally intended. It has become it’s own living, moving, and inspiring thing. It deserves the best. It has a style of it’s own and I want to be a good steward of the brand by making every image an amazing representation of what the brand has become. It’s not just what I like anymore. I began to realize we were taking the easy way out. I know showing product photos of this style, just like the other companies, was relatively quick and could help connect our products with the outdoors and with our following but it just didn’t fit. Over the years, I have learned to listen to my gut. I got lost in my thoughts once again. I wanted our images to be more creative than what the larger outdoor brands are pumping out year after year... a yoga pose in the cornfield or a person on a mountain overlooking a river.  I couldn't get away from the idea that we were somehow selling out or taking the easy way out by doing what everyone else does, even though it works.

We have a sense of adventure that we always find indoors, or out, and we know that you do too. We want to show this experience in a practical way. Not everyone gets out into the wilderness every weekend. Sometimes our adventure is outdoors in a few hours’ drive and other times it’s urban or at our local climbing gym. I know that taking the overdone photos could have worked, but I felt un-inspired and had a check in my spirit.  I have learned the hard way, numerous times, that it is best to listen to these promptings.  

So what did we do with several days of shooting with lights, photographers, videographers, and climbers? What did we do with the numerous hours we spent brainstorming different photos and different lifestyle shots? What did we do with the time we used scheduling the shoot and the logistics of several locations? Absolutely nothing. We started over, completely, from scratch. We did this because it was the right thing to do.

Over the course of the next few months, we landed on what we believe is a solid representation of the brand. It’s a perfect fit. It’s a mix of gritty, raw, and real. It’s people doing what they love and products shown the way they are intended to exist. If I were gear, these new photos would be the glamour shots, or selfies, we were proud of, and the exposure and representation we would want. Everything made sense and I don’t feel the little check inside of me that I once did.

We put so much thought and energy behind the new products. I want you to be able to connect with us, the products, and to somehow see the intensity, as well as the blood, sweat, tears, and sometimes dark days we go through getting products to market.  It's not always glitter and sunshine to finalize our work.  We want you to experience the journey with us, and we want to shed some light into our process through these images.  We really do care about what we are creating and what we are putting out.  Like our big projects, your personal projects don't always end with massive crowd clapping or a pat on the back.  You are usually beat up, sore, and mentally drained.  Getting things done is hard work, and it takes this work to achieve your goals.  We hope the images we landed on help convey our story and that with hard work, we will continue to see breakthrough.