A note from Founder and Director Greg Nemes
May 4, 2020
I hope you and yours are healthy and safe, and managing in this difficult and uncertain time.
Despite all of the turmoil going on in the world, I’m thrilled to introduce you to Tanager – a recently hatched creative technology firm. Tanager is a division of Work-Shop Design Studio, focused on working exclusively with environmental and community organizations.
I want to tell you all about what Tanager is – but first – let me tell you a story, and answer the question you’re probably asking – what the heck is a Tanager???
Growing up in Ohio, my parents introduced me to birdwatching – a gift that I’ll always appreciate. One day, I saw my first Scarlet Tanager – a fiery red songbird with jet black wings that flits about North American forests in May and June. I was stunned by its beauty. I wanted to know all about the bird – it’s scientific name (Piranga olivacea), what it eats, where it lives – and these questions led me to get totally hooked on birds. We birders refer to this as your spark bird. I learned a great deal about the natural world through birdwatching, and developed an appreciation for wildlife, being outdoors, and seeing the secret beauty of nature. As I got older, birdwatching became less important to me. I never completely lost touch with it, but it wasn’t a part of my life. I went to college, then to grad school, started a business, created a life, and somewhere along the way acquired a pretty bad case of creative burnout. It was hard to find joy in my work, and my physical and mental health were not in great shape.
Around that time in early 2019, I was at a book club with some friends. A passage we were discussing included the word scarlet, and I was reminded of that brilliantly colored bird that I hadn’t seen in over 15 years. I set a goal for myself to see a scarlet tanager that year. I started by going to parks, nature preserves, land trusts, cemeteries (surprisingly good places for birdwatching) and just spent a lot of time walking and enjoying my surroundings. I started remembering all the birds I used to know. I made amazing discoveries – like a baby Painted Turtle which fit on the tip of my finger, and a Great-Horned Owl nest with two gigantic owlets being watched over by their even more gigantic mother. It was therapeutic and restorative for my mind and body. I was able to unplug, reflect, and be in the moment because I was so absorbed by the beauty and curiosity I felt. Eventually, on a cool but sunny morning at Swan Point Cemetery in Providence, I found a Scarlet Tanager. I felt that spark, and was once again hooked on birds.
A few months after setting the goal to find a Tanager, I was onto the new goal of seeing 200 bird species in Rhode Island by the end of the year (I ended up with 228). This meant even more time adventuring outdoors and meeting great new people – birders, refuge managers, environmental educators, and visionary conservationists. My company, Work-Shop Design Studio, began to work with organizations in the environmental fields, and I deeply enjoyed the collaborations. I realized I was finding joy in my work again, because my work was so directly connecting to my passions and interests.
So I decided to create a new division of Work-Shop, to collaborate exclusively with those who are supporting our environment and our communities. The Scarlet Tanager helped me on my journey, and I’m now hoping Tanager can help others along their journey.
If you’d like to learn more about how nature can help with burnout, read our blog post on nature walking.
The Tanager Flock
Our clients are organizations working to build a brighter future for humans, our environment, and wildlife. We believe that’s some of the most important work being done today. This includes environmental, nature, and science organizations, as well as some public health and community organizations. We only work with people whom we truly believe in – and we literally say no to anyone whose cause we are not 100% behind.
Tanager is a division of Work-Shop Design Studio, so we have the expertise and experience that Work-Shop has gained since our founding in 2013. We’ve worked with bigger clients like The Smithsonian Institution, Harvard, MIT, and Brown. And smaller local organizations like the Newport Art Museum, World Oceans Day, Leadership Rhode Island, and The Avenue Concept.
We’re continuing to grow the flock and hope to connect with more amazing people through our work.
What we do
We design digital experiences and solve complex technological problems. We’ve made websites large and small, designed experiences to connect the physical and digital worlds, built mobile apps, tamed scary-complicated databases, and helped organizations tend their digital landscape year after year.
Here are our key services:
- Discovery, Strategy,
- Web Design
- Experience Design
- Service Design
- Brand + Identity
- Communications +
- Digital Strategy
- Web Development
- App Development
- Web Hosting +
- Information Technology
- Databases + CRM
- Custom Software +
You can see some results of our client collaborations here
Making nature a part of our practice
Humans have all but entirely separated our lives from nature and the wilderness. In the twentieth century, we built and moved to cities and suburbs, segregating nature from our physical spaces, and in many cases destroying habitat and wildlife because it got in the way of our unchecked expansion. In the twenty-first century, we’ve further weakened our connection to nature by creating more mediation from the physical world through the web and social media. We’ve seen these effects wreak havoc on our bodies and minds – anxiety, depression, chronic illness, and a whole slew of other issues. The good news is that we haven’t lost the ability to heal the natural world, and for it to heal us.
At Tanager, we’re going to build nature into the DNA of the company. We’ll host weekly nature walks, lead cleanup efforts, and volunteer with local environmental organizations. We’ll derive inspiration from nature in our work. We’ll also share our experiences of nature through social media(on instagram and facebook). We’re going to work diligently, but not so hard we get burnt out – and if we do get burnt out, we’re going to go for a walk and find some natural beauty to bring us back down to earth. Oh, and we give every project a codename based on a bird species that is relevant to the project. For example, the World Oceans Day website project had the codename Great Cormorant – a bird that can be found in oceans all over the world, but also feels like a local resident. We’re still pondering other ways to infuse nature into our work and lives, and will regularly be revisiting this topic.
One initiative I’m particularly excited about is a service we’re offering to businesses and organizations – to lead a nature walk for their employees, focused on learning how nature walking can decrease stress and anxiety and increase mindfulness and bodily health. We’ve already done this with Township, a fabulous company here in Rhode Island. Given the COVID-19 pandemic, this service is unfortunately on hold, but we’ll bring it back as soon as it’s safe.
It’s important to be a good neighbor, and to use your successes to make others more successful. So we’ll be donating 2% of our profits to local environmental non-profits. So far in 2020 we’ve supported Audubon Society of Rhode Island, Norman Bird Sanctuary, and Save The Bay. We’ll be donating to additional organizations throughout the year.
I’ve been building Tanager since late 2019, with the intention to launch it Spring 2020. When COVID-19 struck, I paused to take stock and ensure it’s still the best plan. I talked with friends, advisors, clients, and of course, took lots of long walks in the woods. After thorough consideration, launching Tanager still feels right to me. So I’m moving forward carefully and thoughtfully, and I’ll do everything I can to help our clients and community cope with this difficult time.
We recently partnered with The Ocean Project to redesign the World Oceans Day website – a platform to help people around the world connect and engage around our most precious resource – our oceans. It was a rewarding and exciting collaboration, and we’re looking forward to World Oceans Day on June 8th. We’ll probably be out on the beach doing a cleanup – contact us if you’d like to join.
We’re currently working on some cool projects. One is a website for the ‘Narragansett Bay Dam Atlas’ – a project between the University of Rhode Island and Rhode Island School of Design to present data, knowledge, and tools to help communities in southern New England make decisions about historic dams. This is crucial, as most of the dams in our region are quite old, sometimes hazardous, and often present ecological challenges. The site will be launching soon and we’ll share the results with you.
Being out in nature is really important to us. So we’re planning to lead small, socially distanced nature walks here in Rhode Island – but we want to do it in the safest way possible so we’re still figuring out how to do this. Stay tuned.
We’re always excited to discuss potential collaborations. Whether you’ve strategized a concrete project, or you want to just get started on brainstorming ways to solve a vexing problem – Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
I can’t wait to see where the trail takes us.
Thanks for reading, and for your support.
Be well and stay safe,