What’s the deal with those hoops, and why are there 16 of them?
This is by far our most frequently asked question. It's kinda a long story. But that’s the point. It’s all about orbits—or rather, choosing the orbit that makes sense for you on a cosmic level.
The answer dives into Deep Space territory (psst: “Deep Space” is one of our blog categories—check it out when you want to exercise your brain).
Let's begin by starting up the way-back time machine (thank you Josh and Chuck from Stuff You Should Know).
First Destination: New Mexico
Status: Childhood’s End
I’ve always been fascinated with space, philosophy, and history. The cosmic hum in the Land of Enchantment is for reals. It got into my soul, deeply. This white girl left New Mexico, but New Mexico and its painted high desert culture never left this girl.
Second Destination: Breckenridge, Colorado
Status: The Art of the Chameleon
I’d just graduated film school at Ithaca College and was working for a wedding and portrait master, assisting on very high-end celebrity weddings. This is where I learned the art of the chameleon. I didn't want to be noticed—I wanted to be quietly snapping away behind the magic safety of my camera. It was a defense mechanism for my introverted creative soul.
Third Destination: York, Maine
Status: Success Has Its Downside
I knew I wanted to create things for people (while, ahem, getting paid) from my unique vision of the world, but I always assumed no one would care for or want my Western-desert, geeky, deep-space brand of "being". So I quietly started my wedding photography business with little or no thought to who and why. Just stumbled into it. I called it Geneve Hoffman Photography (GHP).
Side note: Using my name is one of the biggest regrets of my career. But we learn. Read on, intrepid time traveler.
My wedding and portrait business soared to new levels. But ironically, it was when my business and career was at its apex that I hit my lowest point personally. I was deeply unsatisfied.
One big bright spot in this era that is worth mentioning: I hired the very talented Erin Flett to do my new sun- and orbit-inspired logo for GHP. I showed her some artwork of orbiting sun circles from my childhood home in New Mexico, and told her the theory of my photography: I see the light from the ancient Big Bang traveling through the universe, down through orbits and our own sun. That same neverending light reflects on my clients here on Earth and allows them to shine. Then, that same light (or my interpretation of it) travels through my lens and back out into the universe. And it begins again.
I’ve always known the power of great design—whether it is airport architecture, an iPhone, a Picasso, or a logo. Great design feels like love. You can't put it into words. It's just a warm, enveloping feeling. I knew after that logo design, and how Erin was able to translate my thoughts so perfectly into the artwork I was looking for, that something had begun to change in my path.
Fourth Destination: Cocooned...
Status: Chameleon Turns Butterfly
Winter 2013 to spring 2015 was my 2-year long hibernation period. I was sick for about 18 months, and I turned away from everything I knew in order to heal.
My illness became a metaphor for another kind of sickness that I personally knew was infecting my business. I was also seeing and hearing it from all my other photographer friends and in the industry as a whole.
Right around that time, my colleague Anne Schmidt introduced Todd and Jamie Reichman to our 200-member photographers’ group here in Maine. Listening to Todd's podcast series that winter of 2013 changed my career and led me on a path to reevaluate the entire photography industry as I knew it. I could see we were both searching.
I hired some consultants outside the photo industry. I did the excruciatingly hard work of starting a new business "the right way”. And then, I emerged from my deep space hibernation in the fall of 2015 knowing exactly what to do.
Final Destination: Right here, right now
Status: The Business I Always Wanted
After thinking hard about what I wanted to bring to my space, what kind of knowledge I wanted to share and how I wanted to share it, I formed 16 Hoops: a strategic design and branding firm for photographers.
So what does all this have to do with the name 16 Hoops? EVERYTHING.
I knew I wanted to rework Erin Flett’s original logo for me, and hone it for this new business—and I needed a name to end all names, because I know after my deep space sabbatical that this is the last business I ever want to run.
So I went to the place that gave me so much inspiration in my creative life (even in film school). I opened up my American Indian Myths & Legends book. I turned to the story of the creation myth in the ancient pueblo people, hoping something would pop off the page.
Literally the first page I opened up was the story of how the Great Sun used 16 hoops (or orbits) to create the "Earth". The hoop is a very sacred symbol for native cultures.
The Earth origin story was the perfect metaphor for what we are trying to do here at 16 Hoops. I believe in terraforming for our clients, creating an ecosystem of positioning around their brands that not only sustains them and their own customers, but allows them to soar.
The secret of memorable branding
I took my childhood in New Mexico, my lifelong love of design, my geeky passion for history and cosmology, and mashed it all up in the name 16 Hoops.
Amazing branding is about taking all your experiences, combining them, and spitting it all back into the universe in a way that appeals directly to the people you want to reach. It's either real and meaningful or it's not.
And your branding doesn’t have to be some Level 5 Geek story about universe origins. It can be romantic and pretty, or simple and clean, or anything in between.
But above all, you can't fake it.
Everything you do in your life is what makes you "you". When done well, branding and messaging can only be about you.
Think your branding isn’t working? Do the logo swap test. If your logo could be used for any other business, go back to the drawing board.
My hope is that the 16 Hoops origin story will mean something to you as a creative business owner. I think you deserve branding that makes you pump your fist in the air when you see it or say it. That’s part of why I started 16 Hoops. Don't accept anything less.
And know this: It's a weird and wonderful journey to get there.
Links and Resources
Todd Reichman’s website, A Man To Fish
Josh & Chuck: Stuff You Should Know Podcast