Model D: What's in the Name
In Spring 2005, I met Model D co-founder Brian Boyle and writer Chris
Handyside at the Majestic Cafe. It was one of many such meetings in
which we would have a couple of drinks, some laughs and then talk about
ideas for this online publication.
We were always hearing
about some new endeavor going on in the city: a restaurant or bar, a yoga
studio, a studio/store for local clothes designers, a residential or
business development, a recording studio, etc. In spite of all of this
momentum, growth and excitement, most local publications either
continued to take a cynical look at this progress or just sort of
ignored it in favor of the controversial stories of bad politicians and
deals gone wrong. The transformation of a city is an amazing topic to
cover — no one seemed interested in writing about it.
Boyle and co-founder Paul Schutt
wanted the publication to have a completely new voice, reflective of
the trust, optimism and inspiration that was evident in the plans of
many local entrepreneurs, artists and musicians. They wanted the
editorial voice to be Detroit identified, but in a different way than
the other local publications. They wanted it to be forward-thinking and
to always have the big picture in mind; to connect with Detroit's
history, but not to hang onto it as all that is grand about Detroit.
And they didn't just see the readers as only residents, but residents and
all the people in the surrounding areas who are stakeholders in
Detroit's future. Schutt described the audience as Detroit enthusiasts —
anyone rooting for the city as well as anyone who could be inspired to
encourage its success.
Naming such an ambitious project seemed
daunting to me. I brainstormed and came up with some crazy ideas:
Yondotiga was one, the long-ago Indian name of this land. I felt it has
such a great sound to it. We laughed about how this place might have
been a very different place if the French hadn't adopted it. But I had
to admit it had nothing to do with the publication we were conceiving.
love the forefathers' names and so tried to work with Lafayette (the
explorer), Pere Richard (the conscience), Lewis Cass (the politician),
but even as I went through some ideas with them, I knew that this
publication had to have a more contemporary title.
that continued to resonate with me was that the name needed to not just
acknowledge the great past of Detroit, but to most importantly, point
to its future. One idea was "One-Eighty" which was supposed to
indicate a total "about face" for Detroit, but that was really too
negative, as if nothing about Detroit was salvageable and we
would need to start again.
Other ideas we floated include: Border, City Spoke, Illumin8, Detroit Now, The Guardian and reDetroit.
Handyside remembers the
struggle to come up with a name. "I may have brought a couple bad 313
puns to the table — which is weird, because I'm usually good at naming
stuff," he says.
Before the meeting, I thought about how the
first cars designed here were works in progress, inching closer and
closer to the ideal that would suit drivers. I liked how letters
identified them: Model A, Model T — implying that there would be many
different types to come. I liked the idea that the word "model"
signified a current ideal that could be changed, could be improved. I
began to think that to view today's Detroit as one incarnation of its
ultimate ideal — it leaves the door open to possibility, to innovation,
to collaboration, cooperation and encourages participation in the
creation of a city that can improve from day-to-day.
of how the city is a growing and changing live entity, influenced by
all who live and work here. I thought about how Detroit is in essence a
group project — a work in progress, like those early cars. The hip-hop
nickname of Detroit, as "The D," seemed to offer the right up-beat tone
to the name of this publication. It sounded right and felt right. I
wrote an idea down on my list.
Later at the meeting, while
muttering through some of the names on my list, I slowed down at "Model
D." Boyle stopped me. That was it.
"I think Model D was just
right. Model D had what you look for in a name — history, optimism,
energy, brevity and obvious logo possibilities," Handyside says.
fact, the only thing it didn't have was URL appeal. "I don't know what
'modeld' means in Chinese, but apparently someone there had registered
the URL," Handyside says. "But the extra 'media' gave the sense that
there was a group fighting for the good of Detroit in the media and
that group had resources."
The name was a launching point. In
the past year, Model D has delivered a weekly report that tells the
story of a changing Detroit, loft project by loft project, new store by
new store, inch of repaved road by inch of repaved road.
more, we've found there is an audience for this new story of Detroit,
and it's an ever-growing one. Thank you for a first great year, and keep on
Sarah Peters is a local freelance writer.
celebrate Model D's first anniversary with us starting at 5 p.m.
Friday, June 23, in Campus Martius Park. Click here for more info.
Next Energy at Tech Town
The Boll Family YMCA
One Kennedy Center
All Photographs Copyright Dave Krieger