Rebirth of Reason

Project: SOLO Brochure
By Barry Kayton

These are the words that greet readers of SOLO's first brochure:

SOLO is a diverse community of individualists from around the world. Call us what you will -- radicals for capitalism -- ethical egoists -- rational romantics -- we're Sense Of Life Objectivists. We subscribe to the philosophy of Ayn Rand -- author of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged -- a philosophy for living on earth. And we've created a forum for open discussion replete with wit and wisdom, a place to meet like-minded men and women, a place to find friendship and perhaps romance -- a fellowship of freedom. SOLO completely reinvents the culture of Objectivism making it an irresistible blend of reason and passion united by a commitment to living life to the fullest.

Interestingly, the second sentence of an earlier version read as follows:

We subscribe to the philosophy of Ayn Rand -- author of The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged -- a philosophy for living on earth. But -- possibly for the first time in the history of the movement -- we've created a forum for open discussion replete with wit and wisdom.

The change in the final version, with its emphasis on what SOLO is rather than what it is not, represents the kind of thinking that went into the brochure's conception and design. What follows is an account of how the brochure developed from idea to reality. The main issues we had to resolve are captured in the following questions:

What do we want to create?

The brochure began life as a pamphlet or booklet. The initial thought was to create an inexpensive pamphlet that we could give away or sell. However, we soon realised that with a limited budget we would only be able to produce "more of the same" kind of material already available from other sources: a black-and-white, staple-bound pamphlet that would not project the sense of life for which we stand. To clarify our objective we had to ask a different question...

What do we want to achieve?

We decided that we wanted to catch attention. We wanted to create something that would be irresistible, something that if noticed would almost certainly be picked up and read. And, we decided, the ultimate proof of success would be that readers would visit www.solohq.com. In order to be irresistible, it was obvious that we would need to print in full colour. But colour printing is expensive, so we knew that we would have to create something much smaller than a pamphlet. Another way to achieve a stimulating effect is to create a brochure that unfolds in an unusual way. That's how we settled on the double-fold. As our ideal reader unfolds each section, she is drawn deeper and deeper into the world of SOLO, experiencing the feeling of interacting with SOLOists and participating in a community of like-minded souls. Ultimately, the objective of the brochure is to contribute towards building a SOLO community.

What do we want to communicate?

Above all else we decided that the brochure must communicate the SOLO sense of life. It must differentiate SOLO as neither anally retentive nor anemically academic, but in love with life. It must radiate reason and passion, a blend of thorough thinking and fervent feeling. To convey that we decided that in addition to quotes from Lindsay Perigo's "SOLO Credo" and "Why SOLO?" and Joe Rowlands' "What is Solo?", we would need plenty of "eye-candy".

For the choice of cover art we briefly considered a photo of Ayn Rand or a collage of Ayn Rand book covers, but we quickly decided that we do not want to perpetuate a culture of Ayn Rand worship. That is not at all what SOLO is about. Alternative images included an example of great art or sculpture (to reflect the vision of enlightenment culture) or a photograph of nature (to reflect the foundations of objectivism in fact). We also considered a number of nudes for the cover but decided that a nude would not adequately represent what SOLO stands for.

In the end, photographer Fred Pan (who is not an objectivist but clearly shares our enthusiasm for architecture and great sculpture) provided us with a fantastic image that says visually what SOLO stands for verbally: "Total passion for the total height". Thanks Fred!

Who are we aiming at?

To select the content of the brochure we had to identify potential recipients:

With these prospects in mind we made sure that the brochure mentions and includes images symbolising capitalism, egoism, romanticism and Ayn Rand, that it states and symbolises clearly the origin and meaning of "SOLO" (Sense of Life Objectivists), and that it suggests a sense of community.

What are our production options?

The format we decided upon is inherently -- and necessarily -- economical: inherently economical since one sheet of A4 paper yields two brochures; and necessarily economical since our budget is limited. (Anyone who is interested in sponsoring the production of more brochures is welcome to contact Joe Rowlands.)

Initially it was not clear whether we would get more brochures for our bucks using digital or lithographic printing. Digital printing is more economical for small runs because there are no start-up costs. But since there's very little economy of scale when printing digitally, beyond a certain point (typically, 250 sheets) it's more economical to print lithographically.

Most printed material you come across is printed lithographically and the quality is still better than digital. But it is only economical for large print runs because of the set-up costs involved. For those who are interested, litho printing works in four steps:

  1. A reproduction (or "repro") bureau prints four "positives" (cyan, magenta, yellow and black) for each page to be printed. Essentially, the "possies" are printed from a Mac or PC onto transparent film. You then take the positives to a printer.
  2. A technician at the printer produces aluminum printing plates from the positives. This is a photo-chemical process: ultraviolet light is shone through each positive to burn a negative image into a coated aluminum plate; this plate is then washed in acid and the unexposed coating is dissolved, leaving the "burnt" negative image in tact.
  3. A technician then sets the four plates on the four drums of the printer and runs the printer to fine-tune the position of Cyan, Magenta, Yellow and black to produce a full colour image in perfect registration.
  4. Only at this point does actual printing begin. A lithographic printer runs at a phenomenal speed and can thus produce several hundred brochures in a few minutes. This is where the economy of scale comes into play. The amount of time, expertise and equipment required to get to this point makes litho printing uneconomical for small print runs.

We settled on litho printing and RSA Litho (based in Goodwood, Cape Town) did a fine job. So, if you've got one of brochures, take a moment to contemplate how much technology -- how much thought and experimentation and innovation over the course of hundreds of years -- went into producing so simple a thing.

What are effective ways to use the brochures?

Our thinking is to use the brochures to attract people to local gatherings organised by SOLOists and to generate traffic for SOLOHQ.

Where can we leave brochures? Many places (such as laundromats and the dreaded dentist's waiting room) offer spaces where residents and neighbourhood businesses can leave brochures, business cards or other reading material for their customers. Other possibilities include:

Naturally, handing them out at churches, synagogues and mosques is not what we have in mind. Rather, to be effective, the brochures need to be targeted towards people we can reasonably assume may be interested in SOLO. Some of the places in the list above are probably not ideal. SOLO activists will have to decide which are most suitable for their own communities.

Here's a cheeky idea... some of us might choose to leave a brochure in every copy of our local library's Ayn Rand books! Or: books by Nathaniel Branden, Barbara Branden, Leonard Peikoff, George H. Smith, Thomas Paine, Carl Sagan, Ludwig Von Mises, Robert Ingersoll, Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas; books about Aristotle, Frank Lloyd Wright, Thomas Jefferson, or great entrepreneurs such as Cornelius Van der Bilt or Rockefeller. While it may take a long time to distribute brochures in this way, it may prove surprisingly effective. Of course, if this violates library rules none of us would even consider it. :---------) Anyway, there's always secondhand book shops and book exchanges.

Another tactic is the "Three Tree". Give three extra brochures to people who are excited about SOLO and ask them to pass on those three brochures to three other people who they think might also be excited by SOLO. Activists can take this to the next level by giving three extra brochures plus another nine extras, thus empowering each recipient on the next level of this distribution tree to hand out a brochure plus three extras to pass on to others. The virtue of the "Three Tree" is that each brochure is accompanied by a personal recommendation to a person who is considered a good prospect.

Will it be effective?

It's still early days. Packs of brochures are still on the way to Scott de Salvo, Ashley Frazier, Elizabeth Kanabe, Lindsay Perigo and Joe Rowlands. Joe received a small batch and has reported that people who have seen them are "very impressed".

Once distribution begins we'll soon see whether the brochures achieve the objective of creating more traffic for SOLOHQ and building the SOLO community.

You may download a low-resolution copy of the brochure here.

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