Creative partners we love: Moth Design

Moth Design and 43K have joined forces on some pretty amazing projects over the years, ranging from a full suite of creative for Yuso, a Japanese on-the-go snack brand, to our recent kick-ass collaboration for Deerfield Academy. We recently sat down with the company’s founder and creative tour de force Tammy Dayton to find out how Moth came into being, the role of blind faith in her creative journey, and why JetBlue is her airline of choice.

WHAT WERE YOU DOING BEFORE YOU STARTED MOTH?

I was working for Stoltze Design as a senior designer. I first interned at Stoltze while I was still attending Mass Art. The studio owner, Clif Stoltze, was one of my professors. After a brief stint on the West Coast, I moved back to Boston and began working at Stoltze again. Clif was great about giving me a really long leash in terms of autonomy, which allowed me to really grow up as a designer.

WHEN DID YOU KNOW THAT THE TIME WAS RIGHT TO GO OUT ON YOUR OWN?

Starting my studio was like every major life decision I’ve ever made. I just closed my eyes and jumped. I was 27 when I started Moth, and in retrospect, I was nuts. I had no clients, no savings. I only had some blind faith that it was going to work out.

LOOKING BACK ON MOTH’S BODY OF WORK, WHAT ARE SOME OF THE PROJECTS THAT MAKE YOU MOST PROUD?

We worked with MassArt for about a decade. In fact, they were our first paying clients. As an alumna, I am very proud of our work with them. It was an opportunity for our studio to educate them on the impact of good creative, and our long relationship created mutual trust. Over the course of our engagements, we rebranded them from the ground up. I’m also proud of how Moth has grown from a user-experience perspective. When I started my business, web design was still in its infancy. With the help of our senior UX guru Dan Rukas, we’ve been able to really grow our web practice to a place where we’re taking enterprise-level projects. It’s an area where we really punch above our weight.

YOU’VE CREATED CAMPAIGNS WITH SOME HEAVY-HITTING CLIENTS OVER THE YEARS. WHAT’S YOUR PROCESS FOR KEEPING THE CREATIVE FRESH?

We’re always trying to stay current with what’s happening in our space. We have a team of super-talented designers that is great about being active and involved—whether it's sharing articles, going to events, or inspiring one another with good communication. We strive to keep our body of work varied and are always asking ourselves, “Does this work reach the bar we’ve set for ourselves in terms of quality?” The day we get lazy about where we put that bar is the day we’ll close our doors.

WHAT’S YOUR PHILOSOPHY WHEN IT COMES TO WORKING WITH WRITERS AND OTHER CREATIVE PARTNERS?

My general philosophy with creative partners is to be pretty hands off. When I get my hair cut, I don’t go in with a picture. I always try to find the most skilled person for the problem at hand. First and foremost, it’s important to find someone who you trust, who inspires you with his or her work. By giving my creative partners a wide berth, we get the best work, and it ultimately builds a culture of mutual respect.

HOW HAVE YOU SEEN THE MARKET CHANGE SINCE YOU STARTED IN THE BUSINESS?

Creative has become a much more complex, digitally driven landscape. Designers are expected to play a much more strategic role in institutions and businesses. On the plus side, that means that we’re given much more control on the creative side of a project, as long as we have a solid strategy underpinning our designs. For those just coming out of art school and into the space, there’s definitely more pressure to wear many different hats.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE WHO IS LOOKING TO BREAK INTO THE BUSINESS?

Having a kick-ass portfolio is critical. I get several queries a day from people interested in working with us, and I still always look at the resumé first. If it’s poorly designed, I won’t typically follow up with a response. A portfolio doesn’t have to be perfect, but it needs to look like there’s been some real effort put into it. Having passion for your work is so important, especially in the early days. For those breaking into the field, don’t underestimate how hard it is to be a good designer. Good design takes time.

WHAT IS MOTH’S ONE-SENTENCE ELEVATOR PITCH?

Moth offers top-notch strategic solutions and design executions with a boutique approach.

AS A PART OF 43,000 FEET, I HAVE TO ASK: SOUTHWEST, JETBLUE, OR VIRGIN AMERICA?

My preference is definitely JetBlue. Their brand is smart, their app is really nice, and I like that the in-flight voiceover isn’t canned. They talk like humans.

To learn more about the people and projects that make Moth one of our favorite creative partners, visit mothdesign.net

Creative partners we love: Alphabetica

Alphabetica is one of our favorite design studios in Boston—and not just because they happen to be our roomies here at 43K global headquarters. Alphabetica rocks thanks to a killer portfolio that spans some of Boston’s best higher ed players, from Harvard University to MIT. Founder Chris DeFrancesco gave us the lowdown on how he and his team keep the creative juices flowing.
 

WHAT WERE YOU DOING BEFORE YOU STARTED ALPHABETICA?

I worked as a senior designer at a firm called Studio E. We focused primarily on education work. I was there for roughly seven years. I was the longest-running employee they ever had before someone beat me out of that title shortly after I left.
 

WHEN DID YOU KNOW IT WAS TIME TO STRIKE OUT ON YOUR OWN?

Studio E was a small company—about three to five people. I had hit the ceiling there and realized that I had two choices: move to a bigger company or break out and do my own thing. I decided that building something on my own was the right move.
 

LOOKING BACK ON ALPHABETICA’S WORK, WHAT PROJECTS MAKE YOU THE MOST PROUD?

I don't have a favorite. But the most memorable projects are the ones that start off smallthat on the surface feel like “bread and butter” workbut eventually grow into something bigger. And I'm not talking about bigger budgets. I love when we collaborate with a client to take a small idea and develop it into something really big and fun and exciting for everybody.
 

YOU’VE CREATED CAMPAIGNS FOR SOME HEAVY-HITTING CLIENTS OVER THE YEARS. WHAT’S YOUR PROCESS FOR KEEPING THE CREATIVE FRESH?

It's all about building on past experience. Every time we start a new project, we build on what we've learned from other clients and other work to further refine our process. We’re constantly trying to evolve the way we work to make it the best it can be. That process often needs to change based on the client, and that variability helps us remain agile. We're always looking at things from a different perspective.
 

HOW HAVE YOU SEEN THE MARKET CHANGE SINCE YOU STARTED YOUR BUSINESS?

I started Alphabetica in 2008 in literally the worst economy we’ve had in a long time. But because we’re small, we’ve been lucky enough to see continued growth every year. Almost all of our work is in the education and non-profit sectors, so our market and our clients haven’t really changed. One thing that has changed is that many education clients are relying more on in-house talent for small projects. They’re approaching third parties like us for the “bigger" stuff.
 

WHAT’S YOUR PHILOSOPHY WHEN IT COMES TO WORKING WITH WRITERS AND OTHER CREATIVE PARTNERS?

The first thing we always want to establish is who owns the project. Is it ours? Is it our creative partner's? The answer sets the stage for the working process. At Alphabetica, we have a specific way of working, and we know our partners do, too. We’re not bullies. We’re really good at adapting to other working styles, and it’s important to us that everybody get along in the way that’s best for reaching a common goal. 
 

SPEAKING OF BEING PART OF A TEAM, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE LOOKING TO BREAK INTO THE BUSINESS?

If you can’t mold yourself to work and play well with others, you’re going to be a solo designer for the rest of your life. The big projects I want to work on I can’t do by myself. I need other people who can bring different skill sets to the table. Together, we’re going to do a better job. You have to be open to other people’s ideas.
 

WHAT’S ALPHABETICA’S ONE-SENTENCE ELEVATOR PITCH?

Alphabetica is a design collaborative that crafts digital products, websites, and print communications for the world’s leading educational institutions.

ASIDE FROM YOUR CREATIVE TALENTS, IF YOU COULD HAVE ANY SUPERPOWER, WHAT WOULD IT BE?

I’d want to be invisible. It would be the ultimate alone time.
 

IMPORTANT FINAL QUESTION: SOUTHWEST, JETBLUE, OR VIRGIN AMERICA?

Definitely Virgin America. I’ve only flown with them a few times, but the experience was top notch.

 

Learn more about Chris and his team of design superstars at alphabeticadesign.com.

 

Creative partners we love: kor group

For more than a decade, 43K has been partnering with the great minds at kor group, a kick-ass brand strategy, design, and web firm located in the Seaport. I recently sat down with co-founder and principal Anne Callahan to talk about the company and the state of branding. 

WHAT WERE YOU DOING BEFORE YOU STARTED KOR GROUP? 

I started in multiple advertising agencies, but at the time, it was very male dominated, and I felt that environment wouldn't give me a chance to grow. From there I went to work at a small design firm, where I did branding and communications work for high-tech start ups. After that, I worked in the communications office at Boston College, and then I started the internal design group at Suffolk University.

WHEN DID YOU KNOW THE TIME WAS RIGHT TO GO OUT ON YOUR OWN? 

(kor partner) Karen and I had gotten to the point where we were managing many of the client relationships at the design firm where we were working. We began to realize that we could do it on our own, in our own way. We connected with MB (kor's third partner), and we agreed that we could create a company that not only produced amazing work but also had fun doing it and took great care of its people. That was the inspiration for kor group.

LOOKING BACK ON 20 YEARS, WHAT PROJECTS MAKE YOU MOST PROUD?

I'm proud of all of our work, but there are some clients that have been very influential in the growth and evolution of the company. Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (kor group spearheaded its $300 million State-of-the-Art Humanity capital campaign) was huge jump for us. It took the company to a new level in a lot of different ways. Emerson College was the first client where we did a complete suite of communications that ran the gamut from print to web. The work we've done for Berklee over the years stands out to me as being just incredibly expressive. And I'm extremely proud of the work we've done this past year for MassArt, which I feel a personal connection to as an alum.  

YOU DO A LOT OF DEVELOPMENT AND ADVANCEMENT WORK. WHAT MAKES THESE PROJECTS UNIQUE?

There are a couple of different factors at play when you're working in development. Clients spend years building relationships with major donors and are understandably protective of those relationships. That can make it more difficult to get access to the audience that you need your work to reach. And the very nature of development is that the stakes are high: You don't take things lightly when you are charged with raising money. 

WHAT IS YOUR PHILOSOPHY WHEN IT COMES TO WORKING WITH WRITERS AND OTHER CREATIVE PARTNERS? 

I think the most important thing is respect. We bring a partner into a project because we value their expertise, and we want them to have the same respect for us. The other key is to get everyone on board early in the processbringing in a partner mid-way through the project often creates more problems than it solves.

HOW HAVE YOU SEEN THE MARKET CHANGE SINCE YOU STARTED IN THE BUSINESS?

When we started kor group, designers weren't working on websites, social media didn’t exist, and you couldn't buy a logo online for $500. The pace of those changes has been incredible. There is so much competition for mind-share now, which makes telling your story more important than ever, but it's also more difficult. It makes having the right people on your team absolutely crucial.

SPEAKING OF BEING PART OF A TEAM, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO SOMEONE LOOKING TO BREAK INTO THE BUSINESS?

Stretch yourself, be willing to accept direction, and learn from criticism. Have fun. And leave your attitude at the dooryou're not going to change the world with your first project. Your creativity will get you in the door, but it's your willingness to be a team player that will keep you here. 

WHAT IS KOR GROUP'S ONE-SENTENCE ELEVATOR PITCH?

kor group is a senior team that is passionate about branding and design.

JIMMY FALLON OR JIMMY KIMMEL?

Fallon.

STARBUCKS OR DUNKIN' DONUTS?

Starbucks. Always.

To learn more about the people and projects that make kor group one of our favorite creative partners, visit kor.com

How Audi’s visual storytelling keeps it one step ahead

Sure, we’re the content and messaging guys, but that doesn’t mean we don’t appreciate the power of a jaw-dropping visual story. Case in point: the visual storytelling from automobile titan Audi. Working alongside the creative team at Venables Bell & Partners, Audi has cooked up some of the most enticing ad spots to come out of the automotive industry in more than a decade.

J.D. Power’s 2016 U.S. Automotive Media and Marketing Report found that most new car buyers in the U.S. spend an average of 11 hours a day watching TV or streaming video content. That’s a lot of media-saturated eyes glued to a lot of screens, and it means that the tried-and-true sports car advertising formula (one part gratuitous celebrity endorsement + one part screaming engine) simply doesn’t cut it anymore. Today, companies win when they deliver short, punchy creative that says less about their product and more about what the product stands for.

One of Audi’s most impactful ads is called Commander, and it’s proof that the company understands the importance of a compelling story. Told from the perspective of a now-retired astronaut, the ad makes an undeniable case for the sheer joy of driving:

Aside from its captivating visuals and kick-ass soundtrack, Commander exhibits a unique form of automotive catharsis by putting the viewer in the shoes of the main character: an old man, solemnly reflecting on the person he used to be, who gets the chance to relive his glory days behind the wheel.

It’s a radical departure that totally works. And that’s because it doesn't only try to sell a $160,000 automobile—it showcases the inspirational power of the driving experience.

This ad may lack predictable Matthew McConaughey soliloquies, but it more than makes up for them by showing viewers firsthand what Audi is all about. It’s a companyand a brandthat understands our aspirations and our fears, our need to go further, jump higher, dream bigger, and shoot for the moon.

Of course, the whole point is to sell more 205-mile-per-hour sports cars. But getting there in 2016 means telling a story that inspires you to find your own unique flavor of joy. Who says a car can’t do that?

The team at Audi seems to think it can. And with ads like Commander, we’ve become believers, too.

 

 

 

 

 

Restaurant brands that make our mouths water

Signs of Boston's life sciences-fueled economic boom are hard to miss. In neighborhoods across the city, long-time residents and newcomers alike find themselves surrounded by new office complexes, residential towers, and—most importantly—a swarm of new restaurants. Forget the old-money steakhouses and uninspired seafood places of Beantown past: The new breed of Boston restaurant is sophisticated, modern, and fun. And for this crop of upstarts, brand matters. Here are three recent arrivals whose stories and visual identities are as satisfying as the dishes on their menus.  

HOJOKO

Not the newest of the new, but we think that the team at Hojoko has done a great job of creating an identity that is uniquely its own. The name itself conjures up images of a buzzing, frenetic Japanese urban center. Our favorite part about the Hojoko brand? The rosy-cheeked, sake-wielding baby that serves as Hojoko's mascot. It works so well in personifying their brand as fun and approachablelike a character from a Miyazaki film. The energetic tone of their messaging along with all of the visual touches that carry over once you step inside help to make this place feel like a little slice of Tokyo (and the pop-punk soundtrack that blasts every night doesn’t hurt either).

 

There's a good reason that Cambridge and Somerville have been buzzing about the arrival of Juliet. Aside from being named Restaurant of The Year by Eater, Juliet has done a bang-up job with its brand. The restaurant is all about fresh, organic food and service that is anything but pretentious. Owners Josh and Katrina ensure that Juliet's warm, friendly vibe finds its way into every part of the experience, from the dining room to the restaurant's official blog. Even with its eclectic and sometimes challenging prix fixe menu, Juliet makes every guest feel right at home. 

 

This delicatessen gets bonus points for making a concept that seems straight out of Crown Heights work among the biotech giants of Kendall Square. Mamaleh’s branding successfully walks the line between friendly/familiar and totally new. Mamaleh's flat graphics style, muted color palette, and playful messaging transform a Yiddish term of endearment into an experience that feels equal parts inviting and modern. And it makes us hungry for bagels. Gravlax, anyone?

Something (not so) special in the air

For decades, American Airlines’ iconic “Silver Bird” identity has been one of the industry’s most familiar and respected. But in 2011, the airline started a two-year rebranding process. According to AdWeek, executives felt that the rebranding was justified because A) American had recently emerged from bankruptcy, B) it had hundreds of new planes on order, C) a proposed merger with US Airways was in the works, and D) it was the only legacy airline that had not evolved its brand in the past decade.

Big-time agency FutureBrand conducted interviews with 2,500 travelers and 500 employees before moving American far away from its crisp Helvetica font and mid-century eagle. It was a noble effort, but the new identity was met with near universal derision. “Why do airlines think a new paint job makes up for crappy service [and] operating model deficiencies?” Tweeted one customer.

Our take? American’s new identity is among the blandest of among U.S. airlines. Pull an AA plane alongside one from Delta or Unitedits two largest competitorsand there is nothing that makes it stand out. It’s actually the least inspired of the three.

Compare the new AA identity to that of competitor JetBlue. Everything about the JetBlue brand kicks ass, from consistent use of color palette, to Mullen’s unforgettable advertising, to the airline’s Terminal T5 at JFK.

According to the airline, the JetBlue brand is built on five key attributes: nice, fresh, smart, stylish, and witty, and the airline carries them into every part of its marketing and operations. And it warms our brand police hearts to see that JetBlue almost never deviates from its core messaging or visual ID.

Plus, the flight attendants are nice, the TV is free, and they offer nonstop flights to 54 cities from 43K’s hometown hub of Boston.

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