Duration: We’ve been working in the design industry for ten years at various agencies and in-house brand teams. We worked together for nearly five years right out of university at a small branding studio in Minneapolis. Essentially, we built Buddy-Buddy on nights and weekends for the last four years before officially launching full time in June 2019.
Location: Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Education: We both attended and met each other at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, in Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota. Ross studied graphic design from the College of Design and Andy studied cultural studies and comparative literature from the College of Liberal Arts.
Career path: For Andy, it was a situation of exploring professional opportunities that have helped clarify where his abilities and passions might best be applied. Working in a smaller studio context enables him to oversee roles from account management to new business development to copywriting to creative strategy.
For Ross, this path was more straightforward. Growing up in rural Wisconsin, he has always found art and creativity an important and fulfilling personal expression. Design seemed to be the obvious career path that reflected his passions.
Although our skills are totally different, they’re symbiotic and complementary to each other. Through Ross, we’re able to take a creative approach that is hyperspecialized and comes from a strong, singular point of view. Oftentimes, he can embed himself into our client’s teams, acting as an extension of in-house creative groups. Through Andy, we’re able to apply a stronger focus to the relationships of our clients and more strategic, business-minded plan to set up our work and defend our thinking through a more objective rationale.
Creative influences: Midcentury, pop art, art deco, art nouveau, the American arts and crafts movement, the influential brand trademark symbolism from the mid-1900s and naturalism.
There are also a number of small partner-led firms that also provide a massive amount of inspiration for our work: Lindsey and Brent Couchman at Moniker. Helen Rice and Josh Nissenboim and the multifaceted business they’ve built at Fuzzco. Jessica and Tad Carpenter at Carpenter Collective. Caleb Owen Everitt and Ryan Rhodes of LAND. Katie Kirk and Nathan Strandberg of Eight Hour Day. And the experiences and perspectives we gained while working at Stout and Studio MPLS.
Favorite project: The Ida Graves Distillery project, as we think it most accurately reflects our studio’s wide-ranging abilities while simultaneously showcasing our focus and specialized capabilities. This was a traditional brand development initiative, bringing the founders’ vision to life. We’ve partnered with the founding team for more than three years, working collaboratively on the launch strategy, product development, digital content, video and photography, production and collateral, among other things. This project is a testament to the efficacy of long-term collaboration and creative direction.
Work environment: We are currently a remote studio, spending way too much time on Slack every day. With many out-of-state clients, we simply haven’t had a need to find a physical space for our studio yet. We’re open to this being a near-future reality for our business, but at the moment, we are enjoying the flexibility and variety that remote work affords us. We’ve discovered that work mobility has contributed to a more fluid creative process.
Before ever working together, Ross and Andy were close friends. This friendship takes priority over the ups and downs of owning a business together. We try hard to not take ourselves or our work too seriously, understanding the broader realities and priorities with our family, friends and faith that exist outside of work. We give each other the space and time needed to fulfill our responsibilities while also relying on each other’s perspective and input on all aspects of the business.
Approach: We’re trying to build a “full-service” branding agency model with as few people as possible. Our small size is a massive differentiator for us: It lets us take on smaller, quick-turn projects for a wider variety of clients. It enables us to work directly and intimately with every single partner, bringing a strong sense of personal commitment to all of our work. It forces us to remain specialized and avoid diluting the efficacy of our work.
We always try to be a little enigmatic with our design. While our most important objective is to ensure the visuals relate to the strategy and project goals, we also want to imbue intrigue, color, personality and romance. We believe in the emotional pull of art and the powerful role it can play in a business context.
Philosophy: Focus and commit to the relationships of our client partners. Our firm’s success is entirely dependent upon the success of our clients, and we really mean it. This acknowledgment keeps our egos in check. We approach partnerships through a service-focused filter, and build relationships on trust, honesty, collaboration and transparency.