We’re a creative agency. An award-winning creative and branding agency. We’ve made big brands bigger. And smaller brands matter. Along the way we’ve created new ones. And reinvented sleepy ones.
We've rejuvenated established fragrances. We've given facelifts to lines of skincare. Sophisticated boutique hotels have climbed into our bed. We've helped wide array of clients develop their individual voices, from Microsoft to Estée Lauder, from diptyque to HBO.
We've worked with companies in the U.S. In Europe. In Asia. Reformulating brands so that they resonate, reverberate and inspire. Rethinking products and services so they feel new again.
No two brands are the same, and so, in the words of Karl Marx, we treat each brand according to its needs. There's no one formula, but there is an equation. And like any equation worth its salt, the correct answer comes when all the right variables are in place. Sometimes you need surprise. Sometimes you need drama. Emotional connection—without a doubt. Ease of engagement, absolutely. Arresting images? Well. Of course.
These are the things we think about.
One brand at a time.
identity, website, photography, packaging, emailers, brand strategy, marketing strategy
When we craft the story of a brand, we ask questions: Who are you? Where do you want to go? What do you want to say, and how are you going to say it? What ties the answer to these questions together is point of view, and we come at it from all angles. Slanted, oblique, above, below. We pan out, we zoom in. It’s definitely a process, but that’s how we roll.
Sometimes you need to tell your story in three dimensions, not two. And if you want all of those dimensions to, in the words of the great Teddy Roosevelt, “speak softly but carry a big stick,” construction paper and glue sticks don’t stand a chance.
Kahlil Gibran said that there should be spaces in our togetherness, but as far as brand strategy is concerned, we respectfully beg to differ. Togetherness: We’re social creatures, so we need it, we want it, and brands can provide it. Successful brands take the time to foster community among their consumers, and these days the largest and most diverse communities are online. To get a leg up on the digital dialogue (and marketplace), you’ll want a place where people can connect with you.
Since Jackson is considered one of the greatest coaches in the history of the National Basketball Association, we’re willing to take his word on this one.
Our team is the heart of this company. We believe that the best creative work is the product of collaboration, so we work collectively on all of our projects. As a result, we know each other pretty well at this point. But since you don’t, we decided to interview ourselves to give you a sense of who we are.
In short, design mavens, fashion enthusiasts, word nerds, and culture vultures. We believe in the marriage of form and function, style and substance, rhythm and motion. We don’t shy away from complexity. We like Aperol. We believe that typography can be a spiritual experience, that humor is an essential spice, and that life is better when things just work. We don’t need to run the show, we simply want to make sure that it looks and sounds amazing. With that in mind, we’d like you to meet our cast of characters.
What is your position here?
Art director. When we get a project I’m the one who decides visually where things need to go.
How do you know when something is finished?
I just know it in my gut. I look at it, and I have a good feeling about it. I smile, and I know it’s ready to go.
What kinds of design elements drive you crazy?
Force justified type when it’s not appropriate. If you don’t know how to handle it, don’t do it. It’s a really hard thing. I hate packaging that has so much information on it that you don’t know where to look. Another thing that drives me crazy is bad advertisement—why bother?
What is your favorite aspect of design? What is the thing you’re most drawn to?
Nice typography and packaging. There’s something about packaging that’s so cool, even if you don’t need it. It’s something that’s tangible, and when it’s done nicely, you just want to immerse yourself in it. It’s cool to be able to buy something in a beautiful box and then use the box afterward because you like it so much.
What are your top three favorite typefaces right now?
Hoefler, Gotham, and DIN Neue. I’ve always really liked DIN Neue—it’s a classic.
What are the most important qualities in a person?
Open-mindedness. Honesty. Flexibility.
What do you do here?
Partner and creative director. I am responsible for leading the creative effort, translating what the client wants into what we produce.
What’s the best thing about that job?
Probably the freedom.
That’s not intimidating?
Very intimidating. Always.
Have you had jobs where you’ve had restrictions? Is that harder? Easier?
Sometimes restrictions do make it easier. It’s one of the problems I have with a lot of design competitions—you look at the work and while it might look great, you never understand the context that it was created in. I think it makes it much more challenging when you have stipulations, when you have a budget, a deadline, certain materials you have to use. Honestly, I really don’t like a blank piece of paper...
When you start a new project, what’s the first thing you take into consideration?
There are a lot of things. Who the client is, what they’re trying to achieve, how much you feel they really understand what they’re doing. You have clients who know what they want and don’t know what they need, and you have clients who know what they need but don’t know what they want. It’s about trying to pinpoint them in that spectrum.
Do you feel like you have a defining aesthetic?
Simplicity. I think Coco Chanel said it best when she said “before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off”. I think that is true with all of design because it so easy (and common) to pile on everything to be everything to everyone, but you can’t be and often if you strip something down to its essence, it becomes far more understandable to far more people.
What are the things in the world that inspire you?
I’m fascinated with the human condition. What people are capable of doing in the face of uncertainty, crisis, curiosity or sheer will power. I think this is one of the greatest gifts we have and unfortunately it seems a lot of it is squandered but those who do want to change the world in their own way—big or small—it is very inspiring to me.
What are the most important qualities in a person?
Integrity. Humor. A positive attitude.
What do you do here at Skaggs?
I am a designer.
What kinds of responsibilities does that entail?
Being a designer means that I solve problems. A client gives us a problem they can’t solve, and we come up with a solution.
What drew you to design?
As a kid, I was very drawn to art. I’m not very good with words—I’m better with visual content. I’m an idea person. I see something and I come up with ideas, whether it’s color, words, anything like that. One day design just reached out to me. I was at jury duty, waiting to be called up, and I noticed that everybody in the room was reading magazines and books. And all I could see was graphics. The logo on a Coca-Cola machine. A guy wearing a T-shirt. It all started to make sense. Graphic design was everywhere I was. That was a defining moment for me.
Do you have a particular aesthetic that you’re drawn to?
I have a sense of style, but I can’t describe it. I’m still evolving as a designer, and maybe one day I’ll own it. At the moment, I’m learning from everything I see, touch, experience. That’s my journey right now.
Do you have a favorite color?
I’ve always been a black, white and grey person. If I were to choose a color, it might be green. Lately I’ve been drawn to it, because it’s more of a natural color.
What’s something really cool that you’ve done lately?
Over the holidays I went back to Los Angeles, my home town. Going into my old room took me back to a time when I wasn’t living in New York, wasn’t a designer. Seeing all these objects just lying around my room, boxes, posters, it brought me back to my youth, all the things that I was into, the things that shaped how I design and see things. A Bob Marley poster, a Michael Jordan sneaker, old high school pictures with friends, bedsheets. It was like looking back but moving forward.
How do you balance working for an employer and developing your own aesthetic?
There’s always a little bit of you in all the work that you do. I’m still figuring out who I am, and eventually someone will come to me for my style. Right now I’m testing the waters to figure out what works and what doesn’t.
What’s been your favorite project thus far?
De Coson, which is a hospitality group that’s developing a project in the Dominican Republic. I think that I see eye to eye with the company on how the design should look. The company isn’t architecturally based, but they want something that’s architectural, with lots of negative space. I think that’s where web design is headed. I think design will eventually become a lot simpler in a very subtle way.
What kinds of things inspire you?
I’ve always been into photography. I do that in my spare time. I’m not a big fashion guru—I don’t think I invest a lot in what I’m wearing, but I love to pay attention, especially now that I’m working here.
What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Don’t take anything too seriously. Let go, and don’t hold on to everything so tightly. I want what I want, and I need to learn how to just let things roll off my shoulders.
What do you do here?
I’m the new Web developer. I was a friend of Bobby’s in college, so I help him. The other guys all put together the design and the direction. They give us a picture and say, “Make it look like this,” and we do.
What is that process like for you? When you look at a picture like that, do you have a specific order in which you do things?
I don’t like this analogy that much, but it’s kind of like scrapbooking. I get the full layout, and I look at it, and I think, okay, we’ve got some things over here at the top, and then there’s going to be a big box in the middle where all the photos and content are going to go, and then there’s going to be some little stuff at the bottom. I start breaking it down and then building up little stacks on top of what I know needs to be there.
How did you get into this?
I first started web developing when I was in middle school. I was into computers, and I was taking a programming class. I thought it was really cool—I was really into it. I thought it was amazing that something that seems like just a desk file comes out as a beautiful document that can look any number of ways. So I was doing solo freelance work for a while for family and friends.
Maybe two years after that. I hated that because it was all me. I had to find the people, make the design, do all the back and forth with them, code the design, support their websites...so I just kind of dropped it. Doing that, though, I kind of got into the design side of it, because I had to work with Photoshop to put images into the websites.
What would be your ideal project to work on?
Because I have this weird physics, math—I was a physics and math double major in college—art, and photography background I’m really into mashing as much of that together as I can. I would love to do an art space installation that’s run by a computer, something with sensors and lights and video and projection and animatronics, something that’s moving and reacts to the people viewing the piece. It’s limitless what you can do. That’s my artsy side. As for the design side, I’m into stuff that’s universally slick, that just works. I hate it when I go to a Flash website on my phone and I can’t do anything. I just want to be able to find out when you’re open, or where you are. I just want it to work. Being here is good for me because I did my four years of design, I did my Photoshop time, and I kind of reached the conclusion that I’m not that good at coming up with the concept on my own. I like it when someone says, “Here’s how I want it to look,” and then I just do it.
So those are your favorite qualities about the job, but what are the most important qualities in a person?
I like to know that somebody is just going to be honest with me. If I’m messing up, or I’m missing something, I just want it put out there.
What do you do here at Skaggs?
Right now I’m interning, so I’m doing a little bit of everything. I’m going to start taking Photoshop classes so I can help out more. I’ve been drawing a lot--I’m working on a storyboard for an app for Lipstick Queen, and doing some project management. I had my first meeting on Wednesday, and I think it went pretty well.
Do you have an art background?
I just grew up drawing. In high school I took all the art classes I could possibly take. That’s it, really.
What’s your favorite thing to draw?
Just crazy, funky stuff off the top of my head. I often get compared to Tim Burton.
What do you like about his work?
He’s just so creative--his art is kind of out there and fun.
What’s the hardest thing to draw?
I’ve been teaching myself how to do portraits. I have trouble with the eyes, because I don’t do it the right way. They always come out enormous.
What is your favorite thing to draw?
I love shading. I always want to get past the drawing part so I can get to the shading. That’s the most fun part.
And why is that?
I guess when I’m drawing I get distracted easily, but when I’m shading I can zone out and do it for hours.
What are you favorite tools to use when you draw?
I like pastels. They’re easier and more fun to shade with. You get messy, and I like getting messy. I like charcoal. My teacher always used to tell me, “You’re messing with your talent; don’t smudge,” but I always smudge.
What would be your ideal project to do here?
I would love to get my hands on a project where I get to do Photoshop stuff.
What are the most important qualities in a person?
Honesty and loyalty.
We believe that collaboration with the best possible minds and creative talents in our field, people who bring different perspectives to the table, will help us evolve as artists. Collaboration is, essentially, an exercise in communication, and continuously thinking about how and why we communicate the way we do hones our skills and helps us help you do the same.
Editorial Strategy & Content Creation
Kate Seward, our partner in crime on The Conspiracy, is a self-taught photographer and Yale and NYU-trained writer.
Two years ago she started a streetstyle and culture blog that inspired her to found The Styley, a company that helps brands develop editorial strategies and original content for the web and social media channels.
We met Kate while working on a hospitality project, and the three of us soon discovered that we shared not only a similar aesthetic sensibility (as well as a sense of humor, thank god), but a firm belief in the notion that in today’s world, a well-branded company needs three things: a solid brand strategy and narrative, fantastic design, and really engaging content. Together, these things form an organic whole that tells well-crafted story about who you are and what you do.
Engage, Ignite, Connect
Jennifer Labus is a study in contrasts. In the twenty-four years she’s worked in marketing and advertising, she has spent time on both the client side–she's responsible for Pfizer's Chantix launch, among other things–as well as the agency side, and refers to herself as "an agency person." Indeed, she's worked for the biggest in the biz (think J. Walter Thompson, Lowe & Partners, and Saatchi & Saatchi), as well as some smaller shops.
As one of the original executive leaders at Nitro, she was instrumental in taking the company global before its acquisition by Sapient in 2009. The following year she did a complete about face, dedicating the time she'd allotted to what's quaintly known in England as "gardening leave," to helping two charities with their fundraising and positioning.
Jennifer has lived in New York, Shanghai, London and Tanzania (where she established sustainable communities and slept in a mud hut.) We're pretty excited about her unique blend of business and marketing experience, and if her strategic planning expertise wasn't enough to write home about, we're impressed by her ability to combine leather skirts and pearls. "I always wanted to be a rock star," she says. As far as we're concerned, she is one.