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Advertising, Marketing & PR  October 1, 1996

Smaller design shops proud of their service

Small graphic design and advertising firms in Boulder County are competing with many of the big slick national ad agencies, but they’re finding that their small size and Boulder County location have wide appeal.

When Thomas Dooley moved his firm, TDA Advertising & Design, to Longmont over three years ago, he took his staff out and showed them the interesting photo possibilities in the area.

“When I first started here,” said Maryanne Pratt, graphic designer at TDA, “Thomas took me out to the old sugar beet factory and showed me the fields and some of the alleys. He was real excited about the design possibilities in and around Longmont.”

TDA, formerly Thomas Design & Associates, changed its name because it had expanded into more areas including marketing strategy and re-imaging for companies, as well as packaging. The firm has 13 employees and targets clients in the sports equipment and several other retail sales industries. Currently their clients include Kryptonics in Louisville, makers of wheels for in-line skates; Left Hand Brewing Co. in Longmont; Cannondale bike manufacturers, Giro Sport Design, makers of helmets; Thule car rack systems and others.

“We do mostly print advertising,” said Beth Ricciardi, art director at TDA. “We are sports oriented. We do mainly advertising and design — we do a lot of re-imaging for companies. Thomas’s niche is that he does obscure, sublime, interesting advertising. It’s the type of ad that consumers spend a little more time looking at. The ads are more intellectual — it is more image based.”

Ricciardi points to an ad in a magazine showing the back side of two nude babies. The backs of their heads have been elongated making their fuzzy hair look like tall hats. The reader would look twice to see the image correctly. Or there is the nun flying along on in-line skates.

Clients like TDA because they are small, Ricciardi said. “We are small and very personal here.” Clients can talk directly to the artists, photographers and copywriters and they don’t have to deal with a bureaucracy common in large firms. And most of the staff do what the ads talk about. They mountain bike, ski, rock climb or skate. So they do their research in-house.

Riccairdi said their customers like coming to the agency, which is unusual in itself. Located in the top floor of the old Imperial Hotel on Main Street, clients enter the offices area through a kitchen, step over several dogs to rooms filled with a piano, tail piece of an airplane, giant pictures of former Russian leaders Lenin and Stalin and a wide assortment of interesting items.

Their ads, including one TV ad, have won numerous awards, and Dooley has been nominated to the American Advertising Federation Hall of Achievement, which they expect to hear the final report on soon.

Some advertising and design firms have found that their location is beneficial to their creativity.

Gene Malowany and Susan Chiocchi, partners at Malowany Chiocchi Inc., moved their firm from Scottsdale, Ariz. to a location about a mile up Sugar Loaf Road five years ago.

“We prefer working in the mountains,” said Malowany. “We think it aids creativity … it was a quality of life move to come here. The desert is too hot.”

The firm has four employees here and two working out of state. Malowany says they do not restrict themselves to doing any one thing. “We have done some identity structures for some law firms and some large companies. We create identities for large companies. A logo might be a part of that. There is a lot to plan out. It can entail trademarks, cards, signage, store design, facade design and merchandising items. We do marketing strategies for companies.”

The company has national and international clients. Malowany says creating a new image for a company is often a huge task, and it involves the design staff working closely with the company to find out what image would serve them well. “We do a lot of research,” he said. “We have the (client’s) staff fill out forms and then we present a report to the company.”

The company has evolved over the years and now works with clients from the standpoint that all phases of their communication are part of their image including products, business cards or advertising.

“In the beginning we were designers (but) if the design isn’t marketing driven — then it’s just pretty. It has to have meaning. A lot of times clients say they want a logo. So we say we need to back up a step and ask them their goals and their aspirations, values and personalities. And I have to emphasize that we are approaching the 21st century and that is part of their identity. They have to tell us what is going to happen in five to 20 years.”

About 50 percent of Malowany Chiocchi’s clients are out of state. “Our main philosophy is that if we can gather all the information then we don’t need to find a niche — we can just use our creative talents.”

Shaping identities for companies or organizations usually means creating a visual effect that reflects a vision.

Robert W. Taylor Design Inc. in Boulder was the firm chosen by Denver International Airport to create its logo. The logo is a circle formed by words and an arrow swooping into the air symbolizing an air plane.

“We have gotten great PR, and we established a lot of credibility because we did the DIA logo,” Taylor said. “People know that we can take on big projects — but I can’t really say we got a lot of new business because of it. Two years ago it (business) was booming, and things have slowed from what it was two years ago. Now things are picking up again. A lot of our growth is tied to the growth of individual businesses.”

Taylor Design designs ads for Florida-based Brothers Gourmet Coffee, which has grown to a nationally known company and also designed ads for Johns Manville Corp. before the company went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Most recently Taylor designed a series of cachet envelopes for the Boulder release of the Glenn Miller and Big Bank Leaders stamps issued by the U.S. Postal Service in September.

Much of the firm’s work comes from repeat business and word of mouth from other clients. “We compete by finding our niche, but what it really comes down to is (clients seeing) the work that we have done and meeting the people who we will be doing the work for and seeing if there is a chemistry there — because we are really trying to communicate — it really is a trick. A design may look simple, but when you think of all the people you talked to, all the drawings you do, it’s very complicated.”

Using computers completely has changed the industry, Taylor said. “We totally changed the way we do things,” he said. “It is faster, but everyone just wants things faster now. It saved us time, but it didn’t buy us more time. But we are able to do more things than we ever did before. No one cares how you do it.”

Taylor Design started in 1975 in Denver then relocated to Boulder a little over five years ago. The firm has five employees. Taylor said most of his customers are along the Front Range.

The Creative Alliance Inc. in Layafette was formed by three businessmen

who know how to help companies position themselves in the marketplace. T Taylor founded the company in 1991 and incorporated in 1992 with two other partners, Russ Minary and Bob Byrd. Taylor was a CareerTrack founder, Minary worked there. Byrd owned Marketwise.

“We sell ideas,” Minary said.

“We do a lot of positioning and packaging. We create an identity (for companies) and help them position themselves. We work with independent banks. We have some unique customers, but we don’t do project work. We have clients all over the country. We did the changeover for Karen Bernardi and her TV work when she changed to Century 21.”

Minary says the firm is small, which translates to big-time customer service for clients who are designing a large direct-marketing campaign, a catalog or a simple Internet home page. “Big agencies are haughty, and they don’t care about clients. We have been successful because we are small. And we can be very personal. Clients have more direct contact with the principals in our firm. You work with the name on the door.”

The alliance has seven staff members and does “results-based marketing and advertising,” Minary said. The company also helps to implement the ideas that they promote. “We partner and work as a team with our clients. We have long-term relationships with most of our clients.”

Jan Kingsbury, owner of Boulder-based Kingsbury Communication Design Inc. and Arts & Letters, a production company, says small firms can offer lower prices and be more competitive than larger firms. “We are in between the people working out of their homes and larger firms,” she said. “Our pricing is better than larger firms, and we use a lot of freelancers. So we provide the expertise of larger companies with lower pricing and we are also more available to clients than just (if they were just) using freelancers. We can carry out big projects.”

Kingsbury’s clients include Ribozyme Pharmaceutical, ProTech helmets and clients in the natural foods industry. “We focus on the sports, high tech and biotech industries,” she said.

The company was started in 1991 in Boulder by Kingsbury. “We do everything from marketing and advertising strategy to packaging and web design,” she said. “We did the ad campaign for Downtown Boulder Inc.”

Kingsbury said she has actively marketed the company in the last year but added that the business grew by word of mouth up to that time.

“We send out direct mailers, we do cold calls and we go to trade shows,” she said. “I wanted to go after the biotech industry because it is a big industry here.”

Small graphic design and advertising firms in Boulder County are competing with many of the big slick national ad agencies, but they’re finding that their small size and Boulder County location have wide appeal.

When Thomas Dooley moved his firm, TDA Advertising & Design, to Longmont over three years ago, he took his staff out and showed them the interesting photo possibilities in the area.

“When I first started here,” said Maryanne Pratt, graphic designer at TDA, “Thomas took me out to the old sugar beet factory and showed me the fields and some of the alleys. He was real excited about…

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