Magazine article Communication World

When Is a Design Firm More Than a Design Firm?

Magazine article Communication World

When Is a Design Firm More Than a Design Firm?

Article excerpt

When Is a Design Firm More than a Design Firm?

Guy Schum and Clare Stober are members of an independent meeting of Conservative Quakers. Back in 1981, their meeting wanted to publish the writings of early Friends, and Schum and Stober agreed to produce some free-lance design work to finance the project. That volunteer project became Schum & Stober. Their first offices were in the basement of Schum's house, along with a daycare center run by his wife. During their first years, the designers doubled their volume of business every year.

"About three years ago," says Stober "We realized that we were past the growth-for-growth's sake phase. We had proved we could be a success. It was time to decide what kind of company we wanted to be and to take responsibility for becoming that company.

"In the '80s we began to see a trend in the communication service industry as becoming fragmented. We saw firms that produced design, agencies that would just buy ad space or place press releases, novelty companies that put a corporate logo on T-shirts and so on."

Stober adds, "I think clients--especially smaller, growing companies, have always been frustrated by having to find and manage so many vendors.

"We felt we could offer a more efficient way for a client company to get its message across--and that is when we decided that our design firm would be more than just a design firm."

As a result of that decision, Schum and Stober developed into a full-service advertising, marketing as well as graphic design firm.

Both partners feel that the firm produces far more effective work today than it did when the focus was confined to design. "Designers are taught in school that good design is a process, a problem-solving process," says Schum. "It's not some inspiration that just pops out of your head. But how can you solve client's problems if you don't understand their business? If you don't understand their market? By broadening our scope to include market research and strategy, we are doing a much better job of producing designs that really solve problems."

Schum adds, "We are communicators. So why can't we take care of the communication needs of our clients and let them get back to doing what they do?"

In creating the multidisciplinary firm, Schum and Stober face a big challenge in meeting their clients' broader communication needs. Yet the firm only has 10 full time employees, and no ambitions for enormousness. How does the small staff do it? "We assembled a select group of subcontractors and freelancers in market research, copywriting, media placement and publicity. …

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