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AIGA Studio Open House 2012

April 2, 2012


AIGA Raleigh Studio Open HouseAIGA Studio Open House 2012

April with posterFriday evening I had a great opportunity to participate in the AIGA Studio Open House. This was an opportunity to see what’s going on in the Raleigh graphic design, web design, and advertising scenes. The Triangle is a hot bed for creative studios. And since my dream job would be to work in a creative studio, it was especially exciting for me.

The following studios welcomed tour participants for the evening. A big thank you to all of them for the free beer, good company, and wealth of information!

  • Back Home Productions
  • Baldwin&
  • Brasco Design+Marketing
  • Capstrat
  • Creative Associates
  • Everest Agency
  • Fragment Labs
  • French | West | Vaughan
  • Generate Design
  • Howard Merrell & Partners
  • Hesketh
  • MedThink Communications
  • Mellonaid
  • New Kind
  • Red Hat
  • Signal Design

Since it’s virtually impossible to hit all participating studios in the Raleigh and Cary areas within a three-hour timeframe, I decided to start in the Downtown Raleigh area and walk to several studios.

My friend Ashley was nice enough to tag along and help me navigate Downtown Raleigh in a scavenger hunt for design studios. After parking on the wrong side of Hargett Street, we finally started our tour at French | West | Vaughan.

French | West | Vaughan

Who is FWV?

FWV is headquartered in their Downtown Raleigh location but they also have offices in New York City, Tampa, Dallas, and Los Angeles.

French West Vaughan Projects

Recent projects and awards on display at FWV

What do they specialize in?

FWV is heavy on public relations work but also employs creative professionals. Their capabilities range from employee communications and issues and reputation management to brand identity development and social marketing.

Who are some of their clients?

Some of their clients include big brands such as Coca Cola, Wrangler, Moe’s Southwest Grill, and SAS. They also do work for smaller, local organizations such as N.C. State University, Downtown Raleigh Alliance, Camden County, N.C., and Tweetsie Railroad

What is their space like?

The FWV space had a wonderful welcoming feel. We were immediately welcomed as we stepped foot in the door and automatically felt at ease. The front of their house was nicely designed and I can easily imagine them welcoming potential clients into the large conference room and kitchen.

The workspace was a short twisty, turny walk to the back of the house. It was nicely set up into separate but collaborative workspaces, with a centralized comfy-looking meeting space.

Their space definitely felt conducive to doing some hardcore creative work and was a great first place to start our tour as it really helped to break the ice and get me excited about learning something new.

Any advice received or lessons learned?

I talked to a few people but truth be told, I am a little shy when first meeting new people. It’s a behavior I’m trying to work on and I definitely think being in this environment helped me get comfortable with talking to others about what they do and how they got into the business.

I didn’t really have the opportunity to ask many questions at FWV to get any good advice. But, I came to an interesting realization. Since FWV is a well-known firm with multiple locations, I assumed their Raleigh headquarters and workforce would be large. I was wrong. Though their workforce is around 70 employees across the country, I was surprised by the intimate feel of the workspace and tight-knit staff.

Brasco Design+Marketing

Who is Brasco?

Brasco Design+Marketing is just as it sounds, a full-service marketing agency. They compare themselves to an in-house marketing department.

What do they specialize in?

Brasco specializes in strategic marketing in the areas of branding, web development, marketing management, and online marketing. An excerpt from their website seems to sum it up nicely, they are “someone who knows sales, branding, and understands what the customer needs. Someone who can design marketing materials, work on your website and manage online marketing.”

Who are some of their clients?

While they seem to have a diverse collection of clients, three main markets stick out. These include healthcare, solar / renewable energy, and residential / commercial services. Particular noteworthy clients include Progress Solar Solutions, World Beer Festival, and Nags Head Inn.

What is their space like?

The Brasco Design+Marketing office is nicely situated on the second floor of a Downtown Raleigh building. Smaller than FWV, it has a modern feel with a front reception area. Conference rooms and workspaces radiate out from a central hall that runs the length of the building.

We didn’t get a tour of the offices so much but that’s okay as everyone was super nice, friendly, and welcoming. The Brasco employees were informal and we were immediately welcomed with free beer in their break room! After taking full advantage of that, we had the opportunity to informally speak to the employees about their company and what they do.

Any advice received or lessons learned?

I had a great discussion with their web developer about Content Management Systems and I learned that they use WordPress for their client sites. He highly recommended WordPress for its ease of use and even recommended a tutorial by Chris Coyier on I use WordPress for my website and blog so this was a great piece of advice I will definitely take advantage of. Be on the lookout for a potential future post about this tutorial!

I also had the opportunity to speak with Brandon Ives, marketing strategist, for Brasco Design+Marketing. I picked his brain regarding how he became involved in this industry and received some great advice for moving forward in my career.


Who is Fragment?

Fragment is a small firm of seven employees that specialize in web design and development. Sidenote: I LOVE their website and work. Be sure to check it out!

What do they specialize in?

Web design and development is their specialty but they also offer print design, logo design, branding, and web-based marketing strategy.

Who are some of their clients?

Their past clients include NHL Wide Open, Raleigh Convention Center, Shucker’s Grill, and Invitation Duck. After checking out their portfolio, I am definitely impressed with the work that they do.

What is their space like?

Fragment is on Fayetteville Street in Downtown Raleigh in a street front building. Their workspace was very small but open and conducive to the creative process. No physical or creative barriers here! I was impressed by the atmosphere and can see that this must be a fun place to work! (They even had cornhole set up outside their office!)

Any advice received or lessons learned?

I was able to speak with Brandon Houlihan, their lead designer, about the work Fragment does and received some great advice about career advancement. Things we discussed include:

  • Attend community meet ups.
  • Barter – Redesign a local business’s website or logo and present this to them as a way to revamp their current branding / marketing efforts. This is a great way to beef up your portfolio, potentially get your work noticed, and make new community connections.
  • Pro bono event – Organize a pro bono design event for local non profits. Invite non profits to submit proposals and create free designs for their use. Similar to bartering, it will beef up your portfolio and it’s something that you can feel good about when it’s all done.
  • Stay connected. Never stop learned and being involved – Our industry is constantly changing and evolving. If this is something you are interested in you cannot get stale.

Who is Hesketh?

Hesketh is a local small web agency full of smart, dedicated individuals. (I can say this because my company is currently working with them to finalize our intranet site!)

What do they specialize in?

Hesketh specializes in all things web—website design, custom applications, mobile development, research and strategy, online outreach, and in-house training.

Who are some of their clients?

Other than my current company, N.C. Administrative Office of the Courts, Hesketh has done work for IBM, AOL, Microsoft, Duke University, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of N.C.. They tend to attract clients in the non-profit and public sector, education, and social entrepreneur markets.

What is their space like?

Located in what appears to be an old schoolhouse off the beaten path of Downtown Raleigh, Hesketh occupies a lower level office space. I loved the old, rustic yet modern feel to the space that included lots of exposed brick walls. There were two great conference spaces, one of which is uniquely elevated above ground level. The primary workspace was in the middle of the large open office. I even spied a Foosball table in the distance!

Any advice received or lessons learned?

It was great getting to interact with Hesketh in an informal way. I have met several Hesketh employees from their work with us on our intranet project. But it was great to have a conversation about design and agency life without it being directly related to our work partnership.

I had the pleasure of speaking with Karl Sakas, project manager, and he is a great wealth of knowledge about agency life and different agencies in the Triangle area. I was lucky enough to be able to pick his brain and gain some great insights.

New Kind

Who is New Kind?

A line on their website sums it up best, “Part communications agency. Part design studio. Part management consulting firm.”

What do they specialize in?

New Kind specializes in brand, culture, and design. Their typical market is business, government, social sector, education, and associations.

Who are some of their clients?

Clients include NCDOT, Institute for the Ages, The Redwoods Group, and CAM Raleigh.

What is their space like?

New Kind occupies a unique architectural space near N.C. State University.

Any advice received or lessons learned?

A major take away that I learned from New Kind was the importance of getting involved with the local AIGA organization. New Kind is highly involved with the organization and they ensured us that you get more out of AIGA than you put in.

Did you attend the Raleigh AIGA Studio Open House tour or something similar this year? Share YOUR experience now!


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