Q&A with Design Firm Art & Mechanical
September 5, 2014
The newly minted Art & Mechanical breaks into Toronto's design scene with a tough-as-nails promo video and a seriously cool approach to business
Watch out, Toronto — there’s a new design agency in town. Ad industry vets David Adams and Adam Zolis have partnered to open Art & Mechanical, a brand development and communications shop that challenges traditional advertising, design and digital. While the duo just publicly announced their firm, they’ve already been working to build a client base for the past year. We talked to Adams, creative director, and Zolis, managing director, to see if their business model has already seen success.
What made you want to start your own creative agency?
Zolis: We’ve been in the industry for a good amount of time and had experiences in a lot of different agencies and studios. We both had unique backgrounds coming from ad and design studios [Zolis worked on the client side at AmoebaCorp and john st., and Adams was a freelance CD for agencies including john st. and Grip Limited]. This was an opportunity to take some of each and create something different. We wanted to work with interesting people and have more control over personality of our brand and the kind of work we do.
You opened in September 2013. Give us an idea of what you’ve been doing since then. How did you secure clients without an online presence?
Zolis: It’s all been under the radar…a lot of word-of-mouth work that came to us. We didn’t actively pursue anything, and we kept busy throughout the year. That was the reason why we didn’t have a website. We were just so busy working and developing our client base.
Adams: So much of what we do is dependent on the output, so we needed to make sure we have a deep portfolio that we can articulate. There were existing clients and opportunities out there that sought us out when they heard that we went out on our own. [The past year] allowed us to spend time on our brand and let the clients know who we are and what we do. The new website now is a good example of us figuring out the best way to articulate who are [before showing it to the public].
Your new website includes a short film of a fictional biker gang called The Souls of Sin. Tell us a bit more about how and why you came up with the idea for this video, and how it helps distinguish and promote your brand.
Adams: We were trying to find something disruptive and interesting that would support the website. We wanted to create something we’d have fun making and that we could work on with different collaborators. Something that would be different and unusual from site itself, and something that would help drive us to do some interesting work. The second point: our belief at Art & Mechanical is that design should be more than just the visual. It should be an experience. Often, clients don’t fully grasp the value that design can bring to a brand. We see that and want to help bring that to our clients. We want to make a point in the industry that design shouldn’t be minimalized. And ad agencies don’t drive the bus on [creating that design].
We worked with a great team [see the full credit list here] and we shot in Hamilton. It took a good number of months to plan, write, storyboard, shoot, design all the materials…because we designed the brand from scratch. We had to produce all of the materials — vest, patchwork, box, book — as a way of showing what we do and how we do it.
What kind of work does Art & Mechanical plan to pursue?
Adams: We’ve already worked with everything from national financial institutions to global brands to interesting, small creative projects. We hope to work with good people who appreciate the value of design. It doesn’t have to be a big company; it can be an individual. We want to bring amazing design to anybody and everybody who can appreciate it. We use that as a barometer more than the category or the brand. Mostly it’s about working with good people and helping them unlock the value of design.
What makes Art & Mechanical different?
Adams: Being an agency in the creative industry, often one of your big differentiators is people. Ours is experience in different environments. We’ve been in ad agencies and seen the way they service clients by looking at long-term strategic counsel and not just project management. They help shape the client over time, and that’s something we look to do. From a design perspective, this strategic side is very important to how we approach things so that we’re bringing the best of digital and design and advertising together. The design is first, but we incorporate interesting aspects of our other experiences.
What were some of the considerations you made in Art & Mechanical’s design and branding?
Adams: The logo itself is built around some abstracted triangles. From the beginning, we talked about design as inspiring change. That’s built into the mark itself. The triangle is a symbol of change, and then there’s the abstract “A” and “M.” It had several iterations in the beginning, and as we found ourselves and worked together to build business over the year, it’s been changed and modified. This is our final iteration with the launch. The name and the logo itself — the “art” is the beauty and inspiration that we can instill into things, and the “mechanical” is taking all of that and putting things into motion. It’s about inspiring change, and about getting emotional responses out of people, more than just getting them to act.
What’s next for Art & Mechanical?
Adams: We do a lot of brand development, and many of the brands we are working on are ground-up projects that are not publicly known about, so we can’t disclose what those are. But the next six months should be pretty big.