Inside The Studio: RoAndCo
by Diane Lindquist on 03/21/2014 | 12 Minute Read
RoAndCo takes design to the next level with their keen eye for style and skill for zeroing in on the most succinct way to visually capture a brand’s personality, creating outstanding solutions in packaging and beyond. I had the privilege of talking to Founder & Creative Director Roanne Adams about RoAndCo’s creative, inspiration and daily process.
Gazing at this design driven studio, I could not help but think of how bright and beautiful RoAndCo is. Everything within the studio looks as if it as placed for a specific reason. I recently had the opportunity to interview RoAndCo's head lady and mastermind behind its success, Roanne Adams, who was named by T Magazine in The New York Times as one of six of the city's most 'outstanding up-and-coming design professionals.'
What inspired you to start your own company? What were some of the challenges along the way?
After working for almost 4 years at a larger, more corporate design firm, I really wanted to work on smaller scale projects and connect directly with clients. I felt an impulse to be involved in all aspects of the design process; I wanted to see projects from start to finish—from their initial brainstorming stages through to tangible results, rather than handing off brand guidelines to internal marketing teams.
When I went out on my own, there was a lot I had to learn. I taught myself through trial and error. Not only was I designing, but I was running a business as well. While the creative side came naturally to me, I struggled with managing finances, employees and clients, as well. I brought on a project manager to help take on some of the core responsibilities of the company. Over the years, the challenges have evolved—managing a larger staff and many more clients certainly comes with its hardships (and rewards!).
In addition, becoming a parent and balancing my career with motherhood has been a big, yet incredibly gratifying challenge.
That's a great undertaking. It looks like your efforts paid off. Out of curiosity, how many people do you have working at RoAndCo?
We are currently a team of 13.
Why 'RoAndCo'? Who came up with the name? What is the meaning behind it?
For the first couple years the business was named Roanne Adams Design, which felt odd after a while because I was no longer working on my own. I had a number of employees making huge contributions to the business and I wanted to celebrate them, as well as our collaborators. When I named the company RoAndCo, it was important to me to convey that Co stands for company and collaborators. Through collaboration, we help shape and define our creative community. Our collaborators bring life to our work and add dynamism to each project. These partnerships are mutually beneficial in that we get them work, and they get us work—we are aligned professionally and artistically.
Speaking about employees, how do you keep your employees and designers inspired? Tell me about your creative process.
We work as a very collaborative studio and I truly believe that my designers are inspired by what we've all created together. I hire self-motivated individuals who constantly push themselves and each other to create high quality work that exceeds clients’ expectations. They are motivated by challenging projects and inspired through finding solutions, rather than being discouraged.
Speaking about hiring, can you share with our readers what do you look for when you are hiring designers?
Talent, great style and passion are, of course, a given. But I also look for enthusiasm and good “people skills”— the questions I ask myself are, how will they work with the rest of the team and our clients? Will they be a team player? Our team is small, we're like a family, and we want to surround ourselves with people who want to be apart of the family and grow with us.
What is the RoAndCo design philosophy?
- Clients are involved, clients are listened to, clients are inspiration.
- Challenging and moving beyond what’s already been done is just the beginning.
- Different for different’s sake: Wrong. Uncommon ideas that are intuitive and exciting: Right.
- Old meets new. Masculine meets feminine. Capturing the balance is what brings out branding to life.
- The consumer is as important as the client. We consider how the message is delivered on paper, over the web, and into your smartphone from here to Tanzania.
What is a typical day like at RoAndCo?
Creativity doesn’t always follow rules of structure in a typical manner, so each day tends to be quite different. We work in a fast-paced and creatively intense environment with numerous projects constantly flowing through the studio at once. On any given day we will hold client meetings to present new design directions, or kick-off branding projects during which designers and project managers will sort through client assets and inspiration to begin brainstorming. During photoshoot prep, we’re constantly on the phone with photographers and set designers, while print jobs require in-person press checks and test runs. Meanwhile, we might be creating web specs for programmers while simultaneously writing taglines and coming up with tone of voice and strategy ideas for new brands. Needless to say, it's quite exciting!
What are some of your worst client experiences? What do learn from them?
We’ve had our share of difficult client experiences but one particular client stands out. This particular client was extremely intense, demanding and harsh. They would insist upon multiple hour-long meetings several times a week to nitpick each detail of design and criticize our understanding of their briefs. The entire experience was such a rollercoaster of emotions that I decided it wasn’t worth the agony. We had to cut the project off which was ultimately a huge relief for us.
I learned to trust my instincts! I can usually sense in the initial meetings whether a client will be a good fit or not. Sometimes I’m wrong but most of the time my gut is right. I now realize that it’s not worth catering to everyone all of the time; it's good to pass on projects that don't feel like the right fit - there will always be more opportunities right around the corner.
Tell me about RoAndCo's package design projects. What makes you different?
We approach packaging projects the same way we do with branding. Our goal is to tailor a full experience for our client's, with no detail left unconsidered. When designing packaging, be it a single item or an entire packaging system, we take a comprehensive look at the brand’s core values to determine how to best translate their standards into a visual and sensory experience. We also love to incorporate surprise elements into designs, be it a color, material or even smell that creates a deeper and more meaningful connection.
What are your favorite kinds of projects to work on? If you have a dream project, what would it be?
The most exciting projects involve working with clients whom we are truly inspired by and who trust us with their brand while still pushing us creatively. I love working with clients who see us as their creative partner and value our involvement in all aspects of their growth, from strategy to content creation. These collaborations tend to be the most successful and inspiring, and often result in our strongest portfolio pieces.
A dream project, for me, would be to art direct a campaign for a client like Céline, Chloé, or Balenciaga—a brand at the top of the fashion game—that is already artful, highly curated, and aspirational. Alternatively, I’d also love to guest art direct a fashion magazine that draws the most talented writers, photographers and the like. To work with the best of the best in the fashion industry has always been my dream.
What is your favorite project you have ever worked on?
It’s always exciting to work with a brand from the onset of their existence to help them realize and create their story. For Honor, a New York based luxury women's wear brand, we did everything from brand identity design to art directing their fashion shows to designing exquisite printed collateral, season after season. From traveling to beautiful places for their campaign shoots to collaborating with some of my favorite people, the Honor project has been one of the most fulfilling. I think I feel really proud of that project in particular because we helped bring the brand to life and evolve over the years.
Do you think as a designer, you need to be constantly stimulated and be in a creative environment?
Roanne: I don't think you constantly need to be in a creative environment but I think it definitely helps stimulate ideas and creativity. I very much believe in the power of collaboration. My team is constantly sharing ideas and inspiration, getting input from one another. The overall success of our designs is dependent on creative partnership.
Any exciting new projects in the pipeline you can share with our readers?
We are currently working with the New York Design Center, a well-established interior design institution, on renaming, rebranding, repositioning them within the interior design landscape of NYC. This has been a really exciting project because we've been able to partner with them to really redefine and craft their position in the marketplace. We just art directed their ad campaign and got to collaborate with a notable editor from an interior design magazine which was a first for us. As an agency that typically works with fashion clients, we were able to provide New York Design Center with an outside perspective on their brand, while maintaining an elevated standard of quality and sophistication. Stepping into the shoes of people in different industries is what encourages us to push boundaries and inspires innovative thinking.
Photography by Paul Barbera