Spotlight: Chase Design Group

by Jessica Deseo on 10/02/2014 | 10 Minute Read

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Chase Design Group is a creative agency with offices in California and New York. With over 28 years in the design industry, the agency is dedicated to achieving client success through innovative strategy and breakthrough design. Their team crafts effective and award-winning solutions that are compelling to the end consumer and produce tangible results. 

We met with Margo Chase, Executive Creative Director and Paula Hansanugrum, Creative Director in their California office to ask them some questions on the agency's beginnings, and how their work has impacted the consumer brand sector.

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Margo Chase: "It was an accident for me really. I was a biology major and I took some design classes as an elective to keep my GPA up. I fell in love with design. I tried to combine biology and design in graduate school by studying Medical Illustration. But it wasn’t as creative or exciting as graphic design. Most medical illustrators spend a lot of time in hospital basements…definitely not as glamorous as design! 

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California staff

MC: "It’s incredibly important. While there is a place for a talented designer who is not particularly articulate, they run the risk of always being just a designer. In order to move up the food chain, you must be able to talk about your work to clients. In the end we are designers creating work for clients who can't do it themselves. Clients hire us because we are experts at the visual language that is design. We have to be able to translate our visual vocabulary into words that our clients can understand."

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MC: "Design has become a mainstream conversation. Both clients and consumers are more visually literate now. Clients come to us and say, "I was on the dieline and saw…”, or they're collecting images on Instagram or Pinterest and making moodboards for themselves. Designers can’t get away with just making things pretty anymore. It has to be more than just pretty - it has to actually work."

PH: "Also, we used to be only focused on packaging, we’re now expected to think through how everything we do on pack translates to every medium – print, broadcast, digital, even promotional events. It’s much more 'big picture' world for designers these days since consumers are more design-savvy than ever."

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MC: "I would love to brand an airline."

PH: "A dream project would be branding a boutique hotel. I love the idea of being able to design and curate a complete experience for someone – from the identity and website, to way-finding and environmental signage, to toiletries, in-room materials – everything!"

MC: "Passion is the belief that design can change the world. We have incredible power as designers. It takes a ton of work but with the right message, in the right place, we can change people’s minds and make anything happen.

MC: "Our basic philosophy is, “question everything.” We come back to this mantra a lot. If you don't ask the right questions you will never really understand the problem that your design needs to solve. Questioning things is important all through the process. Ask, 'Is this good enough?' 'Is there a better, simpler way to communicate this?' We try never to stop at 'This is fine.'” 

Paula Hansanugrum: "Margo really practices what she believes. She’ll be the first one to look at her own work and say “Not good enough.” That sets a great example for all of us. It keeps us in the mode of always learning and improving."

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MC: "A good blend of skills. Paula is a very talented designer - when she interviewed she had a good portfolio and good work experience, but more importantly, she was articulate and could explain the why behind her work. We look for right and left brain balance, good designers who can think strategically and explain the reasons behind their work. Clark Goolsby, Creative Director of our NY office, is the same. He’s an incredible designer who can also write great copy, develop strategy and talk articulately to clients. Some people on my team have a classic graphic design background, but others have illustration, science, fine art or even finance backgrounds. All of this diversity creates a smart well-rounded design team."

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MC: "Some good luck and a lot of hard work. I’ve been lucky to have the help of talented people and make a few good connections. We’ve been lucky to have clients who have wanted to work with us repeatedly over the years. For instance, we have one client who started at Mattel, then moved to Target, then to CVS and finally to Starbucks. She brought us with her to each new place. We have a few relationships like that and they are priceless. A good client relationship is just as important as doing great design work."

MC: "I think good luck is the thing that happens when you work hard and are willing to take risks and grab opportunities when they present themselves. In some ways it’s much harder to distinguish yourself now because there’s much more competition. It was a lot easier when I started because there were fewer of us. You still need to work at it, but today you can cultivate an online presence, which was impossible when I started. A lot of independent designers are getting smart and taking advantage of social media and inventing new ways to get their work out there." 

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NY Staff

MC: "Style and trends always change but changes in technology have been truly dramatic. When I first got started in design there were no desktop computers. I did logos and lettering by hand. We used photo-stats and rubdown transfers for comping. It was a huge amount of work and took forever. 

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