When we use a product regularly, we don’t always stop to think about the people who perfected its branding and design. This is in part because it’s easy to assume that design companies operate in the same way.
Canada is home to many creative agencies, but they’re not all created equal. Take the Vancouver-based company Stack as an example.
The agency is all about getting to know clients before pitching them creative and impactful ideas. The Stack team works with everyone from startups to established companies, across industries like retail, tech, finance, and hospitality.
Their key objective? To balance art, design, and strategy, to create meaningful and impactful communication. Wondering what a day in life of their creative agency looks like? We sat down with the team to find out.
The three main creatives at Stack have decades of experience between them. This allows them to bring unique skills and backgrounds in brand strategy, copywriting, illustration, design, and advertising to create unparalleled work for both consumer lifestyle and corporate branding.
On a typical day, the Stack team (which they describe as more of a family) starts work at 9:30 am and finishes at 6 pm. However, people can come in at 8 or 9 am and leave earlier if that suits them. “We truly have a collaborative environment with all of our teammates, based on trust, and it seems to work out well,” says Stack principal, Si Huynh.
On Mondays, the team has production meetings at around 11 am during which they gather together to discuss the week’s highlights, including deadlines and deliverables. When working on projects, they brainstorm individually before coming together as a group to talk through ideas and find a consensus.
Having an open-concept, creative office space that’s shared with interior design and architectural arranging groups, allows the team to collaborate fluidly.
Creative director at Stack, Leo Raymundo, explains how the space is filled with natural ambient light, while music plays in the background as everyone is working. There’s a whiteboard on one of the walls, as well as three boardrooms of different sizes where the team conducts meetings.
So what sets Stack apart from other creative agencies? Raymundo says rapid communication is a key factor. “When we collaborate with the other teams within our space, we can do it without having to do a phone call. We can spontaneously meet and talk over each other’s shoulder, and actually look at something on a screen. Sometimes, there’s just no substitute for being able to look at something physically in one space together.”
Stack’s office culture encourages team members to take breaks whenever they want to, grab a latte or a soda from the kitchen, or perhaps take their dog out for a walk (yes, they bring their four-legged friends to work!).
When it comes to creating impactful branding campaigns, Raymundo and Huynh were excited to discuss the full-scope rebrand project they’re working on for one of their newest clients, Squirrel Systems — a back-of-house solution for restaurant chains across Canada.
Squirrel Systems’ image hasn’t been updated in a few years, and Stack is helping them to foray into the ‘L&E’ (Leisure and Entertainment) category. Huynh says this rebrand focused on the Stack principle of challenging each client that they collaborate with. “We try to push the envelope, to make them [clients] think outside the box with us.”
Stack encourages clients to try an approach that will disrupt their industry, based on strategy, insights, and data, so they can put their best foot forward and be noticed at the same time.
“We like to challenge our clients on what to expect before we show creative, to create the mindset for the possibilities. I don’t know if all design firms do that. I think some people just believe in the whole ta-da type of presentation, but we try to bring clients’ minds along in their thinking approach instead of just making pretty things,” says Raymundo.
Huynh and Raymundo explain that client education is a key focus at Stack.
“Some clients might revert back to the ‘safe zone,’ as we call it. But at the end of the day, they appreciate the journey we take them on and that we answer through strategic thinking, not just by recycling content,” says Huynh.
At present, the Stack team is developing a digital platform that uses social media and analytics to help clients understand the effectiveness of their message, how it’s hitting their target market, and how they can continue to calibrate that for them.
But it’s not all work at no play at Stack. The team celebrates project wins with group lunches and they get together on Friday afternoons to make cocktails (margarita parties during summer, what else?). And since Raymundo is a musician, he often brings his band to the office on a Friday to do a rehearsal. Not a bad way to end the week.