After years of building up scale to mirror this trend, many design firms have difficulty keeping up with the quick-paced demands of both multi-billion dollar corporations and money-strapped startups. But one company has been making a lot of noise in the creative space in recent years and has developed a methodology to deliver smart, thoughtful brand designs that companies can not only see, but also touch, feel and test quickly. That company is Kaleidoscope. “The old way of doing business just doesn’t work anymore,” says Gary Chiappetta, Partner & Chief Executive Officer. “Taking months to design, months to prototype, and months to test—it’s a model that our industry has operated under for years, but it’s no longer sustainable.”
“We’ve created something very different here,” said Dyfed “Fred” Richards, Partner & Chief Creative Officer of the Chicago-based company. “There are folks who do similar things to what we do, but of the six core disciplines needed in today’s design world—strategy and innovation, brand identity, packaging design, product and structural development, design implementation, and prototyping and mock-up—most firms can only do four of the six at most. We’re the only ones who can do all six.”
Tour around the facility and you’ll understand what Richards means. While there’s a very open floorplan, there are distinct quadrants, each one housing a different layer of the unique capabilities of the independently-owned Kaleidoscope. Around one corner you’ll find the designers and innovators. Around another, the 2D printers and mock-up artists. In quadrant three, the machines and craftsman who can generate 3D prototypes on site. And finally, real estate dedicated to keeping all the accounts in order. It’s a start-to-finish approach that’s streamlined a process for ideation to reach prototype and testing in days instead of months. Much like the company’s multi-colored bullseye logo, it’s a colorful mix of disciplines brought together in one spot.
“I think there are three layers to the evolution we’ve been on that separates us from everyone else,” says Alex Weber, Kaleidoscope’s North American creative director. “The first layer was having the equipment and capability, such as the 3D printers, digital presses and model shop. The second layer was assembling a team of industry-leading experts to operate those machines and understand the expertise that goes into doing that, and also the same caliber of talent on the front end for strategic thinking and design execution. And now we’ve established behaviors, methodologies, and protocols to inspire people to work together and collaborate appropriately. That’s the final layer that’s brought us to where we are today and why we’ve shown such tremendous growth.”
As an independent firm, Kaleidoscope has been able to evolve unlike many other corporately-owned holding company agencies. As Weber notes, the company has the ability to scale an operation to meet the needs of a large agency while also retaining the flexibility to work with mid-size clients and embrace startups. This is due, in part, to having an open mind when it comes to its bottom line and making sure that the founding values of the company remain front and center. “Because we started in this business when we were young, this is what we do and is part of our DNA,” says Bert Hodapp, partner & chief operations officer. “Every place else is solely about the money. Because we’ve come up in the industry, we care so much about the product that at times we’ve sacrificed dollars to do what’s right.”