“We are all incredibly fortunate to be in an industry where we make stuff,” David Sieren, partner and director of design and strategy at One Design Company, said.
“That’s everything from making identities to banner ads,” he added. “We’re essentially drawing every day, and that’s amazing.”
The stuff that One Design Company makes ranges from digital experiences for a luxury furnishings company to design strategy for an arts hotel, branding for a health tech company, to promotional pieces for Chicago Design Week. Recently, they’ve worked on clients like AIGA and even started a series of design studio tours around the world. So, yeah, it’s no wonder they snagged an Agency of the Year for the 2020 PRINT Awards, presented by Adobe.
One Design Company started sixteen years ago as a website, software design, and development studio. Over the years, it’s evolved into a studio that tackles those digital experiences but does even more holistic brand strategy, too. The team eschews the buttoned-up, perfectly polished approach to work and instead like to dive right in and get their hands messy.
“We certainly believe in craft and polishing in what we do, but we share things early and often,” explained David. “We like to expose our clients to our process and have a fluid conversation with them which informs our work because that back and forth discussion is absolutely critical. We’ll collaborate with ideas and mood boards, and we’ll tear work apart or come up with new ideas. That’s how we work.”
If this year’s PRINT Awards is any indication, that collaborative approach suits the studio well. Agency of the Year recognizes the highest-rated agency, studio, or in-house brand with the most wins across all categories in the entire competition. With two wins in the Handlettering & Type Design category and two in the Logos category, One Design Company was recognized as Agency of the Year for 2020 (tying with Design Army, which David admitted makes the win that much more special).
Their Handlettering & Type wins were both for projects close to home—Confluence Chicago and the AIGA Chicago Mentorship Program. Inevitably there was a certain amount of pressure creating for design initiatives, of course. But David admitted it also allowed them the chance to work in ways they hadn’t done with other clients before.
“I felt like it was a very good thing for us to do as a studio for our portfolio,” he said. “AIGA work has always been pro bono, and Confluence Chicago was at a steep discount. But that means that we feel like we’re giving ourselves an opportunity to push our own design chops with it. We had tended to do a lot of more reserved color palettes for clients that were a little less out there, and we wanted to do something for a client that was unexpected.”
One Design Company’s wins in the Logos category were for Office Ours and Wilder Fields. Office Ours was a project they did had to do with studio tours locally in Chicago—but then the pandemic hit. They decided to take the experience and make it virtual, creating the branding, site, and lining up hosts in only a week. They found inspiration in a Dieter Rams-style clock and got to scratch the minimalist itch, creating something clever that they’d want to put on their wall.
“Wilder Fields, on the other hand, is using insanely advanced robotics and machine learning to grow produce,” David explained. “The team looked at how to do these very chiseled serifs but with ornate flourishes to customize the core typeface we were using, and it was a slam dunk. We pushed into this serif space with something that’s very flirty but also has a technical side to it. If somebody asks why the logo looks that way, then you have a whole volume of narrative you can unpack, but you don’t need to know the story to appreciate the logo.”
To accumulate these wins and walk away with Agency of the Year in 2020 is an immense accomplishment that comes at the end of a very trying year. Entering design award competitions isn’t something David has always done, though. After all, if you don’t submit, then you don’t face rejection. But in the past couple of years that he has started entering the age
ncy into awards programs, he’s discovered how much it can help a studio grow.
“It helps so much with recruitment and awareness building,” David explained. “It’s a challenge when you tell your team that you’re investing in a pro bono project because you want to try and get some recognition for it, and you want to push yourselves. So it’s become more important for me as a studio lead to take and celebrate the work that we’re all doing collectively.”
And this year’s wins, he added, are truly a collective effort. Their team includes over thirty people, and it takes all of them—the writers and strategists and developers and designers and account directors and more—to bring the work to fruition. Their projects that won this year all have a unique look and feel, and it’s because they rely on the skills of many different backgrounds across their team.
“Our wins run from Junior Designers up to the top, in terms of who collaborated on the work to get this recognition,” David said. “I love that it’s a really inclusive honor for the studio.”