Why the Name RED?
An interview with Steven Heller
What is the reason for the name of your studio?
SE: We played with a ton of ideas and ended up wth the acronym for our names, Rogers Eckersley Design.
SR: It came down to either RED or Tacklebox. I think we made the right decision.
How long have you had a studio?
SR: We started the company in 2007
How many employees (full-time and freelance)?
SE: Including the two of us we range from 4 to 6 depending on the day of the week.
How many principals and employees are designers?
SE: Both principals and all staff are trained designers, although we all wear a variety of hats.
SE: We bring in a bookkeeper every other week, and often collaborate with writers, strategists, photographers, etc. But our staff is 100% design.
Do you have a strategist or account person on staff?
SR: No, we end up being the account people. When it comes to strategy, though, we rely on partnerships.
Describe your clientele.
SE: We work with a diverse group of cultural arts, entertainment, sports, education, and non-profit clients. They range from huge to tiny to somewhere in the middle.
SR: We try to establish client relationships with people we admire and respect.
Do you specialize or generalize?
SR: I think we will consider any interesting project, no matter the industry or medium. We like to try new things. So in that way, you could say we have a strong generalist spirit. In reality, though, there are a few industries that we work in more heavily than others. This really happened organically, but lately we’ve become more deliberate about marketing ourselves as specialist to those industries.
What prompted you to start a studio?
SE: For me, I think it was the right thing at the right time. I’d finished the masters program at SVA (where I met Stuart), and their motto of “Designer as Author” really planted a seed of wanting to lay my own path. I really enjoy dealing directly with clients and hadn’t had an opportunity to do that enough with previous jobs. I was also at a time in my life where starting a studio wasn’t a huge risk. We didn’t need a large sum of money to open our doors, and if it didn’t work after a few months, we could call it quits and look for something full-time.
SR: We had both been to the MFA Design program at SVA and had formed valuable relationships with our classmates and faculty, and in the first year or two of the studio almost all of our business somehow tied back to SVA connections (we actually visualized this for a presentation once). So, I think we both sensed that we were plugged in enough to make it work. Also, there is almost no barrier to entry when starting a studio, other than living without a salary for a few months.
How did you determine where your studio would be located?
SE: Our main office is based in Old Fourth Ward in Atlanta GA. We love the neighborhood for it’s free spirit, and it’s central enough for clients to visit. Stuart has his outpost office in Kuala Lumpur where he’s been stationed since 2017.
Describe your aesthetic, stylistic (even philosophic) approach to design.
SE: Everything we do comes with a story and a reason. That’s something that Stuart and I really gel on, and work hard with our talented design staff to implement.
SR: Like Sam says, ideas are king. When it comes to execution, we always seem to come back to bold and expressive typography.
How much freedom do you allow individual designers?
SR: We offer them a lot of autonomy. Basically, we want to see smart, idea-driven solutions. Beyond that, we allow our designers to explore their own creative styles. We also expect them to interact with our clients.
How would you define collaboration as practiced in your studio?
SR: When we’re working on a project, we will put our research and sketches up on the wall for discussion. Sometimes informal collaboration grows out of that, where someone sees something and shares a thought. Other times, we schedule meetings to discuss the work and everyone’s voice is welcome.
Do you have a long-term plan for sustainability or growth?
SR: Nothing formal, but we’d be lying if we said this isn’t on our minds. A shared goal is to move toward growing industries, and perhaps away from ones that feel like they’re on the down slope.
What is the most challenging part of having a studio?
SE: Being proud of what we create, and making a comfortable living doing it.
SR: The biggest challenge for me is playing so many roles on a daily basis. It’s often necessary to transition between taking a client’s call, writing a proposal, to sketching concepts, and talking numbers. Ultimately, it’s rare that we get to put our heads into one task for several hours straight. We consider this something that we want to fix in the future.
Describe the most satisfying project(s) of the past year?
SE: One that comes to mind was being asked to participate in a pin making project for Hillary Clinton during her campaign. All we created was a design for a 3″ button, but it was a real honor and thrill to be involved and allowed us to push some politically charged opinions out to the world.