Passion is Contagious

Passion is Contagious: Deskey's New Brands and Fresh Faces (October 2013)

CINCINNATI, OH -- One new client is a good start. Two is an opportunity. More than that, is a trend.

One of Cincinnati’s most experienced and celebrated design firms is setting a trend.

Deskey Associates, founded in 1927 by legendary designer Donald Deskey, has been on a quiet tear recently, increasing their scope at existing clients and steadily adding new ones to their roster. In the last five years, Deskey has advanced their strategic approach, looking beyond traditional sources of inspiration and thinking and pulling in more ideas from technology, culture, and evolving best practices.

They’ve leveraged and elevated decades of experience in package and identity design while becoming thought leaders in brand strategy and architecture. More tellingly, the agency has been stealthily hiring, expanding their strategy department and reinvigorating their design and client services. It’s a story of reinvention by sticking to the work that made them successful in the first place.

Some of the immediate impact can be seen on store shelves right now. The legendary Mikesells snack food has undergone a complete redesign of their packaging, which has led to sales increases of up to 30%. Deskey has helped Franklin Foods introduce one of the hottest new products in the growing healthy dairy category, introducing Greek Cream Cheese to Walmart stores nationwide.

But that’s just the beginning. A half-dozen other clients have joined Deskey’s roster in recent months. Central Garden and Pet, VitaBall, Theraflu, Intuit, Lauren Illumination and their revolutionary new TILT lighting system, P&G Corporate, and an initiative from Hamilton County to reduce the infant mortality rate have asked Deskey to help with branding and strategy.

Because of the nature of brand strategy, most of that work won’t be felt until it trickles down to the consumer level. But the work Deskey has done behind the scenes is already re-invigorating its corporate culture, and has the potential to be a game-changer in the category.

It may sound cliche, but the Deskey difference has always been its people. So staffing up to handle the new workload has been an exercise in selective expansion. Deskey has hired some of the best minds in the business, while holding fast to three Deskey values: they have each others’ backs, their passion is contagious, and they believe in the best right answer.

Kristen Heimerl, Director of Brand Strategy, has made a lasting impact everywhere she’s worked, from running her own strategic consultancy to helping PepsiCo Foods, General Mills, Coca-Cola, and Cadbury develop product strategy. She’s worked at Givaudan, Cargill, and Johnson and Johnson. But she’s found a real home at Deskey. “People who live in a postage-stamp sized world have trouble imagining great brands,” says Kristen. “My philosophy has always been to shoot for the stars, and see where you land.” Kristen has always been a champion of exploration and experimentation, trying to find the right alchemy for not just every brand, but her own life as well. She is a tireless advocate for women in business, animal welfare, and the great outdoors.

Jenny Hilton, Senior Client Manager, comes from a family who loves sports, and that competitive spirit shows in her new role at Deskey. She’s worked on brands like Always, Eukanuba, Post-It, and Dunkin’ Donuts, and brings her passion for great creative and powerful shelf presence. “Deskey’s people have a really good vibe,” says Jenny. “It’s totally different. I could feel it from my first interview.” When she’s not helping reinvent the aisles of your local retail store, you can find Jenny looking for antique furniture at regional markets. If anyone has spotted a set of unique, sturdy dining room chairs, you know who to call.

Thadd Fiala, Senior Designer, was named after a character from a western TV show from the 1970’s. It’s an especially apt name, because Thadd approaches every design choice by establishing fresh thinking on a new frontier. Having worked at 5th/3rd Bank, LPK, and a variety of other shops, Thadd has a breadth of experience that helps break through creative boundaries. Thadd chose to work at Deskey for its smaller, more family atmosphere, and the opportunity to get his hands dirty on as many brands as he can. “Thadd brings a calm, calculative approach to both his craft and his interaction,” says Creative Director Matthew Baughan.

Bob Thelen, Production Director, has been constantly drawing since art school, leading him to a storied background in production art. He’s worked on everything from Hasbro to P&G, and still gets a thrill seeing his work on the store shelf. He’s a self-taught carpenter and stained-glass maker, as well as loving to spend time tinkering outdoors. “I like to take things apart, see how they work,” says Bob, “then put them back together.”

Benjamin Thoerner, Designer, finds his design inspiration in the craft of vintage Volkswagens. “I like their looks, but there’s a driving experience behind the wheel that doesn’t compare to newer cars,” says Ben. Ben started working with Deskey on a freelance basis, but his skills and attitude quickly made it clear that they needed to bring him into the fold. He’s worked on brands such as Titleist golf balls, and he’s a big Reds fan, as any right-minded American should be.

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