A year and a half ago I landed on the shores of New York City. And like many of our ancestors, I was carrying my belongings and filled with a cautious excitement and energy about the new life ahead of me.
All right, it was more like I deplaned in Newark and a black car whisked me and my boxes of design books off to the Flatiron District. But I was full of excitement, energy and anticipation over what was to come. I had come to NYC from the West Coast at the prospect of helping start a new creative studio from the ground up. It was my chance to do all the things that were practically impossible at the global agency I was departing.
It’s hard describe our founder Tom, but even harder to tell the story of ThoughtMatter without including him. He is open to anything, delightfully intellectual and endlessly curious. Not many people wake up one day and say, “I’m going to start a creative firm.” Especially someone without a background in design or marketing. But it brought together his interests in business and art, so that’s exactly what he did.
The beginning was slow and our conversations were rudimentary. Are we a design firm? A digital firm? Do we do research? What does branding really mean? The manifestation of this new creative venture took us some time to articulate, but there was a set of principles that cemented us all from the beginning. This was our chance to build a firm around art, design and the creative process, not the other way around.
We’ve come a long way since then. We have built an amazing team; we’re adding new clients and partners, and finding our voice and place in the world. But as we grow it’s essential we ground ourselves in the fundamentals and ideals upon which we were founded.
Work worth doing
This is really what’s at the heart of ThoughtMatter. We’ve committed ourselves to not making more needless crap; the world is already full of noise. For us, work worth doing means two things: We partner with brands with purpose and meaning. Second, we collaborate with clients with whom we can truly make a positive impact on their business and brand.
Said another way, we’re here to help brands that contribute to culture and society.
There is no heritage here—no long-established processes, beliefs or ways of working and thinking. So we’ve tossed aside many of the conventional ideas of what a creative agency should be and how it should operate. Instead, we continually ask ourselves how can we build a business around creativity? How do we remove operational, procedural and process barriers to enable our team and our clients to create without limits?
An unconventional perspective
There is a lot to say for experience, and our team has ample of that across design, strategy, business and more. But we’re tired of talking to ourselves. And very interesting things happen when unexpected characters are thrown into the mix. It’s not only refreshing and enlightening to hear new perspectives; it’s how truly unique concepts are born. We bring all kinds of people into the studio and into the conversation: fine artists, entrepreneurs, epicures, and recently an amazingly talented high school student.
Just fu*king do it! Too much of the creative process typically is spent talking, planning, defining, documenting and refining. Those aspects are important. But ideas only fully form when the rubber hits the road. So when we have ideas about a user interface, or an experimental bookbinding or, say, an art classroom in a retired school bus, we move quickly to turn those ideas into reality. We may succeed, we may fail, but we always learn how to make the next idea even better.
It’s been a long journey in a short amount of time. For me, the most exciting part of it all is we are, like, actually doing it. This is not just a wonderful sounding idea; it’s the agency we are building every day.