Jolene talks to TheNextGag about what design can do for organizations, why she enjoys keeping tiny clients on her roster and why you should pick your client number one carefully.
Jolene Delisle is a Partner & Co-Founder of The Working Assembly, a branding studio, in the USA.
The Working Assembly’s multi-disciplinary team produces branding solutions through visual design, content and creative communications for three stages of brands: Growing startup stage brands like Lola and The Skimm, shifting the perception of established brands like Kin Community and Urban Outfitters, and evolving heritage brands like MassMutual and Marriott.
Jolene champions other women through like-minded clients; in her recent article about the Women’s Strike, she says: “We chose to show up, work hard for our female clients and celebrate the opportunity we have to work together in a supportive environment. It may be the strongest thing we can do.”
The Working Assembly aims to connect with their target audience by employing their target audience. The majority of their staff is female, having produced bespoke and inclusive work for women’s lifestyle networks like Kin Community and Fab.
THENEXTGAG: HOW BIG IS THE WORKING ASSEMBLY AT THE MOMENT ?
JOLENE DELISLE: At The Working Assembly, we are a team of eight people.
TNG: WHEN DID YOU LAUNCH THE COMPANY ?
JD: We launched the company in late 2014. And it was very organic. Originally, it was just myself and my partner Lawrence working for the first year. We made our first hire in 2016 and since then we’ve grown. And now we have a team of eight full-time, and four remote people that work with us as well.
TNG: CHECKING LINKEDIN TODAY, I SAW LINDSEY SLABY FROM THE SUNDAY DINNER PRAISING YOU FOR SOME RECENT WORK AND THE WORK THAT YOU DID WITH HER. CONGRATULATIONS ON THAT.
JD: Oh, thank you. Yes, we’ve had a really good week. We have been working as the branding partner with MassMutual for the past eight months, and recently redesigned their logo. So that’s really exciting that it’s in the world now. And we’ve been working on a subway campaign for LOLA, which is an organic tampon company, also for the past couple of months so it has been a really good few weeks at The Working Assembly.
TNG: EVERYTHING IS COMING AT THE SAME TIME AS I CAN SEE.
JD: Yes. Sometimes, it seems to work that way. But it is definitely rewarding to start seeing the work out in the world.
TNG: I HAVE TO ADMIT THAT I AM NOT QUITE SURE WHAT IS A BRANDING STUDIO. COULD YOU EXPLAIN WHAT YOU MEAN BY THAT ?
JD: We specialize in brand building for clients. And brand building can really range from anything, from a visual identity or a logo, all the way to the brand story and messaging. An example is LOLA, where that really translated to creative communications and producing the ad campaign.
We like to think of ourselves as brand builders and as a brand studio, because it really starts with the brand first and then we strengthen that brand story. Anything that we do after is really an extension of that. As far as how that translates into any kind of media, it really focuses on the brand positioning and the tone of voice before we do anything else.
TNG: HOW ARE YOU STAFFED ? DO YOU HAVE IN-HOUSE DESIGNERS AND PROJECT MANAGERS, STRATEGISTS ? HOW IS A TYPICAL PROJECT HANDLED BY THE WORKING ASSEMBLY ?
JD: The reason why we called it The Working Assembly, is that my partner and I both have a creative background. I worked in advertising and design, and, my partner worked in branding and communications, in brand agencies as well as tech companies. What we really liked about working together was that we both had backgrounds that were complementary but very different in similar fields. We called the agency The Working Assembly because we like the idea of starting as a creative collective, having a multi-disciplinary group of people that were coming together towards a specific goal or project.
That is the methodology and the message of our thinking, still. It really is kind of an assembly, because we assemble people who complement each other, but also are strategically aligned to help brands move forward. That could be strategists, writers, or artists.
We like the idea of being an organic assembly. It definitely depends on the client and the projects.
TNG: HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE LIVING UNDER THE NEW U.S. PRESIDENT ? DO YOU FEEL THAT THE WORLD IS COMING TO AN END OR DO YOU FEEL THAT THE RESIST MOVEMENT IS A SIGN OF BETTER TIMES TO COME ?
JD: What is really powerful about being a creative is that there is an immediate outlet for you, as a person, to express yourself and react in a positive and non-violent way to the changes and dynamics that are happening in the world around us. For instance, when we had The Women’s March in New York, our team, which is majority female — our staff is 80% women — designed custom posters and we distributed them free online so that anyone could download and use them. This was for anyone who participated in the March, not just in New York City, but also in DC. We also saw people using the custom posters that we designed in Amsterdam and France through social media.
That was very exciting for us to know that we could be helping from our small studio and be able to amplify and join that conversation in a positive way from a creative standpoint.
Even though design feels like a small part of the process, it can really impact and change the customer experience.
TNG: DO YOU BELIEVE THAT COMPANIES CAN ACHIEVE SIGNIFICANT CHANGE THROUGH DESIGN AND BRANDING ?
JD: As a culture, everyone is much more aware about design. Though not everyone is necessarily a designer, people do have appreciation for aesthetic. I think it does influence the choices that we make: the things that we purchase, the clothes that we wear, the places that we want to go to.
As far as being helpful for a business, design really can impact a business’s bottom line. I think we’ve seen that from the package design project that we’ve been a part of and the hospitality project we’ve done where we rebranded hotels. All these things — even though design feels like a small part of that process — can really impact and change the customer experience. Design is really powerful that way.
TNG: YOU SEEM TO BE REALLY CAREFUL IN CHOOSING YOUR CLIENTS AND THE PEOPLE THAT YOU PARTNER WITH. HOW DO YOU WANT YOUR COMPANY TO GROW ?
JD: Part of what we love about starting our own business versus where we have worked before, which is previously at huge companies, was that we wanted the opportunity to really be collaborative and partner with clients. We work with companies that vary in size and scale.
We are working with a bakery in Brooklyn right now, so it is a very small shop, but it is really gratifying to know that you are helping this person and this client to realize a dream that they have.
But we can also work with big companies, like MassMutual, which is a huge financial services company, in the top 100 of Fortune 500 companies. What we are doing with them is impacting them on a global scale as well.
For us, it is personally gratifying to be able to work on both. And, we want to be sure that whatever size we get to, it feels like we are able to support clients on both ends of the spectrum in a way that is personal and hands-on.
TNG: I SEE THAT YOU ARE WORKING WITH THESKIMM. IS IT THE NEWSLETTER “DAILY SKIMM” ?
JD: Yes. We’ve been working with The Skimm for the past three years actually. It was our first client. We met Carly and Danielle when it was just the two of them and they had just one employee. We’ve been working with them off and on since 2014. It has been really exciting to see their growth. They’ve now switched offices three times. They now have a staff of more than 75 people, I think. What we initially worked with them on was the design of their emails, as well as some of their political content, like the elections and some of their videos. It is getting distributed now. I can’t really say how many subscribers they have, but I believe it is in the millions, as far as people who are reading it. It is pretty exciting to be part of that with them.
And they’re also just excellent clients, even referring us to a lot of the clients that we work with.
TNG: CONGRATULATIONS ON THAT. I AM A READER MYSELF OF THE SKIMM AND I REALLY APPRECIATE THE DESIGN OF THEIR EMAILS. IT IS REALLY CLEAN. IS IT CHALLENGING FOR YOU TO WORK WITH SUCH HIGH-PROFILE BRANDS ?
JD: It is really exciting for us to see their growth. Because, as I said, they started as a small company and then to expand in the way that they have, it has been really fun and an honor to be part of their growth. So, not scary, I don’t think.
Partner & Co-Founder
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