At Work: Blackletter’s studio a catalyst for the neighborhoodAt Work — By Anne Evans on August 20, 2013 at 8:00 am
After spending many working hours helping other companies build their brands and develop strategies, Principal and Creative Director Patrick Crawford realized that his own company’s name, Spindle Studios, no longer accurately represented the work or the personality of the agency.
The company has been growing quickly and recently rebranded as Blackletter.
“Blackletter is an allusion to the script used throughout western Europe in the middle ages and it also happens to be the typographical choice of metal, hip hop, and motorcycle culture—all things we love,” says Crawford. “As a lifestyle branding company we think a certain level of self expression is appropriate and we place a high value on the history and development of visual communication.”
Crawford had been working as an art director at an agency in Philadelphia when he decided he would rather work for himself.
“I found myself frustrated with the lack of attention paid to developing strategies to build the brands we were working on,” says Crawford. “I believe that great design is only possible when you really understand the client’s problems.”
At the age of 26 he went out on his own. “I moved back to Columbus a few years later and moved the company with me.”
When he decided to come back to Columbus, Crawford found a 1,500 square-foot space on Summit Street near Clintonville and Glen Echo. That small area has seen much change and Crawford hopes to see more development, “although we are running out of room so who knows what will happen,” he says.
“When we looked at the space there was nothing here—the entire building was empty,” says Crawford. “Aside from Rumba Cafe and Jack’s across the street, the block was empty as well. I was drawn to the rawness of the space and the area.”
Once he moved in, he thought the area would serve a creative community well.
“I let my friends at Wild Goose Creative know about the building, as well as painter Michael McEwan,” he says. “Shortly after they occupied the other two first floor units, John McCollum moved his non-profit Asia’s Hope upstairs.”
Other than painting, he has not had to make too many improvements.
“The bare bones utilitarian approach works really well for us,” says Crawford. “The studio gets used for photoshoots, to run strategy sessions with clients, host figure drawing sessions and workshops, and as a motorcycle garage.”
To build a team of five employees as well as a few committed freelancers, Crawford looked for people with skill sets that strengthened the company.
“I believe in working out of your strengths and staffing your weaknesses,” he says. “Equally important to me is the culture of the company. I look for people with personalities that fit with the unique culture of the studio.”
He feels that building a team of people for Blackletter is one of his best achievements. “I feel honored to work with such intelligent, hard working, creative people,” he says.
His company regularly provides work opportunities for homeless folks in the area. “We believe in and encourage personal generosity,” he says.
He also believes in helping younger people starting out in the industry.
“Having mentors in the industry is always something I wished I had had, so now that I’m not the youngest guy in the room anymore, I make a point of opening the studio to young talent,” he says. “Over the years we have had a number of up and coming designers and photographers in the studio that I’ve invested in—it’s something that I care about a lot, and it’s the reason we have an internship program.”
With his background in fine art, Crawford also enjoys working with artists in the community.
“We host a weekly figure drawing session here at the studio, so the place is littered with local art—most of it figurative,” he says. “I also have a few McEwan paintings at the studio as well as a few pieces by Henry Yan.”
For furnishings, Crawford has mixed standard IKEA office items with vintage mid-century pieces.
“At my first design job when I was just 22 years old I had this old battleship grey Shaw Walker tanker style desk,” he says. “The first phone call I made after going out on my own was to buy that desk from my former employer and have it shipped to Philadelphia. I wanted the desk I sat at to begin my career to be the same desk that I launched my company from.”
“I really love helping companies understand and express themselves,” he says. It’s the strategy side of the business that is the most exciting to me. Seeing your concepts come to life, whether it’s Blackletter or Mya’s Fried Chicken or a client project; being able to watch a concept develop and come to fruition is probably one of the most satisfying aspects of entrepreneurship.”
Do you know of, have, or work in, a creative workspace and would like to be featured in this series? If so, please contact Anne Evans.