ATOMIC D President Peter Williams on the company's journey through a year rocked by pandemic and how Designerds brings new hope for 2021.
As 2020 draws to a close, ATOMIC D is ramping up production and kicking the old way of doing things to the curb. The biggest curveball: our new Design as a Service offering, Designerds. Newly appointed ATOMIC D President, Peter Williams sat down to give us the skinny on exactly what Designerds is and why it's a better business model for established companies in need of ongoing creative support.
First of all, congratulations on the new role! As President of ATOMIC D, what is your high-level vision for 2021 and beyond? Thank you, it’s very exciting to take charge of the company I helped co-found and to realize some of the dreams that I've had for the business over the years. ATOMIC D was lucky to be agile and flexible enough in 2020 to transition to remote work without missing a beat for our clients. It was honestly pretty rough at the beginning of the year as our clients froze their budgets to evaluate how to work under a pandemic structure. Our team in turn, doubled-down and worked even harder than ever to deliver above and beyond expectations for our partners. It’s actually moved us from a bleak outlook (like so many other creative businesses were in), to one of great hope. We found our Design as a Service offering in huge demand, as companies looked to keep projects moving forward while their resources were maxed out or internal teams were reduced. Since we can plug directly into our clients' creative process to support them, we are now actually in a growth phase for 2021. Moving into the new year, we are bringing more talent to our team and hope to expand our reach beyond the Bay Area.
"Design as a Service" isn't something we've heard before - what exactly does that mean? Great question. Our "Design as a Service" descriptor sounds a lot like the more common SaaS [Software as a Service] descriptor because our business model allows us to similarly transform our clients' workflow. Our designers can be easily integrated to an existing creative team, reducing upfront costs of recruiting and staffing. We also provide the agency level design skills expected by well-established companies, but with a simpler infrastructure, allowing us to support their creative departments more easily. Simply put, it’s a lot like a subscription to a staff of agency designers.
After functioning as a traditional agency for seven years, what inspired the creation of the Designerds business within ATOMIC D?
With every project that we've engaged with over the years, our clients have always needed lots of support after the initial engagement. After a branding project we would be asked to support all the levels of production design needed to execute the new logos and materials across the business. Or after a campaign was developed, shot and edited, it would need to be versioned out for different formats, localization and so on. It was common to stay on with our clients for a lot longer than expected to meet their design needs, and in most cases we became integrated into their creative organization. After a while it just made sense that, with our amazingly talented staff, we should just offer this ongoing type of support from the start. The shift away from bidding to win one part of a campaign to building a lasting relationship that could meet all the needs of a team is definitely more fulfilling. The partnership we create with our clients is awesome.
Does this mean ATOMIC D no longer functions as a per-project agency? No, we still do individually scoped projects, and have a full creative team to support them. We aren’t out here with a goal to make the next hit Super Bowl commercial anymore, - even though we could. Some of those projects still provide opportunities for our creative staff to flex a little more of their super powers. But we don’t typically go out bidding for big one-off campaigns anymore because we like the stability of ongoing support.
Does a client have to choose to exclusively use the Designerds service or per-project agency services?
Not at all. What happens most often is our clients will start our relationship one way or the other, and it will grow into something of a hybrid of services. For example, when we have Designerds working day to day with a creative team, and they find that they still don’t have enough resources to fulfill their creative needs—they ask us to support projects separately to get through the busy periods. And just as it’s happened in the past, we will do one project and a client will ask if they can keep working with our team—and they answer is: absolutely.
What does a working relationship between a client and Designerds look like? When we join a team to support them with our Designerds, we do everything we can to integrate ourselves into that team as though we work at the company. We spend a lot of time making sure we learn the brand, immerse ourselves into it, and do our best to represent the business. We take pride in the work, and we act as an extension of the team—the line gets a bit blurry (in a good way), and most partners in the company will end up treating us as their own. The biggest difference between us and a staffing agency or freelancer is that we have a whole group of trained professionals at the ready to become an extension of your team. There is a huge range of solutions that fulfill creative needs for companies out there. I think staffing agencies, freelancers, and one-off agencies can sometimes work out, but the way we are different is that our entire company commits to learning your brand. It’s a huge challenge to recruit, provide training over and over again, or fight with your manager to get the headcount you need. We simply extend your creative department’s capabilities in what I think is the easiest way possible. We are honest, transparent, easy to work with and have an outstanding team. That’s the difference.
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