While a typical company might hold its breath and launch a rebrand once or twice in its lifetime—then live with the results for better or worse—Minneapolis interactive firm space150 undergoes identity overhauls with unprecedented speed, devising an entirely new logo, website, business cards and bevy of self-promotional swag every 150 days. At first blush, it seems the off-the-wall hijinks of a free-spending startup without a business plan. But space150 is not your typical company, nor is its CEO/creative director, William Jurewicz, a man without a plan.
In early 1999, Jurewicz—computer whiz, astronomy junkie and entrepreneur—bought a home. It wasn’t a nesting impulse. Rather, with a mortgage to borrow $20,000 against, he launched space150 in March 2000?just as the dot-com crash slammed into the fragile bubble of the U.S. economy. “Those were the freaky-sweaty times,” Jurewicz says. “[I thought,] I have nowhere to go now. Open a window, and let’s jump.”
Jurewicz, whose father distributed video games and electronics in the early 1980s, had grown up on a steady diet of computers. By the late ’90s, as a copywriter at Minneapolis’ Fallon, Jurewicz saw the potential of digital marketing when others dismissed it. His mission in forming space150 was to debunk the prevailing notion that the internet was merely a platform for repurposed television and print ads.
Jurewicz knew space150’s edge would be its ability to respond to the continually morphing landscape of the digital age. Software companies tend to issue new versions every six months; using this timeline as a cue, Jurewicz decided space150 would launch an entirely new identity every five months, sending a clear message that the company isn’t merely in step with technology, but one metaphorical month ahead of the curve.
Even more daring, space150 often hands the rebranding effort over to outside creatives. Jurewicz approaches designers whose work he admires, often people the agency has worked with, when he’s ready to assign a new identity. “It’s kind of like asking them to the prom,” he says.
While it might seem risky to put one’s own identity in the hands of an outsider, Jurewicz doesn’t see it that way. “In a lot of ways,” he says, “you’re your own worst client, so if you outsource things that are usually internalized, you get better services. If you contract outside designers, you get a fresher perspective and a better spin off your creative brief.”
Jurewicz likens the process to a band that brings in other musicians to guest star on an album. “We also guarantee the designer’s work will be produced without traditional client restraints,” says Jurewicz, “so this attracts creatives who want a showpiece.”
To date, designers in New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Minneapolis, lured by the creative freedom space150 offers and the industry awards that follow almost as a matter of course, have devised 12 distinct identities on a pro-bono basis. The job involves a new logo, letterhead and business cards, note cards, note pads and website. Each is vastly different from the one that came before, but—in an industry that espouses consistency of brand—linked by way of message and material. Business cards are screen-printed on plastic, while letterhead is produced on the same paper stock each print run.
The resulting body of work is unlike most design-firm self-promotions, because people actually want to keep it around. That includes the agency itself. It hurts every time they do away with an identity. “It is a little bit masochistic,” Jurewicz admits. “But you never feel bored, and boredom more than anything is the reason creative starts to get bad.” (To assuage their angst, the staff hosts a launch party for each new I.D.)
Given the time and expense most companies pour into a rebrand, the 150-day plan might seem prohibitively expensive and traumatic. On the contrary, says space150’s strategic director, Rohn Jay Miller. Space150 devises each identity in no more than a month. And because the stock remains the same for each type of printed material, costs are similar to that of ordering a new run of company letterhead. “Our creative just happens to change out,” Jurewicz says.
Miller considers the rebrands to be the company’s central marketing exercise, both a public and private expression of brand. “It’s an old way of thinking to say that your brand is an outward presentation, and then there’s a private self that needs to be reconciled with that,” he says, “If you live it, that’s what you are, and it’s something we prove not only to our clients, but to ourselves every day—and every 150 days. It pulls us into a proactive, ongoing process of looking at what we’re doing.”
Tiffany Meyers is a New York City-based freelance writer. firstname.lastname@example.org