Design Agency Insider: Threespot Washington, DC

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Editor’s Note: The following is an excerpt from the HOW Fall 2017 Marketing and Promotion issue. This is part 1 of the 4-part series Design Agency Insider featuring firms from Washington, DC. Grab your copy of the magazine today!


It’s true. In the last 20 years, DC’s food scene has matured, new neighborhoods have been revitalized, its walls have been plastered with engaging murals, and its concert venues have continued to draw top touring musicians. And sprinkled among all those beige government offices, there’s plenty of inspiration for creative minds: Walk along the National Mall, stroll through some of the world’s elite museums (for free), or ride a bike through the green expanse of Rock Creek Park. Readers of HOW might be familiar with agencies like Design Army, HZDG and Huge, but that’s just scratching the surface. With a sprawling community that spills into Maryland and Virginia, you’ll find designers filling up hundreds of seats at professional events nearly every day of the week. The local chapter of AIGA is one of the biggest in the nation, and its board members have come from AARP, NPR, The White House and a slew of small agencies. Creative Mornings talks generally sell out in minutes, with speakers including exhibit designers from the Smithsonian, curators from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and photojournalists who freelance for The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal; locals have also heard from entrepreneurs like Michael Lastoria, the founder of &pizza, a design-centric pizza joint with a cult following; handlettering superstar Carolyn Sewell; and Bob Boilen, host of NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts series.

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Name a national nonprofit and odds are it has offices in Washington, DC, where advocacy organizations hope to get the ear of government leaders. That’s the territory that Threespot has staked out for the last 18 years, while also offering digital design services to “government agencies that aren’t trying to kill people,” in the words of co-founder Bill Colgrove.

Scroll the agency’s website and you’ll find projects focused on art education, the environment, omen’s issues, early childhood development, and mammoth foundations focused on all of the above. “Our staff is full of a lot of agency refugees—people who wanted to get away from selling shit that people don’t need.” And Colgrove tries to make sure the inspiration for that work is constantly fed.

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“As part of our certification as a B Corp, we allow our employees time off to volunteer as a group every quarter,” says Colgrove. In the last year teams of Spots, as employees call themselves, helped animals at the Humane Rescue Alliance and offered their muscle to So Others Might Eat, which serves the city’s homeless and low-income communities. “Everyone’s energy is always high when we come back from volunteering,” he says, “and it keeps us very much connected to the work we’re doing.”

That connection to the community is important to Threespot. Before they created the agency and signed up for cubicle life, the two co-founders were members of DC punk bands, and their commitment to music continues in their sponsorship of summer concerts at Fort Reno Park. Colgrove spoke at one of the very first installments of Creative Mornings, and his staff have a history of volunteering for the local chapter of AIGA.

“Going to local events like AIGA and Creative Mornings is a great way to see a lot of [friends in the creative community] all at once,” says Colgrove. “It almost feels like a high school reunion—there are a bunch of us who have known each other for years, and because of our kids and the day-to-day grind, we may not get to hang out as much as we want. As an old man on the scene, those events are a great opportunity to catch up and get to know ‘the most recent graduates,’ as it were—that’s why I go whenever I can.”

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Scott Kirkwood spent 20 years in DC as a writer and editor with the Humane Society of the United States and the National Parks Conservation Association. He’s now a freelance writer living in Denver.