For Minneapolis-based creative agency mono, design is a tool used to achieve simplicity: It’s all about reducing an idea to its simplest and most powerful form.
A couple of years ago, we talked with them about this dedication to simplicity. Today it’s clear that their simplicity-based approach has helped them make some significant advances.
Founder and managing creative director Chris Lange says that one of the agency’s biggest advances has been in their way of working. In short, they’ve crafted a better way of working.
“By being inclusive with everyone who is responsible for the work, we have less internal complication and politics, and fewer meetings,” Lange says. “Everyone matters. In keeping the core teams engaged throughout, we find we get to better work faster, and with less complexity. Being open and honest is key. The hope is to get to more creative ideas without internal roadblocks. We let the ideas flourish.”
This approach to creation has helped the agency acquire clients like Advance Auto Parts, Smashburger and Vera Bradley, and has led to some extremely innovative campaigns (check out their work below). Their success has allowed them to launch a San Francisco office, too, which won its first account this past year.
“It’s such a great beginning for the team who moved from Minneapolis to the Bay Area when it opened last year,” Lange says. “We’re expanding, and we’ve been able to jump into new conversations by having a presence on the West Coast—it feels pretty awesome.”
“We believe that the brands that are single-minded in their voice,
yet multifaceted and unexpected in their marketing, will be the
big winners in today’s hyper-competitive marketplace.”
It’s often the periods of growth that teach us the most in life, and mono has picked up on some important insights in the past year. “No matter how awesome they are, great ideas can die if they don’t have the potential to change a client’s business and if they don’t have a champion within an organization,” says design director Kelly Munson. “You have to point your creativity and funnel it in the right direction at all times. This means really understanding what makes the client successful within their organization—and sometimes that’s different from the brief.”
mono works hard to ensure that their ideas both reach fruition and challenge the status quo. “Whenever we start work with a new client, the first thing we do is line up all of the conventions of the industry or category in which they operate and then we blow them up,” Munson says. “Too many brands today say the same things, make the same promises, look and feel the same way. Looking, feeling and truly being different is critical to success. It’s not easy. It’s not always comfortable. But embracing the messy, hard work of innovating gives us the ability to cut through the clutter.”
Challenging the status quo isn’t easy, and simplicity isn’t as simple as it may sound, but mono is built on a strong foundation.
“When we founded mono 12 years ago, we set out to build a new culture, not just a new agency,” Lange says. “From the very beginning, mono was designed to foster collaboration, embrace cross-disciplinary thinking and fuel creativity and innovation. From how we work to the work we create, mono has always been driven to reinvent, reimagine and rethink the status quo. And from day one, we set out to reimagine what an agency could be.”
Looking forward, the team at mono hopes to both continue to work across platforms, remain nimble and embrace change.
[Editor’s note: Take a look inside Robin Landa’s Nimble.]
“It’s an interesting time to be a design/advertising agency,” Lange says. “Some days, it feels like the Wild West because the conventions of advertising are evolving so quickly. How do you create something meaningful in an era of disposable content? Is there a place for design in an era ruled by YouTube? Can emerging technology make our work more timeless? These are just some of the things that keep us up at night, but we’re excited to tackle them.”
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