Backstage Pass ~ Veer, Inc.
~ 11 January 2005 ~Hey I agree with what you’re saying. Thanks for sharing the info with us.
We didn’t want to follow the traditional agency model and we didn’t want to create another commercial photo vending machine. We wanted to integrate type, because we think it’s usually overlooked and poorly marketed. And we wanted to really connect with people, not be a faceless behemoth. Our goal was — is — to build a company that people really love, and that we love being a part of.
CM: Who’s the wizard behind the logo’s curtain?
JP: Sheldon Popiel, Veer’s creative director. Of course, like any logo, it had to be distinctive, memorable, and versatile. He wanted to own a signature color, so the orange box accomplishes that. I think it succeeds on all fronts. People have said that it’s lively and happy and endearing.
We put a lot of thought into the name, too — take a different path, maybe lose control a bit, and see where it takes you. That’s when you get the best ideas.
CM: Tell us about Veer’s corporate culture. Your team is well-respected in the industry, I’d even say an archetype of design in some respects. How is that culture infused in your employees, or is it just an innate desire held by anyone with a Veer W-4?
JP: “Archetype of design”! That’s very flattering.
A big part of our culture is that the creative team plays a huge role in our marketing, in the choice of companies we work with, in everything that the customer uses or sees. When we’re having business discussions, we in the creative team often say, “We’re creatives. If we don’t like it, our customers won’t either.”
Also, we’re not overly process-driven. We try to stay flexible. If we’re burdened with rigid processes, it stifles original thought and risk-taking.
CM: Any words on how others might accomplish the same?
JP: If I were offering advice to other companies on how to imbue that creativity, it would be to get your head out of your own company, your own culture. Look around you; look at other creative fields. That’s partly why we have The Skinny, Veer’s official weblog. It forces us to look regularly at what’s going on. It’s amazing, but designers can get so busy that they don’t have time to go to art galleries, read magazines, or even visit web sites. So we’re hoping that if they have a minute, they’ll read our blog and it’s like a little trip out of their studio.
The other, obvious advice is to really listen to your customers. We’ve been encouraging people to phone us for research lately, because it’s so much more intuitive and genuine — we can help them with their concepts better than any search engine. Our new ad says, “Try our advanced voice recognition technology. Call us for research.” We’re not really joking — we think personal contact is the key.
CM: Let’s talk photography. Scads of designers seem to double as photographers at times. What should we be aware of when offering our pics as “royalty-free” stock photography?
JP: When you’re offering your photos as “stock” or just using your own photos in a commercial context, you’re opening up yourself to a legal minefield. You need signed model releases for every identifiable person in the picture. If your photo contains a recognizable building, you may need a property release from the owner. You need to purge your image of brands and governmental logos, identifiable products — the list goes on and on. The term “royalty-free” implies a lot of guarantees: you shouldn’t use the term unless you know what you’re getting into.
CM: With discounted stock photography outlets now readily available, where does Veer fit in? What are the advantages of choosing Veer?
JP: I don’t think many professional designers trust or use these community sites. If image quality is important to you, why would you rely on a community of amateurs? If you have a lot of time and nothing better to do, you can search and search and find the occasional good image. But how much is your time worth? And who do you think will have watertight model releases and license agreements — amateurs or professionals?
Veer’s philosophy is the opposite of the community sites and the “kitchen-sink” stock aggregators. We choose our collections very carefully. We shoot for a balance of great photography and illustration from some of the bigger agencies, and extraordinary images from smaller and boutique agencies. We want a wide range, but never to the detriment of quality. Photographers and agencies who don’t want their images lumped in with a bunch of mediocre ones appreciate this approach. That’s why we’ve been able to attract exclusive brands like CSA Images and LuckyPix. So the advantage to the designer is that they can search among hundreds of thousands of images that they’ll actually use, as opposed to searching among millions that they’ll never use.
Our customers include many of the large ad agencies, high-profile design studios, and in-house creative teams for prominent companies. So we feel that validates our approach.
CM: Care to leave us with a few favorite pics? Typefaces?
JP: Sure, here’s a lightbox of some of my favorites. I put some of new merch in there too. I find that the t-shirt with the Veer logo is a great conversation starter — even if people haven’t heard of the company.
CM: No kidding. I had mine on the other day and a colleague asks, “Hey, is that a new clothing company?” Thanks for the time, Jon.
JP: You bet, my pleasure.
ABOUT JON PARKEREditor, copywriter, and founding partner of Veer, Jon (“Jonathan” to his family) has helped several technology and creative firms find their voice. If you’ve ever felt a strange compulsion to buy stuff from Veer, it’s probably Jon’s fault.
Stock photography, type, and killer tees. Genuinely recommended by Authentic Boredom.
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