Toronto agencies AmoebaCorp, Apparatus Inc. and Oxygen Design Agency have come together to create a new multi-disciplinary, design-focused firm called Jacknife Branding & Design.
Based out of Oxygen’s Toronto office, the 20-person shop offers a full suite of services across multiple disciplines including brand identity, industrial design and marketing communication, said creative partner Mikey Richardson.
Richardson is an equal partner in the new venture along with fellow AmoebaCorp co-founder Mike Kelar, Apparatus founder Matt Hexemer, and Oxygen Design agency co-founder Marawan El-Asfahani. Richardson, Kela and Hexemer will provide creative leadership, while El-Asfahani will be the business leader.
Jacknife’s three founding agencies boast complementary skillsets, said Richardson. AmoebaCorp has developed brand identities for clients including Mondelez, Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment and Wind Mobile; Apparatus’s core strength is in industrial design for clients including Kobo, Scott Sports and Red Bull; and Oxygen’s expertise is in branding and identity through interactive media, retail design, corporate communications and social media for clients including Stolichnaya Vodka, Adidas and Thomson Reuters.
“There are little connections but not inefficient overlaps,” said Richardson. “It’s more than a scaling up of people that do the same thing – it’s actually complementing and bringing in new disciplines.
The Jacknife name is a reflection of the agency partners’ shared lifestyle (active, outdoorsy, proudly Canadian) and the fact that the jackknife is a multi-purpose tool.
There were no client conflicts as a result of the merger, said Richardson.
While WPP’s January acquisition of John St. (which owned a majority stake in AmoebaCorp) didn’t directly lead to the creation of Jacknife, Richardson said it did “facilitate” it – he and Kelar bought back that stake from John St. late last year.
It is a reunion of sorts for three of the four Jacknife partners. Richardson and Kelar had studied at Toronto’s OCAD University at the same time as Apparatus founder Matt Hexemer, while the two firms had also worked together on projects in the ensuing years.
“We teamed up on projects with [Apparatus] and always thought it would be great to formalize that relationship,” said Richardson. “Late last year we started thinking ‘I wish we could work together more;’ when all the stuff happened with John St., it kind of felt like things were falling in our lap and making it possible.”
A fortuitous shared connection with Oxygen’s El-Asfahani led to the creation of Jacknife. Richardson said the focus now is on making the company bigger and better.
Richardson said that design elements are increasingly fundamental to how brands perform in the marketplace, with consumers increasingly paying attention to not only the products that companies sell, but how they are packaged, the retail environment etc. Companies like Apple, Starbucks and Target are the embodiment of this approach, he said.
“All of these things are well beyond marketing communications, and people are starting to figure out if a brand is considered and well thought-out in the first place,” said Richardson. “This is the way our consumer culture is moving.”