Grafik turned 40 this year. An impressive feat. Not many small companies in our industry make it that long. There is a reason that Grafik has survived, and it goes back to what Judy Kirpich, our co-founder, instilled in this company and in each of the partners and staff as they joined the firm. Grafik has always been a place where people are important, ideas matter, and complacency is the enemy.
“We cannot become what we want by remaining what we are.” – Max Dupree
When I started at Grafik in the summer of 1991, we were a boutique design firm with an incredibly sharp CEO. Over the years, we evolved into a strategic branding firm. As we became more ingrained with our clients, they came to trust our recommendations and counsel and began asking us to do more and more. Judy realized that we could charge for our thinking, our research, our interviewing skills, and strategic planning. We helped rebrand our clients and position them for success.
Come the digital revolution, the deliverables we produced and the pace at which we produced them changed. We moved into new worlds. We partnered with new companies and individuals, who were specialists—researchers, media planners, lawyers, and usability labs. For me, the world changed in the early 2000s. We started working with companies such as Accenture and Sapient, who were performing more rigorous research and usability testing for their larger clients. I remember sitting behind a one-way mirror watching one-on-one videotaped usability sessions for days. It helped me have a better understanding, as well as empathy, for users and of how the work we produce affects them. What was glaringly obvious to me was not obvious to them. I wanted to shout through the one-way mirror—the button is right there! It’s blue! Click it!
That was the point of usability testing—to help UX designers understand how a broad sampling of prospective site visitors think about our products, helping us understand what to refine to make their experiences better and help them achieve their goals.
This understanding of what users think and need affects everything we do these days. Data, analytics, and online tools have evolved exponentially to allow us insights that were much harder to track just a few years ago. However, asking people questions remains a fundamental tool that will never go out of style.
We’ve continued to hire, and work with, very smart, talented individuals who’ve helped Grafik continue to evolve and change. We’ve been in business for 40 years. We’ve changed how we work, our processes, our tools and how we think. As long as we continue to pay attention to what users really want and need, we will continue to help our clients succeed.