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UC Design Alums Help Build an “Ample” Business

Two graphic design alums are taking lessons learned at UC in helping to build a boutique agency dedicated to branding, strategy and digital-product development.

Date: 7/28/2013
By: M.B. Reilly
Phone: (513) 556-1824
Photos By: Provided by Adam George and Rob Sloan
Working as lead designers in your own boutique agency is, in some ways, not all that different from life in the University of Cincinnati’s College of Design, Architecture, Art, and Planning (DAAP).
Rob Sloan and Adam George of Ample
UC alums Rob Sloan, left, and Adam George of Ample.

That’s according to two young graphic design alums – Adam George and Rob Sloan – who, in 2008, co-founded (with three others) an agency called Ample, located in Cincinnati’s downtown, and specializing in branding, strategy and digital-product development.

“Working collaboratively in studio here at DAAP in small teams is very much what it can be like when you have your own design business with a small, close team where you’ve worked together long enough to really know one another. We’re very close. We know each other’s strengths, and it’s a joy to go to work every day with such talented people,” says Sloan, 36, who came to UC from Youngstown, Ohio, and graduated in the year 2000.

Fellow alum George, 35, originally from the Cincinnati suburb of Montgomery and a 2001 grad, agrees about the tight-knit nature of their business. These close relationships echo the ties they still maintain with their DAAP classmates.

“The best part of coming to DAAP would have to be the close ties we formed as students and the relationships we had with the faculty. We were all like family, and I still hang out and talk with my classmates from more than ten years ago,” states George.

And even though they are entrepreneurial business professionals, they share in the attendant responsibilities of the business – everything from accounting to selecting health-care coverage to, of course, design duties – they both claim to still carry the traits that brought them to UC.

Sloan claims that as a student he “had to work three times as hard for the same results” as did other students, but that he always craved and loved the feedback he could get regarding his work at DAAP: “My projects were better thanks to collaborative feedback, and they still are even today. I love feedback, the more negative, the better. It’s the best part of team work in design.”

George says much the same, adding that he never had the “right answer” the first time around – or sometimes ever – on his DAAP design projects. Instead, he learned – and still appreciates – that there is no right answer, only varying possibilities.

“At Ample as in DAAP, it’s the process and how you operate as a designer or a team that sets you up for success. We’ve been lucky in having a team of business partners where we can all trust one another to experiment. It allows us the freedom to make decisions,” he explains.

Those successes have come by numerous local and national clients, such as The Brandery, which included website design and the logo of a bottle cap accompanied by “tap your idea” text, a play on the innovation incubator’s location in an area known for its brewing history.

Both admit that the operations side of running a business is not always the most natural for them as designers. “We enjoy it because we’re committed to do the design and run the business. We’re committed to doing the design work that got us here in the first place,” according to Sloan.  

They also have a few recommendations for things that today’s DAAP students can do to prepare to some day run a business. These would include taking courses in both business (especially accounting) and psychology. The need for business basics, says George, should be obvious. And as for psychology, he opines that designers must be able to work with a wide variety of client personalities.

And, of course, have talks with the bosses on co-ops about what he or she does all day. Are they even doing any design work, or is it all administrative?

But most of all, “know what you want and what you’re willing to give up to get it.”