We had the good fortune of connecting with Traci Jones and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Traci, other than deciding to work for yourself, what else do you think played a pivotal role in your story?
What played a pivotal role in my story was gaining essential agency experience prior to starting our branding company—Studio Six.
For 15 years, I had the privilege of working for three cutting-edge design and advertising agencies and was very accustomed to all that comes with intense agency life—late nights, endless details and relentlessly pursuing excellent creative. During these pivotal years, I designed corporate branding programs, advertising campaigns, signage systems for high-end hotels and retail centers, transit systems and everything in between. Being surrounded by incredible mentors, I gained the experience and confidence to manage large high-profile work.
When I founded Studio Six, I had extensive experience and a hunger to work with big clients on influential projects. The challenge facing a newly-formed branding agency with big experience—how to secure substantial contracts.
One of the most important strategies and pivotal decisions that I made, in an effort to secure large contracts with government agencies, was to dedicate substantial resources to the RFP process and to refine our submittals. The RFP process is not for the faint of heart. Tackling a 40-60 page RFP is a significant time investment for a company of any size. These highly competitive, highly sought-after public sector projects are awarded to those with the most focused expertise.
The dedication to the RFP process has allowed Studio Six to have a very high conversion rate on RFPs; it is a joy to be awarded community-focused projects that we are deeply passionate about. We currently work with cities regionally and nationally on city branding, transit branding, economic development and social marketing campaigns.
Our expertise not only benefits Studio Six but our corporate clients pursuing large government contracts. We help our clients write, design and carefully craft their presentations and RFP submittals to showcase their focused expertise and win highly sought-after contracts.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I’m an art director and branding strategist. My passion for all things visual began at a ridiculously young age. As a child I would accompany my mother to Beloit College Library where she worked—exploring the stacks for hours—pouring through books on architecture, interiors, fashion, design, illustration and fine art.
My parents supported my interest in all things visual and enrolled me in after-school art classes where I learned to draw, paint and study the human figure. Being able to “see”—to replicate proportion, shading and light is essential to one’s ability to draw and to shape a two-dimensional page into a three-dimensional image. I was fascinated with how to create dimension on the page; create a feeling with an image; communicate an idea with an illustration. In high school, I had graphic design internships; in college I studied design at Drake University and later was awarded an internship at Sayles Graphic Design, a nationally-recognized agency in Des Moines. And it was there where I was part of a driven team of creatives who were working at the intersection of graphic design, industrial design, signage and packaging. The owner of the agency, John Sayles believed that a graphic designer could make an impact on the world if they were designing for large-scale and permanence. Passion is infectious and I adopted John’s love of large-scale, dimensional design work, but I needed to unthaw first.
A BIT OF A DETOUR TO WARM UP
Tired of the frigid midwestern winters, I headed to the desert, soaking up the endless summer in Tucson at the University of Arizona where I received my MFA and worked at the largest ad agency in the city. During these years at the university, one of the highlights of my career was teaching undergraduates foundational graphic design courses. To this day I love to teach and it prepared me for public speaking which is a requirement of my job today.
NEVER TOO LARGE
Like my colleagues at Sayles, I wanted to design large-scale work for permanent applications and there was no agency in the country doing more exciting work than Communication Arts in Boulder, Colorado. Comm Arts was one of the largest multi-disciplinary environmental design agencies in the country, combining architecture, interior design, signage and graphic design to create fully immersive environments. The agency is best known for their portfolio of branded retail centers, stadiums and projects close to home like the Pearl Street Mall.
While at Comm Arts, I had the privilege of designing large-scale signage systems and branding for resorts, retail centers and museums. But there was one project that stood out and left an indelible imprint on my heart—designing a public transportation system.
Together with the City of Boulder’s Transportation Department we developed one of the first branded transit systems in the nation—the HOP, SKIP, JUMP, LEAP and BOUND. The outcome was so successful that ridership increased immediately and shifted the perception of public transportation in Boulder. My dream of designing large-scale, permanent work came to fruition in the form of a city-wide transit system and it doesn’t get any bigger than a fleet of 40’ moving billboards!
Today I’m a Principal and Creative Director of Studio Six—a small branding agency doing big work, literally! We design transit systems, city branding and branding campaigns for large corporations.
WHAT ARE WE MOST PROUD OF?
We are most proud of our community branding and transit branding work because it truly makes a big impact on a city-wide scale. Our work can literally be found driving the communities of Asheville, NC (ART); Winter Park, CO (The Lift); San Miguel County, CO (SMART); Glenwood Springs, CO (Ride Glenwood); Boulder, CO (HOP, JUMP); Snowmass Village, CO (Village Shuttle) and soon, NCRTD (North Central Regional Transportation District, New Mexico).
We are currently working with Salt Lake City, UT; the City of Dacono, CO and Trinidad, CO on large city-wide branding initiatives. And our large corporate clients trust us to shape their brands and drive measurable results! Every day I am living my passion by harnessing the power of the visual image by increasing ridership, reducing pollution, reducing congestion, shaping perception and converting new clients.
IS IT HARD?
It’s so hard. There is not one aspect of the work that is easy. All of our work is high-stakes work—intense deadlines, endless details, many stakeholders, long sales cycles—but there is nothing we would rather do than go big!
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
There are so many places in Colorado to explore that you won’t find anywhere else in the country. I just love this question!
When guests come to visit, several of our favorite regional destinations are Glenwood Springs (the Hot Springs Pool is the perfect temperature all four seasons), Snowmass (rodeo), Vail (Farmer’s Market) and Winter Park (Devil’s Thumb Ranch). The funky art car parade, Artocade, in Trinidad can’t be missed! We also love to take friends downtown Fort Collins to the restaurants, shops and to campus for a football game. Do not miss the rooftop bar at the Elizabeth Hotel in Fort Collins! Fabulous! These are just a few of our favorite quick weekend getaways that showcase the unique flavor of each community and give guests a taste of Colorado.
Closer to home, we take guests on a walk through Benson Sculpture Garden in Loveland, to Pearl Street Mall downtown Boulder for shopping, dinner and drinks (Hapa is a favorite) and Cheese Importers in Longmont for lunch and a tour of the dedicated cheese room. When you’re in Longmont, stop at Babettes for a gourmet pastry or Naples-style pizza at this truly outstanding bakery. It is located in the funky new urbanist neighborhood of Prospect where Studio Six calls home. Take a walk around the community. You’ll find Prospect to be one of the coolest neighborhoods with some of the most eclectic residential architecture in the state!
In Denver we love to visit Union Station, the Museum of Nature and Science and the Denver Art Museum.
For a girl’s weekend, there are amazing spas in Colorado. One of my favorite local spas is the Spa at the St. Julien in Boulder. Couple the spa experience with a cooking class at Food Lab and it’s the perfect girl’s day out! So many things to do and places to discover!
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
The Studio Six shoutout goes to our brilliant team of creative professionals and consultants. The secret to creating innovative, cutting-edge branding is a team that can go the distance; one that is dedicated, passionate, that has the tenacity to pursue every possible creative solution. Exploration, exploration, exploration is the key to our success.
Deb Weddelman is our highly talented designer who creates the most beautiful logos, illustrations, maps, PowerPoint presentations, infographics and marketing materials. Her work gives our clients a competitive advantage with a sophisticated, modern style.
Krzysztof Walder is the Studio Six Marketing Technology Manager who produces all of the agency’s digital media—websites, email campaigns, social media and video. Krzysztof brings our clients’ brands to life with dynamic videography, motion graphics and stunning photography.
Linda Jones is the Studio Six Quality Control Manager. She proofreads every document throughout the design and production process. With the very detailed nature of so much of our work, she is absolutely instrumental to ensuring error-free projects. She lives to find errors and is fanatical about formatting consistency. We couldn’t live without her!
Bret Eastman. There is no one person who has been more supportive of my decision to build Studio Six than my husband. His unending support is a constant in my life allowing me to pursue seemingly impossible dreams.
A big shoutout to our clients who come to us to bring their brands to life! Our clients trust us to execute and deliver branding and marketing that differentiates and we work tirelessly to live up to their expectations!
And of course, there’s a big shoutout to all the people who have helped us build the company throughout the years: Michael Koch, Paul Mack, Andrea Robbins, Noelle Abarelli and AJ Grant. Thank you! You have elevated our work and we are so proud of what we have accomplished together!
Danielle O’Connor photographed the Studio Six office Krzysztof Walder photographed the Studio Six behind-the-scenes images