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Interview The Keystone Design Union We discuss the agency’s mission to deliver high-end commercial solutions and to bring more creative members into The KDU fold T he Keystone Design Union (The KDU; isn’t an agency for everyone. Established in 2003, by KDU president David Gensler, it thrives upon working with progressive brands run by innovative and passionate managers. This means that The KDU sets extremely high standards and strict criteria for work to meet its internationally recognised standing. Gensler is very honest and frank about this, as he explains: “The final say (for inclusion) ultimately rests on my partners and me. We have to be tough to keep the quality high. We’re not Behance. This is not an open-door portfolio to showcase your work. We aren’t a social network or a bait-and-switch marketplace – our mission is acutely focused on building brands for large international clients. To accomplish this, we’re forced to maintain the highest standards.” Gensler’s principles are reflective of his own initial motives when formulating The KDU initiative. Prior to The KDU, he was CMO at ROC brands, which included Roc-A-Fella Records and Rocawear. At the time hip-hop was the centre of youth culture – this was before blogs and the street culture mania. He wanted to build something fresh, something independent. He already had great authority on the subject, as creator of the firm Human Brand, which he founded at 25 years old. “I have always focused on the convergence of business with design and art,” he reveals. “I always rejected traditional systems, which seemed slow and predictable. I wanted to create The KDU to be the better mousetrap.” The KDU revolves around trust and personal relationships, rather than technology, and this is how it has grown. Gensler explains in more detail what this means: “We now have 1,250 people [across] roughly 100 countries.” Essentially word of mouth is key and The KDU’s good reputation is crucial to its success. Gensler goes on, “We’re lucky that 90 per cent of new business comes from word of mouth. Our existing clients are strong advocates and help us to spread the word. Typically a client comes to us wanting a new product or help promoting an existing product.” The KDU tends to focus on niche markets, including new urban and influencer markets as well as celebrity interaction. The core team behind the organisation manages all creative direction and strategy development. “When we need to expand the team to develop something specific, we tap into our global network,” Gensler says. “Unlike other models that might seem similar, our network is built one member at a time and is the antithesis of crowdsourcing.” ULTIMATE AGENDA The KDU agenda is simple: to develop a more efficient and effective way to build brands. 18 018-023_AVP_81_Interview.indd 18 2/3/11 16:37:06

Photoshop Magazine - KDU Interview

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