Syrup“, based in New York and Helsinki in Finland, made a cover design for this issue. It might be the first time to hear their name but Syrup is a group of talented people that deal with many projects with top companies. Efforts above the average, concept is the most important thing, building up a close relation ship with clients… From these words, you will see their honest, reliable and upright attitude.

Please introduce yourself. The name “Syrup” is unique. What is this name derived from?

Well, we have sort of stopped answering that question about the name. We’ve found that its best to let people make their own associations – it works out better that way and is usually more exciting than the real story.

Syrup began as sort of a joke – Rob and Jakob said “hey, lets start a company” and they did – then they got one client, another and another, etc. The company developed from there organically through client acquisition rather than through external funding or anything like that. We cover art direction, print advertising, brand development, interactive and video/broadcast development, technology application development and brand strategy services.

One of the core philosophies of Syrup is to stay as small as possible – a smaller company is more flexible, can move faster on market trends and can keep a less structured work atmosphere. We really wanted to avoid the hierarchy and politics of larger agencies which usually works against good, honest communication and creative energy. Our clients appreciate the strong personalized connection to the agency’s top management. There’s a comfort level when they know that the senior people are hands on when it comes to our projects.

What kind of projects do you usually do? Could you please introduce some projects that you are doing or you have just finished?

We have had our hands in all sorts of projects lately. We’re known for our work in the fashion and luxury world but we have been doing more and more work in telecommunications and entertainment. Recent projects include Designs for Polo Ralph Lauren, creative direction for Travel Savvy
magazine, in-store campaigns for James Perse (the Los Angeles fashion designer), video concept development for Volvo, video/after effects work
for Silhouette eyewear, new brand campaign for the Koneisto Music Festival (Scandinavia’s largest electronic music and art), a music video for a European electronic music act, brand development and interactive development for Judith Leiber, etc.,etc…we’ve been having a very busy summer and it just ain’t letting up anytime soon…

Syrup is based in New York and Helsinki, the capital of Finland. Why did you choose Helsinki as the second basement? I am curious about the creative scene in Finland, too.

In 2001, Syrup opened an office in Helsinki, Finland with Antti Hinkula and Teemu Suviala. The move was made in order to increase our European presence and enhance our global perspective in order to service larger clients. The choice of Finland was really based on the talent of Antti and Teemu combined with their creative connection to Syrup’s Scandinavian design aesthetics (Jakob is from Stockholm, Sweden). With the European community functioning more and more as a unified economic entity, it is easier now to do business across the continent from one location and we find that Helsinki is fresher than other cities.

Your fields are really diverse from webs to visual identities for companies, CD sleeves and illustrations. What is your secret(s) to provide fresh and innovative designs?

“Work or go home” – that’s our motto and that is absolutely true. You have to burn for this business to be succsessful and must make the commitment to working unbelievably hard in order to make it pay off. Its all about servicing the client well. Creative talent is essential but not a guarantee – a lot of talented people fail in their businesses. If you can’t bring a project across the finish line on time and in budget, you won’t get called again – that’s all there is to it. Also, being an overly arrogant asshole won’t win you business either…most of the time ; )

Our goal is to produce design that gives people something to think about, something that causes even a little reaction in people’s minds. We are continuously updating and improving our style. We keep the clients happy while holding on to our creative integrity because in the end, a trust has to develop between us and the clients – that kind of relationship breeds mutual respect. We try not to ever lose site of this in our work.

Where do you get elements that make your drawers full?

From life, from our personal experience, and mostly from the mixing of diverse cultures and personal histories. The people at Syrup are a huge melting pot of individuals from across the planet that each bring their own unique perspectives to the table and we thrive on this. That’s why we love New York as a center for this and why we love the idea of mixing New York/American and Scandinavian perspectives – then throw in Thailand, China, Persia, Africa, South America, etc…you get the picture.

We use lot of our time just looking for ideas and thinking about what we could do with those ideas. Concept is king! If we are thinking about a solution for some problem we usually find 10 different answers and ideas to solve it.

We are also increasingly aware that we are a part of a new global culture that is rising from the connectivity of our modern world – its what inspires us and gives us hope that this messed up planet may one day be a better place.

What do you think a reason that many clients found you are reliable and imaginative design studio?

When you look at our portfolio you can see the wide scale of works we have done. Clients find us reliable and imaginative because they see it’s not about certain style we can do, it’s about the way we think. Again developing relationships with clients based on trust and honesty is a key. When we’re not happy with how things are going, we voice our opinions and expect our clients to do the same. In our business, its like a marriage – your “in bed” with the clients so we fight, we make up, we hate each other, we love each other, etc. – that’s what keeps it fresh and keeps the work at a high level. Our worst projects creatively tend to be the ones where we have not developed this close relationship. We’re now working on eliminating these types of clients from our roster.

Please tell us about the cover design you made for this issue. What did you image? What kind of message did you put?

Our cover piece was just us playing with the cheese snacks and digital camera. There is a little story behind that, at some party couple of months ago we started playing with those snacks. We wrote different words and messages, then we took photos with our camera phones and sent those picture messages to our friends. Again its about ideas and concepts and we find these everywhere! When we start testing how different ideas work in practice, inevitably others pop up. Usually you can’t use all those ideas in one specific project, so we store all the results of this researching (living) and use them in other work in future – hence this cover for Shift.

How would you like to expand your field in the future?

Our philosphy is still to stay small and flexible as an agency. However, because of the increasing workload, we’re getting bigger literally every month. We are focusing on winning larger projects and are focusing only on “A-level” clients. We are working with the top brands in many areas like fashion (Polo Ralph Lauren and Aeropostale), luxury (David Yurman, Judith Leiber) and telecommunications (erm…companies you know but we can’t necessarily say in print). We want to reach out across these industries while broadening our range in others. Also we see more television commercial work in our future.

To us, we find that the media vehicle (print, TV, interactive, video, direct, etc.) is secondary to the concept. We’ve grown up as a part of a generation that has internalized media and embraced new technologies almost instinctually. Therefore, we have a bigger-picture view than many of the older, bigger agencies out there. The brand message is our central focus; then we strive to develop creative that remains consistent throughout all executions of the concept. This gives our clients’ customers a clear picture of the brand and a strong understanding of our client’s message.

Please leave a message to Shift readers.

Work or go home.

Address: 476 Broome Street, Suite 6C, New York, NY 10013-2221, USA
Tel: 212.680.1477
Fax: 212.680.1478

Text: Sachiko Kurashina

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