With close to 30 years experience, we’ve been helping large and small companies in all sorts of industries with their branding needs. “WE” are what our clients sign up for, not an agency. They bank on our unique combination of branding chops and founders’ DNA. They like that we adopt their brands as if they were our own. We stir things up.
When People magazine interviewed David back when Cereality was first launched, he was asked: “What is your first entrepreneurial memory?” His answer: “When I was eleven years old, I got my family to change its last name. It was a horrible name and the source of constant ridicule for us all. I asked the family lawyer if it could be done and he said yes. So we all changed it. Even the dog.” [Note: former name does not get revealed here]
So, as it turns out, David’s first memory of entrepreneurship was also his first memory of branding and more specifically, brand staging. He had his own family’s name changed so there would be a different way to start a conversation besides answering the question, “Your name is what?” It was a strategic move.
Those bold kind of strategic moves are a hallmark of how David thinks and operates. They’ve been evident in all of his professional endeavors—as a “serial” and “cereal” entrepreneur or in his corporate roles in the travel and publishing fields or during his time spent in the consulting and agency world.
David’s formal education is not in business. It’s in human development. He holds a Masters degree from Harvard in that subject area. Those studies, along with his innate sensibility, have provided him with a unique framework for investigating and articulating just how a good idea can become a viable business and how that, in turn, can become a recognizable brand and with the right combination of strategy and design, can evolve into something that is imperative to have.
The circuitous path that David’s career has taken began with a consulting practice focused on M&A communications and issues management for clients such as Wells Fargo Bank and Bank of America. That was followed by the launch and operation of the first-ever culinary travel publication, Palate and Spirit, which led to various high-profile roles in the publishing industry at Random House, The New York Times and Time-Life. Following that, David began consulting to a broad cross-section of clients, helping them create experiential ways to better connect with their customers. Eventually, that consulting work became the catalyst for David to conceive of, launch and serve as CEO of the multi-unit retail business, Cereality. David received backing for that business from PepsiCo’s Quaker Foods division. It was acquired in 2007 by Kahala Corporation, the global franchising company behind Cold Stone Creamery and many other foodservice brands.
Following the acquisition of Cereality, David and Rick made it their mission to help others “see reality” through the work they do at Get Stirred Up. Over time, David renamed that mission “brand staging.” He didn't’ want to start each conversation by having to answer the question, “Your mission is to do what?” Again, it was a strategic move.
Clients often ask Rick how he comes up with his design solutions. They’re intrigued by his process. That’s because he approaches design from a very strategic, whole-branded-system mindset, as opposed to a purely aesthetic one. What he “comes up with” often isn’t obvious. It often is surprising and uncomplicated, however. But most importantly, it always aims to be distinctive, carefully thought-out and systematically executed.
This approach to design and creative direction comes from Rick’s BFA with classic training in graphic design at York University and his good fortune of landing his first job as Nortel Network’s first in-house designer. Over his six years with Nortel, he became senior designer of a growing art department. It was in that role where Rick designed and produced all sorts of corporate collateral and multi-media initiatives, mostly for the company’s CEO, John Roth. That irony is not lost on Rick. Nor David.
Exiting the fast-paced corporate design department of a very large high-tech company, Rick made a sharp right turn to become the art director for the publications division of the highly acclaimed James Beard Foundation in New York. He arrived there at a time when the organization was transitioning from its reputation as the “Carnegie Hall for chefs” to the epicenter of the food world, on a global stage. In his role at the Beard Foundation, Rick was in charge of designing and art directing all publications and collateral, ranging from a monthly magazine to materials for special events and their annual Awards Gala.
Following his time at the Beard Foundation, Rick teamed up with David to handle the design needs for his consulting practice. At the same time, working with a New York design firm, he became involved in the entertainment industry, designing various promotional materials, collateral and packaging for such brands as HBO, PBS, BusinessWeek, Nikon and many others.
As co-founder and chief creative officer of Cereality, Rick was the brain behind the brand’s distinctive look and feel, designing all elements of the brand experience—including its identity, café design and layout, packaging, and all communications. In 2006, the Foodservice & Packaging Institute, in partnership with QSR Magazine, awarded Rick First-Place in “The WOW Factor!” category for Cereality’s “My Cereal. My Way.” custom-cereal-box. The Cereality Sloop™—the company’s unique spoon-straw utensil designed by Rick—also received an award, in the same category.
Rick’s work has been acknowledged in various publications and is a featured case study in Alina Wheeler’s book, Designing Brand Identity.