Three Los Angeles Design Practices – Actually, Four

Three Los Angeles Design Practices – Actually, Four

Located in the centre, in what looks to be a building for retail on Sunset Blvd, part of Route 66.

Ludlow Kingsley

What they say.
‘We are a creative agency with a passion for designing beautiful things for brands. We’re a little unique and a little boutique in the heart of sunny Los Angeles. Take a look around! We hope you like what you see—if you do, give us a ring. We first opened our doors in 2007 on the heels of an award-winning website design and development collaboration by our founding partners, Roxanne and Clark. For the first few years, Ludlow Kingsley served as a creative digital design team for large ad agencies, while persistently amassing a strong portfolio and client base. Over the years, we have grown to become a harmonious team of eight, configured to design, develop and deliver extraordinary work. Feathers in our cap include creating the brand identity for Parachute Home and the rebrand of Downtown LA’s famed Grand Central Market.

Ludlow Kingsley is based in Echo Park, a quickly gentrifying neighbourhood in between Silverlake/ Los Feliz/ Hollywood, and Chinatown/Downtown/East LA; it is what would be called a hipster neighbourhood cool dive bars, or just cool bars. Rents are still affordable but rising. They write about their location, ‘We’re located on Sunset and Benton, right across from the Happy Foot / Sad Foot sign and near a handful of other amazing shops and restaurants between the lovely neighborhoods of Silverlake & Echo Park. Come say hi! We work Monday – Friday 10am to 6pm.’ The focus on the specific identifiers of that intersection and the praise of the local businesses makes it seem clear that they are not looking beyond Los Angeles, maybe not beyond the Eastside, there is something humble and inviting about them. Assuming they are so nice, they must be also busy as they have yet to reply to my email, though JF227943 does sound like a Russian bot.

They designed the new identity for Grand Central Market a historic market and now thriving market/food hall; somewhat of an iconic piece of Los Angeles at the foot of Angels Flight and Bunker Hill.

What struck me about their work – which I like – is that after a while, it doesn’t start to look the same, but it does start to feel the same. Like a style, as if LK would be a studio you seek out for a specific look. I am not sure how to describe the look; retro, heritage, light, warm, subtle, artisanal, handmade, crafted, loved? And perhaps I am wrong, but it made me wonder whether there are certain agencies and studios to whom clients turn for a specific inherent studio-look. And conversely, are there studios to whom one turns not for a specific look but because they have no own style, but a process, capabilities, strategy? I think the answer is, of course, yes, the real question is,  is one better than the other? Or more appropriate than the other. There seems to be a move to an agency with ‘global reach’ or ‘working in an interconnected’ world or where ‘the sun never sets on our global design empire’. I made that last one up, but still. That brings us to…

The former Hughes Aircraft Corporation headquarters.


What they say.
‘We are a global marketing, advertising, and design company. A spirit of collaboration defines our culture and people. We are obsessively committed to finding the opportunity in every challenge because it’s more fun, productive, and makes the work better. We define ‘Modern’ as being comfortable with change. And since change is the only constant, we embrace it. Modern culture changes quickly, brands must adapt, we help. We don’t shy away from data and metrics. You can’t win without seeing the finish line. Our mission is to expand and diversify the creative class. More diverse points of view leads to more relevant, distinctive, interesting work. Across 5 offices we have 27 nationalities, 46 breeds of dogs, and a crazy range of humans. We’re designed to function as one single, collaborative global team. Although we are competitive, we compete on behalf of our clients, not with each other. We’re makers and doers, idealistic and uber-modern. We embrace difference, strive for generosity over egos, are culture-driven, and gif-sharing obsessed. We’re hell-Yes’ers!, perpetual learners and a sunny side-up kind of team. We’re looking for like-minded people to join our team, so get clicking!

That is a lot of copy to describe who you are, it feels jargony for all they try to be different. I am being rather judgemental – about a clearly very successful agency to boot. They won agency of the year in 2013 and 2014. Since 2010 they have been a subsidiary of MDC Partners Inc. An advertising and holding company based in New York. Maybe what I am neglecting to take into account is that they are primarily an advertising agency. This most likely the appropriate positioning for them and I just don’t like advertising.

Here is a video from a show, mystifying called ‘Office Envy’, which doesn’t give you much information, but it does give a sense of attitude.

72AndSunny is both a statement of their optimism, but it also sounds very much like Los Angeles’s average climate. They are based in the middle of Silicon Beach in Playa Vista in the old Hughes Aircraft headquarters on what is now known as the Hercules Campus, with offices in Amsterdam, New York, Sydney, and Singapore. They have over 500 employees in Los Angeles and their clients are who you would expect; Activision, Coors, Google, Instagram, Facebook, Uber, Samsung, Seventh Generation, UGG, etc. They are international and International. Ironically, they have done a ‘Keep it Local’ campaign in New York. They seem hard to like. Is it because they are so good at what they do, is it just resentment or envy? it is slick, I’m sure it works, but does it feel soulless? Or do I just think all advertising is soulless?

Their typeface is Helvetica Bold – of course it is.

Eames office building, also on Route 66.

NCompass International

Full disclosure, I know many of the people at NCompass very well.

What they say.
‘We create WOW MOMENTS that inspire connections between brands and people.’We are a diverse team. Built on respect. And zero assholes.Our employees are family. One big, genetically different family full of talented people. Never forgetting to have a little fun along the way. Never sacrificing the value of people for the work they produce.

NCompass is not technically a Graphic Design agency. They are an experiential marketing and design agency, though their graphic design department is the largest of their creative departments. They have a core of 30 employees but over a hundred when counting warehouse and production teams, Independent contractors, installation, transportation.

They specialise in large trade show design, events, and live gaming broadcasts. They are based in West Hollywood in an Eames building. replete with the usual agency accouterments ping-pong and pool tables, pop-corn machine, beer kegs, video games, et cetera. Dogs roam the studio and Halloween is basically an official holiday, they work hard, they play hard and to an extent, they are – as they say – like a family.

They are ranked as one of the top independent experiential design agencies, In a still male-dominated industry, NCompass is owned and led by two women, with a lot of female employees.

They are based in Los Angeles but allude to hubs all over the world. Vienna, London, Melbourne, Seattle, AtlantaNew York City, Chicago, Park City, Mexico City, Rio, Denver, Toronto. All of the work comes from the Los Angeles team, the hub probably consisting of individuals at best. All of their clients which include Activision, EA Sports, Blackberry, Adult Swim, General Mills, are Microsoft are global. many of the events for which they design go from place to place, sometimes worldwide.

So can a designer at NCompass even use any of his or her local influences or are these briefs and style guides so tightly shaped that it has any kind of local expression has no place. Or, are young designers connected in a different way, that their influences and tribes are not geographic locations, but shared interests and 9the frequently mocked) hashtags. Will local design turn into more of an art form, while design morphs into a global visual language?

The entrance to the Arts District offices.

A Hundred Years

I know the CEO Marc, I worked with him at one of his previous agencies. We are not friends, per se, but friendly, though not friendly enough – apparently – for him to reply to my email yet.

What they say.
We’re all about activating your organization’s true purpose and we do this in a variety of ways, from developing brand strategies and reimagining the employee experience to designing award-winning websites and campaigns.
With offices in Los Angeles, New York, and Berlin, we operate globally and would love to help you optimistically embrace your next challenge.

A Hundred Years is not a traditional graphic design company, they believe that ‘short-term needs are best met by having long-term clarity’  
The premise is to think about where the client wants to or thinks they should be in 100 years and then start implementing steps now to get there. That initially is always something that makes people stop in their tracks. Their clients range from NASA, UCLA, Mattel, SAP to Medecins Sans Frontiers.

they are based in the Los Angels Downtown Arts District opposite the former Model-T production plant, a plant that perhaps did not consider where they would be in a hundred years.

The core Los Angeles team is around 20 people, but they too, have offices in New York and Berlin.

Final Thoughts – for now
Designers seek for public symbols rather than the private, traditionally this a space shared by a common by a common culture in a specific location. Our public spaces are shrinking, but our virtual spaces are growing and not tied to any locale. Real Estate versus Surreal Estate. So might there might a bifurcation of design into one that is global, virtual and physical, targeted at an audience, culture or tribe than shares globally and receives locally that have a common visual language unrelated to individual location. And one that is local, less global, more site-specific. And why could not both be embraced? Everything is becoming more fluid why not design and this generation seems to be able and happy to, not multi-task, but move from thing to thing, medium to medium job to job, career to career, with more ease. Today I need Ludlow Kingsley, tomorrow 72AndSunny. Both are good. There is no good, just appropriate.

Leave a Reply