Since opening our doors just over five years ago, Authentic F&F has been a small web design and technology studio working across all industries on a variety of digital project types.
We’ve collaborated with businesses and nonprofits, startups, and fortune 500 companies. We’ve built websites, products, apps, frameworks, APIs, platforms, etc. You name it, we’ve probably built it.
With that said, our journey as a business has never been easy. From day one we’ve been a bootstrapped business, and have never found the comfortable sweet-spot of just the right amount of challenging and meaningful work. As anyone in the agency world knows, it’s feast or famine.
After a semi-rocky end to 2016, we took a step back and reevaluated the work we’ve done in the four years we’ve worked together. We looked at the things that went well, and the things we completely missed. We slowly honed in on the concept of value, and used it as a lens to inspect all areas of our business through.
Were we providing clients with enough value from our work? Did we find enough personal value in the work we were doing for our clients? We’re we building Authentic into a valuable business in and of itself?
As we analyzed and discussed these questions, we started to see trends. The major trend being: when our value was low, we were spreading ourselves too thin. Either working in new industries we hadn’t had much experience, or on “pipe dream” projects that were unrealistic from the start.
We were trying to solve everyone’s problems rather than focusing on a small set of problems — for a smaller set of people.
In short, we need to focus our work and become specialists.
Feeling the excitement of change, we started to discuss where we could focus our work. Obviously this decision shouldn’t be random, so we looked back at our previous work thinking about the projects where we provided clients with the most value. We also analyzed where our capabilities were used the most effectively and started to make connections.
Commercial Real Estate Creating value through branding, operations, and community
The first projects we thought of were two projects we were in the middle of working on: The Source Hotel and Zeppelin Station. Both of these projects were for Zeppelin Development and in collaboration with Wunder Werkz design studio, both based in Denver.
We used a wide swath of our capabilities on both projects: content strategy, information architecture, visual design, development, and CMS integration. Our ability to design and build on-brand content-heavy websites was clear. Each of these projects resulted in a robust digital platform to handle many areas of digital marketing and operations for the venues.
Additionally, we were excited about the opportunity to bridge the gap between CRE and the communities they work within. Development projects are notoriously slow and awkward dances between public and private interests, and we are excited about finding ways to bridge this gap. How can we create more value for both developer and community?
Urban Planning and Design Designing tools to innovate
The second project we spent time thinking about was Carbon Planner, a digital product we built that was eventually acquired by Stanford University in the fall of 2017.
Carbon Planner was a digital product allowing architects, planners, and developers to forecast and mitigate carbon emissions on their projects. For Carbon Planner, we helped with all aspects of the planning, design, development, and launch of the product.
We worked closely with Greenhouse Go (the team behind Carbon Planner), acting as their CTO and CCO. We helped with general business strategy in addition to the technical and product-focused work we were performing.
Not only was this work rewarding, but it was a great example of how our small but well-rounded design and development process can serve as the entire Product Team for a startup. Beyond that, it reflected to us how our capabilities can be used to make a big impact in the way we design and build cities of the future.
Cities and Municipalities Making data accessible and useful
Another project that came to mind was our work with the the city of Broomfield, Colorado. We helped their GIS department launch a microsite that provides community access to the massive amount of parks and open space GIS data the city has collected.
As a part of the project’s scope, we integrated with existing mapping and GIS technology to make data accessible to citizens. Beyond the technical challenge of making the data available, we also wanted to create a more elegant experience for interacting with that data.
We saw first-hand the cavernous divide between the resources and data cities have at their disposal and the methods the community has for using those resources. It highlighted a missing link we can help facilitate — linking community to city — through design and technology.
Seeing so many connections between project and industry, the way ahead became clear. Our focus would be on working within the urban space and on projects that helped make cities and projects more connected, productive, and liveable.
The shift allows us to continuing honing our skills with a specific intention. It allows us, too, to focus business development efforts on projects where we know we can make an impact. At the same time we’re able to build a more valuable business by creating a team of designers and technologists specialized in solving a unique set of urban-related problems.
With 2018 well underway, we’re about 8 months into our refocus within the urban space. So far, all indication is that this pivot was a great move for Authentic.
We couldn’t be more excited to press on with a renewed mission leading our work. With several new team members aboard to begin 2018, we can’t wait to continue our current partnerships and build new alliances with progressive clients.
Speaking of, if you work in the urban space and are excited about the idea of using design and technology to innovate, we want to chat! Whether you have an immediate project coming down the pipeline or you’d like to discuss challenges you’re seeing in the work you’re doing, we want to hear from you.
One of the most important aspects of any digital project is often the most overlooked: creating a trusted and transparent partnership. Too many digital agencies and clients speed through the initial relationship building aspect of a project in a rush to get into the exciting design and development work.