Climbing Mountain

Heading west to climb a mountain

We’re heading west to climb a mountain.

Capsule is twenty years old this July.

We started as a glimmer in the eyes of Brian and Aaron back in 1999 and the rest is puppies and butterflies. Well, maybe not entirely true, about the puppies and certainly not the butterflies. We started with two contrasting perspectives on the world, research and design, and folded them together until the results started showing up.

Design was seen as a beauty department, all looks and no brains. And, research wasn’t all wonky and devoid of any human emotion – research and design were in partnership to achieve more spectacular results. At this time, we were new and had no good description of what were were doing so “Informed Design” became the descriptor. We’ve since added naming, messaging, and a variety of other offerings, forgetting that descriptor like a remnant Cheerio in car seat.

Early on it was like many experiments, we looked more like the first day of a baby giraffe – cute, but all limbs and no balance. We stayed with it and the results started showing up. First it was a double digit boost in sales for each Byerly’s store as they redesigned the experience and rebranded. Then, it was increased distribution and sales for Schroeder Milk. We started winning awards, delivering even greater results and further crafting this new model.

This led to confidence in our work, the model and in our investors – so, they noted we should find ways to share in the upside of these efforts. This began an era of investing in our early stage clients – and a variety of outcomes – not all butterflies and puppies. We started with a vodka from Slovakia, now known as Double Cross vodka. It continues today with a chocolate, augmented reality kids toys, beer, water and so many more interesting ventures.

Once we were clear of the awkward baby giraffe phase, we were asked to write a series of books, Design Matters, and after eighteen months of writing, designing and editing the books were out into the world. They sparked a large number of new opportunities from SmartWool to Patagonia to PepsiCo. In the middle of all this we passed through the 2001 and 2008 recessions, like corn through a duck. We’ve been around for the invention of iPhones, Facebook and the disruptive economy. It has allowed us opportunities to design apps, social media plans and inventions for new disruptive brands.

We keep going back to what matters and follow our curiosities. This led to a third book, The Physics of Brand, where we partnered with an eccentric marketing exec (Dan Wallace) and curious mathematician (Renee Marino) to articulate how brands become valuable, to society, business and individuals. The brain science and brain power put into this book led to a book tour, a multitude of speeches and some fascinating new work.

We have a long list of opportunities that are far beyond what we expected in 1999. And, we have a longer list of opportunities we see on the horizon for this team. We are twenty years old and just reaching maturity, right in time for our twenty-first birthday party. We didn’t really celebrate five years, kicked it up a notch for ten years and then went mild again on our fifteenth year. This time – twenty years – we’re adding a twist and a trip – we are flying our entire team to Denver, Colorado for a week in June.

We’re getting to know each other even better than we have in the past and taking some time to look out five, ten and fifteen years into the future. We’ve designed a firm that survived twenty, and we're acutely aware that what got us here won’t get us there. So we’re designing a firm that will thrive in the next twenty.

Our trip to Denver includes the entire team stopping in on the Outdoor Retailer show for the week. We’ll see what lies on the innovation horizon for many of our favorite outdoor brands and the work we’ve done for many of these brands.

If you’re in Denver and looking for a team that can deliver beauty and brains for your brand, please reach out.

We’ll be around.

Kelly Leighton
VP of Client Experience, Capsule

Aaron Keller
Founding Partner, Capsule

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