Brad Plogsted, OXC Design + Strategy

OXC Design + Strategy is a design and branding firm that offers just about everything a business needs to create a strong and engaging brand, from naming to marketing campaigns. This includes brand strategy, logo and identity design, website design and development, SEO, photography and graphic design (for digital and print collateral), among other services.

Why did you decide to start up this venture? What were you doing prior to OXC Design + Strategy?
I've been doing freelance work for a couple years, in addition to my full-time job as the in-house senior designer at the Fortune 500 company Great American Insurance Group. I had a great deal of experience and skill in managing a big brand, on the team that designs all of the public and internal brand impressions, and even concepting, writing and designing advertising campaigns. I wanted to work within a variety of industries other than insurance, to grow as a brand strategist and designer, and most important, to bring my talent to more than just one large corporation and the occasional freelance client.

But the real impetus to starting was not business, but personal. My girlfriend, originally from Germany, could only stay in the U.S. for up to six months at a time, and I wanted to visit her last summer for more than the typical one- or two-week vacation. So I vowed to make it to Berlin before her July 10 birthday (in 2013). I arrived in Germany on the Fourth of July. She greeted me at TXL Airport in Berlin waving a tiny American flag. She—Anne Koch—is also a designer, and my partner in OXC Design + Strategy, heading the Berlin office.

Have you had much financial assistance? Where did it come from?
I saved as much as was (un)comfortably possible for a couple years. I consulted with other agency founders and freelancers like Mike Zitt of Mike Zitt Inc., and Rob Anthony of Fontzy. They were tremendously helpful, with advice on how to present myself and my agency, what to expect as far as the ups and downs of finances and taxes go, how to stay lean and nimble by partnering with other freelancers instead of making expensive and risky early full-time hires, and the importance of a strong and active professional network. I also learned a great deal from a freelancing advice event by AIGA Cincinnati (I'm now on the board), through which I met some very helpful and kind designers like Alexandra Dellis-Harcha of Sugarbot Design, Randy and Leisa Lee Wilcox of Once Blind Studios, Doug Best, and the former co-president of AIGA Cincinnati, LeAnne Wagner. When I'm free on Monday mornings, I attend a weekly freelancers' meeting called Creative Juice started by the delightful pair Margot Madison (of Margot Madison Creative) and April Combs (of April Eight Music). Finally, I wouldn't have the confidence or know-how to run my own business without the training I received through the SpringBoard program at ArtWorks. Sarah Corlett, Sean Mullaney and Caitlin Behle ran a wonderful program that primed me for success.

How do you distinguish yourself from the competition?
OXC Design + Strategy offers not only great design talent for traditional needs like websites, marketing collateral or advertising, but combines that with a solid brand strategy foundation. For discovering what a business is really selling to its customers above and beyond the actual product or service is the critical edge a business needs to win among its competition.

Do you intend to remain in Cincinnati?
Yes, as well as Berlin, Germany. I will spend at least eight months a year in the States, and my partner Anne Koch will spend at least eight in Berlin. I will work remotely there, and she here. Spending time among the art and design culture in Berlin and New York City this summer, one thing struck me when I arrived back home: The design talent in Cincinnati is as good as in any city I've ever been to. But as I look around Greater Cincinnati, I see bad or uninformed design everywhere, which is surprising, considering our businesses and government agencies are lucky to be able to draw upon such a gifted and bountiful pool. My aim with OXC is to raise the overall aesthetic standards of the city, one startup, small business or nonprofit at a time. Call it "branding Cincinnati" in a way.

What do you hope OXC Design + Strategy will accomplish in the next five years?
I want Cincinnati's startups, small businesses and nonprofits to know they have access to a design and branding firm which brings to the table the exact same strategies employed by the big boys, but at a fraction of the cost.  

Interview by Sean M. Peters
Photo by Kevin Doyle

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