Five months ago, David Johnson and his wife Estelle McNair started a branding company together. Today, Johnson-McNair
is beginning to gain traction and serve clients all over the country.
Johnson worked as senior creative at LPK for eight years and as a freelance creative consultant in Chicago before that. McNair has been working in the non-profit sector for the past eight years doing marketing and organizing.
“The next logical step was to create our own business,” Johnson says. Johnson works on the ideation and conception side of the business, while McNair does website design and handles the marketing for the business and clients.
After Johnson was laid off from his position at LPK, he got started making their business idea a reality. The bulk of his work has been in product and packaging design for companies such as Kraft and Pepsico. If a client has an idea for a product, most of the time, it starts with a simple illustration. Johnson has been drawing those illustrations for years.
Sitting in on focus groups, Johnson listena to feedback and quickly sketches changes and ideas. While marketing and brand managers ask questions and listen to consumer feedback, Johnson revises the product sketch or idea in the room and prepares it for the next focus group.
“This has become my specialty in the business,” Johnson says. “I’ve always preferred working on my own, and I knew I could start a business doing what I’m good at.”
With previous freelance experience, Johnson already had clients to contact, and he has proven adept at acquiring new ones. After sending professional packets to a range of businesses, Johnson got several calls.
“Brand managers are always looking for people to illustrate their ideas,” Johnson says. “The first thing they think of is calling a creative company. I want to be the first one they think of.”
With his degree in fine arts and expertise in illustration, Johnson then works on making sketched concepts, then moves on to rendered and motion concepts to further illustrate the idea behind the product. Doing what they call “Branded Success,” Johnson and McNair provide clients with creative concepts from ideation through marketing.
As the only full-time employee of the company so far, Johnson uses freelancers to handle web design and other parts of the business. Based out of an office on Main Street downtown, Johnson-McNair currently serves clients all over the country.
“There are great clients and talent here in Cincinnati,” Johnson says. “It’s cheap to live here, and it’s centrally located enough that I can get to the major cities if I need to.”
By Evan Wallis