12 Days of FINE. Day 4: Who Invited The Boring Grownup?
7 or 8 years back, along came Josh Kelly, who manages business-y stuff, shepherds content and copy, and runs the San Francisco office.
What were you doing before FINE?
I did a lot of things before I joined FINE, although there’s debate about whether I was ever NOT working here. But in my most recent previous job I was working for VISA, through a succession of various brand, marketing, and emerging product roles. All the while moonlighting for FINE on copywriting and strategy since pretty much the day the company started.
How did your relationship with Kenn and Steve form?
I’ve known Kenn since before the company was formed. We met, as most men do, through our wives. Steve came a few years later when he joined forces - he was still so young I nicknamed him “The Kid”. It’s a nickname that still surfaces from time to time, but seems so much less appropriate now that he’s miraculously become older than me.
Tell us about some of the things that changed once you joined the team.
Technology’s made the world more complicated and more exciting for communicators. So the biggest shift has been that a few tried and true communication methods have been replaced by a whirlwind of change and ideas such that much more of our time is now devoted to helping people figure out what to do and how to do it – everyone here’s more engaged in the act of helping to guide clients and find ways to help them communicate in the best ways possible, whether that’s informed by a specific skill set like design or tech or by a general strategic sense. The world’s gotten a lot more complicated over the past 10 years, so our job has increasingly been about simplifying.
What were FINE’s defining characteristics when you first started?
The nucleus of the company that remains today was already in place, when you look at the attention to doing high-quality work that helps differentiate brands, a certain self-deprecating humor and personal touch. There’s always been a world-class aesthetic and intention, even while the specific deliverables have had to evolve.
How and when did things begin to shift in the creative world, and how would you describe FINE’s reaction?
Well, since sometime around the mid 90s, all forms of media have been going through the biggest revolution in human history. No big deal. This company, unlike so many others, has been able to evolve to keep pace. Really, it’s about rising above and learning how to do what it takes to keep reaching people where they want to be reached. If we hadn’t done that, we’d have gone downhill in proportion to the decrease in specific tactics annual reports, brochures, print ads, and all the other tools that have waned while the digital channels have exploded.
How would you describe FINE now?
It’s a unique breed. We’re not a brand/design firm trying to figure out digital, and we’re not a technology firm trying to do design. We’ve spent a long time honing expertise in diverse disciplines, and that means we’re worthy guides in the digital world – we’re not trying to force you down any one path but to find the one that’s right for you. It’s why we say things like we’re an “agency for the digital age” and “bring friends”.
To read more from Josh, and to learn where he thinks FINE is headed in the next 20 years, make your way back to Mingle on the 12th Day of FINE.