June 2013

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 25 of 83

live in a man's world Mark Schmitz A local design firm finds fresh perspective in a historic space By Cathy Martin A sign hanging in the entryway to Zebradog sums up the integrative design firm's mission perfectly. "Think and Wonder, Wonder and Think," it reads: a whimsical—but fitting—welcome into the company's historic and now vibrantly modern remodeled space on Williamson Street. "That's what we do here," explains the company's founder, Mark Schmitz, of the Dr. Seuss quote. One of the few companies in the world that focuses on facility branding, Zebradog produces the kind of awe-inspiring multimedia creations that will stop you in your tracks—with interactive graphics and giant moving video screens being par for the course. It's an approach to media branding, with an emphasis on architecture, that has earned Schmitz and his team high-profile design gigs like Overture Center for the Arts and Lambeau Field. Despite their modern techie focus, Zebradog's top dog says the company was ready to move into the high-ceilinged former library built in 1913, after two decades on the Capitol Square. By merging a historic past with the relevance of their future, Schmitz says they're just finally practicing what, to clients, they've long preached. How did you renovate the space to fit your needs while still preserving its historic character? The first thing we had to do was repaint and bring some color in. It was very monochromatic, so the colors we've added really make energy happen in the space that wasn't here before. We designed all of our own furniture and had it made locally, so it all fits into the building the way we wanted it to. You do projects all over the country. What keeps you headquartered in Madison? We have a Midwestern value system within this organization that is recognized nationally. People love to work with us because we are extremely efficient. We have a very high talent pool in Madison. It's a great city with great quality of life. Plus, it's fly-over country; you can get anywhere in half-a-day. How has Zebradog grown over the last two decades? We've gone from two to three dimensions, from designing your logo on your letterhead to creating the entire business environment that you work in every day. To stay relevant in business, you have to constantly reinvent yourself. We continue to follow visual communications, and [we've added specialists to our group]. We have architects, media designers, writers, project managers and material specification experts. And all these people are working on one project. That's what makes it fun. What has been the most rewarding aspect of your career? The people here, and creating a culture in which they thrive. [We're like] a family. We have a tremendous group of uniquely talented individuals that are responsible for our ability to do what we do. That's the most rewarding thing: to be with very smart people. What's next for you and the company? More international work. It's definitely our focus now to do more work outside of the U.S. We have a couple of projects happening that we can't talk about yet because of nondisclosure agreements, but they are very exciting. ••• Quick Questions with Schmitz What has been your most unexpected source of inspiration? My kids. They keep reminding me to be simple [and help me] realize what's important. 24 BRAVA Magazine What design rule do you live by? Fear nothing. What is your favorite public space in Madison? The Monona Terrace. June 2013 Why the name "Zebradog"? It's a symbol of our eclectic culture and our ability to mix and match. What's planned for Father's Day? I'll be on a golf course with my three kids somewhere. Photo by Sarah Maughan What inspired the move to Williamson Street? The opportunity to purchase a historic building in Madison and to create an authentic home for our staff. We'd been renting for 20 years, and if you simply do the math, it makes sense to own a building. What we found so attractive about this place was how significant it is to the history of Madison and this neighborhood. We're in the storytelling business, and now we have a chance to define our history within a historic building.

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Brava - June 2013