Originally published in March/April 2015 Omaha Magazine
Sometimes a business’s most successful seeds are sewn in grassroots.
At least, this is the approach that seems to have worked quite well for entrepreneur Drew Davies, who created the graphic design company Oxide Design Co. in 2001.
“Fair to say I have entrepreneurial blood in my veins,” Davies says with a laugh, referencing the legacy of business-owning passed down to him by his parents, who own Soul Desires Bookstore and Coffeeshop in the Old Market.
Davies says the “leap of faith” for starting a business on his own was maybe a bit easier for this reason. Although he worked for other smaller graphic design firms out of college, Davies’ passion for the field pushed him to explore other ways to forge a unique identity, this one uniquely his own.
“Graphic design is an interesting business,” he says. “It’s a lot about running a successful business, but also a lot about putting your heart and soul into a more creative endeavor. So there’s a certain drive to be in an environment where that’s fostered.”
And that drive extends far beyond his own business.
Dubbed by Davies as his “half and half approach,” over 50 percent of Oxide Design’s often award-winning projects are with nonprofit organizations like the Nebraska AIDS Project, the Federal Voter Assistance Program, and the Bemis Center for Contemporary Arts, where all work is donated or discounted. The projects (“picking a favorite is like picking a favorite child,” Davies adds) range anywhere from customizing voting ballots to designing custom condom wrappers to raise AIDS awareness.
“Nonprofit is something I feel pretty strongly about,” Davies says. “I never started this business to get rich and famous. I wanted to be in charge of what I love doing, so it’s nice to have the ability to give back.”
We don’t know about his bank balance—and “famous” may be too strong a word—but Davies has garnered his share of prominence in the industry.
Davies was awarded the AIGA Fellow Award last November, an honor given to recognize designers who have made a significant impact for a cause or community. He’s also the only Nebraskan to have judged the Communication Arts (CA) Design Annual, a design competition dedicated to showcasing the world’s elite talents in the field. He has also served as national co-president of AIGA, the professional association for design, and was pegged as one of Graphic Design: USA magazine’s list of People to Watch in 2012.
And at the foundation of Davies’ passions? Omaha.
“I’m amazed almost every day at how creative the work is that comes out of this city,” he says, adding that Omaha’s reputation in design, as it is in so many endeavors, is perhaps a bit under the radar when viewed through the prism of a national perspective.
That’s quickly changing, though.
“It’s always been a pleasure being from a place that collectively produces such good work that it shatters people’s preconceived notions about what it means to produce from Omaha,” Davies says. “It makes me proud to be at the heart of this community and to show off this work and have people realize, ‘Wow, there’s something fabulous going on in that town.’”