January 19, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The open office space of Oxide Design Co. has all the hallmarks of being inhabited by creative types: LEGO designs are the first thing you see when you peek inside the design and branding firm’s broad, south-facing windows. Then you notice the knick-knacks, like a curiously large amount of Aquaman memorabilia, a pinball machine, and a phone booth.

When Drew Davies started Oxide in 2001, he jokes that he got an office for his one-man business at the request of his wife to move his tchotchkes out of the house. But, Davies had a vision and, motivated by his passion for design, his business grew.

The four other creatives Davies employs are also passionate about creating successful design. Developer Wes Piper recently wrote on their blog site, “Successful design must answer this one question: Is it useful?”

The office embodies this theory. A couple of walls, the fabric on sofas in the lobby, and their logo include a bright red color; specifically, it’s true red, known as Pantone 032 in the graphic design world.

“Red is our corporate color, because it’s bold and passionate and a little bit dangerous,” Davies says. “I think it also speaks to our belief in consistency as much as anything.”

That red also appears in nontraditional ways around the office, such as in bathroom towels and planters.

Today, the firm consists of Davies, two more designers, a creative coordinator, and a web developer. Each adds to the collection of tchotchkes by personalizing their desks with their own.

“I love this office because it allows all five members of the team the space to build the kind of place where they want to come to work each day.” Davies says.

This also adds to the whimsical, team-oriented feeling in the office.

“From the top to bottom, it’s not a terribly hierarchical place to work,” says Mandy Mowers, creative coordinator. “We’re all one team.”

The small team is intentional. Its size allows Davies to remain involved in the design process.

“All five of us are working on the projects that come in the door,” he says.

The workweek at Oxide differs from the typical creative firm, Davies says. Everyone comes in around 8:30 a.m. and leaves around 5:30 p.m., allowing time to do their own thing in the evening. It’s an intentional schedule Davies says helps the creative process.

“It’s very important to me that everyone has a good work-life balance,” Davies says.

Oxide Design has worked with start-ups, Fortune 500 companies, and all sizes in between. Some of Oxide’s projects have included rebranding Metro Transit and Baxter Auto Group, and helping develop the U.S. Election Assistance Commission’s national ballot design standards. Oxide has created unique designs for each client.

“We try to push all of our clients right up to the line of comfort, so that their design stands out from the fray while being perfectly appropriate for them.”

The graphic design community has noticed. The firm’s work has been recognized by major design competitions, including The One Show, the CLIO Awards, and Communication Arts Design Annual.

Davies stays involved with the design community. He has served as president of the local chapter of American Institute of Graphic Arts, and is currently national president emeritus. More than 50 percent of his firm’s annual work is pro bono, in part or in full. The charitable work is a key measure to Davies on how successful the business is.

“If I wasn’t able to do that, I wouldn’t feel like I’ve been successful,” he says.

Jill Wells has worked with Oxide on a number of projects for different nonprofits, most recently for Niobrara Valley Preserve. The writer hired Oxide to design a brochure that she says was invaluable for telling the story of the place.

“I have worked with Oxide for about 17 years, first at Nebraska AIDS Project and then The Nature Conservancy. Oxide is an ideal partner,” says Wells. “They listen to what you care about and then create something so beautiful and compelling—it still surprises me every time…Oxide designers care deeply about their community and it shows in their creativity, passion, and professionalism.

Visit oxidedesign.com for more information.

This article was printed in the February/March 2018 edition of B2B.