Trading Up

When Zig started working part-time at Inhouse he was just about failing out of William Paterson and was slowly losing interest in the idea of being a graphic designer at all. When we first sat down to get to know each other, it was obvious to me that this young, handsome, local kid was self-motivated, passionate, and, on top of that, I had the inkling he was also quite creative, just in the way he explained how he came up with the solutions of the pieces in his portfolio. Green as he was, I took him under my wing, as Allen and John had done for me, to teach him everything I knew about being a professional Art Director. First thing he needed to learn - was how to talk on the phone. Whenever a call came in, Zig would never answer the phone because he was both shy and afraid to say the wrong thing. Once we got a handle on that, the rest took patience on my part, perseverance and practice on his. In a matter of months, my clients could no longer tell if the design pieces being delivered were executed by me or by Zig. In his Junior year, Zig entered and won The Art Directors Club of NJ Scholarship Award for a portfolio that was judged as excellent in a statewide competition of creative visual communications produced by college-level students, and congratulated him for demonstrating outstanding career potential. For his Senior year, just before graduation, he won that same Scholarship Award an unprecedented second time, with the addition of an "Excellence in Package Design" recognition. That outstanding career potential, well, Zig is still doing visual communications today, as the owner of Zigman Design.

Creating Inhouse to be 'an art department for companies that didn't have one' was a good idea, but my foresight to set it up, from the beginning, as a state-of-the-art department proved to be a much bigger idea than I could have imagined. One of my earliest clients was Douglas Samuel Advertising - a local business-to-business ad agency, owned and operated by two guys named Doug and Sam, and the very agency I had worked part-time for when I was in high school. Ten years later, only their location and some of the staff was any different. They, and their art department, were still very much old school, traditional bullpen production, and they were seeing the writing on the wall as more and more of their clientele were requesting or delivering QuarkXPress files on SyQuest cartridges. To invest in the new format and to take the time to train their artists in the ways of the future was next to impossible under the circumstances. It was Sam that called me in to his office with the proposition that I would bring my business into his, and it wasn't just an offer to good to be true, it was, in all honesty, a godsend. After three years of being in business for myself, Douglas Samuel was willing to buy Inhouse's entire Mac set-up, make me VP Creative Director, and, make Zig a full-fledged Art Director. With a handshake, I eliminated my loan debt, office rent, car payment, crazy hours, and shit-loads of sleepless nights.

All but one of my clients became their customers - there's a difference - and it was only a matter of time before they were missing the personal service, and maybe the prices too, that they were getting before. A little over a year later, Zig left Douglas Samuel to go out on his own and he took the spirit and best of Inhouse with him - including Raceway Park. Needless to say, and certainly not coincidentally, he and Ken have been friends ever since. There was only one customer from Inhouse that I couldn't, more like wouldn't, bring into the fold at Douglas Samuel, simply because they required a more sophisticated handling of their creative needs. This was a customer that I had fallen in love with, as their service provider, and I wanted to make sure that they were well taken care of in every respect, so I kept them as freelance to ensure their utmost satisfaction. I had originally found their business name on the street-facing directory for an unassuming industrial park in Oakland, New Jersey, and with a little due diligence, I was able to cold-call on them by sending a letter to their Marketing Manager. The name of the company had the word "fragrances" in it, so I was hoping that I could prove to them that I was offering a NY aesthetic with a NJ convenience and price point. Up to this point, only the more traditional advertising and design in my book was getting me any business, while the beauty, cosmetic and fragrance work remained idle, but not necessarily dormant. Little did I know, an entire industry, one I wasn't even aware of, lie just below the surface, and I had all the right tools to mine it.


  • Michael Katz

    Hard to keep this amazing progression of opportunity, creativity and success on a timeline. The sudden appearance of Fragrance in the narrative is a bit of foreshadowing I am imagining.

  • Jim Matarazzo

    As an early client of INHOUSE its wonderful to hear the back stories. What an amazing journey you forged for yourself.

Leave a comment