Nearly four years ago, I quit my job over email on a Sunday.
Mostly, I was dissatisfied but also, I knew I wanted to do something else. Six months of prerequisite soul searching and somewhat chaotic freelancing followed. I went through the standard spiral: should I be in tech? Should I go to grad school? Am I the problem? Should I throw my phone away and move into a yurt?
I was desperately searching for meaning, for purpose, for a sign. I had spent so long feeling small, unheard, and just confused. I always felt some distance between what I was doing, who I was, and the work I wanted to be doing. My job never should have been my identity, and it certainly isn’t now – but I just wanted to feel more harmony between the two so moving between work and life didn’t result in whiplash.
For the last ten years, I’ve wanted to approach strategy more expansively and culturally than perhaps I was allowed to. For reference, I started my career in strategy during the days of Vine being new on the scene and “big data” first becoming the buzzword of the day. What I found working as a young strategist was that agencies often wanted you to do strategy in their way, because they’d productized it, or that they weren’t yet receptive to the value of cultural insights.
And so, maybe just to prove a point, I started my own consultancy. At first, it was just me and an intern (who is now an Assistant Strategist!) frantically building strategy decks for a variety of clients and white-labeling insights for other agencies. We got work wherever we could find it.
Truly, I had two goals in mind:
Show that my approach had a place in the world.
For a long time, I’ve held onto this narrative that my business happened to me - as though I didn’t make a series of decisions large and small leading me to where I am today. It’s just that the inflection and growth of the business feel like anything beyond the dreams of the little girl who incorporated this business years ago.
All I wanted was a place in the world where it felt like the patchwork of my experiences – personal, professional, and academic had an arena to be heard. I have always felt that the work of the strategist of the future is to develop a point of view and style as pointed and specialized as any legendary photographer or athlete. I worked hard to create that for myself and the team around me: because my life experiences, my media consumption, the fact that I lived in another country until the age of five all form the lens through which I see and interpret the world. I think what we sometimes forget is that the gut is one of the most powerful pieces of data we have.
Eventually, I was ready to bring the consultancy into the world and stand on my own. And so, after texting my dear friend Ryan (now our Design Director!), BLANK came together. He pulled together a logo, some typography, we threw up a splash page, and cobbled together some creds.
At the start, we developed culturally-driven brand, content, and social strategy. My goal very quickly became highly ambitious: work only with brands and founders that are doing something brand new to a category, or are working to define their relationship with a particular demographic very differently. And I mean – we’ve worked with NASA CO2 conversion challenge winners, the Peloton of Sleep, and one of the fastest-growing boutique fitness studios in the United States: so you can’t really say we didn’t get there.
Social media management and paid media soon followed, through the addition of Christina Monroe (who now leads our community management practice). We kept slowly but surely expanding our remit: as long as it was strategy, we’d tackle it. And as soon as we hit an inflection point that I felt showed the business was working, I felt dissatisfied. A part of it had to do with being a victim of my own successes: I never set out to be known as a social agency — mostly, I just wanted to be an agency that did really sharp strategic work that made people change their minds.
I felt a calling to see and feel our work in the world. You don’t get that satisfaction when you’re in the business of selling thinking in decks or posting on Instagram. And I also felt that over the course of my career as an Independent Consultant, I had come to understand so much about what Founders need.
For many of our Founders, I had become a close confidante – coaching them in their own journeys while navigating my own, and working to be the voice of the consumer on all things brand, social, packaging, creative: you name it. I soon realized that though I was often hired to be the ‘social’ agency, I was becoming an essential partner for anything and everything for our Founders. Soon, I came to understand that brand is social and social is brand: and that BLANK was uniquely positioned and poised to sit across both.
This summer, I took time “off” – to look inward, to assess where that familiar impulse to burn it all down and run away from my life was coming from, to learn, to build. The outcome was a reimagining of what I had built - because I had outgrown it faster than I thought I would. And because building with intention is paramount to me, I thought deliberately about what the next iteration of BLANK would be. How could we more thoughtfully help our brands scale? How could we take some more off the plates of our incredibly busy founders?
I’m excited to introduce you to a brand new BLANK.
BLANK creates strategy, design, and ideas for a new world.
I wanted to build our next chapter to better serve our clients - to have one consistent point of view and voice taking them through the brand strategy, ideation, identity process through social.
The most exciting addition to our service offering is the addition of branding and design services - ensuring a consistent vision from strategy to execution. Our suite of services enables founders to engage one team through the entire strategic brand creation process; beginning with the creation of the brand and branding to the tactical manifestations of that brand across all marketing channels.
We’ve brought on Ryan Heape as a Design Director (past clients include: Netflix, Spotify, and Social Studies) to build this new practice. He will be working to lead the design department and helping to expand our creative network to make our vision for brands more comprehensive. One of his first projects was refreshing the BLANK brand itself.
For its new look, we built the new BLANK out of the pieces and principles that came to us in the beginning via instinct or second nature — visual economy, colors of hot rod red, paper white, and tuxedo black, and the enduring Times New Roman Condensed by Monotype. Our aim was to fine-tune a robust package as bold and incisive as our client work.
You can read more about our work — and see all the new services (like branding, packaging, identity, and ideation) we offer by getting in touch.
Thanks for being with us on this journey.
Nikita + the BLANK team