Award-Winning Base Art Co. Wants to Do Even Better Work in 2011

For more than 13 years, Base Art Co. has consistently produced high-quality design work for an array of local and internationally renowned clients.

In addition to serving as a brand partner to The Columbus Foundation and Pelotonia, Base Art Co., housed in a top-floor studio at 17 E. Brickel St. in the Short North, has created more than 1,000 book covers for major trade publishers. Recent highlights include covers for Roseanne Cash’s autobiography Composed and Janet Jackson’s forthcoming memoir True You.

Base Art Co. specializes in brand visualization programs that start with branding strategy and end with dynamic design applied to print and digital media, as well as in-store materials and event environments, says its founder Terry Rohrbach. (He and Drue Dixon are the firm’s principal designers.)

“We’ve had great success with our clients by being confident, but not cocky,” he says. “We deliver great work and can support our ideas without being defensive, and we can challenge our clients to think a little broader with their design and branding. We believe when you enjoy working on a project, it makes it all the more satisfying when it turns out great.”

Read our interview with Rohrbach to learn why he went into business for himself, how his previous employment informs his current work, and why he’s focused on keeping Base Art Co. small.

Melanie McIntyre: What inspired you to start a design studio?

Terry Rohrbach: I’m passionate about design and I wanted to have control over my work. My goal is to deliver great ideas to clients who are like-minded, appreciate great design, and know that design is the initial and most basic connection a consumer has with a brand.

MM: What were you doing professionally before you founded the studio and how has that work experience affected the way you do business?

TR: I was an art director at the Wexner Center for the Arts. Talk about a great place to be continually inspired by the amazing work that surrounds someone in that environment. My experience there helped me understand the relationship between great design and its importance in someone’s visceral reaction to it. It also opened my eyes to how design works in the world outside fine arts to build connections with consumers– how you can make great design approachable and get business results. Wexner Center led to an in with the book cover work –with exhibition catalogs– and from there Base Art Co. was launched.

MM: Did you have any local advisers, role models, or mentors you relied on for advice and input when starting the studio?

TR: Yes. There are so many people that have helped and inspired me, and continue to do so. Columbus has a great design community of people I consider mentors and peers and we’re all pretty supportive of one another. We celebrate each other’s success, and enjoy sharing ideas and cheer each other on. I know how much I appreciate the support of many business leaders and appreciate their continued support and advice. I try to continue that by mentoring interns and any other startup businesses who show creative spark and potential.

MM: Which of the studio’s projects are among your favorites?

TR: We are very lucky to maintain a great client list and continually do work that excites us. We’ve implemented brand visualization programs for two clients that give to the greater good: The Columbus Foundation and Pelotonia.

We’ve partnered with The Columbus Foundation for a number of years and have evolved our work with them. We’ve won numerous awards for collateral work, advertising, and most recently revised their website. The Columbus Foundation is a great client in that they understand the importance of great design in maintaining their credibility and reputation.

Pelotonia embraces design as a key component to rally riders, inspire donors, and capture the spirit of the event. We translated the design across event materials– from print and website design to jerseys and outdoor media to actual event signage, banners, and stage dressings. It is exciting to be part of the event design and actual ride.

MM: Your firm has received more than 170 awards. Which awards stand out to you?

TR: Early on, Base Art Co. received an Ohio Arts fellowship grant for our whole body of work. This was a great acknowledgement of the work we were doing and a great boost to our company spirit.

In 2004, our work for The Columbus Foundation was one of three finalists in the Great Design Show, alongside world renowned designer Stefan Sagmeister and a Sony produced tribute package for Johnny Cash. It’s amazing to be in that kind of company.

The 2010 AIGA award for gig poster for The Gaslight Anthem was truly exciting. This competition extends a legacy that began almost 100 years ago and is widely recognized as the most selective statement on design excellence today. The physical artifacts are maintained in the AIGA National Design Archives at the Denver Art Museum.

MM: What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a business owner and how did you overcome it?

TR: Our challenges are probably the same ones a lot of businesses have: staying focused on what you want the business to be, which for us is staying small and focused on our branding visualization work, and just keeping consistent revenue coming in. 2010 was our best year ever and we’re excited to build on that success. We want to do even better work in 2011. Competing with big studios can be tricky, but we’ve found that being small keeps us focused on the work and allows senior talent on each project. That’s why having the great relationships with trusted partners is so important. It allows us to be flexible and specialized in a number of areas.

MM: What has been the most rewarding aspect of owning your own business?

TR: There is a real excitement of success, building valued relationships, and knowing the sky is the limit. We are delivering great design that’s acknowledged internationally by the global design community– all from our office in the Short North.