Kiri Wysynski

Why you shouldn’t hire an agency with experience in your industry

A question I hear a lot when talking to people and organizations who are interested in working with Starburst is “we’re looking for an agency with experience in our industry — do you have that?”

If you want to be the same as everyone else, we strongly recommend this strategy. But breakthrough ideas don’t come from people who’ve walked the same path over and over again.

In fact, one of the reasons creative agencies still exist today is because of their diversity of thinking. Being an outsider to an industry has a huge advantage. As an outsider, you’re forced to ask questions — questions an industry vet might not think to ask because they’re constrained by typical ‘best practices,’ cookie cutter solutions and/or the dreaded mental rut.

The difficulty that comes from working with agencies in the same industry as yours is their inability to look at your problem separately from your product.

Why does this matter? Because problems are not industry specific.  If you’re a home renovation contractor who needs to generate leads and increase conversions, your problem isn’t about your products or services — it’s about how you’re marketing them. Similarly, if you’re a national bank trying to rebrand, you need an agency with extensive branding experience, not banking experience.

Smart marketing works across all categories: government, banks, furniture stores, manufacturing companies, restaurants and more.

When we’re given the opportunity to do work for a new industry, we’re challenged by circumstance to learn everything we possibly can about it. We don’t make assumptions based on what we’ve done before because every company is different. Instead, we apply what we’ve learned in other industries with similar problems. The more industries we’ve worked in, the stronger and more knowledgeable about varied marketing problems we become.

Marketers often forget that there is a basic understanding of human behaviour at the foundation of our business. It’s flawed to assume that because Agency X sold a similar product to yours they can achieve the same result selling it the second time around.

When you hire an agency with too much experience in your industry, you run the risk of looking like everybody else, and to us, that’s simply not effective advertising.

Brenna Voogd

The power of three


This post took some time to get up. Partly because it was Christmas and things got busy, but mostly because we wanted a “deeper explanation” for why we chose our new logo. Why squares? Why this arrangement? What does it all have to do with our company and new positioning? We wanted to deliver an insightful idea like we do for our clients. But our new brand isn’t fully established yet. FKA has only been around for a couple months and we were already asking a lot of a logo that’s barely opened its eyes.

We’ve been telling our clients for years that a logo’s meaning rarely happens overnight, it comes from the context you give it over time. And we needed to subscribe to this same way of thinking when it came to our own logo.

Let’s talk about Starbucks for a second. “Starbuck” was Melville’s first mate in the book, Moby Dick. The company’s founders just liked the way it sounded, and the logo was originally designed to reflect the seductive nature of the sea (whatever that means). The point is, there was no point to it. As far as we know, a classic tale has nothing to do with building a coffee empire. It took Starbucks years to build up the association between their visual identity and what they’re known for. Today, their brand is so recognizable they’ve been able to remove the wordmark from some of their material, leaving only the logo as an identifier. And that’s why we don’t have a grand explanation for why we decided on this logo.

Not yet, anyway.

What we are ready to share is the awesome design that went into it. It started out as 3X3 square grids, and we removed three squares from each grid to form the letters “F”, “K” and “A”. The number three is pretty significant. Three creative ideas for presentations. Three parts to a story: beginning, middle and end. Three phases of life: birth, life and death. Three parts to our agile marketing approach: Act. Analyze. Adapt. And, like our name, the logo was inspired by the three key components of our culture: Fun, Knowledgeable and Ambitious. It’s simple and straightforward, but far from plain. And because of its composition, we can play around with colour, animation and white space.

These animations are also part of what inspired the look of our new website.

As with our approach to marketing, this logo is adaptable. It’s inspired a lot of interesting ideas because of the flexibility of common, simple shapes. In fact, we’ve started seeing our logo everywhere. In plaid shirts. On office buildings. Even in our bathroom floor tiles. Its versatility and simplicity give us an endless buffet of options for using it. And that’s how we know it’s the right choice — it can evolve as we do.

We wanted a logo that people would remember and associate with our company. And this design does that. It’s unique, it’s logical, and it’s something we’re proud to have as the face of FKA.

We never did figure out the deeper, cosmological meaning behind it. But that’s okay. It stems from the culture of our agency.  

And over time, it will take on who we are and what we do — gaining greater meaning along the way.

Jeff McLean

Saying goodbye to the Starburst identity

We’ve done the research and developed our brand attributes of fun, knowledgeable and ambitious. We’ve clarified our positioning and started to articulate our differentiation, basing it on our Agile approach to marketing. FKA has been selected as our new name, and your newsfeed has been filled with our blog posts. Now, the next step in our rebranding journey is developing our new visual identity.

As you know, the elements of our new brand were constructed through a collaborative process involving the entire agency.  But when it came to creating our logo, the task was, understandably, left in the talented hands of our design team – comprising six of Edmonton’s finest graphic designers and creative thinkers. This was a unique opportunity for the team, offering a clean break from our existing identity. We weren’t trying to modernize or evolve our current logo. In fact, incorporating elements from the existing Starburst Creative identity wasn’t mandatory. This was an opportunity to create something new.

Each designer was set loose – given the freedom  to work independently in developing a series of logos and branding expressions. They had one mission: To create an agency identity that demonstrates to clients, employees (current and prospective) and the marketing industry at-large that our agency is embracing the future of marketing through constant evolution, optimization and reinvention.

From the get-go, we knew this wasn’t going to be easy or straightforward. We have ambitious goals for ourselves and the work we do, and this logo needed to reflect that.

Adding to the already daunting challenge of creating a new identity was the timeline –  the team was only given a week and a half from the initial briefing to the presentation of finalized concepts. But, when our designers were ushered into the boardroom to present their concepts to management, we were thrilled with what we saw. The execution and depth of insight of each designer’s presentation was impressive and innovative, leaving the management team with an equally arduous task – actually picking one.

Read part two of our logo decision process to see how we landed on our final choice.

A selection of our logo concepts.

Chelsea Rho

MTV Cribs: Starburst Edition

Hello MTV and welcome to our new, bigger Toronto crib.

We’re excited to share that on December 1, our team in Toronto moved to a more centrally located office in Toronto’s Yorkville area.

We transitioned from our current, two-person space, to a larger space at 33 Bloor Street East in the newest WeWork location to accommodate additional staffing as we grow.

Additionally, one of our Edmonton based account coordinators, Gillian Bilodeau, is making the exciting trek east and will be permanently relocating to Toronto and joining the team in their new space. Gillian will be greatly missed in Edmonton but we’re excited for her new adventures ahead and know she will be a great asset to our Toronto team.

We’re looking forward to building our Toronto business in the new year and the opportunities this move will bring. For those interested, our new mailing address is as follows:

Starburst Creative
5th Floor
33 Bloor Street East
Toronto, ON
M4W 3H1

Kevin Newcombe

FKA Website Rebuild — The Team Page

We’re rebuilding our website, starting with the most important part — our team page, where we showcase our talented crew.

Our focus began here for a number of reasons. The first being that our people are our strongest asset — without them, we don’t exist. It’s also one of the first places viewers go when they visit a company website. And it’s the page on our site that has seen the most change over the last five years.

Today, we have departments that are bigger than our entire agency was back then. We’re growing and changing, and so should our website. When we first built our team webpage, we had a total of six staff. Our layout worked really well for a team of that size but not so much for a team of close to 30 now, which is continually growing.

The tactic for our rebuild is a lot different than our usual approach. Typically, we start from scratch with a blank slate. However, we’re currently working with an existing website and there are a lot of challenges that go along with that. This includes stickhandling minuscule technical changes, like removing aspects from the old site while building up the new one. So, we need to be careful that we’re not removing too much at once in a short period of time.

We have to stop, analyze everything we’re doing, then slowly slide out the new site, while stopping again to ensure we’re not breaking anything in the process.

Reaching optimal loading speed

One area of critical importance is speed. Forty-seven per cent of visitors expect a website to load in less than two seconds and 40 per cent of visitors will leave a website if the loading process takes more than three seconds. That’s a big objective. And we’re tackling this by taking our learnings from recent web projects, analyzing what worked and what didn’t and then acting on that.

One way we’re accomplishing this is using the srcset attribute — a method that provides several source images along with hints to help the browser pick the right one, which helps reduce the load speed of the website and its images.

Applying a collaborative approach 

Another unique aspect about this particular web build is our team taking a much more collaborative approach to the work. Quite often developers and designers work in silos — designers design and developers develop.

For example, a few weeks ago we sat down with Jenelle, our lead designer for the team page, and discussed our overall goals at a high level. Then we dispersed, spent some time creating sketches and building ideas on our own and ultimately came together to share those ideas and move forward. As developers, this was a great help because it allowed us to see the big picture — empowering our team to make critical build decisions.

Taking a different track when it comes to JavaScript

We’re also attempting to build this site with as little JavaScript as possible.

Since most modern browsers auto-update themselves and become more uniform in how they run JavaScript, there’s less of a need for libraries such as jQuery. jQuery works well if you are building a project with a large amount of front-end code, like a robust site or application. However, if you’re building a small to medium library like us, Vanilla JS is a more suitable option at this time for this particular project.

Think of it this way, jQuery is akin to buying your dream home while Vanilla JS is akin to building it. Building it yourself means it has exactly what you want and none of what you don’t want — there isn’t a single brick wasted. That’s not to say we don’t utilize jQuery for other projects and don’t intend to in the future. It’s simply our approach at this point in time for the outcome we’re trying to achieve.

Sure it involves a bit more work, but if you haven’t figured it out yet — we’re not not afraid of a little elbow grease.