Milwaukee is a city that has, at times, struggled to find its creative center. There are a great number of creative people and agencies in the area, but seeking them out can be tricky, and getting on their calendar can be even trickier. Milwaukee-area marketing and design agencies won’t simply throw open their doors and give you access to their collective consciousness without as much as an appointment.
Or will they? The year-old group at Translator has put a unique spin on their experience design agency by offering anyone in the business community a chance to stop by for “Translator Lab Hours” on Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 8-10 a.m. to discuss anything from marketing, to new business ideas, to fashion. The lab serves coffee and offers a “safe place” for idea exchange and business ideas to hatch. Translator owners Mark Fairbanks and Cynthia Thomas believe this open community concept has not only helped them meet people and network, but has also helped many others in the business community network amongst themselves as well. Mark explained that diversifying the crowd between agency and corporate gives people a chance to bounce ideas off of people who they may not normally collaborate with, which can bring fresh perspective.
Not that Translator itself lacks any fresh perspective of its own. Mark and Cynthia’s wellspring of creativity is what launched Translator in the first place. Instead of being deterred by a large client that failed to materialize after launching Translator in 2010, Mark and Cynthia saw it as a chance to push forward and build a diversified client base to fill the void. Since then, they have gone on to do work for mutual fund companies such as Guinness Atkinson Funds and Grubb & Ellis AGA Funds, property developer Mandel Group, recruitment services firm Pinstripe, and most recently local craft brewer Milwaukee Brewing Company. As they are still growing, they list managing a controlled growth of the company among their largest challenges. They have recently moved into a larger space in Milwaukee’s art district and added staff to keep up with current demand.
Even in the new space, however, The Translator lab remains open for business twice weekly, with both Mark and Cynthia in attendance. Among the ideas launched from the lab were the “Meet-Meme” social trading cards, which have now grown quite successful even outside of the lab. When I asked Mark and Cynthia to forecast 2011 for me with regards to their goals, they started out explaining their desire to dig deeper into the brands of their clients and continue to grow their client base–great and positive goals for any organization to have, but Cynthia had one more thought: “More giddiness and more excitement!”
All in a days work in the lab.