By Himmler Joachim
Charlie Graham is a serial entrepreneur. Right from the outset, it’s clear that Volum8 is not his first rodeo. In fact, at the far right end of Volum8 HQ is Tin Kettle, an artisan coffee bar serving the top coffees in the world, also operated by Graham. Its soft opening is December 13th (FYI: their hand-shaved hot chocolate is awesome).
“I was a music producer for 10 years,” says Graham. His numerous duties included writing, mixing and mastering records, while directing artists. “My job was to bring out the best in them.”
At that time, Graham’s second passion was working with computer applications. Through freelance design projects, he taught himself programs like Adobe Photoshop and HTML/CSS for web design. He eventually gained enough competency in his skills to use them to help pay for his “couchsurfing” travels around the world, picking up clients along the way.
All of these experiences happened over the last two decades. But Volum8 is now.
The Golden Rule of Volum8
Graham believes his company’s unique selling point is “data driven design,” meaning design choices are backed up by today’s leading marketing information, which is then used to make designs more useful for the client. The goal for each and every project that falls on Volum8’s desk is to create objective design (“What does our client need?”) rather that subjective (“What does our client want?”).
And how does Volum8 create their objective design process? By beginning with the very first step: understanding the needs of the client.
“Whenever we begin a new project, we approach it as if we know nothing. Since our industry changes so rapidly, this allows us to stay current, while learning more,” says Graham. Therefore, through learning about a client’s specific needs and desires, Graham’s team is able to prepare a highly customized design brief. Each brief is created to extract information from the client, in order to fill in any “missing pieces,” design attributes that the client may still need but has not thought of.
“We don’t do one bit of creative until all of this is done. Without it, we would just be throwing darts at a dartboard.” says Graham.
The Five Commandments for Engaging a Client
Embedded within the idea of understanding a client, Volum8 has five basic tenets that help determine whether to “court” a potential client:
- Compatibility – Each successful engagement is a long-term relationship that requires both financial and collaborative obligations.
- Organization – If a client doesn’t provide organized and timely feedback, a project can drag on and reflect poorly on both parties.
- Understanding – A client needs to have a basic understanding of the services Volum8 offers and why they need them.
- Respect – Clients aren’t just another paycheck. Volum8 respects their clients and genuinely wants to be of value. Respect is mutual.
- Trust – Volum8 is a highly specialized firm and looks for clients who will trust their process, sensibility and direction.
- Graham and his team refuse to be a one-size-fits-all design company, but rather a company that can tailor their design approach to the unique needs of every client they accept.
When Graham’s daughter Solstice was born in March of 2013, he knew he had to curtail his work-travel lifestyle and build a solid foundation to support his new family. To do this, Graham sat down and mentally gathered all his diverse skills together, and asked himself: “What am I willing to dedicate the next five to 10 years of my life to?”
The answer was Volum8. But after years of traveling the world and living in places like Venezuela and the Amazon, why did he choose Montgomery? “I grew up here, so it’s the landscape I know best. Besides, I have a lot of faith in the Hudson Valley and it’s a great place to build a business and raise a child. After all, I like to think I turned out okay.”
While leaning casually in front of a “Start-up Business of the Year” plaque, Graham showed me design samples created for one of his most recent clients, Newburgh Prep, a charter high school in Newburgh. Since Newburgh Prep is a school designed to give students a second chance at obtaining a high school diploma, the logo created was a red and gold phoenix rising from the valley, an “inspiring and powerful” image. The phoenix was present across all the samples, which included folders, business cards, and office stationery. Also, not only was their initial design brief given to higher-ups, it was presented to students as well. For this particular client, Graham and his team wanted to be sure that students and faculty could relate to the design.
No matter how big or small the client may be, the team at Volum8 takes great pride in providing customized services to all of their customers.
To learn more about Volum8, visit their website at volum8.co.