Esports: enthusiasm is contagious

By: Sarah Silva

When a friend asked me to come support her team at “The International” in Seattle, I was embarrassed to admit I’d never heard of the event. Turns out, The International (TI) is a multi-day championship tournament for DOTA 2, a free-to-play multi-player online battle game. In recent years, TI has drawn over 20 million online views and this year had a prize pool of $25 million. To put that in perspective, the prize pool for The Masters 2016 golf tournament was $10 million.  I was a total noob (as they say) when it came to online gaming and the world of esports but I was excited to learn more.

Hosted at Key Arena, the scene inside TI was exactly what you’d expect from any traditional sporting event. People dressed in jerseys and t-shirts supporting their team of choice. Sharply dressed commentators analyzing various moves and plays by each team. The crowds in the arena cheering for their favorite player after an exceptional play. What the teams were doing on stage was foreign to me, but the energy in the sold-out stadium felt familiar. Like traditional sports, you don’t have to play the game to be a fan. The enthusiasm in the arena was contagious and I was soon hooked and cheering along.

TI employed amazing storytelling to get someone like me excited about individual players. Between matches, humorous video clips played highlighting players from various teams. In two-minute videos I learned what players would bring to a deserted island (a PC and a girlfriend) or whether they were cat or dog people (cats were the clear crowd favorite). I can now see why esports has such a strong and growing fan base.

Esports  brought in over $493 million in 2016, a growth of 51.7% from 2015, and is expected to reach $1.5 billion by 2020.  A game you can play at home by yourself could translate to a real-life experience with thousands, bolstered by individual players stories and journeys. To make the event even sweeter, my friend’s team, Team Liquid, made it to the finals and won! They received an impressive first place prize of $10.8 million to be split amongst the gamers. While I started out not understanding the allure of esports, I’m a believer now.


AW SHUCKS shindig success

By: Katy Nally

Aw shucks, our clients and crew made our annual summer party a success! Our AW SHUCKS Party was part client appreciation, part nonstop oyster shucking, and an all-around good time. Thanks to everyone who came out last week, and for those who couldn’t join us, there’s always next time.

Each year we pull together as a team to conjure a true 2A party experience. It’s a collaborative effort that begins with deciding on a name. Once we landed on calling it our AW SHUCKS Party, we drafted and sent invitations, created an RSVP web page, and designed posters and signs.

Adding to the ambiance this year was an animated short, featuring synchronized swimming oysters and beer bottles. The mesmerizing show of twirling oyster shells and free-falling pearls surely dazzled our guests. Watch it here and see if you’re hankering for some oysters and stout afterward.

Besides our clients, friends and families, the other stars of the evening were the 480 Taylor Shellfish oysters and dozens of foamy glasses of Reuben’s Robust Porter. We purposely paired the shellfish with porter to create a briny, creamy experience. It’s an old (quite old) favorite we thought we’d try out. Having the oysters front and center also gave us the chance to use the hashtag #selfishforshellfish in our Instagram—and we’re still trying to say it three times fast.

Making its debut at our AW SHUCKS Party was our kegerator, or shall we call it R2beer2, or maybe kegasaurus? The debate still rages.

The rest of our spread was sourced from local vendors. As a Seattle-grown company, we always jump at the chance to support businesses in our community. Our dense and delicious bread was hand-crafted by Sea Wolf, and Abby provided her now-famous pickled carrots. In a wondrous display of summertime, our flower arrangements from Bleed Foot Florals included actual blackberry branches!

All in all, we set the party bar pretty high this year. 2018 has a tough act to follow. Can’t wait!


Oysters and stout make mouth magic

By: Katy Nally & Daniel Schmeichler

We’re having our summer party on July 27! And true to form, we’ll be serving oysters. Oysters are kind of our thing—they’re unexpected, local and classy all at the same time. But this year we’re throwing in some historical flavor by pairing our oysters with a roasty stout.

If science weren’t so busy solving real problems, it would probably tell us it’s a fact that oysters and stout make mouth magic together. In the words of Michael Jackson, the beer hunter himself, “the earthy intensity of stout is a perfect foil for the gamey brineyness of oysters.”

We were intrigued by this mighty duo, and the deeper we dug, the more we learned and loved about this pairing. Turns out, it’s slowly crawling back onto menus at hip restaurants and making waves among food connoisseurs. While oysters and stout are still working toward a Macklemore-and-Ryan-Lewis level of pairing fame, just 200 years ago this beer and shellfish combo was center stage at the local pub. As the storytellers that we are, the history and lore of this revived pairing appealed to us immediately: part pioneering, part plentiful and all-around Victorian.

In the era of Queen Victoria, the preferred pub beverages were the malty porters and stouts, and the bar snack was oysters, because they were everywhere! Oysters were common enough to be a food of the Victorian poor, at a cost of three for a penny. Even Guinness, first established in the late 1700s, has used the famed pairing to market its beer. In a 1930s ad the company claimed, “Guinness brings the oysters out of their shells.”

Over time, however, oysters became less plentiful and beer tastes transitioned toward lighter beers. Then, somewhere around the mid-90s, people woke up to the rich world of beer they had abandoned. We would all be drowning in Budweiser if it weren’t for the beer renaissance! And people like Michael Jackson the beer hunter fueled the revival with his stories of beers and traditions we had mostly forgotten.

Today, with oysters back on the menu—now with a brand that’s less pauper and more prince—and world class stouts readily available from local craft brewers, it’s time, again, to enjoy the delicious pairing that once was! This summer, we’ll say cheers with Taylor Shellfish oysters and Reuben’s stout.


Crafting the story behind Concentric Impact

By: Katy Nally

What’s your story? It’s easy to answer as an individual: you can introduce yourself, say where you’re from, what you like to do, where you work and pretty soon you’re weaving a narrative. It’s the same for businesses. But when you’re just starting out, that story can be hard to define and convey.

At 2A, we’re experts at storytelling for business. Stories anchor all that we do. Whether we’re crafting key messaging, designing logos or refining a brand, we make sure everything connects to a cohesive narrative that’s understood across audiences. In the case of Concentric Impact, we came in at the beginning and helped shape its unique story.

Jeff Kinney came to us seeking branding for his nascent sustainability accounting business. Jeff has a background in green building and transportation planning. While getting his MBA at Foster, he noticed small homebuilding companies were often overwhelmed by the full range of green building certifications. He decided to start a consulting company to provide sustainability management and reporting for small- and medium-sized businesses.

With a solid concept, Jeff came to 2A to get help with a company name, tagline, identity, design and messaging. The first step was for Jeff and our team to think through target audiences, potential clients and a go-to-market strategy. This exercise helped Jeff narrow down what consulting services he wanted to offer.

Next came messaging. “Sustainability accounting” was a good place to start—both words are easily understood, though they’re not typically paired. But both have their own connotations as well. Jeff wanted to make sure “sustainability” conveyed efficiency more than idealism. This phrase—and Jeff’s interpretation—became the foundation for our story.

From there, we built on this concept to construct a messaging guide and a company identity. We wanted his company name and logo to reflect ideals like efficiency, reporting and business rigor, and still convey sustainability accounting. Through brainstorming sessions, multiple meetings and ongoing collaboration, Jeff chose Concentric Impact and we created a simple yet memorable logo to match. The logo features the business name and the design is evocative of the efficiency of concentric circles.

Concentric Impact: Sustainability Accounting for Growth

In the end, we equipped Jeff with a messaging guide that communicates his company’s core benefits. It’s a living document that Jeff can test and refine as the story of Concentric Impact evolves.

What’s the story behind your business? Need help finding the right words and building an identity? Get in touch!


Pride the proper noun packs a powerful punch

By: Katy Nally

Messaging gets easier when you have something powerful to say. In the case of Pride, so much has been condensed into just one, short word. In a flash, I see the parade, the colors, the characters, but Pride also conjures emotion. All that from one word, and I haven’t even been to a Pride parade yet! But this is the year for me.

As a new consultant at 2A, I’ve been spending time exploring Capitol Hill where our office is located. With its rainbow crosswalks and establishments like Gay City, I was already aware Capitol Hill served as Seattle’s center for the LGTBQ community. But this month in particular, the neighborhood was bustling with Pride, which showed up in some very creative phrases—Plan your Pride, Dine with Pride, in Pride we Stride. After seeing Pride in storefronts, on chalkboards, and on banners on Broadway, I realized the power of this one word, and was impressed at how much it conveys.

The word “pride” has long been associated with the LGBTQ rights movement. On the first Christopher Street Liberation Day March on June 28, 1970 participants coalesced around the chant: “Say it clear, say it loud. Gay is good, gay is proud.” This first march commemorated the Stonewall Riots and was more somber than celebratory. It honored a historic night of resistance, when police raided the Stonewall Inn—a popular hangout for gay men, lesbians, drag queens and transgender people —and the patrons fought back.

Since that initial march, Pride has become both a platform and a party. The very act of being proud is simultaneously a show of support for the LGBTQ community and a cause for celebration. It’s this two-toned nature that makes Pride—and its simplified form as a rainbow—such a powerful message.

This weekend, I’ll finally see a Pride Parade in action! Seattle Pride, which hosts the parade and other Pride events, elevates issues by uniting and celebrating the LGBTQ community. Here’s to you, Pride.


Gaga for galas: The SIFF experience

By: Katy Nally

I’m a sucker for tickets. In our age of consumerism, I prefer tickets to things. Tickets are temporary, but the events they grant access to leave lasting impressions that only take up memory space. Few know this better than the film industry, with the bulk of its sales tied to tickets. For them, the question is always: how do we get more butts in the seats? One answer, throw a party and make your guests feel special. Done right, that party can foster new customers.

Seattle is fortunate to have SIFF, a nationally- and internationally-renowned film organization that celebrates films and shares compelling stories with the community. SIFF hosts the largest film festival in the US—the Seattle International Film Festival, which ended with a bang on June 11 at MOHAI.

I live near SIFF Uptown and—with minimal planning—occasionally drop by to check out new movies that often make me feel cultured and connected. I’m not exactly a regular. But when an enticing SIFF email invited me to the opening night party of this year’s film festival—accented by words like gala and red carpet—I clicked on the registration link. I checked with my cinephile friend and she assured me the movie premiere followed by the “adult prom” was well worth it.


She was spot on. SIFF masterfully orchestrated an opening night party that made me feel like a celebrity. An actual red carpet led to the entrance of McCaw Hall where I joined other Seattlites who were fancified for an evening of posh society. Not only did the movie The Big Sick make me appreciate the once-dreaded “rom-com” genre, but the gala that followed was a stellar example of wining and dining to make an impression. And SIFF thoughtfully put its local partners front and center. Favorite restaurants gave out freshly made snacks, there were Dilettante Chocolates in glass bowls on the bar tables, and food trucks anchored the outdoor scene.

While an event like this takes tons of coordination and thought, the return can prove worth it. Making customers feel good can keep them coming back for more. It certainly worked on me. Later that week my friend and I attended a showing in the film festival, which I otherwise wouldn’t have suggested.

In the field of selling products, it pays to remember the value of experiences.


Scott Knackstedt—he has a knack for making us laugh

By: Abby Breckenridge

Scott came to us pre-vetted. He had been in the Foster graduate program with two of our consultants which translated to two glowing recommendations. I consider hiring to be a huge challenge with an even huger upside—Scott was an easy choice. During his interview, he asked smart questions about the future of our business, and handed out milk.

Since he joined 2A, we’ve gotten the chance to build our own glowing opinions of him. Here’s a glimpse.

He loves words

Shortly after he joined, Scott asked if he could read an original poem at the holiday party. This was a first for me, and not the kind of request you say no to. Over wine and appetizers, Scott recited this poem to a room full of new colleagues and their loved ones, much to the delight of the room. His knack for poetry has sparked the recurring idea that 2A launch a business poetry offering (email us if you’re interested).

Before Foster, he spent five years at Gordon Thomas Honeywell in their governmental affairs consulting group where he flexed his language skills by bringing together stakeholders from across countries and industries.

Scott’s passion for words does more than entertain us at parties. His command of language (English being one of four) also brings a much-appreciated edge to his client work.

He collects information

Some people scroll through Instagram during lunch, Scott reads the Economist. And he listens to The World Next Week and Stuff You Should Know. From niche scientific factoids to international relations, Scott enjoys understanding how systems work.

Other items on the long list of things Scott has chosen to learn in his free time include: to play the bagpipe, to make soap, why Dalmatians are associated with fire houses, how aspartame impacts the body, to coach Special Olympics skiers, to be a karaoke rock star.

As marketing consultants, we’re called on to quickly get up to speed in a variety of industries. Scott has both a knack and hunger for just that challenge. Hopefully we’ll get a project in chemistry soon so he can put his knowledge of the periodic table to use.

He’s democratically goofy

A few months back when Nick and I were waiting for the elevator, we heard a thump, thump, thump. The door opened and there was Scott, a little embarrassed, dancing by himself.

He doles out “later ‘gator” with equal opportunity, and made an unexpected choice for his Skype profile photo.

One of our 10 rules of client management is that clients are people too. No one wants to work with a robot and we all owe each other a little leeway, as we’re just moving through life as humans. You’re not going to be a successful consultant if you’re struggling to be something you’re not. Scott’s ability to be his goofy self in all company makes him a pleasure to work with. We think you’ll agree.


How does space sound and smell?

By: Soleil Kelley

In my view, the inherit complexities of making animated videos is rewarding. Many elements need to come together to create meaningful impact: the story, the characters, the narrator, the tone, the design, the motion. It all adds up quickly. Did I forget something? Yes, the sounds! Bang.

Until our theaters or devices can waft relevant olfactory stimuli (buttery popcorn doesn’t count, sorry), animations stimulate just two senses: our sight and our hearing. Could you imagine Wile E. Coyote dropping from a desert cliff without a descending whistle then dusty thud? Could Star Wars be Star Wars without those epic music motifs? Nope. Music and sound design have that awesome ability to transcend the listener to a moment in time, into a virtual space with a desired mood and emotion, without even a word spoken. It’s the perfect complement to our first sense, sight, when what we see naturally aligns to what we hear.

Unlike videos captured in real environments with real sound emitted by real people or objects, animations start with a blank screen and utter silence. A story is carefully crafted with meaningful words. Characters are thoughtfully designed, then come to life in ways that bolster the story. What helps them come to life? Motion and sound. What do apps, databases and consistency models sound like when they come to life? Take a listen to our interpretation in this animation we recently created for the launch of Microsoft’s Azure Cosmos DB:



Now, if you just watched this on mute, turn up the volume and watch again. Hopefully you noticed how the music enhanced the narrative arc. When we set context in the beginning the music is softer. At the product hero moment, the song kicks in, adding impact. What about the earth fly-by at the end? Sound effects enhance the left to right motion and bring it closer to us. If only we could sprinkle some space dust for you to smell too, that’d really amplify the moment. I think some folks in AR/VR are working on that…that’ll be fun!


Time out

By: Laura Templeton

Finding an employer that truly gets work-life balance is a treasure.  I feel fortunate that at 2A, we work hard and play hard. And if you’ve read our blog you’ve seen that we have all kinds of fascinating interests and endeavors.

For me, balanced living also comes from working hard and then doing nothing. Well, not exactly nothing.  For my birthday, my husband gave me a yoga retreat on Whidbey Island. It is one of the most memorable gifts I’ve received—I learned the value of stopping life and reflecting.

I was a bit anxious when I walked into the great hall at the Whidbey Island Retreat Center.  First off, I was wearing shorts. Even the men in the room knew that you don’t wear shorts to a yoga retreat. And people were very open and forthcoming as they explained what they wanted out of the weekend, some even shed tears. As we went around the room introducing ourselves, we stated our intentions, because that’s what you do in yoga. I distinctly remember saying that I have a three-and-a-half-year-old daughter, and I haven’t had a break in, well, three and a half years.

The lovely and limber yoga teacher declared this was our weekend—show up for the opening and closing meetings, but between now and then we could do what we wanted, even if that wasn’t yoga. I immediately adored this teacher. A whole weekend with no obligations, and farm-to-table meals.

Not only was I wearing shorts, I was also the sole loner in the group. Everyone came with a friend, or even a posse. But that didn’t matter because next I learned the rest of the day was going to be silent. Huh?  That wasn’t in the brochure. But I was blissfully released from all social obligations. Rather than making small talk through dinner, we were assigned no talk. Awkward at first, then gradually, I let go of my self-consciousness and relaxed into the silence. My mind loosened up, and my thoughts unraveled, until I reached a peaceful awareness. In fact, the next morning when we were released from silence, I chose to stay in my quiet state until the afternoon.

My great awakening of the weekend was the sheer joy of spending time with myself. It felt like a luxurious gift to not worry about anyone else or be tied to a schedule. And while I thoroughly enjoyed having someone else prepare seaweed salads and chia pudding, the real thrill was sitting quietly with myself. I didn’t realize how cluttered and busy my mind had become until I had a chance to stop and listen to my thoughts. Little by little, I cleaned out the noise in my head and relaxed into silence. I came away completely refreshed, not to mention more limber.

Back at work, I have become a cheerleader for time-outs. I tell everyone who will listen, “if you possibly can, take 2-3 days to yourself each year. Just you. And if you go in silence, even better.”

When was the last time you spent a day on you? You don’t need acai bowls and sun salutations. Make a decision to devote time to yourself. Yes, it is a luxury, and perhaps you can only find one day to yourself.  But treat yourself to the gift of time and space and you may just achieve that ever-elusive work-life balance.


Evan Aeschlimann is music to our eyes

By: Scott Knackstedt

It’s not uncommon on a Friday afternoon to hear an 80s power ballad, a kitschy 90s chart-topper, or a pop hit from the 00s spring from “the design pod” at 2A.  Our team of designers has recently doubled in size, and it is exciting for us to showcase our top-tier chops in graphic design.  Evan Aeschlimann – the source of the musical interludes – is much more than the self-assigned 2A DJ. In his short time here he not only gets our feet tapping but has demonstrated some design wizardry worth talking about.

He’s a visual storyteller

Evan has a keen sense for transforming an idea into a visual narrative.  He sees the message and knows what color expresses it, what image defines it, or the composition that captures it.  He listens carefully and structures his interpretation faithfully.  He has put those skills to work at 2A with multiple identity projects, from industries as varied as finance to traffic control, and has shaped new brand identities from the ground up.

He’s a team player

Evan picked up the 2A way without a hitch: he’s collaborative, convivial, and shares his unique qualities to support the team.  Although he has plenty of experience in the field – including previous work with an agency – Evan knows how to strike a balance between his professional responsibilities with his personal pastimes.  An avid sports fan, Evan has leveraged his crafty savviness into a board game, Red Zone Football, that unites his design clout with his passion for the gridiron. It is this sort of cleverness that makes him a clutch player in our starting line-up.

He has the right rhythm

It is easy to charge headfirst into a project and whip out something uninspired, but Evan has demonstrated a thoughtfulness in his work beyond his years.  He knows that high-quality deliverables take time to get right, ensuring that the finer details of a new logo, website, or keynote presentation demand an attentiveness that sometimes cannot be rushed.  Evan has been praised for showing a solid aesthetic – and we’re grateful for his commitment to getting things right.

Evan may have waded into the 2A pool recently but he has made a definitive splash.  We are excited to learn more about Evan, someday meet his energetic dog, Clementine, and look forward to him quietly posting one of his quick-witted memes on the wall.  And though his computer may periodically blare a catchy pop song from a bygone decade to lift the office, we are thankful that Evan’s classical eye and new wave soul continue to produce visual stories that rock.