John st. merges with design firm Amoeba

Five year-old agency john st. is buying design boutique, AmoebaCorp. It's a move to bring design thinking to the heart of client strategy, says john st. president/CEO Arthur Fleischmann, an approach that is still somewhat overlooked in Canada. '[Design] is not just a world of logos and corporate brochures,' he says. 'It can be fundamental to solving the problem, not just the execution.'

Five year-old agency john st. is buying design boutique, AmoebaCorp. It’s a move to bring design thinking to the heart of client strategy, says john st. president/CEO Arthur Fleischmann, an approach that is still somewhat overlooked in Canada. ‘[Design] is not just a world of logos and corporate brochures,’ he says. ‘It can be fundamental to solving the problem, not just the execution.’

AmoebaCorp is a 10-year-old agency based in Toronto founded by OCAD grads Michael Kelar and Mikey Richardson. Ryan Smolkin is the third principal. Over the years, their client work has included Coke, Virgin Mobile and Nike. They also designed Molson’s ‘I am Canadian’ logo. The agency, which has 10 staff, has worked with john st. for over two years now on clients such as Maple Leaf Sports, AstraZeneca and Tetley. They will now reside in john st.’s offices.

‘The biggest advantage to working with them has been [when we] bring them in early,’ says Fleischmann. With new client AstraZeneca, the team was brought in at the pitch, he says, a move that is helping to add synergy and a stronger corporate identity to the work. ‘They’re able to come at it from a very different perspective,’ he says, adding that it helps insert stronger consistency throughout all of a client’s channels of distribution.

Tetley is another brand that has benefited from Amoeba’s design thinking. ‘We went back to square one about how the brand should look and feel. This was even before the client saw creative,’ he says. ‘[The result] was fantastic.’

According to Fleischmann, while many agencies have

in-house design talent, involving them early in the process is still rare in Canada. But he points to Miami-based Crispin Porter + Bogusky’s work for Ikea and Mini as one example of successfully incorporating design thinking into creative and strategy early on.