Work & Co, the Brooklyn design shop that emerged from an exodus of Huge executives, has just plucked two more from the IPG digital agency: Casey Sheehan, Huge's account lead on Apple, and the shop's Global Creative Director Jon Jackson.
"When I was head of creative at Huge, my job was to find the best talent in the world. Jon and Casey were two of those guys, and we spent years trying to hire them at Huge," said Joe Stewart, a former creative director at Huge and co-founder of Work & Co. "The second we started Work & Co, I knew I wanted to work with them again."
Mr. Stewart co-founded the shop two years ago with Huge's founding partner and former Chief Strategy Officer Gene Liebel; former partner and Head of Product Design Felipe Memoria; VP-Product Design Marcelo Eduardo; and Mohan Ramaswamy, a former engagement manager at McKinsey and product strategy lead at Huge.
Mr. Sheehan and Mr. Jackson will join that list of partners, among other execs that make up the shop's 80 staffers. About a quarter of the shop's staffers formerly worked for Huge. Messrs. Jackson and Sheehan worked together at Sapient before joining Huge. More recently, Mr. Sheehan moved to California to support the company's new Apple account and Mr. Jackson remained in New York.
While the movement of so many senior executives from Huge might seem to raise a red flag, the agency's revenue actually grew by 33% last year, even after a number of execs left for Work & Co. the prior year. Instead, the departure of so many of its executives to the smaller independent Work & Co. seems to be indicative of a shift in values -- one that other large shops may take note of.
Mr. Sheehan and Mr. Jackson indicated that the ability to own a stake in the company and do more hands-on design work was more valuable to them than a creative assignment with one of the world's hottest brands and the stability of a larger organization. "Those two are the biggest draws for me," said Mr. Jackson.
At Work & Co., Mr. Sheehan and Jackson will remain in their respective cities, but the move to a small shop will still be an adjustment.
"When I started designing, it was just for the love of making things. It's something I still do here at Huge," said Mr. Jackson. But because Huge is bigger, he's also spending more time "popping in and out across offices and projects," and working on other things such as new business. "It's nice to come in and facilitate things along, but to say 'Hey, I'm actually just going to listen to music and kill it on this design' is something that happens with less frequency now."
Mr. Sheehan said he is excited to do more hands-on work with Mr. Jackson and the other Huge ex-staffers. "We haven't had the ability to work together as much as we'd like to," he said.
"When I was there doing a lot of managing, which is great but maybe not as satisfying to a designer," said Mr. Stewart.
"Jon and Casey both did great things while they were at Huge and we wish them the best," said a Huge spokesman. "Our focus is on building a leadership team suitable for the scale and growth of our business today and that will support efforts to become the industry's first truly digitally led full-service agency. We have and will continue to make major investments over the coming months in support of that goal."
Mr. Liebel, with his Work & Co. partners, has built a digital product shop that consists largely of senior-level designers. Clients include YouTube, Twitter and Virgin America.
Holding companies with digital M&A appetites are also paying attention. "All the holding companies have approached us," said Mr. Liebel. Well, all holding companies except for Interpublic, he added. "We're not looking to sell."