Better Than Bo Derek

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David Whitman left his VP-creative director job at Minneapolis' Colle & McVoy last month and jumped across town to a little graphic design shop called Agency 11. Good timing; until late last year, it was known as Kuester & Partners, which happens to be less than felicitously pronounced KEY-ster. But Kevin Kuester, who founded the agency in 1982, left in 2000 to open a restaurant consultancy, so the time was ripe for a new handle. Why the somewhat downtownish choice of Agency 11? "It's pretty memorable and it's a hell of a lot nicer to say than `KEY-ster,' " Whitman figures. "But I got different answers from different people and sometimes I got different answers from the same person. The most popular theories include: There were 11 disciples after Judas left the table; the new name became official on the 11th of November; or it's like in Spinal Tap, where the amp goes up to 11, which probably occurs to almost everyone. But the work we do here is a lot more elegant than that."

Indeed, Agency 11 boasts some fine work for, among others, Potlatch paper and several restaurant chains like Buca di Beppo and Chino Latino. Restaurant branding is one of the shop's specialties - the 1999 Buca di Beppo annual report, fashioned in the style of an Italian newspaper, is good enough to eat - but the strategy now is to branch out to even bigger and better things. Like TV. "We have a reputation as a superb design shop, but the natural next step is to offer clients something more than branding and graphic design," says the 40-year-old Whitman. "It's time to add advertising to the mix."

Which is chiefly why he's on board, of course. Prior to Colle & McVoy, the TV-savvy Whitman did a stint in Minneapolis at Kruskopf-Olson, and before that he put in three years at Denver's Barnhart/CMI where he was CD and a principal. In fact, Whitman is a copywriter by trade, but "I was hired because I'm an ad guy who has an appreciation for design, and I have a respect for all the disciplines we offer, or will offer. I see it all as marketing communications." He adds that he has some nifty design work in his own portfolio, particularly for Volant skis from his Barnhart days. And he points out that Agency 11 already has some impressive ad work to its credit, including a cheeky Chino Latino outdoor campaign, led by a board headlined "Third World brunch. Sally Struthers portions."

"We have a small staff, only eight creatives," Whitman notes. "I guess you could call us a boutique. But the thinking's big. It's, uh, past 10."

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