Human Goes Native

By Ti Published on .

Brand development/design company Human recently completed its last project under that name, for Mary Quant, as the company now becomes Native DBG and sets up new offices in New York. Native is a new joint branding and design venture between Human's David Gensler and Damon Dash and Kareem "Biggs" Burke, who together with rapper Jay-Z preside over the Roca Fella entertainment/lifestyle empire, which includes Roc-a-fella Records, Roca Wear, Roca Fella Films, Armadale Vodka and other brands.

"Over the last three and a half years, we've been able to do some amazing work for some great clients," says Gensler of the evolution to Native. "I just felt the need to move to a business model that allows me to spend more personal time designing and directly building brands. The only problem with being 'the agency' is that you are always once removed. I want a closer relationship with the brands I work on."

The Mary Quant project involved reasserting the 30-year-old iconic brand's relevance to trend-setting youngsters of today, as well as launching a website to serve as a global hub for the Quant brand. Gensler says Human directed the client's understanding of subcultural forces - music, the skate world, snowboarding, street art and the like - during a six- month-long "cultural showcasing" that he believes empowered brand stewards to make sound decisions. "We set up both Human Brand and Native to help enhance and empower brands, vs. having them be dependent upon us, which is the old way," says Gensler. "I've never felt comfortable with how big agencies create that dependency."

The new Native configuration will offer strategic planning, graphic design, product, environmental, and interactive design, street campaigns, events and PR. The company's primary mandate will be to grow ROC Brands, but it will also develop solutions for other noncompetitive brands seeking "aggressive innovation." Native will also look at developing its own brand of products.

The new company aims for authentic brand/culture linkage, and Gensler offers frank criticism of companies that would attempt to exploit an "urban" angle without understanding or being immersed in the relevant markets. "Just because you know some rappers does not qualify you to lead global brands," says Gensler.

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