NO. 10 SMALL COMPANY: QUANGO
Dave Anolik, Quango’s creative director, takes advantage of the nap room, which also doubles as the president’s office.Photo by Leah Nash
It’s mid-morning in Quango’s cramped offices in Lake Oswego. The design and marketing company is slowly getting ready to move and boxes are scattered between cubicles.
In the office of vice president and creative director Dave Anolik, a handful of the company’s 18 employees are gathered around his desk, drooling over posters for the Portland Jazz Festival, one of Quango’s clients.
They’re gorgeous: handmade by a third-generation letterpress printer in Minnesota. On some, the printer brushed across the still-wet ink, creating deep texture in the orange-ish background. They’re individually unique works of art, made for framing, not phone poles.
Off to one side stands a small, 23-year-old woman with a cheek-splitting smile. Ashley Carter designed the posters and just came back from three days in the Midwest, where she took part in the printing process. Carter bubbles with excitement when she talks about the trip and her shock when Anolick asked her if she wanted to go. She’s so blissful that it’s not hard to believe her when she says it was the best experience of her professional life — which started six months before with an internship at Quango.
Thirty-six-year-old president Sean Henderson started Quango six years ago. Two years later Anolik, 44, came on board. The two of them are almost excited as their employees. Anolik came from Intel and a small design company; Henderson’s done nearly every job in the industry, from pressman to executive account director at an ad agency. Both say their job at Quango — which billed for almost $3 million in services last year — is to be mentors to a creative group of employees.
And since they’ve hired 100% of their interns, that mentoring starts soon after they begin perusing candidates from the nation’s top design schools. It’s a paid, highly competitive program that requires interns to be ready to work on big-name-company projects right off the bat. There are no menial tasks, only the expectation to play a significant role in a company whose clients range from Hewlett-Packard and Dell to Adidas and Lego.
Quango doesn’t just mentor its interns. Henderson and Anolik describe how they try to turn even the most mundane job for a client into a teaching experience. Their goal is to give designers the tools they’ll need for whatever work they do at Quango or beyond.
The company also intentionally takes on jobs that let its staff designers grow creatively, like the Portland Jazz Festival. “One reason we’re doing this is because we’re big music lovers, but this lets people spread their wings,” says Anolik. “It’s also very public: national magazines, the web, posters, banners.”
And it lets someone like Carter, who joined Quango as an intern in July last year and was hired in October, fly to Minnesota to hang out with a typesetter who uses printing equipment that’s more than 100 years old. She says the friends she graduated with are jealous of the work she’s doing and the environment she works in.
“We can wear what we want, we can have blue hair,” she says. “They don’t have jobs that have this kind of creativity.”
But it’s not all fun and blue hair at Quango. Henderson says the amount of benefits they offered from the first day made it much harder for the company in its early years. He and Anolik know it’ll be a challenge to maintain the company’s creative culture as the need for a human resource director and employee handbooks looms.
But the men are radiant when they talk about their future growth. And soon the company will have a new space near downtown Portland. The offices have four decks overlooking the Willamette River and a nap room — a must for those working the occasional 80-hour week.
— Abraham Hyatt
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