For Mike Peterson, unleashing one’s creativity to produce eye-catching designs is one thing–but understanding how to meet a company’s marketing objectives through visual branding is quite another.
After a decade of working for larger agencies, he left it all behind to pursue his lifelong dream of owning and operating his own marketing and design firm. His company, MPDesign.biz, has since evolved into a full-service virtual agency that offers graphic design, web design, animation, illustration, videography, copywriting, ad campaign creation, and more.
While it offers everything a traditional agency can, running MPDesign gives him a front-row seat to what it’s like to form a creative partnership. “My clients love to learn the thought process behind a project. Why I did, what I did,” says Peterson. “A common issue I had in the agency world is that creatives didn’t always get to present their work directly to the client and it has been really helpful to have that direct connection to explain and provide reasoning on everything from color choices, fonts and imagery.”
Based out of Des Moines, Peterson proves that digital creators can thrive outside of advertising capitals like New York City. After five years in business, MPDesign has burgeoned into a collective of artists and collaborators from across the country. “We are a collection of contractors that work remotely and everyone offers a unique skillset to make all facets of a project more unique and more on target,” he says.
Peterson has built a proven track record for creating innovative and award-winning work for prominent brands including John Deere, Kenny Chesney, Pioneer, Applebee’s and many more. From designing custom packaging for whiskey brands, to creating billboards for bacon and Kentucky beef, Peterson has built a niche for himself. But launching his own shop has allowed him to diversify his portfolio; his team’s creative depth and range is on full display on the MPDesign.biz website.
For example, he has worked with Iowa’s Select Farms on its annual Spring Gala for the past ten years, an annual event that helps raise funds to provide hunger relief to struggling Iowa families and honors members of the Armed Services, among other causes. Peterson creates the vibrant, floral and bright-colored logos and theme for the event year after year. In fact, supporting local and small businesses and organizations is what largely ties his entire portfolio together.
“A majority of my clients are in the agricultural space due to being in the Midwest and previous agency experience,” he says, “but since I have broken off on my own, I have expanded my industry experience into everything from athletics to the food & beverage space.”
Here, Peterson shares more about his journey as the owner and creative director of his own agency. His story could be the motivation any design professional who is eager to scratch that entrepreneurial itch:
What motivated you to take the first step in launching your organization?
The agency I was working at was acquired by a larger agency in Chicago, and they fired all 30 employees in our office at once. I had always dreamed of going out on my own to pursue specific types of clients. But I didn’t think I would ever take that leap, until I came face-to-face with all of a sudden having to find a new job.
What was one of the hardest or most unexpected obstacles you had to overcome to get your idea off the ground?
I didn’t realize how hard it would be during the first 6-8 months to get up and running. It was a challenge to receive payments. I also had to get the word out that I was able to take on more work and that I was going out on my own full time.
Tell us about a moment you are particularly proud of in your business journey?
I recently was able to brand an event at Allegiant Stadium where the Las Vegas Raiders play, and being able to see my work on the large LED boards was amazing to see.
Any advice you can share for someone thinking of getting their own idea off the ground?
Networking and keeping good working relationships with clients and coworkers can be very beneficial down the road. As your contacts switch jobs and take on new roles, it is likely for them to refer you if they like working with you.
Your website is also the first thing many clients go to see and check out your clients, portfolio, etc., and having a professional looking site that is easy to navigate is very important.
Why did you choose the .biz domain to represent your online business?
The .biz domain is great because my audience could instantly make the connection that it is a business site. It is also a memorable and easy extension for my audience to remember.
What kind of projects do you like to take on, and why?
My ideal project would be to create a brand identity or to do a brand “refresh” for a client. I like those types of projects because they give me a chance to learn more about the client, understand their industry/competitors and then also create multiple pieces that help show how things can evolve beyond a logo.
What’s next for MPDesign?
I am in the midst of exploring ways to grow my team and expand my business, hoping to have a storefront in the next 2 years.
What kind of creatives do you like to hire, and why?
The majority of my contractors have been built from the 15 years of agency experience I had before starting my own company. It was great to work with various people in different states who all have specialized talents. In that time, you could really get a feel for who you worked well with, who had the same drive and passion as I do. They challenge each other, they challenge me, and make me a better creative director.