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Big Blue Dot: ‘Students in kid culture’

Their work is everywhere. It would be impossible to be in this industry and not see it, and yet, Big Blue Dot has been in existence for only four years. In that short time, this Watertown, Massachusetts, print and broadcast design...
May 1, 1996

Their work is everywhere. It would be impossible to be in this industry and not see it, and yet, Big Blue Dot has been in existence for only four years. In that short time, this Watertown, Massachusetts, print and broadcast design studio has managed to make quite a noticeable mark on the kid scene. To date, they are responsible (along with several partner studios) for a variety of logos for Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network, Hanna-Barbera and YTV; the concept and design of identities for PBS’s and TBS’s kids programming blocks, complete with animated interstitials: The Game for PBS and Disaster Area for TBS; and a number of campaigns for toy companies and interactive projects.

And while their success is obvious, partner and design director Scott Nash refuses to say they are experts. ‘That suggests you have the answers.’ They instead prefer to consider themselves ‘students in kid culture.’

Though Big Blue Dot is an entity on its own, it is also part of a larger company, Corey & Co. Design Inc., along with three other studios Hatmaker, Dancing Pictures and Corey McPherson Nash each with its own specialty that is not centered on kids: Corey McPherson Nash for traditional graphic design, Hatmaker for broadcast design, and Dancing Pictures for interactive media. Talents from all studios are put to use depending on the project. This setup allows each to maintain the advantages of a small firm but with the resources of a much larger company.

Corey & Company already had a track record in kids design long before the formation of Big Blue Dot, but the business was quickly getting bigger and the partners feared losing the intimacy of a smaller operation. ‘We had always had a sense that we wanted to keep our studios down to around 16 to 20 people,’ says Nash. ‘That’s a size where communication seems manageable and the focus of the studio is more manageable.’ It was at that point that Nash suggested developing a studio whose raison d’être was kids.

‘At first,’ says Nash, ‘we thought it was going to be very limiting, but it’s actually opened doors to us in ways that we didn’t imagine in our wildest dreams. It’s a really narrow cast but the projects we are working on are as diverse as can be. It has expanded our areas of expertise in amazing ways.’ That expansion has taken Big Blue Dot from consulting on positioning and branding to product development.

About two years ago, Big Blue Dot realized that while its informal monitoring of kid culture which included sending out everyone in the office with $20 on ‘kid blitzes’ to find some new kid thing to discuss was useful, a more formal kind of research was necessary. What resulted was the Trend Tracking division Big Blue Box that serves as an internal resource, as well as a resource for both clients and non-clients. And while it is a division of Big Blue Dot, it is also quite literally a big blue box.

Every three months, a crash course in kid culture in the form of a cubic foot blue box is shipped out to subscribers (annual subscriptions cost $2,000). Included in the box is a written analysis of the latest trends, as well as related product samples, and audio and visual roundups from various media. ‘We decided it needed to be very hands-on,’ says the Box’s editor Sue Edelman, ‘so we decided it should be a box and not a magazine or newspaper. We do on-going, non-traditional research. It’s not facts and figures; it’s more about what’s going on with kids across a broad range of industries and a broad age range of kids.’ Issues to date have included analysis on neo-punk and alternative music hitting the mainstream to how parents are working to help their kids get ahead, which is the focus of the latest edition.

The ability to draw upon such a diverse range of resources, as well as talents, gives Big Blue Dot some freedom. According to project director Al Venditto, ‘we’re not bound by a specific medium. We’re more attitude-based. Our approach challenges kids. It’s smart and unexpected.’

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