Online conversations are not one-to-one. Communication strategies are constantly in a state of flux and many companies are finding it difficult to break through the information noise in the digital age. The wir.agency helps clients navigate this change by telling their stories visually specializing in illustration, animation, and video.
Karin Lachmann is one of the creative leads of wir.agency. We spoke about the founding of wir.agency, the difficulties along the way, how she handles clients, and her approach to a modern working environment.
How did wir.agency start?
The agency was founded 3 years ago and it all started because my partner, Thomas Philipp, and I were experiencing some difficulties during our respective internships at other design agencies. We were very frustrated and we just thought that there was a better way to work, and that that we could do it better so we started wir.agency to put our ideas into practice. We had no money but we were used to having no money since we were still students at the time so we thought, why not? It’s not going to change our lifestyle that much. We also didn’t have any experience of starting our own business so there was a lot we learned over the years. But, I think it was the best decision we made, which was to just go for it.
How did you meet Thomas and why did you decide to work together?
We met at Die Graphische. It’s a visual media college here in Vienna. He was studying Photography and I was studying Graphic Design. We started collaborating while we were in school and it went really well, which was a bit of a surprise because we were and still are a couple. There’s a lot of potential for friction but it works for us. Sometimes we have different opinions but we discuss it in a very healthy way.
wir.agency specializes in illustration, animation, and video. At the heart of all these services is storytelling. What do you think is the most important element of an effective story?
Thomas said something about this the other day and it was so succinct and perfect. He said that the most important element of an effective story is the emotional engagement of the viewer. They need to care about the story you’re telling.
What are some of the difficulties wir.agency has had to overcome to get to where it is now?
One thing that was quite difficult in the beginning that you probably wouldn’t expect was putting a monetary value on your work. We looked at our competition for some guidance but prices ranged from a student charging 400 euros for a two and a half minute video to a major agency charging tens of thousands for the same service. Where should we be on this scale? We then tried to estimate how much work would be required on an hourly basis but that guesswork was sometimes wildly inaccurate. With the hindsight of experience, we feel it’s about the value we’re offering the client so today, we offer packages. Small, medium, and large. It’s very clear what each package includes so a client knows what they will be getting. They can then assess which package best suits their needs. We feel it’s much better and fairer for both parties and it’s working out really well.
Another difficulty, especially in the early stages of the agency when we needed the money, was turning down certain projects that we didn’t agree with. We were lucky in that we got a good number of requests, but some requests were for projects where we didn’t feel comfortable with the politics of the associated parties. Storytelling is a powerful tool and we don’t want to misuse it or use it for negative purposes. We feel very strongly about that.
Cash flow was another issue. It’s always important to have some money set aside for unexpected expenses like a medical issue, or equipment failure, or the Ministry of Finance requesting something. It got bad enough where I had to take on a part-time job for a while to keep the business going. I was straddling two different worlds at that time: I was an employee and I was also my own boss. It was a bit strange.
The first and foremost step is to create a relationship of trust and honesty with the client. We are extremely client-focused and we want to do what’s best for the client so sometimes they want certain things but we ask them whether they need it. We help them find what’s best for their situation regardless of which package they choose. Sometimes it’s a smaller package than what they wanted because it’s not what they need. To me, fulfilling their needs is more important than the money.
The next step is to form a communications strategy appropriate to the client. This could be one video or a series of videos, or graphic design elements–it’s all dependent on the needs of the client. Sometimes we provide a series of different versions and try them all. It’s not bad to try things out in the digital age to see what works best. There’s no harm done. I think this is a part of the process that is often overlooked.
How involved is your typical client in the process? What are some of the things you do to guide a project to a successful end where both parties are satisfied?
It depends on the client. For example, with clients that are new to online communications, we will involve them more in the process.
As far as some of the things we do, we make very clear timelines, set strict deadlines, and we never miss a single one. It is one of our core values: to meet every single deadline. We take project management very seriously and we are very clear about what needs to be done, by when, and by whom. We make communication with the client an absolute priority so they know what stage the project is in at all times and when they need to be more involved. We also make a point to document all communications, requirements, feedback, and expectations so it’s clear to everyone what needs to and will be done.
We are currently expanding and have created flexible teams to react more appropriately to different projects. I think this is an absolute necessity to compete in the modern age and it is probably the future of the creative field. This arrangement is built on trust and I’d like to see everyone trust each other more and be more honest. I would like to see wir.agency become the number one digital agency for trust and online communication.
How can members help wir.agency?
If you’ve got stories you want to tell, let us know. I love to collaborate and Impact Hub Vienna members are incredibly inspiring!
Photos/Illustrations/Graphics by wir.agency
Karin’s portraits (c) Aneta Pawlik