The Children’s Place: BIG BLUE DOT
Written by Dave Avdoian | Posted by: Anonymous
In an age when Harry Potter graces the cover of "Time" magazine and the word "Pokemon" is part of the popular lexicon, marketing and advertising directed towards kids is a booming business. As kid culture becomes an increasingly significant part of mainstream culture, so much so that enlightened 30-year-olds can discuss the abilities of the various Power Rangers, companies that specialize in kids’ issues are especially valuable entities–particularly as kids’ influence over their parents’ spending grows. The Watertown-based design studio BIG BLUE DOT is one such company.
BIG BLUE DOT’s parent company, Corey & Company, Inc., established the studio in 1992 as a separate boutique firm to cater to a specific kid-oriented clientele. Similarly, the BIG BLUE DOT’s sister firms Corey McPherson Nash, Hatmaker, and Bug Island are also spun off from Corey & Company to attract specific audiences and clients. Consisting of roughly 15 full-time employees and numerous freelancers, the studio calls upon Corey & Company’s full complement of resources while maintaining its independence. The company quickly found its niche as a premier provider of kid-oriented design solutions. "Our mission," says Annie Bauman, BIG BLUE DOT’s director of New Business and Marketing, "is to create great, unforgettable design for kids. We really have a vested interest in producing outstanding work for kids."
The studio differentiates itself from competitors by working in three different media–print, TV, and the Web–and offering a diverse collection of services: product packaging solutions, logos, design and production for children’s TV, and interactive design for Web sites. As a result, BIG BLUE DOT has garnered an impressive client list which includes Disney, PBS, ABC, Parker Brothers, Simon and Schuster Interactive, Microsoft, Scholastic, and Cartoon Network.
Among BIG BLUE DOT’s most notable projects is its work with Nickelodeon. The network approached BIG BLUE DOT with the desire to distinguish itself from the rest of cable television fare. "When [Nickelodeon] came to us, they were looking for a new on-air identity," says Bauman. "We started working with them by developing a logo and a positioning document called Nickelodeon’s Rules and Tools." This document clarified the network’s goals and mission and helped provide the network brand identity, primarily by creating interstitials (station identifiers) and a logo that recognized Nickelodeon as the number one network for kids.
The studio also helped to reestablish YTV, the Canadian equivalent of Nickelodeon. BIG BLUE DOT created a logo for the channel and then developed a positioning document that defined an internal style guide or mission statement for the channel. Through interstitials and bumps, BIG BLUE DOT helped relaunch the network as the "Weird Channel," giving it an attractive, fun-filled identity that appeals to kids. The result was a ratings jump from a nine share to a 17 share in a three-month span.
More recently, BIG BLUE DOT has joined with the Children’s Television Workshop and Nickelodeon to develop "Noggin," a Web site and digital channel that skews towards kids. The goal was to create a channel kids owned, a place where they could have fun and learn in a pressure-free environment. The studio had a hand in almost every aspect of Noggin, creating the network’s name, tagline ("What sparks you?"), interstitials, and bumps.
Though BIG BLUE DOT is entertainment-oriented as opposed to strictly educational, the studio is careful to make sure the goals of prospective clients align with its own values. "We definitely have standards about what types of projects we will and will not work on," says Bauman. "It’s not just about selling to kids; it’s also about educating." As a result, BIG BLUE DOT has helped a variety of companies that are both educational and entertaining, such as Pleasant Company, which is responsible for the American Girldolls, and the Children’s Television Workshop.
The key to the company’s success is its ability to provide a quality product that speaks to kids in a language they understand. This is accomplished by constantly being in touch with the audience and tapped into their ever-changing culture. "We like to say we constantly keep one finger on the pulse of kid trends," says Bauman. In addition to attending kid-oriented conferences and media events, BIG BLUE DOT employees can peruse the three dozen-plus periodicals to which the company subscribes. This provides them a vast library of cutting-edge resources.
An outgrowth of this extensive knowledge is the BIG BLUE DOT Trend Update, a free monthly email newsletter outlining current issues in kids’ culture. Composed by an internal editorial team, the newsletter offers subscribers unbiased qualitative research regarding a variety of kid issues, everything from poll and survey tracking to offering predictions about future trends. The newsletter has been overwhelmingly successful, attracting a diverse subscription list that includes parents, teachers, and businesspeople.
Though immersed in kid culture 24-7, BIG BLUE DOT employees are not simply big kids. "The people who work at BIG BLUE DOT graduated from Pratt or Mass. Art or Carnegie Mellon, so they’re creatives or designers by trade," says Bauman. "They’re complemented by Web producers or design print managers or executive producers that help manage or facilitate and strategize with the client." The result is a diverse group of people all with a focus of doing interesting design for kids. "People at BIG BLUE DOT are inspired by kids, and they’ve taken their talent as Web site producers or Web designers and they’ve translated it into the world of kids. It’s not only our profession. It’s our hobby. It’s our lives."