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Interview with Lynda

From: Creative Inspirations: Troika Design Group, Design and Branding Agency

Video: Interview with Lynda

Lynda Weinman: Hi, I am Lynda Weinman, one of the co-founders of lynda.com, and I am here today with Dan Pappalardo, Executive Creative Director and Partner at Troika. So thank you for agreeing to be part of the Creative Inspiration series and part of this interview. It's great to get to meet you. How did you get the idea for Troika? Dan Pappalardo: Three of us got together. Three guys have worked together at Pittard Sullivan at the time and Pittard Sullivan was about to close its stores. Actually, it was at the end of the 1990s, it was 2001, and it was during that whole change of the industry.

Interview with Lynda

Lynda Weinman: Hi, I am Lynda Weinman, one of the co-founders of lynda.com, and I am here today with Dan Pappalardo, Executive Creative Director and Partner at Troika. So thank you for agreeing to be part of the Creative Inspiration series and part of this interview. It's great to get to meet you. How did you get the idea for Troika? Dan Pappalardo: Three of us got together. Three guys have worked together at Pittard Sullivan at the time and Pittard Sullivan was about to close its stores. Actually, it was at the end of the 1990s, it was 2001, and it was during that whole change of the industry.

Lynda Weinman: Dot com crash and all that. Dan Pappalardo: Yeah, pretty much. Yeah, an opportunities for all of us to continue to work together under a different building basically. Lynda Weinman: What is your role like today as Executive Creative Director? Tell me about what you do. Dan Pappalardo: Yeah. My dream for this company was really to create a studio environment, one where it was a very collaborative effort, where the passion for what we do is really high. The trust in one another is really great. The egos among the group are very low, and really that was the idea for this place was to create environment, to work on the types of project that we love to work on, but to do it as a really a collaborative effort and because of that, I think it's what's made the company unique.

I think because of this collaboration of this sort of very experienced group of people, we've attracted a certain type of work. A work that really -- clients who're looking for a company that can help them solve bigger problems and tackle assignments that might seem daunting to some people. To us, those are the best projects for us. Lynda Weinman: So what is your standing in the industry? I mean can you describe a little bit about the successes of the company in the tenure of the what, seven years that you've been in business? Dan Pappalardo: We've focused on a segment of the industry from day one and that's the network branding, network identities. Most of our clients are networks and often the marketing, the senior marketing executive within the network. When it comes to network branding, we are one of the top tier companies, if not in the US.

Lynda Weinman: Have you seen any major changes over the last seven years in terms of either tools, technology, what your clients are expecting every of you? Dan Pappalardo: I think the market has gotten more complicated for our clients. The market is tougher from a competitive standpoint, but it's the technology and media has exploded in a way that in the past they were a television channel, now it's this whole cross platform. They are downloading on their website, but it's also iTunes and mobile, and all of these various aspects of the network has spread in a way that's made it complicated.

And network identity packages used to be in a design assignment. Now they really are a problem solving assignment. It really is one where you're helping the client understand the landscape, understand the opportunities, and really trying to help them figure out how to pull this altogether, all of these different entities of what they are. House it under sort of a brand umbrella that people can understand and relate to and sort of have some kind of emotional connection to. But also, the shows and the talent on their shows is critical, that's the product.

Lynda Weinman: How do you market yourselves? What are the marketing techniques that a broadcast design company utilizes to get the word out about yourselves, and is there just a really small group of clients that you work with over and over again or are you expanding your breadth of clients? Dan Pappalardo: We love developing relationships with clients that they trust us, we trust them. We understand one another's needs and so you work at a very different level. You really work at a great problem solving level at that point, when you are at that phase. But, in our industry, people are always migrating from one company to another. There is a lot of evolution, companies change and evolve.

So it's important to continue to develop our clientele. So we are always adding new clients to the list, and then someone over here might go away and that client might fall off our radar for a few years and then it might fall in. Lynda Weinman: Well, how big is your staff? Dan Pappalardo: We're in the 25 people range. Pretty much we've been that way for the last year or two, and that's staff. And with freelance, freelance is probably 15 people here a day and if we're in production doing some shooting, that can be another 20 people here. So I guess on any given day 35 people, 40 and then it can get up to 55 people when we're humming.

Lynda Weinman: What do you look for when you hire people in terms of a portfolio or a college degree or a background? Is there any one certain thing that you are looking for or can you talk a little bit about that? I think there are so many people who want to break into this industry and they wonder what kind of skills that they would need or what kind of portfolio they would want to put together to interest someone like you. Dan Pappalardo: From a creative standpoint, say a designer, I am looking for fundamental design skills. I want to know that they understand and love typography, that they have a really great sense of color, that they understand layout, balance, contrast, kind of like the fundamentals, and that they are really great conceptually.

That they understand all we are trying to do is convey a message in an interesting and compelling way. We articulate that, we know what that message is, whether the client either gives it to us or we work with the client to articulate that message. But then the designer plays a role in sort of taking that message and turning it to something compelling, some interesting idea. Lynda Weinman: What about experience? Are you ever willing to work with people who are breaking into the industry or do you always look to work with super-experienced people? Dan Pappalardo: I am going to talk about it as an ecosystem here. You want a group of people at every level in a company, and yeah. So to me, it doesn't really matter. I have expectations for each level that somebody is at, and when they are out of school, what are the kinds of -- there are different skills that you're looking for at that level than somebody that has been in the industry for three years or five years or ten years.

Lynda Weinman: Can you talk a little bit about presentation skills and how you present concepts both internally and externally? Dan Pappalardo: Well, I love that part of it and to me, that's strategy. Because it's always different. I always love getting to that point where we have our ideas and then we are trying to figure out how we convince the client that we know they are great ideas, right? It's like we are at that point, we are like, God, that's great. So it's like, okay, how do we sell the client on this? Sometimes it's board, sometimes there is writing involved, sometimes there is animatics we are creating, sometimes they are mood-boards. So there's many, many different formats, but it takes us sitting back scratching our heads and going, 'this is what we are trying to say, how can we do that in a really compelling, quick, quick and compelling way.' Lynda Weinman: All right. So I just sense the passion that you have for solving problems. To me, that's at the core of what I would take away from this conversation. That that's really what get you going, is these are all different problems to solve and that's a fun position to be in.

Dan Pappalardo: Yeah. I mean I always say if we kind of know the answer to an assignment, it's kind of like, don't bring it to me. Like, I don't really -- that's not what I do and it's not really what this company does. There is a lot of other companies that can do that. We are best with the kind of an assignment that we can sink our teeth into, that at the end of the day, a client goes, oh! My God, thank you. You know, that sounds so easy. It seems so right and we have no idea. I mean that's definitely more interesting for us.

Lynda Weinman: Well, congratulations for all your success and thank you so much for sharing your studio with us and taking the time out of your busy schedule to have this interview. Dan Pappalardo: My pleasure.

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