go media is putting cleveland on the map as hub of art and design

On a recent Friday night, a couple hundred people crowded into the Ohio City headquarters of Cleveland-based creative agency Go Media. It was the official launch of "On the Map," a new video series produced by the firm that showcases inspirational Cleveland personalities. In the videos, people like Jonathon Sawyer of Noodlecat, John Ewing of Cleveland Cinematheque, and Danielle DeBoe and Sean Bilovecky of the E. 4th Street boutique Dredger’s Union discuss the things they are doing to help make Cleveland a better place to live.

"We know that there is a lot of pro-Cleveland stuff out there, but we’re putting our own spin on it," says Jeff Finley, partner at Go Media. "We looked at people running businesses that we admire, we championed them, and then we invited them here for a party." The event was open to the public.

In true meta form, Go Media also was featured during the On the Map launch. Toward the end of a three-minute video featuring Finley and company founder Bill Beachy, the duo is shot standing in front of a banner that reads "Go Media is Here."

Go Media is here -- and, apparently, here to stay. From its studios in a nondescript three-story brick warehouse on Lorain Avenue, the agency produces creative work for high-profile clients both in and out of town, including Pepsi, Choice Hotels, Progressive Insurance, and American Greetings.

Actually, Go Media’s work can be seen, well, all over the place thanks to the more than 3,000 ready-to-use vectors that the firm sells through its online store, The Arsenal. Akin to high-end clip-art, vectors are computer-generated illustrations that can be purchased in packs for use in all sorts of product applications.

"They’re on T-shirts at Target, Kleenex boxes... I just got a mailer from AT&T that had our vectors all over it," says Beachy. "You see them everywhere."

Beachy launched Go Media in 2003 along with partner Chris Wilson (now Wilson Revehl). At the time, the pair primarily was doing illustration work -- posters, T-shirts, fliers -- for area bands and music venues like The Grog Shop. Early on, Go Media struggled.

"When your clientele is mostly bars, it’s difficult to make a living," jokes Beachy. But over time, the agency began to attract a more lucrative clientele. "We were expanding in directions where we could make more money, like websites instead of T-shirts."

Then came The Arsenal.

"We had always toyed around with the idea of taking the illustrations we had left over from projects and repurposing them," explains Finley, who joined Go Media in late 2006. "So we decided to put up our own site and sell them."

The site was an immediate hit, thanks in no small part to the company’s mushrooming fan base (@Go_Media has more than 13,500 followers on Twitter). "There were tons of people that loved Go Media’s work and they were already visiting our site. So we were like, Hey, take a little piece of Go Media and put it in your design," explains Beachy.

Go Media has expanded The Arsenal's product line to include templates, tutorials, and the firm's first-ever book, Threads Not Dead, an exhaustive guide to the apparel industry for designers written by Finley. With a customer base that includes Target, Disney, Nike, and Adidas, it's no wonder that The Arsenal now makes up about 50 percent of Go Media’s business. The balance comes from work done for individual clients, ranging from branding to print to web and, increasingly, strategy. This year, Go Media anticipates revenues will clock in around $1 million.

A sampling of Go Media's recent work nets illustrations for a new line of welding helmets produced by Lincoln Electric, including one modeled on the Marvel superhero Iron Man; a new brand identity for Ohio City’s Campbell’s Sweets Factory; and a soup-to-nuts e-commerce website for Textile Republic.

"They are an unusual company," notes satisfied client Jeff Campbell, founder and owner of Campbell’s Sweets Factory. "They weren’t out there to just take my money. They were really trying to figure out what they could do for me. You can tell that everyone there loves their job and that really shined through in their work."

Go Media came up with the name Campbell’s Sweets Factory as an umbrella for the two product lines sold in the store: Campbell’s Popcorn Shop and Grandma Freda’s Fresh Bake, both of which are also stands at the West Side Market.

Go Media’s agency business is just part of the story. The rest has to do with passion -- and that’s passion with a capital "P."

"The attitude very early on was let’s do cool things and that money shouldn’t be our driving factor," explains Beachy. "I think that perspective has matured a bit, but it’s still inherent in all the things that we do. Yes, we need to make money to make a living, but we want to do things we’re passionate about."

That includes events like On the Map and the annual Weapons of Mass Creation Fest, as well as producing content for the company’s popular blog, GoMediaZine, which has more than 20,000 subscribers. Cost? Nada.

Go Media staffers -- there are now 10 full-time employees -- are also more than welcome to pitch their own ideas, which might help explain why there happens to be a woodworking shop on the second floor of the company’s Ohio City building. The shop is home to 2nd Shift, a furniture and product design studio that was launched in 2010 by Go Media staffer Chris Comella and six outside partners. Comella started the venture in part because of the support he received from Beachy.

"Bill has been amazing about making it an incubator space for us," he explains.

2nd Shift pays a token rent for the space, where it hand-makes a line of contemporary furniture and accessories with an industrial edge, like steel candleholders.

Oh yeah, and there's also a full-fledged recording studio on the ground floor of the building. Called Bad Racket, the studio is run by another Go Media staffer, Adam Wagner, along with two outside partners. Wagner launched it in late 2010, after years of prodding from Beachy, and has already worked with several dozen artists, including Signals Midwest and Two Hand Fools.

Go Media has no ownership stake in 2nd Shift or Bad Racket; helping employees is just part of the company’s ethos. "Gomedia is a big advocate of trying as much as we can to help employees accomplish their goals," says Beachy, who is the kind of boss who routinely asks employees for their personal goals during reviews. It just makes sense, says Beachy. "Having happy employees that are doing fun, cool things generates positives in many different directions."

That includes promoting Go Media in nonconventional ways that continue to pay dividends on the business side. Take the popular Weapons of Mass Creation Fest, the popular annual design conference-meets-music festival held each June in Gordon Square. The Fest was launched several years ago by Finley, who had long wanted to start a music festival in the city. It was only after a Go Media get-together with some of his favorite designers from across the country that he decided to merge his two passions: music and design.
The WMC Fest has grown rapidly -- this year attendance doubled to 800 -- and it has been called the South by Southwest of Cleveland. What’s more, it has bolstered Go Media’s bottom line.

"We know directly that we’ve gotten clients from these events," says Heather Mariano, Go Media’s project manager, who also was part of the team behind On the Map. "The lesson is if we do what we want, it’s good."

Photos Bob Perkoski
- Images 1 - 6: Go Media
- Images 7 - 9: Chris Comella of 2nd Shift
- Images 10 - 12: Adam Wagner of Bad Racket
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