A Fond Farewell

One of the great things about Willoughby is that people tend to stay awhile. Our team is highly tenured and many of us have grown up here. But now and again comes time for change.

After guiding our West Coast office for the past five years, Zack Shubkagel is leaving the hive to seek out new adventures. He found his heart in San Francisco and will be pursuing other opportunities there — NOT getting up for 7 am meetings with us.

With Zack’s departure, we will be closing our SF outpost. Willoughby will continue under the ongoing leadership of principal/owners Megan Stephens and Nicole Satterwhite in our Kansas City flagship. We have national reach and will continue working with clients from coast to coast. The midwest has proven to be the perfect hub for work across multiple time zones.

To Z, you have been a beloved member of our team for the past 15 years. It won’t be the same without you, but this isn’t goodbye. It’s fare thee well and good luck. Once a bee, always a bee.

The KC Bees

A Taste of Our Latest Work in Food Packaging

Remember that bottle of wine you bought just because you loved the label? Guilty here. They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, but we all do it — all the time. First impressions matter. That’s where we come in. Our clients are passionate about their products. We are passionate about making sure those products are dressed for success, positioned to stand out from the crowd (on shelf and online) and lure the people who will enjoy them the most. Here’s a sampling of our latest work. Welcome to the hive.

Andres - Food Packaging


Share and Scherenschnitte Alike

Panera at Home - Food Packaging


Bringing the Comfort to your Kitchen

Heart and Soul - Food Packaging


Warmth & Style in the Frozen Aisle

Taylor Farms - Food Packaging


Letting the Product Sell Itself

A theory of fear & creativity

Moon Man

Like a part of the spectrum we know exists but cannot see, creativity is an elusive metaphysical property. Like gravity, we need creativity to function. But how can you select the best creative solution when it can be as abstract as anti-matter?

Every business leader wants creative solutions, saying “I’ll know it when I see it!” They have visions of landing on the moon. But when creative solutions are presented — they default back to earth.

As creatives it is our job to reach for the moon and sell our clients on buying great creative. Too often, the C-levels, Directors and Managers are selecting what they know will have least resistance. After all no one likes change. This leads to ho-hum executions that don’t stand out and don’t move the needle.

How do we push them outside their orbits? First we have to help them understand their fears.

A study conducted by Cornell University on the Bias of Creativity reveals a challenge we creatives have in selling our harebrained ideas. When participants were given a creative option vs. practical option they select the status quo. This appears to stem from our desire to reduce uncertainty. Considering our clients pressure to deliver higher earnings, improved profits and outcomes, creativity is the dark side of the moon.

“Our findings imply a deep irony. Prior research shows that uncertainty spurs the search for generation of creative ideas (Audia & Gonzalo, 2007l Tiedens & Linton, 2001), yet our findings reveal that uncertainty also makes us less able to recognize creativity, perhaps when we need it most.” — Bias Against Creativity.

So how do we reduce this friction?


Be truthful with your clients from the beginning. Reassure them that you are in their corner and ready to walk them through what may feel uncomfortable at first. Taking that first step into the Uncomfortable Zone isn’t easy, especially if they aren’t empowered by their own superiors to make creative decisions. Give them the power to communicate your vision if needed.


Start with the close-in, the safe. Show the client what happens if they go status quo. If you don’t show it, they will ask or wonder, “What if?” But then step it out. Show them what they would least expect. Visualize the anti-matter with words, video, prototypes. Don’t pitch an idea solely with words. As you present each element pause and ask them if they have any questions.


NASA didn’t just land a man on the moon in one day. They sent several unmanned rockets with a few fatal mistakes along the way to learn and prove they could make the mission a success. Similarly you may need to phase into the final creative solution. Prove it works by testing it on various touchpoints. Talk with the stakeholders to ensure it can be adopted successfully. Be excited and they’ll be excited.

If you can mitigate the fear with baby steps, you may succeed in selling in that winning idea.

Trends in Restaurant Design

When it comes to restaurant experience design, today’s QSRs are faced with the need to create dining experiences that will appeal to the Millennial and Gen Y demographics that now represent more than half of the QSR market. The challenge is to do it without pushing away existing customers — including Baby Boomers.

A Brand’s Life

Yes, brands live. Some would argue the most iconic brands even have a soul. Granted, brands are not people. However, they are similar to people in that they pass through many of the same phases (and face some of the same challenges) we do.

Forks & Corks 2014


Forks & Corks is an annual food and wine tasting event benefiting Harvesters Community Food Network. We worked with Vahalla Studios to screenprint a set of limited-edition art posters to be auctioned off at the event.