Something happened 15 years ago in the historic district downtown that came to define — or rather, re-define — the City of New Bedford.
If you’re thinking it had something to do with cobblestones or lamp lights, whaling or fishing, industry or the arts, you’re wrong. Well, not entirely wrong — but partially wrong.
Fifteen years ago, mediumstudio formed just a few blocks away from their current location at 38 Bethel Street, on historic Centre Street where BeJeweled is found now.
Over the course of the past 15 years, the graphic design firm has taken everything New Bedford has to offer as enumerated above and re-branded, re-packaged, and re-presented it to the world for the 21st century. Simply put, mediumstudio took design to a new professional level in New Bedford, just as the city was ready for that happen.
You can’t help but notice a certain freshness and graphic audacity in all of their work. It’s defined them from the beginning to this day. And, through countless logos, display ads, flyers, posters, website and social media images of all sorts produced on behalf of their clients, helped rebrand the city they call home.
It’s unquestionable that they burst upon the scene as the hip new kids on the block within the graphic design world in New Bedford and on SouthCoast — in their own unique way. From the beginning, the lowercase ‘m’ and ‘s’, all-one-word agency was much more than just a graphic design studio.
Founding member Keri Cox explains that out back of their first location on Centre Street was a rather famous space she simply refers to as “The Garage.” As mediumstudio formed by day, on nights and weekends The Garage was a spot to hang out at to socialize, listen to bands, hold an art show — all manner of creative pursuits.
“Generations remember that place,” said Cox.
In those halcyon days and nights, mediumstudio was born in and of the community it would come to rebrand in the future. From Day One, community wasn’t just a place where they had set up shop — it was part of their natural business plan, and remains so to this day.
Cox has long been an important part of the 3rd EyE Unlimited leadership team. She’s also one of only two paid AHA! New Bedford staff persons, assistant to director Lee Heald.
Today at 38 Bethel Street, in a voluminous open space above the Fishing Heritage Center, 3rd EyE members still meet each and every week. The artist Nicole Winning conducts Saturday morning Colorful Yoga classes for children in the space. It’s not uncommon to attend a meeting or event at mediumstudio that has nothing to do with the work being done — but everything to do with the bigger picture that is New Bedford now.
Keri is one of four partners at mediumstudio. She mostly functions as project manager, or as she terms it, “I’m just bossy!” The other partners are her husband, John Cox; Hannah Haines; and Frank Goncalves.
Each works on their own individual wavelength and reacts to the needs of their clients in their own way. There never has really been a business plan at mediumstudio; it’s evolved over the years and become successful in an organic way.
But it is a successful — and very busy — creative Business, with a capital ‘B’. Back in The Garage days, Keri says a lot of work was done just for the fun of it, or to fulfill a community need. Over time the dictates of “adulting” caused them all to focus on the bottom line — just not at the expense of creative freedom.
Each of the partners has a distinct identity and client roster, yet collectively become mediumstudio. That brand is distinctive and rests on fundamental design principles that are allowed to breathe and most often built from the ground up via typography. (partial portfolio here)
Keri Cox is the public face of the firm. As this column once wrote of her, “Very often, when you look behind an event, you find Keri Cox there. She is the glue that holds the various elements of some important happenings together. She almost effortlessly brings diverse people in the city together.”
Hannah is responsible for the graphic “look” of the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center, designing its upcoming season offerings each year, for example. She says, “I’m proud to have worked closely with The Z to conceptualize their seasons for the last 14 years.”
Hannah Haines is voluble and expansive in an interview. She says that the most memorable praise she recalls a client saying was that “you could always tell mediumstudio designed something because it looked ‘thoughtful’.”
John Cox is reticent to downright shy. He likes the work to speak for itself. It does; his graphic design is widely acknowledged as setting a new standard in the city. The dude is viewed as innately talented by anyone you speak to about him.
On the day an interview for this profile was conducted, Frank Goncalves was unavailable. It’s obvious he is a valued member of the team, however. All the others boasted that he had been with mediumstudio since he was 19, soon after he finished high school. He’s now been at the firm for about nine years.
“Where was he?” that day, Hannah, John and Keri asked one another. It didn’t matter; he and all of them have the space to create on their own time.
Maybe that’s another way mediumstudio launched as and has stayed a design firm for the times. A time in New Bedford’s history that’s also seen it gain national recognition for the creative artistic impulse that is in its DNA.
The graphic design of mediumstudio reflects that even as it is helping to brand it for the wider world.
Their client roster is a mix of non-profits and commercial clients. From AHA! and the New Bedford Folk Festival to Brick Pizzeria, Travessia Winery and Rose Alley Ale House. Plus, developers — some far beyond the city limits — and large organizations like Brigham and Woman’s Hospital. They “bring a curiosity” to each project, Hannah says, and the reward is “we get to do what we like to do,” she concludes.
Finally, it comes down to quality of life for all the partners. Here, too, they may have helped set the tone 15 years ago for the New Bedford we have now. A place that supports a creative quality of life and that as a community recognizes the value of artistic fulfillment and achievement.
That’s a place that looks so much better has seen through the eyes of mediumstudio.