Heavy Sole: Could one balloon really lift those Jeffrey Campbells?
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve seen that downtown Fort Lauderdale has become fertile ground for a crop of specialty design businesses like helium creative (that’s lowercase). Located on First Avenue and founded by Chris Heller, the self-described “boutique [and] full-service design agency” is just as imaginative as the feelings a balloon might inspire. They’re no spring chickens, either: As of 2013, their work in advertising, graphic design, marketing, web development, and media placement spans nine years and, among its team members, a large chunk of the globe. Last month, helium creative was awarded two Gold and three Silver nods at the Addy Awards (after having won the Davey Awards a year before).
To celebrate their 10th anniversary next year, they’re asking people to contribute to their helium creative 365 campaign, a year-long project with a focus on balloons. Participants are encouraged to photograph a helium-branded balloon on an assigned day, wherever and however they like. After being shared through social media (tag your contributions #heliumcreative365 after uploading them), the photographs will be compiled into a book. In this way, participants get to share their work on media platforms, connect to other balloon photographs, and ultimately foster a large creative network.
The best feature of a design studio is often its versatility, but helium creative offers more. From its inception, the company reached out to other partners and businesses, and streamlined them into one team. helium creative designer Ryan Sirois explains that the company has “additional arms in media buying, social media, online marketing, photography, production, SEO, and development, so we can offer our clients a full rounded service to cover all of their needs and ensure a successful product. We believe in a synergistic approach to the creative process.”
They’re budget-sensitive, too. The helium founders remember their humble beginnings: emerging essentially from scratch. The company was founded in order to satisfy what creative designer Matthew Hall refers to as “a necessity for a higher creative standard in the advertising world.” Chris Heller, who founded the company and later recruited Hall and Sirois, worked for a larger agency during the day, and started helium from bare bones in his house. Now, despite its growth, helium strives to maintain the same small-business approach. “We may be small, but in today’s world, it’s relative,” Sirois says. “Being a small studio allows us to maintain a personalized relationship with our clients. We are able to work collectively in-house, which helps the creative process. While larger firms are generally still meeting and brainstorming, we’ve already met, strategized, and are delivering award-winning, goal-driven results.”
The most attractive component of helium creative’s pull, however, might be its dedication to functioning as actual working artists: “Helium was initially created to strip down the barriers between a large agency and the client,” Hall says. “Having worked for a few larger studios previously, there was a noticeable disconnect between the creative and the client … We each have a background in fine art, so that is a staple in our work and the basis for most of what we do.”
It’s that sort of creativity and artistic approach they’re hoping to extend to others through the #heliumcreative365 challenge. Initially, it began as an internal project but has “taken on a life of its own.” The premise is simple: take their helium balloon—which has become a staple of their brand—and push them to do something creative with it every day for a year, then photograph the results. “We believe that creativity works best within parameters, so we wanted to push ourselves using one common object” Sirois says.
Eventually, though, they realized that the overall goal was one they wanted to share with the community. “As artists, it is our job first and foremost to inspire others to be creative,” says Sirois. Fort Lauderdale Instagrammers were the original participants, but “the possibilities are limitless—and we have gotten some amazing submissions. The most exciting part about the whole project is that we have in turn been inspired by everyone who has joined. We hoped to inspire them, but … they inspired us! They took these photographs in directions we never would have thought of!” says Hall.
To participate, head to the studio during office hours, pick up a balloon, and sign up for a date—if you’re not local, the balloon can be mailed. You’ll receive a card with that date to help you remember. The project will reach its completion on January 1, 2014, when the images will be collected for the upcoming book. The images will also be featured in the FAT Village Art Walks throughout the year and in the helium creative Studio as a rotating exhibit.
Stop by the helium creative Studio at 500 NW First Ave., Fort Lauderdale, to pick up your balloon, or email Ryan directly to set up a time, at [email protected]. Be sure to follow the project on Instagram and submit your balloon image there: @heliumcreative365. For more information, call 954-333-8900 or visit facebook.com/heliumcreative.
From left: Matt Hall, Ryan Sirois, Chris Heller, Sofia Gonzalez