DO:BETTER, a local Ann Arbor brand design agency founded in 2017, was recently named to the Forbes 2021 Next 1000 list. The list recognizes small businesses across the country with less than $10 million in funds or revenue, according to Forbes.
The agency’s mission is centered around improving businesses through branding. It focuses not just on the aesthetics of branding such as logos and marketing, but also on a business’s identity, purpose and internal and external culture.
Chief Strategy Officer Danielle Milner and Chief Creative Officer Jon Eslinger originally co-founded DO:BETTER in Ypsilanti. The company later moved to Ann Arbor because, according to Milner, it is a “mecca of talent” and an “amazing place to be” for the company. According to Forbes’ description of DO:BETTER, the company currently has more than 80 clients and achieved $225,000 in revenue in 2020.
Milner and Eslinger both worked in the branding department at Lake Trust Credit Union from 2013 to 2017 before starting DO:BETTER. They met in 2007 when Milner, who at the time was working at NuUnion Credit Union, hired the branding agency Eslinger was working for.
“When we first came into contact, I became aware that she had and still has a deep expertise in strategic planning and culture development for some of the needs of marketing for larger organizations,” Eslinger said in an interview with The Daily.
Both Eslinger and Milner spoke about how the 2016 election and presidency of Donald Trump affected their decision to start the company, saying his election made them want to “do better.”
“That time really created some momentum for a lot of different folks who were trying to create movement,” Milner said. “We were at a place and time in our careers where we wanted to do more and help businesses really be better, to live up to some of those intrinsic motivations that they have — not only to make money but also to make an impact in the world.”
DO:BETTER has done branding for Habitat for Humanity of Huron Valley, which Eslinger described as some of the most interesting and rewarding work he has done at the company. Eslinger recounted the challenges and opportunities that arise when working with a well-known national brand.
“The most rewarding projects for us are always when we’re able to work closely with a client and act as their marketing team,” Milner said. “So in some sense that really embeds us in the organization. It also gives us this place where we can sort of rise up into what else is happening, this 10,000 foot level, where we can see two, three or five years down the road.”
Concerning his creative process, Eslinger said he aims to keep it research-intensive and as open and collaborative as possible so that businesses are “heavily invested” in the process.
“We try to understand why someone exists and what they mean to the world or their audience,” Eslinger said. “We spend a good portion of our time trying to get inside their heads and discovering the ‘why.’ How do they want to make people feel? What is their value — why would somebody want to spend their time or money with them? Why would someone choose this company over someone else?”
While Eslinger said there is “no shortage of great designers” and that Milner’s understanding of the importance of branding is what sets DO:BETTER apart, Milner emphasized the importance of their passion, culture and collaborative spirit.
“It is a combination of just really great listening, and we are so good at tapping into the hearts and heads of folks, showing them something that they never could have seen before,” Milner said. “I think we’re just the best at pulling the emotion into the equation and creating something really special in the brand experience itself.”
According to Eslinger, the company has doubled in size in the last six months and they are still developing their own brand. Milner said she too is excited for the future of DO:BETTER.
“We’re nearly five years old — which feels like one of those really important milestones, but where we’re headed is taking brand to the next place for organizations,” Milner said. “It’s this idea of cultural brands, both inside and outside, and I really see it being a place where we will continue to excel. I really want people to love where they work, and feel like they’ve worked somewhere where they make a difference.”
Daily Staff Reporter Jared Dougall can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.