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“The brief is really the foundation of the project”

New York, August 3rd, 2016

Michael-Cleary-HuemorYou might think that with all the tools available in the market today, designing a nice website wouldn’t be too difficult. That could probably be the case if you wish to have a one pager website that doesn’t really do much for your business. But if you want more, you need to invest in talent.

Huemor, a New York based web design company, has won a number of awards for its innovative and ROI driven approach to web design. The company was founded in 2001 and only last year it received more than six awards from Davey Awards and the W³ Awards and became one of 11 certified Spotify Plus Partners.

The company prides itself of using real data – not just its guts feeling, to support every decision it makes. The web designs, or as Huemor defines it: the ‘digital experiences’, are strategy-led design, not what ever is fashionable. It even has a lab to run tests with real people to study the nuance of user behaviour.

“We build digital experiences that sell, persuade, and provoke,”
exclaimed Michael Cleary, founder and CEO of Huemor. TIA decided to find out more about what it really goes on behind closed doors at this successful agency.

In your opinion, what ingredients are key to create a successful project?

Before we begin any project, we need to figure out two things: a crystal clear definition of the problem we’re solving and relevant, measurable goals. These are the kinds of things we discuss when looking at the RFP or the brief, but we really dig in once we start working with a client to make sure these are concrete. Then we can begin discovering.

How did you get started in the industry?

When I graduated, I got a job at a big, impersonal branding agency and it was a draining experience. It was assembly line work and we were encouraged to cut corners; basically, the opposite of why I went to design school. So my partner Jeff and I quit and started working for ourselves, in a business where we’re the ones who make sure our standards don’t drop.

What is your personal definition of creativity?

Creativity is the ability to approach a problem in a way that leads to an unconventional but effective solution, one that you can’t ignore.

Are there online publications, professionals, industry leaders you follow?

Gary V, Pete Shelly, Jon Contino (shout-out to Adelphi!), Youtube.

Which cities outside where you live interest you creatively?

Pittsburgh, New Zealand, LA.

What do you like doing in your free time?

Ha! I have to actually think about that. When I’m not in the office, I’m taking my dog on hikes (I think I like the outdoors more than she does) or cooking for my girlfriend and her family aka them cooking for me. Crossfit, lots of Crossfit.

Please list a few of your favourite digital brands:

Spotify is doing a lot of really cool work. And Facebook is inventing the future while we watch, but those two feel pretty obvious. I’m really impressed by non-digital brands that have found a way to use digital in all the right ways, like Nike and GE.

How do you prepare a standard project brief?

We open up the discovery process to the entire team to get a variety of perspectives. If a question pops into someone’s head, no matter how relevant or not it might turn out to be, we want them to ask it. It helps us make sure we don’t leave any stones unturned when it really counts.

What role does the project brief have with regards to the project development?

The brief is really the foundation of the project. The design evolves, the platform sometimes changes mid-stream, there are a ton of variables during a project, but we can always come back to the brief for guidance and to re-center our approach.

What are the things that one should never miss when you preparing a project brief?

Goals. Make sure they’re realistic and actually helpful. Chasing vanity goals is a waste for everyone involved in the project, client- and agency-side.

How was the ‘brief evolution’ in comparison with the age of your agency?

We’ve definitely gotten smarter the longer we’ve done this, but the basics are still the same: our briefs outline the problem, set goals, determine the audience, and give us an emotional connection to aim for with users.

Name a challenge your team is currently facing.

We’ve growing and we’re doing so pretty deliberately because we really like the culture that’s grown out of our office and we want to preserve it.

What piece of advice would you give a recent grad looking to work in digital marketing?

Keep building stuff and honing your skills. Don’t worry about platform so much as coming up with ideas that work.


By Geny Caloisi.

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