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Consolidating visual language across digital and print with Karakas

Brussels, November 8th, 2016


If somebody tells you that they are working in Karakas, you may be forgiven for thinking they are talking about the capital of Venezuela – but that one is spelled with C instead of K. The Karakas we are referring to here is a 25-year-old creative agency based in Brussels.

Karakas is a self-defined ideas-led communications company, working across digital, brand and print. Its secret to success is maintaining close relationships with its clients, to fully understand their communication requirements and goals ensuring they are achieved.

Agency Digital Director, Geoffrey Doran says that the company’s expertise lies in its ability to consolidate visual language across the electronic and print medium, always preserving integrity and consistency for the clients and their audience.

Doran studied IT and Telecommunications at university and started designing websites as a student in 1996. “I found that I had a real interest in user experience and how it influences design” he says. “I had some development background and I found that my talent was in converting issues and objectives into working solutions. I like to find a challenge and try to solve it creatively from a development point of view. I leave the designers then to work their magic on the front-end design.”

Favoring simplicity and consistency when it comes to design, Doran has been at Karakas for over five years and his direction has resulted on many happy clients. We set out to find out how.

Can you describe your agency in three words?
Creative, technical and fun.

What ingredients are key to creating a successful digital strategy?

Firstly, meeting clients’ expectations, but then trying to exceed these expectations by adding value and surprising our customers. Our ingredients to a successful strategy start with making the correct decisions at the beginning of the process, then planning carefully each phase right to the end, but always keeping the top objectives visible throughout.

This is the key to earning clients’ trust. We invest a lot of time and effort in our client support, but this results in happy and returning clients who use our services for their new campaigns.

Can you give us an example of when you have worked with multiple clients at the same time and how did you managed?

As a digital agency we are constantly juggling several clients and projects in parallel, and our goal is to give each client and project the deserved time to ensure its success. This is one of our toughest challenges and sometimes it means saying no to new projects.

However, we have very strong project managers who are experienced in working with clients across a wide range of industries. We are a close team, so we have each others backs when pressure increases.

What tools do you use as a manager to plan your activities as well as that of your team?

We have several tools to help us manage our projects. I rely on our company calendar of activities, but as a team we use:
Slack for easier communications between our PM and development team
Redmine project planning and reporting
ZOHO for project development forecasting

Can you share an example where you have had to resolve an issue between a creative team and a client?

This type of issue naturally comes up from time to time. We have some clients who want to input their design ideas while others put complete trust in our designs.

Recently we had to advise a client against a particular design direction, simply because it did not work for mobile. Our job is to advise from experience. If a client has design input, and it works we appreciate it, but if it doesn’t we demonstrate why.


Name a successful project and what made it great.

All our projects are successful ☺. One recent project we particularly enjoyed was with the International Copper Association. The association has its headquarters in New York, but we worked very with their European communications team in Brussels on the development of their digital presence. We have all hands on deck with most of our team at Karakas participating.

We did the design, development, copywriting, and promotion. What was interesting was the several custom design components we developed to make the content interactive and engaging on the website.

What made this project great was the trust our client had in us to deliver everything on time, on budget and still managing to create something that was beautiful and engaging with a wide range of stakeholders.

How would you deal with an angry customer?

This is something that does not happen often, thankfully. A big part of our job is ensuring that our clients understand the entire process of a project with deadlines, deliveries, timings, sign-off points etc. We communicate these very carefully with our clients right throughout the process.

If we ever have bad news, it is important to put it in context and what workarounds can be put in place immediately.

Karakas has a few initiatives to help European Start ups, could you tell us more about this?

We work with a wide variety of clients from startups to international federations. Startups bring new ideas, energy and a freshness which is what drives us to be creative with content and look outside of the usual solutions. There are risks with any startup, but if we see potential in a startup we are happy to back it and watch it grow.

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

The best way to work with confidence with clients is to speak from experience. My advise would be to get as much experience as possible, even if it means working for a small salary or no salary in the first year or two. If that opportunity comes up, take it and learn from it. Find out everyone’s role in the company projects and how they bring added value.

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

I follow several web design blogs and newsletters, but I love design and you find it all around you. If something is designed well it lasts.

Please list a few of your favourite digital brands:

Google has been a friend and colleague to me in my early design and development days. I love their simplicity and their logo evolution. They understand how to keep things simple.

I also love Apple products. I have all of them and what I love about them is how they make their products simple, even if it means making out of the ordinary decisions. We are constantly evolving, so we have to be disruptive and try and change the rules as we try to improve our lives. Apple do this.

What do you like doing in your free time?

I play football to help release stress and I play golf to make sure the stress does not drop too low ☺

By Geny Caloisi.

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