This Love Story Produces Strategic Design Boutique

May 28, 2002
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — It is the age-old tale, boy meets girl, boy marries girl, boy and girl form strategic design boutique.

OK, OK, maybe this is an new version of the age-old tale. But it is the tale of the formation of Hunsberger-Stap, a new local design boutique.

Roger and Susan Hunsberger were no strangers to the world of design but when it came to starting their own unique business it turned out they needed a little advice and assistance from an old friend, John Stap.

Roger had been working with Stap years ago when they were both involved in a business, Deur Stap, along with Paul Deur. From there Stap opened his own firm, rightly named, Stap. At this point Stap and Hunsberger went separate ways but always kept in contact. Within two years, the team was back together in Kalamazoo, working at Stap.

For four years Hunsberger would make the trip from Grand Rapids to Stap in Kalamazoo, until he moved back to the area and took a job with an agency in town. Throughout his agency travels and design career he kept crossing paths with Susan, first when her class at Kendall College visited Deur Stap and numerous times throughout their careers.

He finally decided to hire her to work in town with him. They eventually married and two years ago when Susan toyed with the idea of going freelance, Roger decided to join her and form their own company. Before they did anything, however, they sought advice from their old friend, John Stap.

“When we first talked to John it was mainly just to talk to him for advice in getting the business plan going and that type of thing,” said Roger. “And he said, ‘Well, wait a minute. Let me help.’ We said, ‘OK.’”

From there Hunsberger-Stap was born and the Hunsbergers, along with their dog, Lou, moved into the Arena Station Building in downtown Grand Rapids. With financial backing from Stap, the Hunsbergers were able to get their start and become a wholly owned subsidiary of Stap Inc.

Hunsberger-Stap, different from Stap Inc. by not being a full-service design firm, is a strategic design boutique, capable of providing design for products ranging from print literature to corporate communications and annual reports to Web site design and development.

The company structures information and captures ideas in type, image and even sound for platforms that range from paper to architectural space to cyberspace.

Besides having a financial interest in the company, Stap Inc. also teams with Hunsberger-Stap on projects and public relations.

“Now that Stap is so busy we will occasionally help out with some of their creative work.

“There are also some clients that aren’t looking for a full-service agency and are just looking for some print work or design work completed on a project,” said Roger. “It has really been a fortunate relationship in the fact that we have been a great ongoing resource for each other.”

“For example, we are able to use Anne (Jarrad) as our PR person. And when we needed to design our Web site, someone from Stap came down and helped us build all the technical files on the Web site we had done all the design work on,” said Susan.

Another example of the assistance Hunsberger-Stap provides to Stap Inc. was exemplified when Stap was looking to present three trade-show graphics to X-Rite for a new product launch. Stap had two and asked H-S for a third design. Susan created it and in the end X-Rite chose Susan’s design.

Most of the work the company does is with industries such as architectural building products, baby care products, food products, book publishing, higher education, cultural events, e-commerce, robotics, textiles, transportation services, as well as many others.

Their work embraces all areas of communications, including print literature, print advertising, corporate communications, Web sites, corporate identity programs, direct marketing campaigns, merchandising, sales and corporate videos and catalogs.

Hunsberger-Stap characterizes itself less by tools and materials, which are constantly changing, than by context and visual and textual image. Through this process the company develops a process that involves imagination, sensibility and critical skills as it develops creative, strategic solutions to the communication problem each client presents.

Two things the Hunsbergers said they would like to get into are environmental design, such as office and exhibit or building design to show the talents of a company, and institutional literature.

“I come from a higher education background because I worked at a university in Minneapolis and we haven’t really gotten into that market yet,” Susan said.

Both come from agency backgrounds where a blueprint is laid out and the creative department follows it in creating the art. At H-S, the research, background and work go into creating a successful design whereas design is just for design.

“We are interested in furthering both our experience and the company,” said Susan. “By doing those two things we will be able to provide a great service to a great customer base, at a higher quality — and that is the key.”

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