A look at the people behind the numbers in area business.
Monica Little, founder of Minneapolis design agency Little & Co., is experiencing a bit of déjà vu as she receives recognition for her pioneering role in the Twin Cities design industry.
Little, one of the first female entrepreneurs to go into design locally, is a recipient of the distinguished AIGA Fellow Award from the Minneapolis chapter of AIGA, the professional association for design.
She was a recent graduate of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in the late 1970s when she launched Little & Co. in an economy similar to today's.
"I believe the award is a hopeful sign to young women today trying to break into this industry," Little said. "Today's job market now looks a lot like the one when I started Little & Co. in 1979, when I made the decision to forgo more developed design markets and committed myself to growing my homegrown industry."
Little, using design strategically to help solve clients' business problems, has gone on to build a highly regarded agency offering design, brand strategy and marketing communications services to Fortune 500 companies and other organizations.
Little moved out of daily operations last fall, though she still leads the agency with Joe Cecere, president and chief creative officer.
The AIGA award, announced last month, recognizes designers who have contributed significantly to raising standards in design practice.
Other 2012 recipients are John DuFresne, professor and chair of the Graphic Design Department at the College of Visual Arts in St. Paul, and Heather Olson, marketing director at Franke+Fiorella, a Minneapolis brand strategy and design firm.
Q What does the 2012 AIGA Fellow Award mean to you?
A It affirms 34 years of marketing communications work for big brands like Microsoft and Target, to growing new companies such as Clinic Sofia and nonprofits like the Minnesota Historical Society and American Craft Council.
Q Why do companies need to think about design?
A Daniel Pink has said that the MFA [master of fine arts] is the new MBA, and I think that is spot on. Ultimately design is the solution to a host of challenges ranging from employee engagement to product development to customer relations. The list of imperative business challenges that can be resolved through strategic design is almost endless.
Q Why should a company that's thinking about design need to work with your firm?
A We look to identify unmet needs, then create a novel way to meet those needs -- from rallying employees to become company ambassadors and improving a guest's experience to changing brand perceptions to increase engagement and brand loyalty.
We have a solid track record of helping companies to grow brands, strengthen workforces, launch products, connect with customers, and to engage and maintain relevance with their core audience.