With a degree in architecture, Clint! Runge has taken an alternative approach to utilize his creative potential. This departure from the architectural path led to the founding of Archrival. In the first part of our interview we discuss Archrival's role as a creative agency, the significance of the creative process in problem solving, and the benefits of having an architectural education in an alternative career path. To learn more about Archrival visit archrival.com.
Could you introduce yourself and briefly describe what kind of work Archrival is involved in?
C!: My name is Clint! Runge, I am the managing director and co-founder of Archrival. Archrival, at it's heart, is a creative agency with an expertise in youth culture. As a creative agency our job is to solve problems. Every brand that we work with has a different problem and we creatively come up with an idea and then execute it. The expertise side is really narrow, so we don't solve problems for everybody, but we work particularly in areas we are good at. Generally that's with brands that are trying to reach young adults, from teens to twentysomethings. We have two different types of clients. We have these big clients like Red Bull and Adidas- brands that for the most part people know and love. Our job is to keep them relevant. So take Red Bull, who we have worked with for over twelve years; how do they stay cool? Trends change, tastes change, generations change, yet somehow Red Bull manages to stay cool. So that's what we help with. We understand the change in the landscape, develop strategies around it, provide new ideas to solve current problems, and then execute those ideas. The second type of clients, and sometimes they are still big clients, are primarily brands that have struggled to connect with young adults. Maybe it's because of historically bad marketing, maybe they missed out on certain products and services, maybe a younger and faster company has come up, whatever it is they need to connect to young adults. We help them wherever they are at today to make them relevant tomorrow. So, on one hand it's about keeping brands relevant and on the other hand it's about getting them there.
You have a unique education with bachelor’s degrees in both architecture and advertising. Could you explain a bit how the relationship between your two educational paths has influenced your work?
C!: I went through architecture school and as I was going through the program I found that I love design, I love the creative challenge, I love the work ethic, but when I looked forward in my career I saw that there is a real hierarchy in the industry. In other words, before you got to go design something meaningful you put in fifteen- twenty years. At that time, I was naive, but I felt compelled to do it right away. I wanted to design now and to have an impact now. I thought maybe in advertising it's different. So I went through the advertising program and got a degree in advertising as well. I looked forward in that industry and what I realized is that the process for coming out with great architecture and the process of coming out with great advertising is essentially the exact same process. When I thought about what I wanted to do with my life, I looked at the creative industry as a whole. What I realized is that it's completely fragmented. For example, let's say a business wants to sell more widgets. Depending on who you hire, you get a different answer. If I hire the advertising agency, they're going to tell me I need to advertise more. We need to build campaigns and get on billboards, tv, and in magazines. If I hire the architecture firm, it's all about the store. Layout the store in a new way, a new first impression, you'll get a lot more customers drawn in, the shopping experience will be a lot better, and that's how you will sell more widgets. Hire a branding agency, and they'll tell you it's all about your position in the market- your look, your personality, new name, new logo, and new identity. If you go hire a digital agency, they're going to tell you it's all about robust ecommerce platforms. You want to sell more widgets? You better be selling it online. A social media agency, they'll tell you it's all about being involved in things like instagram and snapchat. Everybody is taking the same problem and solving it in a fragmented way. So I thought, no one is actually solving the problem. All they're doing is selling the medium. With Archrival, I never wanted myself to be beholden. I don't want to be great at architecture or just great at advertising, I want to be great at the creative process. That will allow me to actually solve problems, because I am not beholden to sell advertising. “What is your problem?” I can go anywhere with that. It allows me to be a little bit of architecture, a little bit of advertising, a little bit digital, a little bit of your brand, or maybe it's something that hasn't been done before. I can go there. That's Archrival.
What made you decide to study architecture in the first place and how did that lead to advertising?
C!: Like many people, I wish it was more clever than it is, but one time I was playing with Legos or something and my grandfather said, "Oh, you should be an architect." I think I was maybe in fifth or sixth grade, and it just stuck. I had this idea that I want to be an architect. I don't even think I understood what it was, if I'm being honest. I thought you design spaces and buildings, but you don't really get it until you've gone through the process. When I got into architecture, as you know there is a lot of design-thinking and problem solving, but as it started to become more about engineering and as it started to become more about facilities and uses, I think I realized I wasn't as into architecture as much I was into problem solving. I love the challenge of the problem in the brief, the initial directions, and the big ideas. When it got to the actual development on a concrete, detailed level I was less interested. I think that's when I started to think, what is the business of big ideas? Where's that at? Too young to notice, I didn’t see that in architecture right away. It is there, but I saw it with limitations. That’s when I started to search for it in other industries.
What is something you learned, or a skill you developed, as a result of your architectural education that is still relevant to your work today?
C!: I credit my architecture background more than anything else I've ever done. I think that if you go through the architecture program, you are literally set up to be amazing at whatever it is you want to do or set your mind to. One reason is the work ethic. By comparison, I went through the advertising program. I was able to do that on the side and I didn't really try that hard, if I'm being honest. It's because of the work ethic, time management, and the level of excellence. That's another big one: the level of excellence- upholding a bar that is so high. You have the professors who are always a step above you, regardless of how high the bar is. I think that made me realize that this bar just keeps going. When I transitioned over to advertising, or as I look into other fields, that bar in architecture is set much higher than it is set anywhere else. Those are two things I've gained, and that's why I feel that anyone who goes through the program successfully is set up, even with just those two things. The third one I keep coming back to is the problem solving nature of architecture. That transfers to anything. Every industry needs critical thinkers who have great work ethic and a high level of excellence. Everyone needs that, and I think that's what I got out of the program.
When was the idea of Archrival conceived and how did you go about taking it from concept to reality?
C!: A classmate of mine, Charles Hull, and I had this big idea of Archrival, but the reality is that nobody in the market wants to hire a couple broke college students who have no experience. Who is hiring those guys? [Laughs] Luckily, when we were going through the architecture program we were the first class to be required to have laptops or computers. That's crazy to think about now, even as I'm saying it. With that said, it set us on a path to be ahead of where the industry of architecture was. When we graduated, and even during the process, we were showing our renderings, designs, and spatial thinking through visualization. The jury had no background in that. They had been doing it by hand their entire lives. This whole concept of visualization, all that stuff was brand new. It gave us a skill set that the market needed that no one else had. We were really on the first wave of that. So, the first couple years before we were formally Archrival was really about us being freelancers for architecture firms. We aided in visualization of designs and also helped improve designs through visualization. We had a skill set that people were willing to pay for and experiment with. That's how we started and how we first got paid for our work until we could transition into making something of our own design.