All of these things are not like the other. Design and branding firm Number 04 is made up of four founders with four backgrounds, four skill sets, four personalities and four visions. But it’s their shared desire for the unique that makes them see eye to eye (to eye to eye). Brand is everything — from website to walls. And Number 04, whose founders have worked on everything from the rebrand of Vivint to projects for Adobe, Google and Harvard, know all about designing a look from head to toe. Exhibit A: “Did you want me to wear shorter jeans?” asked Davis Ngarupe, who was sporting his homemade cut-offs at our UV50 photo shoot. We thought you’d never ask.
Number 04 was created out of frustration. Design studios have a tendency to become cookie cutter. It’s all just more of the same. We like to be different. We crave the unique.
We’re all designers with very different interests. Publications. Branding. Digital apps. Spaces. Architecture. Why should our company be relegated to one specialty when we ourselves don’t want to be? We can help a company with every aspect of their branding. We can design a logo, and we can design an office space. It’s all related. And it’s all about nailing the look and feel of a brand. We approach everything from a research standpoint.
We haven’t really felt like a startup. We take everything one day at a time. We’ve never felt a daunting craziness that we had to overcome. We’ve worked incredibly hard, but everything about Number 04 has felt natural.
The hardest days were the beginning. No doubt. We worked six days a week and stayed up until 3 in the morning. Somehow our wives didn’t kill us. But it’s become more manageable as we’ve grown. We’ve gone from four employees to 16 in about a year. So now we just do what we do.
ACTUAL PASSION Next to Number 04’s office sits a storefront called Actual Source. The founders started the store to collaborate with contemporary artists and designers to publish limited edition books, fonts, clothing, furniture and objects. These are passion projects at their finest.
Our employees are so cool. We have an amazing group of designers who get our vision and bring their own talents and skills. We hire people who are self-motivated. There isn’t any room here for people who aren’t invested in our clients and also invested in the company. Everyone is so talented. Which is good, because we have the highest of expectations.
It’s really a positive atmosphere. We joke. We banter. And we have a grumble jar. If you complain, you have to put a dollar in the grumble jar.
Our partnership dynamic is simple. We all earn the same amount, and we all bring crucial skills to the table. We each focus on what we’re best at, and we don’t micromanage. Everyone has their own strengths, so there’s really no need for that.
It was scary to jump in, because we were all friends first. But when you’re all motivated to work hard, those fears go away. We’re all just passionate about creating cool work.
We’ll grow slowly. We don’t want to grow much more. We like the fact that we’re fairly small. It keeps us agile. And not having that ginormous overhead gives us more freedom.
We are lucky right now with the clients we have on board. We don’t just bring on any client. We work with people who are interested in being partners with us. Our clients trust us, and they want us to touch their branding at every touch point. We work hard to earn that trust.
“The money only gets you so far. There has to be something else that drives you. Believe in something.” —JP Haynie, co-founder of Number 04
In our individual careers, we’ve worked on big projects. The Vivint rebrand was huge. Cory was the creative director behind that. And really, we’ve all done our time at Vivint. We’ve all touched it at different states of its evolution.
The hardest part of running a business like ours is cash flow. We’re a service-based business, and it’s not like selling a product where you can track slight declines and increases. We get paid and we don’t get paid. We’re always thinking in six-month timeframes.
Most days, work doesn’t feel like work. And it comes down to being passionate about what we’re doing. The money only gets you so far. There has to be something else that drives you. You have to believe in something.
We want to contribute to the visual landscape. When you see architecture and landmarks, there’s a beauty and permanence to it. And graphic design is the same way.
We want to make smart work. We want to make unique work. We pride ourselves on researching the world and discovering the most interesting parts. We’re dedicated to continual learning. We’re dedicated to our craft.