RDQLUS CREATIVE 10/07/16 10/07/16 10:46:43 AM
Steve Gordon, the latest Chamber Small Business of the Month awardee, considers himself a “solver of equations.”
Large-scale Projects, Chamber Award
Validation for One-man Operation
By Dan McCann
The Daily Record
Steve Gordon is in a good place: a creative oasis of his own design that is populated by impactful projects and fresh validation of a decision he made more than ten years ago.
“It’s been a long road. It’s defied so many odds,” Gordon said. “Being named the Chamber’s Small Business of the Month is absolutely validation for why I did what I did the way I did it.”
The kinetic force behind RDQLUS CREATIVE, Gordon – a problem solver, deep thinker and brand architect – launched his company in 2006. He and RDQLUS (the two are “a bit inseparable”) guide clients to better understand, develop, design and grow their brands, providing “solutions through the art of storytelling.”
“I am in the business of helping other businesses speak to people,” he said. “I spend a lot of my time educating my clients about brand architecture, brand hierarchy, brand pedigree. I speak of branding in a way that most people would speak about a person because that business, that thing you’re trying to grow, should be personalized. It has a life of its own. When you’re not clocked in, when you’re not watching the books or the store front, your brand is speaking. That’s the equation that I’m constantly solving.”
Above all, that is what he considers himself – a solver of equations.
“I’ve always loved to solve the puzzle of making something functional while being beautiful,” he said. “Doing the work that I do is literally about solving an equation, mostly the creative equation of vis-ual communication and communication on the whole.”
Gordon attended the University of South Dakota on a track and field scholarship and graduated with a fine arts degree in 1999. He spent the early years of his career as a marketing employee. Professional frustration – a feeling that he could not fully exercise his skill set – led him to become a “solopreneur.”
“I never wanted to be my own boss. I simply wanted to be heard and do my work effectively,” he explained. “A lot of people ask, ‘How many people do you have at RDQLUS?’ It’s just me. They don’t always believe that one person can do this, and I don’t quite understand that. It’s not about how many people you have, because if you have an army of people doing work ineffectively, then it doesn’t matter.”
With clients ranging from nonprofits and large corporations to small mom-and-pop shops, Gordon prides himself on being able to “embed seamlessly into the client’s business and culture to affect change.”
“Every client I work with, I try my best to become an expert about the inner workings of their business so that I can explain to them the difference between business and brand. In doing so, a whole story starts to flesh out.”
The creative process starts with a conversation.
“I want to have them understand that I am on their side,” Gordon said. “I’m facilitating a client’s concept, and I approach it [in an] almost actuarial [way], almost by the numbers. I’m solving for X.”
The output of Gordon’s creativity has been featured in design industry publications and annuals such as the LogoLounge.com collections and Logo Lounge “Master Library” series. ABC/Disney, T-Mobile USA, ConAgra Foods and NIKE iD have all called on him. Most recently, he said he is “riding the wave” of professional satisfaction that came from his top-to-bottom branding work for the new Cue apartment complex in Aksarben Village. It was proof, he said, of what most doubt – that a single-employee branding business could handle a project of that scale.
“For the first time in my career, I really felt there was a moment where I was like, ‘You know what? I did that.’ Not that collaboration is bad or that I even needed the ego stroke. It was more validation of a belief that, just over ten years ago, it started with me going out on my own and sticking with it through times when people thought it was foolish – ‘When are you going to hire? Do you have interns?’ – Having that validated with a project by a major developer here in town who trusted me to do that entire brand – top to tails – was a huge moment.”
Born and raised in North Omaha, Gordon is also “over-the-moon proud” about the creative work he is doing for a project aimed at revitalizing North Omaha’s Highlander neighborhood. The effort, which includes new housing, the construction of a multi-purpose, 65,000 sq. ft. Accelerator building, and the renovation of Howard Kennedy Elementary, is being spearheaded by Seventy Five North Revitalization Corp., a community revitalization and development organization.
“There are things that need to be done better in North Omaha, but the fact remains that there are good people there – amazing people: business people, teachers, families. This project is meant to give them something to aspire to. This is meant to elevate and beautify. It’s meant for infrastructure building.
Within that project, I rebranded and redesigned the mascot for Kennedy Elementary. I wanted Kennedy Elementary to look as good as any collegiate sports program. If you see the Kennedy branding next to the Creighton University branding, you would think they are going to compete.”
Over the years, Gordon’s resume has expanded to include award-winning designer, keynote speaker and internationally-published author of 100 Habits for Successful Freelance Designers and 365 Habits of Successful Designers.
He was part of the creative task force that developed the Greater Omaha Chamber’s We Don’t Coast regional brand. Backed by the validation of the Chamber’s Small Business of the Month recognition, he is excited about the future and the ripple effect his creativity will continue to have.
“I’m not so foolish as to think this high church of design can change the world, but I know that I can make a difference for my clients. And if my clients feel they can make a difference for their clients, then it starts a momentum that can grow exponentially,” he said. “I’m not trying to solve the world’s problems. I’m trying to solve the equation that’s right in front of me.”
United Republic Bank sponsors the Chamber’s Small Business of the Month award. To nominate a small business online, visit www.omahachamber.org. Nominees must be current Chamber members with 50 employees or less.