Interview by Gary Anzalone
Trisia Tomanelli is the Founder and President of T-Squared Design, Inc., a multi-disciplinary New York based Experiential Design studio who has been providing creative solutions and wayfinding strategies to the hospitality, higher education, retail, corporate, science and technologies, and healthcare industries over the past 20 years.
1. Welcome Trisia, please tell us about T-Squared. When did you start your business and why?
The business began as an idea in my head that I would often think about while walking to work each morning. I used this time to reflect upon my goals and got very excited about the possibility of having my own company. I felt the timing was right and I was ready to jump out and expand my wings. On April 25th, 2002, t-squared was born. I continue to be extremely grateful for all I have learned throughout my career in this industry. I can honestly say the lessons were valuable and I have been fortunate to receive great coaching from guided mentors, coaches and industry leaders all of whom have contributed to my broad knowledge base. I have successfully grown the company over the years to a team of five with our studio in the Flatiron District of New York City. I set the bar high, dream big, and am passionate about what I do. T-Squared is a Women-Owned Business certified in New York City and New York State.
2. What are some of the challenges you have faced over the years – I’m sure that they have changed over time as you have matured.
When I started my company, I was confident in my design skills and learned over time about running a business requires so much more. I knew I needed to strengthen my business management muscle as I dealt with the challenges that came my way. One of the most important lessons I learned was time is money. My very first client was quite demanding with constant updates and changes. I did not communicate that this extra work would fall above and beyond our agreement. I finished the project and the client and I did not see eye to eye on the additional charges and the value of my time. From that moment on, I made it a priority to clearly document the scope and additional services. I still love the creative aspect of what I do. Over the years, I continue to stay current, I have joined organizations like USGBC, IFMA and SEGD and stay actively involved. I have been part of mastermind groups and I am currently studying at Columbia Business School in a program with 22 other accepted entrepreneurs. I value the opportunity to continue to learn and grow which keeps my entrepreneurial spirit alive.
3. Please tell us about the range and type of projects you are involved in.
My team and I have had the opportunity to work on a variety of projects over the years ranging from brand identity, print, package, web and experiential graphics / signage. We have been focusing more on the healthcare, higher education and not-for-profit industries and primarily have been working on experiential design projects and web development. We have designed e-commerce websites and really enjoy the connection to the digital platform. I feel my strength is in the details! I pride myself in the process! We start with the critical phase of research and discovery which can also can have a deeper diagnostic evaluation as it relates to existing site conditions. I am very hands on from the initial start of the project. We walk the client through the process while keeping them fully engaged throughout our creative, comprehensive and cohesive approach. We are actively involved in the concept to completion steps of each project from branded environments, exterior campus wayfinding programs, donor recognition systems and interior code related applications.
4. The industry has changed over the years – tell us how you see those changes.
Our industry has definitely changed over the years and much of it a result of the Dotcom era combined with huge technological advances, the industry was trending digital. In 2008, as we know, the economy entered into one of the greatest recessions in several years. Technology was creating faster solutions all around while less and less were wanting to spend money on the print industry. We were able to pivot realigning the team’s focus on website design as well as branded signage programs which allowed us to continue to survive.
5. What gets you excited these days?
I get excited for each new projects and the creative process that comes with it. I get inspired by the possibility of enhanced growth opportunities. I value our clients and take pride in their appreciation of the work we do. I am really happy to contribute to communities and organizations to enhance their brand and message. Our vision is that we create brand experiences to enrich, inspire and communicate a positive change in the communities around us.
6. What does a typical project look like?
No one project is the same, although similar work flows can be created. Our primary goal is to listen and understand the client and target audience. We do the research, review any branding guidelines, survey the circulation which will allow us to develop a wayfinding strategy. We often work very closely with the architect and design team to get a better understanding of the design intent of the building or campus. We develop the conceptual sketches all the way through to construction drawings. We pull together a very comprehensive package while collaborating with the team. I am most proud of my problem solving skills and having a sharp eye for detail!
7. The most important part of your business is…?
The most important part of my business is the creativity aspect and seeing the pure joy in a client’s face when I bring their vision to reality. I believe in a strong commitment to excellence and the value of teamwork. I was taught at an early age the best leaders are those who lead by example. My focus remains on core values such as integrity, creativity, mindfulness and community. My mission is to have one of the leading design studios using innovation and passion to create sustainable solutions in order to help people navigate through today’s complex world.
8. What about any mergers or acquisitions?
Over the years, I am proud to say I have been able to acquire two accomplished design companies and worked successfully to increase profitability and growth.