The Guide Studio team is comprised of lifelong learners – a group unsatisfied with the status quo and always seeking “better and better.” Guide Founder Rachel Downey cultivated this culture from the beginning and believes President Cathy Fromet is primed to set the same course in the years ahead. “Cathy embodies that mantra,” says Rachel, who launched Guide in 1997. “It’s exciting for me to see, even if I’m no longer involved in the day-to-day.”
From the beginning, Guide (formerly Studio Graphique) has evolved from a boutique graphic design firm to a sought-after multidisciplinary design firm that helps communities and public places use branding and wayfinding to engage people, manage image and enhance experience.
As Guide closed out its 25th year, Cathy and Rachel contemplate the next 25.
“We have positioned ourselves well,” Cathy says. “Year after year, we continue to learn how our work can support the image and communication challenges that affect municipal governments and place-based organizations.” Despite hurdles, including a major recession and pandemic, the company has never wavered from its core focus of helping “Places with People Traffic.” Guide is also far from the early days when it took on clients incompatible with its team and culture. “Some companies worry too much about specialization, concerned that the work won’t be there unless they can be all things to all people, and that couldn’t be further from the truth. Our focus has allowed our team to build confidence in their skills and expertise in place branding and wayfinding while also becoming efficient at diagnosing and addressing the issues our clients face.”
“The best part of our jobs is collaborating with the hard-working people that are the stewards of cities and public places. We become their admirers and champions and want to do everything we can to ensure their success with what we have provided them.”
And speaking of culture, like many companies during the pandemic, the team worked remotely, but that didn’t halt their collaborative natures; if anything, it broadened it. “We were already working with clients in other cities and states and had practice facilitating meetings and conversations remotely. The team really enjoyed the balance working from home gave them and never faltered in productivity or creativity,” says Cathy. The team is now completely remote, and the unexpected outcome is the new partnerships with talented designers and consultants not located in Cleveland to further support their clients’ needs.
The next 25 years will see the studio building on its current specialties with consulting services to “guide” its clients through the proper implementation of brand and wayfinding programs for even better results. Cathy elaborates, “The best part of our jobs is collaborating with the hard-working people that are the stewards of cities and public places. We become their admirers and champions and want to do everything we can to ensure their success with what we have provided them.” Value, support, and education are key watchwords as the company continues to evolve branding, wayfinding, and communication tools to support places.
Cathy has been with Guide for almost 20 years, seeing it through several company iterations as it developed from a core team that included Creative Director Gina Gerken. Named studio President by Rachel in 2017, Cathy has set her sights on continuing to grow in the company’s knowledge and expertise to help more and more clients across the country. “I want us to be a well-recognized and trusted firm for all things related to place branding and place building, including our signage and wayfinding work.”
As Cathy navigates Guide into its next-quarter century, Rachel says the company could not be in better hands. “Not many small companies make it to the 25-year milestone. I feel like the luckiest person in the world, with the opportunity to build this business and see it carried on by Cathy,” says Rachel. “I couldn’t have asked for a better partner, someone with as much passion as I have for the company and the clients we serve.”
Check out our 25th Anniversary Timeline
How Branding Supports Economic Development
Investing in your municipal brand is more important than ever There’s no…Read More >>