The three cofounders of Minds + Assembly approach their work with an attention to design usually associated with high-profile players in the New York City branding scene — think Pentagram or Design Army. That’s a reflection of a larger trend in the industry, says Stephen Minasvand, who oversees the agency’s design department.
M+A believes in treating patients like, well, human beings who understand technology and can be empowered to leverage data that helps them make decisions around their healthcare. “It was always baffling to me that healthcare and pharma were always behind the curve,” Minasvand explains. “Patients deserve better. They deserve packaging that is beautiful because it’s a representation of their day-to-day medicine.”
Fellow cofounder Joelle Friedland, who oversees the firm’s client services arm, agrees, adding, “Our mission is building authentic bonds between people and brands, making things that serve a purpose beautifully.”
M+A’s commitment to millennial-friendly aesthetics and functionalities is evident in its Instagram campaigns, which put an eminently human face on conditions with which patients are contending. A campaign for Orexo’s Zubsolv, which treats narcotics dependency, features faces divided down the middle, with one side depicting addiction and the other side cure. Another campaign — for Takeda’s Gattex, which treats short bowel syndrome — showcases the reality of the patient experience, ostomy bags and all.
Clearly, the agency’s work isn’t just surface-level glam. This year, M+A debuted what the cofounders say is a first: an augmented-reality experience that visualizes the instructions for using Takeda’s Takhzyro injectable.
“Technology should always serve the brand, and not the other way around,” says cofounder and writing department head Ben Ingersoll. “Too often people rush out and say, ‘I have an app’ or ‘Let’s use AR for this.’ You should start with, ‘What are the real human needs for this and what are our brand needs?’ and then ask, ‘What can we do with those?’”
That approach appears to be resonating with clients. M+A generated $16.6 million in 2018 revenue, more than doubling its 2017 take of $8 million. Head count surged from 37 in 2017 to 55 in 2018. Fueled by the opening of a London office, that number increased to 70 by the end of April.
“As you start growing, you naturally cannot be involved in every single thing,” Ingersoll says. “When we first started out, Stephen, Joelle and I were involved in every single decision. As you get beyond a certain size, that’s no longer possible.”
Hiring has proven a recent challenge. “It’s taken some time to make sure that we understand the science a little bit sooner,” Friedland says, differentiating between “people who are attracted to what we do, versus those people who can uphold our principles of uncompromising standards and unconditional support.”
That challenge will extend into the rest of 2019, as M+A pursues what its leaders call an “emotional vision.”
“We’re putting a big, big effort into continuing to evolve,” Minasvand says.