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“We work hard to make sure everyone feels like they are not working in just another day job, but instead they are working to shape this company… and that not only makes things pretty fun, but is a foundation of our success.”

Killer Infographics is a boutique data, design and distribution firm located in the heart of Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood. In just 2 short years, they have become one of the top infographic design agencies in the world with over 3000 infographic designs to their name and 250+ global clients including Pepsico, Toyota, Dow Jones, Adobe, T-Mobile and more. They offer a turnkey service from research to design to promotion of your static infographic, motion graphic or interactive design.

While Killer Infographics has become a leading infographic agency, it continues to operate as a scrappy startup able to shift focus quickly for its wide array of clientele. Founded in late 2010 by two online marketers, Killer Infographics proudly hosts a team of marketers mixed with some of Seattle’s best designers, to bring a unique level of service and strategy to the infographic industry. We sat down with Killer Infographics co-founder and Chief Swiss Army Knife, Amy Balliett (aptly named based on the many tasks she tackles in a given day), to see what keeps this agency running strong.

MO: You and your partner have bootstrapped the company from day 1. Can you expand on why you’ve never taken funding and even walked away from a high-paying acquisition?

Amy:  My business partner, Nick Grant, and I have had the entrepreneur bug our whole lives. I owned my first company (an ice-cream parlor/café in a summer vacation resort) when I was 17. After working 80-hour weeks for two summers, I move on to attend college, but always missed being my own boss. My business partner always led the way in independent roles like sales and business development at online startups, exceeding revenue goals the whole time (hence his title: Chief Rainmaker). We’ve both always forged our own paths and when we met in 2008, it was clear that sharing the same path could result in success.

At the time, we almost joined up with a 3rd partner who was going to bring money to the table, but after a short period of time, we realized that money, in that instance, equaled a lot of control for very little work. Since we knew we were going to be taking on the bulk of the work, we chose to do so without giving up control. It was then that we decided to bootstrap our company. We worked fulltime jobs for a year while running affiliate websites like ZippyCart.com during our nights and weekends. We waited until ZippyCart was making (just barely) enough money for us to quit our day jobs and focus entirely on our company in June of 2010. A few months later, we shifted our focus away from ZippyCart and pivoted to create Killer Infographics.

Had we chosen to take on funding, we would not have been able to remain agile and make the quick decision to pivot into an entirely different industry. Additionally, remaining self-funded allowed us to create the company we had always wanted to work for. We began to focus on building a culture that would make coming to work everyday a fun and fulfilling experience.

This is also why we walked away from a high-paying acquisition. We were initially very excited about the prospective merger as it seemed like a great opportunity for our company to grow and to build in security for our team. When bootstrapping, it’s easy to get stressed about how best to invest in and grow the company even when things are going really well, and we felt a strategic partner could aid in easing that worry. Unfortunately, as we got closer to the acquisition, it was clear that the merger would have negatively impacted our team, culture and ultimately the future of this company. With our team being top priority, it was just something we had to walk away from. It was a good choice too. Once we had that behind us, we were able to continue down the path we had already forged and grow vertically allowing us to take on some fantastic projects that we’re really proud of.

MO: What do you attribute to the rapidly rising popularity of infographics?

AmyThere are so many things that play into the growth of infographics over the past few years, but if I had to focus on the top reasons, I’d say money, time and the availability are mainly responsible.

With regards to money, infographics are a great tool in the SEO and Content Marketing world because good infographics generate a lot of traffic, links and social shares at a far lower cost than other forms of viral media.

Of course, money is really what has made many people utilize infographics more, but it’s not the reason infographics are so popular with the end user. This is where time comes in. Today’s consumer has very little time to take in information and the amount of information at our fingertips continues to increase drastically. A good infographic makes even complex information easy to digest, providing an outlet for the information hungry masses to quickly gather and share data.

Finally, infographics have been around since the dawn of time (think: cave paintings), but now they are more accessible due to the ease of sharing online through email, blogs and social media. High quality design software like Adobe Illustrator has also become widely available, making it easier to tell stories through design. This availability (of sharing and tools) has made it easier for infographics to reach the masses and grow in popularity.

MO: What are some trends in the infographics landscape that you’re excited about?

Amy:  I view infographics as a visual display of information. As such, I think that “infographics” encompass a wide range of visual mediums including data viz, viral visualization, motion graphics and interactive design. I think that we’ve spent a lot of time focusing on data viz and now are in the age of viral visualizations (static infographics that do not require data as their foundation like our Geek Versus Nerd infographic or Make it Pop). That said, the future is in motion graphics and interactive infographics. These are two mediums that further engage the audience, which is something younger generations not only crave, but are growing to expect as consumers. Motion graphics are starting to take off already as they become more affordable, but interactive infographics are still hindered by cost and shareability. As more developers learn HTML5 and more browsers adopt it, costs will go down and a solution for ease of sharing interactive designs will be found. As such, I think demand for interactive infographics will skyrocket in the future.

MO: Do you think that the culture of a company can be directly related to their levels of success?

AmyYes, I think that the culture of most companies is the foundation of that company’s success. The better the culture, the better chances you have of attracting great talent. Think about places like Google that are known for entrusting their employees with free nap time and custom schedules. It doesn’t look like these perks have hindered Google in any way and instead Google has embraced the creativity that comes from talented minds and provided an outlet for those minds to grow.

I can’t speak for all companies, but I know that Killer Infographics wouldn’t be where it is now if it wasn’t for our team and because of that, we are consistently investing in a strong company culture.

For instance, we use a weekly service called TINYpulse to get anonymous and productive feedback from our team and then have a Friday meeting to go over that feedback in a public forum. This helps us set goals for our company and work better as a team.

Additionally, our office is an open, collaborative space without walls or barriers to separate us. Our management team works in tandem with the people they manage, versus above them, ensuring everyone’s opinions are heard and taken into consideration. We encourage everyone to speak candidly and genuinely care about what people have to say.

This collaborative effort goes into every aspect of our work from identifying fun projects for our company to take on, to defining team expectations for our future and even down to the tiny details like what we should put in our break room (a rock climbing wall, 2 kegerators and a lot of LEGOs if you’re wondering). We work hard to make sure everyone feels like they are not working in just another day job, but instead they are working to shape this company… and that not only makes things pretty fun, but is a foundation of our success.

MO: What would your dream project look like?

AmyThis is a hard one to answer because we’ve had a lot of projects recently that were well beyond what I would have ever dreamed we would have the opportunity to take on. I can’t talk about all of them since many are still in the works or are hush hush, but we are starting to take on projects that will really impact people’s lives in a positive way. I think that’s really what it comes down to: projects that create positive change will always be the best ones to work on.

From building infographics to help high school students learn to creating large interactive pieces and motion graphics for government and non-profit organizations, we are starting to take on some fantastic projects that our team is really excited about.

Because our team aligns very closely with this dream, we also do one free project each month for a non-profit. Each month it’s a different organization and usually it’s a static infographic though we offer great discounts to non-profits for motion and interactive infographics as well. Through our efforts, we’ve had the privilege to work for groups like The Melodic Caring Project, Amnesty International, Solid Ground and more.

MO: What’s the most exciting thing on the horizon for you personally or professionally?

AmyIt’s hard to pinpoint just one thing since 2013 is shaping up to be a very exciting year for Killer Infographics. I think in the immediate future, I’m extremely excited about the week of May 5th. On the 7th I’ve been invited to run a session about infographic design at Adobe Max and on the 9th my team will be attending the Geekwire Startup Awards to share a project we’ve been working on for the past month and see if we cinched the win for Geekiest Office Space. The remainder of 2013 will continue to be exciting with more speaking engagements and amazing projects planned for some great clients (a lot of those dream projects that are hush hush). Ultimately, the future is very bright for Killer Infographics; I’ve been heads down working extremely long hours for a few years now and I’ve been so excited this year to watch it pay off!

 

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