Two small design shops' decision to combine forces was an effort to expand their expertise and geographic reach.
Group Four, an Avon, Conn.-based packaging- and product-design shop, has acquired Bridgewater Design, a branding-design firm in Chicago.
Donna Skupien, who started Bridgewater 12 years ago, moves to Group Four's Chicago office as creative director. She brings with her three designers and one brand-development executive, along with clients that include Allstate Insurance and the Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co.
Skupien will report to Frank von Holzhausen, president of Group Four, who works out of the firm's Avon headquarters. Skupien and Scott Belliveau, a Group Four veteran who will serve as creative director on the industrial-design side, will oversee about a dozen designers in Chicago.
Skupien's "areas of expertise, graphics and package design, are a perfect fit with what we do," said Group Four CEO Phillip Federspiel. Federspiel and Skupien became friendly over the years through their membership in the Association of Professional Design Firms.
Federspiel said that acquiring another shop's personnel and clients was deemed a more effective way to grow than hiring more designers and pitching new accounts. "It's hard to grow organically [in this economy]," he said.
John Verret, a professor of advertising at Boston University, said he expects more small shops to team up as the tough economic climate continues. "Buying an established business that has clients and marketplace credibility just makes sense," he said.
Group Four clients include Skil-Bosch, Mead Johnson Nutritionals, Boise Cascade, Georgia-Pacific and Culligan.