“I saw a real lack of emotion and energy within the design community—everything was so basic, minimal, precious. I wanted to create something that was the antithesis of that.”
Meet Special—Offer, a global creative studio focused on design, development and digital output. The studio partners with culturally motivated clients within the art, fashion and music landscapes—bringing to life new digital ecosystems that showcase the breadth of content within a client’s portfolio. As a team of 4, they operate collaboratively across Los Angeles and New York. In addition to commercial work, Special—Offer initiates and produces independent curatorial, digital and print publishing projects.
From conception to execution, Special—Offer considers the visceral factors that contribute to the user experience when interacting, shopping or otherwise engaging within a branded digital environment. Since the beginning, the studio’s mission has been challenging the status quo of the design world. Their team creates projects that capture the imperfections of reality and brings them to life in great detail.
We caught up with Brent David Freaney, Special—Offer’s Principal and Managing Director, to talk about their inspiration and strategy for creating interactive design experiences.
Q&A with Brent David Freaney
Q: What’s your agency’s story? A: I started Special—Offer in 2014 after a couple of years making smaller, interactive websites for friends and artists within my community. I pivoted to learn and take the same special experiences for larger brands, artists and institutional organizations.
Since the founding, we’ve grown to a team of 4 people who also work with a network of other designers and developers who we align with aesthetically.
Q: When did you realize you wanted to be a designer?
A: Since I was very little, I’ve always been designing things. I became obsessed with my handwriting at a very young age, always focusing on making each letterform better and better and, most of the time, falling behind in my classes because I was more focused on how pristine I could make my notes for those classes.
After going to school for print design, I became more interested in interactive design—in creating something that can mold and shift and move based on a user’s interaction.
Everything we do tries to bring a real-world element into the development. I like to bridge the gap between the digital and IRL—how can we push to incorporate the nuance of everyday life into a staged, synthetic environment? That’s the question we’re constantly pushing to answer.
Q: What motivated you to start your own agency?
A: I saw a real lack of emotion and energy within the design community—everything was so basic, minimal, precious. I wanted to create something that was the antithesis of that. Something rough, a little ragged, complicated, overwhelming, but still easy to use and intuitive.
"I like to bridge the gap between the digital and IRL—how can we push to incorporate the nuance of everyday life into a staged, synthetic environment? That’s the question we’re constantly pushing to answer."
Q: Tell us about a failure you experienced and how you’ve grown from it.
A: For a while, when we first started the studio, we took on so many projects that we weren’t actually interested in—in order to make our business viable financially. In doing that, we were so drained from working on sites or comps that were not in line with who we are as designers. And, in the end, those projects didn’t end as projects we were stoked to talk to anyone about; to show off, to put in our portfolio. I consider that a failure.
In 2018, we made a rule: Only take on projects that we care about, that we can get behind, that we believe in, that align with our ideals personally. Hard at first, and definitely stressful, but in the end, we’ve been able to gain more business and projects that we care about.
Bad clients and projects only breed worse clients and worse projects.
Q: Where do you get your inspiration from?
A: Airport design and wayfinding, public transportation, old newscast television motion graphics and Mariah Carey videos on YouTube.
"In 2018, we made a rule: Only take on projects that we care about, that we can get behind, that we believe in, that align with our ideals personally."
Q: What’s your daily routine?
A: After our morning check-ins, we get to work. We keep our check-ins short and reserve all our client calls until the last 2 hours of the day. This way, we’re able to get meaningful work done and aren’t having to switch focus to jump on calls or into meetings all day. I personally only check my emails in the morning and at the end of the day. And I keep all notifications on all devices off at all times.
You have to be able to focus on the work you’re doing without distraction, that’s the only way to get the best work.
Q: What are your current goals for your agency?
A: We’re rapidly expanding and taking on new projects for the first time in a while.
Since 2014, we’ve launched 97 websites. I’d like to launch 97 in the next year alone.
But I’d also like for each of us to have normal lives, full of non-work activities and sleep.
"You have to be able to focus on the work you’re doing without distraction, that’s the only way to get the best work."
Q: What’s your #1 tip for designers?
A: My advice would be to take a step away from the computer at all times and interact with the community that you want to be a part of.
To learn more about Special—Offer, visit their website.