We had the good fortune of connecting with Adam Scher and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Adam, can you share a quote or affirmation with us?
My agency CMYK was built under the motto, “Bold Moves, Bad Decisions.” Even after almost 15 years, this is still our mantra.
Bad Decisions are just Good Decisions waiting to be made. It is about seeing opportunities that are challenging and against the grain and attacking them headfirst. Fear of failure holds us back. But if we never take risks, how will we grow and evolve? As a society, we look at “bad decisions” as a flaw in judgment or character, when in fact, they provide us with opportunities to learn. If we are constantly making “right choices,” we are not pushing ourselves to confront uncomfortable situations and unfamiliar territory.
The success of my professional career has been a result of these Bold Moves and Bad Decisions. At 25 years old, I left the security of the agency world to start my own business. I’ve hired employees without cash flow. Some projects were beyond my capabilities. In these moments, I’ve thought to myself, “You’re way in over your head,” but I figure it out. These experiences have proven that I have the tenacity and insight to transform challenges into successes, growing pains into milestones.
I look at all of my decisions from this lens. Every choice is an opportunity. If I play it safe, I miss out on the potential for innovation. This mentality is woven into our company culture and the work that we produce for our clients. We encourage our team to take risks and never criticize them for failure. By adopting this mentality, we have created an environment that thrives trial and error, celebrates iteration. As a result, we continuously surprise ourselves as we push the bounds of what it means for us to be creatives.
What should our readers know about your business?
I started CMYK in 2007. I was working in pharmaceutical advertising and realized quite quickly that I was not cut out for the stress, long hours, and politics of working in a large agency. A few colleagues of mine had the idea of starting our own agency, so we took a leap of faith and decided to give it a try.
The first few years were a challenge. Having no roster of clients or strong portfolio outside of pharma, made finding work difficult. We positioned ourselves as a creative collective by artists for artists, working with performers and musicians to help build their visibility. The budgets were slim, but they provided us with creative liberties to build a reputation within the design world. This symbiotic relationship is a tenant we have carried over into the relationships we have today. We always seek out organizations whose mission and ethos align with ours. We see ourselves as partners, not vendors.
Since then, it has been a slow and steady climb. My business partner, Chris Langer, and I have learned that the evolution of our company needs to happen organically. We don’t want the pitfall of growing too quickly and have been strategic and intentional when building our team. We believe in nurturing talent and allowing each person to bring their own experience and creative vision to the work. This has resulted in a workplace culture that celebrates diversity.
Our entire team is involved in creatively contributing to each project, no matter their role. We are constantly thinking about our goals and evolving our process. All of our work incorporates R&D to ensure that we are always learning. Our methodology is fluid. This mindset has allowed us to continue to grow into a full-service agency specializing in web design/development, branding and identity, motion graphics, video production, and virtual event production.
I never went to business school, so this entire experience has required me to learn as I go. Here are a few lessons I wish someone had told me when starting CMYK:
Saying no to a project is sometimes more important than saying yes.
Do not be afraid to be the expensive option. Charge what you are worth!
Keep a healthy work schedule, and don’t overwork your team. We rarely work past 6 PM, and everyone appreciates that!
Always be proud of your work. Don’t design something that you wouldn’t want the client to choose because they will pick it.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Brooklyn is a hot spot, and there is so much to do in my city. Honestly, long gone are the day of traveling to Manhattan. Here are a few recommendations if you find yourself in my neck of the woods:
Miss Ada – If you find yourself in Fort Greene see if you can snag yourself a table. I love Israeli food, and this is probably one of the best and authentic restaurants you will find. Not only is Tomer one of the nicest chefs, but his lamb hummus is a serious game-changer.
Paulie Gee’s – Pizza Pizza! There’s not much more to say other than this is some of the best pizza in NYC. There is something for everyone here at this Greenpoint pizzaria, but do not skip on the pies with Mike’s Hot Honey. Oh it’s so so good.
Public Records – This place is part restaurant, part bar, and part audiophile’s dream. It is off the beaten path in industrial Gowanus, but don’t let the neighborhood fool you. The vegan menu is exclusively vegan and is paired with a rotating list of live DJs who spin while you dine.
The Exley – This is a fantastic queer bar in the heart of Williamsburg. The outdoor seating is perfect for people watching. Highly recommend the Mezcal Negroni while watching the Brooklynites walk by in their fashionable looks.
Barely Disfigured – If you’re looking for excellent craft cocktails, this bar in Carroll Gardens is a must. The ambiance also doesn’t disappoint. If you get there early, you can have your drinks in a king-size bed hidden in the back of the bar.
All Night Skate – A hidden gem on the border of Bushwick and Bedstuy, this rollerskate-themed bar does not disappoint. On any given night, you may find drag performances, a goth-themed dance party, or a Philipino BBQ food pop-up.
BAM – If you’re looking for the cultural epicenter of Brooklyn, this is it. Check their calendar for live dance, theater, and music. They have three different venues and bring some of the most renowned artists from all over the world.
3 Dollar Bill – On any night of the week, you can expect to find great queer dance parties and drag performances here. During warmer months, they host outdoor day parties and tea dances. It’s known to get a bit rowdy, so be forewarned!
Prospect Park – This is the Central Park of Brooklyn. All year round, you can find activities for the naturist in you. Hang out on the great lawn, go ice skating during the winter or forage for mushrooms on many of their forest trails.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
Throughout my education, I have had teachers who constantly challenge my relationship to art and design. Their guidance, critiques, and tough love have given me the confidence to carve my own professional path. They are experts in their field, creating inspirational work that provides a framework to measure my own success.
Shoutouts to Gus Solomons Jr., Katherine Morawaki, Cynthia Lawson, Anezka Sebek, and Nicole Didio Johnson.