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"Mapping" marketers 45 Degrees aim at more midsize clients

Real estate isn't the only industry where location matters.
For marketing, branding, and creative design, a company needs to understand its figurative place among competitors and customers. Susan Hopp and Karl Schweikart, founders of Minneapolis-based creative firm 45 Degrees, have spent the last 16 years as mapmakers for their clients--helping to figure out how each client fits into a specific place in the world.
The married couple started the business in 1997, and chose the company name as a nod toward their geographical position--on the 45 parallel of latitude, which runs through the Twin Cities. They feel that 45 Degrees is unique in the creative industry because of the amount of time they spend in finding a client's "location."
"We need to really understand them before we start designing anything," says Schweikart. "We help them identify their strengths, their emotional connections, in order to give them a solid foundation to move forward."
Hopp adds that other design firms try to capture the essence of a company or brand, but not as in-depth as 45 Degrees. That tendency toward brand cartography can be invaluable for clients, since they might come in thinking they only need a new logo, and end up realizing that they're deeply disconnected from customers.
Looking ahead, the pair don't anticipate growing their employee numbers (currently, it's just the two of them in their happy groove), but they are leaning toward taking on more mid-size companies, which tend to feel the pain of customer disconnection most acutely.
"We have an opportunity to make an impact for clients of any size," says Hopp. "For us, this work is about much more than design."
Sources: Susan Hopp and Karl Schweikart, 45 Degrees
Writer: Elizabeth Millard
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