Design :Innovation & Job News

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RTT USA adds 16 jobs in downtown Royal Oak

RTT USA is responding to the rising demand for computer graphics by creating more jobs in Metro Detroit.

The 5-year-old firm (its U.S. office is in downtown Royal Oak) has grown about 20 percent over the last year. That has allowed it to add 16 positions in areas like data management, CAD management and digital artists. It now employs 82 people in downtown Royal Oak, along with five independent contractors and five interns. The company opened the office four years ago with a staff of eight.

"We have had very, very strong growth over the last few years," says Peter Stevenson, CEO of RTT USA.

RTT USA specializes in high-end visualization technology. Three-dimensional visualization software and services are utilized in the automotive, aviation, and consumer goods industries. For instance, it allows a designer to make a virtual prototype of a vehicle, which takes much less money and time than making a physical prototype. The company is also doing this with marketing materials.

"They can virtualize their designs and save a lot of money," Stevenson says. He expects the demand for this work to continue to rise, which should allow the firm to continue its current rate of expansion over the next year.

Source: Peter Stevenson, CEO of RTT USA
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Altair's Troy HQ welcomes new hires as part of 1,000-person expansion

Altair Engineering is gearing up to add 1,000 new jobs around the world, and its Troy headquarters is in line to get more than its fair share.

"A large majority of those will be in the Metro Detroit area," says Mike Kidder, vice president of corporate marketing for Altair Engineering.

Altair Engineering specializes in simulation technology and engineering services, employing 1,500 people around the world. About one-third of those work in Metro Detroit. The new hires will be made this year and have been preceded by growth at the staffing division of Altair Product Design, which has doubled its active engineering specialists onsite at manufacturers and suppliers throughout the U.S. over the last year.

Altair ProductDesign's staffing business places highly skilled workers with the company's customers. The division is looking for designers, engineers and IT developers, among other specialties. About one-third of these hires go onto full-time employment at Altair or at one of its customers.

"I think it creates a synergy with our customers," Kidder says.

Source: Mike Kidder, vice president of corporate marketing for Altair Engineering
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Skidmore Studio adds 4 jobs on strength of interactive and design work

Skidmore Studio sees the economy turning, and it's going in the right direction for once. The downtown Royal Oak-based marketing agency is riding this wave nicely, expanding its staff to 22 people, with four hires over the last year.

"The uptick in the economy has helped," says Tim Smith, president & CEO of Skidmore Studio. "There are a lot of things people wanted to do and we're starting to see some of that free up."

Skidmore Studio employs a growing number of creatives, ranging from graphic designers to illustrators to interactive designers to copywriters to motion artists. The agency has specialized in design and illustration in Metro Detroit since the 1950s. Smith has noticed the company's revenue climb by a small percentage over the recent months, but he is preparing for more in the near future.

"We're on a nice comfortable trend where we are seeing business grow," Smith says. "A 10-15 percent growth in revenue is a fair expectation of what we want to do."

He says the firm expects to hire two more people over the next year to help meet the demand for interactive and design work.

Source: Tim Smith, president & CEO of Skidmore Studio
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Magna Steyr to create 200 new engineering and design jobs

Magna Steyr plans to spend $765,000 on an expansion of its engineering office in Troy, an investment that's expected to create 200 jobs over the next three years.

"The bulk of them will be over this year," says Tracy Fuerst, director of corporate communications & media relations for Magna International, Magna Steyr's parent company. "We need to bring people on as soon as possible for this project."

The automotive supplier, based near Toronto, currently employs 72 people in Troy. This project will more than triple that employee base in the first year, with 158 new hires. These new jobs will focus on engineering and design of technologically advanced automotive systems, assemblies, modules and components for original equipment manufacturers of cars and light trucks.

Making this deal possible is a three-year tax abatement of $1.5 million from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. The city of Troy is also including a $14,000 tax abatement. Magna International had considered competing sites in Ontario, Ohio, and Indiana.

Tracy Fuerst, director of corporate communications & media relations for Magna International; Michigan Economic Development Corp.
Writer: Jon Zemke

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New contract enables Detroit Heavy Truck Engineering to double headcount

Detroit Heavy Truck Engineering is digging deep in its Novi office to accommodate a new contract to design and engineer heavy dump trucks for mining. That should create nearly 50 new jobs over the next five years.

The nearly 1-year-old company designs, engineers, sells and supports heavy trucks and mining equipment. It currently employs a dozen people and 22 subcontractors. This new deal should double its employee count within the next year and add a total of 49 jobs over the next five years.

"We're not going to be huge," says Donna Melonio, director of administrative services for Detroit Heavy Truck Engineering. "We will be extremely selective and very high-tech."

Detroit Heavy Truck Engineering will do the design and engineering work for the a 400 ton diesel-electric mining dump truck and for other 200-400 ton truck models and electric shovels with 30-70 cubic meter bucket capacity. The big dump trucks are destined for mining in Asia and were commissioned by a Chinese-controlled manufacturing company called Elite.

Making the deal possible is a $1.2 million tax credit over five years from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. The company also considered setting up operations in Wyoming.

Source: Donna Melonio, director of administrative services for Detroit Heavy Truck Engineering
Writer: Jon Zemke

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RingSide Creative adds 6 positions, diversifies clientele

Diversification. It's the new gospel of doing business in Detroit, and one that RingSide Creative is vocalizing today to keep the fat lady quiet.

The Oak Park-based firm specializes in producing creative content for a broad range of media these days, specifically for ad agencies.
Where big accounts from large corporations once served as the firm's bread and butter, Ringside has broadened its client list with more small firms. It's also looking to take in more work from outside of southeast Michigan.

"We're really focusing on these areas to solidify our business," says Sara Gouin, marketing & branding director for RingSide Creative.

That has allowed RingSide Creative to expand its staff to 70 employees and a few interns and independent contractors. That's up from an employee base of 65 people in late 2009. Gouin expects the company to continue to add staff this year as it focuses on diversification.

Source: Sara Gouin, marketing & branding director for RingSide Creative
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Altair Engineering acquires ACUSIM Software, grows solidThinking subsidiary

Altair Engineering has got an idea or two about how it wants to grow in 2011, and the simulator-technology firm is already acting on them.

The Troy-based company acquired ACUSIM Software last week, a brand-name developer of high-fidelity computational fluid dynamics solver solutions. The acquisition brings on the technology and expertise for a niche section of the simulation technology industry.

"That allows us to simulate fluid and air flow around objects," says Michael Kidder, vice president of corporate marketing for Altair Engineering. That sort of technology,
he adds, has a number of uses, such as increasing passenger comfort in the automotive sector.

Altair Engineering now employs a little over 1,400 people worldwide, including about 500 in Metro Detroit. The ACUSIM Software acquisition brings about 10 people with expertise and industry leadership in their respective domains.

The firm is also growing its solidThinking subsidiary, which specializes in global concept design and styling software. The division has been steadily growing its industrial design software market, recently announcing the addition of a dozen new customers.

SolidThinking is capitalizing on its NURBS-based software, which focuses on design manufacturing and engineering. The software encourages improved computer-aided design collaboration and productivity between industrial designers and engineers during the product development cycle.

"It's probably one of our more exciting technologies," Kidder says. "It's at the front end of the design process."

Source: Michael Kidder, vice president of corporate marketing for Altair Engineering
Writer: Jon Zemke

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Skidmore creative marketing agency is expanding in Royal Oak

New clients equal new hires, or at least that's the formula at Skidmore Studio.  The downtown Royal Oak marketing agency has just hired a senior graphic designer and plans to further expand its staff later this year.

"We have some new clients that are pushing our capacity and capabilities," says Tim Smith, president and CEO of Skidmore Studio.

Those new clients include Troy-based North American Bancard and Sport U Technologies (Brighton), locally based companies with a footprint that extends into the Midwest or nationally. Skidmore Studio plans to hire a web programmer and media planner buyer with national experience later this year. A new project manager and account executive may also be added to the staff of 21 people.

Skidmore Studio is filled with creatives, including graphic designers, illustrators, interactive designers, copywriters, and motion artists. The agency has specialized in design and illustration in Metro Detroit since the 1950s. It has relied primarily on customer referrals for its growth, a plan Smith intends to stick with for the foreseeable future.

"We need to concentrate on doing an extraordinary job for our clients," Smith says.

Source: Tim Smith, president and CEO of Skidmore Studio
Writer: Jon Zemke

Waterford's Sphere Trending predicts consumer future

A lot of companies want to know what's coming in the near future - what trends might result in profit, and how to dodge bad situations. Sphere Trending helps businesses do just that.

The Waterford-based company specializes in trend forecasting for consumer and design firms. It also monitor's product innovation trends, assembling reports on everything from what will be the next in colors to what helps make people look up from their smart phones and notice advertising. The 10-year-old company counts a long list of Fortune 500 companies, manufacturers and national retailers as its clients.

The company employs about a dozen people and two interns. Those employees do everything from traveling through trade shows to recognize trends and new customer bases. They also make their ways through about 10 key U.S. cities to see how the U.S. consumer is evolving.

"As the economy has changed so has our business model," says Mandi Mankvitz, social media director for Sphere Trending. "We know that a lot of trends won't come from just trade shows."

The company is looking to expand into healthcare and automotive markets and hopes to hire a few people over the next year to meet new business needs.

Source: Mandi Mankvitz, social media director for Sphere Trending
Writer: Jon Zemke

Skidmore Studio hires 3 in downtown Royal Oak

Skidmore Studio is getting a fresh start this year, 50 years after it opened for business.

Meet Tim Smith, the new president and CEO of the downtown Royal Oak-based firm. He is taking the reins of the design firm after serving as its president for the past few years. Mae Skidmore will remain involved with the studio in her roles as creative director and member of the executive committee.

"The idea is to take a strong foundation and build it back up," Smith says.

Skidmore Studio now employs 22 people after three hires this year. It expects to hire more next year as it continues to focus on its services of offering high-end creative solutions. Smith believes there will be much more demand for this in the next year as the economy starts to rebound.

"There is a great deal of pent-up demand," Smith says. "A lot of organizations that are prime targets for us have been sitting on the sidelines for the last 18 months."

Source: Tim Smith, president and CEO of Skidmore Studio
Writer: Jon Zemke

RingSide Creative prepares for growth

For decades, GTN was a post-production house, until two years ago when it became RingSide Creative.

The new name reflects the Oak Park-based firm's new philosophy of adapting and getting ahead of the curve in creative content and production. The company now does this work in any medium, including broadcast, cinema, and the Internet.

The company is taking a special interest in digital and social media, molding its business plan to take advantage of these growing mediums.

"We're really seeing a shift to there," says Sara Gouin, designer for RingSide Creative.

The new shift has allowed Ringside Creative to keep its staff at about 65 people and the occasional independent contractors and interns. The firm expects to bring a few more people onto its staff next year as it continues to diversify its portfolio from its base in the automotive industry.

Source: Sara Gouin, designer for RingSide Creative
Writer: Jon Zemke

Patrick Thompson turns layoff into design biz

Patrick Thompson became his own boss the way so many other people are these days -- because someone made the decision for him.

Well, that's partly true. Thompson was recently laid off from his design job this summer. But instead of wading into the morass of and the like, he decided to start his own company out of his Pleasant Ridge home – Patrick Thompson Design.

"It was a decision that was coming for a long time," Thompson says, adding that he was wanting to run his own business for years.

The designer has focused on hospitality design for most of his six-year career. Now he would like to continue that, but also branch out into retail, office, and restaurant spaces. He also is looking at work in façade improvement and historic preservation.

He says he sees a lot of firms closing up shop, so there is a need for independent contractors like himself. The kind of people who could use his creativity and flexibility are in Metro Detroit, according to Thompson.

"I want to stay in a place where I am needed," Thompson says.

Source: Patrick Thompson, designer for Patrick Thompson Design
Writer: Jon Zemke

Giffels-Webster Engineers doubles LEED certified staff

Giffels-Webster Engineers is doubling down on sustainability, doubling the number of its staff with LEED certification.

As of this week, nine of the Rochester Hills-based firm's 65 employees are certified as LEED AP. That basically means when it comes to sustainable design, the firm has nine experts in it.

"We see it as a trend where people want to be green," says Loren Crandall, president of Giffels-Webster Engineers. "We want to be at the front end of that."

The LEED AP exam has been around since 2001. It focuses on green building practices and principles in LEED requirements, resources and processes. This certification is essential to obtaining LEED status on projects.

The 55-year-old firm specializes in civil engineering and surveying. It hasn't hired anyone so far this year, but Crandall expects that to change.

"We're marketing our services aggressively," Crandall says. "We expect to grow."

Source: Loren Crandall, president of Giffels-Webster Engineers
Writer: Jon Zemke

o2 Creative Solutions: a small firm with big ideas

Growth isn't necessarily the top priority for o2 Creative Solutions. It's why the Royal Oak-based firm is happy with an average of 15 employees and a handful of independent contractors and interns.

The experience design firm has a goal of combining multiple disciplines, such as branding or tech development, into one company. That way it can meet with, say, the likes of Lexus, and offer the best, most creative plan without limitation. Staying small helps accentuate this notion.

"The minute you get too big you can create compartments and people stop communicating with each other," says Brian Hords, founder and executive creative director for o2 Creative Solutions. "That takes away from our creativity."

For example, the firm has partnered with
Ghostly International to create a new iPhone application called GHOSTLY DISCOVERY. The free application is a mood-based radio station featuring the Ghostly International and Spectral Sound catalogues. It lets users set the MOOD wheel to a color that best reflects their state of mind and then builds a music playlist from the catalogue, based on that mood. Users can then learn and purchase the song as it plays.

Hords started o2 Creative Solutions eight years ago with three people. He hopes to keep his firm at its current staff size for the foreseeable future.

Source: Brian Hords, founder and executive creative director of o2 Creative Solutions
Writer: Jon Zemke

Damian Farrell Design plans to hire more in Ann Arbor

Damian Farrell loves entrepreneurship so much, he won't let anything get in the way of his pursuit of it.


Damian Farrell wanted to become his own boss so badly he did it twice. The owner of Damian Farrell Design Group started the company in 1992, sold it after a couple of heart attacks and went to work for someone else in 2002 before restarting again last summer.

"I had always wanted to be on my own," Farrell says. "I really wanted to focus on the type of architecture that interests me."

He restarted with two full-time employees and a part-timer last July. Today the downtown Ann Arbor-based company employs five people and two independent contractors. It just hired a former intern that graduated from college and expects to hire another person within the next six months.

Read the rest of the story here.
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