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TOP AGENCY RUNNER-UP 2015 INTERVIEW – Mark Catalano Managing Director from Ronik Design.

For only the second time in the 14 year history of the Horizon Interactive Awards competition, we have provided additional, non-entry recognitions through our Distinguished Agency awards. These awards are given based on the achievement of the sum of all work entered into the competition. The Top Agency Runner-up award is considered our second highest non-entry honor and we would like to congratulate Ronik Design, from Brooklyn, NY as the inaugural winner.

With us today, we have Mark Catalano, Managing Director Ronik Design to discuss the outstanding new award distinction that they have earned.

HIA: So what does it mean to you, your company and team to receive this award distinction?

Mark Catalano:

It’s a tremendous honor being the Top Agency Runner-up! The Horizon Interactive Awards have been a part of our careers for a long time. Being awarded for our projects is always gratifying, and it reassures us that we’re doing impactful work.

Seeing our agency awarded goes beyond that — it means that we’ve built something worth paying attention to. We’re proud of the work and ideas we’ve created together, and are so happy to share this honor with our passionate, hard-working team.


HIA: Tell us more about your company. Talk, if you would, about how it started, how it has grown, what changes you have seen in the company, etc.

Mark Catalano:

Ronik started inside a media company — we three founders were working at Newsweek Magazine at a time that allowed us to operate with a lot of creative freedom. Nicole and Roberto worked together in the digital design department and I was a lead developer. We bonded quickly collaborating together on web experiences for large audiences. We were responsible for the creation of interactive storytelling experiences, editorial campaigns, entire redesigns—if it was creative or driven by user experience we were a part of it. It felt natural transitioning into what is now our creative home.

Ronik started as a couple desks in a shared space in Dumbo, which quickly grew into a studio loft for five. Today, we’re a team of ten with a satellite office in L.A. Ronik’s first projects were for media companies, but we quickly branched out. From the beginning, we offered more than ‘web design’. We’ve solved problems involving branding, product development, app design, campaign strategy, video production...our passion for creative solutions has us constantly pushing our boundaries.

In recent years, Ronik has become more involved with projects focused on social change. We’ve enjoyed our growing exposure to nonprofits and advocacy groups. The work we do in that sector is extremely gratifying and allows us to apply our creativity and strategy to real problems facing our society and planet.


HIA: How will you continue produce industry leading work?

Mark Catalano:

Observation and analysis is an important part of our daily life as creative thinkers. We’re compelled to capture and classify everything that inspires us: art, design, digital or print media, and ultimately the world around us. Creativity is making connections between unexpected sources, and we constantly allow our own visual and physical experiences to mingle and enter into our work. It enriches our thinking and forces us to ask new questions.

We also believe that our work is driven by our audience, so keeping a core dialog with the outside world is crucial for success. Our work is nothing if not truly solving the problems of a user or consumer. We’re empowered to approach these problems in innovative ways by constantly bringing in new perspectives and allowing the diversity of the Ronik team to inform and strengthen our thinking. We create successful products for our clients because of our commitment to original thinking and open-mindedness.

Ultimately we are building a bigger vocabulary with every project, and it’s important to apply this knowledge to each new challenge. As a highly collaborative team, we believe our work truly benefits from the variety of businesses we work with and the types of problems we solve.


HIA: What makes Ronik Design special?

Mark Catalano:

Ronik is a family before a business. We care for each other. Respect and kindness are very important values for us. We started Ronik with the ideal of doing work we believed in. We wanted to make a difference in the world and to be happy and fulfilled doing it. We foster an environment that is open to all ideas and perspectives, that encourages experimentation, and acknowledges that there are no right answers.

We embrace collaboration and openness, and the work reflects it. Our clients become our friends. We hope our energy and positivity are appreciated in the industry.  

HIA: Talk a little about the types of projects that contributed to the massive recognition that you have received in this year’s competition.

Mark Catalano:

The projects we’ve been awarded for this year range from nonprofits to B2B to online publications to marketing for consumer products.

At Ronik, we thrive on the diversity of our clients and projects. We started the company with the intention of keeping ourselves energetic and passionate about each project we take on, and maintaining that attitude and diversity of work has helped us achieve success for ourselves and our clients.

Working with smart, passionate people from all walks of life gives us continual new perspectives on the work and thinking we do. With each project, we grow as a company — not just because another project launched, but because of the experience and wisdom gained from solving new problems and working with new people and points of view.


HIA: Speaking more generally, what trends are you seeing in the industry and how digital / interactive media is evolving.

Mark Catalano:

The common trends on the web are pretty clear: responsive, minimal design, ubiquitous experiences, full viewport media which takes advantage of high resolution devices. In general we’re happy to see not just a trend, but a true conversion of thinking across businesses that design and design thinking is a crucial factor to success.

The emerging trends are what really interest us. We’re starting to experience new players in the industry: VR immersive experiences, custom streaming content on demand, even the move away from apps and toward information that is pushed to the user the moment she needs it.

Using cutting-edge techniques to build innovative, performant experiences for mass audiences is increasingly possible for us, by which we mean that most users now have the technology requirements to run these experiences. This is something we had to work around in the past; nowadays we don’t have to worry as much about the limitations of the end user’s device or their connection speed.

Clients are also more educated and hands-on. When we build digital experiences whose content needs to be updated over time, they understand the commitment to maintain the quality of the initial launch product. We help them understand the value in building resources around their new products so the product continues to work hard for them well into the future. It doesn’t matter if you can build a high performance sports car if, in the end, no one can drive it. We love visiting our work after it’s been in use for a time and seeing how a client has continued to feed it and make it their own.

HIA: We know you have entered and won awards in past Horizon Awards competitions, what do you feel is the biggest benefit from being a participant in the competition.

Mark Catalano:

Our clients definitely play a big role here. Working with an award-winning agency can mean a lot to them; it builds trust in our vision and execution.

When we win an award, our client wins one as well — it reinforces that the work we produced together is meaningful and is garnering attention. We value the opportunities that working with each client gives us, so it’s extremely important for us to include them in our accomplishments.

For us, the biggest benefit is having the opportunity to be recognized by our industry and peers for the work that we do. We’re constantly impressed and inspired by the work of those in our field, so to know that our work makes an impression on others and furthers the conversation gives us a great sense of accomplishment.

HIA: Mark, thank you for taking the time to talk with us.  We are truly excited to share your story with our audience as well as promote the great work you do. Once again, congratulations on the Top Agency Runner-up award. You should be very proud of this achievement. We wish you continued success this year and hope to have you back in future competitions.