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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

Read more about Metro Detroit's growing entrepreneurial ecosystem at SEMichiganStartup.com.

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 Monster.com 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.

Excerpt:

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.

Local graphic artist takes reins of Movement '09

Movement is on the, well, you know, move this year now that it has picked a local brand designer.

Excerpt:

Derek Kuschel was named the brand designer for the Movement festival in a competition organizers held. The 27-year-old Ferndale resident beat out 134 other graphic designers and artists this year to win the opportunity to design the theme for this year's festival.

That means he's responsible for the overall visual aesthetic of the event, including festival advertising, t-shirts, banners and the web site. Kuschel also gets $5,000, VIP passes for friends/family, and festival gear.

Read the rest of the story here.

Gyro Creative diversifies in Detroit, plans to hire

Another downtown Detroit creative firm finds success outside of the automotive industry.

Excerpt:

Gyro Creative got its start a decade ago with a few projects here and there based in the automotive and manufacturing sectors. "Since then we have become more account focused and been able to get away from an automotive focus," says Angela Topacio, principal of Gyro Creative. "We have been able to develop some interesting products."

Topacio and her husband Matthew DiDio are the principals of the branding-and-design firm today. Today it employs a dozen people full-time, one more person part-time and the occasional summer intern.

Read the rest of the story here.

Paxahau goes to the people to find brand designer for 2009 DEMF

Detroit's Paxahau is looking for a few good votes to see who will design this year's DEMF brand.

Excerpt:

Paxahau and 323 East have launched an online contest to find the brand designer for this year's Movement: The Detroit Electronic Music Festival.

"It really is in a lot of ways the people's festival," says Jason Huvaere, president and co-founder of Paxahau. "It's the fans that have kept it alive."

The winner will be responsible for the overall visual aesthetic of the event, including festival advertising, t-shirts, banners and the web site. They will also receive $5,000, a VIP chalet for family and friends at the festival and a gift bag with festival gear. The winner will be picked from the top 10 contestants, ranked by votes from the web site.

Read the rest of the story here.

Breeze Design Studio expands to 33 people with affordable products

Lots of people had lots of advice for Rukmal Fernando when he started Breeze Design Studio in January of 2007.

"Everybody pretty much told me get out of Detroit," Fernando says. "They said I should be in LA, Miami, Chicago or some other market."

Luckily for Metro Detroit Fernando didn't pay any heed to those warnings. He actually was quite active with the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce, and paid more attention to what the people there were saying.

"They said don't look at it like an obstacle but an opportunity," Fernando says.

That philosophy is why the start-up has grown to 33 people around the world. About half a dozen of those employees call Breeze Design Studio's offices in Birmingham's Rail District home.

The firm specializes in making good design affordable. Fernando allows young, struggling businesses to take advantage of his firm's services cheaply today to help the firm keep its overhead down. The idea is Breeze Design Studio will get a cut of future profits.

"We think that struggling young businesses will grow if we make good design affordable," Fernando says.

It has worked so far. The company plans to keep up with that philosophy for the foreseeable future and it expects to keep growing at its current pace.

Source: Rukmal Fernando, founder and president of Breeze Design Studio
Writer: Jon Zemke

Troy's solidThinking creates 10 new jobs, looks to grow more

Even though Troy-based solidThinking isn't its own company now, it's been going through a tremendous growth spurt since Altair acquired it this past summer and adding 10 new staffers.

The new subsidiary of Altair is 20 people strong and expects to hire more within the next year as double-digit revenue growth looks likely.

Brothers Alessandro "Alex" and Mario Mazzardo started solidThinking in 1991. Over the years, they quietly built the firm's products into tool-of-choice for Italian design firms and industrial designers before Altair bought it a few months ago. Fellow Troy company FISHER/UNITECH recently signed on to promote, sell and support solidThinking and its portfolio of features to the industrial design community in the Midwest.

The industrial design/styling company makes software that helps designers come up with and develop new ideas by creating 3-D virtual prototypes. It's latest product is 7.6 software. It's used for a wide range of products, such as automobiles, electronic devices, jewelry, product packaging and yachts.

The company plans to use Altair's resources to spread its products around the world.

Source: solidThinking
Writer: Jon Zemke

RTT USA expands, expects to add up to 15 jobs

Good things come from Germany, and in the case of RTT USA it's jobs.

Even though the graphics software company was born in Germany in 1999 it expanded to Royal Oak in 2006. And it has been steadily growing ever since. The company had 15 employees in the Royal Oak office last year and has grown to 25 today. It has plans to hire another 10-15 people this year.

Those new jobs will be range from design consultants to business development managers. The Royal Oak office can hold up to 55 employees.

RTT USA originally set up shop in California in 2005 and decided to expand to Metro Detroit a year later to be closer to the auto industry. Its graphics technology lets designers modify product design with software instead of real-life prototypes.

It's been doing a good job, expanding its client list to include General Motors, Audi and Volkswagen.

Source: RTT USA
Writer: Jon Zemke

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