"Experience designers" and Archer Malmo alumni launch creative branding firm

Don’t call them event planners. Dan Price and Ben Colar are in the business of experience curation.

If you’ve felt a burst of energy at an Undercurrent mixer for young professionals or observed the re-opening of Civil Rights site Clayborn Temple, you’ve benefitted from Price’s spark as a copywriter and Colar’s creativity as a graphic designer.

They’ve recently launched their own creative firm, Baby Grand, and hope to bring their service of top-to-bottom brand positioning to the Memphis market.

“Events and activation can really help tell a story, translate a message, and take something from an event to an experience that's memorable. We're working through all of this, and design can communicate it really well,” said Price, who’s made his career in staging events that move Memphis forward.

In addition to being the co-founder of Undercurrent, he is the Memphis producer of lightning-fast lecture series Ignite and COO of Creative Works, a convener of local design professionals and host of the annual Creative Works Conference, which draws hundreds from across the U.S.

Both Price and Colar are alumni of Archer Malmo as Price was a senior copywriter and Colar is transitioning out of his role as an associate creative director. As their paths crossed on projects, they realized their complementary skills could be the foundation of a new creative firm.

Dan Price and Ben Colar's event curation skills on display at a 2016 election-themed awards gala for the Memphis chapter of the American Advertising Federation. (Philip Murphy)

Most recently, they worked side-by-side on behalf of Archer Malmo in producing an election-themed awards gala for the Memphis chapter of the American Advertising Federation. The 2016 event transformed the Columns at One Commerce Square into an election circus, complete with campaign pins and a live debate between two candidates. Throughout the night, recognitions were announced by mock TV newscasters.  

“We spent months working through that and branding it and designing the experience. That was sort of the last big project we worked on, and we realized that there was maybe something to us working more together in the future,” Colar said.

Both the founders believe that being a small firm run by a creative team is what sets them apart in the Memphis market. That combination of branding, graphic design and experience curation isn’t found elsewhere locally, according to Bill Ganus, an independent development consultant and early customer of Baby Grand.

In 2016, Ganus solicited Colar’s design services in forging a brand for Clayborn Temple, a shuttered church that once served as an organizing point for the 1968 sanitation workers strike. Now under new ownership, the renovated church is regularly booked for events such as film screenings and musical performances.

Ganus said that Colar’s design brought together the historical importance of the site and its modern context, “which is not an easy lift for a designer.”

“I think one of the things that they bring to the market, is that the two of them have this great set of complementary skills that cover brand and experiential and graphic design, and I don't think you get that combination a lot in the existing market,” he added.

As a freshly minted firm, the pair are choosing their next steps carefully. They’re soon to move into an office in the blossoming Edge District and will add employees as they scale.

“We think it's a strategic move for us because there are so many things that are about the open there, and we hope to be a potential partner for those organizations there as they continue to open up and grow,” Price said.

Enjoy this story? Sign up for free solutions-based reporting in your inbox each week.

Read more articles by Madeline Faber.

Madeline Faber is an editor and award-winning reporter. Her experience as a development reporter complements High Ground's mission to write about what's next for Memphis.