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A2Z Design Feature

Connecting brands to people

A2Z Design focuses on marketing’s creative element

by Tim Froberg

A well-crafted logo may consist of only a few words, but it can say a million more about the virtues of an organization.

That’s the value of creative art design—something Jeff Amstutz has always had a knack for.

It’s what his company, A2Z Design, is all about. The Indiana native founded the innovative marketing design agency in 2007 and it is an amazing addition to the Appleton business community.

A2Z Design works with companies, organizations, industries, and education systems to improve visibility though a variety of contemporary marketing concepts. In addition to branding, A2Z helps to upgrade publications, offering cover-to-cover content and design development and art direction for magazines, annual reports, brochures, or direct marketing mailers. It also offers website design, print, and digital advertising services, working to create memorable messaging campaigns that connect clients to their target audience.

“We’re a little different from the traditional full-service agency because we focus on the creative element,” said Amstutz. “We focus on the design aspects, the art design—any creative aspect within the marketing realm, we will do it. We’re heavily grounded in print design. We still love print and still believe in it, but as things have evolved, we are doing a lot of digital design work and are moving quickly to become even more savvy in that area. That’s where a lot of growth potential is.

“Outside of design, we partner with others if we need photography or video, and we have some great partners and resources. We bring the best of the best to our client partners.”

Amstutz has more than 20 years of art and design experience after graduating from Ball State University in 1995 with a double major in business and journalism. He grew up on a farm near Fort Wayne, Indiana, and worked as art director for Journey Group, VoxCorp and Royal Magazine Corporation before relocating to the Fox Cities.

“I’ve always loved publications and actually started a magazine on campus,” said Amstutz. “After doing design work as an art director following college, I had this crazy notion that I should peel off and do my own thing.”

It wasn’t such a crazy notion. A2Z’s clientele is impressive. It includes the Community Foundation for the Fox Valley Region, the Fox Valley Symphony Orchestra, the Fox Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Kohler Foundation, Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin, United Way Fox Cities, Ascension, Insight Publications, the Champion Center, Neuroscience Group, Appleton’s Octoberfest and Secura.

Branding has become a game-changer in the marketing industry and is a major part of A2Z’s business. A2Z helps companies brand and rebrand themselves through quality logo designs and messaging to illustrate what the company stands for and believes in.

“We live in an information-rich society where we can get information in a flash,” Amstutz said. “The problem is we’re time poor. Businesses are basically jockeying for attention. Having a strong logo and brand identity are so important because people connect and feel a certain way about them. When you see that logo, you know what it is. You know it’s trusted and will provide a service or product. It’s a great time saver and a shortcut to getting someone to make a very quick decision.

“What I’m really proud of is that when we develop a logo, it lasts. There are so many logos we developed well over a decade ago that are still in use. We’re not going to whip out a quick logo on the fly for a couple bucks. We go in-depth because we see it as a really important investment toward the future of that organization.”

The 920 Feature – March 2020

Veterans Helping Veterans

by Tim Froberg

Jack Voight had a vision of bringing veterans together to share conversation and camaraderie.

He never dreamed the fledgling group would grow to such significant proportions.

Voight is the founder of Vets and Friends of Wisconsin Inc. – an Appleton-based nonprofit organization that strives to make life better for military veterans through benefits, services and socialization.

Vets and Friends has a no-charge coffee house and a food pantry at 2508 N. Richmond St. It’s also a social center with a backyard garden area complete with patio furniture and a non-alcoholic bar, giving veterans a comfortable place to relax and chat.

But it has become more than just a gathering place for veterans. In addition to serving free breakfast to veterans on Fridays and free lunch on Saturdays, Vets and Friends helps homeless veterans find housing and offers mental health services through a local therapist-counselor affiliated with the VA Community program.

“Originally, I thought this would be a small group of guys just having a place to get together and talk,” said Voight. “I didn’t realize it would grow so fast. By the end of 2020, it looks like we’re going to have close to 600 members. We’re actually starting to get a little cramped here.”

Membership is free and the meals are available to family and friends of veterans. A large group of volunteers – comprised mostly of veterans – works hard to make sure the meals come off without a hitch. Vets and Friends has partnered with St. Joseph Food Program, which provides nearly 60 percent of the food served.

Oh, and there is much more. The group recently started a clothes pantry to provide free apparel for veterans and has a service officer available to help veterans with disability benefits. Future plans include putting together profiles of local veterans who have contributed to the community and establishing a Vietnam Wall featuring pictures and profiles of local Vietnam vets.

“A lot of people don’t realize that well-known people in our community like Oscar Boldt and John Mielke are veterans,” said Voight. “Our members are from 20 to 99. Our oldest member, Lloyd Ellefson, is 99. He was a World War II veteran, a Battle of the Bulge guy.”

What’s amazing about Vets and Friends – the only nonprofit veterans coffeehouse in Wisconsin – is that it has been around for less than three years. Voight, a Vietnam veteran and a former insurance agent, remodeled his old insurance building in 2017 and later added an annex for the food pantry and meeting rooms. A seven-member board of directors was appointed the same year to oversee the organization.

“A lot of exciting things have happened,” said Voight, 74, a former state treasurer and New London High School graduate. “I started it but can’t take all the credit because a lot of veterans and volunteers have put in a lot of effort. We’re serving 3,000 hot meals a year now and it takes a lot of volunteers to pull that off. We’ve been so fortunate to have our partnership with St. Joseph’s food pantry.

“I really appreciate all the help and support we’ve received. We have a lot of different resources available. We don’t want our veterans to go through things alone. We want to pull together, hang together. The sharing of stories and camaraderie among our veterans has been tremendous.”