Array of Stars (AOS) is one of Canada’s hottest strategic design and experience studios.
“We see ourselves as a talent-driven constellation, an otherworldly group of creative professionals — stars if you will — who shine brightly either collectively or individually. That’s the ethos behind our name,” says Alistair Leyland, AOS Managing Partner and Co-founder.
The company was founded with the idea of moving forward slowly and strategically in the creative services sector, but that hasn’t happened — in a good way. With 22 employees based in Toronto, AOSʼs growth has been well, stellar — a seven-fold increase in sales over the past three years, with revenue reaching strong seven figures in 2018.
The firmʼs clients include Spin Master, the Toronto Public Library, Cannoe, the Art Gallery of Ontario, RBC, SickKids (the Hospital for Sick Children Foundation), Airbnb, Lululemon, Infiniti and Brodflour.
“Our clients are very diverse but the one thing they have in common is that they have a challenge that needs strategic-creative thinking,” says Mikkel Stange, Director of Strategy.
“That means focusing on the client’s business needs, and from there we come up with ideas that make sense for both the end consumer and the strategic direction of the business. What will move the client forward in a meaningful way? Before we start to design, we strive to gain intimate knowledge of the client’s business,” Leyland explains.
A sizzling example of an AOS-created experience is the interactive automobile they created for Infiniti, meticulously adorned with 50,000 LEDs. The installation was created for Toronto’s Nuit Blanche last year and then went on tour to Montreal and Vancouver.
AOS thrives on these kinds of experience-driven projects, Stange says. “It’s satisfying because you can see the whole trajectory of people’s experience. We use technology to develop what is called ‘mixed reality’ [a mixture of live and technology-driven experience]. You can do that for events, for retail, for the whole branding experience.”
The real secret to the company’s success is “constant curiosity,” says Vinny Araújo, interactive creative director at AOS.
“It’s harder work, but it can be rewarding when clients see things coming out of our studio that they haven’t seen before,” Araújo says.
The big challenge now is to build on AOS’s phenomenal growth. That includes finding the right people to hire in an increasingly competitive sector, namely those with experience in Spatial computing and AI. The company works hard to maintain a leading edge in technology and has started to incorporate artificial intelligence to add value to its clients’ brands.
“Being creative means challenging yourself, experimenting with the latest tools and technologies.” Says Founding Partner & Creative Director Cole Sullivan. “For instance, Vision AI can be trained and over time recognize certain patterns; things like emotions, text or images. Combining this with a campaign in a vertical like retail, you can imagine a filter that (when combined with a mobile device/wearable) will be able to tell you “Which avocado is most ripe?” or “What kind of shoe is that and where is it available?” When used correctly, there are many ways to provide value to a customer, reducing friction while enhancing the consumer experience. It’s an exciting new format where the rules are still being written.”
"Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and Spatial Computing are enabling experiences and tools the likes of which people have only dreamed, until now," says Ben Clarke, Partner and Technical Director. "When looking at seemingly intractable problems such as climate action, traffic congestion, or supply chain prediction, humanity is in the middle of a step change in the approaches we can take to make real differences in our world. AOS is poised to facilitate this change through a continual drive to refine our tools, seek out the top minds, and push the boundaries of what can be expected from a creative design firm."
If the past is any indicator of the future - AOS is destined to reach heights few Canadian companies have attempted - a meaningful presence beyond its borders.
“The retail experience is going to change dramatically with innovation being driven by technology, coupled with human-centric design experiences. We believe the past five years has us well-positioned to be a leader in this new era of interactive retail consumer experience.” Leyland says.
Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.