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Geoff Silverstein: Founder of Friendly Design Company

As one of the founders of the Washington DC-based Friendly Design Co, Geoff Silverstein (BFA ’06) is busy, curious, creative… and friendly.

The name of the firm came from a brainstorming session, with Geoff and business partner Ross Nover generating lists of attributes and desired values. The name was a bold choice in a city known for politics and the accompanying adjectives that are often at odds with the moniker “friendly.” But it makes sense for Geoff, who is open to conversation, collaboration, mentorship and opportunity.

Geoff came to DC in 2007. Through a friend he found a position at American University, and part-time enrollment in their MBA program. Six years later, after rising to the position of Assistant Dean of Marketing and Strategy for AU’s Washington Semester, Geoff took a deep breath and a huge leap.

While he had done freelance design since high school, and had some confidence that things would work, according to Geoff, “I assumed I was going to get another job — the mythic other experience that would make starting a business ok.”

Starting out, Geoff and Ross each had exactly one client. They were early tenants of Canvas, the pioneer Dupont Circle co-working space where they are today. The space itself has been a big asset for the business. Working alongside developers, designers and writers offers access to shared expertise, as well as a good source work and contacts.

When faced with challenging high pressure interviews or high profile clients, Geoff relies on his Stamps training. “The emphasis on creative problem solving and conceptual thinking became a mantra that stuck with me,” Geoff says, “and it is an attitude I bring to the visual and functional aspects of design work, as well as how I want to engage clients. “ Geoff wants Friendly Design Co. to be known, “not as a design firm that creates a veneer, but one that stresses holistic design thinking.” Friendly Design Co. wants to solve problems rather than make problems look better.

A useful example is Friendly Design Co’s work with The American Federation of Government Employees. Tasked with redesigning an extranet so local leadership could manage member roles, the project began with ungainly Microsoft forms, cumbersome visuals and lots of data. “It would have been easy enough to re-skin what they had,” Geoff recounts, “but we chose to break it down to what people need and build it back up from there. And I really like what we came up with — not revolutionary, but smart.”

American Federation of Government Employees

As a full service graphic design firm, Friendly Design Co. focuses on brand and interactive design through web and app design. Geoff notes that his educational preparation for this work has served him well: as a graduate of both art and business school, he learned both how to learn and how to learn on the job by doing. “It is a continual process of learning, conceptually and technically,”

Recently, Friendly has worked on a new project that helps buyers authenticate high-end goods - from shoes to furs - by scanning a tag with an iPhone, and on Hinge, a DC-based dating application. Friendly has also started working with American University’s Kogod Business School, where Geoff’s work and relationships with the University proved invaluable. Geoff has also been teaching intro to Web Design at AU. Geoff comments, “DC sometimes gets overlooked as creative center, and that’s an opportunity to seize. It is a city filled with people working to make difference, with growing start up, tech and design communities.”

American University Kogod Business School