BGC Inspires Ryan Gerber of V2V Design to Help Clients Turn Their Vision into Visibility

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For Ryan Gerber of V2V Design ( ), returning to Ohio after running a successful California business was all about work. When Gerber left the sunny coast to help out a family business, he also left the graphic design firm he had founded. A few years later, he wanted back in. “I’m a designer by schooling, by heart, and by trade,” he said, “and I wanted to bring my company back to life in Ohio.” The question was, could he equal his success here in the Rust Belt—or, perhaps, even surpass it? Specifically, Ryan came back to incorporate and compliment a stronger “design” into his father’s company.

In 1996, while living in California, Ryan Gerber created a unique approach to design based on “five essential principles.” In addition to the standard three principles of design—harmony, balance, and rhythm—he added “culture” and “chaos” as a way to communicate to clients how a design would respect the culture it served and communicate organized information accordingly. Based on these principles, Gerber founded a company called 5design, which did very well. Then, in 2003, he was called to Ohio to help run the family business. “I didn’t have time to devote to [5design],” he said. “I dissolved the California Corporation with the intention to reestablish it, at some point, as a sole-proprietorship in Ohio.”

After the family business was restructured, Gerber wanted to return to graphic design. “But it was important that I not go to market like every other firm,” he said. “With graphic design, everyone looks different on the surface, but underneath it’s the same message of ‘We have great taste,’ or ‘We have a process that we’re going to put you through.’ Neither message deals with what clients need.”

Gerber had met Andy Birol during the restructuring of his family’s business, and the two became friends. “When I got serious about reviving my company,” he said, “it seemed natural to present the idea to Birol. After we dissected the true outcome I provide to customers, everything became clear. Birol has a gift for seeing angles that are not easily seen internally and continually keeps you on track by reiterating and focusing on your Best and Highest Use®. ”

While Ryan Gerber intended to continue 5design in Ohio, Andy advised him to think again. “I told him ‘I’ve got five design principles’ and he said ‘Great, but who cares?’” Gerber said with a laugh. “He pointed out something I had noticed—that the people who bought from me listened politely to my principles, but it wasn’t why they were buying,” Gerber noted. “Even in California, when I was selling to a vice president of marketing, my conversations revolved around budgets and bottom lines and how we could communicate to their market.”

Andy focused on two issues: who Gerber’s customers were, and why they would buy from him. Answering the first question was easy. “I sell to higher-level managers,” Gerber said, “including CEOs and vice presidents of companies. These are people who deal in dollars and cents and metrics and measures. They are focused on outcomes.” Since high-level managers also develop, maintain, and communicate a vision for their company, the word “vision” seemed key. “As a visual person, I paint pictures in my head, similar to how an accountant can mentally calculate numbers,” said Gerber. “Andy and I began to dissect the word ‘vision.’”

Gerber felt that too many design companies impose their vision, or a process, on a client. “It’s not my job to give [clients] a vision,” he stressed. “High level managers already have one. They know what they want and where they are taking that company, and if they share their vision with me, I will work with them to make it real (visible).”

Ryan Gerber’s Best and Highest Use® became clear: he turns other people’s visions into three-dimensional reality. Based on this, he and Andy came up with a new company name—V2V Design—and a tag line: V2V Design takes your vision and translates it into visibility.

As Principal Designer of V2V Design, Ryan Gerber has become the “go-to guy” of the design industry—the expert who can take his clients’ vision and “make it so.”

Just as accountants and lawyers hammer out the details of a company’s financial plan, V2V works closely with architects, interior designers, and builders to create interior spaces, such as product showcases, demo rooms, retail environments, and customer service centers, that represent a manager’s vision. “What I do is listen to what clients want and figure out how to make it visible to them, and to everyone else,” said Gerber.

V2V’s client list includes NASA, GE, Novelis and Rockwell Automation. A recent example involves Holcomb’s, the educational products company (and BGC client), which is opening a new division called KnowVille ( “Holcomb’s and BGC imagined an interactive community where kids from preschool through 8th grade can go after school to learn and have fun,” Andy said. “Ryan took our concept and designed the whole facility.” And Ryan’s second business, Gfab, which was an outcome of the restructuring of the family business, actually built KnowVille.

Andy Birol described V2V as a model for owners who want to carve out a niche for their companies. “Ryan Gerber has done an amazing job of creating a knowledge business with manufacturing capabilities,” he said. “His progress is emblematic of what all rust belt companies need to accomplish.”

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