Curio Studio is now 20 years old (a pretty decent start)!

Over the last 1,000 weeks, we’ve had a lot of time to grow, to develop as artists, and to make choices based on what we think really matters. And this year, for the briefest of moments, we’re putting our pencils down to celebrate good fortune and great friends.

We’ve chosen as a tagline for our 20th anniversary celebrations “Love will draw us together” (and don’t worry, we won’t judge you if you read that as a Joy Division reference or a Captain and Tennille reference).   

This credo reminds us that for two decades, love has been the abiding force propelling Curio Studio to do great work, helping us grow in our relationships, and sustaining us through times both good and, erm… less-good. 

Ours is a people business as much as it is a design business, and we hope you will join the rest of our favourite people in celebrating everything that’s made the past 20 years an absolute joy.

From Modest Beginnings: The Little Yellow House That (Maybe?) Could

We have to start the clock somewhere, so we figure the earliest days of Curio began in December of 2002, when a career designing for engineers had finally pushed Amanda Schutz to her breaking point (“don’t say it like that,” says Amanda).

Two years after graduating from MacEwan University’s Graphic Design program, Amanda was grateful to get work as a designer in a tight job market, but her first few gigs didn’t afford enough of a variety of work (and of people to work with).

No one told her she shouldn’t, so naturally, Amanda quit her full-time job (with great benefits) to hang up her own shingle, originally under the name “Woodward Design.”

With no investment capital, Amanda’s first office was the basement of her little yellow house in Edmonton’s Mill Creek neighbourhood—to this day, she is oddly fond of telling people that she would host client meetings in her kitchen, which was usually full of dirty dishes. 

From the start, authenticity mattered—Amanda wanted her clients to appreciate her work, her talent, and her enthusiasm more than her acumen with a scrub-brush.

Over the next few years, significant time in the trenches paid off. Very quickly, the illustration and design that was being churned out of her basement started to appear all over the city and catch the eyes of future clients (to date, over 500 and counting, NBD). 

And, in 2014, the company rebranded as Curio Studio to reflect the extremely unique talents that had become the calling card of our team of curious, studious designers. 

What we’ve learned along the way

Throughout our 20-year history, Curio has seen a lot of design trends and technologies come and go. Other agencies and studios of IMMENSE talent have sprung up, frolicked hard in the sun, and quietly folded. Ours is a fickle business.

Through good times and bad, recessions and recoveries, pandemics and parenting, our tiny family of designers has continued to find new inspiration, to refine our work, and to provide the best possible service to our discerning clients.

This was not owing to an enchanted monkey’s paw or some Warren Buffet-level business savvy. In fact, it’s hard for us to nail down the secret of our longevity without sounding corny, so we’re not even gonna try. 

The truth is, love is the motive force that sustains us.

We love the work we do, and we appreciate how rare that is. We love our teammates (vital for a staff never greater in number than five people). And we love building relationships. If we didn’t, we would never have made it past year one.

Nothing beats The Biz

It turns out when you love what you do, you end up doing it a lot. And if Malcolm Gladwell is right about going from good to great in 10,000 hours of practice, Curio Studio passed that mark a VERY long time ago. 

Though no work day is like another for us, our focus has never veered far from our sketchbooks. There is something imperceptibly human about drawing. It is how all our work begins, and it has consistently brought out many concepts that we could never have mined from a computer screen. 

If there’s anything we might be nearly as practiced at, it’s working with others. We’re a friendly bunch, and we know that our best work is based on collaboration, both in and outside our design team.

This is why our designers work one-on-one with our clients. Understanding and trust are vital to a collaborative creative process, and they’ve allowed us to deliver the same level of high-quality work for small startups and Fortune 500 companies.

It’s possible we should have burned out a long time ago, but here we are in 2022, still hungry, plucky, and giddily creative… we just work a lot faster now (20 years of practice will do that for you)!

Love will draw us together

To this day, we still love our work, and we’re passionate about our craft. 

We love our teammates and we work well together. 

And we love our clients. They fill our cups in more ways than one, and after 20 years, it’s time for us to raise those cups together.  

Celebrate with us

As we said earlier, 20 years is a pretty good start, but there is still so much left to do. We are constantly improving our work, expanding our literacy, and seeking new friends. And we would love for you to be part of our future history!

We’ll be celebrating this milestone for the next several months – please stay tuned and follow us via our newsletter, Instagram, and website for archive finds, news updates, and giveaways!

To our many valued clients and friends, thank you for an unbelievable first 20 years. We hope to see much more of you over the next 20!

This post was last updated on January 31, 2023 by Matt Steringa