By Poppy Evans

Appeared in "Step by Step Graphics" magazine; Vol. 14, No. 3; May/June 1998

Clare Ultimo expected to push herself when she founded Ultimo, Inc. in 1987. That was the whole idea. "I thought (running my own design firm) would allow me the greatest range of experiences," she says. "I also knew it could deliver the greatest range of challenges."

Ultimo often finds herself pushing her clients, too, pressing them to move beyond traditional ideas about what design should be. "I'm interested in holistic ideas," she says. "Sometimes clients think I overstep my bounds because they expect me to be a print designer, but I'm not limited to that in the way I approach a project." For example, Ultimo is not above advising a client who asks for a brochure to do some telemarketing instead if she feels that's the best way to meet the communications objective.

"It all comes down to understanding the medium and really listening to your client, as well as helping everyone involved understand the problem as completely as possible," she says.

Her firm's direct mail campaign for Broadway Video, unusual as it is, is characteristic of Ultimo's penchant for communicating in unique ways. "I feel strongly that direct mail can be much more intelligent than it typically is. That's why we don't generally seek out that type of work – it's too conservative," she says. "In the case of Broadway Video, we were a perfect fit."