Back when we were first forming Grip Limited, I was driving down Richmond Street and happened to notice a beautiful old building — The Graphic Arts Building — at Sheppard Street. It looked like construction was going on inside, so curiosity prompted me to pull over and see if I could get a look inside.
Surprisingly, they let me in. They were apparently making room for condos, but it was deemed a heritage building so they had to leave quite a bit of the original interior intact.
I found out, via a logo imprinted on the banister, that it had once been the offices for Saturday Night Magazine, and before that, for a humour magazine called Grip Limited.
Grip had started to make more money from creating signs and designing ads for the magazine than from producing the magazine itself. It slowly rolled into a pretty reputable graphic design firm and, as it turns out, counted Thom Thomson and many of the Group of Seven amongst its staff.
To me, that name embodied everything we envisioned for our agency. I was so struck by it that I bought the available URL with my credit card for $25. That night, I was meeting with Bob Shanks and Mike Robitaille about the new agency, whose name was still up for debate. Mike hadn’t arrived yet, when I came into Bob’s house and said, ‘I think I found our name…’
Bob liked the name, however it was just one of many that were proposed. If I recall correctly, we debated at least half a dozen. I can’t remember them all, but two definitely remain in my head. Without naming the authors, one was “Cronus” (a Greek God) and another was “McMann and Tate” (not a Greek God).
Sure, the name, Grip Limited, had an interesting history, but more importantly it had the sound of the agency we wanted to be known for. It has a workmanlike attitude – a place where people roll up their sleeves, focus on, and take pride in doing great work. It wasn’t about the names of who started it. It was about the place, its culture and all the people who help make it what it is.