Meet the Founders: Brian Brossman

By now, if you’ve read our posts about founders Jason Allum and Mac Morgan (and if you haven’t, what are you waiting for?!), you might’ve noticed a common thread: They were natural born creatives.

Brian Brossman is no exception to the rule. He always had a pencil in his hand as a kid, and loved drawing cars, caricatures, and new versions of cover art in his older sisters’ vinyl collections. His unique artistic style was heavily influenced by a combination of comics in MAD Magazine and skate art from 70’s and 80’s. He’d bind stacks of his sketches together into little books and create a story around them – one even won him a young author’s contest in first grade.

Early Entrepreneur

Art was only one of Brian’s many talents; he soon found that he also had a penchant for business. Classmates loved his drawings, so it’s only natural that he decided to start selling his artistic services. In junior high his custom-made Led Zeppelin and Blue Oyster Cult magnets adorned the lockers of almost every kid in school. By high school he spent his free time screen-printing greeting cards and band sweatshirts.

Brian had amassed quite a portfolio by the time he was applying for college. Penn State was impressed, and didn’t take long to accept him after they saw his work.

Old Passions, Meet New Passions

College was a golden age of creation for Brian. Up until his enrollment he had done all of his typography and illustrations by hand. Now he had a Macintosh Plus at his disposal, and was ready to branch out into whole new worlds of graphic design.

Despite having a litany of tech at his disposal, Brian still loved to work with his hands. His passions for screen-printing and illustration never faded, and he started designing shirts that he sold to university bookstores and Greek organizations on campus.

After graduating Brian kept up with screen-printing at a small retail shop he opened off-campus, and did freelance projects on the side. Luckily he was able to find a job that combined all of his passions: designing the cassette, vinyl, and CD artwork at Disc Makers in Fishtown. He progressed quickly there, and was able to serve as the art director and creative director to new young designers.

With five years of experience under his belt, he headed to a traditional ad agency that focused on print work. It was the early 90’s and Brian saw the massive opportunity in the young digital space, but wasn’t able to pursue it at the time. That all changed one day when a friend called and asked him to come work at Qwest Interactive, a digital agency in Northern Liberties. There, he worked on huge web projects for the IRS, U.S. Treasury, Procter & Gamble, and a number of pharma organizations…until *pop!

Sorry to burst your bubble.

Like many professionals in the digital industry, the Qwest management team saw the writing on the wall once the Internet bubble burst in the late 90’s. Fearing that their mother company was going to pull the plug on its digital groups, the team proposed a buyout and created a new agency called Cadient Group. Brian jumped at the chance to be a key player in starting an agency from scratch.

Brian spent a year and a half building Cadient from the ground up, but found that he wanted to be a little closer to home. He and his wife Heather were about to have Jake, their first of four children. Off he went to Refinery, where he crossed paths with future co-founder Mac Morgan and quite a few future Tonic employees. There he worked on interactive projects for big clients like Subaru, Campbell’s, and Motorola.

Then, with a pretty loaded dossier of freelance work, Brian decided to strike out on his own. He rented a desk in what would eventually be Tonic’s Newtown office. He was Brossman Design, until a former Refinery coworker joined him. Some fortuitous events brought a few new folks to the team, and Tonic Design was born.

A Happy Family

Eventually, the Tonic team found itself on the same projects as dev shop DmgCtrl. Once the two teams met, they hit it off right away. They started partnering up and sharing projects, until finally it just made more sense to be one happy family: the Tonic Design Co. family.

Today, you can find Brian wearing a tall stack of hats. He gives art direction and guidance to our designers, supports our company culture initiatives, pursues new business efforts, and even lends a hand on production work. Plus, we’re delighted when his gorgeous hand-lettering and fun character sketches pop up all around our office whiteboards, glass walls, and windows.