Elexicon’s work revolves mainly around Web design. The firm also does CD-ROMs and kiosks and recently has begun doing on-line trade show projects. Erickson notes that lots of firms, from ad agencies to accountants, offer Web design services. He chose communication as his company’s creative focus.
“We felt the more we focused on communication, the better the communication would be. And that is what our clients really need from us — to communicate effectively through interactive media.”
Elexicon’s three main categories of service focus on a single end goal: building a good Web site.
Eriksen defines information architecture as the art and science of writing, designing, organizing and managing information.
“Your classic information architect is your local librarian using the Dewey decimal system to categorize books and media,” he says. “It’s all about clarity and simplicity, about efficiency and usability. It’s all about blending form with function — the same way a good architect puts together a building design.
“Information architects help clients find their ‘inner IA’ to organize their branding messages, their product lines and their online help systems, for example. Good information architecture gets you to the information you want logically and quickly.”
Erickson said organizing content so it’s easier for the right audience to find, in effect doubles, or even triples, the content’s value. A content asset is of little value if the targeted audience can’t find it.
Interactive design gives a Web site or application a compelling and distinct look and feel — a personality — through the use of color, typography, imagery, clean HTML code and, often times, the use of Flash animation, Eriksen said.
The third component, integrated marketing, involves general marketing communications, both print and interactive. It includes print brochures, advertising, identity design, copy writing, e-marketing and e-mail marketing.
As Eriksen explains it, interactive design and information architecture essentially result in a two-dimensional site that, when implemented properly, provides ease of use, branding distinction and informative content.
Integrated marketing adds a third dimension — the “hooks” that attract visitors to the site.
Eriksen has been a creative type since writing and illustrating his own comic books in grade school.
He earned a B.S. degree from Ferris State University, where he took a combination of commercial art, illustration and communications courses. After graduating, he wrote technical literature for Technical Marketing Inc., then moved to X-Rite Inc. where he wrote, designed and illustrated a set of user documentation literature and technical literature for then-new color measurement and control instruments for desktop publishing.
At X-Rite Eriksen teamed up with Keith Brophy, who later founded SageStone Inc. In the mid-90s the two and several co-workers on their own initiative developed the company’s first Web presence.
In 1996, Eriksen took on the job of communications manager and, later, marketing manager for CCMS Inc. (now Encoda Systems), a Grand Rapids-based software developer. He developed the company’s online documentations, Web site and marketing communications. At both X-Rite and CCMS, Eriksen worked alongside software engineers, which he says is a prerequisite to Web designing.
“If you’re going to work on larger projects, you’re going to need to work alongside software engineers and software programmers so you will be able to communicate with them and connect with them. I think that was an advantage I had going into interactive.”
By 1998, Eriksen had gained experience in digital graphics, user interface design, online navigation, mark-up languages, high-tech marketing and writing online content, and he was zeroing in on a future in Web design.
Around then, Brophy and his colleagues launched SageStone and tapped Eriksen to develop a Web site design, and marketing literature for the fledgling company.
Eriksen’s own vision, he recalled, was to start a creative firm focused on interactive media. He did just that late in 1999, establishing an interactive communication firm with himself as the sole employee.
He christened it “Elexicon” — a combination of “E” as in e-mail and e-commerce, and “lexicon,” Latin for language or vocabulary. Eriksen is majority owner, and SageStone shareholders have a significant minority interest in the company.
SageStone was Elexicon’s initial client and the two companies continue to work on various projects together, partnering Elexicon’s creative skills with SageStone’s technical resources. In the past two years, Amy Batie and Chris Weeks have joined the Elexicon team.
Elexicon gets most of its business through client referrals and networking with companies, like SageStone, that recommend to clients “the best and the brightest” in specialized fields, Eriksen says.
Among other Elexicon projects are Web site strategy and design for iMart Corp., Terryberry Co., Velocity Partners, Manatron, Optimal Solutions, Exhibit Design Consultants and Turnstone.
“Our focus on information architecture and design, as well as our experience in communicating to high-tech markets, makes us especially ideal for high-tech firms of all sizes,” Eriksen says.