In an effort to utilize their respective strengths in a changing marketplace where design and technology continue to converge, information technology consulting firm Open Systems Technologies
has announced the acquisition of Grand Rapids-based design consulting firm Visualhero Design
, expanding OST’s capabilities to find solutions with new methods of problem solving that extend from research through product.
Though the official acquisition of Visualhero by OST is very recent, the two companies began collaborating about five years ago, with OST initially drawn to the application of Visualhero’s “human-centered” design strategy
in its own software development practices.
“When we started working with Visualhero, we recognized the amount of energy and expertise they had in this area and how much value it provided in even just our customer engagement,” says Michael Lomonaco, director of marketing and communications at OST.
“It’s no big secret that IT is being challenged in ways that it has never been challenged before,” Lomonaco says. “Those traditions of what OST was built on and founded in with the data center and the cloud is obviously a piece of that — keeping lights on, high availability, disaster recovery — those things must continue and OST must continue to be a leader in those more enterprise technologies.”
However, Lomonaco says the once more distinguishable areas of design, data analytics, software development and a more recent Internet of Things are leaning increasingly on one another to provide the more enhanced user experience customers are seeking, and OST’s acquisition of Visualhero affords a more seamless alignment in strategy.
“More than acquiring new technology, it’s redefining our engagement and our service offerings and how they come to fruition and mature for our current and future customers, not to mention the product development side and that whole cycle,” he says.
Founded in 2005 by CEO Andy Van Solkema, who will now assume the role of Chief Designer at OST, Visualhero began building its reputation as leaders in human-centered design, or design thinking, as a response to businesses’ growing need for clarity in the management of more and more sophisticated technology.
Van Solkema says in the last decade, the service of human-centered design itself has changed, going from designing communication to objects to now what are becoming more complex systems enabled by technology.
“To define that you have to understand the two aspects of design,” Van Solkema says. “The aspect most people think of first is the one that’s visceral and object oriented, and that’s really evident in our U.X. space and depth of knowledge we have.
"However, the design thinking and human-centric design…We come in to define clarity, to help to define strategies that can then inform technology choices, and likewise on the feedback loop, the technology choices and level of expertise OST brings to the table with its data center can inform our design teams with insight from the market,” Van Solkema continues.
OST and Visualhero will continue to operate from their respective west side offices at 605 Seward Ave. NW
and 560 5th St. and maintain separate brand identities for the time being, though Lomonaco says OST did retain all 12 members of the Visualhero team in the acquisition.
However, both Lomonaco and Van Solkema say it’s not something as simple as shared office space that the partnership between the two firms is founded on — it’s a shared understanding of the complexity of what makes good design, and combined tools to make it happen.
“Good design is really not just about design; that it takes really smart business partners and their ability to allow us to create clarity for them and the really strong technology to enable those experiences, is really the whole basis of our motivation here and we’re really excited,” Van Solkema says.
This acquisition comes on the heels of another major announcement from OST, which the National Association for Business Resources just named as a “2015 Best and Brightest Company to Work For.” The accolade, which OST has landed two years in a row, was given to 101 top companies across the United States.
The winning companies were recognized in the January 14 online edition of Corp! Magazine. In addition, OST will be recognized at an awards gala on May 5, 2016 in Grand Rapids.
Written by Anya Zentmeyer, Development News Editor
Images courtesy of OST/Visualhero Design
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