For as long as I can remember, I wanted to blend in. But with a name like Dharma—and growing up as the only family of Indian descent at a predominately white Catholic school in the early ’80s—conformity was an impossibility. Yet, I craved it more than anything.
Then I discovered design.
Design changed my life. It revealed a universe I never knew existed. It was this wonderful new realm where being different was something to celebrate. That idea blew my mind. It was a philosophy I needed to hear, and I fell in love with the practice instantly.
I spent the next two decades absorbing the industry, and eventually served as the Creative Director at DC’s two biggest branding and marketing agencies. Though I picked up invaluable skills in that time, I began to realize big agencies and brilliant creativity were often diametrically opposed objectives. Size and scale introduced complexities and challenges that made it exceedingly difficult to focus on creating transformative work.
So in 2015, I walked away from a comfortable role, and my partner Carin and I founded Contrast & Co. We set out to build one of the most unique branding agencies the world has ever seen. Eight years and substantially more gray hairs later (mine, not Carin’s), we have grown and surrounded ourselves with a jaw-droppingly talented team of strategists and creatives. And together we’re doing the type of work we always dreamed about.
Strong use of contrast is what makes good design great. It’s how brands stand out. It’s how ideas get remembered. Contrast is the foundational brick upon which our agency was built. It is a manifestation of what we believe—a monument to the passion and energy we bring to this industry.
But that’s only half of our name. The other half—& Company—is how we deliver. Our company is our team, and they are exceptional. You’ll be hearing more of their perspectives in future posts as well. Our company is our partners, also world-class. And of course, our company is our clients. They are the reason we exist, and we draw no distinction between their success and that of our own.
From our processes to our outcomes, we are a rejection of conformity. Growing up in the creative industry, we were led to believe that prominent client names and splashy brands were the ones to chase. That cachet and notoriety were critical ingredients for great creative work. They’re not. No disrespect to any agency out there, but big-name brands such as Nike and Gatorade are already cool. We don’t seek that kind of work.
Big-name brands such as Nike and Gatorade are already cool. At Contrast & Co., we’re driven by brands and organizations no one sees coming.
We create brands that shake expectations and rattle industry categories. So far, it’s working. Our strikingly different approach has enabled us to infuse award-winning creative solutions into the most unexpected of categories. We’ve redefined the legal regulatory space. Infused vivid new energy into e-discovery. Brought a life-saving medical device to the top of the market. The brands we create have helped unify organizations. They’ve helped propel highly visible and well-backed industry startups. They’ve helped organizations redefine their industries. And we’re still just warming up.
That’s a bit more of our story, at least for now. This is Contrast & Co. today, an agency unlike any other. Here, conformity is not the answer. It is the enemy. True creative solutions are usually buried far beneath the predictable—and that is exactly the space you will find us exploring.