Brian Grabell & Troy Monroe Stick Together

Brian Grabell and Troy Monroe seem to like to stick together. They work together at co:lab in Hartford. They’re both on the Executive Board of the Connecticut Art Directors Club. And before that, they’ve collaborated on multiple campaigns for the CADC, and worked together at Outthink.

Their style and work seems to join together and loop around and mutate and feed off each other. At co:lab, roles seem not to be distinguished; from Creative Director to Art Director to Designer to Illustrator, credits are most often listed simply as “co:lab.”

Also shared between them is a notorious sense of humor and irony. With that in mind, conncreatives thought it would be a good idea if they interviewed themselves.

True to form, they one-upped us, coming back with an Instant Message conversation in all its unedited and slightly random splendor. From what we can figure out, “studioincognito” is troy and “berenger gable” is Brian. The rest, you’re on your own.


i need to select some tunes and we’ll get going on this, suggestions?

Berenger Gable

dane cook


the kooks, parlor mob or lil’ wayne?

Berenger Gable

lil’ wayne
peep this though:


sounds sweet, sorta a white stripes feel

Berenger Gable

aight…. so, jeff, er… I mean troy…
you went to hartford art school right?


we need a moderator to do this, keep the pace…

Berenger Gable

maybe your mom could moderate
sorry, that was uncalled for


yeah went to HAS, graduated in 2003.
You graduated same year right?

Berenger Gable

yes in 2003, not from HAS.
i know i’ve never told you this before,
but did you know that i also applied to HAS?


you applied there? I never knew that

Berenger Gable

i went to the college of saint rose, but my fellow design cronies and
i say that we went to picotte university rather than st. rose because
picotte is the name of the art building


we could have been classmates, which would have started this whole
relationship 4 years earlier

Berenger Gable

i had to go back for another portfolio review, but i didn’t like the
dude. weird, right?


yeah, luckily mark snyder did my portfolio review. After I toured the
campus (mostly the art school) it felt right and I only applied a few
other places in case I didn’t get in.

Berenger Gable

my mom made me apply to like 65 colleges
she wanted me to be a teacher


my mom just wanted me to be able to support myself with art so design
was a professional career she could get behind. The only stipulation
in applying was I couldn’t go to New York. Looking back she probably
realized New York would have been a big distraction to my education.

Berenger Gable

sorry, i just bought an album off of iTunes
i need help

i still want to teach though, i think she had a correct read on my
personality, but it wasn’t until being in design school that i
realized i wanted to teach design
preferably typograpy
i wish these typefaces in aim were snazzier


yeah, teaching has always been a goal of mine. finding the right fit
would be important, along with having the time to do it.

so after school you worked a few places and ended up at outthink
eventually, right? what did you learn along the way?

Berenger Gable

i’ll stick to my design related jobs… considering this is a design-
based interview… clever right?

i worked at a small joint in bridgeport called the voice. it was
fine. first job. when i wanted to jet from that place, i posted my
resume on aiga and after a week or two i got an email from sue, the
creative director at outthink. after experiencing my deadly charm
during the interviews, i was obviously hired.

i say obviously, because it is a fact that i worked at outthink and
that is where we first worked together.

though, we actually met at a cadc function, i believe it was through
sue at the holiday party right before you started.

as far as learnings, the most profound things that i learned were
always clichés coming true… such as honesty is the best policy, and
the only time that almost counts is with horseshoes & hand grenades.
my design skills grew in tandem with my personality & spirit. the
better i understood my self, the stronger my creativity got.

my creativity is diesel. like a leopard.

what was your design life like pre-outthinking?


sorry dude, client call, gotta send out a PDF on the fly.

Berenger Gable



I can’t tell if lil’ wayne is genius or is out of his mind

Berenger Gable

he walks a line.


so I started out after school in fairfield county at Connecticut
Magazine as an assistant art director — same thing, first job,
learning the ropes. I had this dream of being the next DJ Stout. Next
stop was Group C in New Haven where I realized the potential of the
small studio environment. Worked with a few alums from Hartford and
created a lasting relationship with the talented Peter Stockmal.

Berenger Gable

that dude is mighty talented.
and kinda crazy, but that is how i like ’em.


At that point I met Sue through CADC and luckily scored a portfolio
review. After a few meetings and some persistance I was happy to be
offered a position. Day one, outthink that’s when the seed was planted.

Then you left outthink to go to outhouse (the next logical step would
have been the outer banks) and I stayed at outthink for another 5 or
6 months, which is when we landed at co:lab.

Berenger Gable

yes, i did scoot from the outthink scene. i felt that i needed a
change and i wanted to try my hand at something new.

i emailed michael at outhouse and set up an interview.
got the job and worked on some funky stuff, but i was presented the
opportunity of a lifetime and i took it… that being co:lab.


tell me a little about why you came to co:lab and what your role is
(other than sitting in front of me and taking creepy pictures in mac
photo booth that always capture the top portion of my balding head).

Berenger Gable

is there really anything else to talk about?

well, my role is that of being myself.


which you do well, most of the time

Berenger Gable

work hard. be creative. have fun.

there is an embracing or raw creative force here, that i’ve never
encountered elsewhere.

i’ve been fortunate to work at great shops, but this is different.
maybe it just is the perfect fit.

hah, co:lab is my glass slipper.
i’m cinderella.

studioincognito disconnected

studioincognito connected

studioincognito disconnected

studioincognito connected


alright there twinkle toes…there’s a commitment to idea at co:lab
that feels similar to the approach in college. Learning and concept
drive creative. Rich pushes an idea further than anyone I’ve worked
with. It’s something I envy and I’m trying to learn.

Berenger Gable

fo sho
i’d say you’re doing very well here.

what’s more is that i think the three of us push each other further
than most people do. at least creatively.

the brainstorming {lab} aspect of co:lab is quite unique.
so why / how do we work so well together?


it’s a different environment. I think it takes a certain personality
type to work in this office. You have to be strong enough to back
your ideas but stay humble to understand a good idea that may not be
yours. Most firms talk about collaboration but there’s a sense of
pride in the group here, we understand our strengths and weaknesses
and are very open with each other. The self reflection creates the

Berenger Gable

you have to be willing to erase. and then start over.


I think first and foremost our honesty and trust with each other has
driven the relationship. The Design Ain’t Pretty campaign for CADC was a
valuable experience in my development because for the first time I
didn’t hold on to an idea as my own. There was a lot of letting go
that happened with that series of work.

Berenger Gable

it was also down & dirty. with all the tracing, erasing, screen

it was pure & honest. we put ourself out there.



When I was younger a teacher scolded me for “drawing with the eraser”
when I worked with graphite. There’s something satisfying in starting
with your darkest point on the paper and pulling back. To me that
idea is very representative of my process.

Berenger Gable

working here is the most that i’ve been in my sketchbook since i was
a kid that discovered i could draw.


Yeah the Design Ain’t Pretty campaign also was the first time we addressed the
creative community and attempted to create a unified understanding that
deep down we all deal with the same issues.

You do sketch a lot and at times I’m jealous of the conversations
that take place between you and the black book. Somewhere in there
lies one of our greatest differences. I talk too much. At times you
talk too little.

Berenger Gable

until i get a beer or two up in me.


This is true. Then you turn into the life of the party, until you
fall asleep at the bar. Those are the times when I learn the most
about you. Like your design influences and such.

Berenger Gable

you’re right.
we should put a bar in co:lab.


I think it’s really funny that we never have beer in the fridge. It
might be a wise investment.

Berenger Gable

anyway… i’d say the he most important thing i’ve learned from you
is to speak on it.



Berenger Gable

too often i’ll not say what is on my mind and bury it in the
sketchbook or the poor soul i cut off on my commute back to the bpt.
i’ve learned to “speak on it.” if i think something is off, say that
i think it is off.

which brings me to our biggest fight.
that time you made me pick a beer for you.



I think working with you has inspired me to look deeper. I tend to
get obsessed with pockets of inspiration and stop looking at the big
picture. Life influences design and I’ve learned to take it all in.

Yeah that’s a fun game to play with a crowd. It helps that we have
similar tastes in beer. That and you know I punch jaws if you order
any white wheat beer.

Berenger Gable

this is true.


So here’s a question that the people want to hear an answer to: With
all this creative freedom we have a co:lab, who / what influnces your
concepting and execution?

Berenger Gable

music. the beach. wine. caffeine. designers i’m jealous of. annuals.
wine. advertising. fine art. books i’m reading. covers of books i’m
not reading. whenever somebody shoots me an email and says “check his
out.” wine. student portfolios. whenever my dad rips out an article
in the times for me. pretty much everything is an influence.
i like to have a glass or two of wine when i’m sketching too.
oh and movie intro / credits. moving typography.


I’d have to put music up there at the top, along with designers who
challenge not just the creative community but those that change
client’s perspectives on what design is. I find a ton of inspiration
in my wife and the way she keeps me grounded. You and Rich inspire me
to spend more time thinking and digging because there’s always
another level.

People inspire me. That’s the reason I try to stay involved with CADC
and AIGA. We’re all individuals but our perspectives and experiences
shapes each other, whether we care to slow down and notice or not.
There’s a need in Connecticut to feel like we’re part of something
bigger. I think we need to get closer and recognize the talent here
and help each other develop, instead of insulating our precious ideas.

studioincognito disconnected

studioincognito connected

Berenger Gable

having a community is very important. we, as creatives, have an
opportunity to do right by our abilities.

having a creative community is a must, but what is also a must is our
involvement with the community. the people who don’t know the
differences between 10 & 12pt type.


I’m proud to be working in connecticut and wince when I see
complacency in the community. There’s this idea that we’re doing work
good enough to deserve our position between new york and boston. I
get excited seeing connecticut designers on the national stage
because chances are it’s someone I’ve had a chance to meet and even
talk with (because of the small size of the state). We all benefit
from that supportive environment.

Berenger Gable

it is important to help others. regardless of what your profession
is. though our profession allows us to impact a great deal of people.
i like where i live & work and couldn’t think of a better place to
be. for me at least.

i’m tired.
did we miss anything? interview wise that is.


I think we touched on it all. I’m sure there will be edits.
copy and paste into an email?

Berenger Gable



Amy Graver
Amy Graver 9.30.08

Hi Boys. That was awesome. Love you’re biggest fan, Amy

dad 10.1.08

mom is going to kill you. bye.

mj 10.2.08

Neither of you need wine at work!
I need a job like yours.

Ellen 10.6.08

things I never knew about Art!

Big diff between Art and Healthcare…Erasers are not an option!

cleave 10.6.08

yeeha boys. nice interview

Margaret 10.9.08

wow… i love youse guyz!!!

Vaughn 3.20.09

awe. cute.

Dan 7.14.09

I’m a Brew City fella, but was born and lived a brief part of my life in Connecticut…as of late, I’ve felt a pull to head back to my roots. Been researching the creative community out there. It’s interviews like this that make my mouth water. Seems like this group really has their stuff together. This Milwaukee guy is jealous…hopefully not for too long. Nice interview guys.

marill 4.26.11

banklaan – Bank laan and money another blog finance and similar topics

Leave A Response


To add your spiffy picture or avatar to your comments
(for this and many other blogs), visit