How a Branding Agency Was Built Through Career Passion

The three Centerfold Principals: Nick, (left) Pearson, (middle) Tim, (right)

*Centerfold is a proud partner of Front Office Sports.

In eighth grade, Centerfold Principal Nick Irwin knew his future would lie in the design and branding world after winning the class logo design contest. Irwin, a UNC Charlotte graduate, used internships and his experience to his advantage in landing his first job in that exact career field.

“I scored an internship at a local global branding agency named Addison Whitney, then landed my first gig there as soon as I got my diploma,” Irwin said.

After eight years in the everyday workforce, and hundreds of branding projects later, Irwin broke away with Tim Rebich and Pearson Cunningham to launch Centerfold.

“Our goal was to set forth a new vision of an agency built on a foundation of doing great work for awesome clients,” Irwin said.

Building any business involves investing time, manpower and money to bring about one factor. Irwin refers to this as identity. Creative identity goes the distance, and Centerfold is one of most recognizable design and branding agencies in Charlotte, N.C., the 17th largest U.S. city.

“We constantly look inward to make sure our outer persona matches what we want it to be,” said Irwin, who knows focusing heavily on the day-to-day is a grind itself, and takes more thought to step back and focus on the organization’s bigger picture.

To be a stand-alone, values and work ethic must stick out from the rest of the competition. Centerfold focuses on the future and maintains honest work channeling its mantra: “Work Hard Work,” coined by client Jay Bilas.

“While we’re all incredibly competitive, that doesn’t stop us from appreciating all the great work that happens in our industry,” Irwin said. “And we never rest on any laurels.”

The three Centerfold principals have known each other for a long time, and it’s that factor that keeps the team close-knit and true to each other in their business and personal facets.

“What’s great about the three of us, however, many times we might disagree on a subject, but we all have the same goal to strengthen Centerfold,” said Irwin.

As principals, each serves a different managerial role, vital to the functionality of the company each day. The small nature of Centerfold’s company allows them to develop fervent relationships with their clients, otherwise unforeseen in the corporate world.

“We relish the opportunity to get to know our clients to a level beyond stereotypical client or agency conversations,” said Irwin. “It drives what we are all about.”

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Centerfold recently worked with the Jay Bilas Skills basketball camp in rebranding its identity to reflect their approach to the dedication of the game and skill development. Their relationship based on honesty and attention to detail proved well, as the rebrand was a success.

“Be honest with each other and the work you produce will reflect those values,” added Irwin.

As any industry is aware, Irwin is not ignorant of the fact that the scope of the design and branding agency will change over the years, and Centerfold must adapt.

“It truly is a matter of being in front of those and determining if it’s right for a client or not,” said Irwin on trend and style evolution. “The fusion of tech and brand will continue to grow over the next decade, companies, especially in sports, that don’t realize it will be left behind.”

Whether adaptation comes in the form of expanding to new cities or increasing employee roles, Irwin notes the team is rooted in Charlotte, N.C., and believes the right opportunity will present itself for future roles.

*Centerfold is a proud partner of Front Office Sports.