The other side of the door. | Studio Alto | Brand Design Agency in Melbourne


The other side of the door.

Andrew O'Keeffe   |   Image by Eunice Yip

Part two of a two part journey into ‘Rediscovering Purpose’.
Missed the first part? Read Worst. Client. Ever. Here.

As one door closes, others open.

. . .

We came into the process of repositioning Alto in the knowledge that we couldn’t go on being everything to everyone. We had to change.

We had to close a few doors, and at the same time needed a reason to knock on new ones.

Depending on how you arrived at this article, you might have already sniffed out our reason for being – it says it right there on our homepage and in the site footer. So if you did, sorry for the spoiler and high-fives to you for being so observant. If not – here it comes:

Alto specialise in creative brand, marketing and communication design for the education and knowledge sector. We connect people with knowledge, and knowledge with people.

With this statement we’re crossing the threshold from being a generalist agency, to a specialist for the education and knowledge sector.

What does that even mean? Why did we do it? And how did we get there?

Let’s break it down.


Here’s the sales pitch:

What we do

We connect education and training providers with people, to get the knowledge they need to succeed in work and life.

We connect academic research and innovation with markets, to benefit individuals and society.

How we do it

We build and transform brands, and create campaigns that boost awareness, attract and inspire.

Who we do it for

From local start-ups to global institutions, from traditional to online, we work with brands who strive to innovate, are driven to deliver exceptional experiences and aren’t afraid to stand out in the education and knowledge economy.

Why we do it

We believe ‘Knowledge is powerful’.

We believe ongoing learning plays a powerful role in a person’s life of work, their happiness, well-being and contribution to the world.

We believe the education and knowledge sector drives economic growth, innovation and social advancement.

Sales pitch over. Now time for some insight.

Wait – but why?

Why education and knowledge sector? We’ve worked on great projects, with great clients so far and we want to continue the journey.

Our very first client was a university student association. Our education about education started there.

The first major insight: Green Week isn’t an environmental week, it’s more of a drink-until-you-are-the-colour-of-the-cans-you’re-drinking-from kinda vibe. Who knew? #alwayslearning



Since those heady days, we’ve organically built up a body of work, knowledge, relationships and expertise in and around the education sector.

But when we pulled apart what we had done, it wasn’t just education and it wasn’t just institutions. Our work to date has covered a vast spectrum of clients in the learning and knowledge ecosystem from brand, marketing and user interface design for a local music learning software start-up, to designing a disruptive engagement campaign to shape the future of a 100 year old institution, to designing an information campaign around enterprise-bargaining.


Why do we even care? We’re actually interested – dare we say passionate – about it.

Knowledge is powerful – Part 1

What has more impact on an individual’s life than what they learn? And not just the traditional path of learning to get a job, but lifelong learning.

The average person will spend approximately 60 years working towards, or working in, their career. That is the majority of your life. Like it or not, life is work.

We believe that satisfaction in your life’s work is the key to happiness. As well as being fairly rewarded, people want to feel valued, useful and gain a sense of pride and achievement from their work.

How can we connect the right people with the right knowledge so that they get the education they need to succeed in work and life? So they ‘never work a day’, while making valuable contributions to the world around them?

Knowledge is powerful – Part 2

Equally, we believe in the power of the education and knowledge sector to drive economic growth, innovation and social advancement.

As economies shift from growing, making and digging up things, to thinking about things, traditional learning institutes are changing their relationships with their communities. Once hidden behind sandstone walls, knowledge is now more accessible than ever before.

How can learning institutes better communicate, integrate, and engage with industry, government and community? And how will non-institutional learning shape future minds?


We’re excited about the opportunities in the rapidly changing sector.

The way that learning ‘works’, and the role that knowledge providers and creators play in the future is unclear. We believe it will be more accessible, diverse, collaborative, vibrant and creative than ever before. One things we do know – there will be robots.



We’re currently in the midst of the fourth industrial revolution and new jobs are appearing as fast as old ones disappear.

What’s more, it’s now predicted that the average 15 year old will have 17 jobs across five different careers throughout their lifetime.

Each new job and career will require new skills, knowledge or training. Education is no longer just the stage you go through before you get into the ‘real-world’ of work, it’s a lifelong pursuit.

How can we best prepare people for a life of work and learning? What does this shift mean for learning brands? How can they attract, engage and retain students over a lifetime of learning, rather than just pre-career?

When we talk about one door closing, others opening, this is what we mean. The opportunities are endless.

Wait – but how?


As obvious as it might seem now, it wasn’t a lightbulb moment. It’s been a long journey. Simplicity is complex.

We modelled multiple possible futures, focussing on areas of strength, experience and knowledge. Do we pursue our work with innovators – the start-ups and social enterprises? Our history in user interface and user experience design? Our work in the arts and cultural sector, or in education and knowledge?

We tested them for viability in terms of business model, resourcing, and how interested we actually were in pursuing them.

We post-it noted it, coffeed it, rode it, tossed it and turned it. We bounced off mentors and as we got closer, prototyped and tested the idea with our market – taking both positive and negative feedback to help better shape our offering.

It’s not over, we’ve only just begun. We believe that constant iteration and innovation is the only way to create real difference and real value in a competitive market.

Which brings us to today.

From today we’re using all that experience, passion and excitement as a platform to launch our journey to become the leaders in the education and knowledge sector.

We’ve gone from being our own worst client to being purpose-led. We’re more energised, focussed and strategic than ever.

We finally have something to say, and someone to say it to.


Now that we’ve started chattering just try and stop us. If you’re interested in hearing more, sign up to the Alto Report below.