Origo Turns 35: A Conversation With Its Founder

November 9, 2020

An Interview Between Creative Director, Todd Novak, And Our Founder, Tommaso Ciaffoncini

In 1985, a young man from Italy named Tommaso Ciaffoncini started a design company in Columbus, Ohio. The idea that drove his new business venture? To create something beautiful and purposeful out of nothing.

Tommaso Ciaffoncini

It’s like cooking. The best food has never come from wealthy areas of the world where they have everything. It comes from places where people have little, but what’s created ends up being incredible. From there, it becomes this experience that connects people — and I think that we do the same through our business.

– Tommaso Ciaffoncini

Origo Branding Company started as a design agency 35 years ago with that simple ideology leading the way – to generate a positive impact in the world through creative strategy. And today, Origo has expanded to be one of the most respected creative and communications agencies in Columbus, winning national awards and partnering with Fortune 500 companies and community organizations that advance the well-being of people across the globe.

That success is because of Tommaso’s vision over the years. And now, as he continues to evolve his role as CEO of the agency, Tommaso is proud to lead a team of creative, strategic, and digital professionals, all carrying out the mission of Origo — making a positive difference for our partners and the people they serve.

Tommaso Ciaffoncini working

As the Creative Director of Origo, I find it compelling to learn from Tommaso’s wisdom and experience in the field. While I bring decades of experience working for global and national brands in multiple states, there’s still so much to gain from Tommaso’s leadership because he has truly experienced and led all aspects of the agency for over three decades. From managing client relationships and developing strategic plans to innovating Origo’s digital capabilities and guiding it through national recessions and global pandemics – there is not much Tommaso has not done. And he’s humble about it all, even with all of his widely celebrated creative campaigns that still thrive today.

That said, I am lucky enough to have Tommaso within reach. His office is right around the corner from me, and it is pretty standard for us to quickly become enthralled in discussions about the industry and the lessons that Tommaso’s learned along the way. He’s a fascinating, multifaceted leader and has been the agency’s north star since day one.

Since I met Tommaso, I was curious to know his thoughts on Origo’s future and the path that led to today.

So, I sat down and talked with the man who forged that path himself.

Tommaso Ciaffoncini and Todd Novak

Origo’s North Star 

I wanted to know what business principles have remained relevant through the years Tommaso has been running Origo.

“The main principle to be in a business like ours is that it can’t survive if we don’t continually innovate the way we serve our clients’ brands and push beyond what we know,” Tommaso said. “Creativity can be a powerful instrument to grow businesses, connect people, but most of all, make a vibrant society.”

And Tommaso is a walking example of that.

But, despite the things that remain relevant and constant, there have been changes.

Everywhere Tommaso goes, and in all he does, creativity permeates. From his artwork on the walls, his newest strategy for the agency, or his passion for the arts community, the man lives for the spirit of creativity.

– Todd Novak

Creating a Legacy of Strategy

Niche agencies who worked individually on advertising elements, from illustrations to writing to design, were commonplace when Origo started in 1985. But Tommaso knew that to serve all of his partners’ challenges and needs, he needed to create an all-inclusive agency. He worked on evolving the processes, services, and disciplines the firm could offer — providing a more comprehensive experience that would yield greater results for clients.

So Origo adapted and started to widen its expertise — adding web developers, media buyers, animators, and account managers to its roster. But he always remembered that the agency’s purpose was to be solving problems and innovating the way partners tackled their organizational goals through creativity.

“People who aren’t in this field think our jobs are just working with pictures and words all day. But it is so much more than that,” Tommaso said. “Our agency is filled with critical thinkers and people who understand that our mission is more than just being good at what we do. It’s about connecting with people and creating results for our partners. And that has always been what has created strong relationships for us, and why we still have our first client doing business with us to this day.”

The Ciaffoncini Spirit

Now, as the Creative Director of Origo, I am proud to steward the creative spirit he has cultivated. With this in mind, I wanted to know what excited him most about Origo’s future.

He said he was excited to have a team of people who are an extension of the business he and his wife, Diana, have built from the ground up. He and Diana have had the privilege of teaching their son, Alessandro, all of the lessons learned throughout the years – allowing him to confidently take on the President role for the agency’s future.

Tommaso and Diana Ciaffoncini

“I always wanted to make it my goal to have an experience and organization that embodies the beliefs, spirit, and philosophies that I had in mind when I started this agency 35 years ago,” Tommaso said. “And what excites me the most is that I think we are getting to that point.”

It’s true. Whether we are on the accounts team or are a creative through and through, every team member at Origo embodies kindness, creativity, inclusivity, and passion. We are displaying the “Ciaffoncini spirit” when we come into the office every day. When we work hard, stay late, and go the extra mile for a client, when we push one another to be better and make a difference.

As our time came to a close, I asked Tommaso what he’d say if he were sitting across the table from a version of himself from 35 years ago.

I learned not to fear change and always be evolving because even when you think you’ve thought through everything, there are a million more ways to do it successfully. And to always surround yourself with teams of talented and intelligent people who can help you grow, both personally and professionally.

– Tommaso Ciaffoncini

In his CEO role, he knows that there is still much to learn. But what’s even better is that he gets to entrust that knowledge with the people of Origo. And we come away changed because of that.

“We’ve built Origo to a point where it’s something bigger than just me,” Tommaso said. “Origo is going to survive beyond me.”