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VOL. 129 | NO. 147 | Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Simple Focus Owner Forms Management Company

By Andy Meek

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The arrival of his digital product design company’s fifth birthday finds Simple Focus owner JD Graffam in a different position from where his firm started out in 2009.

In addition to cultivating a digitally savvy crew with a focused skill set for Simple Focus, Graffam also has spent his time folding other digital companies into his enterprise as acquisition opportunities have presented themselves. And now, he’s launched a new management company to wrap those related business interests under one umbrella to oversee their management.

Graffam Cos. is the new multi-disciplinary design management company based in Memphis that he’s started. It has offices in Memphis and Portland, Ore., it advises startups and businesses around the world, and it also oversees four businesses.


Those four businesses are Simple Focus, Graffam’s company that focuses on usability and user experience for global brands; Project List, a project management tool that teams use to track and monitor the health of their projects; Pulse, a cash flow management app for businesses; and Deluge Studios.

The latter is an interactive and marketing firm based in Memphis with a 12-year history. Graffam Cos. acquired Deluge Studios in April following a lunch between the owner and Graffam, both of whom discovered similar philosophies about office culture and how they believe in treating clients.

Further underscoring their coincidental connections, they even shared the same CPA.

“We went our separate ways, and a week later he called me and asked if I’d be interested in acquiring his business,” Graffam said. “When I made the decision to acquire Deluge, I thought this is a way for Simple Focus to further distinguish its specialties of Web apps and digital product design – and still offer small- and medium-sized businesses locally and nationally these sorts of small-business marketing website needs, which I know how to do.

“Deluge Studios has been around Memphis doing really good work as a small Web design company, focused on marketing, website, SEO and content management and all those other things for 12 years. Now, I’m able to run these as separate businesses.”

Moreover, the separate teams at Simple Focus and Deluge Studios can also now benefit each other by “cross-pollinating,” making both stronger in the process, he said.

Graffam Cos.’ founder, meanwhile, is a past president of the Memphis chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts. He’s also a graduate of the New Memphis Institute, and a mentor with the Memphis Grizzlies Foundation, among other things.

Graffam also speaks nationally about creative leadership and user experience and has written a book, “CSS for Print Designers.”

Simple Focus’ client list includes companies like Grooveshark, Boat Trader and CrossBrowserTesting.com. Among its other purposes, Simple Focus designs and develops Web apps and, as an interface design company, wants to make sites and apps easy to use.

Along those lines, its capabilities include eye-tracking. Say, for example, a hotel has a website it wants to make sure users can find things on, and the designer has a few options on where to place something like a “compare hotel rooms” button.

Eye-tracking capability can help a company make an informed design about where the user is looking for something and where they expect it to be.

“As Simple Focus has gotten more concentrated on Web app and digital product design, one of the things we realized is I’m turning away good work, that we’re good at,” Graffam said, citing increased demand for the company’s services.

The addition of the companies to Graffam Cos.’ stable should help with that. It’s all about, Graffam says, “creating small, profitable businesses that create jobs and grow and grow and grow.”

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