The history of Triangle Park Creative can’t be told without a look at its Chief Park Ranger, Dan Nordley.
Co-ops and trucks
For Dan, wanting to help make the world a better place started and ended with a desire to do fun and worthwhile work. In 1975, at the age of 19, he suspended a stint at Macalester College to join the worker-collective that operated DANCe, the cooperative food distribution company that served the natural food co-ops in the Twin Cities and five-state area. Dan remembers, “The cooperative movement at that time was all about rejecting old paradigms and creating a healthier way to do business from scratch. So, we literally tried reinventing everything. Fortunately, as I was primarily a delivery person, we didn’t try reinventing the truck.”
Dan’s experience with cooperatives had a profound impact on him. “Cooperatives shaped my values. I was also married to an amazing person doing great work in the nonprofit sector. I learned how people could work together to create something mutually beneficial, and economically sustainable.”
But not quite sustainable enough for a guy with a family to support. Dan got lured to work for the truck leasing company that DANCe used.
Of Macs and men
With his vacation back pay, he made a fateful purchase of one of the first-generation Macintosh computers.
Besides playing games on it, Dan started toying with database and design software. “For someone who technically could not draw a circle, it was a chance to bring out my creative inner-self. I seemed to have some aptitude for it.” In 1988 he officially began desktop publishing, working out of his basement office, with its one little window, and dubbed the business MicroHorizons. His tagline at the time was “I got a Mac, and I know how to use it.”
The next year, Dan thought it would be helpful to take on his neighborhood’s monthly newspaper, The Seward Profile. “It’s a good thing I didn’t know how much work it would be. Finding advertising, laying out ads, figuring out stories, finding writers, editing, layout, billing… Basically, I’d say goodbye to my family on the last week of the month. But it was fun, and the paper started winning some gratifying awards.”
More people, more papers
After a few years, though, producing the paper solo got tiring and the pay was below minimum wage. Fortunately, Jill Myrom (later Mazullo), who was doing communications work for the Archdiocese of St. Paul, asked if she could help. She quickly became the editor and designer. About a year later, in 1995, The Southeast Angle, a similar paper on the other side of the Mississippi, was looking for a publisher. MicroHorizons won the contract, and Jill started working full-time. That same year, the Phillips neighborhood paper, The Alley, needed to replace its editor, and Dan added that paper to the mix. “None of the newspapers made any money, but they certainly gave us a sense of purpose.”
The design part of the business really started to take off between 1995–1997 with the addition of illustrator and designer Janice Perry and business manager Corinne Shindelar.
Outgrowing the basement
With six people and their dogs it got pretty hairy. “I think the initiative to reform the home-based business ordinance was inspired by us! So, when Seward Neighborhood Group and Seward Redesign moved out of their office at the then-Norwest Bank, we snatched it up.”
In 1998, the next big thing happened when Pat Thompson came on board. Pat replaced Janice and brought not only an astute design mind, but also a set of clients. Within the year, MicroHorizons grew enough to move into a suite three times the size of the offices in the back of the bank. We used the move as an opportunity to rebrand the business and (employing the window view technique again), chose the name Triangle Park Creative after the lovely wedge-shaped park across the street.
Fast forward to now
Today, Triangle Park Creative’s offices are brimming with 10 associates, and award-winning web design has become a mainstay of our services. Our client list of cooperatives, community development agencies, nonprofits, and assorted progressive enterprises is the envy of anyone who wants their work to have meaning.
“We aren’t really a design firm, per se. We are a collection of people intent on contributing our talent and resources to help make this world — the big one and small one — a better place. We believe if you do good work for good people, good things happen.”
So far, so good!