From 'PEDG' to 'Nimblist'

by Kevin M. Mitchell
in PLSN Interview
Pearl Jam at Chicago's Wrigley Field last summer. Photo courtesy Nimblist
Pearl Jam at Chicago's Wrigley Field last summer. Photo courtesy Nimblist

Spike Brant and Justin Collie Rebrand

Performance Environment Design Group (PEDG), noted for their creative work in the live event and installation world and currently designing the Bon Jovi tour, has rebranded.

Doug 'Spike' Brant

“We realized it was time to actually design our company, form it into what we want to represent and where we would like to go,” says Doug “Spike” Brant. “We wanted to come up with a new name that both represented and inspired us.”

If the “Nimblist” name is new, the partnership between Brant and Justin Collie is anything but; their alliance has already spanned 18 years. And they made the joint decision that their hearts and phone call queries were taking them beyond what the alphabetically formulaic “PEDG” moniker might suggest.

“The name Nimblist reflects our approach. It’s how we do what we do,” Collie says. “We have a deep commitment to our craft and are dedicated to creating memorable events and experiences for our clients.”

Among the many acts they have designed for are Beastie Boys, Beck, Mary J. Blige, Beyoncé, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Lil Wayne and Pearl Jam. Other work includes the NHL Winter Classic, NFL Kick Off, Pepsi Fan Jam and the first YouTube Music Awards. Major projects for large consumer and entertainment media brands include Nike, Syfy Channel and non-profits such as Robin Hood Foundation, David Lynch Foundation and the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research.

With offices in Lancaster, PA and Los Angeles and a total of 20. employees, they now look for challenges and partnerships that allow them to apply their skill set in boundless ways. “I don’t want to be limited — and with a name like ‘Nimblist’ we can do anything!” Brant says, with a laugh.

Justin Collie

Beginnings

“I’ve been doing this my entire adult life,” Brant says, of live event work. Raised in Arizona, he discovered lighting and audio to avoid singing in his parent’s church choir.

That experience evolved into getting a job with a local company and starting on the road as a lighting technician. Ironically, his first tour was on Bon Jovi in 1987, the sixth person on a five-person lighting crew. “I toured and toured and came up doing every crew job there was,” he says.

Collie says he “stumbled” into the business after being an electrician’s apprentice and getting a job at the then London-based Zenith Lighting (now based in Florida). In 1987, he landed on a Mötley Crüe tour, his first foray into the U.S. Later, on Def Leppard’s Hysteria tour, he met Brant. They clicked and became good friends, going on parallel career paths for a while.

However, when Brant needed an assist on a Korn show in 1999, he turned to Collie. The experience was productive and enjoyable, and the two decided to form a company together. In 2000, they founded ArtFag, which became PEDG in 2007.

“The original name became an issue, and we had to move on from that, and in the absence of any branding skills, we went with Performance Environment Design Group, which was originally our tagline,” Collie explains.

“We continued to grow and evolve, developing a much more diverse skill set allowing us to focus on a variety of work. We realized we needed a name more suitable to who we had become.” They hired Pentagram, a New York-based design consultancy, and arrived at Nimblist.

Brant says they are building a new company that is innovative and generative. Generative? “We’re not based on generating revenues for the ‘shareholder,’ as typically defined in the world of publicly held companies in the traditional business world,” Brant says. Collie adds they were inspired by the “generative” idea after reading Marjorie Kelly’s book, Owning Our Future: The Emerging Ownership Revolution.

The book encourages business owners not to focus exclusively on maximizing financial income, but create conditions for life for many generations to come. “It’s what we’re all about,” Collie says. “We make a profit, but that’s not our primary function — we want to provide an environment where employees have work/life balance and do work that they believe in.”

“At the end of the day we want to be part of something making the world a little better place,” Brant says. “We want to work with good people and for good causes, and we want to apply our skills and talents — [to] use our powers for good!” he says, with a smile.

Concert Touring and Beyond

In the concert touring world, there’s longtime client, Bon Jovi (see “Designer Insights,” page 32). The team first got the call to work with Bon Jovi in 2000, which Brant calls their “big break.” “We’ve been doing design work for them ever since,” Brant says. “We’ve gotten to do incredible things for them over the years, and that usually involves bringing in new technology.”

This tour is a bit different, though — it’s the first major tour that began without longtime guitarist Richie Sambora, who parted ways with the band during their “Because We Can” tour in 2013. Sambora’s replacement, Philip Eric Xenidis, a.k.a. Phil X, is now an official member of the band.

“We looked to what we’ve done in the past but wanted to be a little more efficient, plus have it be a good experience for the band,” Brant says. “When you walk into the arena for this one, you don’t know what is going to happen, because the stage is very clean. But there’s a lot of moving elements, and it’ll be more kinetic and dynamic.”

Interestingly, the new show will have little video. “People need a break from the g*d#$m screens!” They promise that the set will be constantly morphing into other things. “But in the end, it’s all about the music, and the band sounds better than it ever has.”

Collie says in addition to focusing on the concert touring segment, they are developing a diverse group of projects. Current and recent collaborations include a project with artist Simon Birch called 14th Factory, which is due to open this month for a six-week run in a former Chinese import/export factory in Los Angeles’ Glassell Park neighborhood. Nimblist also worked with the city of Houston in support of Super Bowl LI. Other collaborations include the design of Cher’s final residency in Las Vegas, with shows in February and May 2017, staged at the Monte Carlo casino’s 5,200-seat Park Theater venue, among others. And Nimblist is also supporting a number of charity events this year.

“We position ourselves as partners in helping clients get to the big picture,” Brant says. “We’re able to build something with them and fulfill a variety of roles that ultimately are design-centric.” Their permanent installation work is a newer area of focus, which both say is exciting for them. “Permanent installation work is intriguing, especially as technology evolves and allows a wider array of tools. Coming from a live/show business background, taking how that world uses videos, computers, LED, etc. and transposing that into an installation is exciting.”

For more information, please visit www.nimblist.com.