HEIST is done: another Toronto design agency calls it quits

HEIST logo

A shockwave went through the Toronto tech community when it learned that globally recognized design agency Teehan+Lax was shutting down as its partners joined Facebook.

“Heist are the company I would watch out for.”
– Jon Lax

In an exclusive interview with founding partner Jon Lax at that time, we asked which Toronto design companies he thought would carry the torch. “Heist are the company I would watch out for,” Lax said. “Nathan Garvie is such a talented designer and the whole team are young and have huge upside.”

Earlier today, Heist announced on its website that the company was winding down.

“Someone told us early on that every service company is three months away from going out of business,” the statement reads. “Today, our three months are up.”


Following what has now become a bittersweet tradition, Heist Founding Partner Christopher Hayes has taken to Medium to articulate lessons learned by the company in hindsight. Here’s some of what he had to say:

“Most of the companies we’ve had the chance to meet recognize the need to prioritize their customer experience, and they know it takes a new approach to do that well in today’s multichannel world. But few are ready to act, which created sales cycles that were too long to be tenable for an agency of our size to support.

“While our hypothesis that companies are changing how they design customer experiences has proven true, the small agency model we prototyped to help them do it hasn’t shown to be a sustainable response to that change.”

While there are still many companies thriving on Jon Lax’s list of notable Toronto design companies, Hayes point on the current viability of the small agency model resonates.

Speaking about T+L, Lee Dale, co-founder of SayYeah, told BetaKit this in January, “It’s a tremendous loss for Toronto having a world-class design agency close its doors, but there’s an opportunity here, while the spotlight shines on Toronto (perhaps all too briefly), for the rest of the design community to show the world that Teehan+Lax was not the lone light here.”

Hopefully, the window of opportunity for the Toronto design community is still open. Regardless, there’s a lot of great talent now available in Toronto.

Update: After reaching out to Hayes, he wanted readers to know that “the design research tool we recently launched (fieldguideapp.com) will continue to live on. We’ve bootstrapped it so far and seen great early traction but will be looking to raise money to continue development.”

Douglas Soltys

Douglas Soltys

Douglas Soltys is the Editor-in-Chief of BetaKit and founder of BetaKit Incorporated. He has worked for a few failed companies and written about many more. He spends too much time on the Internet.

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