Brent Long

6 is the Magic Number

Fusion’s history goes back 28 years. At 50 years old, that’s more than half of my life invested in this studio. My work and life balance hasn’t been so much a separation of the two, but interwoven experiences revolving around people. Great (and not-so-great) creatives, great (and not-so-great) clients, and so many friends, family, suppliers, mentors, etc. All of these individuals have helped shape Fusion into what it is today.

The story behind how Fusion started is a simple one. Two Sheridan College Graphic Design program friends approached me a few years after leaving school, at a New Year’s Eve party. They asked if I was interested in helping start a design firm. I said “yes”. That was it. I didn’t need convincing. I had always wanted to run my own business, and this was an opportunity to make that happen. Within nine months (September of 1995), we had registered a partnership and started working from Norm Hay’s parents’ basement. Two of the three of us still had full time jobs, so we would do our 9 to 5, and then head to Norm’s to work another five or six hours on Fusion’s projects. All we did was work. Even the vacation days we took from our other jobs were used for meetings with clients and press approvals. We were young. And driven. And passionate. We loved every minute of it.

The next big step for Fusion came in 1999 when we went from three partners to two. I quit my day job, and Norm and I moved into a townhouse at King and Adelaide in downtown Toronto. The plan was to live AND work from there for two years and hope that we could grow the business, pay our rent and other overhead, and have a little left over for food (and wine). In those two years, we did indeed grow. We hired our first full time employee. In 2000 we incorporated. We were actually making it happen. We were living our dream!

Brent and Norm in the Liberty Village office.

After two years (as planned), we moved into an office in Liberty Village. From 2001 to 2008 we worked from an office building in the King/Dufferin area of Toronto. We went from a team of three to four to five in a few years, including Sarah Prouse and Sarah Falzon. At one point we even had seven. We had to learn quickly about hiring, and even more importantly, about firing. In the beginning we believed that as long as we did great creative, and treated our clients well, that money would flow in automatically. But we learned that administrative tasks, cash flow, accounting, and financial planning, are as important as the work that you’re doing, no matter how well you’re doing it. When 2008 came, the bottom fell out of the economy. We weren’t ready. Things turned upside down pretty quickly. We were deeply in debt. Norm made the hard decision to leave Fusion. Sarah Prouse and I moved out of the office and into the basement of my bungalow in Markham. Sarah Falzon began visiting once a week from her home in Stouffville to do bookkeeping, but more importantly for a drink and someone to talk to. My wife and I had just had our first child. So, in a weird turn of events, I would be at home for my wife’s maternity leave. And a really shitty time became a blessing in disguise. Not that Fusion didn’t have a long road ahead of it. We took almost five years to work our way back to a healthy balance sheet.

Our first basement office in Markham.
Our second basement office, Brent’s bright green room!
Little Marcus (Brent’s son) hanging out in the main area of the basement office.

We built our team back up over time, too. From three, to four, to five and then six. That seems to be our magic number. We’ve had a team of six for almost a decade. Including Sarah and Sarah. Still. We’ve operated out of my basement for that same amount of time. A basement fully renovated to BE an office. With workstations and a conference room, etc. It was cost-effective and a great place to work together every day. Lots of great work was done. Lots of fun was had. And then COVID…

Sarah P. and her son Ethan, working AND attending SK at home in 2020.

From 2020 through 2022 we were lucky. Our clients, being mostly larger corporations, didn’t take long to adapt to their new way of working, and our workload remained fairly status quo. We did have some shifting of both clients (moving from one place to another), as well as changes within our own team. As sad as I am to see team members leave us, I’m proud that Fusion is able to nurture younger designers, who grow and evolve into prospects for great opportunities elsewhere. We then embark on the adventure of finding new people. And they, too, become part of our amazing little group, mixing in their own experiences, capabilities, and personalities. As of this post, our team consists of a great group of… you guessed it, six members. Our Fusion family.

Natasha, Melissa, Sarah F., Brent and Elmira in the conference room.

From three, to four, to five and then six. That seems to be our magic number. We’ve had a team of six for almost a decade.”

The Fusion team