18 S AC S TAT E M AGA Z I N E | Fa l l 2 014
Karin Hibma '75 (Art)
Owner of Cronan, the branding firm that launched
Tivo, Kindle and more
FIRST JOB: Art researcher for a Sacramento design firm
Sure, every business wants to be an innovator. Or to be known
for spurring innovation.
For Karin Hibma, innovation is mandatory.
"We have to be innovative. That's expected," Hibma says of
Cronan, the naming, identity and brand strategy firm she founded
with her late husband, Michael Cronan '74 (Art).
Businesses hire Cronan to assist in bringing a new product to
market or to reinvigorate existing ones. That process can range
from designing a visual identity to the actual naming of the item or
service—an exercise they performed for the digital video recorder
turned verb Tivo and the electronic "book" Kindle.
"We have a good track record," Hibma admits. "We focus on
identity in a way that will have a long-term impact on the success
of a client's business."
There's also a bit of mystery involved.
"We're often working on something the rest of the world won't
know about for a couple of years," Hibma says. "And we can't talk
about it until we get there."
In spite of Cronan's success, it's not always easy to get buy-in
from clients, especially with
older, more-established firms.
And that, Hibma says, is where
innovation, patience and a bit of
clairvoyance come in.
"Innovation is the ability to
challenge assumptions, see
things in a different way and
recognize patterns. You need to
be able to see around the next
corner and be comfortable with
making that turn, even when
you can't see how it turns out."
It also pays to not leap to
conclusions, avoiding the easy
or the obvious, Hibma says.
"If we're trying to fit them into
a formula, we're not going to be
Hibma notes while part of
the process includes understanding everything they can about the
product, sometimes it helps to not be an expert.
"A real benefit is often that we only half-understand what
they're really doing," she jokes. "That allows us to hear in fresh
"Innovation is the ability
to challenge assumptions,
see things in a different
way and recognize
patterns. You need to
be able to see around
the next corner and be
comfortable with making
that turn, even when you
can't see how it turns out."