Black Mercury

Thinking small works better

We work with clients to build a strategy, then design a product experience using a finely tuned 
user-centered process.

That might sound like the same proposition that's at the heart of many  big "brand name" digital design agencies, so what sets us apart? Unlike many of the big shops, the senior creative principals at Black Mercury don't fade into the background once an engagement gets underway. John and Max are personally involved in every project from start to finish, from concept to sketch, from mood board to spec document. 

When they wore "corporate hats" as design team leaders over the years, they had the opportunity to hire some of the most talented (and pricey) product and web design agencies in the world. And it was frustrating. More often than not, they paid the big bucks only to see the Creative Directors and Strategy Leads disappear after the first preliminary review, replaced by a "B-Team" of minions with layers of "client management associates" getting in the way. Based on this experience, Max and John founded Black Mercury on the idea that a "micro-agency" could serve the needs of clients better. Not only because of the deep range of skills they bring to the table, but because they're engaged at every step in the process. And if you're wondering if the idea panned out, just ask a Black Mercury client. We're happy to furnish the contact information of any of the client leads shown in our portfolio, so you can ask them about their experience with Black Mercury versus other big agencies. 

Max has been considered an industry innovator ever since his designs for the first consumer video-on-demand system burst onto the scene in the mid-90's. As one of the lead creative forces in a telco joint venture poised to change how consumers get video programming, Max designed everything from the award-winning broadcast identity systems to the elegant on-screen user interfaces. Later, as the web began hatching new industries, Max co-founded his own digital design agency, CO2 Media. Clients like Philips/Magnavox, Discovery Communications, and National Geographic helped grow CO2 Media into one of the leading digital design agencies on the east coast. After several years, he realized he was spending much more time running a business than designing products, so he made the move back into hands-on design as Creative Director in AOL's Broadband Experiences group. After five years of leading strategic design initiatives that included AOL experiences on Sony Playstation, core AOL content sites, and even the vaunted "Welcome Screen", Max struck out on his own in 2008. For three years, he designed products in stealth mode for select clients under the name "mtwentythree" before co-founding Black Mercury with John Stewart in 2010.

Max McNeil
FOUNDER, Design Director


4 Best of Shows
3 Gold ADDYS
2 Judges Awards
2 Silver ADDYS
Mead Top 60 Award of Excellence in Graphic Arts
Gold and Silver Award in Print National Casebooks


Novum Graphik Magazine


Graphis Interactive Design
Taking Print to The Web
In Your Face 2
The Web
Websites, The Creative WOW


PJ arrived in the software product strategy and design space by way of an operating executive, having led businesses that developed and deployed web applications as vehicles to deliver B2B and B2C online services.  First at Fortune 500 Avnet, PJ led business initiatives to develop an online offering to address the engineering prototype market, launching an e-commerce site in 1999 and building a $10M business in 18 months.  Subsequently at Avnet, PJ joined a team developing an asset-free SaaS business for a $150M global telecom manufacturing supply chain.  After his tenure at Avnet, PJ jumped into the startup space where he served as a CEO and COO at Property Room and Commerce5. Here again his teams generated revenue by engineering and managing proprietary SaaS, mobile and e-commerce platforms.  Despite numerous successes, including the sale of a SaaS business for $45M, PJ felt that he had yet to meet technology innovators who shared his disdain for trade-offs between form and function:  great software should always deliver desired results with speed and an elegant UX. After a couple of years hunting for kindred spirits, PJ found the Black Mercury team in a design studio 12 minutes from his house.  Midway through their second project together, he joined Black Mercury as a third Partner.

PJ Bellomo
PArtner, Business Development