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Enjoying the thrill of the unexpected with Austin Lane | #GettingToKnow

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You might have seen BLVR’s Compton Cowboys campaign for Andis – ‘an unusually tender, insightful work for a barbering campaign’ – ECD Austin Lane led the creative vision on this.

Photography, painting, drawing, and filming were all early passions that eventually led him to a career in design and advertising. Now at BLVR, he helps start-ups, challenger brands and category leaders uncover the beliefs that make their organisation special, inspiring, and most of all, worth believing in.

With over a decade of experience in the industry, he’s worked with a wide range of clients including The North Face, Vessel, Polaris, Coors, and Victory Motorcycles. He’s been recognised by countless awards such as One Show, Adweek and the ADC awards, while his artwork has been exhibited throughout the US and often explores the line separating perfection and imperfection.   

So, let’s get to know him a little better, shall we?

Tell us a bit about your role! Is there a “typical” day?

I start every day with a 5:30am wake up. I meditate for 20 minutes, then get some exercise in. I then have about 30 minutes before our three kids start waking up, and in that time I’m making coffee, digging into a book or magazine for some quick inspiration. Then it’s making breakfast and chilling with the family before school.

After school drop off, it’s time to start the workday. Every day starts with a playlist and jumping right into communication with the team. During this time, I’m connecting with the creative team, the other directors, and any of the department leads outside of creative on a number of projects. The afternoon is usually about creative reviews and 1:1 meetings. This is a great time to connect on overall well-being, current inspirations and anything work-related.

I’m always trying to make myself available for the team for creative input, collaboration and any moments for mentorship. Mid-afternoon, I try to meditate for another 20 minutes. I’ve found that this really allows me to slow down and focus to close out each day.

Let’s be honest though, no two days are ever the same, so I just do my best to roll with everything keeping in mind that if I don’t prioritize some of my own practices, then that affects my ability to be the best leader, teammate, partner, and mentor possible. 

What was the biggest challenge in getting to your current position?

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You know, I never wanted to be in advertising. Or at least I did not know I did. I was always making creative things with friends and it wasn’t until the end of my sophomore year in college that I made a choice to focus on design and advertising.

I started from the bottom and worked my way up. From intern to designer to art director to senior art director to ACD to CD to ECD. So, I guess there was the grind aspect of it that always presented a challenge. I’m really hard on myself personally and professionally, holding a high bar. Perfectionism can be great in many ways, but it can also drive you a little crazy if you let it. I’ve had to find a balance of pushing and letting go throughout my career and still to this day, it’s hard at times, but I have way more control over it then I used to.

It's important to put in that grind though. For me, it is always about trying to learn, improve and create kick-ass work to put out into the world. Now, I’m working hard to grow as a leader and take everything I’ve learned throughout my path to instill that into the team so they can make their mark in their own unique way.

What is your personal background and what role did it play in your career?

Born in Texas. Then to Florida. To Pennsylvania. To Georgia. To Colorado. To California. So, I’ve bounced around a good bit growing up and again for my career. Throughout my life, I’ve been fortunate enough to always have very creative friends. I always loved the arts as well; drawing, painting, filming, photography, music… you name it.

A love of basketball also allowed me to tap into a different aspect of creativity and really learn a lot about teamwork. Honestly, skateboarding and snowboarding shaped a lot of who I am. Those two outlets ultimately influenced me to start creating things for myself and other brands.

What is your biggest career-related win? What is your biggest loss?

I’ve had a lot of work-related wins that have resulted in awards and amazing life experiences. My biggest career-related win however, was getting paired up with my copywriter partner when I was an art director.

We randomly got paired up for a big rebrand project. We had never worked together before, but we instantly found that perfect synergy. We formed an amazing friendship, a next-level work partnership and he was a huge influence on my evolution as a creative. We created amazing work together and shared so many life experiences through the travel surrounding a lot of those projects.

My biggest loss was losing him to cancer in 2020. He was a brother to me, and we spent pretty much every minute together, Monday to Friday, for close to 10 years. He was a one-of-a-kind human. He was always the sharpest one in the room. He didn’t give a shit. He broke boundaries. He never hesitated to stop his whole day to connect with somebody on the team. He always made the work better. He was a legend and I miss him every day.

Which individuals and/or agencies do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?

I’ve followed so many agencies and small shops throughout my career. All for different reasons, but obviously, for the work. The work that I see and say, “I wish I did that.” There’s almost too many to list. When it comes to the individual side of things, my heroes inside the industry are all the mentors and friends that I’ve met and jammed with throughout my career.

If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?

Fashion designer. Hotelier. Farmer.

Fashion designer: I love all aspects of fashion, and I’ve been into clothes since I was a kid. There’s so much expression and creativity baked into it all.

Hotelier: I always wanted to live in a hotel when I was a kid. I’m naturally drawn to the aesthetics and overall experience a strong hotel can provide.

Farmer: My grandparents had a farm that our family frequented until my late twenties. It shaped a lot of my work ethic. I love being outdoors. Being connected to the earth. Trying to live off the land. It’s a pure, simple life. I guess it’s in my blood. 

What’s your one big dream for the future of the industry?

For the ones in it, no matter the role, continuing to acknowledge the power of creativity.

What are your top tips for aspiring creative professionals?

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Be a sponge. Listen and absorb everything around you. This will lead to building a deep creative well. This well is where ideas, knowledge, inspiration and experiences are stored. If you have a deep one, you can tap it at any moment to make something shine or get you out of a funk.

On the flip side of that, speak up. Let that creative well that you’ve built give you the confidence to let your voice be heard. Never get too comfortable. Discomfort allows for growth and for better stories. Always be you. Nobody likes a fake and fake work never sells.

What are your top tips for other creative leaders?

Listen to your team and truly be there for them. Make sure that you’re helping elevate the work, but never doing it for them. Let them celebrate their wins and learn from their failures.

When you think about your team, what is the thing that matters to you the most?

Making sure they feel empowered to create their best work.

Do you have any websites, books or resources you would recommend?

Essentialism by Greg McKeown. Hypebeast. Monocle. Victory Journal… Those really speak to me, but you have to find the outlets that work for you. Stay up to date on work that’s in the market, who’s doing what, and what’s happening in culture outside of the industry. 

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