Tell us a bit about your role! Is there a “typical” day?
I oversee creative output across the agency for our 20 clients and for a group of roughly 65 talented, brilliant, fascinating people. This group represents design, art direction, writing, social creation, and all aspects of production.
A typical day is unlike the day that came before and the day that will come after. There are always new twists and turns. Which makes it fascinating and exciting. However, regardless of what specific things I might be doing from one day to the next, my role, I believe, is to do everything I can to create an environment where everyone feels safe to think daringly.
What was the biggest challenge in getting to your current position?
I believe the core to being a good creative director is learning to be selfless. So much of a creative’s career prior to moving into a CD role is about being a champion of your own ideas and work. Every day is about pushing your vision, driving hard to make it come to life in the best way and persuading others to believe in what you’re thinking. But, when you make that transition to being a CD, it’s no longer about you.
It’s about learning to see others and their ideas for all the brilliance and potential they possess. So the shift to learning and thinking selflessly every day is the biggest challenge. That journey, while challenging, prepared me for where I am now. As a CCO, I believe even more selflessness is needed. Your job is to do everything you can (even if that means breaking your back) to make others successful.
What is your personal background and what role did it play in your career?
I grew up studying music, (playing the piano, composing songs, playing in bands) studying art, (drawing and painting), and doing all kinds of writing. These three things were all key to shaping how I think about solving problems creatively in my career. With each, you’re trying to tell a story in a way that others can relate to.
What is your biggest career-related win? What is your biggest loss?
Biggest win would be landing here at Bader Rutter five years ago and having the opportunity to help build what the future of this agency will be.
Biggest loss would be the incredibly talented people I’ve crossed paths with in my career, who think more like artists and inventors, who the industry or an agency chewed up and spit out because they didn’t “fit.” These are such sad losses because they represent a collective loss of potential for what our industry could offer.
Which individuals and/or agencies do you gain inspiration from? Do you have any heroes in the industry?
A few agencies and their creative chiefs: Mischief and Greg Hahn. Joan and Jaime Robinson. Collins and Brian Collins. Some directors: Ringan Ledwidge (RIP). Jonathan Glazer. Doug Pray. And some former creative leaders I’ve learned ridiculous amounts from: Harry Cocciolo, Sean Ehringer, Greg Bell and Paul Venables.
If you could go back to your teenage years, would you have done things differently? Do you have any regrets?
I would have spent more time skiing with my dad. Back then, I was off making turns with my friends. Several years ago, due to old age and a series of injuries, my dad had to hang up his skis. Time is all too short. And I missed valuable days on the slopes with my biggest hero.
If you weren’t in your current industry, what would you be doing?
I’d like to think I’d be composing music scores for movies or running my own art gallery somewhere magnificently scenic.
What’s your one big dream for the future of the industry?
That we find the magic again. It seems for so many reasons we’re in an era of manufactured creativity. Everything analyzed to the nth degree and to the point where the path to the answer starts to feel more like a recipe than ingenuity. Our industry needs a lot more ingenuity and a lot less formula.
What are your top tips for aspiring creative professionals?
Don’t try to mindread what others will like. Whether that be your creative director or a client. Your unique experiences, perspectives, and way of seeing the world are the beautiful things no one else can bring to the party. Your “youness” is your superpower.
What are your top tips for other creative leaders?
Work tirelessly to create and build a culture of safety. This, more than anything, is what creative minds need to flourish.
When you think about your team, what is the thing that matters to you the most?
Through the environment we work to create, I want the time at work to be a highlight of everyone’s day and week. We spend a fair portion of our lives working. So, we might as well make it thoroughly enjoyable.
Do you have any websites, books or resources you would recommend?
I don’t have any specific resources. Instead, I like to let my eyes and ears be sponges for everything in the world. There’s inspiration around every corner.
In music, songwriters like Eli Teplin, Phillip Larue, Laufey, Vulfpeck, Peach Tree Rascals, Mac Miller (especially his Circles album). In art, Mark Rothko, Marc Chagall, Maurice de Vlaminck, Paul Klee, Joan Miro, Banksy, Andrea Bowers. In architecture, Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, Renzo Piano.
In books and literature, John Kennedy O’Toole, Bill Bryson, Galway Kinnell, Herve Tullet. In movie poster design, Saul Bass, Akiko Stehrenberger, Andrew Bannister. And, strange as this may sound, even in wedding gowns (I’m always amazed at how many ways a white dress can be imagined).