Tell us about your background in advertising. How did you get started and who gave you your first big break?
Actually, I didn’t start in advertising. I started as a junior designer at a toy e-retailer that would later become KBToys.com and eToys.com. I resized graphics, not glamorous work at all, but I was happy to have landed a job. This was around 2000 – the dotbomb – the economy was in the shit pretty bad. I eventually worked my way up to the Creative Lead after about 4 years. I learned a ton about design, development and business.
Describe the culture at Firstborn.
We are a very tight-knit group. I think this comes from the fact that we are a very international office and a lot of people aren’t just new to Firstborn but new to the country. We also do a ton of team outings – from our annual Peter Luger adventure to renting out the Chelsea Pier skate rink – that keeps the vibe tight. Booze helps – it at least keeps it interesting.
What are some of the essential elements of good design?
This is a loaded question. Ultimately, good design is timeless – it doesn’t go out of fashion. It may become more or less relevant depending on the zeitgeist of the day. Also, the craft should stand out. Is the grid pleasing? Are things “on full pixels”? Does the UX feel right? Does art direction make sense? Does it make me think (not always necessary)? A lot this is touchy feely type stuff – it’s hard to put into words. You just know it when you see it.
If there is one style that never goes out of fashion for me…Dada!.
What has been your most a) entertaining and b) laborious project to date?
A) I’m working on a new brand launch right now. From identity, packaging, photography on through the eCommerce design and build. I’ve got a great team on it, the client has been fantastic and the aesthetic of the brand is right up my alley. It sort of feels like
I’m launching my own thing and I’ve got the perfect team to do it – it resonates that well.
B) I’m working on a couple of projects where there is a backend integration partner – enterprise level build stuff. This is tough. Not just on me but the entire team. Design is as much (if not more) about how something works and feels. When that piece is out of your control it’s tough on the whole team. Craft and design – the final product – is such a big part of our culture, so when we lose control it stings.
Tell us about some of your latest ground-breaking campaigns.
I have been in production mode all year – so stay tuned for 2014.
Our UNIQLO campaign with the branded mosaics on Pinterest was wildly successful. That was a blast of a project because we had so much freedom. But that is old news.
The team recently launched a campaign called Make Your Money Matter for PSCU. It’s awesome – illustration and message. PSCU wanted to raise awareness amongst millennials about the benefits credit unions offer over big banks. We tapped into the target’s community-focused mindset to create “Make Your Money Matter” – a movement that highlights the positive social impact that credit unions make.
Which photographer(s) or illustrator(s) work has been inspiring you lately?
She is going to think that i’m a mega-dork for saying this but Libby Gray. She is a Producer here at Firstborn but moonlights as a fashion photographer. All natural light. Real film. I really enjoy her work.
Also, Allen Ying. He runs 43 Magazine. A skateboard magazine which takes a much more artful, non-commercialized approach to the photography. The photography is very architecture – which makes perfect sense when considering street skating.
Who in the advertising industry do you most respect for their high-level creative output?
W+K, Droga5, Legwork, Buck and…wait for it…Google.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your career so far?
– Know who you are presenting to and where their bonus comes from at the end of the year.
– No one deserves shit- though we all wade through it.
– Care more or leave.
Sorry…this list reeks of end of year grouch.
What digital trends will be big over the coming year?
I think there is a lot of potential with technologies like Bluetooth Low Energy. But this year, brand usage of it (if at all) will be very experimental; tinkering here or there—brands will dabble.
I think as digital becomes more and more pervasive we crave more analog and tactile things. You can have the best digital touchpoints and campaigns in the world…but when you get the physical object in the mail is it worth tweeting about? Is it worth instagramming the packaging, the unboxing? I feel like some brands (usually bigger brands) have lost sight of these fundamentals and started chasing tech for tech’s sake. All the while the small guys keep stealing market share.
What things do you a) love and b) detest about the advertising industry?
b) Buzzwords…and all the self-fellatio.