It’s been a while since I’ve updated this design blog of mine. Admittedly, it’s because I’ve been pretty busy starting a family and balancing the demands of being back in big advertising. For the last 13 months, I was an Associate Creative Director at the 101 year-old Dallas-based ad agency TracyLocke. After leaving my five year Art Director post at the beloved Dallas Observer, I was taking it easy freelancing, working on various projects for a small but lucrative group of clientele. Ranging from my own direct design clients, to doing stints at agencies around town, I had been looking for my next move. Gratefully, over the year and a half I was sailing solo, I was approached by various entities for positions, a few being for art director positions at city magazines around the country. For varying reasons for each, I didn’t bite on any of the offers. Truth be told, as honored as I was to be solicited by some great publications and by some great people, it just wasn’t the right move for me, or it just didn’t feel right. In the meantime, I was able to still exercise my editorial skills at Success magazine, helping their new editor and creative staff with carrying through a redesign that the indomitable Robert Newman kickstarted for them. I became a contributing art director creating features and special sections for them for a little over a year, and it was a great way for me to keep one foot in the editorial world while still exploring my options.
Amidst all this, my wife and I had decided that it was time for us to try to start a family. We weren’t getting any younger, and it was something we both wanted before it became too late to do so. The time for us was now, and so was the time for me to start evaluating my career options for the sake of some more stability as we embarked on this new chapter in our lives. This was when TracyLocke came calling, for what I thought at first was a solicitation for freelance work. I began my professional creative career at TracyLocke back in 1999 as an intern while still in art school. I would be offered a full-time position (while still in school) and over the next five years, I would climb the ladder to art director, and worked on some fantastic projects with some wonderful people. At the end of 2004, I decided I needed to move on and see what else was out there. It was a bittersweet departure, as the agency became a family to me, but I felt like I needed to leave the nest and try my hand outside a big agency and seek out other creative endeavors at a smaller boutique design shop. Since then, I’d been at a few places of varying scope and size, and having left The Locke under good graces, they saw that I was available, and had already served a tour of duty before. I was approached to fill an Associate Creative Director position on their HP account, and the timing couldn’t have been more fortuitous. My wife and I had a hunch that we may be expecting our first child around this time, and the same week I went in to interview for the position, we had our first sonogram confirming, in fact, we were pregnant.
As well as I was doing freelancing on my own as an independent contractor, as any one who’s done it before, for all the perks it has, it’s also a demanding hustle. I wanted to be able to focus on the next nine critical months on the most important thing that I’ve ever been involved with, and be able to leave work at an office that wasn’t also my home. I was happy to join the TracyLocke family once again, being dubbed a “boomerang” for returning. It was time to put my advertising hat back on, put my editorial design hat on the shelf (along with my collection of magazine back-issues) and look forward to building both a new family and reset my career.
It was nice being back at the agency where I cut my creative teeth, even if a lot of the faces and office furniture had changed. There were some long-timers still around, and it all felt like walking the halls of your old high school after so many years post graduation. Then, after only a couple of months on the HP team, it was decided by the client and upper-management that the business would be consolidated to TracyLocke’s east-coast office in Connecticut, where the other parts of the HP work were done. Fortunately for our Dallas-based team, we weren’t asked to relocate, but instead jump on a new piece of Samsung business that the agency had acquired in addition to the business the agency already held. The transition was made, and my team continued to persevere through internal management changes, as well as client personnel changes. After the turn of last year, I was asked to remain on the main part of the agency’s Samsung business by our Executive Creative Director to lead special design projects as well as bolster the existing team as the client’s creative demands increased. Things were as they could be expected with a high-profile, fast-paced client such as Samsung, I was making ways within the company, and I felt good about being back in the swing of things, despite the craziness that is the advertising life. All of this became quite the task, especially while adjusting to being a new dad to an amazing new baby boy who was born in February of this year. He is without a doubt the best creation I will ever be able to take credit for, and on the most demanding, draining days, coming home to his smiling eyes always make any toil worth bearing. Being surrounded by good people in the office can make up for wanting to pull your hair out at times also. Hair-pulling aside, I certainly wasn’t yet at a place where I was looking outside for an escape, even though I was in fact approached a few times by interested parties while back at The Locke. Again, they just didn’t feel right.
Then a new opportunity came knocking. But this time, there was something different. Details spared, after much consideration, much discussion, and a strong pitch made to me by the Executive Vice President and co-founder of Ink, Michael Keating, as well as new Global Creative Director, the esteemed editorial designer Andy Cowles, it was very apparent to me that this opportunity they offered me was not one to pass up. That opportunity is to become the new Group Design Director of their newly acquired American Airlines account, overseeing American Way, Nexos, and Celebrated Living magazines. Ink is an award-winning leader in in-flight and travel publishing, and with this new position comes a complete redesign of all of the magazines, to be re-launched January 2015.
My official first day on the job is Monday, October 13; the day before my birthday. This new adventure is most certainly a gift, and one that cannot go without giving thanks to everyone who has believed in me, and recognized my work and talents throughout my career, going all the way back to my teachers in my art and design education, to my bosses and leaders I’ve worked for in the past, to teammates I’ve had the pleasure of working alongside with. A special thanks is reserved for a dear colleague and mentor who recognized my work, and has been a friend and confidant of mine, as well as in inspiration both on the page and in life. Robert Newman discovered my alt-weekly editorial work for the Dallas Observer many years ago, and was always a vocal champion of my abilities. His unsolicited promotion of my work within the editorial community led to more recognition from great entities and curators like Jaap Biemans of Coverjunkie, Nascapas, the Society of Publication Designers and Eye magazine. When he suffered a tragic accident last year, the editorial design community was crestfallen, myself included, naturally. It filled my heart to see how everyone he has connected with professionally came together to support his recovery. We all contributed to his time of need in so many ways, without a second thought, just as he has contributed his encouragement and support to all of us who have had the pleasure to work with him, or be within his sphere of delightful influence. Now that Bob is back on his feet (and kicking), all his friends and colleagues are thrilled to see him continue to succeed, and I hope to honor what his continued support has meant to me by flying high at this new post that he himself recommended me for. Thank you, Bob.
See you in the skies.