Creative Direction

creative directionsThe Creative Director is the team's lead at understanding each customer's needs and pains. They advocate for the customer, communicating with them frequently. They are also the coach of the creative team that will execute the concept. They must inspire and lead each contributor to understand each project's vision and to develop themselves over their careers. It also helps if they are good at generating strong, workable ideas both individually and in collaborative sessions. Finally, there is also a sales component to this responsibility. The concepts presented to the client, must get the client excited about the project so that they approve it and stay the course.

Sometimes a Creative Director emerges from among the visual designers, the graphic artists, and the illustrators. These visual story tellers often work with storyboards and mood boards to shape the work at a macro level. A CD may also rise out of the copywriters. Their stories are initially presented with words, crafting the voice of brand. Now that there is a greater need for a strong user experience and visual impact on the Web, Digital Creative Directors are sometimes also programmers or motion graphics producers. It is not common for a person to have worked professionally in each of these different camps across one's career. I have held each of these roles and have been contributing to projects and team in this way for a decade.

Know Your Customer

Sometimes your customer is a business, the B2B advertising space. Decisions about buying airplanes, selecting a piece of commercial kitchen equipment, and choosing the vendor for your employees' health insurance are still made by people. Large decisions like those are seldom made by one person. Those are made by a committee of leaders in a company, often an executive board. You have to build a strong case, present lots of data in a way that is easily understood, and speak to their needs.

B2C is the more common but far less standard world of advertising. Your target customer might be a working mother of two who is choosing dinner options to feed her family. Your customer might be a teenager picking out potato chips, a burrito or gum. To create successful, result-producing advertising you must convince or provoke the customers into action. The better your information about what the customers want, or will want once you've amazed them with an unexpected delight, the better your chances of winning the sale.

My Creative Direction

I've always been considered creative. My mind constantly flits here and there, matching up good metaphors and uncovering unexpected connections. I realized that as my knowledge of business grew, my ideas became more valuable. My percentage of ideas that made it through client approval to become final advertising, increased a great deal during this maturing stage. It is satisfying to hear that your work has won awards. It is far more rewarding to hear that your work increased conversion, got your customer good results! Leading creative teams is also not only aligning one interesting metaphor, it is an iterative process of generating many solid solutions and then testing them, first internally and then out in the market. Some will fail, others will bear fruit. The best work seldom comes from the initial concept. It emerged from unexpected twists along the journey, as long as the team operates as it should with strong trust and generosity.

When you combine the experience of over a decade working on marketing and advertising teams in several companies and working in different disciplines, your ideas start to get more valuable. The beginning of value is the creation of a the big idea that effectively strikes at the pain points of the customer. But ideas are only the beginning of real value, left alone they remain nearly worthless. The real value is built by the ability execute. To make the thing and ship!

Creative Direction Case Studies

Cincinnati Children's Hospital and Medical Center - HR Tapestry


As Human Resources professionals, our influence affects all disciplines and departments across the organization. The effort each of us contribute, does not stand on its own. We partner across teams to continually add value to the organization.

This tapestry represents how our individual contributions at Cincinnati Children’s are like a thread, woven into a tapestry. The accumulation of the many threads, create a beautiful representation of how we all work towards changing the outcome together.

This piece of art was woven collectively by the HR team. It is a culture development effort that expresses the constant need to resist forming silos and instead consider the community of other valuable contributors in our organization.

Leadership Development Program


I creative lead on a small team charged with the development of a program for coaching the one hundred highest ranking leaders in the company. This audience was predictably going to be difficult to shift from their current behavior, so we chose to begin our work revisiting self-evident primal truths. Joseph Campbell's The Hero's Journey was an influence. For a person to improve themselves, they have to depart from their old ways. That message is common through out the stories from religious texts and non-religious historical writings. The image shows one of the first round of graphic/concepts for our Elements of Leadership.

Following the first iteration of the concept, we pulled the design and theme back to match our brand. These eight elements were divided into the core central elements and the slightly outside of core second tier. Descriptions were written and vetted with the top executive leaders.

As we approached the launch of the program, we collectively decided that the concept would work better alongside other internal efforts if we re-branded as LeadForward to align with one of our other program titles LuxForward.

Inspired by my readings of Benjamin Franklin's autobiography, we built a LeadForward self-evaluation card. This sturdy, laminated card was given each member of the target audience along with a small grease pencil. These leaders were encouraged to grade their performance, as Benjamin Franklin modeled. Then they were assigned another leader as the partner for weekly accountability meetings.

Let's Get 8 - Corporate Efficiency Campaign

2014 - 2015

Patterns of behavior in the workplace cause an enormous waste of productive time. We created a campaign designed to shift the behavior. This is a series of posters that were designed in the style of Some E-Cards that mocked the behaviors of poorly run meetings, abuse of email and improper use of PowerPoint decks.

CES 2015 LulzBot Mini Competition

Rocta-lisa designIn late November or early December of 2014, Aleph Objects, Inc, the company that owns the popular LulzBot brand of 3D printers announced a contest on Reddit to help promote the launch of their newest model, the LulzBot Mini, at CES 2015.

Here is a summary of my creative process that helped me win this competition.

Step 1: Gather Data

This contest was for a particular company. Lulzbot, and Aleph Objects the parent company, are using this contest to promote the launch of their new product the LulzBot Mini. I read all about this company. They are enthusiastic supporters of open-source and creative-commons licensing. I also knew that they had high ideals, but also didn't mind using fun, or even silly imagery to make their point. Their corporate symbol is an octopus. The contest was to take their new Roctopus image (a fun play off their original octopus) and create an exciting image to help build interest in their new printer.

I also had to create something that they would enjoy using to promote their new printer, the LulzBot Mini. I've seen contests like this in the past and a fun, provocative illustration that could even be used as a single-page spread in a magazine would be most viable for future promotion.

Step 2: Find a Win-worthy Solution

3D Printing is making innovation and physical prototyping more reachable. I explored many innovators from history. I'm a classically trained artist having earned a BFA degree from CCAD. I have a great deal of respect for the work of Leonardo da Vinci. He was not just an artist, but an engineer and futurist. He represented a great deal of what I wanted to convey in my solution for this contest.

I had to incorporate the Roctopus into the design. So I thought about Leonardo's great works. Obviously the Mona Lisa came to mind, as did his Last Supper, his Vitruvian Man and several others crossed my mind. I've been obsessed with 3D printing for years, so I decided to go with the one that was his best known obsession. Another nice thing about starting with the Mona Lisa, it is in the public domain and there are also many open license photos of the work available through wikipedia.

Step 3: Bring the Magic

I've used Photoshop for years. I've got the chops. This was a contest where the scores accumulated through votes earned during the contest period. So it was in my interest to move as quickly as possible and get my submission up. So I worked for about two days to come up with a solid submission. I found a great creative-commons licensed crackle texture that resembled the finish of the actual painting. When I finished my handiwork 'shopping the Roctopus in and adding tentacles to give it just the right balance of humor and formal pose, I then applied the texture around and it helped "sell" the merging in a surprisingly convincing way.

I posted a useful size and a very large native size file, so that if the company wanted to use my art for print advertising, they could. I also gave a clear description and proper license notations. Since this was important to the client and the community, I knew it was very important to get the spirit of the shared credit right.

Finally, I shared it through my social media asking friends and family for their votes. The contest was designed to create exposure, driving new people into this reddit community. Between the people I brought there, and a favorable embrace from the community. I was very proud to learn that I had won People's Choice!

My 3D printer arrived in early 2015. I'm very excited to add it to my tools, expanding the possibilities of what is possible.


Your Body the Machine

September 2012

These samples are the main illustration for a pitch for an attraction at EPCOT Center. To read the summary of this great example of my creative direction, please visit this link: Your body the machine.

There is more to my portfolio, please return to the portfolio page to check out my other categories of samples.