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AIGA Dallas Fort Worth, in partnership with The Creative Group, organized a panel for “INitiative Part 1,” the chapter’s first in-house event. Moderated by Lyle Miller, manager at Dallas Area Rapid Transit’s in-house creative services team, the panel featured four in-house design leaders from the community: Tammy Schriewer, art director in the global design division of Mary Kay; Joshua Ege, art director for the e-commerce design team at Fossil; Jason Puckett, art director for Cooper Aerobics; and Antimere Robinson, director of creative services at FUNimation Entertainment. The following is an edited version of the conversation, which took place at the Clampitt Creative Center in Dallas on August 20, 2012.
Lyle Miller: I’ll start things off
by telling you a little bit about myself. At present, I work at DART (Dallas
Area Rapid Transit), where I’m the creative services manager for a department
that includes copywriters, designers and print production. We have about 13
people in our group. Perhaps each of you could tell us a little bit about
yourself and where you currently work in-house?
Antimere Robinson: I work at FUNimation
Entertainment, where I just celebrated my 10-year anniversary. I started doing
DVD menu design when we had five brands. It was a small company at that time—30 people in the corner of a
building. Now we have more than 100 people and we manage more than 350
brands. So we’ve grown really quickly in 10 years time.
Tammy Schriewer: I work at Mary Kay and I’ve been there for about six years. Before that,
I worked at Group Baronet, which transitioned into MasonBaronet, and prior to
that, I was at a small startup ad agency. I’m in packaging, which is the last
thing I thought I was going to do. In school, it was my least favorite subject,
but I’ve been doing it, in some respects, for the past 12 years.
Joshua Ege: I’m an art director at Fossil on
the web team. I run the fall and spring fashion season for the website, and I’m
responsible for approximately 300 to 400 feature images per season. I manage a
team of three to five designers each season, and I work with art directors from
different groups, like catalogue and sales. We get together and come up with
the concept for the season and spend six months working to realize it.
Jason Puckett: I’m an
art director at Cooper Aerobics, a health and wellness company. We have seven
different groups, including a fitness center, spa, clinic and corporate
wellness consulting. I’ve been there for about two and a half years. Before
that, I was at an agency for about three and a half years.
Miller: As a student, did you have
ambitions to work in-house or for an agency? What was your first “real” job
like out of school?
Puckett: When I started design school, I
had no idea what the difference was between agency and in-house. I just wanted
to do cool stuff. It wasn’t until I began working that I learned the
Robinson: My first job out of school was
actually at FUNimation. At the time, I, too, didn’t know the difference between
agency and in-house. I just knew that I wanted a job! My graphic design hero is
Vaughan Oliver—he designed posters and album covers for bands like The Pixies
and Dead Can Dance, and I knew I wanted that. I wanted a chance to work on
everything, and maybe to help the brand become famous and grow. That ended up
happening naturally at FUNimation, where I work on 20 different brands every
year. For a while, I was designing every DVD cover that came out of the
Miller: So did you feel like you
had more opportunities to work on a variety of projects because you were
Robinson: Yes, because we were constantly
picking up new shows and new movies to reproduce for different audiences. For a
while, we were just working on Dragonball
Z. You can only take so much of Dragonball
Z before you want to punch yourself in the face. But then we started to get
some different shows—some classic shows, some horror movies and some action
shows. There are just so many different things to work on and that’s what keeps
it exciting. We have the FUNimation brand, but then we also have every brand
that we manage.
school, like everyone else, I had no concept of the in-house versus agency
world. I just wanted to work. And I ended up landing at a place that was sort
of an in-house/agency hybrid. There were about eight new brands or brand
extensions that came out every year, like clockwork. We named brands, came up
with the logos, picked the packaging and color scheme and did everything else,
all the way to point-of-sale. I have memories of working until 3:00 a.m. and
thinking, “I just want to go home!” But I learned so much at that job. Even
though I didn’t believe it at the time, looking back I see that it was a great
opportunity to learn a little bit about everything.
Ege: I always wanted to be a designer,
ever since I was eight years old. My dad was a pressman for 33 years, and so I
really knew what I wanted to do. I knew I didn’t want to work in-house, but at
that time I was a very naïve, young designer. I wanted to be a rock star. I was
thinking, “I don’t want to work on the same stuff every day! How boring is
that?” But I later re-evaluated, and it turned out that working in-house suited
my life. And I’ll tell you something—at Fossil, I may start a season with a
specific direction and by the end it’s totally different. I never work on the
same thing over again. I never get tired because it’s constantly changing. It’s
very different than working in a design studio.
Puckett: At first I was really scared
about being the only art director, but I enjoyed being a jack of all trades.
I’d act as our in-house photographer for small shoots and do some video, which
I had experience with. There were a lot of little things that I’m able to do
rather than designing all day or always working on only one project.
Miller: In your
current position, do you have an agency relationship?
Robinson: At FUNimation, we don’t have any
out-of-house help. The only thing that we do outside is replication of DVDs and
Blu-Rays. We always try to handle everything ourselves. Even when we have too
much work, I don’t want to farm it out because it’s easier to manage a designer
in-house. Using someone outside seems like more work for me. I try to use the
team that I have, as they understand our business.
Schriewer: I’m on the packaging side of
things at Mary Kay. In our world, there are four people: two art directors, a
creative director and an illustration specialist. We designers create every
single design that comes out of Mary Kay packaging worldwide. We do have a
production team, but we don’t use any freelancers. For the global team, there’s a
lot more that’s involved, because they’re playing with even more than we are,
if you can believe that.
Ege: At Fossil, we bring in creative
freelance help whenever we need it, but it’s always on-site, mainly due to
intellectual property issues. Aside from that, we like to do everything
in-house, and our department has more than 115 creatives. We do video work and we
have 15 on-site photographers that do our product photography. That said, we do
hire a professional lifestyle photographer each season, and occasionally we
bring in a freelance designer.
Miller: What’s your
favorite project you’ve done during your in-house career?
Robinson: There’s an anime called “Neon Genesis Evangelion” that came out in
the ’90s and I was a huge fan. Our company ended up buying the rights to the
movies. The director went back and redid them in a four-movie installment that
summarizes the 26-episode series. We’ve released two to date, and two more will
be coming out. I was the lead designer on that, and it’s so cool walking
through Best Buy and seeing something I made.
Ege: I have two favorites, but I can’t
tell you about either one of them because they didn’t come out! I can tell you
that there was a logo, and one was a homepage idea that my team worked on that
we’re going to try to revive for the spring season. I’m sorry that I can’t talk
hard to pick, but one of my favorite projects was the beginning of a
three-year campaign called “Your Way to Beautiful.” It was this beautiful
script, and the director who shot it does all of the “I am Second” videos, so
it’s really dramatic but emotional. It portrays different groups of women
telling the story of what really makes them feel beautiful. I brought my then-18-month-old
daughter, who got to be in this video, and I also helped create the backdrop
wall. That sticks with me the most. There’s this screenshot of all these women
who contributed to the video, and then there’s me and my daughter, captured in
Miller: I think
that when we work in-house we answer to several managers, and working with
marketing is a common struggle. I’m always amazed at how frequently that topic
is addressed in online forums and design groups.
Robinson: Our creative and brand management teams work together. We have one brand manager and we
have a team made up of an artist, a copywriter, a web lead and a professional
video lead. It’s fun having one marketing person against four creative people,
because sometimes they’ll gang up on that marketing person.
Ege: We have a merchandising team. They
have to work with us and with the brand team to come up with a strategy of how
we’re going to sell stuff, and that’s always a really interesting dynamic. For
creative reasons, you may want to show one handbag on a page, but to a
merchandiser, they see all this wasted space—what we call white space. It’s
really a negotiation, where we get our creative freedom and they get to sell
stuff. But at the end of the day, if we don’t sell stuff, I’m not working. So I
like it when we sell stuff.
Puckett: At Cooper Aerobics, the marketing
team is the creative team. There
aren’t two battles being fought because we’re already doing it internally. But
that’s because we’re small. Our team consists of five people. There are two in PR,
two creatives and we all report to the VP of marketing. When projects come in,
we handle them internally. I’ll go over my concepts internally and we’ll go
though which one will be the best fit. Then we’ll go to the department and tell
them, “This is what it’ll look like.” So the only battle we have is the content.
What’s interesting about how our team works with the other departments is that,
like Joshua Ege just said, it’s all about selling your products and services.
We handle a range of things, from big company brochures to small promotions to
internal communications, but everything uses the same creative brief, the same
form to fill out.
Miller: What’s an
advantage of working in-house versus an agency?
Ege: I leave on time every day. I
think in my two and a half years at Fossil, I’ve stayed late three times, and
one I volunteered for. That’s a far cry from what I used to do, working until
1:00 or 2:00 a.m. and being back in the office by 8:30 a.m. I think that’s a huge
advantage. Fossil also has the best insurance I’ve ever had anywhere. Some of
you guys are really young and that doesn’t seem to matter, but as you get older
that becomes very important.
Another advantage, especially for my studio, is having 115
creatives who are all really good at what they do. You’re amongst like-minded
people all of the time, and you all have the same goal: to further your brand,
to further what you’re doing and to make it better. Our company is collaborative,
so it’s not about getting credit. It’s about the team coming together to get
Schriewer: It’s hard to pick a favorite, but one of the most exciting projects I work on at the company is very trend driven. Every six months I get to fly to
New York and help develop the trend a year and a half ahead of time. Not only
do I get to work on packaging, but I get to connect the dots internally. I tell
them what we learned, and the other people tell the next account team what they
learned, and together we contribute to see that vision through. Part of the
thing that I’ll be working on in the future is how to really focus our
company’s spending and the way we do trends in general, to see if
there’s maybe a way to rethink that, or a better way. We’re looking for
improvements all the time. That’s the fun part.
Puckett: At the agency, we’d spend all
this time creating these great brands and really get people started on the
right foot. We’d set them up with a logo, website, brochure and sales items.
Then we’d look up their website a few months later and wonder what had happened.
It was tough being so passionate about this brand we made for a company, and then to
see them not realize what they had. When I started at Cooper and they were at
the beginning of their rebrand, I was excited because I could help keep it
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