HOW DO YOU APPROACH DESIGN AT MAESTRO?
Maestro is a forward-thinking design agency creating things that you probably wouldn’t imagine get made in Kalamazoo.
We’ve been here for 11 years, and we work with huge Fortune 500 companies like Southwest Airlines, Johnson & Johnson, and Google. I would say design is the core of everything that we do. We create brand experiences in all formats.
WHAT TYPES OF PROJECTS COME THROUGH YOUR DOOR?
Right now, we’re working with Southwest Airlines to create an onboarding experience for its new employees. Southwest flies every new hire, no matter what their role is, to its headquarters in Dallas. We’re creating the companion phone app they use for the onboarding experience. The app will have everything from onboarding documents, campus maps, and even an integrated augmented reality experience.
WHAT IS YOUR ROLE AT THE AGENCY?
I’m a partner at Maestro along with two other people, including our founder, and I lead the studio team. My role is to ensure that everything that we’re creating is designed with excellence and is a thoughtful and meaningful brand experience. Our brand promise is “Perform Beautifully,” and it’s crucial that all of our work substantiates that claim.
Most of my days are filled with meeting, with either my studio leadership team or with an individual project team, and working on projects and solving problems.
WHAT PAST PROJECTS ARE YOU MOST PROUD OF?
I’d have to say one of my favorite projects has been helping to re-establish the brand of a musician. His name is Marc Scibilia; he’s a former Nashville musician that is rediscovering his roots on the East Coast. I’ve been a fan of his for a while. We partnered with him to redesign his albums, website, promotional material, and merchandise. I have a passion for both design and music, so connecting those two things made the project so much fun. Marc has since become a personal friend.
HAVE YOU ALWAYS BEEN DRAWN TO DESIGN?
I’ve always been interested in design, even though I didn’t know exactly what that meant. When I was studying business in college, my college roommate was a singer and songwriter. I just started messing around, creating his gig posters. I loved it. Later, I switched my business major to a business minor and then went back to school as a design student. I fell in love with it after three minutes of my first class, honestly. I sat in that class thinking, “This is what college should be like. I’m actually engaged! This is what I was destined to do.”
HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR CREATIVITY SHARP?
I believe very strongly that you have to stay connected to your community, whether that’s personally, or virtually. It’s important to see what everyone is doing, so you can start to identify trends and patterns to get down to the core of what’s changing and why it is changing. Then, you can riff off of that. Also, listening to music. If I am working on a long-term project, I’ll pick an album that kind of feels connected to the work, and I’ll listen to that album through most of the project, drawing inspiration from that.
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST LESSON YOU HAVE LEARNED?
Be honest with yourself. Don’t try to be someone else. It’s important to know who you are and what you contribute. Maximize and focus on that. If you’re not true to yourself, what you’re creating will not come out as authentic. One of the great things about Maestro is that we celebrate people’s differences and their unique skill sets. And as a leader, I have to be able to rely on people whom I know are more talented than me in some areas. That puts us all in a position to succeed. It’s liberating and freeing and provides passion and opportunities for people.
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO AN ASPIRING DESIGNER?
Everything that you put out in the world represents who you are as a designer, whether that’s your personal Twitter profile, your Instagram account, or what’s in your portfolio. All of those things represent your brand and how you express yourself to other people. If you don’t have all of those things aligned and are not intentionally working together to communicate who you are, you are not going to make the grade. You have to be intentional about your personal brand.