That old saying “time flies when…” holds true to my absence in updating my home here.

This story is about what’s been going on with a private art college here in Nashville. I was asked to join Nossi College of Art back in May. They needed help restoring faith in their Graphic Design program and were looking for someone with a connection in the Nashville advertising community to help build back a strong faculty to instruct at a new level. Not to mention they were in the middle of a rebrand and were struggling with some decisions that would help them establish a new perspective in the market– after 37 years it had one more chance to be new again. I was up for the challenge.

This college has a great story. Nossi is actually the name of the woman who founded the school, teaching right out of her home after immigrating from Iran. She believes everyone should have the chance to express their creativity and she became devoted to educating those wanting to explore their opportunities in art.

Today, the school is in it’s 37th year and after a long stay in Goddlettesville, TN has just built a 55,00 sq ft creative oasis right here in Nashville. I encourage you to visit the school, you won’t be disappointed. Complete with state-of-the-art technology and environmental upgrades the facility is truly a place conducive for creativity. Offering Associate and Bachelor degrees from Graphic Design and Illustration to Photography and Videography, it is an art college to be reckoned with. You can find out more about the school by visiting the website.

It’s fun branding an art college and I’m enjoying it more each and every day. Here are some examples of our latest efforts. The new logo/brand design was influenced by the public’s challenge in recognizing the correct pronunciation of the school’s name. Then we just had some fun with language surrounding the long “O” in executing the designs and additional branding.

The journey continues with new students arriving and more on the way. The bonus? Teaching these students everyday. Which brings me to the second part of the story – to grow the quality of the Graphic Design program and lead faculty to new levels of commitment.

The Graphic Design and Illustration program was critically examined by myself and another coordinator leading the Illustration program, Arden VanHeagar. Together we evolved both curriculums and invited additional professionals we knew from the industry to join our existing team of faculty. We are continuing to redefine what it takes to help students be successful in today’s industry.

With a new curriculum, new faculty, a new facility AND the new brand, the growth of Nossi College of Art is underway.

In my next post I’ll share about what I continue to do as a freelance Creative Director. Go ahead and check out one of my most interesting clients, AgencyMJ. Branding photographers is equally as fun. Also, you can find me at the upcoming BarCamp Nashville next weekend Oct. 16th, we’re I’ll be talking about a successful crowdsourcing event I directed.


to those who need it desperately.

Networking with creative people is the best. How else would I have been able to connect with folks like those I met during the Southern Fried Designathon, self titled by the famous @JessicaRMurray? Three organizations: The Collaboratory; Geek for Good; and The Social Media Club joined forces and asked their members to spend 24 hours utilizing their talents for a worthy nonprofit, Youthturns, an organization that serves the families of prisoners to help mentor and educate youth so that they don’t take the same path to prison as their parents.

Having some success with these kinds of events (CreateAthon), I was asked to be the Creative Director for the shindig and I gladly accepted – staying up all night with a bunch of creative people doing branding…hell yeah!

After some pre-planning meetings the CoLab of Nashville graciously donated their space and off we went.

At 11am on a Saturday, we began with a compelling story by Andy Dixon, the founder of Youthturns. His journey and dedication to helping America’s youth break the cycle of generational incarceration is really why we organized this whole event. This allowed everyone who just showed up with their sleeping bags to get caught up with whom they were about to feverishly work so hard and understand their mission.

With teams of writers, marketers, videographers, photographers, designers, web developers and PR folks – over 30 people in all, we were a force to be reckoned with. Led by three coordinators: leaders of the Collaboratory; Geek for Good; The Social Media Club and myself, we marched through the night with a plan. Helped by team leads and plenty of donated caffeine, we accomplished executing a tremendous branding campaign that was delivered to the founders of Youthturns by 11am the following morning. Including a new logo, brochure, letterhead and business cards, marketing strategy, 5-minute Ignite presentation, video package, a handbook for prison families, social media connections and a new Website.

We even had a visit from the Nashville Fire Dept. and Police after a fire Alarm went off at 5am! It definitely woke us up and got us fired up to complete the event. –Pun intended.

Taking advantage of social media, we made sure we used all our existing twitter accounts and streamed the entire event live via ustream so that others could follow us. Not to mention that our promo video received over 72,000 views within the first 20 minutes on our website – all because of our dedication to using social connections online. You can visit our facebook page or our twitter account and or hash-tag – #designathon to catch all the antics that transpired through the night.

We were able to pull some media exposure from 3 different local news networks, These links will show the news video captured at the event. WTVF, WKRN, WSMV.

The cool thing is that we could do it again. With lessons learned, evolving leadership and creative recruiting, the power behind planned, focused crowdsourcing done within a short time frame can be very effective. After doing this kind of event three times now, choosing one non-profit is definitely the way to go. I’ve worked on 16 brands in one night before – you can’t give brands everything they need in that situation.

This experience was amazing. Helping people who can’t afford marketing and desperately need it to get funding to start their worthy cause makes you realize that maybe your talents are meant for something other than accolades. Creativity is meant to be shared – sometimes in a big way.

Seek creativity

June 20, 2010

When we are surrounded by creative people and ideas on a daily basis we forget to infuse our lives with other creative inspiration. We may think that our personal world is full of creativity and don’t have the time to seek it elsewhere.

For me, finding creativity is just part of my life in general. I can’t turn it off. From County festivals like the Annual RC Cola and Moonpie Festival in Bell Buckle, TN, to the local Murfreesboro, TN Hotrod Association which gathers over 200 cars and trucks at a local mall parking lot every Friday night – yeah, every Friday night, seeking individuality and inspiration is what I’m after.

The creative arts and crafts and the custom executions of upholstery and paint are enough to walk away content. However it’s the people I enjoy talking to most. The personal pride in their creations and the stories behind them all are just inspiring.

Sometimes you can find local shops with antiques and I dig looking at the old graphic art found on packaging.

For those who know me, you know one of my creative outlets is hotrodding. And finding a local hotrod chapter hanging out in large numbers is a chance to get ideas about projects I’m working on and to chat up fellow hotrodders and share challenges to creative things we’re working on.

In the end, it’s about seeking creativity and making it a part of my life. The reward is unmeasurable. All the images and events from this post happened in one weekend. I feel empowered starting my week fueled with creative inspiration and can’t wait to get back to my own work.

Love what you do

May 24, 2010

We’ve all been told to pursue a career so that you end up loving what you do, yet so many of us fall short somewhere along the way. For me, following my creative interests was a no-brainer; however, my journey wasn’t an easy path.

Looking back, the only thing I did consistently was follow people smarter than myself and be willing to listen and take suggestions. That’s not to say that I don’t have some chops yo! But someone once told me that if you surround yourself with those that can mentor, challenge and inspire you to be something you can’t yet see in yourself, the day would come when you will love what you do.

Today, I still follow that same path. Sometimes I think I can’t learn enough fast enough. My obsessive behavior and thirst for knowledge have filled my creativity cup to what feels like the brim at times. I’ve found that the only way I can make room for more is by sharing my expertise and experiences with others. As long as I’m willing to accept input from others, I know I’ll continue to grow.

It is this process that allows me to say that I truly love what I do. Will I love what I do in the future? I can’t say, cause I’ve also learned not to predict too far ahead of myself, unless I’m measuring your brand and you’re paying me to do so. Hehe. Sorry I couldn’t help that. Seriously, to “love what you do” you have to humble yourself and explore what’s going on today. Believe me, there’s enough of it to keep us all busy.

So what am I doing that I love so much? Take a look around this blog site and you’ll see that I enjoy being a Designer, Art Director and Creative Director. Although, one thing you won’t find here, and is a major contribution to my happiness, is teaching students and leading faculty at a local art college see their potential for creative value. I’ve found that I enjoy giving back so much that I now dedicate a lot of my time as the Graphic Design Program Director and Sr. Faculty Coordinator at Nossi College of Art.

This school’s vision for arming art students to be not only successful but valuable in the industry will not doubt help them to love what they do. If I didn’t believe that, I wouldn’t be there.

I encourage everyone to continue seeking out what makes them happy. When you find it, don’t forget to feed it everyday. It will grow into something you can’t imagine and you’ll find yourself saying, “I love what I do”.

Recently I was asked by a college student finishing graduate school to answer a few questions about my creative education, career path and what creativity means to me, specifically as it relates to advertising and industry change. His interest and trust in me was prompted by an RT on Twitte from a post I made – “Don’t be afraid”.

I’m always happy to help out young people aspiring to grow their creative interests and enter the world of advertising. There’s a couple of reasons I do this: to remind myself why I love being a Creative Director in advertising and to be challenged by new perspectives from those leaning new solutions to old ideas.

The following is my response to this student:

First let me say that I appreciate your initiative to take responsibility for your creative destiny. Many people don’t take ownership in their personal/professional growth. It is the only place to start, continue and never finish. I will do my best to answer these questions and provide further reading from others who are scholars and people I trust with my personal development – mentors. On that last note, here are some authors you should follow and books I have read, each teach either leadership philosophy or creative guidance – all with the understanding of how taking risks and embracing failure will get you past the ceiling that most people hit and stay:

Talent Is Never Enough: Discover the Choices That Will Take You Beyond Your Talent
by John C. Maxwell
Linchpin: Are You Indispensable?
by Seth Godin
The Culture Code: An Ingenious Way to Understand Why People Around the World Live and Buy as They Do
by Clotaire Rapaille
Emotional Branding: The New Paradigm for Connecting Brands to People (Hardcover)
By Marc Gobe
MTIV: Process, Inspiration and Practice for the New Media Designer
by Hillman Curtis

These books were inspirational to me and they cover everything from how to use and develop your talent, to understanding how you should be innovative and think differently. Some cover personal process and others explain how we should measure cultures to build strategies around them.

Ok, where to start? When students ask me where they should take their creative interests to be successful in their career I have to ask them a question. What is most important to you? Is it the degree or the ability to be great that you’re after? If you say the degree and that it will make you great, then you have some priority issues. Most think a degree is all they need and believe that process will make them creative, talented and great. Not true. An educational environment will only inspire and coach you to be great. Greatness comes from personal growth and creativity isn’t a talent, it’s an obligation.

The creative field you have chosen can grow you in ways that only you can achieve through experience and personal relationships (mentoring). Most industries can say they experience change rapidly, but I will say that when you are dealing with human behavior, culture and entertainment you can expect change at rate that is almost impossible to keep up with. That said, aside from the fundamentals, what you learn today in school will be mostly obsolete when you graduate. The reason: today we need design thinkers and strategic farmers based on human connection and culture alignment, not better artists.

Now to your questions:

How and why did you get into a creative field?

I went to college to study psychiatry and sociology. It wasn’t until my Sophomore year while taking a journalism class that someone said I should look at being an Advertising or Graphic Design major. Why? Because I was creative and was fascinated with human behavior. It’s the last part that I never really learned in school but I knew advertising had to be all about that – the artistic thing I was kinda born with and the rest just happened due to others I studied from and constantly challenging myself to be better. I found mentors to learn from.

Did you attend a book school? If so, what school?

I went to a University. One that had a pretty good Advertising and Art program. MTSU – Middle Tennessee State University. I never attended a “book school”. Book schools push you to be good, but that ability comes from within and the desire to learn from others with others (collaboration). You can definitely benefit from a portfolio school but ONLY if you have the tenacity. These schools are rigorous and difficult. The best part about them is that they teach you to trust in your abilities and to not give up (the realization of your potential). This is very similar to boot camp in the military – you learn just how far you can push yourself without breaking. If you are not an artist by nature, these schools will not make you one. Believe me.

What’s the major characteristic(s) young and creatives alike lack they MUST learn?

Simple. Belief in yourself and the ability to grow…on your own. Meaning, you have to give a shit. You have to want to learn from others and surround yourself with people who are better than you. Always ask why and challenge yourself and others to better solutions to the same old problems. Communicating with human beings can be difficult to keep up with. You must embrace change. I’ll say that again, you must embrace change. It’s ok to say that what you learned two years ago doesn’t work anymore. Was it a waste? No, ’cause two years ago it worked. Jay-Z says, “On to the next thing.”

What have you heard about Miami Ad School San Francisco?

These schools have reputations for a reason. They have been farms for big agencies to cultivate from. They teach you how to keep pace and push yourself, to never give up and work hard, because that’s what big agencies need. I’m not saying they aren’t beneficial, they are, especially on a resume. But I have hired students from these schools and it’s funny, some are really talented and some aren’t. It’s your last question that they didn’t get.

I don’t think traditional media is dead, integration will save them. Thoughts?

It’s definitely not dead, we just have to find better ways to use them. You’re right about integration. People want transparency and they want consistency. And they want you to be everywhere they are. Traditional media has taken somewhat of a back seat lately due to the economy and profiteering. Media companies have been raking us for decades. When the economy dropped out, online media and other untraditional paths to communication took over because it was cheaper and easily measured, WITHOUT ratings and dependency on media buyers. This AND change happened. People aren’t in the same places they once were.

What is advertising to you?

Advertising to me is the ability to connect with people in an interesting way. Period. To better their lives or to act in a way that is beneficial to others. Meaning… to make a difference. In the end we are allowing others to look at culture and ourselves – to laugh and and be honest with how to communicate with each other. Lastly to help others enjoy and appreciate art and creativity. You’re probably asking, Where is the part about selling products and services? If you are doing all that other stuff right, that is automatic. Make someone’s life better or get them to trust and believe in you, then you can introduce product and service to them. Here’s the catch, today you have to be honest about it. YEAH!

I hope this was helpful. It’s tough to get it all in a short e-mail. I will say this one last thing. You control your destiny, not someone else or a school. These things can certainly help you, but only in the sense that you make the most of it and continue to push yourself past it. Growth should never stop.


People are cool.

March 24, 2010

From my last post, “Connecting socially with purpose”, you found out that I’m a social person – social in the sense that I enjoy meeting people, not out partying till dawn (although I’ve done that too). I frequent events and find ways to get out and talk to real human beings. It’s good for my soul and I appreciate listening to others and what’s going on in their world, especially in advertising and marketing. I just want to share about the cool people I’ve been meeting lately.

Wow, in just a few short weeks I’ve met students, designers, directors, CEOs, VPs Marketing Gurus, Teachers and just people curious to know what I’ve been up to since I left redpepper. I’ve traveled to Virginia Beach, New York, Alabama and others judging ADDY shows and meeting AdMen –and women. It’s truly been the Bruce Tour. I kinda feel like the little dude in Fraggle Rock who wrote home about this wonderful place called Planet Earth.

So what have I found? People are cool. They may not all believe in the same things I do or enjoy the same food I enjoy, but I benefit something from everyone I meet. Hopefully they benefit from me as well. In the end…wait there isn’t an end. No matter what I’m doing, I’m always figuring out how to interact with more people. Here’s why:

1. I will always find ways to infuse my life with perspective.
2. Believing in something other than myself requires a humility to understanding new things – letting go of an ego.
3. There is always someone out there better than me, hell, there’s tons. Ok, I do have some talent yo.
4. Exploring new things and experimenting with different philosophies gained by others is a good thing.
5. The only way I’m going to stay fresh and current with todays world is to engage with it.
6. I’m always on the market for mentors. Get your own.
7. Life is short, live it. Getting out of my shell allows for growth and a new scale of understanding the potential for that growth.
8. Meeting new people and places keeps me grounded in my world and focused on my priorities, not problems.
9. It’s about connection right? I mean especially if you are in advertising, you can’t even start to build insights to how to communicate with folks if you don’t know what they’re doing. And no, you can’t just do that online.
10. Tell me what you would put here __________________________.

Each day when I take this approach I learn at least one new thing – maybe I should write these down, geez.

Ok, I wanted to do this more exponentially so I started a little twitter game I call “float place Thursdays”. I take a pic of the place I’m working at for the day and you have to guess where. Here’s how it goes:

“Float place” is my roaming office everyday – I just can’t stay in the house people. Anyway, every Thursday I will take a photo and tweet it to see if you can guess where I’m at. I give the city where I am floating and maybe a few clues. Sometimes I post more that one photo. The first follower who guesses my location wins a gift card to that place. Here’s the catch, you have to meet me to get it – usually at the float place you guessed.

It’s a cool way for me to get to know my followers. Now I get the whole Tweetups thing. It’s funny when I’m meeting these followers for the first time, I’m trying to remember all the tweets that person has made to match them to their face.

This post is about what it takes to be, well, a human being. Cause understanding how to be one takes interacting with other humans. We are social creatures are we not? So if you happen to see me walking down the street in Nashville, TN or in your city. Stop me, let’s get coffee, I promise I’ll listen more than talk – unless you want me to do all the talking – I can do that all day long yo.

©2007 Derek Sivers

This article isn’t about strategies for using social media on a branding level. Those plans involve individual situations that are appropriate to the mission of a brand’s campaign objectives. This conversation is about using online social networks for building professional relationships. If you’re a professional using social media, your best plan is to have a purpose and be consistent.

I’ve always been a social person and after 15 years in the ad industry I enjoy meeting people and having conversations about the biz. About two years ago I joined, a social community site dedicated to serving the advertising, marketing and media industry – a place to share the latest ads and news. With over 8,000 members, I realized it was a great place to have conversations, post articles and gather content. The site was formed as a sub social group of

Why am I sharing this with you? Because it’s the premise to my purpose for using online social media for professional reasons. Like AdGabber, there are many tools available to establish relationships for building a solid professional network. is an awesome tool. It’s basically an online resume on steroids – it lists my work history and professional connections throughout my career including associations, books I’m reading and groups I’m affiliated with. This network is probably the most relevant relationship builder for having conversations with other professionals in the industry where you work, or within related industries. In advertising it’s especially great for connecting with say, brand managers with whom you don’t normally communicate and would want to establish a network with. If you’re not familiar with its purpose here’s a little info. on it:

Ok, so these social tools were the foundation to my online relationships. Then I joined twitter. Twitter allowed for instant real-time sharing of valuable content from whom I followed: Ad Men, Social Media Gurus, Graphic Designers, Art Directors, etc. I also used this tool to promote content from the ad agency where I worked – as the Creative Director. This was my purpose and I remain consistent with it to this day. Some use it merely as another form of personal socializing, I made sure I didn’t follow these Tweeps. The people I followed and still follow are aligned with my purpose and are all associated with advertising in one form or another. And, for the most part, the people who follow me are the same. In short, this is the real beauty of twitter. To boot, it proved to be important in research and keeping current in my industry.

All this may be elementary for a lot of you, just stay with me a little longer, I have a point to make.

Now that I had my three levels of online relationships down it was just a matter of being consistent with the sharing, conversations and contributing. I did this on a regular basis and it was part of my daily plan. If you don’t plan your day using social media this way, it can very easily consume your whole day – don’t let that happen.

This formula and the certain social networks I use is my personal strategy. There are many other social tools available for you to use. However, based on the personal professional mission I’m talking about here, this plan works pretty well.

Ok, here’s why I wanted you to stay with me – I left my job as Creative Director at redpepper. What happened next is how I have positioned myself for further employment and other opportunities with the world.

With the three networks already established all I had to do was: build this site to showcase my work (portfolio) and convey my understanding of advertising strategies; provide relevant content in a blog format to highlight my philosophies (this helps others to get to know me on a different level); share it within my established social networks to get exposure. Next I started a separate blog, I chose postereous, for the purpose of critiquing ads within the industry to stay current and to also share with others – another form of exposure.

All five social network tools allowed the user to connect with each of them – creating a cyclical way of relationship building and exposure. More importantly, having conversations with those who commented or shared on the content I provided, and likewise, doing the same with those who connected with me, gave way to new relationship opportunities.

Here’s the key: I still found traditional ways to meet people by using these social networks: I volunteered to judge shows and speak at events; I developed contests and gave away gifts to meet people and share stories to get to know them better and for them to know me.

In the end, it’s people that we communicate with. Whether it be for brands or for ourselves, “social media” or better, “social connecting” is all about being purposeful with how you connect with others and have conversations about..well, you have to find out for yourself.