Welcome to our interview series, Creativity Drives Business, where successful marketing and creative leaders share industry insights, how they got to where they are today, and explore the future role of creativity in business.
John Weaver, Creative Director of the Seattle Seahawks, discusses how he has combined his love of sports with his passion for art and why he thinks deadlines are actually a creative worker's best friend:
Q: How did you get into creative operations?
Like many creative minded people, it took me a while to figure out how I could turn my love of art into a career. While studying for a business degree with a minor in Fine Arts, I began to zero in on Marketing/Advertising as a potential fit.
I enjoyed the idea of solving business problems through creative solutions and using the left and right sides of my brain on a regular basis. After undergrad, I studied Graphic Design at the Art Institute of Seattle and landed my first job as a graphic designer at a software company in Bellevue.
From there, I took on various design jobs before combining my love of art and sports as the first in-house designer at the Seahawks.
Q: How do you think creative roles in the organization are changing?
We're a relatively young in-house department and our roles are changing in terms of how much is asked from us on a regular basis. Creative content, particularly in the digital space, is consumed so rapidly that the demand for our services increases each year along with our output.
"Creative content, particularly in the digital space, is consumed so rapidly that the demand for our services
increases each year along with our output."
Q: What are the biggest challenges you face? How do you overcome them?
The most difficult part of being a creative in the sports industry is that the pace of the work does not lend itself to creative exploration.
We're always on tight deadlines and reacting to last minute requests, which can turn designers into production artists. The key to remaining creative is time.
The only way to maintain the quality of our work and stretch the creativity of our brand is to work diligently on schedules and timelines. Getting ahead of projects well in advance of deadlines by communicating with all our internal clients allows for the kind of creative exploration we need to thrive.
Q: What are you looking ahead to in 2018?
We are taking the time to do several surveys and studies relating to the state of the Seahawks brand. It is always energizing to take a step back and look at ways to refresh our approach. I am excited for the opportunity to examine where we are as a brand and where we want to go.
"The only way to maintain the quality of our work and stretch the creativity of our brand is to work diligently on schedules and timelines."
Q: What was your favorite campaign or project you worked on?
The NFL introduced Color Rush games a few years ago and Nike produced some neon green jerseys for us to wear for a single game instead of our traditional navy blue. It was a real stretch for our brand but was so much fun because of the way our organization embraced it.
We went crazy dreaming up ways to make this particular game feel like a big event all driven by these outlandish green uniforms. It made for a wonderfully creative environment and rewarding to see all our hard work come to life on game day.
Q: How do you handle creative feedback and reviews for the work your team produces?
Since we're a small in-house group, we keep our feedback and review processes simple. We start by confirming that we have a good grasp of our clients goals and vision before each project begins.
As Creative Director, I'll have my designers bring me work to give feedback on. That way we can maintain consistency and brand quality through a series of reviews. Then projects receive final approval from the internal client before being handed off for production.
Q: What tools, books, or industry resources help you in your day-to-day work?
Our design team is always searching for inspiration, so we scour the web and use a shared Pinterest board to compile projects we find particularly creative. Designspiration.net and Behance.com are also good places to browse.
We rely on Adobe CC for our day-to-day tools and Libris by Photoshelter for our photo asset management. We have built a project management system using Knack to track projects along with an online form for design requests.
"If you can surround yourself with group of like-minded creative thinkers, the designer inside you will thrive."
Q: How does creative drive business results for your organization?
Our brand is built upon the relationship we have with our fans. It's an emotional connection and one that relies heavily on the creative department to convey in all of our communications.
We want our fans to feel as if they are a part of something special, something bigger than themselves. That feeling can only be achieved through great storytelling and creative branding.
Q: Tell us about some brands you admire. What makes them stand out?
- Toronto FC – Since their inaugural year, they have crafted a unique brand that caters to their passionate fan base.
- Miami Dolphins – Engaging photography seems to consistently drive their brand.
- REI – They do a great job of selling a lifestyle as much as selling outdoor equipment.
- Nest – They've built a business around how to make life easier. I like that their visual brand that matches that promise.
Q: What’s one piece of advice you want to give to other creatives?
Ooh...saving the toughest question for last. Design is becoming increasingly essential in the business world as companies hunt for new ways to engage with consumers. My advice is to seek out and surround yourself with people who see the value of design.
We should not spend our time justifying our existence, but rather push each other and ourselves artistically. If you can surround yourself with group of like-minded creative thinkers, the designer inside you will thrive.
A huge thank you to John for taking the time to share his thoughts. Stay tuned for the next interview soon.