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The Opportunity in "&" Thinking, an interview with Yes& Creative Directors

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The creative process is inherently nonlinear, and there’s certainly no right or wrong way to get to a final design result, but there is a ton of opportunity along the way to discover new possibilities. Diving into the process of research, ideating, sketching, and refining is unique for every creative and every project. There are no set rules or guidelines to the creative process that we can share with you to guarantee success. However, there is plenty of structure in what we do at Yes&. We are always thinking and working with the mindset of “&” that takes our work to its full potential.

We sat down with Yes& Creative Directors, Brian Domenici, Jen Fose, and Claudia Barac-Roth to interview them on their own personal creative process and how they incorporate “&” thinking into their design.

 

 What is your first step and last step when beginning and ending a design project?


Ensure every detail is considered. Whether it’s gathering information before design even begins or organizing the final files to hand off to the client, it’s critical to look at a project from every angle and examine every inch of a file. This attention to detail helps us and our clients better prepare for any new situations or needs that may arise in the future.


Get the right players in the “room” and build/align on the creative brief, from account subject matter experts (SMEs) to the strategy team to the creative team (and sometimes client). Make sure we understand all the goals/deliverables of the project and have that creative brief blessed by the client. It is always good to start off a project in alignment with all the players involved.


Last step, we host a retrospective, as we call it, a “retro,” which is a meeting to look back over all the components of the event, campaign, or deliverable and rehash what went well and what were the missteps we could learn from and air it all on the table for discussion—whether it was in the strategy, creative, communication, pricing, or client management. Our goal is to constantly learn and grow from each project, and because we are human, we won’t always be perfect; but we can strive to get better and avoid making the same mistake over again.



Bookends are important because they set the tone for it all! At the beginning of a project, all things are possible in its honeymoon stage. We start with re-reading our creative brief, going back to strategy, and account to learn and truly understand the what and the who we are speaking to when creating campaigns.

From there, we dive into brainstorming and regroup with just the creative team to filter down buckets and go through the journey towards building our buckets and develop those in various rounds until we present to client.

At the very end of launching a campaign, I encourage my team to gather analytics to see how many impressions and how much visibility the work has gotten. We gather and create quick GIFs, JPEGs and assets that can be used for case studies. This allows our agency to showcase our work and allows creative to help our agency grow and serve more clients in the future. And to wrap it all up - getting the team together to celebrate a job well done when we finish a project!

 

What are your biggest sources of inspiration? How do they vary from project to project?


I love collaborating and learning from others, so my biggest source of inspiration is the people I work with, which varies from project to project. It’s amazing how an idea or design can transform with a conversation and fresh perspective.




I get my inspiration simply from existence—there’s so much to draw from people, movies, music, fashion, art, everything. One of the things I like to do is when something catches my attention I try and dissect why it caught my attention. Why did I stop scrolling? Why did I remember that commercial? Why did I stop and notice a billboard or note a shop’s branding? One of my favorite things to do for inspiration is go to a music store and look through album covers. Every album gets a similar canvas, and to see how each one is approached through imagery, colors, fonts, alignment to tell a different story is very cool to see.



Travel and seeing new places is my true inspiration. Breaking up my experiences from every day routines is key to get my creative juices going. I have learned that seeing new places and experiencing different cultures bring diversity in my perspective and the way I see things creatively.

 

Do you have a particular project where "&" thinking took the design to the next level? 


I’m a big fan of putting myself in my client’s shoes to explain or present designs in a way that will resonate most clearly with them. That said, when we do a rebrand project, we always like to show a logo in a real-life application so it’s easy for our clients to make the mental leap from a drawing on a screen to something they’ll identify with every day. Showing Axim Geospatial what their new visual identity could look like on a social platform, as a website favicon, and embroidered on a t-shirt helped them select their final concept direction and allowed them to see their brand’s broader potential.


My team works on a lot of events and annual conferences, and some of my favorite moments are when we can surprise our client with a truly heartful and personal moment. There are two moments that come to mind. One was when we were able to surprise the MCAA President, Armand Kilijian, pulling on his deep love for his Armenian heritage. We had traditional Armenian Dancers come on stage as he was finishing his opening address. They performed dances and Armand joined in too. It was a great way to kick off a conference and he was so appreciative.

The other moment was when we created a “Thank You” video (off the books and off the approved show flow) for the outgoing ASAE president, Susan Robertson. This was still in the middle of the pandemic, so we had to think of a creative and budget friendly way to approach the creative. So, we interviewed her team members and recorded them sharing their feelings, stories, and gratitude of her and played the video at the conclusion of the virtual conference. I enjoy that at Yes& we go that extra mile and have the client feel seen and appreciated.

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The Carpenter’s Shelter project brainstorm really helped our team get the client on board with window and environmental design graphics that lead to a larger project and experience overall, plus got us some sweet awards!

CarpenterShelter EOY mailer_multiple LANTERNSCarpenterShelter EOY mailer_Lanterns

 

What is your biggest advice for young creatives navigating the creative process at an agency?


Ask questions!
Understanding the background, parameters, and goals of a project will allow you to create a solid framework to build upon. Doing this will help you determine where the limits are and when it makes sense to push them. It also makes it easier to justify a direction based on facts, not feelings.


Be present and engaged. It doesn’t matter where creative ideas and approaches come from. In our team’s &Storms (brainstorm meetings), we like our team members to share, have a perspective, be vulnerable with creative ideas, listen, and iterate and build on others’ ideas. When it comes to executing the creative work, I up-vote what Jen said, always come from a viewpoint and reasoning for your creative decisions.


Keep an open mind and to be humble. Go back to drawing and painting so you gain flexibility in a creative level that pixels don’t do. There is creativity everywhere—keep your eyes open for it. Design can change culture and bring hope. Design shows us the possibility in all and how we can all grow as people on this earth.

Yes& is the Washington, DC-based marketing agency that brings commercial, association, and government clients the unlimited power of “&” – using a full suite of branding, digital, event, marketing, public relations, and creative capabilities to deliver meaningful and measurable results.

Let’s talk about what the power of "&" can do for you.

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