Greg Bennett of WORKtoDATE is a tour de force. While the accolades pour in, what’ I find most distinctive is his take-no-prisoners approach to creative communication. His approach, “total immersion” hearkens the world view of a method actor, who upon getting an assignment, becomes that assignment through its development and discovery.
Noted author, Jim Collins, of the book “Good To Great“, characterizes such proliferation as “disciplined person + disciplined thought + disciplined action.” The loudest thing about Greg is his quiet sense of resolve (e.g. “In 1997, I decided I would make my mark on the world through my graphic design”) meted out through his words and his works. And if by works, you have no idea what I’m talking about, take a gander at the sheer body of work he uploads to his online portfolio, his website, and who he’s looking at… impressive. All that and a full-time gig to boot.
So, it’s no wonder that he’s getting national and international attention. Yet, he’s approachable enough to meet at a conveniently placed north Baltimore coffee shop and to bend his ear a bit on greatness, AIGA and subjects in-between.
Greg: Let’s do a round-up: You were recently profiled in Communication Arts (CA) and billed as a fresh mind in the field of graphic design. A quick tour of your website reveals more than enough to introduce you including the recent inclusion in the Graphis Poster Annual 2011, among many other accolades. And of course, you were gracious enough to design the Pulp, Ink & Hops poster that debuted last year. Thanks again and welcome.
What’s the newest thing on your drawing board?
I’m preparing a presentation for the Art Directors Club. They invited me to participate as a judge and asked if I would give a presentation about my work and design process to the club.
How would you describe your style?
Rather than focusing on a particular style, I’ve always focused my time on searching for unique concepts which separate my clients from others. Once I find the concept, I let the idea drive the execution.
The economy has changed the nature of projects. Describe how that has played out for you in your projects at all.
Now—more than ever—clients recognize the value in and need for standout creative in order to achieve their business objectives.
Describe how York, PA—as the base of your education and your current home—informs your design process, if at all. … And does the commute to Baltimore add or subtract from that process?
My creative process is the same no matter were I am. I always start a job with a strategic brief which is a list of questions which I’ve compiled that ensures both parties are starting a job with the same business objectives. With my client’s objectives top of mind, I begin researching the product, service or brand that I’m designing for. While I’m researching, I’m writing unique differentiating details and concepts which separates my client from others. Concept exploration with a pencil and paper is still the most efficient problem solving method for me. Regarding my commute, I spend 8-10 hours a week in my car. At first, it was a real drag until I began utilizing that time making daily hit lists. These lists help me capitalize on every opportunity I’m presented with.
You seem to be thriving amongst the divide of “day-lighting,” as senior design director at Siquis, while freelancing through WORKtoDATE. What advice might you have for those who work in-house or are working in an environment where they feel they could use more fulfilling assignments and outlets for their work?
My advice is to stay selective and only take on freelance opportunities which have both creative merit and monetary gains. I pass on a lot of opportunities because they don’t meet both criteria. By staying selective and patient, I’ve been able to build a portfolio and reputation that has begun selling itself.
Talk to me a little bit about productivity: I recently read a book on the development of ideas. I’m curious to hear your take on productivity, because you furiously update your portfolio, website, and/or present your work, (genuflection) etc. Is there a specific approach regarding productivity that informs your approach?
I live my life supporting the concept of total immersion. My work life and personal life are one. If I have an idea or think of something that will strengthen my presence in the world, I stop whatever it is I’m doing and do it. Talk is cheap.
This year, you were profiled in CA, but you’ve definitely been around for a while. Your work is receiving a boon of national and international attention—and rightfully so. Describe how and why your world view has resonated with these sources.
In 1997, I decided I would make my mark on the world through my graphic design. That has always been my intention but it takes time to prove yourself to both clients and colleagues. Respect is earned, not given.
A while ago, I saw a commercial where a Heineken commercial where a regular guy was among a “hall of superheroes” all of whom had super-powers. Each of them displays their super-power and when they got around to the regular guy, it turned out he could magically make bottles of Heineken appear. So, as a regular guy, what might your super-power be? Your weakness—your kryptonite?
My power is my passion for creative excellence and my kryptonite is spending more time on a job than what the client is paying for.
Why AIGA? (What value does AIGA help you connect with, if at all?)
AIGA helps remind the world that design is both a process and profession.
Talk to me about your philosophy: (excellence and always seeking to stand out—CA, 06/10). Expanding on this a bit, I think many, to some degree, agree with this philosophy, but I’m curious to delve into what you view as the path to extraordinary that many people don’t take.
I consider every job a creative opportunity no matter what the budget, scale or scope is. I could be designing a mint wrapper or a wine bottle label or an international branding campaign. They all get the same attention to detail from me. I believe you’re only as good as your last achievement.
What have you learned?
A proven reputation of creative excellence instills confidence into clients. A confident client will take more meaningful risks with you.
Find Greg Bennett on the web at WORKtoDATE.com. Interview by Chris Jones.