When Alisa Wolfson joined Leo Burnett as a freelancer in 2007, little did she know that five years later she'd be leading the agency's design department.
In the past 18 months, Leo Burnett's in-house design unit has grown from five to 20 staffers, and is announcing itself as a fully functional operation in June.
Ms. Wolfson, 42, said designers previously weren't really "part of the brand team." The idea to launch a separate design department came from the need to provide "brand expression." In-house designers at agencies may design logos, or come in at the last minute to help with a pitch. But "here, we've lifted the focus, so a designer is working right next to the creative director the entire project."
As for how Ms. Wolfson came to run the department, she said it was simply "aligning my ideas with a company that had similar ideas."
Leo Burnett itself has been on a bit of a winning streak, picking up creative duties for clients such as Sprite and Sprint. Ms. Wolfson, who graduated from Michigan State University and was recently named one of three emerging Chicago designers by the American Institute of Graphic Arts, said work for Hallmark and Allstate are fulfilling the agency's design goals, incorporating it into every step of not only the pitch process but the overall campaign.
Knowing what you know now, what career advice would you have given yourself when you were starting out?
Each project is practice for the next. You learn as you do things, so it's OK to not have all the answers.
What's your favorite kind of music?
In some ways, I haven't changed much since I was 13: New Order, Talking Heads and David Bowie.
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