Technological advancements are one of the constants in the advertising world. From the advent of using computers for design projects to the introduction of the internet’s limitless store of information, this senior art director has seen it all. While staying ahead of the digital learning curve can be daunting, Miles Wright knows that the secret to design success is embracing the ever-evolving technology and harnessing its capabilities – all while keeping the human element at the forefront of imagination and creativity.
You’ve worked in advertising for over 25 years. What are some of the biggest changes you’ve seen in the industry?
I studied advertising and design before computers. When I first interviewed with Luckie after graduating from college, they weren’t sure if this “desktop publishing” thing was the future. All you needed to design an ad or brochure was a marker, T-square and an X-Acto blade. But as the computer evolved and became more widely accepted, we realized we had a fantastic, unlimited tool to help us communicate our ideas more effectively and enable us to design in ways we never thought possible.
And then along came the internet. The whole world was now at our fingertips. Photography, fonts, illustrations – everything you could possibly imagine. Before the internet, the designer’s world was limited to yearly award books, catching a great spot on TV, or the joy of stumbling upon a well-designed ad. We are creatures of reference. We learn from one another, and we thrive off of seeing each other’s work. The internet changed this in ways we never imagined.
But with the beauty of the internet came the challenges of a new medium. We all knew print, radio and broadcast, but the internet threw the doors open for all kinds of design we had never really contemplated. But instead of being intimidated, we embraced it. We used our creativity not only to imagine new concepts, but also to imagine new, fascinating ways to broadcast those concepts. I’m still studying and learning about the possibilities. I embrace the challenge every day.
What was an exciting project you’ve worked on lately at Luckie and why?
Recently, I was given the opportunity to work on the Regions Bank Black History Month campaign. We kicked it off by inviting the client and our employees to express what Black History Month meant to them. So many times these types of observances are prepackaged. We’re told why we must celebrate them and which figures we must acknowledge. But we wanted to dig into what these celebrations meant to everyday people. And after listening to comments and understanding what genuinely mattered to people, we found some real heroes who mattered.
One of these was living legend Col. Charles McGee. At 96 years old, he is one of the few Tuskegee Airmen still alive today. Meeting him was amazing. He was kind, gracious, modest, grateful and real. It was a true honor to meet him, and yet he was so thankful we would be interested in him.
What has been one of your most challenging design issues, and what was your approach or solution to the issue?
Technology poses the greatest challenge. While I’m so grateful and amazed by the power of software and technology, I want to make sure we don’t lose the art of design. It’s very easy to let a software program decide how something should look or work, but we must be diligent in making sure the creative, human element prevails. Technology gives us many tools, but we must remain the imagination and the brains.
You received a national ADDY for your work on the civil rights book Luckie created for the Alabama Tourism Department. What did this project and award mean to you? What were some of the highlights of working on the project?
Our challenge was to create a piece encouraging the UNESCO World Heritage Committee to designate several sites in the Southeast that were critical to the civil rights movement as world cultural landmarks.
There was little direction, and no one involved in the project had created a piece like this before. The biggest concern was that it would be presented to a mostly non-English speaking committee in Paris. We needed to tell the story visually but believed modern photography of historic locations wouldn’t have the desired impact.
I decided a way to make the importance of the sites powerfully relevant was to connect the landmarks of the civil rights movement with the present. I wanted to visually make the analogy that the important event that happened at this site had – and still has – an immense impact on who and what we are today. It’s not just something that happened in the past we can leave behind. The events that took place at these sites created the present we have today.
After much research, the photographer and I were able to find photos from the civil rights era we could exactly recreate today. We took the present-day photos from the exact perspective and location as the original photos, most of which were black and white. I then used a split-page design lining the two photos up perfectly: the black and white image from the past with the full-color photo from today, visually making an unbreakable connection between the past and the present.
It was so well received we kept expanding it over the next two years. The client kept adding sites to the book. It was challenging because we had to find a historic photo of the site and be able to recreate it in the modern day.
The book won several awards. And while awards are always flattering, this piece was so much more important to me than that. It was an honor to work on it and to visit these locations. Having the opportunity to tell this story to an international audience was humbling.
How many chances do you get to stand on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, walk across the Edmund Pettus Bridge, sit at the Woolworth lunch counter in Greensboro, and stand on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis?
The beauty of it is, I believe, that the awe and passion I felt being in all these sacred spaces was evident in the piece I created. I will always be grateful for this opportunity.
You have a family history in the advertising industry. How did this history lead you into advertising, and how has it influenced you?
My father was a creative director, but he never pushed or encouraged me to follow in his footsteps. My older brother preceded me into advertising, and my wife is also in the business. I never really thought about it as a career, but when I started taking art and design classes in college, I realized I was just born to do it.
However, even though my father spent his entire career in advertising, he’s never really offered me insight or advice about the business. He’s a modest man, and he has always sort of let my brother and me find our own ways. Plus, the industry has changed so much since he worked in it. But I do remember how much he loved being creative, and I think I inherited his joy in being able to do something creative every day (well, almost every day).
Do you have a favorite designer? What do you admire about his or her work?
As we grow in our profession, there are always other creatives we follow who impress us with their work. My list is long, but lately I’m finding inspiration from a different source – social media. I’m constantly impressed by the creativity from these nonprofessional creatives of the internet. We’re seeing incredible and original videos on YouTube, smart, clever writing on Twitter and beautifully composed photos on Instagram. Most of these are done by everyday people who have found that little creative spark inside of them. Now everyone has the tools and the platforms to share their ideas with the world.
What are some of your favorite ad campaigns – from Luckie or other ad agencies? What is powerful about these campaigns, and how do they influence your own design work or creative process?
One of the pluses of working at Luckie is being able see some of the great creative work that comes out of here. It’s fun to see how others here approach challenges and find really amazing creative solutions.
Luckie’s creative work on the “Year of” campaign for the Alabama Tourism Department was fantastic. Year after year, this campaign stayed fresh while being enormously effective for tourism.
The same could be said of the Regions Bank “bike” campaign. It’s just a simple idea that consumers are able to relate to. We’ve been able to keep it alive and evolving over the years. Lately we’ve done a lot of short social media videos for Little Debbie, which are fun and creative. All of these are examples of simple but well-conceived creative ideas that continue to be fresh and effective.
Outside of work, you enjoy carpentry and remodeling. Are there any similarities between these types of design and the work you do at Luckie? Can anything you’ve learned from one be applied to the other?
Absolutely. I enjoy remodeling because I’m solving a problem. My wife and I can look at a room, recognize where it’s not working and find a better solution. Everything starts with a good base. There are parts of remodeling that are hidden from sight, like the plumbing and electrical work, but they’re still as critical as the flooring, trim and paint. How it looks in the end is important, but how it was put together determines if it’s a success or not.
It’s the same with graphic design. I’m given a creative brief with all the necessary information and limitations but no instructions for how to get to the final piece. It’s a puzzle with an infinite number of ways it can be completed. It’s easy to make something look good, but it must work, too.
You’re also a history buff and enjoy reading history books. What is it about historical subjects that interests you? What are some of your favorite reads? Is there anything about this hobby that feeds your creative spirit?
You would think a creative would enjoy fiction. A great writer can come up with the most imaginative, fascinating stories, but I really prefer nonfiction. I find life comes up with the most incredible stories, in part because they’re true. History tends to be very dry to most people since it’s just mostly dates and dead people. But it’s fascinating to me to read about struggles mankind has faced over the years – war, disease and other misfortunes – and see us persevere. And then usually make the same mistakes again.
I guess this is one of the reasons I enjoyed the civil rights projects so much. They brought together two of my passions and made the work more fun – and the result even better.
How do you think design will continue to change and evolve in the coming years, and how do you think Luckie will adapt to the changing design world?
Design can be incredibly trendy, and the “in” look of design is constantly changing. However, the soul and purpose of design will never change. Design’s job is to tell a story, and that’s what we will continue to do going forward, regardless of how it looks. The internet is a perfect example. It’s so fascinating to see how people interact with design and content on the internet and to find new ways to tell stories in that medium.
Also, we all know the avalanche of data we now have about our target markets is completely changing advertising and design. Gone are the days when you could throw out a good TV spot in hopes of catching a small percentage of your target market. Now advertising, marketing and design are so extremely targeted – almost personalized – which is and will continue making us re-evaluate and refine how we communicate on this new, more intimate level.
“The Luckie 7” is an interview series in which we sit down with people at Luckie to talk about areas of expertise and what it means to be part of a human experience agency. Want more from #LuckieHumans? Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.