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September 2, 2021 - By Acadia Otlowski

HawkeStar Spotlight August: Jeff Dickens, Art Director

Hawke Media celebrates our outstanding employees that further our culture, values, and mission. Today we recognize Art Director, Jeff Dickens for his notable HawkeStar August 2021 achievement award. 

Q: Congratulations on winning HawkeStar! What does this award mean to you?

A: This award is a great acknowledgement of the work I’ve done over the last two years and the progress the Branding Team has made. As one of the smaller, less-visible teams it’s great to know that people have seen and appreciated the time and effort that goes into what I do, and that the work I’ve produced is well received.

Q: Take us through your background. Were you born a naturally gifted artist? Where did your passion for art come from?  

A: Creative blood definitely runs deep within my family lineage. We’ve got painters, illustrators, photographers, writers, chefs, and more, so I always knew I’d end up doing something creative career-wise, from a pretty young age. My parents put me in Tee-Ball classes when I was a kid and I totally didn’t get it and hated every second of it. They eventually pulled me out and put me in ceramics and music classes and it clicked pretty much instantly. I loved drawing and coloring from a young age (still do!) and always told people I wanted to be “a cartoonist” when I grew up, which, in some ways, I kind of am. Art School was a fast track to honing all of the skills I developed along the way, and helped me to see exactly where my strengths lie, and how to use them in developing a career that doesn’t always feel like “work.”

Q: Who are some of your inspirations?

A: As far as Graphic Designers go, I’m certainly inspired by the legends – Saul Bass and Paul Rand for that mid-century minimalism vibe that never goes out of style, David Carson who’s the master of breaking the rules. But also loads of other artists in other design realms – Charles and Ray Eames, Paul R. Williams, Harry Bertoia and so many other architects and industrial designers constantly inspire me with their innovation and attention to detail. And tons of present-day artists like Luke Pelletier, Robert Coleman, Yeye Weller, Kat Hutter, and Roger Lee who have all made names for themselves with their unique aesthetics and diverse perspectives. Lastly, it’s cheesy but a lot of my friends are super inspiring as well. Creators tend to flock together so no matter what their field, having a close network of creative friends can only help inspire.

Q: What goes into making successful branding / designs?

A: Definitely communication, as a foundation. Being able to ideate and collaborate with clients is super crucial to yielding the best results. The ability to listen to what they’re asking for on the surface level, but then go deeper and read between the lines is where the really important work often lies. Many clients don’t have the ability to express what they want verbally, so it’s my job as a Designer and Art Director to pick up on cues that help inform what direction to take. Often, what they’re after is just a feeling, so mood boarding is the most useful tool to be able to evoke feelings, good or bad, from a client and help align our visions. From there it’s all about iteration and refinement, honing in on what’s working, and letting go of what isn’t. 

Q: Jeff, you are excellent in every way. What advice would you give to someone new to the company that wants to take home the award next?

A: Aw thanks! As with much of life, you really do only get out of this experience what you’re willing to put into it. If you’re passionate about your craft and are motivated and willing to do the work, you will see the positive results. Because of our unique business model and how quickly things move, I think adaptability is also pretty crucial here. Being flexible will only help you, but learning how to take advantage of that flexibility is really what will help you get to the next level. This sounds like a fortune cookie but learning when to go with the flow and when to fight it, and when to ask for help and when to figure it out on your own to keep things moving have been themes I constantly come back to here.