The Evolution of Texas Creative: A Q&A Session With Executive Vice President and Creative Director Josh Norman
At Texas Creative, we believe companies must evolve to remain relevant, so we sat down with Vice President and Creative Director, Josh Norman, to learn about his 18 year tenure here and how he’s watched the company grow over the years.
1. What is your role at Texas Creative?
I’m Executive Vice President and Creative Director, and my role is to help direct the creative team along with Brian, our President and Chief Creative Director; David, our VP/Creative Director, and Marcus; our Associate Creative Director. Essentially, that entails a slate of daily projects on my desk, which can range from branding campaign concepts, brand identity design, website design, digital and social media ads and campaigns, print design, and more. Our creative team has so much diverse talent and experience that the “direction” part of my title is much more akin to “collaboration,” which is one of my favorite parts of my role. We all learn from one another daily and contribute to projects in ways that are as unique as our projects themselves. My role is often working with 1 or more creatives on our team to help narrow direction for a project down from 360° to the 10° that work within a brand’s voice, look, and feel, and watching magic happen.
2. How long have you worked here?
Long enough for my career here to be able to vote? I started on February 1, 2001, so I’ve been with TXC for 18 and a half years.
3. What was your role when you first started?
My first position at TXC was as a Designer.
4. At Texas Creative, we believe companies must evolve to remain relevant. How have you seen Texas Creative evolve in your 18 years here?
The biggest change has been our evolution from a graphic design studio to a full-service agency. When I started in 2001, we were very project-based and functioned sort of like an outsourced design department for our clients, some big and some small. Today, we are still project-based in some instances, but our most rewarding work comes out of deep partnerships with companies and agencies whose work we have an admiration for and a desire to grow together. Having a seat at the table with our clients to discuss brand assessment, planning, strategy, and research, then pouring all of that through a filter of a bunch of brilliant minds here to inform great creative ideas that can come to life in countless ways – that’s the biggest difference over almost two decades. We’re still designing logos, ads, books, websites, and shooting video, but the time and effort spent on the front-end of both single projects and large campaigns has been the largest and most important shift for us, helping us to bring an incredible amount of value to our clients. And our biggest successes have come with clients who want to engage with us in those ways.
5. How has your role evolved here?
I was one of three designers on staff when I started, and I was very entrenched with what was on my desk at that very moment, what deadlines where, and knocking out the best work I could. Obviously, that’s still part of what I do, but it has been like starting work in a rainforest, focused on ground-cover details, and slowly being lifted up above the trees to see a much bigger picture. Working with our leadership team continues to do that for me, as we all face our own challenges and work together to find solutions, both for our clients and for our individual teams. That’s not a role I saw myself in when I started at TXC. I wanted to be at a desk, doing design work for hours on end. I just wanted to design cool stuff. That’s certainly still part of what I do and what I want to do, but as time has gone by, getting a broader understanding of what informs creative work and how success will be measured has changed my perspective.
6. What has been your favorite thing to watch evolve within the agency?
“Within the agency” is the key part of that question, and the answer is seeing the type of talent we’ve acquired to help us lay the groundwork for relationships with clients based on transparency and trust. That, combined with young talent, has made us ultra-capable, so much so that I still think we surprise clients at times with what we can execute. We’ve almost tripled in size since my first day at TXC, but the expertise we’ve brought on board has meant much more than those numbers might suggest.
7. What change(s) do you think is necessary for advertising agencies to make as time progresses?
Like any business, advertising agencies have to spend some time in front of a crystal ball and take some reasonable chances. The digital space is the big one right now and for the foreseeable future, and privacy, targeting, and security are hot topics. I think back to when I started at TXC, and we were just trying to figure out if the internet was a fad or something to invest time and resources in. It sounds like a ridiculous question now, but positioning ourselves to lead in the digital space was something that started long before “the digital space” was even a thing. Finding those kinds of opportunities prepare agencies for “what’s next.” All you have to do is figure that out – easy, right? It takes smart minds and a great mix of talent to get that right, and to be willing to take a little risk to test the waters. The real challenge is that timelines are shrinking and agility is key.
8. If you could change one thing about the current advertising space, what would you?
I’d like it to be perceived to be less about “cheating” and “data,” which I think is sort of a weird bruise on our industry right now. Granted, agencies are hired guns, presented with a problem or a slate of problems to solve. That’s why we exist. However, I think that problem solving can often lead to consumers asking questions like “what ad tricks are they trying to play on me?”
I once had an English professor tell me to ask this question before you start reading a book: “Who is this bastard, and why is he lying to me?” His point was that you should read critically. The same goes for advertising, whether it be a TV spot or a digital ad. I think companies are coming around to the idea that good advertising is about what you do, not what you say, and if we had more of that, brands would have better relationships with consumers.
9. Where do you see the future of advertising heading?
I think we’ve just barely scraped the surface of digital advertising. It feels a lot like the internet did in 2001. No one quite knows exactly where it’s heading or what the real possibilities are. So, there’s no question that the digital space will continue to grow rapidly and there will be amazing opportunities for brands to connect with consumers in more personal ways than ever before. Probably half of the positions at TXC are jobs that didn’t exist when I started working here. And I don’t feel old enough to say that kind of get-off-my-lawn thing. Who knows how that will look in another 15-20 years.
10. What is one of your favorite campaigns you’ve worked on in the past? How would you do it different now?
The work we were able to do with The Tobin Center for the Performing Arts in San Antonio is something that will always stick with me. We starting working with the Tobin Center when it was just a hole in the ground, and had the opportunity to create its brand look and feel, work on a fundraising campaign, help with events involving arts education, build two websites – all for a building that really transformed the performing arts space in our city. I’m not sure I’d do much differently, aside from wishing for a larger budget to get into more digital and social spaces or video work to push what we did further, or take advantage of technologies like geotargeting ads that wasn’t a thing then. But to drive by and see a building that will be a part of San Antonio for decades to come and know that we played a small role in getting it done is really rewarding. It was a neat colliding of worlds for me, since I went to college on a theatre scholarship and ended up at a creative firm helping to build a brand for a state-of-the-art performing arts center.