Hello and welcome!
If something looks good or is “designed” well, I am all over it. I want to know how it works, the story behind it, and what it means. On the other hand, the moment it fails to deliver on substance or the value it set me up to expect, I’ll drop it in a New York minute.
I am endlessly interested in design—which is to say: I’m as fascinated with how things work, as I am how well they appear. If something’s not working, there has to be a reason—and I’d like to be the one going after it.
Having learned as a kid some simple lessons my father taught me, I became very confident that I could repair (or problem solve) just about anything. In college, I excelled in my design thinking courses when they paralleled that process with more abstract concepts. The experience of art school awakened my visual senses and set me free.
One of my first jobs was at a Guarantee Auto store. They were a hybrid hardware store with a garage service-bay in the back (to support the sale of brakes, tires, and batteries). I worked both ends. Some days I was the mechanic, other days I’d clean up and work the sales floor, where I earned the nickname “hawk-eye,” because I was so observant and earnest! (I don't know, I’m still guessing).
Today, this dichotomy is just more acute. I’ve installed a steam boiler system, restored just about anything you can imagine, yet I do laundry (really well). At the office, I might write a 600-word blog post on trends affecting industrial supply chain, and then swiftly shift to choosing a color palette for a retail cupcake startup website. I’m as comfortable in an industrial setting, planning a video or interviewing management, as I am watching Project Runway and discussing culture and fashion.
I attribute my long-term success to a curious mind and a very discerning eye. One of the first books I ever read about design was How to See, written by the extraordinary industrial designer George Nelson, whom I had met at the International Design Conference in Aspen. Everything I’ve worked on since has been an intellectual-aesthetic exercise in the pursuit of beauty and clarity (for myself, and) for my clients. I easily accept the responsibilities I think all designers bear—particularly to help create a world less blighted by the ugly and the mundane.
I’ve spent 35 years, working in teams, helping myriad (individuals and) clients build their brands—one small differentiating detail at a time. My questions have improved and I worry less about making people feel comfortable.
I’ve designed everything from a tugboat to a ruby recognition pin. I have conducted both qualitative and quantitative market research for subjects ranging from bicycles to hospital ER usage. I have art directed photography with Lance Armstrong (back in the day) and a few commercial fishermen in the Far East.
As a designer, I’ve devised and directed international brand identity programs and I have been lucky enough to produce distinguished annual reports for two organizations for over 15 consecutive years. One was an international brand of heavy-duty, power-transmission equipment. The other is for a private philanthropic foundation concerned with education, religion, and community development.
Thus far my career has included a commercial studio, a corporate design firm, an urban university, an advertising agency (certainly one of my highlights, thank you John McCaig), an integrated marketing behemoth, and several mutations of my own enterprise.
I landed my dream job (DesignCenter) right out of school (thank you Michael Hayes) and from there I remember very consciously directing the sequence thereafter. Had I not—and with an agency offer in hand—I would have missed the university years and, having had the chance to experiment so freely.
For more on my own company history: “Intrinsic Choice Advances to Stahl Strategic Design”
College-level teaching and mentoring design careers. Internship programs. Lecturer on brand issues. College portfolio reviews; regional communication graphics and photography juror. Member, Indiana Business Council.
My work has been published numerous times and I have collected dozens of local, regional and national awards. I have exhibited at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Art Museum of Greater Lafayette, the Richmond Art Museum as well as galleries in Denver and New York City.
While the solutions I offer my clients come in the form of words, pictures, plans and insight, my clients usually remember the tenacity, patience and curiosity I bring to the table. In my mind, if there’s another five minutes, then there are more questions to be asked, more refinement to be done. Let me show you how.
Part of being successful is a willingness to let go and to adapt to never-ending change. These are the things that are most important for a creative person (or any person) who wants to continue to grow and contribute to society.