Creative Director Tom Bartels is coming up on his one-year anniversary with The Arland Group, and he has more than 17 years of graphic design and marketing experience, working with organizations of all sizes, locally and nationally. I sat down with Tom to talk about his life as a creative type and his thoughts for job seekers heading down a similar career path.
When did you first know you wanted to be in the creative director/design field? Was there a particular event that sparked it, or did it come about naturally and over time?
I have always envisioned this role to be in my future since I started in the graphic design/marketing field. It’s the natural progression if you want to move up in the industry and take more of a leadership role.
Tell us about your educational background and how you chose your schooling.
I have always been interested in the arts, drawing and graphic design since I was a wee lad. I chose a technical school, Hickey College, with an accelerated graphic design program to allow me to get a job and career faster. I went back to school to take web design courses at Jefferson College a few years later.
Take me through your career. How did you become the coveted creative director of TAG?
I started off as a graphic designer, working my way up to become a senior graphic designer with various companies and agencies in the St. Louis area. The next step in the right direction of my career would be taking a creative director role. I put out feelers and had some great feedback from TAG. I love the culture and the people here, so I decided it would be the best fit for myself to join their amazing team.
For readers who don’t know, can you briefly take us through what you do as a creative director at TAG?
My responsibilities include but aren’t limited to, overseeing all creative work we produce for our many clients and stepping in to design anything print, digital or web related. Most days I have creative brainstorming sessions with my many bobbleheads and Ron Burgundy cardboard cutout. They are the real inspiration.
TAG allows you to work from home occasionally, which is also a benefit that employers are starting to adopt more regularly. Can you talk about the benefits and drawbacks for you personally regarding work from home versus the office?
The obvious perk is not having to drive 45 mins in traffic. Taking advantage of working in my PJs is always a plus, and I have lunch with my son at his school when I can. I do love being in the office to collaborate with the TAG team and bounce ideas off them.
You recently moved into the new TAG offices in Kirkwood. How do you plan on using the space creatively?
There is so much more room for activities. The conference room with the white board table is always helpful for sketching ideas. The lounge area and front porch provide a new and fun environment to escape from my office.
As a creative agency, we have a lot of moving parts coming through the doors, and you have to be “on” a lot. A: How do you stay organized and B: Where do you go for creative inspiration?
We use Basecamp to keep all our clients’ projects and communication in one place. It makes everything easy and convenient to keep track of our projects, stay organized and on top of deadlines. For creative inspiration, I will plug in the headphones and listen to music. I will also peruse Dribbble.com, Designboom.com and Pinterest.com. Don’t tell my wife I’m on Pinterest.
For those wanting a job as a graphic designer, creative director, etc., what advice do you have for them during their job search?
Keep up with the grind; sharpen and hone your skills in your free time. Make yourself available by being willing to help with anything that needs to be done. That will always get noticed and help you in your career.