We are excited to share our first #AAFSpotlight feature. This month, we’re getting a peek inside the mind of Lehigh Mining & Navigation’s Managing Partner and Creative Director, Denis Aumiler.
Does anyone really write down great ideas on cocktail napkins?
I always start with rough sketches. Really rough. Ballpoint pen, marker or pencil and whatever scrap of paper is available. I get my thoughts down quickly and try to generate a lot of ideas.
One of the great Art Directors, Steve Cosmopulos, said “Keep your layouts rough, but the ideas fancy.” His class assignments started with a grid sheet of 50 small rectangles. He would require us to fill three sheets with ad concepts—that’s 150 ideas. 140 of them would be typical stuff, but 10 would be surprising. And we weren’t doing tight illustrations, just quick thumbnails to get the idea down.
What’s your favorite font?
Comic Sans comes to mind immediately. Otherwise, I love the classic sans serif fonts and Helvetica is the most iconic typeface. With its perfect vertical and horizontal lines, Helvetica is simple and yet has an edge. It’s timeless.
I will refer to Mr. Cosmopulos one more time. He said: “Designers who think words are just another design element miss the point.” Meaning it’s important to really understand what the copy or headline is saying. Let the idea lead the design. Form follows function.
Any advice you can pass down to aspiring young creative professionals?
Become an investment banker instead. Just kidding. I love this business. Whenever I receive an assignment—whether it’s a website, logo, ad campaign, email blast, whatever—I aways step back and think about what the client is trying to accomplish. More often than not, the project is the wrong vehicle for the goal. Maybe spending $10,000 for a billboard campaign will be ineffective if the logo and branding is dated. If the client wants to reach 1,000 people in a specific geographic area and they want you to build a website, they might be better served with a direct mail campaign. Think about what the client is trying to achieve, think beyond the assignment.
Currently, how big is the logo? Do you see it getting bigger? The client wants to know.
It’s always too big. It’s my personal mission to simplify every communication I touch. As a rule, our agency does not put URLs or phone numbers on billboards. A billboard is a branding vehicle, there’s only room for a brand and a message. Whether the communication is an ad, a website or direct mail, there needs to be space for the important elements—logo, headline and message. Keep it simple.
I attended Penn State in the fine arts department, but eventually discovered graphic design—the perfect combination of type, words and image. I had a huge career boost when I got my Master’s in Advertising Design at Syracuse. The instructors were working Creative Directors and Art Directors from the best agencies in North America. They made me realize how much I sucked. I really grew from that experience. It’s important to get into a really good program. This is what I believe: Work with the most talented people you can find. Find solutions that make the client uncomfortable. Learn to articulate your ideas. Read. Listen. Look. Learn. And never be satisfied.