If Gregg Bauer could pass along one piece of advice to the students he teaches on the Atlanta campus of Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), it would be to stick to your convictions. His experience, which includes more than 30 years in graphic design and advertising, is filled with stories of those unrelenting back and forth meetings between client and creative director (and when the light goes on for the client).

Over the years, the stories of Bauer’s exploits in the creative world span many genres. He has logged time in ad agencies, design studios, and freelance and in-house agencies. In the ’90s, he was a team leader overseeing a group of designers at Turner Broadcasting, when he was assigned an emerging news network, CNN. At the time, the network was on the front lines covering the Gulf War. The results featured myriad award-winning projects, including corporate communications, brochures, national consumer advertising, merchandising and helping establish CNN’s branding during this critical stage.

Today, he is CEO of BauerHaus Creative in Atlanta, where he works with a variety of clients in the B2B and B2C worlds, including hospitals, law firms, construction, financial technologies and restaurants. His agency’s work creates brands, collateral pieces, websites, ad campaigns and videos. For the past 15 years, Bauer has also served as an adjunct professor at SCAD, where he teaches advertising design and branding, as well as art direction and portfolio design.

CANVAS sat down with him to get his thoughts on dealing with today’s brands and what tomorrow’s creatives should know about design.

Give us a snapshot of today’s graphic design market. What are you seeing out there?

We can look at that from a design standpoint, a business standpoint and a technology standpoint. Each one influences the other. If we start from a technology standpoint, while interactive has greatly expanded, printing has been forced to become more flexible and specialized. Digital printing has advanced to a much higher quality than what it was just 10 years ago. This has allowed lower quantities of collateral material to be printed and in full (4) color. What was once not possible to print affordably in full color, like business cards, is now possible. And printing techniques like spot varnishes and embossing are now possible on smaller runs with dazzling results. Variable data printing has personalized printed pieces as well. Now clients can have their customers’ names not just on the envelope label, but in the headline, along with a special message just for them.

What are your clients looking for today?

As technology has advanced, clients expect more all around. They want faster turnarounds and tighter budgets (I guess they have always wanted that). I think most clients still realize the value of printed pieces and direct mail. Now a well-designed mailer is seen as a more unique item since less are mailed out. Clients want their marketing pieces to be more disruptive and stand out, which is more of a challenge for designers. Each piece needs to look more outstanding and exceptional, while still staying on brand for the client. So this leaves the designer always trying to push the envelope just a little more.

What are some of the most critical things important to today’s brand owners? 

As always, a brand is a promise of a company’s unique value. So brand owners still need to get their message out about how they are different and why their difference matters. In today’s saturated marketplace, it is more difficult to cut through the clutter. Creating a disruptive marketing campaign is not all of the challenge. Doing it within the confines of the existing brand really is the bigger challenge because brand managers realize that brands need to be consistent. Disruption is great, but if it costs the brand their reputation in the process, then it has done more damage than good.

What is the one quality every art director must have today?

Versatility. With new technologies and marketing expanding in a few different directions, today’s art directors must adapt and become more versatile. From social media to content marketing, what is expected of an art director continues to grow and evolve. But at its core, it is still aesthetics and being able to manage people to achieve a final result that will move an audience.

With new technologies and marketing expanding in a few different directions, today’s art directors must adapt and become more versatile.

What is the best piece of advice you can offer today’s designers?

Learn your craft well. Designers have several tools in the tool belt, including type design, layout skills, color choices and computer skills. I would add to that writing skills to at least be able to write a good headline. Ultimately, designers will grow to become art directors and to do that, they should become good managers of people, time and budgets.

What is the biggest thing on your to-do list right now?

My to-do list is long and never ending, and ranges from work to non-work. The work list changes weekly as projects come in and out the door. But I think it is important to also keep an eye on the non-work list, too. Creatives need to refill the tank constantly. Getting inspiration from design shows, traveling and just going to fun events all help give creatives a fresh perspective. And time spent with family and friends away from work is important to a good outlook on life in general, which is reflected in your work and designs.

Can you share a recent success story about a project you did with a client?

I have a longtime client that had an out-of-date logo that I had recommended be updated. The pushback was that their clients have known them as this visual identity for years, and to change the brand so drastically now would leave their clients confused. I argued my case, but to no avail. There was an emotional attachment to the brand’s old script logo that I just could not convince them they had grown beyond. They had grown into a sector that dealt in financial technologies, and the outdated script just did not fit them anymore. It was like wearing a suit from 30 years ago because it was comfortable, even though it was ill-fitting and out of style.

Finally, a consultant was talking to them about an unrelated item and mentioned the off-brand logo. They came back to me ready for a new brand. Our new mark was a departure from where they were. It was simple, colorful and had a current look to it that matched the industry they were in. From there, we expanded on their brand in collateral pieces and online. They came to me after the project was completed, not just to say how happy they were with the new brand, but they were surprised how reinvigorated their own employees were about the new look and feel of the company. Their clients reacted positively as well, and we continue to expand on the brand look, taking our cues from the new logo.