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I’m a unique breed when it comes to ideation. To be honest, there is a point in a conversation where I begin conceptualizing ideas in my head during the conversation.

Dan Brown

Senior Director of Creative Strategy

Mississippi State Athletics

× The interview with Dan Brown was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.

1Tell us about your role as Senior Director of Creative Strategy for Mississippi State University Athletics (MSU). What does a typical day look like for you?

It’s a huge responsibility year after year conceptualizing the direction of design for all our sports teams at MSU. With 16 teams, the idea is to stay within brand guides but make sure each sport has its own flavor.

Week-by-week, we sit down and strategize with our Communications, Social, Video, and Marketing Teams to go over weekly plans and upcoming events.

In order to stay on top of projects, we use Redbooth: a project management software that allows all staff to submit, review, and comment on projects that are in progress. Redbooth also allows me to manage the workflow with my team of designers and approve and monitor all of the graphics content that is published.

Myself and my assistant take on design requests for all of our sports and I work heavily with our two full-time designers that work specifically with football recruiting. It’s a huge team effort but with the communication and weekly meetings, we don’t miss a beat here at State.

Outside of typical social media and marketing content, I also provide design and direction for our facilities designs, ticket office, (Donors) Bulldog Club, and special athletic director requests.

In my 4 years at Mississippi State, I’ve found myself delegating a handful of the smaller sports here to focus on High-Level, and paid sports content. With the small talented group, I get to work with we manage to provide a high volume of content for every sport offering a consistent look across the whole board here.

2How has your work changed since the COVID-19 pandemic began? Additionally, how are you and MSU finding ways to connect with colleagues and other stakeholders in new ways?

COVID has definitely created a shift in the work field: digital calls and social distancing and consistent wipe downs and sanitizing during photoshoots.

If anything, I think COVID has created a bolder structure to how we do things!

It has also pushed us further into the modern world of digital use. We have had a slow transition into digital gameday guides and programs previously but, COVID has now forced a digital form of Tickets, schedule posters, and the continued digital program guides. It’s a good thing but for some old folks, there is no better feeling than having a hard copy.

As far as communication, video chats have been huge and very beneficial. We continue to video chat but have also had opportunities to meet in auditoriums while distancing. It’s different than your typical table meetings but I think our whole staff has adapted quite well.

3Walk us through your creative process from ideation to creation to publication. Does this process differ depending on the type of graphic/video?

I’m a unique breed when it comes to ideation.

To be honest, there is a point in a conversation where I begin conceptualizing ideas in my head during the conversation. I have the ability (most of the time) to create the idea in my mind before the conversation ends.

My mind moves quickly every hour of the day and I like to think I’m a very outside the box risk-taker when it comes to my ideas. Most of the time, those ideas have a time or place but I believe it's beneficial to always start big and tone it down from there.

The design process usually goes from strategizing ideas and concepts with coworkers. Those ideas then turn into sketches depending on the desired variation or the dynamics of the requested project. Sketches turn into digital copies and then every project goes through an approval process where messaging, typography, and images are all reviewed.

There are rare occasions where too many opinions are voiced on some projects but for the most part, it's usually a quick process and transition from finished design to publishing.

4In your role, you provide the creative direction for 16 athletic teams. I’d imagine this can be overwhelming some days! How do you prioritize and manage all that goes into your role? How can someone learn to manage an array of tasks at once like this?

During my beginning at Mississippi State in 2016, I was the only graphic designer on staff and was tasked with the creative for all our sports.

I would work late nights to be able to accomplish and satisfy all our sports.

Yes, there were times when I had to choose who gets more content than the other sport. I’m a man of equal opportunity and I wanted to give everyone the same amount of love but that was not realistic with the provided resources.

I would prioritize based off of social account numbers and ticketed sports.

The obvious answer is to put your efforts into the sports that people are paying to go be entertained at. A businessman loves the sounds of that, but I couldn’t fault sports like cross country, golf, or volleyball because of low following or non-ticketed events.

I began to adapt a template base format where I would prepare easy workable templates that our communications staff could manage. I also developed award and recognition templates that could be used across the board. It was tough at first but in the end, I became quicker at my craft.

I’ve learned the value of time investment; when to be creative versus simple, and really paying attention to the lifeline of a graphic. Social media is very fast-paced and to be efficient and provide for all areas, I knew I needed to be smart with providing my most creative work on projects that are long-lasting versus the ones that die online within minutes.

Going into my 5th season at MSU, I now have 1 full-time assistant, 2 full-timers at football, and 3 interns. I have the chance now to delegate sports and be more creative and regress away from template-based projects.

5While working in Creative Strategy, how have you been able to manage the stress of meeting hard deadlines and what are some tips you have for young sports industry professionals?

One thing for sure while working in sports is that there will always be projects that pop up unexpectedly and require urgent action. That will never change. As long as you communicate and strategize managing deadlines, it shouldn’t be too difficult.

The biggest thing is to manage your workload and delegate if you can. We are all human and you may be the best in the world at what you do but we all have the same amount of time in the day and sometimes there aren’t enough hours. My advice is to do what you can learn every day, set goals, and enjoy what you're doing.

6For someone interested in angling into Graphic Design, would you suggest they go the jack of all trades route, and try to learn as many areas as possible or specialize in a singular function and become a master at it?

I think both ways on this question. It’s always nice to hire someone with multiple talents and skillsets but, it’s also not a bad thing to be really good at one thing. I would say learn as much as you can and be ready to step into something new if needed but keep a strong focus on the craft you are best at.

I grew up with the mentality to be a renaissance man.

Do it all so a company can hire you to do 5 things instead of hiring 5 people to do 5 things.

Now, working and seeing an actual workflow and volume of requests, it gets hard to learn new things at times because of the volume of graphic needs. Plus some areas are their own beast and need solo attention.

7Last but not least, let’s shine some light on your portfolio! Which piece of content/graphic are you most proud of and why?

No One Fights Alone Campaign.

Our softball team usually wore teal accents on midweek games to support ovarian cancer.

We ended up signing Alex, an athlete who was later diagnosed with ovarian cancer in high school. I felt the need to focus this teal midweek on her strongly while also providing strong messaging for anyone fighting or who has lost someone to cancer.

I pushed the envelope and created a campaign that brought our softball team closer and also built support all around the nation.

We ended up wearing teal uniforms. At the end of the 3rd, I turned our game guides into message boards that read “I Fight Beside” [fill in Name] for fans to hold up in a moment of silence for anyone fighting or anyone who was lost.

3 years later and No One Fights alone has become a staple here for our softball team. The amount of support from all our sports here at MSU and around the nation has been a joy to witness.

We lost Alex 2 years ago and I created a patch in honor of Alex that all our teams have added to their teal uniforms and also on our outfield wall.

This strong young woman would go through treatment and then come to practice right after. You would have never thought she was fighting any battle with the smile she would carry. I think someone of that nature deserved to be honored and provided additional strength. This is a continued effort and something I’m very proud to be a part of.

Hayley Michie Hayley's Final Thoughts

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