So far, Kevin Mau’s career focus has been—and will always be—about putting creative strategy rst. To stay true to that focus, he actively seeks out collaborative environments and like-minded people. Kevin gures that if he gets the creative right, everything else falls wonderfully into place; and he can enjoy himself at the same time!
During his time at The Boeing Company, Kevin has found inspiration in the energy that comes from leading creative teams and being involved with the stewardship and evolution of the brand. Working with the aerospace giant since 1997, he has also designed, directed, or strategized on the develop- ment of marketing and communication materials for most of the global icons we all know, including the Space Shuttle, International Space Station, and commercial airplanes such as the 747 Jumbo Jet, the new 787 Dreamliner, and the 737, the world’s most popular airplane.
Before Boeing, Kevin developed creative solutions for various companies—large and small—as an independent design consultant. His key clients included the Chamber of Commerce in Campbell, California, the Watsonville Air Show, West Coast Antique Aircraft Museum (now California Antique Aircraft Museum), Varian Associates, Litton Solid State, and various local mom-and-popshops.
Where do you work? What does your company do?
I work for The Boeing Company, the global leader in aerospace.
What types of services does your team specialize in?
Our organization is an in-house agency with multidisciplinary design and advertising services. These services include traditional print design, web, interactive design, photography, environmental and exhibits, 3D visualization, motion and video, and all supported with writing and editing.
How many people make up your team?
Our enterprise-wide organization is around 100 people spread across the country.
Your title/role within the company:
Brand and creative strategist, and I lead the regional creative teams in supporting Boeing Commercial Airplanes.
What was your very first job in this field?
I started freelancing even before I knew what that meant. I supported the local mom-and-pop-shop set in San Jose, California. Mostly logos and business sets, but a whole lot of party fliers and posters.
Share a best-practice leadership experience:
I can’t emphasize enough to my teams to always know the purpose, or the story for what your trying to accomplish for your client BEFORE you even think about design. Then keep mapping back to that story throughout the design process. It’s a leader’s responsibility to see this happens consistently.
What are you working on now that you’re excited about?
We just finished a book in celebration of 20 years of Boeing Business Jets (BBJ). It’s an amazing history of incredible airplanes most of us could only possibly see in a book, let alone experience flying in. It’s a coffee table style book where the history is supported by amazing photography of private aircraft, and incredible renderings of future business jets. I designed the book and still can believe some of the interiors showcased in it.
If you could share one piece of advice for an up-and-coming creative leader what would it be?
Your teams are not assembly lines making the same widget everyday. They are creative thinkers that need inspiration to tell fresh and emotive visual stories to in turn inspire your clients’ audiences to see the world as your clients do (and write that check). Be a leader, not a boss. There are very important differences.
What inspires you?
Have you noticed any changes or trends for in-house creatives in the past year?
More than just the last year, there is the increasing realization of the value of internal creative organizations higher up in the corporate world. But, it’s not necessarily the blessing most think it would be. It sounds stereotypical, but those same higher ups like to control value and put their own stamp on it. Since most of them are not from the design world, their stamp often times stifles creative organizations.
What has been your greatest challenge as a creative leader?
For me, its communicating the value of the organization. There are intangible values to every in-house creative organization, and those values live in the direct impact a creative organization has on sales. However, intangible values are near to impossible to put into a figure to that fits neatly into an accounting ledger. That intangible value is the holy grail for most in-house creative teams, as it’s the most valuable part of the
organization. I’m working on this. Ideas from teams who are drinking from that grail would be greatly appreciated.
Describe the career path you have taken and where you see yourself next.
For me, I live in the creative. Give me a story that needs to be told, and dammit I’m going to find the best way to tell it. For me, brand is always the meat in every story, but that another story in itself. I live in the creative. I’ve always figured if you got the creative right, everything else would fall
wonderfully in line. Hey, it’s got me where I am so far. I think I’m going to stick with it.
Finally, is there anything else you want to tell our readers?
Pitch your work!!! Present your teams’ work in a professional way. Practice the pitch. Remember to pitch in your client’s language. Design speak is great communication for designers, but is a completely foreign language to most clients. If you want to get and maintain a seat at the table and be treated like a professional organization, then you need to act like a professional organization. The day of sending PDFs of working files to clients via e-mail and asking them what they think, should have never come. Don’t do it, “graphics!”