Last week I had the pleasure of having cold brew Cuvee coffee on tap, petting a living plant wall, and interviewing Ami Plasse all at the same time in the Spredfast Headquarters in downtown Austin.
Ami is a 20+ year veteran to the creative game and his skills have spanned cities, space, and time. His creative paintbrush has made strokes of New York City subways and sketches of the Austin music scene. He has held almost every creative title including art director, designer, illustrator, animator, and even – in a time long ago - developer. He has led creative teams in charge of households brands like Sprite, Cartoon Network, Coca Cola and HEB.
WHAT EXACTLY IS SPREDFAST?
Ami is the Creative Director of Marketing at Spredfast. Spredfast is the world's most powerful open social intelligence platform focused on connecting brands with consumer communities. Their team of over 600 thinkers, shapers, and movers is working to help over 1400 international customers get smarter about social. Their smart social technology processes approximately 650 million pieces of social content per day - giving brands deeper data, higher visibility, and clearer context to make every consumer touch point better.
At Spredfast, Ami leads a design team responsible for the creative production of all of their marketing efforts including SXSW and Spredfast Summit events, paid and owned digital properties, video production, engaging thought leadership pieces and more.
BACK TO THE BEGINNING
Phoebe Nygren (PN): Ami, where did it all begin? Take us back...
Amitai Plasse (AP): Well I have been a constant doodler since I can remember (quite of often to the disdain of my teachers) – filling the margins of notebooks with space battles, cyborg super heroes, evil metal icons, punk-rock logos, grafitti throw-ups, images of water towers, skyscrapers and brownstones - through all my phases growing up in New York in the 70s, 80s and 90s. I absorbed and regurgitated through my own lens what I had a passion for.
Fast forward to 1994, and into a Macromedia Director class senior year at Parson's School of Design in New York. Already interested in motion and visual storytelling, the added dimensions of user interaction and non-linear storytelling opened up a whole new way of looking at art and design. I jumped into the medium head first, often opening up and closing down the school computer lab.
PN: Why and how did you make the change to the digital realm?
AP: Leaving school just at the dawn of commercial interactive media, I took a 4-hr HTML class (and learned just about all you needed to at the time) and headed out into the world.
DIGITAL COMES ALIVE
AP: Everything was just beginning to come alive through digital medium and my unique combination of traditional illustration, design and animation skills coupled with my knowledge of interactive media, opened up all sorts of interesting opportunities for me in what was then know as “Multimedia”. It was an amazing time – there were no “experts” or established norms – every project was a new challenge and a new chance to innovate.
FAST FORWARD TO THE AGE OF SOCIAL MEDIA
AP: Years later, when I began to work with social media, I fell in love again – this time with real-time interaction with the audience and the day-to-day implementation of brand identity through the use of words, images and motion. As advertisers and marketers, we were no longer living on an Ivory tower broadcasting one way out to the masses. We had gone Gonzo and were living amongst the context of our audience’s world.
PN: Explain what specific responsibilities come along with wearing the Creative Director pants at Spredfast?
AP: There are several aspects to my job. As Creative Director of the Spredfast Marketing group I lead a team that is creating beautiful, engaging work that addresses our business goals and reflects the Spredfast brand. We develop and maintain a strong and effective brand visual identity that ladders up to the company’s values and personality and allows us to stand out in our industry. Then we evangelize the hell out of it.
EXPANDING THE CREATIVE PATH
Most importantly, I help my team, one intentionally made up of unique individuals with a diverse set of skills, grow both as thinkers and executers. I do this with constructive and concrete critique that still leaves room for their own problem solving and creative ideas to come through. I encourage my team to constantly look outward and in many directions for inspiration – you know, to avoid a narrow path (Phife Dawg RIP). I create an environment where they are set up to succeed, by creating a process within the department that gives them solid and well informed starting point.
PN: What led you to your present role as a Creative Director?
AP: A Creative Director needs to have the ability to see the whole picture, yet be conscious of all the many things that go into making a successful product. My diverse background of allows me to pull from so many places, and relate to a wide variety of people. Leveraging my past experience, I have been able to find answers/inspiration in unexpected places and bring a team of varying specialties together in a way where everyone contributes above the, often narrow, definition of their roles.
PN: Is the ability to create art in the physical realm something you still value?
AP: Totally – I am constantly sketching, and nothing could replace the energy I channel through traditional mediums. It has inspired what I have done in digital and I have gone full circle, encouraging my team to take a more “artisanal” approach - to have the work we do reflect the truly tactile and imperfect nature of social media.
PN: What makes Spredfast stand out?
AP: I think it really has to do with the power and diversity of our products – they truly transform the way businesses connect with their customers, both on the front end and back.
BRINGING A HUMAN ELEMENT TO SOCIAL
I have really focused on having the creative work that we make reflect that connection and the very human nature of social media. Our product is technology, but in my mind it is a means to the end of building these real world connections.
PN: What is one thing you really hone in on with your team during the creative process?
AP: Making sure that whatever they are doing truly solves the problem put forth in the assignment - considering its effect upon the end user.
Creative Lessons Learned
“As a young creative, I admittedly was more concerned about how cool I thought the work looked or behaved. But as I learned the hard way, your work in a business environment is not successful unless it meets the business goals set forth by your “client” – who in our case are usually our fellow Marketing team members or other folks throughout the org. Don’t get me wrong, it should look badass too.”
Thank you Ami Plasse, Samantha Subar, and the Spredfast team for welcoming us into your Austin headquarters and for sharing a little insight into the creative process at Spredfast.