Reel Black List: Jeff Stanley, designer

Jeff Stanley

Jeff Stanley

“Seeing students’
eyes light up
and hearing
‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’
about what
you’ve done
feels really good.”

A jack of all trades in the design industry, Jeff Stanley has more than a decade of advertising and design experience creating work for; Sears, Office Max, AARP, WalMart and McDonald’s.

The projects for these clients include: general consumer and business-to-business advertising, direct marketing, catalog, collateral, and corporate identity.

Jeff has lead creative teams and also flown solo on projects from concept through completion. He often says that, if he had the ability to clone himself, he would open his own design studio.

To view Jeff’s online portfolio, click here.

Cazadores print ad by Jeff Stanley (click here to view full-size version).

What was your first break? My first design job was a “store artist” for Musicland / Sam Goody. I was responsible for making POP material for ten stores in the Metro Detroit area.

My only creative direction from the regional managers were “Make a lot of signs and make sure they look cool”. As a designer straight out of college, this type of direction was very stressful. I used that stress to challenge myself and strengthen my confidence.

It was an awesome job! I met a ton of celebrities during this time including; the Wu-Tang Clan, Redman, Gangstar, Alayia, and New Edition’s Ralph Tresvant!

Worst thing that ever happened to you to remind you that you are Black? Years ago, I applied for an Art Director’s position with a smaller ad agency. The agency sent me an email expressing interest in my resume and my work. I made it past the application stage and was on to the first interview.

I was still working and was only available after work hours to meet. The day of the interview, I immediately headed over to the agency. I approached the door and rang the bell to be let in.

In the foyer of the agency, a white woman approaches the door, cautiously. Keep in mind, I’m wearing a SUIT, carrying a PORTFOLIO. I greet her with a huge smile and raise my portfolio so it’s next to my head. She reluctantly lets me into the agency. Cautiously and unapologetic I may add.

During the interview, she and the Creative Director begin to rip apart the same they had praised in their previous emails. They were also telling me how I wouldn’t want to work there. At first I was really angry, then I realized the universe was doing me a favor by showing me their true face. You’re right, I don’t want to work here.

Best thing to ever happen to you to remind you that you are Black? I’ve had the opportunity to participate in a few career day events. Once, I spoke to a class at Woodlawn elementary about my career as a designer. It was so exhilarating to see the classroom of little Black faces staring at me in awe as I told them the many opportunities available in the design field such as TV, film, commercials and advertising. To see their eyes light up and hear the “oohs” and “ahhs” about what you’ve done, feels really good.

Work you are most proud of? My first ad!

When I was an Art Director at an agency whose client was Sears, I was partnered with a copywriter and we developed a newspaper violator holiday ad that was aimed toward the person wanting the gift, not the giver. Taking inspiration from the scene in A Christmas Story where the kids tore out pages from a toy catalog and slipped them into their parents’ magazines, I created an ad where the person wanting the gift would do the same. We ran it in three sections in the paper for three weeks during the holidays.

It was a hit! Sears loved it so much that the campaign expanded past the holidays and appeared throughout that year.

How has the business changed since you broke in? Timelines are getting shorter and almost everything is created digitally, which has given everyone the impression that things can be turned around quickly. On the other hand, the quick turnaround times help train your brain to think on your feet and come up with solutions quickly.

Trapped on an island, what essentials must you have? Assuming there is no electricity on the island and I would have the free time, I would love to have a sketchbook and my old tackle box from art school filled with pencils, color pencils, and a gum eraser.

Also an x-acto knife for projects … and defense.

If you had a time machine, what would you say to your past self? Speak up more. If you want something, ask for it. Invest in Apple.

If you could have a one-on-one with anyone who would it be? And why? My Dad passed away when I was a Senior in High School. He never got a chance to see me graduate High School or College. I never got a chance to tell him about my first job or when I became a Dad. It would have been great to spend time with my Dad as an adult, swap stories, and catch up.

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