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Career development / Workplace culture

Work Hacks: Brad Wason, creative director at DMG Marketing

A counterintuitive approach keeps Brad Wason thriving: "the trick to getting everything done is to work less."

Brad Wason (left) with colleague Sara Fabryka at DMG Marketing. (Photo courtesy of Brad Wason)

From a young age, Brad Wason was inspired by creativity.
His grandfather had a strong background in architecture, teaching him about drafting, “drawing from perspective and building three-dimensional models,” Wason said.
After following in his grandfather’s footsteps as a pencil-to-paper type of artist, Wason stumbled upon the world of graphic design.
His talent for integrating hand-drawn work with technical finesse got him his first job at AOL Time Warner at the age of 17.
In 2010, Wason became owner and founder of 23rd & 5th, a creative branding agency based out of Wilmington. He later sold the firm to DMG Marketing, where he is now Creative Director.
Wason has also been an adjunct instructor in the Delaware area for over nine years.
You would think that Wason gets burned out, with all of the projects, students and emails he has to check up on. On the contrary, Wason says, he finds plenty of time to kick back and relax.
Here’s how. 

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What is your background in the arts? 
I have a fairly diversified background in the arts, I started early in life, when my grandfather passed on his love and immense knowledge of architecture to me. He taught me the essence of drafting, drawing from perspective and building three-dimensional models. As I grew up, I pursued a path in architecture and drafting, until by chance I was introduced to graphic design, which was at an interesting turning point, as computers and technology were rapidly overtaking the industry.
Since then, I’ve studied design and fine art, and found a place at the intersection of art, technology and design through various work within the Delaware community and at-large.
 
What’s the first thing you do every day at work? 
Eat breakfast. I don’t do any work, or check email until I’ve had breakfast, and the first cup of coffee is in hand. The eggs and potatoes are great, but everyday my team and I start it off by taking a walk to pick up breakfast, talk, catch-up on life, incoming projects, and any issues that I need to know about. Clients, email and last-minute requests aren’t going anywhere, so taking the first hour to connect with my team is invaluable.
 
How often do you check your email? 
Short answer: too much. But I’m getting better, a couple of years ago when my company was acquired I set strict rules on when I don’t check email: before 9 a.m., after 6 p.m. and never on the weekends or time off.
 
How does each new design project make you feel, once it’s finished?
It would be hard to say for each new design project, as I typically manage 50+ projects at any given time, at all stages of the creative process. I’m lucky to work with a very strong team of designers and developers, though, and I know that we put out a high quality product, every time.
 
What is the most gratifying part of your job?
I’m fairly certain it’s intangible and something that I’m constantly chasing: the desire to do great work.
 
When you need to take a break, what are you turning to?
Exercise. I teach spinning at a local gym, so preparing new ride profiles or tossing on my ruck and going out with my friends and dogs is quite common. Also: reading. I ditched my nook and iPad and exchanged them for shelves of good old fashioned print books, magazines and trade journals from all parts of the world. (If you haven’t, check out Works That Work and 8 Faces.)
 
What’s your design and computer gear (program preference/ones you use the most, Mac or PC)?
Gear wise, I’m pretty simple. I carry a MacBook Pro, kitted out with Adobe Creative Cloud, Triple Triangle, Sublime Text, Slack, Suitcase and a couple of other apps. Really, the best gear I carry is a pen, grid paper and a ruler.
 
Do you prefer teaching or personal design work? Or, do you enjoy both equally? 
I think it would be impossible to separate them. The reason I love teaching is because it provides me the opportunity to connect with the next generation of designers and thought leaders. The students I have now are the ones who are going to guide our field of practice for years to come and it’s gratifying watching them grow and develop their own paths in the design.
For my personal career, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a very diversified one, and continue to enjoy working in different avenues of design, through my day job, startup projects, political campaigns, philanthropic ventures and the occasional personal project.
 
What’s the one way in which you believe your day-to-day work is better now than it has been in the past? Is there something you do now (or don’t do) that has made a big difference? 
I don’t know if my work is better per se, but having 14 years in the business since my humble start at 17 with AOL Time Warner, I’ve gained a few insights. The most important one is make time for yourself. There’s always more projects, always more requests and always something on your to-do list. Don’t forget to step back and take care of yourself, family and friends first. The work can wait.
It will still be there tomorrow morning. And it will still be there on Monday morning or after vacation. I keep a lot of irons in the fire, and the trick to getting everything done is to work less, drink more coffee, ruck more and spend less time in front of a screen.

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