21.May.2019

Heather Morrison

Welcome Chris Cacci

Lipman Hearne's Executive Creative Director

With years of experience in off- and online marketing, designer turned strategist Chris Cacci recently joined the Lipman Hearne team as our Executive Creative Director. Our own Heather Morrison sat down with Chris to learn more about her background and experience, her vision for Lipman Hearne’s creative department, and why she calls herself a Post-It nerd.

Lipman Hearne: Tell us about your background in design and creative. What inspired you to go into this field?

Chris Cacci: That could take an hour right there. I went to college as a music major – I had studied classical piano since I was four. It was while I was in the music program at the University of Illinois that I started asking if this was the right thing for me and decided to change my major. I had no idea what I was going to do, so I went into painting – because you can make a lot of money as a painter, right? I did well in the program and got a lot of faculty support and interest in my work, but painting is something you go into because it’s a calling, not because you’re looking to support yourself.

I ultimately talked to the dean about my future and he suggested I try graphic design – which I did, graduating with a BFA in graphic design from the University of Illinois. I later got my Masters from the Institute of Design at Illinois Institute of Technology, where I focused on convergent technologies.

Between getting those degrees, I worked for an amazing self-taught designer who threw out all the rules I had learned in school – a story for another day. He taught me how to position and talk about my creative work, how to better understand and demonstrate its value. And knowing how I can provide value has since become a driver for all the personal and professional decisions that I have made.

LH: Speaking of portfolios, yours is expansive, including work from your own company, CACCICO. What was the appeal of leaving your successful business to become a part of Lipman Hearne?

CC: I started my own business at a time when I needed flexibility to help my sister take care of my dad. It was enjoyable, and I had a ton of work, but having your own small shop can also be very isolating. I really enjoy working with people to create new solutions, so when the time was right I began looking for the right place for me, one that would allow me to be a contributor in both strategic and creative ways.

The Executive Creative Director role here at Lipman Hearne is a great fit for me. It’s like everything in my career has been a launchpad for this job, and I’m absolutely loving it.

LH: What are some of the challenges you see agencies like Lipman Hearne facing today, and how can you help address them?

CC: One thing we’re doing is finding new ways to bring our clients into the creative process, which is something many agencies don’t typically do. We’re exploring how to better involve our clients in co-creation. For some, getting them involved in co-producing work and getting their input very early on in the process can be a great thing.

Another thing we’re doing is figuring out how to best leverage the rapidly changing technology boom for our clients. My Masters was in convergent technologies, which includes understanding what technology is out there and seeing the potential for how it might apply to a wide range of needs. A good example is the power of voice – through AI and chatbots. The nonprofit sector is just starting to see the potential for how these opportunities can support branding and outreach efforts. I think we need to understand how these tools can provide greater personalization, which is particularly important for connecting with younger targets like Gen Z. Lipman Hearne has been working toward this, and I would like the agency to become even more of a driver regarding how these advances can be adapted for the nonprofit and higher ed spaces.

I also think we have greater opportunity to help with data analytics.  People don’t always fully understand how data can be optimized once they have it.  By staying ahead and leading our clients with data analytics and new technologies Lipman Hearne will be able to make an even bigger difference. For example, through data analytics we’re helping our clients look at their websites as more than just branding in a digital format – we’re turning websites into harder working tools for accomplishing marketing objectives.

LH: What’s your vision for the Lipman Hearne creative team and for the company as a whole?

CC: While it’s important for us to be managing our clients’ current challenges well, I’d like to see us become even more proficient at thinking about the future states for nonprofits and higher ed. One thing I’m starting is similar to something I experienced while leading creative at Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium – having quarterly thought sessions where our team can talk about what we think life will be like in, say, 2030, and how our work will need to adapt to continue to have impact. That kind of exercise can give us a lot of insight and will help launch many forward-thinking creative ideas.

I’m also pushing our work to be even more diverse and creative. How do we help our clients stand out even more? How do we talk about them in more unique and different ways? How do we ensure that none of our clients are just blending in? Addressing questions like these will help make our work even stronger.

LH: What are your favorite kinds of projects?

CC: My favorite projects are the ones that move the needle forward for our clients – the projects we’ve really delivered well that have given our clients what they’ve asked for, and more. I always want us to help our clients surpass their business goals.

LH: You call yourself a Post-It nerd. What exactly is a Post-It nerd?

CC: I don’t think in a linear fashion. I need to put my thoughts down and rearrange them in front of myself – and anyone else who wants to look. It’s an iterative way to see things differently. You can’t always see patterns in how you think if you always keep the details inside. Putting things out there visually helps me see those patterns and lets me rearrange them to create more meaningful solutions. That’s why I’m a Post-It nerd. I go through a lot of Post-It notes, so I’m also pretty sure 3M is really happy about that.