GDUSA starts each year by choosing a group of “People to Watch” who embody the spirit of the nation’s creative community. The 2019 list includes 36 creatives from New York, Boston, San Francisco, Seattle… and Richmond. Our team and our clients congratulate principal and creative director Frank Gilliam on this outstanding—and well-deserved—recognition. Below is text from the article featured in February’s edition.
PRINCIPAL AND CREATIVE DIRECTOR, ELEVATION, RICHMOND VA
Frank is an award-winning designer and art director who is dismissive of the implied boundaries between traditional graphic design and advertising art direction. This led to him to buck the stereo-types and freely move between the two knowing that in the end, concept is king. After leadership roles at smaller design shops, Frank (along with copywriter, Aaron Dotson) formed Elevation – a branding, advertising and design agency – in 2001. Here, they further refined their craft of creating striking concepts and designs that bring a client’s message to life from a strategic point of view. The agency has a fulltime staff of 30+. Frank’s design contributions include over 50 identities and 35 brand-systems as well as broadcast, animation, print, packaging, exhibit and digital projects. Frank has won Addys, Tellys, Richmond Ad Club awards as well as Ad Person of the Year recognition.
WHERE WERE YOU BORN AND WHERE DO YOU LIVE NOW?
Richmond VA. And, yes, I’m still here.
DID YOU GO TO DESIGN SCHOOL?
Virginia Commonwealth University. Go Rams!
LEFTY OR RIGHTY?
MORNING PERSON OR NIGHT OWL?
Night owl for sure, but my wife wishes otherwise.
ARE YOU MUSICAL AND/OR PLAY AN INSTRUMENT?
Yes. I currently front an R.E.M. cover-band. I also dabble with the guitar/bass/mandolin/drums to entertain myself.
I prefer picture books because I read images and captions and skip the rest.
FAVORITE TV BINGE WATCH?
FAVORITE SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM?
Hidden Brain with Shankar Vedantam
FAVORITE FINE ARTIST?
Kehinde Wiley. I am into realism, and his whole concept and level of detail is amazing.
FAVORITE CHARITY OR CAUSE?
It is hard to pick just one. We do a lot of community-based support. This year we have branded a start-up called Shood that collects shoes for those in need.
FAVORITE FREE TIME ACTIVITY?
Basketball. I can still put up a few points and swat a few shots.
I collect images and ideas in my head.
WHICH AREA OF GRAPHIC DESIGN IS GROWING THE MOST?
Branding. The relevance of branding has finally caught on and I also think people want to refresh their brands more frequently. And of course, branding encompasses all points of communication.
Phil Meggs / Michael Schwab / Wes Anderson
GREATEST STRENGTH/WEAKNESS AS A DESIGNER?
My strength is listening to a brief and quickly figuring out a starting point in my head, which I immediately sketch on paper. My weakness would be pushing myself to be bold and edgy.
ADVICE TO A YOUNG DESIGNER JUST STARTING OUT?
It is important to iterate quickly and keep it loose, then discuss your ideas and get input from others. Everyone needs an editor to help them see how their work will ultimately be perceived. It is easy to waste time on a good visual that doesn’t necessarily have a winning chance.
IF YOU WERE NOT A DESIGNER, WHAT WOULD YOU BE?
I would have probably gone the Illustration route – I was close to doing that in college. But figured as a designer I could work for someone and have a better opportunity for steady cash flow.
A MANTRA OR SAYING YOU LIVE BY?