Meet Andy Kennedy, Senior Design Partner at Innovatemap
Job Title: Sr. Design Partner
Degree Path: BA, Marketing Communications, Anderson University
Hometown: Muncie, IN
Current City: Indianapolis, IN
What led you to your getting into tech and this occupation? What was your first job in tech?
I started my career in the branding and advertising space, helping companies of all sizes and industries tell their story. I loved being able to change minds and communicate the truth in fresh, compelling ways. After a role at an agency in Austin, co-founding, growing, and exiting my own brand agency, I was doing freelance working out of The Speak Easy when I saw Mike Reynolds and the Innovatemap team bustling around. Brittany Young, a mutual friend, worked at Innovatemap and made the intro. I started on a few freelance projects for Innovatemap and the rest is history. Innovatemap is my first “tech” job.
What has been your career path so far?
An internship in college opened my eyes to the world of branding and I’ve never looked back. That short 8-week internship turned into a small consultancy in college where a roommate and I did brand work for a sports complex and promotional work for a car dealership. I loved the ability to communicate on behalf of a business and frame up how their buyers perceived them. During this time I dabbled in design work, but primarily viewed myself as the business side, not a designer, per se.
After graduating from Anderson University I actualized that self-image as a “business-y” person in the brand world and accepted a role as an account manager at a leading interactive agency in Austin. I managed the doers’ time, built spreadsheets for hourly tracking and efficiencies, and felt like I wasn’t personally adding any value. During my time there, however, I did develop strong relationships with the Creative Director and CEO, and just a few months out of college, I was tapped to manage the redesign of the agency website. I loved seeing the creative process and ideating alongside designers. I was slowly evolving my self-image – maybe I am good at this design thing.
After just a year at Tocquigny, I started my own brand agency with two college friends in Traverse City, MI, splitting office space with the same company I had interned with years before. In three years, I led the rebrand of 10 companies, creative directing designers, cinematographers, photographers, and writers. I made a lot of mistakes, and enjoyed many victories, ultimately solidifying the passion for brand and storytelling I tapped years before. When the business development co-founder left Intersection for a great opportunity in Indy, I decided that was the time for me to get out as well.
When you think of a day in your life, what are the main work activities you do or responsibilities you have?
I’m responsible for creative excellence at Innovatemap, ensuring the principles of design are used in a way that helps solve our clients’ business problems. Put more simply, I help businesses tell their story in a way their audience will care about. I ask questions, understand fully, then translate my understanding to a team of talented designers. Together we convey complex ideas in simple ways to stir emotions and move people to action.
Help us picture your work environment.
I’m in the office daily. The time is split in thirds between heads-down working time, client meetings, and team brainstorms.
Heads-down time is spent researching industry trends, communicating with our team, partners, and clients over Slack (preferably) or email, if I must, or creating end deliverables.
Client meetings are either workshops where we’re extracting information or presentations where we’re presenting back our solutions.
Team brainstorms are the most important aspect of my job. We’re often in groups of 2-4 in on of our campfire style meeting areas. On the TV we have notes, inspiration, or a draft deliverable. On the whiteboard, we’re working through changes and imagining new solutions.
What do you love about the work you do?
It’s always different – new clients, new challenges, and new relationships. It never gets monotonous.
I like changing things, specifically changing the way people see things. And through design and messaging, I’m able to change the way our clients speak, the way they’re perceived, and if I’m successful, ultimately change their business.
The people at Innovatemap are amazing – smart, organized, kind, fast, fun.
Which personality traits, interests, and abilities are important or common for a person to succeed in and enjoy this occupation?
Remaining curious. Never fall in love with the way things are. An ability to empathize with very distinct personas. Never losing sight of the big picture. A low ego and collaborative spirit. The ability to wade through uncertainty daily and being able to think clearly in that uncertainty. Leaning on others. Knowing your gifts, knowing your limitations. Believing that design can change things. Proactive communication.
Which tools/technologies or technical skills are particularly important for a person to be proficient in for design jobs?
Adobe Suite, Sketch, PowerPoint, Google (seriously)
From your experience with new grads applying for and beginning jobs in design, are they missing any particular knowledge, skills, or experiences that hold them back? Please describe.
Most of the talented young designers I have seen want to do truly transformative, high visibility work. And they should! But getting there takes time. Start small and respect the craft. The high visibility work that often draws them into the field was produced by massive, seasoned teams with large budgets. The finished “art” they see is only the tip of the iceberg for what went into bringing it to life.
Brand work, in particular, is incredibly personal to clients. Knowing how to navigate these interpersonal dynamics and communicating your vision in a way others will catch is harder than the actual work itself. Honing in on this craft takes a lot of practice, and it’s a career-long journey. Embrace the process. Lose the ego and don’t be afraid to lean on seasoned presenters to help you communicate your vision.
More tactically: proactive communication, taking feedback, and giving feedback.
Which resources, people, books, websites, etc. would you recommend to those who want to learn more or advance their skills in this occupation?
Positioning, The Battle for Your Mind, by Al Ries and Jack Trout
“How I Built this Podcast”
Reach out to someone senior and ask them questions.
What encouragement or advice would you offer to others considering this occupation or wanting to stand out amongst others?
First, it’s a lot of fun.
Do freelance work – you need as many at-bats as you can get.
There’s a big world out there and the internet lets us tap into it. Learn from the best. Stay up to date on design trends. Don’t be afraid to steal – everyone does it.
Don’t get caught up nerding out about art for art’s sake. In a business context, no one cares. You must be able to articulate how the art solves the business problem, not how the art serves itself.