what i’ve learned in 50 years of design

by Terry Lesniewicz

The marketing industry has seen sweeping changes over the last half a century, but the fundamental goal of every agency remains the same: to successfully market their clients’ products, services or ideas.

Another constant: successful branding and marketing require memorable, easy-to-understand design that speaks to both your clients and their customers.

These are the five most valuable lessons I’ve learned during my 50-year career in marketing, advertising and design.

1) Be Passionate

My journey as a designer began in the late 1960s, but my interest in creativity started much earlier. I grew up loving art. I spent hours at the library researching corporate logos and the simplicity with which they were crafted.

That early dedication to research has proved invaluable throughout my career. It’s kept me focused on professional growth and served as evidence for my employers and clients that I care about the work I do.

2) Keep a Strong Portfolio

After graduating from high school in 1966, I was given a full scholarship to the Columbus School of Art. But I soon discovered that my professors didn’t understand the Paul Rand-style of art I wanted to pursue. So, I left school, built a personal portfolio and used it to secure my first design job. I was hired on the strength of that portfolio alone.

A compelling body of work is the most important asset you can bring into the design world. It’s a reflection of how you think and serves as a predictor of the level of work your clients can expect.

3) Keep it Simple

Early on, I learned the significance of simplicity. Every shape, form and image can be boiled down to an abstract form without losing its identity.

Whenever you can, take a minimalist approach with your designs. The ability to elicit emotion, connection and interest from easy-to-understand shapes and colors will give your work an edge in the overcrowded landscape of modern advertising. If your logo, graphics or typography are too busy or complex, you’ll be passed over in favor of those who communicate more with less.

4) Be Flexible

I opened my own marketing agency in 1976 and ran it for 40 years. During that time, the industry shifted from pencil-and-paper techniques to digital, and I recognized the tide shift. I invested in Apple computers for my agency and later streamlined our work through the Internet. That helped us quadruple our business.

If you’re a new designer, prioritize flexibility. Technology shifts create huge changes in attitudes and keeping up with those shifts will ensure you’re not lost in the crowd.

5) Collaboration is Key

In 2015, MadAveGroup CEO Jerry Brown asked me to steer the creative direction of design2influence. I accepted his offer and came out of retirement to join the team. Under my guidance, d2i began placing greater emphasis on brand and cross-agency collaboration. The results have been tremendous and gratifying.

In the old days, companies in need of marketing services went to a different specialist for each service. Since MadAveGroup has several specialty agencies under one roof, we can serve our clients’ needs 1) with a single point of contact and 2) through inter-agency collaboration.

Since time is always of the essence in the marketing world, the ability to lean on other minds has helped us produce even stronger work than we might have done alone.

Do you have a need for thoughtful, effective design? We can help. Contact us and let’s start the conversation.

About Terry

Terry Lesniewicz and his teams have developed brand identities, advertising, packaging, video and branded materials for more than forty Fortune 500 companies, including Microsoft, Volkswagen, Owens Corning, Dana and Bosch, as well as many other world-renowned brands. Heralded as a thought leader, Terry has hundreds of international, national and regional creative awards for excellence to his credit. He’s been featured in Communication Arts Magazine, as well as Print, Idea and Graphis International. His work is featured in the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum in New York City as part of their permanent graphic design collection.

An agency of

© 2022 design2influence. all rights reserved. privacy policysitemap.