What we do isn’t about following the rules. It’s not about playing it safe. It’s about who we are – and you don’t need auto-tune when you’ve got genuine, rock star talent (but without the attitude, infighting and bad fashion sense). Every person at The James Agency brings his or her own unique genius and personality to every project we do. When you put us all together, you have pure awesomeness.
Get to know TJA’s art director, Darren Simoes!
1. What college did you graduate from? Major?
The University of Arizona, BFA in visual communications with an emphasis in design.
2. Where did you grow up?
Born and raised in Tucson, Arizona.
3. What got you interested in the marketing/advertising agency?
I never really had a direct interest in the marketing and advertising world, since I don’t think I really had a conscious grasp of what it was when I was a kid. I knew there were brands, logos, ads, and commercials, but just sort of accepted that they exist while choosing to like or dislike them. My first passion was music, and in high school I was playing in bands and actively booking/promoting local and national concerts on a small scale. Little did I know that this involved making flyers, generating interest and networking—all things directly related to the marketing and advertising industry. It wasn’t until a six year stint of somehow surviving as a musician with a sustainable career came to an end that I decided to take my old task of designing flyers and posters to the next level. Since I didn’t want to deal with the struggles of being a fine artist (somewhat parallel to being a musician), the agency world only seemed natural.
4. What are some challenges you face in your role at The James Agency?
One of the most common challenges I run into at TJA is interweaving the threads of good design and best practices with a client’s content, goals and vision. Due to the industry constantly and exponentially evolving in so many different directions, it can be a difficult task keeping up with current trends while relaying this to a client who may be stuck in traditional mindsets from their own industry experience. For example, explaining that something like Flash, which once ruled websites and had a real “wow” factor, has become essentially obsolete. Also, discussions about integrating things like social media and experiential marketing can be huge unknowns and intimidating to companies that never really had to have open communication with their consumers. However, it’s pretty rewarding once everything clicks together and you see the lightbulb appear over a client’s head.
5. What success have you had in your role at TJA?
My personal success as art director at TJA has been compounded by the success of the entire team. I can’t say that there’s any one piece or achievement that can define me in my role. Looking at all the awards and accomplishments TJA has amassed over the years, it’s nice knowing that somewhere in there I have helped ( This might not be the answer you were looking for here).
6. What is your favorite part about your job?
My favorite part about my job aside from the amazing people and work environment I am lucky to be surrounded, inspired and surprised by on a daily basis, is the fact that no two days will ever be the same. I love being able to come to work knowing that there are always new and different projects on the horizon and that just about anything can happen to change the course of what I think I’m going to be doing that day.
7. What do you know now that you wish you knew at the start of your career?
In school I wish I had paid more attention to the bigger picture and business aspect of the marketing/design world. There’s so much more to it than a pretty picture. In my designer infancy, I just wanted to come up with crazy, deep concepts and create things that were probably more visual eye candy. Although looking back, I can’t really imagine learning all the stuff I know now in school. Real world life lessons are truly unique and valuable.
8. What are some tools you use everyday that are specific to your role at TJA?
A pen, paper, my computer, my brain, and all six of my senses. Yes. The sixth sense is key. As an art director, you really have to look at anything as a potential tool—whether it applies to a current situation or not, one man’s old bowling ball is another man’s security system. It all boils down to creative problem solving and finding the best solution no matter how conservative or out of the box it may be. Having a brain is probably the best tool to have in any situation.
9. What’s trending now in your department? What do you see happening in the future?
In the general creative world of marketing and advertising, one trend that has been on the rise as of late is an increase in brand transparency. More so now than ever, brands are actually telling the truth about their product rather than partial realities shrouded by false promises, sex, or delusions of grandeur. With consumers getting bombarded with advertising multiple times a minute, it’s no wonder they are beginning to hate being marketed to so aggressively. They want to make their own decisions, not be told what to do. They educate themselves and more often than not align with brands that aren’t hiding behind falsities. This makes the consumer feel better about themselves and essentially more loyal than if the brand was using a bait and switch tactic to get attention. I would like to think this sort of attitude will continue to trend upward with more and more consumers becoming conscious about their brand alliances. Not only will it make for a better world, but it makes our job as marketing experts mean more from an ethical standpoint.
10. What kind of work were you doing prior to TJA?
Prior to TJA I was lucky enough to make a living traveling the world playing music with a group of friends in a loud, obnoxious band. In my down time I was able to teach guitar and bass guitar lessons to various people of all ages and walks of life, from kids to retired surgeons.
11. What would you tell someone who wants to start a career as an art director?
Know what you like, pay attention to details, have a strong opinion that you are able to back up with good reasoning, be able to listen to others, learn from your mistakes, recognize your shortcomings, play to your strengths, be adaptable, don’t stop learning, laugh a lot, make jokes, laugh even more at yourself, and always continue to be creative in one way or another.