We recently sat down for a Q&A with our new Art Director, Barbara Wertheim. Barbara told us a bit about herself, her past experiences working with nonprofits, and what made her want to join the Action Graphics team.
During her 25 plus years of experience in design, she has worked at agencies, started her own business, and worked as an independent contractor. She finds purpose in her work with nonprofits and we are very excited to have Barbara as part of our team.
Briefly share with us a bit about the organizations you worked with before Action Graphics.
I’ve been working as an Art Director for nearly 30 years. My former experience has been with boutique ad agencies in NYC and Westchester County. I’ve worked with clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to local arts organizations. For many years, I had my own company, where I was essentially a sole proprietor and would hire consultants as needed.
The bulk of my work has been with nonprofit organizations, and that has been by choice. I find the greatest satisfaction and meaning of purpose when my work is used to help people and improve our world.
Whether I’m designing promotional work, external advertising, corporate or fundraising support, I pride myself on my ability to recognize and articulate a distinct voice for every project. I’ve been privileged to work beside and learn from some of the best in the industry, and that’s why my standards are so high.
“It’s hugely important to find work that makes you feel good, that you really care about, and I think everyone here has found that. We all feel the importance of our work here, in helping nonprofits make their mark.”
What excites you about joining Action Graphics?
I was excited when I saw they were looking for an Art Director. I had worked with Action Graphics and used their printing services for many years, going back to the magazine I designed for my first client.
This job was meant to be. I was really impressed by their planning, preparatory groundwork, and clear vision of the company’s direction. Everyone here is extremely knowledgeable about what they do. They’ve put together a dream team of incredibly talented experts.
I was blown away by how deeply invested everyone is—from the operations to the technology, from the project managers to the nonprofit strategists. Everyone is committed to doing the absolute best for the client. It’s hugely important to find work that makes you feel good, that you really care about, and I think everyone here has found that. We all feel the importance of our work here, in helping nonprofits make their mark. We’re supporting organizations that make the world a better place.
Based on your experience working with nonprofits, what message do you want to convey to others about how to advance their communications?
The care and attention an organization invests in crafting their message reflects the care they put into their services. Whether it’s a simple event flyer or a gala invitation, it should be an opportunity to put your best foot forward and tell a story.
To do that, there are really two aspects to focus on – your readers point of view, and clarity of message.
To the first point, empathize with the reader. Internalize your audience and imagine yourself on the receiving end of the communication, learning about the goals of the organization for the first time. As you do so, be mindful of the experiences you’re having. Ask yourself, “Is this communication worthy of my time and attention?” “Does this message apply to me?” and “Does this make me feel something?”
To the second point, present the information hierarchically. Make it easy to access and understand, as quickly and economically as possible. Nonprofits need to make a good first impression with their message. It needs to be clear, succinct and consistent, while emotionally and visually connecting with the audience.
How do you approach designing for nonprofit clients?
As a designer, you’re always pushing the boundary of saying more with less. I remember a professor in art school who spoke very softly – my classmates and I had to draw in closely to hear him.
One time, he terrified us by shouting “YOU SEE!?! You get more attention from a whisper than by shouting!!!”
I learned to become comfortable not shouting for attention in my design work.
Perhaps, due to my background in fine arts, I tend to be quite experimental and versatile. I’ll come up with a huge array of possibilities to solve a problem and narrow them down to arrive at the solution that’s best for the client and their audience. I try to reflect my client’s needs and disappear into their objectives, rather than push my own personal tastes.
We’ve got a diverse client base, which allows us to have equally diverse solutions. If you’re always solving the same problems for the same sort of clients, it’s hard to be fresh and exciting. I feel very fortunate to have this opportunity to play a part in helping our clients tell their stories.