October 18, 2012

Meet the Roost | Q&A with Staci Mandrell

Our Meet the Roost series gives you a glimpse at the strategic, collaborative associates who lead Big Red Rooster’s client engagements. Today we’ll introduce you to our SVP and Atlanta Office Managing Director, Staci Mandrell.

Tell us a little bit about your professional background.

I have been in the design industry for 20 years now. I started my career when I accepted a college internship at IBM designing presentations for executives. At an early age, I understood design wasn’t just about the visuals, but the content, too. I learned that keeping the viewers in mind, building a hierarchy of information and mastering the craft of type setting and infographics were skills I would take with me throughout my career.

My first job after graduating from college was with a special events design firm, where I was responsible for bringing event themes to life through invitations, signage and supporting collateral. Most of the creative elements were extremely decorative, and I utilized specialty papers, unique printing processes/finishes, and intricate die cuts to create intrigue and excitement. It was here that my fine art background and passion for visual communication converged.

I moved on to pursue an aspiration of owning my own design business. Over the next decade, I grew a boutique design business that catered to Atlanta-based communication companies, ad agencies, event marketing firms and emerging businesses that needed branding and creative marketing support. I also opened a gallery in the storefront of a historic 1940s building, which I bought to fulfill my passion for fine art and provide an outlet for community involvement.

Over the next few years, I worked as the creative director for a marketing firm that specialized in direct mail and marketing services. The agency bought a digital press, and I designed campaigns that were personalized to consumers. This experience led me to understand the power of one-to-one marketing and the advantages of delivering speed to market. After that, I spent 3+ years on the client side at Newell Rubbermaid, leading the creative for several Beauty & Style consumer division brands. We spent a lot of time defining the positioning for each brand and driving innovation by getting closer to the consumer.

These experiences led me to my current role as the Big Red Rooster Atlanta Office’s Managing Director. Looking back, it’s rewarding to see the work I have had my hand in. The skills I learned as an IBM intern are still relevant 20 years later.

What’s one of your greatest successes?   

I am most proud of the teams that I have had the responsibility of building and leading over the years. I have watched young designers mature into great designers, creative leaders and business owners. I love to see individuals evolve into teams, working toward a common goal. I think that is what success looks like daily.

What differentiates “good” design from “great” design? 

Giving the consumer that “ah-ha” moment with your brand or product is what gets me excited about design. Build a brand by adding a bit of mystique or purpose to the storytelling and connecting all the touch points with that message.

In my former job, I worked through the brand strategy of a 100-year-old master brand to uncover and better define its reason for being today. We told the story of the Goody® brand and its purpose of building confidence in young girls and women by encouraging them to experiment with their looks. The tagline “come play” and the elevated beauty brand positioning was probably the most impactful integration of purpose and brand.

Most recently, I contributed to The Home Depot’s positioning to better differentiate the brand versus the competition. Leveraging that point of differentiation and seeing the compelling visuals come to life through the in-store experience has been exciting.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

I am not sure if it was anything that my dad actually told me or if I just watched his interactions with his employees and clients for so many years. He was funny, engaging, solutions oriented, and genuinely a good person. He was a great manager and mentor of people who really cared about his employees, helping them to grow in their careers and succeed personally and professionally.

What advice would you give to a young designer? 

Listen before you react. We must truly hear what our client is saying/asking for before we draw our own conclusions in design. Design is about creatively solving business problems, and if you don’t have all parts of the equation, you can’t form an effective solution. You can’t always expect the best brief or the most actionable direction, but it is our duty to ask the right questions and listen when the true needs are expressed. Many times you are piecing information together to be able to tell the real story back to your client. It is at that time, that the client will know you really listened and “get it.”

What are your hobbies? 

Shopping. I love shopping at Scott’s Antique Market and finding vintage and hand crafted items that add texture and personality to my home. Home décor is a passion and an indulgence. Also, family and football! I love to spend my spring and fall seasons watching my boys play baseball, cheering on my South Carolina Gamecocks and relaxing with my family on vacations.

Where’s your favorite place to eat in Atlanta?

 My new favorite is The Optimist. It’s just around the corner from our new office on the west side of Atlanta. It’s a modern take on seafood with an awesome oyster bar. I never knew I could be schooled in the art of oysters. The Optimist has been our go-to spot to take clients and colleagues when they are in town for meetings or celebrations. It’s a must to try!