Losing and Winning

Losing and Winning

Last month, we found out that our branding and design for Porano Pasta had won two Print Regional Design Awards and the work would be featured in their Regional Design Annual this winter. While winning awards is very exciting, and our whole team is proud to be honored, I thought I’d share the personal backstory behind the award. Here goes…

About 16 years ago, at the ripe old age of 24, I was just starting out as a design professional. We had no awards, no reputation and very few clients.

Most of our projects back then were as a sub-contractor, often producing websites and other digital assets for larger ad agencies in St. Louis. (Yes. St. Louis is home to great many fantastic agencies.)

One of them was a shop called Arnold Worldwide. Now, Arnold’s Boston office was responsible for the original VW “Drivers Wanted” campaign. These commercials were pieces of of work that not only inspired us to get into the business, but I’m sure inspired countless other young creatives to look at advertising in a fresh new light.

Needless to say, we were starry eyed at the idea of working with the team from Arnold. We were hired to develop a website for Archfund, a non-profit group raising money to support the St. Louis Arch upkeep and maintenance. We teamed up with their art director Mark Halski on the project, who is super talented and has been doing great work and winning awards his whole career.

Mark had this relaxed way of giving feedback and design direction that made it seem effortless – like the work itself was just naturally evolving into greatness. His excitement was contagious, and being new to the industry myself, working with him helped me feel connected to a bigger scene.

The website we produced for Archfund went on to be featured at The One Show. We were excited, even though we didn’t really know what The One Show was. Mark explained that it was a big advertising competition and how cool it was to be featured.

It was then that Mark told us we should always enter our work in award shows, especially the Addy Awards and Print’s Regional Design Awards. He said that Regional Design Awards were important because it showcased the great work coming out of the Midwest, and that we had to represent.

So we took his advice and entered. And for 13 years we’ve entered Print’s awards and have never been featured. Rejected, year after year after year.

Until this year, when our branding work for Porano Pasta has been featured not once but twice. Atomicdust is the only design agency featured from our city this year, and we share the St. Louis spotlight with the talented Simon Lam.

After years of trying and finally winning, I would love to say that it’s solidified something for us. That now we’re all famous, have this whole design business thing figured out, and that we’ve been flooded with new clients and opportunities because of it. But that’s (mostly) not true.

The fact is that after a long time in the creative industry, you learn to take things in stride. You learn that you lose just as much as you win (sometimes more) and that some awards are more meaningful to other designers than to clients (and vice versa).

You learn to appreciate the journey and the challenges projects bring, and you realize that maybe the reward isn’t winning something once, but being around long enough to enter 13 times.

I am super proud of the Atomicdust team for the win, the work we produced in 2016, and all the projects we’ve made together over the years. Big thanks to Gerard Craft and his team for having vision and being brave. Having great clients with imagination makes our job easy(ier).

Happy New Year everyone, and if you ever have the chance, always listen to Mark Halski.

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Mike Spakowski

Mike Spakowski

Mike Spakowski is Principal / Creative Director of Atomicdust and is involved with the day-to-day design strategy, art direction and studio management.

More posts by Mike Spakowski