Creative problem solver

Design Director Ace Todd brings thoughtful ideas to the table

Creative problem solver

Design Director Ace Todd brings thoughtful ideas to the table

Design Director Ace Todd is a master of his craft. Skilled in design disciplines ranging from conceptual design to branding to interactive media to art direction, Ace transforms great ideas into engaging content that captures the imagination. Before he joined Subject Matter, he designed office spaces for a small government contractor, where after the attacks of September 11, 2001, he helped rebuild one of the most iconic workspaces in the world: the Pentagon.

Today, Ace creates designs that enable Subject Matter’s clients to make change happen. We talked to him about his individual creative process, teamwork and how to advertise an art museum without showing the art.

Subject Matter: What’s your creative process?

Ace: My process always begins with identifying the problem I’m trying to solve and simplifying it down to a very short and concise statement. By doing that I can focus on what’s most important. Then I begin researching similar problems and the way others have attempted to solve them. It helps me see what works and what doesn’t, but more important is why it worked or why it failed. Learning from others in that way helps make the solutions better.  Next, I open my sketchbook and begin brainstorming possible ideas. Some people like to jump right into a group conceptualizing session, but I prefer to start off on my own island. That way I can bring more thoughtful ideas to the table. Once the good Ideas are chosen, I begin executing the visual solution. Through trial and error, and having my teammates critique the work and poke holes in what works and what doesn’t, we aim to land on a solution that the client will appreciate, but more importantly what will actually work for them.

SM: How do you engage with your clients? Your team?

Ace: The key to success in this industry is, and will always be, collaborating with your team and with the client. The client has to feel like they’re a part of your team and you should be eager for the client’s participation because who knows their industry better than them? Working in tandem with your clients can also streamline the process and generate better ideas.

SM: What is your favorite project you’ve done at Subject Matter so far, and why?

Ace: For me, that was the campaign we created for the Hirshhorn Museum. They had a very unique problem to solve. They wanted to increase brand awareness and drive people to visit the museum but couldn’t show the art in any visuals because of licensing issues. So we had to ask ourselves, how do you get people to come see this weird and very abstract art without giving them a taste of what’s in the exhibits? Our solution was to sort of shock and awe the public through a series of misspelled ads that leveraged the museum’s logo: Hirshhorn with the three H’s bolder than the rest of the letters. So, we took that logo and used a series of words that started with an H that represented various ideas that the art in the museum stood for. We took those words and removed the H at the beginning, which allowed the public to put together a little puzzle and give them a sort of “ah ha” moment. The tag line “You’re Missing Something” brought it all together, telling the audience that they were missing out on something by not visiting the museum.


SM: What sets Subject Matter apart?

Ace: As an agency in D.C., the fact that we can offer our clients a total communications package on both creative and government relations makes us very unique in this market. It’s going to allow us more opportunity to build stronger relationships with our clients and work as a tightly integrated team of experts all under one roof. I think that’s going to be very appealing to current and new clients and I’m looking forward to seeing what opportunities arise.

SM: You won this year’s Subject Matter Pie Baking Contest on Pi Day (3.14) How’d you do it?

Ace:Technically I won, but my 8-year-old daughter is the real winner. She’s always watching cooking shows and loves to make desserts. When the pie contest came around, I became her sous chef and helped her make a lemon chess pie. She was so excited when I told her we won. She even wore the first-place medal to school the next day.