Gregg Heard | Kent State University

Gregg Heard is responsible for developing a design competence and culture within AT&T, working with internal and external teams to bring the expression of the brand to life across all global channels and touch points. Before joining AT&T, Heard served as senior creative director for Philips Design in the Netherlands. During his tenure, he set the creative direction and design strategy for Philips.com and the Philips consumer website.

Prior to joining Philips, Heard served as director of user experience for Sapient, where he provided creative and strategic direction for diverse teams to deliver complex ecommerce projects. In his 22 years in the industry, he has developed creative solutions for a diverse mix of brands, including Logitech, Sony, IBM, Harper Collins, Caterpillar, Revo Sunglasses, Philips, and UPS. He has worked at prestigious design firms in San Francisco, Los Angeles, London, Atlanta, and Amsterdam. 

Q. Where are you from originally? Can you tell us a little bit about your experience growing up?

GH: I grew up in Akron Ohio. My father was an artist as well as the Director of Art education for the Akron public schools. So I was always surrounded by art growing up. I excelled at art, but I also excelled in sports, particular Baseball.   

Q. How did you choose graphic design as your career? 

GH: To be honest, although I was steeped in art growing up I did not know much about graphic design, or any field of Design really. I never really knew anyone who made their living in Graphic Design, so I had no role models. But my father, and my high school art teacher at the time, nudged me towards Graphic Design. 

Q: What led you to choose Kent State, and how was your experience living and learning here? 

GH: My father received his Masters in Art Education at KSU so I was somewhat familiar with the University. But I was also recruited to play baseball at Kent State. Baseball didn’t really work out for me. But I found a passion, and a profession, in Graphic Design at KSU. 

Q: What Kent State experience, academic or otherwise, had the most impact on you?

GH: When I think back on it three things stand out to me. First, I would say the deep foundational curriculum in Graphic Design. Second, it was the exposure to the graduate students at the time.  I was able to see students who had a more mature understanding of graphic design. Seeing the work they were producing was both motivating and inspiring. Third, and most impactful was the summer design programs. The summer Blossom program, and later KSUUCDA, exposed me to well-known working professionals from San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, etc.. This opened my eyes up to what the profession could be for me, and where it could take me.

Q: How has your VCD education helped you get to where you are today?

GH: I think it gave me a first rate education and a portfolio of work that demonstrated that I was well prepared with the technical craft and talent to excel in the Design profession. This gave me confidence, and that confidence came from knowing I was well prepared.

Q: What led you to work at AT&T? How has your experience been since you joined that team?

I was contacted by a recruiter who introduced me to the job opportunity. I was immediately attracted to it because of the scope and scale of the AT&T Brand and what the leadership was trying to do. I was tasked with two things. The first was to build out a more iconic and multi-dimensional brand identity program. The second was creating more of a Design culture and capability within AT&T. This journey at AT&T has been an incredible ride. It’s exciting and challenging to be in charge of a brand identity this big in an industry that is constantly changing.

Q: What qualities and abilities are needed to be successful in the field of graphic design?

GH: I think there are a number of them. First I think you need to flexible and ready to adapt. The field of graphic design has changed drastically since I graduated. It will continue to change in the future as new technologies arise. You have to always willing to adapt your skills to take advantage of these changes. The second is the need to collaborate with other people and skill sets. Visual communication is rarely a solo act. You have to be able to work collaboratively in a team environment. The third is an understanding of business and marketing. Design always serves a business problem. The more you understand what business problems you are solving with your design the more successful you will become. You have to understand and use the language of business to talk about and describe your work. 

Q: What accomplishment or moment in your career are you most proud of?

GH: I’ve been very lucky to have built a number of really good teams in my career. And I like to think that I have had an impact on the trajectory of their career and where they are today. I’m very proud of that.

Q: What advice can you give to current VCD students?

GH: Always keep learning and stretching. Don’t get stale or content. If you find that you are no longer learning or stretching yourself in your current job – look for new job that will. Also – find a mentor who can help you navigate your career. I’ve had several over the years who have had tremendous impact on my career.