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My design and leadership beliefs

I’ve found that one of the most important things a leader needs to do is clearly articulate the standards of work and leadership they will hold everyone to. I’ve also found that this is something VERY few leaders, teams and companies do which is why there is a huge vacuum of real creative leadership today.

I tried to solve this problem by creating a list of beliefs which define key areas for me and my work. Over the years as I have gained more experience, led bigger teams and taken on bigger challenges and as a result I’ve continued to rewrite and evolve this list. It is grouped it into five themes – Learn, Collaborate, Ideate, Craft and Lead. I feel those cover the main areas that I and most creative need to focus on to be successful. These things are purposely meant to be simple statements and none of them are rocket science but setting them as the expectations seems to be something that is rocket science. I have found that they give you and your teams something that will bond and strengthen them through a common purpose and identity.


A Teacher and A Student.
I constantly seek out and share innovative ideas, viewpoints, processes and technologies so that I never stop learning.

Never Stop Asking ‘Why?’.
I constantly ask ‘why’ to understand the purpose, cause and belief behind every decision.

Be the Customer.
I immerse myself in my customer’s world so I can create thoughtful, human and elegant experiences that affect everyone.


Design Is A Team Sport.
My team works collaboratively with no rockstars and no departments. Everyone is responsible to work together to create the best idea.

Everyone is Creative.
Creativity is a quality everyone posses. It’s not something that is found only in a title or team so I help bring it out of everyone.

Take Care of the Team.
Interpersonal skills matter so I create a culture where everyone helps others to succeed and protect the health of the team.


Iterate. Then Iterate Again.
Teams don’t have innovative ideas by knowing where they are going so I have them think, design and iterate quickly to fail early and succeed sooner.

Ideas Not Executions.
I create work that moves consumers through authentic, meaningful and strategic ideas – not trendy technology executions.

No Cover Bands.
A cover band never changed the world so I build cultures that empower teams to create original ideas – not copy what others have done.


Creativity is a Blue-Collar Profession.
Great ideas are a lot of hard work and everyone creates those ideas differently. I build cultures that understand, value and grow everyone’s unique ways of solving problems.

Sweat the Details.
I sweat every single detail and I’M accountable for MY decisions and responsibilities to bring great ideas to life.

Everything is Your Job.
On my teams It’s all your job no matter what. Nothing is beneath anyone. We are all here to work together to create the future.


Walk Your Talk.
On my team what we say and how we bring those words to life matters. To gain the trust of our clients and team members, our actions always match your words.

Everyone Creates The Culture.
I create teams that nurture individual creativity but everyone is also accountable for creating, growing and owning the group’s culture.

Respectful and Confident, Not Delicate.
Breakthroughs happen when the team takes risks, trusts their instincts and speaks their mind – not when they tiptoe around each other.

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Creative Director, Designer, Brand Builder, Speaker, Podcaster, Crazy One. As a designer, I have 20+ years experience creating the strategy, concepts, and designs for award-winning integrated global advertising campaigns, building multiple global Fortune 500 brands and creating innovative digital experiences. As a leader, I have 15+ years transforming agency and client-side teams using a mix of creativity, business strategy, process and political skill to create innovative, world-class work and cultures that change industries and companies. My clients have included American Airlines, W Hotels, Disney, Citi, ExxonMobil, Acura, Old Navy, Nationwide Insurance, Verizon, Subaru and many others. My work has received over 150 international awards, my app designs have been named as one of the World’s 100 Greatest Apps, Apple has featured my work in 9 keynotes, 4 TV commercials and more.

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Copyright © 2015 Stephen Gates