#MeetTeamBacke: Larry Williams

Maintaining design excellence in a fast-paced agency

Managing a team of designers in a busy agency is no small feat. Each project comes with tight deadlines, lofty expectations, and occasionally several rounds of revisions. Multiply that times a thousand and you get a sense of what Larry Williams, Backe’s VP and Associate Creative Director, deals with every day. He was kind enough to spare me a few minutes to explain how he keeps so many plates spinning at once – while upholding the quality standards we expect.

Moss: How long have you been in this business? And how many years with Backe?

Larry: I’ve been doing this for 39 years, and been at Backe for 19.

Moss: What has changed the most? What has stayed the same?

Larry: The biggest things that have changed are the digital technology, social media, and the pace of getting things done. What’s stayed the same is the need for great marketing strategy, strong creative, and great results. Also, the need to build relationships with clients. That might be even more important now than ever, since they can go anywhere to get work done. You have to take good care of them if you want them to stick around.

Moss: The design workload is unpredictable and changes every day. How do you and your team manage all these rapidly moving projects?

Larry: We have a group of talented designers who can switch from project to project, design to design, and seamlessly continue on to the finish. They each have their own creative strengths and abilities, and it adds up to an awesome creative force that helps keep the workflow going.

Also, Dan [Daniel Donovan, Backe VP and Creative Director] and I have a very close working relationship, and share the same vision of what projects should look and feel like. That shared vision trickles down to the team. We also have very knowledgeable account people and developers. When new projects come in, I know our staff collectively has the talent and ability to get it done.

Moss: What’s the hardest part about this job, and how do you deal with it?

Larry: It’s making sure we execute each job with the highest creative standards, and yet are responsive to clients’ deadlines. Making beautiful, effective creative and managing all the details for all those projects – all at the same time.

When I was in high school, I went to an art class taught by Joseph Fitzpatrick, and his motto was, “Look, to see, to remember.” We had classes in the Philadelphia Art Museum, and what you saw one day, you had to draw the next week. That has helped me over the years, because I can look at a project, absorb all the details, figure out what needs to be done, and then remember it – because it’s all important.

Moss: What’s the best part about your job?

Larry: I love the energy and the people. We’re a family. You spend arguably more time with your coworkers than with the people at home, and if you don’t get along, it’s an ugly place. Over the years, John Backe has been able to set a tone and establish the type of person he wants in the agency. The people are smart, but also respect each other, and that goes a long way to make this a fun “sandbox” to play in. And I love the pace; I’d get bored if it was slow. I look forward to the challenge of getting things done and figuring out how to make it all happen.

Moss: How do you make sure each design lives up to your expectations?

Larry: I focus on the jobs 100%, all the time. I think about how to design or fix a project while I’m eating lunch or driving to work. I’ve woken up in the middle of the night and written down ideas.

Throughout the agency, there’s a team spirit where no question is not allowed to be asked, and all answers have to be found, so the client can be satisfied. And nobody has a problem with that. That’s how we produce the kind of work we do.

Moss: What’s your number one piece of advice to a busy design team?

Larry: Every job is as important as the next one. You may be assigned a little tiny project that’s not even really design oriented, but there’s still nothing more important than that job while you’re working on it.

Stay tuned to Backe social, where we’ll continue to unravel the mysteries behind an ad team’s everyday work – from design to strategy to social media and more – in our #MeetTeamBacke series.

Backe is a digital marketing and brand communications agency, focused on creating smart, beautiful and strategically-driven work. We build communities, relationships, and meaningful connections.