Feature Story: Interview with Michael Wilson, Creative Director of Trekk, US

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Michael Wilson

As Creative Director, Michael Wilson manages a team of art directors and graphic designers. He oversees all of Trekk’s creative work and manages the design components of all our client projects.

Trekk | Muse Awards

Interview with the 2019 Muse Creative Awards Winner - Michael Wilson

1Please give us a brief bio of yourself, your company, job profile, etc.
As Creative Director, I manage a team of art directors and graphic designers. I oversee all of Trekk’s creative work and manage the design components of all our clients' projects. This means I work on different projects every day and touch all aspects of a campaign or program, from the print pieces to the digital aspects, including web, apps, and AR/VR.
2Tell us a bit about your business and what you do.
Trekk is a full-service creative agency, so we do everything. Our in-house designers, technical developers, video producers, and content strategists work together to come up with end-to-end campaigns for our clients. We serve both B2C and B2B clients of all sizes, which means every new project comes with unique challenges — and that’s just the way we like it!
3Congratulations! As the winner of the 2019 Muse Awards, what does it mean to you and your company and team to receive this award distinction?
It is such an honor to be awarded the Muse. It’s always great to receive recognition from our industry and our peers that we’ve done good work, but the even more exciting thing to me is to get the recognition for our client and the great things they’re allowing us to do. We work with an amazing team of marketers at International Paper, and their belief in our ideas and their partnership is what made the Accent TV possible. It’s an honor to have International Paper as a client and for the Muse judges to choose this project as a winner.
4Can you explain a bit about the winning work you entered into the 2019 Muse Awards, and why you chose to enter this project?
The Accent TV was one part of our campaign to help launch the new look and feel of International Paper's Accent Opaque paper line. The original concept was to create an augmented reality traffic driver for the Accent Opaque booth at Adobe MAX 2018. Adobe MAX is known as the Creativity Conference, so our goal was to craft an interactive experience that would speak directly to the design community while giving them a chance to touch and feel Accent Opaque for themselves.

To do this, we created retro-themed paper-craft television sets made with Accent Opaque paper. Thanks to augmented reality, the TVs actually work — scan the channel cards with International Paper's IP4D app and they play a series of videos, each in a different vintage throwback style. The videos bring the Accent story to life by demonstrating the evolution from the iconic logo that midcentury designer Lester Beall created for International Paper in the 1960s to Accent's modern brand.

Because we wanted Adobe MAX attendees to really experience the paper, they constructed their own Accent TVs. We then encouraged attendees to “put their Accents on” the TVs by designing their own channel cards and sharing their creations on social media.

And it didn’t end with Adobe MAX. We designed the TVs with the ability to send additional AR content and communication to attendees post-event so that we could maintain an ongoing conversation around the Accent brand. For instance, when the new Accent Swatchbook launched earlier this year, we sent out a 1960s-style “news alert” via the TVs to get people excited.

We chose to enter this project in the 2019 Muse Awards because, to us, this project embodies what the Muse is all about — being led by inspiration, even when the concept seems a little out there or fantastical. When we had this idea, we had no clue if it would work. But we followed that spark and the results were even better than we’d imagined.
5What was the biggest challenge with this project?
The biggest challenge for us was to bring an analog technology like paper to Adobe MAX, which is essentially a technology show, and figure out a way to make it stand out. We’d been to MAX before, and we knew we would be surrounded by booths with really cool, immersive digital experiences. It’s a fine balance because we can create mind-blowing digital experiences all day long, but for International Paper, we needed the main focus to be on the paper itself. The digital component had to exist only to elevate Accent Opaque and its story. Ideally, we wanted people to touch the paper and to interact with it as much as possible. We all agreed that it would be even better if we could give them something they would want to keep and share, something that would create a lasting impression. Ultimately, I think we accomplished our goals. And a few attendees even said we were their favorite booth at MAX!
6What are your top three (3) favorite things about our industry?
Regardless of the project, I like problem-solving. Each client has a unique problem they are trying to solve, and some have more constraints than others. I get creative satisfaction from looking at all the factors in the decision making the process and coming up with not just an answer, but something that will be really successful.

I also love that we can actually see the ROI in our work. We can track the interactions with technology and track social shares. It’s rewarding to deliver our client not just a cool end product, but one that gets proven results.

I also like being a part of this industry because I’m able to use the creative side of my brain every day, from brainstorming meetings to conceptualizing to designing. I joke with my daughter that I get paid to draw pictures. I get paid to essentially enjoy adult art classes, and I love it.
7Where do you see the evolution of creative industry going over the next 5-10 years?
5-10 years ago, everything was still so steeped in traditional marketing and advertising. We did a lot of print, TV, radio, and branding. The growth of digital has slowly changed all that, but print will never die. The print will never go away.

That said, where I see the industry going in the next 5-10 years is that people are starting to adapt their strategic thinking to incorporate digital — not just having a website or running an AdWords campaign, but having a full digital strategy with multi-channel touchpoints. On the client-side, marketers are beginning to understand how to integrate their traditional approaches with technology and use it as not just something flashy but as an indispensable arm of their voice and reach. With AR and VR, for example, we’re now going beyond games like Pokemon Go and seeing clients use these technologies to create interactive marketing campaigns and even to do things like soft skills training.

We still provide our clients with a strong analog strategy — print campaigns, door opener campaigns, trade show traffic drivers, direct mail — but we have our heads in both spaces and are constantly evolving, and I see other agencies moving in the same direction.
8If you were a student entering this industry or an aspiring Muse Award submitter, what advice would you give them?
My advice for students is to diversify yourself. Don’t just think, I can do branding, I can do logos. Don’t just focus on what you liked best in school. There’s so much more to our discipline, and if you can diversify your skillset, you’ll make yourself much more valuable to employers. At Trekk, no one wears a hat. We all wear multiple hats. As a designer, I even deal with programming. We have in-house developers, but I do some websites and emails that they never even see. I do 3D modeling and video work — things I might not have expected to do when I took this job, but to be able to take on these things as a designer makes you so much more valuable.
9What resources would you recommend to someone who wants to improve their skills in the creative industry?
I think all of us should have a deep knowledge of where the industry has been. Research the history in libraries and online. There are so many catalogs of design that have come before. But we are all influenced by the great designs of the past, whether we know it or not. I believe you need to know where the industry has been before you can take it forward. And the more you research good design, the more it permeates your work. I personally love midcentury design, and its influence is obvious when you look at my designs.
10Who has inspired you in your life and why?
My professors in college definitely inspired me. I studied Visual Communications at Northern Illinois University, and I owe a great debt to many of my teachers, including Steve Quinn, Jon Ashmann, Leif Allmendinger, Andrew Byrom, and Aleksandra Giza. All the things they really hit us within the school, they ended up ringing true later on in my professional life.
11What is your key to success? Any parting words of wisdom?
Put in the work. That’s it.

I wish I would have had that mentality early on, especially in school and as a young designer. It’s all about taking the time a project needs, getting it done, and having the discipline.

Winning Entries

Augmented Reality Accent TV | 2019

Augmented Reality Accent TV | Muse Awards
International Paper is one of the world’s leading producers of fiber-based packaging, pulp, and paper. Accent Opaque is its premium paper line, beloved by designers, printers, and paper merchants... (read more)


Trekk is a tech-driven creative services company obsessed with exploration. Technology and innovation are part of our DNA, and since our founding in 1995, we have been leveraging the latest emerging technologies to help our clients communicate. Back then, it was the worldwide web. Today, it’s augmented reality, virtual reality, and boundary-pushing content marketing — whatever it takes to prepare our clients for what’s on the horizon.