Capitol Communicator is running a series featuring in-depth profiles of communicators in the mid-Atlantic. In this “Up Close and Personal” profile, we feature Campbell Kawka, Senior Art Director at ISL. Photography for Capitol Communicator’s profile series is by Cade Martin. Wardrobe styling by Pascale Lemaire for THE Artist Agency; and hair and makeup was by Patti D Nelson and Janice Kinigopoulos for THE Artist Agency.
Campbell, please provide us a short bio.
I hail from a small town in rural northeast Pennsylvania, where I spent my childhood fishing on our pond and making art mobiles. After graduating high school, I briefly attended the University of Connecticut before transferring to the Rhode Island School of Design (risd) in Providence, Rhode Island. I became that typical art-school kid where you would pull all-nighters a few times a week to finagle pixels and kern and concept these crazy ideas you have in your 20-year-old mind. It was insanely humbling being surrounded by such talented classmates and professors – who pushed me to think more creatively. That experience solidified the fact that becoming a designer was my dream and I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. Upon graduation, I worked at a fashion company (Ann Taylor) before moving into the advertising space at Ogilvy NY. After about three years working in traditional advertising, my husband received a job offer in Geneva, Switzerland. It was that moment in life where you think… should I quit the job that I love, leave my friends and family, all for this new place where I don’t even speak the language? Damnit! Let’s go. Once we settled down across the pond, I worked in the mountains of Verbier as a designer for an outdoor clothing company and at a small 18-person creative shop along the water of Lake Geneva. I still pinch myself.
What are the things you are most proud of?
Ideas! I’m proud of the fact that I can go to work and make things. I have worked on campaigns that have inspired a generation of girls to love their bodies. I have worked with clients who believe that a life well lived should be full of fresh air and adventure. I spend my days generating and creating concepts and ideas to help brands grow. I love it. I’m most proud of my kiddo, Felix. He’s almost 2 and he is a constant reminder that life is messy, it’s unpredictable, and that’s ok.
Who are your personal role models?
Lots and lots of creative women! I have always loved creative thinkers Ellen Lupton, Paula Scher, Debbie Millman and Jenna Lyons. I love reading about women who are carving out the creative space for the next generation – inspiring us to live the life we want. But my everyday role models are typically my mentors and colleagues; my old bosses and team at Ogilvy who pushed me to make better creative work, inspired me to think in new ways, and opened my eyes to the potential value that storytelling can have. I remember their advice daily and am so fortunate to have worked alongside such talented and brilliant people.
Did your role models offer professional advice that helped you in your career?
Absolutely. I think a lot of the advice was actually watching how my previous Creative Directors worked. How they pitched ideas in a compelling way, how they could transform a room of skeptics into believers. How they could celebrate their wins and losses with humility and grace. It’s learning through osmosis.
Another great piece of advice that I think about daily is that life is full of problems. That’s why we all have jobs. But it’s important that if you find a problem, come prepared with a solution. Don’t come into the room and say — “we can’t do that” without taking a step back and saying… “Ok, how can I make this better? There must be another way.”
What professional advice do you have for others?
Life is trial and error. You have to figure it out. I have worked in branding, print, fashion and advertising. Each was a completely new experience where I learned and grew as a designer and person. Each equally valuable in helping to define what I wanted to do. It’s important to remember that jobs are just that – a place to go and work, and hopefully one day you will find a position that you love what you do so much that the work doesn’t feel like work. It takes time and it takes risks but in the end it is important to look back on your life and say “damn… that might have been hard but wow, that was fun.”
What advice do you have on what’s appropriate attire for ISL?
ISL is a very laid-back and creative place, so t-shirts and jeans are definitely part of the norm. You can wear what you want but if you have a client meeting, button that top button!
Where to you buy most of the clothes you wear to the office?
It might sound a bit ’90’s, but one of my all-time favorite stores is the Gap. I can never have enough of the basics – T-shirts, turtlenecks and denim. Then I mix in and add on my more covetable and weird things, like a mustard yellow scarf that magically transforms into a sweater that I picked up in Paris, or a silkscreened denim popover I found at a local shop around the corner in my hometown. It’s a balance! Oh, and for shoes – I’m a huge fan of sneakers. Last summer I purchased three pairs of new trainers in one week from Commonwealth for the Greater Good here in DC.
What’s on your Spotify and Pandora playlists?
Santigold, Arcade Fire and El Vy
What’s your favorite restaurant?
Anywhere that serves some good tacos and guacamole! Current fav is Taco Bamba in Pimmit Hills, Va.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
All good for now. But I do love coffee, so if you ever want to know more, let’s grab one together!