Capitol Communicator is running a series featuring an in-depth look at communicators in the mid-Atlantic. In this “Up Close and Personal” profile, we feature Chris Walker. Photography for the series is by Cade Martin, wardrobe styling by Pascale Lemaire and Sybil Street for THE Artist Agency; and hair and makeup by Patti D Nelson, Janice Kinigopoulos and Lori Pressman for THE Artist Agency.
Chris, please provide us a short bio.
I remember back when I was in elementary school that one of the jobs that I wanted to do — besides being a quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers — was something that involved art. I was always good at drawing and painting, and I thought those skills would help me get some type of job. Needless to say, my parents were a bit worried. Fast forward a few years to high school and I’m doing pretty good things in art class. I wasn’t concerned about a career path but it did come up when I was applying to colleges. During that time one of my cousins was working at Young and Rubicam in NYC as a talent negotiator. She suggested that I look into a career in graphic design/commercial art. Fast forward about twenty years and I’m doing what I love and having fun doing it.
As a creative director at HZDG I help lead the creative efforts on a few major accounts, Volkswagen after-sales being one of them. I’ve been here for more than 13 years. HZ is a great place to work. It’s a big agency but it’s run like a mom-and-pop shop.
Are you involved in any other organizations?
I provide pro-bono design services for Frederick County’s Mental Health Provider Council. Every year I design promotional materials for their Mental Health Awareness Week. My wife is the director of behavioral health for the county and sits on the council. This is a project that she’s very close to and it’s something that we work on together. She’s like the account exec and I’m the designer/art director. And, over the years, I’ve been involved in some capacity with the local chapters of AIGA and the Art Director’s Club.
What are the things you are most proud of?
Man that’s a tough one. There are so many things that I’m proud of, both personally and professionally. It’s really tough narrowing it down to one. So I’ll give you two. Professionally it’s my involvement on the VW team. Landing the VW After Sales account was and is a catalyst for HZ’s growth. I think we were around 60-75 people back then, and now we’re over 200. Personally it would be coaching my twin boys in youth sports.
Who are your personal role models?
My personal role models are my dad and grandfather. My professional role models are my colleagues Tamara Dowd and Karen Zuckerman. My dad and grandfather taught me that dedication and hard work are the keys to success. I consider Tamara a role model because of her insight and intelligence, and Karen because of her fearless approach towards her business.
Did your role models offer professional advice that helped you in your career?
It wasn’t really advice. It’s more like how they approach the work. For Tamara it’s “make it meaningful” and for Karen it’s “make it cool.”
What professional advice do you have for others?
It boils down to this: getting paid to do creative stuff is awesome. Your career is exactly what you make it. And never take yourself too seriously.
What’s on your Spotify or Pandora playlists?
There’s so many it would be hard to list. I’m into almost every musical genre that’s out there, except Top 40 pop. Probably the weirdest one is the soundtrack to HBO’s “Westworld.”
What’s your favorite restaurant?
During the work week it’s Cava Grill. There a lot of places in downtown Frederick that my family and I like to go. The top two are Jo Jo’s and Isabella’s.
Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?
I’m three-fourths Italian. My mom is 100% and my dad is half Italian and half Irish. No one would know that with a last name like Walker.