Capitol Communicator is running “Up Close and Personal” profiles of communicators in the mid-Atlantic. In this profile we feature James Early. Photography for the series is by award-winning 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.

James, please tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m an independent creative director and brand strategist, and I partner with purpose-driven clients to define their brands, navigate their communications challenges and craft memorable digital experiences.

My first foray into the world of visual communications was back in high school. I dove head-first into photography and ‘zine making to document the skateboarding and punk shows that consumed my days and nights. I made it to art school just as digital was taking off and I was immediately enamored by the possibilities that came with adding interactivity to visual design.

I spent twenty years in the agency trenches, evolving with digital and the needs and expectations of clients and audiences. More often than not, the challenges that clients faced had more to do with their brand than how to represent it online and my focus slowly shifted to working with clients on their brand definition and positioning.

For the past three years, I’ve worked independently. A key component to many of my engagements is the brand workshops that I run to efficiently define brands, build consensus with key stakeholders and set the stage for future communications. And yes, these workshops can be conducted virtually.

Are you involved in any other organizations?

I’m a member of The Communications Network which focuses on nonprofit and foundation communications and I keep up with events hosted by AIGA DC and the DC chapter of Conscious Capitalism.

What are the things you are most proud of?

My wife and I have three growing boys that we drag on endless adventures with the hopes of instilling a sense of curiosity. I’m proud of the well-rounded young adults they’re growing into.

Who are your personal role models?

I’ve always been inspired by the independent spirits in the world – from bands that release their own music, to skateboarders that build their own skate spots, to outsider artists that reimagine their own environments when there’s nowhere else to share their creativity. These independent spirits remind me that we all have the power to create the world we want to live in.

What professional advice did you receive that helped you in your career?

I had a college professor whose mantra was, “Cut on the action.” This is a classic film-editing concept that holds true in design and communications as well.

What professional advice do you have for others?

You’re in control. Or at least you’re as in control as anyone else. Know where you’re headed, chart your own path and don’t forget to support others along the way.

What’s on your Spotify and Pandora playlists?

I listen to Spotify constantly and I still prefer full albums over playlists. Depending on the day, I might be listening to rootsy stuff like Drive-by Truckers, James McMurtry and Lucero, more amped-up rock like Hot Snakes, or the full-on angst of older DC bands like Gray Matter and Dag Nasty. If I’m not listening to music, I’m probably catching up on the 2Bobs podcast to learn all the things I wished I’d known long ago about the business side of what we do.

What’s your favorite restaurant?

Believe it or not, I’m not a huge foodie. My favorite restaurants include a view and maybe some fish tacos.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?

As an independent creative, I’m always on the hunt for new opportunities. Reach out!

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