This is My Professional Story.
It's long, but hopefully worth a look.
So, who am I, professionally speaking? Well, I can certainly send you a generic resume, but as someone who spent many years reviewing others' resumes for my own company, it's rare that one can capture the essence of who someone is or what they can bring to the table. Yet, I am still happy to send you one, if you'd like.
Though my background and experience may be similar to some, my path to get where I stand today is a bit more interesting and warrants further detail.
So I invite you to go pour a cup of coffee, put on your readers and settle into a comfy chair for the perusal of this short tale, though I know it might look more like a book from where you're sitting. (I'm writing one of those elsewhere, by the way.) I realize it's a lot of copy to read, particularly in this day and age, but that's what I do. That's my job. Read it if you want. Skip it if not. No one is holding a gun to your head. But, hey, you never know, you might find out something interesting. So....
Chapter 1 (Nah, just kidding.)
I actually started out in the business of developing positive images for companies and corporations in front of the camera. On every set I worked, my interest was in the people directing the shoot. While my fellow models and actors were primping between takes, I was looking over the shoulders of those creating the images; the art director and photographer. I always wanted to know why they were doing what they were doing. What was the purpose of the image? How would the image appear in a layout? Who was the target market? It was all so fascinating to me. I soon realized, "That's what I want to do!" So, I went back to school.
Within a few semesters, I had instructors offering me jobs. They could see my passion for clear communication, my attention to detail, and my creativity with words and images. I was able to get some freelance work before I even finished my classes. Shortly after, I got a call from one of my instructors who asked me if I'd be interested in joining the ad agency staff where he worked. It was in New York City, the Big Apple. On Madison Avenue, no less. This was the real deal, right off the bat. Though I lived an hour and a half from the office, by train, I knew I had to go for it. Opportunities like that don't come along everyday, especially that early in a career. The pay wasn't great to start but the experience would turn out to be priceless over the next few years.
On my first day, I took the train to Grand Central Station and walked the 15-20 blocks up Madison Avenue to the General Motors Building, which consumed the whole block between Madison and 5th Avenue, 58th and 59th Streets, right across the street from Grand Army Plaza, Central Park and the famed Plaza Hotel. I took the elevator to the 28th floor, then stepped off and into the reception area of Wells Rich Greene (WRG), one of the largest international ad agencies on the planet at the time. Some of their clients were Pan Am, Max Factor, Procter & Gamble, Phillip Morris, and Chase Manhattan. Some big names to say the least. WRG had yearly billings close to a billion dollars back then. That's billion, with a "b." I was awestruck on my first day. And over my time there, the stuff I got to work on—and to be a part of— was incredible. I truly got my education there.
I worked closely with various copywriters and learned their craft, somewhat through osmosis. Many times, during my tenure at WRG, I developed headlines and copy concepts, while my assigned copywriter came up with graphic ideas. That's just how things were done back in the day. Copywriter and art director worked as one. We were considered a creative team.
I learned how important perfection in print was to a brand. Clear messages, strong visuals, creativity, it all reflected on the brand's image. And, proofreading, aaah proofreading. "Proofreading" wasn't using a spellchecker on a Microsoft Word program; it was a department of real, live people who checked everything from spelling to grammar to proper punctuation to line spacing to letter kerning, and every other tiny little thing that, if not correct, could negatively affect the integrity of a brand image. Mistakes were not tolerated. Not by a client paying tens or even hundreds of millions in retainer fees and ad space buys, nor by Wells Rich Greene executives, who were being paid to create and present those brand images in the perfect light. The attention to detail which was required has stuck with me my entire career. It has to be right or it can negatively impact the brand.
In today's fast-paced, technologically-advanced business world, you wouldn't think it would be possible for mistakes to sneak through. But, in fact, I see it more today because of technology than I did back when living, breathing souls got paid a good salary for that job. But, I digress.
After a year or so at WRG, I got a call from Fairfield University. One of my old instructors there had recommended me for HIS position teaching a full 3-credit course in design and typography communications. He was moving on to become the president of the renowned, NYC-based School of Visual Arts at the New School. I began teaching in the graphic communications department and went on to do so for 11 years straight, until my own firm in Connecticut (to be discussed in coming paragraphs) could not afford to give me up two nights a week any longer. Also, after a few years teaching at Fairfield U., my aforementioned instructor, and now president of the School of Visual Arts, asked me to teach a course there, as well. I truly enjoyed teaching at both schools, but going into New York twice a week with my already overloaded schedule of taking care of and creating work for my own clients made the commitment just too much. After a year, I reluctantly had to give up the School of Visual Arts gig. But, my time there was a great addition to my career.
After five years with WRG, along with five years of commuting between NYC and Fairfield County in Connecticut everyday, I became frustrated. Not with the work, just the money and my free time. I barely had any of either. Unfortunately, coming into the business at the bottom, as I had done, got me a starting salary on the "entry-level" side. The cost of commuting ate deeply into my paychecks. WRG got me for basically nothing. Though I did receive regular pay raises, when you start out so low, it takes a lot of time to build up to a truly decent wage. It was just the way the pay scale worked there (and at most ad agencies). The only way to make a good bump in pay was to go elsewhere with your experience. Even my bosses at WRG suggested to me that I could make a lot more money if I left. And that I'd have no problem finding work. They were right on both counts.
I decided I was going to go it alone for awhile and see where I landed. I let everyone I knew in advertising circles know that I would be freelancing and looking for project work. For the first couple months I worked at some of the other large advertising agencies on Madison Ave. for a few days or a week here or there. Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB Needham, today), Ogilvy & Mather, J. Walter Thompson to name a few.
In the meantime, I was also developing some work of my own dealing directly with clients in Stamford CT, which had been growing into a large corporate business mecca, and only 10 minutes down the road from my home. I got more and more work over the next couple months.
And then the phone rang.
It was one of the creative directors at Wells Rich Greene, with whom I had worked under at one time.
"I could really use you for a project. Would you come freelance for a few weeks, maybe a month?"
He offered me a day rate which equaled what I used to make there in a whole week, just three months prior. I really didn't want to go back to the city, with its 4-hour round trip commuting hassle and the 10 to 12+ hour days on top of that, which was typical in NYC advertising. Besides, I was pretty busy with work out of Stamford, particularly with my new client, Group W Satellite Communications, who hired me to do design work for their Nashville Network television programming channel, as well as a few other of their cable channels. Where would I find the time for them? However, the big offer for a projected month of work was too good to pass up. Somehow, I managed to meet my deadlines for both gigs. I didn't get much sleep, though.
The story gets longer and I know I'm already having a hard time keeping you interested, so let's just say it worked out. But in a nutshell, after a month, the creative director offered me a full time position back at Wells Rich Greene with a bigger salary than I had ever dreamed I'd be able to make in a year. Four times what I had been making there only three months earlier! Guess what. I declined. Yep. I did.
(You're doing great. You've made it this far in this long-winded saga.
You're over two-thirds of the way home. Keep reading. You can do it!)
In addition to Group W, I had picked up a few other clients when I left WRG to go freelance. I was developing nice client relationships, a new thing for me since I was never on the "account executive" side before. I loved the feeling of being the contact for the client as well as the creative guy too. I also realized that the way things were going, I could make even more than I was being offered by WRG to come back on staff. I could start my own studio, build my own book of business, and hire designers and art directors, copywriters and administrative help. And, in the end, that's exactly what I did.
After three months (which was only supposed to be "a few weeks, maybe a month") and a bundle of cash from this freelance contract work at WRG, I launched The Doug Ely Design Group, Inc.
I had a successful run for 17 years, far surpassing anything I had ever done at Wells Rich Greene. It began in a small 400 square foot studio. I hired a junior designer to assist me; one of my best students, from Fairfield University, actually. About five years later, I had a staff of 10, mostly creatives, and had set up shop in approximately 4000 square feet of new Class AAA commercial office space in The Fairfield Corporate Center.
Over those years, Graphic Design USA magazine, the industry authority on design trends, designers, and the field in general, recognized me as one of the "top 100 designers in the country" and sought out my opinions on design and the business of design, for publication in the magazine on a number of occasions.
Being the president and creative director of The Doug Ely Design Group, I worked daily with copywriters, overseeing their work and learning their craft. Eventually writing copy became one of my most enjoyable duties and creative times. Writing comprehensive explicit client proposals also honed my writing skills. I enjoyed the former much more, but I was able to do the latter well too, due to my comfort communicating with words in the capacity of copywriting for advertising and marketing.
I also formed a partnership with KZS Advertising, which was located across L.I. Sound in Setauket, Long Island. They wanted to expand into Connecticut, and DEDG was the perfect affiliate. Together we had the KZS/Ely Group affiliation, working on hundreds of projects together, in addition to our own individual client accounts. We won dozens of design and advertising awards as a team and DEDG won many more independently.
Looking back at my time working in advertising in New York City, I can say I learned a lot. It shaped me well for running my own firm. And, when I got to Connecticut, the mere fact that I was coming from Wells Rich Greene, a Madison Avenue-based mega agency, helped give me the credibility I needed to win large accounts in the highly-competitive Fairfield County market.
One side note to the story. Remember that creative director at WRG, the one who had tried to entice me back at literally four times my previous salary? Yeah, him. Well, he reached out to me years later, after my company was well-established and respected. He was looking for a job. Sometimes life's funny.
All good things must come to an end.
After nearly 17 years of great success, my office lease renewal was coming up. The way corporations did business in general was changing. Much of the bread and butter work my company got from our clients was being brought in-house. Firms like mine were being used strictly for projects that were higher-visibility, while the simple stuff, which we also depended on to help with the exorbitant overhead, began to dry up. I felt like the handwriting was on the wall. Signing another long-term lease seemed much more risky than the last time I had signed one. I decided it was a good time to move on while I still had success.
Most of my staff transitioned to our KZS affiliate. My senior designer left and started HIS own firm in NYC, where he is still going strong. No one was left in the dust. It all worked out. I really needed a break anyway. Time for a change. I moved to the Caribbean.
Huh, what? Yeah, you read that right.
I ran a charter boat and started a marine services company. I continued writing and doing marketing work for my company, as well as some side work for others. I wrote articles for publications related to my work. I developed a reputation as a perfectionist in my new field, which grew from the seeds of my early career in advertising, design and communications.
To hear the rest of this story click on My Raison D'etre.
Okay, it was really more of a blog post than simply a long version of my resume', but hey, great job. You hung in there. I'm not sure who's more surprised that you made it to the end, you or me. Either way, thanks for the dedicated effort.
Any chance I can challenge you to read the other half of the story....the fun part? It even has a few pictures!
Actually, there's a big typographic problem as far as I'm concerned. You see, I'm a stickler for details. Consequently, when writing on this site, it bothered me when I realized that both the apostrophe marks and quotation marks offered in this program are incorrect, from a typographic perspective. This, [ " ] is an inch mark, not a quotation mark. And this, [ ' ] is a foot mark, not an apostrophe mark. Yet that's the extent of what is available to me for apostrophes and quotes. That's disappointing.
It drives me crazy to see incorrect marks used (or any mistake for that matter) on printed materials. I actually considered changing the American Typewriter font being used in many places throughout the site to some other font, just so I could get the proper punctuation marks, but that would sort of defeat the whole typewriter=writer flavor of the layout. Besides, every font I checked out gave me no option for the proper marks. Only inch and foot marks. Unbelievable.
This is basic typography 101. As you'll find out in the story at left, should you take the time to read through it, I actually taught typography at the college level during my career. I explained the difference between a properly used apostrophe and a foot mark. Two very different marks meaning two very different things. Same thing with quotation marks vs. inch marks. Yet a modern-day web-building program doesn't know the difference? Go figure.
In most true design programs, proper typographic symbols and marks are usually incorporated within each font's database, along with an extensive flexibility to adjust nearly every single element of the font. But, to build this site, I am stuck using a web-building program, not a graphic design program, which would most likely have properly designed fonts. Trust me, I tried to find a work-around in this program. It doesn't exist. Evidently, proper typography isn't at the top of the list for most web design editor programs.
So forgive me. I hope it doesn't bother you as much as it does me. I can assure you, if I were overseeing your printed materials in the capacity of creative director, art director, designer, writer or proofreader, I would send this back for revision if a better option were possible.
we have a problem."
The three samples above were saved as an image from a page created in a separate design program, and then imported here to this web-building program as a jpg file. Very cumbersome, but it had to be done to get my point across.
Fairfield Corporate Center, home of
The Doug Ely Design Group, Inc.