2 Minutes With ... Curt Schreiber, CCO at VSA Partners

On IBM Smarter Planet, the Michelin Guide and Louis Vuitton

Curt Schreiber is chief creative officer of VSA Partners. In 30 years at the agency, Curt led its transition from a boutique design firm to a multifaceted brand-builder focused on crafting compelling customer experiences. Curt’s work has been recognized by more than 100 international design and communications organizations, publications and competitions. His output is also included in the permanent collection of the U.S. Library of Congress.

We spent two minutes with Curt to learn more about his background, creative inspirations and some recent work he's admired.

Curt, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I grew up in Iowa and now live in Illinois. I love calling the Midwest home, but my favorite places to visit are anywhere up and down the two coasts.

How you first realized you were creative.

In kindergarten, our class was given an assignment to draw our house. The principal called my mother to tell her I was drawing in perspective and that I should pursue a career in art.    

A person you idolized creatively early on.

In childhood, Leonardo da Vinci. My grandmother had a coffee table book featuring his work, and it inspired me in endless ways. Science + art = design. In college, Ray and Charles Eames.          

A moment from high school or college that changed your life.

My high school varsity football team set a school record, but not the one you want. A winless season of 0-9. Sport imitates life, so always "chin up."                

A visual artist or band/musician you admire.

The residents of Misericordia, a Catholic charity of the Archdiocese of Chicago. It’s home to more than 600 kids and adults with mild to profound developmental disabilities. They offer a range of activities, and many of them paint. The art is spectacular and admirable on so many levels.

A book, movie, TV show or podcast you recently found inspiring.

The film The Pursuit of Happyness. It's so good. The relentless drive for success while overcoming adversity is amazing.

Your favorite fictional character.

Han Solo. Lacks moral principles, yet a hero. Makes for an interesting character.

Someone or something worth following in social media.

I don't really follow social media much. It's very hard to find something particularly interesting or informative. I did watch TikTok for six hours straight the first time I visited, but I have yet to go back.

How Covid-19 changed your life, personally or professionally.

Spending more time with family was the silver lining.

One of your favorite creative projects you've ever worked on.

The IBM Smarter Planet agenda. During the height of the financial crisis, IBM emerged with a path forward and an invitation for all. It was something for the world to believe in. The multifaceted campaign won a Gold Global Effie and in 2010 generated $3 billion in revenue. It was quite the experience to work with Jon Iwata, Mike Wing and an expansive IBM crew, Ogilvy & Mather and SYPartners to craft the agenda and design the system and campaign that transformed IBM.

A recent project you're proud of.

We just finished a new brand identity and expression system for Merative. Last year, IBM spun off its Watson Health unit and a new business was formed. We retained some of the visual DNA from the Watson brand while introducing new elements to differentiate from all others in the industry. Our engagement with Watson goes back to its inception over 10 years ago, when we named the A.I. product.

Someone else's work that inspired you years ago.

Let's go back to the early 1900s. The French tire company Michelin wanted to encourage more driving. Selling more cars means selling more tires. To encourage motorists to tour the countryside, they published the Michelin Guide, which featured a select number of restaurants. One star meant a very good restaurant in its category. Two stars meant excellent cooking and worth a detour. Three stars meant exceptional cuisine and worth a special journey. It was one of the best content marketing ideas ever.

Someone else's work you admired lately.

Louis Vuitton has been rocking collaborations with artists and designers for the last two decades, and it doesn't go out of style. I love how their products become even more covetable than they already are. My favorites include Richard Prince, Yayoi Kusama, Supreme and Virgil Abloh.

Your main strength as a creative person.

My willingness to collaborate and accept ideas and constraints.                 

Your biggest weakness.

I have a hard time saying no. There are so many interesting creative opportunities, and you never know what you'll find, or who you’ll work with or what the outcomes will be.

One thing that always makes you happy.

I love exploring the boundaries of food.

One thing that always makes you sad.

Bad design. So many things can be better than they are today.

What you'd be doing if you weren’t in advertising.

A landscape designer. It requires deep knowledge of so many things, like the climate, wildlife and vegetation. It also requires the appreciation of the immediate experience as well as the long-term value of beautiful and useful spaces.

2 Minutes With is our regular interview series where we chat with creatives about their backgrounds, creative inspirations, work they admire and more. For more about 2 Minutes With, or to be considered for the series, please get in touch.

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Jessica MacAulay
Jessica MacAulay is a contributor for Muse by Clio. She's also a recent graduate of the University of Colorado Boulder's College of Media, Communication, and Information.

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