2 Minutes With ... Paul Hirsch, President and CCO of Doremus

On Division of Labor, Lego Education's impact, and Marget Larsen

Paul Hirsch, president and chief creative officer of Doremus & Co.,  is a leader focused on designing and shaping the next generation of brands. Guided by the notion that nobody waits for a brand's next tweet, post, or ad, he is constantly pursuing bold ideas and new ways to engage. 

Before Doremus, Paul spent his formative years at Goodby Silverstein & Partners, Leo Burnett, and an agency he cofounded, Division of Labor. At GS&P, he crafted memorable work for Nike and Cracker Jack. At Burnett, he relaunched Chef Boyardee with a film that still circles the internet. And later with Division of Labor, he built a 2x Ad Age "Small Agency of the Year" while coauthoring the Amazon charting book “Stop Tweeting Boring Sh*t.”

For these efforts, Paul's work has been recognized with an Emmy, included in the permanent collection of MoMa, and honored with countless industry awards. None of which his kids admire as much as his trophy for "Best Dancer" from Elaine Grossman’s Bat Mitzvah. Paul lives in Chicago.

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

Paul, tell us...

Where you grew up, and where you live now.

I grew up outside Chicago, and now I’m in Chicago. In between I’ve lived in Atlanta, Portland, New York and San Francisco.

How you first realized you were creative.

My father was a designer, and growing up I was fortunate to be surrounded by art. I never really thought much about being creative, but as I got older, I realized that I was the only one of my friends who could draw and who liked the movie Brazil.

A person you idolized creatively early on.

Both Ben Shahn and Sister Mary Corita were big influences on me.  Ben's love of letters, Corita's bold, fluorescent graphics, and their activism really left an impression. 

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

The most significant was actually after college. Not having a decent book, my mom encouraged me to go back to school, and I packed up my beat-up VW and drove to Atlanta to attend The Portfolio Center. That changed everything. Norm Gray and company gave me a lift and push when I needed it, and Carol Vick hooked me up with my first job. I'm forever grateful.

A visual artist or band/musician you admire.

These days I’m on a KAWS kick. I always admired his work but after seeing his show at the Brooklyn Museum, I walked away with new appreciation for it. Building giant sculptures, playing in the realm of AR and collaborating with fashion brands all feel very Warhol to me. Plus, it's something my kids are into. That makes it even more enjoyable.

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

Recent faves include Lauren Hough’s “Leaving Isn’t the Hardest Thing” and Malcom Gladwell’s conversation with Paul Simon. Lately I've been revisiting episodes of Todd Garner’s “The Producer’s Guide.” Hollywood-skewed but eminently relatable for solving problems and trying to pursue a creative vision amidst chaos.

Your favorite fictional character.

Omar from The Wire.

Someone or something worth following in social media.

I love R/GA's Twitter feed, Kimberly Harrington’s @honeystaysuper and Dave Dye’s blog, “Stuff from the Loft.” His “The Benefits of Long-Term Brand Campaigns” post is pure genius. 

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

Too many ways to recount in two minutes, but I’m just happy that for the most part, family, friends and co-workers have stayed healthy.

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

When I started Division of Labor with Josh Denberg, we made a series of letterpress posters to hang in our windows to amuse ourselves and clients. Soon, random people were calling to buy them, and Margaret Atwood and Fast Company were tweeting about them. This led to an Amazon charting book, meetings with celebs and VCs who liked our "attitude," and eventually, two Ad Age Small Agency of the Year honors. It was a helluva ride that shows the importance of just getting work out there because you never really know where it’s going to take you.

A recent project you're proud of, and why. 

I'm a little partial to the work we do for Lego Education. Not only because my kids love all things Lego, but their mission to support schools and build kids' resilience and confidence though playful learning is what the world needs.

Someone else's work that inspired you years ago.

Having spent a long time as a member of the San Francisco ad community, I've always had deep appreciation for the advertising and design work of Marget Larsen. Not only do several generations of long copy ads owe her a debt of gratitude, but so do package designers. I can't think of Howard Gossage without thinking of her first. 

Someone else's work you admired lately.

The list changes all the time, but on rotation this week are Megaforce’s films, Brian Collins and his team’s work for the SF Symphony (along with everything else), Matt Black’s American Geography, Morag Myerscough, Violaine & Jérémy’s Molly Baz cookbook, Chuck Anderson’s (NoPattern) Infinite Pressure project and whatever Wendy MacNaughton is working on. 

Your main strength as a creative person.

Optimism. 

Your biggest weakness.

I like too many fonts.

One thing that always makes you happy.

The sound of laughter.

One thing that always makes you sad.

Too many revisions.

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

I have no idea, but I imagine it would be something creative. I can’t imagine a life without art and design in it somewhere.

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 senior broadcast journalism student at the University of Colorado Boulder and a contributor to Muse by Clio.

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