Connie Birdsall, senior partner and global creative director at Lippincott, has been the creative force behind successful, iconic brands including Delta, Samsung, Starbucks and more. She has been the leading proponent of design as a direct and measurable driver of business value and the heart of Lippincott's integrated design practice.
Muse spent two minutes with Birdsall to learn more about her background, her creative inspirations and recent work she's admired.
Connie, tell us...
The town where you were born.
I was born in Washington, D.C., but grew up in Ames, Iowa.
What you wanted to be when you grew up.
I loved the art of performance growing up. I danced ballet five days a week, so my heart was really set on dancing professionally for quite a while.
How you discovered you were creative.
I don't know if I can pinpoint an "a-ha" moment—I think being creative was always a part of my life. I always grew up around art; my parents loved it, so I loved it too. Dance was my passion, but so was making beautiful things. I am 99 percent sure that my earliest graphic design project was creating the cover for one of our yearly dance programs.
A person you idolized creatively growing up.
I really idolized Kathy and Michael McCoy, who were my professors at Cranbrook Academy of Art, where I got my master's. That campus was really a stomping ground for the architects of contemporary American design; everywhere I turned there was influence from legendary designers and architects. I loved it.
A moment from high school or college that changed your life.
I had an instructor at the University of Iowa suggest that I take a summer typography class at the Kansas City Art Institute; for me, taking that class was like a lightbulb going off. It was the first time my eyes were really opened to the world of professional design, and it felt like I had finally found a potential future for myself.
The first concert you saw, and your favorite band or musician today.
I think my first concert was Jimmy Buffet. He was performing at a small concert hall at Iowa State. And while it's pretty hard for me to pick a favorite musician, I think Emmy Lou Harris is up there for me.
Your favorite artist.
That's a tough one. I love impressionist painters, like Monet, which surprises me just because of how different from graphic design—my first love—their work is. I also love the Chagall murals hanging at Lincoln Center. They're magical.
Your favorite hero or heroine in fiction.
I've always had a soft spot for Little House on the Prairie's Laura Ingalls. Might be the Midwesterner in me.
The best book you've read lately.
I just finished reading Ruth Reichl's memoir of her time at Gourmet called Save Me the Plums. It was super fun and interesting to read how she built such an amazing publication. I loved Gourmet so much; the rich photography, the complex full menus. Miss it still today.
Your favorite movie.
I really love all kinds of theater, but Disney movies really have a special place in my heart. It's hard for me to pick a favorite, though.
Your favorite Instagram follow.
I work with unique people who really lead such rich lives pursuing their passions both at work and outside of it—whether they're a DJ on the weekends, a freelance photographer, or raising a beautiful family… I get inspiration from these people every day, and that includes their Instagram feeds. I'd have to say those are my favorite Instagram pages to follow.
Your favorite creative project you've ever worked on, and why.
Delta Air Lines. That project was a massive undertaking. It touched every aspect of the Delta brand, from its logo to customer experience to the look and feel of their terminals. We also had an amazing partnership with our client who helped take the work to an even more exciting place, based on a roadmap we created together 12 years ago.
Your favorite creative project from the past year, and why.
We recently helped create the MSK Kids brand, which is Memorial Sloan Kettering's pediatric cancer program. Building a brand that does so much good for families was incredibly rewarding.
Someone else's creative project that inspired you years ago.
I've been in this business for 33 years, and the creative projects that really stuck with me were the massive global identity projects that really sculpted today's biggest brands. For instance, Coca-Cola, incredibly inspiring program. When this industry was a lot younger, things like that were huge breakthroughs.
Someone else's creative project that you've been envious of lately.
I'm always blown away by the big experiential things that companies do, that require a complicated mix of different disciplines to come together to create something meaningful. The Intel drone light show at the Winter Olympics in PyeongChang was incredible. And I'm continuously inspired by the creative work coming from Google, Nike and Patagonia.
Your main strength as a creative person.
Honestly, I have a pretty small ego. And it allows me to see the real strengths in other people and those on my team and encourage them to bring them forward.
Your weakness or blind spot.
I love the work we do but find it difficult to put pen to paper when it comes to explaining our creative process to the world. There's an art and science to the craft coupled with the fact that for each person the process is different.
One thing that always makes you happy.
Well, there are two things that always make me happy. My cats, Mickey and Leo. They're the best of friends.
One thing that always makes you sad.
The stress of the world right now and the fact that there doesn't seem to be a middle ground in politics. People can't talk or listen to each other.
What you'd be doing if you weren't in design.
At first, I thought it would be cooking. I always wanted to be a chef until I realized they never had time off. So, if I weren't in design, I'd probably be a farmer, raising animals, away from it all.