MEET MARISSA GREY, CREATIVE TALENT DIRECTOR AT CRITICAL MASS
At WNW, we're always searching for ways to help creatives present and prepare themselves in the best possible way. Hearing what top agencies and brands are looking for, directly from hirers and directors at those top agencies and brands, is about as helpful as it gets. Below we've interviewed Marissa Grey, the Creative Talent Director at Critical Mass. Marissa shares the story of how she landed at Critical Mass, and gives us a tour of the work and culture that drives the renowned agency.
"Whether it’s staffing someone on her dream project, or helping her make the jump from senior designer to art director, my career is very rewarding in this respect." Seeing creatives thrive makes Marissa's day, so it should be no surprise that she's offering gems of wisdom to creatives. For those of you looking to improve your web portfolios, "Be proud of every single piece of work in your portfolio. If you have any reservations about a certain piece, chuck it. I’d rather see a smaller selection of awesome work." For those of you feeling ready to branch out of your comfort zone, "Whether it's a UX designer that is super-strategic, or a designer that prototypes, I’m looking for candidates that are hungry to learn and experiment."
Tells us about your background.
Like a lot of people who have a creative side, I accidentally ended up in advertising. I have a Masters degree in interactive journalism, but instead of going to work in that field, I took a job right out of school with a fellow Emerson alum as a film rep, staffing VFX artists, directors and editors in commercials. I found I loved working in creative management, and was able to transition into digital. I’ve been lucky to work at amazing agencies like The Barbarian Group, AKQA and Huge. When my mentor at Huge (Chief Creative Officer, Conor Brady) came to Critical Mass, it was a no-brainer when he asked me to be part of his team.
Plus the inevitable question: do your parents understand what you do?
For a long time, my parents sort of knew what I did. I think they have a better understanding now, and hopefully this article will help!
What moves you about what you do, and what are you driven by? What’s your creative outlet?
The best part of my job is seeing the creatives I hire working together and creating beautiful things. There’s a very delicate but vital chemistry I need to bring together when hiring a group of highly talented people. In the end, someone’s background or skill-set is just as important as being a good cultural fit.
If you had a different job than what you do, what might it be?
Deep down, I love helping people to the degree that I had considered a career in medicine; but I couldn’t be happier with where I ended up. Whether it’s staffing someone on her dream project, or helping her make the jump from senior designer to art director, my career is very rewarding in this respect.
What scene from a movie makes you laugh just thinking about it?
A close friend (who happens to be a creative (ha!) will randomly send me this gif from the movie Bridesmaids. It’s when Kristen Wiig tries to sneak into a plane’s first class section. It gets me every time!
What's your favorite thing on the internet this week?
If you were stranded on a desert island, with your computer, what 3 websites would you take with you?
Describe Critical Mass in 3 words.
Experiential. Design-Centric. Global.
What qualities are most important in a prospective hire?
Three items of equal importance:
1. Would this candidate fit in with the team? It’s so important to create a healthy, innovative workspace and that starts with the people on the ground.
2. Can this hire grow at CM organically and have the opportunity to strengthen their skills and experience? I want all my hires to establish roots with us.
3. Raw talent. I don’t care whether you have three degrees or are self-taught. What is most important is whether you are passionate about digital. This shines through almost immediately.
What about the culture of Critical Mass makes it an ideal place to work?
We are overall a very kind, genuine group of people (I truly believe this stems from the company's Canadian roots). With such a warm, supportive culture, it’s easy to do great work. Also, I love that CM has been digital from the very beginning (18+ years in the making!) - we have stayed true to our core values and principles, but have organically adapted over time to changes in our industry.
How much time do you spend on each portfolio? And how long before you make a gut reaction on the portfolio? What do you judge first?
First impressions count. I usually know within the first 30 seconds of looking at a portfolio if someone's a keeper. One thing to look out for is bad design hiding behind a great looking template. Site innovators like Squarespace are certainly redefining how people display their portfolios, so when I come across something like this, I take more time to look through the portfolio. I’d rather see a nice PDF than a wonky, poorly designed site. For me, if the portfolio isn’t designed well, it’s usually a red flag.
What are looking for in a portfolio/creatives that's unique to Critical Mass?
I focus on the individual and love people who have their own unique style. Whether it’s a UX designer that is super-strategic, or a designer that prototypes, I’m looking for candidates that are hungry to learn and experiment. There are many traditional folks out there who would be fantastic in the digital space, so I like to see everything from typography to print to site design. We are truly experiential at CM, so I love creatives that involve technology in their work. Recently we have done fantastic work for Nissan and the United Nations that demonstrate this well.
Which social network do you prefer for stalking people, creative or otherwise?
Instagram! One of my favorite designers (who I discovered on WNW) had an exhibit at the Type Directors Club. Now I’m constantly trolling her feed.
Best piece of advice you can give about portfolios/personal websites/resumes.
Be proud of every single piece of work in your portfolio. If you have any reservations about a certain piece, chuck it. I’d rather see a smaller selection of awesome work.