Lessons from Atomicdust

Things I’ve Learned So Far, from Atomicdust.

Originally written for Ad Buzz.


What I learned from what Atomicdust has learned. Inspired by Stolen from Stefan Sagmeister’s bestseller. Atomicdust is an awesome design and digital marketing shop in Midtown Alley, one of St. Louis’ creative hubs. They graciously opened their doors to the creative community to share their knowledge, sandwiches and beer.

Love what you do.

It’s become an immortal cliché. Still, it’s sound advice. The advertising industry consists of ongoing frustration that leads to success, a breakthrough that ends the frustration–hopefully. If you don’t actually enjoy what you do it will become more and more difficult to endure and enjoy the daily grind. Don’t really love it? Do something else, something you love.

They don’t teach you everything in school.

It’s all an evolutionary process.

You can’t stop the learning process once you snag your diploma. It’s a process of daily refinement and learning. What successful social media campaigns were led by someone with a BS in Social Media? Learn as the industry continues to evolve.

Most Creatives Hate Each Other… Until They Don’t.

Support your (creative) community.

The competitive nature of the advertising can easily create an inherited hatred for other creatives and other agencies. Atomicdust often plays host to advertising, marketing or design events. In reality, creatives have a lot in common. Don’t be afraid to polish off a few beers and bond with others in the industry. Share your knowledge and take hold of others’.


Take a deep breath. Think like a client. They all have the same problem. They’re hiring a team of free spirits to do work that they can’t do themselves. Helping clients understand how you work helps them trust those free spirits. Talk about money early and often; you should choose what work is done pro bono. Lead your clients; they’re paying you for your expertise, not to be a yes man.

Remember your heroes.

Someone’s bound to inspire you at some point, remember them. If someone or something inspires you once, lightning will eventually strike again. Eames side chairs sit near the entrance of Atmoicdust, a comfortable source of inspiration. Don’t forget, you’ll never remember to be inspired.

Find additional creative outlets.

Being creative isn’t a job. You won’t be working on the most exciting brands and projects every day, find something that’s exciting. Pick up a camera, design something, write a poem, cook or whatever comes to mind. Your creativity isn’t finite. Do whatever excites you.

Designers should be able to write.

At least a little. Writers should be able to design… at least a little.

Bet the company.

As W+K would say it, “Fail Harder.”  You’re strengths and expertise shouldn’t limit what work you can do. Someone had to do the first print piece, first TV ad and first banner.

Perspective is everything.

Travel. See the world from a different perspective, a different place. Street. City. State. Country. Continent. Our knowledge is a collection of our experiences.

Put yourself out there.

Use your real name and be an open book. Take ownership, for better or for worse, we’re all people. Don’t let your legacy end with “–Anonymous.” Unless you’re a hacker.

Be nice.

Work hard.

Do your best.

Really pay attention.

Roll with the punches. 

Don’t take advice from strangers.


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