Rick Conrad is VP/executive creative director of Scout Health, which has offices in San Diego, Chicago and New York City. Conrad has worked in advertising for 25 years, and as his photo suggests, he has worn a variety of hats, working in the consumer, hospital, pharma and rare disease spaces, among others.
Conrad says his favorite thing to do is to “make stuff,” and that includes playing in three bands and working in visual arts like painting, photography and illustration. Chops caught up with Rick on his way to the airport, and asked him our usual lineup of questions.
So, what do you do all day?
Depends on the day. Review/approve/inspire/plus creative. Meet with team members on agency initiatives. Travel for presentations and pitches. Generally, help to run the agency.
How would you describe life as a creative to someone who’s not familiar with your job?
The beauty is the various art forms that all come together: strategy, design, writing, video, art, music, etc. I also like the variety that comes with creative work. Being a creative requires embracing change and unpredictability.
Did you ever think you’d be doing this? If not, what did you think you’d do?
Oddly enough, I always thought the advertising gig looked cool. Reruns of Bewitched gave me exposure to Darren Stephens office filled with storyboards, pitching ideas and cool creative-looking characters. Later, the shows Bosom Buddies and Thirty Something gave insights into agency life. That being said, early-on, I thought I might be a radio DJ.
What can you point to in your past and your education that prepared you for this career?
My early interest and love for various artforms, illustration, comics, film and pop culture are what really prepared me. To me, it was a no-brainer to do something artistic that required a passion for art and expression. Education-wise, although I went to art school, I believe I am more self-taught from just exposing myself to many different things out in the world.
Any quirks in your career path? Odd jobs? Bad jobs? Cool jobs?
My path was not a straight one. I grabbed opportunities as I saw them. I wrote and illustrated underground comics, worked at magazines as a designer, designed store layouts, painted signs, had stints at big and small agencies, owned my own agency for 10 years, etc. Prior to doing art professionally, I worked on a loading dock, drove a forklift, managed a nursery (and was deemed Christmas Tree Manager during the holidays) and coached youth sports camps.
What’s the ideal office set up for you to do your best work? Quiet? Music, and if so, what? Open work space or closed door? Home or office?
I prefer a dedicated space with an open door. I like being at an office. I like working to music depending on what task I am involved with: I need quiet for writing/thinking, loud music for art direction.
Name five things that help you do your job better.
- Team members and partners that “get it.”
- Autonomy and freedom to “let me do my thing.”
- Supportive management.
- Creatives that are “hungry” for opportunities and want to produce great work.
Boots. Hats. Jackets. Black jeans. Hairspray.
What piece of work/project/campaign/creation are you most proud of?
I am proud of a lot of the work I’ve done. I’ve had the advantage of working in many different niches of advertising: from CPG, to hospital advertising and health and wellness, to pharma and rare disease. The campaigns for products that have helped people with health issues, and specifically with rare diseases, I hold most valuable. Most recently at Scout, helping to create the unbranded campaign More Than Tired has been very gratifying. We’ve helped many people with Narcolepsy get diagnosed and get the help they need.
What’s your favorite color right now?
Gray. Always has been. And, yes…I will argue with anyone who says it’s not a color.
Which individual has had the most influence on you as a creative?
I’ve been influenced by a lot of “public figures” (writers, artists, musicians). However, in real life, I would say Mark Ricketts. He is an illustrator and writer of underground comics and a “true creative.” Eary-on, he “gave me permission” to try and do many different creative things just by being around him.
Do you create on your own time? If so, what do you do and why?
I paint, illustrate and play in a few bands. Since I was young, it’s always been something I’ve had to do. Whether it’s music or art, it fills a void and keeps me sane. If I go too long without doing some form of expression, I get that itch.
Name a single piece of work, in any medium, that gives you the greatest pleasure.
There’s many, but…Tom Waits “Rain Dogs” record.
Name a single piece of work, in any medium, that leaves you thinking, I wish I had done that.
Many works by Jean Michel Basquiat or writings by Charles Bukowski.
Name a single work, in any medium, that leaves you wondering, How the hell did they do that?
Looking at a skyscraper or a cruise ship.
If you weren’t doing this, what would you be doing?
If I wasn’t answering these questions, I’d be getting more work done. Job-wise? Direct feature films.
How do you recharge?
Taking a break by spending time with family, playing music, paint, watch films, sleep.
What’s your happy place?
In the car listening to music way too loud.
Pastel or oil? Latex house paint (for fine art painting)
Sound or vision? Both
Strings or horns? I love both, but play strings
Clear or cluttered? Mostly clear
Morning or night? Night
Design school or liberal arts? Design