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Generation Next 2013: Leigh Thomson

Age: 34

Company & title: LETR & Co., principal, Georgia Southern University, associate professor of graphic design

Top accomplishments

• Revenue grew by 51 percent in the second year

• Client relationships doubled in the second year

•. Over 85 percent of projects in the second year of business are long-term integrated branding projects.

Top awards/accolades

• Selected as one of the Top 200 Packaging Designs Worldwide out of 55 countries and over 4,000 designers by Lurzer Archive Magazine.

• Winning a Gold Seal Award and two Awards of Excellence by AIGa Atlanta, which selects top designers from 22 states in the Southeast.

• Awarded more than 30 ADDYs from the American Advertising Federation

Top philanthropic leadership roles

• Lead marketing and design consultant for Coastal Center for Developmental Services.

• Marketing and design consultant for Forsyth Farmers Market and Savannah Local Food.

• Working with graduate graphic design students from GSU in a year-long activism project to reduce childhood obesity in rural Georgia through innovations in visual communication.

 

Questions for BiS

1. As a proven local leader, please share your vision of Savannah’s future. What growth or challenges do you foresee?

 

By 2013? I believe our biggest challenge this year is to manage our own success. We have several industries on the verge of incredible expansion, the Port, Gulfstream and tourism to name just a few. The challenge will be to embrace and promote this growth while maintaining the integrity and authenticity of what makes Savannah unique.

 

By 2020? Savannah is known around the world as a city rich in history and renowned for its innovative city plan. I envision a Savannah that has embraced that heritage and become a design leader in many areas, education, transportation and food to name a few. Just as the world looks to us today as an example of how we did urban design right in 1733, I want the world to look to us in 2020 as a city that is again leading in design innovation.

 

By 2030? I sincerely hope that within the next 20 years, local government and businesses across all industries (both traditional and leading edge) have discovered way to collaborate on a more dynamic level to make Savannah a more progressive and innovative city.

 

2. How will you do business differently in the coming year or decade?

• Like other companies, we will be looking for ways to work smarter, not harder.

• We have a number of business practices that are unique in our field. We build brand awareness and perception through dynamic consumer experiences rather than individual pieces of collateral. We will only recommend brand touchpoints that are in the best interest of the client and consumer even if it lowers our overall billings. This creates value for our clients and their customers while also maintaining an ethical responsibility to reduce visual noise in our culture.

• Additionally, while some firms believe the client hinders the creative process, we believe they are vital to its success. We consider ourselves through partners with our clients and involve them in every step of the creative process.

 

3. What technological or cultural advances are you looking fortwar to in the coming year or decade?

• I am very excited to see what innovations the Millennial generation, who is about to enter the workforce, will contribute to industry. They have a completely different way of thinking and have been exposed to so much more than previous generations. I think they are going to shake everything up.

• There are amazing strides being made in how we search for and are exposed to new information. How much stronger can our economy and society become if we are making informed decisions based on meaningful information?

 

4. What qualities or assets will distinguish Savannah and preserve/advance our local economy?

• I believe one of Savannah’s core strengths is the local community’s sincere passion for what they do. They are dedicated to it, they love it and they want to see progress made.

 

5. What economic drivers and business sectors promised the most growth in the next year or decade and why?

• Obviously, the tourism industry is integral to Savannah’s economic success. We should continue efforts to evolve this industry, specially the type of tourists we are attracting by creating new experiences that will encourage them to stay longer, eat in more restaurants, shop in more stores and, ultimately, create fantastic memories of Savannah.

• The logistics/supply chain management industry is certainly advancing at a rapid pace and with Savannah as the second largest port on the East Coast, there is significant opportunity for our city to be the leader in logistics innmovation.

• Savannah has a large aerospace industry in place with Gulfstream and Mitsubishi. Savannah should continue to foster this industry.

 

6. What college degrees will be the most in demand in the Savannah area and why?

While the business major remains the most popular major on college/university campuses today, higher education has seen recruiter interest shifting toward liberal arts degrees that foster stronger critical thinking, problem solving and communication skills. I believe industries in Savannah will begin requiring college degrees that are somewhat atypical for a specific industry in order to cultivate innovation.

 

7. What advice do you have for other Savannah leaders in the coming year or decade?

• Industry, like people, is meant to evolve or else it will stagnate. Don’t be still.

• Don’t let someone else define for you what your industry can and can’t be.

• Always be curious. It is the catalyst for change.

 

8. What innovation of yours do you hope will be remembered by future generations?

As both a consumer and producer of visual communication, I understand how saturated our culture is with information. Every day I look for new methods of communicating that will create information that is meaningful and, ultimately, of value to our society. I avoid adding noise.

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