Tell us a bit about yourself and your current role. Where are you from? What do you do?
Hi there, I’m Allison Hayes. I’m originally from the east coast – Pennsylvania to be exact – but I’ve lived in Virginia, Boston, LA and San Francisco. I moved to Minneapolis about two years ago and I’m currently a Group Creative Director at Carmichael Lynch.
How would you describe the culture of Minneapolis and how much influence does it have on the culture within Carmichael Lynch?
I think of Minneapolis as the punk brother of Portland and Austin. It has a strong creative community, a legendary music scene, a lot of independent artists, local breweries, a big bike scene, snobby coffee, etc. – except instead of dealing with rain or heat, here you have to deal with the cold. That’s the first thing that people typically ask about since it’s a better known attribute of the city but all of the awesome niche creative cities have some kind of barrier to living in them, otherwise everyone would move here. The cold aside, there’s an ease to living here that I almost felt like I had to apologize for at first. But you get over that pretty quickly when you realize that being able to afford a house – in the city – without a long commute – is a lot more attainable than it is in a place like in LA, New York or San Francisco.
There’s also a large creative community and a ton of civic pride and engagement here and both have a positive influence on CL. Partly because so many people here are involved in things outside of advertising, but also through the work we do and the pride there is in the city and the state. Take a look at what we did for The Minnesota Twins. Our design team created this absolutely bonkers, beautiful and disruptive design system that’s breakthrough for the MLB. When the Superbowl came to town, CL had a big hand in putting together “The Great Northern” an initiative to promote and celebrate all things winter here in “The North.”. Last year, the agency closed on Election Day to give employees time to vote in an initiative we called Make Time to Vote, which we’ll do again in 2020. Minnesota consistently has the highest voter turnout in the nation, we want to encourage people to vote, volunteer, drive people to polls, whatever we can do to participate in the process. That’s another thing – people from Minnesota really love Minnesota. They’re proud and passionate about where they’re from. We have a lot of boomerangs at CL. Almost everyone that leaves comes back at one point or another. That’s how I landed here. My husband is a native Minnesotan who left for 12 years and lived in six other cities in that time. Now we’re here and I’m happy about it. I never felt that pride or draw to go back to my hometown.
What is the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make?
“Minnesota Nice” is a real thing. Strangers say hello and ask about your day. As a chilly East-coaster, I thought this was weird or disingenuous at first. If someone said hello to me on the street in Boston, I would assume they wanted something from me. But that kind of nice wears off on you. I’m nicer here. I talk to Uber drivers and I always ask the grocery store clerk about his or her day. Basically, I pay more attention to people outside of my immediate sphere. It sounds corny, but it really is nice to be nice.
I’d say that bleeds over into work as well. We have a saying at CL, “Be hard on the work but be nice to each other.” Nice doesn’t mean easy. It just means take an interest in others and respect people’s time. That doesn’t happen at a ton of other places in the advertising world.
In what ways does Minneapolis inspire you?
Minneapolis has a really strong design scene. Maybe it’s because of its history with the punk music scene, maybe it’s because design and bikes always seem to go together, maybe it’s because of the obnoxious amount of independent breweries and the packaging they require, or maybe it’s just CL. I’m not totally sure. But I can tell you that I haven’t been this inspired or impressed by design in years. Yes, the work is good, but it’s not even that. It’s the passion and just undeniable love for it. Too often at agencies, the “designers” get relegated to wrists or feel like wannabe art directors. But the designers here don’t want to be art directors. They’re type nerds and graphic explorers. They’re not afraid to just try weird stuff and they make the work better. Design spills over into our culture in the best way. Every event we have — from bands on our rooftop to lunch and learns in our Greenhouse — has a ridiculously cool, totally frameable poster that someone makes and prints. We’re even hosting a dedicated poster show in November to raise money for a local nonprofit called the BrandLab that supports diversity in advertising. And I’d being willing to bet that quite a few of the designers at CL had a hand in all of the cool signage, posters and beer cans I see around Minneapolis too.
What is your favorite hidden-gem in Minneapolis?
My husband and I are food people (I hate the term foodies). Lucky for us, Minneapolis has a great food scene and unlike SF, you can actually get into the restaurants without planning months in advance. Our current favorite is a little spot about 4 blocks from our house called “Tenant.” It’s a chef’s collective, so the chefs are also the owners and the servers. They only have two seatings a night of sixteen people. It’s always a set menu of six courses for $60 and you can do a “wine pairing” for $25 which is basically unlimited pours of three wines. The food is amazing. The price point is insane and it’s all fun, no pretense. It’s like going over to your friend’s place for dinner if your friends were gourmet chefs.
If you could change something about Minneapolis, what would it be?
That whole nice thing I mentioned before has its drawbacks. Mainly that people aren’t always super direct. I like to know where I stand, and it can take a lot more back and forth here to get everyone on the same page because no one wants to hurt feelings. I’m all about being nice to each other, but I hate when the niceties slow things down. I’m an impatient East Coaster after all.