Behind The HOLIDAY MAGIC WITH IMI AGENCY’S CREATIVE SERVICES DEPARTMENT
By Mallory Ambrose | December 20, 2022
This holiday season, in the Mix would like to introduce you to the talented all-women team of IMI’s Creative Services Department (CSD) based out of the Atlanta office. Here’s a glimpse into the innovative, fast-paced day in the life of the CSD team in action as they plan, design, and produce IMI’s annual holiday card.
In this exclusive behind-the-scenes look at CSD, I spoke with seasoned Senior Graphic Designer, Ashley Collins, visionary Junior Graphic Designer, Cameron Gantek, and accomplished Production Manager, Jean Breunle.
Mallory Ambrose: Can you tell me a little about yourselves, your backgrounds, and your role at IMI?
Ashley Collins: I’ve been at IMI for going on seven years and I am Senior Graphic Designer. I handle everything creative that comes to IMI through our account managers then to CSD whether it be photography, menu creation, LTO development, all of that fun stuff.
Cameron Gantek: During college, I studied Game Design and worked part-time at GSU’s College of Law as a junior designer. I have been the Junior Graphic Designer at IMI for a little over a year now, and I work with Ashley doing whatever creative work she tells me to do.
Jean Breunle: I’ve been in marketing and advertising for several decades working in creative, production, and account management. After living in Florida for 20 years, the pandemic opened up the opportunity for me to move and be close to family in Atlanta. When I saw the job posting for a Production Manager at IMI, I jumped at it! It sounded like the perfect job for me, and I haven’t stopped smiling since I started here.
MA: What led you to creative services and graphic design?
AC: Well, for me, I’ve always been amused by advertising and the power of advertisements. They can be creatively influential, and I really like that! Also, I’ve always been an artist. I’ve been drawing and have been in an art class pretty much ever since elementary school, so I knew I wanted to do something art related, and this is where I found my passion for design.
CG: I was also in art classes. I was originally going to college for studio art, but thought ‘what am I going to do with a studio art degree?’ So, I took a turn and I’ve always been really techie as well as artsy. So, this was a good combination of the two for me.
JB: Growing up, I found I was intrigued by all things advertising – print ads, TV ads, anything. In college, I found that one of my favorite classes was Ethics in Advertising and that’s how I decided what to study. I have an insane love of proofreading and have been known to be a bit obsessive about it. I also can’t walk by a crooked picture without straightening it.
MA: What is CSD’s creative process when designing projects like beverage guides, captain’s books, and other collateral for IMI’s world-leading clients?
AC: First, we listen to the ask and think about all aspects involved. Not just what they asked for, but we try to develop more on that. For example, what else can we provide to better service our account managers for our clients.
As far as the creative process and development goes, we do our research on what is being asked by the client as well as what they’ve already put out there. We then go into creative mode and gather inspiration from images and then start to create.
CG: For me, one of the first steps is to get a feel for the client’s branding, whether through brand guidelines or their website. That helps me get the gears turning on how to start a layout. And then I would say, like Ashley mentioned, we listen to the ask, and then we give more options that elaborate on the ask. I often think ‘this would be cool if we did it this way,’ or ‘what if we added this.’
MA: In what ways does CSD work with IMI’s clients?
AC: We bring creativity to their ideas. A lot of things that we work on are for back of house, but just because it’s back of house doesn’t mean that it can’t be nicely designed and presented to their employees. So, I feel like we help a lot in that space.
JB: As production manager, I receive the ask from the account managers who work directly with IMI’s clients. I’ll review all the content and assets and handle opening the project with the designers. I manage the flow of all creative projects through CSD and the back and forth with the account managers from beginning to end. We view the account managers as CSD’s clients.
MA: What does a typical day look like for CSD?
AC: A typical day for us is usually handling or touching at least three to four projects a day sometimes with rounds of revisions included. When we have larger projects, we will work on those in and around the daily tasks. Part of my job is to oversee the creative work that flows through our department. I make sure that what we create is visually appealing and well-executed.
CG: In a day, I usually bounce around from project to project – I’ll go from working on a large-scale beverage guide, to a quick social media post, to making updates on previous projects. I always get Ashley’s creative input on what I’m currently working on, especially on initial design drafts, and we always enjoy bouncing ideas off one another.
JB: For me, it is ensuring that we are meeting or exceeding the deadline demands for each project. We start each morning with a project review and go through the tasks for the day. Throughout the day, several projects are being worked on and some may go through several reviews before it’s ready to pass on to the client.
MA: Can you offer some background about this photo shoot? How many have you produced for IMI? Is this a CSD tradition?
AC: As far as IMI photo shoots – not client-related – I believe that I’ve done around four or five, mostly for holiday and head shots for employees that were used in the in the Mix magazine. This has been a tradition since the birth of CSD, which was before my time. We like to come up with something different from what we typically do, something that allows our creativity to shine through.
MA: What was the inspiration behind this photo shoot? Why did you choose the colors/props/etc.?
AC: We knew we wanted to do some sort of animation and Cameron and I both love the stop-motion video, so we came up with an idea based on that, and we found a cocktail that we both really loved and decided how we were going to incorporate that motion, which was by actually creating the cocktail in a very theatrical way.
This year’s holiday card features a “Toasted S’mores Martini”. The recipe is an adaptation from Becky Hardin, The Cookie Rookie.
MA: Can you describe the creative process, or strategy, for this photo shoot?
AC: As far as the color scheme, we went for deeper earth tones for a cozy winter theme, like sitting by the fire and pretty twinkling lights.
We definitely have more freedom because it is for holiday. As long as we create a piece that is relevant to the beverage industry and it stays within the holiday theme, we can choose the direction and deliverable we want. Cameron was the talent, so she had to prepare for creating the cocktail and being on camera. This being our first stop-motion shoot, we came up with a plan for how we were going to do the shoot. As we began, we started coming up with even more ideas on the spot.
CG: This year’s photo shoot went quite differently for me than the last. Not only did I help Ashley source inspiration for the cocktail, set decoration, and video production, but (due to a last-minute cancellation) I also had to be the ‘talent’ mixing the cocktail. Ashley always says that we, as designers, prefer to be the ones behind the camera – so it was a little daunting, but I had a lot of fun with it.
JB: For the production side of a shoot, you have to determine what props and products you’ll need and make sure everything is on hand before the day of the shoot. As Ashley mentioned, Cameron was our talent for this shoot – she is not a professional bartender or mixologist! Our boss, Vice President & Partner Celeste Dinos, was on hand to guide her and help with the logistics. She also stood by with the fire extinguisher while the marshmallows were being toasted!
MA: Can you share a bit about the camera you chose to use for this shoot? Were there specific settings or a special lens you used? Were you shooting on continuous, or one photo per movement? What auto focus mode was used?
AC: I used my trusty Cannon 5D camera. The 50 millimeter lens is my favorite to shoot with, it has a really nice effect with focusing on specific objects in the field. We shot in bursts as this was the most effective way to shoot for us to create the stop-motion effect. I shot around 10 shots per movement for a total of 800 shots and edited over 90 shots for the video.
MA: Did either of you run into any issues involving this shoot that you had to overcome?
CG: When mixing the drink, the chocolate and graham crackers on the rim of the glass very slowly kept sliding down and dripping. This was something that we just accepted and knew that we were going to have to remake the cocktail for the beauty shot.
The layering of the chocolate liqueur and the heavy cream was a challenge. The original recipe was meant for a small martini glass, but Ashley decided to use a coupe glass so the skewered toasted marshmallow could sit nicely on top, and it would make for a really pretty picture. We should have tripled or quadrupled the recipe so that it would properly fill the coupe glass. Because the coupe glass was bigger, when we finally got through making the drink, we said ‘where’s the layering?!’
JB: I think one of the funniest things that came out of the shoot was when Celeste asked, ‘how long does it take to get a drink around this place?’ It was just comical because it’s just a four-hour turn around, right? No big deal.
MA: Can you share what happens after the photo shoot? How much post-production is involved with the photos and video?
AC: We had around 800 shots downloaded. First, I have to review all the images and choose which ones we’ll use for the video. Then I edit the images individually and put them together to build the video. We added audio music that will help enhance the stop-motion and how rapidly the images change. We also included some fun holiday sparkle writing.
Cameron Gantek starred as the bartender in the video
MA: Lastly, what are your favorite parts about working at IMI Agency?
AC: I love creating. We are a small company, but we produce a lot and I’m just amazed. Every year, we do more and more. We’re a small team, but we’re super-efficient and I love it. I learn and I grow every day.
CG: I really like when we get to do things like this shoot where we have full creative freedom to just do something cool and different. I love my CSD team, too – when asked, ‘hey, do you want to do a stop-motion cocktail shoot?’ some people would just be like, ‘nah, I don’t know how to do that.’ But with CSD, it’s more like, ‘that sounds like it would be hard, but fun…. Ok, I’ve already pulled up seven YouTube videos so we can figure out how to do it.’ With projects like this, we get to learn something new every time. Ashley and Jean are both such go-getters and it’s super inspiring to work alongside them.
JB: I’m so happy to be a part of CSD; the camaraderie is great. I have always heard the phrase “fast-paced work environment” and you just kind of think ‘yeah, yeah, yeah, everybody says that.’ This is truly a fast-paced work environment. I am amazed at the number of projects that come through this mighty department of two designers. Their work ethic, their attitudes, and their talent is truly astounding. I tell them they are magical all the time!
Many thanks to Ashley Collins, Cameron Gantek and Jean Breunle for their generosity in taking the time to speak with me. IMI’s Creative Services Department is truly filled with magic and the work they do every day never fails to amaze me. I hope that you enjoyed this exclusive behind-the-scenes peek into the production of IMI Agency’s 2022 Holiday Card. You can watch the stop-motion video below!
Meet the Team
Ashley Collins – Senior Graphic Designer
Ashley has worked in graphic design for 10+ years and has been with IMI Agency for going on seven years creating award-winning promotions for multi-million-dollar companies in the food and beverage industry. While studying Graphic Design & Advertising at Savannah College of Art & Design, she cultivated her passion for art. Ashley resides in the Atlanta area with her two, soon-to-be three, children Keanu, Mai-ly and Dream and her partner Darrian. When she is not designing or taking her daughter to dance practice and the occasional birthday party, she enjoys taking walks in the park, or as a tired mama, fitting in a nap where she can.
Cameron Gantek – Junior Graphic Designer
Cameron has been a Junior Graphic Designer with IMI Agency for a little over a year. Her degree in Game Design & Development from Georgia State University and lifelong passion of combining art and technology has led her to become a graphic designer and multimedia artist. Prior to joining the IMI team, Cameron worked at Georgia State University’s College of Law as a part-time graphic designer. When not designing or learning new skills, Cameron loves to play video games, eat cheese, and spend time with her pets.
Jean Breunle – Production Manager
Jean is a 30+ year marketing industry veteran with a B.A Journalism/Advertising from the University of Maine. She has spent the majority of her career in advertising agencies and publishing houses. She also worked for an upscale Southwestern restaurant group as a business manager in the Boston and DC areas for several years. Working with the Creative Services Department and with IMI, Jean cannot imagine a more perfect role that combines her background and past career experiences into one amazing job. Outside of work, her hobbies include shopping, reading, scrapbooking and cardmaking, and the theatre. With two grown children in North Carolina and Florida, there’s a bit of travel mixed in as well.