August Professional Spotlight: Tommy Leo

Tommy Leo

Name: Tommy Leo
Place of Employment:
National Oilwell Varco
Job Title:
Design Manager

How long have you been an AIGA member and what do you get out of being a member?

I started with AIGA back in 2002 after the dot-com bust to gain a perspective on what was happening with the local design community and how other member organizations were dealing with the downturn. Today, the rewards of membership are a bit less clear as new priorities have reduced my opportunities to engage AIGA members.

What is your take on the creative industry in Houston? How do you think we can make it different?
There has always been a vast pool of great talent within Houston, but it seems the market perception and demand is elsewhere. During conversations with clients and potential leads as an independent consultant, a few are swayed and satisfied with locally-produced work, but a great many more would rather put their visual communication strategy in the hands of shops in Austin and beyond. Perhaps it’s our “Southern hospitality” that is our undoing, as some confuse it with holding to steadfast conservative ideals which put unwarranted restriction on the ebb and flow of creativity. If Houston is ever to gain decent foothold on the national design stage, I think we’ll first have to shed the “red.”

What inspired you to become a designer?
I went to a circus when I was just about five-years old and the first thing I did when I entered first-grade was to re-create the entire three-ringed colorful spectacle with construction paper. I constructed 3D paper models of entire animals, flying trapezes and all sorts of other elements in the circus. I believe it was at that moment, I became a designer.

What other creative/art events do you attend?
I’ve attended the HOW Design and Adobe MAX conferences, which are both excellent opportunities to capture new perspectives and re-energize my design.

When you aren’t working, what are you doing?

Much of my time is spent keeping my family with happy with food, fun and friends.

What is your greatest accomplishment to date as a design professional?

Receiving the American Graphic Design Award three times over and taking top honors in a Xerox color contest.
Who are your design heroes or mentors?
Salvador Dali and Mad Men’s Don Draper.

Where can we find you?
Online playing Halo.

By Randy Nicholson
Published August 19, 2010
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