Q&A with Rob Johnson, Touchpoint Media Creative Director

By Tom Sellwood

05/29/18

With more than 20 years of experience in marketing and production design, creative director Rob Johnson guides a team of in-house and freelance visual artists specializing in graphic design, photography, illustration, and video.

Led by Rob’s strength in visual storytelling, Touchpoint’s print publications and digital campaigns have won dozens of design awards. Get to know a little about Rob’s design philosophy and what keeps him going outside of Touchpoint.

What do you do as creative director at Touchpoint?
One of my first design professors told me that designers are basically problem solvers, so I guess at the root of it all, that is still what I do here. Solving the puzzle of our client’s vision with our editors’ words by creating a cohesive package and making it all look pretty in the process. I manage a team of four other talented designers with that goal in mind every day.

What’s one of your favorite recent projects here at Touchpoint?
I’m an editorial magazine design guy at heart as that is how I came up through the profession. Though I really enjoy all the variety of projects we work on with our partners here at Touchpoint (infographics, video, web content, e-newsletters, brand collateral, etc.), I still love putting together a good cover and cover feature and telling stories in a magazine.

We have a piece coming out soon on a 78-year-old woman who has walked three miles a day, every day, for the past 24 years for our partner’s (Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota) member magazine thrive. Getting to know the subject (a more inspirational and kinder soul you will not find) and her story and working with our team of editors, photographers, stylists, and designers to make it all come together is really satisfying.

All the way back to the basics. How does graphic design help clients communicate their ideas and work?
People are much more receptive to messages when they are visually intrigued. Design not only helps initiate that first guttural attention grab, but it also can help to convey messages more easily or make complicated information more digestible, in the form of an infographic for example.

A good designer is always in tune with their audience and trying to find the best way to segment information and present it in a way that holds the viewer’s attention longer and makes it easier for them to understand what is being delivered. We not only have good designers here, we have great designers, and I believe our partners will attest to that.

We still do a fair amount of print work, but how has your role evolved as everything gets more and more digital?
As stated, I love print and contrary to the common narrative out there it is not dying. It is evolving and becoming more specific. For example, newspapers may struggle but we have more titles in the magazine industry now than we ever have. It’s more a matter of incorporating all the tools you have available to you—in both digital and print.

That said, we are definitely in the digital age and we’ve progressed design-wise along that curve. Keeping up on technology and understanding how a segment of people uses digital tools differently than print has been key. Where we might produce an infographic strictly for print before, now we understand we can not only reproduce it digitally, but also animate the graphics to make the messaging even more engaging. When designing anything, we are always thinking about how we can re-engineer and repurpose the content across all platforms—web and mobile, email, video, and print.

What’s the best part of your job?
Sounds cliché, but it’s definitely the people. Not only are my co-workers here some of the most creative and diligent folks I’ve had the pleasure to work with, but also our clients, some of whom we have had relationships with for over 20 years.

As a Packer fan, this has to be on your mind. How much will Aaron Rodgers’ contract with the Green Bay Packers end up being? How much guaranteed?
Haha. He’s gonna break the bank and I can only guarantee he’s worth every penny. Let’s just keep A. Barr away from him this year, please.

When you’re not pushing pixels, what do you like to do?
I have two daughters who are heavily involved in sports so I love spending time with my wife watching them and offering my wisdom, which they immediately and rightfully discard. I also play on some old-man sports leagues myself and hunt and fish as the season and schedules allow.