Alumni Profile: Carly Gussert Helps Big Brands Harness the Power of Motion
image courtesy of Carly Gussert
No sooner had Carly Gussert graduated from KCAD’s Digital Media program than she headed for the media epicenter that is New York City. After cutting her teeth as an intern in the city’s high-stakes advertising industry, Gussert now employs the creative drive and versatile digital skill-set she honed at KCAD in her work at global ad agency Droga5, where she helps the likes of Chase Bank, IHOP, and the New York Times maximize the narrative potential of their brand through the power of motion.
What led you to choose KCAD, and more specifically the Digital Media (now Digital Art and Design) program, as a launchpad for your future?
My first experience with KCAD—meeting some of my sister’s professors when she was a student there—showed me that KCAD was an environment where I’d get dedicated attention and instruction to develop my creative skills.
Growing up, I was inspired by film, animation, and the boundless outlets for imagination on the internet, so I decided to shape my career around those passions. KCAD’s Digital Media program gave me the opportunity to build a multi-dimensional foundation, from tradition 2D drawing all the way up to 3D animation. When I started my journey at KCAD, I wanted to be a 3D artist, but my experiences working with my faculty, taking different classes, and pursuing different opportunities really transformed me into the motion designer and editor I am today.
How did your experiences in the program help you grow, both creatively, and professionally?
My faculty always encouraged me to try new things and have a go-getter attitude. I was able to experiment and push my creative limits, even if that sometimes meant failing in the process. KCAD also taught me the importance of dedicating yourself to your craft if you want to succeed. Every creative discipline involves setbacks and challenges; it’s how you respond to adversity that shapes your character far more than the adversities themselves.
I had the opportunity to develop video content for the college, and those experiences are some of my fondest memories. Every project was collaborative and there was a lot of creative freedom built in, so working alongside my colleagues really pushed me to grow in ways I wouldn’t have otherwise. It also sparked a curiosity in video and motion graphics that led me to pursue it as my craft.
Really though, almost all of my experiences at KCAD built my knowledge of what it takes to succeed professionally. Most of my projects in the Digital Media program were centered around real life user application and were advanced with critiques from industry professionals. Also, having access to video equipment and open lab time gave me the chance to openly explore different creative avenues that I wouldn’t have been able to explore on my own.
(above and below): Stills from an aimated TV spot Gussert and Droga5 created for Chase Bank (images courtesy of Droga5)
What about outside of the classroom? How did those experiences shape you?
Building a support system of peers was really important for me. It cultivated an environment where it was normal to work together—obsessing over camera gear, learning new software or assisting each other on film shoots—not because we had to, but because we wanted to. Being surrounded by like-minded individuals pushed my creative boundaries.
Then there was my first internship: shooting and producing video content for TEDxGrand Rapids. That was the moment I realized the potential for translating my foundational animation skills and video techniques into the workforce. That kind of work ultimately wasn’t the right fit for me, but it expanded my perspective and gave me the determination to go after the dream job that I had always wanted.
So what is that dream job?
Where I’m working now actually, at Droga5 in New York City! I started here as an intern in 2015, and being a global advertising agency, we work with such a wide variety of clients on so many different projects that I’m always tackling something new.
What has it been like finding your way in such a competitive media landscape?
After four years in New York, I don’t think I’ll ever fully be prepared for the competitive nature of the city! That being said, KCAD helped me build the confidence and persistence it takes to work in the advertising industry.
What inspires you most about the work you do?
The best part about working in the advertising industry is meeting so many awesome people. Just like at KCAD, it’s a privilege to work in an environment at Droga5 where I’m surrounded by other creative individuals, and where we’re all involved in a continuous exchange of ideas and processes. That energy keeps me going in this fast-paced industry.
Being able to help bring ideas to life with motion and video keeps me passionate about what I do. Copy and print design have a lot to do with creating a successful campaign, but with video you’re creating a broader sensory experience that tells a story. I’m very lucky to work at a company that encourages the evolution of culture and uses video as a vehicle for that discussion.
What are you currently working on at Droga5?
Recently I’ve worked on social videos for IHOP, in which the ever-so-loved pancake taste is transformed into a drinkable pancake beer: IHOPS. I’ve also been heavily involved in animation work for Chase Bank. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a stab at some work with a popular TV show coming soon, but that’s the most I can say about that at the moment.
(above and below): Stills from a social media video Gussert helped Droga5 create for IHOP (images courtesy of Droga5)
What have been your proudest professional accomplishments thus far?
In 2017, I worked on a campaign for the New York Times that was focused on communicating the importance of truthful journalism in our contemporary moment. It was the paper’s first ad campaign in over 20 years, and I was involved in the whole process, from pitch to delivery. The broadcast spot debuted during the Oscars. That was a proud moment. It was my first glimpse into how successful campaigns are more than just an ad; they start a dialogue, making people pause and take a look at what is going on in the world around them.
A billboard in NYC designed by Droga5 for the New York Times (image courtesy of Droga5)
Where do you want to take your career next?
I hope to continue to infuse my work with passion and humanity, and I want to continue to build my career on the energy and momentum that KCAD has instilled in me. The ultimate goal would be to move towards creatively concerting motion and incorporating it into projects, whether it’d be in advertising, post-production, tech, or something else.
Motion and video is awesome because of its versatility; the only limit is the dedication you’re willing to put into it. I’m not sure what opportunities will present themselves in the future, but I see my career as something that’s constantly evolving.