Finding the Perfect Balance at von Drehle with Chris Jennings, Graphic Designer
Creativity runs through Chris Jennings’ veins. As a kid, he was never far from a drawing pad or his father, a musician and painter. “I got the gene,” he says, “I was very close with my dad as a child. I was always with him, following him around from the garage or workshop to the recording studio or easel.”
His dad’s best friend was a graphic designer, and Chris marveled at seeing his name in magazines under Art Director.
After honing his graphic design skills at the Parson’s School of Design in Manhattan, Chris began his career in publishing and then moved on to Madison Avenue. Later, Chris would see his own work flying high above his New Jersey neighborhood on the famed MetLife blimp. For the next fifteen years, he thrived on the fast pace and unrelenting pressure until a sunny, blue-skied day in September 2001.
After watching the planes hit the World Trade Center from just a few blocks away and later experiencing the aftermath, an exodus of neighbors in his community, Chris was ready for a change.
“One day I said ‘Let’s go to Hickory,” choosing the polar opposite of New York City for his relocation. Chris and his now ex-wife and twin two-year old, now nineteen-year old, sons had visited family in the area for the last decade, and the slower pace seemed like a welcome change from the constant buzz and accompanying stress of Madison Ave.
After pursuing both a corporate career and freelancing down here, Chris was ready for another change. He’d heard of von Drehle and driven past our Hickory offices many times, and when he saw a job posting for a graphic designer, the timing felt right. “Someone was trying to tell me something,” he says, “like there was this weird kismet karma thing.”
Through his interviews with Director of Marketing Danielle Canon and Director of National Accounts David Hine, Chris found what he was looking for: the balance that had alluded him so far in his career.
“von Drehle is a family company but they run like a corporate in the best possible way,” Chris says, adding that “It’s a very successful business that has kept its family atmosphere while knowing how to act in the big world.”
Branding is essential for telling that story, and Danielle Canon had a vision for von Drehle and knew Chris could bring it to life. “I’m a branding guy,” Chris explains. “You have to find a way to brand and position products in the marketplace, which for von Drehle is the away-from-home market. There are no cute bears talking about bathroom habits.”
“Danielle’s thought was to get the new guy rolling on our branding and see what he comes up with,” Chris explains. What he came up with was precisely what we wanted — elegant, modern and attractive branding that is palatable to our customers while reflecting von Drehle’s values.
The subtle feather-like design of the Feather Soft brand stems from Chris’s disdain for the obvious: “There are so many different ways to present things, you don’t have to be obvious.”
The old Preserve branding featured something in the corner, but during a focus group meeting run by Chris, no one could identify exactly what it was. Giving away the secret, Chris says “The idea of having a duck is great, if you know its a duck.”
The revamped Preserve branding elevates and modernizes the duck. “I wanted something clean that works with all the brand products,” Chris details, adding that the paper products and folded towel monikers can be added seamlessly to the main logo.
Previously without a logo, our Baseline brand is upward moving, classy and reflective of Chris’s thoughtful design process. “The b shape represents our parent rolls, which you can see if you look closely. The shape also almost perfectly replicates a printing cylinder in a paper making machine.”
Chris has found the balance he’s searched for in both his life in Hickory and his work with von Drehle. “It’s the right amount of people and the right mix of people. A nice place to work. I just want to go to work and design stuff because I love it. You have to have faith in the brand, I know we have a good product.”