A New Perspective: Sierra Avery, ICF Next

by India Fizer , AdForum

ICF Next
Los Angeles, United States
See Profile

Sierra Avery
Designer ICF Next

It's a challenge to shake things up in an industry run on old processes, but a necessary one. We spoke with Sierra Avery, designer at ICF Next, on all things professional growth; collaboration, opportunities to jump right in and a problem-solver mentality.

Can you tell us about your current role and responsibilities?

I am a designer at ICF Next. I work across a variety of accounts from Hotels.com to Blue Cross Blue Shield to Muscle Milk and many in between. I am responsible for concepting and designing brands, campaigns, websites, and visuals across all forms of media. This means that every project, every day, every conversation looks a little but different which I love. I am fortunate enough to be able to present work internally and externally to clients, work with strategy teams, copywriters, and account teams so collaboration is a huge part of what I do.


What drew you to work at this agency and what opportunities does it provide to foster your professional growth?

It was definitely the type of role designers played and the vast range of capabilities at ICF Next. The job description wasn’t just “type setting, following brand guidelines, come up with new ideas, etc.” All though those things are important and a big part of my job, the part that sold me was the problem-solver mentality and collaborative culture. We try not to say “no” but rather reach out to someone to come up with the answer. That “yes” mentality and possibilities of working cross-disciplinary really, really excited me.

I recently worked on a major campaign for Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City. I flew from Hawaii to Kansas City to help out on the print shoot and TV shoot since I was part of concepting and would be designing a lot of the print and digital materials. I got to work with the client, Art Director, Creative Director, Producers, and Directors in person. This is a great example of how the comprehensive role has created opportunities for exposure into the ad world and catapulted my professional growth.


Are there any unused skills you have that you'd love to incorporate into your professional work?

This one is tricky because I truly do feel like I am able to tap into so many of my different facets daily. I am currently training for the World Championship Ironman in Kona which means following a strict and structured plan, often down to the exact minute. I am really good at that. I’d love to incorporate some of that organization and precision into our creative processes. My competitive side also wouldn’t mind a bit of friendly competition around the office.


Joining such a massive industry can be overwhelming, how do you stay informed and ahead of the curve?

I am always looking to see who is doing it better. For me this means following people on Instagram, signing up for newsletters, listening to talks, and subscribing to publications. I was always taught that if you are playing against someone who is worse than you, you’ll play down, if you are playing against someone who is better than you, you’ll play up. The goal is to always be playing up. When I am scanning work, I constantly save projects I like so that I have a huge archive of inspiration for when the right project comes around.

Also, we have a weekly meeting with all the designers where we do an external audit of agencies and campaigns that are making waves in the industry. This is super helpful to spark those what if conversations and break up your thinking when you get into a bit of creative auto pilot. 


What areas in the industry do you believe could use an overhaul?

Young people should be thrown into the deep end more often. Experience is often looked at as the number of years worked rather than opportunities people have had. I have seen this approach bury unique voices which could have added a new perspective to old processes. Especially in the advertising industry, fresh and imaginative thinking is at the front of great work which derives from young creatives.


Where do you hope this role will take you down the line?

I want to keep telling peoples’ stories. A designer’s main job is to communicate and captivate and I want to hone in that skill through beautiful craft. This means more campaigns, more branding, more collaboration, and more talking with clients so that diverse voices can be heard. My next step will be shifting towards art direction so I can lead in designing, collaborating, strategizing, communicating, and problem solving.