Todd Lancaster on How Getting Fired Shaped His Career – Adweek
At 45 years old, Todd Lancaster has been a lot of things: punk rock musician, sculptor, mural painter, cartoonist, art director and toy designer, to name a few. But somehow, that winding 25-year journey led Lancaster to exactly where he wanted to be, living out his “forever plan” as chief creative officer and co-owner of GoDo Discovery Co., a creative collective in his native Dallas.
After studying sculpture and painting at Abilene Christian University, Lancaster began his career doing illustrations for local papers around the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. It was the mid-1990s, and Lancaster was also deep in the Dallas punk rock scene, forming and playing in several different bands.
“You have to know who you are before you talk about it.”
—Todd Lancaster, co-owner and chief creative officer, GoDo Discovery Co.
“Music plays a big part in [who I am],” Lancaster said. His favorite quote—which is really more of a mantra—is something one of his favorite punk bands used to say at the end of each show: Go start your own band. “That whole ‘start your own band’ mentality resonated with me,” he said. And with GoDo Discovery, “I’m finally doing it.”
On some level, starting his own band is sort of what Lancaster’s been doing, over and over, for his entire career. “When people want to start something new, they find me,” he said. “There’s probably not a corner of art that I haven’t explored and that’s what I am proud of the most.” Lancaster’s willingness to accept new creative challenges while staying true to his desire to create good, authentic art is what led him through myriad different creative positions and ultimately to found what he calls a “creative collective.”
At GoDo Discovery, Lancaster’s goal is always to find the “truth” of every company or brand he works with. He and his team start by establishing a definition of the client’s identity through a roundtable session with people at every level of the company, from the C-level to the operators, and narrowing down the tone of the brand to four words that everyone can agree on. “You have to know who you are before you talk about it,” said Lancaster. Once a manifesto on that is collectively established, he believes the end result “actually reflects who you are as a company and a brand. It just makes it all stronger.”
Looking forward, though, Lancaster’s staying put. “For the first half of my career, I explored and found and did all this stuff,” he said. “Now, I’ve found my home.”
While doing illustrations for a tabloid as a recent grad, Lancaster admits that he wound up “getting a little too big for my britches.” Frustrated that his editors weren’t taking his style suggestions, he stayed at the office one night past 2 a.m. redesigning entire pages, convinced that this stunt would bring everyone on board with his vision. But when he arrived at work the next morning expecting to be facing an editorial team that had finally seen the light, Lancaster got a different surprise: He was fired.
Rather than taking that experience as a lesson in when to listen to your boss, Lancaster said he felt liberated. “Honestly, it probably kept me on the path when things weren’t authentic or I didn’t like the way things were going, I just moved on,” he confessed. “I’m somewhere between a rebel and an explorer. If there’s something I want to do, I go figure out a way to do it.”
How He Got the Gig
After a six-year stint at an agency in Fort Worth, Lancaster was looking to move on. “I’ve been trying to find the truth for other people’s things. I wanted to found and become a partner at a place where that’s what we do,” he said. Then, Dallas agency Greenlight moved in with HowDo, a creative space. “They didn’t know what their next move was going to be,” he said, “so I came and created the GoDo Discovery Co.”
“You have to be totally authentic because people will see through your bullshit,” Lancaster advised.
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