The metal worker: Beyond the Brief featuring Ramla Ali, GSD&M

GSD&M junior art director, Ramla Ali

Fundamentally inspired, with an edge. If you could describe GSD&M junior art director, Ramla Ali, you can start with the metal she frequently listens to.

It makes sense when you think about it; it takes a classical foundation to make something aesthetically profound (if not just ear-catching), traits that parallel Ali’s skillset and training in communication design from Texas State University. It also makes a really great soundtrack for her, as an art director, designer and occasionally, as a painter and metalworker.

The 2016 MAIP alum has shown she’s capable of being ahead of the curve — a quality that she showed as a visual design apprentice at R/GA. That, and her relentless drive, helped her earn the coveted One Club/MAIP Creative Fellow of the Year honor, and a spot in the 2016 ADCOLOR Futures program. Now, the Austin agency — in her home state — has already benefited from this multi-talented creative on projects for Dodge, Southwest Airlines, Whole Foods and the ACLU. Maybe you’ve seen the civil right’s organization’s #IPEEWITHLGBT campaign, combating the Texas Privacy Act that banned transgender individuals right to choose where they flush.

A designer and painter who loves being on the cutting edge, Ali is a creative to watch, one who soundly lives beyond the brief.

What is the biggest lesson you’ve learned in your advertising career?

So far, I've learned to really embrace who I am; to never shy away from what I am passionate about. If you follow your gut, work hard, you'll find yourself exactly where you need to be.

What makes you excited about going to work every day?

Agency life never lets you stop learning. Working on the experience design team as an art director, I have the challenge to connect with people through stories while keeping in mind strategic use of innovative technology. Singleton Beato described our industry as being vital to society; that advertising shapes culture. And if I was ever waiting for a sign of my 'purpose in life,' I certainly feel that was it.

If you weren’t in advertising, what would you be doing?

I would have an art studio. Painting, screen printing, and metal work.

What is a guilty pleasure/vice you can’t go without?

Guilty pleasure? Metal. And I get it; it's not for everyone. But when you're at a metal show you can feel the bass going through your chest; and the energy of everyone around you is so intense... it's so hard not to be thrilled by it all. The classical influence on metal also leads to some of the most beautiful and complex sounds; so much of a story can be told through that medium (believe it or not).

What’s your favorite thing about your hometown? What (in)tangible thing have you taken from there?

I grew up in Alief. It was considered the multi-cultural neighborhood of Houston. It was a community that thrived on diversity and inclusion. I feel very blessed to have grown up loving and being fascinated by our differences.

How would you define “A life well-lived”?

I think this extends beyond self fulfillment. Your happiness is a ripple effect onto those around you, whether you realize it or not. Cultivating happiness, projecting positivity, and loving everything around you leads to a well-lived life.

To celebrate its 100th Anniversary, the 4A’s has partnered with us at The Drum to pull back the curtain and look at an industry full of problem solvers, creative types and analytical minds. But what keeps them going once the briefs are written, the campaigns executed, and the pitches won (or lost)? We’re interviewing 100 people at 4A’s member agencies — across all disciplines, levels, regions, and agency types — to get a glimpse into what drives them at work and what fuels them in life.

To pitch someone from a 4A's member agency for Beyond the Brief, please complete this linked form.

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Bennett Bennett

Bennett D. Bennett is a staff writer at The Drum covering agencies, the media landscape, creativity and innovation. An NYC native, MAIP alum and City College of New York grad, Bennett previously was an award-winning copywriter at BBDO New York and lends his unique perspective and voice to The Drum's editorial staff. Previously a member of the Adcolor Advisory Board, he currently sits on the AAF's Mosaic Next-Generation Leadership Council and the 4As Steering Committee.

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