Perched atop one of San Francisco’s original skyscrapers, Gershoni Creative is home to a multidisciplinary team of thinkers, makers, and doers. At its helm is creative director Gil Gershoni, who co-founded the agency with his wife Amy more than two decades ago. Beyond his work with Google, Apple, Deloitte, and Patrón, Gil’s speaking engagements on living and designing with dyslexia have taken him around the country, including a stop at South by Southwest. He shared a few thoughts on his agency’s culture, finding success and the projects that move him the most.
When people ask what you do for a living, what do you tell them?
I work with organizations, large and small, to help them understand why they do what they do. What really matters to them? What drives them? What’s the reason to believe? Then I help them bring that vision, that mission, to market at scale. What’s important to me is that the same authenticity and drive that they start with is properly framed, planned, codified and executed to be able to not lose the humanity of it all. A lot of what I do is asking questions and listening for the thing they take for granted. There are really two basic functions of what we do. One is that we really listen. We get immersed in it. We try to be in it and not of it. And then we take the language and the strategy that comes out of that, and we materialize it. We make it a visible thing. And that process allows us to go to market.
What was it that drew you personally to a creative field?
I was raised in a family where my great-grandmother, my grandmother, and my mother were very much invested in the arts throughout their whole lives. They were painters and sculptors. Those were their endeavors, and that’s how they saw the world. The other side of my family—my father, my grandfather, my uncle—were entrepreneurial; they built things and ran businesses. Being born into those two worlds, I was interested in how we shape what we see, how we derive meaning, and how we manifest love at first sight by desire or by intention. I started following the interests and hobbies that were about perception. Over the years, through university and into my career, I started to look less at the medium or a single story and more at person-to-person communication and how words and images affect us and connect us in a deeper way.
What do you do to facilitate a culture that allows you and your team to create?
As we built our agency, we looked for people who were interested in different types of experiences, who come from different backgrounds, who have different drivers. We know that the work we’re doing is often going to be for a very broad audience, so using a multidisciplinary team to look at the problems with different lenses brings about solutions that attract greater outcomes. As a person with the gift of dyslexia, I can see above, below, around and through things all at the same time, and I found myself playing well with others who have different mindsets or come from different disciplines. Even as a younger creative director and entrepreneur, I always looked to bring in people with different mind-sets to make sure that the creative solution is greater than a single perspective.
What would you tell someone who says, “I really want to do what you do. I want to get into branding. I want to design”?
If you want to engage in any creative endeavor, I would first ask, “What do you do that gives you the joy that you want to do more of?” “Oh, I love to sketch and draw.” Great. Do more of it. “Oh, but I want to get paid.” Then start volunteering. “But nobody wants it.” What have you tried? Do you need a free flyer? Do you have a friend who’s a musician? Put it out there and start to collaborate. And do it because you love it, not because you’re trying to make a means to an end. Something I often talk directly to dyslexics about is if you’re doing it and it feels good—and I’m not talking about vices or hurting yourself or others—if it gives you equilibrium, makes you content, allows you to manage your being, move toward it. Whatever you’ve found that helps you regulate (e.g., music, sleep, walking, drawing), pay attention to that. The more you do it, the more you have a relationship with it, the closer you’ll get to figure it out.
What piece of work, project or experience are you most proud of?
It’s not an outcome that I always admire. It’s about finding individuals who are driven by values and a cause, who are willing to go above and beyond in a collaborative, proactive, positive way to tackle whatever it is they’re trying to manifest. Because successful outcomes are only indicators of the success of the process that brought you to the outcome. You’re always moving to another challenge or a new phase or the next project. If I ever have arrived at a point where I say, “That project is the best,” I’m done. It’s about the pursuit of the challenge and the pursuit of the play. Wrestling with it and growing and being like, “Wow, we learned so much. I can’t wait to apply that to the next endeavor.”
Find out more about Gershoni Creative at gershoni.com.