Smashing Spotlight: Chris Hannon, Creative Director

Wonder what makes Smashing Ideas so smashing? Our people! We sat down with Chris Hannon, Creative Director, to talk shop, how wearing a fedora aids in creativity, and exactly what happens when a sombrero-wearing penguin walks into our office.


Many people might hear titles and terms like “Creatives” and “Creative Directors” and have images of Don Draper and Mad Men floating in their head. In reality, what does your role entail and do you wear a fedora to work everyday?

My day-to-day involves working with a full team of developers, UX designers, producers and strategy folk to develop creative and cohesive solutions for our clients’ challenges. I help generate and refine the visual development of a project and lend a hand anywhere else I can. As the nature and complexity of our projects has changed over the years, my role is really about helping the whole team carry the project over the finish line with the creative vision not only intact, but shining and awesome. As any Creative worth their salt will tell you, hat wearing does of course increase results.


What is the role that design plays in digital? Is it just about making things look good, and if so, why is that so important?

A saying I have heard lately that caught my attention is “humans are analog”. I think this is on-point to how Smashing thinks about design’s role in digital. Making sure the digital experience is subservient to what it means to have a good human experience with a product is what helps people connect to what we do. Our Motivational UX  thinking helps us put those elements together right and it makes the design not about the interface or the look, but about making the experience seamless, personal and relevant.


In 5 words or less, how would you describe what we do at Smashing Ideas?

Make things that matter.


How do you define creativity and what inspires yours?

To me, creativity is making connections between ideas and materials, and organizing them in new and unexpected ways. Seeing things in a totally unexpected light, if you will.

Inspiration comes in many forms, but one thing I really geek out on is search terms in media environments. For example, enter the word “disposable” into Flickr, Pinterest and Amazon and see what turns up. It gets me thinking about categorization, intersections of thought and emerging trends. I am an utterly happy nerd for this past time.


People in the more artistic creative and design world tend to have very “interesting” hobbies and side-projects. Care to share yours?

I’m not sure my hobbies are all that interesting, but in an effort to entertain myself I have been debating taking googly eyes to every restaurant I eat at and putting them on my food for some photo ops before I eat it. Bonus points if I tell the waiter something is wrong with my food and extra bonus points if I can get them to take a pic of my food and me together.


If you could redesign any digital product you use on a daily basis what would it be and why?

Well…it took me a second to realize this, but there are no products I use daily that need to be re-designed. And the reason for this is that if they are bad I simply won’t use them on a daily basis. Or possibly ever. That being said, I have had some encounters with some enterprise-level software from a major insurance company that was so bad if I could have personally shunned its creator from society I would have. While part of me wants to be understanding of the challenging level of complexity for organizing UX at that level, another part of me is horrified that people who are in actual, often dire, medical need have to interface with these products. The stress level and hoops people have to jump through when they are in this state is not the time to discover that the company you have financially supported cannot be bothered to understand how to connect with you. There are a lot of products like this (not just insurance) who think they are doing a good job and they are not, which I find tremendously frustrating.


What is your design process like?

Design process is a team sport for me. You start with what experience, research and insight tells you is a good starting point, then from there you and the team either turn it on its head if need be or iterate it into a solution that hits the sweet spot we as a team hold up as the “North Star” to the project. This can involve looking at the project through the lens of Motivational UX, as well as “Head, Hand, & Heart“, or really any other lens that may emerge through the discovery process with the client.


What song best describes your work ethic?

We’ll have to get more specific here and go for lyrics:

“Like it’s your first day like back when you was an intern

Like, that’s how you try to treat things like, just stay hungry


And last but certainty not least, a classic profile question: A penguin walks through SI’s front doors wearing a sombrero. What does he say and why is he at our office?

First of all, let’s get some facts straight: the penguin’s name is Palachek. He is wearing a sombrero because he is on a three-day fish bender and he has been binge watching Hannibal on Amazon Prime. Also, he is lost.

The only words he will utter before being placed on a plane to somewhere much more penguin-climate-inclined will be “I lost my gloves.” The depth and meaning of this will confuse those who hear it and it will be meditated upon for the rest of their natural lives.

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