Meet Clifton, UX Content Lead
MAIP Year: 1991
Title, Company: UX Content Lead, Allstate
Clifton Simmons II has worked as an advertising copywriter for over 25 years, working on many major brands – Chevy, Chrysler, Coke, McDonald's and more. He's created many award-winning campaigns in event, experiential and digital marketing. Clifton has used that experience to transition into UX content strategy, developing mobile applications.
Who/what influenced or inspired you to pursue advertising?
My people of my generation credit Darren Stevens of TV's Bewitched as an influence. For me, it was Tom Hanks. His TV show Bosom Buddies and film Nothing in Common really made me want to look at this job that lets you create TV commercials.
Tell us about how you got started.
I had eight advertising internships in college (one through MAIP). During my first internship, I sold my first TV spot for Mr. Goodwrench and I wrote weekly newspaper ads for Cadillac and Pontiac. I was hooked. The MAIP agency brought me in for two straight summers and talked about hiring me after graduation. Unfortunately, I graduated during a recession and that promise of a job faded. I took a communications specialist position with the American Red Cross for a few years, before I got hired at my first agency. People were impressed by my experience as a recent grad. I had a portfolio full of produced work. Many people who couldn't hire me often recommended me to others.
What is a typical day for you?
A lot of meetings. A lot of research. It's an exciting time to be in UX design. The field is exploding with interest and development. It's also a field that's being redefined constantly, so my team is always researching on how to better the online and mobile experience.
What do you love most about your job?
I work at Allstate, a massive corporation, but UX design feels like a Silicon Valley startup. UX is a wide, open frontier where there are no limits to creativity, because we're all explorers.
What are its biggest challenges?
While UX is a growing field, people are still figuring it out. A UX content strategist means different things to different people. Sometimes it's hard to match skill sets to people who are new to the UX field.
Are there certain things/events that happened in your life that have informed who you are or what you are doing in your life/career?
During my first ad internship, the creative director called me into his office and said that many people I'll work with that summer don't believe African Americans are talented enough to work on general market campaigns. He hired me to prove them wrong. As an intern, I was the first black creative to work there. That summer drove me to work on general market campaigns throughout my career, where I hoped my presence had a positive influence and helped open doors to other people of color.
What are some of your hobbies and interests outside of work?
I love reading, movies, photography and dogs. I was on the swim team in high school and college, so I still love the water. I'm also active in my church and fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha.
Do you have any words of advice?
YOU NEED A SOLID PORTFOLIO! I need to cap-shout this because I see far too many young creatives putting little effort into their books. Your portfolio defines your career. You can't get anyone to hire you as a writer or designer if you have nothing to show for it. Your portfolio doesn't have to be produced work – just your best work. You should update it regularly. I'm 50 years old and I still make tweaks to my portfolio almost monthly.