Steve Savic | Connection Builder

Steve works at Critical Mass, a digital experience design agency. With offices in several countries, Critical Mass has hired over 100 AUArts graduates since 1996.

EVP and Executive Creative Director at Critical Mass
AUArts Alum 1998, BDes 
Visual Communication Design

AUArts: What do you do, and where do you currently live?

Steve Savic: Out of Calgary, I lead a department of diverse, highly talented creatives in creating breakthrough digital experiences. My philosophy when it comes to such experiences is simple: to make meaningful connections with people, you have to put them right in the action. Most of my work reflects this philosophy.

We’ve done everything from transactional to brand-rich campaigns for companies such as AT&T, Mercedes, Apple, Rolex, Nike, Citi Bank and Nissan. Along the way, we’ve managed to win a few awards, including a Cannes Grand Prix, several Cannes Lions, The One Show, D&AD, the Effies, Tomorrow Awards, and a few others.

AUArts: Did you know you wanted to be a designer when you were young? 

Savic: Does anybody really know when they’re young?

One thing I had since very early on was a talent for creating artful presentations. I remember in grade 5 and 6, for the Calgary Science Fair, my partner and I put more into the design and craft part of the displays than the science part. What I learned then is that design and presentation theatre works – we won both years. 

I remember in grade 5 and 6, for the Calgary Science Fair, my partner and I put more into the design and craft part of the displays than the science part.

What I learned then is that design and presentation theatre works – we won both years. 

AUArts: How did you talk to your parents about wanting a career in art? What advice would you give to someone whose parents don’t want them to pursue an arts degree? 

Savic: I’ve always played around with design and photography. I created brand collateral for friends of local businesses. Which got me wondering: could I make a living doing this?

I was in my 3rd year of a Bachelor of Arts with a focus in economics before I made the switch. It was a big decision to switch schools. And it was tough starting all over again. But it felt right to me.

My mom didn’t take the news well that I was dropping out of economics to pursue art and design. There is a stigma when it comes to art – conventional thinking says it’s a pastime or a hobby, something you do for personal fulfillment, not as a career. But she came around when I started working.

I think it’s important to understand that nowadays, old happens fast. Students need to focus on developing critical thinking. They need to ask hard questions about their education: is it preparing me for a changing business environment? Is it giving me the tools to recognize trends, and the skills to adapt to change? It’s important to recognize change. It’s vital that you have the tools to enable you to embrace it.

That said, maybe I should finish that economics degree.

I think it’s important to understand that nowadays, old happens fast. Students need to focus on developing critical thinking. They need to ask hard questions about their education: is it preparing me for a changing business environment? Is it giving me the tools to recognize trends, and the skills to adapt to change? It’s important to recognize change. It’s vital that you have the tools to enable you to embrace it.

AUArts: What’s the most important thing you learned at AUArts? 

Savic: I think the biggest takeaway from my time at AUArts was critical thinking. That, and craft. They taught us to rationalize our ideas and defend our thinking.

As for craft, commitment to the design integrity of our ideas is imperative.

AUArts: Can you tell me how you started at Critical Mass? 

Savic: I was recruited from the graduating class portfolio show. I was one of the early hires alongside a few other AUArts grads back in 1998. Back then, Critical Mass only had a couple of clients and a few dozen employees. Today, Critical Mass has roughly 1,000 employees, and we still recruit from AUArts.

What I value most from the graduates of AUArts is the diversity in creative skill sets. Clients’ needs change. Customers’ needs change. With a diverse talent pool, we’re able to react to an evolving marketing environment.

criticalmass.com

instagram.com/criticalmassagency