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Jon DavisFeb 16, 2021 1:00:00 AM

a chat with nick griffin

There are so many talented creative professionals in Chicago and around the world. We’ve had the good fortune of connecting with a number of them. And as we started brainstorming new ideas for the Sepia Studio scratchpad, we wondered: what if we could collect insights from the leaders shaping businesses and brands?

We decided to launch Coffee Convo.

And beyond excited to share a recent interview. Nick Griffin, Chief Creative Officer at Jackson Dearborn Partners joins us for this first installment of the series.

Nick is responsible for brand direction, all marketing, design, and advertising efforts at the corporate and property level at Jackson Dearborn Partners. And he’s also a partner.


With over a decade of design experience, Nick shared his thoughts on a number of topics, from messaging to the creative process.

So grab a cup of Joe – or tea works just fine – and read on.

How do you brainstorm the right messaging for marketing materials?

Once we secure a development site & hire an architect for initial renderings, we begin with brand direction (existing or unique) based on the area, architectural style, unique features, etc. We, then, implement the brand into custom marketing materials.

Do you work with clients and your internal team?

We pretty much handle internally & know early on if we are going to use one of our existing apartment brands or if the project calls for a unique brand.

For real estate marketing materials such as brochures, have any creative tips to help them stand out from the competition?

Every project is different, but original, high-resolution photos and videos always stand out.


We were one of the first companies to use drone photography back in 2013 when there were basically no drone airspace laws set in place yet.

That has obviously changed over the years, but it was pretty fun capturing video from 350 feet in the air using what felt like a toy remote control. We mostly leave drone piloting duties to the professional photographers now.

When creating marketing materials, what information is critical to include?

Knowledge of the area you are marketing. You have to do your research and truly become an expert on the market. Also, the financial analysis, of course.

For large format projects, what elements should you include to attract potential tenants/buyers? Items such as window graphics or signs?

When working with new development you want to showcase your hero rendering / brand direction. You have to show potential buyers the vision; what the dirt is going to turn into.


With acquisitions, you want to display any updated units and common spaces. Basically just put your best looking features on your banner.

Any additional insights/thoughts on what makes an impact? Signage or just in general?

As far as signage goes, you definitely want to put your unique logo wherever you get the most eyes, whether that be traffic count or foot traffic.

Your signage doesn’t always have to be on a rectangle in front of your building: get unique with it.

For example, last summer, down in Normal, IL @ ISU, we commissioned a freelance painter to paint our logo on the most prominent corner of our apartment complex.


There were some outdated decorative bricks in the way so I contacted the local mason to remove them.

It just so happens that the mason was the same guy who laid those bricks 15 years ago. He was happy to do it and we now had the ideal brick canvas we needed.

OK, last question (serious one), this is the first in the coffee convo series, how do you take your morning coffee?

Usually drink my coffee black, but sometimes splash in some 2%.

Please visit Jackson Dearborn Partners online and learn more about the services they offer!