He’s so at ease in the classroom. His graphic design students listen intently and respond as he walks them through the creative brief. Who is your audience? What is your message and brand? Let’s talk design!
Jim Fitts, Assistant Professor at the Mount Ida School of Design has a special rapport with his students, bringing out the best, challenging them and helping them prepare for their careers. And he knows a lot about the careers they will enter, since he’s spent his at the highest ranks of the advertising and design industry, rising to the top and creating award-winning product.
“Throughout my career, I have been involved in the creation and production of print and television advertising,” says Fitts, whose first job after earning his B.F.A. from the Massachusetts College of Art was at Wilson Haight and Welch in Hartford, CT. “That was the largest advertising agency in New England. It was exciting.” But, as Fitts was soon to discover, the industry could be volatile. “In just a few years it was gone and I learned the valuable lesson that you’re only as good as your last ad.”
Heading to Massachusetts he landed a job at Hill Holliday, one of the largest and most respected advertising agencies. “By 29, I was living in London and serving as the creative director for Europe. I formed a great relationship with Jack Connors and Jay Hill. It was based on the fact they could trust me to deliver.”
After three years he went out on his own as a partner in Clark, Goward, Fitts. “We were one of about 21 midsize agencies in Massachusetts and made a name for ourselves over the course of a decade. Then the recession hit around 1991 and then there were three.”
So, off Fitts went to Honolulu to take the position of Senior Vice President, Creative Director at Milici Valenti Gabriel (now MVNP) which was the Hawaii-based office of DDB, the largest advertising agency in the state. Fitts says Hawaii wasn’t the best match. “It was too isolated, I don’t surf and I burn easily.”
Fitts returned to the continental US and launched Jim Fitts consulting, where he currently provides a variety of traditional and new media creative and consulting services while at the same time acting for another three years as Vice President Creative for SCIENT, the world’s largest e-business solutions providers.
While churning out award-winning creative, Fitts also fed his passion for photography, amassing a collection of museum quality photographs and teaching at the Center for Digital Arts at Boston University. In 2006, to feed that passion, he served, for three years as Executive Director of the Photographic Resource Center at Boston University.
Fitts says Mount Ida gives him an outlet for everything he has loved throughout his career. “I get to teach, to guide and shape the next generation of graphic designers. I get to live and work in a creative world and I have the opportunity to curate photography exhibitions, both at Mount Ida and at outside galleries.”
Currently Fitts is co-curating an exhibition on renowned Boston celebrity photographer Roger Farrington at the Panopticon Gallery. “I had wanted to put on this exhibit for years,” Fitts says. And, he is also co-curating a show at Mount Ida’s Gallery in the School of Design. The panAFRICAProject features the work of award-winning Boston-based photographer Lou Jones, who for the past decade has been traveling to the African continent to capture the ‘true Africa’ in photographs. “The show will change the way you think of Africa. It will feature Jones’ spectacular photos but it will tell the story of so many of the African countries and people and their success, their entrepreneurial spirit as well as capture the history and traditions.”
And when that is over, what’s next? For Fitts it’s not knowing what’s around the corner that adds excitement to each day. And, somewhere down the line there’s a book of photographs on boxing, a project he’s been working on for a long time. “I used to spend time with my grandfather watching the fights on a tiny black and white TV and going to the matches. There is so much more that happens as these athletes, both men and women train. I want to capture that and tell their stories through my photographs.”