When Brandi Keeler chose to major in advertising, she never imagined the reach and opportunities that a degree in a creative field would provide. Today, she is using her skills in the way that has become most fulfilling to her—giving back to the city she loves.
“After graduation, I landed a position at Team Detroit,” said Keeler, who worked on several major projects for the Detroit-based agency, including a viral ad campaign for CCS (the Talk to your kid about art school posters) as well as pieces for the North American International Auto Show, Ford Mustang, the Woodward Dream Cruise and the Ford Fiesta. One of her favorite projects involved conceptualizing music videos for the final 12 contestants of American Idol (Ford is one of the television show’s biggest sponsors), which was shown every week during the spring (2012) season.
“I enjoyed the work we were doing locally, and I developed an even stronger background in the visual and technical aspects of design,” she continued. “But I had this need that I couldn’t ignore. I wanted to find a way to give back.”
Keeler applied for a fellowship through Challenge Detroit, a non-profit aimed at attracting and retaining a creative and professional class in the city. From among hundreds of other candidates around the country, she was chosen for this prestigious award. The fellowship required her to work at a host company four days a week, which is how she first got involved with United Way for Southeastern Michigan, then spend one day with the other Challenge Detroit fellows to identify and solve problems facing the city.
“Challenge Detroit allowed me to use my design background in a way that I hadn’t before,” said Keeler. “I found that my ‘design thinking’ helped us to confront real problems, especially those that required an interdisciplinary approach to solve. It was exciting work with other young leaders—some of the brightest in their fields—through the process. And it was so rewarding to know that at the end of the day, I wasn’t only making an ad or poster, I was making a difference in people’s lives.”
Although Keeler recently completed her Challenge Detroit fellowship, she now mentors current fellows in the program. She has also continued working at United Way for Southeastern Michigan as a marketing specialist. In this position, she designs visual content for the United Way marketing team that is used in social media, print, video and web content as well as assists in the management of United Way social media channels and conceptualizes strategies and methods for increasing brand awareness and enhancing brand stewardship. She credits CCS as the “catalyst” that has propelled her to such new and exciting places.
“My time at CCS was honestly been the best five years of my life,” said Keeler. “I couldn’t stand here as the successful, creative person I am today without attributing a vast amount of my success to CCS.
“The education I received continues to be relevant today, unlocking my ability to creatively process and solve complex problems. The College contributed to my personal advancement as a leader in my community by providing me with opportunities to learn from other great leaders and eventually become a mentor and role model myself."
"Now, as an alumna, I feel CCS has been instrumental in building and maintaining connections with other successful creative professionals.”
One of Keeler’s long term goals is to establish a creative mentoring business in the city of Detroit. She is currently seeking the funding for Expånd, a company that specializes in personal growth innovation in the form of design-centered consultation and experiences for young adults. The mission of Expånd is to enliven the process of self discovery and development for young adults worldwide.
“The name Expånd comes from the Danish word ÅND which means ‘spirit and/or mind’,” Keeler explained. “Expånd is aimed at helping people to expand their minds and spirits as a means to improving themselves and their lives. Our core belief is that understanding of self is the key to unlocking a person's potential and true power to live a great life.
“Expånd offers individuals and student groups entertaining, high-quality consultation and experiences geared towards increasing personal growth aptitude. By applying design thinking principles to self-empowerment and life coaching practices, Expånd brings a proactively fresh approach to the personal growth journey that all young people face… So far, this experience has given me a greater sense of self as well. What I’ve discovered is that I’m most creative when I’m helping other people be creative.”