At Chicago Show, Designer Wows DMers With Graphics

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CHICAGO -- Companies willing to take risks to create the right marketing message are entrusting their campaigns to Carlos Segura.


Segura, a disgruntled advertising-art-director-turned-graphic-designer, has become the pioneer of what is being called underground marketing without ever soliciting a single project.


His legend was unearthed at a session presentation at last week's Chicago Direct Marketing Days that ranked with Bob Woodward's keynote speech on the Clinton scandal as a highlight of the conference.


Clients from Ameritech and Arthur Andersen to Tooth & Nail Records have embraced Segura's philosophy: Communication that doesn't take a chance doesn't stand a chance.


"You say more in body language than in the verbiage you use. That's where his strengths really lie,'' said Rey Mena, marketing director for Chicago's alternative radio station Q101-FM.


Segura helped launch the station five years ago, and his work on both the consumer and client sides -- blending alternative typefaces (such as the ones he designed for "The X-Files" and "NYPD Blue"), paper and fine art into print advertising, direct mail, visual and Web pages -- has produced sizable sales increases in every case.


"He created an invitation that was a CD-ROM wrapped in Japanese paper,'' Mena said. "The kind of response we got from advertisers is what you wish you would always get.''


At his design firm, Segura Inc., and digital type foundry, T-26, Segura creates direct marketing pieces, such as a wallet-size performance bookalog for snowboarders and 30-second QuickTime movies with bizarre original typefaces and fonts that consumers can enjoy and use before making a purchase decision.


"We try to keep our product line close to the people that are buying it for the longest possible time,'' Segura said. "The client takes a chance that it won't work.''


For 12 years, Segura worked for advertising clients that insisted on creative input before he formed his own company.


"T-26 was born out of the desire not to have a client looking over my shoulder telling me to make the logo bigger,'' he said. "I simply wanted to produce something that you either liked or didn't like. If you liked it, great, you bought it. If you didn't, you didn't buy it. We don't force people to like things because I have a sale to make.''


Segura is a marketing maverick as much for his attitude as his design concepts.


"Sometimes marketing goes so overboard I can't believe that it works,'' he said. "I don't believe in forceful marketing. Offer people beautiful things and let them respond to it.''


He likens the print and multimedia pieces he produces to couture fashion: There is no use for it but it changes your thinking. The only difference is that plenty of companies put Segura's genius to use.


"Proposals have to get noticed like mail does. It's always a competitive advantage to have a response that's inviting and easy on the eye,'' said Phil Anderson, marketing director for Ernst & Young, Chicago, who uses Segura for responses to project proposals from Fortune 500 companies.


"When Carlos packages our response, when it reaches the client, it's highly intrusive,'' he said.


Anderson, like all of Segura's original clients, first worked with the designer while he was at advertising agencies. As he piled up design awards, companies beyond his former employers started to take notice. Segura said that unlike marketers that push the same message on everyone, he tailors his designs to a client's target audience.


"We can put the client's marketing needs before our stylistic needs,'' he said. "It does not have to be edgy, it has to be fresh. You can't put coolness over content.''
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