Spotlight on…KENLEY DIAZ–The secret origin of the Amazing ACD

"There’s no doubt in my mind that if I hadn’t discovered comics I wouldn’t be working at Havas Life Metro." Every creative person’s work is shaped by influences and role models. For Kenley Diaz, inspiration comes from his lifelong love of comic books – epic stories that have helped Kenley bring an epic quality to his work at Havas Life Metro.

 Role: VP, Associate Creative Director, Art

 Brands: GAZYVA, RITUXAN, PLEGRIDY, DACLIZUMAB

 Number of years at HLM: 4

 As a child, Kenley spent hours poring over his older  brother’s comic books and copying the drawings. The  combination of words and dynamic drawings fascinated him  as no other art form could. Kenley still remembers the pivotal moment when he saw his first Todd McFarlane-illustrated Spider-man comic book. He was transfixed by the fluid lines and heightened poses. “It was mind-blowing. This was the coolest thing I’d ever seen in my life.” Soon he was planning to follow in the footsteps of his heroes, artists like McFarlane, Jim Lee, Erik Larsen, and Rob Liefeld. “Comic book artists were like rock stars to me,” he says.

“I drew from age 7 on, and I never really wavered -- from grade school, through high school, and even through college,” Kenley says. Aspiring to a career as a comic book artist, Kenley studied graphic design at Temple University and the College of New Jersey. His studies helped him understand and appreciate the finer points of graphic design, including packaging, logos, and layout. “I got into graphic design and I thought it was really coolvery challenging and very different. I loved trying to simplify objects…create logos that are iconic. [Eventually] I started to pay much more attention to packaging and learned how difficult it is to make something really simple.”

By the time he graduated, Kenley had decided that his own talents were best applied to graphic design, not comic book illustration. After his first job at what he describes as a “teeny tiny” agency, he moved on to work at Brand Pharm and ultimately joined HLM. Speaking of his work here, Kenley says that although comic books remain a primary influence for him, he consciously avoids comic- or superhero-inspired concepts and art. Instead, he uses what comics have taught him about layout and visual storytelling to make his work compelling.

“Advertising is very much like comic books,” he says.  “You’re basically marrying pictures and words… There are beautiful splash pages in comic books that tell a whole story in one single image. And that’s what we’re trying to do in advertising; we’re trying to tell a powerful and succinct story with one image married to some words.”

In comic books, as in advertising, an eye for layout is crucial. Kenley says studying comic books taught him invaluable lessons about composition, color, contrast, and positive and negative space, and this knowledge helps him create impactful layouts for concepts and collateral pieces. 

Comic books continue to be a daily inspiration in Kenley’s life and work. “If I hadn’t learned that love of illustration, of narrative storytelling, I don’t think I’d be in advertising,” he says. “Comic books just gave me this bug; they hit me in the face with this really cool notion of telling powerful stories with pictures and words, which is basically what advertising is all about. Comic books are a huge wellspring of inspiration for me. They just keep me going. They keep me excited about my job -- asking myself, what’s the next idea, what’s the next concept, what’s the next story I’m going to tell?”