For Aptive’s Creative Team, It’s About Creating an Impact

For Aptive’s Creative Team, It’s About Creating an Impact



Written by: Anne Wright




From the earliest cave paintings, humans have relied on the ability of images to communicate information and speak to the soul. Although the way we create these images continues to evolve, the impact of art on human emotion and communication endures.

At Aptive, our creative team pools their collective talent to make an impact every day. Thirty members strong, Aptive’s creative team includes strategists, copywriters, designers, illustrators, animators, videographers and photographers.

“Our people are here because they want to create art for causes they care about, believe in and are proud to promote,” said Taylor Grant, Aptive’s creative director.

Drawing on Success

“Our creative department is a one-stop shop,” said Kaveh Rezaei, Aptive’s director of video production. “Whatever our clients need — a new website, a new logo or a Super Bowl ad — we make it happen.”

The team doesn’t just make it happen, they make it exceptional. Aptive’s creative work won 21 MarCom Awards and 12 Hermes Awards in 2023. “Our winning products represent what happens when talent and teamwork are in synergy,” Grant emphasized.

“The strength that powers the team’s success isn’t something we can teach,” Grant said. “Our team cares deeply about the efforts we support, whether it’s ending Veteran homelessness, promoting national cybersecurity efforts, or helping the National Park Service (NPS) hire a diverse workforce.”

For example, designer Ben Pannell was excited to channel his concern about the environment into a series of custom illustrations and infographics for the Department of Energy’s programs advancing clean energy solutions. And as an outdoor enthusiast and nature lover (a characteristic much appreciated by her dog, Wally), designer Harlie Yeldezian was eager to support NPS’s mission to recruit a more diverse workforce.

Similarly, videographer Sean McCoy considers his projects an opportunity to advance social justice. Creating videos for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Homeless Programs Office allows him to amplify the voices of Veterans whose stories need to be told.

The comprehensive work Aptive does for VA is also personal for many team members. Senior designer Logan Yost served in the U.S. Army as an infantry paratrooper, including a deployment to Afghanistan for 15 months. Yost attributed Aptive’s work with VA as a main factor in his decision to join the team. “I have been helped out tremendously by VA … it made me want to give back. I love being able to use my skills to help VA, as well as other Veterans.”

Additionally, Grant’s husband has served in the U.S. Air Force for over a decade, and creative strategist Emily Hawthorne’s husband and brother serve in the Navy and Army, respectively.

Creating a Strategy That Sets Us Apart

Conveying a client’s vision can’t be done with technical skills alone, according to Grant. What sets Aptive’s creative approach apart is the team’s commitment to understanding their clients’ challenges.

Grant illustrated the discovery phase: “Designing a one-pager to promote a new program can be a relatively simple project. But we want to know more. Who is the audience? What do they already know? What do they believe? What do we want them to do or think after they see this product?”

The creative team also integrates research and strategy to guide the direction of the work. Understanding the research — often conducted by Aptive’s in-house research team — and applying findings from evidence-based theories and data produce products that not only look great but achieve great results for clients.

For example, to support VA employee recruitment efforts, Aptive’s research team created a “candidate journey map” outlining the perspectives, behaviors and needs of candidates across six roles at various stages of the application process. Aptive’s creative team then transformed this information into messaging and imagery that would resonate with applicants. Inviting audiences to see themselves — and their beliefs — reflected in materials is a central concept in social marketing for behavior change and public health promotion.

Designing the Future

When Rezaei joined Aptive four years ago, he was the video department. “Today, we sometimes have five folks supporting one shoot,” he said, describing the full production capabilities of today’s video team.

“As the scope of Aptive’s work has expanded, so has our ability to bring on more talented, specialized team members who can help us continue taking our work to the next level,” said Grant.

Recent additions to the creative department include a:

  • User experience (UX) team: Christopher Cosner and Caleb Prevatte work together to solve client problems, contribute to research, design websites and interfaces and develop prototypes, all with a user-centered approach.
  • Creative strategist: Hawthorne’s background in graphic design, public health and education allows her to “think visual” and transform research into innovative campaigns.
  • 508-compliance specialist: Kat Moore advises the creative team and project teams across Aptive about how to make products accessible to all audiences.

“We’re excited to kick off a bunch of brand-new campaigns from the ground up,” said Grant. “We have a lot of clients who are ready for something new, and we take their trust in us seriously.”

“Exceptional staff talent and client permission to take creative risks make up the recipe that allows us to create truly meaningful work for millions of Americans,” Rezaei added.

You can experience some of our creative team’s work here.

About Kaveh
  • Worked in finance before becoming a videographer
  • Earned a master’s degree in film and video from American University
  • Supported USA Today’s transition to a digital newsroom and, for Voice of America, worked on “People in America,” a visual series with people from all walks of life telling America’s story
  • Was a former competitive ping pong player
About Taylor
  • Figure skated professionally before becoming a designer
  • Earned a master’s degree in communications design from Pratt Institute
  • Can often be found playing competitive pickleball, knitting intricate sweaters and appreciating DC’s many art museums