One of President Obama's Art Guys is a Clevelander

  • Carli Dottore

Just a few months ago, Cleveland graphic designer Lee Zelenak was part of the team at Twist Creative on West 28th Street, working on branding and design projects for clients like Ohio City Inc. and the West Side Market.

But in January, he got called up to the big leagues: He’s now working in Chicago as part of the design team for President Obama’s campaign.

“Like a lot of things in life, it’s about who you know, not what you know,” says Zelenak. Turns out somebody he knew had just been hoovered up by the campaign, which led to a chat with Zelenak too. “It was pretty fast from the time of the interview to closing and accepting the offer,” he says.

Zelenak is part of a team of about 20, 5 of whom have Ohio roots. They make up a larger creative group that numbers in the hundreds: “People doing video, people doing programming,” Zelenak says. “The ’08 Obama campaign was the first campaign that embraced design to help them win, to look at branding and how that played into visuals.”

Zelenak’s work ranges from web design to T-shirts and door hangers, to communications pieces and infographics — “pretty much anything people in the field need.” And it’s faster paced than agency life was, “just because of the nature of having to respond to things quickly. That’s been a huge change for me.”

Zelenak’s post-election plans are up in the air; his “rough plan” is to finish his thesis at Kent State and look for one of those plentiful teaching jobs. “But I’m open to any opportunities that come up.”

And no, he hasn’t met the President yet. “I’m hoping he’ll be in over the summer,” he says. “People who have worked here longer than I have have had a chance to meet him. It would be super-great to meet him in person.”