Ken Hanson didn’t meet an artist or designer until he was in college, when a chance encounter opened up a question in his mind: Could one make a living doing artful and creative work?
That question eventually led to a profound belief in the power of art and design, a belief that touched every aspect of his life but especially the firm he founded in a spare bedroom in 1980, which would become the nationally recognized Hanson Dodge Creative, a branding, technology and marketing firm.
Ken’s dream was to build one of the most respected firms in the Midwest, one that would live up to its own motto on a daily basis: Design that Works. He also wanted to build a fundamentally caring and collaborative workplace where people could laugh out loud, play music together, be themselves and create things they were passionate about and proud of. Those colleagues remain treasured friends.
Ken dedicated his professional life to building that team, one that succeeded time and again at generating results for clients in a complex and technology-fueled world. That work was often recognized, including with a “Best of Show” award from Milwaukee’s Adworkers in 2015 and when Ken was named one of the best 50 designers in the country by Graphic Design Magazine in 2001.
Ken was also the founding director of the Wisconsin chapter of AIGA (American Institute of Graphic Arts), the first organization in the state to represent designers on a national level, and he turned his passion for design to a higher purpose in 2015, founding Greater Together, to address historic inequalities in the creative industries in Milwaukee.
Anyone who knows Ken understands that he leads a life driven by ideas and curiosity, and he credits many influences for his approach to living and leading, including photographer-artist Steven D. Foster; designer Milton Glaser; those gathered at the Aspen Design Conferences; former boss at the Edgewood Agency, Lewis Friedman; the 1970s photography collective Perihelion; cultural anthropologist Mary Catherine Bateson; an early client John Constable; John Lennon; and his own son, artist and photographer Harry James Hanson.
Ken is also a fine art photographer and filmmaker, currently working on several bodies of photographic work and a documentary film about photographer Art Shay. He is also a bass player in two bands, Panalure and Longacre.