Baraboo design firm wins international awards

August 27, 2018

At a time when online templates give anyone the tools to dabble in graphic design, a Baraboo firm sees its international awards as validation that professionals’ training, experience and natural eye make a difference.

Next Level Creative brought home three awards from the Summit Creative Award competition, topping more than 5,000 submissions from 24 countries. Nellie Schmitz and Carrie Spankowski won a silver award for their work on the International Crane Foundation’s annual report. The firm also won a bronze award for ICF’s newsletter The Bugle, and a finalist award for the invitations it designed for a local Boys & Girls Club gala.

“It’s really hard to get these awards,” Schmitz said.

The Summit Awards recognize the work of small and medium-size advertising agencies worldwide. Judges search for innovative and creative concepts, strong executions and user experience, and the ability to communicate and persuade. Winners were selected in a wide range of categories, from print and broadcast to online advertising and social media.

“Winning a Summit Creative Award is a significant accomplishment in one’s career. With vetted judges, tough judging criteria, two-phase blind judging processes, and strict bylaws limiting winners, only deserving entries receive recognition,” said Jocelyn Luciano, executive director for the Summit Awards. “The creative work this year was outstanding. Watching the judges debate the details of individual entries in the run-off for the top spots was inspiring.”

It’s no accident Next Level was recognized for its work on behalf of charitable organizations.

“Most of the work we do is nonprofit work,” Schmitz said. “I’m not really interested in working for conglomerate companies.”

The awards recognize graphic designers as artists. They don’t crank out cookie-cutter layouts: They labor over pieces that reflect the client’s identity and mission. Over the years, they’ve mastered the nuances of color, balance and typography.

“There’s a difference between do-it-yourselfers and professional designers,” Schmitz said. “There’s a cost that comes with it, but the outcome is your message is received by more people.”

Next Level designs print pieces, websites and apparel. Its mission is to communicate the client’s message in a visually appealing fashion, whether they’re handed breathtaking photography or a long list of donors.

“I like the challenge of trying to make the reader want to look at the page,” Spankowski said. “It’s fun taking on that challenge.”

Boys & Girls Club of West Central Wisconsin Executive Director Karen DeSanto said she counts on Next Level to dazzle the eye with the invitations it designs for the nonprofit’s annual gala. “Working with Nellie and Next Level Creative is like taking a master class in design marketing,” DeSanto said.

“She listens to what our vision of our event is, then takes it to another level with her ability to engage our audience with color, fun and the true essence of what we are trying to produce,” DeSanto said.

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