Graham Douglas hates writing. He always has. But in his own way, he’s making it work. “I think every creative type needs a nemesis,” he says. “Every time I sit down to a white screen or a blank piece of paper it's not just a writing exercise, I have to defeat something. And I think that tension isn't just helpful in the creative process, it's totally necessary.”
Douglas, a UNT graduate who earned his bachelor’s in journalism with a concentration in advertising and a double minor in marketing and Spanish in 2005, has made a career out of defeating problems.
No problem was more real than the one his twin brother Britton faced a little over 10 years ago – cancer. A week before Britton’s freshman orientation at UNT, he was diagnosed with leukemia. As Britton’s identical twin, Douglas was unable to donate the bone marrow his brother so desperately needed, and the process of finding a donor led Douglas to a shocking find – the amount of red tape blocking the way of people who want to register as bone marrow donors (time-consuming doctor’s appointments or pricey home kits). In the end, Britton found a donor. But others, about half of those that need one, aren’t so lucky. “That was my very rude introduction to the bone marrow leukemia worlds,” Douglas say. “And since then, I've been trying to figure out a better way to make sure people like my brother get the same chance at survival that he did.”
The result? Help I want to save a life, an ingenious collaboration between the hip pharmaceutical company Help Remedies and DKMS, the world’s largest marrow donor registry, to make registering super simple. Inside a small, 4-dollar package of bandages for minor cuts (the kind you get from shaving, shuffling papers or cooking dinner) is a bone marrow registry kit. Before bandaging your cut, you dab some blood on an included swab, pop it in a prepaid envelope and drop it in the mail. Donor registry has nearly tripled.
After graduating from UNT, Douglas set out to the Miami Ad School, which is like a “a finishing school for young ad folks,” he says. “It was a great way for me to put some spit and polish on the portfolio that I had started in undergrad and also get my foot into the door of a few more agencies. Most importantly, though, it was completely outside the comfort zone.” Sharing an apartment with a complete stranger, working two jobs while going to school and living in a “perpetual state of sunburn” was, actually, really great. “It made me realize that comfortable is miserable. I still find myself looking for ways to get a little more uncomfortable.”
After Miami, Douglas departed to the frigid winter temperatures of Minneapolis for an internship with the Carmichael Lynch agency, made his way to Chicago’s Energy BBDO agency (“where, apparently, it snows in May”), and finally made his way to 180, an Amsterdam-based agency that had just expanded to L.A. He spent four years working in both L.A. and Amsterdam for clients like Adidas, Sony, Mitsubishi, Boost Mobile, HBO and Bombay Sapphire. That experience landed him a position as creative director at Droga5, where he made a noticeable difference. Always eager for new opportunities, Douglas is currently Chief Creative Officer at REX.
And it all goes back to his time here at UNT. “Every idea I've had in my career started with some little bit of knowledge or some tiny fact,” Douglas says. “And through the years, I've come up with ideas that have an obvious thread of plant biology, or early American history, or jazz composition, or kinesiology running through them. Trace those threads back far enough and you'll probably find a tangled mass of random knowledge that I started knotting together at UNT.”