President & Creative Director, UNION, Charlotte
Bachelor of Fine Arts with a concentration in Graphic Design, UNC Charlotte (2001)
Banks Wilson was a senior at Olympic High School in Charlotte when he discovered he could merge his interests in art and marketing. The creative side of advertising appealed to him, and he entered the BFA program in graphic design at UNC Charlotte.
“My education at UNC Charlotte, and in particular within the graphic design concentration of the art department, was all about problem solving. Be it a visual layout or complicated ad campaign, our professors were always pushing us to look for unique and creative ways to effectively solve problems.”
Upon graduating in 2001, Banks went to work as a junior designer at a local advertising agency, but within a few months, he knew he wanted to strike out on his own. He developed a business plan, found an office building that allowed him to trade design work for office space, and in 2002 founded his own company, StudioBanks. He was the only employee. Fifteen years later, StudioBanks has become UNION, an award-winning digital marketing agency with 37 employees.
“I did do some entrepreneurial things as a kid, like running my own lawn care business,” he says, “but I never thought I would be an entrepreneur when I was in middle and high school.”
The creativity and problem-solving skills he learned at UNC Charlotte and his affinity for hard work were the perfect recipe for entrepreneurship.
“Early on in my career as a designer, this education had a very one-to-one relationship and influence on my day-to-day tasks as a designer. The real-world projects I was working on as a professional designer were very similar to the classwork projects our professors assigned us. However, as I have grown in my career, and the day-to-day needs of my role have shifted away from being a designer and more into a leadership and management position, the problem-solving educational experience has stayed relevant.”
Banks, who has hired fellow graphic design alums, encourages current students to be industrious:
“You have to really push yourself and put in the time to create great work within the art department. The professors are talented and very smart. They are there to teach you, and they do motivate you to an extent, but they can only push you so much. It will be up to you to put in the extra effort to stand out.”