Max Pfennighaus Leaves VSA Partners to Join Global Consultancy Lippincott as Design Partner

By Erik Oster 

VSA Partners executive creative director Max Pfennighaus has left the agency after around a year and a half to join global consultancy Lippincott as partner, design and brand expression.

“Max’s hire bridges both our brand and innovation practices so that we can more deeply deliver user experiences that are unique and distinctive to the brands we work with,” Lippincott global creative director Connie Birdsall said in a statement to AgencySpy. “We’re focused on bringing the superior design craft in our core brand business to how we deliver innovation to our clients. Max brings a unique perspective to that endeavor, as someone whose experience ranges from big idea advertising to media-driven storytelling to digital personality branding.”

Pfennighaus joined VSA Partners last year after leading The New York Times’ 50-person creative department as executive creative director beginning in September 2014. Prior to The New York Times Pfennighaus served as director of marketing and branding for NPR for a year and a half. 


“I spent 13 years in advertising before I moved to NPR and began working with one of the most prestigious digital product crews I’d ever worked with,” Pfennighaus told AgencySpy. “The great thing about being in-house is having the opportunity to really understand how the organization works, holistically…Having that level of empathy for what an organization does and the people behind it ultimately reflects in the work. It is harder to do that from the outside, but I apply that understanding and respect in what I do now.”

Pfennighaus said that The New York Times was “a great deep dive on the impracticalities of keeping the organization growing in a changing landscape. I learned the balance between the poetic nature of storytelling and the more rational realisms of running an organization…Yet I was always a design voice in the context of a lot of non-designers and had never really worked in the company of an army of design folks before.”

“VSA was a wonderful experience because it was a design centered place that allowed me to focus on how stuff works and not just the advertising.”

“At Lippincott, I can take this even further. Not only do they have a storied legacy of a very broad definition of design (digital, experiential etc.), but the firm has just as strong roots in strategy,” he added. “Lippincott has built its reputation doing the thing I learned was so vital for business while at NPR and the NYT…When you have an organization with design at its heart, it’s inevitable for design to want to reach as far as possible into the business to help ideas manifest.”

“What excites me most about Lippincott is all of the digital innovation work I get to roll up my sleeves and jump in on. I’m already working on a number of global projects in the digital product space, thinking about how a brand translates into that experience.”