When the call came in from the local chapter of the Advertising Federation and they mentioned one of our founders’ names in the same sentence as “Hall of Fame”, two thoughts immediately entered his mind.
First, “Do they know I’m not done yet?”
Followed shortly by, “We’re really not in advertising.”
But this isn’t a story about the final chapter. Nor of placing the strictest of labels on a profession rooted in creativity and disciplined thinking.
This is a story about a career rooted in belief. And putting others before one’s self.
John Moes is the grandson of immigrants. His father was an officer in the U.S. Air Force, pilot, electrical engineer and farmer.
At age 10, his father taught John how to plow, disk and cultivate using the family’s two cylinder John Deere tractors. By 13, he was already building his own herd of Polled Hereford cattle with help from his father and his involvement with a local 4-H club.
He’d later trade the registered livestock herd to fund his college education.
Initially pursuing an electrical engineering degree like his father, John ultimately charted a new path for himself, switching majors and schools before earning a BFA from Mount Mercy University.
Early in his career, John oversaw design, publishing and business communications during an eight-year run at Rockwell Collins. He was with the company through two rebranding efforts.
Then in the late 90’s, John began collaborating with a Cedar Rapids design firm where he met designer Bill Bollman. Over the next few years, they found they shared a similar mindset about what design could do, and became fast friends.
The two opened FUEL in January of 2001.
They’d make design central to everything the shop did, while remaining nimble enough to tackle traditional advertising roles. But no matter the client, they’d bring utility and purpose to impact everything that client’s organization did.
Then in April, some 16 years later, John got the call.
It was the Advertising Federation of Cedar Rapids with word that, yes, he was being inducted into its Hall of Fame.
“He was really taken off guard,” said Bill. “I just think, when you’re considering all the things he’s done these years, going back to even before starting FUEL, he’s a thought leader. He’s continuously working on what’s next. And so much of his drive centers on ‘How can we help others?’”
And while he mans the helm at FUEL, he steers clear of the day-to-day creative work.
“Design is not really where his expertise is,” said Bill. “He’d be the first to admit that. But he certainly has an opinion.”
So how does a non-designer, running a design firm, end up with a Hall-worthy career?
“The thing I think John has been able to do is with his advocacy,” said Bill. “His helping creatives in the area. He’s able to mentor and advise his peers. That’s where I’d pinpoint his contribution. He’s given a lot of good advice. And a lot of good business advice. And he’s helped creatives develop a strong foundation for themselves. When people can’t see beyond their box, he can help them see outside of it.”
Maybe that’s the Iowan in him – making sure that the people closest to him, be it professionals or family or friends – were prepared and provided for. But that applied to clients as well. And that was evident from the very moment he and Bill decided to open FUEL.
“He had a real platform and mindset for what he wanted to start,” said Bill. “We share the same belief system. It’s just a different set of tactics. We believe in what we’re doing to help other people become successful.”
Fiercely proud of his Midwestern roots, John still lives on a farm with his wife, Janet. And he’s channeled that energy into growing a design presence in Eastern Iowa while overseeing a team whose work for brands is recognized around the world.
“There’s a bigger picture at the end of all this,” said Bill. “That we helped changed a mindset. We wield a powerful tool and design can be a change agent.”
Best part? This story isn’t done yet.