VIP Innovator 2022: Erik Hansen

Story by Liesel Schmidt


Photo by Jonathan Thorpe

Erik Hansen was drawn to design at an early age. Today, he is at the fore of emerging technology and transforms the ways organizations reach the audiences they serve. A visionary and born entrepreneur, Hansen's innovative spirit led him to an early career in graphic design in the mid ’90s, bringing him back to the DC area to finish college at the Corcoran School of Art & Design and launch his first agency in 2003. In 2004, Hansen also co-founded a foundation that focused on bringing new art to new audiences, which helped shape his continuing passion for working with nonprofit and impact organizations.


Over the next few years, Hansen went through some major changes, both personally and professionally. He also met his wife, Katie Hansen, with whom he later co-founded Mekanic, an award-winning branding agency in Alexandria that prides itself on its innovative use of all platforms, touchpoints and technologies to boost its clients' visibility and success. "At Mekanic, our team executes in nearly every medium; on paper and in pixels, still and in motion, interactive and in-person," says Hansen. "We use beautiful, unexpected ways of sparking connections with people and business through expertly-crafted creative solutions. The end product is nothing short of awesome."




Hansen and his team at Mekanic take a human-centered design methodology and believe it is incredibly important to be aware and present in your surroundings. He says that innovation comes from identifying the gaps in our daily lives that need to be bridged with something new or better. "I really don't see myself as an innovator and never have," Hansen admits. "I see myself as a design thinker and someone in pursuit of delivering work that has meaning. The output of that is sometimes very innovative solutions and sometimes it is simply building 'better' products, services, businesses, organizations, experiences and, ultimately, brands. We help our clients take measured risks and try new things, so I think of myself as a change-maker and a Designer with a capital D, not an innovator."


Experiment with intention. Move on swiftly. Invest in yourself. Build relationships. Pass on positivity. Think systemically. Tell great stories. These behaviors can help anyone in their journey to innovate. - Erik

At Mekanic, the team holds firmly to the tenets of seven behaviors: "Experiment with intention. Move on swiftly. Invest in yourself. Build relationships. Pass on positivity. Think systemically. Tell great stories. These behaviors can help anyone in their journey to innovate." Hansen continues, "I believe [these behaviors] help in creating positive outcomes that can change the trajectory of a brand and/or people." The work, driven by those behaviors, is what creates moments of surprise and delight for the businesses, organizations and institutions they serve. From logos to virtual reality experiences, new companies to organizations solving climate change, Mekanic's work is purposeful and impactful. "There are these moments almost every day where someone reacts in awe, amazement, curiosity and imagination. That is why we show up every day," says Hansen.



In addition to his role as CEO and co-founder at Mekanic, Hansen sits on the Board of Directors for the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce and is also currently at work on a new venture, the Wonderment Project. Over the years, Hansen found that most great hospitality experiences aren't accessible, whether economically, geographically or culturally. His hope for the future is to affect change in this deficit. "I have been working with some really exciting people to design a new vision of hospitality that will create a place where progress takes on wicked problems," he explains. "I want to create a place for exceptional experiences with profound outcomes for everyone."

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