The Knoxville chapter of the American Institute of Graphic Arts (AIGA) presented its 2nd Annual Design Week this week. Tuesday was all about the 1:1, as design students from Pellissippi State Community College had the opportunity to shadow professional designers at various studios throughout the Knoxville area. Recent graduates stopped by the office with several insightful questions for some of our designers.
Q. When you get a campaign, do all the designers come up with ideas and share, then narrow them down?
A. It kind of varies from project to project. A lot of the time, creative directors are really hunkered down, really thinking it through. Then they will share their concepts with the designers. We then bring to life visuals for those concepts.
Q. How far can you stray from those initial concepts?
A. There’s definitely a fine line between clients that have a set style and know what they want. You don’t really want to break outside of that. Then there are opportunities you get to do something completely new and different. As a designer, those are attractive opportunities. Just like any design, there’s a process. Here it’s definitely a collaborative effort. You might not be the only designer on a project. It’s really about working off of each other’s strengths.
Q. How up-to-date is your software? Is there a collective desire to upgrade as soon as possible?
A. It has a lot to do with price. Even in an agency of a small size it would cost thousands of dollars to upgrade Adobe.
Here, we have quite a few employees so upgrading is a huge decision. We have so many designers producing several pieces of work everyday, we have to make sure every piece works for everybody. It goes back to the collaboration thing.
You can’t justify a software upgrade just because it’s newer; you can achieve the same quality of work whether you’re in CS4 or CS6.
Q. Say you’re working on a website, do you have people that are more right-brained that do coding and correlate with the designers?
A. If you’re interested in learning code, it’s pretty invaluable for a designer today. Moving forward in the digital world of things, having an understanding of that medium is sort of like understanding paper or different types of printing presses. It’s understanding the constraints and knowing what’s possible within a budget.
Q. What are the most common deadlines for projects?
A. In a service industry, there’s really no set product that you box and say, “This takes two weeks.” Everything is custom built and designed from the ground up.
Sometimes we’re only touching a little piece of a project. We might not have any idea when the overarching deadline is, but our deadline is that day.
Q. Do you use Flash?
One thing that we have to do is remain objective in terms of what’s the goal of the project. And our job is not to dictate what the software or the platform is to drive that, it’s what’s the best platform and solution for that client.
Does it need to be seen from here (waves iPhone around)? Does it need to be on the iPad? There are a lot of constraints you have to think about and what platforms you’re going to move towards. Going back to a point earlier, knowing what’s possible on those platforms, in terms of the code, also helps when you’re designing for different contexts. There are so many contexts in which digital is consumed, it’s important to know what’s possible on all these devices through what platforms. That way you can design the best experience for the end product.
Q. How important is integrating traditional sketch work into your digital design?
A. In an age of vintage and retro things, it’s really important, just because that’s a really prominent trend right now. Things being handcrafted, it’s all romantic ideas of the past. Not only that, having fine art hand skills is really an asset to have to communicate your ideas. If you can talk through your ideas that’s one thing, but having hand skills to draw out ideas allows you to quickly and efficiently communicate them to the creative director.
Sketching just feels very natural, before you ever take it to the computer.