Design Magic. Sooo, what is it?

Lindi Koprivnikar - Art DirectorWritten by: Lindi KoprivnikarArt Director

Designers have heard this phrase at least once in their life: “Can you work your design magic and make this look awesome?” It goes along with such phrases as, “Can we spice this up?” “It needs to be more edgy” and even once, “can we floof up the design a little?” I keep digging in my pockets for this so-called “design magic”, but only come up with gum wrappers, lint, and loose change. I guess what I’m getting at is, I need to clean out my pockets. No seriously, good graphic design takes years of practice, dedication, lots of brainstorming, and a general passion for the industry. So, when we come up with something creative and original, how does that happen? Let me pull back the curtain and take you on a wild journey.

Step 1: Allow us to re-introduce ourselves, our name is AVE25, A-to-the-V-E…

We get to know the client and the project. We’re given a back-story, some direction (hopefully), guidelines, and a budget. We figure out what the end goal is, who we’re targeting, and exactly what we can accomplish within the number of hours we have to work with.

Step 2: Duh-dah-duh-dah-duh-duh Inspector Gadget
At this point, we do a bit of research within that industry. Or a lot of research, depending on how complex the project is. We poke around to see what the client’s competition is up to, what other designers have done, gain some inspiration, and steer clear of ideas that are already taken.

Step 3: Use the Force

Brainstorming. I guess you could say this is technically where that “design magic” occurs. Occasionally we’ll come up with a great idea right away, and it feels like you’re soaring on the wings of an eagle. But more often than not, we have to wade through a ton of mental BS. Good ideas, bad ideas, ideas that have already been done, ideas that are good but way too trendy, ideas that we fall in love with and cling to like a first-born child. We also go through creative blocks just like writers. You know what’s worse than bad ideas? No ideas. Do you remember TV snow on analog televisions? That’s how our brains feel sometimes. And all we can do is walk away from the project or stare at cool designs that fill us with envy until our vision is less cloudy. Eventually ideas start to form - sometimes slowly or all at once. Like pushing a tiny snowball down a hill, small ideas become grandiose ones. And once the floodgates open, you feel a rush of inspiration (dopamine FTW!) and suddenly everything's coming up roses.    

Step 4: Please, hold your slow clap until the end

The hard work isn’t over just yet, but knocking that creative barrier down is by far the biggest and most difficult step of the process. We still have to flesh out our concepts, get internal feedback, present to the client, and ultimately hope/pray/align our chakras that he or she really digs it. Usually there’s some tweaking to the design, and occasionally we have to totally go back to the drawing board. It sucks, but as a creative person in the ad industry, you learn to have tough skin right out of the gate. You’ve gotta take all feedback in stride - even when it’s not constructive. Hey, it’s totally cool if you hate my designs, I’ll just drown my sorrows in ice cream. No biggie.  

So there you have it. No tricks up our sleeves or magic wands. We’re just experienced and dedicated to our craft. Knowing we have the ability to make a difference through design is pretty darn awesome. Ok, now you can slow clap.