How To: Designing Outside of your Interests

Team: “We have a new client!”
Me: “YES.”
Team: “You have the creative freedom to do whatever!”
Me: “EVEN BETTER.”
Team: “They don’t have a brand guideline, so really, go nuts.”
Me: “MY FAVORITE KIND OF CLIENT.”
Team: “Their products are…Furbies.
Me: “…k.”

After being in the creative industry for about 15 years, I have been assigned quite a few projects that didn’t pique my interest.

It’s part of the job, being a creative. You’re tasked with having to make a brand or a product interesting, even if it’s not – like Furbies.

When designers realize they need to do their job, even if it’s not sexy work, the process of starting is much the same as if it was work they were excited about. They have to outline what they need to accomplish before attempting to put lipstick on a pig.

How do I reach client goals when the project is not so sexy?

First, I like to make sure my team understands what goals I’m trying to meet before I even attempt to design anything.

Some people might think “OK… you’re designing a logo for companies that sell Furbies…why would you need to know the goals of the company?” Well, if the company wanted to focus more on team members than the Furbies themselves, I’d use something that represented a team in the logo instead of having the main focus be the Furbies. Subtle pieces of information from clients are important.

How do I get creative when the subject isn’t so creative?

Whenever I get stuck on where to begin with a dull project, I grab a pen and paper and start writing down words that relate to the subject at hand. Sometimes I even go to Getty Images and search for these words then add “abstract” after said words and see what visual ideas result in my search. More often than not, images show up I had never even thought of, and I add those to my list to mull over everything after having exhausted my search results.

After, I’ll start sketching out ideas on paper, or sometimes I’ll just immediately go into Illustrator or Adobe XD, depending on the project, and start designing. Sometimes ideas will just “click,” and I can create something quickly and be satisfied. Other times, it takes a lot of playing around with either ideas relating to the subject or something like fonts or images to make something feel “right.” It’s all very dependent on the subject and how much material I have to work with.

What do I do when the client doesn’t have much to work with and doesn’t have much of a budget?

Unfortunately, this happens quite often, and usually with a client that doesn’t have a glamorous line of work.

I gather all the existing materials provided by the client, then all of the resources we use at LEAP Spark (image, graphic and font resources) to see what limitations I have.

After reviewing what I can work from, it makes my work way more efficient, instead of scrambling to come up with something from resources I know I can’t have/afford. This of course limits my creativity, but also forces me to become more creative and it’s a fun challenge at times.


 

Designing outside of my interest can be uncomfortably challenging at times, but possible and happens often. Ultimately, these challenging projects have pushed me to grow as a designer. A little research of the company’s industry and with key words and topics relating to the project can go a long way in aiding a creative outcome.

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