kara dave joe

From print to web design, with some amazing illustration in between, our designers are passionate about the work they do for our clients. Our design team, Dave Simon, Kara McKenna, and Joe Reynolds, share what helps them stay organized and on top of new trends in the industry, plus more, below!

What’s your favorite part about your job?

DS: The variety. Every day is like reaching into an old box of Cracker Jacks—you never know what you’re going to get. Maybe design an ad, or a mailer, or brainstorm a concept, or write a TV commercial. I like that.

KM: I enjoy coming up with creative solutions for our clients. I love working at RA because we have a wide variety of clients so there is always an exciting design challenge.

JR: The web and digital industry is constantly changing, so this pushes me to always continue learning and improving my work.

What’s the most major thing that’s changed in design since you started your career?

DS: Computers. As the resident crotchety old man in the art department, I started in the BC era, doing pencil layouts, typing up the copy, sizing the art and shipping it all off to a typesetter. It was a much slower process.

KM: I guess it would be that design has become more digital. We used to use paper job jackets and provide printouts for each job. Most things are done on-screen today. We even approve print jobs digitally in some cases. Also, no one uses Quark Express anymore.

JR: The web industry as a whole.

What’s been your favorite design trend so far this year?

DS: As an illustrator, my favorite design trend of 2016 is one toward custom illustration. Yes, stock illustration is here to stay, but people still, and increasingly, appreciate that perfect piece of art done just for their project.

KM: I love the modern retro trend. I have always loved nostalgic pieces so I love that this is popular today (thanks, hipsters). I have to admit that I also love the infographic trend (even though they are really time consuming to create). I think they just make information so much more playful and visually appealing. One more- I really like the use of geometric shapes in designs which seems to be pretty popular right now.

JR: I love the use of hand-drawn illustration and animations that have been incorporated into web design and development. If done properly, it gives the design a more authentic and personal touch.

If you could give one piece of advice to someone thinking of starting a career in design, what would it be and why?

DS: Learn to design without a computer first. Then, and only then, get really good with that computer.

KM: I would say to be versatile. You may love print or digital design more than the other but it is important to have a grasp on both. I prefer print design over digital but I have had to use both in my experience. I think having a strong print background has been a benefit when designing something digitally and vice versa. Many projects will be used both ways so they need to go  hand-in-hand and compliment each other.

JR: Always have a side project outside of work! Anything that interests you, even if it’s not design related. It keeps the creative juices flowing!

What does a typical day for you look like?

DS: See my answer to question one. Variety!

KM: I catch up with Nellie first and foremost. Then I look over my to-do list and see which projects are urgent and take care of those first. I meet with AEs (account executives), collaborate with other designers in the office, yada-yada.

JR: There isn’t a typical day. There’s always new challenges and learning to be done; that’s why we chose this field, right?

How do you stay organized?

DS: Seriously? Have you seen my desk? I did finally start using a day planner a couple years ago, and it turns out writing stuff down is helpful. Who knew?

KM: I am naturally organized so this isn’t an issue for me. I have my trusty to-do list and my calendar (office and personal on the phone/computer as well as my paper calendar – I need both). It is also important to keep my files very organized. You never know when another designer will need to pick up something or a client will reference a job from 2011.

JR: Lists on lists on lists! Evernote is perfect for this!

Which brands/individuals inspire your design work?

DS: This is probably weird, but I want to talk about a writer, not a designer. Neil Gaiman is a writer who works across multiple formats. He writes adult novels, children’s novels, picture books, comics, even performance pieces. He creates brilliant and deeply humane social media. If you think of him as his own brand, no one is doing it better.

KM: Nellie recently introduced me to Canva and I follow them on Instagram for daily design inspiration! They have the most amazing color palettes.

JR: Saul Bass, Milton Glaser, Stefan Bucher. Brands: Backcountry.com, Fast Company. Companies: Pentagram.

What’s been your favorite design project or project you’re most proud of (that you designed yourself) for a client?

DS: I’ve done two series of commercials for Discount Drug Mart starring former Cleveland newscaster Wilma Smith. Wilma was a pro and we had the luxury of shooting with a full, experienced crew. This was the happiest of situations, where the vision I had in my head when I first wrote the script was fully realized on the screen. It doesn’t get any better than that.

KM: I have so many. Recently, my favorite is the Lakewood Catholic Academy annual report. It is a fun, playful take on an annual report that resembles a composition book and includes hand-drawn looking infographics and interior pages that look like notebook pages with doodles in the margins. All the fonts look handwritten. The client is a grade school so it was a perfect design for them. They love it too which makes me love it even more.

JR: Feldmar Watch Company’s website.

What’s your favorite design program to use & why?

DS: While I’m still nostalgic for Freehand, I’ve come to appreciate everything I can do (including illustration) with InDesign. Who would have thought?

KM: It used to be Illustrator but now I think it has become InDesign. It is great for multi-page layouts as well as smaller print projects and ads. The Adobe Suite programs all work together so well.

JR: Pencil and paper– it’s still one of the best tools out there for visual problem solving. It’s fast and allows me to be hands-on.

If there’s one trend you hope to never see again, which would it be & why?

DS: Call me old fashioned, but that thing that was happening a few years ago, where high-end magazine designers competed to see who could make their magazine the most illegible and incomprehensible—I didn’t get it. I don’t get it.

KM: I love that since I have started my design career, there has been a greater appreciation for good design in all areas of advertising. Retailers have realized that something doesn’t need to be bright red and black in huge bold letters to get a consumer’s attention – high quality design, an interesting font or creative packaging can do the same thing. I hope that never changes.

JR: The QR code!