How to Navigate the Pace of Modern Design

Modern designers are tasked with more projects than ever and armed with more resources to execute them. Here’s how to keep up with the pace.

By Kervin Brisseaux

From age 5 to my time studying architecture in college, art has been a driving force in my life. Today, as a full-fledged artist, I consider Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator the tools of my trade, part of my thinking whenever I set out to render images with a polished finish.

I’ve benefited immensely from my relationship with technology in general, and I’m a beneficiary of Moore’s Law—my craft and my profession have improved thanks to the explosion in computing power. Unlike designers who grew up in an era when rapidographs and T-squares were tools of the trade, modern digital designers can do things like create vector shapes from photos snapped on their phones. That kind of power at our fingertips allows us to do the amazing design work that wouldn’t have been possible just a few years ago.

But it also creates steep expectations.

Contemporary designers are now responsible for projects that appear on a variety of new platforms and media, such as virtual reality and 3D. These demands force us to balance the needs of the creative process with the new standards brought about by the automation of modern design.

Every artist approaches the situation from their particular vantage point. Here’s my take.

Perfect Your Process

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Richard De Hoxar – https://www.instagram.com/richarddehoxar/

Like most digital illustrators and designers, I rely on a toolbox of software applications to bring my ideas to life. While these tools undoubtedly contribute to the design process, the sheer number of styles and outputs can sometimes feel overwhelming—clients may want work done for virtual reality, 3D, mobile, the web, print, or all of the above.

With all these great tech tools at our disposal, we still must figure out a design process that serves any format. In other words, how we work has never been more important. Now, fine artists like James Jean use the iPad and mobile apps in tandem with traditional tools to create new content without changing their essential artistic process. For me, integrating these new tools into my design process has enabled me to create at a faster pace and deliver more assets than ever before.

It’s not enough to simply create JPEGs or scans anymore. Clients now expect layered files at a certain DPI that allow the freedom and flexibility to take those visuals and repurpose them. With these constant changes, keeping up with tech trends can feel like a second job or a distraction from our passion: art.

In the end, they still need to have confidence that their process will lead them to do their best work—without worrying about what’s in the tech toolbox.

Find the Flow

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Kervin Brisseaux and Jason Forbes – https://www.instagram.com/jason.forbes/

The creative design process always starts at the source: inspiration.

For me, the magic happens when I see something incredibly vivid. It might be a book or color pattern that leads me to draw out a key idea—inspiration can happen anywhere. I’ll start with a sketch and then try to evolve it further: mixing and matching splashes of colors on screen in search of combinations that work together and evoke a specific mood or emotion.

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When I sit down to work, I choose from a rich palette of software programs that didn’t exist 20 years ago. The majority of my work still happens on my desktop, but the computer screen isn’t always the most inspiring workstation. To battle stagnation, I’ve started using mobile apps, such as Adobe Photoshop Sketch and Illustrator Draw. They let me quickly sketch out ideas and send them to my desktop, where I later enhance them. This flexibility helps me meet tight deadlines and still deliver high quality work.

I also try not to complicate the design process with any distractions that might influence my work. If you flood the system, it tends to clog the process of making good things. Instead, I focus on finding the best approach to keep the ideas flowing.

Set Clear Expectations

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Rawpixel.com / Adobe Stock

Another change I have noticed in recent years is an evolution in what customers expect of artists as well as a greater familiarity with the technology we use. I distinctly recall one instance when a client came in and launched a personal copy of Photoshop to mock up visuals that he thought could work with a planned campaign. Suddenly we were speaking the same language. It was a welcome surprise.

At the same time, this kind of democratized tech can lead to unrealistic expectations. My pitch: Don’t fight your clients if they know a bit of design. Use them as a partner to ensure the project meets their vision while infusing it with your own expertise. You still have to manage expectations—especially when they’re being asked to deliver a “Wow” factor in terms of interactivity or animation.

If you find yourself in that situation, be proactive.

Early on in the process, I try to lay out the scope and scale of a project to set reasonable deadlines long before pen hits pad. I let clients know early on what’s achievable within the context of the design process. Sure, I can turn around an image to meet a super-quick timetable, but I’ll deliver better results if I’m able to think it through and apply the traditional artistic process.

The old school stuff still works, even in the new digital era.

Kervin Brisseaux is an NYC based artist. He’s currently Lead Designer at award-winning, boutique design studio Vault 49 doing work for brands like Nike, Adobe, Gatorade, and more. He mostly gains his inspiration from music, Japanese culture, fashion, and the occasional sci-fi flick.


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