10 Design Tips from Award-Winning Studios & Creatives Around the World

As we near the deadline for the HOW International Design Awards, we’re excited to share 10 creative tips from some of last year’s winners. Designers from studios like ÉcorceChad Michael Studio and Caliber Creative share their best advice below, be it related to specific design topics or inspiration for today’s creative. 

Tip #1

“Great interactive design is about balancing the clarity of minimalism with enough visual storytelling to create emotion.”

—Dave Benton, @lifeasdave, interactive creative director

design adviceBenton—an author, speaker and founder and creative director of California-based metajive—worked in partnership with developer Dillon Marinez to design his online portfolio, which was recognized in the websites category of the HOW International Design Awards last year. View the site here.

Tip #2

“There’s a lot of really great design out there—and bad design. Competitive research is important, but try not to get distracted or be overwhelmed by what’s out there. Stay true to yourself and your brand, and your work will exude authenticity and stand out from the clutter.”

—Margaret Park, Art Director, VP+C

With creative direction from Mark Veeder, art direction and design from Park, and illustration by Kei Meguro, VP+C created this packaging to reflect the transformational qualities of Farmacy Beauty’s products, with a six-sided box constructed in a unique format that unfolds (blooms) to reveal the brand story printed on the inside. This project was recognized in the packaging category of the HOW International Design Awards last year.

Tip #3

“Find clients that will trust you and let you take the design decisions. Easier said than done of course. 😉 And most of all, take the time to analyze what your client’s competition is doing, and then do everything except that. Don’t get your inspiration [only] on design blog and websites. Get your inspiration in everything and everywhere.”

—Karl-Frédéric Anctil, creative director at Écorce

Écorce was recognized in several categories of the HOW International Design Awards last year—identity, packaging, advertising and video. For the Hors-Jeu 2016 video above for client Ludia, Anctil, Conifère and designer Véronique Nguyen developed a concept that would highlight the fact that everyone has an important role to play when it comes to forming teams.

Tip #4

“Graphic design is a service industry. An effective design solution requires thorough research on the audience and medium. Most of my insight for a given project comes from proper understanding of the people I am designing for.”

Krishnapriya Dutta Gupta, graphic designer

design advice from award winning designers

Gupta, an MFA graphic design student at Academy of Art University in San Francisco, created the above typographical poster for a hypothetical social event on the immigrant experience—one of two winning projects recognized in the student category of the HOW International Design Awards last year.

Related: 10 Essential Poster Design Tips for Beginners

Tip #5

“Be inspired, have the courage to trust your gut and defend at least 95% to the death. Inspiration, not duplication, shows up when you least expect it.”

—Donald Edward Bermudez, Studio Named Bermudez

design tips

Bermudez, along with copywriter Bernice A. King, won a Merit award in the posters category of the HOW International Design Awards last year for this poster they created for The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change. Bermudez notes that the color palette and stylization of Dr. King’s face was to represent new thinking from the new generation.

Tip #6

“Don’t design in isolation. Meaning don’t design without surrounding yourself with worldly inspiration. From your artboard in Illustrator to your office environment, one should be bombarded with inspiration from all angles. The inspiration should span great distances in terms of style, material and imagery as long as each piece shares some relation to your overall project concept.”

—Chad Michael, owner and creative director, Chad Michael Studio

Michael took home a win in the packaging category of last year’s HOW International Design Awards last year for this Canadian gin design completed in partnership with illustrator Marija Tiurina and photographer Rusty Hill. Michael says he pulled inspiration from author Jules Verne, along with visual cues from antique encyclopedias, in order to perpetuate the distillery’s depth of knowledge in regard to their recipe, distilling methods and marvelous provenance.

Tip #7

“Pervasive devices and technologies have given us options for consuming almost any content anywhere. When creating digital media viewed within an environment, look for the twist that makes it special or unique—something that you can tangibly experience by being there, and creating a lasting memory in the process.”

—Mark Buchalter, director of experience design at Hornall Anderson

Hornall Anderson took home a win in the kiosks/interactive exhibits category of last year’s HOW International Design Awards for the Airbus Experience Center they created for Airbus Group. They note that the integrated work-plus-showcase design reinforces the character of Airbus Group as a global leader. The creative team included the following individuals: Mark Buchalter, Tim Halloran, experience design directors; Kevi Louis Johnson, design director; Michael Ausich, Nicholas Cryder, Jon Graeff, Todd Minderman, Katie Polenick, Chelsea Xavier, Rob Zwiebel, designers; Shirley Hendrickson, copywriter; Matt Frickleton, lead creative technologist; Marq Dean, Tim Garrison, Frank Hadder, Gordon Mueller, technology team.

Tip #8

“[Last] year, Caliber landed with a total of six projects slated for inclusion into the annual. Very excited and honored. Even though the food and beverage category is not our only focus as a design agency; it is of note that all six of the included projects are tied to either beer, music/entertainment or burgers (which is not at all a bad combination!). I suppose that my comment or observation is this:

That design can be a powerful, thought-provoking craft that has the ability to change public opinion and advance noble endeavors. However, there are also times when design can be (and in fact needs to be) fun and purely for our shared enjoyment. A break, a rest, a reminder that there are things to enjoy each and every day. In the wake of our nation’s current emotional and political state, I’d lobby that there is a need for reminders of change and healing—but also reminders of what to enjoy. The tip being to embrace ‘fun’ when the design opportunity presents itself. We can all use a collective break.”

—Brandon Murphy, principal creative, Dallas-based Caliber Creative

design tips

As Murphy mentions above, Dallas-based Caliber Creative had a total of six winning projects in last year’s HOW International Design Awards, including the 11 Below Brewing work pictured above. The project team—which included Brandon Murphy, Bret Sano, Kaitlyn Canfield, Kevin Johnson, Elena Chudoba and Karie Scuiller—says that the 11 Below Brewing team is “infectiously silly”—something they couldn’t help but embrace in their approach to the can designs. 

Tip #9

“Persevere! [Our] community project involved many layers and participants to make [it] happen, and it would have been easy to give up along with way. However, belief in the idea and its impact inspired a perseverance to see it through.”

—Jenn Stucker, @jennstuckerauthor & creative director of the Sit&Tell project

design tips

Stucker, cofounder of AIGA Toledo, worked with web designer Rachel Rine, photographer Dave Lehman and others to complete Sit&Tell, a community project that utilizes the metaphor of a chair as an invitation for friendship and communication. According to AIGA Toledo, “The project collected 100 stories as told by Toledo citizens as storytellers on World Storytelling Day, March 20, 2016, under the global theme of Strong Women. These stories were shared by many who benefited from strong women in their lives.” Click here to learn more about this project, which won a Merit in the miscellaneous category of the HOW International Design Awards last year.

Tip #10

“#1 keep your eyes (and mind) wide open

#2 research and explore

#3 engage and inspire”

Nuno Pereira 

design tips

Doha, Qatar–based designer Pereira took home two wins in the identity category of the HOW International Design Awards last year. The client work pictured above was created for Frooza, a pop-up shop selling rolled-up ice cream inspired by street vendors in Thailand, that’s also the first cold plate ice creamery in Lebanon.


Related: 9 Quick Design Tips from Sagi Haviv, Mona Patel & Magnus Berg [VIDEOS]

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