When clients visit iMarc and take a tour of our office in Newburyport, they get a small glimpse into our lives and personas by scoping out our workstations and how we adorn our rooms. As a member of the creative team, I share a room with fellow Lead Designer Paul Kelley and our Creative Director Jared Laham. These tours often start in the confernce room, snake through our Associate Director of Operations' (Patrick) office, and head upstairs into the "creative room". Visitors most frequently comment on three things:
"Wow, you guys like to keep it warm in here, huh?" - We sure do!
"Dark in here! The sun must do a number on your delicate skin." - It's better for our eyes, brains, and your work!
"I really like all of the art and trinkets you have in here; looks like you guys have the 'fun room'!"
From our room, guests are ushered through the "developer room" and the "strategy" room. Comparatively, one could argue that we do reside in the "fun room" due to our decor (and attitudes - I hope). However, in fairness, everyone here at iMarc is both fun and creative; we just happen to have that word attributed to us directly in our titles. Even the most seemingly straightforward problems and objectives are tackled creatively by our engineers and strategists. To better understand what it means to be a creative designer, we must first address a question we are asked constantly by nearly everyone over the course of our careers: "What is the difference between art and design?"
If the purpose of art is to have no purpose, then design is merely art with purpose. The beauty of art is that anyone and everyone is an artist, despite what they may think. I smile when I hear someone say that they "don't really 'get' art" because that isn't a requirement at all. In fact, art has almost no requirements. Art doesn't strive to please everyone, and although some art is more recognized and well known, nobody can say that a piece of art is "better" than any other. I can look at a painting or a photograph and declare "I like that" or "this isn't my taste" without having to defend why I feel that way. A big part of being a designer is knowing, from a tecnhical standpoint, why something "looks better" than something else. In this sense, design is the ying to art's yang.
Since we've established that design is art with purpose, it immediately opens itself up to interpretation and validation. As designers here, we must strive to please our clients and deliver great looking work that also meets all business objectives. An artist has the luxury of dismissing negative feedback, but designers must turn negative feedback into positive results while maintaining cohesion and simplicity. Naturally there are cases where we must trust our gut and push back on questionable suggestions while being as accommodating as possible. If you strive to make something that everyone "likes", then nobody will really "love" it. Creating art is an extremely personal endeavor, and design can be just as emotional, especially for someone new to the field. Designers quickly develop thick skin after years of peer and client reviews. A huge part of our job entails brainstorming multiple concepts that are almost immediately culled in favor of stronger solutions. Iteration is an enormous part of our process, and helps to sharpen and shape our final concepts.
As the tools we use and technology around us evolves, our job as designers becomes even more important. Computers and software can't make creative decisions. There will always be a need for someone with an artistic eye to beautify and elucidate what we create. Even the most thorough user experience tests can only inform our decisions; it is up to strategists and creatives to interpret that information and devise a clever, meaningful, and attractive way to display information.
Design is so much more than what font looks best and what the hot color palette is this month. Creating art can certainly make you a better designer, but that doesn't necessarily go both ways. Each member of the creative team here has a huge passion for art and photography, and fostering those skills ultimately makes us more capable to deliver fresh and informed takes on what will ultimately be transformed into meaningful websites, applications, and marketing collateral.
In closing, a great designer should be passionate about art and unafraid to think creatively; exhausting all possiblities and exploring every idea until the perfect solution is distilled. Applying this knowledge to a strong foundation provided by our business development team and thoughtful considerations from strategy is how all great projects begin. Our job is to portrait content in the best possible light by both challenging expectations and establishing new custom concepts that speak directly to project goals.