How to be a designer at SCA – By @elisaczerwenka

By Elisa Czerwenka


How to be a designer at SCA


Art is in my veins. It’s always been this way. My high school days were filled with hours of classes sketching in the last row (to the disdain of my teachers) and my afternoons were devoted to mastering the art of manga drawings (the entire scene was always a bit much for be though). Finally, after finishing high school, getting a design degree at a uni like LCC was a no-brainer. Cut to today: I’m working my ass off at SCA. SCA is short for School of Communication Arts. Art. The thing I’ve always loved, the thing I’ve always been good at, the thing I’ve got a degree in. Piece of cake! Or at least, I feel like it should be. Well, it wasn’t. It still isn’t. Here is why.

The Pace.

When you study graphic design, you get months for one brief. Having more than two briefs in uni was a rarity. At SCA, the pace is absolutely insane. SCA in contrast often does not seem overly concerned with the feeble limitations of us run-of-the-mill humans. Four simultaneous briefs is not an oddity. And that notwithstanding all kinds of other tasks we have to keep in mind simultaneously. There is obviously a trade-off between these two kinds work philosophy. Having time helps a lot with focus on the craft. At the same time, I felt like I wasn’t learning as much as I could. And to be honest, even though SCA is though, I thrive on it. You can almost observe yourself growing and becoming better from day to day. So to you, potential future SCA designer, my advice is the following: Accept it and trust the process. I know it’s tough but trust me. It’s gonna be worth it.

Familiarity vs Newness.

In some way, designers are always looking out for the new. I remember at uni everyone tried to make their stuff look different. And by different, I mean puzzling to the viewer. To diverge from the mainstream was paramount. Nobody cared about appealing to most people. Others “not getting” your work seemed like a badge of honour. In advertising, this does not get you very far. We also want to make our work original – but if it doesn’t communicate quickly and ideally to everyone, you have failed. Finding that balance can be tricky. Yet I am happy I made the leap to be an art director. When I was at uni, it sometimes felt like my attempt to make something understandable for everyone was considered undesirable. This never made sense to me. My goal was always to communicate, much more than express myself. My advice: Make original work as much as you can, spot visual trends before they become mainstream. Don’t let that go in the way of your idea though.

The Craft.

While the short turnarounds are exciting, and the learning curve is insane, I do miss having the time to craft to the level I am used to. I am continuously stuck between my inner designer and art director. In the advertisement industry,the idea is king. Even if you perfectly craft a shitty idea, well, it’s still a piece of shit. I learned that quickly. “You can still make stuff look pretty, right?”. Technically, yes, I can. But if you want your ideas to be good, you better focus on getting them right first. And that has led me to spend most of the time on strategy and creative thinking and left me with barely any time to craft. Even though scamps should be enough, I have the urge to design it properly. This means getting the right typefaces, find the appropriate kerning, adjust the grid to perfection, the list goes on and on. I know all this is not necessary to communicate a thought. Yet I stay up for ages to get that right. My advice: Focus your time and efforts on the communication. After that you can still worry about leading in the body copy. Also, please go to bed. No one can see the difference.

All in all, if you are a designer and move into art direction, you will probably love it. All the software you have learned already is a huge help when deadlines come around. Don’t forget the most important thing, though. Your work needs to communicate effectively. The look of it is just a part of that.

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