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Designer spotlight: Morgan’s creative process

This month, we sat down with graphic designer Morgan to chat about her creative process.

Can you share a pivotal moment or experience in your life that ignited your passion for design? How has that influenced your creative journey since then?

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what may have flipped the switch towards design in my life. I was the kid using MS Paint or KidPix to create tickets, invitations, and posters for shows and dinners happening in my imagination. I remember designing a logo for a fake joke/magic shop as a kid for a business simulation project in grade 7. Was it when I picked up chalk at the pub I worked at for many years and started designing the daily food and drink special chalkboards? Was it when I was in film school and was constantly drawn into films through their composition and use of colour? To this day those are still the things in film that stand out to me the most.

I’d say it was ultimately a culmination of experiences and nudges from the universe that eventually got me sitting in this chair and writing about my design process. I’d say the constant through all those different nudges is that I was open to experiencing whatever design I could get my hands on, and that’s true to this day, even if motion design is sorta my thing.   

Do you have any “rituals” or habits that get your creative juices flowing? If so, what are they? Walk us through how you get into the zone before starting a new project.

Visual organization

To begin with (surprise surprise) I’m extremely visual in my organization. At the beginning of a new project, I tend to plot out my course of action in writing/sketches so I get a direct overview of what I need to accomplish. I update these notes as I move through each step but it helps me to stay focused on the task when I can clearly see my next steps as well as recall what has already been completed. 

I normally prefer the tactile feel of a notebook and pen over any organization apps or spreadsheets as I find I lose time ensuring things are in the correct place, colour coordinated, bolded, underlined, 9pt font or 10pt, etc. Too many tweaks to the look can be made in those applications, whereas on paper, I write it out, block letters in black, red, and green pens, and c’est tout.

When the project is large or involves collaboration/multiple designers working on it, I do create spreadsheets as delegation and organization are key to keeping everyone on track and in the know. For myself though, my block letter handwriting suits me fine.

Choose the right work soundtrack

Weirdly, as clear and concise as my organization may be to the eye, what my ears need is something a little different. Music was a constant in my life from a very young age. There was always a record playing on my family’s sound system or classical music coming out of the radio in the dining room. I think that’s why I have a hard time designing without music playing. 

I’ll focus on motion design specifically (as my music choice actually switches gears depending on the type of design I’m doing). When I’ve got a motion project in front of me, it involves precise manipulation of small movements — frame-by-frame changes, sometimes mathematical calculations, and even what is essentially coding. To get into the right headspace, I’ve got my headphones on and EDM playing. If you wanna know exactly what I’m listening to I can share my playlist entitled Music to render to with you.

TLDR; Organizing well from the get-go is a must then blast some techno or DnB directly into my eardrums.

Seeing as collaboration is integral to the design process, how do you navigate working with clients or teammates while staying true to your creative vision?

At the moment, I’m a sponge when it comes to taking advice from my teammates. Being nearly a year out of school, and working at Initiate for that time, has given me experience in a wide variety of our clients and the areas of design we cover here. I feel more and more confident in my design process every day, but I continue to draw from the experiences of my teammates to ensure we are putting forth the best designs we can offer every time. I’m consistently curious, and always open to deepening the understanding I have of our clients and a huge part of that is pulling from the collective knowledge of the team. 

Beyond the finished product, there’s a story behind every design. Is there a project you’ve worked on that holds a special place in your heart? What makes it meaningful to you?

I was offered the opportunity to take part in a logo pitch for the Children’s Aid Foundation of Ottawa early on in my time here at Initiate. I was excited that I would be able to get first-hand experience from start to finish of a logo design as well as being able to see how my teammates went about the process. Beyond that, I hadn’t held out hope that my design(s) would make it past the first round of review but was excited about the prospect of taking part nonetheless. 

Long story short, my design was chosen by the client and is now the logo for the CAF’s donor program Dream Launcher. This was a project that I was excited to take part in but never realized how the whole thing would play out. With guidance from our creative director Carolyn, as I navigated the design process over the course of the project timeline, I was able to see one of my logo designs fully flushed out and ultimately representing a really important cause.