There are way too many amazing quotes in here from the Consume & Create team that to pull them all out you’d pretty much be reading the whole interview already. Creative Directors Steve Hurd & Josh Wills have really squeezed out EVERYTHING they know for us. We talk about the relationship between digital and traditional design in the studio; why interns need an eagerness to learn EVERY part of the design process – not just the glamorous parts; and how inspiration strikes in all kinds of places!
Give us the elevator pitch on what you do? Hello / Hello! – We’re Consume & Create, a creative-led, strategically-minded graphic design studio based in Denver. We help to build, shape, and position brands large & small using our hands, heads and hearts.
How do you solve conflicting ideas within a group of collaborators? We’re huge proponents of open and honest discussion. This is how we work within the studio as peers; it’s also how we work with our clients – as partners. We try to check our egos and personal preferences as much as possible when excercising critical thinking.
Additionally, we often discuss intent. Even if there is a negative reaction to aesthetic or tone, sharing the intent behind the work or decisions made, more often than not leads to constructive critique, debate, and ultimately, refinement of both thinking and final output. Some of the most aligning conversations we’ve had with clients / collaborators have surfaced during conversations around intent.
We also work to remove as much subjectivity as possible from our design process. We do this by adhering to a goal / purpose-driven process grounded by a governing mantra; “you can’t manage what you can’t measure.” Measuring each decision as part of a larger identity allows us to look at language, colors, composition, etc. as pieces that all serve a larger purpose.
What role does digital design play in your studio in 2017, and how do you apply traditional graphic design skills in a digital age? At a high-level the two mediums definitely inform each other within our studio walls. We often apply or reference UX principles when working on traditional pieces: menu design, way-finding, environmental graphics etc. Conversely we’ll reference magazine layout, printmaking, or tactile / physical experiences when working in digital spaces.
As individuals, we’ve been drawn to design from various backgrounds and disciplines, but all of us feel like our previous lives (working in agencies and production houses) felt increasingly siloed and limiting. When forming the studio, it was important to us to create an environment that blurred the lines between varying mediums that we work in – allowing ourselves to simply be designers / creative problem solvers.
Our workflow for every project is modeled after the agile methodology, most prevalent in software development. We set goals, define what is doable by when, start exploring, then evolve, refine, and finally deploy. Then, we then measure, manage and start the process over again.
As an example, the work we are doing with DispatchHealth is much tighter today than it was a year ago. We’ve become so much more informed around what resonates and ultimately what is effective and not so effective in the healthcare space. Though it’s usually subtle nuances, we are constantly calibrating, optimizing, and evolving the work we do for them.
We believe brands and businesses should evolve and allow for room to explore, experiment, and even fail from time to time. To us, knowing what doesn’t work and why is just as important as knowing what works and why.
What do you look for in a great portfolio? This is a tough question to answer objectively, or in a way that might be helpful. We look for “talent” obviously, but defining talent is so subjective from person-to-person and studio-to-studio. In all honesty we look for people who have a book of work that compliments our own while also demonstrating the ability to strengthen and/or extend the studio’s capabilities.
If your portfolio is how you’re trying to get work, just plopping a logo on a square is not a great way to show us that you love making identity work. These days it’s incredibly easy to buy a mockup kit (https://qeaql.com anyone?) and make that logo look like a million bucks. Few marks can hold their weight without explanation or proof of concept. Show us where/how that logo lives.
On the other side of that coin, though, if your proof of concept is just the logo on the side of a mug, or on a billboard or whatever, you have a lot of work to do. We believe that every brand and it’s identity comes to life in application and execution. As such we’re interested in seeing how design thinking has informed: typography, supporting illustrations, collateral, icons, color, secondary lockups, etc. If someone only knew your name and your face – would they really know you? In that same way, show us who this brand IS, not just what they look like (as a mug).
Along those lines – one pet peeve – don’t show us (and the world) four concepts for an identity. This is not Dribbble; this is your portfolio. Show us THE concept not 15 variations of a thought you had. Sell us on THE concept, and we may hire you to do that professionally.
And lastly, while it’s nice to know you’ve done real work for real people, we don’t really care if it’s student work or pitch work, or spec work or whatever. If you can show us that you’ve thought through every part of design projects, you’ll probably get a coffee date.
What’s your take on internships? (do you take interns now?) We are fans of and advocate for paid internships. In our collective experience the best way to learn design is being thrown into the mix on real projects doing work for real clients with real deadlines. We approach internships like any other position within the studio: with a healthy amount of vetting.
To us a big indicator of a great intern (and a great designer) is an eagerness to learn EVERY part of the design process – not just the glamorous parts. We believe that production work is just as important as branding, or type installations. The intern that can’t see that is an intern that gets let go.
The intern that’s proven themselves with the fundamentals of design (things like typography, layout, composition, color, etc) earns more responsibilities and opportunities to work on projects that use those fundamentals : identity, installations, special projects and more. To us the word “intern” doesn’t really matter; we’ve given entire campaigns to interns we could trust, and we’ve let go of hired designers we couldn’t.
We believe interns are invaluable for an evolving culture in the studio. Each project an intern works on is an opportunity for the studio to refine our best practices: from choices for individual brands all the way down to file naming / folder structure.
Though each of us have different proficiencies, we all are continually learning and growing. In that regard, we see everyone in our studio : interns, designers, directors, owners, as equals. We all have something to add to the studio; interns can have unabashed excitement and off the wall ideas, directors can understand and hone the practicality of those ideas, and designers can know the best way to execute those ideas. Interns are part of our culture, and we love taking them on – if they’re a good fit.
What have been some of the biggest lessons you’ve learnt along the way? Design is not a 9-5 job. More often than not it’s up to you as an individual to invest the extra hours needed to push work across the finish line. Each of us try to be in the studio from 7.30 – 6 each day. Giving ourselves more time to relax in our space is essential for ideation and keeping a good attitude.
If you truly love what you do, work/life balance is a bit of a farce. Balance is a physical act, not a static state; to live a balanced life one must be constantly calibrating. Sometimes work will require more of you, other times life will demand your full attention. Surround yourself with people who understand this balance –– and who will hold you accountable.
To teach is to learn twice. A great designer is also a solid educator. More often than not people have no idea what design really is or how it’s done. A client can often propose outlandish or ineffective things because they do not know any better, but a designer can often come across like a condescending jerk. Softly educating clients about design is part of being a designer.
If it’s going to be printed, print it! This one tip will save you so much heartache. Developers preview websites on 50 different devices during development; why wouldn’t you print out a business card at size, or construct the sign out of 8.5×11’s and look at it from 10 feet away? Seeing your work in it’s final context (or as close as you can get) is the only way you can truly make effective sizing, spacing, and color considerations.
You’ll never know more about your client’s business than your client. So many young designers are quick think their clients are foolish because they don’t have an effective identity. The only reason they don’t know about design is that they have spent their time becoming experts in what they do. Your job is to learn as much as you can about what they are experts in. Which leads us to…
There is a huge difference between hearing and listening. As creative problem solvers we must actively listen beyond simply hearing what is being asked of us. During exploration, if a more effective way to accomplish the task at hand reveals itself, pursue it and present it.
“Exploration over Expertise:” Stay humble and remain open to exploration. The most groundbreaking ideas probably won’t come from someone set in their ways, or from someone looking to do it the “right way.” There is a way people have always done it. Try it their way, but also try it your way.
We are designers, not doctors. We’re not saving anyone’s lives, gear the fuck down and enjoy yourself every once in while.
Sometimes designing is not designing. Sometimes the best ideas reveal themselves on a walk, in a movie, or in a book you read to your kid. Inspiration strikes in all kinds of places, and in front of a computer is only one of them.