The Design Social event series provides opportunities for young designers to sit down with certified RGDs for casual conversation about the industry, covering diverse topics ranging from current trends in the industry to finding the ideal client. This month’s Social featured a roundtable discussion format, which allowed both guests to provide their perspectives on each question.
Yen Chu RGD
Yen Chu has over two decades of design and direction experience at many of Canada’s premier branding and design firms. Yen is recognized for her ability to distill communication challenges to their essence, realize solutions which are smart and surprising, create impactful design in print or pixel, and has a passion to lead design teams to do the same. Yen has held director roles at Parcel Design, Cundari SFP, Oxygen Design Agency, and her current position at J. Walter Thompson.
Jennifer Weaymouth RGD
For 15 years, Jennifer played a key role in idea generation and design excellence at Oxygen Design Agency. Passionate for non-profits, she was instrumental in assisting organizations like Sunnybrook Hospital, Meal Exchange, the Toronto Public Library Foundation, SickKids Foundation and Acumen Fund produce noticeable work that powers results. Jennifer is an RGD to help support an organization that encourages design excellence and best practices. Jennifer is the Creative Director of Weaymouth Creative and has been a Director at Oxygen Design Agency and the Image Group.
The first question of the night led to a discussion about the demand for motion graphic artists in branding projects. Jennifer observed that designers with skills in animation and communication design have a distinct advantage and are able to “write their own cheques”. Yen added that web developers with graphic design training are also highly sought after because they can code websites that will respect the client's original design concept.
Many attendees were curious about career advancement in design and the process of transitioning from designer to creative director. Jennifer suggested that a designer is ready to become a creative director when he or she understands the business, can effectively manage clients and is able to envision a project from beginning to end. Most importantly, she noted that creative directors must have the confidence to make decisions. Yen and Jennifer agreed that the hardest part of becoming a creative director is the responsibility of training and managing staff, hiring and firing.
One attendee voiced frustration over her employer’s unwillingness to consider new approaches and apply the organization's branding in new ways. Jennifer warned that initiating brand change where you work is a slow process that begins with understanding your employer’s methodology; when you understand how your employer thinks, you’ll feel more comfortable voicing your opinion and making a case for why change is necessary. Yen suggested that the best way to approach the conversation is to compare your employer's approach to what your employer’s competitors are doing.
Jennifer and Yen have both run their own independent studios and shared their business management strategies with the group. Jennifer outsources talent to help with projects and works with an outside account director whose support in finding and managing clients makes it possible for Jennifer to concentrate on the design process.
On the topic of clients, one attendee asked what advice they would give to new grads going into business for the first time. Both guests replied that managing expectations and budgets were very important. They added that learning about your client is essential; meeting in person is best, since you will be able to read body language and engage the client appropriately. When considering taking on a client, both emphasized that unwillingness to pay your worth is always a red flag. They agreed that the best clients usually have a marketing team within their corporate structure, and that this team will likely be familiar with the process of navigating design projects.
The RGD Provisional Committee thanks Yen and Jennifer for taking part in October’s Design Social and for sharing their experiences and advice. The next Toronto Design Social will be on November 14th at The Corner Place on Jarvis Street at 11:30 am, following RGD's DesignThinkers Conference. Register Here.
Article by Josh Frechette Prov RGD, Provisional Committee Member