In an interview with Amy Eaton RGD, Stefanie Sosiak, Art Director at Air Canada enRoute, takes us through her journey and editorial design process.
You started your career working on big brands in a design studio, how did you make the transition to editorial design?
I was lucky enough to work across many disciplines of graphic design in my career. I’ve worked on projects ranging from traditional advertising to branding, to web, video/photo direction, publication design and more. When I applied, I suppose they saw my versatility as a strength. enRoute is not just a print publication, it’s a media brand. We have a strong web and social media presence, which includes an array of different types of content — not just print.
Do you think it is important to have a specialization within design?
Not necessarily. There are pros and cons for both. I’m an all-rounder but I think if you’re a freelancer, having a specialization can be more effective in getting projects. Also, there’s the satisfaction of mastering one specific area of design.
What would you say is your strongest skill and how have you honed it over the years?
I would say my creative strength is an appreciation of good communication. It’s not a design skill per se, but I always start out thinking: ‘What is my objective here?’ Am I selling something? Am I making people learn something? What is the most effective, aesthetically pleasing way to tell this story? You take people on a journey with you, whether it’s a one-page ad or a complete magazine; you don’t want them to get lost.
Do you ever feel constrained by brand guidelines? How do you keep things fresh while staying on brand?
It’s always satisfying to design from scratch, but guidelines can keep you focused, especially with deadlines looming. In design, there are endless possibilities for executing any one project; there’s no single right answer. It’s not so much a puzzle with a destination, as a Lego set with open possibilities. I always look to push the boundaries to keep things interesting for both myself and the reader. I get inspiration from many places — if I see something that inspires me, I imagine ways to interpret it through the enRoute lens.
What is your process for designing a feature story for the magazine?
If it’s a fully commissioned story, it will start with a discussion between the handling editor, content director, photo editor and myself. Once the story takes shape, we’ll brief the photographer with a shot list and style we’re looking for. When the story is written and the photos submitted, I’ll read the feature and see how the images enhance the narrative. Lori Morgan, our photo editor and my close collaborator, will usually determines a selection. The characteristics of the images will influence my decision about the layout style that will best suit the story. Will it be a minimal selection with large blown-out images or a larger curation with several photos? Every feature demands its own approach. Then there are other factors to consider: how many sidebars will the story have? Will any other complementary information be included, such as infographics? Once all that information is gathered, I’ll start to craft the layouts — text and imagery — in a cohesive manner.
Do you work directly with photographers and illustrators? How do the pieces come together?
We commission a great deal of photography and illustration — it’s great to work with talent from all over the world. Our aforementioned photo editor, Lori and I will draft a brief as a starting point. For illustrations, the layout needs to be done beforehand so the artist can work to specs and complement the direction. For photography, especially for feature stories, the process is more freeform, unless it’s a creative shoot where I’m usually on set giving art direction, making sure we not only work within the specifications of the magazine, but also within the creative vision of the story.
One last fun question, what are you passionate about besides your work?
I’ve been doing martial arts for over 15 years, specifically Shinkyokushin Karate, a full-contact style. It keeps me focused and active, it’s especially important since this profession is so sedentary. I’ve also taken up classical piano in the last 4 years, which allows me to explore a different side to my creativity.
Since 2004, designer Stefanie Sosiak has worked with iconic brands such as Cirque du Soleil, Matt & Nat, and Air Canada enRoute, where she is currently into her fifth year as Art Director. Her process prioritizes effortless and meaningful communication through thoughtful and powerful design and direction. She engages with audiences with impactful visual design that is immediately stylish while always remaining functional. Stefanie works to build platforms that foster strong, meaningful relationships between clients and their public.