January is International Creativity Month, so Kinetic sat down with our lead creative, art director, and graphic design guru, Katie Richardson, to get her insight on all things creativity. Here you’ll find our candid conversation about branding, design, visualization, and one of the most popular dilemmas for agency artists—how to overcome creative roadblocks.

Graphic design is one of the most in-demand skills right now for all kinds of businesses. How did you choose graphic design as the outlet for your creative pursuits?
I chose graphic design in a non-traditional way. When I was in high school, I paid a lot of attention to making presentations. I would make these presentation boards and they were over the top. I would spend hours and hours on them!

Most graphic designers have an art that they like first, like painting or collage, but I never did. I never took art classes, but I took photography and graphic design courses. My mom was like, “you should take graphic design, you like making presentations!” So that’s what I did.

I signed up for it, and really loved it. I won awards and it was something I was really good at. I wouldn’t say I chose graphic design as a way to create art in a digital medium like some artists do, because I found it on its own. To me, it was something that I enjoyed and was good at, but it was a plus that it allowed me to be super creative.

Graphic design has revolutionized marketing as technology advances. For a brand or company, how important is having creative graphic design?
With social media being the way it is—and that’s where I think most people run into marketing these days—it’s important to be creative in your graphic design because there’s just so much content. It’s an overload of content. It’s overwhelming how much content we consume. If your content isn’t creative, it becomes white noise. It’s hard to get people to stop and look at something.

I think it’s important for brands and companies to find designers and use designers. Designers know how to catch attention. It’s literally our job; it’s what we’re taught to do. Without that creativity and knowledge, it’s going to be hard to get people to stop their scrolling.

As you design graphics (and much more) for a marketing agency, how do you balance being creative with meeting client expectations?
It’s a fine line. Not everyone can—or has a desire to—articulate a specific design vision for a project, but everyone knows what they like and don’t like. I like to be an artistic guide. I take everything into consideration and then approach it from an artist’s perspective. I like to open our clients up to design possibilities they didn’t even know existed, while staying true to their brand and what they want out of a project.

The other thing is, I like to explain the “why” of my design choices. It’s important to explain why I make decisions, and that’s a big thing at Kinetic—explaining the “why.” Most of the time, when I explain my artistic decisions, it creates a more understanding and collaborative project, design-wise.

What are some habits you have to help you stay creative, or to help push through creative roadblocks?
Creative ruts are a total mind over matter thing. I don’t really believe in long creative ruts. I think you can have trouble with something that you’re designing, sure. The logical side of my brain is always like, “you can do it, you can figure this out.”

There are some things that I know will take a lot of mental effort to organize. I wouldn’t call it a roadblock, necessarily, but something that I know will take me a minute to process. I have to let it process for a bit.

If a task like this comes early enough in the day, I’ll go for a walk or run, and the whole time I’m walking or running, I’m in my brain trying to figure out how to fix whatever problem it is. I’m very visual—I can see things in my head and visualize what I’m trying to design while I’m moving.

To stay creative, I like to look at other creative content. Ads, social media, whatever it is. I watch a lot of Ted Talks if I’m feeling like I need a boost in creativity. It’s a great way to spur ideas and make sure that my designs continue to evolve.

Okay, now time for some rapid-fire questions! What’s one design tool you couldn’t live without?”
This is hard! I really, really love Adobe Illustrator. Like looooove it. But Photoshop is what I use the most, mostly because I do a lot of digital work. Also, nobody ever says that InDesign is their favorite tool, so I feel like it’s not appreciated, but it’s pretty great, too.

What kind of projects are your favorite to work on?
Event themes or incentive trip themes. They’re so much fun.

Do you have a favorite font? What about a favorite color combination?
Antonio is my favorite font—hands down. And I don’t have a favorite color combination, but I love the color teal.

What’s your graphic design “hot take”?
I don’t really have a controversial take, but I think that I’m kind of more against hopping on graphic design trends than some designers may be. I like creating things that are timeless and can stand on their own right.

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