Behind the Scenes: Looking at Creative

I had a great opportunity to pick the brain, er the hands, of one of our Creative Managers, Matthew. He was the mastermind behind our Ground Hog Day campaign. Most of us in the Northeast are still pretty salty with Phil.

But, if you are like me and can barely draw a stick-figure family, the process behind creating campaigns is simply astonishing. You will be able to see the process as we go through some questions with him!

It was like a little interview. So cool!

So, let’s begin:

Q: How do you start the creative process?

M: Most people think that creatives are constantly on and never have issues coming up with ideas. And while there are definitely days where this is true, some days couldn’t be further from the truth. My creative process is dictated by everything from my current work load, down to how I am feeling physically that day.

My usual first steps are to close down all files that do not pertain to the project I am working on. Even when I have multiple projects due, I feel that each project deserves its own space and time.

Once I create that space, I begin to look at the requirements for the job. If it is a project for a vendor, I make sure to look at any requirements or requests from them first. If I mess up the starting point and ignore what they want, I am just wasting money and time.

All designers are different, but next I start to just draw black shapes everywhere. Placing blocks in places where content or images go helps me to begin to visualize the end product. I never like to add color or real content too soon. It is kinda like sculpting in a way. Rough shapes eventually become a pretty picture.

Once I have my shapes in place and know where everything is going, the rest is easy. The whole time I am moving the shapes around I am toying with visuals in my head. Usually by the time I get to the place where I have to add them in I have already decided what they are gonna be and just need to execute.

With the Groundhog Day campaign, this was a little different in that I Started with groundhog sketches. We went through about four sketch iterations before we had a final look for him that I could do a real drawing of.

Q: How do you get over/work through a creative block?

M: Creative blocks are tough. There really is nothing you can do to force yourself out them except ride the wave.

The most productive thing I do when in a creative block is to browse creative and industry related websites and portfolios. It may sound like playing hooky and avoiding the issue at hand, but it really is the best thing you can do. Separating yourself from the “work” of  being creative, if even only for 15 minutes becoming a “fan” of design again, sometimes is all you need.

Of course this always doesn’t do the job. Sometimes you just have to work through it and realize that even though you think the work is suffering, that nine-times-out-of-ten the work still looks great and it is just a mental block.

Most creative blocks go unnoticed by anyone but me.

Q: How long did it take from start to finish for this campaign?

M: All in all, I worked on this campaign over the course of 5 business days. It wasn’t a full 5 days, there were other projects and approval times in there.

The Groundhog Day campaign was initially planned to be a little bigger, but due to some personal matters on my end, was made a little smaller. I had planned on more drawings of our groundhog and a few more animations, but it didn’t happen. In hind site I am glad.

We started the creative for this campaign on the Tuesday prior to Groundhog Day. That gave us just enough time between other projects to get a couple nice images and a couple animations. I think if I had done what I originally planned to do, that it would’ve been too much and may have created confusion.

When a project is working, sometimes things just fall into place the way they are supposed to.

Q: How did you determine the color schemes that you would be using?

M: The groundhog day campaign was a pretty easy one to figure out. We had three main elements: Spring, Winter and of course the groundhog.

As you can see in the artwork, I stuck with a gold/yellow scheme for the spring side of things and blue/gray scheme for the winter side.

This campaign was a little different in that it was so over the top cartoony and playful. There were no style guide limitations or worrying about if we were gonna look “hokey”.  It was a nice break from the sometimes strict guidelines we put on ourselves to look a certain way.


Matthew is a Web and Graphic Designer with over 15 years experience. He has been a fine artist and cartoonist his entire life, and this love of art lead him into the design field in art school. He currently works as Creative Account Manager for Core Elements.