Graphic Design Grant: ($2,000)

Graphic designers and illustrators were invited to submit their designs for a resource to help the public protect themselves, prevent spreading the virus to others, or deal with the psychological effects of isolation.

View the Winning entry by Nakevia Miller

What do you see as the strengths of your winning project and what does this award mean to you personally?

I think the main strength of the COVID-19 Austin Area Response infographics is that they are simple, yet communicative. This project came about during a time of great uncertainty. Our generation has never experienced anything like this before and then compounding that with our existing socioeconomic issues, such as inequality in healthcare and other resources, it just makes for a very scary time. We wanted people to know the basics on how to stay safe without having to read convoluted CDC, University, and Municipality reports.

What impact has winning this IDA Covid19 Design Innovation Grant had on your career/opportunities?

The day it was announced, I got a message from one of my college professors that I am a huge fan of. That felt really good. It is a huge honor to be the only winner in the world. I am still in shock.

What was most important for you when planning the Covid19 Design Innovation Grant project and what were the biggest challenges you faced?

CRT’s main objectives for this project were accessibility, simplicity of messaging, and accuracy. There were orders from the City and the State and the CDC all swirling around the internet and the news. We wanted to make information easily digestible and understandable. We knew that our audience had a varying level of literacy, including children translating for Spanish-speaking adults. So we stripped away the technical language and added pictures with the goal of targeting a 3rd grade reading level. Although we needed the information to be accurate during a time of rapid change, we had to be very careful not to take a medical stance because when this project originally began, the CDC hadn’t taken a stance on masks, which led to us having to update the graphics to include masks after the original launch.

What is your guiding design principle?

I feel like I am saying this word a lot but my main two guiding design principles are simplicity and consistency. Most of my work is brand management for B2B companies. So I don’t really submit to flashy trends because, in the B2B world, customers don’t respond well to navigating complicated interfaces just to do research to see if your product or service fits their shopping criteria. I believe that utilitarian user experiences can still be beautifully branded, it just requires a little finesse.

Where do you get motivation and inspiration from for your work?

I am always taking in good work. I love BrandNew and I have a lot of newsletters that come to my inbox such as Muzli and Inspiration Grid. But I always turn to google images when I have a specific project that I need a direction for.

How/when did you discover that you wanted to work in design?

I think creativity is one of my defining personality traits. Dancing, drawing, and writing have always come easily to me. When I was in high school, I was in a college readiness program for students of color called Upward Bound. The Think Tank of Austin presented a project for Samsung where they got phones to try and a few other projects during one of our monthly career presentations. I was sold on working in advertising. As a Senior in high school, I needed an elective and I took an art class for the first time since middle school. I learned that an art career didn’t necessarily mean “starving artist” or teacher. So I started applying to design programs and the rest is history.

Tell us about a project which has been your greatest achievement?

The HHSone.com website hit a lot of milestones for me. It was Gladiator’s first RFP win, it was the biggest website I’ve ever designed, it was my first time working with outside design oversight, and it was my first International design award.

How do you feel graphic design has evolved over the past years and how do you see it evolving in the future?

Graphic design trends go in cycles just like every other type of design. We seek inspiration from our world and sometimes when our surroundings get stale, we look back in order to figure out how to take the next step forward. Which is why we are seeing the reemergence of brutalism and other vintage styles. One thing that is happening that I truly love is simplifying brand marks. Sometimes I look at a logo and I go “wow, that’s genius!” Some of these designers are knocking simplicity out of the park by fitting complex concepts into minimal graphics. The downside to this trend is the oversimplification of wordmarks. Some people are sacrificing individuality for the sake of having a sans serif typeface. I think the future of design will continue to evolve by folding back on itself, kind of like kneading dough. We look back and fuse with our current technology and capabilities to create things that the world has never seen before, or at least something that the target audience connects with.

What’s your creative process and what creative software do you use?

My creative process doesn’t vary too much from what we learned in school. Look for inspiration, DRAW SOMETHING, and then go to digital drafts. I hated drawing thumbnails and concepts in college but when I started working, I learned that the drawing part is crucial to failing fast. As visual people we kind of need those rough layouts and doodles to work quickly because, for me, design software can be limiting if you don’t have an idea of where you’re going. I use InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop mostly. I have used Sketch and Adobe XD, but they behave differently then I was trained to work so I am still learning. More recently, I have been experimenting with drawing on my iPad using Procreate.

How do you deal with feedback?

I went through a pretty intense design program so I was forced to develop tough skin. I am a problem solver so feedback often motivates me to make it better. Every once in while there is the one comment that cuts a little deeper than others, but, for me, it’s all in service of creating something amazing. If I do react emotionally to feedback, I just take a break and come back to it. This typically reinstates my objectivity. I have learned that it’s important to do two things: train your clients to give useful feedback and be open to hearing their reasoning.