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Behind the scenes

Creative inspiration and where it takes us

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Inspiration takes many forms, and we all react differently to what inspires us. With inspiration the driving force behind creativity, we took some time out with Audience designer Vimal Raja to learn about what inspires him and to see his visual thinking in action. 

My brain is always churning, turning over ideas. As the background of a project is explained to me, it starts as a fuzzy image in my head, a rough outline of how it could look. As I learn more, the image is still incomplete but comes more into focus.”
Vimal Raja
Graphic Designer

This is the starting point of a discussion that gives us a clear insight into Vimal’s creative process. It’s an important skill that supports him in his role as a member of the Audience Studio in Cambridge where he works across a range of creative projects that require his illustration and graphic design skills. Other Studio team members specialise in animation, digital design and typography. They all have their own, unique creative processes and unique styles.

Among his recent projects was a job for a very special client: Audience! Working in-house gave Vimal an element of creative freedom and some time to explore. The project – Make the most of 2021 – was to create a starting point for a conversation with our clients around the key communications trends we believe will be important in 2021. And the ask was simple: Make something amazing! This is how Vimal applied his own tried and tested creative process to the 2021 Audience ‘Make the most’ campaign from concept to completion – with a little illustrative support along the way.

Set for success

“Whenever I see something that inspires me, I save it on my phone or my computer and in my head. Even in lockdown there were so many things that inspired me that were new. I continued to build this mental visual repository because I can always access it! I rely on this to then be able to find these inspirational images wherever I’ve stored them physically.” 

The brief

“The brief is the single most important component of any project that involves creative deliverables. A great brief can deliver outstanding work. A bad brief usually means a return to the drawing board.

The rationale for the whole project is where it starts. As soon as I understand the rationale life gets easier. As a visual thinker, I rely on key words that stand out to me and spark the ideas or trigger a visual memory. I search through my mental filing system and then hold that image to see if it becomes clearer as the brief expands. With each key word bringing a new potential image, there can be a lot of different ideas in play at the same time. That makes it really exciting! For the 2021 campaign, I remembered an image with a single number holding the main visual, putting it in context. It started to take shape as a mood board in my mind.”

Taking notes

“I followed my usual approach of sketching things out quickly to not forget them. It’s like making visual notes to have a snapshot of the idea I can build on. The first sketches spoke to my immediate personal response to the four different elements of the campaign. There were people coming out of phones, spaceships and a rock star unicorn that might be brought back to life for a future project but didn’t make the final cut for 2021!”

Sketch Notes Ideas

Shaping the idea

“The Creative Director who briefed me talked about the four different key communications focuses for next year as ‘packages’. The word doesn’t necessarily make sense in the context of the campaign, but it spoke to me immediately as I have experience in packaging design. From there, I imagined the four things – Virtual Team Offsite, Motivational Training Event, Team Charter and Just for Fun! – as different flavours of the same brand of something like cereal. Still with the numbers in mind, I was thinking about how to create the feel of each element being one package in the same product range for the same brand – just like different cereals made by the same company are recognisable.”

Mood boards

“It’s all very well me being able to see what I can see in my head, but I have to be able to translate that to my colleagues so I can get their feedback to continue to develop the idea. That’s where the mood board comes in. Pulling together a series of treatments or visual approaches allows me to talk through my inspiration to understand what resonates for the Account team and the Creative Director. Based on their feedback, I can continue along a particular route. Rationale is just as important at the feedback stage as it is in the brief. That’s what makes this stage of the process collaborative. It’s also important for me to be able to sense check my ideas against the rationale.”

Layering

“So then I was taking the individual elements and bringing them to life in the same brand space following the look and feel from the mood boards. From that base, I started to build and layer to tell the story of each element visually. I wanted to illustrate a story that works as a standalone element but that tells another story when it’s put together with the other three. It needs to do that but speak to the viewer immediately at the same time. That’s why good design takes time”

Scratching the itch

“Once the pieces came together it became an itch I had to scratch so I just kept working on it until it felt ‘finished’. Then I passed it on to my colleague to move it forward from the artwork to the assets. As soon as we saw it laid out on the website and in an email, we could see where to add, refine and edit and my colleague Rebecca could start to look at what was inspiring her for the animation.”

The result

“This was a great project to work on and it made visual sense to me as soon as I got the brief. I’m really proud of the final result. I also really enjoyed the experience. This was a whole team effort that started – as all great projects do – with a brief that really sparked my imagination and gave me some creative freedom to just be inspired.”

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If you’d like to see Vimal’s work in action,
check out our Make the most of 2021 campaign here

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Published November 2020

Vimal Raja

Graphic Designer

Meet Vimal
A safe space for creativity

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