Q&A with Art Director Ellen Imbur
Villing & Company Art Director, Ellen Imbur, specializes in creative design, efficient print production and being an invaluable presence in our office. She also dominates any trivia contest she enters. For this special Q&A, Ellen gives a behind-the-scenes look at the creative process for an agency art director.
Aaron Charles – Ellen, thanks so much for taking the time for this interview. Let’s start with your specific job as art director. What does your day-to-day look like?
Ellen Imbur – There is NO day-to-day in my world. My job, in a nut shell, is to convey the message of the client in an appropriate and compelling visual way to the consumer. I am a liaison between the two that shows and tells.
In practice, that means that one minute I could be working on a website design, concepting headlines or proofreading. Then the next I’ll be overseeing a photo shoot, painting a prop for an event or retouching images. And my job doesn’t stop at quitting time. Some of my best ideas come while doing mundane, everyday tasks off the clock. Inspiration comes from living life – from what’s on screen, in a book, on a walk, etc.
AC – What is your favorite aspect of your job?
EI – The very fact that the job is ever changing. It keeps me on my toes and mentally alert. And seeing a project come to fruition is always exciting, whether it’s my own or someone else’s.
AC – What skills, tools or programs do you utilize most frequently?
EI – As far as actual programs, Adobe is our world. For me, mostly InDesign, Photoshop, Illustrator. But the skill that I use most is organizing chaos, which I love to do. If I’m given a brief that says to take XY and Z and make sense of it to the consumer, that is a challenge that I am always up for.
AC – Describe your creative process.
EI – I’m a researcher. I start almost every project going through the creative brief, and then learning as much possible for the scope of the project. I am also a jotter and doodler – another very important tool is my notepad. Whatever I can pull from mind to paper. Over the years I have learned to be patient and not force the creative process. Sometimes ideas and concepts come quickly and sometimes they evolve more slowly.
Another vital part of my process is to step back and take a look. Although early in my career I would never have said it, one of my favorite phrases is to “Kill your darlings.” You may love some aspect of your work, but if it isn’t on task, it isn’t serving a purpose. Edit, edit, edit. That goes for both copy and visual design.
AC – In your opinion, what is the sign of good creative?
EI – I believe what makes good creative is an emotion. A connection. A reaction. That doesn’t always necessarily mean a happy thought, though there are places and times for that. Whether it be the tugging of a heartstring or good laugh (or cry), giving the consumer an “aha” moment that makes them stop and think is an objective.
AC – What is the best way for someone to grow their skills in graphic design or general creative development?
EI – Never-ending learning. Both in skill and in overall knowledge of and curiosity about the world. Take up a hobby, try something new and uncomfortable.
If you’d like to learn more about Ellen and all that she does for our agency, visit her bio page on our website. And you can find the creative work we’ve done on behalf of clients by checking out our featured work.
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