Trends come and go (so we are told anyway). It’s certainly the case in the world of fashion and interiors, but what about brands and companies whose logo and aesthetic is what makes them instantly recognisable? How do you navigate updating your image and create new campaigns without losing any of that which makes you immediately distinguishable?
We spoke with Austin Belisle: Executive Creative Director and Meldis Zakaryan: Creative Director, both part of an incredible, forward thinking design team at MAXA to hear their take on current design trends, how they implement them into the work they do for clients, what fires their creativity and what they see in their designer crystal balls for the future.
Where do you find inspiration for your design projects & client needs?
As Austin points out, for him, inspiration comes from everywhere, with nature and human interaction being his main sources to get him excited about creating something his clients will love. Design elements of movements ranging from Art nouveau, Art Deco, Bauhaus and Swiss Design, along with the renegade creativity of surfer turned graphic designer, David Carson and that master of luxurious fashion design, Tom Ford all help to invigorate his creative juices. Meldis has a slightly different form of inspiration, whilst it does include nature elements, she finds her clients offer her incentive through what they are looking for. Meldis recalls an East Coast Mortgage company as an example and got her thinking about the Floridian landscape, the coast & bright colors. Austin also cites the industrial revolution and the resulting surplus of accessible raw materials that enabled the wonderful window displays at large stores such as Macys and Bergdorf Goodman as sources that illuminate his imagination. Meldis finds asking her clients the type of approach they want, whether it be classic or modern, if they want to be seen as approachable or more exclusive are ways that enable her creativity. Meldis also sources inspiration from other companies in the area where her client is and looks at similar designs to find new ways of approaching what her clients request. Austin goes on to say that “inspiration is a lot better than plagiarism.” He has a deep appreciation for high end and luxury with some edgy minimalism, but also delves into movies like the iconic Funny Face to research and excite his designer passions.
What about publications, brands or other designers that you like to follow”?
For Austin, Pentagram design studio is definitely one of his favorites, giving the subtle, yet modern and sexy rebrand of Rolls Royce that held onto its historical values whilst being perfectly aligned with their demographic as one of the reasons he loves this agency so much. Meldis is also a fan of Pentagram, she loves the diverse group of designers on this platform, in particular, Paula Scher who was responsible for the Chase Bank logo and Michael Bierut. As a designer owned company with a plethora of clients who range from beauty to museums, she finds a wealth of information from this company with so many different layers. Austin is always intrigued by Huge Inc. and keeps an eye on what they produce. For global inspiration, he looks to Awwwards.com and from his fellow design creative, John Saunders at 5Four Digital, he loves seeing how the team there brings ideas to life. Architectural Digest gives him a different perspective in terms of bringing in design with a structural element and for futuristic approaches, he checks out what Tesla is up to. As Tom Ford is one of his inspirations, it makes sense that he would check out what the brand is doing in regards to design and marketing and lastly Apple is another brand that Austin keeps an eye on to see how they bring ideas to fruition. He loves brands that bridge the gap, the ones that are timeless like Tiffany, Cartier and Dior, yet they remain fresh and modern, appealing to a broad demographic and holding onto their essence whilst keeping their integrity.
How do you utilize current design trends in your work and what are you seeing as future design trends?
Austin says as things are constantly evolving, there is constant change. Meldis understands that the design trends within MAXA are driven by what the client wants for the most part. She says, Berkshire Hathaway, for example, has certain brand guidelines that need to be maintained, but she does have clients that are more open to her suggestions & design ideas. Austin is a proponent of the use of “white space” as a timeless way to communicate ideas, he likes to see what can be done with strategic use of just black and white, along with the thoughtful use of color which he sees as an often underrated design element. He’s known for his type treatments: being unusual and unconventional by taking things apart and then putting them back together, Austin says he likes to know the rules in order to break them and approaches each project as a fresh start to avoid the “cookie cutter” appearance. He sees custom type treatments, with the MAXA logo as an example, as a way to make a brand stand out and be personalized. Meldis adds that she always uses new typography trends, as she feels this is a main feature in graphic design and makes designs stand out based on the message being conveyed, she cites type as a key element and keeps up to date with these trends. Austin is noticing that more and more creatives are experimenting with letterforms in unconventional ways. Using bold and intricately paired type and letterforms is something that he’s noticing as he says you need to be forthright in your approach to give memorable design and visual experiences. Austin's predictions for the future? He believes web design will become even more human-centric and human-focused with rich media filled experiences becoming the norm, thereby creating a lasting impression that will make someone “feel” something. Austin is liking that more brands and companies are being bolder in their use of color as he recalls a client being nervous about using purple and it went onto become the pantone color of the year! Also, the 90’s revival is coming through, with a quirky use of objects and being a little more playful in design and a mix of 2D and 3D which brings about a fantasy like quality which draws clients and consumers into wanting to be part of the world you created. Meldis adds that the future of design is going in one of 2 directions, from the very minimal, as per Apple and Tesla, to colorful and vivid, overloading with color and patterns, bringing back the postmodern era.
What previous design request did you receive that you were most excited about and why?
Austin had no hesitation in talking about one of his clients, Nichole Lynel. He was asked to create a set of billboard designs, with a less than 24 hours turnaround, to be shown in Times Square, NYC. He spoke about being nervous taking on this huge task as, although his vision and creativity were truncated so strongly, it was still a huge pressure to be under and he wanted to deliver nothing but the very best. The result was an outstanding success with the billboards going viral across social media and various forums. Even though he was confident in his work, it was still a special moment for him and cemented the fact to himself, that he is indeed a creative powerhouse and has so much to offer creatively, his talent confirmed from the way he thinks, to real life execution and says this was a monumental moment for his career. Meldis has a broader view and enjoys social media requests that have specific content, a special event, for example. This, says Meldis, gives her more creative freedom. She also likes to do things away from the norm, for example, creating a brochure that folds a certain way meaning it has to be designed in a different, non typical way is a request that incites her creativity.
So, are there any apps you use to test designs in before creating them in the MAXA platform?
Austin prefers to create grid templates in either Photoshop, Indesign or Illustrator which he will have all open at once as a company like MAXA needs to have synergy, so it enables him to see at a glance how things will work together when everything is open side by side. He can drop in his designs, see how cohesive it will look. With outlier templates or designs, he will rework those to be compatible. Meldis also uses the same 3, Illustrator for her logo treatments and from there she exports to different formats such as PDF for designers to use easily. In Photoshop, Meldis ensures that all her photos have the right colors and sizing and sometimes she will use InDesign before she moves everything over to MAXA, she says she finds this a more efficient way of working.