We’ve never been afraid of showing our personality as a startup. While Owler is in the serious business of business information and company insights, we think it’s possible to have your competitive intelligence cake and have fun eating it, too.
We sat down with one of our designers, Janet, who does a lot of work bringing our company’s personality to life. What are some of her favorite designs, and how does she walk the line between professional and playful?
Learning From the Pros: Janet, Designer @ Owler
Owler: You create a variety of illustrations for Owler, so let’s start with the infographics you make: What’s your favorite graphic you’ve created?
Janet: Probably the Olympics infographic. One of the things I love about what I do is this opportunity to gain a little knowledge about a subject, then boil this information down in a way that is relatable to our users. In this case, I learned a bit about the history of the Olympics and the Russian companies involved in the Sochi Olympics. (Unfortunately the Russian companies didn’t make it into the infographic.)
The fact that the Sochi Olympics cost more than all past Winter Olympics combined AND was the most costly Olympics ever — summer OR winter — floored me. It was something I had to include and thought it was a fact that our users would find interesting too.
O: Sometimes a dressed-up or costumed owl appears on the Owler blog or Facebook page. What are some of your favorite owls you’ve created, and why were they made?
J: I’ve really enjoyed some of the ones I’ve made internally for coworkers; they’re a little like caricatures in owl form. Of the owls that have made a public appearance, Mt. Rushowl and Lifehackowl are my favorites.
O: Whats ‘Lifehackowl’?
J: Every weekend we put out a weird business fact or cool lifehack. We call them “Weird Wisdom” and “Weekend Lifehacks.” While they’re not directly related to business intelligence and insights, they’re a cool opportunity to learn a new fact about a well-known company or a creative shortcut.
When we started the lifehack column, I wasn’t really sure what a ‘lifehacker’ looked like. Since the image of a lifehacker is open to interpretation, I just went with what I pictured: an early-adopter tech geek who breaks things apart and puts them back together in a way to maximize its benefits and make life more efficient.
I’m not sure I got that all in the illustration, but this is how I imagine early-adopter tech geeks look. I mean this in the most complimentary way! I have a soft spot for tech geeks (though I kind of like making fun of the Glassholes).
O: Seems pretty spot on. What about Mt. Rushowl?
J: I made this one for President’s Day. It’s not celebrated like other holidays in the U.S., but I thought it’d be a fun challenge, which it definitely was. Up to that point, the owls had all been flat so we needed to figure out how the owl would translate to 3D form. I sketched up some ideas (check them out below) and consulted with others in the office. To figure out how that design would look on Mt. Rushmore I went through many vector trial-and-errors to find the correct perspective.
O: Are you happy with how it turned out?
J: I always see things that I can change (as I think most designers do), but overall I think it’s pretty funny, if not original (have you seen all the things people Photoshop onto Mt. Rushmore?). It was fun taking on such a well-known landmark. Hopefully I’ll have the chance to do another in the future.
O: Any advice for up-and-coming designers?
J: The simple version: Research, read, absorb.
The longer version: I’ve often heard from past clients that they are happy (and surprised) to see that I actually read and learned about their project. This is not to toot my own horn, but to point out that I’m surprised to hear them mention it. Research should be standard practice for a designer. Take the time to sit down and read what you need to design/translate visually. Research the company, product, market, audience; in other words, research what you are trying to help sell. The time a designer takes to do this is just as important (if not more) than the time spent working on their design. Design isn’t just about making things look pretty; it is equal parts legibility, creativity, aesthetics, and marketing. Think about who the target market is and how that demographic may absorb the information you provide. The more a designer does that, the better they become.
O: In other words, ‘Think before you design’?
J: Exactly. Some time and energy given at the beginning will help you understand what your client/boss/peers and your target market want throughout and at the end of any project.
O: Thanks for the advice!
Got a question for Janet? Feel free to email firstname.lastname@example.org.