True North Custom Creative Director Eric Jackson never knows where he’ll find inspiration, but he’s always on the lookout for it.
Eric came to True North Custom nine years ago after working in custom design for a Fortune 250 insurance company and various print publications. He has led the design department as creative director for the past five years. In this role, his main task is helping spark the creativity of his team of designers.
“We all have the same goals, but each person has different needs,” Eric says. “My job is to always strive to be better and encourage the team to be better. Part of this encouragement is finding ways to challenge people to look for inspiration. Fonts may inspire one designer. Photography may excite another. So what do we do? We look at a lot of design. We dissect it. We brainstorm ways to make it better.”
“‘Approachable’ is key. A big part of what we do is educating people about health care. Health care can be scary sometimes, so how we tell the story is important. The way a story is designed could draw in the reader. The reader’s learning something new could change a life.”
- Eric Jackson, Creative Director
Designing Approachable Content
Words can tell a compelling story, but the images and formatting a designer uses to present the information often make or break a reader’s experience with it.
“Design’s role is taking good content and enhancing it with strong visuals to make it more enticing or approachable,” Eric says. “‘Approachable’ is key. A big part of what we do is educating people about health care. Health care can be scary sometimes, so how we tell the story is important. The way a story is designed could draw in the reader. The reader’s learning something new could change a life.”
The Three Ws
What, why, and who—the True North Custom design team keeps these words top of mind with every project. By staying laser-focused on the client and the audience, good content (and design) can become great, Eric says.
With the three Ws as his team’s foundation, Eric encourages his designers to:
1. Look for inspiration.
Read, watch, and learn. That’s my version of live, laugh, and love.
2. Keep on looking.
Good work is everywhere. You’ll find amazing design on the Internet, but you may find it at the grocery store, too.
3. Step away from the screen.
A conversation with someone can work wonders for creativity.
4. Don’t be your own biggest obstacle.
Remember, the project is not about you and your likes and dislikes. It’s about your clients and their needs.
Keeping an Open—and Imaginative—Mind
Inspiration is tricky to predict. It rarely happens on demand. This means we have to be receptive to it, as we never know when it might strike. All of us, however, have certain people, places, and things in our lives that regularly stir us. For Eric, these include reading, spending time with his wife, creating art with his granddaughter, visiting family—“I have two younger sisters and a gazillion aunts, uncles, and cousins”—and making pottery, one of his first artistic loves that he now calls his “retirement job.”
Oh, and there’s something else that gets Eric’s creative juices flowing: the job he loves. Turns out helping others find inspiration can be pretty inspiring in its own right.
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