Design is all about finding a solution to a problem which makes our conversation with designers easy and open. This week we interviewed our amazing trainer, Vicki Loader, who’s been working in the design field for over 30 years and has been training Adobe products for 25+ years. Being “friendly, personable, and relaxed!” Vicki specialises in Adobe Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop [listed alphabetically as she’s got no special preference]. During this time, she’s been active on Adobe beta programs and published several books on Adobe products, which sadly, are all out of print now. Vicki was also lucky enough to be part of the editorial team for several versions of “The Adobe Illustrator Wow Book”. She added, “I design, train and practise photography. Sometimes it’s hard to decide what hat I’ll be wearing that day, but, having a career that is so varied keeps me on my toes, and keeps me enthused.”
“Being creative, finding new ways to convey information — whether, in photography, illustration or layout has always been a part of me. I’m lucky enough to have a career that is constantly evolving as design changes, and technology moves forward.” Even if she goes back, there are no regrets in pursuing the same career that Vicki is doing now “except I may have started a little earlier. It’s great being able to juggle actively working as a designer and being able to share my knowledge and experience with up-and-coming designers. So, I get a chance to both practise what I preach and preach what I practise.”
Vicki hasn’t been a freelancer her whole life.”I’d been teaching in a secondary school and decided to do some freelance designing as a way of supplementing my income. Very quickly design projects, and requests to provide training on design applications grew. I felt I had enough of a base to support myself, and so I left teaching. It wasn’t long however before a further education college signed me up on a three-month contract to deliver their design courses. I left there three years later and got on a plane bound back to the UK.”
Vicki’s advice to freelancers starting today, “Believe in yourself, your creativity and the unique design focus you can bring to a project. Ensure your portfolio is up-to-date and ready to present to prospective clients. Keep your knowledge of design applications and design trends current. A recent find was ‘theinspirationgrid.com’ with loads of interesting articles on current trends.” As a tip, she suggests looking through sites such as CreativeMarket and DesignCuts because you can generate alternate income even through reselling of your design assets and not necessarily directly to clients.
Vicki believes that “Today, there are so many new and inexpensive ways to promote your work. Post your work on sites such as Behance and Dribbble and network using social media. If you are a photographer, post images to Unsplash. They were recently taken over by GettyImages, and have a new feature where you can advertise to be hired.” So, if you’re a freelancer “get yourself out there.”
As an Adobe Expert that handles multiple software products, Vicki doesn’t have favourites, “Without wishing to sound too flippant, I’d say that it depends which day of the week it is! Each software has its strengths in a particular workflow. Guess it’s a case of using the best tool for the job, and then it’s my favourite software for the day.” When working with Adobe software try to “Work tidy. Irrespective of which application you are using, approach the design process as if you might need to hand the project over to someone else. Time taken in naming layers or working with styles will save you loads of time in the long run.”
Vicki is a “firm believer in using basic design tools such as layout grids in all applications. They streamline the creation process and help maintain visual consistency in a work project.”
“I wish it was that easy because then I’d just sit in my little happy place and churn out oodles of fabulous designs. I think distracting myself often helps get those creative juices going. Fabulous ideas come when sitting on the couch and drawing and painting in Procreate. It just seems to put me into a little Zen-like state, and ideas come from somewhere in the back of my mind. Doing something creative, but not necessarily client project related just helps.”
Her creative process is similar to the one advocated by Stephen Hay called ‘The Design Funnel’. “It has five separate steps and really helps in formulating ideas and moving forward. Too often, as designers, we jump into design mode first and then go around in circles trying to refine our ideas. Time is taken in the beginning to collect resources, let ideas percolate, and get a rough idea of the visual before jumping into the design really pays off in the end.”
Vicki calls herself “a bit of a visual magpie and Pinterest addict,” because she spends a significant amount of time on visual language, concepts and creating multiple mood boards. Even when she was lecturing at F.E. College students would be champing to get to the machines. “Nothing could happen until they had provided me with a rough scamp—this irked them somewhat in the beginning, but they finally admitted that it is an essential part of the design process, and actively streamlined their work.”
“I’m most proud of work that will be useful to others.” Vicki just completed a series of post-course support walkthroughs for her InDesign Introduction course, which she’s especially proud of because they will be very useful to delegates. On top of that, she said “I also have a long-term project under development creating a library of blocks for fashion creatives. It’s a pet project which ultimately, I’ll supply to delegates on my Illustrator Fashion Creative courses. I get plenty of oohs and aahs when I show its development on courses. But is going to be a continual work in progress as trends change. I think it will be really useful in cutting time when creating CADs and Technical specifications for garments. I’m hoping that I’ll also be able to sell it on either DesignCuts or CreativeMarket once I feel I have a substantial number of assets.”
Vicki tends to be a perfectionist when it comes to design and her client’s feedback is valuable “ For any idea to be a visual success, it needs to be released out into the world, submitted to criticism, and then adapted as needed. No designer can expect to create just one design and have it accepted without criticism and changes. The mood boards I mentioned earlier are a very important part of the client/designer relationship. Sharing the initial ideas with key stakeholders and getting a feel for what they have in mind really smooths out the process.”
Driven by COVID-19 and remote working, Adobe managed to offer great collaborative opportunities, which is the way to the future. Vicki added “No longer do I have to create PDFs to email to a client, await their response and then continue. As soon as a project has reached the design stage, I invite my key stakeholders to review the document. The beauty is that they don’t need an Adobe subscription, and don’t need to master new software so their buy-in to the process is pretty immediate. For me, I can see the reviews and comments in real-time in my application, make amendments and then update the link. It’s a far better way of working, and leads to less stress on both sides.”
Vicki is one of the most beloved trainers at Media Training. With some luck and happy coincidences, she made it to London. “I had returned to the UK after an extended sojourn in South Africa, working independently for clients, and teaching at various schools and colleges. A colleague at Adobe put me in touch with a small training company in London with whom I successfully interviewed. The manager of that company also recommended me to Media Training, and the rest, as they say, is history.”
“Sounds so terribly cliched to say but it’s like family.” While working with Media Training for so many years “One of the things I’ve missed terribly during the last year is not seeing my colleagues, being in the office with people I consider life-long friends. I’ve also missed the buzz of sharing knowledge and ideas with my colleagues. I’ve worked as a freelancer for Media Training for close to 25 years, and during that time I’ve seen the company go from strength to strength. I’m proud to have been a part of that development and proud to work for the leading design training company in the UK.”
“Learning a new skill can be daunting, I do my best to make sure it isn’t. Using a task-based approach, I ensure that delegates learn more than simply aspects of the application. That they learn how to apply new-found skills to real-world projects. My approach is not just to teach features of the application, but rather how to use the application to reach the desired end goal.”
When it comes to design trends, Vicki is constantly reworking her exercises to reflect those current styles. “I take great delight in researching current trends and integrating them into projects used on the course. This way my delegates benefit by both learning new skills and being exposed to current trends.”
“On the positive side, increased digital communication has made it easier for ideas to spread and morph as designers look for trends and inspiration. I think that the power that designers now have to get their ideas out into the public sphere without having to be part of a creative agency has led to democratisation of the design industry. It is no longer reserved for the selective few, and it’s a wonderful creative melting pot.
However, what can happen is that new trends no longer seem to have an incubation period, and designs are quickly copied and circulated, becoming boring very quickly as we are inundated with the same or similar visuals.”
Vicki sees the design trends “as a movement towards greater use of exaggerated, geometric and abstract shapes, bold colour palettes which can be reproduced on mobile devices more reliably than in the traditional CMYK process. Simple, but expertly designed flat shapes, digital mixed media collage. Artists inspiring me now are Temi Coker, Henry Flores and Jade Purple Brown.
On the flip side, there is also a more introspective, nature-based, nurturing approach, with an emphasis on sustainability. This seems to be a response to the effect of the pandemic on everyday life. Finally, a growth of 3D elements used in the everyday design – in both shapes and typography. “
We would like to thank Vicki Loader for providing so many insights about her career and expertise. If you’re interested in booking a course with her at Media Training take a look at our Adobe and Design courses now.
by Vicki Loader | 14 May 21
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