Excerpts from a recent conversation with Ivan Novotny, VP Design for Taylor|Sprules Corporation.
Q. How did you first get started in design?
A. As a young boy I played a lot of hockey, both on the ice and in the street. I remember always being fascinated with the graphics on the goalie masks, some with really cool designs. The concept of custom painting a goalie mask is now very common, but back in the 70's it was really just beginning as an art form. One Christmas I received a goalie mask as a gift from my parents. I was so excited! But I think I was far more thrilled with the opportunity to paint the clean, smooth, plastic canvas with my own designs than protecting my face, so I used the Tester paints, left over from my model building projects. Week after week, I would bring my newly painted mask out to street hockey, each design more adventurous and outrageous than the one before. Then one cold winters day, I took a direct hit in the face with a frozen orange ball and it shattered the paint. The layers of all my designs were visible like rings of a tree. I was devasted, but not for long. I cleaned up the mask to its original base and started over. My design journey had begun.
Q. How did your career path lead you to Taylor|Sprules?
A. I graduated from the Ontario College of Art, now named OCAD University, where I studied Communication & Design, a graduate program focused on graphic design, illustration, editorial design and advertising. With my primary focus on 2Dimensional disciplines, I rounded out my curriculum with photography, interior and industrial design - the studies of object, light and space. All this really enabled me to think conceptually and become almost a renaissance creative problem solver. After graduation, I was searching for a creative firm that delivered a holistic approach and a complete offering to its clients. Being young and idealistic, I was looking for the perfect sopt to land right out of the gate, a place where I could use and hone my new multi-disciplinary skills. During my initial round of interviews at several companies, a colleague suggested I meet with a friend of his, who was the creative lead at T|S. He thought I might be a good fit. Well, it was a perfect fit. I was hired on the spot and so began my 25+ year, and still counting, journey with T|S. From a designer's perspective, working at T|S is everything one could ask for, the opportunity to work on high profile and diverse projects; like strategic litigation support for the World Court, designing brands for hot new start ups in the technology sector, to working with the leader in soldier protective systems for the Military. The spectrum of unique projects and range of sectors we've worked in is truly staggering.
Q. Why is design important?
A. In a world full of commodization, ousourcing and mediocrity, design and creativity are the drivers that set one business apart from the others. Design must be the differentiator in a world of "good enough". We need to understand that the design process and a true commitment to being design driven leads to innovation, new discoveries and excellence. The proof is all around us. Great design makes life better.w name cannot compensate for an ill-defined product mix and a new website can't save unimaginative engineering.
Q. What influences and inspires you?
A. Well, many things. Of course, the Internet and social media have provided fantastic highways to and from so much inspiration and that access to global art, architecture, music and experience has changed everything.
When I am not plugged in, I find that my senses are on high alert when I am travelling. I find my mind is clear and absorbs input at a much higher rate - like a super sponge. In a new environment, I am processing everything around me, the culture, the people, the colours, the sounds, the smell, fashion, cars, buildings, I'm having sensory overload - and loving it! All these things influence me.
Q. Can you give me some insight into the design process, it may seem a mystery to some in the audience?
A. Firstly, it is a process, sometimes linear, sometimes not. It may start out with a quick idea or sketch, to capture a thought after the first meeting with a client. Sometimes that first instinctual idea may live on to be the main driver, but the process always incorporates research, discovery, analysis and the exploration of possible themes and languages to reach a solution. The best part is the magical moment that takes place when an idea ignites and you can clearly see in your mind all the points are lined up... and ALL are on fire - the "Aha Moment" if you will. each consecutive thought, and connecting element takes on a life of its own, the solution rolls out seamlessly and instantly into a complete program. When you develop that clear story or narrative, capturing the purse essence of a corporation, product or service, you somehow feel complete, and you have won. The design execution at that point becomes almost therapeutic, a way of finalizing the journey to the solution, packaging it up to share the story with everyone.
Q. How do you make a great design?
A. It's about passion, obsession and focus. You think about life, people and human interaction, whether it's with a product, a website, a corporate identity or any of the touchpoints a company has with its clients. It's all about how it works and how it communicates. Great design is experiential, naturally intuitive, almost invisible and changes the world. The world needs more of it.
Q. Thank you for this.
A. The pleasure was mine!