Lisa Smyth is an accomplished graphic designer and owner of Mrs Smyth.  Lisa studied at the National College of Art, Dublin, followed by Glasgow School of Art where she gained a BA 1st Class Honours in Visual Communication.  Lisa has an in-depth knowledge of brand identity design, brand development, advertising, design for print, design for digital platforms, exhibition design. Lisa has over 15 years of professional experience, having previously worked at, and freelanced for, large design and advertising agencies in Belfast, Glasgow and London. In recent years Lisa has been developing her own clientele. Providing successful design solutions for clients across the Arts, Private, Community and Charitable Sectors.

What has most informed and shaped your design practice?

At Glasgow School of Art our course directors opened us up to a wealth of prominent designers who would come up from their practices in London to work with us. We were taught by designers such as Jonathan Barnbrook – being exposed to successful designers whose work we admired really motivated us as students – it gave us all that ‘can-do’ attitude. Which is really important at that ‘moulding’ stage.  We were taught to forget everything we thought we knew and to think laterally. The idea was everything, and the idea always informed the design solution. This has been my work ethic ever since – to explore, think side ways on briefs and solve problems with visual language.

Tell us about your design process for a typical project.

A typical project would be creating a new brand identity for a client. It usually begins with a meeting or a brief. A client outlines what they would like to achieve – I’ll find out what makes them tick, I’ll ask questions that give me a real insight into their business and thinking. Having a really sound understanding of my clients mindset has always been key to successful work. I’ll research their competitors and those they admire, I’ll find out who their target audience is, that way their project will be pitched at an appropriate level.  Armed with a brief and a knowledge of the client, I’ll go away and brainstorm (often with colleagues), research, sketch on paper (so important to be analogue), formulate 2-3 ideas and only then, do I engage with a mac and start to bring those ideas to life. Design concepts are presented to client, and more often than not, those designs are well received because they have been driven by a knowledge of the client and their needs. The concept stage is always the most challenging, but once it’s accepted, the fun can begin and the brand can be brought to life and rolled out across client requirements. Clients are happy because they have an identity that really ‘gets’ them, they are embedded in their brand, they have ownership and pride!

What are the differences between branding for a start up and a more established business?

Money!! Seriously though, start ups are taking an admirable risk in their new venture and they often have tight budgets. but it doesn’t mean they deserve less attention. There’s alway a way to work smart, not hard (mind you, it’s taken me nearly 20 years to refine that art, it’s important to respect and uphold your own experience).Their ideas for their new business are fresh and challenging, often it’s an idea that hasn’t been done in a certain way before, so it’s exciting to be a part of that energy.  For a more established business, it’s great, they know who they are, what works and where they want to be. It’s about creating a brand redesign, that reflects who they are today and who they will be tomorrow. Quite often, I’ll have an existing relationship with the client and it’s about helping them recognise it’s time for a change. So that intimate knowledge of their business is already there. There’s a confidence between designer and client and the result is usually very successful and the client has a renewed passion for their business.

What has been your favourite project to work on in the past 12 months?

My favourite project over the past 12 months has to be the Vital Signs project with The Community Foundation for Northern Ireland. Vital Signs is a global project, run by community foundations, who want to listen to, understand and appreciate the communities in which they work. It takes the pulse of how communities are feeling, across 10 key quality of life areas and asks people across NI what is working and where we could prioritise our actions - be these personal, professional or philanthropic. The brief was to create a Vital Signs NI identity and awareness campaign, culminating in a published report. We latched onto the idea of the 10 key areas of life and communicated these in a very human and tangible way. We created a flexible brand system and awareness campaign around the idea of origami. Origami seems to trigger an emotional reaction in people – sculptures so simple made out of paper! The result was an impactful campaign that communities could identify with, it drew them in to get involved in the surveys and research. The campaign rolled out across print, out door and online. We’re already pushing the boundaries of origami concept for 2017 campaign!