Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Theatre as design training?

I don't really talk about this TOO often, but I didn't start off my career as a designer. In high school, I discovered a love of the theatre that I have (in a much more limited capacity, admittedly) to this day. I switched schools my junior year to join Hope High School's Theatre program, and I chose Rhode Island College for undergrad because their theatre program was considered one of the best in the country. And I was pretty darn good, too, if I must say so.

But somewhere in the middle of that, while working at Kinko's in my second year of college, I discovered that design was, well, kinda fun. And I was darn good at that too. And so, given the choice between taking on a career in theatre (where I'd likely never Make It Big), and a career in design - well, you can already tell where this is going.

But a while back now, I was chatting with a reporter for an interview that appeared in one of my regional newspapers, and we were getting into the whole history of who I am and where I've been, and he asked me what I did with my theatre training, and why I wasn't doing it anymore. I think the answer I came up with was that I still do presentations and public speaking on occasion, and I worked my theatre training into those activities - but honestly, that felt lame, and it didn't feel true to me.

The other day, while chatting with a new client about what I do and how I work, something hit me that I haven't been able to shake, and it has been making me smile all this week. I realized that what I do for my clients is actually incredibly similar to what I did as an actress, and I love design for all the reasons that I loved acting. Great design tells a story, and creating a great brand is really no different than creating a great character - it's up to you to get inside that character's (or in this case, a business's) head, figure out what their story is, and play out that story to the audience watching it. That's what I loved about acting - not just the attention (because, I mean, COME ON) or the applause, but the fact that I had an opportunity to literally experience what it was like to be someone else for a while. And now, I get to do that again, but this time, I get paid better for it and I don't have to stand in front of a room full of people and explain why my headshot doesn't look like me (which, by the way, is because I've seen exactly TWO pictures of myself that actually looked anything like me in person).

So, how can you (as a designer) bring a bit more theatre into your design work? By asking yourself, and your client, the right questions - and remembering that ultimately, you're doing this to tell a story. It's your job to find out what that story is, and who needs to hear it - and to tell that story visually in a way that means something to the people watching. The Creative Brief is an important part of that story, as is all the deliverables that come along with it - whether you're doing a full-out branding campaign, a website, or even just a simple brochure or business card. It's all about the story, and who needs to hear it.

And, every once in a while, applaud yourself when you do something really special. If others can join in too, even better.


Brenda said...

Love this - and speaking from first-hand experience working with you, you truly asked all the right questions to "pull-out" my story and then articulate it in my logo. You truly are a talented woman & designer :)!
Thank you,

Dani Nordin said...

@ Brenda,

Thanks for the kind words. Doing this work makes me happier than I can say, so I'm just glad to have great clients like you to give me the chance to do it!