Stephen Di Donato Interview
Hi. My name is Stephen Di Donato. I’m currently a 24 year old freelance graphic designer based in Montreal, Quebec Canada.
Ever since I was young I drew quite a lot, but I didn’t know where this would lead me. However, I knew I wanted to be in an art-based program and I thought fine arts was the only solution until I stumbled upon a Graphic Design program in college. Despite not knowing what it was, I still chose to pursue it, and I absolutely loved it (and still do)—that’s why I feel like I was destined to be a graphic designer.
Where do you look for sources of inspiration?
It really depends on the project I’m working on, but I use any visual input such as nature, magazines or others’ design work. The internet still provides me with a good selection of visual imagery for my inspiration. Some sites I often visit are ffffound.com, dribbble.com and designspiration.net
What is your favourite aspect of Graphic Design?
One of the things I get a kick most out of Graphic Design is the diversity of the field.
There’s always something new to learn, always new influences that will change either my working habits or my design choices. You can position yourself to be stronger in typography, page layout, web design, concepts for advertising or UI/app design all with their own challenges and interesting aspects. You also learn about all the different industries when doing the necessary research prior to working on a project for a client. Few professions today get to experience that.
What are your top 5 favourite websites?
Who do you look up to in your field?
Tyler Galpin, Mark Weaver, Morgan Allan Knutson, Matt Stevens and Janna Hagan. All for different reasons, but they are amazing at their craft.
Can you take us through your creative process from start to finish?
My creative process transcends a strict graphic design process, but it definitely works best for me. Design Brief—Ask your client for as much information as possible up front to help you in the long run. Conducting a questionnaire can help you dig deeper than what the client thought you needed to know. Research—Do research on the industry itself, on its history, and its competitors. Inspiration—I usually use this time stage to collect images with interesting colour palettes. Sketching—Many people skip this stage (I do too on tighter budget projects), but it definitely helps me focus when I use Photoshop, InDesign, or Illustrator. Core work—This is the step where I actually implement the ideas into a design. Reflection—This allows my ideas to mature and to look at my design from a functional and aesthetic point of view. I try to get feedback. I tear the design apart if need be. It’s a good idea to wait at least until the morning after to start this process. Finishing touches—I continue to make adjustments on the project. Presentation—I choose to show my best work in the most realistic scenario. For example, if I’m designing a website, I do a bit of coding and I set my design mockup so it can be viewed in a browser.
What sort of social media tools do you use and find the most successful?
I only really need 3 sites that have become extremely useful to me. Twitter, Forrst and Dribbble. Forrst was actually the first site where people liked my work enough to contact me to do work for them.
Can you tell us more about your recent Kick Starter project? How did it get started? What were some of the challenges you faced?
For those of you who aren’t aware, my project named Beyond Earth is in its final few days before it stops being funded and goes into production, which I’m extremely excited about!
The project is a series of posters of each planet (Mercury to Neptune) designed as if we lived in 1965. Oddly enough it started off in my windowless basement, when I found a box full of old OMNI (science fiction) magazines. There were a few issues that touched upon a few planets like Mars and Jupiter, but it was really the printing techniques and style that inspired me.
After I saw a vision for the project and decided to use Kickstarter; I faced a lot of hurdles. My biggest wall that I faced that I thought I would never climb over, was the fact that I needed to be a U.S. resident (with a whole bunch of other requirements) to host a project. After a bit of venting to some close friends, I decided to “team up” with a business partner and a close friend out in New York.
What would be your perfect dream project?
Beyond Earth was a good step towards my dream project, but it would have to be a long term project that I can devote most of my time to and earn a comfortable living from. I’m still looking for inspiration.
What advice would you give to someone starting out in the design industry?
As hard as it may be to pursue what you want to do in the global economy, it’s all about working hard and standing out from the crowd. Nobody these days wants a designer (of any kind) who does enough work just to get by. They want someone passionate about what they do and eager to keep learning. A couple of ways I’ve seen designers be successful is either by creating their own project or, if they’re good at writing, by dedicating their time to writing original articles in a blog.
Looking into a crystal ball, what do you think will be the next design trend?
It almost feels like everything has been done already; large type, full screen photographic images, vintage, etc. In typography, perhaps drop cap letters in more content-heavy websites?
What can we expect from Stephen in the upcoming year?
I plan on doing more personal projects, one of which is an iPad app based on my Beyond Earth project, a new personal website and blog.
We’re happy Stephen had a chance to talk with us. His work is unique and loads of fun. Have a look at his stuff and check out the kickstarter project. Find Stephen on his website, Dribbble, Twitter, Google+.