Larissa Meek – Episode 51

While at Front End Conf in Tampa Florida Giovanni was able to talk creativity and brainstorming with Larissa Meek (@larissameek). She really opened our eyes on how to run a successful creative meeting and we’ll be employing many of her techniques as we delve deeper into our own firm’s creative process.

Giovanni Defeterici: I’m Gionvanni, and I’m here in Florida at Front End Conf. So this is the first day and we’re talking to Larissa Meek, who is the first speaker today. And most of what she talked about was the creative process, so we’ll just talk to you about that, and we want to hear a little bit about what you talked about in there.

Larissa Meek: Sure. Where I came in, I was so happy that I got to go first because I was trying to set things up for the day, in the sense of where you start. And the most important thing I was trying to express is that it all starts with an idea. A lot of times as designers and coders, we dive right into code, we dive right into typography. We sort of sometimes miss this over-arching idea that really ties everything together. Maybe the biggest reason for that, we’re trying to express, is it’s kind of the nature of our medium.

We’re very focused on usability, we’re very focused on design. Obviously cause it’s an interactive media, where traditional media is a passive experience so you get to focus more on storytelling.

So what I was trying to give people was some tools basically, that they can go and try some of these ways to generate ideas and think of concepts before they even start designing or think about typography, or even they think of coding.

Giovanni: One thing that I noticed about your talk is that you kind of employed some ideas about how to create ideas for your clients that resemble what I’ve seen to be ad agency. An ad agency just in general, and how to take those ideas and turn them into designs. So one of the questions I had was in your talk, sometimes there’s not a clear distinction between those things, the conceptual development that’s kind of like ad format, and then the actual design of the product that you’re going to send out. And so the question that I have is, do you make a clean distinction between those things? Is it that you come up with the idea that forms the design? Or do these things kind of happen organically together?

Larissa: I think in an ideal situation, you should be able to think of the idea first before, and the idea should really form the design. Because if you just right into design and technique, then you’re kind of are now shaping the idea to that. So may eliminate a lot of things that you normally wouldn’t have thought about. So I think going into the process, there might be some aspects of design that kind of influence your brainstorming. It’s the nature of our medium. And as designers, we’re so passionate about that, about design trends and things. So I think that’s OK. But I think at the end of the day, even if you take a step back a little bit and try to think about the big picture, I think you’re going to be better aligned for success in the long term, and also producing projects that are going to stand out from the crowd.

Giovanni: Yeah, I totally agree with that. And that kind of leads to a question that I think a lot of people have. It’s a problem that we deal with when we’re dealing with clients. When you brainstorm it’s totally free format. You’re coming up with whatever ideas you can. But often times you have constraints of whatever the brand of your client is, or something like that. And so how do you reconcile all of these creative energy and creative brainstorming power of the team or whatever, with the trying to accomplish what they’re going to need?

Larissa: Right. And I think constraints are great. I think in a sense, your client’s going to come to you and say “Here’s my brand, here’s sort of the box that you have to fit”. And I think that’s great because again, it gives you an objective. It gives you a baseline of where to start. Now the challenge is of course selling ideas. And I generally, and our agency generally will gather all the information we can about the client. Before we even start brainstorming, we want to understand the business objectives. We want to look at from the user needs, what is the consumer feeling about this brand? Is there something that needs to be shifted in that? Why? And really digging deep. It’s really in the beginning about asking questions.

That way, we have all your questions answered. When you go back to the client to present your ideas, then you will have all of this, sort of the cards stacked to really be in your favor. So that when you present the idea, everything makes sense and it all falls into place.

Giovanni: OK, so when do you bring the client into that process? How much thought in development goes in before you bring in their ideas and start to reconcile these two different things?

Larissa: Well, in terms of when you bring the client in, I think they should always be involved in the process. I mean, ultimately, they know their brand better than we do as designers. Often times we’re… I think it’s one of the fun things, we get to work in a lot of different industries. But I think it’s important to keep the client involved in the process. They may not be in the actual brainstorm process, but you do need to have an open line of communication in terms of feeling things out, if you want to try and test something and just kind of see. And every client is different. Some corporations are so big that there’s so much red tape you may not have the opportunity to have as much insight on one on one basis. Or there’s so many voices in a company, that a lot of people want different things. So it’s also your job at the end of the day to try to filter some of that information, try to understand all the different perspectives, pull all the pieces together, and bring that back to the client. And hopefully you have everything aligned and you had that communication with them.

They’ll also feel a part of the process, so they’ll be more likely to buy into the idea as well.

Giovanni: That’s great. Thanks for talking to us. Nice to meet you. Great talk. So we’re here at Front End Conf and have more for you. Thanks a lot.

Here’s a little about Larissa from her own website:
She has over 9 years of experience designing for the web and considers herself a standards enthusiast with a passion for visual design. Well versed in design trends and usability with a strong handle on CSS and HTML. As an ACD at AgencyNet, she’s had the pleasure to work on a multitude of diverse brands such as Oxygen Networks, Bacardi, Ruby Tuesday, iN Demand, Howard Stern, Warner Brothers and many more.

Be sure and follow her on Twitter @larissameek


Gene Crawford

With over a decade of experience in the industry he has overseen the design and architecture of hundreds of web sites and applications. An active member in the design community, he's the editor & producer of, the ConvergeSE, ConvergeFL, ConvergeRVA and the Breaking Development conference series.