A Natural Approach to Design with Karolina Pietrynczak

Adventurer and ADC Member, Karolina Pietrynczak uses empirical observations of nature as inspiration for classic, clean graphic design. Her work is so pervasive that it has even found its way into the pages of our April issue of Archive Magazine! We catch up with Karolina to talk shop and learn how the outdoors has opened doors for her into the creative industry.

ADC: What do you do as a Graphic Designer?

Karolina: I think of ideas that go beyond decorating and arranging graphic elements. I aim to create something that satisfies client requests while going beyond what they can imagine themselves. I read articles discussing technology, business, branding and general creative thought, as well as advertising and design.

ADC: What do you do after you receive an assignment?

Karolina: I try to become an expert on a subject. This is critical. Great ideas rarely come from the surface; even if they do, it’s important to realize when you’ve reached the right solution.

For example, when I needed to develop the campaign promoting the book and exhibition Barbara Nessim: An Artful Life at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, I got to know the artist very well by speaking with her regularly and acquainted myself with her process. After that, I knew exactly what to create.

Research helps a great deal with this. My research routinely covers the client’s business such as what the competition is doing and what styles are appropriate for the audience. I take tons of photos of related visuals. I set up a folder for inspiration, including images that I’ve found online, as well as in the real world. There’s no way to know what will inspire an idea: the more rich your inspiration folder, the better the odds of finding an interesting avenue.

Also, I look at annuals and awards books but don’t get my inspiration from there. It’s just to satisfy my need to see good, well-designed concepts.

ADC: Could you describe a project or experience that changed your outlook on design, that really tested your artistic acumen?

Karolina: Yes, OS33 Cloud File Manager App. It reminds me that there is always a solution if you are relentless. I sum it up this way, “What do you do when there isn’t time to work through different solutions? You go straight to the right answer.”

The entire creative department consisted of two people, the creative director and I. We had to design a new logo and website, create an app, as well as environmental graphics, print and video materials for a major convention in Australia.

CD Jerry Fields and I went straight to updating the logo. We changed the generic blue in the logo to upscale copper then put text in a square to ground it. Finally, I make the logo look like it was on a piece of Lucite. That gave it energy and made it appear more modern and elegant. The square gave us a design element that we could play with to create graphic interest across all mediums.

The app gave people a way to access files and folders. It not only had to be utilitarian but also convey a premier brand image. For us, the standard, ubiquitous file and folder icons wouldn’t cut it.

Jerry suggested imagining that the files and folders were floating, as if in an art gallery. Folders rocked back and forth, as if hanging from a clothesline, when pushed. Files flutter by when swiped, like pieces of paper on a clothesline in a breeze. We used an internal developer, Alex Metulkin, from our Russian office, who hung pages and folders on an actual clothes line, filmed them moving, and input this motion into his computer to model the action.
With our “floating” concept, something as simple as a shadow let us turn the mundane into magic.

This is a classic example of the power and importance of thinking beyond convention.

ADC: As you know, ADC’s mission this year is to recommit to our roots, the art and craft in advertising and design. When do you apply this philosophy to your work and how do you think it represents itself in day-to-day work for agencies and creative (in general) today?

Karolina: Humans run on emotion, therefore every decision is emotionally based. If we use logic to reason something, our logic simply acts as a way of rationalizing what we emotionally desire. When to use art and craft, or to what degree, is never a question. It is a given. Creative people have only one assignment: to move people emotionally.

ADC: What is your greatest pleasure in working with the ADC?

Karolina: Slouching on the fatboys, free beer, hiking through the snow and the illustrations in the bathroom. Seriously, it’s a place full of fascinating people who spark creativity.

ADC: We know that you are a frequent member of ADC’s Adventure Club…

Karolina: Hiking with a bunch of creatives from the Adventure Club must be frustrating for our guides. We are easily distracted by nature’s beauty. We often stop to photograph skinny, twisted trees or sparkling spider webs or whatever else looks fascinating. It’s all so refreshing and stimulating.

New York City is a good place to live and work in because it’s so easy to get away from the city when you want. Two hours out of Manhattan, you can go hiking, skiing and whitewater rafting—and if you do it with ADC AC, you do it with exceptional people, and you get inspired. Plus, it’s fun to get into a snowball fight once in a while or start a fire without matches.

ADC: What was one of your favorite ADC AC adventures?

Karolina: My most recent trip was a snow hike. It was my first time hiking through the snow, with spikes on my boots due to the icy trails. The snow was up to our knees, yet it was a warm and sunny day, so we hiked in tee shirts.

The snow was sticking to the spikes, and the shoes were getting heavy. The last part of the hike, right before the summit, was steep, and we had to climb it. Snapping photos, chitchatting and climbing make you tired. We were out of breath when we finally reached the summit, but it was worth it. It’s not everyday you get to have lunch on top of a mountain and actually see birds flying below you.

You rest up, energize, and you’re ready to keep going. Every once in a while, it’s nice to feel that exhausted. You definitely develop a new appreciation for the city, a fatboy, pizza and cold beer.

View Karolina’s portfolio and resume on her website.

If you’re a member and want to share your story, upcoming event or a new project, contact membernews@adcglobal.orgfor more information!