Visual Design: Bringing ideas to life visually
From fraud prevention in comic look through data living in a 3D world to animated product training: As a visual designer, Maren Steinlen creates a suitable e-learning approach for any topic. In this Job Slot Interview, she shares how such digital training courses are created, and what is essential for making her work successful every day.
Job | Visual Designer
Working in | Freiburg, Germany
Worked at imc since | 2014
Super power | keeping the overview
Favourite food | Tarte flambée with olives, peppers and chilli peppers
Hello Maren! Thank you for taking part! You are a visual designer in our content department – right where the customised digital training courses for our customers are created. What exactly does your role entail?
We have different types of designers from motion designers for moving images to screen design and user interface specialists. However, the different roles will often overlap. As a visual designer, I create graphics, illustrations and sometimes also motion designs.
How did you end up in your job?
I already knew early on that I wanted to do something creative. That has guided me throughout my life. Even as a child, I was always drawing. But I also had a knack for technology and took web design courses while at school.
Studying something in that field was therefore an obvious choice. So, I did my degree in screen and web design in Freiburg and specialised in game design. That was very exciting, as it also gave me the opportunity to partake in the programming of several mobile phone games and development of PC games.
During my studies, I took several courses with Falk Hegewald, the Head of our content department, and that’s how I ended up at imc.
What does your typical day at work look like?
First, I check all emails and messages, and work on all the things that need to be delivered to the customer that day. Then, I start on my design tasks. I might, for example, create base designs or draw illustrations. Naturally, I also coordinate regularly with our project managers or instructional designers like Philipp Schossau.
What does the workflow look like on a customer project? At what point do you enter the picture?
Once an order is confirmed, the project managers and instructional designers clarify directly with the customer what they need and what they have in mind. The colleagues already develop a rough concept at this point, which they then hand over to us.
Next, design comes into it. You could say we are contributing visual creativity. We make suggestions on style, colours, font, as well as the atmosphere in a training course. We often also utilise mood boards where we sketch our proposals to help the customer picture it better. Then comes the base design.
Especially at the start of a project, close coordination is crucial, as it helps us understand what the customer has in mind and prevent us developing something in conflict with that vision. Books make for a good analogy here: Every reader pictures the described figures differently. That’s why screen adaptations are so difficult to create and often lead to disappointment. Obviously, we want to avoid that.
What background and knowledge are necessary for your job?
Of course, you need certain technical skills and at least have some experience with basics like Adobe programs. But above all, creativity, excitement, and curiosity are key for creating and designing special training courses. You always need to be ready and motivated to develop new ideas, so that the learner also enjoys the course to the fullest.
Do you personally have a favourite project?
We recently had a very cool project with a large customer. The topic itself couldn’t sound less exciting: data protection and data appreciation. We took this topic and turned it into a 3D world called “Dataland”. Here, the user can chat to the data, look at different levels, and explore this world bit by bit. Each file, each bit of data has its own story. For example, data can be sad when it’s not taken care of properly.
This all looks incredible, and the creation process was great fun. Back then, our whole team spent hours drawing and writing together to determine which file might experience what story, and how we can best illustrate that. That was an incredibly creative process and just brilliant teamwork.
But the fraud prevention training we created for Audi was also very special. For that, we developed an entire comic-style world based on Sin City. I figured out where sound effects could be integrated or when it would start raining. Details like these were decisive for the mood of the training course.
If you could choose again, would you still decide on the same job?
Yes. Absolutely. As I said earlier, I have always been very creative and love design. I enjoy it immensely. To balance out sitting at the computer all day, I like to head out into the great outdoors to practice landscape and animal photography and soak in nature. It helps me switch off completely.
Please complete this sentence: When dealing with colleagues, what matters the most is ...
I think it is particularly important to address problems directly, so that solutions can be found as quickly as possible. It is also important to always be open and honest with each other and avoid taking yourself too seriously. It’s OK to laugh about your own mistakes.
What are you looking forward to each day the most?
I am a total morning person and love a good breakfast. When I check my emails in the morning, I always eat something tasty - muesli with raisins, bread with spread or such. On the weekend, I might have eggs or pancakes. But without breakfast, I simply can’t function.
What’s your take on digitalisation?
I’m a little torn. Of course, I spend a lot of time in front of the computer in my job, and there are many positive aspects – especially in these times. We must be thankful that we can already do so many things online, from shopping to video conferences. However, it’s still not the same as meeting someone in person.
For example, in the project I described earlier, it was such a beautiful feeling to work together – to draw on a whiteboard together, make corrections, redesign, discuss as a team. The thought and work processes are different in the digital sphere. I don’t think you can reproduce or replace it.
Do you have an unusual gimmick at your workplace?
I do. I have an inflatable wedge cushion for my back. It’s like a sitting ball you place on the chair that makes you move. It really helped me.
Where can you be found in your lunch break?
In Freiburg, we have a big kitchen where we often used to cook together before corona. Properly. We would clean and cut vegetables, cook pasta, and eat together. One colleague also likes to bake, and he would use up all the bananas that had gone brown and make banana bread. We would often go for a walk after we had lunch. I really enjoyed that and hope it will soon be possible again.
Who would you say has the coolest office?
Other than our office in Freiburg, I’ve only seen the old offices in Saarbrücken. I do think our office with the large kitchen, many plants and windows offering a view of the Vosges is rather beautiful. Sometimes, it can get a little noisy when everyone is in.
But I like the open plan. There are no closed doors, and you can walk over to anyone at any time. Of course, I would really like to visit our Melbourne office ...
Taking about travelling, what country would you like to visit?
I’ve never been to the northern countries in Europe, like Finland, Sweden, or Norway. I would love to go mushing through the snow with sled dogs. I imagine that would be fabulous.
Thank you very much for the pleasant interview, Maren and all the best!
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I have been working in the Marketing & Communication Team at imc since March 2019.
Communication, creating unique content and social media are my passion.
"One can not not communicate" - Paul Watzlawik.
To explain complex content in an understandable way and thus make the topic of e-Learning accessible to everyone is an exciting challenge every day.
Privately I love to read, play poker and travel a lot.
I am always happy to receive feedback or suggestions.