Senior Graphic Designer Maysoon Shafi reveals her design process, how she handles a challenge and the best way to find success with graphics.

Content marketing is visual in the eyes of a graphic designer

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Images speak to us in a way words alone cannot. This is as true in content marketing as it is in life, and it’s what makes our graphic design team such an integral part of Brafton’s creative core. Designing custom, branded graphics for a variety of clients, each with their own style guidelines, is no small feat.

We asked Maysoon Shafi, our Senior Graphic Designer in the Boston office, to pull back the curtains and reveal a little bit about life as a graphic designer at Brafton. Maysoon, who’s celebrating her two-year “Braftiversary” next month, came to us with a world view, having lived in eight cities across three different countries before settling in Boston to attend college. By the time she arrived in Beantown, Maysoon had cast aside her childhood vision of veterinary school (even though she’s still a self-proclaimed cat lady) to pursue her newly discovered passion: design.

Senior Designer Maysoon acts as a perch for her stunning cat, Christopher.

At the end of the day, Maysoon unwinds and plays with her cat, Christopher.

“I taught myself in my last two years of high school and had a lot of free time on my hands. One of the things I did when I was bored was play around in Photoshop – I liked making small graphics and photo manipulations.”

While teenage Maysoon fancied herself a pro early on, she headed to college to hone her skills and prepare for a career in creating. Her hard work paid off, as she stepped out of her cap and gown into a graphic design job here at Brafton with the acumen, skill and talent to dive right into designing stunning infographics for our clients.

This was my first job out of college, so I learned how to work in a team and autonomously, how to communicate, time management, how to deal with stress, and of course making an infographic a day has made me a better designer and illustrator,” Maysoon says. “I’ve learned more about what I’m capable of and more about the programs I work with.”

What it takes to create an infographic

May-Self-Portrait-01_1042Maysoon is an infographic maven, able to turn a written outline into a custom visual story in just six to eight hours. It sure is a good thing she says the best part of her job is getting to be creative. She even wishes she had more time to do so! So what does it take to develop an infographic? I’ll let Maysoon explain this one:

“I usually start by reading over the outline I’m working on and familiarizing myself with the client’s branding,” Maysoon said of her own approach to creating infographics. “If the topic is straightforward (like a graphic on market segmentation vs. Hadoop) I’ll start working in Illustrator right away. Otherwise sketching out a simple layout and a few icons can help clarify my thoughts. I also like to look around on Google Images, Pinterest and Dribbble for some inspiration. It’s usually never a smooth process start to finish – there’s a lot of moving things around and testing out different techniques.”

Designing someone else’s vision

No two brands are the same, so working with clients requires a lot of hands-on time spent getting to know their brand aesthetic, their goals and their audience – and that goes for everything from writing to creating videos to developing a strong social presence. Sometimes, however, this can lead to some hurdles. For Maysoon, the biggest roadblock to a successful project is poor communication.

“There is nothing more frustrating than dedicating yourself to a project only to get feedback along the lines of ‘this is bad’ with no context or explanation why!”

Detailed, specific feedback is what will guide her (and every content marketing creative) to create an infographic that captures the client’s vision and engages their audience. In fact, knowing exactly what the client is looking for does not limit Maysoon’s ability to apply her boundless creativity. Rather, she explained that having very specific guidelines on a project is what challenges her to step outside of her comfort zone and try something new.

One of the challenges that awaits her is turning a written outline into a visual story. When it comes to marketing graphics, Maysoon prefers those that tell a story, but this can be tricky to map out if the outline isn’t quite right. A good infographic needs a hierarchy and a logical flow of information to translate well as a piece of visual content. Even something as innocuous as too much variance in the length of copy can throw the design plan off track, but this is just one more challenge to inspire Maysoon to get creative.

The team often takes a moment to celebrate after finishing a particularly complex project.

The team often takes a moment to celebrate after finishing a particularly complex project.

What’s on the graphic design horizon?

Content marketing is one of those industries where everything is constantly evolving, where everyone is always trying to discover the next big “thing” that will garner more engagement, more clicks and more revenue.

When it comes to design, though, Maysoon recommends avoiding this trend trap and instead thinking long term. While currently there is a trend toward nostalgic designs like retro lettering and “paper-y” textures, it doesn’t mean every brand should start using these elements in their graphics.

“I think there should be more of an emphasis on designing things that are timeless vs. designing things that are trendy.”

Successful custom graphics don’t stem from following trends, but you don’t necessarily need to be a trendsetter either. All you need is a story to tell. Creating a narrative that unfolds as readers explore the graphic turns a momentary glance at a visual aid into a journey through your content that lets your audience connect with your brand.

Check out this Day in the Life of a Designer infographic by Maysoon’s fellow designer, Alison Eagle.

What’s on Maysoon’s horizon?

Currently, Maysoon spends her days designing for her clients and her evenings with Christopher, her cat, often painting or drawing her own visions. But someday in the future she has plans to cross skydiving off of her bucket list. Who knows, maybe she’ll even bring the cat!

Samantha Gordon is the Managing Editor of Brafton.com. With a diverse background writing and editing everything from blogs and whitepapers to romance and sci-fi, Samantha strives for greatness in grammar and quality.

Thoughts?