Stefani Wilkens
Stefani Wilkens | Graphic Designer

journal

Starting On A High Note

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Hello there, and welcome to the blog! This is my newest exploration into expanding the site and I'm very excited about the content I've developed to share with you. Now, I've dabbled in blogging before, running one on modern feminism while I was in college and a beauty/lifestyle blog for a few years after graduation. I've also contributed as a guest writer to a few industry blogs, which is part of what led me to the decision to start my own. 

I'm envisioning that this will be a journal of sorts, where I can share project updates and successes along with a peek into my creative process. Hopefully, you'll find it all interesting enough to come back ;)


For today's post, I wanted to start off with a personal win. A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Megan Reinhardt, a Community Manager at Adobe. She had come across my work on Behance and wanted to see if I would participate in a design challenge that was happening locally in Charleston. 

The competition was part of an event series called Creative Jam, the essence of which involves teams of two competing to create a design, based off a particular theme or prompt. Easy enough, right? 

The catch, however, is that you only receive the prompt three hours before the submission is due. Yikes!

At first, I was hesitant, having never before designed “live,” much less under such a time crunch. However, I realized that this was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up – so I ignored my feelings of trepidation and responded with an enthusiastic, “YES! I’ll totally participate!”

Now it was time to get down to business. I needed a teammate and I needed one quickly – the tournament was less than a week away! Design is so often a solo activity that it can be difficult when you're required to work as a team – some designers won’t even consider sharing creative control with someone else. Thankfully, my friend and fellow designer, Charlotte Moore, was down to help me out. 

I knew Charlotte was a perfect choice because we regularly work together and have a great rapport. I also trust and value her critique, which I felt would lead to a cohesive and positive experience, even though neither of us had ever participated in anything this public before.

We decided to treat the whole experience as an experiment of sorts– one way or another we'd find out if competition design was our thing. We had nothing to lose by trying, right?

And that’s how team Crop It Like It’s Hot was formed!

 Photo by Campbell Davis of  Speared Olive .

Photo by Campbell Davis of Speared Olive.

When we entered The American Theater last Thursday night, my nerves came back in full force. We were definitely the youngest team in our category and most of our competitors were major names in the local design world. Charlotte and I exchanged apprehensive looks, as we were ushered into the auditorium to learn the rules and receive our prompt. 

Sitting in the old-fashioned theatre, our host, Jennifer Cohan, presented us with the rules: you had from 5pm to 8pm to work, all designs had to be original, and your final product had to be submitted in the form of a .jpg.

Seriously open-ended, right?

As I sat there silently freaking out about how broad the requirements were, Jennifer nonchalantly announced that the theme of our tournament would be "Balance." 

And just like that, we were off...

Charlotte and I dove right into brainstorming. We made lists, googled synonyms, and threw out the first ideas that popped into our heads. Some concepts made us giggle, like a butterfly walking a tightrope; while others, such as the contrast between what we physically see versus what we perceive in our minds, were a bit too abstract to follow through in such a short amount of time. We spent some time browsing Pinterest and Designspiration and continued our conversation until, by chance, we landed on an idea that resonated with both of us.

Charlotte brought up the idea of a balanced diet, and how we could use various food-related imagery to create a sort of food pyramid. In my typical form, I responded with a joke that, to me, a balanced diet consisted of ordering a side salad with my French fries. Surprisingly enough, our minds decided to grab a hold of that idea and not let go.

We continued talking about balance as it related to food and the concept of two seemingly conflicting (healthy and unhealthy) foods coming together to create something delicious. The concept resonated with both of us and we decided to run with it. 

 A preliminary sketch of our concept.

A preliminary sketch of our concept.

We got to work creating a series of images based on chocolate strawberries, cheesy broccoli, and candy apples– foods that are part healthy and part unhealthy. We decided to push the idea of duality creating balance even further by combining two different visual mediums – photography and illustration – with two contrasting typographic styles. 

We knew that in order to complete the challenge in time, we’d have to play to our strengths. Charlotte is the stronger illustrator, so she set out to create the vector imagery while I sourced our photography and selected typefaces. I’m extremely grateful that we were able to communicate so well – it’s the only thing that made this entire process run so smoothly.

Things got down to the wire as the audience began to arrive during our final hour of design time. Thankfully, with some intense concentration, we were able to finish our piece and submit it ten minutes prior to the cutoff. Woo! Go us!

Here’s a look at what we came up with:

Our final submission, as it appeared during our presentation to the audience.

Our completion of the task obviously required us to celebrate with a glass of wine. No matter what happened during voting, we'd at least completed the challenge. 

The night wasn't quite over yet, we still had to present our work... 

Our team was the first one up, which meant that I was more or less winging it as I spoke into the mic. I overviewed our thought process as our series was projected on a giant screen behind us. After our presentation, Charlotte and I returned to the audience and sat amongst our friends who had come to cheer us on as we watched our competitor's submissions appear on the screen one after the other. 

At one point, Charlotte leaned over and whispered, "we may actually have a chance.” It was only then that I realized that we were holding our own against these nine other teams of more experienced professionals. My heart started to race as the voting process began.

There were two awards that night. The Grand Prize was voted on by a panel of judges and went to Team King Jellybean, composed of Tyler Pate and Nic Lauretano. 

The People's Choice Award was voted on by the audience, with the results tallying live before our eyes. 

Seeing the bar graph on the projector bounce up and down as the audience voted was nerve-wracking, especially when it was clear that we were one of the two leaders, facing off against the Grand Prize winners.

“3-2-1, time's up!”, the adrenaline rushed through my veins and countdown to the end of voting got closer. The cheers erupted as the graph locked and I couldn't look up until my friend grabbed my shoulders in congratulations– we had tied...WE HAD WON! 

 Our trophy, along with the team card that sat on the table where we were working.

Our trophy, along with the team card that sat on the table where we were working.

I now have a trophy sitting on my desk. 

Those are words I never thought I'd say. 

I've never won a trophy for anything other than participating. It could even be seen as ironic that I went into this competition with the intent only of participating…and then came out with a win. 

But that's the lesson, isn't it? You always have to take the chance.


Curious about the other submissions? Check them out here

Want to attend a Creative Jam? Check out what cities Adobe is heading to next, here

Be sure to check back soon for more!