Interview with Brennan Banta, interactive graphic designer

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Our interview series asks developers, designers, and other knowledge workers to share their favorite productivity tools and techniques, and how they overcome struggles like procrastination and distraction. Read all our interview posts here.

First up, can you tell us who you are and what you do?

Sure! My name is Brennan Banta and I am an Interactive Graphic Designer at the web software company TrueChoice Solutions Inc. My job primarily consists of UI/UX design and digital illustration.

What does a typical day look like for you?

After a cup of coffee, I’ll log onto my computer and check Dribbble, Behance, Awwwards and sometimes Instagram for design inspiration. That helps my brain wake up before I dive into emails. If I’m at my day job, I’ll check what assignments need to be worked on through Atlassian’s Jira software.

Otherwise, I have a small notebook outlining my freelance projects. I simply write down requirements per project and cross them out when they’re fulfilled.

Depending on the project, I usually sketch out a concept on pen and paper before translating it to digital. I work with vectors a lot, so I try to visualize how different shapes can come together to make more sophisticated ones for the design. If it’s a UI design, I also keep in mind how implementing the concept with code can be a realistically achieved.

What are your favorite tools or methods for organizing your work?

As I mentioned, Jira is something we use at my job a lot. We also use the Kanban technique to keep track of everyone’s progress. Adobe Bridge helps us organize our library of graphics making them easier to find with keywords.

How do balance collaborative work with focused solo work periods?

I work in teams at my day job, but primarily work alone when I’m freelancing. I don’t have more than one or two freelance projects going at a time, and they’re usually something like designing a logo or build a simple “brochure-style” website.

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What’s the best change you’ve ever made to the way you work?

I like to make a dated folder for each day I’m working on something. For example, if I have a logo I’m working on I’ll make a folder for April 21, 2017 titled 170421. The next day I work on it, I’ll copy the folder, Adobe files and all, and title it 170422.

Many have shared the experience of a client wanting to revert to a previous iteration of something and this helps me stay up to date without losing track of my work. Once the project has been approved and completed, I comb through the dated folders and delete larger files (such as Photoshop or Illustrator files) to save space on the hard drive.

How do you avoid distractions and stay focused?

I try not to lose essence of myself in order to enjoy working. Of course your client’s opinion is paramount, but they most likely chose you to design something because they like your style. If that’s not the case, I remind myself that being pushed out of my comfort zone is the most rewarding challenge. When all else fails, there’s a motto that gets printed on sundials I try to abide by, “Use the hours, don’t count them.”

How do overcome procrastination?

I definitely give myself breaks here and there. If I feel like I’ve made good progress I’ll reward myself with a walk, a YouTube video, checking music blogs or a treat from the kitchen. To me, breaking up the day is essential to keeping motivated. Plus my work feels stronger when I take my eyes away from something and come back feeling somewhat refreshed.

What’s your biggest productivity struggle? How do you deal with that?

Design is so subjective that if you really like a concept but your client or boss doesn’t approve, it’s difficult to rework it into someone else’s vision. Like I mentioned before, I remind myself that being pushed out of my comfort zone will only make me a stronger and more diverse designer.

What do you do outside work to wind down and recover?

Since I’m usually parked in front of a computer, I try to stay physically active when I’m not working. My main hobby is hula hooping, which combines gymnastics and dance. I also try to go running 3-4 times a week and recently have gotten into rock climbing.

If you could work any job in the world for a day, which job would you choose, and why?

I would love to help out designing/developing videogames for Adult Swim. To work on projects that have a sense of humor would be really fulfilling, plus I’ve always had an appreciation for game design.

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Belle B. Cooper

Belle is an iOS developer, writer, and co-founder of Melbourne-based software company Hello Code. She writes about productivity, lifehacks, and finding ways to do more meaningful work.