What's Your Process? Q&A with Kristina Karlen

What’s Your Process? Q&A with Kristina Karlen

author: Riley Jahnke

Written by: Riley Jahnke

Content Intern


  • Best Practices
  • Design

What’s Your Process is a Q+A series at EPIC, where we ask our team members to share how they produce creative content to meet the needs and desires of our clients.

Senior Designer Kristina Karlen Brings a Brand’s Image to Life

In her role at EPIC, Kristina Karlen likes to say that she “dabbles in a wide range of creative design.” Her background in fine arts consists of drawing, painting, sculpting, glass art, and graphic and production design, to name a few. When it comes to assisting clients, Kristina wears a variety of hats: from brand development and web design to social media graphics and layout designs.

Handmade, by Kristina Karlen
Emerge, by Kristina Karlen
Ceramics, by Kristina Karlen

Her talent is inborn, but her skills have been developed through her creative process. In this Q&A, you will learn how she takes a client’s request and turns it into visual content specifically made for them.

What’s your creative process?

My creative process follows a four-step process:

1.  Develop a creative brief.

The beginning stages of my creative process are technical. I figure out what information is best going to serve the audience. I gather all of my client insights. What is the project? What are the needs of the client? Who is this serving?

2. Dig into research.

Once I pass the creative briefing stage, I jump into the design research phase. I look at the competitors of that company and do research on visuals that already exist. I use mood boards as a way to sort out what I’m going to create. Mood boards are a visual guide that helps sort my ideas into a direction. Overall, it sets a tone for what I’m trying to achieve.

3. Create a design.

My next step is to start creating something more tangible. How can this possibly exist in real life? I don’t like to have tunnel vision. Instead, I create a bunch of different designs and sketches so I can have a variety to choose from. I take the ones I like and bring those into the execution phase.

4. Execute the final design.

I bring the best designs to the execution phase. Before they get presented to the client, I make sure that my peers approve it. Once the team is good with the designs, we present them to the client. Approval doesn’t always come right away and sometimes we will have to make adjustments before it gets published.

Forever Brave Fund Logo Sketches
Forever Brave Fund Logo Options

Where do you get your inspiration?

Anything that I’ve experienced in my life may influence a future project. In my personal life, I love to travel and see different places. I build my internal library when I go to new places and gain new experiences. Travel is an overarching inspiration for me.

I am inspired by everything I see. Even just going around town, I will take a photo of something that maybe will influence something that I do.

For additional inspiration, I enjoy following other creatives online through social media and visiting creative websites. I like to see what other designers are doing to get modern inspiration.

How do you get into the mindset of a brand?

It’s all about immersing myself completely into the brand and who they are. To get into the mind of the brand, I must soak up as much information as possible. Asking creative questions helps me wrap my head around who they are. What is their mission? What are their values? What do they desire?

I try to simplify down key thoughts and feelings to understand the brand. What information helps me understand who they are? How can I bring this brand to life?

I look at what already exists for their brand and I ask what other brands and visuals they like.

What’s unique about your process?

All designers are unique from each other in their personal style. Every designer could be given exactly the same project and every outcome would be different. Different ideas in message direction, visual style, aesthetics, and mood are unique to an individual.

I personally love creating mood boards because it helps drive my visual direction. A designer has to be versatile to execute every style. But when I get to design on my own, my aesthetic is a lighter design that has a lot of balance and ornate features.

What do you value most in the creative process?

I value the ideation phase. The ideas lay the foundation of the project. How is the project going to reach the outcome the client wants?

Having strong ideas and concepts makes it easier to accomplish my end goal. The idea is what drives the whole process. The clients drive the needs and goals of the project.

What do you do when the process comes to a halt?

A project timeline usually dictates which path I take when I come to a halt.

1. Take a mental break from a project.

I just take a step back and give the project a breather. This helps rest my mind and gives me a fresh start when I come back.

2. Work with other design team members.

When you’re stuck in your own head, it’s helpful to hear other perspectives. I will reach out and ask for help to see what other avenues are out there.

3. Sometimes more research can help with moving forward.

If a timeline doesn’t allow for a break, which happens to be the case sometimes, I dig deeper into more research.

Inhibitions, by Kristina Karlen

As a designer, Kristina relies on both her technical and creative skills. She does a lot of research to understand the request, but then she creates mood boards to make sure she understands the “feel” of the project and the brand. It’s important to understand the end goals of a project while also keeping in mind the steps for how you are going to get there. For Kristina, it’s a balance of emotion and practicality that leads to success.

Stay tuned for our next installment of “What’s Your Process?” where we will learn how Project Supervisor Angela Larimer keeps all her plates spinning as she manages people, projects, and campaigns!

Work Hard and Be Nice to People


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