Vitals, a design event about what you need, is back to explore the fundamentals for every great designer. In partnership with Verizon, the Webby Awards gathered New York’s creative community to hear from three leading designers about which design trends should stay or go in 2024.
Our speakers presented how they’re thinking about design across three topics: Vital Today (a current practice they love), Vital Forever (an approach they find essential) and Vital Never (a practice they would cut). The event featured Kristian Espinosa, Director of Brand Design at Verizon, Marte Galarza, Independent Designer, and Vicki Tan, Staff Designer at Pinterest.
ICYMI—explore our takeaways from each of our three presenters and get inspired by the design disciplines they turn to.
Kristian Espinosa, Director of Brand Design, Verizon
Designer, doodler, typographer, visual storyteller, team builder, globetrotter, one-time muralist, cold-brew coffee enthusiast and marathoner. Kristian Espinosa is the Director of Brand Design at Verizon. In this role, he is responsible for building the future state of visual design as a discipline and system that can be adapted for branded experiences and customer touchpoints across channels, packaging, product, hardware and campaigns
1. Vital Now: Craft
For Kristian Espinosa, craft is what’s essential today. In his first foray into design, he created letterforms using pen on paper to understand craftsmanship in design. Getting familiar with craft lets you build different iterations of the work and create something multi-dimensional. Doodling is the easiest way to connect with craft: let your pen flow to process the mechanics of a design intuitively. Begin with a sketch to understand how the different components act visually and how they should function.
2. Vital Always: Design is a Team Activity
Collaborate with your team to shape the project with different perspectives. For Espinosa, it’s fundamental to see collaboration as an opportunity to fuse empathy, creativity and dimension into the work. Sometimes that happens in small, closer-knit groups. Other times, it happens within a wide network, as it’ll introduce you to a wide spectrum of perspectives. Working with others will help you create experiences for humans, experiences that demand a reaction.
3. Vital Never: Never Stop Making Beautiful Things
Ultimately, design is about crafting beautiful work. That’s what’s never vital for Espinosa: to stop creating remarkable projects. Design is about harnessing visual language to say something new and add to human artistic dialogue. His final words for us that night were, “If you work hard, if you keep trying, you’ll make it happen.”
Marte Galarza, Independent Designer
Marte (maar-tay) is a graphic designer and lettering artist, inspired by 90’s cartoons, graffiti and 60s psychedelia. She’s all about infusing fun and vibrancy into her designs, creating a perfect blend of nostalgia and contemporary cool.
1. Vital Now: Be Playful
The energy you plug into projects shapes how it will be received. Marte Galarza stays playful from brainstorm to final draft, which expands their creativity past limits. You have to connect with the work and craft personally. Have fun with it. Look through a playful lens when crafting color palette, composition, typography. Design is about being fun, spirited and thinking nowhere near the box. Reconnect with your inner child and let go of trying to control every aspect of the process.
2. Vital Always: Work with Purpose
For Galarza, it’s always important to design with intention. The goal should always be to help and inspire people through your art. Connecting with your community is an integral step for that. Develop close links with people in your office, network and background—then let their lived experiences inform your work. Purpose should be held at the core of every design.
3. Vital Never: Never Forget the Essential
Don’t get caught up in trends and fleeting hype. For Galarza, to create great work, it’s key to unplug and take it to the basics: pen (or pencil) and paper. Let your hand and intuition guide your design. Start every project with a sketch to map out how it’s supposed to look and function. Other essentials to note are rest, exercise and time in nature. Maintaining a work/life balance is important to connect with your work and continue crafting great designs in a way that’s sustainable for you.
Vicki Tan, Staff Designer, Pinterest
Vicki Tan is a designer and writer, currently working on an illustrated book to help people make better life decisions, forthcoming with Penguin Random House in Spring 2025. She is currently a Staff Designer at Pinterest, and prior to that was designing at Spotify, Headspace, Lyft, and Google.
1. Vital Now: Buoyancy
Vicki Tan illustrated what’s elemental for her today with an analogy: to become a good scuba diver, you have to master buoyancy (the ability to swim steadily in a path). When you’re anxious, you breathe faster and float up. And when you breathe too slowly, you’ll sink as the air in your lungs decreases. Scuba diving forces you to focus on your internal environment. It pushes you to find an equilibrium state, to remain steady. For Tan, buoyancy is pivotal to being a great designer. Interoception, the ability to sense what’s happening within your mind, is vital to foster the focus, patience and clarity needed to create great designs. Balance the inputs and outputs in your workflow to shape the right mental environment conducive to your creativity. Your creative cycle should feel as natural as breathing.
2. Vital Always: Futureless Mindset
Language forms our understanding of the world; how we define time shapes how we perceive our day-to-day. Some cultures see time linearly, while others view it as a continuum. The latter creates a futureless mindset, a framework that allows you to flow from the present into the next present. This state forces you to stay mindful, and adjusts your thinking to the long-term and bigger picture. This encourages you to think operationally and ergonomically about a project. Fostering this mindset empowers you to make your design process a holistic one—one that’s deliberate, intentional and not rushed.
3. Vital Never: Being Too Online
Being a digital designer, you’re probably almost always online. Creatives across the industry constantly go from screen to screen. The Internet can be a bit of a vortex for Tan. Algorithms tend to push everyone to niche corners, and seeing other people’s posts can cause us to compare ourselves to others online. To foster peace in your career and beyond, create boundaries with the Internet. Mind your doomscroll. Unplugging and spending time in nature creates space to process and care for the mind.