This interview originally appeared on Print Magazine.
Lana Roulhac has more than 10 years of design expertise, focusing especially on bringing humanity and relevance to government design and technology brands. She’s worked on projects around the world, including in the UK, Asia, and the US with brands like AMEX, Allied Vision, Min Cheng Bank and the World Health Campaign to end TB. She was also voted most likely to be president while in high school, so it’s probably a good idea to remember her name.
Design school attended: The Portfolio Center in Atlanta, master’s degree in design, art direction and illustration. Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University, BA in fine art.
How would you describe your work?
Over the years my design approach has evolved to become more agile and collaborative. I am a firm believer in using simplicity to deliver clarity for clients. Having worked as a designer in Europe, Asia, and the U.S, I have experienced cultural differences first-hand but, no matter where people are from, we all share the same basic human needs. In the UK, it’s interesting how the Government utilizes simplicity to communicate to the public. Think of the iconic “Keep Calm and Carry On” poster from World War II.
Similarly, I try to embed an element of humanity and empathy in everything I do. Emotional connection in my work matters. I’ve always been drawn to work that makes me smile, especially since becoming a mother.
I became interested in Siegel+Gale because our approach truly is a mix of math, science and creative, which are the fundamentals behind all-powerful work.
Where do you find inspiration?
Travel is a huge source of inspiration for me. By allowing yourself to be immersed in local culture you notice the little things as well as large similarities in societal values. The subtle nuances of the new and different can give you a deeper understanding about how cultures have evolved with certain design aesthetics. When you take the time to understand why these things may speak to you, you can tap into wells of inspiration that you could have never imagined.
Aside from traveling, I regularly look to alternative sources for inspiration. It can be anything from architectural details to a beautifully plated meal or car prototype. I walk a lot to look for alternate sources for inspiration. Sometimes, I notice something during these moments that provide me with unexpected solutions for problems I’m facing. You can look at concrete and see how the cracks in the sidewalk have formed. Inspiration is everywhere it just depends on how you’re viewing it.
Who are some of your favorite designers or artists?
Aaron Douglas, from the Harlem Renaissance, inspires my work. Harry Beck’s famous London Underground map is a perfect example of how complex information can be cleverly simplified through color-coding and powerful design to connect with people.
Do you have a favorite among all the projects you’ve worked on?
Phoenix House, a nonprofit drug and alcohol rehabilitation center, was one of my most rewarding projects to date. In 2009, not only did we have the opportunity to create a new visual identity and tagline, we helped to give the organization the tools they need to express their true identity. Building the brand strategy around the true meaning of the organization provided us with the inspiration for a hopeful new symbol – a Phoenix rising out of the ashes of addiction, which symbolizes the metamorphosis Phoenix House helps clients make. As designers, we’re normally stuck at our desks, but celebrating the rebrand with a walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and seeing those overcoming addiction with their peers and families, was extremely moving.
Is there a project that stands out to you as having been the biggest challenge of your career so far?
It’s a constant battle to get audiences to focus on the larger picture of strategic and creative concepts. Your focus as a designer is shifted to selling in the direction to get alignment from your clients’ teams.
Any project where there is not an approved strategy or research to build on can be difficult to get sell in for creative. The criterion for selecting a direction comes from a more subjective place and less through the lens of the brand.
I create designs for the future state of a brand. When a brand doesn’t think of the future and focuses only on their immediate needs it is harder to create a visual system that is future proof. Brands need to be agile and evolve to remain relevant to their audience.
With a past project, there were specific cultural sensitivities to consider for sell-in, that if ignored could have derailed the project. My team and I believed in our initial approach and committed to a rigorous refinement process until both the client and our team was happy with the result.
Being very rigorous with an approach and exploring to stay on brief is imperative to generate a clear direction. Helping clients and guiding them through the refinement process has been a tool to overcome the tactical or functional considerations that they may have. The refinement process is what solidifies the final outcome.
What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
I’d like to leverage my experience and design expertise to better communicate the barriers that different cultural groups face. I believe it’s important to ensure that from a young age, kids from all backgrounds understand their career opportunities. Growing up, I didn’t realize design was a career option for me. In college, I started out studying engineering and it was only when I took an elective art class that I discovered a knack for design. Women of color are underrepresented in the design industry, and I believe getting the right resources for the youth to pursue design should be a priority.
What’s your best advice for designers today?