4 minute read

Von Glitschka (or “Vonster” on Twitter) is revered by brand designers around the country as one of the brightest in the industry. He has worked with everyone; from some of the largest brands in the world to small tech startups in the Pacific Northwest. In addition to his design portfolio, Von has taught countless designers the “how” of great illustration via his courses on Lynda. He’s widely revered as one of the best designers in the country, and he recently sat down with Josh Miles on the Obsessed With Design Podcast.

While you can learn a lot about illustration from Von’s courses, Josh was most curious about his process. What exactly makes him tick? Where does he find his inspiration? What does the design process look like for one of the nation’s best illustrators? Here are three key takeaways about Von Glitschka’s design process.

Learn to be Highly Adaptable

In his interview, Von talks about the importance of being highly-adaptable. If you’re working in an agency, you are in an environment where you will likely need to learn a new industry every 30 days. You will need to be able to take the principles of design that you have perfected and apply them in a myriad of different markets to different audiences. This means it’s essential to be able to pivot and adjust your thought process.

In order to achieve this level of adaptability, it’s important to be able to change your environment. When you’re in the ideation stage, Von emphasizes how essential it is to leave your normal work environment. This can help you find inspiration by forcing you out of your routine and into a more novel mindset. You don’t need to travel to another country to enjoy this luxury, however. For Von, it’s as easy as driving a few miles.

“It’s as simple as sometimes, I’ll grab a coffee in the morning and drive about a mile away to a grocery store parking lot to start doing thumbnail sketches.”
- Von Glitschka

When you’re in the ideation stage, make sure to adapt to your market and seek out novelty to help spur new ideas.

Be Systematic

Von also emphasizes the importance of being systematic in your creative approach. “It turns mundane things into muscle memory,” he says on having clearly defined systems put in place.

For Von, he views processes and systems, not as a barrier to creativity, but rather as a facilitator of his creativity. By being systematic with his design process, he can manage more projects at once, keep better track of his work, and free his mind to focus on the task at hand. If you’re new to building systems for your design process, start by identifying the different phases of each of your projects. See what commonalities exist, and start to build a process around them. The more you can systematize the boring stuff, the more effective you can be in your creative work.

Expect Your Design Process to Take Time

Finally, you need to expect your design process to take time. It’s not realistic to expect great design ideas on day one of a contract. Even the best designers in the world can’t create their best design at the very beginning of an engagement. For Von, he doesn’t physically touch designs, even thumbnail sketches, until he lets the ideas gestate for awhile. Once he hits a point where ideas start to gel and he feels like he has several strong ideas, only then does he actually put pencil-to-paper and start generating thumbnails.

Spending a few weeks thinking about an idea isn’t lazy or unproductive. On the contrary, through extensive research on brainwaves, Von discovered that taking this time is essential to great design. In order to do your best design and find your best ideas, your brain should be in Gamma mode, but you can’t just turn it on and off. Von explains:

“Gamma is the highest level of brain activity, but because it’s higher than average consciousness, it’s not sustainable. You can’t just walk around in Gamma mode all the time, but that’s the level you have to get to where ideas are formed... It actually takes the kind of focus and attention to reach a higher level of thinking.”

This is why Von is unapologetic to clients who expect designs to start coming out on day one of a contract. Great design takes time, and it’s important to communicate that to your client if you’re going to do your best work.

You can download the full episode here and check out the show notes here.