He was fifteen minutes early for our interview.
At 10:21 AM, I’m still struggling with my cup of coffee and messy hair. Three-dotted lines form behind Martin’s name in our office chatbox, and my eyes awakened because I know Martin’s going to ask me about our scheduled call. Online meetings are more difficult, especially with clients. But this one is rather a personal interview and yet Martin is still strict and forgiving.
I quickly respond, “Be there in a minute!”
“Okay”, he said
He has always been like this. Whenever I join Martin for client meetings, he always sent links fifteen minutes early. As an art director, Martin knows that time is truly money. I turn on my computer, my microphone, and my camera and see the familiar stern face.
The First Time I Met Martin Menor
I remember the first time meeting Martin. This was way before this whole 2020 shenanigans. I was dressed casually for my first on-board meeting. Struggling to figure out my way to the office and looking for Roy (the big boss). When I finally got there, Roy introduced me to Martin first. The art director, the manager, the first Martin. We share the same name but since Martin was here first, I used another name, granting Martin Menor the ‘honorary Martin’ title. Right then, I knew he was important.
Out of all the people inside the office, he was the one dressed in smart casual. With long sleeves and a shiny belt buckle on his waist, he stood up and shook my hand with firmness. With a short but strong stature, he smiled and presented himself with authority. “He calls the shots here”, I thought. Yup, this was Martin Menor from the first day I met him. He was trusted by everyone. He was liked by everyone.
The Interview: The Life of an Art Director
Back to the online meeting, Martin smiled and said hello. This time, he’s dressed more comfortably but he still held the same aura. We’re already five minutes in, and so we began…
Hey there Martin, thanks for adjusting your schedule. I know you’re quite busy.
No worries at all! I’m just answering to 83 client requests and checking 92 design materials to be published tomorrow, but other than that, I totally have time. KIDDING. Let’s start!
HAHAHA! Alright! So first of all, tell us something about you and your career path for EOI Digital.
I’m 24 years old with a background in Fine Arts. My college major is Industrial Design and I learned a lot about design during those days; found my design heroes, even! Originally, I wanted to be an automotive designer for major Italian and German brands but life said “Surprise, this is what you’re going to be instead!” And then I became a movie star. Jokes aside, I was just a creative person overall and I knew as long as I get to be my creative self in my work, the industry where I’m at does not matter.
Currently, I’m the Art Director for EOI Digital, I make sure all the things we put out are nothing short of outstanding. I handle a lean team of diverse creatives which are designers, animators, writers, etc. The work we do as a team is always collaborative and is never not fun! Deadlines, clients, and deliverables; these are some of the things I deal with on a daily basis.
That sounds like a lot of work! How do you even start your day?
It usually starts with me in the morning checking in with the team on their pending deliverables for the clients and giving them briefings about the next projects. I spend a typical day talking to clients and our team members equally, making sure the clients get what they need on time and giving enough time for our creative geniuses to work on those projects. As an Art Director, I have to keep the designs we make at par or even better than our bigger and international counterparts as well.
It seems your work asks for a lot more than what it seems. Would you say people often come to you to call the shots? HAHA!
A lot! Since we’re handling a number of clients at the same time, it’s important to be decisive and to have those decisions be the correct ones. So I combine research and a little bit of my gut feel of what should be done. Works out most of the time for me.
Interesting. How do you handle client expectations, team expectations, and workload all at the same time?
I try to be in an objective state of mind as much as possible when dealing with all of that. Being in focus is such a vital thing especially in this industry where the turnaround time for deliverables is quick. And one tip I read online which works really well is:
“Under-promise and over-deliver.”
Interesting, I might use that quote myself. Now when it comes to your own work, do you have any go-to tools or programs that you absolutely can’t live without?
In a nutshell, I use a lot of communication tools like Slack, WhatsApp, WeChat, Viber, Lark, Gmail, the list goes on really. It’s different for each client as they have preferences over which tools to use. For design programs, I tinker with Photoshop and Illustrator most of the time for general design tasks.
How do you come up with the specific design pegs for a client? Like, how does your creative mind know what’s going to work and what won’t?
I ask them what adjectives they want to associate with the project and start from there. One example would be a branding of an environmental organization, they associated themselves with adjectives like sustainable, reliable, and established. This can be your first step in finding similar brands by doing a really simple google search of “Sustainable Organizations” or “Established Organizations” and then from there, you can do a lot already.
One way to keep my taste in design in check is to curate my Instagram account to specific design accounts and observe how they are using colors, shapes, typography, and the overall composition of a specific piece of work. I also make sure to check on what local and international brands are doing now design-wise and taking the elements they use as a cue for what is the current trend on design now. This way, I can match specific styles for clients’ projects while making it modern and not look dated.
I see. So, when it comes to art direction, do you have this “gut feeling” that designs are going the wrong way… or you know, the “wrong direction”? LOL!
I’ve taken one of the design commandments of Dieter Rams, an esteemed Industrial Designer, to my heart. He said something along the lines of “A good design is intuitive.” and this stuck with me from the moment I heard it back in College until now. A design that works comes long before a design that looks good and I make sure that for all the things I create (or the team creates) should serve its purpose first and then making them look good can come after.
You mentioned a while ago you’ve met your heroes. Aside from Dieter Rams, who inspires your design ethic and direction?
Another design educator I really look up to is Chris Do, he fuses business and design really well and gives a platform for other designers to showcase their work as well. I think those are some of the things I want to pick up in the long run, being both a creative and a leader. I just remembered Yo Santosa as well, she leads a branding agency and I like how she creates stories for her projects. I was in awe of what they did on the TBS rebranding.
Outside of work, what do you do to keep yourself going?
These days, I’ve been busy growing my plants and getting new ones. I try to limit myself to just 5 plants but If the universe wants me to have 10, I’ll have 20. Lol. It’s an immensely rewarding hobby especially when you see new shoots grow! Apart from that, I still try to maintain my pre-pandemic active lifestyle and I make sure that I exercise as much as I can every week. Since the quarantine started and the gyms are closed, I only get to do yoga at home and just started running as a replacement for weightlifting. Just some of the things I do to take care of myself and to keep myself inspired and motivated.
Horticulture and fitness! Such nice hobbies! Any specific plants to call your favorite?
I’m in love with my Calathea Lutea, it’s just a stunner and a real statement plant to have! It’s given me so much growth since I got it a few months ago and I guess it won’t be stopping anytime soon. My Monstera Adansonii is thriving as well, waiting for it to grow new leaves so I can place a moss pole in the pot and let it shoot up!
What do you think the future holds for you as a director?
The world is suddenly forced to go digital! Because of the pandemic, many businesses shifted their efforts from offline marketing to online and digital marketing. The digital revolution train is here already and I have been waiting forever to get on it. Exciting times ahead!
This was such an interesting interview Martin, Thanks so much for answering my questions! I think we’ve learned so much about you already.
Welcome and thank you as well! Now let’s get back to work.
The work we do as a team is always collaborative and is never not fun! – Martin Menor