Strategic designer Maria Silva Mora talks to PSFK about enriching her design background with insights from trend forecasting and human behavior
For the last installment of this year’s series in partnership with the School of Visual Arts (SVA) Masters in Branding program, PSFK caught up with Maria Silva Mora, strategic designer at Mucca. She discussed building upon her design skills with disciplines like trend forecasting and studying human behavior, and why there’s no single winning formula for brand strategy.
SVA’s Masters in Branding program allows students to create frameworks to guide brand, design and business development, critically evaluate brand, business, marketing and design strategies and master the intellectual link between leadership and creativity.
Where did your interest in branding begin, and what led you to choose SVA’s Masters in Branding program?
While I was designing identity systems in a branding studio back home in Colombia, South America, I had the opportunity of witnessing strategic discovery sessions led by a talented and charismatic woman. The most impressive aspect of these workshops was that the clients were able to discover the core truth of their brand through the exercises and conversations because the strategist would ask thoughtful questions that led to brilliant insights.
I knew that I needed to get a broader range of tools to enrich my design practice. The SVA Masters offered me a balanced and intriguing combination of disciplines outside of design.
What surprised you most while you completed the one-year graduate degree?
The biggest surprise was that there is not a formula for doing strategy. There are great tools, books and theories, but your strongest asset is how you connect and analyze the information, form your perspective and develop your intuition.
You currently work as a strategic designer at Mucca. How is that position different from other design roles? What are some of the lessons from the branding program that helped prepare you for it?
I have the privileged opportunity of fulfilling two different roles on the same team. Honestly, I’ve struggled to find the right title for myself. When we start a new project, I’m the strategist who leads the discovery sessions, analyzes all the information and creates the brand strategy. After the client approves the strategy, I switch roles and join the creative team at Mucca that develops identity systems for brands across the globe.
An identity system needs to be versatile enough to be engaging across channels so that it isn’t just a logo that is repeated over and over again. The systems that we build set guidelines for typography, color palette, image treatment, illustration and tone of voice, among other things.
After the program, I had the confidence to lead strategy projects on my own. The program introduced me to a universe of methodologies, such as studying human behavior and trend forecasting, that has significantly influenced my work today. I now have a more holistic approach to my work.
I noticed several food-related design projects in your portfolio, including packaging and menus, which are beautiful and seem like so much fun to create. Could you tell us briefly about your process? What do you particularly like about designing for food and drink?
The brand strategy inspires the concept of my designs, and the challenge at this stage is to create something meaningful but easy to digest. The visual decisions I make are a combination of the brand personality established from the strategy and my personal aesthetic. I find food and drink projects excellent opportunities to create something fun through analog experiences.
What’s one thing you wish more people understood about branding?
That the branding process is not limited to strategy and design. It also should take culture, business and human behavior into consideration.
This article is paid for and presented by the SVA Masters in Branding program