Chelsea Ikona is a web designer at Sociomantic, a display advertising company and part of Dunnhumby, the customer science company, wholly owned by Tesco.
What does a designer do for a programmatic ad firm? We're about to find out...
Please describe your job: What do you do?
I’m a web designer at Sociomantic Labs, so I work with account managers in setting up the design framework and with clients to keep their online ads fresh and relevant.
I also work on both print and digital design for Sociomantic’s marketing, supporting both internal and external projects.
Whereabouts do you sit within the organisation? Who do you report to?
I’m part of the design team, which includes the UI/UX, Banner and Marketing (Print & Digital) departments. The majority of the team is based in our Berlin headquarters, next to our R&D team, although we have a designer or two in all of our largest offices globally to work closely with Tier-A clients.
I oversee the design and set up for the UK market’s largest accounts, and report to the Global Head of Design in Berlin.
What kind of skills do you need to be effective in your role?
Organisation, prioritisation, communication and a willingness to adapt to change.
Organisation is key when you work with a variety of clients over the course of a week, all with their own requirements and deadlines. I keep all my files labelled and organised to a T for this reason--I never know when I’ll be asked to pull up and reference a design from last Christmas!
Prioritisation is necessary to keep on top of the constantly changing workloads and deadlines. It’s imperative to know approximately how long each job will take you so you can manage timelines efficiently.
Communication with clients and account managers is a large part of the role. Therefore, being able to communicate effectively and explain your point of view/work in a way that non-designers understand is an advantage.
Having a willingness to adapt to change is almost the most important skill in a fluid industry like digital. At Sociomantic, we’re always innovating, which in turn updates our process and workflow.
Chelsea Ikona, Sociomantic
Tell us about a typical working day…
I always start the day by checking my emails, having a strong coffee and making a mental list of all the jobs that need to be completed before the end of the day. I begin with the most urgent work, which usually involves a few hours on the Adobe Suite (I usually plug in headphones and tune most things out during this time, which helps me focus).
After the high priority jobs are off the list, I bounce between ongoing, less urgent jobs and the small, urgent jobs that are sent over the course of the day. The global design team, as a whole, keeps in touch using Slack. Throughout the day, we double-check each other’s work, share inspiration and send copious amounts of silly GIFs.
I have a great relationship with the UK account managers, and ongoing inside jokes are often heard across the room. That and work-related clarifications, of course.
What do you love about your job? What sucks?
I’ve always loved design—I’m happiest when working on challenging projects and solving problems! Likewise, I love the atmosphere. Sociomantic has hired a fantastic team of people who work hard and have a great time doing it.
Although I enjoy the autonomous nature of my role, I miss having other designers in the same office to bounce ideas off of without having to schedule a formal meeting. The time difference can also be a challenge, especially for our far-flung colleagues based in the US, LATAM and APAC.
What kind of goals do you have? What are the most useful metrics and KPIs for measuring success?
I wouldn’t say I’m a perfectionist, but I am firm about delivering a high quality of work for our clients. The tiniest details (such as matching the kerning to a client’s promotional assets when I have only a JPEG to work with) can make all the difference in creating a cohesive customer journey.
In general, campaign performance (ROI/CTR) can be a measure of success. We often run A/B tests to determine which promotional message or type of creative would drive stronger engagement and return, e.g: ‘Free Shipping and Returns’ vs ‘15% off selected styles’, or a dark banner versus a light banner.
What are your favourite tools to help you to get the job done?
Our company mainly works with the Adobe Creative Suite, which is always a favourite for design. We used to do most of our core work in Photoshop, but lately we’ve started to learn and utilise Experience Design more and more. I think it’s important to have favourite tools, but equally important to be willing to learn new programmes if you believe it will improve the company workflow.
Otherwise, I also have a resident notebook or two on my desk for jotting down notes or ideas. When you work in digital, I think it’s easy to get into the habit of doing everything on the computer, which can be limiting to say the least.
How did you get started in the digital advertising industry, and where might you go from here?
I moved to the UK from Canada 3 years ago to challenge my prospects and perspectives. Although I had never worked in digital advertising in the past, Sociomantic’s vibe really appealed to me! At first, the industry was a step outside my comfort zone, but soon I became an expert in acronyms like ROI, CTR and AOV! It was important for me to be able to speak the language of my colleagues and learn about the industry I’m a part of.
I had every intention of pursuing package and print design when I started out and what I’m doing now is a world apart from that. I honestly don’t know where I’ll go from here, but as long as I’m in a creative role and doing what I love, I’ll be moving in the right direction.
Which brands do you think are doing display ads well?
It’s hard to say. Without seeing a brand’s full campaign set up and results (or pandering to award winners), as a consumer I only see ads for things that have been deemed relevant to my interests.
Having said that, it’s clear when a brand understands the impact of design within online advertising. Companies such as Nike, which have an established brand identity and know how to use it, are generally smashing it.
Closer to home, clients like Michael Kors are killing it – they’re a dream to work with since their design assets are always of high quality, which allows our creatives to flawlessly sync up with their overall marketing strategy, whether online or offline.
Do you have any advice for people who want to work in the adtech industry or digital more broadly?
If you’re just starting out, it’s imperative that you understand your design principles. Go back to the basics and really understand them. Unlike most other mediums, digital advertising can be very restrictive and you have to push boundaries in order to be creative.
Otherwise, for designers hoping to change course, I would recommend reading up on web accessibility and going through the IAB guidelines for digital display. There are too many DSPs that use uninspiring templates in the name of convenience, but I think it’s necessary to re-introduce designers to the conversation—branding online is just as important as offline.