Stefan Poulos is a creative director at Discovery Creative, a multidisciplinary, award-winning, in-house agency producing advertising for Discovery Channel and its portfolio of brands. His acclaimed work reaches a global audience in 170 countries. He graduated from Ringling School of Art and Design in 1997 and his foundation of drawing and painting naturally evolved into the enormous world of design communication.
Color, Composition and Ideas
If you have a degree in what field is it? I have a BFA in graphic communication from the Ringling School of Art & Design. I started out as an illustration major, but I was quickly convinced that graphic arts was the natural progression for me, although the basics of color, composition and ideas have always stuck with me.
Which designer (or design studio), other than yours, do you most admire? Every designer I’ve worked with has molded me. I met Bob Gill early in my career and he gave me his book, Forget all the rules about graphic design. Including the ones in this book. He may not be the most flashy pick for admiration, but there’s no doubt that he triggered a change in me.
What’s the strangest request you’ve received from a client? Just recently we did a print ad where our ad gets pulled back to reveal “fake” copy that looks like editorial content. Our client asked us to write about him getting a vasectomy.
If you weren't working as a designer what would you be doing? I’ve really never allowed that to enter my mind. I can’t believe I get paid to do what I love. In another life, I would want to be a professional big wave surfer.
What well-known identity is most desperately in need of a redesign? There are plenty of identities out there that are not aesthetically pleasing. Usually, they’re masking bigger business challenges. Solving those is what I’m attracted to; the identity is just the bow on the package.
From where do your best ideas originate? Music. In the shower. The window seat on planes.
How do you overcome a creative block? I don’t think of the immediate need, but the reaction I want from the client. It’s a simple gauge for me to figure out if what I’m doing is up to snuff. If all else fails, step away from the computer. I repeat, step away from the computer.
What’s your dream project (not client, but project)? To take a low profile brand that wants to take risks and translate that into something that makes their competitors tremble.
Do you have creative outlets other than graphic design? I like to shoot photographs, even though I really don’t know what I’m doing.
What’s your approach to balancing work and life? Having kids will leave you no choice but to be balanced, because their world is so simple. It’s tough, because our work is never finished and our jobs don’t end when we leave the office.
What product/gadget can you not live without? My iPhone. Is that a trick question?
What’s your favorite quote? “Where am I going? It’s a hard question, because none of us have the ability to understand our path until it’s over.” —Milton Glaser
Do you have any advice for people just entering the profession? Stay humble and drop the ego. Be open to ideas from everyone. You’ll find that a photographer’s assistant, an account manager, a media planner or a marketing manager will have good ideas too. Also, don’t worry if, during your first couple of jobs, you’re not doing exactly what you thought you’d be doing; you’ll appreciate it later.
What’s one thing you wish you knew when you started your career? The people you work for don’t have all the answers; they’re waiting for you to provide them.