Meet the team: Anna Sutherland, Graphic Designer
"What do you love most about being a designer?"
"I love the problem-solving aspect; creating a design that both answers a client’s criteria and is visually attractive is very satisfying. Also, working on a design can be really absorbing; when I’m developing an idea from an initial sketch to a final design there are so many factors to consider, e.g. colour, imagery, typefaces, etc. Once I’ve got an idea I like, I get so caught up in it that hours can go by and I won’t notice!"
"How has your work with Fast Track Impact drawn on and pushed you beyond your design training?"
"I completed an HND in Visual Communication which was very much a little-bit-of-everything course, but working for Fast Track Impact made me really want to create designs that worked. People come to Fast Track Impact because they want their research to promote real change, and the idea that my designs could help them do that is amazing. Working with this company has given me the motivation to see what else I could do to make my designs that little bit better. Over the last couple of years I’ve learned a lot of tips and tricks to achieve design effects and features that I wouldn’t have even thought of in college, and some jobs have taught me what not to do in order to avoid problems later on."
"What are some of the unique challenges and things you love most about helping researchers develop websites that help them achieve impact?"
"Creating designs for academics is walking a fine line between aesthetics and function. The website needs to be visually attractive so that the viewer is more inclined to look at the content than they would be if it was just a lot of black text on a white background. However, it also needs to be easy to use, which is why I use the WIX online platform to create the websites and then transfer control of them to our clients. They need to be able to edit and update the site easily after I’m finished designing it, otherwise, they’d need to keep coming back to us for help, which isn't practical. WIX is mostly a drag-and-drop format. You don’t need to know about coding in order to create a good website, and they have a really good ‘Help’ section with clear instructions and answers to almost any question you might have. There are also a lot of features that help you to present information in eye-catching ways, such as light-boxes and hover-boxes; they aren’t very flashy but they do add interest without distracting the viewer from the content."
"Why is good design so important for communicating research messages and generating impact?"
"Researchers want to exhibit their findings, so their websites need to be easy to navigate; they want whoever is viewing their site to be able to find the information they’re looking for quickly and easily. After that, the findings need to be in a format that will be understood by the viewers. Often the content is intended for people who don’t have academic backgrounds, so throwing a pile of complicated text at them just isn’t going to work. This is when visual aids come into play, and a prime example of this is the use of infographics. They are specifically designed to take a lot of facts, statistics and hard-to-explain concepts and condense them to their bare essentials, using visual depictions such as icons, graphs, pictograms, etc. No matter how paradigm-shifting your research findings are, they need to be presented in a palatable format in order to have an impact with your audience."
"What do you enjoy most about being Fast Track Impact’s in-house designer (can you give us a flavour of some of the more interesting/inspiring bits of your job)?"
"Although working with new clients means going through the same design process of Initial Ideas > Development > Final Design over and over again, depending on what the client needs and what their area of research is, the final design is always something new and different from anything I’ve created before. These areas of research have been quite varied, and because I have to familiarise myself with the client’s findings in order to illustrate them, I’ve actually learned a fair amount along the way. For example, I never thought I would learn about participatory simulation modelling as a graphic designer."
"You were born and brought up in Scotland where Fast Track Impact is based, but you work closely with Mark wherever he is in the world remotely. What is it like working for an international company from a sleepy town in rural Aberdeenshire?"
"To be honest, it’s a bit surreal! Some really odd scenarios have come up, like the time I had to put together a PowerPoint that was needed for a talk that Mark was giving in Australia, and I suddenly remembered that I only had 12 hours to get it done and not 24, because of the time difference! Also, Fast Track Impact recently won a prize for changing research culture from the Royal Society, which I didn’t even know we were up for until the day it happened! I’m often surprised by just how important the work Fast Track Impact does is, but the company works to help researchers to make real, positive change in the world, and it’s amazing knowing that I have a small part in it."
"Tell us some of the things you enjoy doing in your spare time"
"I really enjoy doing crafts, such as crochet, knitting and cross stitch. I love creating things, and using a pattern that someone else came up with makes a change from creating a design from scratch. I really love reading as well. I love classics like Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte and J. R. R. Tolkien, but I have some old favorites as well, including the copy of Harry and the Wrinklies that I got for my 8th birthday!"