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Designer Mick Champayne's recipe for creative success

Chicago-based designer Mick Champayne is a pro when it comes to setting the mood to get those creative juices flowing. Get a glimpse into Mick’s workday as both a lead experience designer and illustrator, and learn how she’s able to fluidly shift gears between two very different ways of thinking.

Where do you work? Tell us about your space(s).

Hi! I’m Mick, a lead experience designer by daylight, and an illustrator by moonlight. At my agency job, we have activity-based working, which means no assigned desks—so it’s kind of like walking into a school lunchroom every day. We even have lockers. But honestly, it fits my style which is more fluid.

At home, I don’t have a dedicated desk or office space either. You can catch me in our sunny den/guestroom, the dining room table, or the couch. I prioritize comfort with lots of windows and sunlight. I can’t really get into coffee shops as I find them a little too distracting, and my Midwestern sensibilities make me too chatty with my neighbors, and too polite to take a seat for too long!

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How would you describe your style? Tell us about your design process.

Are butts a style? Just kidding. I’m not sure how to describe my style, but my goals are always to feel accessible and to inject my sense of humor. I use illustration to hone my storytelling chops, from light-hearted memes to serious social commentary. And if it starts a conversation, I’m all for it.

I use illustration to hone my storytelling chops, from light-hearted memes to serious social commentary.

As for my process, I wish there were some method to my madness! I’m sure I’m not unique when I say it really just depends on the project. For my “Be the meme you wish to see in the world “ project, I choose an image that actually makes me laugh out loud, try to interpret what is so funny about it, and distill it down to a simple visual. Since it’s just for fun, it’s a great way to experiment with styles too.

Other projects, like my Women’s History Month and breast cancer awareness work, I lean more into the process I use in experience design. Because they are more sensitive subjects, I want to be extremely thoughtful and empathetic, so there’s lots of research and synthesizing to inform my thoughts and visuals.

  1. Just doin' my job
  2. SOON.
  3. M O N D A Y ⚡️M O O D

Tell us about your routine (or lack of one.) How do you structure your days to get things done?

I can’t sleep in to save my life. I’m typically up by 4:30 am - 5:00 am every day, and I like to capitalize on those extra hours. Plus, morning light is my jam—I’m all about setting the mood. Couple that with a library of oddly-specific, tailored Spotify playlists and you have a recipe for high productivity. I’ll spend a couple of hours concepting or drawing before I bike to work and see what the day throws at me.

Some days, I’ll work on strategy projects mapping out user journeys and vignettes for a pitch; other times, I’m in design sprint mode creating high fidelity comps and motion prototypes. To end my day, I’ll either meet up with friends or head home to decompress.

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How do your space, tools, and habits benefit you? What about those things do you think needs improvement?

My routine usually starts a nice Rube Goldberg-type chain reaction for my day. I’m an extroverted introvert, so my mornings allow me to be more focused with a little “me time” to be creative and have fun with personal work. When I get into the office, my day quickly picks up the pace. I like to grab coffee with my friends and bounce ideas around or share stuff I’m working on before I shift gears and jump into UI/UX work. It’s nice to have both sides of my brain get scratched: my left side solving problems and designing systems, and my right side daydreaming and traveling to weird places.

For a long time, I struggled to consider myself a “real” illustrator.

Maybe it’s my imposter syndrome flaring up, but for a long time, I struggled to consider myself a “real” illustrator. I had a lot of self-inflicted mental blocks: I’m not formally trained and I use pretty basic tools (my computer trackpad, crayons, and a shitty scanner). But recently, and admittedly after some convincing from friends, I’ve gotten more comfortable calling myself an illustrator. I’ve managed to parlay my illustration skills into my day job with great reception (validation!) and invested in an iPad Pro and Apple Pencil (treat yo’ self). That being said, I’m not of the belief that you have to have the latest and greatest, but in this case, it’s a tool that’s giving me more control over my work and lets me be more experimental!

Want to keep up with Mick? Find her on Dribbble, Instagram, and at mickchampayne.com.

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