PRINT’s latest Designer of the Week believes he may just have the best job in the world. Not only does he spend his days designing, but he does so for the Disney brand—a brand that he loves. Below, Ratner shares his biggest challenges, his favorite work and his experience creating for such a powerful—and of course magical—brand.
I think my design work has a modern, bright and whimsical feel to it. I don’t really see myself as having one specific style, yet I do think you can see the similarities when looking at my body of work. My hope is that the pieces I create make people feel good and spark a smile.
Where do you find inspiration?
Believe it or not, I think Instagram has become a more deliberate source for inspiration when following the right accounts. Websites like Dribbble have lots of talented people as well. I also think being open to meeting other creatives through conferences or networking events is also really valuable. I recently attended the Creative South Design Conference for the second year in a row and found it to be seriously inspiring.
I think inspiration can be found just about anywhere, though. Sometimes I find it right here at Walt Disney World. The team I work with at Disney inspires me every day, but I do believe inspiration can come from the other people around me and those I have connected with. I don’t just mean other designers, either—everyone has a unique way of approaching their work. How you choose to apply that uniqueness to your own creative process is the really fun challenge. One way I put some of that inspiration to use is by assigning myself some smaller projects regularly, which allow me to explore new design styles, techniques and overall creative process.
Disney Parks Blog Easter design
Disney Parks Blog Halloween design mock-up
Disney Parks Blog Santa Mickey Christmas design
Disney Parks Blog Happy Birthday Mickey design
Do you have a favorite among all the projects you’ve worked on?
Recently I have been creating a series of designs for the Disney Parks Blog that are available for people to download and display on their desktop and mobile devices [pictured above.] The last few have been based on specific holidays.
These pieces sort of defy the “less is more” way of thinking and challenge me with the opportunity to design multiple elements that I arrange into one overall graphic. It can get kind of crazy, but I love the complexity of it and then figuring out how to make it all work together. But the more I do, the better my process becomes. Through my own research and affinity for the Disney brand, I try to put some emphasis on what our guests love most about the specific theme I’m working on. In other words, I want to make sure I can create a connection between some of the offerings in our parks and how they might resonate with the guests. It helps build excitement for both myself and Disney fans. And yes … I am a Disney fan!
“Joy Comes in the Morning” coloring book page design
“Joy Comes in the Morning” coloring book cover design
Is there a project that stands out to you as having been the biggest challenge of your career so far?
I think all projects definitely present their own unique set of challenges which require us to think through our solutions differently each and every time. That in itself is a constant challenge that we come to expect. Over the past year I have been working on a special project that has definitely challenged me both creatively and emotionally. In 2015 my wife and I unexpectedly lost our first child who was stillborn at 37 weeks. It’s been a tough journey … one that I don’t really expect to end, but I was beginning to understand a bit more how design can really act as a form of therapy which can help fuel your passion if you let it.
I came across an Instagram account that was holding a contest where you could submit a design to be included in this adult coloring book that was going to be published. The coloring book was called “Joy Comes in the Morning – Coloring Through Infant Loss and Miscarriage” and is meant to be a therapeutic tool for those who have experienced the loss of a child. I was surprised by the timing of this, and felt compelled to do it. It’s often hard to open up about it, but I believed by working on something special like this, whether my design is chosen or not, it would somehow help in the healing process. The design I created is a collection of elements that would often remind us of her, arranged around the central message that she will be “Forever In Our Heart.” Throughout the process I was faced with emotional challenges like fear, insecurity and vulnerability just to name a few, but I kept telling myself it was all worth it, and it was. I was thrilled to find out that my design was selected and shortly after, the creators of the project reached out to me asking if I would like to design the cover. I was honestly afraid to say yes, but I knew I had to. This was no longer just about what I was going through, but also about so many others experiencing a similar form of grief. It certainly brought on more pressure that I would put on myself to make sure the design was worthy of the cause. It was a really wonderful and gratifying way to honor my daughter, while allowing myself the opportunity to do what I love. Nothing has felt better. In June last year we were very fortunate to bring home our daughter Lillian who has brought us lots of smiles, and we are so happy she’s here with us.
The coloring book can be found at http://www.iamfruitful.org.
Master of One Podcast Artist coloring book page design; purchase the coloring book here.
“Expression of Love” Princess Bride anniversary event gallery show design (show presented by SquaredCo); purchase a copy here
What do you hope to accomplish in the future?
I recently spent some time teaching a Photoshop class and had some other opportunities to share my art and experience with other creatives and design students. I found those to be really gratifying and can definitely see myself doing more of that.
I think like most of us, I want to keep growing as an artist and probably take more risks, all while pushing myself to continue learning new techniques and really embracing the design community that I have around me. Most of all, I want to continue to create art that I am proud of and passionate about. I also really love working for Disney and want to thrive within the company. It’s been an amazing experience so far and the one company I’ve always dreamed I’d be working with for as long as I can remember.
What’s your best advice for designers today?
Try not to get discouraged if you stray from your chosen path. Easier said than done, I know—but seriously, don’t give up! Once my internship with Disney ended after graduation, it took me about 5 years to get back, which was not what I had anticipated. It was difficult for me to accept at first, but passion, positivity and determination went a long way. I tried to make the most of everything and worked hard. Now, looking back, the connections I’ve made and experiences I’ve had have proven to be invaluable beyond expectation.
A handful of Ratner’s personal projects: