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You know all those “pretty pictures” and amazing designs you see on billboards, websites and in magazines? You can bet our guest today was instrumental behind more than a few of them. Victor Roman is the creative juice behind many of Saskatchewan’s most infamous creative campaigns.
Tune in to learn about his journey from the social work field to a thriving career in marketing and design. As a professional, he values the balance of time with his young, growing family and working for an organization whose goals align with his.
My guest today is going to tell us why pretty pictures aren’t the only thing that matters. He has spent years in the creative field working at some of the largest agencies in Saskatchewan, and for some of the largest clients are Crown corporations and our municipalities. But have you ever thought creative isn’t just pretty? There’s also a lot of strategic thinking that goes into it.
So I want to welcome Victor Roman to our show today. And Vic, start us off. Tell us a little bit about yourself, and how you got into creating these pretty pictures.
For sure. Yeah, thanks for having me, Barb. So as you mentioned, I’m Victor Roman. And I have kind of a weird history and a weird placement so I’ll kind of explain where I am right now.
So my primary role in my day to day job I work with the South Saskatchewan Community Foundation with their communications and marketing and their communications marketing specialists currently and by night my superhero dropped my Batman cape crusader. I run a small, very limited kind of freelance work that I call Toro Creative. Victor Toro, makes sense I’m a Taurus, got it got it got a ring in my nose. It’s, it’s a thing. Love it.
And and really to kind of zoom you back a long time until like, how did I get into working at Community Foundation in the nonprofit sector as well as still doing freelance creative, I’ll kind of just work your way back to when I was starting to figure out what I was going to do for university I kind of had two routes either wanted to become a social worker, and a youth worker, okay. Or I wanted to go into graphic design because I had discovered Photoshop when I was a 10 year old. I actually remember when layers were like a new thing. Yeah. Which is kind of crazy. Just as a kid, I remember thinking, oh, there’s layers. This is so cool.
But you know, he said, Wait a second, I have to stop you there. So 10 years old, and your parents were willing to spend the money on Photoshop? How did you do? Oh,
My older brother worked for a local newspaper. Oh, there we go. So I started to play with Adobe Photoshop and Adobe page mill and I would make websites that would never go online. But I started developing things just for fun, based on my hobbies.
Okay, I was gonna say you knew your parents buttons, if you could get them to spend that money then?
Oh, no, oh, no, it was, I was lucky to have it through a brother. And um, and when I, I ended up actually choosing to go to university for social work. And then getting lucky. And just based on the kind of work I had done in high school, I got to work placements here in Regina, at Squareflow New Media, when they were just a brand new company, a printing shop.
So I was one of their first employees. And I did that while I went to university. And what kind of happened was their company kept growing. As the years went by, and kind of by year three of university and working with them, I was at a point where I was actually making more money with him than I was going to be as a social worker. And I was about to have to take an unpaid practicum that I did not know how it was going to afford.
So it kind of gave me the opportunity as a kid, I’m gonna leap into this full time I started working with them full time. They kept growing and growing. Eventually, we split off into Square Flow for Web and Flowprint for print. So then I moved solely over to the print side at that point.
Beforehand, I was working on the front end web as well as all the print. And then after that, I became a print designer. Eventually. I think I was a manager of some sort. I came to remember my title. Yep. And then I just kind of hit a point that I took a leap of faith and I started to take on freelance work.
And then I did freelance work for quite a few people. That’s actually when I met Jim Aho, who I can’t remember if I did work through Brown, but I met him through that. And then I did work for Captive Audience and a few other places. And I actually ended up then working at Captive Audience for a couple of years. And for them I did graphic design and got really into branding and do a lot of really fun stuff because they do experiential marketing. So I was like, creating like custom entire custom displays for like SaskTel’s trade show booths and, and started to work on concepts for augmented reality and virtual reality kind of in collaboration. Wow, Talking Dog Studios at the time. Yeah.
And then that would have been one of the early sort of augmented reality studios and productions too, because yeah, yeah, so that wasn’t commonplace.
Yeah, it was really neat. They were kind of first on the ground Captive and Talking Dog did a lot of collaborative work for clients. It was really neat to be there. Like I remember getting the Oculus Rift set before it was released. Oh, playing with it and just like, yeah, it was really neat.
So I learned a ton of skills at Captive. And then after that, as I mentioned, I knew Jim Aho when at the time he was still with Brown Communications Group and he had kind of headhunted me. He had reached out a couple of times. And then finally, the timing was just right. Yeah, I ended up moving over there and started as an art director and quickly became a creative director. Wow, I spent a couple of years as the Creative Director at Brown.
And then, throughout all of this, when I quit school, I also became a big brother, mentor for Big Brothers, Big Sisters. And I volunteered for them in other ways too.
I know I have to ask one question there. Did you ever go back and finish school and do that practicum? Or did you switch directions or you just boom, jumped into the workforce and said, Hey, I’m making money and things are going good.
I just jumped into marketing, like, like a creative marketing role, where my portfolio spoke louder. I think then, yeah, any schooling was going to so I’ve never had the issue of getting work, because it’s like, well, everything I’ve done. Absolutely. Yeah. For my role. It does. And I actually, yeah, there was kind of a point where I felt like I, you know, had been about 10 years in the marketing industry.
It’s a lot of work, like no matter what, and I was a new parent. And I think becoming a parent really shifted my perspective as to what I am? What am I willing to do? Because now family is really important? How do I balance this, I just, I found it really hard to balance to be totally honest. And there was an opportunity with Big Brothers Big Sisters that opened up for their executive director role. And they actually, I ended up becoming their executive director and totally shifting industries.
And that’s what kind of led me to where I am now at the Community Foundation is they were one of the funders of Big Brothers, Big Sisters. I was part of their vital signs community network through that role. And when the pandemic hit, and they kind of gave me some insight into I wasn’t sure I was the right, Executive Director for Big Brothers Big Sisters, based on what I thought they were going to need now that the pandemic was a thing, right.
And a perfect role opened up at South Saskatchewan Community Foundation. And the timing just worked out really well that I felt like I needed to move here and give Big Brothers Big Sisters some room to kind of reassess what skill set do we need in this kind of new reality? And how can we get there? So I spent a busy amount of time in 2020, doing both roles. And then once I was done with Big Brothers, Big Sisters, I still volunteered and was constantly in contact to make sure they were in place until they got their new Executive Director. Exactly. So that’s kind of that, that’s my journey of like 14 years to how I have this kind of weird split reality. Exactly.
There’s this totally eclectic background that, you know, makes you who you are today. So how are you finding the balance now? Because do you have one child or two?
Almost 2. One 4 year old and then one on the way in September?
Oh, awesome. Okay, so if you found balance hard with one, what’s your plan to tell me about this balance? Because I have yet to find it too?
Well, to be honest, my role with Saskatchewan Community Foundation has given me that balance. It’s very flexible, we work in a hybrid model. So there’s work at home or work at the office. Like just the nature of my role, it’s easy to work odd hours. So you know, daycare, daycare drop off doesn’t go well, because you’ve got a grumpy toddler. It doesn’t matter because I can just work a little bit later, that sort of thing. It’s made a huge difference, to be honest. Yes. And another part of it too, and is that you know, either way, I’m working a lot of hours during the day. But what I found working in the nonprofit sector, just in general, that’s different than when I was working with ad agencies is that your work is so focused, like no matter what I’m doing, whatever I was doing Big Brothers Big Sisters was towards impacting youth in a positive way.
Now at the Community Foundation, everything is about connecting donors with charities to impact our communities in a positive way. And there’s a million ways you can do that. But you just always have this honed in on. And that was something that that’s something I think just mentally keeps you I think a bit more sane than in an ad agency because you know, in an ad agency, especially as the creative director, you’re on so many clients so your brain is just jumping from Okay, now I’m working with a telecom on how we’re going to sell internet to the next hour. It’s a goal now how do we sell powerline safety? And how do we get this messaging out and then the next hour is something totally different. Totally different. So by the time I get home, my brain is just like I need a rest.
Exactly. I don’t mentally exhausted.
And that experience is incredible. But it’s for my personal life situation. It wasn’t ideal anymore. Now that I’ve kind of become this parent and when I get home, I can’t turn my brain off.
Yeah. So I just kind of saw, you know, for me, I felt to be a better parent, I needed to make a shift. And then to be honest, once I made the shift, and I just had that clear sense of purpose, I just feel like I’m in a role, I’d never want to leave doing this. And then kind of as a freelancer, the work I do, I get to choose because it’s work, I’m passionate about the work I want to do. And its clients I know are gonna resonate with. So it’s really nice from that lens as well. I get to be kind of a picky, picky designer for fun and then impact the community throughout the day.
Exactly. Okay, so knowing how you’re balancing this and because you and I have done a little bit of freelance work together, like, you know, where are you working, then after your four year old goes to bed? Like, where are you? Actually Oh, you are?
Okay. That’s, that’s generally what is that bedtime until I’m ready for bed, that’s when I do work. And on weekends, like, yeah, during the afternoon, my partner, they’ll take our son to the park or something. And I might just leave behind and say I’ve got a couple hours, I’ve got a project to work on. And I’ve been pretty good at it. I feel like I have the right workload we’re never run into. I’ve only actually, really, once I’ve run into a situation where I was overloaded, but never, never beyond that. So I’m just really careful not saying yes to everything and kind of I’m committed to the people that I do always say yes to.
That’s right. Yeah, having a small and select group of people that you work with on a consistent basis, which actually improves the quality of work. So I share that. So talk to me a little bit about how design contributes to those strategic goals. Because, you know, certainly I can think of many of the creative situations where I’ve been in, and the, you know, the top people often think, you know, it’s just about looking good. And you often hear so many opinions. We don’t like that color, we don’t like yes, well, there’s actually some purpose that goes into it. So talk a little bit about that purpose and how you get there.
Yeah, and actually, that’s a great point, I think one of the biggest challenges being a designer, is not knowing how to communicate the client through the path of where you ended up. If you just show the end result, the client has a lot of preconceived ideas. And you have this like, great grand journey of how you got there.
So then, what I often see is if a designer does that, they show it, they’re proud of it, they’re nervous to show it. And then the client hates it, because they just wanted the color purple, and it was blue or something like Yeah, so it’s really important to really break it down into the structure and like, almost look at it as like, how are these modular pieces? And how does everything work individually? And how do we bring it together? So often?
I’m always hesitant especially if it’s a new client to just say, for example, with a logo, a logo designer, bigger job, I never just like plop up a logo on screen and say, here’s the logo. Love it. Tell me about it. Oh, let’s go through the process. Okay, we had a discussion, we said these are, this is the personality behind your business. Based on what we already discussed, these are some colors that can represent that plus, this is a palette that kind of resonated with you. So these are the colors we’re going to explore.
But then even with that, I’ll show the logo in black and white. So you can see this is the design before we add the colors. Before I show the logo will show the symbolism and say like, Okay, this is going to your local Mark is going to be for example, we talked about it being about health. So there’s a heart and then take whatever your initial, so might be like, KB I’m just making up, things might show that and save. So for option one, this is what we explored. When we explore that, here’s how it can look black and white. Now here’s how it looks if we add color. Now here’s how it can look vertical or horizontal, here’s how it can look kind of everything and just build and build and build and then take and based on this, here’s kind of a graphic device that can work with it. Here’s something that we can use in the background.
And then after you show all those pieces individually, talk about the meaning of them, make sure they align with the kind of that initial conversation we had of what we’re trying to achieve. And always keeping that goal in mind. You have a lot more success. And then what I often find happens and then I get to the point, but then I show the creative applications like here’s how it would look on stationery or business cards. And by the time you get there, they’ve already gone through that journey with you putting the pieces together.
And often what you get is I still usually don’t get like, you hit it 100% on the spot and you got it but what you do get is a really constructive conversation. You go back and say this looks like usually it’s kind of like, Oh, this looks great. But this is why it doesn’t work for me or this. This looks great. But maybe let’s try a different shade of blue. The blues is just not quite right. And it becomes really useful.
It becomes a situation where I think the client is also in a better position and more comfortable to criticize it constructively, yes. And to actually go back and not just kind of end up at a wall where you have to start at point zero, but prep work to get there is so important. It’s almost more important than the design itself in many ways. Yes. Because if you can’t, if you can’t communicate your process in a clear, easy to understand way, it can be really hard to get some clients on board.
Yes, being able to communicate it clearly, and taking them on that journey with you. Because if you’re traveling the journey on your own, then you’re arriving at the destination on your own. And a big part of any, any creative person’s role is to bring everyone with them. Right? Not just show up and go, Okay, here’s what we’re doing. Right? That’s leadership at the end of the day. Okay, so that makes a ton of sense to me. Can you think back to let’s start with the easy one, tell us about a project that you worked on. And you don’t think about giving us, you know, details, because I know those can be highly confidential. But give us an example of a project that you worked on where everything just melded and came together? It was the stars aligning and telling us about one of those projects? What does that feel like? What Do you think?
I don’t know, I think that that happens often now just because of the experience. And because I’m often I’m good at screening a client and knowing like, am I going to be the right person. And just honestly, like, sometimes I’m not the right style, or whatever.
So generally, now I kind of end up in those situations, often trying to think of one that I think I was proud of because it was challenging that happened, it was when I was at Brown, and I had just become the creative director. And it was kind of interesting, because the previous creative director that was on this account, was kind of part of the reason why the client actually took the account. So when they left, I think the client, I don’t know if this is me assuming but there’s probably a sense of just like, betrayal kind of somewhere in there just being like, Well, now, it’s like we went from this really experienced person to like, Hi, I’m Vic, I’ve been doing this for two months in this role, and had to really prove myself, so I was super nervous. And it was an entity that had a lot of silos.
And I was presenting to five silos in one room, and trying to get five different people with clearly different directions onto the same path. And I didn’t do it alone, I had a lot of help from a client rep there that did fantastic. But we went into the presentation and gave them the options, kind of how I just explained to you really took them through like the full step by step process. And as a result, we hit it right on the head, and everyone agreed on the right option right away. In a situation where like, Everyone was worried it was gonna, it could potentially be hostile.
Exactly. So yeah, I can totally see that. What do you think made that situation? Was it taking them on the journey? Or what do you think was the crux of being able to make that work,
It was 100%, taking them on the journey and myself and the client rep on there and spending the time to be like, these are who’s going to be in the room. And this is what matters to them, and understanding the person behind it. And by understanding the person behind it, and understanding how they probably want to be communicated to, is going to have a lot more success.
And there’s quite a few situations like that, like there’s one client who and this just comes from experience of learning someone is once you learn someone, you know, it’s like, Okay, this one person really wanted to wanted me to kind of put together something that they can then take and present themselves or someone else wanted me to do something where I was very much straight to the point. And by being straight to the point that they were going to be confident with it. And it’s just a matter of like, yeah, every every client had a different approach, just based on understanding of the client. And that’s, that’s where you really get success. Don’t try to make people fit your mold, try to fit into theirs.
Into their mold. So when you can work, you know, face to face, you’re in an organization or you’re working directly with a client, I can absolutely see how that starts to come together. But because I know you do freelance and sometimes you get a sketchy email that says can you create this for us? How do you make that work?
I think if I was if this was 10 years ago, I think it would be a lot harder like I said now I think just with the experience like as a freelancer I almost don’t meet with anybody in person I do a lot of work that’s not even in province for what I do, or definitely not in city so I Just have a think the benefit of being comfortable on like a zoom like this and creating a connection like this.
So it’s always a video call like I don’t like to meet on some phone. I always like to read our persons actually, there’s so much more to talking than just a voice, you know, exactly, you feel like I understand a lot more based on a video. And it’s really the same process just without being in the same room to be honest. And if I ever have, if I get an email, and I don’t know what it is, like I just, I just hit my questions really quickly and easily and right away, send them back. And I’m sure you’ve probably had that for me too, with a couple of new clients where I’m just like, I just got to feel this out. I don’t know what’s expected. Let’s figure it out.
What do you do when somebody wants to meet? Do you have the flexibility at work that you can still meet in person? Or do you just say, You know what, I don’t do that anymore.
I’m very limited. Like, I think I’ve met with one person. And just with the pandemic, like in my specific situation, like we have a four year old, he can’t be vaccinated sort of thing. So he’s in a daycare where people don’t have that choice. So in any case, we just tried to be pretty low key.
So and kind of before I’d always gauge it on, okay, like, well, we’re COVID numbers out there really low, maybe we’ll go to a patio, coffee, or whatever. And there’s a little bit more of that now. But during the pandemic it is definitely like, easy to just be like, no, just, it’s automatically on Zoom, and then play it by ear if someone does want to meet, but I think I’ve only met with people maybe twice in person in the last year. And it was like the one with someone that I already know.
Yeah. Yeah, exactly. That’s one of the things I’m seeing at this point is, you know, people are getting much more comfortable meeting in person, again, until this last month, these last couple of weeks. What used to be once in a while, is now a daily thing. And you know, as a small business person, if I can accomplish the same thing online, I’m going to try and you know, get it done online, because it saves me a heck of a lot of time and travel costs and buying that coffee, and, you know, eating that muffin, right. And so, you know, I’m a little bit torn. I’m like, we work with folks across Canada. And there’s only a small group that are local, who want to do this face to face thing. Right? Yeah. So yeah, sometimes I’m really torn on that. And I love personal relationships. But you know, I also see a lot of value in Hey, you know, being able to get a little bit more work done.
This is what I’ve noticed, too, because kind of two things come from this from personal relationships. I like this one client that worked with us in Saskatoon. I’ve never met her, but just based on our conversations, I would go for a coffee with her anytime in real life, like in non virtual reality.
So I think those connections can still be made, it’s just a little bit different. And again, when I’m not working with people locally, this is the only way to do it anyways. And I’m no one instance, I want to see where I’ve done something virtually. And I would never want to do it again. Now that there’s more of a chance, as we did with Saskatchewan Community Foundation, we did a little bit of not a rebrand, but more of like finishing our brand, it wasn’t really ever finished.
So we did a brand session kind of internally with staff and board. And normally this is something we’d have a boardroom, we’d have sticky notes around the room we’d be exploring together. And instead, it was like virtual sticky notes, virtual whiteboard. And it was all sitting in a zoom together for like four hours and sitting staring at a zoom call for that long is not good for anyone. And it’s, it’s different. Because your eyes are just arrayed here the whole time. Whereas normally you’d get up and go for a walk, you’d be looking around the room.
And talking to people having small interactions. Yeah,
So I remember by the time we got to, and I did kind of condense it into a quicker session. And by the time we got to the last part, I could just tell it’s like, oh, people hear their brains are fried, my brain is fried. So that’s the type of thing that I like, given the situation again, like I’ve done that one on one with people, and it’s easy through this, but in a group setting, I’d 100% given the option, I would never go back to virtual for that.
Wow, look at that. Vic, we are pretty much at a time. So before we disconnect, can you share with all of the listeners? How would they find you? I don’t know. Do you have any social channels or websites? Or is it just email? How would they find you?
Um, I’m gonna plug South Saskatchewan Community Foundation instead of my freelance work. And that’s simply because I’ll just kind of say I’m limited and I’m going to be more limited with this a second child so I’m not going to be expanding that at all are in South Saskatchewan Community Foundation is really where I’m focused on so you know if you’re ever interested in I guess, what a community foundation does how charities or donors can be supported. You can find us @sscf.ca You can look up South Saskatchewan Community Foundation on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn and you’ll find this as well. And as I mentioned, like anything marketing communications goes through me there. That’s really where my main passion lies and everything else is kind of for Fun, so awesome. I highly recommend checking us out. We do a lot of work and we’re trying to be louder about it. And it’s important work in our community.
Exactly. Wonderful. Thank you so much. That was fantastic. And you’re actually my second guest from the Foundation. And so the more I learn about the Foundation and all of the different ways they touch our community, it’s actually pretty fantastic. So to Vic’s point, if you’re not familiar with the South Saskatchewan Community Foundation, please do visit their website and just learn a little bit more about them. Maybe there’s a way to get involved. Maybe there’s even a way to become a contributor. So please do check them out.
If you would like to be a guest on the show, you can email me at Barb@abovethefold.live, or reach out on our Facebook and Instagram page at Abovethefold.ca.
I’m your host Barb McGrath, local business owner and Google girl. Remember, you worked hard for your success. Don’t keep it a secret. Bye for now.