I am Michelle Sussams, Creative Director at Buffalo 7, the UK based PowerPoint presentation design agency. Ask Me Anything.

Buffalo 7
Jun 29, 2018

I’ve got a strong advertising background, acquiring 12 years of experience doing a bit of everything: art directing, graphic design, conceptual, digital, and print work, both B2B and B2C. From the energy industry to supermarkets, I did a variety of work for a real spectrum of clients, before settling on design as my calling.

Now, I’m proud to be Buffalo 7’s Creative Director. I work on the front line of all our design work, supporting and guiding the studio throughout the entire creative process. It’s up to me to lead the creatives, make sure we’re inspired and striving to the push boundaries of PowerPoint.

My job focuses on the quality of the output. We meet our clients’ needs, but we don’t do the expected. I help our designers take their work to the next level, and I challenge them to be forward-thinking, adventurous and dynamic with their designs. I evaluate the final output of the agency to ensure every element of the presentation ticks all the right boxes and maintains the high standard we’re known for.

Twitter: @Mich_Buffalo7

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Do you provide formatting and design services for projects which are not in English?
Jul 6, 6:42PM EDT0
Besides good looking, what characteristics and requirements should a successful design project meet?
Jul 6, 5:11PM EDT0
How do you plan or structure your work, before and while you are starting to design something for the project?
Jul 6, 1:25PM EDT0
How do you know when a project is finished, from the design perspective?
Jul 6, 7:05AM EDT0

As designers, I don’t think we ever really feel 'that’s it'', the job is now complete. There are always more we could do to develop it and improve it (I could just tweak this or just change that little bit there). But you can’t work on it forever, there has to be a point where you stop because jobs (more often than not) come with deadlines. So, it’s all about time management. Evolve and craft your design within the time you have. Do the very best you can do with the opportunity you have been given and try not to obsess about the little tweaks you would have made.

Jul 6, 11:10AM EDT0
How do you get unstuck creatively?
Jul 6, 6:53AM EDT0

If you’re struggling with a brief and not sure where to go next, stop and search for some inspiration. Look for ideas that you find inspiring and spark your imagination. Avoid working on a computer, move away and grab a pen and paper. It’s much easier to work out your ideas on paper than it is on a computer.

Jul 6, 11:09AM EDT0
How important do you think communication in graphic design is and why?
Jul 6, 6:09AM EDT0

Communication is a large part of graphic design. Whether it be, talking to your client, working with colleagues or creating designs that help to explain a message. I was always told graphic design is art with a purpose. The purpose of graphic design is to convey a thought to someone else. We use graphic design in presentations to help visually explain our clients' key messages to ensure their audience understand and engage with the information being shared.

Last edited @ Jul 6, 11:08AM EDT.
Jul 6, 11:08AM EDT0
What kind of questions do you ask before beginning a design project? Which piece of information is of utmost value?
Jul 5, 3:47PM EDT0

The more information we have the stronger the results. Some of the key pieces of information we ask are; in what context will the presentation be viewed (i.e. tablet or projector) who the target audience is, what the purpose or goal of the presentation is, the brand style and key messages our client wants to convey.

Jul 6, 11:07AM EDT0
How can you ensure other team members understand their role in the project?
Jul 5, 1:30AM EDT0

When different job roles are involved in a project, their task should be defined at the start of the job, so everyone has a clear understanding of what they need to do. At Buffalo 7, a project moves through the teams one stage at a time. Copywriter’s start the process by crafting the copy with storytelling in mind. The copywriter will then hand over their finished content to the designer. Once the design stage is complete, the copywriter tends to double check the messages are still working well. Then the designer works with the developer to build the designs into PowerPoint. Once the designs are built, the designer double checks the finished presentation to make sure everything is working well.

Jul 6, 11:04AM EDT0
What kind of rules, culture or structure need to exist to foster team collaboration?
Jul 5, 1:01AM EDT0

Team collaboration only really works fully if both parties have respect for one another. It’s all about listening and understanding other people’s point of view. You may not agree with their ideas but if you don’t stop to take their point of view onboard, you can’t hope to find a solution that works for both of you. If you don’t agree, then you need to work together to find a solution that works for both parties. I find being honest and truthful to what you believe, will get you a long way when working with others.

Jul 6, 11:04AM EDT0
How do you approach a new project?
Jul 4, 11:02PM EDT0

This is something we’ve been chatting about in the studio of late. The senior designers and I tend to approach a new project in our own unique way. We all start by understanding the brief and the brand guidelines but when it comes to the design process we all take our own path. Our senior designer Paul Buckley likes to start by reviewing imagery and choosing assets to go into his designs. Hannah Tyson, another one of our seniors, starts by reading through all the copy and laying it out onto separate slides. I start with the layout, I look at the content and decide how I would structure the layout of the elements. Once I’m happy with my layout options, I start to layer design elements over the structure. In short, there is no right or wrong way to approach a new project, you just need to figure out which way works for you.  

Jul 6, 11:03AM EDT0
If a project scope changes entirely midway, how would you react and adapt?
Jul 4, 9:10AM EDT0

This happens to all designers at one point or another, sometimes a project can take an unexpected turn but it's important to stay positive and work towards the new direction. If the brief changes halfway through the design process, stop, take a step back, read the new brief and make sure you fully understand it. Once you have a clear comprehension of what is now required, review what you have already done and see if it still makes sense with the new brief. Sometimes a simple change can get you back on track, sometimes there is no salvaging the work. Don’t force an idea to work, if you need to start again, then bite the bullet and start again. You never know, you could end up with something more creative, the second time around.

Jul 5, 5:11AM EDT0
How do you sustain long-term interest in designing for one brand?
Jul 4, 6:30AM EDT0

The longer you work with a brand, the stronger your working relationship becomes. With this strong understanding of the brand, how they like to work and their goals, you can help to move the brand forward. We continually look for opportunities to evolve and try something new. The world moves too fast these days to stand still. I find it exciting and interesting to see what new ideas we can bring to the table for our long-term clients.

Jul 5, 5:11AM EDT0
What are Buffalo 7 core values?
Jul 4, 3:57AM EDT0

We created some core values a few years ago but as we have grown considerably over the last few years (and continue to do so) we don’t know feel they are as strong as they could or should be. Getting our core values right is important to us and we want to create a message our staff can really get behind and feel part of. We are currently in the process of evolving our core values as a team. This is an important process for us which is why we’re dedicating time to craft the whys to our values. Just to say what they are without why we believe in them isn’t enough for us anymore. We need to develop why they are important and how we are going to achieve them as an individual and as a team.

Jul 5, 6:42AM EDT0
How would you rate Buffalo 7 on producing appropriate work for a broad range of clients?
Jul 3, 8:42AM EDT0

At Buffalo 7 we create bespoke presentations for our clients, tailored to their particular requirements. We currently work with a huge range of brands, from the unique to the well known. This is one of the things I enjoy the most about our work here, the vast array of people, topics, countries, and brands we work with. We are highly experienced with turning our hand to whatever new requirement may come through the door.

Jul 5, 5:11AM EDT0
What key metrics do you use to track Buffalo 7 design’s success?
Jul 3, 6:52AM EDT0

Our aim is to create striking presentations that help our clients communicate their messages in a visually impactful manner, helping them to achieve their goals. If this is the outcome of our clients' meetings, then our designs and hard work were a success.

Last edited @ Jul 5, 5:10AM EDT.
Jul 5, 5:10AM EDT0
How comfortable are you with short deadlines and new trends?
Jul 3, 4:45AM EDT0

The more time we have, the better we can plan, craft and build a great presentation for our clients. However, we understand things happen and projects don’t always have the luxury of time. We are happy to assist people the best we can with the time they have left. We're in a really strong position as we have a nice, big team (circa 40 and counting!) - that means that, when necessary, we can dedicate multiple team members to work on a project at any one time to meet your deadline. We'll always be as flexible as possible to work a project into the schedule.

Jul 5, 5:09AM EDT0
What do you do when clients or stakeholders give you negative feedback? How do you incorporate feedback into designs?
Jul 2, 5:48PM EDT0

Due to the nature of what we do not everyone will always like what has been designed. But that’s ok, it’s what happens next that’s the key. If you have received the feedback via email, I would recommend your next step is to call your client, by video call if possible. If you can manage a face to face that’s even better. Emails can be misconstrued and can slow the process down. Once you have the right person in front of you, ask them to explain their thoughts, what did they like about the work, what did they think needed to be improved, keep it positive and constructive. Once you have an understanding of what wasn’t working for the client, make suggestions for changes and agree to them together. If a client isn’t 100% with the designs, it’s normally due to a miscommunication somewhere along the line. By chatting with the client about what wasn’t right for them and understanding it, you'll get back on track.

Jul 3, 10:49AM EDT0
How do you stay in touch with the latest design trends?
Jul 2, 2:27PM EDT0

I find the best way to stay up to date with design trends, is to get out of the studio. Visit exhibitions, attend design talks or creative events and talk to people with the same interests as you. You can also read design blogs or twitter is a great place to follow design news. As well as going out and listening to other designers in the industry, we hold a weekly morning meeting, where the designers and developers within the agency share inspiration they have found, new techniques they have come across or emerging trends they may have seen. There is a lot of information out there and it’s important to set some time aside to stay in touch with the design industry and to be inspired by others.

Jul 3, 10:50AM EDT0
Have you thought about offering any training about how to create amazing presentations?
Jul 2, 3:54AM EDT0

Buffalo 7 do offer training, we hold events every few months called, “Improve your presentation skills over breakfast”. The event is 8am-10am, based in the centre of Manchester, UK. We have four speakers who offer advice regarding, storytelling, design, PowerPoint build tips and presentation delivery. We also offer personal in-depth training for our clients. We train their staff on how to use the PowerPoint template and design we have created for them. We conduct this training, either within our offices or at our clients' premises.

 

Jul 2, 2:29PM EDT0
What things do you look for when going through portfolio revisions?
Jul 1, 4:53PM EDT0

I personally look for a few things, layout, typography (I have a pet hate for badly set type) colour and interesting concepts. An idea is only as good as it’s execution. A strong idea executed well normally results in a strong designer. I also look for diversity in their design examples. Too many website designs look the same these days and portfolios full of work that all looks the same doesn’t convey a designers skill set in my mind.

Jul 2, 2:30PM EDT1
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