This series profiles the best and brightest designers in Aotearoa’s in-house design studios, this week we spoke with Heartland Bank‘s Creative Lead, Karem Ortiz.
Kia ora Karem, can you tell us a bit about your creative background prior to joining Heartland?
Growing up, I loved creating at school and at home. Later on, I realised I was always interested in any type of visuals. I got my degree in Art & Graphic Design in Peru, where I am from.
Starting out, I worked in a small web design studio during my last year of uni. Following that, I worked in a brand studio for a couple of years and after that, I spent a few years in advertising agencies in Lima. A couple of years later, I moved to Barcelona and got my Master’s degree at ELISAVA in Art Direction & Strategic Communications.
When I moved back to Peru, I realised I wanted to spend some time exploring my own country and focusing on creating a travel journal with lots of tips from my trips to Peru and South America. That year chikarutera.com started and in a way that curiosity got me a job in the comms team of a well-known restaurant organisation, working with a celebrity chef Gaston Acurio – main promoter of Peruvian cuisine – helping with restaurant’s concepts and tasting menu visuals for one of the best restaurants in Latin America back then.
After moving to New Zealand, I spent two years as a freelance designer for startups, service companies and an ad agency. I joined Heartland as a sole graphic and digital designer, and over the course of a year, my role transformed into the Creative Lead. This meant I had to recruit a team of designers to develop the online and offline brand strategy for the organisation (NZ and Australia).
What do you enjoy most about your role as Creative Lead at Heartland Bank?
I’m responsible for managing the team, setting the tone and direction, and making sure my colleagues have all the visuals and concepts they need to execute multiple design projects at once. Working in a creative environment in the digital world is a constant learning experience, I love it!
What shape does the Heartland creative team take?
At the moment, we sit under the Chief Digital Officer alongside UX, CX and a team of developers, but the wider structure is evolving so there will be some changes soon.
What are you working on right now?
We’re working on our refreshed campaign and photoshoot to support the new concepts and ads of our motor business (car loans). Alongside the UX team, we are also working on some design and experience improvements for the Heartland Mobile App and our online applications. For the first time, this year we are getting the opportunity to design Heartland’s Annual Report fully in house, which is also exciting.
How much of your work is internal (supporting your colleagues) vs external (public) focused?
Most of our work is external (public). We create the marketing campaigns and material for many of Heartland’s products, websites, app designs, prototypes, wireframes and brand initiatives.
Do you have a project you’re particularly proud of?
I’m very proud of the work we did on the redesign of the Heartland Mobile App last year. We’ve used new brand colours and elements to create a more modern and accessible environment for users. We are constantly improving our design and experience based on how users interact with our platforms, and there’s always something new to implement.
Is there a project you have undertaken at Heartland in the last 12 months that is memorable because it challenged you? If so, what did you learn from it?
Yes – during the first lockdown in 2020, we began working on the transition of the Heartland brand. Shaping this journey has been a challenge as we’ve needed to evolve and move towards a more unified, clean, consistent and recognisable brand. By the end of last year, we had our first-ever brand campaign live!
From this project, we learned that we needed to plan a rebrand in stages. We had a digital soft launch on day one, mobile app on day two, and a physical rebrand to follow over the next two quarters. Another key factor was the internal communication, as we had a few intranet articles posted before the relaunch in order to nurture the look and feel.
What tools do the Heartland Bank creative team use for digital asset management project planning and productivity?
We have weekly WIPs within the team and fortnightly catch-ups with the wider teams. We also use Trello and slack (great for communicating with developers and project managers), and twice a month the Design team and the UX team have Creative Sessions and Design Reviews. There is also encouragement for good design culture, such as going to workshops, events, talks and networking outside the office.
We all work very collaboratively and close to each other so it’s quite easy to keep the workflow going.
Do you have any other advice for designers who aspire to follow a similar path as yours?
Everyone’s journey is different, however, I’ve found that having a ‘learn it all’ over ‘know it all’ attitude always helps. Also, being curious, I think asking questions is crucial and the conversations before and after creating something are super important.
Finally, where can people get in touch/connect with you?
Also, have a look at the Heartland website or mobile app to see our latest work.