Meet the Team | Lara Di Ferdinando, Senior Designer, Digital

team IMG

Lara F

Please introduce yourself and what your role entails as Senior Designer in IMG’s digital team?

Ciao! I’m Lara, Senior Designer in IMG’s Digital Team. Aside from coaching and playing rugby (and being the mentor of two brilliant future stars), I oversee the design of digital assets for a wide range of clients including the Miami Dolphins, NHL, Roshn Saudi League, NFL, R&A, Tottenham Hotspur, and many more.
I like to explore and challenge our creative output. Researching, planning, and bringing concepts to life is my bread and butter. 

Working with our partners, what are some of the types of assets you create?
Myself and my team work across a big array of projects – our assets range from full template suites to hero graphics and engagement graphics. We also work on more extensive projects such digital rebrands. For instance, when a rightsholder needs to refresh their visual language for the new season or is looking to create more consistency across their platforms.
In my role, I work closely with our partners to create a bespoke look and feel that speaks to their audience, aligning clearly with their brand identity. A great example is our relationship with National Hockey League (NHL). At the end of August, I (virtually) sit down with the client and brainstorm ideas for the new season. This collaborative way of working encourages creativity and helps cultivate a deeper understanding of their brand and objectives.  
What are the key objectives and goals of your work?

Ultimately, our goal is to ensure the assets we create speak to and resonate with our clients’ audiences – both new and existing. We work closely with our partners to ensure their brand is recognisable and relevant, within the sports industry but also beyond.

Assets are used across both organic and paid media campaigns for a multitude of objectives whether that be to educate fans, increase viewership, drive traffic or increase ticket purchasing. We create campaigns, engagement graphics, information graphics to that bring rightsholders closer to their fans and build connection.
Can you speak to your creative process – how do you begin to create GFX assets?
Firstly, and always, have a brief. A good brief contains all the information needed to understand what a client is looking for. We can’t read the client’s mind, but I can bring to life key messaging to meet a brief, using my expertise of various design trends. 

Depending on the nature of the request – either a one-off graphic, a template, or a new look and feel – I start with creative research for inspiration to support concept development. It’s important to bring different options to the table to encourage conversation around the best creative avenue. Once the concept is agreed, I can start with the fun part of the process: experimenting. 

Existing brand guidelines provide a solid foundation that we can then add textures, patterns, filters, colors, effects, graphic elements, text, images, cut-outs and typography to. It can be a hit-and-miss process, but trusting my instinct and receiving open feedback is crucial. 
How do you collaborate with our clients to deliver assets? And why is this collaborative way of working so important?

What I love about working directly with our clients is the trust we build. I always make sure to go over and above a client ask, to offer different perspectives and alternatives that align with industry trends. Options are incredibly important in design – sometimes it’s hard for the client to verbalise what they want until they see it brought to life. Working directly also allows open and honest feedback. Design is a collaborative process so having them involved and inputting throughout the process allows us to ensure the work we deliver fulfils the brief.

Why do you think rightsholders should invest in their creative output in digital?

Creative output expresses the identity of every brand. We say we shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, but often do. Adverts that stand out, or a well-designed feed, encourage consumers to follow, engage and share – maybe even become a fan. A fantastic example is the Serie B team, Venezia FC. Their kit campaign (as well as the kit itself) is one of the best crafted and designed out there. Venezia FC may not always sit at the top of the table, but their brand is more memorable than others.
Digital-first fans will also look to a sports’ channels and platforms for engaging content. As a result, sport governing bodies, franchises, and so on, are increasingly investing in digital – understanding that a strong brand identity and output can earn consumer following and loyalty. There is a quote from Bruno Munari, one of my favourite designers of all time: “The designer of today re-establishes the long-lost contact between art and the public, between living people and art as a living thing”.
And that is what digital channels are: an infinite window for people to look into. For this reason, design in digital is so important, it’s the voice of your brand and sport.

In what ways do you see GFX design and digital content evolving in the future?

In my team we are currently experimenting with layouts – exploring a mix of different styles. This can be seen in the new R&A template suite for The Open, designed by Zander McPherson, and the Miami Dolphins campaign for their latest Frankfurt game, designed by Will Thatcher and inspired by the German art school Bauhaus. To an extent, I would argue design in sport was in danger of stagnating. We have seen that many creatives in sport realise that final assets are becoming repetitive and pushing for change. I believe that this year and the next, will be when creatives will investigate new ways to innovate graphics, particularly with the introduction of new technologies, such as AI and UX design.

What do you love about your role? Where do you find inspiration for your creativity?

Some could argue sport is a niche industry within design – and even more niche to be a woman in graphic design in sport. I work hard to deliver high quality design and to expand our service offering to our clients, so I love that we create bespoke content that resonates with their community.

Leading the design team allows me to set the tone and quality of our work. I come from a product design background, having studied in Switzerland, Italy, Scotland and Japan, and have a passion for art and design. I study cultures, go to exhibitions, collect magazines and I read way too much. My inspirations come from everywhere, not only sport. It helps me find that special ingredient that no one would expect you to add to make our designs unique. This might be a cliché, but I love everything about my role: the challenge, teaching, mentoring and experimenting.

“You need the confidence to fail in order to take risks in your work” – Jessica Walsh, Designer & Art Director

For those interested in working in design in sport, what advice would you give?

Be curious, talk to people. Drop them a message on LinkedIn. Go to sports events, even if you don’t like the sport. Build your portfolio and make sure to have a mix of sport graphics as well as other creative work so we can see the full extent of your creativity. You should also experiment constantly. Don’t always look at what’s in sport design and don’t compare yourself to other creatives in the industry; embrace your weird and develop your skills.