Erickson Foster is one of the few creatives in the campaign and advocacy industry with a military background. A self-taught designer, Foster started his career as an active-duty service member on the U.S. Army Operations Center Crisis Team.
After leaving the military close to two decades ago, Foster started life as a government contractor. Just as he was reaching “a point of creative atrophy,” Genevieve Wilkins, Rokk Solutions’ SVP of creative, recommended him for a position at the bipartisan public affairs shop, where he’s now a multimedia designer.
C&E: Has your military experience informed your current creative work?
Foster: As far as bringing things to it, I think maybe a different angle, a different understanding of the workings of the government and being able to talk to the government in a way that maybe people who haven’t been involved in it aren’t able to do. As far as design, they wanted just sweet and simple. No frills, no nothing, which was kind of frustrating as somebody who was up-and-coming, because you want to stretch your legs.
C&E: Did you find yourself working on your own designs outside of your day job in the military?
Foster: Absolutely. I’m self-taught as far as graphic design goes. So getting better, taking tutorials, seeing someone else’s work, seeing if I can replicate it, definitely, I had to do things on my own in order to get where I am.
C&E: What’s working for your clients at the moment?
Foster: Depends on the client, depends on the medium, depends on your audience. Different things work for different people. One day you do a TikTok video, next you could just do web banners or Instagram Stories. It really is just trying to find that common thread through all of them — sometimes that thread is like dental floss, other times it’s like yarn. It’s really about trying to find a balance between being interesting and not overwhelmingly new, if that makes sense.
C&E: I know you also do a lot of website design. How do you see aesthetics evolving for campaign and advocacy sites?
Foster: It’s a delicate balance of finding something engaging. If the people who look at the site are mostly 55 to 65, or something like that, you need to design that in a way that people are going to be able to navigate [easily]. You don’t want to make anything that’s too different. Just keep it simple. Then you get [clients] whose audience is younger and, they’re used to seeing all these different navigations, different kinds of websites. You just have to tailor it to whoever your audience is going to be.
C&E: Because of the new Congress and a different issue matrix in 2023, do you see advocacy design making a clean break from 2022?
Foster: I think you definitely have to look back and pull a few things along — especially with motion design: things have gotten flatter, things have gotten a lot more minimal, mixing 2D and 3D together. It’s never just kind of a clean slate where you need to start over and start something completely new. People may get lost. You have to blend it as you go along.
C&E: Where’s a creative budget best used? Is it still video?
Foster: I would say with social media, for example, static images are kind of dead. If you want to engage someone, you have to use some sort of motion. Video is good. Video voiceover is, ah, I think that depends on the audience. Generally, if people can’t turn up their speakers to hear anything, the voiceover doesn’t really give you much benefit. If your audience is older, then video seems to be good across the board.
C&E: How do you measure a design’s success?
Foster: It’s been said before that good design is design that you don’t see.