Nikolaos Lerakis grew up during the nascent years of computer development, playing with them and learning about their intricacies. He then channeled that interest into something more: design. Nikolaos, Havas Montréal’s new VP of design, shares his journey.
So, how did you get started?
When I was a kid, I was spending too much time on the computer. It gave me the chance to learn the art of coding and to work on different softwares. Then, I got interested in visual arts simply because coding was making me uncomfortable. With a really Cartesian mind, I needed to be challenged, and I felt like I couldn’t control art. So after studying multimedia in college and working part-time in a digital agency, I decided to go back to school for design.
What made this opportunity at Havas appealing to you?
After many years running my own studio, I wanted to sit at the big players’ table. I wanted to try something new. With a worldwide network, Havas was a strategic choice for me. I believe our practice could gain a lot by exporting itself. Culture is a big part of what we do. We need to push down doors in order to see what’s going on elsewhere.
How would you explain your job to an 8-year-old?
I’m trying to make the world a more beautiful place, using things you can buy in an arts and crafts store.
To an adult?
I solve a lot of business-related problems through design with logos, posters, experiences, colors, spaces, websites, objects, advertising, etcetera.
What do you hope to accomplish in this new role for Havas, your team, and yourself?
I want to put the design culture up front in the agency. I want people to understand that strong, bold design is possible within a larger structure. I want to work on the design process in order to put my whole team on the same course to releasing good work. I want to learn to lead the right way.
Give us a simple definition of design.
To design is to solve a problem. Compared to art, where artists have the chance to express themselves, designers have to solve a problem.
What makes design powerful, impactful, and effective?
Hard work, guts, passion—and hard work again.
What are the challenges that you feel marketers often face when designing assets for their messaging?
They are afraid to disrupt. Marketers often tend to blend in when we need to be bold and strong. Oh, and there are way too many steps for approval.
What are some of the most fun design projects that you’ve worked on?
Maneki Comptoir Asiat’: The restaurant owners had no money to design the place, so we decided to take the project—if they would let us do whatever we wanted. So that’s what happened. We fooled around with some Asian-classic design stereotypes and then mixed the whole thing together within an electric blue atmosphere.
Give us your best advice for a novice designer?
Close your computer. Think with your head. Forget what’s doable on a computer, and use your hands.
Anything that you’d like to tell a seasoned designer?
Wanna play some ping pong?
What do you wish you knew about design when you were 18 years old?
The internet is killing creativity. Most young designers I’ve hired are hooked on other people’s work on the internet. They tend to imitate instead of simply working hard. No good work is achieved easily. Rihanna said, “Work, work, work, work, work,” right?
What do you hope to learn in the coming years?
I need to learn to manage bigger teams to bring a project from A to Z and be able to keep track of the design aspect. Quality control often gets lost in huge teams. This wasn’t a problem I had with my former studio since we were a very small team of six people.