When your job title is so untraditional, sometimes it’s hard to explain exactly what it is that you do. “To a granny, I'd say I'm an artist. Because I love to create a visual story. And I've done that throughout who knows how many mediums...” Crissy Bogusz, Snapchat Discovery Designer, says. “If I'm narrowing it down, it's Graphic Designer, or Motion Graphics Artist. So I'm either designing digital stuff, or putting together visual videos, photography, animation…”
Regardless of whether your granny understands the job or not, Crissy Bogusz has a pretty cool one.
For the last year, she’s been working between French and British Vogue, designing their Snapchat Discovery content. A digital job, revolving around a social media format curated for a younger audience, may seem at odds with such a well-established print magazine, but Crissy says the change couldn’t be more welcome; “Technology is evolving rapidly and you might see it as the digital world being in competition with the print world, but they can both live together. They both have their audience, and if you know how to play with it, and you know how to engage them, that’s how you get success”. Vogue’s interest in Snapchat coincided with Vogue UK’s new editor - Edward Enniful - shaking things up. “I haven’t met him yet, but I want to, and his adorable dog”, Crissy laughs, referencing Enniful’s infamous Boston Terrier, Ru. On the topic of the office, I had to find out whether Vogue is the hostile environment it’s depicted as in the media, but alas, no horror stories; “No, not at all. It’s a wonderful place where everybody is so excited with the new changes. Everybody's voice is heard, we're all able to experiment. In my case, and our team, it's a very creative space where everyone's supportive of each other.”
“Vogue International is growing rapidly. They're really investing in finding great people to head each team and to make each team as specialised as they can, to find the right people for the roles”, Crissy says of the magazine, dubbed post-Enniful as ‘The New Vogue’. “Every day we’re trying something new, it’s a new kind of journalism and that’s why we’re so excited about it.” But what does being a Snapchat curator involve, day to day? “Snapchat Discover UK is exclusive, it only with a handful of companies, but is growing. Every day, we sit down and look at our stories, and think "How do we create something that’s visual and engaging, that's gonna reach the audiences we want to reach?"
But within the rapidly changing app, there are so many new features that must be taken into consideration when deciding how to create great Discovery content. “I have to think about mixing in interactive features as well, because there are so many now. For me as a designer, I have to think about all different things the user is gonna do with this video. That’s something new that I'm not really used to.” Deciding not only just what to post, but the best medium to post it, Crissy and her team must, essentially, always be one step ahead of the consumer. Crissy even has to take into account things entirely on the consumer’s end, like screenshots; “Is there anything we can do to help make it more fun for them, or engage them more?” But deciding how to display a story can also be retrospective, rather than predictive. Crissy takes note of how celebrities use Snapchat, such as the augmented reality tools and Bitmoji, to help guess how the average consumer will; “they use the same filters and things, to mimic what they’re [the celebrities] doing”.
But while designing content for Snapchat might be all about utilising new technology, it also involves classic marketing techniques.
Any marketing involves grabbing the audience’s attention right away - but also keeping it - and Snapchat is no different. “It's such a challenge to try and keep somebody. You want to get clicks and likes, but you also want people to stay there. But now we have analytics that can look at everything, that can study how long someone is looking, predict when somebody's gonna swipe, when someone is gonna subscribe. As a designer, I'm thinking "How can I create some visuals that are going to be engaging, that are going to tell the story?" I mean, you've got ten seconds to do it. We put out three different editions per week, and in each one we have about ten snaps. Ideally, we want someone to look through all of them. That's the challenge and whole point of it, to try and get someone to see all these stories”.
As of yet, there’s no university course training you to be a Snapchat pro. So how do you learn the craft? Crissy says it’s all about being open minded; “I picked a multi-media mixed arts course [at Westminster] that taught me everything. I said "I want to be able to work with everything." And everyone was against that, people would specialise on a course, in a particular thing, but I chose to do everything. [For this job] I was at an advantage because I knew lots of different kinds of programmes.” Fresh out of university, Crissy put her new found skills to the test in a variety of ways. “I didn't know what I wanted to do, so I just wrote to every small interactive business, I really liked the interactive world. People were telling me “you're gonna have to be an intern for a long time and not make a good salary, and I thought, ‘I can do better than that’”.
And she did.
Her first job was to create the adverts on a CD-Rom that came with Brides, a Condé Nast magazine. “The CD was basically a directory of wedding vendors. Back then, that was the best way of being interactive with your audience.” How times have changed. “Then eventually I moved up to Project Director of that CD-Rom, so I was creating the whole CD. Then I got my first full-time job at Deluxe I was creating interactive work for the film industry, we did all the Dr. Who stuff, and Bridget Jones. And again, the DVD, and then Blu-ray were, at the time, the most interactive way to reach an audience”.
But, as we know, CD’s and DVD’s were not forever - and Crissy had to adapt her career to the new technology. “Everything started to change. Netflix came in, DVDs and Blu-rays went downhill. So I started working for myself a lot on the side. And I spent about five years doing that, finding my own clients, working with everyone from the BBC, on one of their new gameshows shows called Beat the Brain, then I did graphics, motion graphics and video animated intros for awards ceremonies”.
So what does Crissy think will be the future of social media?
Funnily enough, she seems to think it’ll be taking a step backwards. “I would have said maybe a few years ago it would continue being quick snapshots, but for example, Twitter recently elongating the messages, I don't think that people's attention spans are going to continue to drop. I think they want a bit of time to engage and process something. But it will still be very interactive. It’s just continuing to get more and more interactive.” But she also believes the media is going to fall more into the people’s hands; “They public are influencing what we do, but they haven't taken control to create themselves. I think the future is that communities are going to be so much more involved in creating their own news. It’s not going to be just about this publication or that publication, it's something we're doing together. People are gonna be so much more involved. That's what I think.”
But it doesn’t just stop at video for Crissy, she wants to help young girls discover the tech world, too; “I'm currently mentoring girls who want to get involved in design and the creative world. It's through this network called The Girl's Network. It’s an amazing organisation, they're growing each year. They look after girls from underprivileged backgrounds, who need that support, and need that direction. It’s so inspiring. I work with Spoken Word Artist Yomi Sode, and I'm also working on some animation and creative work with another spoken word poet,Thomas ‘GhettoGeek’ Owoo, he works to help kids using spoken word poetry and education. An animation myself and Thomas recently worked on together was a social justice piece about the NHS which was critically acclaimed, reviewed and shared by organisations such as Occupy London, The Film and Poetry Society and public figures such as Peter Stefanovic.
Famous Last Words
So, what three things do you need for work apart from your phone?
Earphones, music is a big part of what I do. Weirdly enough I listen to binaural beats when I'm doing work. I try to always be productive, so binaural beats help. They’re frequencies that you can find in songs, but the different frequencies do different things to your brain; so they can make you more productive, calm you down, make you remember things. I try to find the right one for me. I know it sounds a bit kooky, but look it up! Um, also, a notepad. I’m always writing down what needs to be done, writing down ideas, ticking off what has been done. There's a big difference between typing something and writing something. These are all pretty much related, but the third one is my graphics pen. Rather than a mouse, I always use my pen.
What’s a phrase that you wish everyone would stop using?
This new word "lit." Everything's lit. No, yeah, sorry. I can't handle it.
And what are you obsessed with right now?
I'm obsessed with health right now. I'm obsessed with nutrition, because I got really sick recently with a bad flu. With any new thing, I try I go all in. So I bought a whole load of different herbal supplements, Royal Jelly is really good. And propolis drops, they’re bitter but amazing for your health.
As told to Chelsea Carter.
Words by Amelia Perrin.
Images by British Vogue Snap, available from their back catalogue on Snapchat Discover, and Creative Londoners.