Breaking it into Content Creation and Art Direction

Why Maya made the switch.

“If there is room for you to grow and you see all your hard work paying off, then ride that wave, but when you stop growing, it’s time to catch a new wave.” Maya Itani is former Production Director at one of the top fashion publications in MENA and current founder of her own new agency, Mi Visualize in Dubai.

Below, Itani discusses her journey in starting her own business and the evolving trends seen across campaign creation in the industry. Bonus: find out of Itani is hiring!

1. Tell us about yourself.

Hi! My name is Maya Itani, and I am a Visual Content Creator. My journey started in 2011, as a Graphic Designer working in the luxury fashion magazine field in Lebanon, and it continued when I moved to Dubai. I’ve always visualized myself one day becoming an art director, creating and directing different photo shoots and videos. That has always been my true calling. I finally made the leap five years ago, and moved into production, working with international luxury brands such as Chanel, Dior, Vacheron, Bottega Veneta, Celine, and more. Shortly after that, I started producing and creatively leading international shoots in Paris, New York, and Beirut, working with top models, photographers, and influential people. I worked my way up with the magazine I was working for, until it was time for us to part ways. I decided to take a step back, in order to move forward. I now run my own agency, Mi Visualize.

2. What is Mi_Visualize and describe a day in the life working.

Mi Visualize is a creative agency, specializing in graphic design, production, and art direction. We create bespoke and original visual content and work on brand development, whether it is creating a campaign, logo, social media content, or simply putting together a newsletter or look book. Since I cover graphic work, production, and art direction, there is no typical day. Depending on the project, my day will vary. My last project included creative direction and production for a campaign for LYNYER x Haifa’s latest collaboration, ‘Queen of Love’. I worked on everything from budget, creative direction, mood board, location, building the right team, to art direction on set. I work closely with the photographer/videographer to make sure the client gets exactly what they want, and follow through until the project is delivered.

Another project I am currently working on is purely Art Direction, which includes putting together six different sets, and styling 16 people of different age groups in different scenarios. As you can imagine, that is a lot more ‘on the ground’ work. From collecting props, to choosing the right outfits, it all comes together on set, where I am responsible for directing each scene. Every project gives me a different day, which I absolutely love!

3. Why did you make decision to leave corporate world?

I am thankful to have had the experience that I did. It built me, helped me achieve many of my goals and led me to where I am today. Being in corporate can feel safe and steady to some people, and it was for me, until it wasn’t. I knew it was time for me to leave. The most obvious sign was when I started to see limitations instead of growth. If there is room for you to grow and you see all your hard work paying off, then ride that wave, but when you stop growing, it’s time to catch a new wave. Thankfully I had a lot of support and was able to take a step back to readjust my thoughts, and remember what it is that I really love doing. I am lucky to be able to tap into both worlds that I worked hard on building and to find a way to bring them together from graphic design to art direction and production.

4. What kind of clients do you work with?

I work with a variety of clients, from ethical boutique brands to big corporations. I specially enjoy working with boutique brands because it is a very intimate process. You really get the chance to collaborate and work closely with the team and feel like you are a part of their journey and growth. Building a new brand from logo creation to campaigns is my aim. I love to help brands that want to become, become. I help them create and build their visual identity to reflect their true essence.

5. What are the pros and cons to starting your own business?

Where should I begin! Let’s start with the cons. The most obvious one is saying ‘bye bye’ to a consistent income and to all the ‘perks’ of working in a corporate company. Another would have to be finding the right clients. It takes a bit longer when you are new in the market. A big ‘pro’ is the sense of freedom that you have in your creative choices. You are your own boss, and who doesn’t love that? I get to build a stronger relationship with the clients that I work with, since it is a much more intimate process that includes a lot of give and take. And when there is a brand or project I cannot take for any reason, I can respectively bow out.

6. You’ve worked in content management / creation / production for years in Dubai; what general trends have you seen change within the fashion space when it comes to campaign creation?

One major trend, which created a big shift in the industry, is influencers. It was always about the models, and then suddenly brands wanted to work with influencers. Model agencies, photographers, models, brands, everyone was affected by this. At first the influencers would shoot for free which saved the brand money and gave them more exposure, then came a second shift, influencers had managers, and they wanted to get paid. Brands found ways around it and started ‘gifting’. That worked for a while, until it didn’t. It was very interesting to see how brands and photographers reacted to this shift. Many are not happy about it, and prefer working with models.

"The most obvious sign was when I started to see limitations instead of growth."

7. Please list the top points that designers / brand marketers should implement when creating genuine and engaging brand campaigns, in order to resonate with the target audience?  

It is key to stay true to your brand identity. A genuine campaign is one that is relatable, attainable, and one that creates conversation. Promote a single consistent message throughout your campaign and use different social channels to do it.

Don’t make ‘trends’ your priority; find what actually represents and works for the brand.

8. What is one piece of preparation advice you have for those who either want to switch to or start working within content direction?

Organization. I used to be the least organized person, but one thing it taught me was to become more organized. Use your phone, a notebook, laptop, anything that works for you to keep your reminders close by, and your notes accessible. Jot down your idea when you have it, because it WILL go away. Prep beforehand because surprises ALWAYS happen, so having a plan b or a backup will always come in handy! And remember, your environment is your inspiration. So make sure you always put yourself in the right environment.

9. Are you accepting interns?

I had the opportunity to intern in California for a boutique-advertising agency, and that experience taught me how important internships can be in determining your career choice. I would love to give anyone that opportunity of growth and discovery whenever I can, and I will post about any openings on my instagram page @mi_visualize when there is a spot!