An Interview with Tan Parmar, the CMA’s Designer of the Year

By CMA Team on

One of the most coveted awards at the International Content Marketing Awards is the Designer of the Year category, where outstanding designers are recognised for their breadth and depth of creativity, imagination, innovation, technical skills and their ability to translate brand values into visual content.

We caught up with the 2020 Designer of the Year, Tan Parmar on his award-winning work and what it means to win at the International Content Marketing Awards.

You’ve had a great career in the content industry, can you give us an overview of your career and how you got started?

After graduating with a Design Studies degree majoring in editorial and typography design I got a job as a designer at Grüner und Jahr working on best magazine under art director Carol Barbor. This was a brilliant experience as I learned the cut and thrust of designing on a fast-paced weekly magazine. I loved the lifestyle content and gained valuable experience working on fashion, food and journalistic features. This provided me with the skills to enter the new but fast-growing ‘customer publishing’ sector in the mid-90s and I joined River Publishing.

You’ve won multiple International Content Marketing Awards over the years, what does it mean to win one?

It’s a huge privilege to win any award for your work and I’ll always remember the first one I won. That was for best redesign and it was special because it represented a decade of design development that I honed and ultimately deployed into new projects. That said, winning awards is not the be-all and end-all and getting shortlisted is as much of an achievement as winning.  I believe you are only as good as your last piece of work whether it’s big or small, creative or just operational/managerial. I approach all my work as if it’s worthy of winning awards. It’s a good driver.

As a designer, what does a typical workday look like for you?  

Nowadays, like most designers, the day starts with team meetings, answering emails and tending to spontaneous tasks with a view to carving out design time to experiment, research and deliver design.  Today the notion of pure design time for designers is an idyllic one and becoming a thing of the past.

For your work on Waitrose & Partners Health, our judges said it is a magazine that is beautifully executed with strong storytelling and a great layout. What’s your approach when starting this kind of project? Do you have a methodology you follow? 

My approach, as always, has been based on the following:

1. Originality

2. Editorial foundation

3. Client objectives

4. Imagery

5. Typography

I would quite often imagine how stories would work as a daytime TV programme, or a movie, wondering what kind of soundtrack it has. I would dream up ideas as to how it would work as a social post, how it can move, create drama, suspense etc. Which personality would provide a voiceover. Constantly thinking beyond print. Then once I have got that out my system I’ll embark on 2D design.

Your colleagues say you have a “multi-layered approach” which creates “the sort of look-again imagery that makes information not just beautiful, but also art”. Is this something you do consciously in your work or is it a byproduct of your design process? 

This is an elaborate way of saying make things look ‘memorable’. I notice a lot of content is copied and duplicated and thus fades into the distance amongst everything else, not making itself distinguishable and therefore memorable. By nature we have to make things look beautiful but not at the expense of being unable to convey information correctly. We need to tell the stories in an easy-to-understand manner. There is an important balance to be struck between the trio of branding, message and art.

I approach editorial design in the same way as I would approach creating a logo or even a poster for a friend’s rock band. Does it look cool and will it stick in your mind? This basic process has been shaped and influenced by some of the best art directors I have had the pleasure to work under including Jeremy Leslie, Paul Kurzeja and Chris Parker. There’s little bits of their traits in my design process.

Given your successful career to date, what are your career plans for the future? 

I’m getting more and more involved in directing and producing video content. I love getting hands-on with cameras and lighting and even video editing and motion design. That is the future of content. I’m particularly inspired by on-screen graphics and excited about how I can bring these ideas into content for digital. I’m also keen to explore sound design and how audio plays a key role in shaping our emotions when viewing content.

As an inspirational person in the industry, what advice would you give to people who would like to emulate your success? 

Thats very flattering thank you but I don’t see myself like that – as I previously said you’re only as good as your last piece of work. I’d advise people entering the industry to get broad experience and not be pigeonholed by a particular division of design. Focus on digital but the skills you learn from print design will stay with you for life so don’t narrow your options too early.

Also, look closely into current visual aesthetics both in the UK and globally. There’s so much happening in design around the world, particularly in Asia.

Finally, what advice would you give to someone who’s considering entering the International Content Marketing Awards?

Look at previous shortlists and winners and if you’re confident your work is up there with the best then go for it. As a judge for awards like this I’m looking for something stand out that surprises me.

I believe writing your own entry submission is better as it comes straight from the heart and mind.

To learn more about the 2023 International Content Marketing Awards or to submit your entries please visit

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