Earlier this year, M’Elena Holder muscled through one of the most challenging professional experiences of her life. There were long hours, walls covered in sharpie notes and rounds upon rounds of ideas… slaughtered.

The 28-year-old art director had entered a US feeder competition for the Young Lions Competition, an annual, global event in which the top advertising talent from around the world are challenged to complete a real-life brief from a global charity — and have their work judged by the same experts who sit on the Cannes Lions juries.

She was feeling the heat. Her mission: to create a print ad for the non-profit Every Mother Counts, that would raise awareness about maternal death. She and her partner, a fellow colleague, extensively researched the issue and organization. In the spare time they had around their long-hour agency jobs, they set off on a two-week journey to create an ad that would be thoughtful, imaginative and original.

It was not easy. The pair spent nights working until 3 a.m., only to get back up in the morning and repeat the process. They went back to the drawing board, again and again. “Every time we’d think of something, we’d play devil’s advocate too hard and end up killing it,” Holder recalls. “Our leadership would say, ‘You guys have something really close here.’ It was a grueling process.”

She and her partner struggled to find the balance between pushing themselves to be the best and believing in their ideas. Even though their leadership team was very supportive, it was hard to escape creative burnout. “I covered my bedroom walls with notes written in Sharpie,” she says. “I would just stare at them and ask myself, ‘What’s our BIG idea??’”

She didn’t go out for the two weeks during the competition and put every single spare moment of time into the project. But in the end, the team lost. “It was super challenging,” Holder says. “But also a really amazing experience. I learned a lot.”

What she didn’t know at the time, however, was that the experience would come in so handy.

Fast forward several months and Holder is now Senior UX Marketing Designer for both Getty Images and iStock by Getty Images, which have sponsored the Young Lions for the past 18 years. Her latest assignment: Leading creative design for the activation at this year’s Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, including posters which will be used during the Young Lions competition.

The eight posters, designed using iStock’s vibrant and quirky vectors, are like her personal message to this year’s competitors. And although each one is unique, they all share a similar tone. “They’re motivational,” Holder says. “It’s a mix of aggressive ‘move on’ and inspirational ‘keep going’ messages. They’re what I would have wanted to hear!”

Associate Creative Director Kevin Platt, who also has a background in the advertising industry and now works for Getty Images and iStock by Getty Images, crafted the copy. “We wanted the posters to be empowering, motivational and fun,” he says, “To create something not only light-hearted, but that would also give this year’s Young Lions something to think about.”

Here are their thoughts on a few of them:

 1. Make More Ideas

Posters final (8)

“This one reflects the concept around dealing with a grinder of ideas,” Holder says. “No idea is stupid. Anything that comes to mind, throw it down and spit it out.”


2. Fail Harder

Posters final (1)

“‘Fail harder’ is my personal mantra,” Platt says. “It’s how you succeed. You’ve got to take risks. Win big. Fail big.”


3. Make It Work

Posters final (5)

“This one we designed to have a calming effect,” Holder says. “It’s a nice breather and kind of the flip side to the ‘Fail Harder’ message. Take time to review and assess. Sometimes it works to slow down the process.”


4. If You Couldn’t Do It, You Wouldn’t Be Here

Posters final (6)

“This one is my favorite,” Holder says. “The wise bear is a reminder for the Young Lions that are still there in the final hours, at 4 a.m. You’re the best of the best, you’re meant to be here. Don’t doubt yourself.”


iStock by Getty Images is proud to support the Young Lions competition during the 2015 Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity — and has thousands of vectors to bring your creative ideas to life. Start your search.