1/ How do you feel the surge of social-media and internet dependence has changed the way we brand? — Duane Doogan
Not very much. The principles are the same — create something appropriate, distinctive, memorable, and ideally emotive.
2/ What gave you the courage to work for yourself? — Tracey
I brought my old employer along as my first client. That gave me three days’ work every week, lasting about 18 months, leaving plenty of time to look for new business.
3/ How much time do you spend working on your brand rather than client work? Do you dedicate certain days or times to working on your business rather than working in it? — Tony Hardy
About 60 percent currently goes to client work, with 40 on side projects and business admin. When I’m busier with clients that split is about 80/20 or 90/10. There’s no set day or time when I’ll work on my business. If I’m waiting for client feedback I’ll update my sites or reply to emails. If a client’s waiting for me I’ll make that the priority.
4/ Have you ever been part of a small team, working mostly for local businesses? What do you think changes in the branding of a smaller company versus a larger one, whether within design or the approval process? Does your thought process differ between the two? — Dani Kelley
Most of my employment was in a small team. A few times during the early days of self-employment I was drafted into large organisations for contract work, but I didn’t like it. There were strict design guidelines in place so I didn’t have any freedom to express ideas. It was the opposite in the small team. That was much more interesting. Today the difference is that with my additional experience I can be the one setting guidelines for large companies.
My approach is the same, regardless of client — seek out the most appropriate idea to carry the business forward. That could mean designing an identity from scratch, carrying out a subtle refinement, or working through a full redesign. It’ll depend on the brief and what’s happening within the company.
5/ As someone who clearly lacks drawing skills, I sometimes feel difficulty in the design process. Can you give some advice on how to get around this limitation? — José Rodrigues
Don’t think of your sketches as a piece of art. Use them to record and develop ideas, to put your thoughts on paper in as fast a way as possible. The more ideas you can come up with, the more likely you are to arrive at the strongest outcome.
Your sketchpad is a playground — it doesn’t matter how good it looks. Enjoy it.
6/ Once you’re done creating a brand identity, how do you make sure the client sticks to the guidelines you’ve provided, and how do you keep track of how the client applies the identity? — George Balinov
The guidelines I set are fairly self-explanatory, normally with flexibility for the client to take things forward without me. That said, sometimes my advice isn’t taken on board, and of course we all make mistakes. I give advice on how to implement the design, but ultimately it’s up to the client what they run with.
All part of the job.
7/ What do you think is the most successful logo re-working of the past year or so? — James Greig
Interbrand Australia’s work for Sensis is very well done, introducing a contemporary charm into a previously generic and forgettable design.
8/ What are five pieces of advice that you would give to a design student? — Ian Bass
- Don’t be afraid to ask obvious questions. The answers will differ depending on who you’re talking to.
- Listen more than you talk. Everyone else knows more than you ever can.
- You’ll make a lot of mistakes. Don’t worry. We all do. Learn from them, and move on.
- You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you. Dale Carnegie said that.
- The design company is not the only place to be a designer.
9/ What makes you happier — when you are satisfied after finishing a project, or when your client is. I mean, if you feel your best option is really good, but the client chooses another option, do you try to persuade the client to change her mind? — Ania
I only show ideas I think will work. Where more than one idea is shown, I’ll usually have a favourite. I’ll explain why, but sometimes a client will have a good business reason for preferring a different direction.
A happy client makes me happy. A sad client makes me sad. And such is life.
10/ I see research as very important in graphic design, but very few companies are willing to invest in it. Would you say that the role of social research as reference to design is undervalued, or is it that companies usually don’t invest much because it is overpriced or doesn’t bring tangible results? — Caê Penna
Clients hire me to design, and as that involves research, a percentage of what I’m paid will always go toward it. But I don’t make a fuss about selling research when I’m talking to a potential client. I sell the end result and how good design improves my client’s business. If one designer sells research, and another sells improved profits, it’s obvious who wins.
11/ With all the free templates available for any kind of graphic work, do you think that graphic design will eventually become extinct? Or will people realize that they need quality work instead of cheap replacements they can find online? — Coramia Motoi
Just because someone eats at McDonalds doesn’t mean they’ll never eat in a Michelin star restaurant. They might only splash out once or twice, but it’ll be for important occasions.
12/ Are you crazy or just playing genius? — Rami
“Women are crazy, men are stupid. And the main reason women are crazy is that men are stupid.”
— GEORGE CARLIN
13/ Do you have a file of design concepts that you’ve always wanted to incorporate into your future work, or that you dip into when looking for original creative inspiration? — Paul Randall
No, but along similar lines I’ve pitched a rejected design to another client in the same profession. I thought the idea was a great fit, but the original client chose a different direction. The new client loved it.
14/ How do you choose colors for clients? Do you choose what you think clients will like, or what suits the project? — Igor
I’ll look at the client’s competitors and choose something different, as long as it’s appropriate for the brief. The choice isn’t about personal favourites. It’s what will work for the client’s customers.
15/ How did you start your freelance career? How long did you prepare for it? What attributes are required to launch your own studio? — Zaw Waiyan Lwin
In 2004 I resigned from a design job with Myeloma UK, a cancer charity in Edinburgh. I was off to travel the world, and had no intention of returning to the role, but in 2005 after some amazing experiences abroad, the charity hadn’t found a replacement. So I asked chief executive Eric Low to hire me as a part-time contractor, working three days per week and sending an invoice at the end of each month. He agreed, and we worked together again for around 18 months until the charity needed someone full-time.
There wasn’t much preparation, and I didn’t have a lot of experience, so I made a ton of mistakes, like showing too many ideas. Mistakes can be good lessons.
Here are some interesting reflections from designers in self-employment.
16/ What has been your most challenging project so far, and why? — Tanja
I was once asked to change my terms and conditions before receiving a downpayment. That was the first red flag. But I carried on, and the project soon deteriorated into overcomplicated pixel pushing — micromanagement at its worst. The time frame was five times longer than expected, topped off by the client’s inability to pay upon completion. A year later, I finally received the full amount, but the stress was far from worth it.
Since then, I’ve not been approached by anyone else who wanted to change my working terms, but if that happens, I’ll politely decline the project.
17/ How did you approach job hunting when you first started out? Also, what’s you work/life balance like? — Kate
After graduating, I took a job in telesales for The Scotsman. I needed something to pay the bills and design jobs seemed scarce (or more likely I wasn’t good enough). Coincidentally, I met an old friend at the newspaper who put me in touch with my next employer, and that’s how my first design role came about. I’ve always thought that it’s easier to find a job when you’ve already got one, regardless of the work you do.
Here’s some job advice I mentioned in a previous answer: The design company is not the only place to be a designer. And this series might help: What employers look for #1.
I’m happy with the balance I have between work, family, friends. I regularly see the people I love, and I normally get a good night’s sleep. When it seems like my job is getting the better of me, I remind myself of some people I met when travelling — they’d start work at 6am, stopping at midnight to close their street stalls and get a few hours’ rest before doing it again, year after year.
18/ Do you believe one could ever be too old to learn to become a great graphic designer? — Helen Almberg
I don’t. Who knows how long we’ll live? And even if we don’t reach that 10,000 hour mark (or however long it takes to become great), a day spent doing what you love is better than a thousand days doing something you hate.
19/ Being a freelancer, I encounter various obstacles trying to start my own branding business, such as free work and lots of conceding. Where did you struggle the most in your beginnings? — Martin
I thought I needed to take on every potential client that came my way. But that was stupid. It pays to say “no.”
20/ What advice would you give to inexperienced designers on how to handle branding when they are working with startups? We see most of the tech startups overlook the brand aspect and this ends up hurting them. How can a designer educate/convince startups regarding branding? — Manas
In many respects you should treat a new business the same as an established firm. If a company doesn’t think there’s value in brand identity, your time’s better spent finding one that does.
Part #2 here. Thanks again.