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This month's interview is a reminder that being a successful designer is a full time job and having great people skills is one of those essential traits. David Airey is one of the most well known graphic designers and the author of two popular blogs on brand identity design. We've asked him what it takes to be an excellent designer; read his answers below...
This Month's Interview:
V: What is your vision and goal as a designer?
David: I'm not sure I'd call it a vision, but what I value most is the enjoyment I get from design. If I didn't enjoy it, I'd change my profession. If there's a goal, it's to earn a living and support a family at the same time as doing some good, helping some people, giving something back. I think my goal is one that's widely shared, at least, I know of many others just like me.
V: Curating three very successful blogs on design has helped you become a very influential designer, find clients and build a large community of readers and fans. What is the number 1 rule of blogging, in order to create a name for yourself?
David: If there was just one rule, it'd be easy. A couple of things that have helped:
- Sharing personal stories — it's easier to return to a blog when I know something about the author and know a little of what makes them tick;
- Showing up — I've been publishing blog posts for almost seven years now (almost the entire length of my self-employment), and many of the blogs I started reading back at the start are long gone.
Pre-order David's new book: Work For Money, Design For Love
V: As you said in one of your blog posts, shape is one of the most powerful and memorable attributes of a great brand. With that in mind, what is it about any particular shape that makes it carry the story and personality of a brand?
David: For me, it's familiarity. I become so familiar with a certain shape tied to a particular product that when I see that shape it brings back any emotion I felt when I interacted with the brand. So using the example from my post — the outline of a Magic Tree (or Little Tree as it's known outside the UK), when I see that tree-shape, I immediately think about my car, about driving, about passengers, about accidents, and of course about the scent, too. When one single shape makes me remember all those different things, it says a lot about the ubiquity (and I suppose success) of the Magic Tree brand...
Visual identity design for Tokyo based architecture firm Berthier Associates
V: Why do you prefer working on your own, as a freelancer? Would you consider running a branding company or managing a team of creative people?
David: It's not that I prefer working on my own. It's just how I started in self-employment, and how I've continued. But who knows? Perhaps it'll change. Perhaps not. I've no immediate plans to hire a team or form a partnership.
V: Communication is the key to building trust and good relationships with clients. This is a generally accepted idea, although sometimes neither the client nor the designer can describe exactly what that means. What is your advice when it comes to communicating with clients?
David: A lot of it comes down to expectations. Our websites present this image of who we are and what we do, so even before we get that initial email or telephone call, the person on the other end has already formed some idea of what they're going to get from us. If a client expects something I don't usually deliver, and he or she hasn't specifically asked me for it, the project isn't going to run smoothly. It's up to me to find out exactly what that expectation is. Sometimes I can't offer what's needed, in which case I'll try to refer the person to a designer who can.
Visual identity design for London based startup goTeach
V: Graphic design is not an isolated domain, it's overlapping with areas of study, such as color theory, art, communication and marketing. In the case of logo design, what other domain or area of interest should a logo designer pay most attention to?
David: Nature. I'm always intrigued to know why symbols resonate with us on an instinctive level, and there's a definite relationship between what we see in nature and those little symbols used to identify brands worldwide. There's a great book by Maggie Macnab called Design by Nature. It's worth a mention.
Get the book: Logo Design Love
V: In terms of skills or personality traits, what makes a good designer different from an excellent one?
David: I wasn't sure how to answer this, then I thought about the designers I pay the most attention to. They're the ones with the most experience in the profession, so you could say it all comes down to that: experience. We all start somewhere, and the more we work with clients, the more we learn how to take control of the process, the more we learn how to delight the people writing the cheques, and the more confident we become in pushing boundaries at the same time as delivering the most appropriate outcome. That's not really a skill or personality trait, but it definitely sorts the good from the great.
V: What designer has inspired you the most in your work?
David: I could never choose just one, and actually, I think the readers and contributors to my blogs have inspired me more than any single designer ever could.
Thanks for the interview David, it's been a pleasure talking with you!
Did you know we have video interviews with designers and creatives around the world? Watch BrightLounge and discover inspiring stories from different countries.
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Until next time -
The Velora Studios Team
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