Personal Design Style Interviews

April 12, 2010

Since my blog topic is about designers personal design style, I wanted to ask professionals about their own.  I went to bloggers who I usually read, links to their coworkers and friends, David Airey’s Top 50 Graphic Design Sites, and other graphic designers’ blogs on the web.  I emailed over 20 bloggers and got a couple responses from the following:

  • Richard Weston of Ace Jet 170.  He is a graphic designer in Belfast.  His blog site is http://acejet170.typepad.com.
  • Frederik Samuel of Advertising/Design Goodness.  He is an art director and designer doing freelance work in London.  His blog site is http://www.frederiksamuel.com/blog.
  • Keren Lerner of Top Left Design.  She is in charge of running the group whose goal is to produce websites that are easy to use, consistent, and professional.  They are based out of London and offer services in design, websites, and marketing services.  Their website is http://www.topleftdesign.com.

My approach was to ask them questions concerning the field and the approach they take to accomplish the best design possible.  These are my questions and their responses:

1. Where do you currently design and who are some of your clients?

  • RW- I’m in Belfast and work for loads of small to medium sized businesses. They’re diverse and include food, education, technology, medical, agri-rural and the church.
  • FS- I am currently freelancing at a couple of agencies in London, England.  Some of my clients are telecommunications, automotive, and some are retail clients.
  • KL- We have a number of clients in different sectors.  Just look at our portfolio.

2. Do you feel like you have a set style you usually design in?

  • RW- I don’t have a recognisable style but would describe my work as ideas-led. I do have a few tricks I tend to fall back on when I’m under pressure.
  • FS- Every client needs an appropriate style that conveys their message while still keeping the brand.
  • KL-  Always clean and user friendly, good use of colour, and good use of white space.

3. What influences you?

  • RW- The short answer is, “everything”. Nature informs my use of colour. History is important. But the brief is the biggest influence. Everything I do stems from what Tschichold expressed as, “…the principle of identity between content and expression”.
  • FS- Everything- magazines, art, people, everyday situations, etc.
  • KL- Looking at other websites and reading design blogs regularly.

4. What is your dream job in our field?

  • RW- Not sure if this is quite what you mean but ideally, I’d just do the initial creative bit (perhaps that’s a bit obvious). That includes developing strategy and writing. I think I’m really good at that and while I can follow a project right through, it’s the first bit that gets me excited.
  • FS- A dream job would be a place where clients would accept your ideas without pretending to be creative.
  • KL-  The one I am doing- running a small design company with motivated staff, lots of projects, keeping clients happy.

5. Do you have a go to font or font family you try to frequently use?

  • RW- No. I have a handful of favourite fonts but the nature of each project informs my font choice. It’s choice based on fit-for-purpose.
  • FS- I would say that I stick more to sans serif fonts. Some of my favs are: Helvetica, DIN, Conduit, and GOTHAM.
  • KL-  We design with Arial and Helvetica mostly.

6. Whenever you are starting a new project, what is your first step in determining the design directon?

  • RW- Read the brief, re-read it. Re-read it. Leave it. Do something else. Come back to it. Usually by this point I’ve got some ideas going. (Although this assumes the brief’s right. Hopefully, if it isn’t, you’ve spotted that and talked to you client about it).
  • FS- You need to consider the brand you are working on.  What are their guidelines, and what works well with it.
  • KL- Asking the client what their objectives are, what other sites they like , and generally a very good creative brief.

7. What would you call your personal style in a couple of words?

  • RW- “Ideas led.”
  • FS- Clean, simple.
  • KL-  User friendly and professional.

8. When it is acceptable to try new things and when should you stick to what you are good at?

  • RW- It’s always good to try new things.  You need to; even if it’s just for your own sanity.  If I wasn’t learning all the time I’d have given all this up age ago.
  • FS- Always try to push for the “new thing”.  It is usually up to the client in the end.
  • KL-  You should always try and challenge yourself, do what you are good at and get better at it.  We can all improve.

9.  How should I add variation to my own style?

  • RW- If you haven’t already, you should buy James Webb-Young’s tiny book, “A Technique for Producing Ideas”. It’ll cost next to nothing. JWY describes how he stored “data” to draw on. It was written over 50 years ago but is as relevant today as it ever was. He talks about storing information on file cards but now you’d use some web-based thing. Zootool or Flickr. Really, buy the book! What it should do is help you broaden your mind and allow more influence in. That said, if you’re really good, there’s nothing inherently wrong with having a personal style, if you can make a living out of it. Great if you can! I take a more pragmatic approach but I wouldn’t argue that one way is better than the other. It’s what works for you.
  • FS- Try new things and don’t copy!
  • KL-  Look at design collections:

http://inspirationfeed.com/design/2010/03/35-stunningly-elegant-web-designs/

http://www.thedesigncubicle.com/2009/10/content-heavy-websites-with-beautiful-structure-layout-and-hierarchy/

http://www.webdesignerdepot.com/2010/02/a-review-of-consistent-designs-on-the-web/

http://abduzeedo.com/logo-design-z-b

http://richworks.in/2010/04/30-inspirational-ted-talks-on-design-and-creativity/

Also, get feedback at different stages of your designs so you get other’s input.

10.  Do you feel like you have design freedom where you are currently working? If not, why?

  • RW- Yes, I have the freedom to do what I feel is appropriate. What I really enjoy is answering a business challenge with an effective solution. That’s what I get excited about. I’m not driven by a need for explicit artistic expression.
  • FS- This again depends on the client.  Some of them are very easy going  and are “Cool” with new ideas/designs.  Others have certain expecations on what they want.
  • KL- Graphic design is not art, and isn’t “free”- you have to fit it in with the briend and the client’s expectation and tastes, as well as give good advice to clients on how to improve on their conversion and the initial impact people have about their business.

11.  Include anything else that would help me as I continue in my schooling and professional career?

  • RW- Buy that book! It’s the one single piece of advise I wish I’d known when I was starting out. I’d been working for years before I came across it. And while you’re at it, buy Paul Arden’s first two books (but don’t bother with his third). And never think you know enough.
  • FS- Get experience (free internships), be curious, and meet people in your field.
  • KL-  Read design blogs and do design tutorials:

http://webdesignledger.com/tutorials/20-high-quality-photoshop-web-design-tutorials

http://www.blog.spoongraphics.co.uk/articles/20-basic-illustrator-tutorials-every-beginner-should-see

http://tutorialfreakz.com/

http://www.tutoriallounge.com/

http://www.tutorial9.net/

In conclusion, I learned that it is important to be soaking up information.  I need to be looking at blogs and other inspirational sites on a regular basis.  I also learned how important the creative brief becomes in a professional career.  It is easy for me to lose sight of that now since I am my own boss, but in the real world the client comes first.  This also made me think about how important the information in the breif is.  This is the direction of the entire project and it must be very informative.

So in regard to personal style, I learned that I can pitch my own ideas and preferences, but it ultimately comes down to the client.  It is important for each designer to have their style and hone their skills, but we still must convey a message.

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