You might recognize the works of these graphic designers from last week. Their works are as different as can be, and we wanted to hear more about their work process as well as their projects that were featured in an inspiring article on typography last week.
With a few simple questions, we uncovered the work process of each one of these talented graphic designers and had a chat about their work, the creative process and personal tips that might help you with your designs.
How would you describe your approach to design?
“I would describe it as spontaneous. Because I like to rely on ideas that suddenly come to my mind, ideas that have the necessary power to provide a strong concept. This is my, let’s say, ideal approach, and this sort of approach makes me happy while working. It is the case also with my project, Social Decay.”
“The way I start off is much like any other designer. I sketch my designs first. Over the years I have adopted the philosophy that my initial ideas will be bad, cliché or expected. You’re not always going to go with your first design so I continue the process and try to figure out what is the simplest and most clever way to communicate the message visually. Every logo, ad or lettering has a story and it’s my job — and the job of all designers — to make sure that the story is told in the best way possible. After I go through my sketches, I mark the ones that I think have the most potential then I take them over to the computer. That is where you can refine the concept and see it start to take shape.”
“To make a long answer short, my approach is to trust my instincts and put pencil to paper. My terrible ideas are inevitable, so it really helps to get them right out. After the brief period of insecurity that follows, I get back on track. I’ve been drawing since I was a kid, so I think with pencil and paper is where I’m most comfortable to work through my thoughts and find the details in a design that I find interesting and enjoy.”
“Design is my fuel to live. It has transformed my life into something meaningful and productive, far away from the mundane and ordinary, it makes my life both easier and harder and keeps me aware that there is something bigger outside our small world.”
“I wouldn’t say I make design. I draw, I illustrate. There’s quite a difference although nowadays everything is very mixed. Being mainly a advertising illustrator, my work has to be able to work with the design and brand values of my clients.”
What project are you most proud of from your portfolio?
“If we are speaking about pride, this one, Social Decay I think, because it had the biggest reach and coverage. But I am most fond on my Life is Hard series, which may not be visually great, but has a great concept, and is also my first big project.”
“I do have a few favorites, but when I look at my own work I continually critique it and I start to dislike it. That’s a huge problem of mine and it’s something I just need to let go. But one of my favorite projects is the Canopy by Hilton branding. Canopy is a boutique-style hotel in a few cities in the US and Europe. The idea is based on a positive experience where someone may enter a little stiff or stressed but leaves feeling good and relaxed. I felt that I helped bring that story to fruition in the brand identity. It starts off with a sans serif type but then transitions to a script that is loose and free-flowing.
Another project that I love was completed quite recently. I was asked to design a mural for the agency that I work for in Greenville, SC. We have a mantra that’s “All we can with all we have.” It’s a large (28′ x 14′) space. It was the largest thing I had ever designed that required actual manual labor. Besides sketching it out and crafting it on the computer I also had to get it up on the wall and paint it. Of course, I had help getting it up there from my Creative Director and some other colleagues, but that was a really awesome experience. Now when I go into the studio every day I see it as soon as I walk in the door and that’s where I have to tell my brain to “shut up” and stop picking out all the things I should have done differently.
Some of my favorite projects are the ones that don’t have clients. Most of the work I put on Instagram is just what’s in my head. I love creating and being carefree with it. No critiques, no judgment, just pure creativity. Sure I pick those apart at times too, but those lettering projects are far more satisfying. It allows me to just do whatever I want. I can hone in on certain areas or try out something completely new, which ultimately benefits my clients because I have either learned or mastered certain things that can help them with their design needs.”
“Probably the mural I painted here in Kansas City. It’s says “Welcome to Art Town KC” under a giant pair of sculpted lips. It was a commission for the sculptor and I honestly just love how weird it is. I think it fits really well into the art-centric part of city where it’s located. I also really enjoyed the process of painting a mural. I had no idea what I was doing, so figuring it out was exciting.”
“It’s really hard to single out one project. If you check my portfolio, every and each piece featured has a reason to be there for me and all are projects that I am proud of, a little like my own children. I am always designing and I do a lot of work for clients, however, from these pieces, only some of them are specifically designated a space in my portfolio. This is for a variety of reasons ranging from how fresh and new the concept feels, to how stylish it appears to me. I guess that when I love an image, I feel that it should be in the portfolio even if it is commercial or not.”
“There are a lot of projects I have ended up proud of with the final result. The illustrations for Citadelle, Estrella Damm – VCF, Mahou San Miguel, all my personal work I’m doing lately…”
What advice would you give to someone starting a design from scratch?
“I know most of the time, especially with comissioned projects, it might not be possible, but I advice designers to try to produce images with a message, with a story, not just a beautiful image. In my experience, this is what really matters in the end, and this makes you feel more positive about your own designer karma.”
“Sketch. Sketch, sketch, and sketch. And when you think you have enough sketches, keep sketching. Whether you are sketching in a small booklet, scrap paper or on an iPad Pro, just sketch. There is something about sketching out the ideas first that help you understand the simplicity of the design better. You can get technical with your ideas, but just getting as many ideas as you can out on paper really does help. My professors in college stressed this to me and there is something to be said about it. I am not saying that I do this diligently every project, but the projects that I feel good about or have the least amount of revisions have all started with sketches. You have to come to the realization as a designer that not all your ideas are good and not all of your ideas are original. It’s like refining gold, you have to remove all the impurities to allow your design/ideas to shine.”
“As anticlimactic as it is, my advice is always to just start. But I would add that keeping an eye on the amazing work that’s all around is just as important. Find what you like and study it. Figure out exactly why it’s good. Use it as inspiration and to find all the nice little details and styles that interest you. But ultimately, trial and error is the only way I’ve found to develop my own style. Draw and erase.”
“Visualise what you are designing in your head. Then draw something somewhere, find and check other examples to inspire and create your very own image, and don’t despair; sometimes the design process goes faster and other times slower. Do not stop ever as every step gives you more experience to face future projects in a easier way. I always try to go out from my comfort zone, something that I hate, but it inevitably brings me lots of happiness when I find new techniques and I make something unexpected.”
“I would say to never stop working. This isn’t about getting anywhere fast, this about enjoying the work. I do this because it is what I love, not because is great work or anything. Try to enjoy every single day of work.”
On personal work and projects:
Andrei Lacatusu – Social Decay
“This is a personal project, based on a idea I had two years ago, but didn’t have the time to produce it. My idea about this project was to illustrate some sort of a metaphor, not to claim that these giant companies are in trouble, or that I wish their decline. I wanted to portray the state of our (until now) normal society, the human natural society, based on physical interaction, brought by the boom of social media. Technically, these images are computer generated, made by the use of 3D software, and, of course, with the touch of the good old Photoshop.”
Brad Flaherty – Hand lettering project
“I got into hand lettering about 6 years ago when a co-worker of mine — while living in Chicago — turned me over to Jon Contino’s artwork. As soon as I saw it, I was in love. I always had a passion for art and design, but this was different. His work really spoke to me and I wanted to create the same kind of art. When I started sketching out a word it was terrible, but I knew I was terrible and I had a passion to improve my skills. Looking back through my old sketchbooks and even my Instagram, it’s a good reminder that I once sucked at it. And this is not to say that I am a superior letterer now, I can just see how I have progressed and I am happy with that progress. I’ve been pretty fortunate to land some great projects doing lettering for both my personal clients and agencies that I have worked at. It’s super fun and rewarding when someone trusts your skills and wants to incorporate that into their business. I’ve had the pleasure of working with big name hotel brands, an NFL team, coffee companies and coffee houses, donut shops, restaurants, record labels and bands to mention a few. Each one of these projects has been really awesome and it’s helped me push myself to deliver work that even surprises me.”
Travis Stewart – Hand lettering project
“I started hand-lettering because I was having the now classic existential crisis that comes after graduating and getting a real job. Life felt monotonous so I wanted to start drawing for fun again and to get off the computer. Typography never really interested me much in school because I wanted to be more of a illustrator, so lettering has really been a journey of discovery for me. Over time I’ve just gotten more and more into it. I love the idea that I can add levels of depth to words by the way they’re laid out or in how they interact with each other visually. I feel like I’ve learned a lot about design overall in the process.”
Jenue – Quotes and typography
“Aiga Design asked me to create 5 different quotes for a series that they were doing with lots of Artists. It was really great to think of a way to make a design format that was developed in a similar manner but was visually different. So, I had to figure out a few new technics to finish every image with a happy ending for me. It’s a project that I am very proud of, as it gave me some new ways to face other projects that were coming after it, and it was a time when I felt free to create something with my own criteria. “
Jorge Lawerta – Creative lettering
“This was a personal project a did a couple of years ago. My goal was to focus more on the sentences itself more than the lettering work. I didn’t want to make anything too complex or too elaborated, I just felt like making funny sentences with colorful and powerful letters.”