Designer of the Week: Austin Dunbar

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Print’s latest Designer of the Week and recent RDA winner Austin Dunbar talks side projects, cool beer labels and keeping typography top of mind in all his work.

Name: Austin Dunbar

Name of Studio: Durham Brand & Co.

Location: Covington, KY

Design school attended: Northern Kentucky University (never graduated)

How would you describe your work?My work is expressive, type-driven and a little rough around the edges but framed in nicely. I feel an aspect of my work describes itself but has a meaning behind it upon second glance. To me, there’s much more to the eye with something worn well than something new—I try to convey these qualities in the work I do for clients as well as personal work.


Find Austin Dunbar’s creative packaging design for Lucky Merlin in Cool Beer Labels: The Best Art & Design from Breweries Around the World

Where do you find inspiration?A lot of my inspiration comes from my wife and three daughters. It’s not what necessarily inspires what work I make, but what drives me to constantly make work. Without them, I don’t know if I’d have that same perspective and motivation.

Who are some of your favorite designers or artists?There are too many favorites to name on a national level, but I prefer the local makers and doers who constantly create incredible work. People like Brian Level, Tyler Deeb, Bryan Patrick Todd, Keith Neltner, Jeremy Kramer, Matt Barnes, Tommy Sheehan, Jenna Blazevich, Jacob Nitz—most of these people I’m fortunate to call friends, and they are the ones that keep my design knives sharp. To me, there’s nothing better than seeing local talent make moves on the national level.

Type Teams; typography design

Type Teams: The Principles Behind Perfect Type Face Combinations, by Tony Seddon

Do you have a favorite among all the projects you’ve worked on?I’ve been fortunate to craft designs for a large range of clients, with most of my focus on the beer & spirits industry the past three years. Doing that work is great and extremely rewarding—getting to work with different structures, substrates and constantly having to innovate in such a vibrant category.

A more recent project was for Savannah Bourbon—taking a look at what existed and building their brand around a new look, tone and feel that would resonate with their updated target demographic. I was given the bottle and the logo and just ran with it for a couple of weeks. The outcome was well received from the client and also some awards.

Is there a project that stands out to you as having been the biggest challenge of your career so far?Honestly, the work I make for myself or any passion project for the studio, that’s where the challenge lies the most. I’m definitely one of those “my worse critic” kind of people and will nuance minutia till the witching hour every night if I could. That’s always been a creative challenge of mine. Working on other clients’ work is a blast and inspiration and designs come much faster because I’m getting paid to be an outsider looking in. When it’s my own work, I’m inside just spinning around in circles sometimes.

What do you hope to accomplish in the future?Take it day by day and focus more on DB&Co. goods and products of its own and have that be a creative venture alongside client work. Also, try to find a healthier substitute for my constant coffee consumption.

Update: DB&Co. just added new goods to its shop, including some awesome apparel. Check it out here.

What’s your best advice for designers today?There is always going to be someone more talented than yourself—but maybe not as hungry, willing or motivated to find and define what success looks like to you. Everything’s earned (especially in this industry), nothing’s given. Work hard, make mistakes, stay hungry, be thankful and most importantly stay humble—there’s always goodness to reap at the end of that equation I’ve realized.

Additional work by Dunbar:



Thinking of entering the 2015 RDA? Here are two reasons why you should:

“Print is one of the most influential publications in our industry; having the opportunity to even be considered for inclusion in the RDA is a no-brainer.” 2e Creative

“We are proud to be able to talk about our Print RDA award on our website and in social media. We hope that it will boost our studio’s recognition within the design community. We also think potential clients view award-winning design studios as a valuable partner that can potentially produce award-winning work for them too.” —Jen Thomas, The Beauty Shop