Designer of the Week: David Airey
PRINT’s latest Designer of the Week is someone whose work you’re probably already familiar with. David Airey is the writer and designer of the Logo Design Love book, which is now in its second edition and has sold more than 50,000 copies. He also regularly covers all things logo design over at the Logo Design Love blog. And years ago he shared with us over at PRINT’s sister brand, HOW, his best advice about becoming self-employed.
Below, Airey—who’s been honing his skills in logo design, brand identity and creative direction for more than two decades—tells us more about his experience working on different types of brand identity projects, his exciting new project releasing in 2018, and his best advice for fellow designers.
Name: David Airey
Location: Bangor, Northern Ireland
How would you describe your work?
I’m a graphic designer with a focus on brand identity projects. I might be designing a logo for a wine producer, business cards for an interior architect, a website for a tech startup, a brochure for a cancer charity, or packaging for a stationery supplier. Anything that visually identifies a company. There’s no rigid format for what I do because every client’s different, and the projects are, too, but if I was to sum it up, I ask questions, research, question some more, sketch, come up with ideas, sketch again, discuss, narrow the options, digitize the strongest, present, persuade, potentially refine, then I’ll deliver some files. A few projects have had me traveling overseas with six months of back and forth, while others have been done entirely through email, working from home, and lasting just a few weeks. When I’ve created something that helps my clients’ businesses to grow, I’m happy, especially when the business is one I’d recommend to friends.
Where do you find inspiration? I’m asked that quite a lot, and I’m never too sure how to answer. On the one hand, inspiration isn’t necessary as a designer. It’s about showing up, acting professional and getting the work done. But on the other hand, I see inspiring things and inspiring people all the time, whether I’m in a concert hall listening to an orchestra, or talking to one of my kids’ teachers, or watching an episode of Blue Planet, or having a walk on a nearby beach while the sky turns red. If we’re curious enough, there’s talent and compassion and life and beauty all around us.
Who are some of your favorite designers or artists? I’ve long admired the work of designers like Saul Bass, Bob Gill and Tom Geismar. And I have a lot of respect for the identities of Michael Bierut, the artistry of Debbie Millman, the attention to detail of Rob Clarke and the elegant lettering of Jessica Hische. The kind of things I appreciate elsewhere are the indoor rainbows of Gabriel Dawe, the perpetual whirlpools of Anish Kapoor and the photography of Trey Ratcliff.
Do you have a favorite among all the projects you’ve worked on? Probably my last book, Logo Design Love. Not meaning to sound too vain, it’s the project that’s resulted in countless emails from designers and design students all over the world, thanking me for putting it out there. But it’s me that’s more thankful to them.
Is there a project that stands out to you as having been the biggest challenge of your career so far?
That’ll be the next one, the ID book, named after my website Identity Designed. I’ve only just finalized the publishing contract, and signatures should be exchanged this week. It’s scheduled for release toward the end of 2018, with the provisional tagline of “The Definitive Guide to Visual Branding.” Regardless of how successful it is, I know it needs to do justice to the brilliant work that’s been contributed to the website.
What do you hope to accomplish in the future? I don’t think too far beyond what I’m currently working on. But I have a daughter who’s three and a son who’s two months, so if we’re talking about legacy, they’re a huge part. I want them to know there’s no limit to what they can do, that they can make a living in so many creative ways. If I reach old age and look back, having raised two kind, positive, brave kids, and having used my work and design books to help others in the way that so many people have helped me during my relatively short stint in the profession, well, I’ll put that down as a decent start.
What’s your best advice for designers today? Think about what it is you most enjoy, whether it’s a specific design niche, or maybe another profession. Do that. Even if all you can manage right now is a few minutes each day. Build that time up. A little more tomorrow, and the next day, until eventually you’re doing more of what you enjoy than what you don’t. Eventually you’ll be good enough that you won’t need to look for work. People will look for you.
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