David Airey, a graphic designer from Northern Ireland, has been intrigued about brand identity since the 1990s, when he enrolled on his first design course. Having honed his skills working in the UK and the United States, he then made a conscious choice to specialise in logo design, where his passion lies.
Self-employed since 2005, David has amassed a global client-list, including the likes of Yellow Pages (Canada), Giacom (England), and Berthier Associates (Japan). He authors two popular graphic design blogs, www.logodesignlove.com and www.davidairey.com, and attracts more than 250,000 online visitors per month with approximately one million monthly page views.
When did you first decide to become a graphic designer? Was there a pivotal moment?
When I was younger, I always enjoyed creative classes in school, so I thought it made sense to try for an A-level in art (A-levels are UK qualifications taken between 15 and 17 years of age). However, since I hadn't chosen art as one of my GCSE subjects (GCSEs are taken from 13 to 15 years of age), my school didn't let me. In fact, at the age of 15, they subtly 'advised' me it was better I didn't even return for A-levels, so I applied to my local college for a vocational qualification in art and design.
This new path in my life (choosing tech college over A-levels in secondary school) turned out to be one of the most rewarding.
So you could say that the pivotal moment was, after five years in secondary school, not being a good enough student to merit a return for the last two years. A blessing in disguise.
Who or what inspires you?
I'm inspired by many people, but it'd probably put you to sleep if I mentioned them all, so I'll leave it at my parents.
I was no saint as a youngster (though as I'm not yet 30, you could say I'm still just a pup). My mum put up with a lot, and it's a good thing I was able to keep some secrets. My dad has been running his own business in the tyre trade for decades, so I reckon I get the self-employment drive from him.
Nature inspires me too, and there are few things better than a walk in the hills or through forests. There's something to be said for feeling in awe of your surroundings. I can think more clearly about the important things in life when nature makes me feel small.
Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?
I briefly mentioned my art and design course, and I spent four years studying that, specialising in graphic design. That took place in my home town of Bangor, Northern Ireland, and once complete, I then searched for a design job in Belfast.
A couple of my friends were getting ready to move to Edinburgh, Scotland, for further studies, and they persuaded me to join them. So, off I went for an additional three years in education, this time earning my honours degree in graphic communications management.
Sandwiched between the final two years of my degree was a short spell working / interning just outside Pittsburgh, PA, for the Graphic Arts Technical Foundation. Good times. I remember them fondly, and met a lot of wonderful people.
Following a short time teaching English in Spain, and gaining a post-grad diploma in management, I returned to Edinburgh, where I began 'proper' full-time work.
To be honest, most of what I know today, in a design-sense, has actually been self-taught, because my passion for the subject seems to be ever-increasing. With that said, those first few years in education gave me a lot of social skills necessary for attracting, and keeping clients, so I'd not swap them for anything.
How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?
I think it's important to remain humble, and to see the other people you meet as a source of education. As a personal example, there are more than 15,000 comments left across my two blogs, and I've learnt an incredible amount from those who have been kind enough to take the time. That's one reason why responding to blog comments occupies quite a few hours of my working week.
There are also a few excellent design blogs to which I subscribe, and I normally have a daily check of Google's feed reader.
What are some of your current projects?
I'm redesigning the brand identity for a 7th generation French wine producer, Henri Ehrhart, and I'm working with Yellow Pages Canada to refine their 'walking fingers' logo.
Peachpit Press, a publisher in the US, wants me to author their first book on logo design, and of course I'm thrilled about that. The provisional completion deadline is towards the end of 2009, and I'll mention more about it on my blog in the coming weeks.
Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?
My favourite project, without doubt, has been the launch and growth of my personal blog. Had it not been for its success, I'd not be where I am today — knowing a fantastic group of people across the globe, and working with some wonderful companies.
For those designers out there who run static websites, I highly recommend starting a blog. Search engine optimisation aside, the community aspect is, for me, the biggest single benefit.
Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?
Hundreds. Thousands perhaps. That reminds me of a saying I once heard:
"Beware of the man who says he has twenty years’ experience, when what he should be saying is he has one year’s experience repeated twenty times."
I've a lot of experimentation ahead of me, and will happily try anything once (within reason).
Any advice to the novice designer?
Never stop learning. This should be easy if you have a passion for design. Be humble, too. No-one likes a cocky git, and if you ever see or hear me being overly big-headed, you're fully welcome to throw a slap my way.
What makes a design successful?
Where logo design is concerned, it should be a number of things:
* Appropriate (for the business it represents)
* Distinctive (to increase customer recognition)
* Practical (so it works across a wide range of media)
* Containing one message (saying too much will dilute the idea)
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?
For motivation, I hope to start a family in the not-too-distant future, and my wish is to give my children the start in life that I've been afforded. We all know that 83% of statistics are rubbish, but I reckon this one isn't too far away from the truth: if you have change in your pocket, you're richer than 70% of the people on earth.
My parents have given me a strong foot-hold in life, and should I be fortunate enough to have my own kids, I want to do the same for them.
Avoiding burn-out? I love to travel. Experiencing different cultures is a great eye-opener, and although it's been a while since I caught a train from London to Beijing, or walked through the temples of Angkor, I do plan on taking a decent break once the book project is complete.
Finish this sentence. "If I weren't a designer I would have been a..."
And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?
Nature's Great Events (David Attenborough)
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