Randy Heil is a logo designer and illustrator in sunny Phoenix Arizona. He is currently the Senior Designer at R&R Partners. Between design projects, he enjoys collecting baseball cards and making plans to rule the world.
When did you first decide to become a graphic designer/ illustrator? Was there a pivotal moment?
When I was 10 years old I would draw a simple 2 frame animation of a nude dancer. It worked by tightly curling the top frame around a pencil, then sliding the pencil back-and-forth over both frames to see her dance. I would sell these to classmates for 50¢. It was a pretty good racket for a kid my age, until the day a drawing was found by my teacher and given to the principal. My parents were called in and shown what I had been drawing. However, my mom was quite tickled and responded, “Randy hardly ever shows his drawings. It’s nice to finally see some of his art.” After that, I was the rebel artist kid who could draw smutty pictures and get away with it. That label was a comfortable one to wear, and from that point I knew I wanted to be an artist.
Who do you look up to? Who are your heroes in the industry?
The artists who inspired me growing up were animators like Chuck Jones, Friz Freleng and Tex Avery. Later it was the painters Fritz Scholder, Wayne Thiebaud, Maynard Dixon, Ed Mell and Joe Sorren. My logo heroes are any of the Wichita designers, particularly Brian Miller and James Strange, plus Andreas Karl, Sherwin Shwartzrock, Paul Howalt and Rudiger Goetz. Also illustrators Brandon Ragnar, Rich Wake, Pablo Lobato, and Chris Cooper.
Where does your training come from? Self-taught? College/Art School?
I studied design and received my B.F.A. from Arizona State University, but I also studied at Idaho State University, Great Basin College and California College of the Arts.
How do you keep "fresh" within your industry?
I’ve taken the approach that I would rather have my work look consistent rather than fresh. I compare it to food. My work is like a processed Twinkie. It tastes great now and will probably (hopefully) taste great a few centuries from now. I think that relying on fresh, new trends can result in quick spoilage, like a greasy, brown banana.
What are some of your current projects?
Right now I’m designing a team logo and uniforms for the Phoenix Haboobs. I’m also working on graphics for a few apps, and logos for an apparel line, a fashion enthusiast group, a tourism bureau, and a conservation consultant. I’m also illustrating some outdoor stuff for a transit company.
Which of your projects are you the most proud of? And why?
I can’t say that I’m proud of any particular project. But I am proud that I’ve been able to thrive in my profession despite the obstacles in front of me.
Are there any areas, techniques, mediums, projects in your field that you have yet to try?
I would like to try a graphics tablet like Wacom. They look so intuitive and natural.
Any advice to the novice designer/ illustrator?
My best advice for the novice designer would be to never assume that your client knows what good design looks like, and don’t be afraid to tell the client that their ideas are bad when they are. Early in my career I was asked by an attorney to design a logo that had to feature an upside-down iron with grapes as the steam holes. I never told him that this seemed like a bad idea. Instead I spent 11 months doing endless revisions to a logo that was never going to succeed. I later found out I was the fourth designer he hired to create his iron/grapes logo and that all the other finished logos looked just like mine.
What makes a design or illustration successful?
A successful logo design is one that can be easily retained in the viewer’s memory. It needs to be like a fish hook with a large barb that prevents it from letting loose.
What do you do to keep yourself motivated and avoid burn-out?
When I’m in need of burn-out relief, I do some pro-bono work. Pro-bono clients are almost always appreciative and willing to accept the work as you intended it. If this doesn’t work, I try to remind myself of the big picture. That I’m compensated quite nicely for drawing tiny little pictures.
Finish this sentence. "If I weren't a designer I would have been a..."
If I weren’t a designer I would have been a fiction writer. The commute to work would be better.
And finally, what is the best thing on prime-time TV right now?
The best thing on TV right now is “Breaking Bad”.
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