David Airey is a successful brand identity designer and blog writer. His websites attract 250,000 online visitors and approximately 1 million page views per month, and his client list includes Yellow Pages and Giacom. His first book, Logo Design Love, is a guide to creating iconic brand identities – something rather close to our own hearts! We talk to David about being a successful freelancer, and brand identity creator.
Hi David. Can you describe a typical day?
The inbox comes first. It's mainly filled with blog comments, student questions, and unwanted press releases, but I skip those until I've replied to client emails.
My working day is a mix of email, design work, and blog updating. The percentages vary depending on how many active clients I have (they always take priority.)
You run a successful design and branding business and regularly post insightful pieces on your blog. Is time management important as a freelancer?
Yes. I only do one thing at a time, whether it’s working on a client project, publishing a blog post, replying to emails, spending time with friends and family. But I limit the number of clients I work with at once, and each of my three blogs are only updated once or twice a week, so I'm probably not as busy as it might seem.
Why did you choose to specialise in brand identity design?
Every brand needs an identity, so even though you might view identity design as a niche, it's one that every company in every industry needs. You could say my choice was a combination of wanting to specialise without posing too many limitations. And because there's no limit to the industry on which you focus, there's scope for infinite on-the-job learning. It's a fascinating process as well.
What's the first thing you do when meeting with a client to create a brand identity for their business?
First, I listen. Then, I ask questions. Sitting down with a new client is like getting a lesson in business. It's important that I learn as much as possible about my client within the time allocated to research. I'll never know everything — that's not realistic — but if I can't gain a solid understanding of the product or service, I can't do my job properly.
What is the most important thing to get right when designing a logo?
No one thing is more important than the rest. A strong logo should be appropriate for the company it identifies, distinctive enough to separate the company from its competitors, and simple enough in form to be easily remembered. Ultimately, I'd say don't align your own brand identity with that of a competitor. Thorough research into the competition is necessary.
In your opinion, what makes someone a good identity designer?
Curiosity. It's the same for any designer, regardless of speciality. If you're curious about the client, about the product or service, and the industry in question, you’ll uncover exactly what's needed to fulfil the brief.
What inspires you in your work?
I don't think inspiration is a necessity. For me, what's more important is motivation, and there’s one main aspect that keeps me going: I hope that one day I can fully support a family of my own, so I know I need to keep improving, keep streamlining my process, keep learning new skills, new approaches. The fact that I love my job and have a passion for design is a big motivator, too.
Have you noticed any trends in design that have really interested you as a designer and brand expert?
More and more identities feature highly flexible designs - a brand-mark with multiple variations, or an identity element that allows the brand to be known even when the logo isn't seen. One of the most effective ways to achieve this flexibility is by crafting a company-specific typeface for the client's sole use. Miles Newlyn is a designer doing this to great effect.
Do you think social media is important to boosting business?
Yes. I have Twitter and Facebook profiles for each of my three blogs - David Airey, Logo Design Love and Identity Designed. I'll often share the blog posts I publish through the Facebook and Twitter because I've found that many people are using these sites to stay updated, as opposed to subscribing to the blog(s) via RSS or email. Also, people comment about my content on social media websites rather than using the comment threads beneath each blog post, so it's another way for me to interact with readers.
What advice do you have for those studying design?
Do it because you love it. You'll spend more of your waking hours at work than doing anything else, and it would be such a shame if you were stuck in a job you didn't enjoy.
David Airey is a freelance designer and blogger - read all about his latest activities, and get insider tips on freelance success at davidairey.com