Inside the Mind of David Airey

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David Airey, best-selling author, brand identity designer and blogger out of Ireland, is one of those names I cross paths with frequently in my exploration of the industry and a.m. reads. With a continuous flow of 1,000,000 page views between Logo Design Love, DavidAirey.com, and Identity Designed (PS: 1,000,000 page views is my lifelong dream if anyone would like to contribute to it,) each have become integral resources for designers.

Side note: All three of those websites deserve spots in my 31 days of creative inspiration but I wanted to pretend I was unbiased so I used his singular interview to feature all three… meaning, you better check out each one, because they have individualistic value and none is better than their counterparts.

In addition to being kind enough to answer my questions, he opened the floodgates to his readers last month and let them “ask anything,” which you can find here if you need more Airey in your life, and who doesn’t?

  • Design Sellout:

    There are certainly instances where people with (arguably) less talent, become creative icons, and people with incredible skills never make it past that 9-5 Art Director title. Do you believe there is a factor that leads a designer to be successful or not successful, or is it essentially the luck of the draw? Perhaps earning one big client, landing one significant interview, or meeting one right person…?

  • David Airey:

    All our successes have an element of “right place, right time.” Some people are more adept at knowing where to be, and what to say. Others take a bit longer getting where they want to go. It’s no bad thing that there’ll always be designers who are much more skilled than I am. It gives me something to aspire to, even if that skill level happens to remain out of reach. I’ve learned that you don’t have to be as good as everyone else. Neil Gaiman said it better than I in a 2012 speech, referring to how people attract new business:

    “…because their work is good, and because they’re easy to get along with, and because they deliver the work on time. And you don’t even need all three. Two out of three is fine.

    “People will tolerate how unpleasant you are if your work is good and you deliver it on time.

    “People will forgive the lateness of your work if it’s good and they like you.

    “And you don’t have to be as good as everyone else if you’re on time and it’s always a pleasure to hear from you.

  • DS:

    No doubt you constantly get requests for design projects. How do you determine which you will take on, and which you will respectfully decline?

  • DA:

    Some products and services have a capacity to make our lives better or easier. Some people make a good impression on me from the very first email, phone call, or meeting. These are the things that help me to determine what I work on.

  • DS:

    What are some apps on your computer or mobile devices that you can’t live without, design/business related, or not!?

  • DA:

    Even though most of my work is done on a computer, I don’t tend to install a lot of software or apps. I keep things as simple as possible, only using what I need. I can live without apps, although LiveSurface Context is helpful at getting clients to buy into my ideas. Up until recently I did my job without it, but it makes things easier.

     

  • DS:

    Do you believe that a formal education in graphic design is critical to the success of designers?

  • DA:

    No. I have a formal education, but most of what I know was learned after I left college and university. Design schools are often lacking when it comes to relevant content.

  • DS:

    What’s one piece of creative work, or an exposure, whether it be a movie, person, book, painting, or song, that has influenced the course of your career?

  • DA:

    One of my first bosses was Eric Low, the chief exec at Myeloma UK, a cancer charity he started from the corner of his bedroom. His drive and commitment was inspiring, and it was no surprise to see him awarded an OBE in 2012.

  • DS:

    Do you attribute any amount of your success as a designer to your presence on the internet? Does every designer need to establish a presence on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc?

  • DA:

    I start work with my clients after they see my website, so I’d not be in business if it wasn’t for the internet. Designers don’t need profiles on social media websites. Social media can help, and it’s put me in touch with a lot of great people, but it can be the opposite, too, sucking up time that’s better spent on other things. A designer’s most valuable platform is his or her website.

  • DS:

    If you were going to a job interview tomorrow, what format would you bring your portfolio in? Would you bring live samples, a book, an iPad?

  • DA:

    My laptop, and sketchbook. I have very few hard copies of my work nowadays.

  • DS:

    Do you believe that the ability to design well is innate, or can anyone develop the skill if they apply themselves?

  • DA:

    Anyone can design, but it takes years to get good.

  • DS:

    Is there a key to designing a brand identity that will be timeless, and relevant for years to come? Do you intentionally avoid “trends” in logo design for that reason?

  • DA:

    As long as the work is appropriate, distinctive, and (ideally) emotive, you won’t go far wrong. Trends come and go, again and again. If you try to avoid what’s popular today, you’ll probably find yourself creating something that was popular ten or twenty years ago. Stick to the brief, and only show your best ideas to the client.

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